Hope you had a nice winter break. I was wondering if you or your students would be interested in participating in a nationwide SAT Vocab Video Contest @ MIT university. If not, perhaps you have some educator contacts you could direct me to. We'd really like to get students involved from Pennsylvania!
You can view contest details at BrainyFlix.com Please let me know. Thanks!
I'm sending out messages to everyone I know right now, and this virtual Ning network is no exception. My name is Ellen Chisa. I am a 20 year old student from Olin College of Engineering (near Boston). I am a part of a group of six Olin students who are taking a year off to pursue our interests in education, entrepreneurship, design and technology, bringing us to the logical project of a business that designs collaborative software for schools! I found you in a search for "middle school", and since our project is specific to middle schools, I thought you might be interested. Our project is called AlightLearning, and this is our "short" project description:
We are working under the assumption that within ten years, the landscape of modern education will have fully integrated what we now define as new classroom media and tools: video, online collaboration, open source curriculum, and internet-based software. We hope to pioneer a web software tool that acts as a platform for this new media, bringing the power of the web and its tools to students, teachers and parents in a secure, comfortable and innovative environment. More importantly, and unlike many of our competitors, our software will empower teachers to better integrate higher level thinking skills, individualized learning, goal setting, reflection, and effective feedback and evaluation. Our goal is to have our free software at a pilot middle school by April 15th, 2008, continuing to develop and coordinate with our users to create a product that other schools and individual teachers will want to use to improve their students' learning in and out of the classroom.
Our team is currently trying to win an idea competition on Ideablob.com You can find us at http://ideablob.com/3975. We would love your support in the form of a vote within the next couple days, but more importantly we'd love your feedback and comments. Our description on Ideablob is short, and even the one above hardly gets at many of the issues we would like to take a stab at solving, but at least it's a start. Note that winning this contest will raise $10,000, a large and useful sum of money for a web-based company running on “sweat equity” and minimal costs.
Feel free to email me back, post on my profile, check out alightlearning.com, or do anything you like!
I saw your post on Weblogg-ed. I have some questions for you. But first some background to provide some context to the question.
I am an experienced teacher, but an 8th grade newbie. I've taught a variety of grades. For some reason, I seem to be most successful teaching 6th, 7th and 11th grades. Now 8th graders are a different breed.
I just read the Dorothy Sayers piece "Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning” http://www.gbt.org/text/sayers.html recommended by Nathaniel Jones in the Weblogg-ed thread. In this piece, she eloquently describes my 8th grade students: "The Pert age, which follows upon this (and, naturally, overlaps it to some extent), is characterized by contradicting, answering back, liking to "catch people out" (especially one's elders); and by the propounding of conundrums. Its nuisance-value is extremely high. It usually sets in about the Fourth Form. The Poetic age is popularly known as the "difficult" age. It is self-centered; it yearns to express itself; it rather specializes in being misunderstood; it is restless and tries to achieve independence; and, with good luck and good guidance, it should show the beginnings of creativeness; a reaching out towards a synthesis of what it already knows, and a deliberate eagerness to know and do some one thing in preference to all others." She then goes on to recommend a curriculum designed to direct this energy. It seems to be exactly what you have set out to do in your Web 2.0 enabled American Culture class.
Like you, I happen to have the great fortune of doing some very creative things with my 8th graders. I am a rare bird in my district though as I am a solo biotechnology teacher in a state that has no standard curriculum for the 8th grade. So I'm free to create as I will.
The taste of freedom is so wonderful, I'd like some of the other 8th grade teachers to have some as well. It would be nice to have a compelling quantitative argument that is research-based. Until I do, I will be satisfied to collect equally compelling success stories.
As an experienced 8th grade teacher, I imagine you have some compelling success stories that sheds light on what works and what doesn't work well with 8th graders.
This line of thought leads me to these questions:
1. Would you be willing to start a thread about what works in 8th grade to allow Classroom 2.0 teachers to publish their success stories with newbie teachers like myself seeking advice? I'd start the thread myself, but I have no compelling stories to tell that could serve as a model for subsequent entries.
2. Would you be willing to work with me in constructing a compelling case for freeing 8th grade teachers from the standard narrowly focused mile-wide and inch-deep curricula and replace it with innovations that better suit the needs of teachers and their students at this critical age of social and cognitive development?
3. Along those lines, I am wondering what you think of Dorothy Sayers recommendation to take advantage of the inherent argumentativeness of this age group by focusing 8th grade curricula on teaching the tools of argumentation, namely logic and rhetoric?
3. I have a conjecture that 8th grade teachers have the highest turnover rate relative to the other grades. What is your opinion about this idea? Would you know of any research done on this topic? I intend to use this information to firm up the case to free 8th grade teachers from the problems generated by standardized testing.