Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cultivating The Passion

I once taught a kid that I knew was going to grow up and do great things. From the moment I met him there was just something about him that made him stand out from all the other kids that year. He would never settle for just average. He always had to be the best at everything. Whenever one of his teachers would assign a project he always had to go above and beyond what the other kids did. Whenever he was in PE he would have to score the most baskets or run the furthest the fastest. It never really was a competition with other students. It was more a competition with himself. He wanted to do better than he did the last time. He didn't have many friends but that really didn't bother him. He was much more focused on being better. He had ambition. He had drive. But above all else, he had passion.

This week on #Edchat the topic centered around how do we as educators help students find their passion. There was lots of great discussion and lots of great ideas. Here is just a taste of what was said.
  • Discovering one's passion is provoked by allowing students to make mistakes and find what they like through experimental learning.
  • Educators must take genuine interest in student, & get to know him before being able to encourage toward passions.
  • Don't be afraid to invest a little extra time with them or for them after hours. Sorry, but teaching isn't 9am-5pm!
  • Passion entails risk, so we must create an environment where risk-taking and mistakes are ok.
  • PBL is an avenue we use. Many call it problem/project based learning but it could easily be passion based learning.
  • Sometimes I think we squash passion in the name of "order". Let's not be afraid of "messy" education.
  • Educators must model a passion for personal learning by regular talking about what they themselves are learning!

I encourage you to visit the archive and read through the entire chat. You can do that here.

Here are some of my thoughts...

Is it the job of the educator to find the passion for the student? Absolutely not. Is it also the job of the teacher to crush the passions of our kids. Absolutely not. But yet that happens everyday. So if we can't find the passion for our students, why do some actively kill it for our students everyday.

Alright, so maybe that is a little harsh but we all know there are particular educators who have, at one time or another, stifled a students passion for one thing or another.

The thing with passion is that sometimes kids don't really know what their passion is. That is when it takes an educator with an eye for identifying it. The key is to provide opportunities in the classroom that allow student to explore and expand their understanding.

Rigidity and blandness are instant passion killers. Students who go into classrooms where it is the same thing day after day will have a hard time discovering their passion or cultivating it. Working in the workbook or copying definitions every day drives the passion out. But a classroom that offers varied assignments, use of different types of tools, takes learning around the globe helps the passion.

We, as educators. in order to help students find their passion have to have passion ourselves. We have to have passion for our job and the work we are doing. But above all else we have to have passion for those kids and we have make it know each and every day that we have passion for our teaching and passion for those kids in our rooms.

While we can not give kids passion we can kill it. We have to make sure we create environments that are comfortable for learning new things and safe enough for kids to make mistakes. And maybe then our kids will begin to discover what they really care about.

New Posted Resources 02/25/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Liberate Your Data!

dunno about you, but more and more I find my data being housed somewhere else, mainly " the cloud." Meaning that my calendar, documents email, photos and more are not stored locally on my machine, they are stored on some other computer in some far oft land. And that can pose a problem. While these services normally have great reliability and uptime things happen and we can loose access to our data, or, even worse, loose the data all together.

I use several Google products. Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Picasa, even this blog is written using the Blogger product. Google understands that having access to your data is important. Maybe you want to back up your data just to make sure it is sure it is safe. But, there also may come a day when you want to get your data out for good.

There is a small group of engineers over at Google who's only job is to make it easy for you to get your data in and out of Google easily and painlessly. They call themselves The Data Liberation Front and they have a whole website dedicated to teaching us the easiest ways of moving our data in and out of Google. 

When you visit the site the first thing you will notice is that not all Google Products are listed. However the major ones like Blogger, Contacts, Gmail, Picasa and reader are there. 

For most of the sites getting your data out is as easy as exporting. Take Docs for example. From the "More Options" menu you can go to "Export," pick the format (PDF, Microsoft Word, Open Office, etc) and download. What you will get is a compressed file that has all your docs there. 

There are tons more directions on the site. A lot of them point you to the documentation for each of the products. Oh, and another great feature. If you decide to put your data back into Google there are detailed instructions for getting back in.

So protect your data. I can't tell you how many times I have lost documents or photos to a bad hard drive or lost memory stick. I have the vast majority of my data in the cloud but The Data Liberation Front helps me feel at ease that I can make backups of my backups. 

The Data Liberation Front Website

Images From Google CC

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What Was She Thinking??

Please tell me that I am wrong in the way I think.

