I made ScienceFix.com to share my favorite demos that I do in my middle school science classes.  

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Media that I like...
  • Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Moon
    Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Moon
    by Sara Howard
  • NOVA - Origins
    NOVA - Origins
    starring Neil Degrasse Tyson
  • Human Body: Pushing the Limits
    Human Body: Pushing the Limits
    starring Bray Poor

Entries in commentary (3)


Time to Pull the Plug on Teacher Tube

Teaching and video have been around for years.  Some of us remember watching films on a projector in the classroom.  Then along came video tape.  Now we are in the era of web video.  Thanks to the internet teachers have access to more video than anytime in the past.  That's in theory of course.  In many school districts the IT department locks down the network.  YouTube, Blip.tv, and other web video are blocked.  The rationale is that students would purposefully or inadvertently access inappropriate video.  Students would get into trouble for accessing it, teachers would get into trouble for inadequate supervision, schools would get bad press, so on and so on.  Hence the rise of TeacherTube.  This site was created for teachers to upload and share video for in a safe and controlled environment, away from the "anything goes" sites like YouTube.  So why am I proposing to pull the plug on TeacherTube?

I'm not really.  It serves a purpose, but it fundamentally avoids the real problem. Districts should allow teachers access to the best tools available to enrich their classrooms and streamline their  workflow.  Blocking YouTube negates that. With TeacherTube in existence, districts feel justified in blocking basically the world's video archive.  I have experienced using TeacherTube and here are the downsides:

  • Cumbersome uploading process.  Entering video information is a chore and uploading frequently fails.
  • Video quality does not match YouTube.
  • Ads inserted.  I know the site creators need to make money, but it's done in an extremely annoying way.
  • Video choice is far less.

Here are the benefits of schools having access to Youtube:

  • Easy to upload to.
  • Superior video quality.
  • Easy to search for video.
  • Huge video library.  If I need a Bill Nye clip, a Mythbusters clip, a clip of the Hindenburg burning, anything, there is a good chance that it is there.

Is YouTube perfect?  Far from it.  My biggest complaint is in embedding videos. At the end of an embedded video there are the suggested videos that are frequently inappropriate for my students (middle school students).  This needs to be dealt with. I don't embed Youtube videos on my teacher page because of this this.  I instead upload videos to Blip.tv and link to the original download source material to avoid the suggested videos. YouTube needs to offer more control of this to its users.

My district unblocked YouTube, Blip.tv and other video sharing sites about a year and half ago and what were the results?  Students did not flock to YouTube during school time because there already is a school policy in place that instructs students to use the computer for school related purposes and not for personal entertainment. Teachers frequently walk around the computer lab room and/or classroom to monitor student activity and it works.  Imagine that.  Teachers as a result have been able to infuse into their curriculum a valuable resource.  That said, why am I writing about pulling the plug on Teacher Tube?  Our district seems to be in the minority.  When I collaborate with teachers outside the district, they frequently mention that they only have access to Teacher Tube. That is a shame. Districts please trust your teachers.  They will be responsible professionals. Don't treat them like children.


My Pledge to Parents

One of my goals entering this new school year is to improve the teacher/parent relationship. After 15 years of teaching I have met many wonderful supporting parents, but I have to admit my view on parents has been tarnished by the few less than capable parents that I have encountered during that time. So I here is what I will pledge to all parents this coming school year.

  1. I will acknowledge that you know your son/daughter better than I do. I only have your child for 45 min a day. Granted, I see them in a different social context that you do, you actually have spent 11-12 years with them and you probably have more in depth knowledge of what they are like. I will use your insight to better help your son/daughter.
  2. As a student you have experienced many years of the education system and it may have been a negative and or positive experience and many of your fears and expectations are based on that. What you need the most is all the facts and information. The more information I can give you, the better you can make decisions. I will give you all the information about policies, procedures, standards, testing, grading, resources about my class and the school.
  3. I will contact you more. I will give you the positive information and the negative information, preferably in that order. I will do this mostly by email, since it more efficient than phone calls and more personable than the robotic phone dialing system that our school uses. Too often what you tell students during the day is not communicated on to the parent. I need to bridge that communication gap.
  4. I will respond to emails in a timely manner. During a busy school day it's easy to forget that you had to respond to that parent's email. On the flip side I will pledge to not respond quickly to a negative parent email. There needs to be a cooling off period, so that I can calmly and rationally respond to a hostile email. Sometimes it requires a good night's sleep and then cooler heads will prevail.
  5. I will presume positive intent. I will not prejudge the parent when the son/daughter does not meet expectations. Parents, you have the most challenging job in the world and you want only what is best for your child. I always need to remember that, and you are probably 10 times more frustrated with the situation than the teacher is.

I'm sure as the year goes on that I will have to adjust my pledge, but I think that this will be a good start and hopefully will lead to some good learning.


12 Reasons Why Teachers Enjoy Summer Vacation

We're now into three weeks of summer vacation and I've fully surrended to it.  I figured I'd better make a list before summer is over, so here it is.

  1. Naps.  A summer day is incomplete without a nap.
  2. Low stress.  What is there to worry about?  Not much.
  3. Lack of constant recurring "Mr. Fix" questions, requests, or complaints from middle schoolers. When I see a middle schooler out and about, it's very comforting to know that I don't have to worry about their behavior.
  4. Weekdays are just like weekend days.  What day is it today?  I don't know.  Sundays are like Tuesdays.  Saturdays are like Mondays. There is nothing more satisfying than going to a late movie Sunday night and not worrying about going to work the next day. You almost feel sorry for those saps that have to go into work Mondays.  Almost.
  5. No parent emails.  I don't have to cringe when I check my work email (why would I check my work email?) and see those helicopter parents' names in the inbox.
  6. Running errands during the day.  It's not enjoyable to do errands, but it is more pleasant to go into a store at 10am on a weekday when stores are less crowded.
  7. Exercise.  I can do any kind of exercise, any time during the day, then of course take the required nap after.
  8. Trips.  I can take that hiking trip, biking trip, trip to the lake, etc.
  9. Chores.  Not fun, but I have time to do them, and time to procrastinate.
  10. Read.  I don't have to feel guilty reading instead of correcting papers, lesson planning, etc.
  11. Summer still has a special place in my life.  Most adults don't get to enjoy summers anymore.  It was a special time only during childhood.  I glad I don't have to give that up.
  12. Recharge my brain.  When summer ends (shudder), I will be more than ready to take on the new school year with fresh new ideas.

My only complaint about summer break?  It's way too short.