Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Developing Leadership Competencies for Deans and Department Chairs with Barbara Braham

Cristina de Vizcarrondo and I attended and ISACS sponsored workshop in Chicago on December 8, 2008. Our goal was to organize a plan as we enter into the World Languages Department's Super Review scheduled to begin in the fall of 2009. Leading the workshop was Barbara Braham Ph.D., an Executive Leadership coach. Her objectives were to help us build skills in four leadership competencies: setting goals, setting priorities, running meetings and delegating work.

Dr. Braham worked through each competency in a very methodical manner. She emphasized how important it is to have a clear and creative vision. Orienting the department around that vision is vital. The challenge is to recognize where we are at currently and identifying how to reduce the gap between the current reality and the vision.

Having SMART Goals means making sure they are Specific, Measurable, Aligned/Achievable, Realistic and Time bound. Dr. Braham points to the work of Steven Covey from his book, First Things First as a good resource for establishing priorities. Charting goals on a scale of urgency and importance will help us decide what to do first. Managing our competing priorities requires respectful and on-going discussions.

Our meetings during the Super Review year will benefit from well run meetings. Key components of effective meetings fall under the acronym: SOLVE (Side conversations distract; Over-talk prevents total communication; Listening is active; Voices are heard; Everyone respects the floor). It is a good idea to have an agenda with a time line for meetings as well as a way to make sure everyone's voice is heard. Finally, we need to define the goal/s of every meeting and be able to evaluate our success at the end of the meeting.

When delegating work, the more specific the better. Who is doing the work? How is the work to be done? By when? Quick and frequent surveys to check on progress are good ways to keep everyone on task and focused. This also helps to identify roadblocks along the way.

Learn more about Barbara Braham at: bbraham.com

Sunday, February 22, 2009


From: Claudia Edwards, Todd Schlenker, and Henry Wend
Re: ISACS Diversity Summit Feedback
Date: February 19, 2009

We came away from the ISACS Diversity Summit energized but also overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task in bringing diversity to University School. We also agreed that the issue requires more than “making diversity a more central and sensitive consideration in classroom teaching, student interactions, faculty communication, and parent relations.” It will require a fundamental adjustment in the thinking on the part of the board, administration, faculty, parents and students accompanied by a shift in the critical areas of faculty and student recruitment and retention. To do this, we deem it necessary to propose an action plan that will operate at three levels: Board and Administration levels; within Divisions; and in the classroom. Underpinning our thinking is the realization that diversity in a multicultural environment is the sine qua non to academic excellence in the 21st century. If we fall short on introducing this, we will be failing to provide our students with the education that they need to be successful adults in a global age.

A diverse student body and faculty is in line with our peer institutions nationally. The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) has a charge to promote diversity in independent schools like ours. At NAIS, people of color make up 42 percent of the staff and 50 percent of the senior leadership team. It is through cultivating leaders and building confidence in them that has allowed this level of diversity to exist. Furthermore, the ISACS Equity Committee, which hosted the Diversity Summit in Chicago, was an incredibly diverse group of educators from schools like USM. We all recognize the instrumental role that Independent Schools play in cultivating tomorrow’s leaders, and we all know we can do more.

Moreover, diversity is a central goal at USM, intersecting with school wide initiatives in technology and global studies. To further this goal, the USM Board of Directors formed the Diversity Steering Committee in 2004, and adopted a diversity plan in the fall of 2005. The seven goals and twenty two objectives differ in scope and depth of completion. Although some progress has been made on these goals, much is left to be done. Just as Global Studies began as a Board initiative, so too must our diversity plan. Patrick Bassett from NAIS states, “if it is incumbent upon us to move along the continuum from awareness to commitment to action, then what does action actually look like?”

The following are lists of questions and commentary that emerged from our experience at the ISACS Diversity Summit leavened with thoughts from our experiences at USM. We believe that a multi level approach is clearest, because change has to be directed from the top, clear goals have to be set, and progress measured. Students and faculty of color must be recruited and retained in all three divisions. Lastly, all changes relating to diversity have to be implemented on a day-to-day level in the class rooms, common areas, locker rooms and sports fields in the three divisions.