Let me give some background...

I am taking classes to be an administrator.

This week during one of my classes the discussion centered around accountability, mainly should test scores be used in evaluating teachers. Timely, considering the #edchat topic this week.

In North Carolina, teachers here get a report that tells them how effective they are as a teacher, based solely on test scores. This system looks at previous standardized tests that the student has taken and then attempts to predict how that student will do. In some cases it is pretty accurate. But often, it is not.

What teachers get at the beginning of the year is an effectiveness rating that looks at how their kids did last year compared to where the program thought they should be. Teachers can be in green which means they are highly effective, yellow which means they are neither effective or ineffective or red which is ineffective.

Now that NC has opted to play the money game with Washington and is applying to Race To The Top they have agreed that in the future these effectiveness ratings will be used as part of a teacher evaluation. There is even talk that the state is considering a pay structure that would include these scores. (Mind you that is just "water cooler" talk and nothing formal has been announced.)

Arming you with is what happened today.

We were discussing the use of this system in the schools. I personally believe it is flawed and if anyone spends much time examining or investigating these numbers they are really wasting their time...but I digress...

We started talking about the way the system predicts how a student is going to do on the end-of-year standardized test. I used to get these numbers as a classroom teacher so I have a little background. These numbers far from predict how students will do. It may get it right some of the time but more often than not it is way, way off.

There was a teacher in my class, an experienced teacher, 17 years in, who said that those predictors where what she felt were the best way to know who to tutor in her class. Those predictors were the best thing she had to decide who to give extra attention to.

I just about fell out into the floor. I could not decide whether to laugh because I thought she was being serious or to cry because I felt so bad for her students.

You have got to be kidding me!

What happened to actually getting to know our students. Understanding them. Learning about their background. We have to see what is going on with them.

Are we really going to let a some scores dictate to us who needs help and who does not? Seriously!!! What happened to formative assessment? What happened to ongoing assessments. Nope, this teacher is going to get her little paper and let that decide, right or wrong, who gets extra help and who does not.

Am I wrong to just dismiss this system, which you can read more about here if you want. (My personal favorite line in the text on that page is; "EVAAS tools provide a precise measurement of student progress over time and a reliable diagnosis of opportunities for growth that help to identify which students are at risk for under-achievement.") Should tools like EVAAS be used to, maybe not be the sole source of information but used to aid in decision-making?

Maybe I am wrong...

Image from Creative Commons Image Search

New Posted Resources 02/18/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Evaluate Me..Please...

Besides Race To The Top and NCBL the hottest topic in education has to be teacher evaluations. From how often a career teacher should be evaluated to if those evaluations should be based on student accountability and test scores, it seems as if there is a story everyday of some district somewhere that is embroiled in an evaluation mess.

Last night on #edchat, participants tried to tackle the tough questions surrounding teacher evaluations. Mainly what part should the teacher play in their evaluation? What should teacher evaluations look like? And what would should be included in those evaluations? It was an interesting discussion. Here is just a taste of what was said:

  • Assessment should come from a variety of sources including administration, students, peers, self, and key community members. Before any assessment takes place the right conditions/environment needs to be created. There needs to be mutual respect and an understanding that it's part of the learning process. The assessor and assessee need to establish a relationship if one doesn't already exist. Assessment needs to be frequent and less formal if it is to have its desired affect.
  • I think peer evaluation is important, particularly as an ongoing formative activity. One way to do it could be to focus on 2 or 3 specific issues each time, change them for future evaluations and then recycle to see how they've improved (or not). Input for the issues could come from either the evaluator and the teacher being evaluated -I believe teachers need to have an active role in their evaluation.
  • Some aspects to consider might be: the ability/way the teacher responds to students' participation, whether the teacher stays in the same physical spot or walks around the room and the effects of that,the use of the board (is easy for students to follow, is it too cluttered but clear anyway?is it over/under-used?); how does the T react when a student asks a question the T is not sure about, how do students react to this and what's the effect in the flow of the lesson? Does the lesson follow a discernable pattern; if so, what's the effect?; is there anything particular to note about classroom dynamics?
  • Not all teachers are comfortable with peer observation, so we have to build community FIRST to foster comfort and honest feedback.
  • Teachers who want to improve will ask their students to evaluate them. Critical incident reports, exit slips, anonymous surveys, etc

You can read more summarizing thoughts here and the archive here.

So what do I think...


