Category Archives: Education

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    UPSTART Early Learners Online

    Category:EducationTags : 

    UPSTART Early Learners Online

    I will be honest, when Rhiana Medina from the Multi-Cultural Center appeared in my office at the university, and started telling me about a new learning program for preschool to kindergarten learners, I was skeptical. Like any parent or educator, I had seen a host of programs and watched early learners become quickly bored and abandon the current endeavor for the next best thing.  Marketing to early learners is big business, so finding a program that will stick can be a struggle for parents and educators. 

    Rhiana had originally come to me and asked me to implement the program into the community, but due to my own academic constraints I didn't get the chance to offer to help.  I did however suggest to my own family that they look into the program; and they did.  That program was the UPSTART Program, a  FREE learning program designed by the Waterford Institute.

    Within the program, students’ progress through levels, mastering each level before continuing on to the next.   There are games, music, and activities to keep them engaged and motivated to want to learn.  It is all self-lead learning, with minimal if any guidance.  Your students basically teach themselves.  The computer program has the ability to test where a student’s level is,  and places them in the appropriate sections for that ability.   

    After months of use, I can confirm that the program has made a wonderful impact on one preschooler named Sienna.  Sienna started out on the Waterford Upstart Program, spending just 15 minutes a day self navigating through the various games and activities.  She  now spends more time on the program,  and that time is very well spent.  She is laughing, and clapping, and reciting words and singing; it’s wonderful to watch her learn to read and enjoy it.

     When I noticed that Sienna was learning her ABC's in three different languages I was astonished.  To her learning is  fun, and she is absorbing the information at a much more rapid pace than I first thought.

    If you have been looking for a reading program, this one opens the door to that learning. I would highly recommend this program to parents and educators everywhere.   Kids love to learn, and learning should be fun. The Waterford Institute has taken that to heart in designing this program with kids in mind. 

    If your child is entering kindergarten in 2016 or a  later date you can  pre-register your child on line at  A toll free number is also available at 1-800-669-4533 to pre-register.


    The Waterford Upstart Program, was created and designed by the Waterford Institute with early learners in mind.  A free online educational program, it is sure to make an impact on your child’s learning.

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    A Look Inside High School

    Category:EducationTags : 

    A Look Inside High School

    If you have ever watched the TV program the Big Bang Theory, just know that there is some truth to their intellectually humorous satire and your child's high school classroom. Everyone wants to be the best at something.  

    At first I thought about naming this piece A look inside  - if you dare".  Thinking better of that, I choose to mellow it down a bit.  Especially considering that a large number of  parents are just grateful if their child is passing, let alone a Sterling Scholar. What really goes on inside any typical classroom and on the campus grounds, really could be a great story write up for the next Big Bang episode.  The good news is that a lot of work does go on in the classrooms.  That is in part  due to the many great teachers and the tenacity of the students they serve. 

    The good news is that a lot of work does go on in the classrooms.  That is in part due to the many great teachers and the tenacity of the students they serve. 

    Teenagers are like sponges that absorb data at an astronomical rate.  But It's not how much they absorb, but rather  the type of data, and the how that data is being stored.  Imagine if you will that students  have these shelves where they put away things in their minds for later use.  Only certain stuff gets to go onto these shelves, and only they get to decide what it is.  Welcome to high school.

    Asynchronous vs Synchronous Approaches

    The traditional approach

    AAEAAQAAAAAAAALkAAAAJDZhMDI5MWFmLTZkklNzctNDcyNS1iZGMwLWVjMGMyZjA4YzAzYQ A Look Inside High SchoolIt's one thing to take notes in class, but another thing altogether to retrieve what you actually need from those notes.   A good number of teachers like to give students the lecture notes first, and then let them read through the material. Some even allow the students to watch a video on the topic before lecturing.   After they have had time to put a few things on the shelves inside their minds, students are then tested on that stored knowledge.  

    But how much do these teaching methods really measure knowledge or subskills?  What midterm or quarterly evaluations have been performed in the classroom to measure the success of this teaching method?  Is there a way to modify the method to include all student learning preferences?  

    The problem  today's technological generation has with the traditional method of instruction,  is that they are bored - so they  tend to skim over key elements of learning.   Besides, they can go online and get current information that may not be included in the current version  of the classroom books available to them.  They want pictures and movies, and collaboration with others.  

