Saturday, January 31, 2009

Just Some Hoops to Jump Through

It was Thursday and some of the high school students were at the school to do some work (I work at a Distributed Learning / Distance Learning school, so usually the kids are at home).  One of the grade 10s was working on a course she was just starting; 'Family Studies 11'.  This kid is pretty bright and does well in our program.

Me: "So does Family Studies look interesting?"
Her: "Yes.  Mr. X said it was easy so that's why I took it."

Superdog by skycaptaintwo
Attribution License

Yup.  Just another hoop.  Made me think of the 'Guitar Hero' part of this post by Dan Myers.  It also made me think of the really bright, top of the district, student I taught a few years ago who switched from Chemistry 12 to Geography 12 a third of the way through because she knew she could get through Geography more easily.  Not because she liked Geography better.  I know this because she told me as much.

I don't get it.  When I was in high school I probably could have taken a study block, but that never occurred to me; I was having a hard time trying to narrow down the classes that I wanted to take.  I took Drawing and Painting 12 because I liked, well, drawing and painting.  Not because I thought it might be easy.  In fact I had very little artistic talent and taking the course probably put me in danger of lowering my GPA.  I took Drafting 11 and 12, again, not because I thought they might be easy courses, but because I was interested in them.  Same with Choir, Chemistry, Biology, and Physics.

So when I see kids taking "easy credits", or study blocks, or gunning through their academic courses so they can graduate 6 months or a year early;  I.  Just.  Don't.  Get.  It.

I don't want to lay all the blame on these kids, though.  It's human nature to do the easy thing, to keep doing those things that make you feel successful.  Have you seen how most people use flashcards to study--they spend most of their time on the cards that they already understand, and not the cards they need to understand.  Failure feels uncomfortable, so we often stick with what we already know.

The system is also to blame.  We often focus on "these are the courses you need to graduate", "this is the minimum number of credits you need", instead of "we have some wonderful courses that you're really going to enjoy, learn a lot from, and serve you well in the future".  Maybe we need more inspiring courses.

I don't know.  What do you think?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Re-discovering Books

Or the Silver Lining of Being Sick

So far 2009 has been a bit of a bust for me as I have been sick for the entire time with a variety of non-life-threatening ailments.  The plus side is that I have been able to read some books!  Back in the spring I bought Daniel Pink's 'A Whole New Mind' and only made it about 40 pages in.  Well I got a chance to read it and I have to say that I really enjoyed it.  Then, on one of my forays out of the house to procure tinctures etc, I picked up Malcom Gladwell's 'Outliers' and devoured it quickly.  Another great read that has me analyzing my own personal success and wondering what factors will impact the success my children will experience as they grow up. Both Pink and Gladwell do a wonderful job of weaving stories of individuals to make their respective points.

Different Types of Reading

Now I find myself wishing I had some more unread books on hand to read.  There is something really satisfying about books that I'm not getting from reading blog posts.  I enjoy reading posts and engaging in conversations in the comments, but books really feed my soul.  I guess I need to have a balanced diet when it comes to reading.  I've also got to make sure that I'm not so busy that I don't have time for books.  A problem that I have with books is that I feel compelled to finish them; I have difficulty just reading a chapter and putting the book down for a day or two.  Reading a book in just a few sittings is not a good strategy if you have a job and a husband and two little kids to look after ;-)

Now on My List

Since tweeting about reading these two books it's been recommended that I read 'The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives' by Leonard Mlodinow and  'The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything' by Ken Robinson.  So I'm on a quest to get these books; so far my local book sellers and library are not helping me out.

Any Recommendations?  What's on Your List of Books to Read?

What books have you enjoyed lately?  What book(s) are you pining to read?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Tools and Sites I Use--One Year Later


tools by tashland

Last January I decided to write a post on the tools and sites that I was using on a regular basis.  I thought it would be interesting to do another list this year and see what changes, if any, there are.  The tools that I use daily have a star next to them, all the other tools I use at least on a weekly basis.  In no particular order they are:

  • Twitter* (microblogging tool)

  • TwitterFox* (Twitter client)

  • iGoogle* (customizable homepage with different feeds--I have Google Reader, calendar, Gmail, news, weather etc)

  • Google Docs*

  • Google Reader*

  • Google Calendar*

  • Edublogs

  • GMail*

  • Firefox* (web browser)

  • Flock (Firefox based web browser)

  • Delicious* (social bookmarking site)

  • Google Chat

  • Skype

  • MS Outlook (only because it is the mail program at work)

  • MS Word (for work documents)

  • iPhoto

  • Flickr

  • coComment*

  • co.mments

  • Blogger

  • Facebook (once I started using Flock I found I used Facebook more because of its built in Facebook client)

  • WetPaint

  • Wikispaces

  • YouTube

  • Google Search*

  • Elluminate Live

  • Wikipedia

  • WebCT/Blackboard

  • MS FrontPage (for work)

No doubt I've missed a few tools.  Compared to last year's list I've noticed the following:

  • Twitter is now on my list.

  • This year's list is way longer; 29 entries as opposed to 13, with 19 brand new entries.

