Monday, January 31, 2011

Survey Says...

A handful of interesting surveys have come to light in the past month. The surveys shed light on test stress, young kids and video games, and the impact ereaders have on the amount of reading people do.


Wether your choice of e-reader is Kindle, iPad, or Nook, chances are you are likely to read more and buy more books than people who don’t own an ereader. Twenty-one percent of Americans say they have not bought a single book in the past year, while only 8 percent of ereader users have not bought a book.

Percent who
read11+ books
a year
Percent who
read21+ books
a year
Percent who
have not bought
1 book in past year
Book Readers40 percent19 percent21 percent
Ereader Users36 percent26 percent8 percent

According to this survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 53 percent of people who own an ereader say they read more now than they did six months ago; only 18 percent of non-ereader owners say they are reading more. [read more]

While adults ages 18 and up were the subject of the Harris Interactive survey, might ereaders boost reading frequency among grade-school kids too? A 2010 survey by Scholastic indicates that technology could be a positive motivator to get kids reading; 57 percent of kids (age 9-17) say they are interested in reading an eBook, and a third of children age 9-17 say they would read more books for fun if they had access to eBooks on an electronic device. That includes kids who read 5-7 days per week (34%), 1 to 4 days per week (36%), and even those who read less than one day per week (27%). [read more]


University of Chicago researchers say that students who write about their fears before taking an exam perform better than students who do not write beforehand. “It’s getting negative thoughts and worries down on paper that seems to be the benefit,” says study co-author Sian Beilock, who is author of Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To. Giving students time to write about the stress they feel seems to “clear the working memory” of worries that might get in the way of test success, she added. [read more]


According to an online survey by Internet security firm AVG, young kids seem to be more adept at playing video games than they are at important life skills. While 58 percent of children ages two to five can play a basic computer game, only 20 percent can make an emergency phone call and 11 percent can tie their own shoelaces. Kids are mimicking their parents’ attachment to computers, so it is important that parents take responsibility for some digital training. “We need to look at making sure that we give our children a balanced life and a mix of both life skills and technical skills,” AVG’s Tony Anscombe told technology columnist Larry Magid. [read more]

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Principal Blogger Having ‘Tutu’ Much Fun

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving last year, Principal Rob Ackerman challenged students at Lt. Job Lane Elementary School in Bedford, Massachusetts, to bring in 1,000 books for needy children in the area. If students met the goal, Ackerman promised to give a very special performance in front of the student body.

So it was... when students met the goal, Ackerman was a man of his word. He even shared news and a video of his command performance in Mr. Ackerman’s Blog:
“We had our annual Holiday Concert yesterday. The kids were great!! As promised, I wore a tutu to thank the kids for bringing in 1,100 new books for needy children. Below is a snapshot video of the staff singing ‘12 Days of Christmas.’ I think you will agree that I could use a few more ballet lessons. I blame it on tight hamstrings.”

See video clips in Ackerman’s ‘I’m a Man of My Word’ blog entry, dated December 22, 2010.
Ackerman’s blog is just one tool he uses to keep the wider school community in touch with what’s going on at Lane Elementary. The brief blog snippets paint a picture of a school where students are engaged and having fun. And the entries and occasional pictures and video illustrate how communicating via a blog need not be a big challenge or a big time eater.

Ackerman decided to create a blog for two reasons. “One reason is that I don't like having to sit down each month to write a traditional -- boring -- newsletter that most parents don’t even read,” he told Education World. “The second reason is that we have so many easy-to-use tools for blogging that it just makes sense that principals use those tools to communicate.”

Schools often lag behind ‘the times’ when it comes to using the technology that the community is using, Ackerman added. “At some point I anticipate schools will develop their own ‘smartphone’ apps to enhance communication that much more.”

Ackerman says the feedback about his blog has been entirely positive. “More principals should get rid of the antiquated monthly newsletter and give parents updates that are more timely. If something happens in school that day that you want to share, why wait til the end of the month to point it out? Showcase it that day!”

Read More About Principal Blogs

Principals Blog to Share and Archive School News
While traditional newsletters can be overlooked and lost in bottomless bookbags, blogs are timely, accessible, and fun. Principals who use them say blogs are simple to set up and easy to update. Included: Tips for beginners from experienced principal bloggers.

Five Essential Tech Tools for Administrators: Part 2
In the second of a 3-part series on essential tools, IT expert Miguel Guhlin explores blogging. Of all the tools available, this one tool has the potential to bring about the most change in a principal’s learning and leading situation.

K-12 Blogs
This page contains resources related to K-12 blogging, including good sample blogs. Click the sidebar link of interest (e.g., Principal/School Blogs).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cool School Tool #6:
‘Time Monsters’ Teaches Kids to Tell Time

Telling time -- especially in this age of digital clocks -- can be a difficult skill for kids to pick up. But thanks to Professor Tempo and the gremlins that comprise Marc Gunderson’s Time Monsters Web site, many kids are successfully learning to figure out half-past and quarter-to.

The interactive Time Monsters site is a one-man labor of love. At first look, it might not overwhelm the eyes, but Gunderson's simple design belies its utter usefulness in the classroom or at home. The practical Time Monster lessons and quizzes will have kids telling time in no time!

Time Monsters is a cool tool worth sharing in your teacher and parent newsletters. The site is perfect for whole-class or one-on-one instruction. Teachers or parents can click the Lesson tab at the top of the page for quick access to lessons that teach specific time increments. The Quiz tab provides practice in telling any time increment; or teachers can use the Quizzes to create a telling-time game the whole class can play.

“My goal was to create a site that children could use without having to know how to read,” Gunderson told Education World. “Many children who are learning to tell time do not necessarily have the reading skills to use most telling-time tools. So the entire Time Monsters site is spoken and animated. It is the only site on the Internet that fully covers the complex concept of telling time without requiring an adult presence.”

