Student Elections

Thomas Paine; a painting by Auguste Millière (...

Thomas Paine; a painting by Auguste Millière (1880), after an engraving by William Sharp after a portrait by George Romney (1792) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have worked in education for nearly 25 years, and during that time I have worked at several schools across the country.  These schools are located in different states such as Texas, Tennessee, Washington DC, Maryland, New Mexico, and California.  I have also attended schools in West Virginia, North Carolina, and California.  Even though these regions of the country tend to differ in political and educational policies, I have noticed one thing in common with these schools and educational policies when it comes to school elections for students, and I wanted to share a list of rules that most schools use in order to elect their student candidates.  Yes, I think there is something we can learn.

  1. Student candidates are given the same amount time to speak about what they would do to make the school a better place and community.
  2. Student candidates are not allowed to criticize other candidates or name call anyone in the administration, teaching staff, or student body.
  3. All religions, socioeconomic statuses, family styles, and gender identifications will be respected.
  4. Written advertisements are allowed in a certain style and must be posted in only certain areas.  There is a set limit that cannot be exceeded for advertising.  There is a clear limit on advertising that can not be exceeded.
  5. Favors of any kind are not allowed to be granted.  This includes personal favors and any act of giving that appears to be a gift to voters.
  6. The student voters are encouraged to discriminate between the candidates, but the candidates themselves are not allowed to express that opinion and/or difference.  Student voters are allowed to make up their mind for themselves.  They are respected as thinkers.
  7. There is a clear spending limit.  Excessive spending will not be tolerated and the principal will have to step in.  It is a reasonable limit that all candidates can attain at that school. Supplies are given to candidates for advertising.
  8. Student candidates are not allowed to campaign outside of school.
  9. False statements will be investigated by the administration and the teaching staff to clarify for the student body should there be a misunderstanding or teaching moment.

These are simply common sense approaches to elections in schools as per school communities coming together to solve problems with school elections.  We do this out of the love for our children; however, I think out of the love for our country that we could apply some of these rules.  I think that our democracy needs a firmer set of rules to insure a democracy exists for future generations and that the process intelligently elects a future leader.  What I am hearing today in our elections is scary to me, and I believe a press that is afraid to ask everyone one the same types of questions is an irresponsible press, and I also believe that when candidates resort to a senseless approach of name calling and exaggeration of policy that the American public is being manipulated.  And as for advertising, I don’t even know where to begin to discuss the inequity that exists in that “paid for by candidate and friends” time.

I believe that the United States of America is better than this, and I am still searching for common sense in our general elections.  I wonder what Thomas Paine would have written if he were still around.

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Time for Reflection

Computer Educational games and simulations are a great way to present daily facts and skills that you want your students to master while practicing in a fun, repetitive, rewarding, and instantaneous environment.  In these environments, students tend not to fear failure and will try again in an attempt to win the game by getting better at the subject matter or specific skill.  And there are many computer based or web based games that one can play alone or with others around the world.

Two common examples are Words with Friends and Funbrain where students compete with each other to improve vocabulary, spelling, logic, math, history facts, and other skills.  You, yourself, have probably played a computer based educational game that requires a knowledge of some skill or set of facts to do well.  I am writing the obvious, though, to try and build to the next questions.  Do students learn more than the skill when playing the game?  Do they discuss unique ways of understanding the skills?  Are they just doing?  Do they spend time reflecting upon accomplishments?

At Absolutely Learning we are currently creating computer based games that will increase understanding of skills as stated above, but we also want to give students and people direct time for reflection.  Students can work upon stand alone projects for a certain amount of time, but students should also engage in the face to face time of reflection.  Students need to become great communicators, and they like to discuss how they accomplished a goal with the educational technology.  Yes, these games are designed for people to share results upon completion as well as provide competitive solutions.  Great communicators are needed, and perhaps this is one way that you can have students practice their speaking skills.  Perhaps a student could share an answer for the class too.  These games give your students time to reflect upon the game played, the round won, and the solution solved.

If you are interested in what I am writing then please continue following this blog or send me an email.   There are games in development for the iPhone and iPad that will give your students and friends an opportunity to reflect upon how they accomplished a goal as well as learning valuable skills.  These are both stand alone products and group games that were designed for these purposes.

Band of Brothers

Sometimes, you do not need to be too original to find a great story.  In appreciate of Veteran’s Day, CBS ran a story about a musical group called the Band of Brothers, and while I am sure the great HBO series Band of Brothers comes to mind first this group is indeed real and worth your listening.  These real veterans who are coping with post war stress are finding that learning music helps them find renewed strength in every day life.  Most vets in this group are new to music and are overcoming physical obstacles from the war in order to create great music with big names such as Roger Waters from Pink Floyd.  It is truly a blessing to hear, and I recommend that you observe how music and the teaching and learning of it is transforming these wonderful people.  Music does heal.

My message for the week has once again been interrupted by the calendar and the greatness of Americans to find a reason to help others.  I am pausing to honor the day, and I am appreciative of what my relatives, friends, and your friends have done for our country.  It is definitely worth our respect and reflection, and I hope you take the time to pause and reflect too.

