Meeting the DuFours!

Last week my principal came into my room to ask me if I would be interested in attending a Principal's Academy conference with him where Rick and Becky DuFour would be speaking. For the uninitiated, Rick and Becky DuFour are the big names in Professional Learning Communities (PLC). A PLC is a collaborative community of school personnel that works together to ensure that not only does every child learn, but also that when they don't learn, there is a systematic process in place to help them learn. Aside from technology integration in schools, this is what education should be all about. I would even say that if I had to choose between the two, I would take PLCs without even thinking about. When I served as director of Academic Activities at BYU-Idaho, I started on this path. Though I didn't have the same words for these ideas way back then, the idea of a PLC and collaboration amongst teachers is what pushed me over the edge to become a teacher. If you would like more info about PLCs, please go to

Rick DuFour has a great sense of humor, and it showed in his book, and in this presentation today. He jumped into different accents on numerous occasions and told humorous anecdotes to get his point across. I would try to reproduce one verbatim here, but I would only butcher it, and if I can find a recording or even the written anecdote, I will certainly post it.

Briefly, he talked about an eye surgeon giving his sister a painful and dangerous operation to fix her vision that would take a year to complete for both eyes. Then he wanted his eyes fixed just 7 years ago. The doctor had Lasik eye surgery by then and said he would be zapped a couple times with lasers, and then be at 20/20 vision in just 72 hours. DuFour said that if the doctor had done the same procedure that was done to his sister, he probably could have sued him for malpractice, since the technology and skills and best practices had been discovered by this time. He likened that to teaching: the research shows that collaborative teams show significant gains in student achievement--as a teacher, do not commit malpractice by not doing what research shows is the best thing to do to help kids learn.

Here are the Big ROCKS that I got from the meeting today:
  • Teachers need time to stop and think. (Much of the following will come if teachers can actually stop and think about what they are doing.)
  • What we teach is the same across our grade level team
  • How we teach it is and must be individual
  • Intended curriculum is what the state (or other body) wants us to teach
  • Implemented curriculum is what actually gets taught. There is a difference!!!
  • Teachers need to commit to being actively involved and doing what needs to be done in a PLC. (In the words of my principal, "we aren't just going to have people 'mail it in.'"
  • Say NO to averages
  • Extra help and tutoring for struggling students is no longer optional (build it in to the time they are at school. No more after-school tutoring! AMEN!)
  • Celebrating is like voting: do them both early and often.
  • "The one thing leaders of any organization must know to be effective is the importance of clarity--communicating clearly and consistently:
    • the purpose of the organization,
    • the primary clients it serves
    • the future it is creating
    • the indicators of progress it will track, and
    • the specific actions members can take immediately to achieve its long-term purpose and short-term goals." -Marcus Buckingham
At the end of the conference, my principal asked, "Are you truly willing to let this impact your classroom practice and be a leader and an example to others at our school to push us the rest of the way toward a PLC?"

Yes, I will.

Have a Good Life.

TechnoThursdays Session 3

Below you will find the video for session 3 of TechnoThursdays. It is about 30 minutes long. We are talking about Google Video. The first part is muted, since we were watching a video, and it would just give an echo loop if I didn't mute, it, so push play here, then go watch this video on YouTube.

During TechnoThursdays, we talk about how to make our lives easier as teachers. Sometimes, I feel like I am just confusing the heck out of everyone there. This was a really rough week for me. I had a LOT of stuff going on with school and work and work and family and church (yes, work was repeated twice on there, remember, I got a second job!). I didn't get to plan for this session as much as I would have liked to, and that frustrates me. I felt rushed the entire time. The majority of people did say that they didn't want TechnoThursdays to last more than an hour at the most, so I was trying to keep it relatively short. I had a lot to get through, and I think that it was difficult for them to keep up, because I was really going fast. I need to remember to slow down and make it useful for them. If I don't, nobody will want to come anymore.

