Podcast #67: Cursing the Cursive?

Breaking News:  The Ohio Middle School Association is now the Ohio Middle Level Associaiton!  OMLA President explains . . .

The Middle School Matters Calendar:

  1. Happy Pi Day!
  2. Book sale!  NMSA is having a clearance sale until March 31st.
  3. North Carolina Middle School Association’s Annual Conference will be March 16-17 in Pinehurst, NC.  Keynote speakers include Bill McBride and Rick Wormeli.  Ron Williamson from Eastern Michigan University will also be speaking at the conference this year.
  4. NMSA’s Middle Level Essentials Conference April 23-24, 2009.
  5. NMSA ‘08 Technology Focus Video.  This video spotlight focuses on the building of the technology demonstration classrooms at last year’s Denver Annual Conference.
  6. Educational Technology Leadership Conference, June 24th at Holt High School, Holt, MI. Register for the event now and hurry to get your presentation proposals in before the deadline!
  7. Any information on the Ontario Middle Level Association?  Their site has gone dark and we hope this does not mean the demise of the Association.
  8. NMSA ‘09 Invitation Video:  Indianapolis,  IN Conference  November 5-7, 2009.
    • ATTENTION Michigan Association of Middle School Educators & Friends: MAMSE is putting together a bus for the trip to the National Middle School Association’s Annual Conference in Indianapolis, IN this fall.  Ride down to the conference in a luxury bus with satellite access for Twittering, Facebooking, and other 21st Century technology access for less than $100.00.  With all the conversations with middle school teachers on the bus, I wonder if we could call this a mini-MAMSE conference?  There’s nothing like getting together with people who love the people we love:  our students.  (Some of you thought I was going to say something else!)  Getting together with folks like that is energizing and priceless.  Email Teresa Sutherland for information and details.  Don’t forget to mention you heard about it on Middle School Matters.
  9. The National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform will be holding their annual conference in June.  See the flyer at their website for details.
  10. Free Professional Development through Webinars! NMSA is offering previously recorded webinars for free from their website.
  11. Classroom 2.0’s Live Calendar.
  12. Classroom 2.0’s Ning Blog:  This week’s discussion is on the uses of Moodle for Teachers.  Archived content is available.
  13. Second Life:
    • No Events specified.  Regular Tuesday meetings are scheduled.  See the board on the ISTE Island for up to the minute details.
    • Video:  Educational Uses of Second Life
  14. From the Twitterverse:

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Letters from our Listeners:

Hey guys

In a conversation with another teacher in a K-8 building, I mentioned that cursive may no longer be relevant in our schools. Now I’m sure this statement flies directly in the face of readin’, ritin’, rithmatic’ purists whose cursive alphabet adorns the space just above the blackboard in a typical elementary classroom.  And I’m not suggesting that we abandon the teaching of cursive letterforms. But I gave some thought as to when I actually use this practice, and I realized that I never use cursive unless writing a signature. Everything I ever write can be successfully accomplished by either printing or typing. As a matter of fact, I see a growing practice of electronic signatures being used in lieu of any writing at all. This is more prevalent due to documents making their way to intended destinations via email, electronic forms, etc.

This raises a question about how much time we dedicate to the practice of pen to paper versus fingers to keyboard. I facilitate a professional development workshop for teachers that describes the use of good typography as a tool to better reading engagement and comprehension. As a former graphic designer before becoming a teacher, I had to know the “hook” factor of type on a page. If kids (or adults) don’t like the way it looks, they are less likely to read at all. And if they do read, they are less engaged, with less comprehension of the text, when improper type practices are followed. Therefore, the proper use of font, style, placement, and spacing have been shown through research to impact the effectiveness of the message.

My point is this: word processing, keyboards, and digital technologies are not going away. We are moving more quickly every day to a world of electronic communication. Just take a look at the Amazon Kindle or the Apple iPhone as examples. Even text to speech software has now reached an over 95% level of accuracy. And none of these trends point to the use of cursive. So do we abandon the analog form of pen on paper for the tapping of keys with our fingers, or in some cases, thumbs? It certainly won’t be anytime soon. But we do need to consider dedicating more time to teaching students necessary skills with technology, such as proper keyboarding within work processing, that is certainly critical to their future achievement. Now is the time to embrace and support our K-8 technology teachers and not give any credence to the alarming trend of cutting or limiting their programs.

Keep up the good work, and I appreciate your open-mindedness to the “bigger picture” in education.



High schools may be in for big change

Gov. Mitch Daniels wants to radically transform the way Indiana teens are taught by converting all of the state’s high schools to a hands-on, high-tech approach by the time he leaves office. In every class at a New Tech high school, students work in groups to solve challenges and work on projects rather than learning through lectures. A teacher may present only one or two lessons a week.

Algebra-for-All Policy Found to Raise Rates Of Failure in Chicago

Findings from a study involving 160,000 Chicago high school students offer a cautionary tale of what can happen, in practice, when school systems require students to take algebra at a particular grade level.Findings from a study involving 160,000 Chicago high school students offer a cautionary tale of what can happen, in practice, when school systems require students to take algebra at a particular grade level. The Chicago school district was at the forefront of that movement in 1997 when it instituted a mandate for 9th grade algebra as part of an overall effort to ensure that its high school students would be “college ready” upon graduation. “It’s not surprising that you’re going to see an increase in [failure] rates if you raise the instructional requirements and you don’t raise the supports,” said Michael Lach, the director of the school system’s office of high school teaching.
The researchers calculate that, for a school that saw an increase of 20 percentage points in algebra enrollment due to the requirement, for example, the percentage of 9th graders failing math would increase by 3 percentage points for students in the lowest-ability quartile, 3.5 percentage points for students in the next quartile, and 8.9 percent for students in the quartile of students who were labeled to be of “average” ability.