Level I: The Board and Divisional Administration

No lasting change can happen at the University School unless the Board is decisively behind it. We have a diversity statement, but to get change, we will need to place resources behind the recruitment of faculty and students of color as well as their retention. Among the questions we need to answer specifically are as follows:

· Why is the Board’s vision and support so crucial?
· What resources are necessary to move from commitment to action?
· What does the “normal” independent student in the 21st century look like?
· How is America’s increasing diversity reflected at USM?
· What concrete goals help us measure success in diversity at USM?
· How do we ensure that all job searches result in interviews with candidates of color?
· What recruitment tools do we need to use; Nemnet, Carney, NAIS, ISACS …?

Level II: Recruitment and Retention of Students of Color in all three divisions

USM must do more than recruit students of color, allowing them to “sink or swim” in the USM culture and classroom. The school must provide institutional backing to facilitate acculturation to the independent school as well as to support minority students academically. Points for us to consider include the following:

· How do we recruit students of color?
· What does an inclusive climate look like?
· How does USM facilitate the acculturation of non-traditional students to the independent school climate?
· How do we support minority students academically?
· Is our Learning Center the vehicle to effectively address the needs of students who may be having academic difficulty?
· Do our summer programs like Ready Set Go do enough to prepare new students?
· Would it be worth it to study other Independent School summer programs like Summerbridge, Prep for Prep and High Jump?
· How can USM use affinity groups or cocooning to help new students build camaraderie and friendships?

Level III: Fostering a Multi Cultural environment in the classroom and beyond

In keeping with our image of the “new normal”, curriculum needs to shift to incorporate the views, words, images, and experience outside of that held dear within the narrow band of privilege

· Does our curriculum need to shift in order to incorporate the views, words, images and experiences of non-white groups?
· How do students benefit from recognizing and questioning the historical legacy of privilege in our society?
· What does a commitment to “Global Studies” require us to examine as we examine “normal” and “otherness” both in the United States and beyond? How do we bring this home to USM?
· What does diversity look like, feel like and sound like in our curriculum at each grade level and in each discipline?
· What can teachers do to promote diversity in their curriculum?

Thank you again for allowing us this opportunity to work towards the best of goals.


Claudia Edwards Todd Schlenker Henry Wend

Sunday, November 16, 2008

NCSS, Texas style

We had a great time at NCSS in Houston. The weather was great, the conference was even better, and the discussion on specific and general topics about history were hard to beat.

The highlight was presenting 21st Century Tools in the Social Studies with Matt Montagne. The presentation was well received, even if we had a technical glitch here and there and we flew through a ton of information. We received a lot of positive feedback immediately after the presentation and also later in the afternoon. Hopefully the participants will utilize our wiki and possibly revisit the presentation. Presenting is a challenging and valuable form of professional development, and the research that we both conducted will help us in our respective teaching settings. In addition, we used the collaborative tools to prepare the presentation. All in all, we consider the presentation a success.

Another highlight – meeting a true part of history. John A. Stokes was part of the Virginia case that was one of the five cases combined and filed as Brown v. Board of Education. He is a true pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement. His presentation was not only enlightening about the Jim Crow era (which we study), but it also exhibited the power of story and oral history. Best line – Someone told him “One day, there would black president.” His response was ‘What have you been drinking?” Mr. Stokes is now part of the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial - http://www.vacivilrightsmemorial.org/. Based on the context of the current political election, his message and emotion was extraordinary. His final words discussing the election were “Kids don’t see color … it has to be taught. “ One word – powerful.

I visited a few great sessions on simulations in the classroom, reinforcing the use of those active exercises as both a teaching tool and for assessment. One presentation provided a very cool matrix to determine the success of student’s proposals in a simulation, and I will try to incorporate that in my Civil War unit. A geography and history session provided some great insight into using geography (not just maps) in teaching the nation’s past. I also attended some very content specific sessions on the Civil War, the Great Depression, the Reagan Era, and, creatively enough, teaching the song “Born in the USA” in American history class.

One of the most exciting ideas that I saw was a project week from a middle school and high school in the Houston area. They take a week out of school and have student complete collaborative projects based on topics of their own interest. The project groups go across grade levels and are student driven – teachers only serve as facilitators. Objectives have to be developed, and assessment is done in English, math, science and social studies classes. All teachers develop topics, and their principal even participated. Their school focuses on global issues for their project week, but it could easily be adapted to any other focus. It’s a pretty awesome undertaking.

