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Home | Tag Archives: tim holt

Tag Archives: tim holt

Op-Ed: What is ROI?

I cringe whenever someone speaks about education, or students, or teachers, in business terms. There just seems something morally wrong about the idea that children are widgets, that teachers are factory workers, grade levels are cogs in a wheel, and that schools are factories.

Yet, for people outside of education, and even many inside, there is this tendency to “business speak” about things that probably should not be spoken of like that .

However, in these days of “Data driven decision making” (a business term)  it is not hard to see why non-educators use business as the vocabulary of a non-business enterprises.

I once attended a panel discussion with some Texas legislators that focused on the discussion of technology in the classroom.

The panel consisted of two GOP legislators and one Democrat, led by a moderator, who asked general questions about their thoughts on what the Texas Legislature was doing about education technology that year.

The democratic panelist, considered a “friend of education” and a “good friend of technology in education” didn’t take too long to say something to the effect legislators were looking for a “Return on Investment” in ed tech.

After all he said, lots of money is spent on technology, how much of it is making a difference? How do we know it is worth the cost? Is it helping students “achieve?” What is the Return on Investment in ed tech? he mused…legislators want to know.

The question boiled down to this: Does educational technology help students achieve? (That is code speak “Does technology raise test scores?) So that is where we are at: Spend money on instructional technology, and scores better go up. That is the bottom line. Not does technology keep kids interested. Not does technology engage them. Not does technology help attendance. Nope. Does technology raise the scores?

The legislator went on to state that he had never seen any kind of study that showed that the use of technology improved test scores. Never, saw anything that said there was a positive Return On Investment (ROI), another business term by the way.

The idea seemed to be this: Since HE never saw a study, then there must not be any studies. (I tweeted during the event that he obviously has never heard of Google. The reason I did that was because I knew he was following the conversation on Twitter.) There are many studies that show there is a positive ROI, such as, at the time, the finding of Project RED.

Almost the entire report showed how the more technology you put into kids hands, when used properly, the higher the student achievement. There was, the report found, a direct correlation between technology use and student achievement:

“Substantial evidence shows that technology has a positive financial impact, but for best results, schools need to invest in the re- engineering of schools, not just technology itself. Properly implemented educational technology can be revenue-positive at all levels—federal, state, and local.Project RED respondents report that technology contributes to cost reductions and productivity improvements—the richer the technology implementation, the more positive the impact.”

Since then, multiple research studies have found that the proper use of technology in school leads to increased scores, lower absenteeism, and lower overall operating costs. The state of Maine has one of the oldest 1:1 technology programs in the nation. What have their results been? According to research:

“Researchers found that students were more engaged and more actively involved in their own learning; this was especially true of students with special needs and those who were at-risk or low-achieving.”

and

“Students at the demonstration schools scored significantly higher in science, math, and social studies than did students at the comparison schools.”

North Carolina has had similar results as have many states since Project Red was first published, many research studies have reinforced the idea that getting technology into students hands not only is a great equalizer, but also a game changer especially for students who come from families that cannot afford technology.

This “Return on Investment-because schools-are-businesses” silliness has been going on long enough, and it is time that politicians and ankle- biting political gadflies stop looking at educational technology as an expense outside the learning tool experience. Education technology simply IS a part of the learning experience.

Each year it seems,  we have to not only justify technology expenditures in schools, but also training for instructional technology as budgets are cut locally and federally for both.

It is no wonder that cash strapped Texas districts have to hold bond elections to purchase tech for their students. It isn’t the expense of the devices, it is the slow strangulation of the funding for all education from both the state and federal levels that hits districts the hardest.

We never seem to justify spending money for textbooks, pencils, construction paper, whiteboards, and air conditioning, yet don’t these also affect student achievement? When was the last time anyone has asked if having air conditioning affected student achievement? Do the millions of dollars the state spends on old school, cumbersome textbooks actually improve student achievement?

I have a suggestion: Let’s start looking at all those things we just assume are good for students to see if they really have a positive ROI: Let’s evaluate high school football and see how that affects student achievement.

Do all kids benefit or is it just a select few? If a school district spends $70,000,000 on a football stadium what is the ROI for all students in that district? Is there a positive return on investment?

Until someone can show a positive correlation between the expenditures on football and all student achievement,  then shouldn’t we just stop playing football in high school in Texas?

See how silly it seems when the argument is made for something OTHER than education technology?

Perhaps we should start asking what the ROI in education is on the people asking about the ROI in education. That would be a really interesting study.

***

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: Teaching With Technology Should Not Be An Option: It’s The Law.

In Texas, the law requires schools to integrate technology into lesson in every curricular area in grades K-8. Period. The law is the law.

And after 8th grade, it is assumed that all grades in all content areas 9-12 will just continue the work of their K-8 colleagues and integrate technology into almost all lessons as the students should be “technologically literate” by the end of 8th grade.

