Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Student's blogging about Educational blogging

I found this great site about students' opinions on blogging. Check it out.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Review: Teaching in the Cyberage

Nelson (2001) Teaching in the Cyberage is worth reading for those of us who are just starting to incorporate technology into the classroom. It begins with an amalgamation of the major tenets of brain-compatible learning as discussed in Sywester (1995), Fogarty (1997), Caine and Caine (1991), Kovalik (1993) and Sousa (1995). This summary alone makes the book worth signing out of the library. Some of the topics include: meaning and relevance, emotions, repetition and rehearsal, prior knowledge, adequate time, immediate feedback, collaboration, reflection, safe and nurturing environment, active learning, choice, pattern seeking, and chunking.

There is a portion called, “What does a well-designed internet activity look like?” which includes web site evaluation questions. There are many lesson examples which are tailored to those of us with little prior knowledge. These also include rubrics!! Many of the activities are designed with multiple intelligences in mind with evaluations that take these into account.

There is a description of various interpersonal on-line exchanges and how they can be utilized in the classroom (with suggestions for all subjects). There is even a lesson plan for an on-line field trip.

And for those of us who like to have the information summarized in charts, this book caters to us. I especially enjoy the charts that list specific learning outcomes with technological activities to match.

Appendix A includes 9 pages of educational websites including descriptions.


Nelson, K. (2001). Teaching in the Cyberage. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc..>
Common themes emerging in recent neuroscientific research are introduced and then applied to the classroom through technology.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The "Why Bother Blogging" Podcast

After posting the entry "Blogging - Does it really 'hook' students?" I remembered listening to a podcast that answered that question effectively - by educators who use blogging in the classroom...It is EdTech Posse Podcast #13. This is what Rob Wall, one of the contributors said about this podcast:

This conversation featuring the full posse - Alec Couros, Rick Schwier, Dean Shareski and Rob Wall - was recorded on December 14, 2005. Just the day before we recorded, I was in a meeting for developing an Information Literacy scope and sequence for the school where I teach. The teacher librarian and I were talking about blogging, wikis, RSS, podcasting and other tools of the read-write web, along with production technologies like digital video editing. One of the teachers in the meeting asked what was the point of having students do these things in school - I was so stunned to be asked this that I didn't have a good response, so I posed the question to the posse. A very robust conversation was the result - EdTech Posse Podcast #013.

Here is a summary of some of the ideas presented on this podcast that relate to the discussion on this blog:

- Students are saying that they've done the essays. They are looking for something different and so are the teachers.
- Maybe we should turn the question around and ask "What's the educational value of doing an essay?" Do we do essays just because they are part of the teaching culture? We assume that the things we are already doing are okay and maybe they aren't.
- Teachers are "literacy biased". We give assignments that cater to a certain kind of student. Students may communicate better if they could make a video, blog, or podcast.
- Teachers teach to the type of students they were themselves.
- Blogging and other tools of the read/write web fit the Adaptive Dimension.

My future with wikis

Wikis are another very useful educational tool. The book pictured here by Will Richardson is a great place to start. Steve Hargadon has an excellent podcast interviewing Adam Frey and Vicki Davis. Here is his introductory paragraph describing the interview on his blog:

Thursday night Vicki Davis from Westwood Schools and Adam Frey of Wikispaces and I explored the uses of wikis in education. I came away, again, with the conviction that while blogs are more immediately popular because they are easier to use, that wikis also have a tremendous place in transformative educational experiences.

He then summarizes the interview. It is worth checking out.

A call for research on blogging

Although a lot of people are discussing blogging (and even educational blogging) on-line, it is hard to find any published research on the topic.

Why do we need research?

Although I believe that the combined experiences informing the opinions of professional people are useful, research is also needed to confirm the truth about these ideas. If research demonstrates that blogging really is effective, directors of education may encourage and support the use of blogging in classrooms.

This theme for the need to research blogging is repeated throughout the literature that I read this summer. I am including a sampling.

“Little research has been conducted on the use of blogs for education, knowledge management, and performance improvement, thus pointing to a need for further exploratory study” (Wang, Fix, Bock, 2004, p. 1).

“It remains unclear whether blogs can promote higher levels of reflective practice among middle school teachers. Further research is needed to address this issue” (Ray & Hocutt, 2006, p. 4).

“The thorniest issue is how educators can use classroom blogs to advance student achievement. So far, little analysis has been done on the quality of blogs as a classroom tool” (Borja, 2005, p. 2).

