Monday, January 8, 2018

Libraries and the Future

In viewing the “State of the Libraries 2017” report from the ALA, it is obvious that the role of today’s libraries is as strong as ever.  Libraries and the media specialists managing them have been a crucial entity in keeping up with the changes of the 21st century.  In the recent report findings, the library is seen as having a specific effect in the following areas:  instruction in initial coursework, student success, collaborative academic programs and services, and information literacy.
It is hoped that the ESSA or Every Student Succeeds Act will provide more widespread support for libraries in the recognition that library personnel play an integral part in the area of instructional support.

The library could very well have been a dying breed with the onset of sophisticated digital tools including virtual book checkouts and ebooks; but instead, this collective group turned these changes into opportunities to better serve students.  Unlike many areas of education which refuse to change a system developed long ago, the library has embraced the challenge and risen to recognize, enhance,  and fulfill the needs of 21st century learners.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Traditional vs. Progressive Education and the Role of Entrepreneurship

There is a continuing emphasis to promote entrepreneurism in education in order to prepare students for an uncertain future.  Take for example, the words of Founder and CEO of Startup Experience, Henrik Scheel in this 2016 TED Talk, , in which he professes that being an entrepreneur is not a choice in the lives of our students today and that the skills of adaptability and opportunity recognition are key to success in an unknown future.

In "Bridging the Traditional Progressive Education Rift through Entrepreneurship" by Lackeus et al, 2016, from the International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior and Research, entrepreneurship is defined as using three tools of determination:  effectuation, customer development, and appreciative inquiry.  

As teachers, we can develop these tools to create an entrepreneurial atmosphere for learning.  First of all, Sarasvathy's concept of effectuation deals with looking at what surrounds us to help us solve a problem, looking at what we already have including resources and networks. 
Customer development is something done by teachers daily in trying to increase the learning potential of their students, striving to find ways to "market" learning and provide opportunities in various ways for students to see the value in their efforts.  Appreciative inquiry refers to teachers who seek out and recognize opportunities for advancing their knowledge and activities.

The authors go on to say that this brings about a new educational school of thought emphasizing the creation of value for others, a key component to entrepreneurism and a concept that could bring more entrepreneurial thought to the world of education.  

Generalizing itself to a larger population, this way of thinking goes beyond the narrow view of entrepreneurship as the means of starting a business to a way of approaching the learning and preparation of students, bringing about revolution in traditional education.  This necessary transition could be difficult when promoted in an environment that bases its success on measureable and results-driven teaching.  

The authors, then focus on five dualisms that they see as causing the rift between
traditional and progressive education practices:  1)simplicity vs. complexity, 2)individual vs. social, 3)content vs. practice, 4) detachment vs. engagement, and 5) theory vs. practice.

This basically presents itself as a subjectivism vs. objectivism battle within which teachers usually seem to "ride the fence" in the middle, tapping into new realms of entrepreneurial skillsets but keeping grounded into the aspects of traditional academia.  

#1 presents the simplicity of a traditional single-subject focus vs. a multi-disciplinary one that provides open inquiry and practice

#2 considers the cognitive learning of the individual learner and contrasts it to a focus on social interaction and a Vygotskiian view of students learning from the people and social contexts surrounding them

#3 questions the authenticity of learning products developed by students

#4 looks at the level of student interest in projects that are prescribed for them vs. projects based on student passions that naturally fold in aspects of formal learning to deepen it and make it more engaging and relevant

#5 considers thinking and doing in terms of student work and progress

In conclusion, the authors contend that a project-based curriculum developed with the tools of entrepreneurism:  effectuation, customer development, and appreciative inquiry can go a long way to settle the rift between traditional and progressive educational practices.  By implementing these practices in the hope to move from one side to the other in reference to the dualisms causing this rift, it is hoped that teachers can present students with the skills necessary to confidently face the uncertainty of the future. 

Gender and Academic Entrepreneurship

In  "Academic Entrepreneurship – Gendered Discourses and Ghettos," by Faltholm, et al, there is a discussion of gender as it fits into the world of entrepreneurship.  Specifically targeting women in higher education academic careers, the article refers to the female population as being part of an "entrepreneurship ghetto." In a male-dominated conceptualization of entrepreneurship, women are
seen as partaking in the activities, but not seen as part of the main contributors...more of a separate group of those practicing the components of entrepreneurship.

