5 Educators I’m Thankful to Know – 2K17 Edition

Since the inception of my blog, I have shared stories of hundreds of educators from around the world who are really going at it and are making a difference. From aggressive technology implementation to calculated, brilliant writing, there are so many people I am thankful to know in our craft.  Here are five of them.

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Kevin Blondina – I mentioned Kevin in a post earlier this year, but I really can’t put into words how great of a person this man is.  On a board of education from Northern NJ, Kevin is a board member for all the right reasons–no axes to grind, no political objectives, just one of the nicest people I’ve ever met who cares deeply about his community and only wants to have the best available for the residents of his town. His wisdom, experience, and insight into the role of a board president are priceless.  Thank you, Kevin, for always being willing to listen and share.

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Rebecca Coda / Rick Jetter – OK, this is two people, but not really!  Coda & Jetter put out one of the most powerful, meaningful books in education that is an essential read for today’s leaders. The book is more than a collection of stories; it brings people of all walks, ages, and positions together and allows them to bond, grow stronger, and move forward. I took a good “dunking” this past year from what I called an “education coup.”  It turns out that I am far from the only one who was in such a position. Coda & Jetter helped me refocus, recharge, and reemerge as the educational game changer for which I have been nationally recognized.  I am, and will always be, eternally thankful for them. You can follow Rebecca on Twitter at @RebeccaCoda and Rick at @RickJetter.  You can order their best-selling book here.

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David Culberhouse –  I “met” David via Twitter a few years ago when I was exposed to his blog and tweets about the interchangings of school leadership and how schools, as we know them, are evolving. His writing is both infectious and brilliant. David is one of the most personable, dynamic, and powerful writers out there, period. You can follow him on Twitter at @DCulberhouse and read his blog here.

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Carl Hooker – Carl is one of the coolest dudes around.  Why?  You can read all about it here. I’m beyond thankful for Carl’s commitment to education, his passion for technology, and his knack for finding out all things awesome in education. One of the best conferences I went to this past year was #iPadalooza, and I am beyond excited to see what he pumps out next.  And, yes, his last name is Hooker. You can follow him on Twitter at @mrhooker.

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Nancy Horvat – Nancy is a first-year administrator but had a prior life as an educator.  (If you’re an administrator, you understand this; if you’re not, there is a slight transformation process, to say the least). Nancy and I also worked together for a few years in another district. From our lengthy and comical conversations about “the land of make-believe,” to dealing with important staffing issues, to helping her navigate her first year as an administrator, it’s been a blast to say the least.  One of the qualities for which I am thankful is her insight and knowledge about how unprofessional (and quite frankly, dumb) it is to spread and report incorrect information, especially to vendors and staff.  We’ve seen it happen too many times and know how embarrassing it is to a school and/or the person doing it.  Knowing that she doesn’t go around and talk before things are done is a blessing and one of her biggest attributes. I am also thankful for her never-ending supply of candy and her anti-attitude of “throwing people under the bus.”  Keep at it!

I’m wishing everyone a wonderful, happy, healthy Thanksgiving.

Onward!

 

 

 

 

Click Barns, Sock Puppets & Troll Factories

The 2017 YouTube video #Socialnomics has recently reported that we are preparing almost 30% of students for jobs that don’t exist yet.  I’ve always wondered what kind of jobs they could be.  Sadly, we are learning about them in today’s times.

I was exposed to three new terms this year that didn’t exist years ago:

  • Click Barns
  • Sock Puppeting
  • Troll Factories

For those that don’t know about these, I wanted to share them, as these terms are creeping into education practices, but have been more prevalent in politics and news.

 

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A clickfarm.| image credit: bbc.co.uk

 

Ever wonder how something gets so many website hits or how it’s ‘liked’ by so many people? Look no further than a click farm. Click farms are offices/apartments that house hundreds of cell phones and thousands of SIM cards.  People and/or businesses that are looking to have search terms rise or fall can get click farms to change how you view products or people. Knowing that 90% of people do no go past the first page when a google search is conducted (Wressics, 2016), “pushing down” a search term is easier than ever.  Here’s the catch – it’s illegal; you’re manipulating data to reflect a false impression.  There are people now dedicated to finding the patterns of this practice and working with police to eliminate them.

 

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Sock puppets in action. |image credit: showtime.com/homeland 

 

If you ever watched the Showtime television series Homeland, you heard about sock puppets in the 2016 season.  Sock puppets are groups of people hired to create accounts (like the click farms above) of every rang of social media known to us as we know it, and then comment on various articles, news websites, blogs, and other topics to boost a search topic or sway an image. This may sound familiar, as Russia has been accused of doing this to sway the 2016 presidential election. You can watch sock puppets in action by clicking here.

