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Home | Tag Archives: tim holt

Tag Archives: tim holt

Op-Ed: What is Important?

A few years back, graphing calculators were introduced almost universally to math classes across the US in secondary grades.

“Well, teachers, said back then to their students, “Don’t get too attached, You won’t have a calculator with you everywhere you go.”

Lo and behold, now, with smartphones ubiquitous, everyone pretty much has a calculator with them everywhere they go. Mr. Allen was 100% wrong back in 1991. Sorry.

Not only a calculator but a scientific calculator, a compass, a level, a virtual ruler…the list goes on and on. If you need to know all of a sudden what 3.456 x 976.032 is, you can do it faster on your smartphone that you probably ever could have done in your head or on paper (3,373.16659 is the answer by the way).

Technology has provided tools, many for free, that simply have replaced the need to memorize things that were the driving force of education in years gone past. And before you go off on “Yeah, smartphones are nice but…” consider that the calculator came out long before the smartphone, about 25 years before the first “smartphone” ever was produced.

In fact, technology has been trying to make the need to recall information less and less “brain-based” and more and more “machine-based” for, well forever. If you think about it, the written word was created so that we wouldn’t have to recall everything we said or did.

What we are seeing now is simply the logical extension of millennia from a clay tablet, to the papyrus scroll, to the Gutenberg printing press to the iPhone. With students and adults being able to access the sum total of human knowledge with a device that is no larger than a deck of playing cards, the entire educational structure of what is important and what is not important has come into question.

Late-night TV hosts love to get cheap laughs by selectively editing “man on the street” interviews of people who cannot answer simple questions. “How many states are there in the US?” “Er, 49 says the hapless victim?”

We never see how many answered the question correctly. That woudn’t be funny, would it? “See how stupid we collectively are?” these segments seem to ask. But most of those questions presented are in the form of trivia.

Weren’t we all amused as children when someone couldn’t answer “What was the color of George Washington’s white horse?“ or “Who was buried in Grant’s Tomb?”

The stupid-American-on-the-street video is nothing more than an updated version of an old schoolyard game designed simply to embarrass people.

A local blog recently bemoaned a discussion the blogger had with some 20-something-year-olds about the structure of the US and Texas state government.

The two young people could not distinguish between state and national political positions. The jobs of Senators and Congressmen, and the differences thereof, seemed to confuse them, according to the blogger.

Finally, he posted “Our education system failed here.” There was not a lot to go on in the short blog entry, no context of the conversation, no background on the young people (were they even US citizens?) he was talking with, not much other than his indignation that young people didn’t know the difference between State and Federal legislators.

Oh, and that the entire US education system was to blame (the blogger didn’t distinguish if they were educated in public, private, charter, or homeschooled were they special needs students, were the students with limited English skills?).

Was he asking trivia? Who is your State senator? What does a Senator do vs what does a Congressman do? Name the Attorney General of Texas. How many houses are in the Texas legislature? Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?

All are trivia, all are easily retrievable within milliseconds on a smartphone.Why do we even ask these questions anymore? And that brings us back to what is important to learn. Right now, educators are struggling with that question.

Do you need to know how to solve a quadratic equation when you can use the Microsoft Math app, point your smartphone at the problem, and it will be solved for you? Or is it more important to know WHEN you should use a quadratic equation to solve a problem?

Do you need to know how to locate Ukraine on a map, or that Ukraine is at the center of a geopolitical tug of war? Do you need to memorize all the phone numbers of your friends when your phone can keep all of them for you? What is simply trivia and what is not?

There are several online tests supposedly written in the 1950s (most are fakes by the way) that are supposed to demonstrate how stupid we are as a country. Without exception, the questions ask trivial things: Who is the president pro tempore of the Senate? How did the Korean War end?

You get the picture. Why teach something, or expect kids to memorize them when that factoid could be easily and rapidly looked up if ever they needed to know it. (By the way, when was the last time YOU were asked to explain the difference between a Senator and a Congressman? Could you explain the difference? Yet, how much time did you spend in school learning that micro trivial point?)

It is not a “failure of the education system” that Bobby and Susie didn’t know the specific random factoids that the blogger was asking. I suspect that if the blogger had randomly walked into any gathering of older people not in his same sphere of influence and social circle, he would have probably gotten the same lack of answers.

Would that mean ALL education forever was bad? No, it means that we should not dwell on trivia in education. We should be focused on WHY something happens and think about applying that knowledge in particular situations. I have had hundreds of conversations with people of all ages that do not know some basic trivia.

We have a nearly 74 year old president that stated recently that the US invented the wheel and that Fredrick Douglas was still alive. And he is the product of expensive private schooling from back in thre “good old days.”

So much for failure of our education system, unless you want to use him as an example.

As for Grant, and who is buried in his tomb? Well, actually the answer is no one. People are buried in graves. Grant is entombed in his tomb, with his wife. Above ground. In New York City. And Washington’s white horse was gray. But that is trivia, isn’t it? And it really, really is not important at all.

***

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: How Dual Credit Courses could save millions of dollars for School Districts

A big trend in high school public education is the “Dual Credit” course. This type of course provides students a parallel avenue to take college courses while at the same time getting high school credit.

For instance, a student might take a “Dual Credit” Chemistry course where the course is taught both at a Community or Junior College as well as the student’s home high school. In the end, if the student is successful, she will get both high school credits towards graduation as well as college credit for the course she took.

