Saturday, December 18, 2010

Reassessment Fridays (SBG): A Love Story

“Every student did their own thing in class today.”
How often is that the summary of a mathematics class?  How about an art class? 

Today was the standard reassessment day for my AP Stat classes.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to let students reassess when I started Standards Based Grading.  I’ve come up with using every Friday as a reassessment day.

I let students pick 2 skills to reassess on.  They pick them Wednesday, I create reassessments Thursday, they take them on Friday.  The reassessors are given a mail merged document that is their assignment for that day’s reassessment.  Should they choose not to formally reassess in class, they always have the option to do a project on their own to show their mastery of any of the skills they have learned.  This has been a system that works for the students that want to reassess, but it works even better for those not reassessing.

Today about a third of each class was reassessing.  So what do the other students in class do?  They play.  They learn.  They collaborate:
  1. One student began conducting simulations to simulate random clicks in Minesweeper.  Two others quickly became interested and a Minesweeper collaborative was born.
  2. About 10 different students were editing 10 different pages of the class wiki to make it an online textbook.  
  3. They were gathering data for different projects they hope to complete later in the year
    1. a project where they wish to determine the proportion of teachers at school that have tattoos
    2. simulating hands for various different card games
    3. the true proportion of dives by a diver that are “ripped”

    I look forward to my “Reassessment Fridays” because of the classroom vibe.  I’ll provide a few ideas for what can be worked on, then they get started doing things that they want to do.  Today’s ideas: Conduct a simulation, finish an old project, start a new project, edit the class wiki, create models of data collected this week.  I’m immediately working on making this the classroom activity for every day, not just Friday.  

    My favorite part about it is that I am providing them time to be as smart as they want to be in class.  I’m not tricking them into learning with some gimmick.  I’m not having them finish a worksheet for points.  I’m not asking 26 of them to answer the same question.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Dares for the 21st Century Teacher

    I dare ya to...
    ...teach math without using "x" and "y"
    ...throw out all of your worksheets
    ...let students decide what's important to learn in history class
    ...teach English without assignments of "write a paper"
    ...(for high school teachers) do activities that you get from Elementary school teachers
    ...make your students say more than you do during a class period
    ...let your students design the science experiment
    ...never give a student the correct answer an activity where every student generates a unique product
    ...let your kids use their cell phones to learn
    ...teach Geometry(high school) using Euclid's "The Elements"
    ...let your students pick what they want to read
    ...not assign homework
    ...have students research a topic strictly through Twitter
    ...involve creative writing in every topic of your course
    ...let kids decide if they need a desk or not
    ...never teach the same lesson twice
    ...teach phys ed. using nothing but multimedia

    Other suggestions?

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Dictionary of the Advocate for Inability

    1.  “Try” - What I say I’m doing when I can’t do something, and am unwilling to put in any more work or step out of my comfort zone.  Productive people don’t try, they do.  

    2.  “Can’t” - The first time I tried to do something I was not successful, so I have moved this skill to the “Can’t do” pile.  This is much easier than doing things to become successful.  Also, by saying I “can’t” I am actively recruiting someone to do it for me.

    3.  “He/She Doesn’t Teach” -I believe my instructor is soley responsible for my success.  Since I am not being successful, then my instructor must not be doing their job.  I hear this sentiment from many former students regarding college professors.  A few former students have shown amazing resilience in being able to design their own learning.  These students often become valuable resources for their fellow college classmates.

    4.  “Do you give extra credit?” - I am looking for a shortcut to success.

    5.  “I don’t get it” - Can you sit right next to me and do it for me?  This way, it looks as if I’ve sought individualized attention from the instructor, when it hasn’t been a learning experience for me at all.  Also a technique used to solicit sympathy from an instructor for a student not holding up their end of the deal as a learner.  See #3.

    Our learners have become accustomed to being passive, and assuming that as long as you trade some time, you’ll get a nice grade.  Our learners need to become ACTIVE, and I daresay teachers should become more passive.  Make them start “doing”.

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Real Quick Thought on Standards Based Grading

    I can hear my phone ringing off the hook and my Outlook email notifications flooding in from parents.

    "Why does my student have a B?  a C?  an F?  They're a straight A student."

    Parents and community members alike want teachers to do things the right way and the best long as their students get A's.  Now that my grading system is an honest reflection of what's been learned, I'm grading in what is a non-inflated, best-practice grading system.  I have a premonition that parents are going to be irate about this.  Can anyone speak from experience?

    Now off to draft a template for a response letter that begins with "Your student's grade may change at any time, for better or for worse..."

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Ideas from November 10 Interaction with Elementary School Teachers

    Had an excellent meeting on Wednesday 11/10 with more elementary school teachers.  I love working with these people on technology integration.  I think it’s because they are so tech-starved and under-equipped that they NEED technology.  What happens in my class when there’s a great need?  The students turn into sponges.  They start every conversation with, “I need some ideas” and not, “Can you show me how to put a link on my Schoolwires page?”(last Schoolwires bash I promise*).  We have moved our elementary teachers forward in technology integration more in the past 2 months than high school teachers have budged in 3 years.  I’m extremely proud of us and those elementary school teachers for the work we’ve put in.

    So the ideas that have fallen out of Wednesday’s meetings...
    1.  Comic Life - kids create comic books and use photographs of themselves to build their own digital story.  Without futzing around in movie maker, iMovie, or some other Web 2.0 tool that is blocked.  I rarely see a need to purchase software (save Fathom) but can see potential here. 

    2.  Google Earth - I want to find pre-created maps for every possible subject area that uses Google Earth.  Then we’ll compile them all into one location, let students/teachers use them once, then never let them use them again.  You want them?  Make them!  What better way to learn ancient history than to create a map about what you think is important.  Not just a concept map...a real one!

    3.  Grade Level Sharing - A common place (wiki) for every grade level to share ideas, links, resources, etc.  I'm thinking that when something good comes up (blogging a Heritage project, podcasts/movies of students reading, games created in SMART notebook) we can add it to the appropriate grade level.  Now, if we could just get people to actually go to the Tech Tools Wiki...wait, not yet, I need to have the Diigo feeds show links more recent than August.

    4.  Networked Learning - There's no reason to isolate students, be it individually or by classrooms.  Every kid in Grade 6 should share learning experiences with every other kid.  To a further extent, it should be shared to all other grades above and below.  More to come on this subject as I explore and completely ramp up this idea in the an online AP Stat textbook being created from my Class WikiIf every Stat student had a hand in organizing, adding, and filtering information found on an endless homepage we could make a sweet textbook.