Other references were made to the "glass ceiling" of the corporate world that makes it more difficult for women to be seen as entrepreneurial; thus, leading to more outsourcing, women filling the roles of consultants which help to see them more as entrepreneurs in their career fields.

The "Daring Gender" project at Lulea University of Technology and Umea University that spanned from 2008-2012, aimed to "analyze, highlight, challenge, and in the long run, change prevailing gender patters on academic entrepreneurship," using Innovation funding from the Swedish government.

The study found that one of the issues with recognizing women as entrepreneurial in the academic setting is under-representation of women in the programs and concluded that if a university wants to "commercialize" and promote research results, men and women should have equal chances to do so.  In the effort to create this environment, however, appears the possibility of magnifying the issue by treating women as a special group and not part of the mainstream entrepreneurial community desired.  In order to promote sustainable change, there needs to be a restructuring of the mindset and organization of the place of work and research.

Also, there must be an emphasis to step back and recognize the issues that the promotion of academic entrepreneurship presents for academia itself.  In order to provide systematic change, there should be the ability to recognize and work with the problematic aspects of making changes to promote entrepreneurism in the academic world and accept those as part of the overall process.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Determining the Making of an Entrepreneur...

According to the article, "A Study of Predictors of Entrepreneurial Behavior," it is difficult to
pinpoint personality factors that indicate an entrepreneurial spirit.  In one study cited, a positive relationship was found between emotional intelligence and entrepreneurial orientation.  But that is not a solo determining factor.  The article also distinguishes between "necessity" entrepreneurs, driven to the idea of developing the self out of personal experience with poverty, lack of employment, or other factors and "opportunity" entrepreneurs who seek out situations in which they can start a professional cause or business.

In 1985, Gartner determined that entrepreneurs are a diverse group; in fact,  most studies have been unsuccessful in connecting personality traits, gender, age, or education to entrepreneurial thinking.  Some researchers tend to believe that one can develop entrepreneurial thinking based on what is happening around him or her in a social context.

Motivations suggested to thinking entrepreneurially included characteristics such as independence, achievement, and recognizing one's own creative talents.  Its seems, then, that there is a relevance to confidence in the process of becoming entrepreneurial, to knowing one's self and the reasons for one's actions and feeling qualified to make decisions for the future.  Still, there can be barriers such as finances, shortage of skills, institutional hindrances, and uncertainty of the future.

This brings me to thinking about teachers and entrepreneurial mindsets.  If we, in fact, are promoting that more students think entrepreneurially for a future that we cannot predict, it seems that teachers should be the role models in this process.

It is compelling to me to think that there are teachers out there who are "comfortable" with what they are teaching and who do not feel the desire to strive further in an effort to set a futuristic example of forward thinking, self-motivational learning, and risk-taking for their students and colleagues.  Teachers today have many resources surrounding them that could enable them to promote and practice the entrepreneurial process.  One example is the use of social media.  By participating in online communities and networking globally, teachers not only gain relevant and timely knowledge, but they set a precedent with their students that life-long learning and adaptability are part of the new game in education. the heart of this change in the habits and mindsets of teachers comes commitment to professional development and providing the training that produces practicing and confident individuals that we want shaping the lives of our students who face a future in which these skills are of the utmost importance.

Monday, November 20, 2017

What Matters Most...

When we consider looking at changes in the education system, we often turn our attention to our teachers.  After all, they are the direct change agents who work with our students, correct?

But time after time, as I see teachers eager and willing to make
the changes necessary to take students to the next level, they seem to be barricaded into a traditional system with no way out.  Wasn't it Pat Conroy who said, "A bad teacher will always have a job...a good teacher will always be in peril"?  Why is this so?  Don't we want teachers willing to think outside of the box and excite student learning?  Don't we want teachers who "push" the system to provide what is best for our clients?

I have seen many teachers who question our traditional system only to be labeled  "radicals" or someone who doesn't want to be a team player and has an alternative agenda.

