Archives for the month of: February, 2014

Although too late for [David Nielsen’s] article I do regret that we never had the chance to discuss the “flipped classroom.”

I agree with all of your issues with the flipped classroom so I will add a few that I hope are not too repetitive. I’ll use your method clusters. I have just two: watching and classroom.

I’ll use your method clusters. I have just two: watching and classroom.


  • As you said, watching a powerpoint presentation online, by yourself, is awful and poses a few issues.
  • You mentioned attention–I never watched a powerpoint straight through, full screen. Typically I’d start that way with good intentions. Then take out my phone and text. Pause the video to do something else. Or most often I would let it play in the background while I was on Facebook (so I didn’t actually see any of the slides).
  • The most troubling perhaps is that I often didn’t watch them when I was supposed to. I’m not sure if there is a method or technology for enforcing viewership on the high school level, but more often than not I simply did not watch any of the lectures until the midterm or the final. I then crammed by not actually listening to the videos and only reading the slides and fast forwarding to the next slide. So for many “lectures” I never actually listened to a lesson.

In class:

  • The next question I have is what do you actually do as a professor or teacher with that “extra” class time. I find group work grossly inefficient. One person does it and everyone copies. Or you finish early and wait for other groups. Or everyone just takes their time and talks about other things. Any way it is spanned it isn’t really efficient. So I think a lot more thought has to be put into what actual activities are going to be done in class.
  • If the answer to that is that students will have more time to ask questions like you said, then I will say that no student asks questions a day or days after watching a lecture. Maybe in the moment you had a question while watching, but you’ve either forgotten it or just don’t feel like asking once you get to class.

I hope that helps in some way. I certainly didn’t have a good experience with the flipped classroom and I think I had a professor who was well intentioned and actually executed the technical parts fantastically and it still was not good. That is another question in itself (I had a lot of teachers in high school who couldn’t work the television in the classroom or put on a presentation in class, so is there the skill to actually prepare what are essentially movies?)

Tweets from high school students in flipped classrooms
Buying technology – business v. schools
Response to administrator technology memo
John D on flipped classrooms and board policy
Wrong track
“Our goal”
The digital natives are restless
Flipped classrooms (and more) in IUFSD
Email from an NYU student on his experience in a flipped classroom

France & the Mali Attack – Ed Berenson on The Colbert Report

For some reason, WordPress won’t let me embed the video. Facebook won’t let me post the link at all.

Perhaps the best way to convey how rigorous the humanities are at Hunter is to list some of the texts that 7th graders read in their humanities class a few years ago. Students read widely from original sources such as The Prince by Machiavelli, The Republic by Plato, and Two Treatises on Civil Government by John Locke (as well as many other, less well-known, documents of similar difficulty).
A realistic view of Hunter College High

Students reading well above and well below grade-band level need additional support. Students for whom texts within their text complexity grade band (or even from the next higher band) present insufficient challenge must be given the attention and resources necessary to develop their reading ability at an appropriately advanced pace. On the other hand, students who struggle greatly to read texts within (or even below) their text complexity grade band must be given the support needed to enable them to read at a grade-appropriate level of complexity.
Appendix A: Research Supporting Key Elements of the [Common Core] Standards p9

For many months after the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) was launched in early 2009, the identities of the people drafting the “college- and career-readiness standards” were unknown to the public. CCSSI eventually (in July 2009) revealed the names of the 29 members of the “Standards Development Work Group” … in response to complaints from parents and others about the CCSSI’s lack of transparency.


What did the ELA Work Group look like? Its make-up was quite astonishing: It included no English professors or high-school English teachers. How could legitimate ELA standards be created without the very two groups of educators who know the most about what students should and could be learning in secondary English/reading classes?

CCSSI also released in July 2009 the names of individuals in a larger “Feedback Group.” This group included one English professor and one high-school English teacher. But it was made clear that these people would have only an advisory role – final decisions would be made for ELA by the English teacher-bereft ELA Work Group. Indeed, Feedback Group members’ suggestions were frequently ignored, according to the one English professor on this group, without explanation. Because both Work Groups labored in secret, without open meetings, sunshine-law minutes of meetings, or accessible public comment, their reasons for making the decisions they did are lost to history.

