Monday, February 21, 2011

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

I read this book over the past summer, and found myself discussing this book in my SEED class this month. While the book had little directly about education, it provides a lot of background knowledge of the experiences of asylum seekers.

On one level, you’ve got a book that puts a face on the struggles of asylum seekers. However, it might also make the struggles seem too big to solve. Here you have a country, Nigeria, that was supposedly peaceful, and yet you have some awful autrocracies occuring. Nigeria should be a country modernizing thanks to all oil, but instead that oil is leading to bloodshed and autrocracies.

Some might respond to this book by saying that the story is fictional and therefore some of scenes mentioned in the story are sensationalized. Some of the specific scenes might have been written to highlight certain aspects of each character, the situations in the story are all too real. Amnesty International has condemned the UK government for their detentions of asylum seekers. The violence in Nigeria is all too real.

As an educator, this book really encourages me to be more understanding of the asylum seekers in my own community. In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have large groups of Somalian and Hmong immigrants, many of whom immigrated to escape similar situations as that that little bee faced. When the families struggle to adapt to the American education system this book provides perspective on what all they have had to struggle with. They have decided to leave their home to provide a safe environment for their family. They very well might not have wanted to leave, but were forced to by the violence. It's up to me as an educator to make their school experience on that celebrates their cultural experiences while at the same time preparing them for their new life in the United States.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

MOBI Creative Use #2: Reading

A third grade teacher uses the MOBI frequently. One way that she uses the MOBI is to highlight passages as she reads it to students. She can show her students her thinking as she reads the piece. The multiple colors and ease of marking help her engage and connect with students.


Scan in the passage.

  1. Open up the file
  2. Open IW and click on the Pen
  3. Change pen colors to engage and instruct


  1. Find passages online, and use those, rather than scan the pages in.
  2. Print out copies of IW file to give to students who were absent
  3. Allow students to read a piece that have already read before to the class and show their thinking as they read it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tech Tidbit: Bridge URL

Do you have a bunch of websites you want to share with students (or staff)? Try Bridge URL. Give your set of links a title, then copy and paste all the links into the box on the page (make sure you include the http://) and then hit create link.

It'll put your links into a series of pages that your students can click through by clicking on the arrows on either side of their web browser screen. Basically, it turns your links into powerpoint slides. Just give your students the web address that bridge url comes up with and they are good to go!

Check out this example. Enjoy!

Friday, February 4, 2011

10 quick tips for the Mac OS X and MacBook

1. Screen Shots

Simply Press the command key - shift - 4 (you can see an image of which key the command key is to the left. It is located to the left and right of your spacebar). Once you hold these three keys, your mouse will turn into a +, which lets you know that you are ready to take a screen shot. Hold your mouse button down, and then select the area you want to take a picture of. It's that easy!

2. Spotlight

Ever have a hard time finding that application or file? Located in the top right of your screen is a little magnifying glass. This magnifying glass is a great tool to help you find anything on your computer. When you click on the magnifying glass, you get a search textbox. Type in the file or application you are looking for, and it will list below a top hit, a definition, applications, documents and other files that apply to your search. A great tool to quickly find that missing file!

3. System Preferences

This is a very important tool on any computer. On a Mac, it is located in the Apple Menu. The Apple menu is accessed by clicking on the apple in the top left corner of your screen. Then you select "system preferences". Here you can change the settings of your screen saver, display settings, exposes and spaces settings, and lots of other tools.

4. Program Preferences

Another important feature. Almost every program on a Mac has preferences that you can change. For example, in Safari, if you click on the word Safari on the menu bar, and then select preferences you will be able to set things such as popups, saving passwords and changing your home page.

5. control - mouse click

If you hold the control key and then click you will get a drop down menu of a variety of options that you can do to that icon or in that program. Try it on an icon on your dock, a link or a picture on a webpage. You can copy links, save images and change settings with just control - mouse click!

6. command - tab

Command-Tab and Command - tilde (~) allow you to quickly switch between programs (command - tab) and switch between windows in a program (command - tilde). The tilde is to the right

7. The fn key

The fn on the lower left of your MacBook keyboard allows you to access a variety of tools. Right now, when you press f11, your sound is lowered. If you press and hold the fn key, and then press the f11 key, it will hide all your windows you have open.

Here is a list of things the fn + f keys do:

fn + f9: See all of your open windows
fn + f10: See all of your open windows in the program you currently are in
fn + f11: Hide all windows
fn + f12: dashboard widget

8. adding icons to your dock

The dock is a great way to quickly launch applications. But when you first get your Mac you might not have very many applications on it. To put applications on your dock, there are two different ways to do it.

  1. The first is to open up the application. You can do this by going to the applications folder and double clicking on the application you want to open. Then control - mouse click (see tip #5 for more information on this) on the icon in your dock. A menu will pop up. Go to options and select "keep in dock". When you quit the application, the icon will remain on your dock!
  2. The second way is to just drag that application's icon from your applications folder onto the dock. When it is ready to be added onto your dock, the icons will separate and when you release the icon, it will remain in your dock!
You can also add folders to you dock! You can only do this on the part of the dock next to the trash can. You can see that it is separate part of the dock because there is a dashed line. This is a great place to put a short cut to your documents or downloads, and have quick access to those files.

9. managing files
  1. Use Two Finder Windows - If you have a finder window open, go to File --> New Finder Window and you now have two windows. You can drag and drop files between these two windows, helping you keep your files organized.
  2. Compressing files - If you need to send 2 or more files to a colleague, you can "zip" them. Simply select the files you want to send, control - mouse click (see #5 above) it will create a new zip folder that is smaller, and has all of your files in it.
  3. "Places" - In the left hand pane of a finder window, you will see a list of folders under "places". You can drag any folders to that location and they will be a quick shortcut to that folder.

10. Printing to PDF

If you have a file that you want lots of people to be able to read, but don't want them to edit, you can save it as a pdf. Simple go to file --> print and then when the print window pops up, click on the button in the lower left labeled pdf and choose "save as pdf". It's as easy as that!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Should we grade Parents? Not really

Huffington Post asks this question.

For me, I never think of a child from a challenging home life as needing that home life graded. I'm not sure what grading parents would do, nor how I would go about doing it as a teacher. And honestly, I've worked with very few parents, even ones that struggled to meet the needs of their child, that I couldn't find something that I thought they did well. So I think I couldn't support grading parents, as for too many parents, they are already wary to work with schools and teachers due to the parents own poor experiences in school. Worrying that they will be graded poorly will just increase their negative view of the school. While I think grades might make some parents more involved, for many, I think they will likely be turned off.

Florida Lawmaker Wants Teachers To Grade Parents