Maybe it's time we started listening to these teachers.  They are the ones brave enough to put their thoughts on the line and try new things with students to get them to learn.  Think of the teachers in your past to whom you have felt like devoting your complete attention and effort.  Chances are, they were not the teachers who were imprisoned by a textbook but who found ways to create projects and activities to teach the same concepts and make learning fun and authentic.

Recently, I felt sad when a former student revealed to me that his fondest memory of my class was when he and some classmates created a modern car chase with hot wheels cars on video to depict the storyline of Julius Caesar.  My actual comment was, " THAT'S what you remember about my class?"  I was saddened to think that he had not remembered the times we read the play aloud in class, digging into the subtle meanings of the text, pondering individual mindsets and historical perspectives, and then...something hit me.  He understood the assignment's objectives...he got it...he is now a successful filmmaker...and a feeling of pride soon replaced sadness.

I always thought something was wrong with me.  I always came up with albeit silly ways for students to display their work and show me what they had learned.  Maybe I had it right all along!

Teachers...don't be afraid to be different.  A student's understanding of The Scarlet Letter doesn't have to come from a struggle to understand Hawthorne's vernacular, but can be shown with wearing a hand made letter around the school building and feeling different and judged.  They will GET the meaning and the point of the literature.  And what is wrong with that?  Absolutely nothing.

So, if you are a teacher who thinks creatively to come up with projects to help students to learn, keep it up.  Someday, somewhere we might see a change in just how students are educated and just how creative and successful they can be.  And...who knows...we might pick up a few students on the way who have never felt like school addressed their needs.  They might actually come to like school and take control of their own learning.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Holy "Lots of Pressure" Batman

As I slowly climbed the steps this morning in our CAPS bulding, a bouquet of balloons caught my eye.  They were suspended in a bunch on the second floor and looked awfully close to the entrance into my Teacher Education Lab.  As I came closer, I realized that the balloons were accompanied by a poster displaying pictures of me in my classroom and a rhyming verse of well-wishes for my performance tomorrow on my oral comprehensives as part of my pursuit of a PhD in Educational Technology at the University of Kansas.

While I still have a ways to go (like a year or two) it's nice to be able to at least see a light at the end of the tunnel. This Fall, as the first milestone, I will receive my certification in Instructional Design from KU, and that, too, feels good as a stepping stone toward a larger goal.

What is ahead is unknown, but I'm excited that I have taken this path toward new adventures in my life.

Thank you to my CAPS family for always being there to support me and for putting up with my tired rantings and my absence of sending resources out on a regular basis.  It will be nice, when this is complete, to be able to relax, research, teach, and regain some normalcy in my daily life.

Thanks to my close friends who understand why I don't call or come over and who realize my absences from gatherings are only temporary.

Thanks to my immediate own kids who had to see their mom crouched over a book any time there was an extra minute to spare and to my parents for always giving me the unconditional support that has a way of lighting an internal fire, creating a drive to always strive to do better things.

Thanks for all of the well wishes!  I will do my best to follow through and make you proud!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Authentic Experiences and Learning

 Authentic learning became a part of my life very 5th grade as a matter of fact.  My teacher, Ms. Austin, decided that we should write a letter to an official in order to try to bring attention to a problem in our community.  I don't even remember how we chose our targets.  Perhaps we were given the latest edition of the Weekly Reader to ponder issues around us.  Or, maybe Ms. Austin gave us a list of choices. The year was 1972.  Whatever the plan, I came across a story reporting that the Atomic Energy Commission was considering putting a nuclear waste site in Lyons, KS.

Even though Lyons was almost 4 hours away from Fort Scott, I knew that depositing nuclear waste there would most certainly affect the lives of myself and my schoolmates.  I chose to write a letter to James Schlesinger, then head of the Atomic Energy Commission, pleading with him to rethink the unthinkable.  Just as every other classmate did, I mailed the hand-written letter and considered it "handing in" just another

assignment.  Soon, however, I was to be surprised of the impact this letter would have on my life.