The idea behind Dual Credit is that students will be more likely to matriculate into college if they can get a head start. A side benefit is that the student and often the parents save money because college will not be as expensive if a student has a few years of credit in their back pocket with they move to college.

Great deal right? Of course, it is. School districts can provide an added value to their student’s education, Community Colleges get a jump start on recruiting post-secondary students, students get a jump on their college careers, and parents save a few bucks.

How is it all paid for? The public school districts typically bear the brunt of the burden of paying not only for the student’s tuition for the classes but also for the textbooks as well.

While that might not seem too much of a burden, considering the return on investment, but in a medium to large size school district, the yearly investment can run into several hundred thousand if not millions of dollars.

A big chunk of that cost is for textbooks, which as everyone is well aware of, are typically excessively expensive. The average new college text, according to CBS News Marketwatch was $153 in 2017.

A district with 1000 students taking dual credit courses could easily spend close to $200,000 just on textbooks alone. (And how many of us were forced to purchase a text in college that was hardly ever opened?)

While the costs of texts might be high, it doesn’t have to be that way. Colleges and Universities across the world are choosing to opt-out of the crazy publisher-driven closed ecosystem of college textbooks. The choice to move away from the old model is driven in part by the Open Education Resource (OER) movement, where textbooks are created and released free of charge for anyone to use at any time anywhere.

One such effort is the OpenStax program at Rice University where over 9 million students worldwide have used these free and open textbooks, for a combined savings of close to $850 million since 2012. These books are University-produced, university curated and vetted.

No one can say that they are not of high quality, and rival even the most expensive texts in the close to 50 university-level subject areas form Biology to Economics. They are, in all measures, quality college-level textbooks.

And they are free. Free to use, free to share, free to download, free to print, even free to modify if a professor so chooses. It is a great deal.

And OpenStax is not alone. Across the country, universities from MIT to UNY to Boston College, to Carnegie Mellon have all created and put out OER materials for students and professors anywhere to use. (Check out just some of the free texts here)

Some universities have even moved away from the old textbook model altogether. UT Austin had a modified dual credit program (dual enrollment) called UT OnRamps that simply acknowledges that all of the information a student could use is available online already for free and does completely away with the traditional textbook.

All of the course information is just posted in an online repository and used as needed throughout the course.

It is time that the partner community and junior colleges join the OER movement and adopt these free materials as the de-facto standard for any course that has students enrolled in dual credit.

Of course, professors will complain that this limits their ability to teach freely and to choose their class materials, but that argument is negated by the fact that the information in any text is freely available anywhere and that general information should not be “owned” by anyone or any company.

How Pearson, for instance, explains economic theory cannot be that different than how OpenStax does it. The Periodic Table is the Periodic Table, no matter if a paid publisher or an OER publisher creates it. Hydrogen will always be H, and Keynesian economics is always Keynesian economics.

It is also time that public school districts stand up and say to the institutions of higher learning that they must become responsive to the needs of the school districts who are their customers after all. If there are opportunities to save money while maintaining the rigor of the curriculum, then why NOT use OER? Who isn’t for saving money?

OER is not going away. Students getting credit for post-secondary work is not going away either. Both are good ideas and both need to be married to make a good idea a great idea.

***

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: Does Teacher Ego prevent the adoption of Ed Tech?

My friend Kevin Honeycutt used to tell a story of a professor of American Literature who was droning on about a particular short story in his class and became increasingly frustrated with a student in the back row who was paying more attention to his laptop than to his lecture.

Finally, attempting to get the student’s attention, the professor asked the student what he thought of what had been presented in class.

“I think everything you are saying is wrong” replied the student.

The professor, indignant, asked the student why he was so sure of what he was saying when the professor had decades of study in the field.

“Because,” the student said turning around his laptop and pointing it towards the teacher, “I have the author of that story on Skype, and he has been telling me that everything you are saying about his story is wrong.”

I relate this story not to pick on higher ed and droning professors (although I could) but rather the effect of introducing technology in a classroom setting and the effect it has on the teacher. The student could in this story, fact-check the professor in real time on anything that he might be saying, and indeed, caught him professing misinformation. He could even connect with the essential players in the conversation.

That is the power of technology. The shift of power has moved out of the teacher’s hands and into the student’s hands. All of a sudden, the teacher is no longer the font of all knowledge at the podium that they once were. And that shift of power is a monster shift.

It changes things.
It equalizes that which once was not equal.

In the old days, to learn how to solve a complex Algebra problem, students would have to sit at their desks and watch a teacher work the problem out either on a chalkboard, an overhead projector, a SmartBoard, whatever the method. The teaching POWER was at the front of the room.

The students could simply not proceed until the teacher had demonstrated the correct way to solve the problem and then the students could replicate that on the assigned problems. Only until the teacher had completed the problem were the students able to move forward with the assignment.

With technology in the classroom, students can quickly find their resources to help solve the problem, and may very well find a quicker, more efficient way than the one that the teacher presented. (Indeed, there are even websites such as Wolfram Alpha that will work any Algebra problem out from beginning to end in a matter of milliseconds. )

The power shifts when that happens. No longer does the teacher have 100% control over the teaching and learning.

Classrooms are traditionally very rigid in how the power structure is set. Any disruption in that power structure causes a disruption, and in some cases backlash and chaos.

