Sunday, October 31, 2010

More on E-book Revolution

     I am closely following our transition from books to e-books.  It is happening faster than I could have imagined.  Much like the disappearance of record stores and movie rental stores, book stores are anticipating a similar fate.  "Quick Change In Strategy For a Bookseller" in the NYTimes caught my eye with these quotes:

  1. "In the first five months of 2009, e-books made up 2.9 percent of trade book sales. In the same period in 2010, sales of e-books, which generally cost less than hardcover books, grew to 8.5 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers, spurred by sales of the Amazon Kindle and the new Apple iPad."
  2. "Carolyn Reidy, the chief executive of Simon & Schuster, said in an interview that e-books currently made up about 8 percent of the company’s book revenue. She predicted that it could be as high as 40 percent within three to five years."
     Also found in the same paper is an article about author Pete Hamill - "Pete Hamill , Patriarch of Print, Goes Direct to Digital."  This well regarded, well read author will not be printing his next book, They Are Us, but will have it published digitally.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Learning Learning Differences

     Dr. Joyce Pickering, Executive Director Emeritus of the Shelton School in Dallas, Texas — the nation's largest private school for learning-different students — is someone you want to learn more about.  Having heard her in two different presentations this past week at the American Montessori Society Conference in San Diego, CA, I recommend you bring her to your school/area (Montessori and non-Montessori) to talk to your faculty and families. Here are the two sessions I heard:

What is a Learning Difference and How Does it Feel was very similar to Dr. Richard Lavoie’s “F.A.T City” video.  You can never really know how a child who has a learning difficulty feels until you experience either the DVD or Dr. Pickering’s talk.  Here is a link to the slides.

Science & Art: A Montessori Approach to Teaching Students with Varied Learning was her keynote address on traditional philosophies compared to the Montessori philosophy.  Dr. Pickering's eloquent and passionate presentation helped those assembled see the genius of Dr. Montessori’s approach. Here is a link to the slides.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Carefully Teaching Children

     I bumped into two beautiful resources that send a distinct message of helping us understand the subtleties of how we unwittingly teach prejudice to our children.  Contained in author Ashley Bryan’s African Tales, Uh-Huh, a compilation of short fables, one beautiful story “Why Frog and Snake Never Play Together,” shows how ingrained family practices are passed on from one generation to another.
     Such is the case with the moving and graphic song from South Pacific, “You Have to Be Carefully Taught.”  Click over and read the prophetic lyrics from Rogers and Hammerstein’s brilliant play.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Pacifier

     From time to time I will share one-page stories about kids, education, and parenting that I have written over the years.  Amusing but usually with a point, these pieces are a quick read.  Here's one on the pacifier.

     Maggie, the youngest Simpson, is the pacifier’s greatest champion.  Never speaking and whenever the camera focuses in on her face, Maggie is working the pacifier without stopping.  Wiggling between her cheeks, her pacifier makes a squeaking sound, and her eyes are wide, taking in all that is going on around her.  Her work is identical to the many toddlers I see passing through our school doors or those riding on the subway in their parent’s arms or in a stroller on the street.  

     Known by its Latin name, binkius pacivium, the pacifier has provided little ones comfort after a satisfying meal, or during a relaxing nap or while their parents are busy, or during a long car ride. . . more

Saturday, October 16, 2010

How Good is Montessori Mathematics?

     Manipulatives in mathematics have been consistently good for teaching children mathematics.  Montessori mathematics is known for using manipulatives from the youngest children to middle school students.  Here is an excerpt from a study that was initiated by the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) USA:

"A significant finding in this study is the association between a Montessori education and superior performance on the Math and Science scales of the ACT and WKCE [Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination]. In essence, attending a Montessori program from the approximate ages of three to eleven predicts significantly higher mathematics and science standardized test scores in high school."
     Click here to access the entire study "Outcomes for Students in a Montessori Program."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


