Thursday, September 29, 2011

Friday's Five - My PLN Rocks

Friday's Five is a feature every week where I pick a new topic and list five items that I think fit best.  Then I ask you, my readers, to share your thoughts in the comment section.  For an archive of past topics, check the Friday's Five Page.  If you'd like to make suggestions about future topics or discuss topics I bring up on the blog with others, make sure you click the "like" button on the right hand side of the page to join A Teacher's Life for Me on Facebook.  Don't be shy about sharing the blog and Facebook Page with others.  Each post has a "Tweet" button on top and buttons on the bottom that allow you to share in several ways, including e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter.

photo credit:

In the beginning of my teaching career my growth as a professional was pretty typical.  I learned from experience.  I attended "professional development" sessions that my school district mandated, often wondering why I was being forced to spend six hours listening to someone from a textbook company talk all about how their product was the greatest development in education while never giving me anything useful I can use in my classroom.  Occasionally there would be a discussion with someone in my building that influenced my pedagogy a bit.

In the past few years, though, I feel as though my professional growth has accelerated incredibly due to the cultivation of my PLN.  Some claim that PLN is an acronym for "Personal Learning Network", while others prefer "Professional Learning Network".  I could really care less.  I just know that the network of over a thousand educators on Plurk, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, as well as the edubloggers with whom I interact, and the commenters on my own blog posts have become the catalyst which has allowed me to continually become a better teacher.

Here are five reasons why my PLN rocks.

  1. I am continually bombarded with an influx of new ideas.  Every day I learn several new things from the amazing educators with whom I network.  Whether it's web 2.0 tools to use in my classroom, ways to better assess my students, ideas on how to reform public education, or something else, my PLN is an endless source of innovative thinking.
  2. My PLN gives me support when I need it.  Everybody in every profession goes through tough stretches.  Teachers are no different.  When those times arise, it's nice to have a network of educators who can both empathize and offer suggestions on how to handle the situation.  
  3. I'm forced to reflect and evaluate my practices.  As an active member of a PLN it's important to share as well as consume.  Many times others will offer constructive criticism, challenge ideas that I share, or flat out disagree with my opinions.  This forces me to look inward and truly evaluate whether I am doing what's best for my students.  Is there any more powerful professional growth than that which comes from true evaluation of one's practices?
  4. I know people who know more than me.  My PLN is filled with educators who are experts in many different aspects of education.  If I have a question about Project Based Learning, an on-line resource, ways to use videoconferencing in the classroom, conceptual mathematics pedagogy, or any other niche in education, chances are there is someone in my network who is either highly knowledgeable or can put me into contact with someone who is highly knowledgeable about that topic.  This is something that is simply impossible in any one school building or district.  
  5. The amazing things that others are doing in their classrooms inspires me to be great.  We often hear about teachers that do stupid things in newspapers and on TV.  Much less common are the stories of wonderful things that happen all over the world every day in classrooms.  I get to hear those stories.  I get to see the incredible work of students who have been inspired by amazing teachers.  I am assaulted with inspiration on a daily basis.  Each time I see such greatness I am reinvigorated to inspire my students in the same way.  I can honestly say that my own motivation level has risen dramatically since I discovered the power of a PLN.
Now it's your turn.  How does your PLN help you become better at your job?  If you haven't begun to build a network, what's holding you back?  What other resources have you found to network with other professionals?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below and share the post with others via Plurk, Twitter, Google+, or Facebook, so that we can hear their point of view as well.  After all, the more people we have sharing ideas, the more powerful our PLN becomes! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Love the One You're With

I've listened, read, and watched a lot of debates and opinions on how to improve education over the past few years.  There's lots of disagreement over many, many things.  Two things that are irrefutable and backed by the data of many studies are:

1.  Student socio-economic status is the factor that correlates highest with achievement in school.
2.  The quality of the teacher in front of a student is the largest in-school factor in his/her achievement.

Since the focus of this blog is not on decreasing poverty, teaching parenting skills, nor building stronger relationships between parents, I'm not going to talk about the first statement above.  I'll simply state that if we are serious about improving education in this country, we had better not ignore the fact that poverty in the United States is at its highest point in decades.
Flickr/McConnell Center

I would like to focus on the second statement, though.  We've known that the quality of our teachers is important for a long time.  We've known since well before No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the charter school movement, union-bashing, and the push for school vouchers.  In all that time, we've never focused on making teachers better.

