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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EDTEC Thoughts for Dedicated Readers and EDTEC Enthusiasts

 

English: Costco in Moncton, New BrunswickThese past two months have been complicated with job interviews, conferences, clients, and iOS7 application development, and I missed the mark in regards to writing on a weekly basis.  In efforts to sincerely apologize, I want to give you an easy list of top ten current thoughts for the past two months this Spring of 2014.  This is for my dedicated readers of this blog and other educational technology enthusiasts.  As always this list is full of my professional observations and opinions.

1.  Windows 8.1 computers that are purchased at Costco are a great choice to recommend as they have been well-tested.  I have set up two of these computers recently for clients.  One was an HP All in One, and the other was an HP Laptop.  Clients were satisfied with price, functionality, and touch screen.

2.  Based upon years of experience, I believe that Apple Computer products in schools will run more efficiently with less need for maintenance than a PC Environment.  While I believe in great computers whether PC or MAC, I believe there will be less cost on maintenance and repair in an Apple campus, and I believe those savings will outweigh the initial startup costs of Apple products.  Students, Faculty, Parents, and Support Staff are usually happier too as they can spend more time on the creative learning and application to subject matter.

3.  I had the pleasure of testing Lenovo laptops at a recent conference, and they are well worth considering for PC users and PC organizations. Look at the Lenovo Yoga and the Lenovo Thinkpad series.  I don’t believe they are sold at Costco, but they have great deals for educators at their site.  If you have never heard of Lenovo then just remember that it is the old IBM brand.

4.  3D printing has great applications to the modern classroom for science, mathematics, architecture, and sculpting.  I would suggest that schools invest in a 3D printer and that they find ways to use it in their curriculum.

5.  Blogging is here to stay, and it is a great record for student portfolios.  They can be made private, public, or in combinations to be shared with educators, scholarship advisers, donors, admissions representatives, and select users if privacy is a concern.

6.  I hope you have heard of Google Apps for education, and I hope you have explored Outlook.com and One Drive from Microsoft.  Both of these organizations are offering a great way to create, store, access anywhere, and share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.  There are free versions for individuals and better free versions for educational communities.  Most people who are familiar with MS Office will be happy with One Drive.

7.  Robotics is a great program to support, teach, and advise, and students can participate in competitions with big rewards.  Get Started Today!

8.  Computer programming jobs will continue to be available in the future as hardware technologies improve and as consumers demand the ease of product usage.  Why we don’t teach more computer programming in our schools is beyond my comprehension.  The students with computer programming backgrounds will be able to develop their ideas into prototypes in the future that will bring about new business for the US and the world.

9.  I am still going to have a shameless plug for Zoombla, a math app for ages 8 and above.  It is definitely not Zombie Math, but it will definitely force students to use and practice math skills.  It also encourages face to face competition so that students are still communicating and using real time social skills in the classroom.  Zoombla – Matt Moore

10.  An entire generation uses facetime, skype, and gaming devices such as the Xbox and Wii to video conference daily, yet I still see a lot of schools not using video conferencing for educational purposes.  Teachers should reach out to real time meetings with subject matter experts, authors, universities, and or other schools in distant locations.  Why not?  Isn’t collaboration a 21st century skill?

Have a great Spring!  Perhaps I will find time to elaborate in the future.  As always I appreciate your comments, suggestions, and advice.

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Designing Interaction into Online Learning for Distance Learners

Cover of "Student to Student"

Cover of Student to Student

Online learning programs are growing in demand and choice by students who are independently learning on their own through the vast resources available to them.  Some of these students are distance learners who have little or no actual class time with the teachers.  Motivated students who choose to learn independently need interaction in the course design so that they can understand accomplishments, reflect with other students, interpret the material, and create projects for teachers.  The following are various types of interactions that can be implemented in an on-line course that is primarily consisted of distance learners.

Student Reflection upon Material:  The benefit of writing on-line course materials is that teachers can express their own perspective upon the content and guide students through the skills that they have defined as most important or relevant to course.  Because students need to sense accomplishment after a targeted content goal is reached, courses need to provide reuse and reworking of ideas studied, and courses need self reflection of newly learned goals.  Activities need to be created that reuse the material in creative ways, and stages of growth need to be clearly identified to the user so there is a sense of accomplishment.  This does require a planned chunking of the data so that steps in learning are clearly identified to the user.  Web pages, screen capture software, and video provide great lesson explanation, but the teacher must have moments of sending content to the teacher that expresses an accomplishment of that learning.

