Friday, April 16, 2010

Scentsy for Teachers

Scentsy has created a mid-size warmer specifically for teachers, called the ABCs warmer.  It features the alphabet in white on black (like a blackboard), is apple-shaped, and has an inset apple that reads "The Best teachers teach from the Heart".  The alphabet lights up when the warmer is turned on.

Also of interest to teachers will be the Sunshine Kids full-size warmer, which is a fundraiser for the Sunshine Kids Foundation.  All net profits from the sale of this warmer will be donated to the Sunshine Kids Foundation.

Scentsy wickless candles are a safe alternative to traditional scented candles.  The beautiful ceramic warmer houses a low-watt light bulb that slowly melts the fragrant Scentsy bar and fills your space with one of more than 80 great, long-lasting scents.  Because there is no flame, Scentsy is safer than a candle.  It won't burn you, your children or pets, or start fires the way candles can.  And there's no smoke or soot to breathe.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another essential accessory for occasional teachers

An MP3 player with a collection of appropriate music and podcasts can be a great tool in the classroom, whether it's curriculum-related podcasts used to enrich a lesson, or The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter soundtrack adding a calming ambience to the classroom.

The trick, though, is having a speaker system that allows the class to hear the MP3 player.  Unfortunately, speakers aren't very common equipment in classrooms yet (in fact, most classroom computers are equipped with headphones), so a prepared occasional teacher needs to bring their own speakers.

I've been looking for a suitably loud, yet portable speaker for a couple years now.  Most speakers aren't portable enough, or are too small and produce a tinny sound that can't be heard in a classroom.  I finally found one that works, though, in the Headrush Crimson Red Pocket Speaker.  I even picked it up on sale for $9.99.  It's slim, loud enough to fill a room, plugs into the headphone jack of my iPod, and it's even got a fold-out stand so it can be stood up.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Internet Bogeyman is dead. Common sense finally prevails.

The Internet Bogeyman appears to finally be dying, and at (very, very) long last, common sense appears to finally be prevailing.

A recent CNET News article describes a move towards "digital citizenship" education. Rather than fear-mongering and the perpetuation of ignorance when it comes to Internet safety issues such as online predators, online dating, online bullying, social networks, viruses/spyware/malware, spam, and scams, people are finally beginning to understand that the Internet isn't going away, and that we'd better start teaching people how to actually deal with and (easily) avoid those threats.

Of course, switching to a common-sense plan of teaching people about online responsibility and very basic technical safeguards is probably less lucrative than advocating paranoia, but it's another sign that the net has become mature when there are enough stakeholders interested in Internet safety that the fear-mongers have become outnumbered by those advocating a more moderate message.

A paper mentioned in the article, Online Safety 3.0, calls for "moving away from fear-based messages toward an emphasis on media literacy and digital citizenship, including recognizing young people not as 'victims' but as stakeholders in positive Internet use. Instead of schools filtering out access to social-networking sites, we believe they should be incorporating social media not only to enhance learning but to promote responsibility."

Sunday, June 28, 2009


To celebrate the International Year of Astronomy in 2009, a simple, inexpensive, and well-designed telescope, called the "Galileoscope" is being produced. It costs $15 US plus shipping. I'd recommend going in on an order of 5+ with other people, as the shipping cost per unit drops dramatically at 5+. To ship a single unit to an exotic foreign destination like Canada costs $18.40 US, but for orders of 5+, the shipping per unit drops to $7.28, and drops further with 10+ orders.

They also have a "Give a Galileoscope" program; when you order, you have the option of paying $12.50 more (the 100+ price) to donate a Galileoscope.

The site also has a section for teachers which offers downloadable PDF activity guides to teaching optics and observing with a telescope. The IYA2009 site also has a variety of educational resources. To get the most out of a telescope, though, you should also download some free astronomy software. I recommend Stellarium and Celestia.

Another good site for teachers and Galileoscope enthusiasts is

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Teach Copyright Right!

