Sunday, December 30, 2012

ADE Class of 2013

Heard this morning that I have been chosen to attend Apple Distinguished Educator training in March. I can't thank my students enough!

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Thank you, Kinokuniyia, for your excellent selection of books.

Practical and theoretical; real and virtual. I am excited to bring new ideas to my students on January 7.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reading online

In my last entry, I mentioned that I had just started reading a book called Why Boys Fail. The goal of the book is the investigation of and suggestions for fixing the gender-related problems that boys may experience in school. In this post I want to focus on the author's investigation into how we read text online, one small sub-point in the author's larger argument.

The results of web researcher Jakob Neilson’s investigation into how people read online may surprise you. Neilson spent years studying how people read online. He “used eye-tracking tools to map how vision moves and rests.” His studies concluded that instead of reading full blocks of text from left to right, top to bottom of a page, we generally read in the shape of a capital F when we read a page of text on a computer. We will read all the way across at the top of a page, but as we go down the page, we aren’t as careful. “Near the bottom, eyes move almost vertically, the lower-right corner of the page largely ignored. It happens quickly, too. ‘F is for fast,’ Neilsen wrote…. ‘That’s how users read your precious content” (Bauerlein in Whitmire, 73).

The issue of how we read text online is not particularly an issue of boys; at least, it’s not at this point. The author offers no investigation of whether this reading pattern applies to males and females. However, if the pattern is true for either or both, we must keep this in mind as we move to digital textbooks or assign our students research online.

For me personally, it is difficult to read an entire article online. I still much prefer a book in my hand. I have a small collection of books on my ipad’s kindle app and other e-reading apps. I appreciate the ability to instantly download almost any books I am interested in and often for a price that is less than a hard copy of the book would be. I like that the library of books on my ipad really takes no space. When I move again, I won’t have to pack all those books in a box. Aside from the pure joy of holding a book, do hard copies of books have something that we don’t want to trade or loose over electronic copies, as they are right now?

Some years ago I read about a comparison between hard copies of books and e-readers. The author’s contention was that we recall what we read in hard-copies better because we can “see” the page in our mind. It is more difficult to “see” the page of an e-book in the same way. The text is not fixed on the page of an e-book. If we make the font larger or smaller, change the brightness or color of the background, the text can look quite different. We can put bookmarks and notes in e-books, but the pages will not have the coffee stains or dog-ears that hard copy books will have

Yet, who can argue with the access to databases or lightening of student backpages that electronic text offers? Is there a way to increase the care we take to read e-books? Can a careful teacher motivate students to read fully and completely? Does motivation matter in the way we read text online?

Some ten to twelve years ago, computers were being compared to “pencil labs.” This nickname was meant to point out that computers were being used primarily for word processing, or simply producing text, a task that could be done with a lot less expense by hand than by computer. With the growth of blogs and social networking, now the skills at the heart of our pencil labs have revolutionized the world. What was once derogatorily called a pencil lab can now foment revolution.

Actually, if e-readers are now to reading what “pencil labs” were to writing ten years ago, the future for the mesh of reading and teachnology is bright. 
Whitmire, Richard. Why Boys Fail. Tokyo: Amacon, 2010. Print.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Transforming learning for boys

The topic of boys' performance in school is one close to my heart because I have an exuberant son who loves to learn new things, explore, ask questions and wrestle with his dad. He does not like to sit still in school.

He seems to be taking to the IB program well this year and its units of inquiry, but as a parent I worry about his spelling and his math facts.

As a teacher, I struggle to understand my sixth and seventh grade male students. They are not much older than my son, so I try to keep that in mind, but I want to do all I can to encourage their learning. I am also working to understand their Korean culture while trying to understand the preteen male in the world today.

My students all have MacBooks. Many are engrossed in Minecraft in their spare (and not spare) time. My male high school students use technology as a social network and to watch sports. If these are the things my male students see as relevant in their own time, how can I use that to transform their learning?

Although I don't think this book I am about to read will specifically address the use of technology with boys, my hope is that it will give me some insights I can transfer to my classroom and share with colleagues.

Friday, December 14, 2012

What I like about google docs

At GSIS we are encouraged to use google docs with our students. I have found many things I like about google docs. Here are a few:
  • Google docs is quite easy to use. If you can use any word processing program, spreadsheet program, and presentation program, you can use google docs. I have also made a switch between Apple's Pages, Keynote and Numbers and the Microsoft Office package this year. I find switching between those products more difficult.
  • When my students are working on their documents, I can easily pop in and give them instant feedback.
  • Peer editing is simple.
  • Collaborative work for students or teachers is a snap. Numerous users can be in one document at the same time without conflicts.
  • It's free!
I'm looking forward to exploring other features of google docs as I use it more and more.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Apple distinguished educator application video

Here is my Apple Distinguished Educator Application video. I could not have made it without the great work of my students. It's about them, not me. I hope it speaks for itself.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Modern pedagogy goes low-tech

Sometimes teachers think they need to use all the bells and whistles to interest kids. There's a host of interconnected ideas that apply to today's learners. They need choice. They need project-based learning. They are knowledge-builders and content creators. They like to work collaboratively. These are just a few of the ideas about how to best engage young learners.

Even when we are doing low-tech tasks in our classroom, taking advantage of knowledge about what learners today are like can make things run smoother.

My sixth grade students recently picked books for book circles. They had six books to chose from. Some of the students were excited about individual books, but I wanted to make the process of choosing books more authentic. How do I chose a book at the bookstore? Usually I pick up more than one book and I spend some time reading it before buying it. How did this translate into my classroom?

Students were allowed to look at all of the book choices. They had to pick out their top two book choices and spend fifteen minutes reading each. They had a few questions about the books to answer and in the end, they wrote down which book they wanted to read.

Some of the students knew before the preview reading what they wanted to read and stayed with it. Others changed their mind after investigating two books. When we finished our book preview time, some students said, "Mrs. Montgomery, can't we spend the rest of the day reading? This book is so good, I just want to read it the rest of class."

Normally we have free reading time in almost every class. Usually I don't see this kind of enthusiasm, even though the students are allowed to pick their books for free reading. Somehow building up the idea that students had more choice in this selection than they normally would in a reading selection and the fact that they were reading the same book as friends increased the motivation to read.

Thus you have new pedagogy applied to old fashioned reading.

Things I love to hear

These are some of the magic words I've heard in my classroom lately. I love to hear words like these.
  1. I don't know which book to pick. Both are good.
  2. Can we read today? I really want to read my book.
  3. I am a human dictionary.
  4. Can we move the tables? (Related: Can we take down your posters?)
  5. These are not words, but I love it when students draw mustaches on their faces for projects.

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