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Home | Tag Archives: education

Tag Archives: education

Op-Ed: Every District Should Offer Students Online Classes

Recently, I attended the graduation of my step daughter from the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) near Denver. She graduated Magna Cum Laude. Yea, I got smart kids. Even my blended ones.

The ceremony was small, as was expected from a school like RMCAD, but one thing during the ceremony struck me as they read the names of the graduates: Although there were about 100 graduates in attendance, there was about the same amount of students that were not there, whose names were also read and for most of them, the words “Online Student ” proceeded their name.

“Sondra Lopez, Online Student.”

These students, had completed most if not all of their degree without ever having physically set foot on the campus. My daughter was one of those students, completing her entire four year plan of study totally online. We had only set foot on the campus twice previously, once to see the program of study while she was a senior in High School, and once again while we were driving through Denver on a summer vacation.

That’s it. Every single class, all advising, everything, was conducted through a wifi connection and school-supplied Mac laptop.

My daughter is not unusual in my family. My wife completed her Master’s in Education from the University of Texas at Arlington, having only visited the campus to participate in her graduation ceremony. Everything else, like her daughter, was online.

Of course, my family is not some anomaly because I am a techie nerd. A study in 2017 found that 100% of post secondary students take at least one online class sometime during their degree program. Did you get that? 100%. Every. Single. Student.

Add to that, at least 48% of all students in the US take ALL of their university classes online. Nearly half. And it isn’t just kids straight outta high school going online for learning. Those numbers also contain those learners that are returning to school to improve their job skills once they have left college.

Chances are, you may have taken an online course in one form or another over the years or your employer has asked you to attend one.

Trends indicate that the movement towards online learning is only growing, not getting smaller. Universities are now offering free online courses as well. MIT, one of the most prestigious schools in the world posts almost every single class taught online so anyone can learn along with the students in Cambridge. (Of course, you still have to enroll in order to get credit for the courses, but hey, if you want to quick refresher in Quantum Mechanics and can’t make the journey to the east coast, MIT has an online course for you.)

Universities are also experimenting with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), where thousands of students from anywhere in the world can enroll for free and get credit. These MOOCs have had a mixed success rate, with a lot of students starting and a fraction finishing the classes.

Stanford University started the first MOOC with a class in Artificial Intelligence several years ago, and over 100,000 students enrolled for it. By the end, only 5000 completed the course, a 95% dropout rate.

Some saw that as a failure, but the professor who taught the course explained that it would have taken him over a century to have 5000 students complete his course at Stanford, which typically has an enrollment between 12 and 20 students a semester, when it was offered.

With the onslaught on online learning, it is more important than ever that schools and school districts prepare students to learn in that environment. Students that are required to take an online course that have never experienced online learning are at a decided disadvantage than their peers that know how to navigate learning management systems like Canvas or Schoology.

There are multiple reasons why a student needs to take online lessons besides the obvious of preparing them for a post-secondary world that is not waiting for them to catch up.

In her article “How Online Learning Helps Students Pursue Their Passions” Lorne Bird writes that there are at least five good reasons to get students used to learning online:

  • Students respond well when they have choices in learning, which online learning facilitates better than traditional face to face learning.
  • Online learning offers more flexibility as students with a wide variety of learning styles can pace themselves at the rate that best suits their needs, not the class’s or the teacher’s.
  • Online learning is differentiated providing learning at anytime and anywhere there is a wifi connection.
  • Online learning develops self-determined, motivated students because students have to push themselves to complete courses, just as they would have to in college.
  • Online learning helps students build strong global connections. Despite what you might have heard, the world is connected and online learning helps students develop online collaboration skills that will be invaluable in the future workplace.

Consider this a challenge. Any school district that is not requiring students to complete at least one online course to prepare them for future learning is doing a disservice.

If they have the phrases “future learning” of “lifelong learner” anywhere in their motto and are not providing these opportunities, they need to either rewrite the motto or get on the ball and provide the opportunity.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: Teacher Appreciation Week Needs to Go Beyond BOGO

Another May, another teacher appreciation day, week, or month, depending on who you ask. With the celebration came a slew of companies that were quick to jump on the “We Support Our Teachers” bandwagon.

Typically, these businesses “supported” teachers by offering everything from a BOGO (Buy One Get One) deal for giant burritos (Chipotle) to a free 44 ounce slush drink with a purchase (Sonic) or a free appetizer (Cheddar’s).

Heck you could even get a free sandwich, gooey cheesy included (Arby’s) or a dozen diabetes-inducing donuts at Krispy Kreme.

Most of these “We really appreciate our teachers” deals require teachers to either buy something or sort of set up a situation where it would have been awkward not to purchase additional items.

Who buys just an appetizer for gosh sakes? And if you go to get a free pizza buffet at Ceci’s, you still have to buy a drink and schlep your kids down and but them a full price buffet and drinks. And throw in a large coffee with those free donuts will ya?

So really the “deals” aren’t deals.

They are tricks to get you into their stores and spend money that probably wouldn’t have spent otherwise. “Would you like curly fries and a drink with your free neon orange cheese-sauce covered roast beef sandwich Mrs. Jones?”

The simple fact is that these business don’t “support” teachers if the supported don’t support back. We love you teachers, as long as you buy one of our high profit sugary drinks or purchase dinner along with your free deep-fried appetizer.

Otherwise, meh.

This not-quit-a-scam scam has been going on for years. I remember getting a certificate for a “free burger” for my good grades in elementary school. Of course, my parents, who had to drive me to the Burger Chef so I could redeem my prized certificate, ended up with a bagful of burgers, fries and five drinks for the rest of the family.

When I became a teacher, Wienerschnitzel used to pass out a free chili dog coupon to every teacher as a “welcome back to school” promotion. Who wants a single chili dog and nothing else? Can I get cheese on that? Oh, and fries. And a large Mountain Dew. My “free” chili dog ended up costing me $6. What a deal! Thanks Wienerdog!

If businesses truly wanted to support teachers, they would cut the charade of “we-love-you-come-buy-stuff-from-us” and truly support them in a way that helped them as teachers.

For instance, instead of Mack’s Giant Hypothetical Nationwide Burger chain offering free sodas with the purchase of any combo meal, why not say “We have decided to send 1000 teachers, all expenses paid, to a conference that will help them improve their teaching?

Or how about instead of giving someone a free monster burrito, how about saying something like “We understand how expensive it is going back to school? We will pay the first year’s tuition at the local university for 50 teachers to start work on their Master’s degrees. No purchase required.”

Which of those choices do you think would have a bigger impact and prove how much the business truly “supports” teachers? Of course, they might have to actually pony up some cash to do that, which might hurt profits.

This idea is not without precedent.

This year during Teacher Appreciation Week, TCEA, the largest statewide education technology organization in the nation offered a free one year membership to any teacher that signed up for it.

No purchase required. No strings attached. Free. A $55 value. At the end of the year, the membership expires.

Teachers can renew or not, no harm no foul. They didn’t even ask for a credit card number! In that year, teachers have access to all of the online tools, trainings, and professional development that are offered as part of the membership.