    Smartboards are something that comes up frequently in my elementary school interactions.  Every teacher wants one,  no teacher needs one.  Your students need it, so let them use it.

    *This week

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    The "Achievement Gap"

    I'm curious as to what educators would define as "Achievement".  One of our building goals is in line with increasing student achievement.  Just what is achievement?

    We can define student achievement as making sure that we have less students failing this year than we've had before.  Also, we can look at the number of students that have earned straight A's and compare it with last year.  These would all potentially show increased levels of student achievement, thus, our building has met its goal, and we can proceed with business as usual.  If I go into my Gradebook tomorrow and change all the C's to A's, I have generated an amazing level of student achievement.

    Schools becoming all about achievement undermines them as institutions of learning.  Is this a result of the demand placed on schools (by stakeholders) for some type of result that justifies the increased contribution of resources?  By demanding accountability and results, we aren't demanding higher levels of thinking and learning.

    I'm in a school for at least 7.5 hours each day, approximately 180 days a year.  I NEVER hear a discussion about learning.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    Challenge to Myself to Start the School Year

    The greatest outcomes that I achieve in my room are realized through challenging myself in an oftentimes extreme way.  Past challenges include...

    1.  Never lecturing
    2.  Stop using paper
    3.  Move your desk to the back/middle of the room

    What these have all done is forced me to think in a different way.  They are a risk, and while most educators are risk averse, I will take every risk that I feel can benefit my students, my classroom, or my teaching style.

    So I'm beginning this year with a challenge that hopefully improves a cooperative learning environment that I have maintained for the past 5 years.  I want to turn up the volume on generating a small-scale crowdsourcing classroom. 

    I'm going to challenge myself to allow my students to sit wherever they wish...every day.  I'm doing this because I want to create more opportunities where I facilitate creation of different student groups many times within one classroom. 

    Ideally I will accomplish this by having my students walk in, sit wherever you like, in 5 minutes you'll be grouping with people that are learning what you are learning.  When that activity is done, you'll be in another group/partnership with a student you've NEVER worked with before.  Let's hope this model creates an environment where every student is comfortable having a conversation and learning with every other student in the class. 

    Classroom management enthusiasts(is there such a thing?) are cringing now telling me that I won't be able to maintain order in my classroom.  Good, I don't like order.  Neither do high school students.  I guess students  will need to be working on some pretty engaging activities that keep their interest in order to keep those management enthusiasts at bay.

    Yours in organizing chaos for the sake of cooperative learning.

    P.S. I've already thought of another challenge I want to embark on...not referring to students in my classroom as "my students". 

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    First Day of School Lesson Plan

    So here's my contribution to the slew of first day of school posts in the edu-blogging world.

    I want to start my year by creating a climate of collaboration, friendliness, INFORMALITY(in school? you're crazy!).  From day one, I want my students to begin to take ownership of the class.  There is more than one person to learn from in the room, in fact, there's 30...and millions of others easily reached online, but that's for another day.

    Something I will definitely do differently this year is not go over the grading policy immediately.  My main reason for this is that I want to set a tone of a collaborative environment, not that of a teacher saying, "This is the way it's going to be, there's the door if you don't like it."  Why would we want to start a year believing a class is difficult, instead of developing that conclusion on our own?

    So, yes, you will have homework an assignment given the first day of class.  It's not going to be Read pgs 1-100 and do ALL odd exercises once you've completed your outline.  Your homework assignment will be to read my grading policy (Standards-Based all the way!) and be prepared to discuss it with your group members and with me.  If you're not going to read it or formulate ideas, how (more importantly, why) should we allow you to contribute to the class discussion?

    So, what will we do the first day?  Probably get to know each other.  Once we're all comfortable with a learning community instead of a classroom, then we'll start with the content.  AP exam in May you say?  If you're not worried than I'm not.

    Monday, June 28, 2010

    SBG Anxiety - 8 Questions

    8 Questions about SBG(Standards Based Grading)
    My anxiety about implementing SBG next year manifested in the questions I've asked myself over and over as I am creating my grading policy.

    1.  What will the administrator who is reviewing my grading policy think?
    I've run it by the administrator in charge of my observations, and he has given it the okay.  We turn our grading policies in to another administrator at the end of the year.  Admittedly I'd love for it to be questioned/discussed, but would it be suggested that I revise it to a more "traditional" grading policy?

    2.  What will parents think?  What will students think?

    I'm hoping that it is a completely new and different experience for them.  A lot of guidance, explanation, and information will be key to making this transition for them.  There will probably be a large amount of resistance at first ("Where's the homework grade?").  I'm going to speculate that most will feel empowered to take control of their own learning once they have grown comfortable within the system(I don't enjoy that word).  They may be uncomfortable as it is much more difficult to work this system(yuck) than a points based grading system.  If the only positive outcome is that students stop asking "How many points is this worth?" I will consider my switch to SBG a total victory.

    3.  Is it possible to raise or lower a "grade" at any time?  Should it be?
    The raising part I understand and I'm looking forward to students being continuous learners.  If the mastery level can improve at any time, it should also be able to decline at any time (an indicator of a lower level of mastery than originally thought).  See Question #2.

    4.  How will I ever manage to keep up with assessing students skill levels?
    Idea #1: Share a unique Google Document with each student and have that serve as a running record.  Update gradebook at the end of the week upon looking over that student's running record.

    Idea #2: Excel/Google Docs...Google Docs to keep notes to self about conversations/insights with students.  Use a Google Form to update a mastery level on any skill at any time (Name - Skill - Mastery Level).  I don't know enough about it, but I feel like Microsoft Access may be better equipped to handle this.  Summer project: Learn Microsoft Access.

    5.  What defines an "A"?
    Schools tell us that at least 90% of the material learned would be "A" work.  By this thought process under SBG, it would be impossible to have an A for the 1st or 2nd marking periods (I can hear the college-obsessed kids freaking out).  Using 4 mastery levels (advanced, proficient, basic, below basic), could you define an "A" as a majority of skills mastered at the advanced level?  What if that student was below basic in everything else?  To wrap some numbers around it, here are my thoughts...
    Advanced - 1
    Proficient - 0.8
    Basic - 0.6
    Below Basic - 0.4
    Some Excel simulations I've done have led me to this assignment of points for skill levels.  Anything in the "A" range must be earned through Advanced and Proficiency with MINIMAL basic/below basic.  I'm not sure I want students to be even thinking about how to get an A, as this just creates a climate of "Do the minimum required to get an A".  Also, I am totally going to change those levels of mastery to something less Pennsylvania Dept. of Ed to something much more Mr. C

    6.  Will kids do their homework/assignments?
    This is a huge concern.  If you didn't do it, you're going to have trouble learning it.  On the other hand, if you already get it, why do another 30 exercises just because a teacher told you to do so?  Just like any homework assignment, it'll get done if it's worthwhile.