When disruption happens, not only do the old ways need to be reevaluated but those that are most affected, those that used to have the power are often the first and the loudest to complain about the disruption, because, frankly, they probably see themselves as being marginalized.

I think that we are seeing that backlash now with technology in the classroom. Articles are coming out about the “addictive quality” of apps and devices, how students are glued to Youtube, smart devices, and just technology in general. The technology is to blame.

Not about how boring the presentation is.
Not about how nonengaging the course is.
Not about how poorly the class meets the needs of the student.
Not about how the teacher is teaching off of 10 year old Powerpoint slides.
No, the articles are about how the technology is addictive and destroying the natural order of things in the classroom.

I suspect that some teachers, not all, of course, look at technology as a threat to their livelihoods and some look at it as a threat to their egos. The enemy.

Indeed, I have seen teachers at campuses where students have each been given laptops simply refuse to use technology in their classes. Some even punish students for using the tools available to them, that they would actually use in the “real world,” to complete assignments.

The funniest ones to me however, is when teachers get onto social media to complain about students using technology. Where are all those articles that say the internet and technology is destroying classrooms? They are all found in the internet.

You will need to use technology to find them. Some teachers actually use technology to complain about technology. When asked why they refuse to use the tools, I have been given a buffet of responses, blaming time, tests, lack of preparation, lost or stolen laptops, you pick it, I have heard it.

I suspect that no matter the excuse for not using technology, part of it has to do with ego. “I don’t want this machine to replace me.” It is all about me, not my students.

Perhaps Ian Jukes said it best when he stated:

“Welcome to the modern world. Welcome to the new digital landscape. The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stone; it ended because we invented new tools. It’s futile to continue preparing our students for a world that no longer exists. Our job is to help them prepare for their future not the past.”

Educators everywhere, at every level should heed those words. And perhaps leave egos at home.

***

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: Another Professor Disses Smartphones, Joins Historic Line of Haters that Turn Out to Be Wrong

I am a big fan of the podcast “Pessimist Archive (PA).” If you have never heard of it, the PA documents with humor the sadly regular, negative reaction that society, usually western society, has to things that we now take for granted.

Episodes include how people reacted when margarine was first introduced, how elevators scared rich people, and how the waltz, that staple of elegant ballroom dancing, was seen as an immoral exercise that would cause harm to the baby parts of any women that participated in it. (You can check it out wherever you can find podcasts.)

If high school History class had been half as interesting as a single episode of PA, I would have been much more interested in the topic. Sorry Mr. Swank.

After listening to almost all of the episodes, a clear pattern emerges when something new disrupts the order of things:

  • Item is introduced and upsets an industry or society or culture
  • Item become popular depsite itself
  • Item is labelled either unhealthy, immoral, unnatural or a threat to society/culture
  • Item is attacked by “experts” that are in reality not experts on said item
  • People listen to “experts” for a short time
  • Item usually wins out because item actually benefits industry or society or culture or all

What strikes me after listening to these stories of teddy bears, and scooters, and cars and elevators, and mirrors (yes, even mirrors!) is the sheer repetition of the opposition. It is almost as if there is a cultural playbook that people turn to whenever something new comes along.

Host Jason Feifer once stated something profound about what should happen but hardly ever does. He said, and I paraphrase here, that the new “thing” is almost never bad. It is just that the environment that the new thing is placed in has not adapted to how the new thing should operate.

He cited dance halls in the 18th century which were congested, poorly ventilated fine linen dust factories, that actually made people sick to be in. Of course, people were dancing the waltz in these halls at the time, and coming down with all kinds of respiratory ailments.

Was it the fault of the poorly ventilated, dusty, cold halls? Of course not, it was the fault of the dance, the waltz, that made people sick. See how that works? The environment needed to change, not the waltz. The environment almost always changes way AFTER the new innovation comes out.

Because the environment does not change as quickly, the new thing is often blamed for all the ills that are happening inside the environment that the new thing happens to be in.

With that in mind, that history of the new thing causing a backlash because the environment has not changed, I have noticed a rash of articles and research about students using technology and how bad the use of “screens” are to these children. (“Screens” in these cases are code for computers in most of these articles. “Screentime” is used instead of the phrase “using a computer” because, hey, it sounds more sinister I suppose.)

The latest article to attack “screens” and computers in the classroom comes from Nate Anderson with the not-too-subtle title “They’re abysmal students”: Are cell phones destroying the college classroom?”

In it, he discusses the findings of an MIT professor who stated about his students “I have a real fondness for my students as people. But they’re abysmal students; or rather, they aren’t really students at all, at least not in my class.

On any given day, 70% of them are sitting before me shopping, texting, completing assignments, watching videos, or otherwise occupying themselves. Even the ‘good’ students do this. No one’s even trying to conceal the activity, the way students did before. This is just what they do.”

See what he has done there? “I love my students as people, but my students love their phones more than me.” Boo hoo. Poor me. I am an expert and you should listen to me dammit! I may be a terrible teacher, but well, LISTEN TO ME! Never mind that TECHNOLOGY is in the actual name of the institution that I teach at.

See how that works? New technology in an old environment. It is not the professor’s lecture, its not the probably mid-20th century learning environment, its not the topic, it is not the format of the learning, it is not ANYTHING else, except the smartphone, the screen, the technology that is causing the classroom to fall apart.

