Free art for your classroom

Who doesn't love free?  Who doesn't like an aesthetically pleasing classroom? 

Simple: Go to Feed Your Soul.  Browse the free art work, print, and post in your classroom.  I wanted crisp copies of the artwork, so I saved the PDF files onto a flash drive and had FedEx Kinko's - with their ultra-clear printers - print them out for 69 cents a page.  A bargain if you and your students like them.

If you are looking for an inexpensive gift for a friend or colleague, these are super framed, too.  IKEA and craft stores like Joann and Michaels have great frames and low price-points.  Of course, don't buy anything at Joann or Michael without a 40% off coupon.  That would be so pedestrian if you did.  Need a Joann coupon, click here.  You're welcome ;)

Enjoy the weekend!  See you on Tech Tuesday next week.


Theories on Thursday

A new weekly feature, Theories on Thursday, starts today.  Apparently, I am full of features over here at Upcycled Education....Tech Tuesdays, Bonus Wednesdays, and now, Theories on Thursday.  Do you have an idea for another weekly feature?  Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below.

Consider today's Theories on Thursday a primer to development theories.  Shall we begin? By the way, if you are a parent, consider applying our theories to your child(ren).

Old-favorite-who-seems-to-stand-the-test-of-time:  Jean Piaget
Swiss psychologist, Piaget is well known for many theories related to development and teaching/learning.  Let's just highlight a few "must-knows."
  • All people are born with schemata (that is the awkward plural of "schema).  This includes our natural, inborn reflexes: blinking, squinting in bright light, grasping, sucking, crying, etc.
  • As we development, we learn new schemata from our environment and through our senses.
  • Schemata is uber-important to learning.  What makes this complex is when we arrive to school, we each have a different collection of schemata.  For example, growing up by the beach, I have a schema for life by the ocean versus someone who grows up in a land-locked state.  See?  Our schemata collection will be different.  Which could explain why one student would have an advantage in a science class during the marine biology chapter over another student. 
  • Take home message - Find out, pre-assess, ask a ton of questions to determine your students' prior knowledge - their schema!  Then, build on that schema when introducing new concepts or lessons.  If they have zero schema on a topic, guess what, you will really earn your paycheck that week as you will be building on a smaller foundation. 
  • Take home message, part II - When we apply our schema to a new situation or problem and it doesn't work (or solve the problem), Piaget says we are in a state of "disequilibrium."  The great news is, according to Piaget, disequilibrium is the best time to grow and learn!  Yahoo!  That means teachers need to assist students in expanding their schemata and accommodating (or adapting) it to new situations or problems.
....This is why I teacher smile when I see students struggling.  They are in disequilibrium, yippee!

PS - Too much disequilibrium is stressful.  Plan your lessons to create disequilibrium for each student, but not freak them out for extended lengths of time.  Sometimes this is easier said than done, but aim for it.

Onto his four main stages of human development....
  1. Sensorimotor - This stage is reserved for the youngest of citizens those who coo, crawl and toddle around.  Just as it sounds, the little person is experiencing the world through their main senses and locomotor activities.  Little kids are notorious for exploring their world through their mouths, by touch/texture and by complete trial & error.  What this means for us, as teachers, is we need to provide safe opportunities for all the aforementioned (say, "hello" to non-toxic crayons and paints and open floor plans!).  SPECIAL NOTE:  For kids with special needs (e.g. intellectual disabilities, autistic spectrum disorders, learning differences, etc.), you can expect to see these same explorations at older ages.  No judgment, just know these early ways of learning will continue through adulthood for some citizens with special needs.
  2. Preoperational - If you teach early childhood or early elementary ages, you are all about this stage Piaget defined.  These younger students are making sense out of their environment, looking for patterns, learning experientially (versus, "Today, we are going to conjugate 'be' in the subjunctive tense...") and they are completely gullible (e.g. Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny all exist).  What most teachers adore about this stage is their industrious nature.  Erik Erikson noticed the same thing:  These young students are ready to do and create!  The only piece to 100% remember with this age group and their industrial nature is attention span.  Plan your industrious learning activities in small chunks and just to entertain yourself, include something imaginative as these cutie pies innocently embrace unreality.
  3. Concrete Operational - Since this post is rivaling most college textbooks in length, I will get right to the point.  These intermediate learners (though, this can and does include some adult learners, as well!) like things to be tangible.  "Teach me about photosynthesis, but by golly, make sure you have a plant and light source handy!"  "I want to know about the Grand Canyon, I need to see a video on Teacher Tube?"  This is why mathematics, in many schools, has become more tactile as students in this stage require concrete objects to enhance understanding.  Maria Montessori (more on that fabulous woman another day) would be ultra-proud.  Project-, problem- and place-based learning all makes great sense to use with these students as all three types of learning tend to employ experience, industry, and the concrete.
  4. Formal Operational - Piaget thought this stage would be reserved for ages 11 and older, but most theorists after him disagree.  I concur with them - not Piaget (sorry, Mr. I-like-everything-else-you-have-to-say).  After teaching middle, high school and now college for 15 years, I have had many a former student who dwells in the concrete operational stage - not this formal one which highlights thinking abstractly, hypothetically and sans concretely.  No judgment, I'm just sayin'; some adults will not make it here.  OR more practically speaking, some adults will straddle both concrete and formal operational stages depending on the situation or type of learning.  In fact, give me a physics question to answer right now and you better make it concrete.  I want to hold "force" and "gravity."  OK?  Which brings us to the last part of this theory tutorial.  If your students aren't understanding a lesson, rewind back a stage.  If you are used to them be formal operational learners and they aren't getting it, rewind back to a more concrete operational inspired lesson.  Same for the other stages, move down one stage when students aren't "getting" it.  That means, you may have to tap into your sensorimotor ideas and have students "taste" photosynthesis or "feel" force, etc.  Rewind one and put on your creativity hat. 
Speaking of hats, I need to get going and put on my grading hat, which is probably a sign as I am on my way to authoring my own online Educational Psychology textbook via Upcycled Education.

