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Home | Tag Archives: tim holt education

Tag Archives: tim holt education

Op-Ed: Assigning the Parents Homework: Homework as a socio-economic indicator

A recent tweet went out where a parent mentioned that her daughter was only able to complete her homework after she had been able to use a home printer, a laptop, home internet service, a large pair of scissors, glue sticks, white and colored paper as well as some other materials.

The parent wanted to know if a student that did not have access to the same materials would have been able to complete the assignment. Did the homework assess her child’s learning, or did it assess parental resources?

Homework in general over the years, has come under pressure as not a particularly effective way of assisting student learning. If you think about the way we have always assigned homework, the traditional method has been that a lesson is presented in class, and then the students are asked to solve some set of problems based on the lesson presented.

Among the many issues in this model is the one that the student must complete the homework sans the teacher, then hope that the completed work is “good enough” to get a passing grade.

I struggled mightily in high school Calculus as Mrs. Martin, goodness bless her, spent 45 minutes a day working on a problem across an 18 foot blackboard, showing us how to do one problem, and then assigned us 3 or more similar problems as homework.

Was it an assignment based on how we could problem solve, or on note taking skills, or how well we stayed awake during her demonstration? Or on puzzle solving, as the answer she often came up with did not match the one in her hefty teacher’s edition?

Whatever the case, it didn’t seem to matter, as I received an 84 no matter how hard I worked. To this day, no one has asked me ever to do an integration or a proof or to differentiate anything.

My parents and siblings knew nothing of Calculus, and my friends, who were not in the class, were of no help. I did not have Khan Academy to guide me, so my entire year of homework in that class was essentially a nightly wild guess.

Was I being assessed on my limited Calculus knowledge, my note taking skills, or my ability to guess an answer?

Which brings us back to homework completion as a socio economic indicator. Students that have ready access to resources outside of class, no matter the type of resource, are much more likely to correctly complete a homework assignment than those that do not have access to those same resources.

Say for instance that a student has been assigned homework that requires then to do a critical analysis of Moby Dick by Herman Melville. In my day (a phrase I use more and more the older I get) my friends and I would run to the local book store and buy up the Cliff Notes for $3.99 each, which not only had a summary of the work but also some analysis of it which we promptly copied and “paraphrased” to make it at least look like we had an original thought.

It never dawned on me, nor probably to my teachers at the time, that there were probably kids in the class that could not afford to go to the bookstore and purchase the Cliff Notes version of Moby Dick.

Today, a student would use the internet to do a search of a critical analysis of Moby Dick and probably do the same thing, albeit they now can watch corresponding videos, lectures about Moby Dick, perhaps even a TED talk about Herman Melville.

Today, it is not uncommon for teachers to assign homework that might require some kind of connectivity. Even something as seemingly benign as asking students to watch a presidential debate or a State of the Union Address assumes that students have access to televisions or news media in the evening.

While most do, some do not.

Sometimes, that is quite the assumption and in many cases leads to a gap between those students whose families have access to information outside of home and those that do not.

This disparity, when applied to completion of homework is called “The Homework Gap.”

Over 5 million US students, according to one study, do not have access to the internet at their homes. (And don’t get me going about Smartphones…have you ever tried to complete an assignment using a smartphone?) But the idea of the “gap” should go beyond simply having access to the internet after school hours.

Do students have access to other tools that might be required to finish an assignment? As a child, I remember one homework assignment was to create some kind of diorama using a shoebox as a stage, something children that grew up in my generation probably are quite familiar with.

The expectation by the teacher of course, was that everyone simply had an empty shoebox just hanging around the house somewhere that could be used for this assignment.

My family had no such thing: we tossed our shoeboxes when we got home. So we spent hours going to various shoe and department stores looking for empty shoeboxes. So much time in fact, that there was little time left to complete the actual diorama. Who did a better diorama?

The kid that had the shoebox readily viable at home of course. (Curses to you Marci! You always had better dioramas!) The point was of course that kids with access to the tools to complete the homework were more successful than those that did not.