Required by law you say? How can that be true? Well, since 1996 Texas has written education technology into the state standards of education. These standards are called the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) are written for every single course taught in the state, from Algebra to Physics, to Yearbook.

Just as schools are required by law to teach students to read, multiply and divide, to understand the genres of literature, and the branches of government, they are also required to teach students how to properly use computers to complete assignments, keyboarding skills, communicate with others and other skills.

The TEKS for technology are called the “Technology Application TEKS” and have been, almost since their inception in 1996, largely ignored to the point where most teachers in grades K-8 could not name a single one of the six strands that make up the TEKS:

  • Be creative and innovative,
  • Communicate and collaborate
  • Research information
  • Think critically, problem solve and make decisions
  • Be good digital citizens
  • Know the proper technology tools, concepts and applications to use

Common throughout all of these “strands’ are students creating digital products using digital tools. Students should not be using computers as glorified typewriters. Indeed, according to the law, the TEKS, our students should be creating products and learning how to problem solve, communicate with each other and post work online as early as Kindergarten.

Kindergarten.

Let that sink in for a minute. Are your children doing that at school? By 8th grade, they should be creating products with a variety tools, working collaboratively with each other both in and outside of their school, working with mentors online, as well as be experts in word processing, spreadsheets, databases and presentation software, saving work online, and solving complex problems using online data,.

The K-8 Technology TEKS are unique set of state standards in that there is no single course attributed to them. Unlike say, English Language Arts, or Mathematics which have their own specific set of standards, the Technology TEKS are outside of any single curricular area, yet are supposed to be taught in all of them.

There are references, obliquely, in almost every single set of standards for almost every single other course, but they are not “required,” giving teachers and administrators an out by saying something like “The student may;” That means the student may NOT as well. Thus, they get swept under the proverbial academic rug, when it comes to curriculum.

No content area says the K-8 Technology TEKS belong “to them” thus many teachers and schools assume some other course or grade level will teach them, giving them the wrong impression that they can ignoring technology completely.  “That which isn’t tested isn’t taught” the old saying goes, and since Technology is a tool not a curriculum per se, it is ignored.

The mantra of “They will learn that in Middle School” has been used by some to completely ignore technology in almost all elementary grade levels at some schools. Sadly, many of our students do not “learn that in middle school.”

Because of this game of “TEKS hot potato,” the Technology TEKS are simply ignored in many cases. Even in districts that have some sort of digital initiative where students receive laptops or tablets, there are no real incentives for teachers to include them in lessons unless they are somehow self-motivated to do so.

Almost all school districts in the state of Texas pay for and use the Texas Resource System or TRS (https://www.teksresourcesystem.net), to provide suggestions and structure for teachers in all of the “core” academic courses.

TRS is used in over 80% of Texas school districts (including all of the local districts save Ft. Hancock) to provide a year long structure for courses, yet one would be extremely hard pressed to find a single instance where the TRS incorporates the Technology TEKS into their “instructional focus documents.”

Even the “standards authority” of the TEKS Resource System, which is a commercial product that districts rely on to provide guidance with what your child is taught, essentially seems to give a pass on the Technology TEKS and leaves it up to the individual teacher whether or not technology is taught and used in the classroom.

Consider this: ONE of the many skills that an 8th graders should be leaving middle school with according to the state law: “Students should be able to…create and manage personal learning networks to collaborate and publish with peers, experts, or others using digital tools such as blogs, wikis, audio/video communication, or other emerging technologies…”

That is just a single example.

If you had a child in 8th grade in any public school in Texas since 1996, they should have had that skill (among many others) before they left for high school. Did they? Have they? Will they?

If teaching what the law requires wasn’t enough of an incentive, the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS), the statewide method districts evaluate teachers, specifically mentions integrating technology in classroom lessons. A teacher simply cannot move up the “T-TESS Rubric” without properly using technology in the classroom.

The T-TESS is neither grade nor course specific, thus the state expects all teachers in all courses in all classes to integrate technology into lessons. (Integration means what the students are using digital devices for, not what the teacher is using.)

Of course it is up to each district to provide the tools to students and train teachers, but frankly, it is 100% up to the teacher whether or not technology is integrated into lessons. Even in 2019, twenty years into the 21st century, there are teachers who refuse to use available technology or incorporate it into lessons.

That is unacceptable, illegal, and educational malpractice no matter the reason.

***

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+Video: Transformational Technology

Take a look at the video above.   Pretty powerful stuff huh? I cringe whenever I hear someone say something derogatory about the use of technology in our schools.

“We buy anything with blinking lights.”
“Stop spending money on gizmos and doodads”
“If we just taught, then kids wouldn’t need all that fancy stuff.”

If I only had a nickel for every time I had heard something like that. (It usually comes from someone that either does not like technology, does not understand it, or is jealous that kids are getting better computers than they have.)

