Distant and difficult classrooms: Yemen 2017

March 30, 2017

From the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross):

Red Cross caption: No books, no chairs, no safe place to learn: This is a classroom in #Yemen where 2 million children are out of school according to @UNICEF.

Red Cross caption: No books, no chairs, no safe place to learn: This is a classroom in #Yemen where 2 million children are out of school according to @UNICEF.

Two things essential for a classroom: Student, and teacher.

Ponder that next time your local school board denies raises to teachers. And remember this classroom in Yemen, where students want to learn, and a teacher goes into hell to let them do that.

More:


Distant and difficult classrooms: Syria, 2016

September 17, 2016

How do others outside the U.S. go to school?

Foreign Affairs featured a gallery of photos of a school in Syria, in a zone of war. School is still important. Students attend class in a cave, offering some protection from some bombs.

Internally displaced children attend a class inside a cave in the rebel-controlled village of Tramla, in Idlib province, Syria, March 27, 2016. Photo by Khalil Ashawi; Foreign Affairs photo

Internally displaced children attend a class inside a cave in the rebel-controlled village of Tramla, in Idlib province, Syria, March 27, 2016. Photo by Khalil Ashawi; Foreign Affairs photo and caption

Learning the Hard Way in Syria

In the rebel-controlled village of Tramla, in Syria’s Idlib province, the dusty stone steps to the town’s only primary school lead down to a damp cave. In February, a strike on two schools and five hospitals in Idlib province left 50 dead, many of whom were children. Before that, in April 2014, barrel bombs killed 25 students at a school in opposition-held Douma near Aleppo. This has forced Syria’s teachers to turn trailers, poultry farms, and other unusual terrains into classrooms in the war-torn country where more than two million children remain out of school.

More photos at Foreign Affairs; go look.


School in distant, difficult classrooms: Kenya

December 4, 2015

Photo from Heidi Totten, who is spearheading a campaign to get desks for schools like this one in Kenya:

Tenkees School, in the Mau region of Kenya. Photo by Heidi Totten

Tenkees School, in the Mau region of Kenya. Photo by Heidi Totten

Ms. Totten, working with a group called 100 Humanitarians (Entrepreneurs Changing the World), posted this in November, for a November 27 fundraising project.

Our next $5 Friday Fundraiser will be for additional desks for this school in the Mau region of Kenya. This is a very remote area that we visited. The school serves over 300 students with very few desks that they cram into.

They also have two latrines for each gender. With 300 kids you can imagine the sanitary conditions.

*   *   *   *   *

Our hope is to start with adding more desks, then rebuilding the kitchen and adding latrines. Just $5 can go far!

Please feel free to click over to this group and contribute.

How well would you or your kids learn in this school?

More:


How is your little tyke welcomed to school?

August 20, 2014

This is how it’s done right:

“You are the reason we are here.”

No Common Core Standards, no testing schedule, just a genuine welcome. Bet there's a lot more learning that goes on behind that door than many others.

No Common Core Standards, no testing schedule, just a genuine welcome. Bet there’s a lot more learning that goes on behind that door than many others.

Tip of the old scrub brush to @Kiwigirl58, Sahila ChangeBringer.

Read the rest of this entry »


School in distant, difficult classrooms: Afghanistan

June 10, 2014

From @HistoricalPics: This is what a school in Afghanistan looks like. Be thankful for what you have. pic.twitter.com/Dsfva1yNb4

A school in Afghanistan — probably the entire school.

Learning can occur almost anywhere.  Some children go to great lengths to get an education, to improve their lives where they are, or to improve their chances of finding a better place to live.

I’ll wager this school has no wi-fi, no in-school suspension, few homework problems, and no difficulty with Common Core State Standards.

Afghanistan’s schools all seem to offer amazing hurdles to education, by U.S. standards.  Look at these photos.

A line of girls on their way to school. In Afghanistan most of the cities have limited number of schools which are mostly far away from students home. From Everything Afghanistan

A line of girls on their way to school. In Afghanistan most of the cities have limited number of schools which are mostly far away from students home. From Everything Afghanistan

BBC featured a story on the Afghanistan schools project.  Caption here:  Many Afghan schools are outdoors or in makeshift shelters on barren, dusty earth

BBC featured a story on the Afghanistan schools project. Caption here: Many Afghan schools are outdoors or in makeshift shelters on barren, dusty earth. (These photos from 2009; photos by Ramon Mohamed, a teacher from Broomhill, Sheffield, England.)