That is a great example of actually supporting teachers.

So I say dear businesses, stop “supporting” over-stressed educators with free high calorie fried cheesy foods destined to increase their risk of a cardiac infarction or diabetes. Support them by providing them with the funds to improve their skills as educators. That helps them, helps their students, helps the community helps everyone.

And as a long term investment, it even helps you. You just have to see the big picture, not just your bottom line.

Now that’s a good deal!

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: Traditional Textbooks Make No Difference in Your Child’s Learning. Let’s Change the Model.

There is a dirty little secret that textbook publishers don’t want the people in education to know. That little secret? Textbooks have little to no impact on student achievement. You read that right: Little to no impact on student achievement.

Those books that states, districts and schools spend $7 billion dollars on each year don’t make a pile of beans difference in how your child does in class.

Of course, any classroom teacher with more than a few years of experience under their belt probably knows this to be true, or at least has suspected so. That is why entire school systems can interchangeably switch periodically from one publisher’s text to another when an “adoption” is made.

Pedagogy and content in many courses does not change substantially from year to year. Those prepositions that you had to memorize in your high school English class are the same prepositions your child or grandchild has to memorize now.

That multiplication table hasn’t changed too much in millennium, and the Constitution hasn’t all of a sudden changed its wording for the new millennia. The 90 degree right angle you learned about in elementary school is still 90 degrees.

Don’t take my word for it. Look at the recent study by Harvard’s Thomas Kane that found that traditional printed textbooks, in a six state research project had and I quote “…near-zero relative effects on achievement measures.”

Near zero.

And while that study was just about Math textbooks, similar studies have found similar finding in Science, Language Arts and Social Studies textbooks in K12 as well.

Dirty little secrets. Now you know.

And while the publishers have forever simply responded to the beck and call of the state education agencies and published to whatever “standard” de jour the states have decided to come up with, perhaps it is time that we reexamine the use of the traditional textbook in a modern classroom.

It has become obvious that the business model of printing paper texts is fast coming to an end. And while the above research certainly doesn’t bode well for publishers and adds another virtual nail to the coffin, there are game-changing organizations out there that are rewriting the rules of textbooks.

Open Education Resources (OER) such as Rice Universities “Open Stax” project create college-level and AP certified digital textbooks that are free, sharable, and every bit as “authoritative” as traditional paper textbooks.

The advantage of OER of course, is that no one single entity owns the material and texts can be augmented, reorganized, and rewritten to fit the needs of the user be it a single classroom teacher or an entire statewide adoption.

No big time textbook publisher that I am aware of has that kind of model in place. OER is a disruptive, money saving, and shifts the power away from the publisher and towards the teacher and student.

Consider the recently released “modEL Detroit Project”, a complete online OER course in English Language Arts for Kindergarten through 8th grade. Over 1700 downloadable presentations for graded K-8 that include lessons, differentiated instruction and more that are designed to reduce planning and prep time for teachers.

ANYONE can use it. Anywhere. You don’t have to be a teacher in Detroit to be using it. A teacher in El Paso or El Segundo can just jump on the site and use away. Indeed, the website actually encourages the widespread use of the lessons, instructing users to simply change the name on the slide decks to match their needs.

These are simply examples in a large and ever growing OER ecosystem that is designed to push the traditional view of textbooks out the window. Organizations such as “Open Up Resources” have created entire online courses that teachers anywhere can use for free.

Indeed, the OER Open Up Math and Language Arts curriculum have consistently ranked tops in the nation , winning multiple awards.

When was the last time your kid’s textbook won an award?

Perhaps no organization is more embedded in the OER space as the world famous CK12.org.

CK12.org produces not only OER digital textbooks that can be modified by anyone including students, but also online learning games, simulations and study guides. Just last year, Ck12 released their “Flexbook 2.0” which combines ALL of their multiple online resource into a single online textbook space.

Essentially they have created an entire course-in-a-book that, like all good OER can be modified and shared for free. A student can read a passage, watch a related video, conduct a simulated laboratory, take a short formative assessment, all without leaving the Flexbook.

At a recent conference, Miral Shah, CTO of Ck12, said that the “Flexbook 2.0 is not a tape, it is a CD…you can chose the play sequence yourself.” He explained that a textbook, like an old cassette tape, had to be digested in sequence, Chapter 1 to 2 to 3 and so on. Because it was printed, the sequence could not change, like the music on cassette tape.

When CDs came along, you could program the sequence to fit your mood or hit “shuffle” and hear the songs played at random. Personally, I believe the Flexbook 2.0 is more like Apple Music, where the user can personalize the playlist not only to match the mood, but time of day, location and more.

You can even see what playlists your friends are listening to, much like the Flexbook 2.0. Over 200,000 Flexbooks have been created, remixed and shared in the years since CK12 began.

All of these OER organizations are disrupting the traditional textbook model, and I suspect that in a few years, they and others like them will force the “big time” textbook publishers to become online content providers who will simply slip away from the business of printing paper textbooks.

It does not take a rocket scientist to see that in the very near future, the idea of the “traditional textbook” will pass away, and online courses will be personalized to the exact needs of a student, much like genetic cancer treatments are personalized to the DNA of the patient.

Then, the headline and research will say that textbooks will indeed make an academic difference to students and learning. OER will lead the way because free, well done, and available to everyone is a hard business model to beat.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: Lack of Critical Thinking by Students and the Media. Example #34523195323

A recent piece on a local news station depicted the supposed problem of “milky” water coming from a water fountain at a local high school.

Indeed, a semi-viral video was taken that shows what appears to be the suspect water with some kind of white substance, flowing into someone’s receiving hands.

“This is what y’all are drinking?” was the phrase embedded in the video.

What could it be?

Anyone that has lived any amount of time in this city knows that what the students were actually looking at was a situation where tiny bubbles are released when the pressure or temperature changes inside a water system, not unlike what happens when a bottle of soda is opened. It is the public tap water version of carbonation.

Those billions of tiny bubbles, in the right lighting, make the water appear to temporarily look whitish.

The reporter then went on to ask students if the taste of the water was different (it wasn’t) and, to his credit, even linked to a US Geological Survey webpage that explained the phenomenon, which occurs so often in El Paso that it can’t be considered phenomenal.

However, to students who grow up with prepackaged water from a plastic bottle, the appearance of anything that is not “perfect” must mean something nefarious is happening. (All bananas must be yellow, all tomatoes must be red, and anything off the norm must be bad is what these students (and reporter) are saying here and what they have been taught by society to accept as truth.)

Conclusion of the story: It wasn’t water laced with Round Up, milk, or some nefarious carcinogen. It was tiny, harmless, bubbles.

After thinking about that piece for a while, it occurred to me that while this was a non-story that somehow ended up on the air, the reporter did not ask the students any basic questions, did not have the person that created the video on air, did not look critically at the video itself (does this happen anywhere else), and had to take a “something must be wrong” attitude in order to even do the story.

