January 2011

A Presentation by St. Gregory’s Science Department Chair, Scott Morris, Ph.D, and Dennis Conner.

On Monday, our faculty spent the day at the annual faculty conference of the Arizona Association of Independent Schoools.   The next day, I asked each attendee to summarize their key takeaways in a sentence or two, and I am now happy to be able to share them here.

For the iPAD, I learned that educational apps are improved and increasing, that Flash programming is not planned yet, that some of the apps can be projected on the screen, and that Mathination is a great app for math.

I was very appreciative of the time to interact with other upper/middle school heads.  That simply does not happen normally, and it was so valuable to hear other concerns/approaches and snag a few ideas from people who are in positions and have responsibilities similar to mine.

For me, it was valuable to hear the keynote speaker’s articulate reminder of just how powerful a tool personalized attention can be to motivate

Michael Herzog and Qiyam Tung, who teach together here at St. Gregory (Qiyam is a University of Arizona graduate student on fellowship with us),  have taken great initiative this year in enhancing the high school Algebra curriculum, strengthening its use of technology, and using video game programming logic and structure to illustrate the power and value of Algebraic equations.  (See particularly slides 11-20)   The slides above are from the presentation they gave Monday at the annual teacher conference of the Arizona Association of Independent Schools (AAIS).

Project and Problem Based Learning has a rich history at St. Gregory, and it continues to advance.   This week our 9th graders are embarking on a ten week interdisciplinary project, and this project memo demonstrates many aspects of outstanding PBL:
  • an assignment grounded in a real-world situation;
  • a clear timetable;
  • important roles and responsibilities for the team members;
  • a sense of “professionalism” as students act as they would in a job setting;
  • an integral and essential use of technology to support their project;
  • clearly defined, high standards for the project to be completed;
  • and a rich academic subject, in this case bioethics.
This project was designed and is being implemented by English teacher Kate Oubre, Ph.D., and Biology teacher Kevin Rolle.
Bioethics Webinar Project

Ourolle Educational Consultants has been hired by Arizona Department of Education to create an educational program dealing with bioethics, which they consider the most important set of ethical issues facing humans in the 21st century.  They have designated the topics that they want covered as well as the grade levels in which this program will be implemented.

They realize that this program cannot be fully implemented within the standard curriculum already in place, and they are not ready to provide teacher training, but they still want this material covered. Therefore, they have hired you to create online lessons. (more…)

St. Gregory’s new mission includes the commitment to create innovators and to develop innovative mindsets for our students, and having read this book recently, I know of few more inspirational stories of innovation among youth than is demonstrated by William Kamkwamba.  I shared this video with our student body this morning.

I highly suggest Kamkwamba’s book for schools seeking new titles for school-wide summer reading, and I know I am intrigued by how we might at St. Gregory do more with this book, including summer reading,  building our own windmills, and perhaps seeking to support ingenuity and innovation by and among youth in developing nations.

Solitude and Leadership, the title of William Deresiewicz’s much circulated American Scholar article intones.   Solitude and Leadership:  one cannot help but lower one’s voice and slow one’s enunciation as the title is enunciated.

This piece has been shared with me by many, the estimable David Brooks recently cited it as a top essay of the year: there is indeed much wisdom to be found in it.    But before I relay that wisdom, a caveat:  Deresiewicz creates a false dichotomy which simply isn’t supportable: solitude and concentration are valuable elements of leadership and independent thought, but they do not exclude, in any defensible way,  the possibility or even as I would argue the probability that there is great parallel and synergistic value derived from an immersion in the crowd and the stimulating, creative, multitudinous energy of our contemporary Forum, Twitter.

The piece, which indeed everyone should read and discuss, is in two parts. (more…)

Dr. James Knight is a professor of Agriculture Education at the University of Arizona, speaking today at the annual Faculty Conference of the Arizona Association of Independent Schools.

Those who say they don’t need more money in education have all the money they need for their education.   Knight opens by discussing the way statistiscs are misleading, especially when they are used to argue for less educational investment.

89% of the variability in math scores can be accounted for by things beyond the control of any individual school.

Mencken: For every complex question, there is a simple answer, and It’s Wrong.

We end up with a testing environment that focuses on pedantic minutia.

Educational Excellence: Emphasize the importance of Self Fulfilling Prophecies, the Pygmalion Effect.

How we are see ourselves is a far greater indicator of our future success than anything else, much more than our prowess or our proficiencies.

Main points for educational excellence:

  1. We need to make our students feel important and invited.  (more…)

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