This video is about an autistic student names Dillan. It is, as Mashable said “…an important departure from the way many non-autistic people often think of autistic individuals, especially those who are nonverbal. People on the autism spectrum aren’t always given agency or control over their own narratives — their stories are often filtered through well-meaning family members and caregivers looking to spread awareness. But Dillan, like most 16-year-olds, is a teen with a lot of thoughts to express — and he can say them all. He just uses a tool to help.”

You probably went to school and knew a kid like Dillan.

When I was in elementary school during the 1970’s, all the “Dillans” were placed in a room together and never mingled with the rest of the student population. Their room was next to the Kindergarten class.

The “Dillans” were “special” and even ate lunch and got out of school at different times than the rest of the population. We have come a long way over the years, and now the “Dillans” are integrated into regular classrooms as a matter of course.

But how many children like Dillan have something to say and cannot simply because they do not have access to the technology tools that allow them to speak?

How many kids did I grow up who had no voice simply because there was no technology available?

Harlan Ellison has a story named “I Have No Mouth Yet I Must Scream.” I think that title probably expresses how many, if not most of all those “Dillans” lived back in the day and probably many today where there is no money to purchase tools like the iPad that Dillan uses in these videos.

Of course, these are slickly produced videos from the largest technology company in the world, but the point is, technology, whether it comes from Apple or Google or Microsoft has the ability to transform not only the education experience of our students but, frankly in many cases, entire lives.

We just have to use it to its full capability. Dillan is just an example student. Technology, I believe, can transform the learning of ALL students, no matter the capability, from those that need a little extra help to those that are self-motivated to learn.

Next time you hear someone complain about all the money being spent on the gizmos and gadgets and doodads that school districts purchase for students, show them Dillan’s story.

Then ask them why aren’t we spending more?

***

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 Green Book Is Divisive, And Maybe That’s A Good Thing.

“The Green Book,” a movie about a white New York bouncer that drives a gifted New York black pianist in the deep south through a concert tour during the Jim Crow 60’s.

The movie has three won Golden Globe awards and of course, like many movies that deal with racial issues in America, has caused some bit of controversy.

The controversy surrounds not only the actual facts of the movie (such as the main character’s estrangement from his family, a fiction his family has reported) but more interestingly the Hollywood perpetuated story of the white man saving the “magical negro.”

Think Sandra Bullock saving the gifted “magical” black athlete in the “Blind Side,” Sidney Poitier as “magical negro” in “The Defiant Ones,” or Whoopie Goldberg in “Ghost” to get an idea of what the magical negro idea is all about.

And while there may be some truth to Hollywood’s tendency to write stories that appear to have similar themes, I tend to not have serious problems with stories like “The Green Book,” specifically because they introduce, gently, subjects that might be lost to the current generation that would otherwise have been forgotten to time.

Consider just some of the topics that most young people are unaware of that come out of The Green Book:

  • The Green Book itself, a brochure that listed “safe” motels that allowed blacks as guests traveling in a South where blacks were not welcome to mingle with whites in many places.
  • Don Shirley, a gifted black jazz pianist. Had you ever heard of him before this movie came out? Probably not. Now, you have. Now you can look him up on iTunes, or Amazon Prime and enjoy his work.

And while the story in the movie is probably best sanitized to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, now we can open up the audio vaults on Don Shirley recordings, and students can research the Green Book itself.

(I strongly doubt if CBS News would have done a segment on it’s Sunday Morning News, which caters to a pretty white beyond middle class audience, about the Green Book if the movie had not been made.) Check it out here. 

I like it when modern artists look at older artists and story tellers and reinterpret their work or tell a story that has never been told to a wide audience. This allows a whole new generation access to the art they may not have been interested in previously.

I once got into a discussion with a friend of mine about Rod Stewart recording the Tom Waits song, “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen).” He said that Rod Stewart ruined the song. I said that Rod Stewart had just introduced Tom Waits to his millions of fans. Maybe a few them will now become Tom Waits fans. Tom Waits should be thankful. Making an idea or work of art available to many, even if it requires removing some of the gray areas, isn’t always a bad thing.

In my time when a singer like, Linda Ronstadt made several albums of songs from the great American songbook, it did not lessen the originals, but introduces older songs to an entirely new generation of listeners who probably would have never heard them before. Who was that Nelson Riddle? Who was Lerner and Lowe? Who was Bing Crosby?

Those new listeners, hopefully, will now be curious enough to go back and listen to the original recordings. Maybe a fan or two will be born. Rod Steward did a favor to Tom Waits.

So I didn’t have that much of a problem if a semi-fictitious story about a real person pushes the truth, if in the end, the audience is introduced positively to someone new, or something new. I suspect that visits to Wikipedia for Don Shirley and the Green Book went up exponentially after the release of the movie. That is what art does: it gets people thinking.