Why didn’t the reporter ask for a sample of the suspect water?

Why wouldn’t the student who created the video want to provide further evidence?

Non-critical reporting is not taught in journalism, but seems to be par for the course in El Chuco.

Concurrently, the students that created the video demonstrated a total lack of critical thinking. Did the water look like that after 10 seconds? 20 seconds? Half a minute?

Consider that this event took place at a high school. High schools have science departments, including chemistry classes. Most modern high schools have equipment for testing water, some even equipped with sensors that can detect dissolved and precipitate matter in water.

Why didn’t these students think to first take a sample of the water to one of the Chemistry teachers at the campus? There are 22 science teachers at the campus, including AP Chemistry.

Surely one teacher could have easily given the students a beaker, taken a sample, and tested it, or better yet, have the students test it. If there was no problem, case dismissed. If they found an irregularity, THEN report it to the campus administration. None of that seems to have been done in this case.

Every moment is a teaching moment if we make it so or teach students that way.

Probably, teachers weren’t even aware of the student concerns in the first place, which bring to mind the question “Why aren’t students trained to seek ways to answer their questions first?” That is what the scientific method is all about.

In this case, these particular students did not seem to remember a single lesson taught on problem solving.

Students, who are always accused by adults of spending too much time on the internet, apparently spent no time looking up what might have caused “milky water” in the first place.

A simple Google search on “What causes water to look milky?” brings up hundreds of websites in less than a second.

Why wasn’t this done by the students? Why didn’t the report ask them?

To me, this is a sad commentary on the critical need to teach students basic problem solving, not about “milky water” at one high school.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: The Definition of An Expert Has Changed While You Weren’t Looking

I really like Marco Torres. I first saw Marco at any event that Apple put on an 2005 for El Paso educators.

Marco made a name for himself by teaching, while incorporating technology, to students that most other teachers would give up on, in a school that could best be described as a 5000 student, low income, first-generation American school with 400 teachers, that had chewed through seven lead administrators in span of four years.

At the conference I attended, Marco was the closing keynote speaker and he gave a great talk that I think everyone who stuck around for the last day was glad to hear. I will generalize here, not quote verbatim, but essentially he asked the gathered educators what an expert was and why they thought they were experts.

The teachers responded that the reasons that made them experts varied, such as degrees they had earned, certifications, knowledge of the topic, et cetera.

He then looked at the group and asked “So, what knowledge do you possess that a 16-year-old kid couldn’t look up on Google and in 30 minutes know just as much as you do about the topic?”

What a great question!

What knowledge do you possess that a 16-year-old kid couldn’t look up on Google and become an instant expert? He went on to show how his students were able to get the level or exceed the”experts” in a variety of fields including making superior political posters for local candidates, and a 17-year-old who showed Apple how to make a commercial for its new iPhone.

The most impressive was the student of his who turned a dull research assignment about “voting” into a powerful four-minute video on how one vote has changed the course of history. Because of it, she became the Executive Director of MTV’s “Rock the Vote.”

Experts indeed.

I think the idea of an expert being a person that holds vast sums of knowledge is no longer a viable definition. Information is no longer the purview of the chosen few. The Internet has made information of the uncommon common, or as Thomas Friedman said “flattened the world.”

So just having information does not make you an expert anymore because anyone can access that information in the collective knowledge of the rest of the world that is the Internet. There is very little that you can tell students about general topics that they cannot find on the Internet, and from a variety of sources, not just your point of view.

Who is an expert now? Maybe on my list would be:

Doctors, plumbers, musicians, artists.

What do the above professions having common? They all can apply knowledge they can take separate pieces of information and turn them into something meaningful or new eye doctor knows the parts of the body, the symptoms of a disease, pharmacology to of a drug, all discrepant pieces of information by the way, and take those and synthesize them into a diagnosis with treatment.

An artist can take the knowledge of color, the white paint looks on different media, the look of how particular particular brush leaves a mark on a canvas and that artist can synthesize those discrepant events into a work of art. They take information and transform it into something new.

The problem solved, much like Torres’s students who took an empty palette and created new works he was teaching them how to become experts. The new era learning skills. The things that businesses are now pleading that our educational system teach our children to do, yet we sometimes seem stuck in the education systems of the past.

What are we doing to make the higher order thinking skills a reality in our classrooms and when are we going to kill the lecture as the sole source of information?

The lecture is dead, or at least it should be put on life support. I suppose that lectures still have their place like in churches, but as for classrooms, well, they should at least be heading towards the door.

If you are a teacher at any level, kindergarten through graduate school and your primary method of information delivery is the lecture, then you are out of touch with the realities of your students today.

You need to change your delivery method.

This is not news to anyone familiar with business and education, but it does suggest that there’s a big shift coming on what is important in education. Do students really need to know how many people died at the Battle of Gettysburg or that the battle took place and what was the outcome and how did it affect the Civil War?

Now can I take the information about the Battle of Gettysburg and apply it to today’s headlines, the wars around the world? Or take the lessons learned and apply them to today’s headlines? Can I take the information from the Civil War and create something new from that knowledge?

Ken Burns did a pretty good job of taking discrepant bits of knowledge about the Civil War and created a masterpiece of television history. Nothing that Burns told was new information to historians, but the technique and the delivery was completely new. Now it is a standard.

No, the term expert has got to be redefined in education and elsewhere.

Expert has now got to include the ability to apply the knowledge, beyond just knowing something. Expert has to equal problem solver. Someone needs to be able to take knowledge, apply knowledge, and create with knowledge. Just knowing something is no longer how we should be teaching our children, period.

Teachers of gifted students probably remember the urging from the 1980s to “Move from sage on the stage to guide on the side.” Timely advice almost 30 years ago, timely advice today.

Prakash Nair, a futurist and one of the world’s leading designer of educational spaces, also bridged the new idea of expert when he told his daughter “I don’t care what major you taking college, just make sure that no matter what you do, you’re the only person in the world that can do it.

I wonder how we are training our kids to do that?

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: We Need To Treat All of Education As If Computers Exist

Have you ever heard of the app “PhotoMath?” PhotoMath allows anyone with a smartphone or tablet to write out a math problem, point their device at it, take a picture, and the app will solve the problem, step by step, in less than 5 seconds.

From simple math to calculus and everything in between. Check out the video above to see how it works.  (Photomath app main features from Photomath Support on Vimeo.)

Suddenly, those 50 assigned algebra homework questions don’t seem so bad. And if PhotoMath can’t help, how about zooming over to Wolfram Alpha where it will gladly not only solve the problem step-by-step, but also graph, rewrite it in an alternative format, all for free.

Don’t you wish that PhotoMath were around when you were in high school?

Need to write an essay about Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby and it is due tomorrow? Or maybe Orwell’s 1984? Or how any of about 40,000 other books? No problem, scoot on over to enotes.com and have at it.

Plot, critical analysis, as well as hundreds of e-texts, all for free just awaiting you to come use them. Oh, and you can get math word questions answered there as well.

