Thursday, March 20, 2008

On a Trip To Peru

Pictures from one of my favorite fossil hunting spots with my best assistant and friends. This area is located in the layer referred to as the Pennsylvanian. Lots of invertebrate fossils, including a variety of clams, coral, and trilobites.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tip My Hat to Twitter

I took advice from another teacher, @Helenotway, to check out Animoto You can use this website to make videos from pictures and images.

Then add music and Voila! you have a video that you can download, embed or put on YouTube. This is so cool.

This is my first trial, and it took about 30 minutes to complete, from start to finish. Oh, what I can do with this awesome web application. Thanks Helen.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fire the Government? Fire Yourself!

Reports of teacher censorship seem to be on the upswing, as do reports of abuse of power against teachers. A small minority in communities are using scare tactics to justify disrespectful actions against teachers who are trying their best to follow the KNOWN rules and teach our children well.

A teacher began a writing mentor system for students. The students would blog, and the mentors(other teachers) would comment on their blog posting. The teacher trained the students about internet safety, and the students, according to the record of their posts and comment logs were following the safety rules. It seems that a minority of the community was able to complain and convince some in governance that this blogging activity should be stopped.

The school administrator told the teacher that the equivalent of our SRS wanted the protected online posting be discontinued, while they began an investigation. The teacher was very accepting of this situation and asked that standards be developed so similar successful activities like these could continue.

You can find the summary of this story on the teacher's blog posting, Order for Closure: Al Upton and the Mini-Legends. Several other teachers have commented about this situation in their blogs.

Reports are made of teachers being placed in a non-teaching environment, like a holding cell sans physical iron bars, without a hearing or official explanation. I first heard the report on This American Life episode: Human Resources with Ira Glass, so I invetigated this scary scenario.

It seems that the reports are true. These teachers, some after years, in what is called the Rubber Room, teachers are usually fired without fanfare. Occasionally, some teachers are returned to their classrooms. Listen to their amazing stories, and you may wonder where these teachers are. To put you at ease, they are in New York City! Don't believe me, listen to this trailer of Rubber Room, the movie.

There are stories just like these are happening everywhere, in our country and abroad. Forget about fair, most times we can actually focus in on legal. Is the treatment of these teachers legal, and where is their support system?

Members of the community who allow these demoralizing things to happen to teachers should educate themselves. Since schools are under local control, community members are in control. What is your community's legacy to your children?

Community members need to shout, "Fire Yourself!" to school boards and administrators who hire people and then turn around and fire them. The people in the community need to accept their role in government. Go to school board meetings to keep your public servants honest. If you don't, you get the government you deserve.

Communities are hard pressed to find good teachers. Some communities seem bound and determined to undermine the teachers they do hire. What they don't seem to realize is, THEY HIRED THESE PEOPLE, so really they are the people with a problem...not the teachers they hired. If you can't hire a good, quality teacher and then let them do their job, with leadership, not harrassment, get out of the school business yourself.

Communities must remove these ineffectual leaders from their administrative or governing positions as soon as possible, unless the community decides they can be rehabilitated. If so, the rehabilitated person must frequently report to the community on their progress in becoming a lead manager, not a boss manager. They are not the dictator, they are OUR representative to our children and their teachers.

In a timeless balancing act, there is a delicate equilibrium in this human equation between the ruled and the ruler(s). As individuals, humans assert a countervailing weight, to the controlling entity, a ruler(s). The individual's right to control their own body and property must balance the effect of group control over the individual. The sanctity of the individual cannot be abandoned because of ineffective governance.

When ineffective, dysfunctional governing bodies scramble to strengthen control by asserting their need to take questionable actions against individuals, communities as well as individuals lose.

Ultimately, what a community and its governing affiliates achieve will be judged as abusive, benign or helpful. They will be judged by their deeds, evidenced by the respect for individual rights and dignity. Can you say that your community and your representatives treat your employees with dignity?