 

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A troll farm in Europe. | image credit: reuters.com

 

The third term that has and is causing quite a problem in the online world is troll farm. Troll farms are like sock puppets, but their goal is not to just sway opinion, but incite hatred or anger. Troll farm employees are hired to deliberately cause/create conflict on a website, blog, or online forum. They do this by posting comments that are provocative or inflammatory. Troll farms have been confirmed on national news websites that typically show news in one angle (i.e. Fox News, MSNBC) and have been found to be at local news online stories as well. It should also be no surprise that all of the names that are created are just that; names. Less than 2% of people use their actual name as a username online.

A New Jersey Education Association executive once told me that education has changed more in the past 6 years than 60. I thought it said a lot coming from her; educators, in general, don’t like to acknowledge change, especially when they are comfortable in a routine (I know firsthand, I was one). With these new job creations, we all need to be cognizant of these changes so that our learners are aware of these things. The learner today has had the internet and social media presence in their lives for 100%. Scary as it may be, it is what it is, and we must be ready; our future depends on it.

 

@EitnerEDU Launches a New Podcast…from the Hot Tub!

Eitner Education debuts in its’ new podcast called “The Tub”! Each episode will feature a trend in schools, a trending book in education, and something to turnkey into your educational lifestyle. This podcast is for all leaders, teachers, and everyone in between.

My first podcast features Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter, co-authors of “Escaping the School Leaders Dunk Tank”, which is available on amazon, Barnes & Noble, and classy bookstores everywhere!

I hope you enjoy this; thanks for coming on the journey with me!

About The Authors

Dr.  Rick Jetter  is an Educational Consultant, Speaker & Trainer, and Multi-Genre Author. He was a solid “D+” student in 7th grade and he has a cool dog, named George Jetter. Dr. J. also types faster (with two index fingers) than he talks. Dr. J. is interested in all types of topics–especially the ones that no one wants to truly take on (even though they say they do while their fingers are crossed behind their backs).

For more information about the book, Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank: How to Prevail When Others Want to See You Drown, visit http://www.leadershipdunktank.com

Dr. J. has also successfully worked with other authors on their ideas and creative concepts by offering book concept and writing strategies through his own unique coaching process.

He is the founder of and lead consultant at RJ Consultants.

Rebecca Coda is the founder of the Digital Native Network. http://www.digitalnativenetwork.net She currently serves as a STEM Coach, weekly contributing columnist for School Leader’s Now, and article contributor on LinkedIn. She has over 18 years’ experience in education as a teacher, ELA curriculum and assessment writer, and technology program leader. Rebecca is a National Board Certified Teacher & Arizona K12 Center Master Teacher. She is a Christian and lives each day by faith, hope, and love.

Interested in hopping into the tub? Join me on my podcasting journey!

 

Dual Enrollment? Yep.

The face of education is changing each and every day.  Things that were not even crossing our minds five years ago are now expected. One of those things is dual enrollment.  Never heard of it?  Read below. 

Note: This post is available in original form at http://www.straighterline.com/blog/what-is-dual-enrollment/  and was composed by Beth Dumbauld of straighterline.com. 


What is dual enrollment, and is it something aspiring college students should do? If you are a high school student who wants to get some or all of your college core courses completed by the time you graduate high school, there are several things you’ll need to do to get started.

You’ll want to know exactly what your state requires — minimum GPA, the number of courses or hours you can take, whether or not the college or university you want to attend accepts all or only some of your dual enrollment courses and much, much more.

The requirements can be quite different from state to state. Not all colleges and universities unconditionally accept dual enrollment courses for credit. We have some resources for you to read that will help you figure out what your state requires and how you can start the dual enrollment process.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, dual enrollment is defined as “…students enroll in postsecondary coursework while also enrolled in high school…”or put another way, it is when high school students (usually juniors and seniors) earn college credits while enrolled in separate courses that are not part of their high school curriculum. This is known as concurrent enrollment. You may also see “early college” as a way to describe dual enrollment.

Dual credit” refers to students who earn academic credits at two institutions — their high school and a college or university that participates in dual enrollment programs.

Some typical classes that are offered for dual enrollment courses include:

If you are a home-schooled student and are interested in dual enrollment classes, you’re also eligible to take them, as long as you meet all of your state’s requirements.

Why Should I Consider Dual Enrollment?