I have also been able to make a few connections with other middle school teachers that I may be able to contact for collaboration and discussion. In addition, the professional contacts with organizations and members of the academic community are always great to have!

NCSS always re-energizes me (usually at a time when I need energy!) and gives me some momentum to end the calendar year with a bang. I have tons of ideas flowing through my head and I’m itching to out them in place in my classroom.

Monday, November 10, 2008

MS Science Teachers Visit 3 Chicago Independent Schools Schools

As a part of our two year CARP process the middle school science teachers visited the University of Chicago Lab School, Francis Parker, and The Latin School in late October of 2008. Before our visit we prepared questions for the schools to help focus our visit. Overall the trip was enlightening, and we were able to spend some time talking not only about what we experienced at each school, but to also share ideas about our curriculum. Our responses to these questions and personal reflections are also noted below.

Mike Schwietiers:
8th Grade Science

The purpose of the Middle School science teacher trip to Chicago was to gather information (both specific and general) about three comparable independent schools: Lab School, Latin School and Francis Parker. Through school tours, class observation and peer dialogue, the middle school science teachers at USM would gather information that could be used for their CARP review.
As the eighth grade science teacher at USM, I wanted to gather information in four areas.
First, what type of technology was being used in eighth grade by teachers and students at these three urban Chicago schools? In addition, what was the frequency of this technology use?
Answer: Every school visited had science rooms equipped with projection devises and some of the rooms were equipped with smart boards. For the most part, students had access to computers (mobile cart) and Vernier software and probes were being used and were being used on a routine basis.
Secondly, were their academic science issues between divisional as eighth grade teachers prepared their students for high school?
Answer: No academic science issues existed between MS and US for any of the school visited. This was the result of MS teachers working closely with their US counterparts through monthly department meetings. Collaboration and communication appeared common.
Thirdly, did any of these Chicago schools require that their eighth grade students participate in a science fair project?
Answer: None of the schools visited required a science fair project for their eighth grade students. All the school participated in Science Olympiad, with Parker Francis hiring an addition teacher to serve in this role. In addition, none of the school visited, require semester exams in any subject for their eighth grade students.
Lastly, what type of lab experience where the students receiving and how frequent were these experiences?
Answer: Most of the students had one to two lab experiences per week. The frequency of the labs was determined by the length of the lab experience with some lab lasting several class periods. Project work appeared to be more common than it is at USM. All of the eighth grade teachers visited use inquiry- based learning on a routine basis.
Personal Reflection:
My Chicago trip confirmed many of the practices I used in my classroom at USM, but more importantly, provided me with many new ideas. Confirmations include: 1) Eighth grade students at USM are using technology in a comparable way to their Chicago counterparts. While the Chicago school are much more MAC dependent than the USM community, the use of technology for data collections and analysis, graphing, research, word processing and presentations are similar. 2) Eighth grade students at USM are being prepared for US science. 3) Semester exams for eight grade students are not developmental appropriate. If the most respected urban independent schools in Chicago do not require eighth grade students to take semester exams, should USM? Project based learning experiences are more developmental appropriate for eighth grade students. 4) Lab experiences are an essential component of any science class. The greater the frequency and depth of the lab experience, the greater the scientific learning experience.
My Chicago tri left me excited and energized in two areas: 1) I must do more hands-on activities. Every day, students should be touching and doing science. Good science, true science is inquiry based. Over the years, I became too focused on the content of science and not the scientific process. It is time to get back to what makes science science. 2) Many of the Chicago schools used a thematic approach to teaching science. This theme would run throughout the year. After doing some research and consulting with peers outside the USM Community, I will be making a proposal to the MS science department to go to a thematic approach in eighth grade science.

Kip Jacobs:

7th Grade Science
• What topics are taught in the 7th grade science curriculum?
The curricula at all three schools had different topic that were covered. The schools had different focus elements; Francis Parker utilized a laboratory composition notebook for scientific inquiry, the Latin school had more of a traditional approach and the Lab School was in the throws of curriculum modification gearing towards a lab oriented curriculum.