It began with a call to the elementary school office.  Winfield Scott Elementary didn't regularly get calls from Washington, D.C., so when the secretary handed me the phone receiver, she had a rather far away look on her face.  The voice on the other end introduced himself as someone from Schlesinger's office who was calling on his behalf concerning my letter.  Was this a bad thing?  Had I broken some rule?  My face must have turned white because the secretary began to reach for the phone...probably thinking that a fainting spell could occur at any moment.  The person told me that my letter made it to Schlesinger, and he would be writing me back.  But that was just the beginning.  Immediately, reporters began calling my home, asking for interviews.  Relatives from far away were sending us AP Photo clippings (I sure wish I hadn't worn the barrette that day) from newspapers across the country.  Immediately, I saw the impact of a small gesture.  I saw the way authentic learning makes a difference.  That experience changed me, and thanks to Ms. Austin, I now, as a teacher, strive for that authenticity and work to get my students to reach beyond the classroom walls.  I felt like I had made a difference, and I now know what needs to be done to start doing just that.  Thank you, Ms. Austin for being way ahead of your time in personalizing learning and providing problem-solving, authentic experiences for your students.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Experiential Learning...on a personal note!

I just got home from the track--two miles today.  It was such a nice day, and my brain and heart wanted to run four, but unpredictable knees and a meniscus tear repair later, and my limit is two, even with my "Darth Vader" brace. But, as usual...I digress...

As I was walking to the entrance to the track at Frontier Trail Middle School, I saw a line of five buses, empty, parked at the curb, and I was wondering why they were just sitting there.  As I got closer, the double doors at the side of the school opened, and suddenly lines of band members, dressed alike, carrying their instruments, some donning the "FT" logo, began spilling into the buses.  A short time later, they pulled away in a convoy of yellow.

Seeing them reminded me of the experiences acquired in my lifetime when I was a part of the school band.  I remember the excitement of arriving at the school, seeing my friends, putting together instruments and tuning them together, and filing on the buses that would take us to the numerous parades and activities our directors arranged for us.

It's funny what we remember.  I remember specifically having to march faster because the trombones were in the front row, and even the slightest delay could mean a "slide hit" or nudge.  I remember marching on sunny days and being so hot and sweaty that the baton in my hand seemed to do nothing but slide through my fingers and seem worthless.  I remember the times we were angry when we had to follow the horses and dodge what they left behind.  I remember the people, lined along the streets, some waving, some oblivious to our efforts, but all the same, part of the experience that we were sharing.

We learn experientially and through our social interactions, and through my experiences with our junior high and high school bands, I learned commitment, friendship, strategy, logic, confidence, passion, respect, teamwork, and more.  There was no better hands-on, project-based, problem-based, competency-based learning more fitting than being part of that group of about 75 individuals who came together and had to work together to accomplish something.  I learned a lot of who I was during those experiences with and from interactions with those individuals.  I learned things that I didn't always learn when sitting in a classroom.

The FT band is headed this morning to the Old Settlers' Parade.  I hope that they some day realize how fortunate they are to have had this experience.

Monday, August 14, 2017

CAPS Year Nine

Tomorrow, I get to meet a new group of Teacher Ed students and their parents.  Each year I wonder

 how I will ever relay to them the enriching activities we will be doing all year.  It seems that we always hit the ground running, and when have a chance to breathe, we are surprised at all of the
experiences we have had.

That's what I love about the CAPS experience.  Each day brings the possibility of something new.  Some of our best projects have come out of last minute ideas or business partner requests.  If I had turned them down because of my place in the year's curriculum, the students would never have had those memories.

I started with the CAPS crew nine years ago.  I have seen other members of our founding team leave CAPS and have seen others come on board.  Each year is different and yet just as interesting as the one before.

As I reflect back, I think of some of our most exciting projects.  Arcademics ( was a great partner.  After working on a project with two of our Teacher Ed students and a Filmmaking student, they hired all three students who worked for them through their college careers.  The Teacher Ed students would create math lessons, and the Filmmaking student would put them into video form and then send them to Arcademics for review before they were added to their children's educational games website.

We also have had great projects with Sprint, AMC, TapTeach, BrainPOP, Microsoft, other schools and districts, and many, many others.  The students are learning not only the traditional classroom management and pedagogy but are also learning very professional skills as they make their way through the processes needed to complete these projects.