We hear talk of firing bad teachers, using student test scores to evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher, and eliminating collective bargaining rights.  We focus on "accountability."  We never focus on developing our teachers and making them better.

Imagine a farm where the farmer tried to make his pigs larger by weighing them more often instead of feeding them.  Imagine a greenhouse that tried to grow larger plants by measuring them more often instead of giving them more fertilizer. 

We hear "experts" claim that getting rid of the bad teachers is the answer, however we know that we are facing a national teacher shortage in the future.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics we will need 1.6 million new teachers in the next few years.  It's time to start looking at how we can improve the teachers we have.  To borrow from Stephen Stills, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with."

It's difficult to determine how much money we've spent on standardized testing in the United States in the past decade.  If you look at only the cost of developing and administering the tests, the figure is somewhere between 5 billion and 10 billion dollars.  If you include the costs districts and schools are forced to spend to buy test preparation materials and meet the federal mandates, the cost rises much, much higher.

What if we spent that money on developing our teachers and improving teaching in this country?  What if we used it to identify great teachers and develop mentorship programs with those new to the profession?  What if we used it to provide time and opportunities for teacher collaboration so that the best ideas were spread to as many classrooms as possible?  What if we created exchange programs where teachers from struggling schools could spend a year in a high performing school?  What if we made teacher improvement our focus by bombarding our teachers with professional development opportunities the way we bombard them with standardized testing pressure?  What if we spent our resources developing our talent instead of hoping that talented teachers will suddenly appear if we keep turning over our faculties enough times?

What if, instead of looking for one to love, we started loving the ones we're with?

Do that and you'll see the improvement in learning that we are all hoping to find.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday's Five - Myths in Education

Friday's Five is a feature every week where I pick a new topic and list five items that I think fit best.  Then I ask you, my readers, to share your thoughts in the comment section.  For an archive of past topics, check the Friday's Five Page.  If you'd like to make suggestions about future topics or discuss topics I bring up on the blog with others, make sure you click the "like" button on the right hand side of the page to join A Teacher's Life for Me on Facebook.  Don't be shy about sharing the blog and Facebook Page with others.  Each post has a "Tweet" button on top and buttons on the bottom that allow you to share in several ways, including e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter.

We live in an age where information is free and easily accessible.  There are many benefits to 24-hour cable news, high speed internet, and social networking.  Many of my previous posts have focused on ways that we can prepare our students for the information age.  Being able to identify bias and misinformation is of paramount importance when being constantly bombarded with new facts, ideas, opinions, and theories.

In this post I'd like to examine a few beliefs about students, education, and schools that are both widely believed and untrue.  These myths about education are holding us back in developing the 21st century education system that our students deserve.  They have permeated our culture to the point that educators often base decisions on these bits of misinformation.  Many people call for "educational reform," but until we are willing to focus on the learning process of each student, "reform" will continue to mean change that benefits a few people in position of power.

Myth #1 - Failure is a bad word.

Our fear of failure has crippled us.  Failure is an opportunity to learn.  One quality shared by all successful people is the ability to learn from mistakes.  Walt Disney was in financial ruin and had lost his most well known character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, to a competitor before creating Mickey Mouse.  Abraham Lincoln lost a senate election before becoming the greatest of American presidents.  We could spend all day making a list of people who failed and then became great success stories.  We focus so heavily on the "right answer" in class and not on the critical thinking that goes into decision making that we rob children of the opportunity to grow from their mistakes.  We focus on correctness and not on learning.  As a result, the one thing our children learn best is that failure is not something to learn from, but something of which to be ashamed.  Imagine a world in which people, companies, and governments did not learn from mistakes, but rather repeated them over and over again.  That world will soon be a reality unless we start teaching our children to think differently.

Myth #2 - All students need to learn the same information.