• How is the scientific or research method introduced and implemented in the 7th grade science program?
The research method was used in all three schools that visited. The strongest use of the scientific method was at Francis Parker School. The school has made a commitment to use a laboratory manual to record data, perform lab activities and do complete investigative science. The program starts in the lower school and continues to through to the upper school. It was interesting to see this approach to science in action. The students seemed very comfortable with entries being made in the “composition log book” for use of a better term.
• How much time is spent with activities that allow students to investigate the scientific process or learn through hands on activities?
Each school we looked at had the elements of process and content that was at the heart of the middle school program. All the schools had elements of “hands on learning” in their curriculum in the classes I observed. The Lab school combined a higher degree of technology in the hands of the students. 7th graders there we incorporating research taken at a recent field experience and had culminating reports posted on a blog. The Latin School used a measurement activity and nervous system reaction time in a lab/partner setting. Observations were recorded and follow up questions were answered. At Francis Parker the students were starting the unit on the nervous system. Students moved from station to station-exploring facts and ideas about the nervous system in an inquiry setting.
• What types of technology do 7th graders use in their learning of science? How does this impact their learning?
The technology that was used at each school demonstrated to me that the students were receiving a variety of computer generated assistance as well as web tools to increase academic performance. The schools used blogs, lab reports written in word documents, and graphs and tables to draw conclusions and answer questions in class and in lab.

Personal Reflections:
Attending the three schools as a science faculty allowed us an opportunity to step away from our daily classroom activities and explore curriculum questions for our CARP review. It was helpful to have some focus questions to ask fellow middle school science teachers in Chicago. This allowed us excellent, specific feedback to our questions and at the same time allowed us to compare what we do with other similar schools in the Chicago area. I came away with great ideas for our department; ideas on which we have begun to have conversations. The visit reconfirmed my view of technology as an assistive tool to the scientific process and not as a be all and end all concept. I was excellent use of technology in meaningful environments directed at the appropriate age groups in the 7th grade. Having the time away from classes and sharing with my own department members gave me a stronger sense of purpose that what I teach and the process with which I teach it is very real and worthwhile.

Kamie Fultz:

6th Grade Science
• What topics/ units do sixth grade science students study?
• Two of the schools we visited spend the year focusing (mostly) on one area of science. The third school is more of a survey course.

6th graders at Latin School, begin the year with an intensive forensics science unit to introduce biology and teach lab skills. The remainder of the year is mostly spent on Biology: Animals, Classification, Evolution, Cells and Ecology, with a short look at matter. The curriculum was much more textbook and traditionally based, more reading and research, less hands-on.

At Parker, 6th graders begin the year preparing for their study of the four distinct ecosystems at the Indiana Dunes National Park. During the rest of the year, 6th grade students focus on Earth Science: Lithosphere (plate tectonics, rock cycle, glaciations, volcanoes), Hydrosphere, and Atmosphere (meteorology.) They also study some chemistry and physics including phases of matter, atomic structure, electron orbitals, and density which are integrated into some of the Earth Science Units. The program was heavily project/inquiry based.

Chicago Lab School 6th grade science classes are project-based. They study and explore the following topics: astronomy, physics (forces and motion, building a car), cells, genetics, chemistry and gas laws.

• Do the sixth grade science students do any engineering or robotics?
Lab School 6th graders definitely do some engineering, including designing and building an electric car that moves forwards and backwards with working headlights.

At Parker sixth graders can participate in the Robotics club. Robotics also happens Engineering happens in-class during 8th grade science, with a once a week math/science engineering double period.

• What technology (specifically computer based technologies) do the students use in class?
Lab School – laptops, IWeb, Vernier Probes

Parker – laptops, Proscope, Pasco

Latin – laptops

• Do they use a textbook? If so, which one and how is it used (primary source, supplement)?
Lab School – Use Science Explorer Series as a primary text. The science teacher uses the text to teach content and to the students how to identify important information, take notes, make flashcards.
Parker –They use an Earth Science textbook as a supplemental resource.
Latin –Holt Reinhart & Winston This is used as a primary text and the source of class content and work.