“There is much to be learned by educators about how to properly implement blogs and what benefits they can serve” (Trammel & Ferdig, 2004, p. 65).

“We’re only just getting started and are at a place where questions far outweigh answers….’How often will my students blog? How am I going to assess my students’ blogs? What will the rubric look like? What is the most convenient and meaningful way to respond to my students?’” (Kajder &Bull, 2004, p. 5).

“Future research should include studies to reveal language acquisition or learning comprehension and retention when using weblogs. Likewise, understanding similarities and differences among gender, ethnicity and age groups would help develop more personalized approaches to classroom implementation and enhance the applicability of weblogs in educational settings” (Huffaker, 2004, p. 7).

There are many valuable educational reasons to research blogging.

“Although there is not a tremendous amount of academic research on blogging, theoretical and practical writing suggests a number of important reasons for using blogs in teaching and learning” (Trammell & Ferdig, 2004, p. 61).

Trammell and Ferdig went on to describe how blogging assists in :
1. Creating subject matter experts.
2. Increased interest in learning.
3. Opening up the classroom to the world.

Bartlett-Bragg (2003) discussed student experiences. “…[S]tudents have reported greater freedom to comment, no pressure to stay in line with the focus questions or issues, the ability to publish small, unconnected pieces of knowledge that may have suddenly had some meaning for them, and somewhere to record their experiences related to their learnings that could be revisited at a later point. All the attributes required for deep learning to occur” (p. 7).

Educational bloggers can list many other reasons that blogging should be used in the classroom. My other blog entries discuss more ideas and with more details. However, here it is important to note, that “…as with many new and innovative technologies, we do not yet have the research to justify the mass expansion of blogging in our schools. Researchers should undertake this task and investigate the impact of blogging on learning” (Trammel & Ferdig, 2004, p. 64).

Hints for future blogging research:

The lack of blog experience is a key problem affecting blog research. “Because researchers are unaware of the nuances of the form, they have a tendency to over-generalize the findings of research….[T]he researcher must be engaged in some form of blogging activity in order to frame research appropriately and place results in the appropriate contexts” (Wang, Fix, Bock, 2004, p. 13).

Lawley (2004) suggests five approaches to study blogs or blogging:
1. Definitional and descriptive study of blog as a form
2. Study of interactions between blogs and authors in terms of contextual community
3. Ethnographic studies of small blog communities
4. Content analysis research focused on stylistic differences between types of blogs
5. Study of use of blogs from a task or organizational context


Bartlett-Bragg, A. (2003). Blogging to learn. Knowledge Tree e-journal, 4. Retrieved
July 26, 2006 from

Borja, R. (2005). ‘Blogs’ catching on as tool for instruction. Education Week, 25(15), p. 1f.

Huffaker, D. (2004). The educated blogger: Using weblogs to promote literacy in the
classroom. First Monday, 9(6). Retrieved July 27, 2006 from

Kajder, S. & Bull, G. (2004). A space for “writing without writing”. Learning and Leading with
Technology, 31(6), p. 32f.

Lawley, L. (2004). Blog Research Issues. Retrieved September 8, 2006 from

Ray, B. & Hocutt, M. (2006). Reflection and the middle school blogger: Do blogs support
reflective practices? Meridian Middle School Computer Technologies Journal, 1(9).
Retrieved on July 19, 2006 from

Trammell, K. & Ferdig, R. (2004). Pedagogical implications of classroom blogging. Exchange
Quarterly, 8(4), p. 60f.

Wang, M., Fix, R. & Bock, L. (2004). Blogs: Useful Tool or Vain Indulgence? Educational
Technology, San Diego State University.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Blogging - Does it really "hook" students?

My last post received this great comment from Buddha:

I am a "digital immigrant" and as such enjoy the idea of the blog but cannot apply myself to the time they take to maintain...well not always. Anyhow, the question I have is how are blogs "hooking" young people into writing as they seem to have increasingly little interest in being anchored to any given "bit" of information or tasks that maintain high levels of follow through and analysis of thought...Is the Blog simply a place to "confess to the world for the cleansing of all things cerebral" or is it an actual intellectual exercise?Perhaps it is a sociological anomoly that enraptures only a particular type of thinker?Thoughts?

