25% off!

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The number 25 is very important. All kinds of great things happen in the 25th issue of a comic book.

In Avengers #25, The Avengers fight Dr. Doom. In Iron Man #25, Iron Man fights Namor the Sub-Mariner. And in Action Comics #25, Superman fights . . . uh, “Amnesiac Robbers.”

And now 25 makes another grand appearance.

For a limited time, you can PRE-ORDER my new book, Teaching Is for Superheroes!, at Barnes & Noble with a 25% off discount!

Use the code PREORDER25 at B&N’s website. You can find my book at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/teaching-is-for-superheroes-daniel-bergman/1142495826?ean=9781394153732.

Keep in mind, this is a limited time discount, expiring January 28, 2023 at 2:29am (exclusions apply).

After that, this discount will be forgotten, like Superman’s Amnesiac Robbers.

New Year, New Website!

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Behold! It’s my NEW author website – www.danieljbergman.com – jam-packed with resources and information about my upcoming book, Teaching Is for Superheroes!

Discover where I’ll be speaking next (and request me as guest speaker), along with FREE online materials related to Teaching, Superheroes, Science Education, and other super-geeky fun!

Top Lists

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At the end of every year, you’ll find a smattering of “Top Ten” or “Best of . . .” lists. Do a quick web search and you’ll discover all kinds of countdowns for 2022.

Better yet, we’ve done some reading ourselves and provided a few hyperlinks, including Comic Book rankings by people at Polygon, Den of Geek, and Entertainment Weekly.

My favorite of 2022 was the new Batman/Superman: World’s Finest” series by Mark Waid, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain. It’s a fresh take on the old-fashioned DC team-up title. The art is dynamic and colorful, with big action mixing up characters both well-known and unknown.

Comics aren’t just full of superheroes, of course, as you’ll notice many different kinds of tales in these “Best” Comic Books.

For more capes and cowls, you can also find “Top” lists ranking favorite superhero television series, such as one by the folks at IGN.

Again, my two-cents’ worth is that Ms. Marvel was the best choice in a very robust slate of superhero TV in 2022.

I’ve already talked about Ms. Marvel in a previous post. Simply put, it’s another fun teen title in the tone of Spider-Man.

Like Spidey, Ms. Marvel begins with our hero learning about their powers and living among family and friends. But “trial-and-error” adventures at the street level soon explode into a globe-hopping (and time-traveling) quest. Good stuff!

In addition to TV and Comics, there are even “Top” lists for Teachers!

Places like Education Week and Education Next highlight the most-read blog posts and articles in 2022. A lot of these deal with policy and trends in curriculum, as opposed to direct classroom practice. Still, it’s good to stay up to date with the latest. Keeping current is even more vital with RESEARCH in teaching and learning, as featured in Edutopia’s “10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2022.”

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from their Top Ten:

#1 THERE’S NO CONFLICT BETWEEN RELATIONSHIPS AND RIGOR

“The researchers found that the most effective teachers build their classrooms by getting to know their students, being approachable, and showing that they enjoy the work—and then deftly translate emotional capital into academic capital.”

#10. AN AUTHORITATIVE STUDY OF TWO HIGH-IMPACT LEARNING STRATEGIES

“In the review, researchers explain that students who prefer techniques like reading and rereading material in intense cram sessions are bound to fail. Instead, students should think of learning as a kind of ‘fitness routine’ during which they practice recalling the material from memory and space out their learning sessions over time.”

Similar to “Top” rankings for the previous year, you’ll also find “Most Anticipated” lists previewing upcoming movies, comic books, and more.

Just as teachers can gain insight from reviewing the “best” of the past, they can also find inspiration in previewing the future.

What are you anticipating most in the next year? (Maybe a new book?)

Better yet, how can you help your students look forward to the future?

Talking Teachers and Superheroes

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No time to read today?

Then LISTEN to a new podcast episode I recorded with Jeff Bradbury on his show, “Ask the Tech Coach.”

Click HERE for the podcast and show notes, and check out the cool graphic below!

In addition to “teacher talk,” listen for answers to life’s big questions like . . .

Who is the best Batman?

Hint: He’s in the top row.

Coke or Pepsi?

Or is there a third choice?

Cobra Commander vs. Destro?

Both are shiny. But who makes the better teacher?

And MORE geeky fun!

(Plus teacher stuff, too.)

Find more resources at the TeacherCast network: https://www.teachercast.net/

Black Adam Gets Schooled

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DC’s Black Adam movie has been out for a while, but I finally sat down to watch it. If you like LOUD explosions and slooooow-motion action sequences, this movie is for you!

Personally, I prefer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson less self-indulgent . . .

And more self-deprecating, like in the newer Jumanji films.

The neatest take-away I got from Black Adam is the “student-teacher” relationship between Adam and the teenager Amon. In particular, there’s a Terminator 2-type juxtaposition of the younger Amon trying to teach the elder Black Adam how to be a hero.

Specifically, the film focuses on superhero tropes like wearing a cape and using a well-timed catchphrase.