If you live on a deserted island with no contact with anyone else, only self government applies to you. For the rest of us, there is NO SUCH THING AS SELF-GOVERNANCE, we are part of many groups under many jurisdictions. Because that is true, individuals living and working together, in a democracy, have an obligation to remember that WE are the government. If our representatives are weak and ineffective, WE are to blame.

If you don't know what is happening in your government, I would suggest that you best go find out.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Where Others Fear To Tread

Through Fear by Martin Gommel
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Sometimes, it can be frightening to be a teacher, and it can really be frightening when the schools that hire you are in turmoil. Yesterday, while listening to NPR's All Things Considered, March 13, 2008, I heard that teachers will be dismissed, programs closed and students shuttled to classes not of their own choosing. I empathize with the teachers in California who will be laid off soon.

This terrible disservice and governmental disrespect, in California, for their children and those dedicated to teaching them, reminded me of a similar experience that happened to me early in my teaching career. Fortunately, the majority of the teachers in the state where I taught stood together in the face of (seemingly) more powerful groups. No one is more powerful than those dedicated to a righteous cause to help the teachers who teach our children.

I faced the most frightening experience early in my teaching career when our teacher professional group recommended a one day walkout to let the Louisiana state legislature know what the effect of our finding jobs in other states would do to their schools.

Amazing! I thought. I just started teaching two years before. Why me? Why should I get involved. I could be fired for participating in the walkout, but our salaries were a pittance compared to teachers in other states. For instance, my salary was 30% less in Louisiana than it would have been in Kansas, at that time. Just as today, teachers made thirty to fifty percent of what other college graduates with similar training were making.

The members of the Lousiana state legislature appeared deaf to requests from schools, teachers and the public, so there we were. A statewide teacher's walkout was called, and the state's school administrators figured out that a majority of teachers really were prepared to meet at the state capitol, in Baton Rouge, and take our case directly to the legislature.

Some of the teachers in my school were only teaching as a hobby or to occupy their time. It seemed to me that they were not as effective as they could be if they had dedicated more effort to their teaching. They could hide within the status quo, so they were definitely opposed to the teacher walkout. The other teachers, mostly the more experienced teachers who really dedicated themselves to their work, were going to the state capitol, in Baton Rouge.

Even though I knew that the walkout was right, I had to think about whether I would participate. A few days before we were to converge on the state legislature, I decided that I would go to the state capitol, supporting my students, my community, myself and my peers.

Right up to the Friday afternoon before we were going to walkout, during the following week, the press was reporting that the teachers could face firing if they walked out. It didn't matter, we were determined. When the governor realized that thousands of teachers would walkout, he called off school for the entire day.

Since school was closed all over the state, the problem of firing thousands of teachers was averted, but we still had not achieved our goal: convincing the legislature that teachers were serious about the necessary pay raise.

On the day of the proposed walkout, I traveled for hours to get to the state house, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Being there was a humbling experience that I will never forget. There really were thousands of teachers. Everywhere, on the streets, green spaces, sidewalks and other flat spaces. As far as the eye could see, there were teachers.

We had come to show our support for those Louisiana legislators who were trying to do right by the the children of Louisiana. There were speeches, group discussions, and most people had their signs. It was a truly historic, appropriate use of the right to assemble and petition the government with grievances. Teachers made their point, and the very next year we received an increase in the base salary.

The teachers in California can always make their point TOGETHER. When they work together, teachers can achieve any goal in education. When they really listen to each other....not just talk at each other.

Listening is a skill that teachers must constantly hone. By doing so, we will successfully achieve our goals for the future of education with the help of our real network.

Teachers go where no one else will go. They work with all children where they find them, and take them where they know they should be.

Teachers follow when others will not answer the calling. Everyone says that they would love to teach, but they usually admit that they couldn't stand up to the rigors and economic distress of the teaching life.

Teachers expand their families to include other people's children, spending hours grading or working at home each evening, weekends and holidays with their school family.