Technology has changed the way students have access to information. Where once students relied solely on teachers and librarians as their fonts of knowledge, now Google and smartphones are just as reliable and in many instances, more encompassing that any librarian or teacher could ever have been.

Unfortunately, the change in technology has not changed the assignments by much. Students are still being asked to solve 50 homework math problems, write reports on topics that can easily be looked up in Wikipedia and complete solo assignments as if classes were being conducted in 1979, not 2019.

Educator Alan November, in his TED Talk “What is the Value of a Teacher” calls this “old work with new tools.” Giving students assignments that were essentially developed 50 years or more ago, or hadn’t changed in any meaningful way in 50 years, to students that are using modern tools results in the same type of product that was produced 50 years ago: solo, quickly done, and without much learning taking place. Think about any report you wrote in high school. Can you remember the topic of a single one?

Probably not.

There is a saying among educators that if the questions can be “googled” for an answer, it probably is not a good question. Indeed, nowadays , questions that simply ask for facts (What is the address of the White House? What is the population of Houston Texas?) are considered trivia. Why waste time on a question that can easily be looked up?

The time has come for educators to realize that computers are a way of life, are not going away, and that the way students retain and receive information is miles apart from anything that happened prior to say, the advent of Web 2.0 in 2005.

Where is the White House? Who cares. What is more interesting is asking students if they were going to put the capital of the United States somewhere, where would they put it? The population of Houston? Who cares. But asking “Why do you think Houston has a population of 2.3 million and El Paso a population of only 750,000?”

Both of those questions do not have an answer on Google, or Bing, or anywhere else. Both of those require students to think. And both of those can be used to get students from different areas of the country working with each other on an answer.

If we continue giving yesterday’s work to today’s students using today’s tools we are going to still get the same results we always have. If however, we start using today’s tools to ask today’s questions to today’s students, then we will start changing the education game.

Conrad Wolfram, the guy behind Wolfram Alpha said back in 2018 that is was time for schools to build math curriculum “that assumes computers exist.” What he meant by that was, let the computers do the heavy lifting, the calculating.

Let the students do the thinking, coming up with the ideas of WHERE and WHEN the heavy lifting should be used.

But instead of just math, we need to rethink curriculum as if computers existed in everything: Science, Social Studies, Arts, you name it. Only then will we trust see the truly transformative nature of technology in education.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: What’s Your Mindset?

In 1998, a group of professors at Beloit College in Wisconsin created a list of experiences that the incoming freshmen class had always had in their lives that their professors may or may not have known about.

The idea, first thought up by Dr. Ron Nief, was to provide a way for professors to understand the “mindset” of their students. Thus, the first Beloit College Mindset List for incoming freshmen was created.

Since that time, the Beloit Mindset list has been used across the country and world to foster discussions in education about where our students are “at” mentally, and to remind teachers that their experiences are not necessarily those of their students.

The list usually has between 50 and 100 items that are used to give the insights as to where the freshmen are and to remind the older teachers that their life experiences are not the same as the ones they teach.

A teacher making a cultural reference to “Smokey and the Bandit” or how to dial a phone would get blank stares from this incoming class.

The Beloit Mindset List is for students, born in the year 2000, entering this year in college as freshmen, to graduate in 2022 highlights:

  • Iconic figures never alive in their lifetime include Victor Borge, Charles Schulz, and the original Obi-Wan Kenobi Alec Guinness.
  • Outer space has never been without human habitation.
  • They have always been able to refer to Wikipedia.
  • They have grown up afraid that a shooting could happen at their school, too.
  • People loudly conversing with themselves in public are no longer thought to be talking to imaginary friends.
  • Afghanistan has always been the frustrating quagmire that keeps on giving.
  • Investigative specials examining the O.J. Simpson case have been on TV annually since their birth.
  • They’ve grown up with stories about where their grandparents were on 11/22/63 and where their parents were on 9/11.
  • They never used a spit bowl in a dentist’s office.
  • They have never seen a cross-town World Series.
  • “You’ve got mail” would sound as ancient to them as “number, please” would have sounded to their parents.
  • Mifepristone or RU-486, commonly called the “abortion pill,” has always been available in the U.S.
  • A visit to a bank has been a rare event.
  • The words veritas and horizon have always been joined together to form Verizon.
  • Robert Downey Jr. has always been the sober Iron Man.
  • Mass market books have always been available exclusively as Ebooks.
  • There have always been more than a billion people in India.
  • Donny and Marie who?
  • They never tasted Pepsi Twist in the U.S.
  • Films have always been distributed on the Internet.
  • King Friday the 13th and Lady Elaine Fairchild have always dwelled in the Neighborhood, but only in re-runs.

Feeling old yet? Check out the entire Class of 2022 list online.

This year’s Mindset list will be the last one produced by Beloit College, but you can probably find it next year at themindsetlist.com.

This list is great for grandparents talking to grandkids, teachers talking to students, employers talking to employees.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: You Can Do This With Technology

Whenever you hear someone say that laptops or tablets in education are just “gizmos” just give them this list and ask: How many of these things can students do without tech?

  • See a van Gogh so close up you can see the individual brushstrokes.
  • Dissect a frog without hurting any frogs.
  • Talk to an astronaut on the International Space Station.
  • Start a movement.
  • Right a wrong.
  • Write a senator.
  • Explore a hidden rainforest.
  • Collaborate on a project with someone in another country.
  • Translate a text from a language you never heard of.
  • Write a play.
  • Construct a 3D diorama.
  • Tour the US Capitol.
  • Check a book out from the Library of Congress.
  • Learn the Constitution.
  • Send a picture to the mayor of something that needs fixing in your town.
  • Learn to speak a new language.
  • Make a commercial for a product that only exists in your mind.
  • Create a podcast.
  • Design a poster for a political candidate.
  • Add a backbeat to Beethoven.
  • Check the weather in China.
  • Explore the moons of Jupiter.
  • Write an email to your future self.
  • Read a newspaper with no paper.
  • Learn to use watercolors without using water.
  • Write the biography of your pet goldfish.
  • Illustrate the biography of your pet goldfish.
  • Check the value of the Yen today.
  • Apply for your dream job.
  • Read a book.
  • Calculate the distance from your house to the Grand Canyon.
  • Take a 3D trip through the Grand Canyon.
  • Build a robot.
  • Program a robot.
  • Make a robot dance to a song you wrote.
  • Look through an electron microscope.
  • Create an awesome birthday card for a friend.
  • Check your grammar.
  • Translate your wedding vows into Klingon.
  • Create a new comic hero.
  • Publish a comic book about your comic hero.
  • Explore the human body.
  • Explore Saturn’s rings.
  • Find out what your IQ is.
  • Add dramatic music to famous speech.
  • Save the world from alien invaders.
  • Compose a song.
  • Use video to improve your free throws.
  • Learn a new word everyday.
  • Find a recipe for the best spaghetti in the world.
  • Take a trip up the Nile.
  • Climb to the top of Mt. Everest.
  • Look inside a volcano.
  • Make a family photo album.
  • Send a tweet to your hero.
  • Compare Picasso to Matisse.
  • Design a sculpture.
  • Print out a sculpture.
  • Help a little kid with their homework.
  • Help a little kid on an Indian reservation with their homework.
  • Paint your room without any paint.
  • Share a video of something awesome.
  • Do something remarkable.
  • Use a green screen to do a weather forecast.
  • Learn to play guitar.
  • Start a band with only one member.
  • Journey to Africa.
  • Learn to make ravioli from scratch.
  • Write a blog about the restaurants in your city.
  • Find an old high school friend.
  • Turn your voice into text.
  • Turn text into a voice.
  • Explore the pyramids in Egypt.
  • Explore the pyramids in Latin America.
  • Visit Stonehenge.
  • Learn the names of the Supreme Court justices.
  • Trace your genealogy.
  • Add a new ending to your favorite book.
  • Say only positive things online.
  • Teach a senior citizen how to use their cell phone.
  • Take a course on a topic you never thought you would take.
  • Learn to program.
  • Listen to a song that you loved a decade ago and had forgotten about.
  • Have a conversation with Einstein.
  • Get a pen pal and meet them online.
  • Write an app.
  • Change the world.