    7.  Will it lead to higher scores/achievement on the AP exam?
    I'm thinking that on the whole, content coverage and a frequent revisiting of old knowledge should be very conducive to high AP exam scores.  I will need to periodically do some focusing on AP exam type exercises and a more traditional classroom setting.  It'll be a welcome change to an open, self-directed learning environment :)

    8.  Quizzes/Tests...what role will they play?
    I think I answered this already.  See #8.  I know I am definitely going to give a quiz and have students grade it immediately.  Also going to give quizzes with Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced questions.

    Whew, that's all...for now.

    P.S. I end a ton of sentences with prepositions, and use quotations a lot more frequently than I should.

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Goal # 1 For Next Year

    Goal # 1 For Next Year

    I'm going to begin a series of posts that highlight my goals for next year.  The main focus of my instruction next year is going to be to...

    Never tell a student the correct answer

    My job description is not to guarantee all students get the answer right.  My job description is to provide an education, and I'm going to do it through providing a learning experience.  Learning experiences MUST have failure built into them, otherwise they are not learning experiences.

    If getting the right answer is all that's important to a student, then why not just get the right answer by asking a teacher?  It's the most efficient means to an end.  The problem is that it has nothing to do with learning information, simply collecting it and storing it until you can "spend" it on a test. 

    In a mathematics classroom, instead of asking me if it's the right answer, they should use what they already know to develop a way to check if it's the right answer.  Why not just use the concept you're studying to verify it's the correct answer.  How about you experiment with a few other similar situations and see if in fact it is the correct answer?  Did the Greeks have someone to ask the all important, "Did I set this up right?"

    As teachers we should turn this question on it's head more, and ask kids "Did I set this up right?" and "Is this the right answer?".  Too many teachers respond by saying, "Let me look and see and I'll tell you."  I would say, "Why don't you compare and discuss with a classmate, or use something you already know to verify it?  Let me know what you come up with."  Math should be as much the investigation, verification, and generalization(can I get any more "-ations" in here?) as it is about getting the right answer.  It's a shame that the only thing we ever assess is getting the right answer.

     If the goal is learning, we need to allow our kids to fail sometimes...that's what learning is.  I could ask a rocket scientist for the answers to a 100 question rocket science test and get them all right, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to build a rocket.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Necessity is the Mother of All Invention

    Necessity is the Mother of All Invention
    Just 10 minutes ago, I was grading some assignments that students had submitted electronically via creating a Drop and e-mailing/wiki messaging the link to me.  I'm aware that this is a "cheap" way of going paperless (they used paper to do the assignment, they just didn't turn it in).  The point of this was to get students to start thinking about ways to make things paperless.  While generating the correct solutions, my thoughts were, "How am I going to provide feedback?" 
    So, the idea I had was to create one Google Document per student.  I would write any and all feedback for the assignment on the Google Doc and send them the link.  They could check their grade and their feedback whenever they chose to, and they wouldn't have to wait for me to give the paper back to them.  In a math classroom, there's learning that takes place in decoding the feedback that your teacher has given you.  It also makes it hard for me to just put a red circle around what's incorrect, I now have to articulate (you lost a negative sign when you were combining like terms).
    Then I started thinking about, "What if I graded/assessed my students like this all year?"  In moving towards a standards-based grading approach, this would be an amazing way to assess kids.  Just writing about what they've done well and not well, I'd be able to pull together a good picture of what they've done throughout the year.  I would list each skill, then write feedback underneath/with the skill.  If a student repeats an assessment, I would simply add/change feedback, or denote that another assessment was taken.  At the end of the marking period, I'd be able to pull together whether the skill is mastered, partly mastered, basic ability, or below basic ability on that skill.  So that they could see where they stand on every skill, they would each have their own personal document
    Here's the Prototype.
    Your comments are appreciated.  I'm not sure if it's a time-saver, but I think it allows me to give much better feedback and it's useful in standards based grading. 

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    "Oh, so you just..."

    Is Your Math Class More Like an English Class or a Food Science Class?

    "Oh, so you just..."

    I cannot stand hearing students say this as it is a major indicator that a student does not understand why, and understands mathematics as a procedure.  I'm going to attempt to fit this into other subject areas in an attempt to understand why it happens so frequently in mathematics.  My initial feelings

    English - "Oh, so you just write"...too general.  "Oh, so you just write the theme?"...Why don't students say this in English?  Writing the theme in English is meaningless without any context around it.  The theme of "Betrayal" manifests itself much differently in the book 1984 than in Julius Caesar.

    Social Studies - "Oh, so you just memorize"..."Oh, so you just figure out the type of government"..."Oh, so you just compare and contrast the interactions between Islamic and non-Islamic nations".  I don't think I need to belabor the point about a relevant context, but Social Studies is all around a kid and they interact with the content of the course constantly.  Kids must study social phenomena to remain relevant in the world.

    Science - "Oh, so you just add the two chemicals together"..."Oh, so you just cut the frog here"...Science provides the great purpose that is so elusive to students these days.  Yes, you are following the procedures, but with the purpose of learning something greater when the procedure is done.  Most frequently, our end result in mathematics is what value makes a statement true.  Scientific procedures often have a more relevant purpose than this.

    Food Science - "Oh, so you just add the milk after the eggs?"...if you add them before, your meal will come out wrong

    Context, relevance, purpose all generate much higher outcomes than the procedures we follow in Mathematics. Our outcomes in Mathematics are the answers and never the "why and how".  Many of our mathematics classes follow the instructional models of Food Science where if you don't follow the right procedure, you wind up with something that tastes bad.  Couldn't mathematics be enriched by delving deeper into the why's and how's, instead of just placing caution signs for what you should be careful not to do? 

    So many of the great math educators whose blogs I've been reading (dy/dan, Point of Inflection, and f(t)) instruct from the perspective of having their students understand the rules before they even begin to follow them. 

    This post is in no way meant to belittle any of the subjects listed. 

