Tuesday, December 07, 2010


An Open Letter to My Economics Guinea Pigs

OK, I have been brimming with pride as I have watched you try.  Sometimes that is all an educator needs is to see you try. 

As you have been trying I have felt like a hypocrite since I have not posted a blog.  This blog serves two masters.  First I hope to send a sincere message to you and a serious message of encouragement to other educators. 

For those of you not in my class, please allow me to provide a bit of background.  First and foremost, I love teaching economics.  In my dream world, I would teach 5 periods of economics; maybe a few micro courses and an AP section.  Heck, I would love to teach a high school class based around Freakonomics. 

Economics serves as a great guinea pig class for me.  It is a one semester elective for seniors and this class is my only section; these two factors allow me to attempt new lessons with them.  If a lesson fails (and it has) – we only have to suffer through it once. 

During one of those bomb lessons a bright and sarcastically gifted young man called me out for a few bad or boring lessons. I believe he said, “All we do is PowerPoint.”  That stung and cut deeply.  The comment forced me to look in the mirror.

This was the kick in the butt I needed to experiment once again.  

 I say once again because these kids have been my guinea pigs for using zooburst.  The highlights of this lesson are now running on our local cable station!  These kids were also my test case for Prezi!  Some kids adopted Prezi and use it in other classes – others found it intimidating and convoluted.

The Prezi and Zooburt experiment were a direct reaction to my experience at the Tri State Education tech conference hosted by Eric Sheninger at New Milford.  More specifically, I became a pathetic fanboy for Adam Bellows of edutecher.com.

This brings me to my most recent efforts.  A few posters on twitter inspired me as well as Marc Seigel.  My nerves were settled when I saw the success my colleague Andrea Mystrena was having with her classes blogs.   I decided to attempt a modified inverted classroom.  I created a blog to serve as headquarters for our class.

After negotiating a few sticky wickets, we were off and running.  I am not sure my administration was ready to have a teacher sign up for a computer lab for every 3rd period from Thanksgiving to January 21st!  To my great surprise, I met with a few questions but more support.  Their encouragement and support emboldened me to go all in.  We will meet as a traditional class for the first time in 10 days and I am truly looking forward to the conversations.

Again to my students – thank you for the respect and relationship that we enjoy!  I am looking forward to hearing from you.

To my teacher friends – Do not be afraid to get out of their way and let them learn.  Do not be afraid to turn the room over to the people who properly own the room – the kids. 

The students were asked to do numerous posts that forced (I hope) them to reflect on the material of the unit.  Thus far, all of this was fairly mundane stuff and straight forward.  Kids read assignment; kid answer assignment.  I did enjoy the freedom to meet with and help each kid as they worked on his or her own pace.

Blessing #1- they all tried.  Some of you are a little behind where I would like you but I see some real effort.

Blessing #2 – I learned three or four neat tech tricks from “hidden” experts in my room.

Blessing #3 - #Comments4kids came across my twitter feed.  Now we are getting comments from the outside world and we are commenting on other blogs from AROUND THE WORLD!

So I thank my guinea pigs for a wonderful experience.  Teaching your class I s my personal renaissance.  In fact, going to my other more traditional classes can be very difficult.

Keep trying.  Keep learning.  Keep experience.  If you do not want to do it for yourself – please do it for the next 100,000 kids I will get to teach.

With Great Thanks –

Mr. Campbell


  1. What a great post Brad! And not just because you are an eduTecher fan! ;)
    It is because of teachers like you - ones that know that the term "lifelong learner" doesn't just refer to the kids - that we will really be able to make Ed reform work. Keep up the great work and congrats on the classroom success!

  2. You're welcome! You have a great blog started and I see nothing but great things coming. I hope the kids appreciate everything you are doing.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story and your enthusiasm. Sometimes I get a little tired, a little jaded too. I forget how much fun it was to be constantly learning how to use these great tech tools with my students. I hope you continue to learn and grow so that you can model those behaviors for your students. If you need anything don't hesitate to ask :)

  4. Thanks Mr. Campbell! Doing this was a lot of fun and a good experience :)

  5. Aw Campbell, this is so cute! It was fun :)!

  6. Dear Mr. Campbell,
    I thank you for taking this opportunity to show us this project. It is exciting and a great way to learn, i appreciate you showing us this and hopefully, we can work with it more in the future. :)

  7. Mr. Campbell,

    I really appreciate you taking the time and giving your thoughts and methods to your madness on the whole blogging experience. This is a very creative and interesting way to learn about economics and I have been truly enjoying it.

  8. What an honest and refreshing post. You are an inspiration! As you said, the risks are worth it, even if we fail once in a while. Students truly learn best when their learning is self-directed and full of choices and blogging is an incredible medium to do just that.