The two lead writers for the grade-level ELA standards were David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, neither of whom had experience teaching English either in K-12 or at the college level. Nor had either of them ever published serious work on K-12 curriculum and instruction. Neither had a reputation for scholarship or research; they were virtually unknown to the field of English language arts. But they had been chosen to transform ELA education in the U.S. Who recommended them and why, we still do not know. Interestingly, no one in the media commented on their lack of credentials for the task they had been assigned. Indeed, no one in the media showed the slightest interest in the qualifications of the standards writers.

Common Core’s Invalid Validation Committee
Sandra Stotsky
Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas
Paper given at a conference at University of Notre Dame
September 9, 2013

Improving students’ long-term knowledge through personalized review Lindsey Shroyer Pashler Mozer 2013

John D’s questions:

  • What was the human and financial cost for this gain?
  • Was this gain course specific?
  • If it was course specific, was a useful gain?
  • Was it useful in using the language or was it useful in getting multiple choice questions correct on a computerized test?

Definitely the right questions to ask for any district considering adopting personalized review software (or any other educational software).

What I glean from a quick skim is that prior to this study students had already been using a software flash-card program, so the ‘personalized’ software flash cards were simply swapped in while the non-personalized flash cards were swapped out. Nothing else appears to have changed. (I think students still took their final exams via paper-and-pencil, though I’m not sure.)

Looks to me as if the gains students made would have been no more or less useful than the gains they were making with the previous software.

No consideration is given to the question of how well knowledge gained via any form of software flash card transfers to Spanish conversation, reading, and writing.

Excerpts from the study

“Literacy and mathematics are the foundation to all facets of learning,” he said. “Curriculum (should be) very skill-based, rich and infused with technology.”
Irvington schools pick N.J. educator as next superintendent

On Google: 39,100 hits for “infusing technology into the classroom

Whether it’s a mom-and-pop coffee shop, a Fortune 500 firm, or a health care nonprofit, well-run organizations employ technology as a way to improve their performance. These businesses and organizations think of digital technology as part of larger efforts to boost productivity and improve outcomes. For American companies, leveraging digital solutions has long been a way of doing business, and over the past sixty years, the approach has resulted in average worker productivity climbing by more than 2 percent a year due in large measure to improvements in equipment, computers, and other high-tech solutions.

Educators, however, generally do not take this approach to technology. Far too often, school leaders fail to consider how technology might dramatically improve teaching and learning, and schools frequently acquire digital devices without discrete learning goals and ultimately use these devices in ways that fail to adequately serve students, schools, or taxpayers.

Are Schools Getting a Big Enough Bang for Their Education Technology Buck?
By Ulrich Boser | June 14, 2013
Center for American Progress

Buying technology – business v. schools
Response to administrator technology memo
John D on flipped classrooms and board policy
Wrong track
“Our goal”
The digital natives are restless
Flipped classrooms (and more) in IUFSD
Email from an NYU student on his experience in a flipped classroom


Dear Kris, Raina, and Jesse:

I’m writing to share my response to the “Technology Think Tank” memo discussed at last Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting (1/28/2014).

I’d like to begin by saying that my comments are directed to our administrative team, not to volunteers who’ve given their time and energy to the task of thinking through the role of technology in our district. Their efforts are freely given and much appreciated.

The memo delivered to the board last Tuesday is, in my view, problematic in three areas:

  • Evidence and argument
  • Consideration of costs, including effects of “technology” on health
  • The memo’s use of an “inputs” model of educational quality

Evidence and argument

Ironically, Tuesday night’s Common Core presentation included discussion of the Common-Core requirement that middle-school students “acknowledge alternate or opposing claims.”

