Review Questions

By contrast, those who had answered or generated questions during the learning phase scored 11 percentage points higher, on average.

These Two Revision Strategies Can Prepare You For An Exam Much Better Than Just Restudying Your Notes

I am a big fan of getting students to generate questions themselves. At the least, it gets them to anticipate what questions might be on an assessment. Deeper, it gets students thinking about the purpose any given activity. I’m considering how I can use this strategy for assessments this term, as a way to adapt for online.

However, this study points out that simply answering questions as a form of review is just as effective (small sample size, only one study). So this has me thinking about student daily/routine review. I encourage students to review class notes and activities daily, especially on their commute or when they have down time. These types of situations might not be common anymore, so maybe I need to include daily review questions to help nudge students along.

I have a colleague that does weekly tests on content, maybe I can combine the two – tests and review.


Language, Design, Clarity

But the more easily a reader or listener is able to digest your message, the more highly you will be regarded as a speaker or writer.

Clarity is a must in teaching, not only in the language I use but also in the design I present to students. Instructional design, materials design, platform design.

There’s also the balance between simplicity and exactness. I can’t always control what people are willing to digest, yet I need to be more complex to be more exact. Often, I can balance out complexity with repetition. Repeating key ideas, in different ways, helps make a message more digestible.

Sometimes, there are other aspirations than being highly regarded.

Using Structure to Break it

Many students found comfort in our classroom. They learned what to expect and settled in nicely. Now, things are quite different. As much as possible, I want to carry over the norms set from the physical classroom.

Five Pillars For My Online Classroom

A short list of considerations for online learning. This quote from the section “Carry over norms, when possible, from the physical classroom” is good advice.

For one, online there are technical and literacy considerations that will cause enough difference and discomfort to navigate, especially for the first few weeks. Keep routines and habits to create some continuity so students don’t drop.

For another, routines are important because they give me the power to break routine, to make an impact where and when it is needed. I don’t want to lose this with the transition to online. I’ll also need ways to engage students when they get too inactive online.

Starting Points

“Murder Most Foul” is about the assassination of JFK. But it is also about what constitutes an event, and about how an event takes on meaning beyond itself.

“Murder Most Foul” and the Haunting of America

An interesting article on MIT Press, first because I didn’t know Dylan was still recording and has a new song out. Also because the song seems to be deep, about lasting impact in an age of distributed society.

The larger an event’s impact, the further the reach. Major events in history, the ones in the pages and talkies, have direct impact on society. I learn about these events, I learn better about what we do now.

Behavior is often connected to a past event, rather than poor decision making. And this is worthwhile to keep in mind.

‘Events’ in our classroom during the first few weeks of term create ripples that impact student decisions and behaviors for months. Now, at the end of the term, it’s easy for me to attribute student mistakes and poor performance to bad decision making, laziness, or poor instruction. However, start of term events may be far enough out of my mind but still impressing on students. At some point I have to help them to move on.

Online Deadlines

It may also be to do with how much effort we allocate to particular activities, the team suggests. If we have no idea how much longer we’re going to be engaging in a particular task, we’re unlikely to put all of our energy into it; if we know the end is near, we feel more able to try our hardest without fear of running out of energy.

Knowing When A Task Is Going To End Makes Us Better At It

I enjoy the flexibility of online teaching.  I try to pass this agency along to my students, as well. However, this article is a good reminder about the usefulness of deadlines. I understand this feeling they’re describing, and it makes sense to me. Deadlines are good. Deadlines are good. Deadlines…..

Educational activities need some structure. This is unavoidable.


Educational Leadership

I worry about the concept of educational leadership.

The people I look to as educational leaders:

  • Colleagues who never fail in responding to my questions and requests for help
  • Colleagues who transition a class for online delivery, help others to do so, even when their content is not suited for digital environments
  • Colleagues who listen to my ramblings and listen to me vent when I need it, even when they have better things to do
  • Colleagues who think of me when they see a book for sale, because its a personalized gesture and shared interest
  • People I follow online who use vast amounts of their spare time to create useful resources for teachers and students

These people and others are leaders that I want to emulate in my own classroom.

I like to read Downes, because he’s someone I learn from and find challenging. Sometimes I take lead from him, like in the way he consistently adds value to content he finds online. I usually wouldn’t consider him an educational leader though, not for me.

And I especially wouldn’t consider him, or anyone, an educational leader because they conform to accepted ideas. There’s enough of that in edtech circles and cliques as it is. There’s enough piling on when different people have different ideas.

Leadership is a complex label, that can really mess up a community/society when brandished around so lightly.


As a postscript – the actual argument in the op here falls flat. It’s an argument I’ve seen various versions of over the past decade “Look at my Twitter PLN, there’s so much conversation, therefore we don’t need planning, just connect, do, practice.”

Any pedagogy that needs to be conditioned with “First, get popular…” doesn’t translate into an intentional education situation. It doesn’t work in the classroom. Building your PLN is a type of planning, and not one that suits or is accessible to every one.


