“delicious” redesign

The social bookmarking website del.icio.us has been redesigned! There are several new exciting features they have added.

  • del.icio.us now redirects to delicious.com Whew! Glad those periods are gone from the middle of the name. It was awkward to say, remember, and type. Now that problem is gone.
  • Searching is much more dynamic. When you search your own, or someone else’s bookmarks, there are many more ways to search in a more robust way.
  • Tags are more robust, as well.
  • There are many other changes, but none that will be disruptive to those just getting started.

In short, those that use delicious frequently will be able to benefit from the changes most, and just do what they’ve been doing at a much higher level.

Wes Fryer blogs about the redesign here. Thanks to him for drawing my attention to it.

Delicious has a “What’s New On Delicious” page, which explains things pretty well.

They also have a blog entry of their own to lay out what the changes are, as well. It has a brief video which may be great for those of you who don’t want to read a bunch of text. But watch closely, because it does fast, as they demonstrate the differences, rather than show a bunch of PowerPoint-esque slides to communicate each point.

Here are my previous blog articles about delicious.

Marzano Ch 4-Reinforcing Effort & Providing Recognition

The series continues…

Research has shown that people generally attribute success at any given task to one of four causes:
1. Ability – seemingly helpful, but what if you don’t believe that you have the requisite skill? In this case, students might sabotage their own success!
2. Effort – what we’re hoping for students to believe
3. Other people – not helpful
4. Luck – not helpful

Generalities from the research on Reinforcing Effort:
1. Not all students realize the importance of believing in effort.
-This might seem obvious to us, but not so for students!
2. Students can learn to change their beliefs to an emphasis on effort.
-Therefore, it’s a challenge for us to teach them to make the connection! It’s heartening that it IS POSSIBLE for them to change this belief.

Classroom practice – Ideas for how teachers can help students learn to change their beliefs to emphasize effort.
Share examples of times that people succeeded by continuing to try even when things got difficult. These could be personal examples, or stories of well-known athletes, educators, and political or social leaders. Some ideas are: the movie Rudy, the book The Little Engine that Could, or this lesson plan idea about the Olympics that I hope to use at the beginning of this school year:
For a week (this year, it’ll be the first week or so of school), give no “normal” homework. Instead, assign students to watch the Olympics every night all week. Have them pay particular attention to the “up close and personal” stories about specific athletes. They should look for examples of ordinary people who achieved extraordinary things because they believed that sustained effort would lead to achievement of their goals. The first 5 minutes of each period that week, then, use to let people discuss, in small groups and as a class, the stories they hear and the different strategies that the athletes used to keep believing in themselves. By Monday, each student should come up with a way to remind themselves to keep trying when things get difficult in class.

There was an interesting rubric that you might want to use for helping students make the connection between their own effort and achievement. You may download it here.

They could have titled this section “praise” or “rewards,” but either of those would not have been technically accurate. In fact, in some studies about “praise,” it was found that there was a very minimal, or even negative effect on achievement. Therefore, it’s important to take note of exactly what is meant by “recognition.”

On page 56, there is a very helpful list of Guidelines for Effective Praise vs. Ineffective Praise. You may download the list here.

Generalities from the research for Providing Recognition:
1. Rewards do not necessarily have a negative effect on intrinsic motivation.
2. Reward is most effective when it is contingent on the attainment of some standard of performance.
3. Abstract symbolic recognition is more effective than tangible rewards.

Marzano Ch 3-Summarizing & Note Taking

Another post in the continuing series of posts on Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement

Generalities from the research on Summarizing:

1. To effectively summarize, students must delete some information, substitute some information, and keep some information.
2. To effectively delete, substitute, and keep information, students must analyze the information at a fairly deep level.
3. Being aware of the explicit structure of information is an aid to summarizing information.