There are several reasons why high school students should work with their parents and school to participate in dual enrollment programs. These benefits include:

  • Getting multiple credits either at a reduced cost or free, depending upon state programs
  • Save money on tuition costs, which will reduce total student debt for college grads
  • Allow economically disadvantaged students the opportunity to take college level courses through state programs– an opportunity they might not otherwise have
  • The dual enrollment classes high school students take may transfer to higher education institutions, depending upon the school
  • High school students who complete dual enrollment classes that are accepted for graduation requirements could graduate early and get a head start in beginning their careers
  • Many dual enrollment classes are offered online, so if the college or university you are interested in is not within driving distance, you can still take their classes

According to Jackie Weisman, a Program Associate with Sonjara, Inc., ” I was a dual enrollment student as a high school junior and senior (2000, 2001) at Chesapeake Community College and I truly feel like it gave me a leg up on the ‘college experience’. I remember at the time feeling like I was being given a taste of what college would be like from registering, purchasing books and actually attending and successfully completing the classes.”

However, there can be some drawbacks to participating in dual enrollment programs:

  • Students who are heavily involved in athletics or other extracurricular activities may find they don’t have enough time to do well in dual enrollment courses
  • Not completing, or getting a poor grade in dual enrollment courses are part of the high school transcript; this could negatively impact the student’s ability to get accepted at the college of her choice
  • Depending upon the school, dual enrollment courses may not be accepted for credit; without doing some research into the courses and the schools a student wants to attend, this could end up wasting time taking classes that won’t count
  • High school teachers who teach dual enrollment courses may not be as qualified as professors at the college or university level; your knowledge may not be as in-depth at the end of the course.

It seems like participating in dual enrollment programs carry some risk! However, this article goes over the basics at a high level, and there are resources you can research and find out exactly what the requirements are for your state and school. Before you commit to completing dual enrollment courses, be honest with yourself and look at your school schedule and lifestyle.

Do you have the time, energy and motivation to complete dual enrollment courses? Is tutoring help available in case you get stuck on understanding course concepts?

If you said “Yes” to this, then read on!

Who Is Eligible To Take Dual Enrollment Courses?

According to the Education Commission of the States, most states require potential dual enrollment participants to be in either the 10th or the 11th grade. However, some states waive this requirement if a student is considered to be gifted. Several states require a minimum GPA, including Alabama, Florida and Louisiana. Some of these specify a GPA of 2.0 out of 4.0.

States like Hawaii, California and New Mexico require written approval and recommendation from school officials for dual enrollment participation. Students in Oregon, Ohio and Kentucky must meet post-secondary admission requirements before being allowed to take dual enrollment courses. These requirements may vary from college to college, so you’ll need to work with the appropriate admissions office to get specifics.

Want to try an online class? Take two free lessons on us today!

How Do I Get Started On Attending Dual Enrollment Courses?

The process varies from state-to-state. In general, students should discuss their interest with parents and school officials. Multiple states require minimum scores on tests like PSAT, ACT or college placement tests. These states include Arizona, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Other states do not have documented processes, so students in these states Alaska, Georgia and the District of Columbia.

Open enrollment is not an option. Threshold requirements exist to ensure students have the best possible chance of successfully completing course requirements to earn a passing grade.

Is There A Limit On Dual Enrollment Courses I Can Take?

There are wildly varying limits, depending upon which state the student is in. In general, the caps on taking dual enrollment classes tend to be high, so it would be difficult to max out for most high school students. Some states have no set state policy, such as Alabama, Delaware, Missouri, Nebraska, and Arkansas. Florida states a student must be enrolled to earn at least 12 credit hours, but not more than 15 per semester. Iowa caps the number at 24 semester hours per academic year. Minnesota does not define hours but defines caps in course work years.

How Are Grades Calculated For Dual Enrollment Courses?

It is up to individual school districts to develop and apply a weighted grade or score on high school transcripts. Examples include Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Before enrolling in dual courses, review the grading/weighting/scoring criteria and methods with your individual school district. You should also discuss dual enrollment course grading with the college/university admissions offices you are considering applying to.

How Hard Are Dual Enrollment Courses?

If you already have completed challenging high school courses, you should feel confident about tackling college class work for dual enrollment purposes. However, unlike high school, where you go to class every day, most college and university courses only meet once or twice a week. In between times, you are expected to read and understand large amounts of textbook content, so you’ll need to budget time during the day and evening to keep up with the course pace.

If the textbook is hard to understand, you will need to make time to email or call the professor or find a tutor to help you. Tutoring will cost extra money, so consider how you would accomplish this.

Another consideration for dual enrollment courses is that you may have fewer projects to complete, but each one has a large percentage of your final grade. If you miss one major assignment, this could cause you to fail the class.

This is not to discourage you from taking dual enrollment classes but be realistic in your time and expectations.

Want to see how it works? Take two free lessons on us today!

Does Taking Dual Enrollment Courses Help Me During The Admissions Process?

