Tag Archives: Public Education

Digital Tools Help Students’ Creativity & Writing Skills

In spite of popular believe, the results of a new PEW Survey indicate that digital tools improve student writing skills as well as social interactions. Of the AP and NWP (National Writing Project) teachers surveyed:

  • 96% agree (including 52% who strongly agree) that digital technologies “allow students to share their work with a wider and more varied audience”
  • 79% agree (23% strongly agree) that these tools “encourage greater collaboration among students”
  • 78% agree (26% strongly agree) that digital technologies “encourage student creativity and personal expression”

pie-chart-300x348While educators express a concern that students are more likely to take short-cuts in their writing or have spelling & grammatical errors, they feel more confident that these tools make it easier for them to help students shape and develop and their writing skills.

The findings of this survey are especially pertinent and relevant as critics of social media and technology often express concern about its potential impact on student writing and social skills.

To read the survey in its entirety, see PEW Internet & American Life Project. For a concise and excellent summary, see KQED’s Mind/Shift.

Are Teachers Under or Over Paid? Four Studies Answer the Question… Kind Of

How well do we pay the teachers of our children? Are they over paid? Are they under paid? Do they work too hard? Do they get too much time off? Do those who ‘can’t do, teach?’ Four studies (by left and right leaning think-tanks alike) have reached four different conclusions based on the merits of teachers, the ‘work hours,’ and the education. However, there still seems to be no firm realization or agreement.

To learn more about the study, see the Article in the Atlantic.

The Myth of the Extraordinary Teacher

The myth of the extraordinary teacher.

My good friend and former colleague, Douglas Forasté of California State University at Long Beach, shared this with me today.



Anyone who has met me knows that I love my job. I love teaching. I love my students. Every day is fun and exciting and meaningful – well, maybe not every day but most. However, I am also keenly aware of the privilege I have with my school and my children – my classes are small, my students (largely) well-behaved, and I have ample support and backing. None of my students comes to my room multiple grades in the red.

However, this is the ‘dream teaching job’ and I know it. Many teachers suffer through large classrooms, juvenile delinquency, absentee parents, students who speak no english, children with several learning differences, etc. At the same time, we are living in a culture that bemoans the ‘easy job’ of teachers – claiming that we don’t work in the summer (what I am doing at these conferences and prepping for a year of classes?) or their day ends at 3:00 (why was I on campus at 7, leaving at 4, and carrying about 3 hours of extra work with me?). The mythical notion that a magical teacher can waltz into the worst classroom and change the students into mathematical savants or linguistic wünderkinds is just that – a fictionalized idea. That good, even extraordinary teachers, are hindered by our environment:

To teach each child in my classroom, I have to know each child in my classroom. We teachers need to bring not only our extraordinariness but our flawed and real and ordinary humanity to this job, which involves a complex and ever-changing web of relationships with children who often need more than we can give them.

In addressing the issue of rising classroom size (in Detroi the cap will be at 60), Ellie Herman states:

Our children — even our children growing up in poverty, especially our children growing up in poverty — deserve to have not only an extraordinary teacher but a teacher who has time to read their work, to listen, to understand why they’re crying or sleeping or not doing homework.

I Highly recommend reading the whole article at the LA Times.

California Curriculum to Now Include “Homosexual History”

California is the first state in the union to add a component of gay and lesbian history to its curriculum. Advocates are hailing the decision as on par with including sections on other minorities in the curriculum (African Americans, Women, Hispanics, etc). It is also part of a core-curriculum to address bullying in the LGBTQ community.

“This is definitely a step forward, and I’m hopeful that other states will follow,” said Mark Leno, California’s first openly gay state senator, who sponsored the bill. “We are failing our students when we don’t teach them about the broad diversity of human experience.”

“There is an increasing awareness in the public and among elected officials that we have to do something to address the problems of bullying, and the negative consequences” for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, said Carolyn Laub, director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.

Still, the decision is not without controversy. Opponents of the addition to the curriculum state that its furthering a ‘homosexual agenda’ in public schools and equate the curriculum change with a legislative form of morality.

“It’s a sad day for our republic when we have the government essentially telling people what they should think,” said Tim Donnelly, a Republican state assemblyman from San Bernadino. Mr. Donnelly said the law prohibited schools from presenting gays and lesbians “in anything other than a positive light, and I think that’s censorship right there.”

As an educator, I think that this is excellent news. We should broaden the perspective and experiences that we present to students as they are developing and coming up with this connected, global community. Additionally, I always find it troubling when lawmakers disagree with providing students information and allowing them to make informed decisions – I also see nothing in the curriculum that requires only ‘positive’ views of homosexual individuals who, like all human beings, are complex creatures with flaws.

To read more about this story, check out the New York Times.

Smithsonian Posts Previously Unseen Photographs from Scopes Monkey Trial

The Smithsonian recently discovered previously unpublished photographs from the Scopes Monkey Trial. I recently posted an article marking the anniversary of the trial, “This Day in History – July 10” outlining the significance of the case.

You can view these photo’s on the Smithsonian’s Flickr page for free! It’s an interesting look at history.

The 7 Scientists Asked to Testify on Scopes behalf, via the Smithsonian

Better Reasons for Using Tablets (via Once and Educator…)

A great blog, Once an Educator, just posted an excellent blog about the role that tablets can play in education.

In the Philippines now, there’s been talk of schools adapting the use of tablets for basic education. Tablets, being the latest “it” device, are seen as having great potential for teaching. After all, students seem to take to it very well. (On the other hand, students take to everything technology-related very well.)

In the media, however, most of the coverage about the device centers around its capacity to reduce the weight of heavy books lugged around by students. (Case in point: this news report about E-tablets replacing bulky books and this blog post about an all girls’ school in Metro Manila also exploring the use of tablets to replace their books.) In both of these reports, the tablet seems to be touted as no more than an ebook reader–place all of the textbooks in one light and nifty device. Though I’m sure we all agree that the tablet does do that, I think we need to refocus and see all the other benefits of the tablet, over and above its function as an ebook reader.

Read More Here: “Once an Educator: Better Reasons for Using Tablets in Philippine Schools