    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    Changed My Classroom By Changing My Seat / Insert Catchy Title Here

    Recently, I have moved where I work during class from the front and center of the room to the back center of the room where my desk is right next to a student's desk.  This was inspired by a few conversations I've had with students who went on exchange programs to France where I was curious to see how classrooms were set up in France.  Over the course of those two months, I have witnessed amazing changes within my classroom, more importantly amazing changes in my student perception.

    Why did I move my desk?  I felt I was using the interactive whiteboard too much and that students should use  it more than me.  I felt like I was telling them what to do, rather than having them do.  I moved because teachers have been standing front and center for 50 years and I wanted to be different.  I  wanted to give my students more control of my classroom.  I had a curiosity about what would happen if I did this, and what types of changes would I see.

    The most major change has been their perception of the classroom.  They've realized that it's about them, and hopefully by me being as far away from the front of the room as possible, they have gathered that I'm next to them acting as an investigator.  A great example of this is from my Calculus class where I assigned a project in which students had to use a piece of posterboard(they were all different dimensions) to create a box with the maximum possible volume.  Not only were they having a unique experience with the concept of optimization, but there was so much more in the realm of basic skill that they were doing.  Some students determined that they need to remove squares of size 6.43 from each corner of their where do they find 43/100 on a standard ruler?  The amazing conversation and comparison of strategies that resulted was completely unexpected by me.  It wouldn't have happened if the students didn't feel empowered to have those conversations. 

    A classroom run mostly by students has created a completely different challenge for me as an educator.  I never give a thought to the amount of work that I will distribute or which examples I will show.  I give most of my thought to what will create a good conversation and what will lead them to the skills I'm trying to develop.  Then, WE(me and the students) can develop a few examples and see if our generalizations are correct or need adjustment. 

    When students are comfortable in this environment (after they've learned a different set of rules for maintaining the environment) they purpose themselves in whatever way suits them.  There's something great about providing your students with several different options that can all be unique to them, and watching them choose and interact with course content that way.  They may only do 2 or 3 "math problems" in the course of a day, but the learning experience is of such higher quality than cranking out 50 derivatives. 

    Students are very capable of running a classroom and taking responsibility for their own learning, so give up control of your classroom and see what happens....

    Thanks to MrsBMG for inspiring this post.

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Better Work vs. More Work

    What's the point of assigning homework?  Why must a student take work home with them to complete and bring back to school the next day?  As a professional, I know I try my hardest not to bring any work home, getting as much done as I can while at school, and only bringing things home if it's absolutely necessary.  So why do we force our students to do this?  I think we've been had once again by the school that is a grading institution rather than a learning institution. 

    Homework is the ultimate status quo preserver.  The students that have learned the material go home and receive verification that they in fact know the material.  Or, the student that has already learned the material will copy the answers from a classmate during homeroom so that they do not jeopardize their "grade".  What about the student that hasn't learned the material.  I've witnessed firsthand the "benefits" that a student that is still learning material gets from homework.  They receive confirmation that they are still learning.  Some of them use outside resources and textbooks to get their information, and continue their learning process.  Others just jot something down so that they get "credit", however there has been no learning that takes place.

    Does a set of problems to be completed and turned in the next day really generate a high quality learning experience?  Most of the homework that gets done is done out of compliance, which is hardly a learning experience.  I think we should start making our homework assignments things that matter to a student that will enhance their learning experience, assignments that do not necessarily require a product that can be checked the next day.  I think kids should be completing homework that involves experimenting with web-based applications, reading interesting articles, watching videos, sending an e-mail to a professional in that field, organizing their thoughts with two or three of their peers, participating in online discussions.  All of these things enhance the learning experience, but will lead to better discussions between students in class the following day.  How often does 1-25 Odd lead to high quality discussion the next day? 

    I really do not think that "more work" leads to improvement of an individual's ability.  Yes, a student can probably go from basic skill level to slightly less basic skill level by doing more work, but we see all the time that "better" work leads students from basic to advanced in much less time.  I have yet to see a presentation at an education conference titled "Assignment Overload: Enhancing Student Achievement Through 100 Exercises a Day".  Every presentation at an ed-conference revolves around the exact opposite thought - getting your students to participate and create in "better" work. 

    Sunday, May 9, 2010

    Money Trees - An Attempt at Reform

    My goal is to "reform" the trees in the back of my house to become money trees. They are currently not growing money, but I would like them to start doing so in the near future. I have outlined two proposals and would appreciate some commentary as to the appropriateness of each proposal.

    Proposal 1
    I will begin by mandating that the trees produce money. Branches that are not growing money must be removed, since they are not meeting what is mandated. Each day I will step outside, and any branch without as much as a $1 bill on it would be pruned and discarded. The trees should eventually "reform" and provide the money that I have been requiring of them.  If they have not "reformed", they will be cut down so that another tree can have the opportunity to form into a money tree.

    Proposal 2
    I will research the task of growing money on trees. I will see if in fact trees can be changed to grow $1 bills, and follow all necessary steps to make sure I am "reforming" my trees into money trees. If it calls for planting coins/dollars at the base of each tree, then I will do that. If it calls for water every day and moderate sunlight, that is what they will receive. If in fact the trees do not produce money after this, an evaluation will need to occur. Do I continue my "reform" efforts? Do I seek an alternative method of "reform"? Shall I work on a new and innovative approach towards creating money trees? Do I cut down the trees at the end that are not money trees, or should I allow them to continue existence and let them serve a different purpose?

    Which one of these proposals is the appropriate way at achieving the impossible task of creating money trees?  Are there alternatives to these approaches?  

    Wednesday, April 28, 2010

    Guest Blogger as Part of the I Heart EdTech Blog Swap

    Today's blog post comes from Selena Woodward (her blog) and is part of the I Heart EdTech Blog Swap.

    Selena wrote in response to my post titled "My Dream Classroom".  This was a very cool experience and I was happy I participated.  Without further ado, here is Selena's blog post.  Her blogging, writing, and lesson planning skills are second to none.  Thanks again Selena!

    Pupil Centred Learning with an IWB

    Pupil Centred Learning with an IWB. A Dream or Reality?