Whenever you hear someone say that laptops or tablets in education are just “gizmos” just give them this list and ask: How many of these things can students do without tech?

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: Heroic Perspectives

Perspective and point of view are some things that are sorely lacking in much of our student’s educational experience.

The ability to see a topic from more than one person’s viewpoint is essential for students to make informed decisions.

Daily, we see in the news adults who cannot for the life of them see another person’s point of view. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? Heck, they wont even put the shoes on. It is easier to just yell at each other.

The adults that create the curriculum for students often have agendas that limit the ability for any kind of followup or deep dives, limiting the chances for depth of understanding.

How often have we seen politicians try to hijack curriculum to put in such things as the highly discredited “intelligent design” in Biology or even try bizarrely, to reframe the kidnapping of Africans into slavery as a “worker relocation effort?” (Yes, that really happened.)

Such is the case with a recent kerfuffle when the State Board of Education was trying to decide whether to remove terminology in the Texas State Standards for 7th Grade Social Studies that said that the fighters in the Alamo should be described as “heroic.”

The group of educators that were revising and streamlining the standards argued that “heroic” was a term that should be removed, as it was term that was “value charged.” (Is it “heroic” to fight until the last man, is it just bad military tactics, or was it just stupidity?)

The revisers also recommended removing the “Travis” letter as a stand alone standard because one cannot teach the siege of the Alamo without teaching the Travis letter. (For all of you saying “what is the Travis letter, go ahead and look it up. And by the way, you suck as a Texan for not knowing.)

Of course, Texas good old boy politicians on the Right immediately jumped in and cried about how “political correctness had run amok.”

Apparently having solved all of Texas’ other problems, the Governor had time to tweet:

“Stop political correctness in our schools. Of course Texas schoolchildren should be taught that Alamo defenders were ‘Heroic’! I fully expect the State Board of Education to agree. Contact your SBOE Member to complain. @TXSBOE #txlege #tcot https://t.co/Ph9oBoBzKF— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) September 6, 2018

By gawd, if John Wayne, er I mean Col. Davy Crockett was a hero for deciding to lock himself inside an adobe box with a bunch of other like-minded well trained militia members, with little or no food in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of winter, outnumbered a gazillion to one, with no one ready to back them up, then they are gawl dern heroes.

And you will use the word “heroic” when talking about them. And the little children of Texas will use the term heroic. (Why, just look at the geniuses they inspired years later!) Because, history is written by the victors, and even though they got their coon skinned asses handed to them at the Alamo, we won the war. Mexico lost.

Maybe defending the Alamo was heroic, maybe it was bad planning, maybe it was crappy military strategy, maybe bad luck, maybe it was all of the above, just as the Battle of Thermopylae and Seige of Masada were. But I doubt that the little children of Texas are given the perspective to decide for themselves whether Crocket, Travis et. al. were heroes, or, perhaps maybe something a little less heroic than they have been portrayed.

Because perspective, especially in history, is sort of forgotten when the victors write the textbooks. How can you have any perspective if you start with the phrase “Heroic Defenders?”

Consider the following: There is a strong case to be made that the Texans were not heroic freedom fighters at all, but rather an immigrant refugee force, illegally occupying a huge chunk of another country’s sovereign territory. During the 1820’s and 1830’s, a large number of illegal American immigrants moved into the country of Mexico to the west and south of the then United States.

Manifest destiny and all that.

How did this all happen? When Mexico won it’s independence from Spain in 1820, it allowed some immigrants to come into the territory of Tejas from the United States as long as those immigrants agreed to become Mexican citizens, follow Mexican law, and convert to Catholicism.

At first, everything was fine. Soon however, the legal immigrants were vastly outnumbered by illegal American immigrants coming into Tejas. The illegals were under no pretense to follow the law. The Mexican Army, under-manned and under-funded was no match for the flood of illegal American aliens.

By 1830, the Mexicans had had enough and had cut off immigration from the United States into Mexico. However, the flood of white skinned invaders continued when in 1836, President Santa Ana’s regime passed laws that changed territorial rule to a more centralized one.

That caused the illegal hoards of pale skins to revolt, declare themselves their own country, and set up shop as the Republic of Texas. They wrote a Constitution and set up a government that didn’t allow the Mexicans that were there legally to begin with the ability to vote. War was declared, and over 70% of those that came to fight crossed into Tejas/Texas illegally.

Or legally. It all depended on your perspective. Your point of view.

Davy Crockett and William Travis, heroes of the Alamo siege were illegal aliens as far as Mexico was concerned. Sam Houston, whose army defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto more “illegal alien” as any “Dreamer” kid alive today in the US.

Think of how many schools in Texas are named after heroic illegal immigrants. How many students are taught that the state they live in was founded by illegal aliens? Not too many I suspect.

But from a certain perspective it certainly is worth considering the irony that many people in Texas, founded by illegal immigrants, want to keep immigrants out.

Perspective. Point of view. Sometimes, it is a good idea to see things from another point of view, especially if that is a valid one.

And it is definitely something our children need to be able to do.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: Things Parents Can do to Help Kids with Ed Tech

In many school districts in the area, students are returning to classrooms that not only have traditional textbooks, but also some kind of digital device.

Some districts are giving students low end Chromebooks, while others are deploying higher quality laptops like MacBooks, while others are handing out iPads.

Whatever the device, there are a few things you can do as a parent to help your child use the device wisely. Here are some simple things you can do as a parent to help your child and their teachers with whatever device they have been assigned:

Remember That The Device Is For Academics, Not Entertainment:

These devices are academic devices, provided to your child to help with their classwork. The device is NOT provided to give your child another way to play video games or watch meaningless Youtube videos. You need to make sure that your child understands the difference.

Keep The Device Out Where Everyone Can See It:

Your child should be doing homework out in a common area, such as a dining room table. That way, you can keep tabs on what your child is doing on the device. See a lot of videos being played? Go over and ask to see what is being shown.