    Students  aren't interested in reading from a book written in the year 2000; and they will give you any amount of excuses why they don't want to study or learn from it. The most popular excuse I overheard  last week was from a Sterling Scholar was,  "the teacher's going to come back and lecture on it anyways, so I don't need to read it".

    Today's students  want information now!  I hate to tell them, but knowledge isn't gained that way.  It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. You can memorize all you want, and then purge it after a test - that doesn't prove you are intelligent, creative, or innovative.  It just means you learned how to memorize things in the short term.

    It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert.

    Reading can be an enjoyable experience.  Sitting down and reading a good novel can help relax the mind and body. How do we get learners to want to read and find that same enjoyment? What methods aren't working?  We need to identify those methods that don't work, and either modify them or do away with them completely. 

    Many  students have a really hard time sitting and just reading out of a book. I did as a kid; probably a lot of you did as well.  I got my fair share of dips and spikes on the bell curve because of it; but I was distracted -  I was a kid.  Distracted learning isn't new, a lot of students need extra stimuli to be creative.  So give it to them!

    The traditional approach or  asynchronous  approach  is still a valid methodology of teaching, but is losing ground in many areas. When you use a method that  is strictly asynchronously designed,  that simply gives you privilege to move on to another task before the first one is finished.  This method  doesn't help  build creativity nor foster innovation in students. It just rushes them throw a few steps to hurry along to the next.  

    Today's modern student wants Snapchat speed with information gathering.    You put these types of learners in a traditional classroom and they are going to look at you like you are from Mars.   Since the majority of high school student have a cell phone or ipod, or access to someone else's, they get bored easily in a traditional setting.  

    You are from Mars.    

    The bigger problem with an asynchronous learning environment that I find,  is that  not every student learns exactly the same, and many are falling through the cracks because of how they gather and store information. If their storage doesn't match student A's or Student B's information, or they don't progress at the same level - they are marked or placed in special classes, or just flunk out. Granted there are students who need this type of environment, but to say this is the environment for all students is antiquated thinking.  Technology has transformed the classroom, but many instructors are still not getting it.  The classroom has moved on, and rightfully so.  

    Adjusting to a new learning environment

    AAEAAQAAAAAAAAMiAAAAJGRjZjY3ZWFkLWY0ZDgtNGYxMy05NjRjLTRmNmVhMjg1ZjQ0Mg A Look Inside High SchoolAllowing students to progress  and learn at their own pace is called synchronous learning.   When you wait for them to finish the task before moving on to another task, that helps students to put more data on their shelves inside their minds.  We want those students to absorb as much as they can.  College and technical schools will require certain skills that even the best high school student will struggle with.  Higher education is there to test your students, so high schools need to buck up and make sure those knowledge shelves are full!  

    For example, learning about culture can't be learned in one chapter or one class period. Culture is a rich and fascinating study, but we have to let our students take the time to absorb the material.  It's not about just learning dates in time, and names, and places.  It's more about learning the story content and building memory blocks to store from that content. It's about learning how something started and why, and how problems were solved.  Better yet, how learning about the past affects our own culture today.

    Allowing students to talk to each other and collaborate on what it is they have learned is important.  Identifying with each other and guiding their own experiences - that's open learning, student-led learning -  synchronous learning.  

    Being a teenager is a tough transition in life.  Like the gang in the Big Bang theory, students are still trying to figure out the dynamics of everyday living, and adjusting to new learning concepts being thrown at them daily.  

    Wouldn't you much rather have your high school student building networks of like-minded thinkers who can sit and discuss topics related to educational matters, rather than just be bound by the binding of an outdated book they are required to read?  Education is more than just reading. So much more.  Technology has provided a means to help students reach greater potential.  

    The problem isn't with the students as much as it is with the instructors who refuse to use technology.  Unfortunately, technology is where the students are. We live in the digital age. Special education and behavioral students do not do well in a traditional classroom where they are forced to sit and read for hours on end.  It's like torture to them. Even students who don't have problems are bored with the traditional environments.  It's time to stop being afraid of technology and allow students to excel in an approach that will help them progress at their own pace.  