There are ways to correct the homework gap problem of course. The most obvious is avoid assigning homework at all. Multiple studies have shown that homework has little or no (even negative) academic affect for students in elementary schools, and limited effect in secondary grades.

Many schools have even decided to have a “no homework” policy, instead adopting a flipped classroom model, where the traditional “homework” is done during class time. Another model is to provide the tools that studens need to complete the assignments, whether they are shoeboxes or internet hotspots.

The “1 Million Project,” part of the legacy Project Connect from the Obama administration, is one such example and provides free Internet hotspots for students in need so that they have connectivity to the internet after school hours.

Educators need to think long and hard about what type of homework they assign to students. Is the homework truly academically useful outside of school or is it something that could better be completed in class?

Does it require tools that a child may not readily have available at home? Will the cost of completing the homework put an undue burden on parents with limited means?

Children that live in homes where homework can easily be completed by willing-accomplance parents with means who can supply them the tools, the tutors, and the time have a distinct advantage ECONOMICALLY over similar students that may not have these home tools, and grades given for homework can, in many cases, reflect more of a home economic status than any kind of student ability.

***

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 Read his previous columns here.

He values your feedback, feel free to leave a comment. 

 

Op-Ed: Teacher Evaluations as a movie Review

What if teacher evaluations were written as Movie Reviews? Here is my ode to Roger Ebert, Education Evaluator…

Corina Tipton – High School Biology 2019

★★★ ½

Ninth Grade  – Release Date: 6-5-2019

I once had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Corina Tipton at NSTA several years before she became the Worchester High School Teacher of the year and long before she became head of the Science Department.

Back then, she told me then that her ambition was just to get students to “at least think about science as an everyday part of their lives. That science was something more than just a class to be taken or a book to be carried around.” I remember that quote quite well, even though it was many years ago. She was young, she was bright, and she had an air of confidence that youth affords. You could bet that if any young fresh-out-of-college teacher was going to make an impact, it would be Corina.

For anyone that has followed Corina’s career in the classroom, one automatically thinks to her seminal year of 1998, about five years after my original conversation with her, in which she did some amazing work all within the span of 18 months, not unlike  Isaac Newton, who created the Laws of Motion and developed the Calculus while sitting around his parent’s farm waiting for the plague to go away in London.

Corina in the span of those 18 months created the still memorable Worchester High Science Club, had four students become National Merit Scholar Finalists, had two students attend the International Science Fair, became a state science standards evaluator,  and wrote curriculum for her school district that is still, at least in kernel form, used to this day.

Of course, she capped it off with her Teacher of the Year award not only at her campus but for the district. She was nominated for state teacher of the year as well, losing to a less qualified but fan favorite from a larger city. To say she was robbed that year does not do justice to thieves.

Science teachers throughout the area have been chasing her legacy ever since that year, and sadly, she too has been chasing that legacy, something difficult for a rock star teacher to do once the lights on the stage start to dim with new young teachers always ready to step onstage and grab the spotlight.

Chasing your own legacy is something akin to chasing the wind; you can feel it, you can get caught up in it, but you can never ever actually capture it.

Most of us are all familiar with her work; some of it good, some of it not so good. Her work with Mr. Gutierrez on the “Collaborative Frog Dissection 2016” was close to masterpiece. So too the “Trip to the Natural History Museum with Seniors ’14” her one trip that year.

In recent years, she seems to have lost that original spark for the joy of teaching that she was so full of in the early years. She became better known for her “Angry Letter to Principal” and “Rant in Front of School Board” than for her actual classroom work. “Teacher Lounge Blowup 2009” will long be remembered as a low point.  I had always said that a good teacher will make you see joy in learning sometimes but a great teacher will let you see the joy in learning all the time. Corina has slipped into sometimes in recent years. She used to be all the time.

I blame time and luck, not Corina.

Time has a way of changing teachers. Sometimes they change for good, sometimes they don’t. Whether you stay a rock star depends on a great number of variables, from your genetics, to your administrator, to the school you are assigned to, to the standardized test, to your family situation. Indeed, what a teacher becomes is very similar to the fate of students:  The roll of the dice, the passage of time your lot in life.