If you’re considering taking dual enrollment classes, you need to research the admissions process for the colleges or universities you are interested in. For example, some colleges consider dual enrollment courses to be “double dipping.” If you don’t carefully research before taking the classes, you could find that your time and energy would have been better spent doing other things!

Are you a student athlete who wants to compete in your sport at the college or university level? There are NCAA considerations you need to understand. For example, if you want to take dual enrollment classes at a community college, but plan on attending a major university, those community college credits may impact your eligibility to play competitively. In addition, those credits may not be accepted for graduation purposes at the larger college or university. Again, doing some research and asking questions ahead of time may save you from being negatively impacted.

On the other hand, taking dual enrollment courses casts you in a favorable light, because you’ve shown motivation and initiative in demonstrating how committed you are to getting a college education.

Kristen Moon of Moon Prep LLC said ” As an independent college counselor, I always get the questions: “Will this help me with the admissions process? The answer is yes. Dual enrollment programs show initiative on the part of the student. It also shows a love of learning and an eagerness to challenge yourself. With the college admissions process more competitive than ever, students need an edge and dual enrollment can provide one.”

Some Final Words On Dual Enrollment Courses

You can see there are many advantages and benefits to researching on, planning for and completing dual enrollment courses. Here’s how you do it:

  • Talk to your school officials and find out everything you need to do in order to qualify for taking dual enrollment classes
  • Research the colleges and universities you’re considering applying to — get in-depth information from the admissions offices on whether or not credits fully transfer and if you are impacting your eligibility requirements by taking dual enrollment classes
  • Look at your schedule to see if you can budget enough time to successfully take and pass dual enrollment classes
  • If everything looks right for your situation, enroll and attend classes

Are you ready to explore dual enrollment requirements and qualifications now? Here’s an in-depth guide that breaks down eligibility requirements for each state.

The Tech Conductor

Below is a post that was written by Jeffrey Bradbury.  I have been very proud to call Jeff a colleague and great friend since we met at the first EdCampNJ in 2012.  Since then, Jeff has helped me navigate the educational seas on a myriad of levels, ranging from creating a new district website to offering in-person professional development to support staff. Read his great post below:

The other day, I had a technology coach from a neighboring school district visit my school and shadow me for the day.  It was a fantastic experience and something that I hope to be able to do with other districts this year and beyond.  The teacher and I had a great day of learning from one another, but I couldn’t help but use the day to reflect on many of our common conversation topics.  One of the deep conversations we had was around the simple question: “What is a Tech Coach?

Rather than use this post as an opportunity to dive into what a Tech Coach is, and what a Technology Integration Specialist is, I would like to propose a question to my readers that might shed some light on how I have approached these titles and my current position for the last two years.  The question is one that might sound strange, but those knowing my background might find quite interesting.  Should I consider myself a Tech Coach … or a Tech Conductor?

Let’s dive into this topic …

Everything I Know … I learned From The Podium

It’s no secret that my background is in Music Education.  I have countless memories of rehearsal sessions, and amazing performances of the worlds greatest pieces of music.  About 10 years ago (or more) I decided that I wanted to get up and instead of sitting in the orchestra, I wanted to start down a path that allowed me to stand in front of the orchestra and work along side them to perform sonata’s, symphonies, and operas.

It was during that time that I started taking formal conducting lessons from several amazing teachers.  From there, I learned how to physically stand and present myself to not only an orchestra, but a paying audience, and of course work along side a board of directors to help promote my vision, the orchestras vision, and most importantly, the composers visions.

Of all the things that I learned in the world of conducting, these lessons stand out:

  • The conductor is the only one on stage that doesn’t make noise, yet his actions are what tie the group together
  • The musicians don’t need a conductor to know what to do. A conductors job is simply to start everyone and guide them through transitions.
  • Treat every musician with respect, but understand that different instruments require different needs.

It has been through these lessons that I approach every day as a Tech Coach.  It is through these lessons that I find myself more becoming a Tech Conductor.  Let me try and explain how these lessons can be applied in a school system.

From Podium To Classroom … and Back Again

When you break down everything that happens on the podium, it starts and stops with the simple concept of Respect.  I can honestly say that I have my good days and I have had my bad days as I learn how to be a Tech Coach to over 400 staff members.  As a conductor, you have your good days and bad days too.  You have your rehearsals where everything goes well, and you have those times where someone puts you on the spot in a rehearsal and you simply don’t know the answer.  This happens in the classroom all the time.

What is important is that you come prepared to every rehearsal, meeting, classroom, as prepared as possible.  If you don’t know the answer to a question, you always make sure you have a resource (your PLN) that can help you find the answer quickly.