When I started thinking about how to answer, I found their were so many categories to which the answer belongs. Here are they are:

1. What is a blog?

Okay. This question has been asked so many times, but blogs are still seen as journals recording individual venting. Yes, it's a journal (for quite a few people) but it is so much more. Here is an excellent article called "Educational Weblogs: Whats and Whys". Here is a short list of ways to use blogs in the classroom, although Richardson's book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts... (p. 40f) gives a more substantial list.

Here are some of the items:
- post class-related information such as calendars, events, homework assignments, and other pertinent class information
- provide examples of classwork....
- create an on-line book club
- post tasks to carry out project-based learning tasks with students
- build a class newsletter, using student-written articles and photos they take
- etc.
- etc.
- etc.

Here are some extra special blogs to show that they aren't just on-line journals:
Discovering Prince of Calculand
Mabry uses a blog as their school "website".
More Calculus.

I wish I had started tagging sooner because I remember viewing a junior high math blog in which the students answered questions that Bloom would have appreciated and the ojectives of the course were being creatively met. I looked high and low but couldn't find it.

2. Why is blogging useful?

It's cheap - if you have internet access, you have blog access.
It's easy - you don't have to be a techy to do it. And yes, even techies are bloggers.
Many students are already using the tool. Why? Because they enjoy it.

3. How often would my students blog?

When literature circles were the "newest educational rage", I enjoyed implementing literature circles - and still do. Did I use literature circles for every novel we read? No chance! Sometimes I used them only for a story. And do I organize literature circles the same way every time. No. Even I would get bored then!! Students need novelty. Novelty is one important aspect of engaging the brain (a balanced combination of novelty and stability).

Okay, so if I'm using the example of literature circles...Ann Davis' use of blogging with literature circles has continued to evolve and continues to include novelty. Older students become mentors. In March of 2006, Davis had fifth graders podcast advice to the writings of the 2nd graders - and it's useful advice!

4. Is blogging too simple?

Maybe for some. But since starting to blog, I have learned how to subscribe to others'writings which has many implications for the classroom. For instance, I can subscribe to my students' blogs and know when they have handed things in (and so can their parents), and I can send useful information to their feeds for individualized instruction.

Just for fun, I started asking my teenage relatives if they "aggregate". When I explained about "subscribing" they hadn't heard of it!! Wow! It's not going to last long, so while I know something my students don't know about technology, I should make use of it!!!

I have even learned a little html code. Yeah, yeah, you can laugh! I did go to school when we learned to type on typewriters. And techies may think my little bit of cutting and pasting html code is silly BUT and it is a big BUT...there are a lot of teachers like me. Blogging is manageable and it is a foot in the door to learning more about technology.

5. Do students like blogging?

Read "My Progress Report" to hear one girl's positive experience.
This podcast interviews students about what advice they would like to whisper in their own ear regarding last year's class. Notice the students use the word "fun" and "friendly" a lot. Those are motivating words for students. Not only did they have fun, but they succeeded.

6. Why does blogging have the potential to hook bloggers?

I use the word "potential" because blogging can be poorly used. It can be too loosly defined with students wondering what in the world they are supposed to do, and it can be far too controlled. A blog assignment may ask limiting questions or help students to effectively reflect and rehearse.

For instance, after a brief lecture, allow students to blog as an option to making connections with what they just learned. Remember, students don't give attention and connect (put things into longer term memory) at the same time. So, if they are going to remember, the teacher has to actually quit talking. Blogging is one of the useful tools to use at this time. And...students' brains aren't prepared to give uninterrupted attention for a whole class either. So balance, variety, and blending are important.

Blogging is collaborative, allows students to make choices, allows students to work at their own pace (and even after school), creates the possibility of more immediate feedback, adds novelty, is appropriately challenging, engages emotions, and allows for students to return to something they previously read to reinforce learning. These are the major tenets of brain-compatible learning. Brain-compatible learning IS engaging to students.

Is blogging the only tool or teaching strategy that fits these tenets? By no means. But blogging is worth considering.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Aaah! Hyperlinks again.

I have been posting so many "essay style" posts lately that I decided to enjoy exploring my backlog in Bloglines. (I thought I had better comment on my backlog because it is the style for today. Thank goodness for holidays!!)

Of course, Cool Cat Teacher is one of my favorite blogs of the day. Vicki's Blog seems to be "just in time" training for me. ("Just in time" is an educational term, too, although Wikipedia hasn't discovered it yet.) Anyway, that's the best way to learn - being taught what you need to know just when you need to know it. So I really enjoyed "Security and Privacy Tips from Westwood Wiki" and "Teaching the Intuitive Learning of Software". The latter post is focussed on teaching students HOW to use software. Truth be told, the teacher - this teacher - needs that information, too.