The lack of self awareness by the professor (and others like him) is stunning although not unusual especially at the post secondary level. How has the professor adapted his teaching to fit his students learning needs? After all, aren’t these students customers of his?

Any other business besides education adapts to the needs of the customers, not the other way around. (Sorry ma’am, you have to purchase this pink two-door sports car for as your family vehicle, it is the only choice we have here at Toyota.)

Failure to adapt leads to disaster, AM-I-RIGHT Blockbuster? Are all these texting, video-watching, otherwise occupied students failing his class? He does not say, but I suspect not. If not, then his point is completely moot. If the students are learning and completing his classes successfully, then he yelling at passing clouds, and he is at fault for not adapting to his student’s learning styles.

And really, a professor who doesn’t know about learning styles? At MIT? Home of Negroponte and the Adult Kindergarten? Really? Anderson ended his article with a question about what should a 21st century classroom look like.

I emailed him and asked his to please answer his own question, which he graciously did:

“It’s hard to say, in part because I don’t think there is “an” answer. So much depends upon the discipline, the instructor’s quality, the student’s learning style, even the type of institution… That said, I can’t believe that opening a highly distracting, addictive-by-design device during courses is likely to -improve- the time students spend in the classroom. I agree generally with your point about thinking carefully about pedagogy–but I have seen some super-compelling lectures almost completely ignored by students staring at their devices. So it can’t -just- be about pedagogy, unless we’re going to rule out lectures altogether and make classroom time “participatory” as way of disallowing device use. That can be a great approach, but as someone who loves interactive lectures (when they are -good- and when they don’t simply repeat material I could read in a book), I would hate to have everything go this way.”

He seems to be an advocate for a variety of teaching methodologies from lecture (when they are good which many are not) to adapting to the type of..wait for it…environment that the class is being held in. Sort of a personalized learning approach.

Which, last time I checked, is made so much easier by the use of…technology. In the correct environment.

***

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: 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: If Your Child Is Not Using Technology In School They Are Being Cheated.

Over the years, I have had my fair share of conversations with teachers and administrators that don’t want to incorporate technology into their lessons.

They typically have excuses for ignoring edtech ranging from not having “enough time” to “it is a fad” to “the kids know more than I do.” Pretty much every excuse is a bad one.

And if you have a child in any Texas public school, especially in Grades K-8, and they are NOT using technology in at least some of their class work, they are being cheated out of part of their educational experience. Let me explain why:

Since the 1990’s, Texas has required that all students learn how to use, and then to actually use, technology as part of the learning standards. These standards are known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS. The TEKS are the bible of your child’s learning.

They guide the teacher to teach the lessons they teach. If you ever wondered why a school teaches one thing and not another, the answer, at least in Texas, is the TEKS. There are TEKS for Science, Social Studies, Math even for Marching Band. If it is a course taught in a public school Texas, there are TEKS standards that the teacher must teach.

Which brings us to educational use of technology.

Every single class, Kindergarten through 8th grade, in Texas is expected to use technology. That is written in the TEKS and is known as the Technology Application TEKS K-8. (These have been around in one form or another since the early 1990’s.)

When I say “use technology” I do not mean that students get on a computer and take some kind of online test taking remediation or play a math game. I mean that students should be producing content created with tech.

They shouldn’t just be watching a PowerPoint presentation, they should be making a PowerPoint presentation.

They shouldn’t just be watching instructional movies, they should be creating instructional movies.

They shouldn’t just be listening to podcasts, they should be creating podcasts.

They shouldn’t just be reading books, they should be authoring and publishing their own ebooks.

You get the idea.

Students, by and large, should be using these huge investments of technology dollars to create content, and teachers should be directing students to do so.

Before you say, well, not all classes call for or need that kind of technology integration, the State of Texas begs to differ: Teachers are evaluated in the State by a tool called the T-TESS, or Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System.

This tool is broken down into 4 Domains, and each domain is broken down into 5 sub-domains or Dimensions. Planing, Instruction, Learning Environment, and Professional Practices and Responsibilities. Every single one of the T-TESS Domains either directly mentions or implies the use of technology in the classroom.

The T-TESS strongly emphasizes what the STUDENTS are doing in the classroom, not what the teacher is doing, ergo, the standards for the State of Texas as well as how teachers are evaluated demand teachers in every grade and in every content area to incorporate technology into their lessons. Every single one.

If they are not, you as a parent need to be asking why not. You need to push your child’s teacher and your campus administrator if your child is not using technology as a creation tool in their classroom.

And don’t put up with excuses. There are none. It is 2019. Technology is part of learning. It is part of our lives. It is not 1950.

Districts across the state spend enormous amounts of time, money and resources putting technology into schools and into students hands. That is not without reason.

However, if students are not asked to use the technology that they have been given, then they are being cheated. You, as a parent, needs to make sure that your child is receiving the full 2019-20 education experience. Not the 1950 education experience.

***

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: 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: What Good Is Teaching Kids To Not Bully When We Have A Racist as President?

Send her back!” “Send her back!” chanted the crowd at the rally for the man that was sworn into office with a bible once held by the Great Emancipator.

They chanted in unison as he smiled broadly after mocking a duly elected Unites States Representative and US citizen, Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

He smiled.

He basked in the moment.

He did nothing to stop them from expressing their message of hate.

He could have said “Stop.”

He could have said that that type of behavior was inappropriate.

He could have said that we are all Americans.

