Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Brian Bennett's Blog

post one (10/20):

Brian Bennett compares the flow of a music record to the flow of the classroom in his article "I Learned a Lesson from my iPod". He states that musicians create an intentional flow to an album and that teachers should follow in their likeness. Creating meaningful transitions between lesson plans eliminates (at least a percentage) of the "But whyyyyyy do I have to learrrrrrrn thiiiiiisss?" nags from students. Every lesson should have a decipherable, meaningful point that students comprehend and respect. Such transitions evident in an effective flow of lessons should aid this hesitation to learn by students.
original ipod

post two (11/3):

In this post, Brian Bennett expresses his hesitations on a recently published Wired article ( See it here.) He includes the email he sent to the group expressing his concerns over the lack of credit given to teachers in the article. The article takes the view that students may freely explore the internet to get the education they need. Mr. Bennett obviously does not agree with this as he argues that "the role of the teacher is to provide context for the content". See his letter, article, and my comment here.

C4K October

October 13th: Cameron

In this post, entitled "Out of My Mind", Cameron steps out of his/her mind to imagine what it would be like to be disabled. See the post (and my comment) here.

October 20th: Michelle

In her post "The First Day of 7th Grade Science", Michelle relates the processes of her various experiments. The first experiment of the science lab was to create a Potato Head figure out of an actual potato. After creating the potato figures (Michelle later tells me exactly how she decorated hers), students placed a portion of their potatoes in a test tube and covered it with peroxide water. I'm supposing the peroxide water reacted with the starch in the potato and created a bubbly fizz. Michelle thought "it was cool". She then states that two weeks later she conducted a gummy bear experiment with her best friend. Students kept a gummy bear in water and periodically took it out and checked its weight. Michelle seems to really enjoy 7th Grade Science class so far! See her post here.
Michelle's reply

October 27th: rocky78

In the post "Cars and How Cars Move", Rocky displays interest in the relationship between gas and vehicles. He imagines conducting an experiment in which he examines the results when only filling a car's gas tank half-full. See his post (and my comment) here.

October 29th (due 11/3): Will K.

In his post, Will K. is asking fellow bloggers who they think will win the World Series (Boston Red Sox or St. Louis Cardinals). Will and I agreed that the Sox should win the Series because both our teams (the Royals and the Braves respectively) are out of the running. Will also reminded me that Alexander Cartwright is responsible for creating the All-American sport of baseball. See his post (and my comment) here.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Blog Post #10

What Can We Learn about Learning and Teaching from Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture?

The Last Lecture book cover

Mark Twain once said, “A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”. To me, Randy Pausch is that man. It speaks volumes that I can watch his Last Lecture multiple times—to the point where I know every punch line and every pause—yet still tear up with his closing lines. Here is a man who not only defies fear of death—but defies fear of life. There are so many things that we can learn from him to honor him and carry on his legacy.

What Can We Learn about Learning and Teaching from Randy Pausch’s Last lecture?

My favorite piece of Mr. Pausch’s advice, though it was difficult to choose, is decidedly: “Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things.” We are surrounded by all manner of brick walls. The literal ones shelter us and keep us comfortable. The metaphorical ones do quite the opposite. These challenge us and require that we prove our dedication—our determination—to the world, if not only to ourselves. If you ask me, these are more valuable. The learning process is often difficult. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth anything. What would be the point? The brick walls enable us to determine the value of our exploits—which ones are worth hacking at for the rest of our lives.

Mr. Pausch also suggests that we learn best by “head fakes” or indirect learning. This in itself is a head fake because he also is suggesting a method of pedagogy. As learners, we should be mindful of the other lessons we may gather by focusing on a main point. As teachers, we should incorporate this clever method into our lesson plans.

As learners, we should also keep in mind that our best teachers are our critics. According to Randy Pausch, “your critics are the ones telling you they still love you and care.” While some may be hard on us, it is always important to remember that it is only because they care.

Easily another one of my favorite sayings Randy Pausch includes in his lecture is: “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” As learners, we all have end goals in mind and we usually have some plan to get there. However, often these plans go awry, and the important thing to learn from Mr. Pausch is that failure teaches us more than success. When we do fail to gain our goals, at least we gain experience.