Alec Couros overviews sites discussing the Learning Management Systems Patent. Ewan McIntosh of edublogs discussed "Boys' motivation through gaming" which has become a topic connected to my interest in boys' literacy. At Ideas and Thoughts, the entry "Technology and Vacations" gives great examples of how we can use technology on a vacation...these are transferrable to the classroom. addresses the developing trend in on-line teacher rating sites.

The next skill I wish to acquire is podcasting. Both Will Richardson's Book and Blog are useful for helping in this area. I've read his book (several times, actually) but I am still implementing more preliminary skills. Today I connected my site to coComments as suggested by the Cool Cat Teacher. I discovered that there are many blogs that do not work with coComments. link for the fun of it...Bobby Socks Quilt Company discovered on Shareski's Bloggin' Experiment. I enjoyed the site, dreamed about all the things I'd like to make and now my quilting fantasies have been fulfilled for the year. I can vicariously live through someone else's creative quilting skills.

How much time per day do all of you invest into blogging every day, anyway?!! I'd love to be a fly on the wall and see what experienced bloggers/podcasters/subscribers/etc. do on a daily basis. Plus, I'm sure there are many options that I haven't installed and code that I haven't added to my blog...I'd like to see how all this is done. Will? Up for book #2? (Now that you've managed the basics, try this...!!?)

Monday, August 21, 2006

BLOGging is collaborative?

Does blogging allow students to enjoy learning and reflecting with others? (Nelson, 2001)

Does blogging give students opportunities to work with other students both in class and over the Internet on collaborative projects and activities? (Nelson, 2001)

“Essentially we are social beings and our brains grow in a social environment. Because we often forge meaning through socializing, the whole role of student-to-student discussion is vastly underused. When used properly, cooperative learning is highly brain compatible. Talking, sharing, and discussing are critical; we are biologically wired for language and communicating with one another” (Jensen, 1998, p.92).

“Social opportunities also affect motivation. Feeling that one is contributing something to others appears to be especially motivating” (National Research Council, 2000, p. 61).

Collaboration affects motivation, feedback, rehearsal, attention….stuff that good learning is made of!!

What blogging articles say about collaboration:

"...[E]dublogs offer students the opportunity to surface their ideas in a social plane. The ability to comment on these ideas enables individuals to participate in social construction of knowledge and meaning making."
-from Huann, T., John, O., & Yuen, J. (2005). Weblogs in education. IT Literature Review.
educ.html. (this link is too was putting my side panel at the bottom of the page)

"...[B]logs become a vehicle through which learners can express their ideas in a state of virtual proximity, creating and refining their ideas through dialogue with other learners and guidance by the teacher."
-from Wang, M., Fix, R. & Bock, L. (2004). Blogs: Useful Tool or Vain Indulgence? E-Learn 2005: World Conference on E-Learning, Oct. 24-28.

"If one thinks of blogs as being essentially on-line journals, it may not be evident how they could be used in collaborative ways.... Writers typically make rich use of hypertext to connect to what others have written on a topic or to resources on the Web. Blog entries are normally followed by a comment button, allowing readers to write a reaction, which is created and managed by individuals, group blogs are also possible."
-from Godwin-Jones, R. (2003). Emerging technologies (Blogs and wikis: Environments for on-line collaboration). Language Learning & Technology, 7(2), p. 12- 16.

"Blogs provide an immediate audience."
-from Brooks-Young, S. (2005). Writing for an audience: Use blogs to expand your students’ horizons. Today’s Catholic Teacher, 39(2), p. 10f.

Blogs can even be used by parents.
-from Weiler, G. (2003). Using weblogs in the classroom. English Journal, 92(5), p. 73f.

"It is likely that someone outside of a class will happen across student blogs or a classroom collaborative blog. As such, blogging can help extend the classroom from teh physical constraints of those who fit in the room and are registered to a limitless international sutdent body."
-from Trammell, K. & Ferdig, R. (2004). Pedagogical implications of classroom blogging. Exchange Quarterly, 8(4), p. 60f.

"Practical constraints of time and space prevent students from sharing ideas as they occur in classroom discussions. Blogs provide a communication tool in which each student can participate in that learning community, posting, connecting seeing, reading, thinking, and responding in a contagious rhythm that leads to greater participation within the thinking space of the classroom."
-from Kajder, S. & Bull, G. (2004). Scaffolding for struggling students: Reading and writing with blogs. Learning and Leading with Technology, 31(2), p. 32f.