Do you think that Steve Jobs, Maya Angelou, Yo-yo Ma, Warren Buffett, and Lady Gaga needed to learn the same content in school to become successful?  Do we really believe as a society and an educational system that the ability to find the right answer to math calculations and getting the main idea from short passages are what paved the way to success for those who achieve it?  Successful people have a few things in common, none of which is reading and math ability.  They are innovative in their fields.  They are passionate.  They understand others and how to communicate with people.  They learn from failure.  These are the things that should be focus upon in schools.  The information that students learn should be determined by their strengths and passions.  I'm sure that Lady Gaga didn't need a high school computer programming course or Algebra II, but that Steve Jobs would have found both interesting and useful.  We need to allow our students to identify that which will allow them to be successful, and then provide the opportunity to pursue those passions.  Standardization kills greatness and promotes mediocrity.

Myth #3 - The teacher is the most important factor in student achievement.

I'll be the first to say that teachers should never use parents or a student's home life as an excuse for a student not learning.  Actually, I did.  Doing so allows us to stop examining what it is that we can improve upon in our own practice.  With that being said, however, a plethora of studies show that socio-economic situations are a vastly higher factor in student success than the teacher in the classroom.  Several recent studies have shown that student achievement in US schools with low poverty is higher than schools in countries that have similar low poverty levels.  Those same studies show that our high poverty schools perform as well as those in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Until we begin to address the inequities in how we fund schools and the issue of poverty we will never be able to claim that we are doing a good job of educating our future generations.

Myth #4 - Good grades are an indicator of future success.

This myth happens to be based on past fact.  A few decades ago it was true that if a student worked hard, attended school, and got good grades that they would be able to find a good job.  It simply isn't true any more.  Due to the speed at which knowledge is growing, we are preparing our students for jobs that don't even exist yet.  Employers aren't looking for workers who are good at reading, 'righting, and 'rithmatic anymore.  They want employees who can think on the fly, bring new ideas to the table, and adapt to rapidly changing economic environments.  Those are things that are all but ignored right now in schools, and certainly don't show up in a student's grades. 

Myth #5 - Teachers will improve if we provide financial incentives.

I think that everyone agrees that it would be fantastic to have a great teacher in front of every student.  The question becomes "How do we develop those great teachers?"  Merit pay seems to be the current focus.  The problem is that most teachers don't know how to get better.  Most teachers were educated in a system that was well designed for the factory model of the Industrial Revolution.  The college courses they took were rooted in the same model.  For the past decade we have not only followed the same model, but have taken it a step further by focusing increasingly on narrow standardized tests that are the ultimate example of a desire to place the importance on knowing information rather finding and using it.  In order for us to improve the quality of our teachers, we need to provide them the opportunity to learn how to prepare students for the 21st century.  They need professional development.  They need to be encouraged to network with other teachers, discuss great pedagogy, and share successes.  They also need to be allowed to take risks in their lessons, have lessons fail, and learn from their mistakes.  Merit pay allows for none of those things.  It simply provides more money for teachers in better socio-economic areas and punishes teachers working with our most needy students. 

Now, it's your turn.  What are your thoughts on the above myths?  Do you disagree?  What other popular beliefs about education are holding us back from giving our students opportunities to learn?  What suggestions do you have to overcome such misperceptions?  Please share with us in the comment section and pass the post along to others, both inside and outside education, via Twitter, Google+, Plurk, or Facebook so that we can hear as many points of view as possible. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday's Five - Make Schools Better without Spending Money