Which brings us to Tipton’s most recent work, advertised extensively as her “come back” performance (something I hate when a person never goes away): “Cell Structure with iPads,” a follow up to last year’s “Onion Cell Dye Lab.” In this work, Tipton stars along side of, and takes advantage of the latest classroom technology.

Corina knows that technology can be the star of any lesson, and appropriately uses it only after she shows the students the analog part of the lesson. Instead of the a typical lesson where students would do a lab after the introduction, Tipton instead uses the iPads using the App “Cells and Cell Structures

Students were engaged throughout the lesson, even when one student appeared to doze off, he was really just reading the screen in the app with his head down. She kept the learning interesting, the students engaged and on task throughout the lesson. I stayed awake all day.

The first act of the lesson was lecture, an introduction to the cell structures, smoothly performed with a good use of leading questions using the famous 5E model. Engage indeed. I was and so were the students. She led us through the cell, plant vs. animal, structures as well, but purposely left off details.

The reason for that came up in Act 2 when students were assigned a specific cell structure, and using their iPads, had to come up with ten facts about it. Most students were engaged and those that finished early were asked to create a spreadsheet using Office 365, where students could put information in a table form.

The final act of the lesson had the students enter the information on the spreadsheet, and then explain to the class what they came up with. This was an excellent use of the iPad, the Office 365 site as well as a good collaborative exercise.

The lesson came to an end as it should have, with students recalling orally what they had learned not from their own assignment, but from others. Nicely done, and back in form. It is not so much what the lesson is, but rather what the lesson is about. She demonstrated here that she understands that. The technology did dominate, the teacher led portion did not dominate, the student learning dominated.

In the past, back in the day as they might say,  Tipton has made great use of the whiteboard and overhead projector. It is the mark of a growing educator to see her using more technology, something her students obviously appreciate. And even though she is not technically up to the standards of say, Ms. Cromwell in the English Department, her efforts with technology are noted and I might say, I look forward to her future work in this area. Norma Desmond of Biology she is not. The lessons have gotten bigger, and for a moment, so had she.

She also is taking risks by allowing herself to lose some of the “class control” that many teachers feel they must maintain at all times. By allowing the students to seek knowledge on their own, with little guidance, especially in a lesson that was being evaluated, shows her confidence is coming back. This cannot be a bad thing.

A friend once said “What I believe is that all clear minded people should remain curious and teachable.” I hope that Tipton remains curious. She can, and does, show flashes of brilliance, especially when she takes risks.

I hope that those flashes becomes a flame once again and lights itself as long as she decides to teach.

Corina Tipton is now appearing in “Biology Ninth Grade” at Worchester 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 Read his previous columns here.

He values your feedback, feel free to leave a comment. 

