How do you think educators should be compensated?

I have noticed a lot of chatter on twitter about merit pay and other systems of teacher compensation. The school where I currently work is also looking at changing its’ model for faculty compensation. What do you think? Are teachers much more than a pay scale based upon experience and bs, ms or PhD? Fire off in the comments, and don’t forget to take the brief survey below.

Teacher Compensation Survey

Designing a Great Professional Learning Community and Fostering Collegiality

A new group has been formed at my school seeking to define the best practices in terms of fostering a professional learning amongst colleagues on campus.  Our goals are influenced by research by Judith Warren Little (1981), whose definition of collegiality encompasses four specific behaviors:

(I)  Adults talk about best practice frequently

(II)  Adults in schools observe each other teaching in their native setting

(III)  Adults engage together in work on curriculum

(IV)  Adults teach each other best practices

The goal is to better define what it means to be colleagues as professional educators at Culver.  Changes will initially begin with faculty/staff meetings. I think we will begin to move from our current format, which is much more formal (imagine a room filled with faculty and staff where administrators generally provide updates and critical information), to a style which encompasses a greater portion of the school community.  The goal is to empower faculty and staff in a number of ways (which we are still hashing out), some of which are:

– empower faculty and staff by allowing freedom to choose the sessions they wish to attend

– provide avenues for greater dialogue by conducting discussions in small group settings

– create cross-curricular situations where we can teach and learn from one another’s best practices

-investigating the implementation of “Critical Friends Groups” as well as Japanese lesson studies

This is all very much a work in progress, but I am excited about the possibilities that will develop in the coming months.

I would love to hear your comments as well as how your school conducts faculty/staff meetings and/or fosters professional development.

Finally catching up…

I have come to the point of acceptance with the fact that my teaching job leaves little blogging time. But, I had a bug in my ear tonight to get some video onto youtube, and it also serves as a good opportunity to post some activities.

This first video is the most recent. My conceptual physics students have been studying heat and heat transfer. Last week I decided to make up a batch of thermite and use it to illustrate heat transfer via conduction, convection and radiation. My students got a big kick out of this, even though it was very cold out when we did the demo.

Chem-o-ween from Phil Cook on Vimeo.

This second video comes from the vault. I first started “Chem-o-ween” in 2006 while teaching at Oak Park & River Forest High School. I originally had planned for these demos to be performed for my chemistry students. This very quickly turned (via word of mouth) into a large scale performance for the majority of the chemistry classes that day. Definitely a memorable experience. I miss the chemistry teachers at OPRF very much.

Hope you enjoy the videos.

Farewell, good friend

Well, I guess it had to happen sometime. I finally got around to selling my iBook. It is amazing home nostalgic I feel as I package it up and wrap it to send to its’ new owner.

This was the first computer that I purchased on my own. I bought it in December of 2000 after I had just begun teaching at Roberto Clemente Community Academy in the Humbolt Park neighborhood on the west site of Chicago. I was so excited placing the order online, and even more excited when it finally arrived at my doorstep.

I cared for this computer as if it were my child (at the time I had none). I saved all of the packaging, down to the silly plastic “anti-static” sleeves. I used it daily in class; a time when each classroom had only one computer and the science department shared a solitary LCD projector. Since most teachers did not know how to use the LCD projector, I had almost sole use. I was able to share videos with my students, engage them with virtual demonstrations and have them present to the class as well. This computer was my springboard into educational technology.

I lugged this 6+ lb beast everywhere that I went. I took it to Northwestern, when I worked with a group on NetLogo developing curriculum focused around virtual modeling environments. I wrote my first NetLogo lessons on the iBook.

Later on, when I took a job teaching chemistry at Oak Park & River Forest High School, the iBook came with me. It was beginning to slow, as least in comparison to the other computers that I was using. Then, it was replaced with a newer sibling, the MacBook. I carefully packed the iBook away and stored it in a closet.

With our move to Culver a little more than a year ago, the iBook never made it out of storage. Until a few days ago. I’ll admit it was fun booting it up. Opening the clamshell and re-installing Mac OS X for a new user to enjoy. I twittered about the process a bit, and received some responses from others who hold their first computers near and dear to their hearts (maybe I am stretching this a bit, but oh well.).
The Twitterverse responds
Farewell, iBook. May your new owner appreciate your utility as much as I did.

Classroom 2.0 LIVE Chicago Event

Just this past weekend, I was able to attend the Classroom 2.0 LIVE Chicago gathering in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago (just a few blocks from President-elect Obama’s home!). It was a very organic gathering of ed techies and educators (and an NPR reporter as well). We discussed wikis, google apps, twitter and other web 2.0 niceties. I also gave a short “lightning” demo on one of my favorite web 2.0 apps, edmodo. Jeff O’Hara, co-founder of edmodo, was there to answer questions and film the demo. He has been kind enough to let me share his footage on my blog [Thanks Jeff!].