What Can We Learn about Learning and Teaching from Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture?

In this lecture, Randy Pausch gives an anecdote which I hope to relate to someday. He was teaching a new class on the newest technology (Virtual Reality) and was shocked by the exceptional results of his first two-week project. His students completely exceeded his expectations. In a state of disbelief, Mr. Pausch consulted his mentor for advice on how to properly handle the situation. The next day Mr. Pausch said to his students: “Guys, that was pretty good but I know you can do better.” This reaction was based off the advice his mentor had provided: “you obviously don’t know where the bar should be, and you’re doing them a great disservice by putting it anywhere.” As an educator, I believe it is important to keep this in mind. Without a standard, it is difficult to assess your students. But if Randy Pausch had gone into that classroom the next day and revealed his disbelief at the magnificence of their work, he would not have benefited his students in the least. They would not have pushed themselves and raised the bar to achieve even more than their professor imagined.

“That is the best gift an educator can give, is to get somebody to be self-reflective.” These words are fairly self-explanatory. Randy Pausch obviously knows what he’s talking about. Higher-level pedagogy nowadays is almost exclusively focused on enforcing self-reflection in the students.

The final piece of advice I have commentary on from Mr. Pausch is: “You’ve got to get the fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff doesn’t work.” I think this quotation fits quite nicely his “head fake” idea. Most educators strive towards emphasizing the big points that encourage critical thinking and assume that students will pick up the smaller skills and ideas along the way.

Here is the video (I’d strongly encourage everyone who reads this to give it a watch, if you haven’t already):

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Blog Post #9

Collaboratively composed by Caitlin Hinton, Ashley Railey, and myself


In his lecture, Brian Crosby goes into detail about his students being at risk and how they have been at a disadvantage since birth. The way in which he teaches allows his students to be more than a statistic. Mr. Crosby explains his most effective method for teaching students focuses almost exclusively (as it should) upon their engagement in the learning process. By removing the text-book aspect of learning, Mr. Crosby has relied on projects and internet resources to cover the Common Core standards. One aspect that Mr. Crosby pointed out was that he allows his students to blog about their project and embed their video into their blog as opposed to giving them a test. He expects his students to know enough to write about their experiment as opposed to spitting facts out on a test to obtain a good grade. He encourages his students to inadvertently create their own PLNs by which his curriculum is reinforced by contributors around the globe. Crosby ends the video by explaining that we, as educators, need to stop racing kids through school. We need to give them the opportunity to build schema for the world, focus on their future, and consider all possibilities.


There are two components to the blended learning cycle. In Paul Anderson’s video, he explains that by taking the separate entities of online, mobile, and classroom, and blending them all together, the blended classroom is created. The five E’s of the learning cycle are as follows: engage, explore, explain, expand, evaluate. By combining the blended classroom and the five E’s the blended learning cycle is created. The first step is the “hook”--if students are not interested in learning, they will not learn. A “hook” (a captivating question, experiment, thought, etc) is necessary to engage them in the initial ideas of the lesson. The second step is to allow the kids to explore on their own. This can be anything from examining a work (of literature) to experimenting on their own (safely, we should hope). The third step is to incorporate a video into the lesson. The teacher may have the students watch a video in class or at home independently. The fourth and fifth steps are elaboration and review. Anderson states that he meets with the students individually or in small groups where he asks questions to check their understanding. The students aren’t able to proceed to the final step of a summary or quiz until the teachers is sure he/she understands the material. As teachers, we should then explain in detail the various methods, ideas, etc. to the students so that they may understand the more complex aspects of the subject not previously considered. By furthering their exploration, students expand their knowledge of the subject. Then, as teachers, it is our responsibility to evaluate the student’s progress.