From early on in my conductor training, I learned that the word Maestro is one that gets placed upon you from day one, but the concept of Maestro, a word that literally translates into Teacher, (or coach) is one that is earned day after day, rehearsal after rehearsal and is earned only through respect.  This is extremely true for Technology Coaches who not only work with everyone in a district at all levels, but must also be walking talking resource centers of technology and pedagogy that are essentially on call 24/7.

You Are The Only One Who Doesn’t Make Any Sound

In an orchestra setting, the violin players, play the violin, the tuba players play the tuba, and the bass players play the bass.  Each of these musicians or groups of musicians has an instrument that they can pick up anytime and practice.  A Conductor on the other hand has the orchestra.  There is no try way to practice late at night with an imaginary group of 50 people.  The preparation for Conductors is mostly mental and requires you to study scores of music and practice “gestures” in the air, sometimes in front of mirrors to make sure that the one single time you are in front of a group you get it right.

As a Tech Coach, it is very much the same.  Teachers have the opportunity to learn from their students every day.  They learn how their classrooms work, act, and interact with each other.  As a Tech Coach, you have just one moment to walk into a classroom and nail your lesson.  When you are given an opportunity to present in front of a building, you are given an opportunity to showcase your self in front of 150 (or more) strangers who are all there to learn from, and support you. They know you are in front of them to help them become better educators, but there might not be the same friendly connection that a teacher and a group of students has, or a principal and a faculty have.

Walking into a building to give PD is very much like bring asked to come into a new orchestra and guest conduct a rehearsal or performance without ever getting to meet the musicians.

Your Teachers … They Don’t Need You

Let’s face the fact that teachers have been teaching for hundreds of years without the need for a “Technology Integration Specialist.”  They don’t need “Tech Coaching.”  But … do they?

One of the first rules of conducting is … Show Up When Needed, and Get Out Of The Way …

There are times when you can simply tell a musician how to play something, times when you can describe a sound, and times where you have to grab an instrument from the violin section and demonstrate for a group.

This couldn’t be more truer as a Tech Coach.  There are times where I have worked with a teacher and my role was simply to answer a question or two and back away.  Other situations have lead me to helping them create a co-teaching lesson where together, we worked with the students on an innovative lesson.

In the classroom, the role of a Tech Coach is to quickly enter and assess a situation and provide whatever the teacher needs when they need it.  Perhaps it’s by simply answering a question and other times it’s by picking up the instrument to demonstrate how something should look or sound.

If you choose the right method of support, the group/teacher will appreciate your help and together the rehearsal/lesson will move forward.  If you choose the wrong method at the wrong time, you are libel to insult someone and create a situation you never intended to have started. As a Conductor and as a Tech Coach, it’s always important to know the personalities you are working with so you can quickly make the right decisions and choices.

Some Teachers Are Section Players … Some Are Soloists

If you really think about it, a school district is very much like an orchestra. To conceptualize this, lets break down the different parts of each.

The Orchestra

Violin SectionThe Strings

In the front of a symphony orchestra lies a massive section known as the Strings.  All together, their instruments are in the “violin family.” Their instruments look similar, they play with a bow, and there could be as many as 24 of the same instrument in each of the 5 distinct sections.  Together, they can be broken down into string quartets, trios, and often, composers write for them as either a full section, or as soli sections. Each of the subsections (violins, viola, cells, bass) are seated by rank (ability level) and there is a section leader who is for conversation sake, “the boss” of that section.

The Winds

The next group of musicians behind the strings is the Woodwinds. This section is composed of your Flutes, Oboes, Clarinets, and Bassoons.  They are your mid range, mid level instruments who are put in the awkward position of sitting behind the massive string section, yet they sit in front of the might brass and percussion sections so it’s often possible that while playing loud and proud they don’t get heard when the entire group is playing together.

Winds and BrassThe Brass, Percussion, etc …

Composed of the Trumpets, Trombones, and Tubas, Drums, Marimbas, Cymbals and all other instruments these musicians are highly specialized and are only in your group because, like the winds, they passed an audition based on their ability to be leaders and soloists.  When addressing these musicians a conductor should simply be able to describe in as few words as possible the sound or quality they wish to hear and it should happen with as little retakes as possible.  These are HIGHLY skilled and trained musicians who spend hours in a practice room learning what is known as “excerpts” or very tiny solo passages just to have the opportunity to audition for the group.

A School District

Elementary Teachers

Elementary Teachers, should be approached as a group. In any building, for example, you have several 4th grade teachers all teaching their own class, but teaching a common curriculum to the classroom next door.  They meet in departments to plan common activities but they often do their lesson plans on their own.  When you work with one and not the others, it is often not looked highly on. Sometimes it’s best to talk about concepts such as blended learning, or SAMR models, but they are also the first to allow a Tech Coach to pick up their instrument (classroom) and come in to demonstrate something new and amazing in the world of Technology.