Op-Ed: Ten years of School shootings in the United States: 2008-2018

William Penn High School Dunbar Vocational Career Academy Cahokia High School Zebulon Middle School Central High School Westover High School Chimborazo Elementary School Leestown Middle School Aplington-Parkersburg High School Mattituck High School Wilson High School Brockton High School Booker T. Washington High School Livingston High School Discovery Middle School Inskip Elementary School Deer Creek Middle School Birney Elementary School South Gate High School Alisal High School Kelly Elementary School Millard South High School Gardena High School Louisiana Schnell Elementary School Martinsville West Middle School Worthing High School Sheeler Charter High School Ross Elementary School Highlands Intermediate School Horizon Elementary School Chandler Park Academy Cape Fear High School Harwell Middle School North Forest High School Armin Jahr Elementary Chardon High School Episcopal School of Jacksonville Mary Scroggs Elementary School Perry Hall High School Sandy Hook Elementary Taft High School Price Middle School Hillside Elementary School Redland Middle School Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts North Panola High Agape Christian Academy Sparks Middle School Stephenson High School West Orange High School Arapahoe High School Edison High School Liberty Technology Magnet High School Berrendo Middle School Valley Charter High School North High School Salisbury High School Raytown Success Academy Madison Parish High School East English Village Preparatory Academy St. Mary Catholic School Paul Robeson High School Horizon Elementary School Clarke Street Elementary School Reynolds High School Kelly High School Stellar Leadership Academy Fern Creek High School Albemarle High School Langston Hughes High School Marysville-Pilchuck High School Miami Carol City High School Kinston High School Wisconsin Lutheran High School Williamson High School Vanguard High School Norris Middle School Frederick High School Tenaya Middle School Judson High School Duval County school bus Elolf Elementary School W.S. Hornsby K-8 School Dulaney High School Northside High School Central Elementary School Harrisburg High School Excel Southwest High School Sulphur Rock STEM Magnet elementary school Harmony Grove High School Lawrence Central High School Whites Creek High School Muskegon Heights High School Independence High School Faribault Middle School Madison Jr/Sr High School Huffman High School East High School High Point High School Southside High School Augusta High School Thompson K-8 International Academy Technical High School Woodrow Wilson Junior High School Sandusky High School Chaffey High School Ava High School Wedgewood Middle School McLain High School Alpine High School Kearns High School Smalls Athletic Field T.A. Wilson Academy Elder High School Townville Elementary Vigor High School Linden-McKinley STEM Academy Benjamin E. Mays High School June Jordan School for Equity Mott Hall Charter School Union Middle School Houston Can Academy Savannah High School Bayless High School West Liberty-Salem High School Mark Twain Elementary School Scullen Middle School South Aiken High School Palmer Pillans Middle School Lee High School King City High School Linton Middle School North Park Elementary School Booker T. Washington High School Moss Bluff Elementary McLain High School Warren Elementary School JFK Stadium North Little Rock High School Freeman High School Mattoon High School Callaway High School Southern Middle School Rocky Mount High School Pattengill Academy Banneker High School Rancho Tehama Elementary School Aztec High School Champaign Central High School Roosevelt Elementary Beecher High School Italy High School Marshall County High School Lincoln High School Sal Castro Middle School Oxon Hill High School Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Huffman High School Great Mills High School Gloversville Middle School Raytown South Middle School Forest High School Highland High School Mount Zion High School Santa Fe High School Noblesville West Middle School Skyline High School Edgewood High School Lakeside Middle School Antioch High School Palm Beach Central High School Raines High School Canyon Springs High School Hebron High School Denali Elementary School Varina High School Butler High School Simonsdale Elementary School Cawood Elementary School.

114 killed.

242 injured.

0 Federal laws passed to stop 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 Read his previous columns here.

He values your feedback, feel free to leave a comment. 

Comments must stay on-topic and be respectful of the opinion of others; posts containing foul language, threats or other uncivil language will not be approved.

Op-Ed: Go Karts and Ed Tech

When I was but a lad, there were several go kart tracks in Northeast El Paso.

One was at a miniature golf course which had an orange dinosaur, and one was dedicated solely to go karts farther north on Dyer street.

I remember, as a 9 or 10 year old, the thrill of riding these mini-cars, which seemed to me to go a hundred miles an hour, with the summer wind in my hair and the smell of exhaust hitting my nostrils.

These lawnmower-engines-strapped-to-a-frame with four wheels seemed to me the be the pinnacle of the driving experience. It simply could not get any better than zipping around the tire and hay-rimmed track, trying to out-maneuver my friends and “win” the imaginary El Chuco 500.

Only later in my life, after I had experienced real driving, real speed, and real El Paso roads did I realize that the go kart experience led much to be desired.

Years after those Northeast El Paso tracks packed up and left, did I try to ride Go Karts again, only to realize that while the karts and the tracks were virtually the same, the experience was something much less than desired.

No matter how hard I pressed the accelerator, no matter how well I swept around the corners, no matter how much I tried, the go karts would not go faster than some predetermined speed, preset before I even bought my ticket and go on the kart.

The speed limit was set ahead of time by someone, somewhere, no doubt who was taking the advice of lawyers and bureaucrats who said that “This shall be the speed: No More, no less.”

Probably as a kid, that limit – that throttle governor – was there already, I just didn’t notice it. It was just a thrill to be a “driver” in a world where I couldn’t drive until I was 16.

I was thinking about how those go karts had been ‘governed’ by adults when I was a kid and then thought about how we do that with kids in education.

A case in point might be how we let kids use technology in classes.

