Pretty Pictures for the Classroom

Don’t know how many of the fellow associates who were in the tutorial the other day will actually find this, but the conversation came up about finding useful pictures and graphs for demonstrating how to read graphs, etc to students. You might want to be a bit careful about some of these, because some of them are a little bit looser than others on the conventions of graph writing, and the majority of the sites flit between being “acceptable” for the classroom and decidedly unacceptable, so I’d also be careful of not recommending too many of these sites to your students.

With the disclaimers out of the way though: here’s some of the best places I’ve found:

xkcd.com

From xkcd - relation between bacon and health

Be very careful not to recommend this one to your students, but it’s got some fantastic stuff mixed in with some very very nerdy stuff and some jokes that are downright crass. Don’t worry if you don’t understand lots of the jokes there: it just means you have a life.

informationisbeautiful.net

Good information design

This is a much safer site to recommend: though at times it can get slightly political (can’t we all), Information is Beautiful has an incredible collection of infographics which can communicate complex information usually in simple, easy to understand ways. My wife is a graphic designer and she is in love with this site.

graphjam.com

This is a much less definitive recommendation: graphjam’s stuff is all about user-contribution so the quality varies from putrid to fantastic. But if you do manage to get a hold of the good ones, they are usually pretty cool/funny. The whole thing is graphs and Venn diagrams, so you should at least be able to find something useful if you look long enough. They’re certainly not as pretty though.

thisisindexed.com

Indexed is a fantastic little blog I’ve been following for ages: the cute hand-drawn Venn diagrams and graphs are always good for a laugh.

Hope these have been helpful. If nothing else they’ve helped me to procrastinate a little more rather than working properly on my lesson planning assignments.

Some Great Teaching Resources

Part of being a blogging nerd and getting excited about teaching has meant that I’ve done a fair bit of looking around at some really good blogs out there on teaching and education, and would certainly recommend that you check out a few.

The first blow-your-mind amazing blog I found is Dan Meyer’s dy/dan blog. Dan’s all about Maths education, and while I’m still only a wannabe Maths teacher (I’d love to teach it someday but I’ll need some study first), his approach is inspiring. Dan’s all about  “what do you do with that” and the video of him at a conference running a session on “Be Less Helpful” is long (about an hour), but worth every minute.

Dan’s “which checkout is faster” lesson got featured in places like the New York Times, Good Morning America and tonnes of other media outlets essentially just because it asked a genuinely interesting mathematical question. Take a good look around his blog, especially if you have any interest in teaching maths because the guy is amazing.

The next blog worth having a look at is by Randon Ruggles: Fifty-Nine Minutes. He’s more of an English teacher, and I was taken aback by his recent post “What’s the Point?”

Take for instance, Shakespeare and Hamlet in particular. Why oh why would 9-11th grade students want to read this play? I thought about it for a while and then with the help of my good partner in the English department, Ben Jarman, we came up with a few ideas. Hamlet has in it themes about: not trusting your parents, death, a ghost, lots of fighting, love, and a search for identity. Clearly some of those themes can be debated and looked at from a variety of different angles, but Ben and I decided first to look at those. Next was the idea and task to get students, before we even picked up the text, excited about learning and reading this amazing work of literature.. Now Ben wanted to, as he called it, “Get the Hamlet fire burning” and really get students excited about what they are learning from the beginning. I agreed with him that this was important, but struggled with exactly how to reach our students. Ben had some great ideas and he thought about really just talking to the students about the material and trying to “light the fire” that way. I thought that was good, but then I tried to consider what else would make this exciting to a student in today’s world. So I considered some sort of exciting Keynote presentation, but then I realized that even that, however cool it may be that it would not be the most exciting thing I could produce. I looked to a resource that I used a few times while student teaching – Animoto.

What I produced was this video: Hamlet Introduction Video

Fifty Nine Minutes is worth having a really good look through, and while Mr Ruggles is less prolific than Mr Meyer, it’s very worth keeping an eye on.

Thirdly I’d recommend getting onto the Edublog Awards site and having a look around for yourself. There’s some very cool blogs nominated on there and you’re bound to find a blog that has some level of interest for you.

Content

So having been welcomed to our heart’s content, last night and then today was mostly just focused around some genuine pedagogical content. Exciting times! It’s been a relief to get really stuck into some meaty stuff and find that I’m not completely out of my depth, and might actually have useful contributions to make. Definitely feeling the beginnings of the transformative process into my teaching alter-ego: Mr Matheson.

There’s something really fantastic about being in lectures with people who are so unequivocally engaged with the subject matter. It draws you in further, and almost has you wondering what the next insightful question will be. We were forced to hold questions at a number of points during the day due to the need to cover the required ground in the timeframe. It just becomes an exciting learning environment to be a part of, and it’s certainly inspiring to say the least.

I was fascinated today with the address from Ros Black from the Federation for Young Australians (www.fya.org.au). Her lecture was focused around the report “How Young People Are Faring” (which you can find at http://www.fya.org.au/media/publications/ ) – and specifically what was working in schools in the efforts to fight disadvantage. Check out the report, and also the “Impact of Racism” report on the same page. Genuinely useful research.

Sorry for the necessarily rushed nature of these posts, I’m afraid I can’t see a lot of depth coming into the blog while the Intensive is running: there’s just a whole lot that is going on. But I’m endeavouring to provide daily updates on things I’ve found interesting, and hoping that it helps me remember later on… I guess we’ll see.

“Doing School” – A must read for any would-be teacher

Doing School
"Doing School"

For a brief while (and I’m sure this will be revisited at some stage) I had an addiction to education content on iTunesU. For the uninitiated: iTunesU is a resource provided by Apple and a wide variety of universities to make some of the university content available as either audio or video to the general public. This eventually brought me to a presentation at Stanford University by Denise Clark Pope: essentially promoting her book “Doing School: How We Are Creating A Generation of Stressed-Out, for sale Materialistic, advice and Miseducated Students”.

“Doing School” is a compelling and fascinating read. Clark Pope follows five “successful” students from a variety of backgrounds, tadalafil at a likewise “successful” school, for a whole year. Maintaining the integrity of the study, she looks at the high school education experience only from the point of view of the student: following them for their entire school day (and sometimes in their extra-curricular activities) and interviewing the students themselves across the year.

The stories of these five teenagers are certainly absorbing. Each provides an insight into the pressures placed on high performing students: from parents, teachers, the college admissions system as a whole and certainly the students themselves. But more extraordinary was seeing the impact these pressures had on each student – as they cheated, manipulated, wore themselves into the ground and compromised to build up the all important GPA, or to better their chances with a college admissions board.

While there are undoubtedly parts of the book that are noticeably more relevant for US readers than for us here in Australia, there was nevertheless plenty to be gained for a prospective teacher like myself. While for the most part teachers play only bit-parts in the student’s stories, there were a number of places where teachers showed up: as enablers of poor behaviour, manipulated and naïve cogs in a much bigger machine, and occasionally as wise counsellors – able to see a bigger picture of unhealthy single-mindedness. All in all, “Doing School” represents a sobering look at how (and indeed what) we teach our “best and brightest”. I’d recommend this book very highly to anyone working in education.