Cheers to you and Piaget,


Bonus Wxdnxsday

For many secondary teachers, it is the start of a new semester.  I always like to have this ditty on the overhead towards the start of a new semester (or school year) to make the point about how valuable everyone's input and participation is in the classroom.  Of course, my elementary friends, I bet this would also work for you, especially with the upper elementary grades Maybe you could pair up students to decipher.

Xvxn though my typxwritxr is an old modxl.  It works quitx wxll xxcxpt for onx of thx kxys. Thxrx arx forty-onx kxys that function, but just onx kxy not working makxs thx diffxrxncx.  Somxtimxs it sxxms that an organization is likx my typxwritxr—that not all thx kxy pxoplx arx working propxrly.

You may say, “Wxll, I’m only onx pxrson: I don’t makx or brxak an organization.” But a succxssful organization, to bx xffxctivx, rxquirxs thx activx participation of xvxry mxmbxr.

So thx nxxt timx you think that your xfforts arx not nxxdxd, rxmxmbxr my old typxwritxr and say to yoursxlf:  “I am a vxry kxy pxrson in this organization and I am nxxded vxry much!"

- Author unknown

If I was on my own computer I would PDF this for you, so you could easily download.  I'll aim for that for the future.

Happy day,

Tech Tuesday Launch: Dafont is da bomb

NPR no longer has a monopoly on Tech Tuesday.  Upcycled Education is taking a stab. 

Say hello to.....

Did I tell you I love technology?  Yep, I do.  Actually, I love technology when it makes sense to incorporate technology in education (and in life).  I don't just love it to be in love.  I've got love with P and O.  I'll write about them another day.

Each Tuesday, Upcycled Education will highlight an interesting technology, web resource, gadget or program all related to technology.  Of course, since this is an education blog, everything I/we share will be related to teaching and learning.

Up first, a free web resource that is easy to use and naturally engaging.  Let me just say, Dafont is da bomb.  Who doesn't appreciate the "right" font?  Who doesn't naturally feel engaged when something has a WOW factor?  Who doesn't love something that appeals to visual learners?  According to Dunn and Dunn (Ken and Rita, if I could act so informally, though I did meet Rita Dunn once at a conference), most of the world's learners are visual.  Why not appeal to them, no?

Dafont does just that.  It is a free, font web resource full of hundreds of fonts for just the right occasion, presentation or lame worksheet.  Although, once you download and use their fonts, all lameness shall cease.  Basically it's simple.  You go to Dafont.  Browse through their hundreds of well-organized font categories.  Choose your favorite and click download.  All the fonts are free and if you are feeling generous, you can donate for your use (though, I have not ever done so....).  I found this YouTube video explaining how to download and extract the fonts incredibly useful.  I must admit, without the video I might have been a touch lost for a while.  The video, by the way, is just 1.5 minutes long (though, it appears to be three minutes long...wrong!).