Elementary teachers often have degrees in general elementary education rather than a specialized degree in a subject area and for that reason it’s often best to show a wide variety of examples and build lessons together.  Elementary Teachers and Buildings should be approached the same way a string section is approached.  It’s always best when you are able to demonstrate the concept as well as describe.

Middle School

Much like the proud woodwinds, Middle School teachers are caught between elementary and high school teachers. They have the hardest job because without them students don’t have a solid direction when they get into the older grades.  Also much like the Woodwinds, Middle School teachers are soloists who often times are remembered the most when a student looks back at their favorite years in school  Their hardest job is that they often have to work with a group of students who came from multiple elementary schools and haven’t yet jelled together as individuals yet … and oh, did we mention those wonderful puberty years.

High School

Much like a conductor should never (unless specialized themselves in the instrument) tell a brass player how to play the trumpet, a good Tech Coach should never (or hardly ever) approach a high school teacher and tell them how to teach their subject. . . Trust me …

High School Teachers are HIGHLY talented, and HIGHLY Specialized educators who command the respect of teenagers every day and for those reasons I love popping my head into classrooms each day, asking if they need anything and moving on.  Often, I find myself sitting down with high school teachers to plan out lessons the same way I would sit down with a soloist to plan out a solo passage in a symphony.  If you show them respect, they will reciprocate and come back time and time again because their only goal each year is to produce the best students and pass them on to college.

On The Mend

It’s been an interesting November & December. While I have been truly blessed with my family, my career, and my traveling, I took a rare step. I did something for myself early in November. I had gastric bypass surgery.

This surgery has been a long time in the making. For most of my life, I’ve been the fat guy.  While I just tolerated it in middle and high school, I took it all off in college. I went from 340 lbs to 208 lbs. How? I was in the gym, every day, for at least 4 hours. In about a year, I took it all off, I was in shape, and even had a social life. It was awesome.

Post college and into the real world, I certainly didn’t have time for four-hour workouts, let alone eating properly and caring about my looks. Slowly but surely, it all came back. I tried every yo-yo diet and fad exercise in between with no results. The past five years have been the worst. I wouldn’t just eat; I would graze, all day. Fast food stops when I was bored or just because. Really bad. I eventually got to 350 lbs again, and now older, other medical conditions came with it. Acid reflux. Diabetes. Fatty liver. All of that bad stuff.

I decided on the traditional ‘roux en y’ procedure versus the sleeve and other methods. My stomach is now the size of a duck egg. While that may sound heinous to some, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I basically can eat about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of food. If I go over that, I’ll get ill. While the recovery has been a bit rocky at times, I am finally able to eat, get out of bed without being in pain, lift, take steps and all of that.

As always, “Jay, what does this have to do with education?”

I feel that the past six weeks have been a time of patience and persistence. I was under the impression that I would be up and running within 48 hours and had to constantly be reminded that this was a major surgery and it will take time to heal. It’s a whole new way of eating as well. I went from eating a 20 piece chicken McNuggets in one session to maybe finishing one.

Change is hard. Often, change is good. Eating in a healthy manner, exercising, and practicing a healthy lifestyle is going to do wonders for me. I couldn’t do it alone before, and I was allowed to get a tool (this surgery) to help me.

Teachers and administrators often go through change, and the change is hard. However, when the Superintendent is following the mission and the vision that was created to circulate around students and growth, and are provided the tools and time to adjust to the mindset, change will be good.

For those on the change roller coaster, hang in there. It will settle when all the pieces come together. Focus on what’s best for your students.  As long as you keep doing that, you’ll be AOK.

 

 

5 ways to use Pokemon Go in your classroom

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image credit: pokemongo.com

 

Disclaimer: Before you think I’m jumping on the bandwagon, I’m not.  This is intended to be used as another tool in the shed of an educator that connects to today’s learner. 

 

History does indeed come full circle. Pokemon is back in the news. When I first heard it over the weekend, I thought I was hearing things. Pokemon?? For real?!

Not even a week ago at this point, Ninentndo introduced a new app called “Pokemon Go” that has swept a country by storm.  Five days into its’ release, it’s scheduled to have more downloads and users than Twitter. You read that right; more users than twitter in five days.

Why? Sheer nostalgia meets a game that one can play with ease.

The goal of the game? Capture Pokemon creatures. Get Points. Get ranked. The epitome of gamification.

 

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image credit: pokemonfanatics.com

As mentioned earlier, this has become such a hit that it recently crashed a server because too many people were using it.  It also has received a ridiculous amount of press in a very short time, with not all of it being good.

Click here to watch a 3:00 report on NBC World News (for real, NBC WORLD NEWS!)