    My blog Swap partner has written a post about his dream classroom in which a small group of pupils is each gathered around an IWB investigating a problem and using their independent and group work skills to get information from a variety of sources.  This is his dream classroom.  I love the idea of pupils working on groups to achieve a goal together.  I advocate the idea that the IWB should be pupil centred and applaud his imagination for considering how pupils might be empowered by the technology.
    I have used my IWB in a similar way in an English classroom.  My flipchart was written in Activ Studio and involves many of the same learning skills and aims that Jason has talked about in his dream classroom.  My students are exploring together, using different sources and media rich texts to come to conclusions.  These conclusions are guided by me, their teacher, but it is entirely up to them how they draw these conclusions together.
    Unlike, Jason’s dream classroom my actual room has only one IWB. It’s at the front of the room, in what is typically known as the teacher’s domain; a domain that I have gradually learnt to share over the last 7 years. It’s now a place where teachers and pupils learn and share ideas. 

    Inspired by Jason’s dream classroom, by his ideas of collaboration at the IWB and of pupils lead and pupil focused use of this technology I thought I would take the opportunity to briefly share with you how I planned and taught this lesson.  You can download my lesson plan and the flipchart if you wish.
    You’ll see that there is one flipchart and that it takes 3 lessons complete.  You may also notice vague phrases in my plans where I am not sure what is going to happen.  Why? Because the pupils are deciding. This is something that I am sure Jason would agree with.  Teachers need to allow the pupils to take control sometimes.  In fact here I am in complete control. I have designed the flipchart in such a way that it contains everything the pupils need to reach a level of understanding that will match their target grade. I have pre-prepared links to website, video clips, images to explore, close exercises and worksheets to assess, maps and virtual tours.  All in one flipchart in which the wording of objectives and hyperlinks lead pupils on a journey of discovery which feels like their own and is their own.  It’s a journey they can take which has boundaries which guide them back to their learning outcomes and objectives.
    The British educations system helps me with this.  Its curriculum is so driven by assessment and outcome that is very easy for my pupils to understand what it is they have to achieve and how they will know they have achieved it. In fact, to help differentiate the resource I have placed the grade descriptors on the objectives slide for pupils to look at. One click on the grade will tell them what they have to do to achieve that
    All objectives are clear, are the focus which drive the lesson and are differentiated
    mark; they can then click again to hide the information.  Pupils know which grade they are aiming for and now they know what they have to know to  meet that requirement.  It’s up them how they go about gaining the information.  One pupil at the front would act as navigator; the whole class decides where to go first.  

     This page contains 7 hidden resources for pupils explore
    If the first objective is to “Understand what segregation means and learn a little about how it feels.”Then it would fall naturally that pupils will click on the words Apartheid to find out more.  It may be that a teacher needs to start be checking understanding of the terms in the navigational panel but pupils will soon realise where they need to go.  When they get there they are greeted by the option to watch a video (by clicking on an image), visit a website (by clicking on a title), look closely at an image (with the zoom tool), and pulling out facts from behind images.  The teacher, would only interject to give pupils a supportive worksheet which asks for the specific information required to achieve the first objective, it’s up to the pupils to discover which source of information they should visit.  They very quickly start clicking titles to see if anything happens, start clicking the magnifying glass to enable them to explore, together, images in more detail.  They begin to engage as they work out where the information is hidden and then raise questions from one text which are answered in another. This is whole class collaboration, controlled by the students, created by the teacher on an IWB.
    Once they have completed that objective they might like to find out more about the place in which the poet lived.  This will help them to “develop an awareness of the history of district 6 and the culture that Tatamakhula Afrika shows us in his poem.” Again the objectives and the
    Using "magic ink" pupils are looking through a map of the district 6 as it was to a Google earth image of what it is like now.  What's changed?
    hyper link are similar, guiding pupils along. This time when they chose to access the page they are greeted with a map.  The teacher would need to explain what they are looking at and then use questions to point out that things have changed.  They will then have more questions about what there before the bulldozers arrived.  These answers are all in the flipchart in a virtual tour of district six hidden under “take a 
    walk”.  Pupils lead themselves around the district completing questions given to them which will allow them to note the changes to the place where this poet lived.  Again, they are in control, they are collaborating and they are focused on a learning objective.  The teacher should be able to sit back and act only as support for complicated questions.  At this point it would also be useful to have one of Justin’s notebook laptops connected to the net for extra fact finding missions.
    The Taktamkhula slide contains information about the poet himself with hidden questions in shortened
     Six different resources to explore are hidden on this page.
     text boxes.  The rest of the flipchart is made up of assessment tasks that the teacher can guide students to at the appropriate time in the lesson.  For example, once pupils have learnt about Afrika’s own personal history they might like to complete the interactive card sort.  This uses Activboard’s containers and so will tell the pupils when they have the answer right or wrong.  When the computer tells them they have made an incorrect choice a learning conversation will start, fact finding missions will begin and objectives will be completed.
    All of this is made possible through the creation of a flipchart which guides students to sources of information which are relevant. Of course, they then need to apply this information to the poem.  That’s where homework, small group work and presentation come in.  Pupils then use the skills they already have in literary analysis and begin to explore how all of this information and all of the poet’s emotions are represented in the poem. Of course there are games and activities built into the flipchart to support this.
    When a teacher is fully trained to use an IWB they can start to use their own professional skill to create resources which allow pupils to take full control of a whole lesson. To feel in charge and empowered as they learn.  Despite the fact the teacher has full control over what they are learning and how they are learning it – using their own professional judgement and training – the IWB allows the pupils to work together as a whole class and in small groups to solve a problem; the problem, in this case, being to answer their objectives at their target grade. 
    I would welcome any comments you would like to make about how this lesson went.  I can see so many opportunities for lessons like this in all subjects across the curriculum; lessons where teachers are not simply imparting information but are empowering students to find it themselves. 

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    My Dream Classroom

    I think very frequently about what the ideal classroom would be like.  What would the teacher be doing?  What would the students be doing?  What type of technology would be there?  What exactly would students be preparing for?

    1.  What would the teacher be doing?
         The teacher's role would need to vary from day to day, but the primary purpose of the teacher would be acting as a co-investigator with groups of students.  They are an expert in their content area, but by no means the only expert that students should need to receive information from.  So the teacher would work alongside of students as they gather knowledge.  Students would essentially be crafting their own knowledge and learning experience, where the role of the teacher would be to investigate with them, but also provide guidance and additional suggestions to enhance that experience.  There is another cool function of the teacher as a tech trainer that I would absolutely love.  With all of the new Web 2.0 tools that I discover, I'd be providing mini-lessons on the how and why to use particular tools.  This makes me not only the Stat teacher but a technology teacher too.