This standard is not met by the Think Tank memo, which makes no mention of alternate claims or of peer-reviewed research contradicting the memo’s assertions. Indeed, the memo reads very much like a manifesto, not a reasoned analysis.

No mention is made of the long and disappointing history of “technology” in the schools, documented by Stanford education professor Larry Cuban in Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom.

No mention is made of research showing the drawbacks of reading on screen. (A good place to start: You won’t remember this article, or anything else you read online, unless you print it out).

And no consideration is given to the district’s own recent experience with “infusing” technology into the classroom, which is directly relevant to any new technology initiatives we might undertake.

As you know, shortly after the district completed construction of a new middle school equipped with built-in computer projector systems in every classroom, the administration scrapped the projector systems and commenced installation of Smart Boards—which performed exactly the same tasks the computer-projector systems performed but at many times the cost. e.g.: I recall, at the time, Smart Board light bulbs going for $400 apiece, compared to perhaps forty dollars for projector light bulbs.

The selling point for Smart Boards was that they had touch screens. But the touch screens failed so frequently that my son’s Earth Science teacher was forced to halt her class repeatedly in order to recalibrate the screen. Finally she gave up and used the Smart Board as a very expensive computer projector system.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t an optimal solution, either, because the Smart Boards crashed a lot. One of my son’s teachers took to telling his students that the “Smart Board gods” determined whether and when his classroom Smart Board would actually work.

Needless to say, the time teachers spent rebooting the Smart Board and recalibrating the Smart Board screen was time they could not spend teaching.

None of this recent history is acknowledged in the memo, and no thought is given to making sure it doesn’t happen again.

No consideration of costs, including negative effects on health

There are very few unalloyed positives in life. Hence the pro-and-con list.

This principle may be especially true of technological advances, which seem always to create new problems in the process of solving old ones. The industrial revolution brought pollution and global warming; the internet brought cyberbullying and the NSA. As far as I can tell, this is to be expected.

The potential costs, including the financial costs, of making iPads and Chromebooks as ubiquitous in our classrooms as paper and pencil are not considered or even acknowledged in the memo.

Perhaps most troubling, the memo does not address the health effects of increased exposure to blue light in the evening, which I think we should assume would result from a movement away from textbooks to iPads and Chromebooks. (See: “‘Blue Light’ May Impair Students’ Sleep” by Sarah Sparks, Education Week Vol. 33 Issue 14.)

Blue light is a significant health issue. New research finds that blue light affects even the blind. (Blue Light Stimulates Cognitive Brain Activity in Visually Blind Individuals, Gilles Vandewalle, et al).

Inputs, not outputs

Finally, the memo hews strictly to an “inputs” model of educational quality: quality is defined in terms of the things we do and buy, not in terms of the things students learn and achieve.

No consideration is given to what the “outputs” of making computer technology ubiquitous in our classrooms are likely to be.

Will students learn more?

Learn more quickly?

Will teachers’ lives be made easier?

Speaking as an instructor myself, I can tell you that educational technology often makes life harder for teachers, not easier, as the leaked email from a former IUFSD union president attested a couple of years ago (in reference to the time-consuming task of entering data to e-schools, as I recall).

The memo’s unblinking focus on inputs must count as a missed opportunity, because in fact “technology” may have an important role to play both in increasing student learning and in making teacher’s lives easier (making teachers’ work more efficient, that is to say).

Neither better learning nor greater efficiency will result from a bulk purchase of iPads and Chromebooks, however. We know this from the results of other districts’ bulk purchases of iPads and laptops, which have produced no gains in achievement or apparent efficiency. (A representative headline in the Times: “In Classroom of the Future, Stagnant Scores” | Matt Richtel | 9/3/2011. The accompanying photograph shows four children clustered in front of a Smart Board. And see: Are Schools Getting a Big Enough Bang for Their Education Technology Buck? by Ulrich Boser | June 14, 2013 | Center for American Progress.)