The feedback has been incredible, added Gunderson. “The emails have made the months of work all worthwhile,” he said. He gets plenty of email from adults who tried for months to teach their kids to tell time; they thank him for creating such an easy-to-use tool. But he especially loves the email he gets from kids, like the emails that simply thank him for helping them learn to tell time or the email that said I lov you monsters. Thnk you

A new version of Time Monsters -- incorporating suggestions that Gunderson has received from teachers, parents, and kids as well as a new user interface -- will make its debut later this year.


  • It’s About Time: Teaching Students to Tell Time
  • More ‘Telling Time’ Lesson Plans


  • ‘Superteacher’ Site a Treasure for Teachers
  • 'Mouse Mischief' Gives Teachers Immediate Feedback
  • Kids Celebrate Earth With '100 Generations' Song
  • Stop the 'Summer Slide' With the Scholastic Summer Challenge
  • Geocaching Is 'Caching On' in Schools
  • Build Your Wild Self
  • Monday, January 10, 2011

    ‘Peace Keepers’ Program Brings
    School’s Totem Story to Life

    At Denali (Alaska) Elementary School, carvings on the playground’s totem pole tell a story that is familiar to all the school's students. The pole's bottom image is that of a panther, the school mascot. A raven, a common Alaskan species, is carved into the top of the pole. The story of the totem pole -- passed along by its carver -- describes how the panther has told the raven to spread the word about Love, Kindness, and Respect throughout the school, then the state and the world.

    That totem pole message is evidenced throughout the school in many ways, most prominently by 32 bright-orange vested fifth and sixth graders who are part of its Peace Keepers program. The program has been part of the school’s culture since counselor Max Wortman introduced it some years ago.

    “The program started as the Conflict Managers Program designed by the San Francisco-based Community Boards,” Wortman told Education World. “We changed the name to Peace Keepers to be more positive and to tie into our totem pole themes of Love, Kindness, and Respect.”

    The Peace Keepers program is open to all fifth- and sixth-grade students. Students accepted into the program must demonstrate responsibility and dependability. The emphasis is on a student’s ability to keep up with classroom work and exhibit strong behavior and effort. Each year, Wortman purposely selects two or three students who might not have the grades but could benefit from the opportunity to build confidence and develop leadership skills.

    “Peace Keepers receive special training,” says Wortman, “including lots of role playing and problem-solving practice, instruction in the art of active listening and where and when to call for adult help, and training in how to fill out conflict report forms.”

    Each day, Wortman and the Peace Keepers meet during a special 30-minute lunch period before the students head out to their duties. That meeting provides an opportunity for students to discuss special problems encountered on the playground and for Wortman to reinforce the program's themes.

    Teachers are very supportive of the Peace Keepers program, Wortman reports. “They allow for the scheduling of duty times and special meetings or field trips,” he said. “They love the help the Peace Keepers provide on the playground. The Peace Keepers take their jobs seriously, and younger students get the attention and support they need when dealing with common childhood disagreements and hurt feelings.”

    “The program is a win-win for students, teachers, and parents,” added Wortman.

    Read More About the Program at Denali Elementary

    Denali Elementary Program Brings Peace to the Playground

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Video Motivates Science Fair Interest,
    Student Perfectionists,
    Fund for Teachers

    A new music video is spurring interest in science fair participation in one Florida community and beyond. The “At the Science Fair” video [above] was created by Kevin Temmer, a senior International Baccalaureate high school student from Land O' Lakes, Florida. Temmer wrote and performed the song and created the video animation, too.

    The “At the Science Fair” song is part of a longer video that provides detailed information to help students create a science fair project worthy of recognition. [see the full video]

    Learn More
    Guide to a Successful Science Fair from

    Perfectionism’s Potential Problems

    Pint-sized perfectionists don’t perform significantly better than their laid-back peers, says a recent study out of York University in Toronto, Canada.

    The study, which is the first to examine the relationship between perfectionism and achievement in elementary students, found that perfectionism offers no academic advantage for most pupils. Gifted students who are perfectionists do excel slightly in math, but at a price: they’re more likely to feel unhappy than other children surveyed.

    “It turns out that perfectionism in children is actually not just unhealthy -- it’s also totally unnecessary where academics are concerned,” says study co-author Gordon Flett, Professor of Psychology in York’s Faculty of Health. “The old adage of ‘no pain, no gain’ is really more like ‘more pain, no gain.’”

    Learn More
    Perfectionism Pointless, Potentially Harmful for Most Elementary Students
    Perfectionism in Children

    ‘Fund for Teachers’ Supports Dream Projects

    What did you do on your last summer vacation from school?

     Teacher Nilam Trividi of Atlanta worked on an organic farm where the kitchen ran on methane gas gathered from two pigs.
     Bob Dunn of Newport, Vermont, made a guitar from scratch under the guidance of master guitar builders.
     Brooklyn teacher Beth Mowry enrolled in a course at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center and went back to her school with 150-million-year-old dinosaur bones.
     Chicago educator Javier Vilazquez biked 2,700 miles from Oregon to Missouri to create mathematical and scientific equations for elementary students.

    Those educators’ special summer experiences were all made possible by the Fund for Teachers. Since 2001, 4,000 teachers have been awarded $14.2 million in Fund for Teachers grants -- up to $5,000 for individuals, or $10,000 for teams. Fund for Teachers fellowships have taken place in 113 countries on every continent, empowering teachers to explore countless ideas, terrains, and cultures.

    Check the Fund for Teachers map to see if teachers in your school might be eligible for Fund for Teachers fellowships. The application deadline for this year’s grants is January 28.