Friday's Five is a feature every week where I pick a new topic and list five items that I think fit best.  Then I ask you, my readers, to share your thoughts in the comment section.  For an archive of past topics, check the Friday's Five Page.  If you'd like to make suggestions about future topics or discuss topics I bring up on the blog with others, make sure you click the "like" button on the right hand side of the page to join A Teacher's Life for Me on Facebook.  Don't be shy about sharing the blog and Facebook Page with others.  Each post has a "Tweet" button on top and buttons on the bottom that allow you to share in several ways, including e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter.
As educators, we should always be looking for ways to make our schools better learning environments.  Every day, new stories are surfacing about how school funding is getting cut.  In this post, I'd like to examine five ways that we can improve the educational experience for our students without spending a lot of money. 
  1. Start school later in the day.  This change would cost nothing, and undoubtedly lead to increased learning for our students.  According to the American Psychological Association, adolescents need 9 hours and 15 minutes of sleep per night.  With travel times in some rural areas of over an hour to arrive at school in the morning, sports and activities that often last late into the evening, and school start times before 8AM, most students do not get the required amount of sleep.  Pushing back the school day by an hour would leave less students in a constant state of exhaustion, and more learning would occur.
  2. Allow teachers control over their own professional development through PLNs.  Instead of paying for expensive "experts" to come into schools to deliver professional development to teachers, allow teachers to model life-long learning to their students through the development of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs).  In this way, teachers can learn about the topics they feel are most important from others in the field through professional blogs, social networking sites like Plurk, Twitter, and Google+, and other resources.  The reality is that most school/district sponsored professional development does not trickle down to changes in classroom pedagogy.  Networking with other professionals is something that is critical to growth in any profession, and something that has been lacking in the field of education.  
  3. Buy fewer textbooks.  Textbooks are so 20th Century.  The textbook selection process in larger states all but guarantees that any controversial, thought provoking, or polically charged topics are left out.  There are problems waiting to be solved all around us that require research, writing skills, and mathematics.  We live in a time when information is ubiquitous and free.  Textbooks hold back students from having to think and teachers from having to be creative.  
  4. Eliminate Standardized Test Prep.  Despite what the companies that sell test prep materials tell you, there are many studies that show that special test preparation classes and lessons lead to no additional learning.  We know from countless brain researchers that learning can only happen when students have an emotional connection to the material they are learning.  I've seen fewer things in my teaching career that are less emotionally engaging than test prep materials.  Requiring students to take time away from engaging, authentic learning to drill and practice using test prep materials is not only boring for the students and teachers, but it's ineffective and expensive. 
  5. Involve students in the community.  In these rough economic times it is vital that we maintain a good relationship with the community, since a large part of public school funding comes from local taxes.  In addition, there are increasingly more community members that need help.  Students need to learn the value of helping others and the rewards that come with service.  Helping others in the local area is an opportunity for our students to solve real world problems with the skills they've learned in school, while also building a stronger bond between school and community. 
Now it's your turn.  Has your school adopted any of these changes?  Are there other ways we could increase learning without increasing the budget?  What obstacles would we face in implementing the above suggestions?  Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, and pass the blog on to others via Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, and Google+ so that we can hear as many points of view as possible.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    All Students Deserve the Opportunity to Love Learning

    This morning I was part of a few Gifted IEP meetings.  For those unfamiliar with the process, every year students who qualify for either special education services or gifted services have their Individualized Education Program (IEP) reviewed by a group which includes several people, including the parents and a regular education teacher (me).

    While they varied slightly from each other, each student's Gifted IEP included an emphasis on "higher-level thinking," and a focus on learning topics in which they had great interest.  These students will get an education where they get to explore what they love and learn how to think.

    Each set of parents that I spoke to mentioned similar stories of how their children loved school.  Their children couldn't wait to start learning again at the end of the summer. They see their time working with the gifted teacher as the highlight of their week.

    I kept coming back to the same thought.  Why aren't we doing this for all children?

    Don't all children deserve the opportunity to love learning?

    Perhaps if we allowed children to pursue their passions and learn about what they love, a lot more of them would feel the same way about school.  Instead of force feeding the entire class some lousy textbook passage about the apple harvest (or any of the many other topics most kids find mind-numbingly boring) and beating them over the head with questions that are designed just like those on the state test, we could allow them to pick a topic they care about and let them research it.  Let them create a pamphlet for others who care about the same subject, design an awareness campaign for a charity whose mission they believe in, or share their research in any of a plethora of other ways that allow them to innovate.  Either way they learn to read non-fiction, find the main idea, generalize, and all the other skills that are in each state's standards.  Only one way allows them to enjoy the learning process, though.

    Only allowing students the opportunity to learn about subjects they love will foster the life-long learning, mentioned in so many school mission statements and instilled in students by so few schools.

