An Opportunity to Make a Difference

Google announced an admirable initiative called Project 10100 (pronounced "Project 10 to the 100th") yesterday. Everyone around the world is invited to submit ideas for changing the world by helping as many people as possible. Google has committed 10 million dollars to help make 5 ideas come to fruition (good word!).

Here are a few thoughts.

  • This could be a good way to involve students in service education. Perhaps you could work together to brainstorm a new service project or use this opportunity to greatly extend your efforts with an existing project.
  • This may be a way to make one of those awesome ideas we teachers have floating around in our heads become a reality.
  • Related Resources

  • The Challenge
  • Service Education
  • 1 Thing New Teachers Should Know

    Donna Williams

    Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.

    Two words. Three syllables. Over plan.
    Review the curriculum. Things can and often change over the summer. This summer, our math pacing scales went through changes. Our state standards also changed. In fact, they will not be called standards anymore. We now have Grade Level Expectations.

    Create a classroom map. Design how you want your classroom arranged. Think about how you want traffic to flow. Think about colors, posters, and where you want to post student work.

    Modify/Review/Create a classroom management plan. I believe you must be consistent, firm, and fair from the beginning. I have seen several classes that lacked one of those components from the beginning. Those classes (including mine one year) struggled with classroom management issues throughout the year. Believe me, the headache of planning in the beginning will be worth the ease of the rest of the year.

    by SBUDD
    by SBUDD

    Plan to have a positive and successful year. Expectations are extremely powerful. Just research the many sociological experiments involving teachers who told students that they were gifted. Those students who may have been labeled as average or worse underachievers shined. If you gripe and believe that your year will be bad. It will be. If you believe that your students are low, that is how they will perform (or seem to perform). I can assure you that children can and will rise to the occasion and step up to the plate. Sometimes they will step over it.

    With parents, plan to have a good relationship with them. Write welcome letters or postcards. Give them positive phone calls. Know your goal and create a plan to achieve it. I really took the time and planned on having more parent involvement this school year. I called and introduced myself to each family. I sent home introductory letters and created an welcoming website. I told all of my parents how happy I was to have their child in my class. 15 of my 19 parents attended my kindergarten curriculum night. It was my best turnout ever. I planned and planned and it helped.

    Keep in mind that no matter how much you plan. there will always be the monkey wrench. The unexpected whatever. This is why I say over plan. The benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

    One Thing – Be a Learner

    Be a Learner

    Robin Ellis

    Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.

    I believe the one thing I would say to teachers is be open to your own learning and don’t be afraid of not having all the answers. I believe we all should be lifelong learners. In today’s world opportunities abound to stretch our thinking and open ourselves to experiences never before possible. I have had the pleasure and privilege of stretching my own thinking and learning this past year as I have co taught OpenPD with Darren Draper. OpenPD is a professional development opportunity open to anyone with an internet connection and a desire to learn about web 2.0 tools to use in classroom practice as well as in their own learning. Last September Darren wrote this post on his blog explaining the professional development he was going to teach in his school district entitled Social Software in the Classroom. In the post he invited anyone reading, to participate, or to co teach, I was interested and willing to co teach and contacted him. He and I did not know one another, I had used the tools he was planning on teaching, but I had never taught with someone I had never met, never taught online and had never used some of the tools in the way we were envisioning. We wanted to model the tools we would be teaching, so all of our planning for the course, as well as the delivery of the course was done through the use of Skype, Google docs, Wikispaces, and Ustream. Our first session was a disaster; everything that could have gone wrong did, even though we had tested everything ahead of time, and we were pretty confident we could make this happen. I learned so much that first night about my own teaching and what I rely on from those in my classes. You can read my thoughts here and Darren’s here.

    The important thing to remember is, we didn’t let any of the challenges stop us, we believe in what we are trying to accomplish, feel it is important and we wanted to continue forward. We also knew it was ok to have those in the class see us struggle to resolve any issue we may encounter while using the tools, just as they may struggle using them in their own classrooms.

    We taught the class three times in the 2007-2008 school year, presented together at three different conferences throughout the year and met for the first time in June 2008 at NECC in San Antonio. We have had successes and challenges in all we have done, and sometimes things just don’t turn out the way we plan, but we learn something new every time we teach. We learn from each other, we learn from those who attend, it’s a group effort and one that has been invaluable for me both in my professional as well as personal practice. I owe a great deal to Darren Draper for being forward thinking and willing to take a risk. He took a chance on me, and in turn I took a chance on myself, believing I could step outside of my comfort zone, and be successful in a way I never imaged was possible. As a result of my participation in OpenPD I am passionate about sharing my experiences with others and demonstrating the rich possibilities that exist for all of us, all you need is a willingness to take those first steps into a part of our world that is ever changing. And as an added bonus, in taking those first steps, you have the opportunity to learn from so many, make new friends with people whose lives would never have crossed with yours, without these new tools at our fingertips. My life is richer, not only in terms of my professional learning, but in the friendships that have resulted from my online network.