 

Know The Warning Signs:

If your child closes the lid to their laptop whenever you walk by, or always answers “Nothing” when you ask what they are doing on the laptop, then chances are there is something they don’t want you to see. Are they sitting in the corner or in their room away from your prying eyes? Not with these devices. If your child doesn’t want you to see what they are doing, that is a big red flag that something is wrong. Remember, the devices are academic ones. There should not be a single thing on these laptops that your child should not be willing to show you.

Learn The Tools The School Provides:

Many districts provide students with a large array of tools, both on the device and online. For instance EPISD provides students with the full set of Office 365 tools: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, etc. Many districts provide students with Learning Management Systems, such as Schoology as well. Learn what the district is providing, then you will be able to tell if your child is using the tools. Have your child show you the tools that the teachers are asking them to use. Ask your child’s teachers what they want their students to do with the devices.

Never Go To Bed With A Device, Charge It:

No student should go to bed with a device. At the end of the day, the routine should be that the laptop is left in a common area (like the kitchen) where it can be recharged overnight for the next day. The device should be ready to go each and every day.

Spot Check What is on the Device:

Periodically, have your child open up the laptop and show you what they are doing. Have them show you their browser history, which shows you where they are going on the internet. No browser history? That is a red flag that your child may be hiding something from you. Have them show you their online storage files. Check their emails. You are not invading their privacy. You are making sure that they are using the tools properly.

Do a Monthly Inventory:

When your child was issued their device, chances are that it also came with some additions as well: A charger, a carrying case, etc. Check every month to see if these are still accounted for. If something is missing, especially if it is the device itself tell your campus administration immediately. Most devices have some kind of tracking software that can be turned on of the device is ever lost or stolen. The sooner the administration knows the device is gone, the better the chance of recovering it.

Learn Something Everyday:

Have your child show you one thing each day that they can do on their device. If you get into a routine of learning from them on a regular basis, seeing the device daily, they will be less reluctant to show you what is not it when you randomly ask.

Be a Good Role Model:

You need to be a good model of responsible technology use. If you ask your child to recharge devices overnight, why not do the same with your devices? If you ask your student to turn their devices off at certain times, you need to do so as well. “No devices at dinner” is a good rule to keep so that everyone can occasionally speak to each other!

Limit Screen Time:

Set limits on the amount of time that your child can be on their devices. If you say 9:00 PM is the cutoff time to stop using devices at home, then stick to that. Don’t hem and haw and change the rules. Remember, you are the boss at home.

Read Those Handouts:

How many times have you received something from school that you just glanced at and forgot about? Chances are, when your child received their device, there was information for parents handed out as well. Did you get it? Did you read it? Can you remember what said?

Although some of these rules may seem a bit Draconian, the proper use of school digital devices is very important for our children’s future learning. You are the school’s eyes and ears when students are away from school.

Only you know if your child is using these laptops properly at home. The school cannot be with your child after hours or on weekends. You have to help the schools with your child’s success. If you don’t help then you are skirting your duties as a good parent.

A friend of mine once explained it this way: The job of parents is not to be best friends with their children. It is to make sure that they successfully make it into adulthood. Sometimes that requires a set of rules and to stick by those rules. You are as much a part of your child’s digital learning as the school. Set rules, set expectations, work with teachers. Student digital academic success takes more than a teacher and school.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: Dual Credit Programs – It Could be Better

Last week, our local community college sent out a press release that their Dual Credit and Early College Program was up for a national award. Congratulations. Kudos. Bravo.

For those that are not up on the latest edu-lingo, Dual Credit programs allow high school students to take freshman and sophomore college classes at an associated college or university. The course is taught by a certified high school teacher who has had their course approved by the college they are attending (like EPCC). A college professor acts as a facilitator for the course, and approves the work of the students.

Theoretically, a student could take these courses and graduate high school not only with a high school diploma, but also with an Associates Degree because, as the name implies, the student gets high school AND college credit simultaneously. These programs have been in place for several years now, and each district in the area has some form of it in place for their students.

That’s a big deal.

School districts are essentially paying for your child to attend college. Parents or students could save a ton of money towards a four year college degree. Imagine 2 out of your 4 years of college already taken care of by the time you graduate high school. That is the promise of Dual Credit: Save money, earn college credits.

These programs have proven successful for a number of years, and have benefitted many local community colleges across the nation by increasing enrollment. (All those high schoolers are also community college attendees after all…) Research shows that getting students into higher ed in high school improves their chances of actually finishing a four year degree.

Again, that is a big deal especially for many in El Paso which has a high poverty rate.

After reading the press release from EPCC, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were ways that this type of program could be improved. I think there are.

Saving Money?

Tonie Badillo, Dean of EPCC’s Dual Credit and Early College High School Programs said “These students have the opportunity to save time and money by getting a head start on their college career.” Notice who is saving money: Just the students. The public schools that are sending their students actually are not saving any money, and in most cases, have split their ADA funds with the college.

Teachers have to be certified to teach dual credit, which costs additional money, and the public schools also have to supply college level textbooks to students taking these courses. College textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars for a single copy. The national average cost of a college textbook is $153 per book.

Clearly, the Community College is not losing any money in these transactions. They could, if they so choose, help out the local public schools by requiring all of the professors that teach any of these courses to use Open Education Resource (OER) textbooks. Typically, an average college textbook costs between $125-$250. Multiply that by the number of students enrolling each year in Dual Credit, and the burden placed on the providing public school district becomes prohibitive.

OER textbooks are created in the public sphere, and are free to use and download. And before anyone says “Free must mean bad” consider the Open STAX textbooks from Rice University . These are written by college professors specifically for college classes and have close to 40 college level courses available. For free, for anyone, forever.

The University of Minnesota also has an entire online library of OER college level textbooks, reviewed by college professors for rigor viability in the subject area. Even the State University of New York has an online library of OER textbooks. Surely, if OER is good enough for Rice University, the University of Minnesota, SUNY and hundreds of other institutions of higher education, it might just be good enough for El Paso Community College. The money saved by the public schools could be reinvested in teacher training or student technology.

There is no reasonable argument for paying $200 for a textbook when a OER equivalent is available for free. (This scenario also applies to Advanced Placement courses as well, where students are expected to take college level courses in High School. There is no reason to use expensive college texts when an OER text would be just fine.)

From Free Textbooks to Textbook Free

Another way to pass a savings down to public schools is to simply eliminate the need for a textbook altogether. The University of Texas Austin has an online program called UT OnRamps, which differs a bit from the Dual Credit programs offered in our area.

The OnRamps program is a Dual ENROLLMENT program, where the students are enrolled and taking a high school class AND taking an online college class offered by UT Austin. (Texas Tech has a similar OnRamps program.) The high school teacher acts as a facilitator for the university professor, working closely with the students who take the course 100% online, but have their high school teacher as a guide. Under this model, students receive a grade and credit from UT Austin and another grade from their public school, thus the term “Dual Enrollment.”