     With a mission of "To educate, expose and entertain the little minds in our lives - one day at a time." GoGoNews is a neat kid-oriented website resource that describes itself as . . .
"GoGoNews was born out of a desire to inform children of the world around them in an educational and non- threatening way. Since its inception 4 years ago, GoGoNews has provided children with general knowledge as well as a consciousness and awareness of the world regardless of geography or culture. GoGoNews provides parents and educators with subject matter to start a conversation with children and a safe means by which to deal with the harsh realities of the world we live in."
Give it a click and see what you think.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Hole In The Wall

"Education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems of education — the best teachers and schools don't exist where they're needed most. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching.
Sugata Mitra's "Hole in the Wall" experiments have shown that, in the absence of supervision or formal teaching, children can teach themselves and each other, if they're motivated by curiosity."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Research on Study Habits of Children & Adults

     “Every September, millions of parents try a kind of psychological witchcraft, to transform their summer-glazed campers into fall students, their video-bugs into bookworms. Advice is cheap and all too familiar: Clear a quiet work space. Stick to a homework schedule. Set goals. Set boundaries. Do not bribe (except in emergencies).”

     “The findings can help anyone, from a fourth grader doing long division to a retiree taking on a new language. But they directly contradict much of the common wisdom about good study habits, and they have not caught on.”

     “Of course, one reason the thought of testing tightens people’s stomachs is that tests are so often hard. Paradoxically, it is just this difficulty that makes them such effective study tools, research suggests.”

     Read more from this captivating article “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits” by Benedict Carey in the NYTimes Science Section.

Monday, October 4, 2010

34¢ ? Really?

     Technology continues to follow Moore's Law where the number of transistors per square inch on a microchip double every 18 months.  Three things happened that cause me to write this post.  

  1. Constant thoughts about how do we keep up with technology in our schools.
  2. I was listening to NPR's Morning Edition, and this one piece caught my ear.  "If China's Currency Rose, Would U.S. Get Jobs Back?"  It talked about how much cheaper it is to buy goods from China.
  3. I wanted to purchase an AC charger for my iPod, and I went to the Apple site.  There it was for $29.00.  "Aaah, let me try Amazon and see if they have it for less" was my next thought.  I found the AC charger with a DC charger AND connecting cable all for 34¢.  Right, 34¢!  Of course, shipping and handling was $2.53, but 34¢.

     I don't have to tell you that when I received the products, I was not surprised to see what country was stamped on each item.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Trustee Responsibility

     Here is a question and an especially eloquent response extracted from the NAIS Head of School Listserve.  I post this because it is a leadership question trustees and heads inevitably have to grapple with at some point in the life of a school.

THE QUESTION (Posed by the President of NAIS, Pat Bassett)

We’ve had the query below from a school head: Any responses would be appreciated.

I am the head of a PS - Grade 8 school in an area where our independent secondary schools begin at a variety of grades including before grade 8. Our graduates typically do well in any of the schools they choose whether they start in grade nine or earlier. I am wondering if those of you in similar situations have any expectations set for trustees, faculty, or administration whereby their children complete the program at your school and begin secondary schools in grade 9.  Thank you for your input.


THE RESPONSE (Posed by a head of school)


This had been an item at our school for many years.  We are Prek-12 and over time there have been board members who have taken their children out after 8th grade for a variety of reasons: they want a bigger pond, need more athletics, want more rigor and the list goes on and on.  This invariably caused hurt feelings on the part of school people.  Teachers felt that we had made a huge investment in the child and then another school would reap the benefit and our Upper School teachers felt slighted.  From my perspective, I want trustees who bleed burgundy and white (our school colors) and I made it an issue with my board chair.  I felt that we needed trustees who would commit to our mission as a Prek-12 school.  The fact that I pressed the point did bring about some trustees resigning and others expressing deep resentment.  The matter was ultimately handed over to the Committee on Trustees and the group came up with a standard, which was not a rule that trustees had to keep their children in the school to graduation, but more of a query to each individual asking them if they were good ambassadors for the school.  Asking the question that way relieved the stigma and much of the tension.  Now when asked on their annual board evaluations if they are good ambassadors for the school, individuals have had to admit that if they don’t experience the complete range of our program, it does not put them in the best position to advocate for our school and without hard feelings those folks have decided to move on.

I hope this helps.