Black Adam eventually gets both lessons right (sort of). Still, he struggles with more serious, ethical principles like “Heroes don’t kill.”

Oh well. Two out of three ain’t half-bad.

There’s a problematic parallel in schools today. A lot of students (and non-teachers) have plenty of experience in classrooms. This familiarity can create an assumed expertise about “good teaching.”

In the same way that teenage Amon figures he knows all about heroes (he doesn’t), some students–current and former–might presume to be pedagogical experts (they aren’t).

Heck, I’ve worked in the education field my entire professional life, and I KNOW there’s LOTS I don’t know. (Proper grammar, anyone?) With every year that passes, I’m learning more and more.

Problems arise when students turn into teachers without transforming their understanding, attitudes, and application of effective instruction. Sadly, some remain fixed in latent beliefs and paltry practice. They incorrectly conclude there’s nothing for them to learn, since they’ve been in schools ever since they can remember.

She’s coming for your job!

Education historian Larry Cuban puts it this way: “Recruits to the occupation lean toward continuity because of their prior school experiences. As public school students for twelve years, future teachers unwittingly served an apprenticeship as they watched their teachers teach” (1993, p. 19).

This dilemma is not new. As a result, some of the underlying issues schools face – uninspired classrooms, fill-in-the-blank rote memorization, “teach to the test” – are the same ones they’ve been dealing with for years.

Back in 1969, Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner described this narrow student-to-teacher transition as follows: “most of them simply move from one side of the desk (as students) to the other side (as ‘teachers’) and they have not had much contact with the way things are outside of school rooms” (p. 139).

Early (grainy) footage of me as a college student. I’m teaching “to the board” as opposed to my students. (Evidence that I had a lot more to learn about teaching.)

I’ll admit, I made a similar “change” when I first began as a teacher. In fact, before I even started my pre-service teacher program, I doubted the value for going through formal preparation. Like some teachers before me, I thought I knew enough about my subject to teach it. And more troubling, I thought I knew enough about teaching.

Clearly, I did NOT know enough about either.

Like young Amon in Black Adam, I know my share of superhero lore. But I’ve never been a superhero. And I wouldn’t deign to tell somebody how to be one. Especially Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

First Lesson of Hero Club: Don’t touch the shiny helmet.

I know a bit more about teaching. A little knowledge came from my time as a student. More importantly, I learned from mentors who provided purposeful instruction and practice as a teacher. And I’m still learning.

Like the best students, the best teachers are eager to learn more. What are you learning?

Never too old to learn. (Or sport a new backpack.)

Resources:

Cuban, L. (1993). How teachers taught. New York: Teachers College Press.

Postman, N., & Weingartner, C. (1969). Teaching As a Subversive Activity. New York: Delacorte Press.

Who’s Your Hugh?

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This fall, Marvel movie fans got a fun update on the film Deadpool 3, straight from Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds himself:

The BIG reveal comes at the END of this short announcement.

Not only is Deadpool joining to the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Appearing with him is Wolverine, played by long-time Logan, Hugh Jackman (when he’s done brushing his teeth).

Fans were so excited by the news, the two actors quickly posted a second video (“Part Hugh”) to share more details (?). Mostly, they acknowledge potential snags due to prior storylines (spoiler alerts). And they stir up more speculation, obscured by the best ’80s pop song ever:

With Deadpool 3 not scheduled to arrive until September 2024, we all have plenty of time to predict how everything will work out. (My bet is any mix-ups get an easy pass thanks to the bloomingMultiverse.”)

Until then, TEACHERS should take a moment to consider the following question:

“Who is YOUR Hugh?”

We’ve talked before about sidekicks in schools, in particular, finding fellow teachers to mentor and lead. Who is your “Robin?”

Likewise, every teacher should also find a colleague that can mentor them. Such mentorships can function through structured programs or professional development. Or, they may occur in a more organic, or informal manner. Who is your “Batman?”

From World’s Finest #1 (2022). Check it out!

In addition to mentors and mentees, teachers can form powerful relationships with colleagues they regard as “equals.” These pairings don’t have to be the same rank or expertise, or have identical job descriptions. In fact, such partnerships are most beneficial when each party brings different strengths and personalities.

Sort of like Wolverine and Deadpool.

Over decades of comics (and lore), these two anti-heroes haven’t always gotten along. In fact, they try to kill each other quite often. You can read an interesting history of their “prickly relationship,” summarized by the folks at Den of Geek.

Teachers, do you have a “prickly relationship” with any of your colleagues? Don’t dismiss them due to a handful of disagreements. Instead, consider how you can work together–or at least work off of each other–to both become better.

Every teacher needs a Robin to mentor. And every teacher needs a Batman to mentor them.

We also need a Hugh to keep us sharp. Who’s yours?

“What if . . . ?” and More Marvelous Questions

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The latest Disney+ Marvel series is new in a multitude (multiverse?) of ways.

First, What if . . . ? is noteworthy as the first animated show in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU. (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse doesn’t count . . . not yet, at least.)

