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Project Based Learning

Like flipping the classroom, education technology, videoconferencing and building personal learning networks via Twitter, project-based learning has become a popular topic.
"Standards tell what students should know and be able to do, but do they tell how to use this power, change the world and make a difference?"
In an ideal world, we'd all love our students to ace quizzes and tests, get their homework in on time, and generally demonstrate good student skills. Every year I have wave after wave of students that are so keen on that coveted A+ but they don't really ask themselves what they'll do with this knowledge and skill set that they have learned. I like to think that learning should have applications and I'm not denouncing the need for good assessment habits, but if they're learning merely to pass a test, how can they enjoy a love of learning after they leave that educational system? How can we develop curiosity?

The emphasis on standardized testing as the bottom line in education is proving this point. Although these are good indicators of student learning, they omit the applications of this learning and don't allow students to show why they are learning it in this first place. This is the allure of having "projects" but these are often "add ons" rather than an authentic learning experience.

The Difference between Projects and Project Based Learning

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Resources to Facilitate Project-Based Learning in your Classroom

The Effect of Student Engagement

“Imagine a 20 minute lecture where all your students back channel about what you're saying. Outside guests or experts are invited in. Someone acts as a "rudder" to keep the conversation on track. The discussion is displayed on a SMARTboard or with a projector. The chatcast is immediately dumped into a wiki. The rest of the class is devoted to reorganizing the wiki clarifying what was said, answering questions (student to student as well as teacher to student; and don't forget the people, students, teachers, mentors or parents beyond the glass walls of the room) summarizing the big ideas, reframing the discussion in terms of what needs to be explained again and where we're going next. Imagine the possibilities …” -- Terry Friedman, 2008 Talking about bringing Twitter into the classroom. 

In “Pleased to Tweet You,” middle school teacher Kate Messner used a TweetChat with an author and publisher to go along with a book her students had been reading in class. Her students happily chimed in with questions, answered on the screen before their eyes as the teacher tweeted them at the author. The English language teacher followed the children’s favorite authors and students tweeted questions such as “What are your favorite strategies for developing characters’ personalities?” which garnered responses from several published authors.

Twitter has also been used by some teachers to encourage collaboration across countries. For example, one American class had a conversation on Twitter with a Japanese class while they were studying Japanese world history. Many teachers have also used Twitter to talk to fellow teachers and improve their craft, organizing conversations by subject level such as #musedchat for music teachers and #langchat for foreign language teachers.

Sources and additional resources:
What do you think? Does Twitter have a place in the classroom? How about other new media technology?

mostly by Lindsey Cook

Lindsey Rogers Cook

Senior journalism and computer science student at The University of Georgia Honors Program.; 678-464-7351; 

7 countries where Americans can study at universities, in English, for free

From the Washington Post this morning --

Since 1985, U.S. college costs have surged by about 500 percent, and tuition fees keep rising. In Germany, they've done the opposite.

The country's universities have been tuition-free since the beginning of October, when Lower Saxony became the last state to scrap the fees. Tuition rates were always low in Germany, but now the German government fully funds the education of its citizens -- and even of foreigners.

Explaining the change, Dorothee Stapelfeldt, a senator in the northern city of Hamburg, said tuition fees "discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up study. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany."
It is no wonder that we are something like 25 on the list of "Educated Countries" These countries take the education of their citizens seriously, almost sacredly. For us it is little more than a political bargaining chip, and a place where slush money can be taken from when needed. 
A 2009 study found that U.S. students ranked 25th among 34 countries in math and science, behind nations like China, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Finland. Figures like these have groups like StudentsFirst, headed by former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, concerned and calling for reforms to "our education system [that] can't compete with the rest of the world." 
Just 6 percent of U.S. students performed at the advanced level on an international exam administered in 56 countries in 2006. That proportion is lower than those achieved by students in 30 other countries. American students' low performance and slow progress in math could also threaten the country's economic growth, experts have said. -- Huffington Post

Offer to Every Teacher

For the last ten years, maybe a little longer, just after the first eye-opening year of No Child Left Behind you could hear in every break room, every teacher's lounge, every coffee shop, and even while they paced in their living-rooms, "If they would just give us a list of what needed to be taught, and then left us alone, it would be fine. I'm a teacher! I have a degree and everything! I know my kids, and I know what works!"