Classroom Practice in Summarizing:
“Rule-Based” Strategy: This strategy is one of following a set of rules or steps that produce a summary. Here are the rules:
•Delete trivial material that is unnecessary to understanding.
•Delete redundant material.
Substituting superordinate terms for lists (e.g, “flowers” for “daisy, tulips, and roses”)
Select a topic sentence, or invent one if it is missing

There are several Summary Frames provided in the book. Here’s the list:
•Narrative Frame
•Topic-Restriction-Illustration Frame
•Definition Frame
•Argumentation Frame
•Problem/Solution Frame
•Conversation Frame

Here are a few for you to download (Narrative, Topic-Restriction, Definition). I’m interested in using them in my classroom; I’m also interested in how you might use them in your classroom. Please comment on this article if you have any feedback on these, and any ideas of how you might use them (or some that I have not typed, but are included in the book) in your classroom.

Generalities from the research on Note Taking:
1.    Verbatim note taking is, perhaps, the least effective way to take notes.
-When students are trying to record everything they hear or read, they are not engaged in the act of synthesizing information.
-Trying to record all of what is heard or read takes up so much of a student’s working memory that she does not have “room” to analyze the incoming information.
2.    Notes should be considered a work in progress.
-Review and revise the notes; correct misconceptions

3.    Notes should be used as study guides for tests.
-Frequently, students don’t know about this, or how to structure time to take advantage of this.

4.    The more notes that are taken, the better.
-This is opposite to a common misconception that “less is more.” In fact, many universities explicitly advise students to keep their notes brief, and not put too much material in notes.

Classroom Practice in Note Taking:
Teacher-Prepared Notes
…provide students a clear picture of what the teacher considers important.
…provide students with a model of how notes might be taken.

Formats for Notes
-No one correct way (Cornell style or otherwise)
-Informal Outline – indenting indicates major ideas and their related details
-Webbing – uses relative sizes of circles to indicate the importance of ideas & lines to indicate relationships
-Combination of the two – one on each side of the page; the right side of the page would display the information in some visual way
-At the end of the note-taking, or periodically throughout the process, take a strip across the bottom and summarize what has been learned. My own observation is that this does not have to be at the bottom of the piece of paper. This could be in the middle of the page, and class could continue on the same or related topic the next day.

Marzano Ch 2-Identifying Similarities & Differences

Most of the rest of the book is a series of chapters which takes one category of strategies at a time. Several chapters have two very similar categories (or, depending on how you look at it, one category that deserves two names). Here is the list of the chapters/categories:

  • Identifying similarities and differences
  • Summarizing and note taking
  • Reinforcing effort and providing recognition
  • Homework and practice
  • Nonlinguistic representations
  • Cooperative learning
  • Setting objectives and providing feedback
  • Generating and testing hypotheses
  • Questions, cues, and advance organizers
  • Specific Applications

The first in the list, which I will now discuss, is Identifying similarities and differences

Generalities from the research:
1. Presenting students with explicit guidance in identifying similarities and differences enhances students’ understanding of and ability to use knowledge.

2. Asking students to independently identify similarities and differences enhances students’ understanding of and ability to use knowledge.

3. Representing similarities and differences in graphic or symbolic form enhances students’ understanding of and ability to use knowledge.

4. Identification of similarities and differences can be accomplished in a variety of ways. The identification of similarities and differences is a highly robust activity.
Four main forms of identifying similarities and differences:
1. Comparing (and contrasting)
The process of identifying similarities and differences between or among things or ideas.

2. Classifying
The process of grouping things that are alike into categories on the basis of their characteristics.

3. Creating metaphors
The process of identifying a general or basic pattern in a specific topic and then finding another topic that appears to be quite different but that has the same general pattern.

4. Creating analogies
The process of identifying relationships between pairs of concepts (identifying relationships between relationships)

Reading this is such an abbreviated form might be dry and dull without the research to strengthen it. Hey, maybe this is refreshing because it gets right to the point, I don’t know. Anyway, for me, looking it over now seems to be not quite as powerful. I plan to revisit this chapter’s content periodically to see if I am applying what I’ve learned here. It’s not that Marzano has found earth-shatteringly new information that most educators have never heard of. Rather, he is emphasizing the strategies that give “more bang for our buck”; he’s pointing out those very most crucial strategies that will yield the most student achievement. This is encouraging to me, and it motivates me to pay attention to the list of categories of strategies that he’s described here. I hope that this is helpful for you.

