Sunday, August 26, 2018

Are you Ready?


Every year, a new group of students walks into the CAPS Teacher Education program in the Blue Valley School District.  Never knowing the students' backgrounds or abilities, it is always a great deal of fun watching emerging leaders and shaping our activities to the interests and passions of each of them.  

Last week, students were able to join other students in the other CAPS Strands for an all-CAPS Hackathon.  The Teacher Ed students worked on varied teams with other CAPS students to come up with solutions for issues presented by some of our business and professional partners!  It was fun listening to all of their pitches, and the clients were blown away by the professionalism of all of the students!

Just this past week, we had our first full week of classroom time.  Though we only had five days, we packed a great deal into our schedules.
  • Students brainstormed on topics for presentations of concurrent sessions at conferences and came up with "Relationships, Technology, and Mental Health:  A student-focused conversation" The thoroughness of our discussions is revealed in the conference session description: "Technology has had a positive place in education with its resources for learning and communication, but it also has received negative press considering addictions to devices, time on task, and isolation of students.  Students, however, feel that they are not connected to devices but rather connected to a network and community in which they live. Educators could feel more comfortable with this concept if technology could be viewed as an asset rather than a distraction.  Join us to hear from students on how teachers can leverage technology to not only build better relationships with students and each other, but also as a way to promote mental health, confidence, positivity, and acceptance into a lifelong community of learners.
This session is created by and presented by eleventh and twelfth grade high school students who are a part of a Teacher Education program at the Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies.  They work with practicing teachers and their students and also research and study innovations in learning."
We have submitted our proposal to present at the Greenbush Educational Technology Conference this Fall and are now waiting to see if our proposal will be accepted to present.


Students, this week, were also introduced to the professional side of Twitter, many being asked to create a Twitter account just to use with education professionals with whom they associate as a part of our class activities. Time was also spent playing a game of Family Feud and participating in an activity to get to know each other better. In addition, the students went on a virtual scavenger hunt using the Goosechase App, to learn more about the CAPS building and some of the people in it.

All students set up their Educators Rising accounts at educatorsrising.org so that they can collaborate with future and practicing teachers across the nation.


Projects were discussed, and students had an opportunity to designate some as those they might want to pursue because of their interests or passions. We are still coming up with project ideas as well. Some of the projects we are planning are the following:
  • WHITEHORSE-working with the Indigo Project on developing curriculum for students of the Navajo Nation who attend school in Utah
  • STEM virtual teaching-working with Dr. Lucas Shivers, Director of Elementary Education in Manhattan, KS, to design a STEM workshop for 5th graders and teach it virtually using a Double Robot
  • LITERACY project-working with Stanley Elementary on reading strategies and mentoring 5th graders as Instructional Coaches as they work with 2nd graders
  • CAPS KIDS--what would happen if we could start our own school?  Many students are interested in researching and looking at the possibilities!
  • …and other projects are possibilities as well!
Students also took the INDIGO surveys this week which provides to them information about their strengths, skills areas, and dynamics of group interactions.  We will continue to look at these results as we work with each other and with students and teachers in classrooms.

Very soon, our students will be entering classrooms to work with students and teachers.  After this week's discussions on design thinking, growth and fixed mindsets, and project/problem based learning, our students will have a very authentic approach to working with their students and creating learning activities.


I'm sure this next week will be packed with more incredible genius and fun!  Please watch our website for upcoming events and information: http://tinyurl.com/capsteachered and follow us on Twitter: @wevegotclass

I have seen the future of education,( I see the makers every day), and it is great!


Graphic credit: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjBkaWHtIvdAhWmiVQKHfczAiYQjRx6BAgBEAU&url=https%3A%2F%2Fyouthministry360.com%2Fblogs%2Fall%2Fthe-new-school-year-is-here-are-you-ready&psig=AOvVaw2rCP-cGON09YZBLkWuYrjJ&ust=1535396544104923

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What Have You Gained????


For the past few years, my goal has been to complete my Ph.D. at the University of Kansas.  Along the way, my end goal was always in sight with little consideration for the changes that were occurring along the way.  Having my head buried in reading, working on coursework, and writing, sometimes I would ask myself, “what am I doing?” 

Early last Fall, I was answering to my doctoral committee on questions and issues in educational technology, focusing on what I had learned from my reading and research and on how I would put that all to use in constructing my research proposal and methodology. 

I was thrown when one of my committee members asked me what I had gained from working on my doctorate at KU. In the throes of coursework and networking, I had lost sight of exactly what I was doing and how it was all transforming me. 

You see, I always viewed this degree as an end…a sign that I had proverbially “made it” in terms of my education and academic career.  Upon finishing, I would have time to breathe and relax and really take in the world around me.  Just the opposite happened.

I find myself reading and writing even more, partaking in synchronous and asynchronous discussions on a regular basis, elevating my need for information, and researching topics to transform my work and interactions.  I see now why that committee member wanted me to reflect on my work at KU.

So, Dr. Zhao, in a long-awaited answer to your question that you asked last October, my experience through this process has transformed me. I crave more quality and research-driven information.  I’m constantly reading and researching, and my experience has made me entrepreneurial in the sense that I want to seek out the “why” of every issue I encounter.  I feel a charge to change my world and that of others.  I read journals and papers now with a renewed sense of critical inquiry and hope. 

Thank you for asking the question that has been stuck in my mind since it was asked.  I thought I was getting a degree; instead, I gained a vision of who I truly am and why this journey was so incredibly important to me.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Differentiating Learning Opportunities

Learning is the interactions between students and content and how each affects the other. The practice of learning something occurs when a student is able to understand not only literal content but also the way that content affects him or her. Many confuse learning with a student’s ability to recite or to memorize content, but the student truly needs to be able to interact in a cognizant way with the content before true learning occurs.

I know that I learn best by interacting with content visually. I always have to make a chart or picture of something before I can truly “see” and understand it. By seeing a visual depiction of what I am supposed to learn, my brain truly begins to make the connections of understanding. I have come to the conclusion that I am a visual learner over time. I used to make lists in my notes when I would study for a test, but, now, looking back, I realize that I could picture those lists in my mind, and many times, I could remember something simply by remembering where it was on the page of my notes. I also used mnemonic devices as I learned. To this day, I remember that Thomas Hooker founded Connecticut by visualizing the “hook” “connecting.”

The teacher’s role in seeing learning as a true interaction is to be a catalyst for new ideas and activities that can be used to cultivate the learning within all learning styles. While I am a visual learner, others will be audio learners or kinetic or kinesthetic learners. All of us need differentiation in the provision of methods to interact with content. As a teacher, I am constantly trying to find different ways to present material to my students. I realize that in order to learn that which I desire them to learn, I must provide varied experiences.

Last semester, I provided a list of MENU items (My Educational Networking & Understanding) for students to complete. For each of the objectives for our course, I offered three different options/types of activities the students could complete. I also left a blank for suggestions for each. Some of the students came up with very creative ways to go about accomplishing particular objectives. I feel that they learned more from choosing interactions with which they were comfortable than what they would have learned if I had assigned the same thing for all.

As I see learning as a true interaction between content and students, there is no better connector than technology. With technology, students have a variety of ways that they can interact with even the same content. I might interact with a video from which I can acquire a true understanding of the objectives desired. Another student might do better by listening to someone else talk about the content. Technology can be the great leveler in education if used in a productive and meaningful way.

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, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1X-49f3zvc , 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.

And...at 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 family...my 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 early...in 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.