Tag 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 http://www.waterfordupstart.org  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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    Cell Phones & The Pre-Selfie Era

    Category:Instructional TechnologyTags : 


    Cell Phones & The Pre-Selfie Era – Welcoming In The New Millennials

    I walked into the junior high classroom this morning, and it was chatty as normal, similar to  the beginning of any class. It’s a very open environment, and the culture of the students says, “this is our space“.

    Students were discussing the latest news in spirit activities, while others were trying to decide if lunch was going to be edible.   Picking up on that conversation,  that gave me the heads up that I better head across the street during my free hour and grab some food.  I’ve eaten the food at all the schools, and I’m not a fan.  I know the lunch people do the best they can, but…..

    While waiting for the class to settle down, I notice there is one major difference that is genuinely unique at the  junior high level compared to the high school.  Students are not hunched over, looking into their cell phones .  I know they have them somewhere.  But I don’t even  see them during recess, or lunch hour, or in the halls – nada, zip.   I like to call this age group, the pre-selfie era – Junior High. 

    This is the Pre-Selfie Era

    While I can’t speak for other school districts, I can for my own.  It’s refreshing to know your students are engaging with you, and the message is getting across to them.  Not having  a cell phone on your person may sound archaic to some. But growing up without one was a  far better world to have been in.

    Before I continue, I just want to stress that I’m not looking to verbally beat up on the high school environment, teachers or students.  I actually do have to give kudo’s to all those teachers at my local high school. During testing last week, I walked past a number of classrooms and quietly observed  the back roll of each room.  While I did spot a few students with their cell phones conveniently concealed – for the most part their classroom environments were all “engaged”.


    How did the new millennials  arrive at where they are today?

    What individual traits do millennials all have?  Technology  is one trait that most of them posse, and that is THE big one.  But at what age do new millennials come out of their social shell’s? When does technology become a changing force, and who is guiding that change?

    Communication and collaboration in the classroom mean a lot to both students and teachers.  If you lose those valuable tool, you could lose a whole generation.

    Dumbing down a whole generation in  the Selfie Era

    AAEAAQAAAAAAAAidAAAAJGViMmIyYTA0LTY2MGEtNDdlMi1iYWYxLWRlMjJmNTJjNjRjMw-300x200 Cell Phones & The Pre-Selfie Era
    There is software available that can block out all cell phone usage inside of a  school.  I’ve walked into those zones before.

      Egad! So this is what it feels like to lose all communication to the outside world.

    Some people have a real addiction to high stress (drama), and a cell phone can really feed into  that addiction. While I am not a millennial,  I was technologically inspired, starting in the early 80’s.  I guess I am one of those types, like a millennial – but not a millennial. You know the kind, a type A, workaholic, social introvert.  WAIT!  No, not me…

    It almost sounds like 8th grade was the turning point,  even for me.  Landlines were being replaced with wireless phones, and all communication was  accelerating.   Computers were becoming the norm in every school, and inside most homes.

    It’s 8th Grade All Over Again

    In 2016,  8th grade students are very much coming into their own little worlds.  Once they transfer to 9th grade, that little world can be rewarded through the socially acceptable right of passage known as – learning the selfie rules.

    At least on a superficial scale,  learning the selfie rules  has its rewards.    Students quickly learn that selfies and student group shots during class have their social rewards.  The reward is not academical I assure you.  But it is rewarding on the social scale, and as a narcissistic pacifier to those who may struggle  already with  self-esteem issues.

    If you are on all the right social applications on your computer/phone, and you have a big enough friends list  – then you stand a better chance of fitting in with the selfie crowd.  Where you fit in, and how you are perceived by your peers, soon becomes part of your online virtual reality trip.  I use the word trip, because it is a trip.   Coming off of that trip  – that is not  fun.  The landing is often hard and punishing.

    There is a little light at the end of the tunnel.  Junior High reigns supreme when it comes to still having teachable moments that are in abundance.  At the high school level those teachable moments are being attacked daily by that  3 x 4 piece of  shiny technology,  vying for our students attention.