"Writing in blogs can lead to sharing ideas and work within communities, something students appeared hungry for within their posts."
-from Kajder, S. & Bull, G. (2004). A space for “writing without writing”. Learning and Leading with Technology, 31(6), p. 32f.

"The process of reading online, engaging a community, and reflecting it online is a process of bringing life into learning."
- from Downes, S. (2004). Educational Blogging. EDUCAUSE Review, 39(5), p. 14f.

"Weblogs have enormous potential to create learning spaces that are social and student-owned."
-Oravec, J. (2003). Blending by blogging: weblogs in blended learning initiatives. Journal of Educational Media, 28(2/3), p. 225f.

Initial Sources:

Jensen, E. (1998). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Jensen, E. (2000). Brain-based learning: A reality check. Educational Leadership, 57(7), p. 76f.

National Research Council. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school (Ex. ed.). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Nelson, K. (2001). Teaching in the Cyberage. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc..


Do students perceive that have more choices (more control over their own learning) when they are blogging?

Adequate processing time provided by blogging

Does blogging allow students the time needed to process learning?

Students need periods of purposeful processing time for learning to incubate. (Jensen, 1998; Prigge, 2002)

“Students carry out initial and secondary rehearsal at different rates of speed and in different ways, depending on the type of information in the new learning and their learning styles” (Sousa, 2001, p. 86).

“Because the rate of learning the rate of retrieval are independent, individuals can be fast or slow learners, fast or slow retrievers, and every combination in between” (Sousa, 2001, p.108).

“Provide sufficient time for learning to begin with. Make sure you plan time for review and reflection, as well. These are requirements for authentic learning” (Jensen, 2000, p. 320).

Blogging comments:

"Blogging allows everyone in the class to share their opinion, not just the loudest or most outspoken student" (Caitlin Nunberg in article cited below).

"[Some] students prefer to blog after school, even in the middle of the nights."
- from Borja, R. (2005). 'Blogs catching on as a tool for instruction". Education Week, 25(15), p. 1f.

"The time constraints of the classroom limit both the scope of and participation in discussions. Blogs provide a forum in which everyone can participate equally, and new discussions can easily branch out from established topics."
- from Weiler, G. (2003). Using weblogs in the classroom. English Journal, 92(5), p. 73f.


Jensen, E. (1998). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Jensen, E. (2000). Brain-based learning: A reality check. Educational Leadership, 57(7), p. 76f.

Prigge, D. (2002). Twenty ways to promote brain-based teaching and learning. Intervention in School and Clinic, 37(40), p. 237f.

Sousa, D. (1998). Brain research can help principals reform secondary schools. Bulletin, 82(588), p. 21f.


Does blogging have an emotional impact on students without being strong enough to cause students to shut down or be distracted?

Learning, Emotions, & BLOGging

Does blogging allow for the expression of emotions?

Why are these questions significant?

“How students feel is critical to the decision to learn, the quality of learning, and the ability to recall the learning” (Jensen, 2000, p. 321). “The old model of learning separated mind, body, and emotions. We now know differently. Emotions are a critical part of a learner’s ability to think rationally and experience meaning” (Jensen, 2000, p. 283).

“Today, neuroscientists might tell you to engage emotions appropriately at every chance you get. Engage emotions as a part of the learning, not as an add-on” (Jensen, 1998, p.80).

Some of the ways that teaching can support the emotions is by providing more personally meaningful projects and more individual choice, by ensuring that the resources necessary for success are available to every learner, by creating multi-status groups of learners supported by peer review and feedback, by using self-assessment tools for non-threatening feedback, and by assigning large group-oriented projects that require learners to learn to work with others and problem solve for the greater good.

Does blogging:

_____ 1. provide personally meaningful projects?
_____ 2. provide more individual choice?
_____ 3. ensure that the resources necessary for success are available to every learner?
_____ 4. create multi-status groups?
_____ 5. provide for peer review and feedback?
_____ 6. use self-assessment tools?
_____ 7. provide large group-oriented projects?
_____ 8. require problem solving?

Hmmm. Which of these would you check off?


Jensen, E. (1998). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Jensen, E. (2000). Brain-based learning: A reality check. Educational Leadership, 57(7), p. 76f.