    2.  What would the students be doing?
         Students would be seated in small groups around their own interactive white board, meant to be used by the groups, not the instructor.  They'd ideally be multi-user boards where more than one person can use it at once.  After completing some initial activities to gather core concepts, they would communicate with experts all over the world including professionals, other teachers, and other students studying the same topic.  The purpose of this communication is to expand on a basic concept, and share their knowledge with the world.  This would be very specific to what the group wanted, not what the teacher required.  When they are ready and they feel comfortable, they would share with the rest of the class where their journey has taken them.  They'd share uses and application of a basic skill in an open forum where other groups are doing the same thing.  Think of each group visiting each other for small presentations.  The types of presentations would be designing games, business opportunities, develop software, marketing campaigns, etc all around the skill that they are learning.

    3.  Technology
         The interactive white-board would be the driving force of the classroom, used for student research, presentation, and collaboration.  Each student would have their own laptop for individual research.  Each group would gather and share online resources primarily with each other, and centrally with the rest of the class.

    So how will any of this get graded?  I suppose the only way that makes sense is to rate the level to which each student has learned a particular skill.  However, in my ideal classroom, there would be no grades.  What's more valuable, an A on Project I in Unit 2.3 in Chapter 2, or an in-depth customized learning experience?

    Sunday, April 25, 2010

    The Coolest Thing About Social Networking

    The 50 Best Blogs for Math Majors

    I was reading this link, and thought it was incredibly interesting, and I could probably get a lot of use out of reading some of these blogs.  The other thought that I had was, "Who else would like this?"

    The coolest part about social networking is that I can give it to whoever I think might enjoy it and find some use out of it.  This new thought process of "Who else?" is definitely a high-level learning experience, being forced to think about what specific network would benefit from it.  It's definitely not appropriate to broadcast it to all available networks, is it?  Would it be better for me to share it with a more specialized network?  Example: I'm not going to share great news about the Buckeyes with the educators I associate with around the world (but I could).

    So if this is a high-level learning experience for me, it can be a high-level learning experience for students right?  How great would the classroom be that had students create a network for themselves, and every new piece of information they find on the web, they are tasked with the decision "Who else will you share this with and why?" Isn't this how students work outside of school on social networking sites like Facebook?  "Who else needs to know that I'm going to the prom with Larry, and why?"  Or are students broadcasters that need to move to a higher-level of thinking regarding how they share information?

    Sites to build networks - click these at school and see how many of them are blocked.  Why would they be blocked at school if they provide a higher-level thinking exercise each time they are accessed?  If the reason is misuse, can we ask teachers to educate on appropriate use?


    Wednesday, April 21, 2010


    A list of what I do throughout the day that is related to my profession. 

    Teaching Related
    1.  Develop lessons for future classes that contain: relevance to what students are experiencing in their daily lives, use of technology, non-use of paper, interactivity(with course content/each other/me), use of a higher level of thinking, activity that is not note-taking
    2.  Teach the lesson that was developed for the day: not by standing in front and lecturing(see #1), interact with students individually/in pairs/as a whole, provide guidance when necessary, ask students to demonstrate what they are learning at that moment, mini-lectures(5-10 minutes max.)
    3.  Manage all paperwork related to students: field trips, assignment requests, absences, attendance
    4.  Updates of class website: slideshows of class lessons, electronic documents for students not in class, links to subject matter, outstanding assignments due, etc ( and

    Professional Development
    1.  Communication with professionals around the world: discussions via twitter and blog commentary, read blogs of other educators
    2.  Look at links provided by other educators around the world: what is useful for my course, what is useful for other teachers, what streamlines the educational process
    3.  Provide links to others (around the world and at my school): sharing is a 2-way street
    4.  Organize all new information received throughout the day into a relevant way for quick access
    5.  Write blog posts (at home, since blogging is websensed at school): provide my perspective on education to students and other professionals so that they may agree/disagree
    6.  Look at links obtained during the day that are websensed at school: all education related, most of the social networking related, thus the websense
    7.  Brainstorm ideas with other techies about cool Web 2.0 tools and ways to use them in English, Math, Social Studies, Science, other curricular areas

    1.  Grade management: grade some tests/quizzes, enter student grades, manage student/parent questions about grades, etc

    Am I missing anything?  How different is your day from mine?

    Sunday, April 18, 2010

    Why I'm Going Paperless Beginning April 22

    It has nothing to do with a green initiative.  Okay, just a little bit.  But that's not the only factor.  Paper within the school system is the antithesis of a progressive, technology-enhanced education that we should be providing/receiving.  So, why go paperless?

    1.  Innovation by Force - the task is to develop a good lesson, not the one that's easiest to deliver.  If we hand out a paper and say "fill in the blanks the way I tell you to", that's easy.  If I'm not allowed to use paper, I need to find an alternative.  Here's where technology comes in to save the day. 

    2.  Interactivity - When's the last time you had a conversation with a piece of paper?  There are 2 ways to interact with a piece of paper - write on it or physically alter its form.  When you're doing that, you're not interacting with what you're learning at all.

    3.  Non-Use/Misuse - I hear countless individuals complaining about getting too many papers in their mailbox.  I see folks taking notes at meetings.  I attend meetings where someone gives a paper, then reads to me what it says.  How frequently do you go back and look at notes you took during a meeting?  How often do you think your students do it?  It's a better use of time to pay attention to a presentation/activity while actively reflecting on it and thinking about it. 

    4.  Stagnation - A student is absent for 5 days.  The student returns to school and says "What did I miss?".  The teacher hands him all of the papers that were handed out during the week of instruction that the student missed.  If the student was not present during instruction, how will having the papers serve any purpose?  I have observed over the time that I've been teaching that a student feels as if they've done enough to make up the work if they just get the "papers" that were handed out. 

    5.  Useless - Paper is just not helpful/efficient.  Teachers generate worksheets such as "Sec 6-2 WS#1 Practice 1".  What does this tell a student about what they're learning?  How much time did you spend making sure the Name and Date blanks lined up?  How much more time was spent getting the Comic Sans font to just the right size to fit on one page?  How long did you agonize over the columns and margins?  What does any of that have to do with the content that you're teaching?  Does a student care that question 1 is not in perfect alignment with question 2? 

    I have the feeling that I'm going to annoy a number of folks, when I ask for an electronic version of something when I'm handed a paper.  When I'm asked to turn in a form, I'm going to demand an electronic version.  "I'm really not comfortable using paper for this, is there an alternate way to do this?" 

    Yes, these sites exist and are probably quite popular:
    This is not innovative:
    Billed as "Education for the Future":
    The URL is self-explanatory: 
    All for different skills, yet they look exactly the same: Google Image Results for "math worksheets"

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    How Do I Do This Problem?

