Items & Events
1. NMSA Annual Conference, October 30 – November 1 (Video sample) Watch the video invitation on the main page of NMSA’s website. (12 days …)
2. Ohio Middle School Association’s Annual Conference, February 19-20, 2009 in Sandusky, OH. Presenter information is posted on the page. Download now and get it it in to your administration while they’re too confused and dazed with the opening of school’s events to say, “No.” (You could argue . . . )
3. Michigan Internet Technology Chief Bruce Umpstead talks about using technology in education in a podcast here at Inside Michigan Education that proposes some ways to incorporate technology in your classroom and get the community to support it. (Interesting how he admits IT people in districts are actively blocking the iTunes U software.)
4. Canadian National Middle Years Conference, November 5, 6, & 7 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
5. The Michigan Department of Education has posted new proposed Tech Standards for K-12 and opened a Zoomerang survey page for posting comments and replies. You can get to the proposed standards directly here and you can go to the survey page here. No one will stop you at the front door of the survey if you’re not in the Great State of Michigan, so have at.
6. Looking for news from Ontario Middle Level Educators Association. If you have any, drop us a line.
7. PBS has turned the Media Infusion board to a middle school teacher for the month of October! You can read her insights and postings to the world about middle school at the Media Infusion website. Rebecca Lawson is a frequent contributor to the MiddleTalk listserv hosted by NMSA. Membership in the listserv is open to NMSA membership and you can get more detailed information here at the webpage.
8. The New England League of Middle Schools has a whole bevy of professional development planned for the 2008-2009 school year and you can access it here.
9. ADVISORY IDEAS NEEDED: NELMS is putting together an Advisory Resource page with lessons for you to use. They are asking for submissions here by January 1, 2009. If your entry is used, you will be entered in a raffle for a 3 day NELMS conference ticket.
10. Are you a member of the National Middle School Association? You are eligible to join MiddleTalk, a listserv for middle school teachers that engages in middle level “shop talk.” Sign up here.
11. Research Summary Posted: Vocabulary Teaching and Learning Across Disciplines is now available at NMSA.
12. Join the gang going to NMSA’s Annual Conference by signing up at the Ning site and connecting with other Conference goers: NMSA08 Please do sign up and connect with other conference attendees. Of course, you’re always welcome to post here too . . .
13. There’s a new research document on counselors in middle schools and the importance they play in our students’ lives. The research summary details the importance of each student knowing one adult well and how to do that before the counselor’s role can become multifaceted. In a way, think of them being the ultimate super Advisory teacher first then counselor. Check it out here.
14. If you get a chance to visit Second Life, zip over to the ISTE island for their speaker series on Tuesdays & Thursdays. This Tuesday’s speaker is TBA. It begins at 6:00 pm Pacific and is scheduled to end at 7:00 pm pst.
15. Denver Weather Watch is now on patrol! Get your National Weather Service information before you go.
NMSA08 Travel Prep:
iPod Material: Ruby Payne has some free downloads you can listen to in advance.
Snacks: Nut mix.
Jim Collins Information: Good to Great for Social Sectors has a section in the Jim Collins podcasting section. Give it a look and put it on your favorite iPod for the trip to Denver!
Take a coat.
- There’s a great archived discussion on Advisory over at MiddleWeb. For those of you looking for some insights in running an Advisory/Enrichment program it is worth the read.
- The Secret Knowledge of Grownups is a children’s book explaining the “real” reasons adults have for telling kids to do things they may not like. There are “official” reasons that every adult has to give each child and each adult must know each official reason so that no matter whom the child asks, they get the same reason. Sound like a conspiracy? Sound like what the kids do at school? “I’ll ask this teacher what the reason for the rule is and then I’ll check it with this teacher in my next hour and then . . . ,” as they look for the inconsistencies in each answer or the consistencies to prove conspiracy. Something worth trying is the Secret Knowledge of Grownups and cutting the different “Grownup Rules” in to sections. Each group works through the story (I love the killer vegetables one!) and then using their Code of Conduct pulls a rule to apply the pattern to: State the rule, state the “official” reason, then the “real” reason. Students can be creative with the “real” reasons and put pictures to their explanations. Probably a better activity for early in the year, but ideas don’t always come when you need them.
NMSA08 Annual Conference Information:
Tech Sandboxes (from NMSA):
“Come play in the Tech Sandboxes located throughout the Convention Center. Each Tech Sandbox will be a place to get your hands on and learn about a particular digital or Web tool for teaching and learning.
Tech Sandboxes are hosted by practitioners and experts who can talk about and show you how they have used the tool for teaching and learning. These practitioners and experts are also eager to give you a chance to get your hands on the technology to learn and ask questions.
Look for these Tech Sandboxes:
- Web 2.0 for Professional Development—Ning, Second Life, MiddleTalk (NMSA’s listserve), and the Middle School Portal.
- Tandberg —Video conferencing and student/teacher-prepared curricula.
- SchoolTube —Video studio.
- Promethean —Interactive whiteboards and student-response devices.
- PBS Teachers —Free resources, online community, and professional development. (Check out Rebecca Lawson’s blog on PBS Teachers.)
- ePals —The new interactive gateway for middle level educators.
- Curriki —Chat places and curriculum sharing for teachers. (Contact Christine Loew)
- Tabula Digita – innovative, effective educational gaming for stand alone teaching or to support and enhance existing curriculum and materials.”
From Middle EConnections:
Plan a Trip Outside the Classroom
After returning from a productive field trip to the North Georgia Mountains, I began to reflect back on the benefits of the trip and the reasons why the trip was successful. There are numerous reasons why field trips are helpful to young adolescents and their learning experiences, but the relationship-building between teachers and students is the most positive function. The opportunity to be outside the classroom presents itself as a chance to connect with students in a unique way. Many times after field trips, teachers and students will have a new appreciation for each other.