Personal Reflection:
The trip to visit three top rated independent schools was extremely exciting from a science teacher’s perspective. Having lived in and taught in Chicago, I knew of each of the schools, but had never been to any of them. I quickly learned during each visit that all three of the schools had their own unique “atmosphere.” At all of the schools, however, it really was clear that science is held as a vital and important subject school wide, from K-12. Two of the schools (Parker and Lab) for sure had a lab-based science “special” class for the lower school. Depending upon the grade level, the K-5 students met for science with a science specialist 1 to 5 times a week where they did exciting “hands on” science. Parker had a guest scientist program where an established career scientist came to work with the students two or three times per year. All of the schools took regular field trips to explore and study natural areas. It was really a thrill to see how important science was to the middle school and larger school communities!
One of the trends in science education is exposing students to engineering and design, giving them skills that are anticipated to be among some of the most important as the United States and the international community at large develop new technologies and try to solve various ecological (and other) problems. I know there is a concern among current scientists and engineers that American students are not receiving either proper encouragement or training in these areas – potentially resulting in 1) America falling behind other countries as a leader in this area, 2) The need to look outside the U.S. and “import” scientists with these interests and talent. As such, I have had a huge interest in engineering and design as implemented in middle school science curricula. I was very impressed with the engineering projects at both Lab School and Parker. I had already planned on adding more of these skills to my 6th grade curriculum, so it was absolutely wonderful to see a similar plan in action at other “great” schools.
From this trip, I definitely feel inspired to make some changes to my curriculum. I have been reminded that one of my jobs as a middle school science teacher is to really teach my students to “think,” to problem-solve. Middle school science definitely needs to be heavy on process. Having been once around the 6th grade science curriculum, I would definitely like to inject more “fun,” project-based science. I think it is more important to create an experience that students will remember than to ask them, for instance, to memorize the differences between basidiomycota and ascomycota. When students are actively engaged in solving a problem or creating a project to demonstrate their science knowledge, I believe they will internalize and “own” the concepts much more thoroughly.
In my physics unit, I am planning to include a roller coaster project this year so that not only will the students be using design skills, they will need to apply what they have learned about forces and Newton’s Laws. We will then use the Vernier technology to capture and graph the velocity of the marbles that roll down our roller coaster. I may also inquire more about the 6th grade “car” project at Lab school. Since USM’s 5th grade does study electricity and circuits as do they, that project may work well for us in the future.
In addition, I would like to try to arrange engineering challenge days, perhaps between units, where we take a break and spend two to three days trying to solve an engineering problem. This could even evolve into a special grade wide or school wide “Science Challenge day.” Perhaps, I will see if I can arrange this for the sixth grade in the spring!
Finally, I would definitely like to teach more Biology, especially plants and animals and adaptations – important content that we seem to miss entirely in the middle school. To do this, I would have to give up one of my units, such as geology.
These changes are all ideas that I had previously thought about in my goal to make 6th grade science curriculum my own. After seeing other schools doing them, I feel more confident now that they are good decisions.

Annette Schwebel:
5th Grade Science

• What types of assessment do you use in your class?
I briefly looked over two student binders from a 5th grade science class. They showed student work samples of lab-like activities done in class. Process skills were apparent although a “formal lab” sheet/ structure was not used. It appeared that students focused on specific process skills (such as hypothesis, procedure, etc) in parts, perhaps for each class session, to form a whole lab. It didn’t appear that these were evaluated in any way, but were more like a collection of work done in class. I spoke with the teacher about how she assesses students and she showed me a sample of a grade sheet that had various “codes” she used for different assignments. It didn’t really make sense to me.

The sixth grade science teacher used a variety of tools to assess students learning. Prentice Hall Science Explorer is used as a supplement text to teach content and tests from the series are used to assess students’ content knowledge. The teacher also uses a project-based approach with rubrics designed with learning outcomes.

• Do you use portfolios when assessing a student’s progress? If so, how do you use them?
The 5th grade binders were the closest artifact that resembled a portfolio, but I did not find out how or if they were used in assessing student progress.

• How to determine what students should be able to do when they exit 5th grade? Middle School?
I had a brief discussion with the 5th grade science teacher about this and found the answer to be a little vague. I got the impression that the Lower School science teachers do not dialogue (or map out as we do) about what they are teaching and they have freedom in selecting content. It seemed that she would adjust her content if something were covered in lower grades. The website does have content outlined for each grade level.

