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Home | Tag Archives: tim holt

Tag Archives: tim holt

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.

Op-Ed: Cruel Pedagogy – Adding to the List

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

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

The ten “cruel pedagogy” practices he listed are:

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

2. Talk at your students

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

4. Insist on there being only one right answer

5. Ensure there is no time for questions and discussion

6. Test and grade regularly

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

8. Assign copious amounts of homework

9. Compartmentalize knowledge so students can’t make connections

10. Ban the use of all technology from your classroom

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

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

12. Don’t allow for creativity in student work

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

14. Mumble to yourself and speak away from the students

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

16. Tell advanced students that they should intuitively understand

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

18. Never accept late work

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

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

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

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

23. Dismiss technology as “gizmos and gadgets”

24. Never ask for feedback from students

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

26. Use lecture as your primary means of conveying information

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

28. Take points off academic work for discipline issues

29. Never meet with student’s parents

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

31. Include your personal problems in your lectures

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

33. Never relate what you are doing to current events

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

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

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

37. Never give students a big picture of learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those are the teachers we must celebrate.

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

***

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

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

Op-Ed: Every District Should Offer Students Online Classes

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

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

“Sondra Lopez, Online Student.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Op-Ed: Advice for Graduates: Learn to Play Scrabble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good enough for you to win.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So really the “deals” aren’t deals.

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

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

Otherwise, meh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This idea is not without precedent.

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

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

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

That is a great example of actually supporting teachers.

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

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

Now that’s a good deal!

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Op-Ed: Charter School Funding – It is a Scam

It is not difficult to log onto any local political blog and read commenters complaining about how “their” tax dollars are being misspent.

Typically, the complaints are accompanied by claims of corruption, mismanagement, evil doing and all sorts of back door, smoky room wheeling and dealing.

It has to be true they might say, because they once knew a friend of a friend who used to work in a department that was down the hall from wherever the mismanagement de-jour happens to be taking place who heard a guy at the next urinal in the restroom talking on his cell phone about it.

One thing is clear however, these folks really don’t like it when government entities spend tax dollars on things that they don’t think is worthy.

Public school districts are especially ripe targets, mainly I think, because most of the folks commenting are far removed from being in school and have no real skin in the game other than, at least in Texas, the property taxes that go towards educating our children.

One wonders then, with all the concern about misspent tax payer dollars among this group, why there is no hue and cry from local political bloggers about a recent report that outlined how Public Charter Schools have wasted over ONE BILLION dollars of taxpayer money over the past few years through a Federal program designed to expand charter schools throughout the nation.

The Report, “Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Recklessly Takes Taxpayers and Students for a Ride,” details how a Federal program, the Charter Schools Program or CSP, designed to increase the number of Charter Schools (something championed and administered by the inept Secretary of Education Betsy DeVoss) across the country has literally handed billions of dollars to the charter school industry without any kind of followup or regulation. (Remember that charter schools , while still quasi-public schools, are in fact businesses, not unlike any private business you can think of.)

Among the findings of the report:

Between 2009-2016 close to one in four of the awarded grantee Charter schools either never opened their doors to begin with, or closed, leaving their students and parent to fend for themselves.

Between 2006-2014, the program’s own data showed that one out of three were out of business by 2015. In California, the state with the most charter schools, 306 charter schools received money, 75 never opened their doors and of the ones that did, 39% closed.

The Department of Education (DOE) provided no oversight of the grants, and simply allowed the awardees to take the money and do as they saw fit. In other words, the DOE actually assisted in the scam, never asking for a return of the money, never even checking to see that the money was spent according to the awardee’s grant application.

The program works like this: Once an award is given by the Feds, the money is sent to the State, where the State Education Agency oversees the dissemination of the funds. Once the money is given to the states, the DOE, in the words of Tony Soprano, pretty much “fugetaboutit.”

Among the scammers, according to the report’s co-author Jeff Bryant writing in AlterNet were a “Michigan charter that isn’t a charter at all, it’s a Baptist church—to the artfully deceptive—like the Hawaii charter that received a grant in 2016 and still hasn’t opened, doesn’t have a location, and its charter hasn’t even been approved.”

Perhaps the worst case scenario was the “Innovative Schools Development Company” in Delaware that won multiple awards beginning in 2013, never opened a school until 2015, continued to receive over $2 million in grant funds, closed it’s one school that was open due to low enrollment and poor management , yet somehow still was able to apply and receive additional CSP grants even though THEY HAD GONE OUT OF BUSINESS.

In Texas, the New York Times recently reported on the CSP-funded East Austin College Prep, where vermin invaded offices and classrooms. The roof leaked. Yet for all this, the school paid almost $900,000 in annual rent to its landlord who is also its founder, Southwest Key Programs, the nation’s largest provider of shelters for migrant children who you may remember ran the Migrant Shelter in far east El Paso country for a time. The federal charter grant program gave the school a grant to start the school through its Texas state grant administer by the Texas Education Agency.

Locally, the IDEA Charter Schools have also received part of their funding through the CSP, to expand programs across Texas including El Paso. But that is another column altogether.

It is a scam. It is a grift program, without oversight or transparency. No one knows who the reviewers for the grants are, nor who is in charge of dispersing funds.

Yet, not surprisingly, President Trump’s 2020 budget proposes increasing funding for the charter grant program by 13.6 percent, from $440 to $500 million, and DeVos, who never met a charter school she didn’t orgasm over, praised this increase as a step forward for “education freedom.”

Indeed, in a recent Congressional hearing DeVoss, when confronted with the facts of the amount of waste and fraud occurring in the program simply responded …we need more charter schools, not less.“.”

The rich get richer at the expense of the taxpayer, who in essence are paying private businesses to open or stay open despite the fact that there is no research to show that there is any kind of need or want.

So come on self proclaimed indignant taxpaying watchdogs! Get on the ball! Start making some noise about the Ponzi scheme racket that is going on right under your noses in the name of “education choice” being funded by the Federal Government and administered by the state of Texas.

This is exactly the corruption, mismanagement, evil doing and all sorts of back door, smoky room wheeling and dealing that you love to blog and complain about. No tin foil hat required. The heavy lifting has been done for you.

These are “your” tax dollars actually being wasted.

Where is your outrage?

***

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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