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Author Archives: bdburke

Cell Phones in the Classroom

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Wow. This post was seriously awesome. I attended a seminar/talk last year that was weighing the pros and cons of students being able to use cell phones in the classroom. The speaker dug into ever corner of the issue and it lasted about 3 hours. I got more out of this post than I did in those 3 long hours.

I agree with the points made on preparing students for future jobs. Every job uses smartphones or handheld technology in some respect and getting students used to that can only benefit them and make them more successful when the time comes. I also like the take on cell phones as a readily available technology source. Many schools, as mentioned in the post, are limited in what they can do with technology because schools can’t afford it. Why not use what almost all students are, without fail, coming to school with daily?

“Tests of recall don’t prepare students for the world ahead.” So well put. The emphasis in schools now is teaching students how to FIND information, not memorizing the facts. The facts are out there and a few buttons away. Finding the rights types of resources is important and should be to focus. Why are we testing their memory of facts when in the working world they will rarely have to use that skill. Future jobs will not require students to have the state capitals memorized – future jobs come with smartphones that allow you to have all that information listed in less than 20 seconds. 

I also like the rationalizations made about cheating. We shouldn’t be banning cheating – we should be promoting collaboration and problem solving in a cooperative learning environment. That is what the future will expect of our students – finding ways to solve problems and therefore we should be encouraging using each other as resources. The nature of our assignments has to change. 


High School Doesn’t Have to Stink

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From the list of suggested podcasts, “The History of our World in 18 Minutes” jumped out as looking like the most interesting. Why wouldn’t I want to brush up on my world history? This is as far as I got…


Way over my head….moving on.

I went on to listen to Chris Lehmann talk about how “Education is Broken”. I remember high school vividly. He mentioned a lot of things that had the bells ringing from my own experiences: 12 pt font Times New Roman, 3-5 paragraphs, etc. The big focus in his talk was how high school students are either saying or thinking: Why do I have to learn this? I agree. There is such a push for force feeding content without leaving room for making connections to how things can relate to the world around us and therefore, allowing kids to make sense of the content.

He spoke a lot about begin principal of an non-traditional school in Philadelphia. This school and its teachers flip the drive from “someone told me to teach it” to “we should be teaching HOW to learn”. By way of powerful investigations into content, student driven learning projects, critical thinking and an overall openness to ideas, students in this school are taking all of the same classes as other high schools, however they are finding ways to make connections from their classes to their world. Lehmann drives home how a freedom in choosing projects, or constructing things within borders allows students make sense of their learning by making meaningful connections. They investigate a topic, they find answers and they “build stuff”. The teachers say “teach me what you know” instead of lecturing. 

Lehmann stated “we have to honor the lives these kids lead”. He stressed the need for educators to stop preparing them for college or the “future”, and instead place value on where they are now – that they can be important as high school students and that their learning is not just for the future. By preparing them to be life long learners, these teachers are creating citizens and not just workers. 


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I am certainly new to the world of podcasts – but I was very surprised to see not necessarily what I have been missing out on, but how much! There are so many topics and subjects and ideas out there on podcasts and I had no clue. 

I bounced around a few from our suggested sites, and, in the true spirit of summertime, I settled on a BAM!radio podcast: “Rebooting – Summertime: How Best to Spend the Time Off”. I have to say it was actually helpful to just hear other people’s thoughts on something thats on my mind too.

I am transitioning between schools this summer and have lots on my to-do list for the fall. Three teachers were interviewed about their take on what is best for teachers to be doing over the summer. While they all had their own agenda that included both school and non-school plans, they all did agree on a few things, noting that summer is a good time for teachers to of course rest and rejuvenate, but also to reflect on the past year and start planning (on their own time) for the coming school year. 

One teacher commented on using Evernote throughout the school year with her students so that she can go back at the close of the school year and reflect on what her students had accomplished and what she had accomplished as a teacher, and this also allowed her to make changes for her future plans. I (of course) had to look up what Evernote was, and found out it is kind of, at least from what I can gather, like an educational pinterest or “web clipper” where you can cut and paste to collect sections of text, pictures, videos etc. and keep them all in one place. 

It was helpful to hear some other teacher’s thoughts on this topic as it is relevant to me. I can see where using podcasts is a quick, easy way to get and share information. They can be used individually or in groups with coworkers/teachers to get discussion going on a certain topic or issue. 

Flipped Classrooms

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I really like this idea of the flipped classroom.   Peter Pappas’ blog gave a really awesome info graphic for what the traditional classroom looks like vs. the flipped classroom. The visuals and simple cartoons of what this design looks like in action make it easy to picture. His images and text also create a really good contrast of what students can get out of a flipped classroom in comparison to what they encounter during standard lectures and traditional homework.