Marzano Ch 1-Intro

Here begins a series of blog articles that summarize, chapter by chapter, Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement by Robert Marzano, et al.

My intention in embarking on this project is to more fully digest the book, examine how I might be able to apply the findings of the research that Marzano brings to us.

There are many strategies mentioned; their placement in this book are based on many, many research studies. Sometimes we read articles and studies that come across as merely one person’s opinion (or the opinion of a small group). I find much more credibility in this book, since it is was is called a “meta-study,” a study of studies. In the book, we are given “Generalities” for each strategy (or category of strategies, as sometimes is more appropriately labeled, since there are so many different ways to apply the given strategy. We are also given “Classroom Applications.” These I won’t spend a lot of time on, but I will definitely outline the Generalities here.

Sometimes, there is a useful list, a lesson plan, a template, or some other such document that is part of the book. In these cases, I will endeavor to re-create those documents in a way that I plan to use them. Then, I will allow you to simply click on some text within these blog articles to download the document.

Thus, here begins my notes on the first chapter…..

Research in Education is New! Lots of recent research

A tremendous amount of research has been done in the last 10 years on effective classroom instruction. Practically no research was done before 1970. We are in a new era in education; we can actually point to certain strategies or classroom practices and say with certainty – this works! That is, we can be confident that it will enhance student achievement. Hence the title of the book.

Some have looked at differences in student achievement and blown off the data, citing unchangeable (by schools, anyway) factors such as students’ natural ability/aptitude, socioeconomic status, and home environment.

Rigorous, legitimate studies have given us helpful, useful guidance into what works in the classroom.

Effect size

Marzano, et al, frequently refer to something called “effect size” when quantifying the effectiveness of a particular strategy. To understand this, a brief discussion about the old “bell-shaped curve” (normal distribution) is necessary. There are three standard deviations above the mean, and three below. When the given strategy is shown to be so effective that it brings students one standard deviation up, the effect size is said to be 1.00.

Marzano, et al, frequently refer to something called “effect size” when quantifying the effectiveness of a particular strategy. To understand this, a brief discussion about the old “bell-shaped curve” (normal distribution) is necessary. There are three standard deviations above the mean, and three below. When the given strategy is shown to be so effective that it brings students one standard deviation up, the effect size is said to be 1.00.

These scores can be translated into “percentile gain,” as well. Here’s how this works:

Since we know that 34% of student scores fall between the mean and the first standard deviation, and 14% of the scores fall between the first and second deviation, and so on.

These are interesting and give statistical, scientific credibility to the findings presented in this book. However, for those not numbers oriented, or those not terribly interested in statistical minutiae, I will refrain from slogging through all of these numbers in this series of blog articles. I might make note of the fact that a certain strategy was much more or less effective than another.

What we don’t know yet:

I was pleased to read that the authors admitted that there are several major questions they don’t have the answer to yet. If they claimed to know everything, I would be suspicious…
-Are some instructional strategies more effective in certain subject areas?
-Are some instructional strategies more effective at certain grade levels?
-Are some instructional strategies more effective with students from different backgrounds?
-Are some instructional strategies more effective with students of different aptitude?

“[There is a] need to study the effects of instructional strategies on specific types of students in specific situations, with specific subject matters. Until we find the answers to the preceding questions, teachers should rely on their knowledge of their students, their subject matter, and their situation to identify the most appropriate instruction strategies.”

Elementary Math Google Custom Search

Well, it’s official. I’m a huge fan of the Google Custom Search Engine tool!!
I have now created several of them:

Elementary Math, Ancient Greece-6th Grade, Biomes-6th Grade, and Ancient China-6th Grade

These are groups of websites I’ve put together. When you go to any of the above web pages, you get a Google Search Engine that will use all of Google’s power to search ONLY THOSE SITES!

