The loss of a great voice in education

Richard Wilson Strong, an extraordinary educator, thinker and writer, died January 27, 2008, after a valiant battle with cancer.

Richard Strong was born in NYC on February 26, 1946. He was the co-founder of Silver, Strong and Associates and a member of the Communities for Learning Advisory Council. He was a consummate learner, a selfless listener, and a provocative presenter who deeply touched the lives of thousands of teachers who crossed his path.

He is survived by his wife Sheila and his sons Tom and Danny, by his sisters Alice and Margy, and by his family in heart Ron, Roberta, Jessica, and Giselle.

He will be sorely missed by the Fellows and staff from Communities for Learning and by the educational community at large.

Memorial and contribution information can be found at In lieu of flowers, please send donations to St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center Foundation, 130 West 12th Street, MP6, New York, NY 10011.

The Week before ELA Testing 2008

Happy New Year! While Theresa spent quality time with the family and working with Google Docs, I did nothing. Yup. Over the holidays, I've probably spent less than 5 hours at my computer (scandalous, I know!) and even then it was a cursory glance at e-mail or adding music to my MP3 player. I took this neat thing called a vacation and actually did what one does on vacation - nothing. I worked out, hung out with my husband, did some cooking (gasp), saw good movies, and read. I always thoughts "recharging your batteries" was a cliche, but it's one I completely understand right now.

So back to it. Just in time for the latest round of ELA testing. It took me about five hours to get through my RSS feed today - lots of interesting and good stuff going on in the world. Adventures of Data Girl has a nice take on the week before testing. A few of the blogs I follow start each week by previewing upcoming entries. So, here at Grand Rounds, I'd like to propose that this month of months we talk about what's happening the week before, next week what we see during testing, and the following week, the immediate consequences, if any. I'll keep my eye on the media and see if there are any articles or press coverage about the assessments themselves. Let's hope there are no stories about scoring SNAFUs or cheating.

In the meantime, if you're feeling the pressure and looking to set your and/or your students' minds at ease, I"d like to recommend two books. I've loved Testing Miss Malarky since I first read it. The book has several possible implications - test cramming leads to high scores, test cramming isn't that important in the grand scheme - but is a worthy read. I personally love the student who is given fish and the explanation that fish is "brain food". His response? "I thought food went to my stomach."

Theresa gave me a copy of Horray for Diffendoorfer Day and it's a must read for anyone struggling to find what is important amidst all the testing noise. The book was written after Dr. Seuss passed away using notes provided by his secretary. The story itself is wonderfully pragmatic, classic Seuss (Miss Bonkers advises her students: Don't fret! You're learned the things you need to pass that test and many more - I'm certain you'll succeed. . . we've taught you how to think.")

Do you know of any good testing reality check books? Any recommendations for the week before the tests?

Giddy for Google Docs

I have been using Google Docs for a bit now and am pretty hooked. My team at work uses it to craft our meeting agenda and take notes (which we then transfer over to our Google Groups site), I use it to track student grades with my fellow instructor for the graduate course we teach, and I have shared several documents with folks to get feedback. It's not "new" for me anymore.

So imagine how I had to suppress my grin yesterday while at a planning meeting for our district CDEP team and one of the administrators mentioned that two members "found" Google Docs and wondered if we might be able to use them for the completion of the plan!!

Within half an hour - we all met so that I could give a crash course on actually using it and develop a plan to get everyone registered and set for our meeting next week. We had a minor set-back when our IT guy wanted to just go out and register everyone himself and I pushed back. I was honest in telling them that my secret hope was that if the teachers registered themselves they would learn more (teach a man to fish......)but most importantly - they would know how to teach their students to register when they wanted to use it in their classroom.

Apparently - I lept a little too far forward in time for that particular moment. But I am convinced that once the teachers see the power of the tool with our committee, they will find applications to their own classroom. So much so that I've decided to stop playing chicken and integrate it into the writing work I will do with the teachers later in the month.

Breathes some new life into my planning!! And a good lesson for me - the Web 2.0 world doesn't need to be a mystical place. We just need to enter it slowly...

Two for Tuesday: January 1, 2008

Happy 2008!!!

I have high expectations for the upcoming year - despite the loss of my beloved Sabres during a very cool and exciting outdoor game!! I am not much for resolutions - I break them too quickly - so you won't see a post full of promises that I know will be broken. Instead - I thought I would take a look back at our past year of blogging and share two of my favorite posts from the year.

First, A Pig Don't Get Fatter the More You Weigh It. This post by Jenn on an assessment book that she read is pretty much what we had hoped this blog would be about: sharing resources, open and honest dialogue (honestly, I giggle everytime I read this post because I can hear Jenn talking!) and provoking comments about education. Sadly - it also reflects the reality of our blog - the lack of comments that engage conversation. Sigh! Read it anyway!!

The second is a post that I did on the use of technology in education. It is something that I have been struggling with in my practice and trying to have become reality. But, like the title of the post I think that fear is still one of the greatest organizational roadblocks we have to really being able to use technology in a meaningful way.

Looking back - this post has been a great sounding board about the work we do and the passion we have for education (if you doubt me, read this post by Jenn!) I feel like we are still developing this blog and developing as bloggers. We have created the kinds of conversations that we hoped for - yet!! Yet - when it is all said and done, I'm hoping that we will be able to quote Lindy Ruff from today's game:

"We had to battle through some elements, but I think that was all part of the program."