Friday, March 16, 2007

No More Snow Days

Queen Anne School in Maryland responds to snow, not by canceling school, but rather by having a Cyber School Day. The students get up, log in, and interact with their classmates and teachers virtually. Here's the NPR story where you can hear more. No Snow Day for You: Log On to Homeroom I can't help but smile when Mr. Blackwood says, "As headmaster, I can tell you that I know more about what goes on and can really validate the worth while nature of it on a cyber school day than I can when their on campus, because I can't be everywhere at once on campus. "

Having this connection in place between students and their teachers is amazing. Not only could a system like this be used for the entire school for events like snow days or that time in the 4th grade when my entire school was sent home because the lice was spreading too fast. It can also help to prevent smaller groups and individuals from falling behind. For example, when the football team makes it to state, and they spend a week or more at Playoffs they already have this connection to class. My senior year a girl in my class was out for a month and a half because of major surgery. She didn't catch up in time to graduate with us.

The best part of this story is that they have been doing this for seven years. This story is a perfect example of two things that I believe very strongly. First, technology can accent and contribute to education without the threat of it replacing anything or anyone. Secondly, using the technology we have to it's fullest extent is just as important as any of the new gadgets that are coming out.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Struggling in Math? Try Neuroscience!

Psychologist Carol Dweck headed a study where a group of 100 students that were struggling in math were randomly assigned to participate in two different workshops. One workshop was on study skills, and the other was on how the brain works and information is stored. The students that learned about the brain did considerably better. They embraced their potential by being taught that they have the ability to learn no matter how 'smart' they believe they are. Here is the story with more information: Students View of Intelligence Can Help Grades

I love these results and I hope that more parents adopt these ideas so that student will experience education as a process of learning instead of a sorting between the good and the bad. Another article that emphasizes my point is The Inverse Power of Praise from New York Magazine. Researchers and psychologists have told parents not to call their children stupid, naughty, bratty, spoiled, bad, or incapable because those kids will define themselves by those labels and follow the stereotypes that their parents have placed upon them. The answer to this, however, is not to call them smart, successful, and good so they fill those stereotypes. This creates a dichotomy between smart and stupid. If you are labeled either of these, there is no process (or work) to become one or the other. There is no reason for 'stupid' to strive for smart, and there is no reason for 'smart' to put effort into maintaining that status, because it is an arbitrary assignment. If children have to do smart things to become smart then they are not as confined by our labels and that attributes they associate with them.