Also, the more that our team discussed the trip, the more we realized that the success of our trip rested in the prior planning we had done as a team. The following tips were ways in which we worked to make the trip as smooth as possible.
Match the trip with the curriculum. Before you and your students can go on any field trip, prior approval must be granted by the administration or the local board of education. The best selling point is explaining how the trip will enhance the curriculum and enrich student learning and understanding. Be prepared to explain to your administration why this trip will provide students with an opportunity to learn in a way that the classroom may not allow.
It’s better to over-plan, but stay flexible. Sit down as a team and discuss all aspects of the trip from bus departure to sleeping arrangements. Every detail of the trip needs to be addressed, but also realize that some things that happen on trips cannot be planned or addressed before the trip. In these cases, be flexible and work as a team to solve these issues.
Put students in positions to be successful. If there happens to be a teacher who works well with a certain student, then try to place the student with the teacher for a majority of the trip. This will help out with student discipline and participation. Also, make students aware and knowledgeable of the expectations and the procedures before the actual trip. This helps minimize confusion with students as well as parents.
Promote and sell the trip. Many students who are disinterested in the everyday classroom will find excitement and interest in learning outside of the school building and everyday routines and procedures. It helps to sit down with these students and explain that you are excited they are attending the trip and participating in the learning activities. Also, stress to these students that they will be able to contribute to the trip and the learning experience.
Select chaperones carefully. Some adults can cause more heartache than help. Also, remember that some students act differently, positive and negative, in the presence of a parent or guardian. It may be helpful to use parents only in situations where you do not have enough certified teachers. Check with your administration about their preferences.
Debrief as a group. Find out what worked, what went well, and what failed. Whose actions surprised you and why? Did we as a team put these students and chaperones in a position to be successful? What could we do better next time? Did our students learn? How do we know?
Best wishes on your future trips, and don’t forget to plan early.
Philip Brown is a middle school assistant principal in Oconee County, Georgia. He is also a doctoral student in middle school education at the University of Georgia.
Rethinking Research in the Google Era:
As the internet replaces library databases as students’ primary research option, a new discussion is emerging in academic circles: Is the vast amount of information at students’ fingertips changing the way they gather and process information for the better–or for worse?
Like Carr, the study says people who use the internet for research have very specific and identifiable habits. For example, they tend to seek information horizontally–meaning they skim, or bounce from page to page, without reading in depth and rarely return to a previous source. About 60 percent of electronic journal users view no more than three pages, the study found, and 65 percent never return.
For instance, 89 percent of college students use search engines to begin an information search, the study found–while only 2 percent start from a library web site.
Wade said she asked her daughter, Kelly, how she researches online.
Kelly explained that she starts with Wikipedia–a resource students typically aren’t allowed to cite, because it might not be a reliable source–and looks at the resources listed to identify other sources that might be reliable and valid. She then goes to those sites and compares them. After skimming and comparing, she uses her knowledge of how to identify a valid source to choose those sources that she would be able to use for her project. Then, she reads those articles in depth.
Kelly compares her process to the “old” way of researching her mom had to use: “When you went to the library, mom, you had to look through encyclopedias, books, and magazines to find what they might have at your schools. Today, I can look at those things, but by using the internet, I can find a lot more information. One source leads me to another, and that article leads me to three others. If the articles or sources are not linked, I just Google them. I can learn because I have access to tons more information than you had available in your library–back in your day.”
Jim Bosco, professor emeritus at Western Michigan University, says there has “always been the concern that with new technology comes hell. It began with Socrates being concerned that writing had a horrible effect on learning, because up until that point all learning was done through oral tradition. It’s continued with printing and then television. It’s a reoccurring trend throughout history.”
“If people think it’s only the students now, [who] have access to the internet, who skim over information and write papers that are just a collage of quotes and material pulled from other articles, they’re wrong,” he said. “As a teacher who’s old enough to have reviewed papers both before and after the internet, let me tell you: Students in the past used to write papers in the same way. There will always be students who write papers where it’s obvious they have no deep understanding of the material. It’s not a new phenomenon–it’s just better automated now.”
According to the British Library’s report, a common misconception of the “Google generation” is that they are naturally information literate.
Says the study: “The information literacy of young people has not improved with the widening access to technology. … Young people sometimes have a poor understanding of their information needs and thus find it difficult to develop effective search strategies. Faced with a long list of search hits, young people find it hard to assess the relevance of the materials presented and often print off pages with no more than a perfunctory glance.”
To help students learn how to search the internet successfully, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has developed “Standards for the 21st Century Learner.” (See “School libraries try to do more with less.”) The State Educational Technology Directors Association also has a media literacy toolkit that aligns with state standards.
But to help students learn not only how to navigate the internet successfully, but also to know how to read in depth, educators says it’s up to them to design helpful homework assignments and projects.
Bosco added that educators also need to know how not to skim when reading–otherwise they won’t be able to discern good papers from bad ones. “They need to focus on quality, not on quantity, of assignments, and they need to take their time during assessments,” he concluded.
Schools soon required to teach web safety:
Schools receiving e-Rate discounts on their telecommunications services and internet access soon will have to educate their students about online safety, sexual predators, and cyber bullying, thanks to federal legislation passed in both the Senate and the House.
The bill reflects the concerns of parents, teachers, and others that children might meet sexual predators while on social networking sites or talking online in chat rooms. Increased media attention on online harassment and cyber bullying, including several cases where students have suffered severe emotional problems or have committed suicide after online taunts, also have influenced the bill.