For some, the Green Book is divisive. To me, when people are talking about something they normally wouldn’t talk about, thats a good thing.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Probably not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Op-Ed: Where are You Learning to Be Uncomfortable?

“There’s only two things I despise: Those who are intolerant of other people’s cultures… and the Dutch.” —Nigel Powers, Goldmember

When I was a much younger man, still in college, I was a bartender at the old Jaxon’s Restaurant on North Mesa. In those days, the best shift to have was Friday night, because all of the yuppies at the time thought Jaxon’s was a happening place. You could live for a week from the Friday night tips.

Jaxon’s loved the upwardly mobile crowd. The ones that would buy top shelf margaritas to impress the ladies. Of course the worst shift to have was Saturday morning because it was, well, Saturday morning, and Jaxon’s was usually terribly slow at that time.

If you were scheduled for a Friday night good shift, you probably got a Saturday morning dumpy shift.

I remember one slow Saturday morning in particular when a rather ragged looking man and his companion came into the bar area, sat down and waited patiently to be waited on, by me.

This person was not the typical Jaxon’s yuppie customer.

He was wearing torn jeans, had long, unkempt hair, tucked under a very old cowboy hat, ragged shirt that looked like it had come from the place where Goodwill sends their rejects. His companion not much different, but she did have some turquoise rings on her fingers.

Frankly, they both looked to the younger me like dispossessed persons. Anyone that has worked in a restaurant has experienced this and each establishment has different ways of dealing with down-on-their-luck folks that might wander in.

After giving them menus, I went to the manager on duty, as we were instructed to do in situations like this, and told him that I thought there was a vagrant in the bar area.

When the manager came around and looked through kitchen window into the bar, he laughed and turned to me.

“Don’t you know who that is?” he asked

“Well, er…” I stammered

“That is the world famous artist So and So. And that is his wife. They must be in town for a show. They live in Santa Fe, but he always stops here when he is in El Paso. Look we even have one of his original paintings on the wall over there.” He then told me to come into the parking lot and he pointed out a broken down station wagon with New Mexico plates that looked like it had been driven 1,000,000 miles. The back window was open, and you could see oversized canvases wrapped in plastic bags sticking out the back window.

“I bet there is a quarter million dollars worth of artwork in the back of that old station wagon” he said. He then looked at me and said “Pretty funny huh?”

Different, I learned clearly that day, is not bad. Looks are deceiving. I never forgot that little life lesson in judging books by their covers. Since then, I have tried my best not to judge, lest I be judged.

I was reminded of my Jaxon years when I read recently of the incident when a Portland Oregon Double Tree Hotel employee called the police on an African American man, a hotel guest, that was reading the newspaper in the hotel lobby. Black man in a hotel lobby. Reading. Hmm. That doesn’t sound right. Call the police.

In November, police in Kirkland, Washington helped the owner of a frozen yogurt shop kick out a black man because employees said they felt “uncomfortable.”

In April, Philadelphia police arrested two black men at a Starbucks coffee shop after a manager called police to say they refused to make a purchase. They were waiting for a business meeting.

And who could forget the 8 year old black girl who was selling cold bottled water on a hot and a white woman called police because the girl “didn’t have a permit?”

Who makes you feel uncomfortable? The Mexican American twenty something with the tattoos on his face? The teenage kids in the car next to you playing their hip hop just a little too loud? Those funny Arab looking people speaking a language you never heard of? The man with the turban and the long beard? The woman in the check out line using her WIC card with the four kids?

That uncomfortable feeling you have is nothing more than your unease with people that are different than you. Just as I was uncomfortable with the artist, we tend to fear those that we do not know much about or are told we should fear.

But where are we learning to be uncomfortable?

Remember on December 26th when, sadly, a police officer in California was shot to death by a person illegally in the United States? You probably heard all about that case. It was all over the news. Right-wing media made it the most of it because it was a classic case of the person you have been taught to fear (illegal immigrant) shooting a person we are not supposed to fear (police officer).

Pictures of the young officer made it from CNN to ABC, to of course, FOX news. One person shooting one person. All over the news. An “illegal.” Trump tweeted about it. The message: Those Hispanics, especially the immigrants, are bad. You should be uncomfortable is the message. Let’s build a wall to keep them out. They are dangerous. It is a national emergency.

Perhaps you may not remember that also on December 26, 2018, in St. Charles Missouri, a man named Richard Darren Emery, shot and killed Zoe Kasten (8 years old), Jonathan Kasten (10 years old) their grandmother (61 years old) , and their mother. He led police on a chase which resulted in a carjacking where he stabbed a driver seven times.

Now, both crimes are horrific, but which one, in reality, was worse? The one murdered police officer or the 4 family members, 2 of which were children? Which one did you hear about? Do you think it made a difference that the family killer was a white male?

Where are you learning to be uncomfortable? Are you scared of white males?

Truth be told, far more murders are committed nationally by white makes than by illegal immigrants. But you don’t see that headline do you?