    Problem-solving.  Solve the problem.  How often do you hear a math teacher say that?  Whoever decided that the exercises we do in a Math class should be called "problems" has seriously injured math instruction.  Are they problems?  Is my life any different as a result of a x^2 - 3x + 2 = 0 not being solved for x?  Problem solving is not, "Here's a math problem, solve it!"  Problem solving involves real and relevant scenarios, not just x's and y's (the m and n when the teacher wants to change it up).

    So, give me a real "problem" in a mathematics class.  Give me something that's relevant to me.  Answer the question of "When am I going to use this?"  For may instructors, the only answers to that question are: "In College", "When you go into engineering", "In Business".  Relevance is the key to getting kids to "learn" math instead of "doing" math.  This is the reason that I enjoy Statistics, as I can get my students to represent relevant situations with my course content.  I hear from many of my colleagues that, "Statistics is an easy course to do fun labs and activities in".  I don't disagree with this assertion, but there is a whole universe of evidence that exists to show how easy it is to "do fun stuff".  

    So how do we make it relevant?  The best examples I've used with my Calculus class involve gravity and motion.  Drop a ball.  No wait, have your kids drop/throw a ball.  Have a student walk/run/stand still.  Roll a Matchbox car across the floor.  Drop a ball into a bucket of water.  Capture all of these on video and have your students take measurements and data.  You'll have instant "fun stuff" for an entire unit on quadratics.  Our Algebra II textbook has 1 section of 6 devoted to "Applications of Quadratic Functions" and not one of them mentions motion.  My thoughts are that motion should be your entire unit.  

    Is it really relevant?  If students are interested in it, I think it is.  If students are invested in their own data collection, it's a step towards relevance.  They are solving their own problems, not the ones that come out of the can and onto the worksheet to be "done".

    When I look at a standardized test, I see the relevance completely removed from mathematics.  Most of these test questions are "Solve/Simplify".  They try to crowbar relevance by making a student "Explain your work", but it only perpetuates the "Do the problem, get an answer" that is not relevant at all.  "Then I subtracted x from both sides"  Why?  Why would you do such a thing?  Are you illustrating an understanding of Algebra, or simply following procedures?  

    If you want kids to do a procedure, have them go on YouTube, watch a bunch of how-to videos, and learn the procedure on their own.  An entire class period devoted to learning a procedure is a waste of time.  If you want them to learn mathematics, they need to interact with it in a relevant context.  

    By the way, I have been blogging lately by writing my posts in Google Docs and then copying and pasting at home, where my blog is not websensed.  

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    Teachers Get a Bad Reputation

    What is it that makes the general public hold the opinion that "all teachers are bad"?

    We hear from EVERYBODY(and Newsweek runs stories) that the reason our students perform so poorly on standardized tests compared with other countries is because teachers are doing a bad job.  Sidenote: The word "accountability" is used too much nowadays as a fancy word for "blame".  Finding who to blame does nothing to solve a problem.  "The search for blame is always successful and never productive." 

    Walk into my classroom and witness kids working together, solving a problem that's unique, managing their work in an appropriate manner, and most importantly interacting with each other.  Walk into my classroom, and you will not see kids preparing for a standardized exam.  Okay, it's AP Stat, they're preparing for the AP Exam, but the overall focus is on learning.  Most importantly, the focus is on the students in the room, not the teacher.  You sure won't see me in front of the room showing "how to do this problem" for 40 minutes.  Well, if that's what I'm doing, then I must not be working very hard.  I would invite anyone to come into my classroom and leave saying "That teacher is doing a very poor job". 

    Throughout the country, our classrooms are transforming into students being productive 21st Century learners, and building a skill set that will serve them in any aspect of life or their career.  They are building an ingenuity skill set, not a standardized test skill set.  My only wish is that there be an "ingenuity" index to measure our students versus the rest of the world, but it should be no surprise that there is no standardized test that measures ingenuity.  I think I'd be doing a "bad job" if all I did was push students to meet standards that will be meaningless when it's time to take on college, life, and a career. 

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    A Case for the Classroom Backchannel

    Opportunities for students to respond can be an amazing part of a classroom.  Think about all that goes into it though, from a traditional classroom standpoint: Teacher speaks, asks question(s), asks for students to volunteer responses, and receives 1-2 responses from the students that feel so empowered to do so (see previous blog post).

    CoverItLive worked amazingly well for me in an AP Statistics classroom last week.  I had given back a test from a long time ago, and the plan for the day was to review probability topics in preparation for our upcoming AP Stat exam.  Each student had their copy of the test and was signed into a CoverItLive chat room to discuss test questions.

    I received amazing feedback from my students: "I suppose this works much better, now that we have to think about why the answer is incorrect, instead of being told why it is incorrect" resonates with me.  I'm working on compiling the data, and will update my blog when it has been put together, but many students were actively participating in the discussion online. 

    If it's an average of 2 responses per student(which is probably a close estimate), that response rate is much higher than a usual lecture and respond classroom setting.  Think about how a teacher could generate 60 total responses in the "traditional" classroom.  At the bare minimum you'd have to ask 60 questions and allow each student to answer twice. 

    I'm loving the backchannel as an instructional device, but want to make sure it is not overused. 

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Empowered Students Do Amazing Things

    Having witnessed a pretty awesome thing in my classroom today, I wanted to celebrate it by way of a blog post.  If you've read my previous posts, you would have seen that I've been focused on making my classroom much less teacher centered.  Well, to do this, students need to step up and become the center of the class.

    We were working on test review, students had laptops in front of them for online discussion purpose, and many of them used a discussion board quite well, all of their own accord.  The Promethean board was also available for student use. 

    The most amazing thing I saw was a group of 3 turn into a group of 6 standing around the Promethean board, as one student went through a review exercise explaining it to others that were at the board.  Finally, student interaction with the Promethean board instead of teacher interaction.  Props go out to that group of students that really got something out of class, and moved class in the positive direction. 

    With that being said, it felt kind of cheap and very minimal use of class tech by just having/letting kids "do problems" (as goes the phrase in the Math Ed world).  I'm now in search of ideas that let kids interact with the board on a much higher level.  Today was just the beginning.  We can't get to having students do amazing things with the Promethean board without the help of some student pioneers stepping up to change their classroom. 

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    I lecture way too much...

