Teaching Students How to Call Bull

The University of Washington introduced a popular course this year called something very close to (but slightly more vulgar) Calling Bull. This course was designed to give students the intellectual tools to recognize and address fake news, inauthentic use of data, and pseudo-science.

They developed a companion website (with the same vulgar name) and shared it with the world. They received enough inquiries from secondary school teachers that they created a mirror website that scrubs out (most of) the vulgarity (see they last paragraph below for an explanation of that qualifier). While I don’t personally give a… let’s say darn… about the vulgarity of the original website, having one without the reference to excrement in its title is helpful in the public school arena.

Secondary teachers, especially teachers of contemporary world issues courses, may find the resources on the Calling Bull website helpful.

My favorite resources are the case studies which illustrate real examples of instances where a good bull detector would be helpful for consumers of information to have.

I also like the Tips and Tricks for Spotting and Calling Bull that explain how to approach information

There are also videos of lectures that address such topics as causation versus correlation, the manipulation of visual data, and reproducibility. These videos have not been scrubbed of the vulgarity described above so use with students is not advised. That said, they can still useful to the harder-to-offend teacher who wants to better understand these (and other) concepts as they relate to spotting and addressing bull.

To protect Constitutional rights, citizens must first understand them

Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat: I still get the local paper delivered in print on my front porch (well, sometimes it only gets as far as the driveway). I’m sure I could get the information I need via free, online avenues but I think it is important to support the local paper so I consider the money I spend on my subscription a bit of a donation (don’t contact the IRS: I do not claim this donation on my taxes).

In that print copy of my local paper this morning was an interesting editorial about the state of civics education (or lack thereof) as well as a call to action to improve it.

You can read it for free here but if you think being informed about your local community is important, you might just decide to subscribe. You don’t have to go print as they sell unlimited access to their online content as well.

 

Defining Authenticity in Historical Problem Solving

As I have investigated personalized learning in general and project-based learning (PBL) more specifically, one of the concept I have wrestled with is authenticity, especially how it relates to a study of history. This article from Edutopia has some interesting and illuminating ideas about where teachers (and students) can find authenticity within the “bumper guards” of grade-level historical content defined by the state.

 

Meeting a Rock Star

A few years ago Eddie Vedder threw me his tambourine during a concert. I like to fantasize that he picked me out of the crowd because my praying mantis-like dance movements caught his eye; in reality I just out-jumped the people around me to snag it spinning in the air above our heads. Still, I felt connected to my musical idol in a way I never had before. (Humor me here.)  Continue reading “Meeting a Rock Star”

What’s the Work During Modeling?

Having looked at conceptual modeling in science last spring, this might be a good time to consider some questions about instructional modeling in any content.

Instructional modeling of strong and weak work is a key practice for helping our students meet their learning targets. Sam Bennett emphasizes modeling during mini-lessons and catches in That Workshop Book as a way for students to develop as readers and writers.

So what are students expected to do during the time that teachers are modeling? Do students know what they are expected to do? How can we help them get the most out of these minutes? Perhaps we need to engage students in some meta-modeling: demonstrating the thinking and reflective practices that we want students using as they observe us modeling. Metacognition is critical to all phases of learning, including instructional modeling.

Modeling strong and weak work is included as the second strategy of Jan Chappuis’ Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning. While it is a common practice to show students positive examples of work that is proficient or exemplary, sometimes we forget the value of modeling weak work. Not wanting to point fingers at struggling students, we might avoid sharing examples of student work that needs improvement. But in order to help students notice and be able to articulate the differences between strong and weak work, we need them to observe, discuss, and make comparisons for themselves. The act of comparing and identifying areas to improve becomes the student work during modeling. Two ideas for making modeling weak work a safer activity for students:

  1. Using the teacher’s “work” as a weak example. This provides a safer opportunity for students to examine work critically as they provide feedback to the teacher instead of one another.
  2. Looking at weak work or incorrect responses and asking “Why might an intelligent person have thought ____?” This creates an opportunity for students to be critical and identify misconceptions, while still honoring the thinking of students who might hold those same ideas.

What strategies do you use to help students get the most out of instructional modeling? Please share in the comments below!

 

Indigenous Peoples Day Offers Authenticity to the History Classroom

It is admittedly difficult to authentic connections to the history students are learning about but connections can be found. For years an authentic debate over the existence of Columbus Day as a federal holiday has been roiling.

Real people in real communities all over the nation, including several in the state of Washington have questioned whether honoring Columbus is appropriate given the history of his personal actions and the history on the Western Hemisphere since he stumbled upon it in 1492.

Engaging students in this authentic debate with a possible real audience of our own city council or state legislators can make for an engaging connection between centuries-old history and the world today. Click here for details about how some high school students recently addressed the city council of Edmonds, Washington on this issue.

 

 

 

ABCs of PBL (Project Based Learning)

If you have been hearing the term PBL (Project based Learning) bouncing around and felt intrigued but too busy to dig in, here are a few resources that can get you started:

  1. Gold-Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements
    If you want to get a solid overview in under four pages, start here.
  2. Minding your Ps and Qs for Better DQs
    If you have a pretty good idea about the basics of PBL but feel the need to know more about developing engaging and effective DQs (driving questions) around which to build a project, start here.
  3. BIE Project Search
    If you are the type that would rather see something to understand it than read about it, go here and poke to find a project plan built around  a topic of interest to you (and your students).
  4. 20 Days to PBL
    If you are the type that just needs to dive right in and try something out, try this plan (developed by Texas PBL teacher and instructional coach, Erin Starkey) for getting students ready to engage in the team work, problem solving and critical thinking needed for PBL to be successful.