Here are some of my favorite fonts....

SPECIAL NOTE:  Under the "dingbats" category is the "SEXY" font.  Oh my.  Do not click on the link in public!  Let's just say even our high school health education teachers will have a hard time using the fonts listed there.  Thus, Dafont should NOT be shared with our preK-12 audience.  Let's call this a "teacher" resource, shall we?

From my vast experience, I do not use special fonts for presentations, like PowerPoints, unless I know the font is available on the computer I am presenting on in the classroom.  If the font you are using for a presentation (or worksheet) is not available on the computer you are using, the font will default to a regular font like Ariel or Times New Roman (booo!).  To remedy this, either....
  • Download the fonts at school and at home, so your favorite fonts are available in both locations/computers.
  • Stay away from special fonts in your work when you are unsure if the font will default or not.
  • For creating worksheets/handouts, I generally create the handout at home with my Dafonts and then PDF the document (vs. saving it only as a ".doc").  In the PDF form, your cool, wow fonts stay as is.
If you need help or have ideas to share, use the comments area below. 

Enjoy Dafonts!

Signing off for Tech Tuesday,

Captain, crew, cargo

Metaphors are powerful learning tools.  Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the World, advocates using them.  Poets use them.  Good writers use them.  Coaches use them.  Teachers should use them more.

"If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a metaphor is worth 10,000."

In comes captain, crew and cargo (or passenger).

January, when school semesters are transitioning, and teachers (and students) need a fresh start (or pep talk), this metaphor is a powerful one.  Basically, explain to students that in their classroom each students takes on a daily role.  Sometimes, a student will take on the "captain" role and show leadership qualities in the classroom.  This may be leading a small group, contributing to class discussions and in some cases, "over" contributing.  There are times, however, that instead of being a captain, a student may be more of a crew member.  Crew members are worker bees - they contribute to class discussions, work hard in small groups, but never quite take on leadership roles in the classroom.  We need crew members, in all situations (and captains) to get the job done. 

Students who do not take on either role - captain or crew - usually are cargo.  They are "dead weight," so to speak.  They do not contribute to other students' learning in the classroom and often times they delay learning as their contributions are null and their energy/enthusiasm undetectable.  Some educators prefer to call cargo, passengers, as cargo seems so lethargic and passive, while passengers might be quietly enjoying the ride and simply choosing not to contribute that day.

At any rate, sharing the captain, crew, cargo metaphor is powerful in that students understand several things:

1.  As their teacher, you are paying attention to their behavior.
2.  You are cognizant of their role and contributions in the classroom.
3.  Once you introduce this metaphor, you can discuss the importance of cycling through the roles.  Being captain everyday might be overkill for some students (and their peers).  Being cargo everyday may be too passive for learning. 
4.  Most students can remember the metaphor as it easy to relate to:  Captain, crew, cargo.  Of course, having a visual for this can help.  Maybe incorporate some clip art to support this.
5.  From that day forward, you can talk to students using this metaphor.  For example, a student who never shows leadership qualities, but is a hard-worker (thus, s/he a crew member), you can assign them the "captain" role for a small group project that day; Why not broaden their skill set?  For someone who is cargo daily, you can communicate to them that you need them to be a crew member for the next activity.  It is subtle way of influencing students' behaviors and participation.

Try this one out this week.  Post comments below and share how it worked for you and your students.


Long term thinking (or how teachers, like me, think)

I am a teacher.  I have been for the past 15 years.  It all started as a sleep-away camp counselor at Camp Highlander (see happy, smiling me below) outside Asheville, North Carolina.  Actually, it probably started when I was five years old playing "school" with my sister, Dana. 


Teaching has gleefully taken me to suburban Denver, the Navajo Nation, Quito, Ecuador, inner-city Baltimore, the slopes of Aspen Highlands, ropes courses around the U.S. and now to a fantastic community college and university in the Maryland-Washington, DC area.

I think like a teacher.  Act like a teacher.  Enjoy being a teacher.  That means for me, long term thinking happens in "semester" increments.  Either 9- or 15-weeks at a time.

One day, I will think in school years.

Long term, for the next 15 weeks, I will tackle blogging.  Upcycled education is my theme - taking vintage teaching & learning ideas and freshening them up for the 21st century.  Sit back, enjoy, put these into practice and do leave comments when you have something to say or add to the conversation.

Who doesn't love a new teaching & learning idea or a vintage one with a fresh, 21st century spin?

Ready to spin,