Where are you learning to be uncomfortable? Maybe we should all hang out a little more at places where a diverse crowd of people come in. Like the old Jaxon’s.

***

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 Problem with Learning Technology is Professors That Don’t Understand It

Kirstin R. Wilcox, Lecturer at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is one in a growing long line of higher ed educators that refuse to wrap their big brains around how to use educational technology.

Writing in the blog Chroniclevitae.com, Wilcox talks about how ed tech and all the associated things that go with it are not helping her students actually learn deeply.

She opines that deep learning takes place at the edges of the classroom conversations, and those tools that students use online either prevent that learning, or don’t allow students to go there. (Of course, most of the comments on the blog agree with her…)

“While the pedagogical potential is still there, students now approach such online assignments with grim doggedness. For many students, online informal writing has become just another rote component of a literature course, too similar to what they are expected to do in other classes, not helpful enough to hold their interest. Not only have these platforms lost the aura of immediacy and creativity that they once had, but students have little desire to add an intellectual online persona to the profiles that they cultivate across multiple media. They text, they Snapchat, they Yik-Yak, they swipe right or left on Tinder, they seek advice on Reddit, they connect on LinkedIn, they have mixed feelings about Facebook, they tweet, they have well-formulated reasons for using or eschewing various means of online interaction.”

Just as Clay Shirky and Dan Willingham before her complained about how kids are just too distracted to do actual learning in their classes, a deep read of Wilcox’s complaint (just as with Shirky and Willingham) points towards a professor that is stuck in their presentation styles and unwilling to change:

While discussing her early success having students write blogs, she then pivots the discussion and complains that “For many students, online informal writing has become just another rote component of a literature course, too similar to what they are expected to do in other classes, not helpful enough to hold their interest. Not only have these platforms lost the aura of immediacy and creativity that they once had, but students have little desire to add an intellectual online persona to the profiles that they cultivate across multiple media.”

She does say that there are professors that have been able to “harness that social-media energy to their learning goals, with Twitter hashtags, Facebook study groups, judicious Reddit mining. More power to them.”What? That’s it? More power to them? Using classroom technology is limited to social media? Really?

So here are my questions to Wilcox and to all of the professors out there that continue to make subtle yet, obvious digs at using educational technology as part of their everyday learning experience for their students:

What are you doing to change your delivery methods to adapt to modern teaching techniques? Have you ever taken any kind of professional development on integrating technology into your lectures? Read any books on the subject?

You say that deep learning takes place at the edges of the classroom conversations..How can you grab those conversations and extend them for all your students without using technology? You cannot.

If there are professors, as you claim, that can successfully use social media, what are you doing to learn their techniques? Have you asked them for any advice?

Have you changed your assignments to match modern tools? For instance, do all your assignments have to be written papers? It sure sounds like it from your essay. If you are merely substituting a electronic version of your written assignment then no wonder your students are not engaged deeply.

Have you ever heard of the SAMR model of learning? It sounds to me like your assignments are on the S (lowest level) of technology integration.

Have you ever asked your students what you could do as a teacher to make the classes more interesting?

Don’t you feel it kind of interesting that you yourself blog and tweet yet have issues with those exact same tools in your classes? How can you harness the exact same tools you use to make your class more interesting to the learner?

Finally, I have to wonder where you are mentally as a teacher: Do you think that students have to adapt to your way of teaching in order to learn from you, or do you have to adapt to their way or learning?

Answer that question and you might learn a lot about why your students are not as successful with using the tools of technology as you may wish them to be.

There is a trend now, it seems, for higher ed to be pushing back on the use of technology..it is subtle, but it is there. I wonder, it the problem with the technology, or with the teacher?

***

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: Jane Pollock PhD. The i5 Approach: Using Technology to Teach Thinking

Several weeks ago I approached Jane E. Pollock, PhD, author of the book “The i5 Approach” and asked if she might write a short guest blog, in lieu of my typical author interviews.

She graciously agreed, and here is her response:

A biology teacher, Veronica, wondered: if I ask students to use technology, will they learn better and become more critical and creative thinkers? She says that she rearranges student desks in groups, uses 1:1 devices, and facilitates the learning by walking around rather than lecturing from the front.

The technology initiative, students using personal devices, indeed increases engagement, but many teachers like Veronica admit to having concerns about the increase in distraction, too. But, she has also seen too many really exciting initiatives vanish when they have little positive impact on student achievement.

Do you also wonder if using technology and personalizing in classrooms increases achievement?

Today’s research shows that the overall effect on student learning achievement for using technology is comparable and not higher than traditional teaching (Hattie, 2017). Visiting classrooms, I’ve found that the problem may not be the technology, but the lesson planning and delivery routines that date back to the 1980s.

Students come to class ready to actively engage, but upon close observation, it appears that teaching practices based on older models, may inadvertently inhibit active learning.