Prigge, D. (2002). Twenty ways to promote brain-based teaching and learning.
Intervention in School and Clinic, 37(40), p. 237f.

Meaning and Relevance

Does blogging provide meaning and relevance?

First of all, why should we even ask this question?

The brain is designed to seek meaning in the content, the process, or the product of the lesson (Nelson, 2001; Jensen, 2000; National Research Council, 2000). Meaning is complex and involves the need for relevance, emotional connections, transfer and pattern making (Jensen, 2000). “All meaning has at least one of these three ingredients, but the reverse is not true” (Jensen, 1998, p.92).

“Authentic, meaningful learning requires the student to process information in his/her own way, along his/her own timeline, and in relation to his/her own perceptual maps. Sorting, analyzing, and drawing conclusions in the context of one’s own life is the only learning that sticks” (Jensen, 2000, p. 279). Blogging!

“Relevance actually happens on a cellular level. An already-existing neuron simply ‘connects’ with a nearby neuron to make a connection. If the content is irrelevant (lacks understanding or emotional valence), it’s unlikely a connection will be made” (Jensen, 2000, p. 281). In other words, if the information is personal to us, if we feel deeply about it, and if it makes sense, chances are pretty good we’ll find it meaningful” (Jensen, 2000, p. 281). Hey, blogging, again!

"We should remember that what was meaningful for us as children may not be necessarily meaningful for children today” (Sousa, 2001, p. 49). Right! Blogging is meaningful to students even if teachers don't think it matters.


Jensen, E. (1998). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Jensen, E. (2000). Brain-based learning: A reality check. Educational Leadership, 57(7), p. 76f.

National Research Council. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school (Ex. ed.). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Nelson, K. (2001). Teaching in the Cyberage. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc..

Sousa, D. (2001). How the brain learns (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc..

Telling before writing = not writing (?)

During my undergraduate studies, I took a creative writing class. We discussed the saying, "If you tell people about the book you are going to write, you will never write it." In telling the story before it is written, the "author" has already gained an audience and has lost a lot of the motivation to write.

I've considered this many times as I've written posts for this blog. I have avoided writing the really "meaty" stuff that relates blogging to how kids learn because I need to still feel motivated to write the thesis. I had come to my own conclusion that I would write the most important connections between neuroscientific research and blogging AFTER I completed my research.

I wonder about this. I read on other people's blogs this summer that blogging really helped them develop their dissertations. I wonder if they talked "around" the subject or directly addressed the real issues they were pursuing. How did they resolve this issue?


Friday, August 11, 2006

Canadian Living; Caine and Caine

Canadian Living discusses the functioning of teenage brains - and accurately:

The Canadian Living (August, 2006) has an article called "Your teenager: An owner's manual". I read the print version but the same article is on-line. The interesting thing about this article is that it seems to be summarizing a few of the things I am reading in my neuroscientific research books. I feel like I am looking at the world through different lenses. How much neuroscience has already infiltrated society but we just haven't named it as such?

Where did I find these glasses?

I am still reading the book by Caine and Caine (1991) that I discussed yesterday.

"If we want students to use their brains more fully, we have to teach for meaningfullness" (p. 91). A story is given to underline this point...

"Two stonecutters...were engaged in similar activity. Asked what they were doing, one answered, 'I'm squaring up this block of stone.' The other replied, 'I'm building a cathedral' " (p. 91).

Instead of teaching "stuff" that merely needs to be memorized, we need to teach for deeper understanding...meaningfullness. Caine and Caine (1991) compare rote learning to locating important places by memorizing the route. They suggest that there are times this is important but more often we should be teaching them how to navigate using a map. "Maps are a frame of reference" (p. 46).

I like these images.

Technology changes so much. Yet the possilibity is there for technology to change little. Will we use technology to continue teaching routes or will we use technology to create map readers?

The book concludes on a positive and missional manner...

"Change, of course, takes time". Note: The book was written in 1991!! "All learning is developmental, including the learning of educators. Many of the changes that are needed will also appear in unexpected ways and from unpredictable sources. Some of the most unlikely people will become the most valuable colleagues and collaborators....Setting out to participate in the change is exciting, challenging, and immensely rewarding" (p. 180).

And the concluding quote:

"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines,
...Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."

(Walt Whitman, "Song of the Open Road," Leaves of Grass, [1892] 1958)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Stradivarius or plastic fiddle?

Wow! What an excellent book I have been reading today!!