Often the grades are different, as the rigor of the college course is more than the that of the high school one. (EPISD offers OnRamps at several of its campuses.) What makes the OnRamps program interesting is that there is no textbook required. All of the material is online in the program’s learning management system. No text, no extra cost. Districts pay only for the cost of enrolling the student.

Like so many programs in education, the Dual Credit program is a boon to students, especially those coming from families in the lower income brackets. But also like many programs, it could be better. Using Open Education Resource textbooks in all dual credit classes would save money for local school districts that could be invested elsewhere.

There is no logical reason, when possible, that this is not happening.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: Growing the Next Steve Jobs

My friend and education guru Kevin Honeycutt had a conversation where he said to me that many of the most creative minds in history all hated their school experience.

He spoke of Einstein (who’s Algebra teacher told him he was no good in mathematics), and of Thomas Edison, whose teacher called him “addled.” One music  teacher in a Liverpool high school failed to recognize any musical talent in  two of his students: George Harrison and Paul McCartney. That’s George and Paul of John Paul George and Ringo fame.

Imagine that: Half of the Beatles didn’t have any musical talent according to their music teacher. How tough was that music teacher? How good was that school’s music program?! (There are even websites that list people that dropped out of high school or college that became great successes in life.)

Our conversation naturally shifted to the late Steve Jobs, who famously dropped out of college to start a little company called Apple Computers and who said “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and how college was going to help me figure it out.”

The thought was, and one that Honeycutt told in a keynote presentation the next day at Ysleta ISD, that public education failed to meet the needs of creative types like Jobs, and he mused what undiscovered Steve Jobs is out there right this minute that we are failing to identify and help.

“What are we doing to help the next Steve Jobs?” he asked his audience. The implication of course, was that nothing is being done to help the next Steve Jobs, and that kid that everyone dismisses as weird or as a discipline problem may in fact, just be bored out their minds.

I agree with the idea that public education, as it currently is practiced in many places, does little to help the “crazy ones” as Jobs called them.

But..

I wonder how much of that lack of understanding on the part of teachers or the education system in general, actually helped shape those people into the person that they became? If for instance, Jobs had been able to find a mentor in school, he would never have met Bill Hewlett of Hewlett Packard who became his Yoda.

If he had followed the “normal path” of a student, he probably never would have traveled the pathway he traversed. Would a Math or Science teacher in high school been able to mentor Jobs the way Hewlett did? Doubtful.

One of the hallmarks of those creative thinkers, the Jobs, the Gates, the Harrisons and McCartneys is that they were shaped by circumstances, it was what they didn’t do that forced them to become who they were. So, even though the public school system failed to ignite their passions, they were, as far as anyone can tell, all self motivated. They wouldn’t take failure or lack of resources as an excuse not to succeed.

Sir Ken Robinson, perhaps the world’s most respected expert on childhood creativity once stated:

“Human talent is like the world’s natural resources, it’s often hidden from view. Sometimes we have all these talents and riches in our lives just beneath the surface but because we’re looking for something else we don’t see it.

We often have children who are buzzing with brilliant possibilities which are thwarted because we say ‘well that’s all very well, but can you pass this test and can you qualify to go and do a law degree at university. Some people are cut out to earn law degrees, but many people aren’t, and if we look instead for what people really have to offer rather than asking whether they’re capable of this particular thing I think we’d find a much greater harvest of human potential.”

Maybe a better question to ask, instead of how can we as educators can help the next Steve Jobs, is how can we as educators help move students to think like Steve Jobs? How can we train students to be as creative as McCartney? How can we help students locate their Yodas?

How can we move those students that believe they are stuck with their lots in life, to begin to think that they can indeed nurture their creativity and make that a ticket out of poverty or abuse, or even to move out of the middle class? Perhaps we begin by believing ourselves that every single student has the ability to become the next Jobs, or Gates. Who are we to judge that they wont be?

I once read a quote that said “Business is run by “C” students.” Not the valedictorians, not the salutatorians. The average students. The “C” students. There are a lot more “C” students than “A” students.

There are lots of little Edisons and Jobs out there. Maybe our job is not just to find them, but to show them the many paths that they can take, help them find their Yoda’s and show them the many pathways they can take without forcing them down one way or another. (And to teach English music teachers to recognize talent when they see it.)

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Op-Ed: The Democracy of Creation

Just a few years back, if one wanted to be a published author, you had to write your novel, hire an agent and have that person shop your book around all of the publishers until you found one that agreed to print your book and distribute it to bookstores across the country. Then you would wait and hope someone bought it. It was a crapshoot.

A few years back, if you wanted to make a movie to be distributed, you would have to purchase or rent hundreds of thousands of dollars video and editing equipment. You would then, much like the author of a book, have to find an agent to shop your masterpiece around to studios., show it at film festivals, and hope someone found it interesting enough to distribute. It was a crapshoot.

A few years back, of you wanted to record a hit record, you would have rented time at a recording studio, which included all of the production staff, and recorded your masterpiece. You would then, much like the creator of a movie, have to find an agent to shop your masterpiece around to studios, go out to radio stations with your tapes, and hope someone found it interesting enough to play on their station. It was a crapshoot.

Just a few years back…

Today, if you wanted to create a full length movie, record an album, or write a novel and distribute them to a worldwide audience, you could do it from your laptop. Heck, you could theoretically do everyone of those things from your smartphone or tablet computer.

Those things that were once were in the provenance of the elite and well connected are now in the domain of the everyday. That which was once was only written in the language of the chosen few are now in the vernacular.

Consider the full length movie “Tangerine,” shot in 2015 almost entirely on an iPhone 5s using an $8 app called Filmic Pro. Of course there were some post production and add ons such as a steadicam, but the point was that a small budget movie could now use a tool that people carry around in their pockets to create art. Indeed, Variety recently ran an article about 12 movies that were shot if not entirely, almost entirely using smartphones.

Dragonborne is a 90 second example of what one can do on a smartphone:

If movie making is not your thing, you have the ability to write and publish your own “Great American Novel” for free using programs such as Apple’s iBooks Author. You can write and publish, for free, any type of book you wish. (If you want to charge for your book there are a few extra, not expensive steps you need to take).

Indeed, the iBookstore is full of books published for free by little known authors. Free no longer means poor quality. The most famous book that started out as a “publish it yourself” is probably “Fifty Shades of Grey,” that started life as a freely published fan fiction for the Twilight series of books.

Anyone, anywhere can write a book and publish it for the world to read. The web is full of self published books in a cornucopia of topics.

In 1968 the Beatles had at their disposal, an eight track track recording studio at Abbey Road. That technology, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars was cutting edge for the day.

Today, anyone with a modicum of interest or talent can access a free tool called “Garageband” on an iPhone or Macintosh and actually have far greater recording power, for free, than the Beatles.

Imagine that: You may, right this second, have more recording power in your pocket than John, Paul, George, and Ringo had in all of Abbey Road Studios. You certainly have more than Elvis had at Sun Records.

Recording acts as diverse as the Gorrillaz ,Grimes, and El Paso’s own Khalid all have used the recording power of the free Garageband app to make music. The web is full of stories of how artists can now afford the once unaffordable.

Movies, music and books are not the only creations that have been democratized with technology. Anyone can record, produce and distribute their own radio show as a podcast. Over the years, the popularity of podcasts has exploded, running the gamut in both quality and length. All have some interest to someone. Want to become the next Casey Kasim and countdown your own American Top 40 each week? Want to create a weekly “Grumpy Old Man Yelling at the Passing Clouds” show? There is very little that prevents you from doing that other than your own inhibition.

Technology has moved that which was previously almost impossible to the common man. Probably no other company in the world has done more to democratize the creation of content than Apple, which has been credited with being the first with creating devices and software that allowed anyone to create; Apple has, over the years developed and released:

  • The first mass produced laser printer that allowed anyone to print newspaper-like materials.
  • iMovie that made movie producing easy and fun.
  • Garageband which did the same for music and podcasts.
  • iBooks Author that allows anyone to create and publish, for free.

The list goes on and on. Apple likes to say that they make products that are at the corner of Liberal Arts and Technology. I like that approach. Computers should not be just about writing code, editing spreadsheets, and making Powerpoint presentations.

Recently Apple has promised to release an entire curriculum called “Everyone Can Create” which promises to help teachers show students how to become creators of content, not just consumers. Too often, teachers use computers to do the exact same thing that a pen or paper assignment could have done.

Having students create digital content not only is more interesting, it is also more engaging and research show that it can increase academic performance.

Occasionally, educators and the public will question the expenditure of funds on laptops or tablets for students, and if students are doing rote skills on digital devices, they are indeed a waste of money. However if students are allowed to create, to collaborate, to make content that just a few years ago would have been impossible to do without hundreds of thousands of dollars, then magic happens. When Technology and Humanities meet.

That is where the corner of Technology and Liberal Arts is located. And while it is still a crapshoot on whether or not anyone will like your product, that location, that special corner is where the magic of democratization of technology happens.

It is up to us to show our students the map to that corner.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Microsoft Selects EPCC’s Clint Early College Academy for New Partnership

El Paso Community College’s (EPCC) Clint Early College Academy was selected to a new partnership with  Microsoft’s Technology, Education, and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program, which helps high schools build and grow sustainable computer science programs through partnerships between classroom teachers and technology industry volunteers.

Edmond Martinez, Principal of Clint ISD Early College Academy, a school that has long embraced the need for strong science, technology, engineering, and math programs, sees the teaching of computer science as a duty to the next generation, and encourages local technology experts step up to volunteer.

“We have a responsibility to create pathways for our students from high school, through college, and to professional positions,” Martinez said. “Technical knowledge and skills prepare our students for the jobs of today and tomorrow, to solve serious problems, and create new opportunities for humanity. It’s my hope that many of those in our community who have technology training will sign up to volunteer with TEALS this fall. What could be more rewarding than passing on your skills the next generation of innovators?”

“Our region is fortunate to have terrific schools, which will be even stronger with the addition of a program that teaches one of the key skills young people will need to be successful in our increasingly technology driven world,” said J.J. Childress, the El Paso manager of Microsoft’s TechSpark program to foster greater economic opportunity and job creation in six communities in the United States.

“We know teachers want to teach computer science, but it can be challenging to find the time and resources to learn the subject. TEALS addresses this by putting trained technology volunteers into classrooms to teach students, while helping teachers prepare to teach the subject on their own.”

The program will launch this fall at Clint ISD Early College Academy.

 

Op-Ed: Sorry, Kids Don’t Need Cursive Writing to Understand Historical Documents

Take a look at this meme that rears its ugly head once in a while across the Internet especially on Facebook:

For those of you that cannot read cursive, it says;

“Kids who can’t read cursive handwriting can’t read historic documents. Support cursive in the curriculum.”

I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start with the probably obvious: Some people, and I am gonna guess it is people that have not been in a school in decades, are upset that cursive handwriting is no longer being taught in many school districts across the country.

There are many very good reasons for this, but the most obvious one is that a child does not need to understand or write in cursive in order to communicate in today’s world.

Printed word, audio, video, and other forms of communication are all taking over from the cursive writing of old. And computers don’t put out content in cursive, unless you tell them to.

Of course, this meme was probably made by some older, more conservative person that think our kids need to be able to READ primary source historical cursive documents that are from the early years of the United States. However, MOST historical documents are not written in English, are not written in English cursive, and are not from the United States.

And chances ARE that the ones written in English are probably written in Olde English, which most people, students or not, would have a difficult time understanding anyway.

So let’s take a look at some of those “primary source documents” that kids are supposed to be able to read. Start with the most obvious: The Declaration of Independence:

This is the CURRENT condition of the Declaration of Independence that is in the National Archives: Faded almost to the point of transparency. I have actually seen the document up close and personal. It is very close to being illegible. Even if a student could read cursive, it would be of little or no use. The writing is that bad.

How is that “Need to be able to read cursive working for you?

Let’s look at another primary source: The US Constitution:

Again, faded, almost illegible.

So historical documents were all written in cursive? The meme makes it sound like it. But like most memes, it is almost totally false and creates a story that cannot stand up under the facts.

Back to the Declaration of Independence. Most Americans do not know the original was printed in PRINT form, distributed across the colonies and THEN written in cursive later:

Imagine yourself as a typical middle school student. What is easier to read and understand: The written-in-cursive faded version we have in the National Archives or this version also in the National Archives, although in the virtual National Archives?

The point is, the printed version or for that matter the web version, unless there is some compelling reason otherwise, is almost ALWAYS easier to read and understand than the “historic” cursive version. Unless you are Nicolas Cage and need to steal the original document to find the hidden treasure map on the back using lemon juice and a candle, chances are the printed version will work just fine.

Consider the TEXAS Constitution: It was and always has been, printed. Never cursive:

The Japanese Surrender Documents at the end of World War 2: Printed.

Your mortgage papers? Printed.
Your divorce decree? Printed.
The local newspaper (if you even know what that is): Printed.
Textbooks? Printed.
Most online content? Printed.
Want to buy a car? I hope you can read printed script.

In fact, I bet you cannot think of an important document other than your High School diploma that didn’t use print script.

For those that insist that you still need to WRITE cursive to understand historical documents, consider the Magna Carta, written in 1215 in LATIN in print script,  and the basis for much of our Constitution, here is what it looks like:

Here is a transcript in English.  Now, tell me, what is easier to understand? Unless your Latin is good, I suspect you liked the English PRINTED translation.

These types of internet memes are usually put out by nostalgic people thinking that the world they remember was better than the world they live in now. Sadly, they don’t seem to understand that in many aspects, the world they once knew is gone, and had been replaced by something even better. Why, I can’t even recall a time when the Fox News headline scroll was written using as cursive font.

Let old ways die. Just because YOU did it, does not mean it was better. It is totally okay to remember your past, but don’t force it on the rest of us.

The world has gotten much better over the years. Much better.

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

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