February 12, 2011

Random links

My browser tabs are over-cluttered with stuff I've been thinking about for awhile.  I need to clear them out so I can focus on other ideas.  Here's what I've been meaning to write about, in no particular order:

Back in October (!) I came across this commentary on the documentary "Waiting for Superman". The meat of the article is in this quote:

Where did you think great teachers come from? That they spring fully formed from the head of Zeus? Just about everybody who’s an accomplished teacher used to be an ineffective teacher, and as the maker of a documentary about first year teachers, I’m totally confused that you don’t seem to understand this. If you want to talk about great teachers, but don’t have anything to say about the conditions under which teachers become great, you are at a different stadium than where the game is happening.
(Hint, by the way: in order to become great, teachers need to make and then learn from their mistakes. What kind of environment fosters making and learning from your mistakes? Fear that you will lose your job over your kids’ test scores? Or maybe transparent, non-defensive collegiality? Okay, good job on that one, now the followup: what kind of education policies are going to create the environment that fosters growth?)
I couldn't agree with that more.  Not because I think I'm a great teacher, but because I think I'm still making and learning from my mistakes. He also linked to another criticism of the film where the main complaint was the confusion on what it means to create an environment where learning happens in a classroom.

Here's a snarky comic strip on what to do to encourage students to read their textbooks. I agree with the premise (that reading the textbook is important) but I'm not sure I completely agree with the message.

So we want to excite a new generation of kids—every generation—about the passion, beauty and joy—the PB&J—of science.
Passion, beauty and joy are often forgotten in teaching science.  I suppose I'm guilty of it many times, too. Plus, cool acronym!

Here's a guide to what seminar speakers are really saying that was recently posted over at Science. I'm really thrilled that the colloquium speakers we get in our department are usually really good and interesting to listen to.

A well-known astronomy textbook author (and his wife? Not sure.) had a jokey letter to the editor published in the New York Times. Thankfully, it was really brief.

There's an article in last month's American Journal of Physics that explores what was discussed in over 300 conversations students had while doing clicker questions in an intro astronomy class.  I haven't (yet) read that article, but Stephanie Chasteen at The Active Class had a great summary of the article.  Makes me think about what I could be doing better with the clickers.

And the last link for today comes from the president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics who wrote an article with the provocative title: "Endless Algebra - the Deadly Pathway from High School Mathematics to College Mathematics".

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