The i5 Approach explains how to retrofit traditional lesson planning to incorporate new research about how humans learn. We use our senses to integrate information and images, we seek interaction for clarification and feedback. The result of so much sensory stimuli is that we have to process it; we inquire (or think) about it.

The biological reason for thinking is that we produce a new idea, a choice, a solution, or an innovation. This is the approach I call the i5 approach: information + images + interaction + inquiry = innovation.

Thinking is how humans cope with the world. In our busy stimulus-rich environment thinking seems to happen naturally, only slowing us down to solve complex problems or make difficult decisions. Classrooms are much less engaging than the outside world; students generally only need to see and hear (not smell, taste, or touch for most subjects) the content of most lessons. Oddly, they biologically have much less of a need to think. Technology changes that!

Students come to class, actively seeking information and feedback the way they do in their everyday lives; they need lessons that are planned so they do deliberately use and process enormous amounts of stimuli. Students can become better thinkers if teachers adjust the flow of the lesson in two ways: integrating technology during the lecture or whole class instruction and explicitly teaching the steps to thinking or inquiry skills. That leads to a continuous practice of generating new ideas and innovating. Technology can change the classroom to ensure students become critical and creative thinkers.

Research shows that using technology is the answer to teaching critical and creative thinking (Pollock, 2018). The goal is teaching thinking; the tool is using technology.

Jane, co-author of ASCD bestseller, Classroom Instruction That Works (2001), works worldwide with teachers, coaches and principals on curriculum, instruction, assessment, and supervision. Her work results in improved student achievement at the classroom and school levels.

A former classroom and ESL teacher, Jane worked as a district administrator and Senior Researcher for McREL Research Laboratory. She has written many books, including, The i5 Approach: Lesson Planning for Teaching Thinking (2018).

About the i5 Approach:

If the three r’s define education’s past, there are five i’s—information, images, interaction, inquiry, and innovation—that forecast its future, one in which students think for themselves, actively self-assess, and enthusiastically use technology to further their learning and contribute to the world.

What students need, but too often do not get, is deliberate instruction in the critical and creative thinking skills that make this vision possible. The i5 approach provides a way to develop these skills in the context of content-focused and technology-powered lessons that give students the opportunity to

1. Seek and acquire new information.

2. Use visual images and nonlinguistic representations to add meaning.

3. Interact with others to obtain and provide feedback and enhance understanding.

4. Engage in inquiry—use and develop a thinking skill that will expand and extend knowledge.

5. Generate innovative insights and products related to the lesson goals.

Jane E. Pollock and Susan Hensley explain the i5 approach’s foundations in brain research and its links to proven instructional principles and planning models. They provide step-by-step procedures for teaching 12 key thinking skills and share lesson examples from teachers who have successfully “i5’ed” their instruction.

With practical guidance on how to revamp existing lessons, The i5 Approach is an indispensable resource for any teacher who wants to help students gain deeper and broader content understanding and become stronger and more innovative thinkers.

Jane E. Pollock, Ph.D. jpollock@learninghorizon.net

You can purchase the book on the ASCD Website  |  Also on iBooks  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Amazon

***

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

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

Op-Ed: What If Educators Had To Face The Press After Testing?

After every professional football game, a press conference is held, where the coaches and select players go in front of the sports reporter and do a dissection of the game.

This happens as well in collegiate sports, and most any professional sports as well.

It is a time honored tradition.

The coaches, even if they are in a bad mood because of a loss, must take questions from the reporters:

  • “What was the turning point?”
  • “What went wrong?”
  • “If your quarterback Billy Bob hadn’t broken his arm, do you think you might have won?

Conversely winning coaches go through the same post game ritual and answer essentially the same sets of questions.

  • “How will you prepare for next week’s game?”
  • “How are the players feeling now?”
  • “Tell us about Billy Bob’s groin injury.”

It is a public exercise in metacognition. Players as well are asked to participate in the press conference.

  • “How did you prepare for the defender?”
  • “What will you do differently next week?”
  • “Do you still think you are performing at a high caliber?”
  • “Tell us about your groin.”

Sometimes, these are painful to watch, especially when the coach or players know that they should have won but did not. It is very interesting to see them, in real time, try to explain what went wrong or what went right. For many, they have data at the ready, can reel off numbers of interceptions, yards per passing play, etc.

Sometimes, the coach and players make up excuses, blame the referees, or rattle-off clichés about the better team winning or this not being their week.

If you have never watched one of these, you should.

That got me thinking, what if educators had to face the press like coaches do, but after the standardized test scores come in for their schools?

Can you imagine it: A principal would be like the coach, and the teachers would be like the players. They would have to explain to their community why the scores are the way they are. What they plan to do to fix the scores, and then take questions.