As a long time observer of how technology is used in classrooms, I have noticed that there are basically three kinds of teachers when it comes to edtech: Those that ignore technology all together (won’t even allow kids near the go karts), ones that allow a minimum use of technology that mimics what happens already in a class (you can ride the go carts, but you can only go so fast) and those that let kids go to explore and use edtech as freely as possible (remove the throttle governor and let the drivers drive as fast as possible).

Teachers that do not allow any use of technology in a class are usually ones that have a built in argument that technology does not make a difference.

Students are doing well, why should I add another “gizmo or gadget” to what they are doing? My students are always achieving, so why mess with success? In my mind, these teachers are doing their students no favors at all.

It is the education equivalent of never going to the go kart track, therefore never allowing the experience of traveling faster than they usually do. It is worse than governing the go kart, it is not even allowing the student to climb in.

Teachers that allow students to use some technology but limit it to Google searching and typing up reports in Microsoft Word are the equivalent of the throttle-governed go kart. You can get in and drive, you just can’t drive too fast.

Do what we always do in class, just do it digitally. Always drove the same speed. You won’t win the race, but at least you wont crash. I understand that many teachers feel like they will lose control if they remove the governor, because many of them are not, as they often tell me even in 2019, “Tech Savvy.”

So to them, any edtech is better than no edtech. The funny thing is many in this group will say that they don’t “really” see a difference in their student outcomes. This isn’t surprising, because they are merely substituting the old analog assignments for the exact same assignments in digital form.

The last group of teachers are those that remove the throttle governor of edtech and let their students go. Press down on the accelerator and see how fast your kart can go. Feel the wind in your academic hair.

These teachers love to explore the new tech that is available, are not afraid to let their students try new things and even thought they might occasionally crash. That’s okay, because by messing up occasionally, students learn. These teacher are not afraid to say to their students “Teach me something I don’t know, show me something awesome, present your work in a new format.”

It is pretty easy to find these teachers: They are tweeting out their student’s experiences and learning for the entire world to see. Go ahead and look for hashtags like #microsoftedu or #appleteacher.

They are all over the place and are leading the way forward for students and their colleagues.

Principals all over should challenge their teachers in the upcoming school year to allow their kids to get in the edtech go karts and take off the throttle governors.

Parents should seek out those campuses and those teachers that allow students to press on the accelerator of learning. They will be amazed at what happens.

***

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: An Open Letter to Bring Back the News

When I was growing up, I listened to the radio stations KELP (920 AM), KINT (1600 AM) and XROK – which was from Juarez but had a killer signal that could be heard all the way down into Central America on a clear night.

My Dad listened to KTSM (easy listening and a favorite of waiting rooms and government offices throughout the city) and KHEY 690 AM, which was El Paso’s only country radio station at the time. My brother listened to KPAS (94 FM) which was the precursor of KLAQ and the first real “album rock” station in the city.

We certainly didn’t have a lot of choices, but the we were happy with the ones we had.

One thing that most of these stations had in common at the time was that on the hour, every hour, was a five minute news break either from the likes of the AP, or Reuters, or ABC News or some other national news source.

Each broadcast was followed by a minute or so of the local weather.

The point was, I suppose, that the kids listening to the radio, no matter the station, also received the news whether they liked it or not. They may not have paid attention to it, but they got it. And some news, if even by osmosis, was better than no news.

Heck, KHEY even had “Paul Harvey News” at noon each day for a 15 minute news break. No matter who you were, you got the news at the top of each hour for five minutes (with one 30 second ad break) no matter what station you listened to.

You couldn’t “skip” to a station that was not playing the news. Over the years, the amount of time the news breaks became shorter and the number of ads increased, until eventually, almost all “entertainment” stations dropped the hourly news altogether.

Now if you want the news, you have to be to get into a news station. The folks that listen to those stations pretty much know the news already news, so it is an exercise in redundancy.

Today, you would be hard pressed to find the national news on any non-talk radio station, and even less local news save the weather and traffic. Streaming entertainment is even worse.