The key to learning composition (writing and rhetoric) has proved to be the documentation which is mentioned in these videos. By reading their progression from earlier years, or even earlier in the semester, students can visually see what knowledge they have gained.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

C4T #2

21 Apples

avrind s grover

Why #Educon is a Place I Wanted to Recruit a Faculty from (and am still trying to)

In this post, avrind s grover describes a new kind of high school which he is creating. He briefly describes Educon as the creation of his friend Chris Lehmann. I found his answer to the question "what is best for high school students?" very interesting as it differs so greatly from the high school from which I graduated. I really admired the structure that is implemented in this schedule and the passion that avrind s grover shows towards his new high school. See his post here.
my comment

Preventing Racist Halloween Costumes

In this post, avrind s grover shares the campaign of Ohio University's "STARS" which advocates critical thinking on the part of students to insure that they are not presenting themselves in racially conflicting attire. He also poses the question: "How does your school go about getting into a mess with costumes?" which several contributors responded to wisely. See the post here.

Blog Post #8

Our New Tech Tools


by Laura Crawford
Victorian Era timeline

For my technological tool, I explored a timeline generator entitled tiki-toki, which I discovered through a member of my PLN, Catlin tucker in her post 12 Tech Tools that Will Transform the Way You Teach!. This wonderful device allows teachers and students to create timelines with background images, embedded youtube videos, links to sources, and information on their subject. I found it particularly useful for teaching literature classes because it seems that the context of the literature studied is hardly ever covered in class. Tiki-Toki provides students with a timeline created by their teachers, and provides teachers with another assignment for their students (yay homework!:)). The program is simple to use and will no doubt encourage students to engage their critical thinking skills when reading and apply what they have read into context. Unfortunately, my free trial did not include the ability to give access via embed code, so here are a few pictures from my creation of a timeline covering the Victorian Era. (I further found that for $125.00 a year, teachers can have an account and allow their students access and accounts as well).
here's a picture of the program in action:
creating the timeline


by Caitlin Hinton
For this blog post, the 21st century tool I have chosen is a web program called Brainscape. I will be teaching high school English and therefore there are a number of items that my students will need to remember. Brainscape is an online tool to create numerous files of online flashcards. Within English you have literature, grammar, spelling and vocabulary, and writing. Brainscape would allow my students to have a file for each of these divisions and then they would have flashcards within each file. One of the features that I find extremely useful within Brainscape is when you are studying your flashcards you can rate the term based on how well you knew the information. The rating starts at a 1, which is not knowing the information at all, and ends at a 5, which is knowing the information perfectly. All of the flashcards with a 1 or 2 rating are recycled more often than the flashcards with a 4 or 5 rating. By recycling the information more often it increases your chances of retaining the knowledge as opposed to just remembering it for the test and then forgetting it once the test has been completed. Once you have created your files and flashcards all of your information is saved in the cloud so that is accessible on your computer, phone, or tablet. I would have my students create the individual divisions and then create flashcards from a list of vocabulary assigned. In order to receive credit I would need to see that each student has created their Brainscape files and has defined each vocabulary word given. I feel that my students would benefit greatly from Brainscape because of how the program works by recycling information that the students were not necessarily sure of in order to help them remember it. The reason I chose this online tool is because of the program features and because we live in an ever evolving technological society. The final reason I chose Brainscape is because all of your files are stored in the cloud which makes the information accessible anytime and anywhere and I feel that that will be incredibly beneficial for my students.


by Ashley Railey
Ideally, my future English/Language Arts classroom will be filled with 7th grade students. The 21st century tool that I would love to use in my future classroom would be Storybird, an online site that allows students to add art to their original stories or poetry. I have created my very own poem with Storybird. According to MCPSS , 7th grade students are required to compose original poetry, write a narrative, and write a lyric or concrete poem or haiku through the school year. I would have the students use this tool with these assignments. When using Storybird, students can show their creativity by applying art work with their words. The students would also have spelling words that they will be tested on throughout the year. I could also implement their spelling words into Storybird to help them gain a better understanding of how to use the words in a sentence correctly.
Storybird is set up for teachers and students. The teacher creates a classroom account, and the the students join the classroom. The teacher can then create an assignment along with any specific instructions and due date. Due dates also appear on the students dashboard as a reminder. Once an assignment is posted, the teacher is alerted of which student has submitted the assignment. Students can also comment on each others work, which is a great way to have the students practice peer editing.
I thought Storybird was a great way to get students excited about writing. When dealing with tweens, you often find that many of them have short attention spans and get bored very quickly. Furthermore, not very many have a desire to learn about grammar usage and poetry. With this tool, students can critique one another’s work, while expressing their own creativity as well. I can’t wait to use this in my classroom.