  • 3 entries from last year didn't make this year's list: Google Notebook, Moodle, and Google Video.  Since I started using Delicious I found that I dropped Google Notebook.  I still use Notebook occasionally, but definitely not on a weekly basis.  Moodle was on my list last year because I was part of a pilot project with Open School BC using Moodle for some of our courses.  The pilot project ended in June '08 and so too my moodling.  My colleague and I are going to lobby the powers that be to allow us to use the Moodle server that they already have up and running, but just for in house use (ie not for students to access via the web).  Google Video, just kinda faded out for me.  Not sure why.

  • Wikipedia was the only wiki on my list last year.

So, I've done a lot more exploring and added a bunch more tools and sites to my toolbelt.  But hey, they're still just tools.  I could have five great hammers, but if I never used them, or had no skill with them, then so what.  It's not the tools per say, it's what you do with them.

Are you gobsmacked that one of your fave tools is not on my list?  Curious about a tool that I've mentioned?  Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!

7 Things You Don't Know About Me

I was tagged by Jan Smith for the meme "7 Things You Don't Know About Me", so here goes!

  • I watched every game of the Canucks' '94 run for the Stanley Cup, either in person or on TV.  My friends had season's tickets and so I got to attend some of the games.  A bunch of us would get together to watch the games on TV.  I seem to recall that the friends sold the 3rd and 4th round tickets, but I tell you even those 1st and 2nd round games were great!  The loudest place I have ever been was at the Pacific Coliseum for round 2 against the Dallas Stars.  After the Canucks won game 6 of the finals we went down to Robson Street in Vancouver and participated in the celebration; everyone was so happy it was great. I didn't go down to Robson when things turned nasty after the Canucks lost game 7.  I haven't been such an avid hockey fan these days, thought the Canada / Russia World Junior game the other night was a real nail biter!

  • I have a class 4 driver's license.  In BC that means that I can drive a mini-bus (approx 19 passengers).  When I was assistant coach for the high school golf team the coach asked me to get one so that I could drive the team on occasion.  I haven't used it much; the responsibility of driving 19 young lives around wears me out.

  • All through my high school years I was absolutely certain that I would become an architect.  Then I got to university ;-)

  • I am very afraid of heights, though I have found that after giving birth to two sons many of my fears have weakened a bit.  Perhaps it's time to head over to the bluffs...

    Skaha Bluffs by outdoorsgirl

  • My oldest son has Asperger Syndrome.  Going through the process of getting a diagnosis and then advocating to get appropriate support for him in the schools has really changed my outlook as a teacher.  I have a lot more compassion for the 'difficult' students, and the students who struggle with anxiety. I also have a greater appreciation of what the parents go through.

  • I get excited when I can add another phylum to the 'Foods I Have Eaten' list.  I'm a biologist; this is ok in biology circles;-)  My husband and I were at a big Chinese banquet a number of years ago and I was very happy because I got to add Phylum Cnidaria (jellyfish) to my list.  For a moment I thought I'd get to add Phylum Porifera too (sponges), but it turned out to be bamboo (who knew?)  I don't go out of my way to eat weird things, but if they are part of the conventional cuisine of a culture--I'll try 'em!

  • I have worked on the DNA of Sticklebacks (fish), Cutthroat trout, Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden (fish), Kokanee (fish), killer whales and humans.  Sticklebacks , the other fish and killer whales to learn more about their evolution.  On humans I worked in a lab where we studied Fragile X syndrome and were looking for genes associated with autism.

Doing the '7 Things' has been fun, and I've definitely enjoyed learning more about the folks whose blogs I read.  I'm supposed to tag people for this one, but I think I'll leave it up to you--if you would like to do the '7 Things' meme, consider yourself tagged...

Pop-Tastic Award

I was recently nominated by Charlie Roy for a Pop-Tastic Award.  I like the idea of the Pop-Tastic Awards; highlighting wonderful bloggers who may not necessarily have wide audience.  I'm honoured to be nominated by Charlie, whose blog I've been enjoying for about a year now.  My 6 nominations for the Pop-Tastic Award are...

The first 5 folks are educators that I've met in the past five months and they are doing great stuff on their blogs (and in their schools!)  My last pick, Ted Munat, is a bit of a departure.  Ted is the father of Sharky, who has Asperger's.  Ted's blog is where he writes about the joys and challenges of parenting Sharky.  I think Ted's blog will be of interest to educators; most educators will come into contact with children on the autism spectrum and it is important that we understand the challenges these kids and their parents face.  I hope you check out all of these blogs.

Here are the  Rules & Regs for the bling:

  1. When you receive The Award, please post it on your blog, linking back to the person who gave it to you.

  2. Please visit Veggie Mom’s Post , which explains the origins of The Award, and Sign Mr. Linky, so she’ll be able to keep a record of all whose Blogs are Pop-tastic! Feel free to leave a comment, too!!

  3. Pass The Award along to SIX Bloggy Friends, whose creativity merits inclusion in this circle. Link to their blogs in your Awards Post, and notify them that they’ve received The Award.

I strongly suggest looking at the other blogs that Charlie nominated.