 

Another outdoor Afghanistan classroom.  Photo from BBC

Another outdoor Afghanistan classroom. Photo from BBC

2010 post from Reality of Life in Afghanistan:

2010 post from Reality of Life in Afghanistan: “Eight years since the repressive Taliban regime was overthrown, 42 per cent children still do not attend or have access to schools. (Photo: RFE/RL)”

Those of us who advocate for outdoor classrooms generally have something else in mind than these photographs from Afghanistan show.

More:


If a student values education, he will overcome much

November 13, 2013

But, really: See what some students put up with, just to learn?

We usually had enough chairs in Dallas.  Usually.

Those kids don’t have any.


Oops. Future of education already here; reformers missed it (and so did most teachers)

October 17, 2013

You need to see these slides, from Will Richardson.

First, teachers should send a copy of this to their evaluators, principals, and all other admins up to the superintendent.  Sure, it’s possible they’ll fire you for telling the truth.  But if every teacher in your district did it, they might look at the slides and ponder:  What in the hell do our evaluations and test scores have to do with this new future that is already upon us, and around us, and washing away the foundations of what the state legislature claims we must be doing?

Will Richardson

Will Richardson

Second, this is a model presentation.  Notice how few of the slides are cluttered with words.  Notice those slides with words are easy to read, easy to grasp, and complement and are complemented by a lot of great images.  (One of my students got a less-than-A grade on a PowerPoint presentation in another class, and brought me the evaluation:  “Not enough text,” was one of the criticisms he’d gotten.  That teacher is considered a model by too many administrators.)  It’s not a perfect presentation.  Garr Reynolds would have a lot to say about it.  I’ll wager Richardson’s is better than any other presentation you’ve seen this week, in the content, the depth of information, and the way it’s packaged.  (Would have loved to have seen the presentation . . .)  That is particularly true if you’ve been the victim of teacher professional development sessions in the past week.

There are a lot of slides, partly because so few of them are cluttered by text.  (Don’t know how long the presentation went.)  This presentation would win a case against almost every other slide presentation I’ve ever seen from any law firm, who pay tens of thousands to lawyers to make slide presentations that defy understanding.  The world would be ever so much better were lawyers required to watch this, and compare it with their last presentation.

Third (related to and justifying the first), you need to realize how things have changed in the past year, past five years, past decade, and how we as a society and nation failed to account for those changes, or keep up with them, especially in our public AND private elementary and secondary schools.  Richardson understands the changes, and has some great leads on answers.

This presentation appears to have been a hit.  It seems a few people asked Will Richardson for copies (@WillRich45, www.willrichardson.com), which is why it’s on Slideshare.

Richardson highlights the importance of these thoughts at his blog:

If the recent iPad debacle in Los Angeles teaches us anything it’s that no amount of money and technology will change anything without a modern vision of what teaching and learning looks like when every student and every teacher has access to the Internet. As many of us have been saying for far too long, our strategy to deal with the continuing explosion of technology and connections can’t be to simply layer devices on top of the traditional curriculum and engage in digital delivery. Unfortunately, far too few develop a vision that sees that differently.

*     *     *     *     *

Please note: Technology is integrated throughout these initiatives in ways that serve the vision, not the other way around. This isn’t “let’s give everyone an iPad filled with a lot of textbook and personalized learning apps aimed at improving test scores and then figure out how to manage it.” This is about having important conversations around complex, difficult questions:

  • What will schools look like in the future?
  • What kinds of spaces do we need to support instruction and collaborative work in 5-10 years?
  • How will technology transform curriculum, instruction, and assessment?

And how does it work at your school, teachers?  Students?

We missed the revolution.  The kids are ahead of us.

Can  we catch up?

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If class size doesn’t matter, why do the charter schools list it as a key selling point?

July 18, 2013

Classroom in Edgewood ISD, San Antonio, Texas, in 2010. Photo by Bob Daemmrich

Classroom in Edgewood ISD, San Antonio, Texas, in 2010. Republican legislators want more classrooms like this one, crowded, to save money paying teachers and heating the rooms. Or maybe they have a real reason — it can’t be a good one. What’s the ratio, three kids to one desk? Did one kid fail to shower this morning.  Texas Tribune photo, by Bob Daemmrich

Steven Zimmer, a member of the board of the under-assault Los Angeles Unified School District, lays it on the line:  Class size is important, and legislative efforts to expand class size in public schools are intended to sabotage public schooling — and that action harms students.