Ignoring the “technology” that actually shows potential

At present, the most promising use of technology in the schools appears to be its capacity to serve as an automated homework assigner and assessor. Stuart S. Yeh’s Raising Student Achievement Through Rapid Assessment And Test Reform is an important book here, one that I hope the Think Tank will read and consider.

My family has experienced this form of educational technology firsthand. At Fordham Prep, our son’s physics teacher created a homework system using Moodle, a platform  free of charge to educators. Students did their homework in the customary manner, using paper and pencil (a superb technology that has endured to this day precisely because it is so simple and reliable).

But they accessed the daily problem sets from their teacher’s Moodle site, which graded each problem the instant they entered their answers. If an answer was wrong, students could be given the first one or two steps of the solution and go from there; they could also ask for and be provided as many extra-practice problems of the same type as they wished to do. The program included a dashboard that allowed the teacher to see at a glance who had done the homework and how each student had fared. If numerous students missed a problem, the teacher could re-teach the next day.

Our son liked the system very much, and we never heard a complaint from his friends. The teacher was happy with the set-up, too. (We had a long conversation with him on the subject.)

There are today numerous programs of this type on the market—including programs that can recognize and respond to certain aspects of grammar and writing. (I would dearly love to have access to the latter for my own teaching.) I don’t know whether any of these programs would in fact increase learning or decrease demands on teacher time, but Yeh’s research gives us reason to believe they might. Certainly, ‘rapid assessment’ software makes sense in a way further hardware purchases do not.

Moreover, because few IUFSD teachers collect and correct homework (at least in my experience), rapid-assessment software potentially fills a significant gap in our educational programs.

But on this subject, too, the memo is silent, making no mention of rapid-assessment software or of the research supporting its use. Because the memo focuses exclusively on inputs, the potential value of rapid-assessment software to Irvington teachers and students is given no consideration.

I hope that task will be taken up soon.

Thank you for listening –


Buying technology – business v. schools
Response to administrator technology memo
John D on flipped classrooms and board policy
Wrong track
“Our goal”
The digital natives are restless
Flipped classrooms (and more) in IUFSD
Email from an NYU student on his experience in a flipped classroom
IEF #25 Off Cycle Grant Request – Expanding the Possibilites of
..Learning Through Technology Rich Classrooms – 2013-14

• SUPERINTENDENT: Curriculum should be infused with technology
• CURRICULUM: I am a child-centered professional
• TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR: Jesse Lubinsky, Technology Director, Twitter feed
• TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR: Jesse Lubinsky, NY ETech Ed blog

Excerpt from Sandra Stotsky’s The Death and Resurrection of a Coherent Literature Curriculum:


The Brearley School is a highly regarded private school for academically strong girls in Manhattan. Brearley’s intellectually rigorous and coherent literature curriculum is the kind of curriculum that should be available in our public schools to a majority of students starting in grade 8 or 9. The amont of writing done and responded to by teachers in thie particular private school may well reflect the low teacher-student ratios that high tuition makes possible, but the rationale for the titles assigned is independent of tuition costs.

Grade 6

  • Folk Tales (summer reading continued into the fall): A large number are read and a few are selected for class discussion. They include: “The Valiant Chattee-Maker” (Indian), “The Young Head of the Family” (Chinese), and “The Wonderful Tar-Baby” (African-American).
  • Ballads: Five Scottish ballads—“Sir Patrick Spens,” “Edward, Edward,” “Mary Hamilton,” “The Twa Corbies,” and “Barbra Allen,” the last two having available English counterparts.
  • Book of Genesis, King James Version, with some abridgement.
  • Greek mythology, based on selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, The Iliad, and The Homeric Hymns.
  • The Odyssey

The grade 6 curriculum, like the curricula of other grades, is the product of the collective wisdom of many teachers over many years. All Brearley teachers teach at three or four different grade levels simultaneously. While such variety refreshes the teacher, it serves a more important purpose. It means that students receive instruction from teachers who know what their students will go on to learn and what they have already learned; texts read in one grade can be confidently referred to in another grade.