Teachers do what no other professionally trained college graduate will do today: TEACH, yet even when our ranks are dwindling and our hopes for semi-autonomy seem far, far, away...maybe even in another galaxy, states like California are committing unspeakable acts that further undermine teacher confidence in the public system.

What are these unspeakable acts? The continuing destruction of the California Public School System. Watching from another state, this story of California teachers seems like a Greek Tragedy, water torture or death by pinprick, but now it seems that so many multiple pinpricks have created gashes in the California educational

Teachers are being ripped from their students, and students are being displaced, all in an effort to squeeze ten percent cuts from the already distressed public school system.

What can we do to help California teachers survive this unnatural disaster? We can connect with our social networks, and lend our support to our colleagues in California. We can find organizations that will help us support teachers in some way that will work for the California teachers.

I would like to ask these important questions, as a starting place for discourse about this crisis in California Public Schools:
Can the teachers being laid off depend on their peers who aren't being laid off?
Can they depend on their unions?

From a distance, it doesn't seem that they can. This is a sad time in our public life as many teachers think they only are looking out for themselves. In my experience, as a teacher, this tactic is not reliable in the long run. When they ignore injustice in their ranks, it really makes the bystander teachers more vulnerable, because the governmental agents learn that no one will complain if more children, teachers and communities are mistreated.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Solar Weather Light Show

Find more ways to see and collect amazing real images of Earth's magnetic field protecting us from Sun Storms. Learn more about Earth and get fabulous images from NASA and their partners. I love the interviews of the Inuit elders and the older scientists who first began the science station in the Arctic. Very cool stories.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Interactive Science Experiences: Solar Weather 2008

With a bit of effort, you can break into the Web2.0 world, and NASA has the tools to help. There are an enormous number of projects, activities and materials available to teachers, for science, math and technology, yet also for social studies, languages and other areas of education.
All you have to do is find the topic you are studying, and NASA can point you to the websites and online interactive practices to grab and hold students' attention. Then the rest is up to you, do one activity, one project or an array of related interactions and lessons. Don't forget to make an official connection with the NASA group, so you can always email or talk with someone who can help or answer questions.
One of the most exciting, yet practical Sun-Earth celebrations of the SECEF, Ancient Observatories, continued the NASA educational traditions while paving the trail into the online, interactive path for science education.
 blog it

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Twitter Delicious Practice

Twitter, the popular social networking miniblog grows in stature as people learn ways it can improve their work life. There are also groups like the Red Cross who are experimenting with twitter groups to provide information about Red Cross during an emergency. The Red Cross has also started a related website called, Safe and Well. People can enter their personal information after a disaster, so loved ones can reunite. While this project definitely shows progress, it is just one more illustration of the value of Twitter.

While I use Twitter for all the reasons I mentioned earlier, I noticed a surprising, yet useful unintended consequence. I learned to write in a more minimalistic, not verrbose manner. To reduce my Twitter message down to 140 characters, including spaces, I must remove the chaff, the flotsam of a thought or story.

On Twitter, posting need some punch, pizazz...some interesting or valuable points that make it worth reading. Not everyone reads my Tweets , yet I like to make them appealing to those who might be interested.

The unintended consequence of this Twitter practice results in more effective annotations on my bookmarks. While not everyone writes something about their bookmarks, I have found them to be more useful to me and others in my network if I describe or annotate the bookmark. Next to tags, bookmark descriptions (annotations) are a critical part of the social networking side of People in my network who tell me why they bookmarked a particular site help me decide quickly if I should also bookmark it.

Thanks to my Twitter practice in effective miniblogging, I have improved my descriptions. These annotations have turned into miniblogs themselves. If you have tried Twitter and/or, go ahead give the a chance to improve your work productivity. BTW, they can also be used for hobbies and personal interactions and bookmarks.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

PageFlake Focus on Science

When I locate new science rss feeds, reputable resources, I add them to my public N2Teaching Science PageFlake. Earlier this month, I found websites that relate to Biology, Chemistry, Oceanography, Physics and other sciences. I hope you will take a moment to look over the other rss feeds in my public PageFlake Focus on Science.