Project #9--Podcast

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Project 13, PBL 1

To Kill a Mockingbird art

Due to the obvious inadequacy of our first attempt, we revised our original plan and created this site.

why this age group?

We decided to use ninth graders as our hypothetical subjects for our first PBL simply because they are smack dab in the middle of the age group the three of us are learning to teach (6-12). Since some of us are aiming to teach middle school, and some of us high school, we felt it would be most fair in this project to chose the grade right in the middle.

why this book?

To Kill a Mockingbird has been noted as the most successful one-hit wonder of the rural south. All the members of my group had read it, and remembered it somewhat clearly for its various themes and assorted motifs.

why spend so long on summer reading?

We decided that To Kill a Mockingbird would be best read as a summer reading assignment. It's easy to read, mostly takes place in the summer, and does not involve too much that the students wouldn't already know about by ninth grade. Contrary to our teachers, however, who mostly just brushed off summer reading and completed it in a week, we decided to require a bit more critical thinking from our students and created a multifaceted project that would last three weeks. Using the Buck Institute's Project Calender (found here)we simply created three assignments over the course of three weeks that develop a critical understanding of the text within the students and reinforce the concepts pursued by the Common Core (link in assignment).

blog post 7

What there is to learn from the "Conversations with Anthony Capps" Series

The traditional method of a lecture-based class with a project to serve as an indicator of the students’ acquired knowledge has become ineffective. The focus for the students on the project is merely to appease the teacher for a grade (if they even care that much) and not on acquiring knowledge. Project Based Learning requires the students to actively seek the knowledge, craftily incorporated by the clever teachers guiding them, that retains the Common Core standards and curriculum of the teacher. So what comprises a good project according to Anthony Capps? Primarily, the presenter must be able to rely on a good, attentive, knowledgeable audience--one that is not too timid to offer suggestions for revision and praise where it is due. Secondly, the project needs to be relevant to the students. If the students do not care about the project, it will certainly show throughout the process and in the final product. Anthony Capps also suggests that the project should involve the community. Flat Stanley is an exemplary project that sticks in my mind. Most kids in America have attempted it and it definitely requires an involvement in the community. The last, and probably most important, point Mr. Capps gives to create a good project is its ability to cover the common core content within the project. When the students actively seek information, they retain it more effectively and are able to pursue more complex and challenging ideas.

“With project based learning, you’re going to get more than you expect. So, never limit your students by giving them exactly what you want them to do. Create an opportunity for them to go beyond what you want them to do, and they will.” This excerpt summarizes the video rather eloquently. Anthony Capps wants us to learn how to avoid limiting our students to our standards in the classroom. He provides personal examples from his experience in the classroom. Mr. Capps emphasizes allowing the students to chose the specifics of their projects so that they are able to study a particular area of the general field that they are most interested in. This also instills a sense of pride within in the student as they complete his or her project. It seems most important that the students understand why the project is assigned in the first place. If the students do not understand why they must complete a project, and what knowledge they should gain, they will not fully enjoy the project and will most likely fail to retain information acquired from the project. Anthony Capps also suggests in this video that teachers reward critical thinking with an activity.

iCurio is rapidly becoming an essential search engine for students in the classroom. Anthony Capps tells, in his discussion with Dr. Strange, how his 3rd grade students use this tool in multiple project based learning assignments. His students were able to use iCurio to search for different historical figures based on the criteria they desired. For example, if the student wanted to research the first African-American pilot, the student would put in said criteria and multiple articles would be available. Capps also explains that iCurio doesn’t limit the student to textual information. When researching a person, place, or event multiple forms of information, such as videos, graphs, and images, are available for students. Students also learn how to organize online by filing their articles into folders. iCurio is an amazing tool that can be used by students of all ages.

Discovery Ed is a great tool for students to be able to see numerous videos on a variety of subjects. It allows teachers to bring visual learning to the lecture they have prepared for their students and in turn allow their students to retain what was being lectured on. As Anthony Capps stated: “[Discovery Ed] brings experts into the classroom via video.” It works as a reinforcement of the text and is even considered more engaging by some students.