He did nothing but smile.

Thousands of slobbering, mouth breathing MAGA-hat-wearing Republicans, all crammed into a convention center in Greenville, North Carolina; all rabidly and proudly displaying their most base, racist tendencies. This, in their minds, is what making America great again was all about.

Send her back. Send the BLACK woman back to where she came from. Back to Africa. Get out of here. You are black. You wear something on your head that isn’t a red, Chinese made baseball cap.

America will be great again when all the blacks are back in Africa. While you are at it, send all the Mexicans and other brown skins back to Mexico. Except the Cubans. We like the Cubans.We would rather have them than those pesky unAmerican Puerto Ricans.

You don’t belong in our whites-only America.

All of that hate was stoked by the crapfest made by a man who has made a political career by being a Not-quite-white-supremacist-but close, a charge he denies, but something his actions cannot.

From denying housing to minorities as a 1970’s slum lord, to the Central Park 5, to fanning the flames of the “Birther Movement,” to starting his run for president by calling Mexicans “rapists and murderers,” to asking for “My black guy” at a political rally, to saying that there are good White Supremacists, to telling four women of color that are in Congress to “Go back where they came from,” this almost daily reminder that this grand experiment may not be so grand after all, has proven time and time again that not only is he a racist, but his millions and millions of Republican followers, who seemed to have never taken a single class in US History, are as well.

“We aren’t all racists” they claim. But just look how the GOP, collectively, come to the Racist-in-Chief’s defense, not only to claim he was misquoted, to mock the media for reporting it, to even, as Fox News did, blame the democrats for his racist behavior. Can the GOP as a group condemn his words?

Not a chance. They roll excitedly in them like your dog in a pile of poop. In fact, some have even made the case that if you protest a racist and his racist rants, you are anti-American and anti-Jesus. You should go back where you came from.

Indeed, his approval rating among Republicans actually increased once he began his racist rants against four female members of Congress that are all women of color. His approval ratings went up. Up.

Let that sink in for a second.

And before you claim that what he or his followers were saying was not racist, the phrase “Why don’t you go back to where you came from” is specifically mentioned in EEOC documents as a textbook example of discrimination. A Textbook Example.

Yet, despite all the evidence to the contrary, 90% of his supporters claim that he is not a racist. It is like a Monty Python sketch where the man holding the dead parrot refuses to believe it is dead, despite all the evidence pointing to the parrot, indeed is dead.

Just a few years ago, Republicans tried to prove they were not a white’s only club because Abraham Lincoln was a Republican and well, look at what he did for black people.

Well, about that: Two recent studies have shown without doubt that Republican supporters, by and large, support this president not for typical economic reasons, but because they are afraid of losing their lily-white faced country to people that do not look like them. They are afraid of “the other.”

Pew Research data, published last week stated: “An analysis of ‘feeling thermometer’ ratings of Trump finds that attitudes about immigration, Islam and racial diversity are strongly associated with Republican voters’ views of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

Other political values — including opinions about whether the U.S. economic system is unfair and whether business profits are excessive — are less closely linked to feelings about Trump.”

Not surprisingly, other research has shown that the more one associates feelings that our nation is being taken over by “the other,” the greater the support of Trump.

Make America White Again should really be the slogan.

Maybe all Republicans aren’t all racists, but as the Chicago Tribune pointed out, supporting racism and those that are racist is just as bad as being one. Every single Republican that right now supports this president (who will no doubt go down in history as one of the worst we have ever had), is just as guilty as their fellow  North Carolinian GOP moral neanderthals for supporting his racist agenda. You don’t get a pass by saying “But yes, the economy is good.” You are not allowed to be a fair-economic weather racists.

Either you support racism, or you don’t. You either are Christian or you are not. It is that easy. You take the moral high road, or you take the low road. There is no middle ground here. Your choice Republicans. You can’t have it both ways.

When I was young, I was taught that I should respect the “Office” of the President, even if I didn’t like the president himself. Fair enough.

But as a child, I could not mentally separate the “Office” of the president from the person that was the president. The office and the person were one in the same. This is probably true today with our children, who are watching carefully what is happening.

The moral standard bearer for our nation is a racist and a bully.

“Someday little Sally, you could grow up to be the President of the United States” we used to tell our kids. What does that mean today? Do we even want our kids have that particular aspiration? What message is that sending? Someday, you too can be the biggest bully in the whole world? Someday, you can lead a convention hall full of haters in a hate chant? Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

School districts across the country spend millions and millions of dollars each year on “anti-bullying” and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum and teaching, trying to get across the message to our children that being a bully, being mean, and being rude to your fellow students, or anyone, is wrong.

It is a deep-seated message, founded, I suppose, in the idea that you should treat your neighbor with the same type of behavior that you want to be treated. It is the basis for most religions. It is in every school. It is the foundation, basically, for almost every single law that we have ever passed.

It is even the basis for the Melania Trump’s ironically named “Be Best” campaign.

Yet, here we are, trying to teach that message to our children that watch the news and see the president being a bully, being mean, being rude and treating his neighbors like caca almost on a daily message.

How can evangelicals, with a straight face, teach their children the words of Jesus who said to treat everyone with love, while at the same time claiming that this president was chosen by their god? Is racism, hate and bullying the message we want our children to see? Is that the type of behavior we want them to emulate?

How do we explain to them when they misbehave when they can point at a tv screen and say “but the president does it?”