I am reading Caine, N. & Caine, G. (1991). Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

The book begins with this thought-provoking quote:

"We are given as our birthright a Stradivarius and we come to play it like a plastic fiddle" (Jean Houston, "Education" in Millenium, 1981, p. 151).

The book goes on...

"Each healthy human brain, irrespective of a person's age, sex, nationality, or cultural background, comes equipped with the following features...." There's a list given and then comes this strong statement: "If, then, everyone has these capacities, why are we struggling in our ability to educate?"

See what I mean by, "Wow!" Good point! And this book was published in 1991. How much has actually changed since then? Well, let's see.

"Although all learning is brain based in some sense, to us brain-based learning involves acknowledging the brain's rules for meaningful learning and organizing teaching with those rules in mind" (p. 4).

Here's a great list of ideas:

"Among the features of brain-based learning are active uncertainty or the tolerance for ambiguity; problem solving; questioning; and patterning by drawing relationships through the use of metoaphor, similes, and demonstrations. Students are given many choices for activities and projects. Teaching methods are complex, lifelike, and integrated, using music and natural environments. Brain-based learning is usually experienced as joyful, although the content is rigorous and intellectually challenging; and students experience a high degree of self-motivation. It acknowledges and encourages the brain's ability to integrate vast amounts of information. It involves the entire learner in a challenging learning process that simultaneously engages the intellect, creativity, emotions, and physiology. It allows for the unique ablities and contributions from the learner in the teaching-learning situation. It acknowledges that learning takes place within a multiplicity of contexts - classroom, school, community, country, and planet. It apprectiates the interpenetration of parts and wholes by connecting what is learned to the greater picture and allowing learners to investigate the parts within the whole. Brain-based learning is meaningful to the learner. What is learned makes sense" (p. 8-9).

Are we doing these things? Am I doing these things?

That's worth putting on the wall beside the desk or workstation where one plans for the education of the students under one's care.

And just for fun, I need to ask..."What do standardized tests have to do with any of this?"

I welcome your feedback.

Note: I am on holidays, so it will be a few days before I post your comments. I hesitate to admit this as I really don't want to discourage anyone from participating here. I look forward to having your comments in my e-mail when I get home. I don't have access to them from this location.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Tidbits: Brain & learning (Oh, & blogging, 2)

Jensen's book:

I've really enjoyed reading Eric Jensen's book (1998) Teaching with the brain in mind which I have been reading at the NetLibrary. I've begun to be impressed with the need not only to teach students content, but to also develop their brains. (As I reread this, I think "That sounds funny. Isn't that what we have always thought we were doing!! Maybe. And then again, maybe not... at least not to the extent that we now know is possible.) Not only do we want them to meet specific behavioral objectives, but we want them to develop new neural pathways, and develop recall skills. Some interesting tidbits that seem to have stuck in my brain as I read through this book:

- Teachers have often heard that process has to be stressed and not just product. Jensen says, "Surprisingly, it doesn't matter to the brain if it ever comes up with the right answer. The neural growth happens because of the process, not the solution. A student could go to school for 12 years, rarely get right answers, and still have a well-developed brain. Some learners simply choose harder and harder problems to solve" (p. 36). So, our brains develop when they are appropriately challenged - not too hard, not too easy - and plateau at mastery level. Interesting.

- The importance of the arts is stressed. "...[A]rts education facilitates language development, enhances creativity, boosts reading readiness, helps social development, assists general intellectual achievement, and fosters positive attitudes toward school" (p. 38). Tell that to the person in control of the timetable!!

- The request for students' attention is reasonable when the learning is "relevant, engaging, and chosen by the learner" (p. 42). Yes, blogging fits.

- Students need personal processing time after new learning in order for new material to solidify...blogging fits again!! In fact, there are many aspects to "good learning" that blogging fits....Go ahead and check out the book. It's refreshing!!

Amanda Post made an excellent chart of ideas from this book...check it out.

Sousa's book:

My favorite book, however, is Sousa, D. (2001). How the Brain Learns. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.. If you want to remember what you've read and if you want practical ideas for the classroom...this is it. Sousa ends each chapter with activities to help you remember the stuff you really want to apply to your teaching practice. It's not a fast's a transforming read!!

On Dial-up:

I just happen to be on holidays and using someone else's computer. It is good to be reminded that some students may be on computers that take longer and have less "options". It is healthy to experience this for a time so that we are more understanding of "equal access" issues.