Related: Post on Jim Groom’s website:









How to Write Usefully

To start with, that means it should be correct. But it’s not enough merely to be correct. It’s easy to make a statement correct by making it vague. That’s a common flaw in academic writing, for example.

Making it vague is also a common management technique to avoid responsibility, but that’s another topic.

This is a nice blog post a few weeks back, that I’ve actually used with my students as a reading assignment (just the introduction). I like it because it’s more content related than our usual focus on grammar and structure.

The ‘how’ of what we do is often over emphasized at expense of the ‘why’. Writing like this starts to move from ‘how’ to ‘why’, digging a little deeper, challenging a little more, asking people…students to be responsible. That is a good thing, if we are concerned about fixing society.

I have related reading questions for this introduction, if someone happens to need.


Untranslatable Words

Created in just 24 hours by Steph SmithEunoia offers hundreds of untranslatable words in a useful and accessible online dictionary. Eunoia is itself an untranslatable word meaning a “well-mind” or “beautiful thinking.”

Eunoia: The Internet’s Dictionary of Untranslatable Words

The Long Now posted a link to Eunoia, which is a dictionary of untranslatable words. It’s a cool website, that I plan to use with my class. At the beginning of each term, and sometimes throughout, I teach specifically about ‘language as a technology’. This approach is important for language learning, I feel, because it gives students awareness that their first language will shape many of their misunderstandings and miscommunications about leaning English.

I’m thinking of two activities that I can build around Eunoia:

  • Descriptive writing – find a word and try to describe the meaning of that word in English, give examples, even write a paragraph about that word.
  • Submit a new word – The website has a function where anyone can submit an untranslatable word to add to the dictionary. Students can create a new word or choose an untranslatable (not already in the dictionary) word from a language that they know, and submit it.

We’re practicing Skimming and Scanning as a skill this term. There’s probably a S&S activity in here as well, I will think about.

Frustrated Educators

A few years ago, Pennsylvania teacher Danielle Arnold-Schwartz wasn’t feeling burned out per-se, but she was getting frustrated with what she calls “corporate education reform,” which to her includes things like pointless new jargon and changes to the teacher evaluation system that she says was more like a checklist than a conversation with the principal.

Well, this article says a lot of things, and I empathize with much of it. It is important, too, to articulate these frustrations because corporate structure will find a path of least resistance if ambiguity allows for it. So many frustrations are not a part of the nature of teaching – they come from the structures that are imposed by the “corporate education reform” (as Danielle calls it). Although, “reform” may be putting it too kind. A few thoughts:

The article makes a strong point about the fact that many people go into teaching for moral reasons. This is very true, and doesn’t need to be read in cloud-parting, light-shining-from-above, harp-music-playing terms either. Decisions by educational organization are often (always?) justified by money. As I was once told “We can’t do something simply because it’s good.”

As a result of money/funding focused decisions, many teachers do feel the need to advocate for students. It’s one of the many hats that educators now wear. Teachers are the point of contact with students, and this is where relationships are built. Considering why a teacher becomes a teacher, it’s unlikely to expect teachers to enact face-to-face decisions that are at the expense of the student, rather than for their benefit. Putting teachers between their employer and their student, it’s easy to understand how frustration arises.

Educational institutions are often strongly hierarchical (despite the jargon). One idea not mentioned, are the one-way streets of communication that move down the hierarchy vs the two-way communication routes that are expected upwards. I don’t know if I can elaborate on this, but it is something that can be very frustrating, especially since at its core education is about communication. Transfer of idea.

Individual teachers may be excellent models of communication, even when the organizations they work for are models of transmission. And, despite the frustration caused by this disconnect.

Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy

It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone.

I read Blood Meridian over the break, and it is a difficult book to comment on. The writing is powerful, the images are vivid, and the action is raw. It’s like The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test dipped in a still-water pond of black grief.

There’s little punctuation in this book (I don’t know if this is McCarthy’s style always, or just in this book) so it feels like there’s no filter between reader and setting.

I did search about the book after I finished it and found this interesting article about the difficulties in making it into a movie. I’m not sure I buy the premise of the article though, that it is the religious message that would disturb potential views of the movie. Rather, if they made this book into a film, the cultural, physical, and emotional violence would be like any other high profile film.

The article is a nice read though, it explains some connections to evolution that make complete sense, and help to make sense of the Judge Holden character.

I also find it interesting that Blood Meridian could be read as an apocalyptic book – not many apocalypse stories take place in the historical past. But hey, maybe we are all just in a post apocalypse world, a few centuries on.

Beside all this, McCarthy is an incredible writer. There were long segments of description that projected on my mind like a delirious flu induced night of dreams. This might actually be the main reason why a film would be so difficult, no on-screen images could match McCarthy’s descriptions. A few short quotes from the book:

  • Whatever exists, he said. Whatever exists in creation without my knowledge exists without my consent.
  • Glanton’s eyes in their dark sockets were burning centroids of murder
  • …he seemed some degenerate entrepreneur fleeing from a medicine show and the outrage of the citizens who’d sacked it.
  • Men’s memories are uncertain and the past that was differs little from the past that was not.