Principal Smith: “Before I take any questions, I want to thank you all for being here today. As you know, this year was a difficult year a lot of changes to the rules, a lot of personnel changes at the beginning of the year. We lost a few veteran teachers, we had to bring in some rookie teachers, and of course, the poor results from last year’s scores had a lot of people thinking we would not have a winning test season this year. I believe we proved them wrong as most of the scores clearly indicate. We are moving in the right direction and look forward to next season. Are there any questions?”

Reporter 1: “Tell us Mr. Smith, what was the turning point in this year’s test scores? Who were your bright spots?”

Principal Smith: “Well, we could have done better. We always are trying to do better. Our Third grade teachers really stepped up this year, but it looks like the Fifth grade fumbled the Math portion of the test. The fourth grade held the line and pretty much did what we expected them to do.”

Reporter 2: “What will you be doing differently next test?”

Principal Smith: “We need to be looking at maybe shuffling around our personnel. Our Fifth grade needs stronger support in Math, so we will be looking to bring in a stronger math teacher. Also, we need help in our Special Ed secondary. Too many dropped questions, not answered questions. Not quite sure why that is happening. We need to look at the film, er the data.”

Reporter 2: “Does that mean you are going to fire a Fifth grade Math teacher?”

Principal Smith: “ I am not a liberty to discuss personnel matters at this time, suffice it to say that we need help in Fifth grade and our current players are not picking up the ball and running with it. So we may move, we may shuffle, we may bring in a specialty teacher.”

Reporter 3: “Who was your standout player this season?”

Principal Smith: “Without a doubt, it was Ms. Lopez. She went 4 for 4 with all of her students passing all of the tests. Here she is to talk about it.”

Ms. Lopez: “ I just want to thank God for giving me this opportunity. And the students, they did an outstanding job.”

Reporter 4: “Ms. Lopez why your students do better this year than last year?”

Ms. Lopez: “I think it had to do with how we changed out Math and reading techniques this year. We personalized the learning experience, we moved to new digital books, and we spent more time working on the basics.”

Reporter 4: “And you plan on doing that next year?”

Ms. Lopez: “We need to have a hard look at our data, then make decisions. But we seem to have done something right this year and we want to replicate it next year as well. Thank you.”

Principal Smith: “Thank you all for being here. No more questions. Thank you. Thank you.”

Questions would be shouted out by the reporters, pictures would be taken..it would all be very exciting. But we don’t treat education like we treat sports.

We don’t ask educators to publicly explain their results. Maybe we should. Maybe we should begin a new ritual of having educators explain to their public exactly what happens at they schools.

And maybe, we need to treat education with the same importance that we do sports.

***

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: On Television, Reality Isn’t So

I am beginning to see a pattern develop that perhaps we can share with our students.

Maybe, just maybe, these shows are fake.

Reality may not be reality, at least on television.

On television:

  • Ghost hunters never find ghosts.
  • Treasure hunters never find the treasure.
  • Bigfoot hunters never find Bigfoot.
  • UFO hunters never find UFOs.
  • Ancient alien hunters never find ancient aliens.
  • Knights Templar hunters never find Knights templar.
  • Nazi gold hunters never find Nazi gold.
  • Lost Dutchman Mine hunters never find the Lost Dutchman’s mine.
  • Love hunters never find love.
  • Gold miners never find gold.
  • Expeditions to the unknown never find something that was unknown
  • Psychics never find what they are looking for.
  • Yeti Hunters never find the Yeti.
  • Loch Ness monster hunters never find Nessie.
  • Atlantis hunters never find Atlantis.
  • Bachelors never find a wife.
  • Bachelorettes never find a husband.
  • The hunt for King Arthur never finds King Arthur.
  • The fake moon landings never found a studio.
  • Zombie hunters never find zombies.

***

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 Catch 22 of the International Children’s Digital Library

Chances are, you have never heard of the International Children’s Digital Library.

The ICDL is an online repository of books for children ages 3-13, written in over 50 languages. The library has over 4000 books.

Books are digitized in multiple languages from all over the world. Some are old and out of copyright, but many are brand new, award winners, still under copyright.

A child can click on a title and the book will appear online ready to be read. No trip to the store, no trip to the library, no need to order from Amazon.

The unique online library, free to anyone, is a project of the University of Maryland and the Internet Archive. The mission of the library is to provide children, especially those that migrate to new lands no matter the reason, access to their cultures that they might have left behind.

“As families move from Kenya to Finland or Brazil to Mexico or Viet Nam to California, books published in their native country or in their first language often must be left behind.  In their new homelands, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to find children’s books from their cultures and in their mother tongue.  Parents have little access to the books and stories from their youth to pass on to the next generation. Many children must grow up without knowledge of their family’s heritage and first language.  A fundamental principle of the Foundation is that children and their families deserve to have access to the books of their culture, as well as the majority culture, regardless of where they live. According to a paper published in 2005 by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in preparation for the second meeting on the World Summit on the Information Society, “Denial to access to information in one’s mother tongue is equivalent to a denial of a human right.” The report also concludes, “In terms of pedagogy, how do children learn best?  In their mother tongue.” 

