Monthly Archives: January 2011

The 3 A’s of Awesome

One of the blogs I try to read every day is Neil Pasricha’s 1000 Awesome Things, and I’ve also read the book that grew from the blog’s success.  If you aren’t familiar with the blog/book of Awesome, let me just say that if you ever need to be reminded not to take the little things for granted (and don’t we all need that, from time to time?) Neil’s the person to look to – but in a best-guy-friend-how-cool-is-this kind of way.

Because 1000 Awesome Things has been all kinds of successful in the last couple of years, Neil (btw – I don’t know the guy, but he doesn’t seem like the kind to want people to call him “Mr. Pasricha”) has won all sorts of awards and given motivational speeches all over the place, including a talk as part of the uber-cool TED community.

The theme of Neil’s TEDxToronto talk was “The Three A’s of Awesome,” and his point was simple: life is short, we’re lucky to be alive, and if we just take the time to look for it, we can find extraordinary beauty and joy in all sorts of ordinary places.  The three A’s – the three things Neil says we need to appreciate life’s awesomeness – are a sense of awareness of the world around us, the ability to be our authentic selves, and the right attitude.  (Hmm…sounds like some great teachers I know…)

 

Neil’s TED talk is below.  It inspires me.  Let me know what you think.

 

 

As an added bonus, here is a music video inspired by 1000 Awesome Things that makes me sing and smile, all at the same time.

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Wallwisher

Wallwisher is a free, online collaboration site that has become very popular, and I wanted to share one of my current uses of it.

If you are new to Wallwisher, the concept is simple – imagine a wall in your classroom that students use to post comments, ideas, images, or audio and video clips via moveable (and removable) “sticky” notes (think Post-it notes).  Setting up a free account is easy, and privacy options allow for all posts to be viewed by the wall owner prior to going live.

As a way to earn bonus class participation points, my U.S. History students are permitted to post a “factoid” on the wall, one per person per week.  At the end of the week, my little boy randomly chooses the names of two student-posters (he draws from a hat and for some reason, my students love this idea) and they are awarded additional points.  I have found that the students who participate in this have fun trying to outdo each other every week, their “factoids” are usually really interesting, and I have been pleasantly surprised by the participation of students who are not otherwise very outgoing in the classroom.

The students are expected to post their source (if it is an online link) or be prepared to provide it to me when asked.

A recent "factoid" wall (click to see full size).

I have also used Wallwisher for announcements, KWL exercises, comments on readings or videos and as a source clearinghouse.  In another example, our librarian has used it as a “What Are You Reading Now?” page for teachers and students.

Have you used Wallwisher?  I’d like to hear about your experiences.  Can you give me some new ideas for using it in my classroom?

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Can Writing Relieve Test Anxiety?

I’m sure I’m not alone in the experience of having a number of regular-ed students every year who suffer from test anxiety.  These are kids without directed accommodations (Individualized Education or 504 Plans) but who nevertheless suffer from a specific testing apprehension or difficulty.  Sometimes the students and/or their parents make me aware of their test-taking trepidation, or it becomes obvious when a student who usually performs well in other classroom areas shows consistent stuggles or failures during assessments.

photo by Fort Worth Squatch, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

So, I was very interested when I read about a recent study that found students’ test scores improved when they were allowed to write about their anxiety beforehand.  The senior researcher is Sian Beilock, the author of Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To, and she argues that the pre-writing exercise can “free up” the brainpower that would normally be focused on the test concerns.

Have you ever tried such an activity to curb test anxiety?  Was it successful?  Do you have any other practices that help students get past their performance fears?  I would love to hear some new ideas.

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Is it Wrong to Love a Web App?

I love Google Reader.

I hate Google Reader.

*sigh*

Confession: I am not as organized as I should be.  I really want to be the uber-organized, everything-in-its-place, make-use-of-every-spare-moment teacher that knows exactly where the study guide for the Causes of World War I activity is hiding.  But.  I am not.

So, Google Reader is a god-send for a news hound like me.  I have tried other RSS aggregators, but I keep coming back to Reader, like it’s a comfy pair of old sweats.  My problem is that I overestimate the amount of time I will have to read all the blog posts that attract my attention.  I find new blogs and blithely click “Subscribe,” pleased to have acquired a new portal for information.  And I religiously open Reader every morning, at home or at school, and it stays up all day.

But who has time to read all this stuff???  Yet clicking “Unsubscribe” feels like breaking up.  And what if tomorrow that blog – the one I haven’t read for weeks and has 210 new feeds – what if tomorrow that blog has a post that will change my teaching/life/opinion?  And how can I possibly cull the “good ones?”  No way am I doing without regular monitoring of Richard Byrne’s “Free Technology for Teachers” (currently 10 unread) or “Teaching High School Psychology” (20 unreads), or even “Chart Porn” (11) or Angela Cunningham’s “changED” (0! w00t!).

And that’s job-related stuff.  What about the Pioneer Woman’s “Tasty Kitchen” (18 unread) blog from whence came the homemade salsa recipe that makes me look like a genius at every family gathering we attend?  And, seriously?  How could I give up the “Mental Floss” (32) blog or Julie Zickefoose (a nature writer from my region – 0 unread)?

I gotta go.  I have reading to do.

I love Google Reader.

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Taking Up the Challenge

I really want to blog, at least semi-regularly.  I want a place to let my thoughts coalesce, to post links that are valuable for my work in my classroom, and I want a place to sometimes defend my profession and home when I’m feeling beleaguered.  (Whew!  That’s asking a lot of a little ol’ blog.)

So, I am going to participate in Edublog’s “30 Days to Kick Start Your Blogging” Teacher Challenge.  Daily activities will allow me to focus on working on this blog regularly, and give me topics that will give me something to talk about.  I want to learn the ins and outs of blogging, the good, bad, and ugly, and hopefully find a voice that I haven’t really heard before.

Wish me luck!

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