A Blast From the Past: The Rocket Book

Drop by the Library of Congress and explore its Center for the Book site. Why? The site hosts quite a bit of exciting and free books that are sure to please readers of all ages. Need proof? If so, flip through The Rocket Book (1912) by Peter Sheaf Hersey Newell. Delightful verse and humorous images propel eager readers through a madcap story that as fresh now as it was when it first appeared 102 years ago.

Image from The Rocket Book by American artist and author, Peter Newell (1862-1924). A naughty boy playing in a basement finds and ignites a rocket that blasts upward in an apartment building. In this image, a family meal is explosively upset as the rocket races ever upward.

The Steiners on the floor above
Of breakfast were partaking;
Crash! came the rocket, unannounced,
And set them all a-quaking!
It smote a catsup bottle, fair,
And bang! the thing exploded!
And now these people all declare
That catsup flask was loaded.

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Motivational Seeking

In my quest to approach learning the facilitation of learning with a beginner’s mind, I’ve been working my way through a series of articles and books about standards, goals, objectives, feedback, and other related topics. Most of my reading list has been generated from Classroom Instruction That Works : Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd Edition) by Ceri B. Dean, Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, and Howard Pitler. Now I am turning my attention toward motivation and what is needed to help students become intrinsically motivated to begin and continue learning. I have just started reading Motivation in Education: Theory, Research, and Applications by Dale Schunk, Judith Meece, and Paul Pintrich. I will also be delving into Kathryn Wentzel and Allan Wigfield’s Handbook of Motivation at School.

Choosing to Teach: NotesFromNina

Back in November 2013, as we were driving home to Statesboro after attending a conference in Atlanta, my very good friend Joe and I passed a few hours along I-75 (and later I-16) talking about the current state of learning in Georgia and the rest of the nation. We lamented about the U.S. educational system’s preoccupation with standardized tests and other stumbling blocks to engaging, worthwhile learning for students. As we sped along on our way, the two of us decided that in 2014 we would do what we could to help people–students, teachers, parents, anyone really–learn how to learn.

To bring our goal to fruition, Joe and I decided to think about learning and teaching with a beginner’s mind. Though both of us know and use a great deal of technology and digital resources, we decided to begin our quest with a thoughtful exploration of the qualities of sound, meaningful instruction. In my search for enlightening resources about designing meaningful learning I was fortunate to find Nina Smith‘s blog, NotesFromNina. In particular, I found Nina’s presentation, Meaningful Learning and Teaching (one of  How to Improve Learning presentations) to be fascinating and helpful. Lately, I have been reading and re-reading Pasi Sahlberg’s book, Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? so coming across Nina’s work just served to whet my appetite for another Finnish educator’s views. In fact, I am very excited about reading her own book, Choosing How to Teach.

Morning Joe

Joe is very kind and trusted friend of mine. He’s a gentleman who kindly and consistently serves me up a daily brew of philosophy, candor, and ideas, as well as a heaping helping of resources. Joe and I generally talk every morning as he makes the commute to the middle school where he works. I can always rely upon his cognitive concoction to take my brain in a different and much wiser direction.

Case in point: This morning Joe asked me if I had ever heard of the New England Secondary School Consortium or its partner site Leadership In Action. I had to admit my ignorance as I pulled up the sites. The NESSC (composed of five partner states: Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) is a regional partnership that aims to truly prepare students for life. Though the NESSC site was impressive, Leadership In Action really caught my attention with its assorted briefings. The real find in this goldmine of good ideas was one resource (a pdf file) that Joe insisted I look at from the Great Schools Partnership called  Global Best Practices: An Internationally Benchmarked Self-Assessment Tool for Secondary Learning.

Joe was, as he ever is, correct. Global Best Practices was well worth reading. The document contains a priority guide that explores twenty improvement priorities in three categories (Teaching/Learning, Organizational Design, and School Leadership). Each priority contains a performance descriptions and a means of scoring. The document is very robust, with excellent descriptors, sample strategies, and sample evidence. An administrator, lead teachers, and others in a school could take this resource, apply it its principles, and be all the better for doing so.

Back to School

I’m teaching two sections of an instructional technology course for freshmen education majors. The course runs from now until May. I am hoping that all of the tweeting I am  and will be doing will be useful for my students. I intend to explore each of the nine instructional strategies that are discussed in the book, Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-based Strategies For Increasing Student Achievement.

If my students can learn what the nine instructional strategies are and how to use them this semester, I’ll be a happy teacher.

Feedback Frenzy

I am still carefully crawling through John Hattie and Helen Timperley‘s (2007) article, the Power of Feedback and tweeting the nuggets of wisdom I find. I have found much to share as Hattie and Timperley’s article is extremely well-written and brimming with best practices. My intent is to mindfully absorb this research and apply the authors’ advice in my work with university students.

One of the first steps I’ll be taking is reviewing the goals and objectives for the course. I want to make sure that what I think the students should master is worthy of their time and attention. I thought I did a fair job of selecting and explaining learning goals when I revised my course over the summer. Even so, I think revisiting the course goals again will benefit my learners. I will be focusing on whether our  proposed learning experiences offer specific and challenging goals.