• Do you use benchmarks when you plan your assessments?
I believe I asked this question and the answer was no.

• To what extent is technology integrated? What types of technology are used?
Vernier labs used as demos in 5th grade and more extensively in upper middle grades; occasional use of projector; no Smart Board technology used in science and no apparent interest in it either.

• What units are covered (and in how much depth)?
The fifth, sixth/seventh and eighth grade teachers explained what units they covered. The fifth grade teacher covered topics rather than in-depth units because students only have science three times a week/cycle. The sixth grade curriculum seemed to resemble my own the most in that the teacher has specific units, text support and projects/labs. The eight-grade teacher covered only earth science through the course of the year. What really stood out here were the outdoor learning experiences as students are frequently taken off campus to make hands-on connections to what is learned in class.

• Is there a textbook used for your grade level?
In 6th -8th grade

Personal Reflection:
Despite my trip being cut short, I was very excited to see the U of C Lab School, having heard and read a bit about it. What I expected to see and what I actually saw were completely different. The nature of school was informal, as were its faculty and students. The class sizes were larger than expected. That being said, it didn’t seem to matter in terms of the level of productivity taking place. The teachers and students were open, friendly and very willing to share their work. The access to resources and equipment, if they needed it, was impressive.
I was hoping to see a model 5th grade middle school classroom, but it is merely housed in the middle school. They plan on moving 5th grade to the Lower School and creating a 3-5th grade division. I thought that was interesting, as I have felt that although our 5th grade is part of our middle school, the curriculum should flow/spiral from the 3rd and 4th grade to provide consistency in instruction, student learning and skills. Despite that, I believe middle school is a good place for 5th grade as it is a transitional year no matter where it is housed. I began a dialogue with 3-5th grade teachers at USM last year and would like for this to continue. As it stands now, they try to keep me in the loop and vice-versa. I feel I need to make this more of a priority, but I have less available time this year than last year.
I felt the 6th grade program closely resembled my own in terms of structure; content, labs and projects. I love the idea of a more project-based curriculum, but believe time constraints make this difficult. Being able to observe students in action while working on their projects was very cool. They were so involved in the process and highly motivated. For me, that is a number one priority. I have already taken some of what I observed and thought about when and how I could incorporate these ideas into my curriculum, but on a smaller scale. I was really impressed with the level of off-campus learning taking place. This is something I’d like to think more about-where, how, when and so on. Overall, I felt really secure about what I am accomplishing in my own classroom, realizing, however, that it is so beneficial to see what others are doing. I wish I could have visited the other two schools and will keep them in mind for a future visit.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NCTM National Meeting-Salt Lake City

For the first time in my memory, the entire middle school math department attended a national conference together. For myself, it was the most productive and worthwhile conference I have attended. I concentrated on three areas. First, a new (free) piece of software called Geogebra that is modeled after the Geometer’s Sketchpad. It is dynamic algebra software meaning that changes are made dynamically to functions, graphs, constructions, and other mathematical representations. And, currently, Steve has put it on both labs and I have had students download it at home. They now can explore assignments using Geogebra and submit their work online.

The second thing I focused on was the Smart Board and new ways to use it. I learned a lot and found myself agreeing with this quote regarding the use of this great technology, “Engage, not entertain.” In the end, learning is the goal. If it is entertaining as well as engaging, that is good.

The third area that I concentrated on was the adoption of a new algebra book. I spent a lot of time with the people at Key Curriculum Press. I talked to the owner of the company, who did a workshop at their booth about a new product they are going to offer where their sketches from the Geometer’s Sketchpad are linked to the textbook that is being used. They have correlated their software with most textbooks that I know of. This software is not free. I also talked to the author of the book that I have adopted for next year. He gave me some insight into how the book was developed and some of the content of the text. I spent a lot of time there-I felt like a groupie!

