Your Weekend Reading List

  1. Tom Triples Up On Me

    Tom at Bionic Teaching makes three rap-themed classroom posters, showing up my lonely offering. I’ll get him for that. Until then, check out the Jay-Z, which is especially sharp.

    Print out a monster poster from Snapfish or Zazzle for under $10.

  2. Moving From Amateur to Expert (In Three Parts)
    • In the comments of Amateurs and Experts, Ben Chun (née Mr. C) links up a great Kathy Sierra piece called How to be an expert which describes a “kicking ass threshold,” beneath which your typical amateur tells herself, “Now that I can do it I’ll just keep doing it the same way.” Which is basically my waking nightmare.
    • Meanwhile, the indie documentary 10 MPH offers a trove of behind-the-scenes information for $, which emboldens my conviction that a) if you’ve got the notion, it’s harder to stay an amateur than become an expert, but b) it remains very easy to ignore the notion.

      (For the sake of the argument let’s not get too bogged down in what defines an “expert.”)

    • Furthermore, design/web-app juggernaut 37Signals says it doesn’t care about an applicant’s formal education:

      What we care about is intelligence, curiosity, passion, character, motivation, taste, intuition, writing skills, and the ability to make smart value judgements. Formal education is probably last on our list of qualities we feel make someone qualified to work at 37signals.

  3. How To Close The Racial Achievement Gap

    According to Douglas Reeves, whose recommendations sent shockwaves through the Racial Achievement Gap Summit in Sacramento, CA, last week:

    • Explicitly teaching students how to take notes, so what they learn in class isn’t wasted.
    • Testing what has been taught.
    • Assigning teachers based on students’ needs rather than by teachers’ seniority.
    • Posting clear objectives for every classroom lesson.
    • Posting students’ work on walls, not just in elementary school but through high school, to foster pride and encourage high achievement.

    Heresy, in my opinion.

  4. Fighting Death by PowerPoint

    I basically agree wholeheartedly with this SlideShare presentation. I agree with it in a way I’ve never even agreed with the usual founts, Guy Kawasaki, Garr Reynolds, Edward Tufte, etc, but particularly with these points:

    • if you can’t find the meaning, don’t present.
    • being simple is not that simple.
    • powerpoint helps to visualize ideas [not discuss them for you]
    • ditch “stupid” rules [which create functional but boring slides]
    • put charts and bulk text onto a handout
  5. Grades: Won’t Someone Please Think Of The Children

    Jackie hosts a great conversation on grades, in which cynics and believers alike weigh in.

    Jackie sez: “The average for both classes was 75.5, the median was 83.6. I really don’t know how to interpret this. Does this mean the majority of them are getting it? That my grading is too easy? That too many aren’t getting it? What scores would make me happy? I just don’t know.”

    Kelly calls grades “demoralizing.”

    Kindred digital contrarian and defender of the status quo, Robert Talbert, brings the dispassion: “The purpose of grades is to compare student understanding of a concept against professionally-constructed standards. They are not intended to reward, punish, evoke emotional responses, pass judgment on the worth of the person being graded, or any such thing. Grades are information; they let the student know where they stand in relation to an objective standard; and how the student and teacher use that information is something outside the purview of grades as such.”

    Ben Chun (dude’s everywhere) says: “The more I think about this, the more I think Dan Meyer has it figured out. You’ve read his “How Math Must Assess” essay, right?”

    Naturally, I agree with him, but not purely for self-promotional purposes.

    Assessment used to be my least favorite part of teaching and then, by way of some large modifications (not gonna lie to anyone here), it became my favorite.

    Under this system I’m running,

    • I don’t adjust any grades at term’s end so a student can pass (or fail).
    • I have a lot of reason to believe that the grade a student has is the grade she deserves. (As tricky as “deserves” is to define in these situations.) In other words, the grade indicates something significant.
    • Students know exactly how to bring up their grades.
    • Parents know exactly what they can do to help.
    • I meet the most common special ed assessment modifications by default.
    • Grades go up as easily as they go down, which is something I can’t say for any system I’ve taught or studied under.

    Nothing I haven’t already rambled on about, I guess.

  6. Peer Review: I Want This

    … at least until someone tells me what horrendous loophole this would open or what right of tenure this would revoke. I mean, doesn’t every other professional corps have one of these? What am I missing?

    The Washington Post article is entitled “The Right Way to Oust the Wrong Teachers.”… which is kind of an awful title when you think about it. I mean, don’t we want to oust the right teachers.. Elena Silva at Education Sector agrees with WaPo.

  7. Classroom YouTubbery
  8. Your Friends and Neighbors
    • Chris Craft’s classroom video project, Teach Jeff Spanish, goes live and is awesome.
    • Todd Seal has his kids working with visual essays, which is also awesome.
I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Is this going to be a weekly thing? I’m on board if it is. That “How to Be an Expert” graph is a kick in the pants; frightening, too.

    To nitpick: no need for that [sic] after “judgement.” Although Firefox tags it, “judgement” is a perfectly acceptable alternative to “judgment”; it’s the traditional British spelling. Plus, it looks way better than the e-less version.

  2. On the teacher firing, most large districts in our state (Calif.) do this, but few principals seem to recommend teachers for PAR (Peer Assistance Review). Essentially, you have to do BTSA (Beginning Teachers Assistance program) if you are recommended for this. I have NO idea what pressures are being put on principals not to use this. If anyone is interested, I could ask around at both the union, and my district to see how this works in practice.

  3. Whoops, good catch on that link. No amount of proofreading, apparently …

    Alice, so Sac City has a board of teachers which can recommend a teacher for a remediation program or the dismissal process? I hadn’t heard of that or at least of any teacher who’d been put through it.

  4. #5, Grades: Instead of looking at the averages, look at who has and hasn’t mastered a skill. Then bring the bottom up from there, instead of shooting for the middle.