For the first session, I took the time to put myself in their shoes and tried to figure out the questions that they would likely ask me. This week, I just didn't do that. I forgot to ask a key question, and that made it very difficult. One teacher requested that TechnoThursdays help her use technology to more effectively teach math. When I read that comment in the survey from the first session, I thought about it briefly, but didn't put the time in that I needed to. I need to take the time to adequately prepare. (Hopefully, she doesn't read this and see that I am screwing up already!!!)

Next week I am going to talk about blogs. I am going to talk about them as a way for teachers to update their students, or remind their students what they did in class. My team science teacher has a blog that she updates regularly for her students. I will use that one as an example. I am going to suggest that they include some extra credit assignments on there to help kids get in the habit of checking. Blogs also function as a great communication tool with parents. Parents could leave comments on the blog and ask questions or make a mockery of the teacher (let's hope not, right?).

I will also mention using blogs as a reflective tool, like a journal. I don't know which is harder: writing a blog as a journal, or as an informational piece. What do you think? I use this blog as a reflective journal, so I am not surprised at all if nobody reads or comments. I do believe that a blog can be a very effective way for a person to reflect. I think that putting it out there where someone could stumble upon it forces you to think about what you are writing.

Well, here is to wishing that session 4 will be better than session 3.

Have a Good Life.

Creepily Realistic Robot

A 2nd Job to Support My Habit

I got another job again. This one is better than delivering donuts (which I did last fall). I am the newest member of the gang at The Apple Blog. I will be writing articles that relate to Apple products. If you subscribe or visit this blog often, please consider visiting and/or subscribing to that blog. I will try to give an educational slant to most of my articles over there.

My first article over there is about TubeTV--a program that downloads and converts online videos for iPod, iPhone, and AppleTV. I really like that program and I use it all the time. It is especially useful for teachers.

Thanks for supporting me here (and there), and don't worry, I will continue this blog.

New York Public Library

So, another cool thing I found on the Frogpond is the New York Public Library website that has digital prints of thousands of pictures. This would be great for Matt! who is always looking for more stuff that has to do with Utah Studies. I didn't look through all of them, but there were 8 pages of images from searching Utah. Here are two that I got from there. Very cool. Visit New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

Great Salt Lake, Utah. Digital ID: 55069. New York Public Library

Interior of Mormon Tablernacle... Digital ID: 1160528. New York Public Library

I just joined a website called I found out about it through the frogpond. It is basically like geocaching, but with books. You place books at different places around you and you can find other books that people left as well. If anyone has any experience with this, let me know.

Visit Book Crossing

Friday Fun Pi

It's cool to vandalize public property if you are teaching math!

TechnoThursdays Session 1

First of all, thanks to Pamela, Matt, Marcia, Jeff, Kara, Angela, Linda, and Pam for coming to TechnoThursdays today. I enjoyed working with each of you and I hope that you enjoyed learning some new things.

We talked about RSS. I showed the Common Craft Show video "RSS in Plain English."

Here are my thoughts. There were seven people there: that was a great number. Not too many, not too few.

I love technology, and I spend a lot of time figuring out how to use it to help me be a better teacher. Of course I get frustrated when things don't work, but I understand that sometimes it doesn't go as planned. My biggest fear with doing TechnoThursdays is that people will be put off by the learning curve of new technology. It always takes a while to learn new things, and if you don't have the commitment to seeing it through to make sure that it is or is not worthwhile, it is very easy to give up.

How can I help these teachers push through the learning curve and make it through?

Right now, I don't know, but I have a few ideas:
  • I need to help them see how it is useful. They need to see that kids are achieving better because of what I am doing. This is a hard one to measure. In language arts, it is difficult to see. I need to find/create some assessments that will show that what I do helps my students.
  • I started the session by showing them the things that I have done this year with technology. I went through those examples very fast; I thought I might overwhelm them with everything that I have done. I didn't even get to all that I have done. If I go a bit slower, talk about one thing, and let them ask questions about it, I think they will like that better. They can go on their own time and get a brief history on the wiki. I need to be there to talk about the experience.
  • I need to show them that it helps them. RSS brings websites to them. This will save them time, help them get new information (through sharing, which we also set up), and do other things. I helped a teacher set up student of the month nominations through Google Docs new survey form, and I really hope that it will make her job easier.
I hope that these three simple things work. If you have any other ideas for me, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Have a Good Life.