Teachers of course, can access the site and assign specific books for children to read, or kids and parents can explore on their own. (One of the neatest lessons that teachers can do, and I suppose parents as well, is to find a picture book in a language that no one knows, and have kids either explain what is going on, or write their own stories to match the pictures.)

Parents can pick a book to read to their children, or have their children read to them. It is a win-win.

Great resource for anyone, in multiple languages. Anyone with an internet connection that is. While the ICDL has a smartphone app () users still have to have internet access. And that is the Catch-22 of ICDL and any other service like it: Great idea, but if you do not have internet access, then you are dead in the water.

Many families, especially in cities like El Paso, do not have ready access to the internet. A trip to the local library, or some select fast food places is required to get online. And while they COULD be reading titles like the award winning book “The Boy without a Name” in both English or Spanish or both, they can’t because they don’t have access to the internet.

Parents are constantly told to read to their kids. So, people without means can get free books at places like ICDL and IF they had access they could, they would. But until they get access, they can’t get the free stuff to share with their kids that you can get right this second.

I postulated long ago that access to the Internet would become a civil rights issue in the 21st century. Those without access are at a distinct disadvantage, both culturally and economically.

There are programs out there that try to level the playing field. Like the 1 Million Project (1MP), designed to put 1 million wifi hotspots in qualifying high school students hands. Those devices can be used by entire families to get access. And while the 1MP is certainly a worthy effort, and one deserving of emulation by all telecom providers, the long term issue of economically disadvantaged students and families not being able to access the internet for even the most basic of services remains.

The ICDL is just one example of the hidden treasures that exist on the internet that are waiting to be discovered by those with access. If you are reading this, you have access. Certainly something to be thankful for in this holiday season. Maybe you could throw some change in the direction of the ICDL this holiday season.

What are you doing to help those without access the same the same access you have?

***

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

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

Op-Ed: What’s Your Mindset?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Op-Ed: You Can Do This With Technology

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

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

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

***

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

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

Op-Ed: Who Do You Want To Work For?

My wife recently completed her certification work to become a campus administrator in Texas. That got me thinking about how jobs are advertised in school districts.

Most of it is pretty bland, non-inspiring and well, not actually sure designed to inspire the potential candidates.

Imagine you are looking for a job as an elementary principal or assistant principal and you see this as the job description:

The position of Elementary School Principal requires a Master’s Degree; valid Administrative, or Principal’s Certificate; leadership ability in working with teachers and students in instructional and managerial administration; working knowledge of curriculum and instruction; the ability to evaluate instructional program and teaching effectiveness; the ability to manage budget and personnel and coordinate campus functions; the ability to explain policy, procedures and data; strong communications, public relations, and interpersonal skills; three years of related administrative experience in education to include at least two years assistant principal experience (for a person who has not previously served as a principal); three years experience as a classroom teacher.

Pretty standard huh? A list of what you are expected to do as an elementary school principal. Nothing in that description MAKES me want to apply for that job. Pretty standard. Pretty boring.

Now, imagine of you came across this job description for an elementary school principal or Assistant Principal in another school district that read like this:

Our district is doing some really exciting things and we want you to be part of it. This position is for an elementary school that is in a well established neighborhood with about 800 kids. (Hey, want to know the demographics of the school? Click here. Check out the campus test data here.) We think that a good leader can make this campus go from good to great and beyond. Are you that person?

As you can tell from the demographics and scores, there are some challenges to be met, but this school, with these teachers and these kids, deserve a great leader. Maybe you are that person. We are looking for someone that has the following qualifications: The usual stuff like an administrator’s or management certification and experience as a teacher and maybe as a campus administrator. But we want more than that.

Of course anyone can get a certification. What we really are looking for this: Someone that has the ability to lead teachers and students and be a real instructional leader, not someone that just says they are a leader. Someone that knows what kids need to learn and what teachers need to teach and how best to match the two.

Someone who also loves learning and can share that love of learning with their staff. Of course, you will have some money, so you will have to know how to wisely spend it. What will be your budget priorities? We want to know before we hire you. Can you communicate well? Great! Because you are going to have to explain what you are doing not only to your staff, but to parents and the community. We also like to hire people that can get along with others, because hey, our district is a big family, and we need to all keep in touch.

Tell us that you have some innovative ideas, because if you don’t we really don’t need to talk. We like people that will take chances (to a point of course) and will back you up with professional development opportunities for you and your staff.

Like we said, we are doing some awesome things in our district, and want to surround ourselves with the most awesome educators we can.

Are you awesome? Then you need to apply.

I wonder if a school district put out an ad for that, what kind of response they would get? Imagine of every singe job posting that district posted exclaimed how exciting it would be to work in that district? Which district would get the brightest, innovative minds?

Which place would you want to work for?

***

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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