Teacher evaluation systems are different all over the place. They can vary from state to state and even district to district. I do believe they all have good intentions. The goal is to make sure we have the best available teaching our kids. But yet while they all might have the same goal I would guess that most of them are flawed, some in a very major way.

I have only worked in one state so can only speak for the way things are here. Our teacher evaluation system is changing in North Carolina. It is going from probably the worst method to tolerable. Before teachers were observed, growth plans were examined and most teachers escaped with At Standard or Above. It was very, very subjective. If you had an administrator who you did not particularly mesh well with you might be faced with an Action Plan, meaning more work and more observations.

The state recognized there was a problem so they changed the system. Now it is based on evidences. If a teacher is believes they are Accomplished or Distinguished they have to prove it. Also in this model is a self-evaluation component. Again, this is a better model but there is still some subjectivity involved when the administrator goes to determine the overall ranking. And now with RTTT standardized test scores will be a part of that ranking.

For me there are some things missing.

Student Feedback

An administrator can walk into a room and will only ever see a snapshot of that room on that day at that time. How can that ever be used to determine how effective a teacher is? But who is with that teacher day in and day out? Kids. I know there are limitations but at least in the upper grades this should be taken into account.

Teacher Feedback

I was lucky when I was in the classroom. I had an administration that believed the teachers could best learn from each other. So we were able to visit other classrooms several times a year to see what other teachers were doing and to offer feedback. These were some of the most valuable for me because I got to see things I had heard about but also when I was observed I got some really awesome feedback for things I could do differently. Peer evaluations and conversations should be a big part of any evaluation system.

One thing is for sure. If we start to use standardized test scores as part of teacher evaluations we begin walking down a very dangerous road. Are all the kids we teach exactly the same? Do they come from the same backgrounds and home life and do they all learn the same? Until we are teaching robots who are all programed to think and act the same we might as well forget about using testing to evaluate teachers. I really believe we are headed for an educational crisis in this country because teachers are going to leave the classroom because they are judged on one test rather then their true ability to teach. I won't and would never stand for it an neither should you.

Teachers should be evaluated. But there has to be many factors that go into that evaluation. Just like we believe testing is a snapshot of the overall ability of a student, we have to look at the whole picture and take into account everything. After all our kids deserve the best, don't they?

New Posted Resources 02/17/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Where Is The Passion...

I am concerned.

I am concerned for our profession.

I am concerned for our parents.

Most of all, I am concerned for our kids...

I had a long talk the other day with a very good friend of mine. She is a teacher. A very good teacher. She told me that this might be her last year of teaching. Keep in mind she has only been in the classroom for 6 years but more and more she is feeling the burnout. There is too much "extra" stuff to do that is taking the place of authentic teaching, and, more importantly, taking away from authentic learning. Mandated curriculums, pacing guides, testing, it was just becoming too much.

We chatted for a long time after that. And she kept saying over and over that the reason she became a teacher was to make a difference. Now, if you ask most teachers I would be willing to bet most would say the same thing. They liked kids and wanted to make a difference. But think about your schools. Think about your staff. Who do you know who has real passion anymore? Passion for what they do, what they teach, and, passion for kids?

My friend certainly has passion. She loves kids. She is usually the first to arrive at school and always has to get kicked out the building at night. She spends hours crafting lessons and experiences for her kids, some of which are just amazing. She analyzes where her kids are and where they need to be and what she needs to do to get them there.

She mentioned to me about some other teachers in her grade level. They, she says, are not in it because they have passion. Yes, at one time they might have liked kids and liked teaching but now it is just routine. These teachers don't work as hard as her. They come in right before the day begins and are usually gone before the buses leave the lot at the end of the day. And yet their kids seem to be the most proficient (according to the only thing that matters 'round these parts, state testing).

It frustrates her greatly. Because using the same measures, hers are not seen as proficient. (Yes, I know that is not the only measure, but we are talking real world here.) While she is providing a much more rich and authentic learning environment for her kids, it is not translating where it matters and she is beginning to question her ability and her passion.

Whoa...wait just a second...

If there is anyone who has passion it is her. But the problem is, our system keeps trying to push teachers like this out of the profession. National Standards, testing, accountability, all play a part in forcing more and more teachers like my friend out.

And why?

Because, these teachers are not likely to just nod their head and agree with everything. These are not the kinds of teachers to just stand idly by while some suit decides education policy. No, what the suits want are the teachers like the ones on my friend's grade level. The ones who teach to tests. The ones who don't see anything wrong with the system and will just do what they are told without question.