I think the  best thing I got from his blog was a sense of time. Time is used so much more efficiently in a classroom situation that is conducive to this flipped model. Students get an introduction to the material at home and precious classroom minutes are devoted to furthering understanding, not lighting the match. In one of his comments he said that “Students don’t’ get as frustrated” and I can see why. Teachers have the move around time during class to make sure that students are understudying, where-as at home doing homework without teacher support, they could easily forfeit and just pack it up.

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I also looked into “To Flip or Not to Flip”. This blog focused on a lot of similar ideas – the pros of a flipped classroom. There was an emphasis here on keeping kids more engaged and lowering anxiety. Stress goes a long way – especially for the students in the classroom that just aren’t getting it. Sending them home with problems to solve just causes frustration that carries over to the next day when they have to face it again. I liked this teacher’s take on the importance of discussion: changing the location of lecture and information allows classroom time for discussion and finding out what your students think and how they feel, it creates an environment of meaningful learning.

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I have been using Pinterest as a way to find out what other teachers are doing and coming up with on a few different topics. I am moving into a new classroom this summer at a different school. The set up of the classroom is new and, thanks to switching grade levels, I have a lot of different materials/supplies/books etc to work with (and to store!!) I have found from some other great teachers/organizers on Pinterest, tricks, techniques, systems for organizing a new classroom and storing materials.


I have also been using the site to try and find some ways of incorporating our 2 classroom computers into the curriculum, in any way possible. I’m not sure exactly how I will use them functionally in the coming school year but I am getting some good ideas for different sites that help students practice various skills. I also have tracked down a really neat tool for assisting in running records. It is designed for the iPhone or iPad and calculates words per minute and reading rate automatically.


This was another cool activity I stumbled on. The teacher called it TableTopTwitter. A passage was picked from a book (but this could easily be adapted to ANY curriculum area) and students traveled around the room to the different passages leaving their “tweets” (thoughts on the passage).


Overall, I have loved using Pinterest to spark ideas and collect awesome ones from other teachers. 🙂

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I had heard about Tagxedo from another teacher who used it to create a keepsake for a family member. I was brainstorming end of the year gifts for my room parents, and this popped into mind! I thought it would be really cute to select a kid-friendly shape to enter all of their first names into and have the program configure their names to fit inside. This seemed like a simple task, until I got to the webpage. I found the site hard to use. There is a STRONG possibility that my troubles were a function of user-error (not the first time). But I really spent some time on this one! I decided after our last class to give Tagul the same effort. Still hit a dead end. I would have really loved to use this! I was hoping if I got the hang of it, I would be able to make better use of it for the future. Hopefully I can get some assistance and figure this out because the finished products look amazing.

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I thought this article was amazing. It seemed so memorable and altering for the teacher. My own classroom has its fair share of up and down days – things that are unplanned that go well and things that are planned to the T, only to flop completely. I love that this moment was documented 🙂

The shift from teacher directed to student created learning has to be a tough one. You have to recognize the potential that your students have, turn it into a challenge and give minimal instruction. I agree that the task-based learning is an active way for students to participate in practicing 21st century skills, but I think that this project was so much more than that. The teacher had just the right bait: she was able to fuse self-propelled learning with acquiring new skills, and keep the students on the hook.

The nature of the project allowed for choices. It was mentioned that some of the students present were not necessarily the ones to speak out or get involved in a group project, but this study gave everyone the freedom to choose their topic and their path for learning it, and ultimately teaching it (as opposed to the one-size-fits-all approach). The sticky note idea was awesome. (I can also see where even young students could participate in something similar). The class had to create their own outline when given a very BROAD topic. The final product would be based on their interests, meaning it could look different from year to year.

I love this teacher’s honesty too. It would be a HUGE challenge to shift out of the traditional front-of-the-room role and leave a lot of room for mistakes and alterations. She said, “It’s difficult to know how much to let them fail”. Majority of traditional learning projects, even the group ones that are meant to seem more dynamic and student driven, still rely on a rubric or guide or outline. Letting the class take the driver seat presents a huge challenge for the teacher…when do you step in? and how much?

Facilitating this endeavor meant allowing the nature of the project to change according to the problems that came up and the way the STUDENTS decided to solve them. I can see from a student point of view how completing a project, worrying about a grade, trying to work in a group can all be difficult without a guideline. Students have fallen into a comfort zone of “If I check every box on the rubric, I’ll get an A”. Leaving little to no room for creativity or REAL thinking.