Automated Feedback:  In addition to self reflection and teacher generated exercise, courses should take advantage of  automated feedback sites that provide students with graded responses.  Most textbooks today have an accompanying web site for basic skills review, and they generate reports for the teachers.  Reports are based upon participation and success levels, and the reports also help the course creator and teacher understand quickly which concepts are being understood and which concepts need better explanation and/or course design.  These reports while beneficial are only a portion of understanding a student’s progress, and there should be a clear understanding that students are expected to experience failure during those sessions and to obviously learn from that failure.

Student to Student Interaction:  Scaffolding a project so that students can collaboratively create educational goals in a new and creative way is important.  Give students the right background to take your content to the next level though research, design, writing, and presentation.  Students who are learning through design, evaluation, reediting, and presenting are developing skills that are important in a technologically changing world.  Teachers must provide projects that require collaboration with other students outside the classroom, and teachers and course creators need to develop the virtual classroom space so that students sense the social impact of the course too by experiencing other learner presentation and opinion.

Student to Expert:  Experts in the field produce, develop, and create materials that discuss their content for free.  They even respond to motivated learners who are framing their questions and opinions appropriately.  Teachers should never underestimate the good will of experts who will respond to students who go above and beyond in contacting expert professionals.  Students can easily document this interaction and provide samples to teacher of the learning moment.

Student to Teacher:  As course objectives are met in the course students should submit clearly defined learning outcomes to the teacher.  Those can easily be placed as emailed objectives throughout your online course.  In addition to this the teacher should have times when the students can communicate directly with the teacher as a class via on-line learning virtual space and individually through online office hours to ask those real time questions that can’t be properly expressed or lose their meaning in an email.  Milestone type or level type projects that represent a mastering of a skill, concept, genre, and/or other definable learning objective should be clearly made available to the on-line student for proof of accomplishment.  This also provides a sense of learning FLOW that keeps the learner motivated.

These particular thoughts were based upon an online learning program that is truly for distance learners who don’t have access to the live classroom for a blended learning scenario.  This is not an exhaustive list, but I do believe it helps frame the online teacher’s mind in how he/she needs to communicate with his or her learners.  This type of online learning needs to read like a conversation between the teacher and the student, and it needs to engage the student by providing check points for knowledge gained so that the student feels connected to the material.  If you have other ideas that I should place upon this list please comment below.

 

 

 

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Which STEM skills are you teaching?

The A8N VM CSM, an ASUS microATX motherboard

The A8N VM CSM, an ASUS microATX motherboard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was recently reading an article from Elearning (www.2learning.com) where it states that “only 15% of college students (United States) are in Engineering and Science, where many of the high-tech jobs reside. That number compares to 50% in China, 67% in Singapore, and 47% in France.”  I found this alarming as the future economy depends upon technological advancements, inventions, applications, and products.  I also found this relative to a previous article that I wrote about students learning to code software as all of these devices need instructions (software) that tell the device what to do.

In addition, the article stated that “Leland Melvin, head of NASA’s education programs and head of the President’s STEM council, said that there are 1 million jobs that can’t be filled because people lack the requisite skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).” It seems logical then to encourage students to study STEM skills at younger ages and to provide them with unique STEM courses to explore the future.  In fact, there might be a need to develop stronger STEM programs in our public schools.  It might even mean a shift in how school programs are offered.

I have seen many independent private schools build new science buildings in the past decade to tackle this need, and I am noticing that the local public high schools in my town are offering a pre-medical type program, an international baccalaureate, and a technology magnet school program for qualified applicants.  While we are moving in the correct direction, it appears that we have a long way to go.

If you have some time, please share what unique STEM skills are being taught at your school.

 

 

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Student Digital Media Contests

With the ease and low cost of digital video editing software upon both the MAC and the PC, students are story boarding, filming, editing, and publishing great video work that demonstrates 21st century learning skills, fabulous creativity, and remarkable usage of sophisticated tools.  Some students elect to create video projects instead of papers, and they excel demonstrating these skills while relating to your academic content in creative ways.  If you have students with this talent, you should consider forwarding their projects for recognition and perhaps scholarships.