In order to hear the news on Spotify, Sirius XM, Pandora or iTunes Radio, the listener has to purposely select a “News Radio” station. Even those selections are not without some controversy as a listener can choose “Progressive” radio, or “Patriot” radio news, all with a decided slant.

Otherwise, it is a news wasteland among the streaming services. No news on over the air radio, no news on streaming services, and no news getting into the ears of young adults unless they purposely seek it out.

Don’t even ask if a student (or most adults anymore) have picked up and read a newspaper. We all know that that is not happening.

That needs to change.

Today, a good deal of young adults get their news from the non-traditional sources of news information such as social media and late night comedy shows. And while that is all well and good, I doubt that anyone would say that comedians are non-biased in their reporting. That is because, well, they are COMEDIANS!

Social media allows everyone to have conversations about what is happening, but for the most part, social media is also chamber of what they already know, so there is little or no true conversation about what is happening.

Research has shown that young people that are aware of what is happening around the country and world are much more likely to make more informed decisions at the ballot box and be much more politically active. They actually vote when they know what is happening around them.

For those reasons and many more, may I make this modest proposal?

Bring back hourly news programs to all of your radio and streaming services. On the hour, every hour, night and day, every day. You would be doing all of us a great favor, and you would be helping our country begin to understand that we all have common issues that need to be addressed and solved.

You would be helping to break down the siloed echo chambers of social media that we are all pretty much living in, and you would be making a great step forward in helping heal a deeply divided nation.

At least think about it. Please? Thanks.

Love, America.

***

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: Cruel Pedagogy – Adding to the List

Steve Wheeler came up with a 10 item list called “Cruel Pedagogy.” In it he lists ten things that teachers should do to be cruel while teaching; where the practice of teaching becomes a cruel experience for the students.

It might very well be that the teacher is a nice person, but the pedagogy they use, the techniques they employ with their students have long term negative impact on student’s learning.

The ten “cruel pedagogy” practices he listed are:

1. Place all chairs and tables in rows facing ‘the front’

2. Talk at your students

3. Cram your slides with text (green on red is a particularly confusing color combination)

4. Insist on there being only one right answer

5. Ensure there is no time for questions and discussion

6. Test and grade regularly

7. Fail students who don’t meet the test standards

8. Assign copious amounts of homework

9. Compartmentalize knowledge so students can’t make connections

10. Ban the use of all technology from your classroom

I think that I can add a few more to his list based on the things I have seen over the years:

11. Assign work where the product is the same every time

12. Don’t allow for creativity in student work

13. Move on to the next topic without making sure that students understand the previous one

14. Mumble to yourself and speak away from the students

15. Compare students to previous classes, their siblings, other students in the same class

16. Tell advanced students that they should intuitively understand

17. Tell students with challenges that it’s time to move on

18. Never accept late work

19. Tell girls that there aren’t many women in the field you are studying

20. Teach the same way you taught last year, and the year before that, and the year before that…

21. Tell students to “leave their problems at home”

22. Remind students that life was harder for you when you were a student

23. Dismiss technology as “gizmos and gadgets”

24. Never ask for feedback from students

25. Use the same teacher edition you used ten years ago

26. Use lecture as your primary means of conveying information

27. Take points off grades for things that students have no control over

28. Take points off academic work for discipline issues

29. Never meet with student’s parents

30. Waste class time on tangents that have no relation to what students are learning

31. Include your personal problems in your lectures

32. Assure students that doing poorly in your class will lead to lifelong failure

33. Never relate what you are doing to current events

34. Do not allow students any say in the topics they learn

35. Do not relate any learning to their lives outside/after school

36. Never replicate techniques when students actually were learning in your class

37. Never give students a big picture of learning

38. Test on things that you either didn’t cover in class or spent very little time on

39. Hide from students before and after school but claim you are always available to meet with them

40. Give assignments that are more difficult than the examples you cited in class

41. Actually use the phrase “You will never…” With a student

42. Assume because you explained it so well, that students understand a topic

43. Tell students that it is always their fault that they scored low on tests

The list could go on and on. Every one has experienced teachers that exhibit the above characteristics. Don’t confuse cruel pedagogy with strict teachers. There are a lot of very good teachers that run a tight ship in their classrooms.