    In the AP Stat classroom, lecture is an acceptable method of teaching, as most of the students in there are capable of learning that way.  It’s funny, AP Stat and most other AP courses are the ones where we do the fun labs because “kids are smart enough to be able to handle it”. 

    In my Calculus 5.0 class, anytime I start a lecture, there is an immediate disconnect.  Kids in this class don’t learn that way and they don’t want to learn that way.  Too often teachers solve this problem by making their classes more regimented.  I guess these kids can’t “handle” a lab or fun activity.

    My observations are that students in Calculus 5.0 respond better to the labs and activity, because that’s what they want and how they learn.  I’ve had this class completely fall apart, but it’s weird, it’s only during a lecture that this happens.  From experience, my Calculus class today was close to mutiny as a result of too much lecture.  That, and it was raining outside.

    I’m going to embrace my Calculus class’ different learning style, and allow them to work with material using classroom technology and communication with each other to learn.  How do you think they will do on the final exam, a standardized multiple choice exam?  I don’t know, and honestly I can’t say that having them all pass the final is my ultimate goal.  If the end result is a group of students not bored to tears and enthusiastic about interacting with Calculus, I think I’m happy with that.  Now, if only I could explain an F on the final to a parent or administrator……

    Yours in getting better at what we do every day,
    Mr. C

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    Haves vs. Have Nots

    I open up the opinion page of the paper every day, even though I vow not to.  For some reason, I really care what overly opinionated people have to say.  The guest writers can be entertaining and insightful (George Will), while others are written to be downright abrasive and obnoxious.  Most of all, I enjoy local editorials.  It's my guilty pleasure I suppose.  PSSA Prep Analogy: Mr. C is to editorials as high school students are to: a) Tool Academy b) Call of Duty c) Jersey Shore.

    A number of folks have voiced their opinion over the health care reform debate deciding to focus on the health care plan that members of congress are afforded.  "If the new health care plan is so good, why doesn't everyone in Washington go on it to see what it's like?"  Fact of the matter is that these people need the cushy health care plans and pensions that they are given.  Otherwise, nobody would do a public service job where you are raked over the coals for every decision that you make.  The same holds for folks that complain about teacher pensions, but I'm going to avoid opening that can of worms.

    Public office needs to be an attractive position, as such, there are perks.  Do we want people representing us just because they need a job?  Again, the teacher pension and benefits situation applies here.  Public office is an incredibly high stress position.  Everyone loves to say that our representatives are incompetent, but that just can't be the case.  Someone that was completely incompetent for the position would work out to be a complete disaster. 

    There needs to be a public servant appreciation day, thanking our public servants for the 8 million good things they do for us every day.  We don't need to hang them for 1 or 2 bad things that happen.  I go back to the schools example.  Teachers, administrators, and school board members do a million great things every day on behalf of their schools.  It's a shame that one or two unpopular or bad decisions can overshadow those great things.

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Elementary School Teachers

    So, my wife has inspired me to write on this subject with all the stories of the cool things she does in her first grade classroom. There is all mess of amazing activity that goes on, in part because it is so difficult to maintain their attention for longer than 10 seconds (don't worry, in high school, that timespan stretches to 15 seconds).  It got me thinking at most districts proficiency numbers, where it is most often the case that elementary schools do great, middle schools so-so, and high schools struggle to be deemed proficient each year.

    So what's so different?  I think a lot of it has to do with the "silly", "immature", and "juvenile" games and activities that those teachers introduce.  In high school, most activity is viewed as being too immature for our clientele, so we find ourselves slipping into teacher-centered lecture instead of promoting student-centered activity.  Does proficiency go with it?

    I'm well aware of the fact that there are numerous other factors: elementary school brains are developing rapidly, high school brains are focused on other things, environmental concerns, and easiness of test.  I think these factors are reasonably disjoint from enjoyment and engagement felt during the school day.  With a little activity(takes a lot of planning), we can probably get kids to enjoy our class just a little bit more.

    When I'm working on a lesson, my last thoughts are "What will I teach?".  The more important questions to ask are "What will they learn?", "What can they do?", and "How can I not lecture?"

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    Cool Project Ideas - Hypothesis Testing

    Alright, so I've been thinking of some good data for your projects that you'll be working on that are due Thursday March 18, and here's what I've come up with.  It will be up to you to do the legwork, but here are some ideas in case anyone gets stuck. 

    Violent crimes in one locality by year
    Proportion of $$ spent in congressional bills on earmarks
    Wins by the -01 and $1 bidders on The Price Is Right
    Education level of celebrities on top rated TV shows
    Violent acts in primetime TV shows
    Disease by locality/ethnicity
    Use the Consumer Price Index
    Beezid/Quibids winning items

    Those are my suggestions, let's just try to keep a purpose behind the data we collect.

    -Mr. C

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    There is no such thing as a free lunch

    Reading Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" and "The Tipping Point" has completely changed my way of thinking.  I've begun to analyze everything going on around me in the context of economic/risk theory.  My latest kick has been recognizing the idea of trade-off and risk free profit, most specifically in the field of education.

    For some background, you need to be aware that there is no such thing as a risk-free profit.  In order to earn money or make some type of gain (capital or not), you must assume the risk that is associated with that gain.  Big gains often carry the greatest risk, while small gains do not carry such a large risk.  There are ZERO situations that involve a huge gain with no risk or payoff, and it should be obvious as to why.

    With that being said, we tend to ask for things of the utmost quality at no cost to us...
    1.  Taxpayers want their elected officials (yes, elected, by them) to be at their beck and call, but don't want to pay taxes. 
    2.  Taxpayers want the most exceptional high quality education that can be provided for their children for the same price forever
    3.  Teachers want to do great things in the classroom, but may not want to put in the incredible amont of time required to develop a good lesson (also could be the case that they spend their time grading, rather than creating).
    4.  Students want an A for just showing up and doing what they're told, without spending the incredible amount of time it takes to actually learn something.
    5.  Everybody wants their medical bills paid for via health insurance, but they don't want to pay an increased cost for it. 

    So, the health insurance debate snuck in here and is a pretty interesting risk scenario.  On one hand, you can opt to not have health insurance and pay your own medical bills at the risk of paying an increasingly high amount.  On the other hand, you can opt for health insurance, at the risk of paying higher premiums.  And yes, I do realize that insurance companies can deny coverage, so we don't really "opt" to not have health insurance.  Just consider that an insurance company does the same risk management evaluation when they evaluate you for health insurance.

    Hoping I can get some student commentary, examples, feedback about risk free profit,
    -Mr. C