“The Anthony-Strange Tips for Teachers”

written by Laura Crawford

        In this video, Dr. Strange and Anthony Capps composed a list of success tips for teachers. One could argue that some of these tips are applicable to much more than teaching--but to life itself. The first tip is to be interested in learning, yourself. If you aren’t interested in the topic you are presenting to your classes, how could you expect them to be interested? The most effective teachers are those that are always actively pursuing knowledge in their respective fields. This enables them to constantly kindle their passion for teaching knowledge that is not only new to their students, but new to themselves. The first tip can easily be extended into the second tip--work and play are not really separate if you are an educator. Teachers should always be learning more about the subjects they are teaching, and the good ones do so willingly.The third tip is to maintain a certain level of flexibility. It is wise to keep an end in mind, a driving goal which provides a clear direction, but do not become discouraged if your lesson plan doesn’t pan out exactly the way you wanted it to. We’re all human; we all make mistakes, and it is occasionally beneficial for our students to realize that as well. A more positive effect of flexibility is that it allows your students to exceed your expectations. As Anthony Capps eloquently stated in another video: “Create an opportunity for [students] to go beyond what you want them to do, and they will.” The fourth tip seems like an absolute asset to any teacher in any class: have your students 100% engaged in the learning process. Research has proven that anyone actively engaged in learning will better retain the information he or she is processing. It is important to keep in mind though that 100% engagement doesn’t necessarily mean 100% retainment. The fifth tip is to reflect periodically on your teaching methods and their effectiveness. Teachers are now highly encouraged to teach their students self-reflect; it follows that teachers must act accordingly.

"Don’t Teach Tech - Use it!"

By Ashley Railey

        In the video “Don’t Teach Tech - Use it!” Anthony Capps explains to Dr. Strange that in order to incorporate technology effectively in the classroom you should make it part of the curriculum. As educators, we shouldn’t look at technology as something that has to be done, but rather as a tool that should be used in various projects. By introducing a different technological tool once or twice a week, the students will become more familiar. Once students become more comfortable using things such as iCurio or Discovery Ed, they get excited about the projects assigned to them in class. Capps explains that teachers shouldn’t expect perfection from their students when learning how to use these tools. The more the students use the tools, the more they can reflect on their mistakes and develop problem solving skills. Allowing students to use these different forms technology in the classroom will better prepare them for the tools they will use in the future.

“Additional Thoughts About Lessons”

by Caitlin Hinton

        In this video Anthony Capps discusses lessons. I have never actually considered how much really goes into creating a lesson. Anthony points out that there are four components to creating a lesson. The first layer is the year. You have to consider how the lesson will fit in the year and if you will cover everything that is required of you. The second layer is a unit. You have to create your unit to fit into the year and to make sure again that you are covering everything that is needed and that all of the projects and activities fit in that unit accordingly. You should have a concept and make it so that it spans the entire unit as opposed to just cramming it into a few days. By the end of the unit your students should be able to master the task that was set before them at the start of the unit. The third layer is the week. At the start of the week you should have set goals that should be completed by the end of the week so that every week will fit into the unit. The fourth layer is the daily lesson. You must cover what needs to be covered on a daily basis so that the week is accomplished. When the weeks are accomplished the unit will be complete. As the units are completed the year will be complete.

Project II, PLN Post I

Initial thoughts on a PLN:

diagram of an Educator's PLN

Although I am still slightly confused as to how exactly a program like Symbaloo fits into all this--I like the ideas expressed in Fall 2009's Project 6 Instructions concerning a PLN. The basic concept is easy enough to understand: an expansion of networking into the technological realm that is more substantial (in content) than the "social" aspect. The network should comprise of a variety of people discussing a variety of issues from a variety of perspectives that ultimately leads to a greater understanding by the individual. In the short time that I have been cognizant of this idea, I have found a few resources which seem rather promising (for my field, at least):

and on twitter:

I also plan to get in touch with a few of my former teachers, the ones that really inspired me to learn, and see if they wouldn't mind me picking their brains on a few matters as well.