    Please take a look at the video clip we have used as a starting point, also feel free to browse our class wiki and if you have any questions I would be happy to answer them for you.

    1 Thing Teachers Should Know about Teaching with Technology

    Anne Leftwich

    Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.

    For teachers, the one thing that I believe is most important for them to know is….{drumroll}… to understand when technology can improve teaching or learning. When architects create a plan, they need to carefully consider what materials will best support their plan. Like an architect, teachers need to consider how the materials we select will impact our end goal of student learning.
    To arrive at this point, in my classes, I like to remind them to consider the 3 e’s (based off of the Newby, Lehman, Stepich, and Russell book): Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Enhancement. Technology should only be used when it can do one of these three e’s to student learning. Here are three quick examples:

    1. Efficiency: Students may be better able to produce writing drafts and quickly edit them by using a word processor and saving their drafts. Once they review it for mistakes, they can bring up the draft and quickly edit it as opposed to re-writing the piece.
    2. Effectiveness: As students review the three different types of matter (gas, liquids, solids), they may need reinforcement of certain principles. Therefore, a tutorial  where student answer certain questions based on these principles, and when answered, the computer supplies a review of that information with a short flash movie, explaining the principles, students may be more likely to remember this principle and thus impact the effectiveness of the instruction.
    3. Enhancement: Enhancement refers to technology that includes motivational elements, or just allows the teacher/student to do something that was otherwise impossible or difficult. Students may be investigating the Revolutionary War. Believe it or not, this topic is taught much differently in the United Kingdom as opposed to the United States. Students in the US may use technology to discuss the topic with students in the UK, gaining a broader perspective, thus enhancing their understanding of the topic.

    While all of these are possible without technology, technology seems to be a great option in these cases to either increase the efficiency, effectiveness, or enhancement or certain teaching and learning opportunities. So, in conclusion, the most important thing I believe we should teach our teachers is that technology is a tool to impact learning, but needs to be carefully considered like any other strategy or tool.

    1 Thing New Teachers Should Know


    Emily Witt

    Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.

    I went to school at one of the finest universities in the South. I had teachers there that taught me how to be a teacher. They taught me to use manipulatives in math instruction and how important technology is in education. They taught me about whole language and phonics and classroom management. I learned about lesson planning and backwards planning and formative assessments and summative assessments and I can throw around the words “curriculum, standards and benchmarks”with the best of ‘em. I left that fine university prepared to be the best teacher on the face of the planet.

    But there were some things that those professors of mine left out.

    Always carry a garbage bag on field trips. Pack an extra lunch just in case someone’s mom forgets. Keep peppermints on your desk for coughs and sweet tarts in your drawer for tummy aches. Squat when you talk to little kids. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Prepare to cry. Prepare to cry in front of your class. It happens. If you think you look fat in that polka dot skirt, don’t wear it. Kids will tell you that you do. Check your zipper, your teeth, and your nose before you leave the bathroom. On second thought, learn to hold it. You’re not going to have time to go to the bathroom.

    Be good to janitors, cafeteria ladies and the secretary. They can make things happen. Stand up straight. Be neat. Carry yourself well. Be someone your students can look up to. Hold tightly to your heart. Kids have a way of taking it from you. Show your students respect. Remember that the angrier you get, the softer your voice should sound. Go to baseball games and soccer games every once in a while. You’re a role model. Act like it.

    Write thank you notes. Call parents more often than you think you should. Tell the little girl with the dirty hair that she’s beautiful. Let the little boy that isn’t wearing this year’s shoes be the leader. Tell him what a good example he is. Play classical music sometimes. Read out loud. They’re never too old to hear your voice. You should have a Ziploc bag, a Sharpie, and an index card with you at all times. Kids lose teeth to the tooth fairy in the second grade, to the class bully in the eighth, and to football in high school.

    Go to recess sometimes. Watch how children interact. Listen to how they talk. Jump rope if you get the chance. Visit the teacher that’s been at your school for thirty years. Ask her why she does it. Ask her why she stays. Listen to her stories. She may be old school, but she knows more than you. Always have a backup plan. Don’t be afraid to say no sometimes. That summer vacation you think you’re getting? Yeah, right. There’s professional development. You’re changing grades. You’re changing subjects. You’re changing classrooms. That break you’re getting? It’s more of a quick little breath.