Whether similar sorts of algebra mandates­—or efforts to teach algebra at even younger ages—would have the same impact in other locations, however, is unclear, said Leland S. Cogan, a senior researcher at the Center for Research on Math and Science Education at Michigan State University in Lansing.

Poverty and Potential:  Out-of-School Factors and School Success

David C. Berliner , Regents’ Professor Arizona State University

The U.S. has set as a national goal the narrowing of the achievement gap between lower income and middle-class students, and that between racial and ethnic groups. This is a key purpose of the No Child Left Behind act, which relies primarily on assessment to promote changes within schools to accomplish that goal. However, out-of-school factors (OSFs) play a powerful role in generating existing achievement gaps, and if these factors are not attended to with equal vigor, our national aspirations will be thwarted.

Therefore, it is recommended that efforts be made to:

  • Reduce the rate of low birth weight children among African Americans,
  • Reduce drug and alcohol abuse,
  • Reduce pollutants in our cites and move people away from toxic sites,
  • Provide universal and free medical care for all citizens,
  • Insure that no one suffers from food insecurity,
  • Reduce the rates of family violence in low-income households,
  • Improve mental health services among the poor,
  • More equitably distribute low-income housing throughout communities,
  • Reduce both the mobility and absenteeism rates of children,
  • Provide high-quality preschools for all children, and
  • Provide summer programs for the poor to reduce summer losses in their academic achievement.


Motivating Underachieving Students
Instruction in Support of Success with Every Child
Mike Muir

Meaningful Engaged Learning


Click on Workshops for presentation

9 Essential Elements of Meaningful Engaged Learning:
4 Categories:
Relationship – the single most important place to start.
“I won’t learn from a teacher who doesn’t like me!”

Don’t judge them too quickly.
Don’t think of kids as bright, dumb, etc but rather Hard to Teach & Easy to Teach
This can change by class too. A student who is easy to teach for one teacher may be hard to teach in another class.

We should judge the success of our schools not on the easy to teach students, but on the hard to teach students.

What gets in the way of hard to teach students?

Enthusiasm & Humor:
Treat them “As If”
They are smart
You like them
You must be the grown up. Even if they don’t “deserve” the as if……

2.Feedback – Helping students succeed
1.Unimportant to kids
2.The most influential
3.Assessment FOR learning
3.Hands-on Active Work
1.Our brains were not designed to be in school, our brains were designed to experience things (Patterns & Schema).
Schema – “Eating in Fancy Restaurant” we know how this works and how it is different from fast food, etc. Allows for efficiency. We don’t have to remember everything, but just a few details.
2.More hands on can lead to more reading not less. The reading becomes more meaningful.
4.Variety and
1.Think of Multiple Intelligences. Which two do most people have has a strength?
Bodily/Kinestic, Visual/Spacial
Which two are most commonly taught? Verbal/Linguistic & Mathematical/Logical
Bodily-Kinestic – Parts of Speech – Do the gesture whenever we get to a specific part of speech (eg. pat their head whenever they got to a noun).
1.Take responsibility
2.Should do it
3.It’s their job

Why would they want to? This is an important question.
Learning is like whales feeding. Everything goes in and we keep what we want. Party analogy of having a good conversation and not hearing the background noise until something specific catches your ear.
5.Our Mistake: “Just in case education”
Tie Into Student Interests
Making it Interesting.
Adjectives in a bag. Something is in a bag. The kids pair up and only that pair can look at it. The students then use the sense only to write descriptive words to get the rest of the class to guess.
6.How can Extrinsic Motivation be as powerful as Instrinsic Motivation?
Avoid Bribery Rewards.
There are good extrinsic motivations. We do things for a variety of reasons, some of them are extrinsic. (eg. paychecks)
Bribery (rewards) has temporary desire effect.Shuts down learning. Leads to people doing the minimum, goal shifts to reward (killing the interest).
Random rewards are good. Pizza example. Done after the fact and they don’t know that it is happening. Don’t make it a pattern.  Bad for cognitive effect but OK for behavior.
7.Give students Choice (Autonomous Supportve Strategies)
This can be external motivation that is as powerful as instrinsic
Not “Do What you want” but limited to choices.

1.What are two most frequently asked questions?
1.Why do we have to learn this?
2.When are we ever going to use this?
9.Context (Rigor & Revelence)
Velcro Brain
Metaphors & Examples
Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised
Psychology says that we need to start at the upper level of Bloom’s. You need to create in order to remember, understand, etc.
10.Learn in Context & Real World
Isolated Islands of Learning (kids do better taking tests in the class that the learned it).
Paragraph example:
Warning: Simple but not easy.
TV Repair man example. (The repair costs $100. The buyer asks what was wrong. Replaces a .05 screw. The guy complains. The repairmen explains, the screw costs .05 cents. Knowing which screw was $95.95)