In the state of California there is a California Student Media Festival which celebrates student work annually, invites winners to a state educational technology conference, and awards nice prizes for students to continue pursuing their hobby or scholarships to college.  Adobe also sponsors the Adobe Youth Voices Awards for 13 – 19 year olds in order to recognize outstanding digital projects that promote social change.  C-SPAN hosts Student Cam, and is currently asking students “What is the most important issue that Congress should consider in 2013?”, and the Office of the President of the United States currently hosts a Student Film Festival.

Your students may not even take a course in video, but they have the passion for developing quality stories through this media.  Their projects deserve our attention, and these organizations are respectfully reviewing them with many awards, recognitions, and even monetary prizes.  If you have students creating intriguing informational content, exhibiting fabulous acting, capturing incredible photography, or producing unique points of view then you should make your students aware of these opportunities.

annual Adobe Youth Voices (AYV) Awards, which recognize digital media produced by youth ages 13-19 focused on driving social change in their communities. – See more at: http://www.techlearning.com/Default.aspx?tabid=67&entryid=7040#sthash.a2mPYRmH.dpuf
annual Adobe Youth Voices (AYV) Awards, which recognize digital media produced by youth ages 13-19 focused on driving social change in their communities. – See more at: http://www.techlearning.com/Default.aspx?tabid=67&entryid=7040#sthash.a2mPYRmH.dpuf
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Learning Design Facilitator

I recently ran across an article from Alan November in what appears to be a recent article at the eSchool News web site, and it reminded me of his great discussions about educational technologies at conferences and through his publications.  In the article entitled “Don’t plan for technology, plan for learning”, he describes a moment with a client where he suggests that the name “Director of Educational Technology” be switched to “Learning Design Facilitator” and thus brings to mind the following points for schools to remember.

First and foremost is the point that we are designing and developing better learning moments through educational technology usage so that students are absolutely learning.  Learning must occur, and must be the highest and most important goal.  Learning must be evaluated properly, and the learning must maintain current high success levels or improvement.  Does your technology administrator understand learning in schools?

Secondly, I say that learning must maintain current high levels of success or better because we do have great teachers teaching and learning administrators must respect that and honor that.  Perhaps your school is simply making great learning more accessible, modern, and relevant to technologies.  Perhaps students are learning to use modern technologies to continue great projects from wonderful teachers, and thus this is an improvement at your school.  Does your technology administrator honor great teachers with a proven track record and help them adapt to those changes?

Thirdly, it is important to note that education must drive the technology and not technology drive the education.  Over my career, I have witnessed too many educational experiences where technology professionals and those in control of technology changes at schools don’t understand the educational side of the equation.  Much money is spent without truly achieving educational improvement and life long learning with these tools.  How is your educational technology being evaluated and do you have someone in place who can clearly evaluate the overall affect on learning at your institution?

Educational technologies founded in educational research, proven methods, and creative implementation are what schools need to achieve moments of absolutely learning.  While I am fine with the term Director of Educational Technology, I do believe all technology administrators in schools need to be constantly reminded of the educational principles that they are being empowered to improve.  Does your school truly merge technology with learning goals or are you simply filling spaces with cool technologies to appease the pop culture and your parents?

Frames of Mind

I was just reading Frames of Mind again as I ponder educational movements and current learning practices. It is actually the Tenth Anniversary Edition which has an interesting introduction from the author who never expected its reception by so many educators.  In the introduction, I am once again impressed how Gardener eloquently questions what is genius by questioning the difference between a genius who has demonstrated excellence in various academic spheres and the genius who clearly aims to enhance one of his theoretically defined intelligences such as music, mathematics, or linguistics.Gardner‘s writings (and especially Frames of Mind) always lead me to think about the learner more than the system of education.  It reminds me that learning and how people learn should be valued far above what people learn and how much of it.  His Theory of Multiple Intelligences also helps me see that the process of how to learn should be valued as much or more so than achievement scores, various awards, and especially college acceptances.

I just finished my 22nd year in education, and I participated in perhaps my 40th graduation march as a faculty member.  Over the years, I have heard wonderful speeches from great students attending wonderful universities and/or moving to other schools; and I have heard eloquent speakers deliver addresses that are poignant, informative, and cautionary.  Every year though, I always notice as I survey the class that there is more to be said of a class, more to be heard, more to know, and a future of greatness not yet defined.  It is comforting to know too that a new genius will be discovered even though the genius does not know that he is.

Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences was recently purchased at the Simi Valley Library for 50 cent, and I am just an educator.