Friday, November 7, 2008

The Laughter/Learning Link

The Laughter/Learning Link
Presenter: Rick Shade

"Laughter is a serious business."

This workshop was based on the idea of using appropriate humor in the classroom to stimulate creative thinking, reduce anxiety, motivate learners, enhance memory and comprehension, and make learning more enjoyable.

The idea is rooted in Shade's theory of three links between laughter and learning:
1. Link to creativity and divergent thinking: "the ability to throw off our mental chains of rigid thought, routines, patterns, and conventionality" (Shade).
2. Laughter is important to your physical well-being. Noted health benefits include production and release of endorphins, enhancement of immune systems, and pain control.
3. Laughter-learning relationship. Laughter may lead to new ideas or understandings.

I had so much fun at this workshop and laughed a lot. Shade used an overhead projector to present over a hundred cartoons that got everyone laughing and relaxed. We shared experiences of laughter in our classrooms as well as times when we wished we could have laughed.

I purchased a workbook at the convention filled with classroom activities including a Humor Quotient (HQ) Inventory, ideas around cartooning and using comics in the classroom, writing songs, creating bumper stickers, use of idioms, parodies, or quotes, top 10 lists...

Each activity is set up like a lesson plan - complete with humor, thinking, and content goals, which can be tailored to any content area. Feel free to borrow the workbook, make copies, etc. I would love to share it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why the Read/Write Web Changes Everything

A Web of Connections: Why the Read/Write Web Changes Everything
Presenter: Will Richardson
The Web has brought a world of information to our fingertips and, in the process, has transformed much of the way we work and live. Will Richardson presented a passionate argument how we in education must be knowledgeable about the world in which the students we teach live and communicate. We no longer can abide by the rules of content being scarce and deliverable by teachers. Content is not static and is always changing and whether we like it or not our students are a part of that change.

Teachers must begin to re-envision the basic foundations of teaching and learning. Students now have the capabilities of organizing large groups of people together for support, knowledge, and information. Will Richardson emphasized this by sharing a large number of student blogs created by students OUT of the school environment due to the fact that most schools block this type of social networking. He emphasized the need in this new world of global connections to teach students how to create, grow, and navigate their own personal learning networks.

Will Richardson's website can be found at
Will's blog has an enormous amount of worthwhile links to investigate and comment.

Laura's Blog - A middle school student tries to make a difference - and has!
This website is hosted by Laura's mom, Angela, but Laura writes almost all of the entries. Check out her first entry on December 1st, of 2007.

I have also purchased Will Richardson's Book, Blogs, Wikis, Podasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. You are welcome to borrow the book anytime.

What do you guys think about this shift in teaching? Should we spend more time teaching our students how to manage the technology that students are already using instead of have them check them at the door?

He parts with a quote and a thought - Best teachers will be the ones kids find, not the ones given.

Exhibit Hall

There were many worthwhile vendors exhibiting at the conference that are worth mentioning. Some were high tech and some were low tech. Below are some of my favorites:

This vendor sells material that turns an existing chalkboard or wall into a whiteboard.

Locker Works
This site sold some really cool locker pieces to help kids organize their lockers.

DigiTales -
A great website for digital storytelling.

Promethian Planet
These guys were major sponsors of the NMSA convention. The Promethian System or Active System is an incredible blend of projection systems, smartboards, clicker systems and software. A few of the sessions I attended had these systems in action and they truly transformed the learning experience.