Thursday, July 20, 2017

Today's Reads, Views, and Listens

Yes.  Someone has been watching WAY too much Ancient Aliens.

A senator asks NASA officials if there once was ancient civilization on Mars.

Of course, if I had access to NASA officials and other people with a lot of knowledge, I'd ask a lot of odd questions too.  You never know!


Just take the first step.

This reminds me of something I read in college - The journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step.


We all know innovation is vital.  We live in an age of STEM or even STEAM in our schools.

Here is an interesting read on four ways school leaders can support innovation -

1.  Research and development.  The rest of the work world does it, why not education?

How can you find more time, more money, more resources to give to teachers as an R&D budget? Can you give a teacher a one-course release for a year or half a year to do some extra research and experimentation in a department? Can you pay teachers for their time over the summer to work together?

2.  Helping teams learn from Experiments.  I've said it for a long time now, teachers learn best when they're taught by other teachers.  Yet, how often do we ever get that chance?  Allow us to learn from each other and the experiments we all take on a daily basis in our classrooms.

The idea here is to let teachers get into each other’s classrooms to see innovation happening. The deeper level of exposure to teachers engaged in new practices helps others figure out how to make sense of them throughout the school year.

3.  Creating opportunities for sharing across learning communities.  I think at LHS we have a great chance to do this with our "Common Prep" meetings - that is we have the chance to share and learn from each other in ways other schools don't.  Add on top of that the fact that we have built in department meetings during school, and LHS does a great job with this.  We have a built in mechanism to form "EdCamps" -

There are schools where administrators are experimenting with models of teacher-led professional development like EdCamps. EdCamps are conferences or professional development days that have learning sessions, but they aren’t planned in advance. Rather, participants make suggestions for what they most want to discuss and learn more about, and then teachers get a chance to share with one another. It’s a forum that privileges teacher-to-teacher learning and sharing.

4.  Guided innovation with Shared Vision and Shared Instructional Language.  Our work with Nicole Vagle touches on this - but maybe not so much in terms of innovation.  But we definitely have a shared vision - align curriculum to our standards and align our learning targets with our assessment so that we can eventually move to standard based grading.

The fourth entry point is about guidelines and guardrails. One risk of encouraging experimentation is that it can go in a million different directions. This is one of the central risks of innovation in America schools, that it’s happening all the time, but it never comes together. We have a culture in schools of radical teacher autonomy where every teacher closes the door behind them and does whatever they want, and in too many cases that means that innovation happens in classrooms, but not in departments, not in grade-level teams, and not in whole schools. Great teachers retire, and their insights and wisdom retire with them.


Apparently, it's never been harder to fill a job in America.

I can see the reality behind this writer's opinion.  I mean our largest local business, Digi Key, has trouble finding qualified people so much so that they have been busing in workers from other towns for a few years now.

Finding qualified workers is one of the most demanding things in business today.


Well, that has no simple answer.

I find it hard to believe that there ever has been a time in American history where businesses had to sigh, shrug, and bemoan, "Damn it.  There are just too many qualified people for this job.  It is just so hard to hire just one wonderful worker."

As I've talked to several small business owners and others who work with millennials today, they note several negative aspects of millennials that make it difficult to find good workers - one, young workers have no loyalty.  Two, young workers don't have a concept of what it means to be reliable.  Three, young workers aren't satisfied with work that isn't engaging and personally relevant to them.

Gone are the days of the workforce my father was a part of where he devoted decades to driving truck several days a week (and sometimes even a few weeks at a time on particularly long road trips), but work had nothing to do with his home life.  His home life was about his family and his hobby farm.  The two were completely separate.

Millennials - for a variety of reasons - demand work that is personally meaningful to them.

I'm not saying this is right.  I'm just saying that's how it is.

And companies that can offer that are, by far, the most successful.

Look at some of the most successful businesses today: Google, Zappos, Ramsey Solutions, Starbucks . . . They all realize that it's not about work / life separation; it's about work / life integration.

The answer is simple to the work problem: pay them more.

But I'm not sure that is the key to getting millennials to come aboard your company.

Again, my father's generation was all about putting money in the bank and working 40 years to save and get a nice retirement package.

This was true for several reasons: they knew poverty and want far more than any generation since World War II has known, so having a steady job and paycheck was the most important thing of all.  They were loyal to their employers, many working at one job for their entire lives.  They were masters of delayed gratification - thus they had no problem working 40 years for a sweet retirement package.