    Standing outside the junior high during after school duties, I noted 3 out of 10 girls that popped out a cell phone, and nearly  1 out of 10 boys.  At least those were the ones not afraid to use their phones on campus, even after school was out.

    I’ve had  teachers vocally express their feelings about cell phones.

    •  Was the lesson plan worth it?
    • Did I get through to my  students?
    •  It is defeating when you have invested so much of your time and energy to be put on what amounts to, a commercial break for a classroom selfie.

    So what are we doing wrong at the high school  and junior high levels?  How did all these narcissistic selfie robots amass in such great numbers –  almost overnight?  Parents.  Yes, parents are mostly to blame.

    Settle Down!

    I’ve been one of those Parents, so don’t go off on me too hard just yet.  I have been one of the best helicopter parents of my generation.  At least until the powers that be discovered where my landing pad was located, and turned the lights out on me.

    It started in junior high.  I didn’t want anyone telling MY children they were insufficient in anything.   By the time by last child had gotten to the junior high level, she reigned supreme.  She had the grades, the looks, and the talent to do it all – and she did.  She wasn’t denied anything.  But, I wouldn’t allow her to be denied anything.  Then I did the thing, that  I as a teacher complain about the most.  I bought her a cell phone, and I got sucked into the millennial whine.

    I bought her a cell phone


    1. It’s $25 at the middle school to get your cell phone back, if you take it out where others can see it.
    2. The first selfie with friend in their bikini’s posted on Facebook, and that friend was gone (I was stupid and let her keep the phone).
    3. Competing with the cute boy from  school who also had a cell phone.  Family time became a chore, and grounding from the phone brought even more issues (Drama!  I hate you – you are ruining my life!) .
    4. By college she allowed her boyfriend (thank God he is gone) to rack up nearly $400 in cell phone charges.  Plus he wrecked two of her cars and …. let’s just say he is gone.

    The excuses that WE all make regarding our children having a cell phone is:

    I want them to get a hold of me if they need me.

    1. They are in a classroom filled with 30 other cell phones.
    2.  Plus the teacher has a cell phone,  and a landline on  her desk.  I think we have the “get a hold of me”  problem solved.

    Parents have become lazy.

    Parents rely on the cell phone to baby sit their kids.  A wonderful suggestion is to get in your car, drive across town and find out for yourself what your kids are doing.

    1. A phone call may be a temporary pacifier, but its virtual reality even to adults.  Kids still want their parents to care.
    2. Some even think that the more expensive the phone, the more protected the kid will be.  A $600 phone isn’t my idea of protection.

    The kid with the $600 iPhone.

    The amount of kids that walk around with electronics that even I couldn’t afford, makes me worry.  How hard of a landing are these kids going to take when big daddy or mommy bucks,  cuts them off?

    Virtual reality if used properly can be a great learning tool.  But with cell phones,  the verdict is still out.   At least  until some genius can develop specific games that actually help teach the academic core to our teenage students.

    Millennials and Their Kids, that is what I should of called this article.  But as I dug deeper into some of the issues, it really is a baby boomer issue.  We allowed our millennials to get away just about everything.

    I reflect on this paper, and I wonder if my youngest (now 27) will come at me to lock horns  and state the obvious.  Why I you mention at length in this short article the crutches of the argument mother? Do you know the rules? Are the rules only being taught to the students by students, or are manufacturers of technology writing the rules?  Are the parents and teachers being left out on purpose?  Parents and teachers, do you know the selfie rules?


    And for God’s sake mom, where did you dig up that old photo (she secretly loves the shot)?


    LOGOJPG2-300x300 Cell Phones & The Pre-Selfie Era



    Designing in the Digital Age



    #millennial #selfie #education #classroom #teenager





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    Dumbing Down the Next Generation

    Category:Instructional TechnologyTags : 
    AAEAAQAAAAAAAAa-AAAAJDA5NmFiYWQ0LTAxZjgtNDljOS05ODhjLTM4N2ZiOTZiMzFiZg Dumbing Down the Next Generation

    Dumbing Down the Next Generation

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    Ode To Teachers Everywhere

    Category:EducationTags : 

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