    There is so much to be gained from technology to help students. Here are a few simple ideas: 

    • iPods for online research
    • Social networking for instructors
    • Online student blogs
    • Webquests
    • Powerpoint reviews
    • Twitter in the classroom
    • Technology is a great way to supplement your lesson plans
    • Create class webpages in history or art,etc
    • Online grading
    • Email exchange
    • Teachers should check out Google Classroom 

    Doug Johnson wrote an article about Seven brilliant things teachers do with technology His perceptive is to put kids in touch with the world. He has some good thoughts for both parents and educators a like. It's worth the read

    The first step in helping students, parents and educators, is  to acknowledge that technology is here to stay -and it is in nearly every aspect of society. It's up to the parents and educators to help our tech-savvy students learn in the best environment that fosters learning, and appreciate the world they are engaged in.  

    Hands on approach

    AAEAAQAAAAAAAAKPAAAAJGI4NzQxNDUyLTRjMzYtNGI5Zi04ZDM2LTM0ODc4YzE1ZTRkNA A Look Inside High SchoolI love walking into a classroom that has stuff on the walls. Stuff like Maps, and posters and art, and memorabilia.  A classroom doesn't have to be neat and tidy clean either - just rich in content.

    Maps add great content to a room.  Maps are interactive without even trying.  They just naturally draw ones attention to them. Maps are  to be read, and push pins work great for laying out routes on a map.  

    Students in high school still need to do hands on work.  They need to be engaged in conversation with each other, discussing educational topics. They need to be engaged and motivated  in conversation that makes them think, and want to learn. Its fun when you have others working with you.  It's a great way to build lasting social networks. Stick a bunch of learners together from different backgrounds and give them a map - watch what they do. 

    Physical Education (it's about the whole student)

    Sitting alone and being quiet - I know I can't do that for long.   I can't expect students to do that either.  If you sit for 30 minutes, then you need to stand or move around for a minute or two afterwards. People were not built to sit for extended periods of time without movement.  Bad backs are a result of improper knowledge of the human body. Stand up! Stretch. There is nothing wrong with building strong posture into your classroom curriculum. You will find your students will be happier if you do.   Develop standing assignments where students have to go to a blackboard and write, or push pins into a map.  

    There is nothing wrong with building strong posture into your classroom curriculum

    There is a study out right now about building desks for students to stand at instead of sitting.  That is the best study I have seen in a long time.  Written by Kids wiggle - let them. Wiggling isn't a bad thing. Forcing a kid to sit for 6 hours a day like a robot - that's bad.  Then they go home and sit some more.  

     Forcing a kid to sit for 6 hours a day like a robot - that's bad.  

    Physical Education is only as good as the effort you put into it.  Students are being educated that money is wealth.  That is an absurd way of teaching students.  Your health is your wealth.  It does you little good to have money if you aren't going to be able to enjoy it due to poor health later on.   

    You can see why it might be a good idea for your student to have a standing desk.  Spare them the backaches you suffer from today - in order that they may enjoy any anticipated wealth to come. 

    Your health is your wealth.

    4 A Look Inside High School
    Teachers have a tough job.  They are responsible for the education of the next generation of thinkers.  Times are changing, and the classrooms of yesterday are joining with the new classrooms filled with engaging and collaborative thinkers.

    We want the best for the next generation in all aspects of their lives. It is important that we look into the classrooms and we explore what takes place there.  But we have to do it objectively, knowing that many schools have limited resources. We also have  to train the trainers to more effectively use the technology they have. Colleges and universities are graduating more tech-savvy instructors who will be able to do just that.  That is good news!

    We also have to train our current instructors in the most modern teaching techniques, and in the latest technology available.  New schools of thought are springing up everywhere.  Our students deserve to be a part of that new thought. Our society depends on it.  We have to meet our students where they live.  Technology is that open door.


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    The World of Competitive Dance

    Category:Dance,EducationTags : 

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    Ode To Teachers Everywhere

    Category:EducationTags : 

    Not many things bring me to tears, but a group of kids did today.

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    Creating Innovative Students

    Category:EducationTags : 

    Creating Innovative Students

    Creating Innovative Students

    Creating an online classroom and making sure that the students can be successful in them is a craft that instructional designers and instructors work on endlessly. Building online and blended content for the new technological classrooms requires more time and energy, than the traditional classroom that most of us grew up with. However, online instruction offers something that the traditional classroom doesn’t offer – the ability of the student to actively engage in thetechnological learning process, and gain hands on experiences that pushes them to really think about how things work in an innovative way within the field of emerging technology. That is one of the true defining characteristics of our modern American society “innovation”. We Americans are innovators.