Description of the video at YouTube from the OTL Campaign:

Small class size isn’t about protecting teachers’ jobs or making their work easier — it’s about providing every student with quality attention in the classroom. Steve Zimmer, Board Member of the Los Angeles Unified School District and a former teacher, asks why we tolerate or dismiss crowded public school classrooms when charters and private schools use small class sizes as a selling point?

More:

 J. D. Crowe cartoon from the Mobile, Alabama, Press-Register.

“OK, Class . . . How many of you are students adn how many are teacher consultants?” J. D. Crowe cartoon from the Mobile, Alabama, Press-Register, August 18, 2009.

“It could be worse — this could be a public school classroom during budget cuts.” Cartoon by Mike Keefe, Denver Post, March 18, 2011

 


Teachers, looking for help?

May 11, 2013

Try the blogs listed at Teach.com, Teach Make A Difference, in their ranking of teaching blogs. Logo for Teach.com

I’m fascinated at the great teacher resource blogs I don’t see listed; one of the criteria for listing is that at least 50% of the posts must deal with education.

Consequently, it tends to be pedantically-oriented towards classroom technique, with a great diminution of education management and especially policy and politics, which are greater problems in education today, for my money (and lack of money, too).

You will find a lot of useful stuff there.

Was I right? Lots of useful stuff?


Practice, even with failure, more important than talent – update

October 25, 2012

WordCrafter.net links to this story from an excellent page on picking a topic for an essay — English teachers, social studies teachers, you should probably make this page a part of your syllabus for essays, really.  A few teachers use the page, and when they assign essays this post starts rising in the hit count.

But that was five years ago.  There’s more information, and even an update at Stanford Magazine.  So, we’ll update here, too:

Carol Dweck, author of Mindset

Carol Dweck, Stanford University

Every teacher needs to get familiar with the work of Carol Dweck. She’s a Stanford psychologist who is advising the Blackburn Rovers from England’s Premier League, on how to win, and how to develop winning ways.

Your students need you to have this stuff.

A 60-year-old academic psychologist might seem an unlikely sports motivation guru. But Dweck’s expertise—and her recent book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success—bear directly on the sort of problem facing the Rovers. Through more than three decades of systematic research, she has been figuring out answers to why some people achieve their potential while equally talented others don’t—why some become Muhammad Ali and others Mike Tyson. The key, she found, isn’t ability; it’s whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed.

What’s more, Dweck has shown that people can learn to adopt the latter belief and make dramatic strides in performance. These days, she’s sought out wherever motivation and achievement matter, from education and parenting to business management and personal development. [emphasis added]

I can’t do justice here, in short form, to Dweck’s work described by Marina Krakovsky.  See this story in Stanford Magazine [2007].

Update from Stanford Magazine:

Psychology professor Carol Dweck has spent her career figuring out why some people give up in the face of failure while others are motivated to learn from their mistakes and improve. It’s all about fixed mindsets versus growth mindsets (“The Effort Effect,” March/April 2007)

Now Dweck has formed Mindset Works, which “helps human beings reach their full potential.” Its signature product is Brainology, software developed by Dweck and educational researcher Lisa S. Blackwell and now available at www.brainology.us following successful pilots in the United States and abroad. The program aims to motivate middle school and high school students to do better in all their subjects by teaching them how the brain works and how to boost their intelligence.

Also, no discussion of this topic can be complete without at least a mention of Malcolm Gladwell‘s work.  In a recent book, Outliers, Gladwell notes what has come to be called the “10,000 hour rule.”  Gladwell observed that most experts were made by practice at a skill, rather than talent — and that mastery was achieved after about 10,000 hours of practice.  Wikipedia describes the idea Gladwell outlines:

A common theme that appears throughout Outliers is the “10,000-Hour Rule”, based on a study by Anders Ericsson. Gladwell claims that greatness requires enormous time, using the source of The Beatles’ musical talents and Gates’ computer savvy as examples.[3] The Beatles performed live in Hamburg, Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time, therefore meeting the 10,000-Hour Rule. Gladwell asserts that all of the time The Beatles spent performing shaped their talent, and quotes Beatles’ biographer Philip Norman as saying, “So by the time they returned to England from Hamburg, Germany, ‘they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them.'”[3] Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when he gained access to a high school computer in 1968 at the age of 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming on it.[3]

Does Gladwell mention Dweck’s work?  Is Dweck’s work confirmed by Ericsson’s?  There’s a lot of room for discussion there, especially in an essay.