So I am worried. I am worried that all the teachers out there who have the passion, who have the drive and desire to do great things for kids, who are doing great things for kids. What are we doing, as administrators, superintendents, elected officials, parents, students, community members to make sure we have teachers with passion teaching our kids and not just teachers who have nothing better to do?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why Do We Have To Learn This?

I can remember some days when kids would ask me that. I could be in the middle of a conversation about convection currents and a kid would raise their hand and ask, "What's the point? Why do we need to know this? What's the point!" I would get so angry. They needed to learn it because I was teaching it, that's why!

But then it dawned on me one day. Don't the kids have a right to know why what they are learning is important? Is it not our duty, our obligation to provide context and relationships so that learning makes sense?

When was the last time you stopped to think about what exactly what you wanted the kids to take way from your teaching. And I am talking about something deeper than just the knowledge and facts in the lesson. How do you want your students to feel and think after they complete (either successfully or unsuccessfully) a lesson?

This week's #edchat centered around just that question. What should be the essential outcomes students take away from what we are teaching? The conversation was fast, and, as a few points, filled with so many good thoughts and statements. It really is worth your time to check out the archive.

At one point in the conversation several participants attempted to list their Essential Learning Outcomes. Many provided real insight into exactly what students should take away from our teaching. Here is just a few of what was suggested:
  • I think of the essential outcome as the goal for the end of the unit. Kind of like the objective(s) for the whole unit.
  • Understanding by Design says to plan our units with the end in mind. Start with essential outcomes, make the assessment, then lessons.
  • Essential outcomes should be focused on students applying their learned knowledge to their real life experience.
  • The outcomes of each lesson may vary but the lessons should be working toward the common end goal.
  • I'm a big believer that if you can't explain to me what you're doing, then you don't really understand what you're doing. But kids need to be taught HOW to explain their thinking. It doesn't come naturally, must be modeled.
  • I think essential outcomes & learning objectives need to be more specific than just producing critical thinkers, questions, etc.What does a critical thinker look/sound like? What kinds of questions do we want them to ask? It's hard to think specifically, to imagine an end when we don't exactly know how it will turn out. But makes for better lessons
Here are some of my thoughts...

If we are going into our classrooms and simply teaching content, without any depth or meaning or without making any connections we might as well pack it in and go home.

Someone suggested lessons should provide more questions than answers. If students are just taking knowledge in and repeating it back then we can't now call that learning, can we? Learning should be about discovery. Learning should be about wonder. If kids are not asking questions then we, perhaps are not focused on what is essential.

While providing for more higher level thinking (as in Blooms) it is more than that. For me essential is making connections. Am I ensuring my students can connect what we are learning to themselves, their community, globally? Am I helping them understand how what we learned yesterday connects to today and how it leads us to tomorrow? And most importantly, have I helped them see why all those things are important? And have I instilled in them the thirst and hunger to want to know more?

Do essential outcomes vary from lesson to lesson. The outcomes may vary but the essential ones are always the same.

Why do we have to learn this? Not because we have to, but because we want to...

New Posted Resources 02/10/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Alfie Kohn Live Conversation

A while back #edchat was honored to have Alfie Kohn as a guest moderator. The response was so overwhelming that #edchat was actually a Top 5 trending topic topic on Twitter that night.

#edchat and the Educators PLN Ning have teamed up to once again bring a live conversation with Alfie Kohn, this time in the Edublogs Elluminate room where he will answer your questions. How do you get your question answered? Simple. Head over to the EDU PLN Ning, join, if you aren't already a member and post your question. While we wish we could ask every question we will only have Mr. Kohn for an hour but we will try to ask as many questions as possible. We will also post the link to the live session on the Ning and the archives after it is complete.

Want to know more about Alfie Kohn before you join the conversation? First, visit his website. There you can read much more about him and read sample chapters from his books. Then you can watch the video below from his appearance on the CBS Early Morning Show where Mr. Kohn talks about one of his favorite subjects, homework.

So, what are you going to ask?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Michael Scott and Technology In The Classroom

Over the weekend I was catching up on some blogs and found myself reading the most recent entry from Michael Wesch. If you don't know who he is or his work it is really worth your time to check out his stuff. Dr. Wesch explores the impact of new media on society. His focus is on social media and how it effects us as a global society. He is doing some fascinating work that is really interesting stuff.

