Sunday, January 22, 2012

My next research project

...will be entitled, "A comparison of remediation strategies to behavioristic barriers in the linguistic transfer from L2 input to L2 intake."

The subtitle will be, "Why won't Spanish students just LISTEN?!?"

In slightly less silly news, Apple had their big "education" reveal on Thursday.  They revealed a new, upgraded iBooks, which will allow multi-touch digital textbooks.  This brings us one step closer to a world in which our textbooks talk back to us.  They also revealed a program called iBooks Authors, which allows anyone to turn anything into a multi-touch digital textbook.  This brings us one step closer to a world in which textbook companies are merely the biggest of the publishers, and not the only sources of organized material.  Hopefully, this will cause them to a) critically re-examine their business model and reorganize into smaller, more flexible publishing companies with increased focus on high-quality, variable-use peripherals, and less focus on giving students pre-chewed information and "higher-order thinking" questions that don't actually relate to anything in the textbooks, or b.) collapse underneath their own weight.

I look forward to playing with Authors, but I need the next generation of the Mac OS before I can download and play with it.  It's on the to-do list, though, possibly for the afternoon.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Groupthink and education

In "The Rise of the New Groupthink" (New York Times, tiered subscription model) by Susan Cain, the author argues that for a variety of tasks, solitude is the best mode of working.  Despite this, business and education press ahead with having people work in groups.  The takeaway of the article is the line, "If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority," quoting organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. 

I'm not sure how much I agree with the article, which is basically an ad for Cain's book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking.  But it's the first time in a long time I've seriously questioned my judgment of group work as inherently superior for educational purposes than individual work.  I will definitely read the book at some point.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.  We celebrate a man who gave his life to make America look a little more like we wanted everyone to believe we were.  At school, the students have the day off.  The staff has professional development.

We'll spend most of the day working on positive behavior intervention and supports.  I've been through this tango before, only this time I know the tune.  I'm looking forward to it; it had a big positive effect in my last school district, and it made a huge change in the way I approach my job.  There are a lot of posts with tags about PBiS on this blog.  I wonder about my colleagues' receptivity to it this time, and I'm a little afraid that we're going to begin work without 80% staff buy-in.  But we'll see.  I've had a lot of 1-on-1 conversations with my colleagues, many of whom are just better at positive student management than I am, and nobody disagrees with the basic principles: identifying desired behaviors, teaching desired behaviors, supporting desired behaviors.  Their hesitation comes, as is always the case for people who already have too much to do, from a fear that this will be one more damn thing they have to do that everyone is going to forget about by August anyway, so why invest the energy?  I think this "reform"* has staying power, though; I know it does for me.

I can't help but reflect on the irony of planning a system on changing bad behavior on a holiday in which we celebrate someone's bad behavior.  If King had followed the rules, he would have faded into history.  Instead, he defied behavior expectations, responded neither to positive nor negative behavior responses, and helped lead a movement of making people a little more equal.

*"Reform" is in quotes because PBiS is something that good teachers have always done.  The change is doing it systematically--everybody does it about the same way for about the same things--and deliberately--you know ahead of time what you're looking for, and you do it fairly consistently.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I've already missed the time of year when people compile "Year's best" lists, which is a habit I think I'll try to get into next year.  "Year's best teaching strategy (new)," "Year's best teaching strategy (improved)," "Year's best student progress," "Year's best tech integration," "Year's best collaboration," etc.  What categories would be on your "year's best" education lists?

As I think about New Years' teaching resolutions...
...would it be better to resolve to try new things...
...or to get better at the things I'm already doing (or, at least, that I know need to be done)?
Possibly a riddle for the ages.

I resolve all the usual things: to teach to the test only when the test will tell me what the students have learned.  To more actively engage parents in their students' learning.  To provide students with more useful feedback on their learning.  To use technology more effectively: not as the newest shiny thing, but as an aid to high-quality thinking.  (Although you know I'm a fan of the newest shiny thing.)

I also resolve to be less product-based in my teaching, and more process-based.  In Spanish class, that means less vocabulary, and more vocabulary strategies.  Less grammar, and more opportunities for communication.  More time spent on meaning-bearing input, less time on meaning-bearing formation, and no time on meaningless utterances.  Less reliance on textbooks.  More reliance on real things.  In English class, it means doing the Common Core standards, and doing them well.  The standards are pretty process-based, already.