Recent Posts

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Explore the World Through Soccer!

At my Teacher with Picture Books site I recently posted about the upcoming FIFA World Cup and shared some awesome related titles such Nomad Press's innovative Soccer World Series, beginning with Soccer World: South Africa and Soccer World: Mexico.

I also shared some links for teachers and students, but since then has created an awesome World Cup site for kids, featuring collected links for students and teachers. If you're looking for a terrific end-of-the-year send off, this would be it! And if your school still runs during the World Cup, you'll have some terrific resources right at your fingertips.

For lots of free, awesome resources on a number of topics (besides soccer), be sure to visit the Nomad Press site. Read more about their titles and downloadable activities at a previous post here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Visual Representations of Web Links Using TouchGraph

TouchGraph is one of the cooler sites I've seen for exploring connections between web sites. When I wanted to see, for example, which sites linked to mine, I simply typed in the URL of my main blog ( and was instantly shown the sixty or so sites that link to it. The main screen shows this graphically, while the smaller screen to the left lists the sites by relevance, and also allows me to click each link in turn for a synopsis.

Topics, rather than specific sites, can also be entered. In a search for Ancient Egypt, for example, we're presented with a pretty tightly clustered collection of sites. These in turn can be spaced apart (using the Spacing slider in the top right), or individually clicked to expand further. Similar sites are grouped together. Sites that simply pay for higher search results typically won't show up unless they have the content to make them relevant.

I've used TouchGraph to check my own sites to see that they're not linking to, or being linked from, inappropriate sites. But I can absolutely see its value as a search tool for students, particularly when they know one site that has the type of information they're seeking. Entering that site name or URL here, versus the go-to Google search, seems to be a lot more productive.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Can You Fix Broken Teachers?

Get rid of professional development.
Stop throwing good money after bad.
Once a bad teacher, always a bad teacher.

You don't agree? Perhaps I'm reading too much into a new Department of Education report called the Middle School Mathematics Professional Impact Study. The study concluded that intensive, state-of-the-art training to improve teaching skills doesn’t seem to lead to significant improvements in student achievement, even when the teachers who underwent the training changed some of their instructional methods.

Teachers in 12 medium to large schools underwent 68 hours of rigorous training that covered the teaching of such hard-to-grasp mathematical concepts. It spanned several months and included summer programs, follow-up sessions and some in-class coaching.

Is it possible that such a quick fix solution isn't the only way to go?

I'm a teacher of over 20 years, and I constantly tweak my instructional practice in response to workshops, professional readings, collegial relationships, and technological innovation. Does every change in my practice result in a corresponding improvement in student achievement?

I wish.

Perhaps, cumulatively, those changes, along with changes instituted over time by my peers, will increase achievement. But perhaps those changes in instruction need a greater period of time to be measured before they can be discounted.

So just as a precaution, why don't we keep training our teachers, just in case. I don't think we'd throw up our hands in surrender and give up on our students this easily, so maybe teachers deserve just as much time and opportunity to develop and grow.