Cruel Pedagogy teachers are not these type of teachers. We have also experienced awesome teachers that are the exact opposite of the cruel pedagogy exhibited above.

Those are the teachers we must celebrate.

Those are the teachers that push the world forward. Can you add to the list? I bet you can.

***

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: Advice for Graduates: Learn to Play Scrabble

As the class of 2019 sets out into the new world, I thought I would share some words of advice that come not from me but rather from Scott Wakefield, an Assistant Professor, and Chair of Illustration at RMCAD in Denver.

Professor Wakefield came up to my daughter after she had received her diploma and left her some advice about being successful. I thought I would share it with you:

To be successful in your career you need to understand the game of Scrabble.

In Scrabble, each player is given 7 random tiles with a letter on it. The more difficult the the letter is to place in a word, the more it is worth. A “Q” is worth more to a player than an “A” or “E” for instance. Players try to place words on a board, crossword puzzle-like until all the the pieces have been played. Some places on the board are also worth more than others, so the trick is to combine the best use of the seven blocks of letters and points on the board.

Now, some players have a strategy of trying to use as many of their letters at a time, trying to hit a home run with every turn. In life, that would be like someone that is always trying to create the bestest, newest next big thing.

However in Scrabble, as in life, there are times when the letters you have received are not immediately useful. If you have received a S, Q, N, F, V, L, and a D, there are not a lot of words you could spell. You might sit there and get frustrated with your turn, growing more angry that the letters you have are essentially worthless for spelling a word.

But in Scrabble, as in life, perhaps the best strategy is not always to spell the 7 letter word. Sometimes, a player’s best move is to look at the tiles on the board already, and build on them, instead of trying to create a big new word from scratch.

Suppose the word on the board is RACE. A pretty good word. Another player might add the letters TRACK to it, making it RACETRACK. An even better word. But with the tiles you have been dealt, you could make RACETRACK into RACETRACKS. Even better. An excellent example of collaborative work.

Building on that which has already been built, instead of trying to begin from scratch. Which is easier? Coming up with a seven letter word or just adding an “S” to what has already been played? With only a single letter, you have created a ten letter word.

Bernard of Chartes in the 12th Century stated “nanos gigantum humeris insidentes” or “standing on the shoulders of giants” was a way that a dwarf could see farther than an average man. Isaac Newton, in a letter to Robert Hooke said that his discoveries were only possible because ”If I have seen further it is by standing on the sholders [sic] of Giants.”

Using the tiles that have been laid out on the playing board before you is a way to play the game effectively, and a way to win.

Play the tiles that have been played before you. Build on what has already been built. It isn’t cheating. It isn’t stealing. It is playing smartly. Sometimes, evolution is better than revolution.

The iPhone, considered a revolutionary product, was merely a set of tools collaboratively created by merging many parts that had already been created into a new form factor. 90% of the iPhone was already in place before the final product was created.

Apple added the “S” to the word already on the board.

Stand on the shoulders of giants. Play the tiles on the board. Good enough to win at Scrabble. Good enough for Newton. Good enough for Apple.

Good enough for you to win.

***

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: Ian Jukes gets InfoWhelmed, Proving Anyone can Fall for and Share Misinformation

Ian Jukes is a smart guy. He is one of the old guard of ed tech with a substantial resumé backed by decades of working with teachers and educational leaders.

He has written several books on the “digital generation” as he calls it, the future of education and how our students should be digitally literate. He has made a name for himself talking about how students and educators need to be taught digital literacy skills in order to survive in today’s world.

One of his speaking topics is entitled “Infowhelm and Hyperinformation” where he talks about “…but how do we determine the good from the bad, interpret right from wrong, and distinguish complete, accurate, and usable data from a sea of irrelevance and digital inundation?”

With that kind of background, it was particularly disappointing to see Ian posting on Facebook and Twitter a meme featuring the picture above.

With the title “Sunset at the North Pole” this looks like something straight out of the Star Wars universe. Not many of us have the chance to see an actual sunset at the north pole, so of course it is sort of plausible that it might look something like this.