Senteo Clickers

I use iClickers in my Politics class down at BYU, and it they are pretty nice. Last week I learned about SmartTechnology's Senteo system which is pretty neat. The video below will give you a taste of it.

The nice thing about it that there are so many possibilities with it. Here is a video of the action with my students participating. So, here is the neat thing: at our school, we are supposed to give assessments and analyze the data. They want us to do really in-depth data analysis. This spreadsheet shows what Senteo exports. This is great because if you make these lists (which I am not sure how to do) you can show only those who missed certain questions, or those who got certain questions right. It is really neat.

With these spreadsheets, you can see how well you teach certain topics, see how you need to improve, see if a question is throwing everybody off. You can also find students that are doing really poorly, and figure out how to differentiate instruction for them.

Have a Good Life.

Courageous, Collaborative Leadership

Yesterday I attended the Utah Middle Level Association Conferece entitled "Sailing the Rough Water Years: Straight Jacket or Life Jacket?" I know, I am all conferenced out. My wife is sick of me going to conferences on Saturday also. I attended the session by Patti Kinney with the same title as this blog post. The really interesting thing about the session was that it was geared toward administrators and so the makeup of the room for the double-session session was about 1/3 old people (near retirement, if not past it), 1/3 experienced people, and then 1/3 very young people. One thing that Kinney talked about was the four generations in the workplace: the traditionals (b. 1900-45), the boomers (b. 1946-64), the Xers (b. 1965-81), the millenials (b. 1982-2002). So, to put it in her terms room was about 1/3 traditionals, 1/3 boomers and 1/3 Xers. I am so close to being a millenial, and I am pretty sure I was the youngest person in there. But, alas, I am a gen Xer, apparently, though I don't know what that means--but according to her graphic I have spiked hair, a spikey choker, earrings, and I stick my tongue out all the time. Who knew?

There are three things that I want to talk about regarding her presentation: first, pay attention; second, courage; and third, a research project.

First, I posted about a video last year sometime and I will embed the updated version here:

Kinney showed this video in a session with a bunch of administrators who are not typically into technology. Karl Fisch created this video to talk to his faculty about incorporating technology into their teaching. It was very interesting to watch it with a bunch of admins. Very different way to look at it. After it was over, she had us discuss in small groups this question: What does this mean for what we are teaching our students? Nobody mentioned technology, but they did mention teaching skills and not just feeding them information. I tied informational and technological literacy into that as well. We must also teach them how to teach themselves. They need to know how to learn on their own.

Second, she talked about how leaders need courage to lead. There are many times
where a leader needs to exhibit courage even when it is not the most popular course of action. Courage is derived from the French word couer which means heart. She said that at the heart of every school there needs to be a leader with courage...or something like that. As I will most likely be a vice principal before I am ever a principal, I think that it will take a lot of courage to disagree with my principal. Sometimes, there are things that a principal feels strongly about but just don't work. It is important to have the courage to say, "This sucks!"

Marzano, Walters and McNulty did some research and published it in School Leadership that Works and Kinney spoke very briefly to that research. There are 21 leadership responsibilities that impact student achievement. The top three are situational awareness, flexibility, and discipline. I have a hard time believing this. I am also concerned that this is not what I am learning my ed leadership classes. I find it hard to believe that those three are more impactful than some others like monitoring/evaluating, culture, communication, or some of the others. As I said, she only talked about it very briefly, so there is a lot that I was missing. Maybe I should read the book ;).