Hopefully, there are enough parents and teachers out there that can use our current office holder as a negative example.

Trump is how NOT to behave.

Trump is what a bully looks and behave like.

Trump shows us how not to treat other people.

Trump shows us what our country is NOT about.

People that support Trump are examples of how NOT to behave.

Maybe that is how we make the difference.

Kids, this guy is a bad example of how to be a human, and this is how you should not behave. MAGA.

***

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: Kids Are Not Waiting For Us To Teach Them

Back in 2006, I was reintroduced to the concept that kids are not waiting around for the adults to teach them things that they want to learn.

Back then there was a popular YouTube video of Jeong-Hyun Lim, a 23 year old South Korean, who taught himself to play Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” and posted it online.

Here is what it looked like:

Since the video was posted, almost 3 million viewers have watched it. While that in itself was an impressive number, what happened after the video was posted was even more impressive: Thousands upon thousands of people, mostly younger, from across the globe, used that video to learn how to play Canon in D for themselves.

They then posted their efforts online, creating a huge online community of self-learners. The ones that struggled got tips from those that had mastered the piece. They old way of learning how to play a song on guitar went out the window.

Instead of buying a book, learning keys and chords, and progressing up from the “basics” to where they could tackle the more complicated piece, they jumped right over the beginning and right into the hard. It was amazing to see.

Even today, Youtube is full of people from around the world playing that singular piece of classical music in a variety of formats. But it all started, basically, with a 23 year old South Korean with little or no formal music training.

Educators across the world watched this phenomenon, and the more intune ones started to rethink their methodologies. Did learning always have to be scaffolded? (That practice of starting out slow and with “the basics” and moving slowly into the more complicated?) This video, and the accompanying videos uploaded by kids all across the world, seemed to indicated that perhaps that method was suspect at best, working for some, but not necessarily for all.

Why start at the basics when you can jump right into the more complicated? Why learn to add when you can already multiply? Why learn the alphabet when you can teach yourself to read?

Another interesting aspect of that video and its fallout was that the students were essentially blowing up the traditional learning model of having to rely on an in-house expert, a teacher for instance, in order to gain knowledge. The experts were wherever you could find them, in this case, YouTube or any social media.

Here, in practice not in theory, was a community of thousands of learners teaching themselves how to do a complicated task without the need or the want of a formal teacher. They simply logged in, watched the video, and imitated what they saw.

About the same time that the “Canon in D” video came out, another video surfaced of a young man, Nelson Smith, perhaps 10 or 11 years old, who was trying to learn how to start a fire using the bow drill method.

He was being terribly unsuccessful, and in desperation, he recorded himself trying and failing, and posting the video online. He asks the audience, the world, what he is doing wrong. Could someone help him?

Within 24 hours, he had over 2500 replies explaining to him what exactly he was doing incorrectly. Among the replies was a member of an Australian aboriginal tribe that explained to him that how to correct his mistakes, as well as a short history lesson on how aboriginal people had been doing this method of fire starting for thousands of years, and still do so to this day. (Did it strike you as odd that Australian aborigines had Youtube? It shouldn’t.)

What happened here? The learner completely skipped over the “traditional” learning styles and went straight to the experts, asking not his peers, not his teacher, but asking the WORLD to help him learn how to start his fire. Now, his example is not an exception.

Back then, it was used as an example of the changing face of learning. How many of us simply log into YouTube to seek how to do something, from changing the headlight on your car to speaking a new language? If you have to learn something, chances are there is a video or a website that explains how to do it.

Even you probably, have changed the way you learn. You probably no longer rely solely on books or libraries to get your information from. Want to learn how to plant corn, weave a basket or paint a watercolor? You probably go online to learn how.

Students have learned to use the new media for academic and non-academic purposes, mixing them in and out, interchangeably. And have taken the lead, finding, using, and sharing sites that can jump over the traditional methods of learning in a class setting.

They have run far in front of traditional learning styles that teachers are taught to teach with, not waiting any longer for the learning to come to them. Don’t understand how to integrate an equation?

Why wait for the teacher when Khan Academy has hundreds of videos? They are now going to the learning and becoming the defacto teachers. The teacher in the classroom is slowly no longer the only expert for students to access. Schools and libraries are no longer the only places for learning.

Smart teachers are learning to be more of a conductor of knowledge in their classroom learning symphony, directing students to the proper places to learn rather than simply being the sole source of information. This is something teacher preparation classes are still struggling with. We used to encourage teachers to move from being the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side.”

In other words, stop simply spouting the knowledge and start showing students how to access it on their own. There simply is too much information available now for any single teacher or school or school district to be the single arbiter of information.

That plea, started back in the 1980’s is now starting to come to life in schools across the country.

The students are forcing the issue, with the help of technology and the wellspring of common knowledge now easily accessible to anyone anywhere. It would be smart for schools and school districts to acknowledge the change has come and to shift the way we teach to match the way students are now learning. Otherwise teaching and teachers risk becoming anachronisms.

PS: as a side note: I could not locate the second video above, so I reached out to my professional online learning community, who was able to get me the link within less than 4 hours. Thanks to Will Richardson for the link @willrich45

***

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: 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: Librarians will restore your faith in America

It is easy to lose faith in America and the American way of life.