The advantage of using this is that you can use keyword searches to search several websites at once. Many websites have a database (aka: a search box where you can put in your search terms) that allow you to search their site very easily. One of the best sites, which has one of the cleanest interfaces of all the math sites I’ve seen is the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives. But it doesn’t have everything you might want if you’re searching for a good website to use to help you teach math. There are other sites that have a database of their own. The Google Custom Search Engine tool allows you to search all of them at once! It will even include, of course, web sites that don’t have a search box of their own.

I’m excited about this because I can send my students to these search pages and actually teach the concept and skill of performing good keyword searches, rather than sending them to just a list of links to try out, one by one. In the case of the Elementary Math Custom Search, I’m intending to allow other educators to search all of these sites at once.

Another very powerful feature of this tool is that sites can be contributed by up to 100 people!!! I invite anyone reading this who finds a great math website that you think should be part of this group of sites in this Custom Search, please send it to me. I can officially invite you through the Google page where I created the Custom Search, too..

Now, how is this different from http://del.icio.us/ ? This is another tool that I have also jumped into in a big way. I’ve been using my account consistently for quite a while now: http://del.icio.us/wark. I’ve also put a lot of math-specific sites together at this account: http://del.icio.us/math34

With Delicious, you can:

  • Tag sites with categories you make up, that might or might not be words that show up when Google searches their titles, URLs, or text of the pages
  • Give a quick notation to the sites you’re making public
  • Put sites into categories (by the tags you make) for someone who doesn’t know what they’re looking for (and thus wouldn’t know what search terms to enter)
  • Search your own (delicious) bookmarks, or all the bookmarks of all delicious users. Because of this feature, I initially thought that these two tools might not be all that different. At first, I thought…so why do this, if I can search delicious, too?

With Google Custom Search, you can

  • Unleash Google’s powerful search algorithms to search through all of the sites you include
  • Invite others to contribute
  • Send people to your Google Custom Search in lots of ways. One is with simple links, as in the links above. Here’s another, like I’ve done with my class website. You can search right from your own website!

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

OK, I’m finally blogging about this article, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, by Marc Prensky. Get it here from the author.

It’s been around since 2001, and has been talked about and referred to at almost every Educational Technology conference I’ve been to since that time. The terms “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” are now thrown around so frequently that it doesn’t even need to be explained any more.

Prensky’s thinking about effective ways to reach today’s students continues to evolve. He continues to work to apply some of his thoughts from this, his most famous article, to different contexts.

I highly recommend checking out his website. I have just perused it a bit, and really wish I had more time to read more of his stuff right now, but I really must get to sleep soon.

Some of the books and articles that I have also read, or at least are on my list to read are the following (he really chooses great titles, doesn’t he?):
Engage Me or Enrage Me
Don’t Bother Me, Mom — I’m Learning! (his latest book)
…there are many more… I sometimes just love to look at the titles of articles and books, and get an extremely brief version of the main thought of the writing. This is one reason I love to hang out in bookstores so much.

His writing is full of eye-opening quotes, not from philosophers or theologians, but simple statements from these Natives that he has provided such clarity about.

Why am I finally getting around to responding to this article? This week I’m going through SB 472 training, which is a California “thing” (SB meaning Senate Bill) where we get a week of training on our new textbook, in this case, Math. This article was assigned as homework one of the days.

OK, so what do I think of the article itself? Here are the specific points that I found particularly striking, amusing, etc.:

•The phone call asking “DId you get my email?” has happened at my school. We’ve talked about reducing the interruptions to the classroom (silent emails being much less disruptive than a phone call), but viewing this not as annoying defeating the purpose, Prensky has reminded me that the office personnel is probably “speaking with an accent” here

•I was amazed at how proficient my students were at playing certain games they showed me on the internet during the last few days of school, one being Club Penguin. TypeRacer is another example that was spontaneously very successful. Ever since becoming familiar with Prensky’s thinking, and other progressive, forward-thinking experts in educational technology, I have had a passion for trying to figure out how to “get rid of my accent”, and how to best use the “language” of my students, the digital natives, to reach them. I want to figure out how to use games to make learning more engaging, since this is what I am, in fact, competing with. I will be seen as boring and irrelevant if I don’t learn to speak their “language.” We must “engage them or enrage them.” This is more than pithy, clever sayings. This is for real. This is why I get grouchy about those that insist on our students learning the culture of the Digital Immigrants:

“We need to educate our children for their future, not our past.”