    Perhaps if we focused on teaching all students higher-level thinking skills instead of that which is required to pass state tests we wouldn't be talking about why the United States trails so many other counties in science and math, why so many students are unprepared for college when they graduate high school, and why students see no relevance in what they learn in school.  Teaching students to think is really the most important thing we can teach them.  The attitude that only gifted students are capable of higher order thinking is both factually wrong and detrimental to the rest of our students.  The difficulty of a task and the level of thinking required are separate entities.  All students, including those in special education, kindergarten, Advanced Placement Calculus, and gifted classes should be required to use such skills on a daily basis.  Not having that expectation is akin to preparing our students to be automatons who cannot think for themselves.

    Gifted students need to be allowed the opportunity to maximize their talents.  They should be allowed to follow their passions in school.  They should learn how to reason, debate, think critically, and use their unique abilities to develop innovative ways to change the world.  We should create an environment where they are able to use their God given ability to soar as high as they can.

    All other students deserve the same thing, too.

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    Friday's Five - Easy to Use Web 2.0 Tools to Start the Year

    Friday's Five is a feature every week where I pick a new topic and list five items that I think fit best.  Then I ask you, my readers, to share your thoughts in the comment section.  For an archive of past topics, check the Friday's Five Page.  If you'd like to make suggestions about future topics or discuss topics I bring up on the blog with others, make sure you click the "like" button on the right hand side of the page to join A Teacher's Life for Me on Facebook.  Don't be shy about sharing the blog and Facebook Page with others.  Each post has a "Tweet" button on top and buttons on the bottom that allow you to share in several ways, including e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter.

    One of the difficult things for me at the beginning of the school year is getting my fifth graders comfortable using technology and what they learn in class to create meaningful content for our class wiki.  For most of them, computers have been nothing more than a way to chat with their friends, practice skills, or play games.  Being creative and innovative is foreign to them.
    Flickr/DeSales University

    With that in mind, today's post is going to focus on five of the easiest tools with which students can learn to be creative.  These are not only great tools to use with students in the classroom, but they are a great way to get students acclimated to using technology without being overwhelmed.  As an added bonus, these are great tools for the teacher who is just starting out using technology in his/her lessons because of their simplicity.  To see some more of my favorite web 2.0 tools, have a look at the Friday's Five post from May 13, 2011.

    1. Wordle - There probably isn't an easier web 2.0 tool.  Wordle takes a list of typed words, or any text and turns it into an artistic word cloud.  There are lots of classroom applications for word clouds.  One of my favorites is to have students make a Wordle with their spelling words on Monday.  Words they got wrong on the pretest they have to type more often.  This has the twofold effect of having them practice typing the word more often and making the word appear bigger on their word cloud.  They then print out the word clouds and take them home, using them as place mats and studying at each meal.
    2. - There are lots of tools out there for making visual diagrams, but I've yet to find one that my students learn how to use faster and easier than  My students have used this tool to show relationships between characters in books they've read, to show different ways that numbers can be represented, to create flowcharts, and for many other purposes.
    3. Make Beliefs Comix - When I was looking through my Delicious links for web 2.0 cartoon creators, over ten sites came up.  Out of them, Make Beliefs Comix is by far the easiest to use.  It may not have as many options as the others, but it's still incredibly useful for allowing students to tell stories digitally, or share what they've learned with the world in cartoon form.
    4. Timetoast - Timetoast is timeline creator that allows the user to add pictures to the timelines they've created and the ability to embed the timelines in webpages, wikis, and blogs.  This tool is fantastic for allowing students in history classes the opportunity to explore events, find images that go along with the events, and to write summaries of those events for the timelines they create.  
    5. Create-a-Graph - This site does exactly what it's name implies.  It easily allows students to create graphs.  In addition to obvious uses in math class, my students have used Create-a-Graph as a tool in preparing projects and reports in Social Studies classes because of the quick, simple way one can turn historical statistics into something visually appealing.
    Now it's your turn.  What are some web 2.0 tools and websites that you use in the beginning of the year to get your students used to being innovative with technology?  Have your students used any of the above tools?  What did they use them for?  What plans do you have for them in the future?  Please share your thoughts with us in the comment section.  Also, pass the post along to others using Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, and Google+, so that we can hear from them.  I'd love to hear what others are doing in their classrooms. 