Second, What if . . . ? is significant since it explores all kinds of hypothetical storylines in the MCU. The series takes well-known characters and contexts of the films and follows different routes. (Remember when the first Avengers movie combining multiple film heroes was considered a risky idea? Look how far we have come!)

So far, we’ve seen different characters taking the mantle of significant heroes (Captain America, Star-Lord), as well as heroic characters doing unheroic things. In addition to the allure of endless possibilities, the What if . . . ? series is enjoyable because these alternative tales come in bite-sized episodes. Even so, some of these scenarios have potential for all kinds of fun adventures and far-reaching ramifications.

As a testimony to the power of “What if . . . ?” consider how there are 200+ issues of this comic series, begun nearly 50 years ago. As creators publish stories in “regular” comics continuity, other writers can explore branching paths and possibilities.

The question “What if . . . ?” can foster similar results in the classroom. Past blogs have written about the power of questioning, which you can check out HERE and HERE.

It’s important to remember not all questions are equal. Some are more effective in cultivating engaged and reflective students. Below is a list of potential questions teachers can ask to facilitate, encourage, and assess students’ learning.

  • “What if . . . ?”
  • “For what reasons . . . ?”
  • “What do you think could happen if . . . ?”
  • “How might that compare with . . . ?”
  • “Why might . . . ?”
  • “Where else could we . . . ?”

These are just some examples, and I’ve shared more in a recently published article available HERE. Note that NONE of these questions can be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No” or similar dichotomous response.

In other words, students have to go further and THINK about the topic in a more robust manner. Moreover, there’s less chance they can “fake it” or just guess an answer. Often, such work promotes collaboration and communication.

Such open-ended questions may not catalyze a zany tale about alternative Avengers, but they can produce meaningful learning.

One caution is to beware of counter-productive conversation. When dealing with open-ended questions like “What if . . . ?” there is potential for students to go down pathways the teacher did not intend. While this may add to creativity and application, it could also veer into darker territories. Just consider some of sadder episodes of What if . . . ? we’ve already seen, in which [Spoiler Alert] a hero becomes the villain, or ultimately destroys their world.

Hopefully your classroom won’t pivot to such hopelessness. Still, be mindful of keeping students on-task and oriented toward learning goals. Even when using open-ended prompts, teachers can guide student thinking toward intended outcomes. Such parameters could be as simple as time limits or brainstorm boundaries. For example, a science teacher might pose a challenge that prompts investigation, but requires students to use only certain materials or technology. Sometimes this is called a “testable question” in science classrooms.

No matter the subject, teachers can be purposeful in using “What if . . . ?”-type questions to get the full effect. For inspiration, consider how masterminds behind the MCU have carefully scheduled and set up movies, television shows, specials, etc. Each production features minute details and allusions that result in monumental meaning in subsequent films. (For example, it’s no coincidence that What if . . . ? has come out between the Loki television series and the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home film.)

Teachers don’t have the multi-million dollar movie machine like the MCU, but they can still be intentional and inspirational by providing creative, challenging, and coordinated questions for their students.

Just imagine . . . What if . . . ?

Professor ZOOM

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People throw around the word “unprecedented” way too often, but it’s safe to say our society is truly experiencing an unprecedented time in history.

With the current coronavirus pandemic (a.k.a. COVID-19), everyone in education is working to figure out how to operate in this “new normal.”

A big change for many teachers has been teaching class sessions and interacting with students via Zoom or similar videoconference tools.

In a way, many teachers have become “Professor Zoom.” But in a good way.

 

(For those a little rusty on the Flash’s rogues gallery, Professor Zoom is an arch-villain who also has super-speed. And he loves the color yellow.)

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Recently, I wrote a brief article for the “Ed Prep Matters” blog of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). In it, I share how using Zoom has helped me sharpen my overall teaching, focusing on three particular areas.

These critical components apply to both online and face-to-face teaching:

  1. Classroom Norms
  2. Student Questions and Comments
  3. Instructional Behaviors

Here’s a link to this article with more discussion and examples: https://edprepmatters.net/2020/06/what-zoom-reminded-me-about-effective-teaching/ 

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And as an added bonus, here is a FOURTH area where Zoom can help teachers reflect and improve their practice:

4. Group Work

An old joke among educators is group work is what the teacher plans for when they haven’t planned an actual lesson. In truth, effective group work requires purposeful preparation by the teacher—worthwhile tasks, intentional grouping, necessary materials, detailed procedures, and more.

Teaching through Zoom has increased my awareness of collaborative tasks, both in aim and execution, providing the option of using “breakout rooms” during a videoconference.

Teachers can assign groups randomly or manually in Zoom, either ahead of time or during the live session, or both. As host instructor, I can drop into any group I like to listen or assist, although I prefer acting as silent observer to encourage student leadership.

These same habits are ideal in face-to-face classrooms, as carefully planned student collaborations can create a culture of shared responsibility and productive rapport – sort of like the best superhero teams!

 

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