    24fdcd0-2 Creating Innovative Students

    Anyone can plug information in a ditto sheet, and/or
    AAEAAQAAAAAAAAZhAAAAJDI3YjZjOGEwLTcyNjItNDI0Ny1iMDM4LTA4YTQ0MjQxMzcwMA Creating Innovative Studentscram for a paper exam - only to purge that same information out the next day. But real learning, and true innovation, comes from hands on learning and building upon the skills one already possess. That’s what makes this country great. Innovation, hands on – sweat at the brow – even in the field of technology.

    I can understand why a student would become distracted and may lose interest in trying to connect with certain online learning sites. Beginning users might need additional encouragement from their tutors or guides to help keep them on task at first. It’s new!

    There are a lot of small secondary skills that are often easy to overlook, and simple processes can become complex rapidly if skipped by students. Grouping or organizing of information can become repetitive and lengthy within an online learning environment; making it hard to determine what information is useful. Using teachers as guides is a way to help students overcome these simple barriers.

    In the process of trying to design an online instructional course, I find when I design an instructional online class that it is just as simple to prepare a video presentation or two, and strategically locate them in the design This better assists students more appropriately by means of describing the many different informational components.

    Those who work at a distance as I do, have come to rely on the the assessments and feedback from the students we serve. It is good to be able to factor in as many changing variables as possible. Student feedback is invaluable.

    For instance: If you have ever set and waited for a program to load, and all you see is a little arrow and/or hour glass on your screen - from a new users 0f0524c-2 Creating Innovative Studentsperspective that is “critical load time". Time that they do not yet understand. It is part of the learning process. Internet load time, if slow, can decrease a student’s motivation to remain engaged. Just waiting for the program to load drives some students over the top. I'm with the students 100%, I don't want to wait either; so designing simpler models is best.

    Teachers are there to see that behavior is monitored with first time online users. Teachers as guides can help students with reinforcement that engages the students to use their prior skills to stay on task. Timely instructions can make simple concepts easy to understand.

    The ability of a student to learn on their own is only measured by their own desire to be successful. The true test of eLearning is in the student’s ability to use their prior knowledge or skill sets to their fullest potential. We have to teach our students to be expert learners. We have to teach them how to use the skills they already have and then help them learn to research new concepts on their own.

    Synchronous vs Asynchronous learning

    Synchronous learning which is still done mainly in the classroom is not free of technology. You have labs, and chat rooms and video and audio. Technology is everywhere - It’s in the main classroom. A traditional classroom may be 80% free of technology, but the remaining 19 to 20 % is still using some form of technology. In the chart below you begin to see the bigger picture of how engrained technology is becoming in the classroom. Asynchronous is just the opposite of Synchronous - with 80% online and 20% using some form of video conferencing and/or face to face meetings. In the middle you have your blended courses with 20 to 79 % going in either direction. Blended is becoming more a norm for teaching at a distance.

    24fdcd0 Creating Innovative Students

    I personally like blended learning. I like having a number of scaffolding tools to choose from when developing course content and how I will present it to my students. Student need to be able to transition through step-by-step procedural instructions, as well as sub-step instructions to achieve the instructional goals set out in any online and/or on blended classroom learning environment.

    Students need to successfully connect with a tutor, a guide or online instructor, and be able to participate in an online collaboration using their intellectual knowledge that they already have. Students deserve the chance to do that. They are the innovators of the next generation. We owe it to them to craft the best online/ traditional and blended learning environments to help them reach the next step in their learning process. We need to teach them to be expert learners, and we will - because they demand it!

    We need to challenge our institutions of higher learning to prepare the future educators of tomorrow to deal with the technological advances that are occurring every day. In many cases it has already begun. The traditional classroom is no more. Wherever you look there are computers labs, IPADs, calculators, cell phones. You have a generation of digital learners. I wonder - if they will have the instructors in the future to keep them motivated, engaged, and willing to collaborate in the learning process. You have to be where the learners are – they are in technology! That is where your instructors and your instructional designers will also be.

    If no good deed goes unpunished – then we all will be punished for not taking the time to educate a new breed of teachers who will be able to keep up with the ever changing emerging technologies. Engage your students – but first you must engage your instructors. That is where your instructional designers come in. Instructional designers build the templates and platforms that teachers will load their content upon. Teachers work closely with instructional designers to build the best online classrooms suitable for learning and developing innovative skills.

    The innovators of tomorrow are waiting for the tools we will develop today. Our inventions of today will be the tool for creating innovative students of tomorrow.