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Friday's Five: Reasons You Shouldn't Grade Homework

    Friday's Five is a feature every week where I pick a new topic and list five items that I think fit best.  Then I ask you, my readers, to share your thoughts in the comment section.  For an archive of past topics, check the Friday's Five Page.  If you'd like to make suggestions about future topics or discuss topics I bring up on the blog with others, make sure you click the "like" button on the right hand side of the page to join A Teacher's Life for Me on Facebook.  Don't be shy about sharing the blog and Facebook Page with others.  Each post has a "Tweet" button on top and buttons on the bottom that allow you to share in several ways, including e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter.

    For a few years I've been a member of our district's Assessment Committee, where we try and develop assessment policy and guidelines for teachers.  We've tried to come up with policies and guidelines that both lead to assessments in the classroom that guide the teaching of classroom teachers towards areas of need for students and standardize grading practices across the district.  In our meetings and other discussions on assessment I've been a part of there is no more debated topic than homework.

    Many argue that completion of homework should be graded because of the need for students to be responsible and accountable.  They often claim that responsibility is a skill that will be needed in the workplace, and that not counting homework completion as a part of students' grades would be akin to telling them that responsibility isn't important.

    Anyone who has read a few of my blog posts knows how passionate I feel about the need to prepare our students for the world they will encounter when they pass from our schools.  I am in complete agreement that we need to foster a sense of responsibility in our students.  I don't agree, however, that grading homework is an effective way to do it.

    In today's post, I'm going to list five reasons that homework completion should not be graded.  I'd love to hear your thoughts afterward, whether you agree or disagree, so please leave a comment.  Intelligent discussion and debate are tools for progress.

    1. A homework grade punishes those who need the most support. - We know that a great many of our students face difficulties at home.  Those difficulties often make homework a low priority.  Put yourself in the place of one of your students that you know has a rough time at home.  Imagine how much you'd care about getting your homework done, or even if you'd be able to get that work completed, when returning to that home situation from school.  Think about how much parental support you'd get.  Now imagine that you were being punished in your grades because you didn't get the work done.  These students need us to support them, not punish them.
    2. A homework grade doesn't show what the student has learned. - If a student receives a 90%, shouldn't that mean that the student learned 90% of what they were supposed to in that course?  When you begin to count homework completion as part of that grade it becomes impossible for parents, students, colleges, or anyone else to determine what a student's grade means.  A child who passed all of his/her tests and quizzes can still fail the course if they didn't do their homework, and a student who couldn't pass any test or quiz can can pass the course if they did the homework.  That doesn't make any sense, and leads to grades becoming totally meaningless.
    3. Grading homework doesn't teach responsibility. - I've yet to encounter a student who was lacking responsibility and started becoming responsible because their homework was going to be graded.  Ask most high school teachers, and they'll tell you that the majority of students aren't motivated by grades, anyway.  The students who are responsible already are going to do their homework, and those that aren't are not.  Chances are, grading it won't make a bit of difference.  
    4. If you want students to care about homework (and schoolwork for that matter), make it relevant. - This is really the heart of the problem, isn't it?  Students don't care about school because school doesn't matter to them.  Getting a good grade isn't a guarantee of future success nearly as much as it used to be, and the lack of frontal lobe formation in teenagers prevents them from understanding the long term consequences of poor grades.  If you want students to do work, you need to get them emotionally invested in what they are doing.  Maybe this means that they are going to use what they are learning in your class to solve a problem in the community, help their neighbors, follow their passion, or to create something they'd be excited to show off to their friends.  If they are working toward something they are passionate about, they will be more likely to invest their time on it.  
    5. There's rarely an educational reason for every student in your class to complete the same homework assignment.  - If 40% of your students have mastered a concept, does it really make sense to give an assignment to the whole class and then grade whether they have completed the assignment?  If one of the students who mastered the concept doesn't complete the assignment, is it really fair or logical to reduce their grade because they (rightfully) believed that the assignment was a waste of their time.  If you've ever complained about your boss making you do tasks that you know to be useless and a waste of time, you know how those students feel.  
    Now it's your turn.  What's your opinion on grading homework?  Do you agree with my reasoning for discontinuing the practice of homework grading, or have I missed something?  What's your school's policy when it comes to homework?  We'd love to hear as many different opinions as we can, so please pass the post on to other educators, parents, students, or anyone who may have strong feelings on the topic by sharing on Plurk, Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus.