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Home | Tag Archives: tim holt education

Tag Archives: tim holt education

Op-Ed: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Stephen Covey, in his book on highly effective people, has a chapter entitled “Seek First To Understand, Then Be Understood.”

He states:

“If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. So why does this happen? Because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask, etc. You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference. You check what you hear against your autobiography and see how it measures up. And consequently, you decide prematurely what the other person means before he/she finishes communicating.”

I was ruminating about Covey’s thoughts and about how many bloggers and commenters on social media create posts that are purposely designed to stir the pot without adding the ingredients of thought first.

For instance, a blogger might be writing about an issue with a local school district, or with a local politician’s decision to do something. The sum total of the blog entry might be: “This XXXX is a problem!”

That’s it. No backing info. No pre-discussion. Indignation reigns as the blogger might ask “How can this be happening?” “Who is overseeing this problem?” The blog post might end with a call to protest or ask the readers to comment on the supposed problem.

Of course, the readers of the blog or the Reddit, or whatever, are self-selected to agree with the blogger, and quickly chime in, many times with the civility of Black Friday Walmart shoppers trying to get to the $125 55-inch TV or $25 microwave oven.

Outrage. Indignation. Umbrage. Disgruntledness. The daily butt hurt. Lots of CAPS locks and lots of exclamation points!!! How dare they XXXX!!!???

“Because most people listen (or read) with the intent to reply, not to understand. “You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say…”

More often than not, responses are pre-thought, with little or no critical thinking taking place. This is especially true of the responder can continue a narrative that they have been virtually yelling about for months or years.

Public schools bad! Trump bad! Politicians Bad! Liberals Bad! Taxes bad! Yea America! Boo socialists!

I have a keyboard, hear me roar!!!

How many of these types of posts could simply be solved by calling the organization that there is a question about and getting clarification? Five minutes would be all it takes for the blogger to get clarification.

But that is not what happens.

Here is a sample of what actually happens:

A blogger that specializes in stirring the political pot, will post a single slide/handout/screenshot from a much larger presentation, or perhaps quote a single line from a longer interview, expressing anger or confusion about the contents said single slide/handout/screenshot.

“How can this be happening?”

“What is going on here?”

We are doomed!

No context is provided other than that lone nugget of information. From that mote, the writer will then create a narrative about poor outcomes in local XXXX or school districts, or taxpayer abuse by local politicos, or how the little guy is getting screwed by the local secret cabal of well connected background unelected leaders who really run things.

“See?” The author might loudly proclaim, this proves my point! The deep state is alive and well! From that, the “Comments” section becomes a bombastic plethora of nattering nabobs of negativism. Agnew would be proud.

The commenters are not in any way trying to find an answer. They simply are anonymously yelling their confirmation biases at their fellow anonymous nabobs from within their own self centered anonymous echo chambers. And while Agnew was complaining about the press, his phrase pretty much describes any comment section of Youtube, Facebook, or blog.

What would be more interesting – to me at least – would be an article that poses the question or problem and then tries to find out an answer. For the vast majority of local blogs that have issues with local government or school districts, the answers to the question is simple: Call or email the entity that is giving you grief and ask for clarification on the topic.

That slide from the presentation showed something that upset you? Call the presenter and ask for clarification.

That school district official said something or did something that was unclear, call them up. Get them to explain themselves. Of course it is much easier to simply present a problem and let the crowd do what the crowd does.

But rarely, if ever in these posts or comments does any kind of viable resolution present itself.

Then the blog entry becomes much more interesting when the author first seeks to understand the problem and not just comment that there is a problem. Here is the problem that I perceive, here is who is responsible, here was their response to the questions we posed (or perhaps they did not respond, but that becomes part of the story as well), here is why I agree or disagree with the results.

Now I, as an author, understand the problem AND the solution, and here is why my readers can now understand the situation as well.

Instead of planting bombs of indignation, confusion and anger, plant trees of knowledge and understanding. Readers should be allowed to respond of course, but it would be very interesting to see if the negativity persisted if the blog post were written in that style. (And let’s not even discuss the how the elimination of “Anonymous” or the use of pseudonym comments would cut the negativity to close to zero.)

Seek first to understand. Don’t just seek first to be angry. Then write the blog entry. Then be understood.

***

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: Teaching Bible Literacy in Public Schools is a Terrible Idea

Recently, after getting his daily national security briefing from the trioka of talking heads on “Fox and Friends,” which horse-whispered to him “at least six states…have introduced legislation this year pushing for public schools to offer Bible literacy classes” our president tweeted out the following message:

“Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!”

Great.

 

 

 

 

 

Putting aside the incredible irony of a lying, possibly traitorous, misogynistic, tax evading, adultering billionaire suggesting that the teachings of the Bible are a good thing to be followed, this idea, like many he tweets from the warm confines of the Presidential residence during his special “Executive Time” is an incredibly bad idea.

One could make the case that he is just playing to his base of red hatted evangelical sycophants and grovelers who simply refuse to see that their emperor wears no clothes.

Or one could make the case that he is trying to really MAGA to those days in the good ol’ US-of-A when everyone was literate about the Bible and all it stood for when homebound moms vacuumed the house while wearing pearls and a dress, eagerly awaiting dads to return from a hard days work of slapping the secretaries’ behind, where every child was above average and America was a Mad Men fantasy land.

Oh, and every family was very white and went to church every Sunday. You ‘member, don’t you?

Fact is, that America never existed, except in the minds of Hollywood writers and Madison Avenue ad executives. Yet that America, that fiction, is one of the driving forces behind the recent movement about the return of “bible literacy,“ to get Jesus back into classrooms, where in fact, he was never banned except in the minds of evangelical snowflakes.

Who is behind this push you might ask? Is it an altruistic movement bent on improving ethics and civility in today’s youth? Educators who know the needs of students? Parents clamoring for a return to the good old days? No, it is politics. And right winged politics at that. Ever heard of Project Blitz, the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, the National Legal Foundation or the WallBuilders ProFamily Legislative Network? They are the ones behind the push to get bible literacy in front of your kid. Notice Jesus is nowhere on that list.

There are multiple states that offer some kind of Bible literacy classes in High School. (Some states have offered Bible literacy classes since the beginning of public schools, as being able to read the Bible was one of the original reasons to teach reading in Puritanical days.) However, many of these current courses are shrouded in the factually inaccurate idea that only the Hebrew and Christian bibles were the basis for many of the ideas of how our country was founded. Never mind that Jefferson said:

“That our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than on our opinions in physicks or geometry. … We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any relig[i]ous Worship, place or Ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

What did Jefferson know anyway? He just wrote the Constitution.

But heck, we live in Texas where the Social Studies standards falsely claim that Moses was a major influence on the Constitution and the roots of our nation’s political systems are found in the Bible. So in Texas, high school students can sign up to take:

  • Independent Study in English: Hebrew Scriptures
  • Independent Study in English: New Testament
  • Independent Study in English: Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament
  • Special Topics in Social Studies: Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament)
  • Special Topics in Social Studies: New Testament
  • Special Topics in Social Studies: Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament

Notice anything about these courses? Hmm, could there be a slight slant to the point of view that students are exposed to? America is a vast country with many point of views, ranging from fanatics to non-believers. Courses like these should not be limited to a single religious perspective. Yet, there you are.

And even though these are largely courses that are offered as electives and count only for local credit, what happens in small rural districts where a lot of students could take these courses and one or two don’t?

“What’s wrong with Crystal? She isn’t taking Bible Literacy like all the rest of us! She must not love the baby Jesus.” Crystal may be forced to wear the scarlet letter of avoidance. Never mind that Crystal might be Hindu, or Muslim, or her family a member of a denomination that thinks religion should better be left in the confines of a church or even atheists. In small districts, just like at Cheers, everybody knows your name. And your business.

Again pushing aside the irony that the Right does not trust public schools enough to teach sex education or global climate change to their kids, yet they seem to have no problem when it comes to religion, there are many concerns that come up with any type of class in a public school being used to teach the teachings of any specific religious group.

Unlike say, Physics (where Force=Mass X Acceleration no matter the time or place you teach it) or Algebra where the rules for quadratic equations work across the globe, experience with the various denominations of the Christian faith include so many variations of a theme that one would be hard pressed to teach a class on Christian bible literacy without it becoming an act of proselytizing a particular point of view, which, by the way, is at the foundation of the entire religion itself.

Your denomination’s Bible teaches that homosexuality is an abomination to the Lord. Mine doesn’t.

Your’s says women should be subservient to men. Mine doesn’t.

Baptist’s believe that the Bible prohibits drink or dance. The Methodists say “have at it!”

Is the story of Noah’s Ark true, or is it simply a copy of the writings of the stories of Gilgamesh? Who is right? Who is wrong? Who is to judge? Whose bible literacy will we be using? Baptists? Methodists? Catholics? Presbyterians? Snake Handlers? The Reformed Asian Orthodoxy? The Greek Orthodox? The Russian Orthodox? The Needed Truth Brethren? The Messianic Jews? The Pentecostals? The Adventists?

Which Bible version, of the hundreds that are out there, would be used as the definitive one for a class like this? The “official” text? Are we going to teach about the Book of Wisdom from the Catholic version, include the Book of Mormon, or tell kids that their version “doesn’t count?”

Some Christian denominations take the entire Bible literally (six days to make the earth) some metaphorically, some a mixture of both. Denominations cannot even agree on what parts are metaphors and which aren’t. Some cannot even agree on what parts of the Old Testament they should be kept and which shouldn’t.

After 2000 years of study, the debate continues with little or no end in sight, because, frankly, no one group can agree on anything with any other group nor do they really want to. Imagine if we taught any other course that way? Imagine a math teacher trying to explain that 2+2 may or may not equal to 4 depending on where you were born and what your parents believe.

Imagine a teacher trying to teach that Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion may or may not be true depending on what version of text book they are using? Three branches of government? Maybe that’s true, but not in this State, because the legislature believes in only two of them.

Those are the kind of problems that would arise if we taught the Bible literacy.

The Bible as Literature? No problem. The Bible as part of a survey course about world religions? Great. But if you are trying to push your religion down the throats of impressionable teens, stop. Save it for church. Teach ethics in an ethics course.

Teach citizenship in a civics course. Teaching the Bible as a a course unto itself is simply a terrible idea.

How about teaching 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: The End Credits and The Gig Economy

I am one of those people that sit through an entire movie. When I say ENTIRE movie, I mean all of the credits. I was doing that long before the Marvel Comic movies added those cool little stingers at the end.

I was watching when the credits would scroll all the way through, and would be rewarded with: “James Bond will return in The Spy Who Loved Me: Summer 1977” or something to that effect. (I am still waiting for Doc Savage: Archenemy of Evil, promised to me in 1975 at the end of Doc Savage: Man of Bronze.)

And while the structure of the credit scroll has basically not changed, one thing I have noticed is that the end credits have gotten longer. Sometimes a full ten minutes is taken to get from movie’s final scene to the typical final phrase “Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental. And the soundtrack is available on Sony Records. And James Bond will return in 2019.”

Most people don’t pay much attention to the end credits. However, a lot can be learned from watching those seemingly never ending list of names. In the latest Star Wars movie “The Last Jedi” there were about 1800 people involved in the creation of that movie according to the IMDB website, not counting the cast.

That means about 2000 or so people worked together to create a single work. Imagine wrangling 2000 people to work on a single project. And not only were these people working all at different jobs, they also were working in different countries: Croatia, United States, United Kingdom, Bolivia and Ireland. At least 16 separate companies worked just on the special effects.

A russian arm.

Along with the usual cast and credits that you are familiar with such as Producers, Executive Producers, Directors, lighting technicians and such, there were jobs such as “4D effects editor,” “russian arm operator,” “phantom camera technician” and “creature puppeteer.”

If you needed a “4D effects editor”, or a “russian arm operator” where would you go? Creature puppeteer? Probably not someone that you have on staff. You would hire a specialist for a short period of time, and when the job, or gig, was over, they would go on their way to their next job.

Not necessarily your next job. You may hire them again, or you may not.

Welcome to the “gig economy,” where short term, temporary free lance employees come to work “as needed” but are not attached to a company. The gig can be huge, like the 2000 people that came together to create “The Last Jedi,” (TLJ) or it can be small like a single Uber driver.

The gig economy where groups of people come together, work collaboratively on a project, and then go their own ways, when done differs greatly from the economy that most people are familiar with. People working on a gig may work together again or they may not. Typically, all gigs are temporary.

This growing freelance job market is made possible by advances of digital technology, where workers no longer have to be tied down to a geographical location to get a job done. Special effects artists working on TLJ came from all over the world, including China, England and California. (Ever heard of a global economy? Movie making is a great example of that in action.) Ten special effects companies and dozens of artists, working across the globe, might be called upon to complete a single scene lasting only seconds in the final version of the movie.

There is mounting evidence that our future workforce will be heavily made up of freelance or “gig workers.” Gig workers make up close to 34% of the current economy according to Intuit, and are expected to make up to 40% of all US workers by the end of 2020.

Businesses like the idea of a gig workforce because they do not have to keep highly paid specialist on staff taking up offices, for just occasional work. Temporary workers don’t require all of those benefits that a full time worker requires such as insurance and retirement plans. They also have a much larger workforce to choose from, essentially everyone that can do that particular job anywhere on the planet. Gig employees like the idea of the freedom that gig work entails. They can follow the work that they are passionate for, are not bound to the drudgery of working for a single company, and can set their own hours.

While we have always had some amount of the workforce working as “freelance” workers, most of them have been sort of lone wolves and certainly did not represent the percentage of workers that are now in that type of job situation.

NPR recently did a with a segment on the “Contract Worker” which is essentially the same idea as a gig worker. This one focused on contracted lawyers, and let’s just say, the days of a single lawyer, in a local office are numbered.

How does education need to respond to preparing our students for this new way of doing business? A recent blog post by Emily Liebtag suggests that educators need to teach students to adapt to the changing workplace dynamics by making sure that students are able to find a passion that they are willing to make an impact in.

They need to be given meaningful problems and projects that are not simply focused on making money and are actually given the opportunity to create short term projects that mimic the “gigs” they will encounter in the world outside.

Along with Liebtag’s ideas, students also need to be well versed in how to work collaboratively, communicate clearly, and critically think with others, all skills that every single one of the people working on The Last Jedi had to been able to do and are essential in a gig economy. Today, we educate students to do A JOB for a long period of time.

We need to switch to teaching students how to pivot between differing jobs without losing a step. We all saw what happened during the Great Recession when people trained to do a single job were displaced and could not find employment because they were not flexible enough to learn a new type of job.

The workforce of the near future will be all about uncertainty, automation, technology infusion and people switching jobs from one month to the next. The idea of a “career” as we now define it might become more cloudy as well.

How we prepare our students to function in that type of economic environment will go a long way in determining their success and whether or not we will ever see James Bond returning in the Summer of 2035 or Doc Savage: Archenemy of Evil.

I can’t wait.

 

***

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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