Monday, July 31, 2006

CMSs vs. blogs

Deitering, A. & Huston, S. (2004). Weblogs and the “middle space” for learning. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 8(4), p. 273f.>

"Nearly five years into the twenty-first century, the impact that technology has had on the practices of higer education remains uneven. With the widespread adoption of Course Management Systems (CMSs) technology is certainly omnipresent on college camapuses, but teaching and learning have not been fundamentally altered by the spread and innovation of these tools. Some writers and researchers have begun to look to blogs, which are flexible and wasy to use, as tools for realizing the promise of computerized and computer-assisted education (Godwin-Jones, 2003 and Oravec, 2003)."

"This paper takes a critical and comparative look at CMS and blogs, paying particular attention to how these technologies can be used to create a 'middle space' between fully online and traditional courses (p. 6)."

Wow! Imagine if pre-service teachers had experienced blogging in their university education classes?!! My experience with WebCT has been both positive but also negative. I enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of on-line classes and find the discussion boards useful....but I find that the class is still organized around lectures and the same format for research papers. Blogging would be so much more useful.

What do you think?!!


Godwin-Jones, R. (2003). Emerging technologies: Blogs and wikis. Language, Learning and Technology, 7(2), p. 12f.

Oravec, J. (2003). Blending by blogging: weblogs in blended learning initiatives. Journal of Educational Media 28(2/3), p. 225f.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Article on Brain Based Learning

I found this great article that summarizes a lot of other books on how neuroscientific research relates to good teaching practices. I discussed it here...

I am experimenting with TypePad during their 30 day free trial. Anyway, they have trackback but Blogger does not. I am disappointed. So, if Blogger is looking for feedback, here it is: Trackback would be nice.

So while we hope for trackback, I thought I'd notify you in the old fashioned wordy version. Check out the site.

(Editor's note: My 30 day trial at TypePad has now ended so this link is no longer available).

The DOPA dialogue

Cool Cat Teacher blog has an excellent summary of the new US bill. For Canadian teachers, this is an excellent article to read to develop arguments defending the use of social software in the classroom. She has suggestions like "Stranger Danger" programs that are similar to "Drug Awareness" programs. She suggests that DOPA is like the days of burning books when society was afraid of the infiltration of bad information. Read more...

We need to educate students on how to use the internet safely and we need to become familiar with the internet so that we are not afraid of what we don't know. If you don't know a lot about blogging, check out the links I have provided. There are some excellent things happening in the world of educational blogging.

Friday, July 28, 2006

RSS feed button

I started at Feedburner's home page to create a link for my blog that will allow people to subscribe to my feeds. However, I couldn't figure out the code to create the button on my blog.
Steve Garfield's site proved very helpful for my "button" problem.

Useful Blog Help Sites

For those of us beginner bloggers, I've found some interesting help "stuff":

1. Of amazing use has been Will Richardson's Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Besides being a useful "get started blogging" reference, the reasons for using blogs in the classroom are discussed. There are many useful blog sites referenced as a starting point for getting a feel for what educational blogs can look like.

2. Anne Davis has a website called EduBlog Insights. The July 14th, 2006 entry is especially useful. It is titled, "My Weblog Projects Page". Not only can you glance at the projects, but she has taken the time to explain each project for those of us wishing for more instructions.

3. Clerc Center Blogs includes lots of good links. If you like that, you'll also like Blog Tool Options. Or maybe you are into RSS and would like more instructions.

4. BlogsNow shows the most popular blogs.

5. For those of us who need a place to ask our silly questions....SupportBlogging!

6. And...a blog on the history of blogging by Rebecca Blood. This blog is often sited in peer-reviewed journals!! And if you are looking for much more info like this...Dan's Discourse History.
There's even a site for the interested librarians.

Other related skills:

1. Pbwiki - Both Will Richardson and Ann Davis are good sources of info for this as well.

2. Podcasting - How to podcast, the Educational Podcast Network, the Podcast Directory.

And, of course, I have found Blogger's help menu to be very useful!!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Blogging research

I found a 2003 research article by Anne Bartlett-Bragg in an on-line peer reviewed journal.

Here is the abstract:

There are claims of over 500,ooo blogs published on the Internet. What is a blog and how could it be integrated into pedagogical practices to enhance learning? This paper will introduce the blogging phenomenon and present some options for educators. Some theoretical principles and guidelines for practice will be presented, along with some further resources for exploring the blog-o-sphere and creating a blog for either personal publishing or to be integrated into pedagogical strategies.

Check it out.
Who links to me?