If you don’t know the basics of Pokémon,  it stems from the hobby of insect collecting. Players of the games are designated as Pokémon Trainer, and in the main series Pokémon games, these trainers have two general goals. These are to complete the Pokédex by collecting all of the available Pokémon species found in the fictional region where that game takes place and to train a team of powerful Pokémon from those they have caught to compete against teams owned by other Trainers, and eventually win the fictional Pokémon League. These themes of collecting, training, and battling are present in almost every version of the Pokémon franchise.

When playing the game, a Trainer that encounters a wild Pokémon is able to capture that Pokémon by throwing a tool called a Poké Ball at it. If the Pokémon is unable to escape, it is officially considered to be under the ownership of that Trainer. If a Pokémon fully defeats an opponent in battle so that the opponent is knocked out, the winning Pokémon gains experience points and may level up. When leveling up, the Pokémon’s statistics of battling aptitude increase, such as Attack and Speed. From time to time, the Pokémon may also learn new moves, which are techniques used in battle.

 

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image credit: wikipedia.org

I immediately thought of another game that has the same exact concept of moving around to collect things: Ingress. If you haven’t heard of ingress, it was created by the same company that created Pokemon Go – Niantic.  In Ingress, the competition in Ingress is between the two opposing teams rather than between individual players, and players never interact directly in the game or suffer any kind of damage. The gameplay consists of capturing “portals” at places of cultural significance, such as public art, landmarks, monuments, etc., and linking them to create virtual triangular “control fields” over geographical areas. Progress in the game is measured by the number of “mind units” captured. The necessary links between portals may range in length from meters to hundreds of miles. Gameplay relies heavily on the player physically moving about the community in order to interact with portals.

 

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image credit: citycapture.org 

Now that you have this crazy description, there has to be a way to inject this into classes; surely there is!  Below are 5 ways to capitalize on the craze:

Map Reading.  Starting in 3rd grade, per Common Core standard ERI.3.7, students should be able to use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur). While we all rely on GPS and mapquest, viewing and reading a map is paramount for anyone. PokemonGo is based off of maps; this would be a great way to teach direction and to incorporate the 5 themes of geography.

Digital Citizenship and Safety. I’m sure you have heard or read the headlines; the game has lead to people strolling into traffic, finding weapons and dead bodies, and has even lead people to muggings. Using real-time news and scenarios, you can easily inject the game into the importance of being safe in your surroundings, meeting strangers on the internet, etc.

 Probability. Pokemon is a game based on location, but also a game that circulates around rarity. It’s like fishing in a way; you never know what you’re going to catch. A lesson on the probability of catching a certain species to another species could be one of the best hooks that you can use for your students… and it’s compliant with 6th grade  CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.A.1.

 Local & Cultural Exploration. PokemonGo has brought people out and about.  Gatherings. Meetups. Excitement.  Not just in a park, but at art galleries, restaurants, sights, and more. The way the app works allows folks to truly explore their surroundings. You have a whole new level of engagement and urge for exploration that many did not have before.  Why not inject local history, art, music, and culture into this craze?

A perfect opportunity for research.   Tying into the exploration lab above, having students conduct research on the game, the fad, and the places they have gone in the process is an easy and simplistic way to engage as student in research practices.  If a student is interested in it, why not have them engaged in it?

Again, I certainly won’t be pushing a PokemonGo classroom next year, but teachers would be silly not to capitalize on the craze like everyone else has.

 

 

Art – it’s good for you.

I’m a bit biased when it comes to art.  I’m in love with it!  While I am not drawn to a certain style or an artist in particular, I am a fan of getting as many people to see art for what it is – an avenue of expression utilizing a gift others possess.

My breakthrough moment was when I was 12 years old and began to volunteer at the Les Malamut Art Gallery, a small gallery in the basement of the Union Public Library, where  I was exposed to local people creating art in a myriad of ways and sharing local talent.  I have been hooked ever since.  I was so amazed by some of the photography that I bought my first piece for $100.00 from an artist in 1993.  It hangs in my office today.

I did not take art classes or pursue an artistic career, but, if anyone ever wants to go to a gallery and show me an up-and-coming artist, I’m there.

 

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image credit: M. Knoll (WTSD)

A few weeks ago 6th-grade students in an art club in my current school district had the opportunity to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  As one of the most beautiful museums in the US, it features pop art, an authentic Japanese tea house, medieval armor and weapons, and priceless Van Gogh works.

 

Twenty years ago it was practical to see such works on slides or in an art book. Today online tours through websites or Periscope, virtual field trips through devices like  Google Cardboard, or even robots on wheels with iPads as “heads'”allow everyone to control a walk through the gallery.  The tools to provide all learners the ability to see art – whether it be 10 or 100,000 miles away – are here.