For writing, for writing essays, practice provides dramatic improvement for students — that much is certain.

More:


How to get things done in Dallas schools

September 28, 2012

Interesting.  Troubling?  I think so.  Matthew Haag blogs at the Dallas Morning News site:

This time of the year, we often hear from parents and Dallas ISD teachers that their schools are stifling hot. The district has lots of older campuses, where air-conditioning units are on their last legs and the chillers don’t operate fully.

That was the case for a few hours yesterday at Harry Stone Montessori in East Oak Cliff. And a father of a Stone student took a different route to get the AC fixed. He messaged DISD Superintendent Mike Miles on Twitter, which he rebooted six weeks ago. (His Twitter account, I should add, is managed by his special assistant, Miguel Solis, who is rarely more than a few feet from Miles all day.)

@MMilesDISD Hard to study when the A/C is broken w 90 degree heat @harry Stone…you wants results and so do Let’s Fix it. @matthewhaag

Four hours later, Miles responded.

We are on it @ChrisSuprun: Hard to study when the A/C is broken w 90 degree heat @harry Stone…you want results and so do Let’s Fix it.

And about two hours later, the AC was fixed.

Feel like we should time it: “@MMilesDISD We are on it @ChrisSuprun: Hard to study when the A/C is broken w 90 degree heat @harry Stone.”

@RobertWilonsky@ChrisSuprun Crew is telling me we are fixed now Thx to facilities, HS Staff, and community involved with this

Obviously, the moral of this story is that if you need something fixed in your school, message Miles on Twitter.

It’s interesting that the new Superintendent, Mike Miles, responded quickly.  On one hand that suggests things may have already changed in Dallas.  On the other hand, people who study organizations understand that a calm surface can hide a lot of turmoil in the deep water.  It was a parent who Tweeted. What if it had been a teacher who got to Miles?  What happened to the teacher and principal at Harry Stone?  What happened to the HVAC guy nominally responsible?

What happened to the students?

My experience in Dallas ISD is that almost everyone in administration will claim they cannot control classroom temperatures.  My last classroom regularly hit 85°, and often enough climbed into the 90s.  Meanwhile, my colleague across the hall had to wear jackets.  Our thermometers regularly had the temperatures in her room in the 60s.  One week it dropped further.  I bought a laser-pointer thermometer to check the answers we got from the HVAC guys who would come into the classroom, usually in the middle of a presentation, point the thing around and tell us that the temperature was where it should be, or moving that way. (Then they’d disappear.)   We recorded several days of temperatures in her room below 60°, as low as 52°.  Eventually the solution was to cover the air vents coming into that classroom, and take out the thermostat.

I am not kidding.

I wonder what the HVAC people in Dallas ISD would say about the ultimate solution at Harry Stone Montessori?  From the Superintendent’s office, did he chalk this off to a great anomaly, or did he check deeper to see whether there might be a deeper problem?

Unnecessary cooling is a huge energy waster in schools.  Unnecessary heating wastes energy, too.   Dallas’s fraud and abuse hotline claimed not to have jurisdiction over these issues . . . when an organization is hemorrhaging money, as all Texas school districts are after the Lege took so many potshots at them over the past six years, good management could be lifesaver.

So, to get action, teachers only need to Tweet their problems to the Superintendent?  Want to bet how happy that makes principals?  Want to take bets on how this shakes out?


Bored in class? Do some math, for fun.

December 22, 2011

This is a good video that all math teachers ought to see (heck, I can figure out how to use it as a bell ringer in social studies, I think).

I had to mention it, just because of Michael Tobis’s wonderful headline at Planet 3.0:  “Bored in class?  Do some math instead.”

I confess to being caught doing math instead, in English, in history — and in art we often made mathematical games to create patterns.  From the stuff I see on walls in schools, that’s still popular.

Some time ago I ordered a poster from Max Temkin, the brilliant poster propagandist/artist.  It says that the universe is easy to understand if you speak its language, and that language is mathematics.  True.