Next week, I will be back to an educational technology message, and guess what?  I am almost done with my first educational app for the iPhone.  I might even have a chance to release it this week.  I will keep you posted about what I have learned from iTunes U, great Objective-C books, google searches, and Apple’s developer resources.

Emotional Intelligence for Students Facing End of the Year Stress

As students finish their school year and head into summer, they are experiencing a roller coaster of emotions.  They prepare for exams, enroll in summer camps, say goodbye to friends, plan to visit Dad, and desire the freedom of summer.  Obstacles to those goals, though, can get in the way such as having a baseball game the day before your exam, being denied entry into a summer camp because your audition was poor, not being able to say goodbye to your friend because he leaves suddenly without talking to you, accepting Dad’s last minute changes to your summer plans, or actually receiving a list chores for the summer.  Students experience difficult decisions and circumstances this time of year, and they encounter unexpected obstacles or events that produce a wide range of emotions.

In order to teach the understanding of these emotions many educators are turning to Daniel Goleman’s book about Emotional Intelligence and discussing it in advisories, homerooms, and general classrooms.  Overall Goleman reminds us of how the brain functions, how we perceive and react physically to those emotions, and how we as a society need more self control and compassion for others.  While the book itself is a huge task for students to read in its entirety, portions of it are very comprehensible for middle and high school students and can produce great discussions about decision making and current circumstances in their lives.

I highly recommend the usage of Goleman’s book or his accompanying age appropriate materials for your students.  I have even found it helpful to me personally as a teacher as I prepare for exams, evaluations, grades, comments, school parties, and those last minute perfect words.  Have a great end to your year, and may you pause, breathe, think, observe, and respond with clarity, care, and emotional intelligence.

Fed Apps for Your Smart Phone

I was recently cornered in a supermarket and asked to stop harassing those who don’t have emotional intelligence.  I was told that my blogs were unprofessional and misinformed and that I was using famous people in the media as examples just like the modern media that I abhor.  Before I could get angry, I realized that I actually had a reader of my blog so I said “now Mom, you know I really don’t harbor any ill feelings toward anyone; and yes, I will get back to writing about educational technology.”  You see, I just felt that the inundation of technology in people’s lives needed to be merged with the theories of emotional intelligence so that when people were finished using a technology that they could walk away with more than an entertaining only experience.So this leads me to mobile applications for your phone.  I was recently reading an article from InformationWeek about great federal government applications for your phone.  I learned about a NASA App that informs the user of launches and current missions by providing current photos and video, and I found that you could drive a simulated lunar rover on the moon.  I was intrigued by the White House App, but I feared it was too politically motivated.   I really liked the MEanderthal App from the Smithsonian that allows you to take pictures of yourself and convert your image to a Neanderthal, but I felt that perhaps I would ask my son to put that on his IPod.  I think I will also ask him to test out the U.S. Army News and Information as his smart phone runs faster than mine.

So what am I choosing to download and test on my phone?  I have decided to explore, analyze, and evaluate the Library of Congress App.  I sure hope I learn something during the experience.

Emotional Intelligence on Memorial Day: A Reflection

As we embark upon another Memorial’s Day celebration, I am questioning the ability of our society to teach compassion and self restraint to future generations.  I believe that it is our responsibility to teach these core beliefs of emotional intelligence so that we develop a wiser and stronger nation, but I sense that role models, the media, and even our schools neglect the importance of its effect upon a generation increasingly bombarded with lost moments of teaching.For example, Facebook, the most popular web site of our most recent Interet experience, just launched an IPO so that common investors could buy stock in hopes profiting upon its success.  After a lackluster opening, Facebook stock actually lost shares value in the opening week causing hundreds if not thousands of investors to complain and to initiate an investigation into fraud or misrepresentation.  I find this a remarkably odd behavior because investing in stock is supposed to be a long term goal with risk and because one could exercise caution and wait for a stock to settle before purchasing it.  There was no demonstration of self constraint by investors in this example, and upon not getting a quick return from their investment the emotionally highjacked investors immediately searched for someone to blame and for someone to pay.  I am not saying that Facebook is innocent either as it appears to me that their media campaigns and the official literature set everyone up for this emotional highjacking, but I am concerned about how younger generations view the behaviors of those key role models during these moments in our daily lives.

Another recent example simply comes from a popular movie that I just watched this weekend.   My family and I just watched the movie the Avengers this weekend because my family was lost in its advertising scheme and because I heard that “The Avengers” was on its way to be one of the most watched movies in years.  I entered the movie with a critics intent, and I focused upon the story line.  Needless to say, I was disappointed because I felt as if the movie favored quick violent heroic interactions with a forced story line.  The audience was definitely on a roller coaster of highjacked emotions for almost three hours.  The mind was filled with responsive actions from the amygdala, but what does that teach children?

I am not sure, but I just learned today that Justin Beiber hit a papparazo camera man last night, fled the scene, and can not be found by the police.

Well, I am concerned for a generation that does not patiently pause to reflect and does not seek to understand its emotions, and I am concerned today because Memorial Day is a day of reflection and understanding emotional past events.  It is more difficult to understand than most holidays, and it is time to pause and honor.  I am not sure that the average American exercises or demonstrates these abilities to future generations.  We should remember to pause from the media intense fun world of luxury in which we live so that we remember who fought for our freedoms today.

Thanks Grandad and Pap Pap!