    If you think it might go wrong, it will. Don’t complain. Make it work. Avoid the teacher’s lounge. There isn’t a copier in a school in the continental US or the world, for that matter, that operates like it should. Borrow ideas from anyone and everyone. Share. Get to know the teacher next door. Leave cookies or a Diet Coke on her desk. Love every single child that walks through your door. Love them like they’re yours because for 180 days, they are. They’re yours to shape and to mold. They’re yours to inspire, to guide, to love, to change. And you’re their hero. Earn the title.

    1 Thing New Teachers Should Know


    Ann Monroe

    Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.

    The Difference
    I have always felt that a good teacher is inherently a good motivator. In order to be successful in the classroom you must show enthusiasm for what you are teaching. I was recently discussing this with a colleague who happened to disagree. He felt that you could be successful without projecting enthusiasm. Maybe enthusiasm was the wrong word to use. I have thought about this for awhile and have come up with several alternatives. A teacher can demonstrate enthusiasm by…

    sharing the JOY of learning.
    having a PASSION for science, math, language, etc.
    making learning FUN.
    showing an APPRECIATION for art, music, literature.
    sharing their EXCITEMENT for learning.
    demonstrating a CURIOSITY for the world around them.
    being OPTIMISTIC.
    having an EAGERNESS to learn and grow.
    providing HOPE.
    creating a STIMULATING learning environment.

    Joy, passion, fun, appreciation, excitement, curiosity, optimism, eagerness, hopefulness – these are just a few of the words that describe that special ingredient you’ll find in every great teacher.

    Enthusiasm can be loud and boisterous, or soft and quiet. It can come across as joy, passion, or curiosity. In the end, it is what motivates students to be lifelong learners. It is what makes the difference.

    1 Thing Teachers Should Know about Teaching with Technology

    B&W HeadshotTrevor’s Theory

    Trevor Acy

    What I am about to say would seem like a fairly obvious problem with the use of technology in the classroom, but seeing as how I witness it on a daily basis at the undergraduate level, I can only imagine that the problem spreads to every classroom below.

    The Problem:

    Too often do teachers use power points, slides, videos, etc as an excuse for them to sit idly behind their desk and convince themselves that they are still fulfilling their role as an educator. How can a student be expected to be engaged if the person who is suppose to be presenting the information approaches his/her role with complacency? When I am excited about a particular subject, it changes the dynamic of learning from being told to learn something to wanting to learn something. It no longer feels like just a workload the teacher is assigning, but rather something I am genuinely interested in. Nothing helps this process better than having a teacher who is honestly excited about what they are teaching. You can tell when a teacher isn’t enthusiastic, and that apathy circulates the classroom infecting the students.

    The Solution:

    The solution is a simple one. Be engaged and enthusiastic about what you as an educator are presenting. Here are two examples of technology in the college classroom and how one teacher is misusing it and how another uses it to improve the learning environment.

    One of my professors walks into class, loads his power point presentation, and takes a seat behind his desk. He flips through the slides reading them verbatim for every chapter between tests. Now these slides are the same ones that are posted online that students can read themselves in ten minutes. There is no incentive to go to class to learn any of the material. Another of my professors has a much larger class, which would make it easier for him to be complacent and just run through some slides. However, his slides are simply bulleted highlights which he expounds with graphic illustrations and current news events. Also, about once a week all the students meet online (through and perform economic experiments where everyone in class represents a free market. Upon returning to class we discuss the results of our online experiments and then apply them to the material we’ve been covering in class.

    To wrap up, it’s simple; be a proactive educator. Complacency is an educational roadblock. Before you blame students for not being eager to learn, take a step back and make sure your attitude and performance is being presented in the right fashion. The easiest way to get students encouraged to perform well is for them to see their teacher excited about the information he/she is teaching.

    1 Thing Teachers Should Know about Teaching with Technology

    Jethro Jones

    Part of the ongoing 1 Thing series.

    Being a humble teacher, I often have car troubles because I don’t drive a very nice car. In fact, I am pretty lucky that the car still runs. I needed to put in a new battery a couple weeks ago, and instead of grabbing a hammer and pounding on it until the cables came off, I dug around the toolbox until I found a socket wrench.

    For educators, technology is a big toolbox with tools that range from a pencil and paper to a wiki to a Skype video call. Tools are still tools. If a tool doesn’t work for the job, you can’t force it. As teachers, we must use the tools that work for our situation. Don’t try to force technology on the students if it is not improving their learning! They need to learn. Our tools should help them learn.

    Jethro’s Hammer

    Photo Credit: PPDIGITAL Creative Commons License