ThinkThankThunk

Dealing with the fear of being a boring teacher.

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Standards-Based Grading: Why Now?

I was in Missouri this week working with an amazing group of teachers just outside of St. Louis. They were interested in grading, and you could tell their administration had really raked the coals on some smoldering issues with assessment (like my favorite question) And that’s all this is, isn’t it? I mean, I got…

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Is this ‘u’? Is this ‘u’ too?

I’ve been really watching out for ways to tell when my students are using the abstraction smokescreen. That’s a term I just made up, so let me define it: the head-nodding affirmation that a student does when you’re talking too many rungs above their current abstraction level and they don’t want to “look stupid.” Obviously,…

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Standards-Based Grading: And It Begins

I’m not going to say I told you so, but… It begins: the inevitable backlash against SBG now that it has gone from a grass-roots, classroom-by-classroom implementation for the good of the students to district-wide initiatives with all of the mass communication pitfalls therein. This is really personal for me. My emergence into what I…

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Examples of Abstration in Math Education (with Failures)

There are some problems that just grab you. I’m not sure why, but they end up operating in the background sapping processing power away from your daily tasks. I don’t mean predicting primes or finding inverted eigenstates, I mean silly little things akin to the triangle-in-a-box from A Mathematician’s Lament. Recently, I was sitting at…

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Whoa, Whoa, Whoa: Competency-Based Education is NOT Standards-Based Grading

Turns out that the unflappable Matt Townsley already wrote this post… mine has Keanu? Jargon jargon jargon. I used to malign the use of education jargon, that is until one of my students at BIG started a project in immuno-oncology; oh my, the medical field is jargonified. All asides aside, we have a serious problem…

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cat watermelon lake
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Norms (Cheers, Assessment, Otherwise)

I didn’t want to be a teacher. Not even a little bit. Education as an institution is predominantly lame, filled with motivational posters that have never motivated anyone, and littered with people repeating patterns that don’t actually result in meaningful student products. But I love helping people who want to learn and do something. That’s…

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The Quanta of Design Thinking

I’m spending this weekend with Sean Wheeler and Ken Kozar in Cleveland, OH talking about the Maker/Competency-based school they’re looking to start. The interest in creating education options within public school systems is heartening on a lot of levels. Selfishly, it proves that BIG isn’t a vanity project, but a real national movement. For students,…

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As BIG gets Bigger…

Here’s the elevator speech: BIG is a program that puts students in control in a way that highlights their interests and teaches them content in way that is as deeply rigorous as it is motivational. We believe in three things when it comes to project design: You must be asking a real question. Something someone…

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The Pain and the Glory: Running Iowa’s BIG Competency Based School

So, my professional life has been completely consumed with running BIG. No tweeting, no blogging here or at Edutopia (sadly), little for-fun programming, but it’s worth it. The model is so simple: do a project that is big, do it for an audience that extends well beyond the school’s walls, do it because you have to know, and…

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Energy Pie Chart Quiz: Cats!

While transitioning from my old classroom to my new gig, I found this gem in my piles files: Link to pdf. I loved this quiz when I wrote it, and I was tickled by the greatness of this student’s response. I really really like to introduce students to energy pie charts (shamelessly lifted from the…

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