Politicians certainly don’t do much to reaffirm the ideals of the founding fathers. The judiciary seems impotent to stop incompetent or just evil political parties and policies (as recently demonstrated in their deferral on radical political gerrymandering).

People without means fall farther and farther behind those that do, thus ensuring that their slice of the American Dream Pie grows smaller and smaller until all they have to fight over are the crumbs from the crust.

And don’t get me started on religion, where the followers of the Christ, still the majority religion in this nation, who believe that our plot of land has some special embedded voodoo power from the invisible guy in the sky, seem to have forgotten or just choose to ignore almost every single thing that their prophet ever taught.

Meanwhile, we have gotten so used to kids getting shot up in schools, that it hardly gets a mention on the evening news because we are watching a bunch of brown kids being locked into chainlink holding cells, and any indignation is simply drowned out by the next outrage tweeted by the current grifter-in-chief.

It is easy to get discouraged. It is easy to forget that there is hope. It is easy to think and feel that our beloved country is stuck in a funk.

But there is hope.

I saw hope recently in Washington DC. And I saw it from an unlikely group of people, ones you would might not think would be leading the charge of keeping the the ideals of the American Dream alive. That group is America’s librarians.

The recent American Library Association conference, held late in June, was not only a celebration of all things reading as one would expect, but it was also a celebration of all of those things we think are are somehow being squashed by forces that we cannot control.

The ALA quite frankly used the 5 day event to give a giant collective middle finger, right there in the nation’s capitol, to anyone that says American ideals are on the way out.

(Image from Publishers Weekly)

ALA used their convention to showcase the ideals that our country is a collective of diverse ideals from a variety of voices and all ideas are welcome, not just those yelling the loudest.

Starting off the conference with a keynote speech from young adult author and poet Jason Reynolds who led the audience on a trip through the hood, why libraries are the true temples, and his award winning YA poetry and novels to the creation of his ‘Miles Morales – A YA Spider-Man Novel.”

Follow that up with a discussion from Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor who discussed how she used libraries to influence her life, Hoda Kotb addressed the conference as did “Sin City” and “300” creator Frank Miller, CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Mo Rocca and George Takei who silenced 6000 attendees with his description of being interred as a child in a Japanese American in a concentration camp in the California desert during World War 2 and how what happened to him and his family was similar to what is happening right this minute outside of El Paso in Clint Texas.

The message was clear to all: to present what we are as Americans, we present who Americas actually are: Black, Hispanic, Gay, Asian American, Egyptian American, white, male, female. ALA made it very clear in their choosing highlighted speakers: We, as a country, are truly a melting pot of ideas.

Perhaps Takei stated it best when he reminded the crowd that in Star Trek, where he played Mr. Sulu the starship’s helmsman, the concept of IDIC, Infinite Diversity through Infinite Combinations, was the reason that there was a representative from every populated continent on Earth as part of the cast, including an alien first officer.

That ideal from the 1960’s was alive and well on the main stage at ALA.

Of course, if it were just the speakers, one could dismiss that as mere coincidence, but the entire conference was a celebration of the creative spirit with literally hundreds of authors, illustrators, graphic artists, comedians, actors all blended together.

Walking down the isles of the exhibition halls, one could find not only graphic novels with traditional white male heroes, but female heroes, gay heroes, minority super heroes, lesbian and transgender super heroes, asian and latin American superheroes, and on and on and on.

Creativity was welcomed, as much as diversity. White male middle aged authors creating characters that defied characterization used to be left in the realm of Science Fiction.

At ALA, and soon at a bookstore near you, reading materials from the totality of the American experience will be offered to you. This conference was more about the gifted talents of Americans than any GT-specific conference I have ever attended.

Within walking distance of the ALA conference, the National Mall, with it’s museums and monuments, stands as a testament to the American Dream.

One can’t help but notice that these great museums are shrines to the creativity and diversity of all of the American people, not just a select white, rich few.

Art, culture, race, technology, and history all are on display for anyone to experience. All are reminders to what diversity and creativity and drive can accomplish if freely allowed to do so.

So too was the ALA convention just down the street.

Librarians, leading the way, showing the rest of us what America should continue strive to be. We are, as a nation, better together.

E Pluribus Unum.

Thank you librarians.

Lead on.

***

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: Arsonists that put out their own fire

By now, you probably have heard that the just-concluded Texas legislative session included a massive $11 billion piece of legislation that overhauls many of the long-ignored issues in the state’s public education system.

Good for them.

Republican Governor “They Can Pry the Guns from My Cold Dead Hands” Abbott along with far Right radio host turned Lieutenant Guv “I wish I was Rush Limbaugh” Patrick, flanked by other right winged leaders of the state, made quite a show when signing the bill at a public elementary school (a place many of them have tried avoid like a Honduran asylum seeker coming over the Laredo border crossing).

The Republican Party is taking credit and calling itself the “party that gets things done (Expect that branding or something similar, to be used in the 2020 election.) Look kids, we passed some legislation like you elected us to do! We get things done!™.

Abbott stated at the bill signing: “You could not overstate the magnitude of the law that I’m about to sign because this is a monumental moment in public education history in the state of Texas. We did something that was considered to be highly improbable, and that is to be able to transform public education in the state of Texas without a court order forcing us to do so.”

The law, House Bill 3 (HB3) which includes increase in funding per student from the state, a teacher pay raise, property tax relief, and a controversial merit pay provision, pumps badly needed dollars back into a system that, for the most part, the exact same one Republican legislature has done its best over the years to slowly dismantle.