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has just released curriculum for teachers to teach students about their rights and responsibilities when it comes to copyright.

The materials are free, Creative Commons licensed, and include handouts, goals and objectives, lesson plans, background material, and links to further information and related materials (such as Cory Doctorow's young adult science fiction novel, Little Brother, which won the Ontario Library Association's 2008 White Pine award).

All in all, it's very well designed, exactly what you'd expect from any good teaching resource. Given the emphasis on media literacy across the curriculum, copyright is definitely something we should be teaching students.

Related posts:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Story of Stuff

I just watched a great video called The Story of Stuff. It takes you through the life cycle of consumer goods and discusses the implications of it all. It's fast paced, engaging, and interesting. And it's only 20 minutes long, which makes it perfect for the classroom. There's even discussion and activity guides.

You can play the video on any computer, but since most schools don't have the fastest net connections, I've saved a copy (just 50 MB) to my flash drive. I've also got a copy of VLC Media Player Portable on my flash drive, too, in case the school's computer has some ancient video player installed. For grades 6-8, this video is a great way to fill a 20 minute gap in the day with highly engaging and educational material.

For teachers, there's a growing amount of educational video on the web in places like YouTube and TeacherTube. While full-time classroom teachers will be downloading clips around which they'll base lessons and units, occasional teachers will want to carefully choose a variety of videos to carry with them which address various grade levels and curriculum strands. Being prepared with a short video relevant to curriculum allows an occasional teacher to enrich a lesson, ensure that all instructional time is used efficiently, and demonstrates to students that you're an effective teacher. Once you've got your students' confidence, classroom management becomes a breeze.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Case for Investing in Occasional Teachers

I recently read an interesting article that delineated the number of jobs created with a $1 Billion investment in various areas.  Here's the quote:
"If you put a billion dollars into tax cuts, it will result in 5,600 jobs. If you put the money into physical infrastracture, you will create 15,800 jobs for every one billion invested. If you put the money into public services like health care, you create 18,100 jobs for every one billion invested," said Rout.
I'd like to propose a much, much, less expensive way to create jobs and bolster the economy. It involves an investment in public education; not in full-time teachers who already make a great deal of money, but by investing in occasional (substitute) teachers, most of whom earn less than the poverty line each year.

Here's how it works... occasional teachers are currently paid less than the lowest-paid teacher on the salary grid on a daily basis. Their credentials and experience are not recognized. Nor do they receive benefits. It would cost about $35 million to give public school boards enough funding to provide benefits to all occasional teachers in the province. For a cost of approximately $65 million, you could give public school boards enough funding to pay all occasional teachers a daily rate that recognized their credentials and experience (the $65 million is based on an estimate of an average A3 rating with 3 years experience).

What would this $100 million investment yield you? Well, ETFO alone has approximately 19,000 occasional teacher members (about 26% of all teachers). Making this investment would lift those occasional teachers out of poverty. So, right off the bat, you'll have transformed 19,000 precarious jobs into good jobs, with the ensuing economic benefits.

But the benefits go beyond that, because most of those 19,000 occasional teachers currently work second jobs to make ends meet.
So your $100 million investment will also make thousands more jobs become available to be filled by other people, as occasional teachers will no longer be in such dire straits that they require a second job. Occasional teachers will then also have the opportunity to focus on being teachers, which ultimately benefits the children in their care.

Clearly, investing in occasional teachers is a simple and cost-effective way to make an enormous impact on both the education offered to children, and to the overall economy of Ontario.  But an investment like this isn't going to happen unless awareness of this solution is brought to the attention of decision-makers.

What will it take to make such an investment in occasional teachers happen?  First, the message needs to be sent to the ETFO Provincial Executive.  The teachers' union, which pretty much ignores the needs of occasional teachers, needs to be made aware of the impact redirecting some of its focus could have on Ontario's economy.  The Ontario government and its Premier also need to be lobbied and made aware of the golden opportunity they're missing.