So, you are an 8th Grade English teacher? How about this for what we need to know in Writing:

Text Types and Purposes:

Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence
  • Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.
  • Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.
  • Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
  • Establish and maintain a formal style.
  • Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
  • Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  • Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
  • Use appropriate and varied transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.
  • Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
  • Establish and maintain a formal style.
  • Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented.
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
  • Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
  • Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, and reflection, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
  • Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence, signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another, and show the relationships among experiences and events.
  • Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.
  • Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

  • Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)
  • With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grade 8 here.)
  • Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

  • Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  • Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • Apply grade 8 Reading standards to literature (e.g., "Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types from myths, traditional stories, or religious works such as the Bible, including describing how the material is rendered new").
  • Apply grade 8 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., "Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced").

Range of Writing:

Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

I know it looks like a lot, but it is for the year and it really isn't that much.

We don't care how you teach it. You can use lectures, or video, or Socratic discussion or sing a little song. You are the teacher. You know your students better than we ever could. There are a bunch of resources though, and thousands of teachers who are doing the exact same things with their classes that we can put you in touch with to share ideas and get support. There are lessons that are aligned to these requests, already made by some of the best educators in the nation, or you can make your own and share them with the teacher community.

All up to you. Have fun this year.

Common Core.

Facebook as a Lesson Platform -- theedublogger

If you are one of those out there that believe that Facebook has no place in the classroom, then, well maybe this post isn’t for you. But please first take a look at just a few reasons why you should reconsider:
  1. The fact is, the majority of your students and their parents are probably already on Facebook
  2. Even when schools have a policy against being “friends” online, there are tools you can use that won’t violate policy
  3. Despite what you may hear, there are strong privacy options that you can set up so only those that you want can access your information
  4. We have an obligation as educators to model appropriate online behavior and learn right along our students

Where do we begin?

Just today, Facebook released their own sponsored Facebook For Educators guide, but we found that there really wasn’t enough “how-to” in this guide to make it worth it.
However, it is a good document to read through to get the philosophical stuff down and get familiar with some of the unique facebook vocabulary such as profile, page, groups, etc.
The rest of this posts seeks to lay out all of the options you have for using facebook in the classroom and connecting with your students, parents, and community.

 See a video here:

Should we be “friends” with students?

This is certainly a hotly debated question.
Your school might have a policy that doesn’t allow you to friend your students on Facebook. We definitely don’t want you to go against any policy! But, we feel that done responsibly, you should absolutely friend your current students! Why?
  • Get to know them in a whole different light – students share their likes, hobbies, and more. Really getting to know your students transfers into a better experience in the classroom and a better ability to reach every student.
  • Create an open and supportive environment – if you are open to it, students could even send you a quick chat message if they are stuck on a homework question in the evening.
  • Keep up with students years later – there is no doubt you are one of your students’ favorite teachers ever. Keep in touch and communicate years after they leave your classroom.
Just one personal example from a former student that just posted to my wall last month:

How to safely “friend” students on facebook

Option 1: Use Lists to keep some things private
To set up a list of all of your students you will want to take the following steps:
1. Click on Friends in the left sidebar after logging in to Facebook
2. Click on Edit Friends at the top right
3. Click on +Create a List which will appear in the same location as the button from step 2
4. Add all of your students to the list you just created by clicking on “Edit List” next to their names
5. Click on Account > Privacy Settings in upper right corner
6. Click on Customize settings in bottom left
7. Use the drop down menu to limit your students from seeing what you don’t want them to by clicking onCustomize and then type in the name of your list in the Hide these from these people: text box
limited profile
limit everything under the “Things others share” category, as well as my posts, photos, location, and contact information. Really, when they visit my profile, all they can see is my profile image, school and work info, and that’s about it.
Option 2: Set-up a second account just for your students (and parents)
Many schools and experts are recommending that teachers create a whole new facebook account just to use in their professional lives.
This may work for you, but in reality, you are less likely to be able to keep up with more than one account and it kind of defeats the whole purpose anyway.
That being said, it may be a good option for you. Just create an account using your school email address and only let students and parents friend you there.