This year, we are working with Real World Scholars and need to have our product idea ready to launch on September 5.  The students will be researching and building their presentation The Gig Gang Theory for Greenbush Educator Technology Conferences in Girard and Eudora, Kansas, as well as for the Regional Educators Rising Conference at Mid America Nazarene University.

And sounds like we are once again hitting the ground running.  To our alumni, we wish you a fantastic year of teaching or a fantastic year at college.  To our returning and new CAPS Teacher Education students, I will see you soon!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Candy Boxes

Yesterday, I attended the funeral for a friend, teacher, and former colleague.  Faye Smith was someone that you would not forget once you met her.  She had a broad smile, a great laugh, and an infectious love for life and people.

As I listened to her sons each speak about their mother and also heard from another former colleague who gave an overview of Smitty's career, I was humbled by her impact on those with whom she came in contact. I knew of some of the fun antics...the raisin costume and leading other staff in the fun of a pep assembly and the way she had to make everyone laugh and have a good time, but I learned new things about this remarkable person.

I didn't realize that she had been the first African American female teacher in the district or that she had been the first female to finish her teaching responsibilities while pregnant or that she got her ESOL certification or that she went back to get a second Masters degree in special education.  My goodness what this vivacious woman had gone through and had achieved.  All in all, she had a ferocious love of teaching and education, and it showed through everything she did to make sure she could reach as many students as possible.

The real thing that was so amazing, however, on top of everything else was her love for making people feel valuable and loved.  She gave out small candy boxes to people all of the time, just "a little something," to make them happy.  Her sons and her colleagues talked of her giving these boxes to friends, students, waiters and waitresses, everyone and anyone.  She was even known to bring them for all of her retired co-teachers group who met (at her direction) once a month to keep in touch and share their lives and would proceed to give the boxes to not only her friends, but everyone around including the restaurant workers.  At the funeral yesterday, there was a table at the back of the chapel, and it was covered in little, decorative boxes of all colors, designs, and shapes.  All were filled with chocolate treats. We were asked to take a box from the table as a last message from Faye.

The box I took was one that caught my eye first.  If you visit my Teacher Education lab at CAPS, you
will see it on a shelf...a constant reminder of Faye and what she taught me and everyone about doing just a little bit extra out of your way to make people feel special and to spread kindness.

Thank you, Faye.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A Teacher's Legacy

Today I experienced something that only strengthened my thoughts about why people enter the teaching profession.  My dad is a career teacher and administrator.  His greatest love of all was music, and he led concert bands and marching bands for years.  He traveled to parades and national football championships to do half-time shows and took his bands to the Rose Bowl Parade. In all of the years that he has worked in various school systems and institutions of higher education, he has impacted so many students and families.  Of course I've always known that and respected my dad so much for the relationships he has built over time, but how do teachers know, unless students come back to tell them, what kind of influence their efforts had on the lives of those students?

The other day, on Facebook, a former student reached out to some of her former instructors with a quote about something to the effect of how teachers are not just teachers but lifelong connections, and her comments and the fact that she took the time to include my name in that list of former teachers energized me.  At that moment, I knew what I needed to do for my dad's 80th birthday.  Twice retired but still substituting, he could never give up this passion that he has within him.

I used the power of social media to make some strategic contacts who I knew could reach out to others in their "groups" to disseminate a request:  write a note, memory, or wish to send to my dad to celebrate his 80th mark!  Word traveled quickly, and in a few weeks time, I had well over 100 texts, notes, emails, cards, pictures, and more sent to me to be included in a scrapbook that I constructed and planned to present to him on his birthday.

Today was the day.  Before I pulled the thick, heavy collection of memories out of the decorative bag, I told my dad, "you know... sometimes people just need to know what impact they have had on the
lives of others."  He was taken by surprise, and as he opened the book and began to turn the pages, all he could say was "oh my, oh my."  Imagine the warmth I felt when I saw the emotions in my dad's face as he looked over note after note.  I cannot think of a better gift that I could have given.

My dad took the book home, and I know that he will have hours of reading and remembering people who found it in their hearts to take the time to send a long letter or just a simple "happy birthday." I watched him connecting with them once again, if just for a moment, through shared experiences.

My dad will know that he impacted the lives of many.