Many thanks to Steve Hargadon and Lucy Gray for organizing this event!  Oh, and if you haven’t yet checked out edmodo, you should.  More than 6000 users have contributed more than 28,000 posts via edmodo since its official launch in September of 2008!

Edmodo launches education focused twitter-like app

Earlier this afternoon I found out (through my PLN via Twitter) that a new web app called Edmodo had just launched.  Edmodo is aimed squarely at the education community and seeks to provide a Twitter-like experience within a structured group environment.  So far, it looks promising.  It is easy enough to add groups and has basic functions that many educators will like such as “tweeting” specific tasks such as assignments, links, notes, alerts and events.  If you are in a school where laptops and/or computer workstations are common, this may be a wonderfully useful app.  I am going to test it out with one of my classes and see how it stands up.  I have been using Google Calendar to post individual daily plans and link to documents for my students to download, but this may be a simpler solution.  I am willing to give it a try.

One question though, I love the concept of the “locker” within Edmodo (check out the voicethread on their blog to see what I am talking about), but I am perplexed.  I am able to save assignments to the locker, but I cannot figure out how to move them and share saved assignments with my groups.  Any advice?  Throw it my way.  Tweet @cookp

Reflections on Summer 2008

This has been an extremely eventful summer for me.  Spending eight weeks participating in the RET program at Notre Dame proved to be challenging and stimulating.  A week-long jaunt to Boston for Alan November’s wonderful Building Learning Communities dropped me head-first into the education 2.0 world.  As school is now starting soon, I think that some reflection on this summer’s experiences is in order.

I must say that the greatest tool that I have gained this summer is my human network.  Research was something that I had never attempted.  Not only was I intimidated (though I was excited to learn something new), but I was working with a group of researchers in the cutting edge nanotechnology sector of the Electrical Engineering department at Notre Dame.  I had no experience with engineering.  I came in as a chemistry and physics instructor who was unsure about the experience.  I soon realized that research at it’s core is fundamentally dependant upon the formation of a human learning collaborative.  Collaboration played a vital role in weekly group meetings.  Feedback and open constructive criticism serve as invaluable tools in research. If I didn’t know quite where to go next with my experiment, I relied on graducate students and my supervising professor to point me in the right direction.  No one expected me to have all of the answers…and no one presumed to have them all either.

The power of the learning network was also amplified through the many sessions of the Builiding Learning Communities conference.  Although many of the seminars that I attended dealt with specific tools or web-based products, the common thread between the tools and products discussed was that of building connections between other humans and facilitating the transfer of thoughts, opinions and advice in an efficient medium.  Whether you use twitter, blippr, pownce, jaiku, or the myriad of other web 2.0 tools out there, the strength of the tool lies in the connectivity of the humans using the tech.

I realized that signing up for twitter will get you no where, unless you make some initial connections.  Once you have established a base of people to connect with, be it three, five or more persons, you set the connectivity ball in motion.  With a bit of patience and a dedication to become familiar with using the tool, your network grows and expands as you are exposed to new people through your connections.

As an educator, this is tremendously powerful.  You become part of a collective intelligence.  No longer do you have to be an expert on everything.  You have a learning network to support you.  Need help with a lesson or just brainstorming?  Fire off a tweet.  Want a second opinion on the lab activity you are trying for the first time?  Post it to the classroom 2.0 group on ning.  The evolution of education is well on its way.  Where educators were once sequestered and secluded, ideas can flow seamlessly across borders.  Teachers can connect with professors as well as other classes hundreds of miles away.  Collaboration is fostered and can flourish.  Student work can be assessed by a multiple persons with different vantage points.

Howard Rheingold predicted much of what I have now experienced more than three years ago.  Check out his talk on TED:

Want someone to collaborate with?  I would be happy to join in on the discussion.

TwitterID: cookp

I Love…

Calgoo Software

Calgoo Connect.  Having to manage work at school using a Dell laptop and being a strictly Mac household, some irritating incompatabilities arise.  I rely upon my Outlook mail/calendar at school to keep my sanity.  Although I am able to use a web-based client for outlook, it is not nearly as robust nor as versatile as I would like.  Prior to this summer, I think I had come to terms that I would just need to figure out work-arounds or just deal with the situation.

About a week ago, I was reading some tweets when someone mentioned using Calgoo.  I had no idea what it was, so I clicked on their tinyurl.  What I ended up using, which may be useful to others out there who live in two divergent computing worlds, was Calgoo Connect.  It is a simple to configure syncronization client that works with Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook and others.  The program runs in the background on your machines and quietly updates your calendars between one another whenever you schedule it to.  Using Google Calendars as a central hub (I am using Google Calendars for lesson planning this year), I don’t need to worry about remembering to add a task or detail to my calendar at work…it is already done once I enter it onto whichever calendar happens to be in front of me.  Oh, and did I mention it is free?!!