I would like to end with a quote that was used by the gentleman who developed the Geogebra software. This is not his quote, but it is from a study where they looked at the science of instruction:

“What we have learned from all the media comparison research is that it’s not the medium but rather the instructional methods that cause learning. When instructional methods remain essentially the same, so does the learning, no matter how the instruction is delivered.” (Clark and Mayer, Learning and the science of instruction, 2007)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Francine, Laurie B. and I attended a workshop put on by the Bureau of Education and Research (www.ber.org) on Thursday, April 10th. It focused on the best new books for young adults. Although it was a bit heavy on titles that may appeal more to girls than boys, we were very pleased that the presenter was so very up to date. Many of the books had not even come out yet. We took copious notes and came away with lists and lists of books to read and recommend to our students and colleagues. It was extremely exhilarating to listen to hours of "book-talks" like that. Two titles that stuck out to me and that I can not wait to devour are Schooled by Gordon Korman and Deadline by Chris Crutcher.

What Booklist says about Schooled: *Starred Review* Homeschooled on an isolated "alternate farm commune" that has dwindled since the 1960s to 2 members, 13-year-old Cap has always lived with his grandmother, Rain. When she is hospitalized, Cap is taken in by a social worker and sent—like a lamb to slaughter—to middle school. Smart and capable, innocent and inexperienced (he learned to drive on the farm, but he has never watched television), long-haired Cap soon becomes the butt of pranks. He reacts in unexpected ways and, in the end, elevates those around him to higher ground. From chapter to chapter, the first-person narrative shifts among certain characters: Cap, a social worker (who takes him into her home), her daughter (who resents his presence there), an A-list bully, a Z-list victim, a popular girl, the school principal, and a football player (who unintentionally decks Cap twice in one day). Korman capably manages the shifting points of view of characters who begin by scorning or resenting Cap and end up on his side. From the eye-catching jacket art to the scene in which Cap says good-bye to his 1,100 fellow students, individually and by name, this rewarding novel features an engaging main character and some memorable moments of comedy, tenderness, and reflection. Pair this with Jerry Spinelli's 2000 Stargirl (the sequel is reviewed in this issue) for a discussion of the stifling effects of conformity within school culture or just read it for the fun of it. Phelan, Carolyn

What Booklist says about Deadline: Just before his senior year, Ben Wolf is diagnosed with a rare, incurable leukemia. At 18, he has the legal right to keep the news to himself until he's ready to reveal it. With only his doctor and therapist in on his secret, Ben sets out to live an entire lifetime in a year: There are insects that pack it all into a day, he reasons. His goals are to join his brother on the football team; learn everything he can; and ask out gorgeous Dallas Suzuki. Crutcher fits far too much into this ambitious novel, which includes subplots about incest, pedophilia, manic depression, and intellectual freedom, as well as a Jesus-like character who appears in visions. And readers may feel distanced from Ben, whose first-person voice and reactions never quite feel authentic. But, as usual, Crutcher writes vivid sports action scenes, and teens' interest will be held by the story's dramatic premise, Ben's unlikely turn as a football hero, love scenes with Dallas (including some mildly explicit sex), and Ben's high-gear pursuit of life's biggest questions. Engberg, Gillian

Monday, February 11, 2008

Webcast Academy

After moderating a few large group conference calls via skype earlier this past fall, I decided to get a little more formal experience in webcasting by enrolling in the Webcast Academy's class of 2.4. The Webcast Academy is essentially an online course where you learn all about the world of producing, airing, and moderating a webcast. I have to say that this has been a wonderful experience for me! The class began in early January and we have meetings each Sunday from 1:00-2:00 PM. People from all over the world are in the class of 2.4. Classmates include people from England, Germany, all over the US, China, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. I've been many, many connections throughout the experience. I'm probably about half way done with the experience and I think I've done a fairly decent job of keeping up with all of my assignments. Last week I collaborated on a live webcast with three educators from New Hampshire where we had a conversation with a WWII Veteran and USS Oklahoma/Pearl Harbor survivor, Paul Goodyear. It was really neat because we had schools from all over listening in to the conversation. My brother even listened in live from his desk in Washington DC and my sister listened in live as well from the Detroit area.

The conversation with Paul was absolutely amazing. He is truly a special, special guy. The entire conversation was recorded and is posted online at my portfolio page at the webcast academy.

If you're interested in learning more about Webcasting and creating authentic experiences and opportunities for your students, then I would recommend that you take a look at participating. You'll meet some amazing people and learn a great deal in the academy!

Related Links:
Edtechtalk Live
Paul Goodyear Interview Planning Page