Arthur C. Clark

•It’s very tempting to conclude, as Prensky “quotes”, My students just don’t ___ like they used to,” etc. What we need to do is to recognize that they ARE DIFFERENT THAN US. We need to change and adapt. We need to learn from them, as well as them learning from us.

•”‘Future’ content includes the ethics, politics, sociology, languages, and other things that go with the software, hardware, etc.” This is one reason I would like to see a more loose policy on cell phones at school. We need to teach them how to appropriately use them (or, in most cases, NOT use them) I experimented with having my students use their cell phones as calculators, but ran into some problems with some very valid issues that administration brought up. Even so, it saddened me that we couldn’t bring some of the technology that they see as absolutely relevant in their lives into the classroom learning experience. I saw many of my students kind of “come alive” when I validated some of their “native” culture. It’s a sticky one…very interesting…

•He mentions games to teach concepts like classical philosophy, the Holocaust, etc.  This renewed my enthusiasm to try and find game to help teach concepts to my students. He acknowledges that many of the attempts at this have been pretty bad (edutainment), but that we must continue to improve, because WE CAN FIGURE THIS OUT! One game that has been successful “in” my 6th grade classroom has been Civilization. Since I teach Ancient Civilizations, this is an IDEAL application. No, I can’t use class time for it. But I can offer a copy or two for checkout to my students. I can refer to it when we’re discussing content from our textbook. I can encourage students to get together in the classroom after school, or at each other’s houses , to play it together. I can affirm the expert in my room who knew about it before I even mentioned it, and had a more advanced version than I did; I can ask him to share with the class what the game taught him about ____ (filling in the concept that we were studying that day).

I’m far from figuring out how to apply Prensky’s thoughts to my own classroom practice, but I feel good about how I’ve started to experiment…

PS – David Thornburg and Hall Davidson have both written recently about Prensky’s thoughts. Thornburg expressed some reasons that Prensky’s thesis is incomplete, inadequate, and/or inaccurate. Davidson sided with Prensky, and did a great job of expressing why. This discussion took place in the OnCUE Journal, published by CUE, Computer Using Educators, with Thornburg writing an article, then Davidson and Thornburg both writing a letter to the editor, continuing the conversation. This will really be something to watch. These guys are both such great thinkers and leaders, I’m not sure I know which one I agree with!! I guess I’ll live in the tension…

Alan November @ World Cafe in Visalia

I had the privilege of hearing Alan November speak to a group of about 150 educators on May 7, 2008. He had some very provocative things to say, as usual. Here I’ll give you some of the most salient points…the things that struck me most…the things that I most feel like trying with my own students.

In 1922, Fredrick Taylor came up with a model of management planning. Henry Ford used this to organize & manage his famous assembly line. Education used this same kind of thinking to organize itself. Previously, there were 1-room schoolhouses, with teachers teaching 8 grades, with olders teaching youngers, personalized instruction, etc. As a result of the Taylor management, education became squeezed into the assembly-line mold. This was not a problem, though. In fact, it worked extremely well at the time! The problem is that the economy has changed!

We then talked about RSS feeds. It’s his view that every student, in order to graduate from high school, should know how to manage their RSS feeds.

Wikipedia should not be so much a source, but a publishing center. He challenged us to write a wikipedia article WITH our class. Lots of great discussion there.

We discussed the ways we might teach the different perspectives on the American Revolution between the US and Britain. We could fascilitate a debate between American kids and British kids. Kids prepare, they make PowerPoints using GoogleDocs, send the PPTs to each other (across the pond). They then are essentially telling each other the story from their perspective. Then a debate is scheduled via Skype. This is recorded, and it can be put up on iTunes. What a motivation!!!! Compare that to kids that just “learn” the content for the test, and then forget it the next day. The podcast would be something that the students would very likely listen to over and over, would share with many others.

He also showed us how to use Google Custom Search for several purposes. More on this on a different post.