Also true that in most of the disciplines that work into classes we call social studies, we do not have the ability to discern the cool patterns like Fibonacci numbers in pine cones, pineapples and sunflower blossoms.  People look for those pattersn in history anyway, and that poses a key problem to policy makers.  People want to see a pattern, expect to see a pattern, and historians cannot meet that expectation, other than quoting Santayana.

Maybe one of my students will be the one who discerns a key pattern.  It’ll be one of the slackers, if it happens.


Ron Clark: Don’t dumb down the lessons

August 1, 2011

Cover of Ron Clark's new book, "End of Molasses Classes"

Cover of Clark's new book; he is also the author of "The Essential 55"

What we have found at the Ron Clark Academy is that if you teach to the brightest in the classroom and hold every student accountable to that level, all of the test scores will go up.

— Ron Clark, appearing on KERA FM 90.1’s “Think,” August 1, 2011

Teachers, look! Cheaper, fun way to get giant whiteboards

June 30, 2011

It’s a great idea, but I didn’t even dare think it possible

We’ve had blackboard paint for at least a century.  Teachers at our school sometimes paint their closet doors, or part of a wall, to use as a chalkboard.

I prefer whiteboards, though.

Watching Neil deGrasse Tyson on Nova:  Science Now, I caught a reference to a researcher whose lab walls are all painted with “dry-erase” paint.  (The NOVA piece is the episode on how the brain works; this segment deals with researcher David Eagleman.)

Is that even possible?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Quick answer: Yes!

Check out applications ideas at IdeaPaint’s blog.

Lowe’s carries IdeaPaint, the stuff displayed in the graphic above.  It isn’t as cheap as other paint, but compared to the cost of a whiteboard, it’s pretty good.  RustOleum manufactures a version available at Home Depot and other outlets.  It’s advertised as cheap as $20 per kit online, but runs as high as $40.  One kit covers about 49 square feet (7 feet by 7 feet).  I’ve found at least five different manufacturers of the stuff, with different features.

I haven’t calculated prices (at about $3.25/square foot), but there are also dry-erase skins which can be applied to any wall — with the added advantage that the product claims to be erasable for virtually any marker, including Sharpies® and other permanent markers.   One manufacturer offers skins in clear, to allow underlying paint colors to show through, and white, and says it will match colors on a whole-roll basis (pricey, I’ll wager).

Uses for math and writing should be obvious — think about those mural-sized wall maps in a geography or history class, covered with clear, dry-erase paint . . .

Wouldn’t it be great if school districts had architects, or instruction coaches, who knew about this stuff and could help us keep up in the technology and tool wars/sweepstakes?

More, resources:  

  • Dry-erase painting at Charlestown (state? Massachusetts?) schools:

  • Case study from Milford High, Milford, Massachusetts

  • Case study, Dever-McCormack School, Boston school district

  • Evernote software teams with IdeaPaint . . . look at the video


H. W. Brands on the study of history, with technology

September 26, 2010

Spent half a day with H. W. Brands, professor of history at the University of Texas, and author of at least one of my favorite history books, The First American (and several others).

Brands banned the use of computers for notetaking in his classrooms this fall.  It’s not the notes he objects to, of course, but the students’ side-activities of checking e-mail, eBay, and ESPN, rather than paying attention to the lecture, and other activities in lieu of taking notes.

Nominally our discussion centered on the decade of 1890 to 1900, the Reckless Decade, as Brands’ book on the era titles it.   Brands took a larger, circular route to the topic, today.  These discussions come under the aegis of the Dallas Independent School District’s Teaching American History Grant, and the Gilder-Lehrman Institute chipped in today, too.  We are a polyglot group of teachers of American history, and a few other related social studies subjects, in Dallas high schools.

I asked about technology beyond lecture, or “direct instruction” as the curriculum and teacher berating  rubrics so dryly and inaccurately phrase it.   Brands focused on the effects of connected students in the lecture, a problem which we officially should not have in Dallas schools.  We discovered he’s using Blackboard (probably the electronic classroom standard for UT-Austin).  I’ve used Blackboard in college instruction, and a somewhat less luxurious version in high schools.  Blackboard works better than others I’ve tried.

Over several hours Brands said he teaches best when he performs well as a story teller — when the students put down their note-taking pencils and listen.  Two observations:  It helps to be a good story teller, and, second, that requires that one know a story to tell.

Our grant could give us better stories to tell.  Most educational enterprises produce great benefits as by-products of the original learning goal.  Our teacher studies of history are no different.


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