But I digress...

Dr. Wesch posted a video from a Mass Communications class at the University of Denver.This was a project they completed, not at the end of the course, but at the beginning. It is a parody of one of my most favorite shows, The Office. It centers around technology use in the classroom and I would be willing to bet these are the types of things students are struggling with everyday in classrooms all over the country.

Another interesting point Dr. Wesch raises in his post is on mini-projects. What a cool idea to start a class. As he says the students not only learn some essential technology skills but they also get to know each other and how to work collaboratively.

So check out the video and be sure to head over to Dr. Wesch's Digital Ethnography Blog to read more about some of the cool things he and his students are doing.

New Posted Resources 02/09/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Think Before You Tweet...

Social Media is a funny beast.

Sometimes it can be your best friend. Like finding that long lost high school BFF on Facebook or coming across that link that fits right into your lesson in the morning.

But sometimes it can be your worst enemy. Like it was for me recently.

I was misquoted, backhandedly called a racist and, in not so many words told that I might be the most unintelligent teacher around. And all of this happened, out in the open, in 140 Characters or less.

First, I made a mistake. If you don't know, I create the polls each week for #edchat. It is my job (of which I do because I love it and not for the pay, of which there is none) to gather all the questions submitted that week, pick 5 and Tweet out the poll. Last week I was given a question, via Direct Message. That question was included in this weeks poll. However the person (or persons) who submitted it were very displeased with the way it was worded. I took it upon myself to reword the question to fit more with the style that we have each week. Instead of contacting me personally or even respectfully I was backhandedly called a racist because I had changed a question dealing with achievement gap issues.

But it did not end there. I have never been a good speller. I have struggled with it my entire life. Thank goodness for spell check! I usually do a good job of going back on everything I do to look for errors and I usually catch them. However, because I am human, and sometimes I move to fast, I miss some. And that was the case with this same poll. I missed a misspelling. I was contacted by one person who pointed it out to me but felt bad for doing so. She should not have. I was a fool for not catching it. However, there were these same people from the question above, instead of contacting me directly, indirectly said that I had obviously failed as an educator and there was no way I could talk about improving education until I improved my own.

I had two choices.

I could stoop to their level. I could engage in their level of conversation, attempting to make right their misconceptions about me, standing up for myself, and standing up for the #edchat conversation I and so many have worked so tirelessly to promote and grow.


I could ask myself, what would I want my students to do? When they encounter a situation like this online with someone, what do I hope they do?

I did the later.

I took 24 hours...well almost 24 hours to think about things....

Yes, this conversation took place on Twitter right in the public stream where anyone could see it. It does not discourage me from using it or encouraging its use with educators and students. What this situation has taught me is that 140 Characters is hard. ( I actually knew that but it really hit home yesterday.)

If I send out a Tweet that is to a resource or a cool link, that is easy. I title it, insert the link and send. But if I am trying to engage in conversation and try to do it in Tweet style, that is a little more challenging. I have to slow down and think about what I am saying, what am I trying to mean. Sometimes meaning comes across crystal clear. Other times it is murky. And sometimes it can be utterly confusing and I have to eat my words.

Twitter is an amazing resource that opens the doors to educators to connect to others across the globe. What it does not do is convey feeling and meaning in our Tweets. Those can only be interpreted by those reading your Tweets.

I am not mad at what was said about me or that it wasn't said to me. I really can't be because I don't know meaning. Were those statements said with real meaning or in jest or with sarcasm? I simply do not know because still to this moment no one has contacted me attempt to work out a solution. And honestly, at this point, I dunno if contacting me would really do any good. (I know I am ready to move on. There are real challenges in education and this situation does nothing to move the change agenda forward.)

I plan to use this whole situation as a teachable moment, both with my students and my teachers who I talk to about Twitter. We all need to understand that when you make a connection with someone online they do not instantly know everything about you. A face-to-face conversation is much different than one that attempts to take place in 140 characters. So we need to make sure we are talking to students and adults about netiquette and not just what they do online but how they say things online.

Should I have changed the question from the original way it was submitted to me? Probably not and I will think twice before doing it again. And I will definitely be sure to run the ol' spell check before putting anything out there on the InterTubes again.

I just hope that everyone, including those involved in this situation, can, and will, regularly take a step back and ask themselves, honestly, and directly, am I saying the right thing, or could it be misinterpreted?