All in all, I thought she did a pretty good job presenting, and hopefully I can use some of this stuff.

Have a Good Life.

David Warlick @ The LIteracy Promises Conference

This page acts as my notes for his presentation, so please excuse any poor wording or bad grammar.

I am amazed at how connected David Warlick tries to make his presentations. We can edit his handouts (passy: teacher), be involved in a live chat during his presentation (he invites us to pass notes while he is talking), and access his outline also. Here is a pretty cool presentation of his...uh...presentation

Taking a cellphone to the grocery store is the new grocery list.

We need to teach literacy, and not technology.

URL backtracing - delete up to the last / and it will hopefully direct you to a parent webpage. He did a neat example showing that the publisher of a Martin Luther King Jr. website was actually a white supremacist group. This is an important thing to teach our kids. It is good for evaluating our sources.

He just use earthquake data to make a map of the world...Amazing. I need to learn how to do that. ANSS data from 12/1/4 to 12/31/4 importing it into Excel and then making a scatterplot. It was very cool. is where he published his books. 1 hour after it was written, it was available for purchase. The site asks how much you want to make on the book, and then it gets it all ready and prints it on demand. This would be a great way to create a book written by students. So cool.

Great presentation. I am glad I stayed for it.

Have a Good Life.


I found this polling site and thought I would try it out. I think it is pretty cool.

The Literacy Promise Conference

I attended the Literacy Promise Conference today. It is sponsored by the Brigham Young University CITES program. I just realized that my computer shut down while I was coming home from the conference and all the notes I took are gone. Drat!!!

This poet named Brod Bagert from New Orleans (3 syllables) spoke to us and he was amazing. He read a lot of his poems and the way that he performed was so inspiring. Here is a link to the recording that I made. This is the cool part of the story. When he started introducing the poem "Booger Love" I thought it would be a great one to record. But, the only recording software I have on my compy is Garageband, and I have not had much success with that. So, I invoked Quicksilver and did a Google search for Audacity, which I had heard about and tried to use before, but never got too far into it.
Bezel Interface

So, in the time that it took him to finish introducing the poem, I was able to download the program, install it, open it, and start recording him. This is why I like Macs. If I had my PC laptop, this never would have been possible. I would have taken way too many steps to get there, and there would be a 95% chance that the program wouldn't work (that is experience talking, by the way, we have had very little success with recording or capturing sound or video on that computer). Also, the battery would have been dead at that point (45 minutes into the conference) and I would have had a hard writing surface to capture the essence of his presentation.

The only thing that vexes me is that I wasn't able to record video with the iSight camera. That would have been better because his performance was not just his voice. So, if anyone knows of an easy free way to do that, please let me know.

By the way, here are my takeaways from the presentation (actual education stuff, imagine that):
  1. Perform poetry to your students and they will start to actually like poetry.
  2. If they like poetry, they will start to write it as a natural step.
  3. If they write it themselves, then you won't have to assign stupid haiku's.
  4. Poetry should be loved and studied just like sports, music, technology, or any other passion that someone possesses. This is key--study and love poetry because you deserve it.
Great presentation. I bought four books (on Amazon ;)

Have a Good Life.

Twitter Update

I am surprised that I have already updated on Twitter 500 times! I didn't think that I had used it that much, but I have. I really like it. I have learned so much it is just crazy. There are a lot of people floating good ideas around. I would really like to have documented everything that I have learned, but there is just so much that I have learned, I wouldn't even know where to begin.

Have a Good Life.

What the?

The class with the worst behavior is sitting there working and has been working since I told them to start working. AMAZING! I didn't think that it was possible, but they are all reading their books just like they should. Nobody is goofing off, and they are all doing what they should. This never happens. It probably helps that a bunch of people are absent, but I think it is also because I am letting them read out loud in groups. They are doing just what they should. Awesome. They like reading out loud more than to themselves even though I think it is harder. This group of kids, though, I think they just like interacting with other people.

Have a Good Life.