Brearley’s middle school literature curriculum (part 1)
Brearley’s middle school literature curriculum (part 2)

From the Core Knowledge sequence for Grade 8:

Note: The poems listed here constitute a selected core of poetry for this grade. You are encouraged to expose students to more poetry, old and new, and to have students write their own poems. Students should examine some poems in detail, discussing what the poems mean as well as asking questions about the poet’s use of language.

  • Buffalo Bill’s (e.e. cummings)
  • Chicago (Carl Sandburg)
  • Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night (Dylan Thomas)
  • How do I love thee? (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
  • How They Brought the Good News From Ghent to Aix (Robert Browning)
  • I dwell in possibility; Apparently with no surprise (Emily Dickinson)
  • The Lake Isle of Innisfree (William B. Yeats)
  • Lucy Gray (or Solitude); My Heart Leaps Up (William Wordsworth) Mending Wall; The Gift Outright (Robert Frost)
  • Mr. Flood’s Party (Edward Arlington Robinson)
  • Polonius’s speech from Hamlet, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be…” (William Shakespeare)
  • Ozymandias (Percy Bysshe Shelley)
  • Sonnet 18, “Shall I compare thee. . .” (William Shakespeare) Spring and Fall (Gerald Manley Hopkins)
  • A Supermarket in California (Allen Ginsberg) Theme for English B (Langston Hughes)
  • We Real Cool (Gwendolyn Brooks)


  • Review:
  • Meter
  • Iamb
  • Rhyme scheme
  • Free verse
  • Couplet
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Alliteration
  • Assonance
  • Review:
  • Forms:
  • Ballad
  • Sonnet
  • Lyric
  • Narrative
  • Limerick
  • Haiku stanzas and refrains
  • Types of rhyme:
  • End
  • Internal
  • Slant
  • Eye
  • Metaphor and simile, including extended and mixed metaphors
  • Imagery, symbol, personification
  • Allusion
  • Review:
  • Forms: ballad, sonnet, lyric, narrative, limerick, haiku
  • Stanzas and refrains
  • Types of rhyme: end, internal, slant, eye
  • Metaphor and simile
  • Extended and mixed metaphors
  • Imagery, symbol, personification

Fiction, Nonfiction, and Drama

  • “The Bet” (Anton Chekov)
  • “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
  • “God Sees the Truth But Waits” (Leo Tolstoy)
  • “An Honest Thief” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  • “The Open Boat” (Stephen Crane)


  • Animal Farm (George Orwell)
  • The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)


  • Review:
  • Plot and setting
  • Theme
  • Point of view in narration: omniscient narrator, unreliable narrator, third person limited, first person
  • Conflict: external and internal suspense and climax
  • Characterization
  • As delineated through a character’s thoughts, words, and deeds; through the narrator’s description; and through what other characters say
  • Flat and round; static and dynamic motivation
  • Protagonist and antagonist
  • Tone and diction


  • “Ask not what your country can do for you” (John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address)
  • “I have a dream”; “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
  • “Death of a Pig” (E. B. White)
  • “The Marginal World” (Rachel Carson)

Note: See also History 8: The Kennedy Years, re J. F. Kennedy; The Civil Rights Movement, re M. L. King, Jr.; and, Emergence of Environmentalism, re Rachel Carson.

  • Selections (such as chapters 2 and 16) from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou)


  • Twelfth Night (William Shakespeare)


  • Review:
  • Tragedy and comedy
  • Aspects of conflict, suspense, and characterization soliloquies and asides
  • Farce and satire
  • Aspects of performance and staging
  • Actors and directors
  • Sets, costumes, props, lighting, music presence of an audience


  • Irony: verbal, situational, dramatic
  • Flashbacks and foreshadowing
  • Hyperbole, oxymoron, parody

Core Knowledge ELA (poems, stories, fables): Grade 1
Core Knowledge ELA (assigned reading & topics of study): Grade 8
The Brearley School’s English literature program, gr6-8 (part 1)

The unit on Scottish ballads, which students must read aloud, legitimizes so-called ‘misspellings,’ as in the opening to “Sir Patrick Spens”:

The king sits in Dumferling tone,
Drinking the blude-reid wine,
“O what call I get guid sailor,
To sail this scrip of mine?”

