Saturday, August 26, 2017

Today's Reads, Views, and Listens

A colleague of mine, Mr. Geiser, shared this article via Facebook a couple days ago: Traditional Seating is Still Okay.

The current trend in education (especially elementary) is flexible seating.  Mrs. Semanko and I wrote a grant last year and received funds for flexible seating in our rooms.

I have several bouncy ball chairs, two stand up desks, three bean bag chairs, and several small floor chairs.  This will be in addition to other traditional seating in my room (three tables and 6 regular chairs) as well as a desk or two even.

So I'm hoping for the best of all worlds.  

Now flexible seating doesn't make a whole lot of sense for some disciplines.  But for my classroom, it seems to make a great deal of sense as much of what my students do is individualized work (writing an essay, reading a book or story, developing a blog, or researching a topic).  So I wanted to give them a chance to find what works best for them.

I noticed a few years ago when my step-daughter, KoKo, loved to do all of her homework on the couch, with her book balanced on one knee and her tablet resting on her thigh.  I said to her that the dining room table - where I always did my homework (as a student and as a teacher . . . and even where I'm typing this blog post now) - was free.  But she declined.  She worked best sitting on the couch.

This was in total contrast to how I like to work.  As I said already, I like to sit at a desk.  Even when I was in college and grad school, I liked to find a spot deep in the bowels of dear old AC Clark library and sit by myself and type or write sitting up on a hard surface.

But not all learners are like that.

I'm hoping to give students options to find what works best for them in my class.

That isn't to say by an stretch that desks in rows or tables or whatever you think of when you think of "traditional" classrooms is wrong.  In fact, I think it's great that some teachers keep them - as the author of this article does.

One thing I'm convinced that we have to do is be - as Seth Godin espouses - a purple cow.  You have to stand out.  Especially in this day and age when kids are so engaged and entertained 24/7.  So you have to be unique and interesting.

With everyone moving to flexible seating, traditional seating may well be unique and interesting to them again.  Plus, you certainly will have students who learn best in desks in rows.

As the author points out, seating isn't the only way to be unique and interesting in your classroom.

I couldn't agree more. 

She offers several ways she makes her class unique - despite the desks in rows.  Two ideas that I love are "talent shows" and "genius bar."  "Talent Shows" are where she allows kids to show off their personal passions and their personal strengths.  I love this.  "Genius bar" is where she gives students time to become an expert at something they are interested in and then share it with others.

That would engage me whether I was sitting in a bean bag or sitting in a traditional desk.



Speaking of being a purple cow, I was just listening to this podcast featuring Dave Burgess.

Burgess discusses the importance of making your class and subject highly engaging and entertaining. He said that one thing that impacted his teaching was his passion for magic.  He went on to elaborate how after doing magic tricks and developing his skills, he decided to bring the approach of a street performer to his classroom.  If you're a street performer, you better be engaging and entertaining or no one will stop, let alone give you any money.

Imagine if we had to teach like that.

Now I know that if students had the option to leave any classroom, they would.  All students have something better to do than take our classes or sit in our rooms.

But imagine if they had to go to school.  They just could choose their own teachers and classes.  Would anyone choose you?


Think of it like this - we have to go through that god awful safety training via scripted slideshows again.

No one I know looks forward to that.  In fact, I'm willing to be 99% of us (except for Mr. Froiland) actually ever sits through that content.

You hit the play button and walk away for 20 minutes or so.  Then you take the test based simply off your common knowledge and guesswork.

You hope you get a score that allows you to pass.

Why?  Because we have better things to do (certainly with the school year about to start) and when will we ever need to know about material safety data sheets and tripping hazards?

Now, how is that different from how what every single kid thinks when they walk into our classrooms?  

But when we have engaging and entertaining presenters (as we did last year when Barb Schmitz brought the house down with her keynote presentation), we will gladly pay attention and sit through a training session.

That's how we have to approach our classes.

If you're just teaching the curriculum and going through the motions, you're being average.  And average is for losers.  Your kids deserve better.


The Be Nice Project.

How amazing is this?


I think internships are the future of high school education.  Since students don't need a college degree for a vast majority of jobs available today - and since so many students don't even graduate college - internships, I believe, are a must.

We need to return to the old, old days of apprenticeships.  And I think internships are a great way to re-introduce that concept to this generation of learners.


Now this is so near and dear to my heart it's not even funny: Universities should ban Powerpoints - they make students stupid and professors boring.

Of course, PowerPoints aren't the problem here.  How presenters - whether they're professors or high school teachers or professional development presenters - choose to present the content of the Powerpoints, that is the real problem.

I've seen PowerPoints (such as the one George Couros will present on Thursday to our district and the one my sister presented to our district last year) that are as engaging and entertaining as any movie or video game.

But I've seen others that are horrendous.  Last year we had to suffer through some mandatory training on the mandatory reporting presented by some ladies from social services.  Sure enough, they gave us handouts and delivered content via PowerPoint.  Sure enough, one gal read everything word for word.  Not only could we look up at the screen and read it, but we could also look at the handout in our hands and read it!

It was a disaster.  The worst possible way to deliver content ever.



This is hilarious.  As someone brought up on Facebook, this would be an interesting staff development activity.


This is what I mean by "Let your freak flag fly!"

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