So they plugged some of the the holes on the leaky dyke of Texas public education that they have purposely ignored for years and have actually created most of the holes themselves. What heroes they are. They really “Get Things Done!™”

In their orgasmic celebration of actually doing something useful, they seem to have collectively forgotten:

  • The billions of dollars that were eliminated from the public schools during the 2011 session that just now, HB3 makes up for, almost a decade later?
  • The emphasis on Charter schools over the past 4 or 5 legislative sessions, where public schools had to fight for scraps like vultures while rabid Republicans engorged themselves on the ideas of funding charter schools at the expense of public schools and attempting to create a voucher system?
  • Finally, that for almost the exact amount of time that the Republicans have been running the show in Austin, the state and federal courts have consistently ruled that the funding measures have been unconstitutional, and that students living in property poor districts have chronically been unequally funded compared to their property rich peers?

The Texas Republicans have, with HB3, tried to fix a set of problems that they themselves, over a period of decades, had created and then take credit for undoing the damage as if they were some kind of Anne Sullivan miracle workers.

Lookie here kiddos: We gave tax relief to overburdened local tax payers that we created because we didn’t want to pay for education using state tax dollars. Aren’t we good?™ We Get Things Done!™

Indeed, Abbott will use this “historic victory” as some kind of legislative miracle that only he and the other Republicans were able to accomplish. “We did something that was considered to be highly improbable…” Abbott said about the legislation.

This “miracle” is not unlike the arsonist who sets the fire, and then claims to be a hero for putting it out. This tactic seems to be a popular one with Republicans these days, as we have seen from the Trump administration which has created quite a few “fires” that it then tries to put out, saying that only their administration was capable of such a feat.

We have seen this from the manufactured crisis on the southern border that to the phony tariff war with China. (Don’t be surprised if a fake war with Iran is started as another fire that will be started to divert attention away from domestic legal issues.)

And while I suppose we should be somewhat grateful to the Republicans for even attempting to partially fix the education problems that they themselves created, one can’t help but wonder if they would have done ANYTHING had it not been for the recent gains of Democrats in the Texas house after the 2018 election.

Did Beto’s near defeat of “Look-at-me-now am-sexy-because-I-have-a-beard™” Cruz have something to do with their all-of-a-sudden come to Jesus moment of needing to reform education? Surely if they could have passed HB3 in 2019, they could have done so in 2017, or ’15, or ’13, or ’11…You get the idea.

They have controlled both houses of the Texas legislature for decades. Why now? What makes 2019 special? Perhaps the pictures of all those angry teachers marching on various state capitols because THEIR Republican controlled legislatures screwed them for years made some of those good old boys take notice.

More probably, the recent shift from red to purple in a once solid sea of crimson had more to do with it than any type of compassionate feelings towards Texas teachers or children.

Only time, and the 2020 election, will tell.

***

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: Too much technology for parents to handle?

I once was asked to answer questions from a TV report about Ed-tech in the classroom.

“Does your district provide classes or help for parents who are not comfortable with technology?”

We had recently just completed a 1:1 roll out in our schools, and had also moved towards digital textbooks. The implication of the question, at least in my mind, was that the technology was difficult to understand, and the school district should provide some kind of training for parents so that they could work with their children.

It sounds like a great idea. At least at first.

I got to thinking about the question a lot. I tried to think of another area in school where parents might be given instruction about how to use the tools their children are being asked to use. I could not think of a single one, although I am sure they are out there somewhere.

For instance, suppose my child is taking band. Do we teach parents how to play the instruments so that they can help their children during practice?

Do we give parents lessons on modern dance to help their children with a complex dance routine?

Do we train parents for basic academic topics? Do we tutor parents on Algebra, American Government, Calculus, or Physics? No, we do not. To any of the above examples.

Would that type of training even be helpful? I don’t think so. Here is why: Student use all kinds of technology to get to a single answer. For instance they might solve a Algebra homework question by using Wolfram Alpha, or Khan Academy, or Hippocampus.org.

The list is endless.

There is no way a school could say to a parent “here is the only way to help your child with this algebra problem.” It would be an exercise in futlity. The better exercise would be to teach students how to search for help, how to collaborate on questions, and how to use tools like Skype to work together after hours.

Then explain to their parents WHAT students will be doing, how to watch them online, and how to set expectations for technolgoy use at home.

I know that school districts all over the place, and even schools by themselves, give “parent training” on the basics of technology. Usually, these classes center around how to use a computer, how to surf the internet, how to fill out online forms, etc. They help non-technical parents function at a low level in a technical workforce.

Yet, I dont think that these are all that useful for parents to work with their children unless the lessons given to the parents are tied to the lessons the students are learning in the classroom. In most cases, they are not. They are the basics of technology use.

The children have a greater understanding of the technology by what they use in the classroom and with their peers.

Many districts does provide videos for students on how to use the very basics of the technology they are getting and parents could access those videos. Most districts have cyber safety tips for parents as well.

The general education public still does not see technology as an integrated piece of the learning culture, but rather an add on; Tech is not as a pencil, but as a pencil sharpener. That needs to change.

Tech in the classroom is here to stay, and is designed to transform learning when used correctly.

Parents need to get on board and learn how to help their children use technology, as much as they help teach their children how to hold a book and write.

***

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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