Expose your learners to art, regardless of the age or subject you teach.  Your students will thank you.

 

A response to “Why My Tech-Infused Presentation Stinks”

Recently, colleague Ross Cooper (RossCoops31) posted a piece on EduSurge that focused on why technology-infused tech sessions stink.  I’ll be the first to admit that one of my presentations which I do around the entire country is focused on tech in the classroom.  I call it “The Dirty 30,” and, not to brag, but it always has a packed house.  Like standing room only!  I remember that, at EdCampNJ two years ago, one of the organizers walked by my session, saw the overflow into the halls, and tried to look in.  

 It was also featured for the recent  NJASATechspo 2016 Conference in Atlantic City and even introduced by NJASA Technology Co-chair Dr. Scott Rocco.

Now, all that being said, it’s one of the reasons why I have been able to travel so much to different places in order to share with fellow superintendents, administrators, and teachers.  Ironically, it’s the one presentation I wish never to do again.  Why?  Because I am constantly shocked that fellow colleagues in my capacity and other administrators do not know about all of these.  How can you not?!?

I’m in a tough spot.  Of course, I’ll keep on doing and updating the presentation, but I’m always saddened to see  the reaction to some of the “oldies but goldies” apps that have been around for years.  In some instances, when I talk about Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, you would think I’m introducing a new line of computer programming.

I read Ross’s post twice and then sat down and looked at my presentation.  From now on, I plan on injecting the following as a part of my dialogue:

  • How to apply it in the school setting
  • The CCCS standards it could apply to
  • Assessment potentials
  • Any research tied to the style of learning that the app/extension provides

It is my hope that the next time I present, it’s not seen as some flash in the pan. And…I will warn people that I will be piling on the pedagogy in the process.

 

 

2016: I’m just getting started. OH TESTIFY!!! 

2015 was one of the best years I have had, personally and professionally.  Among other things, I was blessed with two healthy, happy girls, was allowed to switch school districts to be closer to home (and said girls), was fortunate enough to see tons of accomplishments for my students and staff, and was lucky enough to speak to folks around the country and the world about all of the great things our students and staff are doing in schools today. All of this has left me sitting here shaking my head (or as my X would put it… SMH) on how much awesomeness I got to be part of.

Sure, there was some sadness too. I lost my father this past year, and my grandmother weeks later. I also said goodbye to an awesome group of students and some amazing staff members in my old district. Thanks to social media and this thing called the Internet, we are thankfully just a click away.

I also had some difficult decisions to make for my career. Not only did I turn down a powerhouse district to stay closer to home, I had some difficult conversations with folks about futures, careers, and life. I lost some friendships along the way for telling it like it is and sticking to my core belief of students first. Sad, yes.Keeping me up at night? No way. I also saw true colors in both my professional and personal lives (on my level, it’s blended together).  A learning experience for sure. Finally, you can’t do so much and be awesome without collecting some haters along the way. Is it sad to admit that I like them too?  I’ve come to accept you either loving me or loathing me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My haters fuel me; you push me harder and make me better each and every day.

I’m warning you now; 2016 is going to be the year of testifying. When I googled “testify”, two definitions came up:  the one that was related to court and the one that is related to spreading the news.  I’m all about spreading the news.


I love telling folks all of the good in schools.  I love sharing all of the energy that students have and their desire to learn.  I love to expose my teachers to new ideas, thoughts and people that are here and, yes, just a click away.

As I said earlier, I had the privilege of testifying all over the country and world in 2015. Places included:

  • Atlanta
  • Beijing
  • Boston
  • Bangor, ME
  • Changchun, China
  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • Honolulu
  • Philadelphia
  • Los Angeles
  • Louisville
  • New Jersey (18 out of 21 counties)
  • Orlando
  • Providence
  • San Fransisco
  • Sante Fe

I got to testify about awesomeness and the power of STEAM and what my district was doing at The White House! I still can’t get over that. The White House!!!

I’m more excited by the day to all of the excellence and star power that will be coming to my district this upcoming year, including Tom Murray, Barry Saide, and even Dave Burgess!

2016 is right around the corner… And I’m just getting started. Don’t believe me? Just watch. Watch what testifying can do! Watch me expose!! And please…. Tell me we can’t! Tell me it can’t be done! I think we had a ton of fun proving the naysayers wrong this past year.

Who’s ready to move forward in 2016?! Who’s ready to do what’s best for students in 2016?! Who’s ready to show all of those who say we can’t that we can and we will. Ready…. Set… TESTIFY!!!

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2016. Looking forward to getting the party started… Again. I’ll testify to that too!