Students enjoy pronouncing the Scottish “r” and the now-silent “k” and guttural “gh” in “knight.” More important, since words need to be looked at very closely in the pronunciation of such sounds and often analogized to make their meaning clear, reading ballads aloud forces students to pay close attention to each word and phrase, such attention being precisely the skill they will need when they begin to look at more sophisticated literary texts.

The ballads themselves are highly dramatic—full of murder and betrayal—and highly elliptical, with plot elements that must be inferred. Such reading material turns students into little Inspector Clouseaus, training them to read between the lines, to make inferences from the evidence before them—what was the “counsel” given Edward by his “mither”?–who murdered the “new-slain knight”?—and to find corroborative evidence within the rest of the ballad for whatever conclusions they reach. Comparing two versions of the same ballad provides additional experience in close reading.

Students then read a somewhat abridged version of the King James Book of Genesis, taught as a narrative rather than a religious text.

The Death and Resurrection of a Coherent Literature Curriculum by Sandra Stotsky

Core Knowledge ELA (poems, stories, fables): Grade 1
Core Knowledge ELA (assigned reading & topics of study): Grade 8
Brearley’s middle school literature curriculum (part 1)
Brearley’s middle school literature curriculum (part 2)


  • Hope (Langston Hughes)
  • I Know All the Sounds the Animals Make (Jack Prelutsky)
  • My Shadow (Robert Louis Stevenson)
  • The Owl and the Pussycat (Edward Lear)
  • The Pasture (Robert Frost)
  • The Purple Cow (Gelett Burgess)
  • Rope Rhyme (Eloise Greenfield)
  • Sing a Song of People (Lois Lenski)
  • Solomon Grundy (traditional)
  • The Swing (Robert Louis Stevenson)
  • Table Manners [also known as “The Goops”] (Gelett Burgess)
  • Thanksgiving Day [“Over the river and through the wood”] (Lydia Maria Child)


  • The Boy at the Dike (folktale from Holland)
  • The Frog Prince
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • selections from The House at Pooh Corner (A. A.Milne)
  • How Anansi Got Stories from the Sky God (folktale from West Africa)
  • It Could Always Be Worse (Yiddish folktale)
  • Jack and the Beanstalk
  • The Knee-High Man (African-American folktale)
  • Medio Pollito (Hispanic folktale)
  • The Pied Piper of Hamelin
  • Pinocchio
  • The Princess and the Pea
  • Puss-in-Boots
  • Rapunzel
  • Rumpelstiltskin
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter)
  • Tales of Br’er Rabbit (recommended tales: Br’er Rabbit Gets Br’er Fox’s Dinner; Br’er Rabbit Tricks Br’er Bear; Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby)
  • Why the Owl Has Big Eyes (Native American legend)


  • The Boy Who Cried Wolf
  • The Dog in the Manger
  • The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
  • The Maid and the Milk Pail
  • The Fox and the Grapes
  • The Goose and the Golden Eggs

Teachers: To give students a sense that people all around the world tell certain stories that, while they differ in details, have much in common, introduce students to similar folktales from different lands, such as the following:
Lon Po Po (China) and Little Red Riding Hood
Issun Boshi, or One-Inch Boy (Japan); Tom Thumb (England); Thumbelina (by the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen); Little Finger of the Watermelon Patch (Vietnam)
Some of the many variations on the Cinderella story (from Europe, Africa, China, Vietnam, Egypt, Korea, etc.)

Source: Core Knowledge | Grade 1 | Scope and sequence

Core Knowledge ELA (poems, stories, fables): Grade 1
Core Knowledge ELA (assigned reading & topics of study): Grade 8
The Brearley School’s English literature program, gr6-8 (part 1)