Who knows. I bet that Ian never made it to the North Pole, so he probably thought, “Heck, it could happen.” No critical thinking involved here. Just a matter of clicking the “share” button on Facebook and Twitter and off it goes to all of his networks. Probably a few of them “shared” as well, on to their networks. (As of this writing, the meme has been shared at least 18 times on Twitter alone from his @ijukes account.)

Not content however to just share a pretty picture, Jukes also included the accompanying text to go with the picture:

“This is the sunset at the North Pole with the moon at its closest point last week. A scene you will probably never get to see in person, so take a moment and enjoy God at work at the North Pole. And, you also see the sun below the moon . An amazing photo and not one easily duplicated. You may want To pass it on to others so they can enjoy it. The Chinese have a saying that goes something like this: ‘When someone shares with you something of value, you have an obligation to share it with others!’ I just did. Your turn.”

Never mind the poor grammar and bad punctuation. That is how things go viral. Copy paste. Share button. Copy paste. Share button. Copy paste. Share button. Mindlessly pushing forward. No critical thinking, no checking to see if the image is real. The very things that Ian Jukes writes entire books about and gets paid to lecture about was ignored by Ian Jukes.

Ian is, of course, not the only one to pass that image along. Even so called “Educational” and “Astronomy” sites have used the the image to show what the moon looks like at the North Pole, or to demonstrate a so-called “Super Moon.” Go ahead and Google “Sunset at the North Pole.” It is the number one image. It has even been used to celebrate various new years across the globe. The thing about this image is that it is totally fake. Made up in the mind of Astronomer and Digital Artist Inga Neilsen back in 2006 when she was 22. So unless God is a 22 year old German Astrophysics student that uses Terragen scenery rendering software, that whole meme, image and words, is a fake. It is out of Star Wars because it doesn’t really exist and is real as Tatooine. Too bad Inga isn’t collecting royalties on her copyrighted image that is being ripped off all over the place.

Ian Jukes should have known better and should have done a simple Google search before posting. He instructs kids and educators to do so, he should have followed his own advice. That is what is disappointing. The expert on assessing information didn’t assess information.

(Do you know that Google has a “Reverse Image Search” function, where you can simply enter the URL of the image you are looking at to find out where else not eh internet it is being used? Check it out here.)

However, if the guy that writes books about not being fooled online is fooled online, it demonstrates how easily that can happen for the rest of us. Don’t feel too bad that you got fooled by the Russian troll farms into voting for Trump. It could have happened to anyone. Just don’t fall for it again.

Thankfully, there are a lot of online sites that make it their business to check the veracity of memes like this. One is “takes2minutes2debunk” that wrote about this particular picture:

“The distance between the moon and the earth is much larger than the radius of the earth. So the small change in moon size between horizon and zenith will not be observable. The ratio of the actual size of the object to its distance is however a useful quantity to evaluate pictures being shared. The apparent sizes of the sun and the moon are approximately equal. The sun is much larger but is also much farther. Accidentally the ratio is the same. This is the reason for the total solar eclipse when the moon completely masks the sun and stars become visible. (It is dangerous to the eyes to try and compare the size of the sun at zenith using the procedure described for the moon). The so called view of the sun and moon at north pole clearly is a hoax. In it the moon appears much larger than the sun!”

Even as a casual inhabitant of the earth, there is no way the moon in the sky can appear larger than the sun from anywhere. That’s why we can have solar eclipses.If you have been living on earth for any amount of time, you should have known this. (If you are new to our planet you can be forgiven.) Even Forbes wrote about it back in 2017:

“Artist Inga Nielsen made this digital composition, called ‘Hideaway’, years ago. It has gone viral with the caption ‘Sunset at the North Pole’ ever since. It is not a real photo.”

Be careful when you are about to hit the “Share” button. Where did that meme come from? Does it have verifiable information? Did it come from a reputable sources? (No, grandma is not a reputable source.) Is the grammar and spelling “iffy?” Does it have an agenda? Does the image violate some natural law?

It only takes seconds to share a meme. It only takes a few seconds more to check to see if it is true before you share it. Right Ian Jukes?

***

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: 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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