Why every educator, school, and organization needs a facebook “fan” page

Even better than friending students online is setting up a fan page.
Fan pages allow you to distribute announcements, blog posts, events, assignments, and more right into the “live streams” of those that “fan” your page.
This is better than using your personal profile because there is no need for parents or students to be your friends to get the updates, and it can really be used to develop an online community around your class or school.
An example of using a teacher page
An example of using a teacher page
However, many parents will have to be coached into seeing the benefits of a facebook page and there might be resistance. It is important to only post things such as names and photos if permission is granted, and announcements will want to be more generic in nature.
Here are a few examples to take a look at (and maybe even fan!):
Know of more or have your own?
Leave a comment so we can add it to the list!
Other facebook pages for educators:
And fan pages for Educator Blogs:

How to create a facebook fan page

create page1. Login to your facebook account
3. Click on “Create a page” in top right
4. Choose “Artist, Band, or Public Figure” if you are a teacher and choose “Organization” if you are a school or group
5. Follow the steps on screen to get started

Adding the “like box” to your blog or website

One of the best ways of letting your students and others know about your fan page is to put a “like box” on your blog, wiki, or website.
Here is an example of a small like box for our facebook page:
It wouldn’t hurt to press that like button here either ;)
Here is how to get your own:
1. Go here to get the code needed for your box
2. Type in the URL or link to your facebook page
3. Choose if you want to show the stream – this will display the most recent posts to your facebook page’s wall
4. Change the size and decide on the other options available
5. Click on Get Code and copy the iFrame code from the top box
6. In a blog, paste the code into the HTML Tab of a page or post, or into a blank text widget in your sidebar
7. This code should also be able to be pasted in most wikis and websites – look for help info on embedding codefor more

Groups – An alternative to Pages

Note: This section was added on 5/12/2011 and didn’t appear when the post was originally published.
After initially deciding to leave Groups out from the discussion, we received comments down below about how many educators prefer Groups over Pages.
The truth is, Facebook made some recent changes to Groups since the last time I played around with them – so maybe they are a good alternative after all.
So what are the differences between a page and a group?
Here is a chart that hopefully will make the differences (and similarities) a bit more clear:
I think Pat McCullough sums it up best in his comment below, “My sense is that people would take more ownership of activity in a Group than a Page. In terms of what the two features signify to users, my impression is that a Group implies that the students are creators of content, while the Page places the instructor more prominently as the ultimate mediator of content.
So in deciding between a group and a page, you will want to think about your goals for setting one or the other up.

How to set up a group

Setting up a group is a quick process.
1. Sign in to your facebook account.
3. Click on the green “Create Group” button in the top right and follow the on screen prompts.
You will want to be careful as you create your group to make sure that you limit messaging and other privacy issues if it is frowned upon by your school.

The great Facebook debate

Many educators and parents have their own (and valid) opinions about the use of facebook in schools.
Some say it is a distraction, an unnecessary mix of leisure and learning, and even dangerous.
Others realize the power of reaching out to students and understand how facebook can be the best way to keep parents informed and encourage their participation in the learning process.
So what do you think?
Leave us comments below with anything you would like to add.
by BY  · MAY 11, 2011

CrowdGov Re-Boots the System

Crowd Government Re-Boots the System has been crowd-sourcing votes in the UK with Parliment for some time. They announced back in Sept that they were going to be even more directly involved with the voting process. This is the only way for the future. We have millions with smartphones and wifi. We can access the issues from anywhere at any time. We can give our representatives our vote directly. CrowdGov is not only possible, it is here and it is working. has shown us the way.

There is no website yet called Someone owns it, but they aren't doing anything with it yet. But this is the path to the future, and away from Presidents who torture, and Congress who does nothing except spend $660 million on things we don't want. This is the way to be rid of people like the Koch brothers, and other super-rich who lobby and pressure and buy their way into pushing this country where we don't want it to go. This is the way to get rid of useless, unwanted bills taking time from the floor, and oversight committees around subjects we could care less about.

It can happen. Look at El Paso Tx Schools! Texas!! If that can happen, this can happen.

GTP and ME and Chess

You: Give me an annotation of the following game, noting and highlighting tactics, positioning, shifts in momentum and their causes, as we...