Images created are referenced to Joe Landis, of the National Science Foundation. The original websites fed into this Science PageFlake belong to very reliable science research groups who are participating in the US Polar Year 2007-2008. There is an rss feed for the general public, and you can also find several rss feeds intended for teachers.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Pi R Not Squared, Pie Are Round

Pi, the famous, yet elusive constant seems veiled in children's minds. Let's help open the blinds, and let the sunny day shine on Pi Day. A wonderfully fun, learning celebration is here. Inviting our students to celebrate Pi Day will reward our schools with learning and fun.

What? You haven't put your Pi Day preparations in order? Well, let's gear up. Only eight more days, until Pi Day.Teachers, students, parents and communities across the world celebrate Pi Day on March 14,2008. Yup! Yup! Yup! That's right, 3.14, the day, we celebrate the most famous constant in the world.Pi Day Countdown

When looking for resources, here are two great websites I would recommend you begin your search. started in March, 2001 by a high school calculus student, Dan Hellerich. Since then his website, has become a good educational resource when preparing to celebrate Pi Day. Dan still produces this website with Kevin Fusselman. Through the years, I have used this site, with my teaching team, to find ways for all the teachers to participate in Pi Day.

The Exploratorium has many resources teachers can use for Pi Day Celebrations.

Consider a Pi Day celebration. In Science, we would say it is a natural phenomenon for learning. A wide range of classes, such as Social Studies, Science, Math and Tech can be involved, along with the Arts and Humanities. Ask the journalism classes join in celebrating. They can take pictures, videos, and audio to commemorate the occasion.

If you celebrate Pi Day, please share and leave a comment here. I would be happy to learn about it.

Copyright: Some Rights Reserved
On Pi Day, Everyone's A Winner: Pie Judging Score Sheet: Flickr username: "aquarian librarian"

Pie Day: Before
Flickr username: "hhwlib"

Pi Countdown Chiclet

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Disappearing Wetlands: Before Katrina

Where can you learn about science, teach your students and help them develop curiosity?

The Jason Project is a wonderful resource with yearly themes to encourage the learning that comes through engaging a student's curiosity.
Historically, the Jason Project, started by Dr. Robert Ballard, has provided an enormous amount of free and low cost materials, projects and online activities that can be used with various topics in science, including the topic of soil erosion in the wetlands.

The rest of this posting is related to all teachers, but I wrote it in response to a CR2.0 members request for information and curriculum related to the connection to global warming and soil erosion, particularly in the wetlands.

While information on the direct effect of global warming to soil erosion may not be readily available, there is a proven direct relationship between man's destruction of the coastal wetlands throughout the Gulf Coast, especially in Louisiana, and the great damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Coincidentally, the Jason Project spent the year before Katrina working with scientists, students and teachers, documenting the horrible conditions that cause a yearly coastal erosion that would equal the size of state of Connecticut. I would recommend the materials available for that year's mission, Disappearing Wetlands.

I am making an assumption, so forgive me if it is not correct, that you probably don't have much time before you must begin your lessons. If that is the case, I would join the Jason Project website. It is free. From there you can access various links and materials.

Some of the Jason Project materials must be purchased, but the cost is very nominal. Many universities and school districts sponsor their yearly professional development, and they already have the materials for the Jason Project. YOU DON'T HAVE TO PAY ANYTHING TO JOIN THE ONLINE PROJECT.

If I wanted some excellent resources for erosion in the wetlands and interactions among the various living and nonliving components of this vast ecosystem, I would borrow or purchase the Jason Project's Disappearing Wetlands student's workbook and a teacher's workbook.

First, I would search for these materials within your district, regional libraries and the university you attended. They may have these resources available for checkout, or they can purchase them for you.

You have selected an excellent topic, and I know you will be pleasantly surprised by the high caliber lessons, activities, literature connections and online activities that are available to your through the Jason Project. Good luck, and have fun teaching!