Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Differentiated Instruction

Rescued Rabbit
Taking off down another Rabbit Trail.
 Flickr photo
"Let us choose what is right; let us know among ourselves what is good." Job 34.4 

This morning I read the account of Elihu rebuking Job and his three friends in chapters 33-38. If you're not familiar with the story of Job, here's a synopsis. Wealthy Job lost everything. Three friends come to tell him it's all his fault. Job starts to believe them. Elihu rebukes everybody, then God chides everyone and sets the record straight.

I picture Elihu as this frail old man who has been hovering nearby, watching all the event unfold. He has both the wisdom of age and experience of loss and hope. He's also like the kid who looks up to a hero and realizes they aren't as "super" as he thought. 

After rebuking everyone for their shortsighted, selfish whining, Elihu declare's God's justice. So often we cloak our own selfishness under the guise of fairness. God's word is truth. We must purpose in our hearts to do what is right, not what is right in our own eyes. There is an absolute truth beyond me: God. Elihu declares that we must choose right and good. It reminds me of Joshua's plea to the Israelite people in Joshua 24

But while the choice is ours, never let that elevate your thinking. We are not gods who can choose our fate. God is still sovereign and master of all. In 34.14-15 Elihu reminds us that God holds together our very existence by His own will. It is because of God's almighty power that I must choose to do what is right in spite of affliction or sorrow or selfish desire (36.21) You see, God uses all those things to teach me more about Himself for there is no better teacher (36.22) He has differentiated my instruction. God can take all the circumstances combined with my choices and use them to teach me, to develop my character, to increase my knowledge and understanding of Him.

There are no rabbit trails with God. He does not get distracted or lack a lesson plan. "Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen." Job 37.13 What student wouldn't want to follow the teacher who can apply every moment of life, every thought, word, and deed to a deeper and better understanding of truth?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sample Class Portfolio Using SkyDrive

I use three-ring binders to organize my teaching materials. It's a bit old fashioned but generally works for me. There is something comforting and satisfying about holding a lesson plan. (Perhaps after six years, I'm still not completely comfortable with the ever-changing content.)
During the first week, I knew I wanted to collect student work as a way to illustrate how well each student comprehends and the effort they put forth. My first thought was to use a file folder dedicated to each student. Doable, but a lot of archive management on my part.
My second idea was to have the students collect their work into three-ring binders, similar to a portfolio or notebook. That would free up my time in managing all the documents and give the students the opportunity to see how all their work fits together.
But then the lights finally clicked on in my head. Why not use the cloud to store and share all the documentation? The biggest decision I had now was which cloud service to use. Because most of my students live in the Microsoft Word and PowerPoint world, I decided to go with SkyDrive. The web app version allows students to create content directly on the web without owning local copies.
This has moved a whole list of concepts to the forefront: file management, file sharing, digital note taking, and realizing that everything can't be left at school. Of course we're still in the beginning stages and I'm working through the whole points for grade thing but I wanted the students to get an idea of what the portfolio could/should look like. Please click through the link above and give me feedback on any additional features a good school portfolio should contain. I'm hoping that the ambitious students will fill their folders with lots of cool, digital content.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Label 59, Where Are You?

Label 59 is a neat web app that allows you to create labeled slide shows and illustrations. After playing around with it, I can say there is a bit of a learning curve but the controls are minimal and intuitive. Middle to high school students could easily use Label 59 to create illustrations of scientific processes or label dissections. Geographic features could be labeled or even a step-by-step process outlined. Teachers could use it to create custom illustration or demonstrations.
If you plan to use Label 59 in the classroom, plan to spend time training students how to use the different features. They will also need an email address to sign up for a free account. Also plan on how students will share their final results.