This current generation, though, is nothing like that.  In fact, I will probably be the last person in my immediate family to work at just one job for my entire carer (God willing).  Young people today have worked constantly since they were young and know there are dozens of jobs available for them.  So what is the big deal if one job doesn't work out.  They'll find three more next week.  And they are fine with that.  They have little loyalty.  Many confess to not wanting to put in 15 years at a company to have their job cut or their benefits slashed the way their parents did.  I can't blame them for that.  Plus, this generation puts their personal lives first.  Then work.  I don't know if this is Gen X's fault for how we raised the millennials - always enabling them and giving them helmets on their bikes so they don't get hurt and calling their coaches/teachers to complain when the playing time or grade they wanted didn't match up with the playing time or grade they actually earned and removing as many monkey bars from playgrounds as possible so they never have to worry about getting hurt and learning how to deal with it.

When this generation has been coddled so much - by us - why would they ever want to move out of our house and work harder than we have ever asked them to, regardless of how much it costs.

So parents, re-examine how you raise your kids.


A Florida school district is banning homework - and replacing it with . . . reading for 20 minutes.

If I were to tweak this one way - and maybe this is something I'll put into practice in the future in my classes - it would be to make students exempt from homework IF they have a sit down meal with their family (and, of course, take video or pictures for proof).

Then, I'd eventually ask them to talk about what they have learned in school, what their parents did when they were in school, what virtues are most important to their family, what pressures their parents faced when they were young, what work was like for their parents, what skills do they think are the most vital for succeeding in the world today, what life was like for their grandparents . . .

That would be amazing.  And more worthwhile than any homework assignment.


Here is an interesting get-to-know-you activity for the first few days of school.

If you are like - and like the author of the blog post - you loathe get-to-know-you activities. And I am using loathe kindly here.

Maybe I was scarred by my training as an RA, where we had to do the dumbest ass activities to break the ice.  It was terrible for an introvert like me.

But the older I get, the more I realize a vast majority of people hate ice-breaker activities too!

What I have done to make this as painless as possible is to not have any ice breakers on the first day.  I do, though, assign students to list 111 things about them due the following week.  That allows me to get to know them.

Then I play a bingo game using clues from their lists so students get to know one another over the first few weeks.

This activity, though, is quite intriguing to me.  Students will create a museum like display of various artifacts about them to show off to their classmates, the same way a museum would curate a display on the Cold War or the Dark Ages.   I think it might work best in a more literature based English classroom than either of my College Comp I or II classes.

Curation is the process of collecting a bunch of high-quality materials all related to a similar theme, topic, or idea. The curator of a museum might curate a collection of artifacts from ancient Greece, a librarian might curate a group of the latest and best young adult novels for a start of the school year display in the library, and so on. And using the free, online tool elink, I'm going to have my students curate a collection of photos, links, videos, songs, and whatever else they can think of, that will teach me and their classmates all about them!


Good old Rita Pierson.  Her TED Talk is a classic.  This should be mandatory viewing for all teachers.  


Perhaps this is the real reason why companies are finding it so hard to find qualified and reliable workers.

Maybe schools are teaching kids that if they follow directions, play it safe by completing all the assignments instead of solving real problems or using creativity in any way shape or form, they will get A's which will allow them to graduate with a 4.0 GPA (or higher even).  And that will guarantee them success.

This is an interesting section of the article -

Educator Ashley Lamb-Sinclair experimented with not giving grades for the first six weeks of the school year at the high-achieving high school where she works. She was amazed at the intrinsic motivation students had to persist on a task until they improved when the pressure of a grade wasn’t present. She writes that she had incredible communications with parents about their children’s learning during those six weeks and that the gradeless period went smoothly. That is, until she had to start grading again. As soon as a 100-point scale was present parents and students forgot all the value they had seen in the learning process and focused only on points.


This article works well with the one above on how it's harder than ever for businesses to find good employees.

If I were a young person today, that would be great news.

Since so few "good" workers are available, it is easier than ever before to be remarkable.  The bar is that low.

Here is a list of 20 things the most valued employees do every day.

Numbers 10 and 17 are my favorites.


Why does Finland leave the rest of the world behind when it comes to education?

Three key factors that we don't have in the US -

A flexible special education that ensures inclusion and equity in education

Comprehensive schools in Finland

Coming together for quality education


Finally, I found out that George Couros is going to be our back to school speaker this year.  This is going to be such an amazing chance for our teachers.  George killed it at TIES the last few times I have been there (he wasn't featured last year, though . . . but he was a featured key note presenter in 2015, and he absolutely brought the house down).

Here is a TEDx Talk from a few years ago.

The first time I ever attended TIES, in 2013, I signed up to attend a break out session held by George.  I had some down time prior to the session, so I grabbed some lunch and began watching the TEDx video embedded above.

As I watched, I tweeted that I was looking forward to seeing one of my heroes in just little over an hour.

Surprisingly, George tweeted back at me saying he was currently sitting outside of the break out session.  He told me to stop by if I wanted to chat.  

So I did.

That's the power of connecting and sharing ideas.  And that's what Couros is all about.

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