We are the best examples for our kids. And we need to make sure that we live up to their expectations.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What I Don't Know, Surely, Google Will Tell Me...

There once was a teacher who taught down the hall from me. She was an ordinary teacher. Had several years of experience, rarely had much trouble with kids and by all accounts, was, just, well ordinary. Nothing really stood out about her. Except for one thing. See, she taught social studies and she had for almost 30 years. So, theoretically she had seen a lot of history that her students would ultimately discuss. But that was far from the case. You see, history in her room, stood still. But really how does that happen? Textbook adoptions came and went. She would get new textbooks and just stack them in her room and use the old and tattered books she had for years. Administrators felt powerless. This teacher was the district head of one of the most powerful teacher organizations in the state and could make the life of anyone who crossed her a nightmare. So she was allowed to do what she did. Her and her class were often brushed aside as social studies is not tested so it really didn't matter.

But why did this teacher teach the way she did? She had painstakingly created lesson plans in about her 4th year of teaching. There was a piece of paper for everyday and a test for every week. All of these correlated to a specific textbook. When her textbook changed, the thought of having done all that work for nothing frightened her. So instead of adapting in a curriculum that requires almost daily adaptations, she retreated to her room and kept her slowly yellowing lesson plans and kept her kids in the dark about current events...

So what is the point of that story? This teacher could have easily adapted with the times. And with the advent of the personal computer and Internet, especially in the classroom, it would not have been hard for her to simply add to or take away from her lesson plans.

Last night on #edchat the topic was The Internet and Prior Knowledge, mainly, what do kids need to know and what can they just look up? It all boils down to what we are truly teaching in our classrooms.

Here is some of what was said:
  • The internet has made my teaching more interactive and more "in the moment." There are many things that I feel my students do not need to memorize, but need to know how and where to find the information. However, there are still core bits of information that I feel are essential for my students to memorize (addition and times tables, the names of the provinces (Canada) and their capitals, spelling rules, etc). -A Teacher
  • Instead of me spouting off facts, figures, data, whatever - the kids go out and gather it, analyze it, synthesize it and summarize it. I am simply the guide who creates the initial path and gets them on it. Hopefully, somewhere along the way a spark is ignited that makes them lifelong learners. -A Teacher
  • Yes, the internet has changed how teaching happens. Students need to learn basic knowledge, then from there be able to find out the rest of their answers using critical thinking and sometimes the internet. They need to know how to think, analyze, create, and learn. -A Teacher
  • No longer are we just teaching content. The Internet has made content ubiquitous, and it is now our job as educators to teach students how to filter and evaluate content. -A Teacher
You can read the archive here and some of the summarizing statements here.

Here are some of my thoughts...

Are there things kids have to memorize? I am just not so sure. Yes, there are some things that we as adults (and kids) should know so we don't look, well, stupid. (State Capitols, Constitution Amendments, how to calculate sales tax or a discount or price per unit.) But are these and, really anything, that we have to sit our kids down and have them memorize? I can remember getting drilled by my wonderful mother in my multiplication tables. Every night we would go over and over and over them. And then on Fridays in my class we would take timed tests and our progress was charted for the whole class to see. Oh Johnny did his 5's in 45secs. Steven, you need to work harder. It took you 80 seconds. Please, what did that teach the kids in my class?That the facts were meaningful and important or that faster is better?

The point is there really isn't anything anyone needs to memorize. Yes, we need to learn our State Capitols, and multiplication tables and Constitutional Amendments but memorize them?Perhaps memorize is the wrong word...perhaps we should ask kids to learn in context. Make meaning out of what we are learning and teaching.

Face it. The Internet has changed the way we educate and the way we teach. You know and I know it. Teachers like the one down the hall from me, can not survive much longer, using the same lesson plans year after year. Kids have access to so much information. Teachers have so access to so much information. And while we have access to so much information we have to still remember to make it meaningful and provide context.

If you are "memorizing multiplication tables or state capitols just because "they need to know," you are wasting their time. They don't need to "just know." What they do need is context and connections and relationships to what they are learning. With the entire Internet available in the pockets of our kids "just knowing" something isn't necessary.

Oh, I don't know what the 16th Amendment is, let me Google it. Instead, provide meaning. Why was the 16th Amendment important? What events lead up to its adoption? How did it change history? Those are more important.

So memorization is out. Creating meaning, providing context and connections, thats what's in. All the cool educators are doing it. Are you?