Here is my list of favorite blogs and blog posts for 2008:
I love eduwonkette she’s a girl, she’s a geek, she’s funny, and she gets me thinking. Here is the post that most influenced my blogging this year. It’s a little kernel in a post on the book Bobo’s in Paradise by David Brooks about how the achievement gap starts early:
eduwonkette: Still a Bobo in Paradise I really do hate my permanent residence in the reality-based community, but at least half of the achievement gap that exists between black and white students – the fact that the average black 12th grader performs at about the 16th percentile of the white distribution (a gap of about 1 standard deviation)- cannot possibly be attributed to the K-12 schools. Why? The average black student enters kindergarten testing at about the 25 percentile of the white distribution in math (a gap of .663 standard deviations), and the 35th percentile of the white distribution in reading (a gap of .4 standard deviations). “Squeezing teachers,” “dealing with teachers who don’t teach,” or “holding teachers feet to the fire,” I’m sorry to say, are not going to address that gap. And between kindergarten and 12th grade, kids are only in school 22% of their waking hours. It turns out that poor students’ slower rate of learning in the summer plays a significant role in increasing existing gaps.
The inclusion of Dangerously Irrelevant will be no surprise to readers. Dr. McLeod was an early supporter of mine and of this blog. But it’s easy to “shine” on his blog because he brings up such interesting topics, and gets such interesting people. Really, it’s like your favorite cocktail party. A recent series on the benefits (or lack of same) of outside consultant/lecturers has been no exception and gets my vote for his best post(s). Dangerously Irrelevant: Beware outside consultants? – Part 2, Ruby Payne is interesting because there is a huge argument in the comments section. It’s not just between those who support Payne’s deficit view of poverty, but between her detractors who line up as the “theorist”, and those of us working in the trenches who would like specific concrete approaches as an alternative to Payne. Seriously! 4 leftos, 8 opinions, but it’s good because IMHO, if we don’t have alternatives that are respectful, and meaningful, teachers will gravitate to the views of Payne if for no other reason than desperation. I’ll be blogging about this more later.
What I like about Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… is that it is more than a resource blog. No one gets across his opinion is a more gently forceful way than Larry. Those years of community organizing really paid off. My favorite post is the series, When A “Good” Class Goes “Bad” (And Back To “Good” Again!) | Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… for his willingness to be vulnerable and share his problems, then provide concrete point-by-point steps he took to improve things. Bravo, Larry!
Next up, Mathew Needleman’s Creating Lifelong Learners gets my nod. Many know Mathew as an expert on Video in the Classroom. If you have an elementary video project, you really need to check out his presentation at K12 Online 2008. My favorite posts were about independent work time, and how to make it effective, which took on the frequently given excuse for avoiding doing it, with “My Students Just Can’t Work Independently This Year”. Here is an exerpt:
Not teaching students how to work independently is like not teaching students students how to read because they don’t know how. Yes, some classes come in and they work better on their own than others but if they can’t work on their own, that’s where you come in.
Don’t give up on your independent work time because students don’t know how to do it. Those students who don’t know how to work indpendently are the ones who need you the most.
Chris Lehmann is the educator at NECC who impressed me the most and his blog, Practical Theory, shows why. He is young, so is still energetic, enthusiastic, and willing to try new things, but his position as a principal also gives him a maturity and perspective that really work well together. His piece on Michelle Rhee is one of the most mature criticisms (this from a Rhee mudslinger herself). Read The Educational Debate — Tone Matters – Practical Theory to see what I mean.
Doug Noon at Borderland continues to rack up honors, and readers outside the edublog bubble, and is it any wonder with his almost literary writing style that adds class and thoughtfulness. He was found to be a successful and outstanding blogger by Liz Strauss, and is one of the only education bloggers to make that cut. Then he did a stint as an education blogger at the New York Times. I love almost all of his posts, but I’ll single out the recent, Borderland » Blog Archive » Time for a Little Comprehension which after a decade of fluency focused reading instruction, asks what we will be doing about reading comprehension.
Adding Dan Meyer at dy/dan to this list will surprise no one, since his blog is one that I cite regularly. I’m going to pull out and dust off this little gem, dy/dan » Blog Archive » Deborah Meier Is Right About Math which argues that math instruction should move more towards statistics-based higher-level math, instead of the emphasis on calculus. As a former public opinion poller, I agree.
Someone who I met this summer, Bethany Smith, has really impressed me with her wit, her down-to-earth approach, and her sense of humor. She is not a prolific poster (neither am I these days), but she has a nice blog at Transparent Learning.
What about my own work?
My Dy/Dan Network | Reflections on Teaching
According to Google Analytics, this is my top viewed post, with 249 unit page views. I’m trying to figure out where the hits are coming from, because I didn’t post the link on Dan’s blog. Maybe Dan was so taken with it that he looks it up on every random computer he passes? I dunno, whatever the reason, click over there, and let’s push that pageview number up some more?
YouTube, the good, the bad, the ugly | Reflections on Teaching
I include this because it is the post that most administrators liked because it took the curtain down on a potentially bad situation and showed how one school (mine) worked things out. In addition, if the student involved had seen the post, I would not have been embarrassed, because what I/we said to them was consistent with what I said in the post. There were no games, or secret grown up plans going on.
Marketing Monkeys | Reflections on Teaching
This started out in response to complaints from last years annual report competition at dy/dan . Some complained about the competition being about “marketing” rather than analysis. This post was important to me because I don’t think good propaganda is properly valued in education and this makes the case for it.
Look ma! I can decode Hangul. . . and other stupid party tricks | In Practice
This was a good post because I felt like I was able to explain the difference between fluency (decoding) and reading with comprehension, and how those two do NOT always intersect with language learners, in a way that a lay person could understand. It’s my favorite use of illustrative annecdotes in my own posts.