Reitz High School

Reitz High School
Evansville, IN

Thursday, January 31, 2013

How Do You Make Learning Irresistible?


             I am attending and have presented at the FETC (Florida Educators Technology Conference) this week.  It has been a great experience from start to finish.  The keynote this morning was Katie Salen, the Executive Director of the Institute of Play that is focused on games and learning.  This school sounds awesome.  It is a 1:1 environment that engages the students by letting them design and play of connected, game-like learning experiences.  These learning experiences are socially-situated, challenge-based and student centered.

            This school has done and is relying on research for how youth learns best with the opportunities made available through today’s networked and digital media.  From that research, they found that students “learn by doing.”  They master skills as they teach their peers.   

            She showed several video clips of the students and teachers in the school.  The students in the videos seemed to be very excited about learning and enjoyed what they were doing.  It is exactly what you would want to see students doing in your very own classroom.  I saw tons of light bulbs going off in student’s heads and squeals of excitement as they were learning.  I thought to myself, “How is this accomplished?”  How do you get every student that engaged and fired up about learning?  One thing that Katie Salen said is we have to make learning irresistible.

            For me it would need to be like leaving an Oreo cookie on the table with a glass of cold milk next to it.  That would be pretty irresistible.  How do you make learning that way in your classroom?    How do you make it where the students just cannot wait to learn something new each day?  How do you keep up that momentum once you get it started?  I would love to hear some of your ideas for doing this.

            For more information on the Institute of play visit: http://playmakers.instituteofplay.org/

            You can also find some resources that Katie shared with us at the following websites:  http://beta.playforce.org/ , http://beta.gamek.it/ , and http://signup.simcityedu.org/ .

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Be Positive and Tolerant




           This post doesn’t have much to do with eLearning, but applies to all of our daily lives.  Lately, I almost hate to read headlines or watch the news.  It now seems like every week someone has lost their mind and there is a fight, a shooting, and now some countries have missiles pointed at us.  I know the Bible says times are going to get like this, but I still don’t understand it and feel it is so unnecessary. What are people thinking and what has changed that people feel they can or should go out and commit these crazy acts?  Just like the old Waylon Jennings song says, we need to get back to the basics of life.   

            This last Wednesday was a scary day for me.  In 24 hours I witnessed an awful car accident in which I called 911 and reported it.  It could have been me if I had been a few seconds earlier.  Then my daughter’s high school had a threat on Facebook that mentioned the Sandyhook tragedy and caused them to go into a lockdown for over an hour.  I held my breath the entire time.  Everything turned out OK, but my life could have change forever in that situation as well.  It really got me to thinking.  I need to start living my life and treating people the way I want them to really remember me.  Live each day like it is your last.  Just don’t spend all of your money just in case it isn’t.
 
            There is too much time spent between people bickering and arguing over things that really don’t amount to a hill of beans when it comes down to it.  As a person, I want to stop seeing the negative things in people and try seeing more of the positive.  When you think of it, there is at least one positive thing about most folks you know.  That needs to be our focus.  Be tolerant of others and try to see things from their perspective.  Everyone that does not think exactly like you is not an idiot.  In fact, it would be a very boring world if everyone thought exactly as I do.

            I have always told my students.  Be careful about how you treat your peers.  The people you sit next to in your classes right now will someday be your neighbor, your waiter, your chef at your favorite restaurant, your nurse, your bank teller, and even your boss.  They may not remember any great thing you did on the football field or the basketball court, but they will remember how you treated them.  Do you want someone that you ridiculed and made fun of fixing your food or handling your money?  That question really gets them thinking.

I also want to try to do more good deeds for the people in need.  I am blessed way more than I deserve and need to pay it forward.  If everyone would just put forth a little effort to be more positive and tolerant, things would turn around.  This would be a wonderful world to live in.  Lets try it, what do you say?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Should Discipline and Grades be Separate?

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As a teacher at mid term and report card time, I would always average my grades and put in what each student had earned.  After grades were done, then I would go thorough all of the names and fill in the comment section.  Here I could give positive or negative feedback for each student.  In a way, it was like my students’ behaviors were never really factored in to the grade that I was giving them.  Is this right?

I really hadn’t given it much thought until a couple of recent events.  The other night, my wife and I, were watching an episode of “Restaurant Stakeout.”  On the show, there was a waiter that the main guy on the show and the owner of the place were watching.  He was doing a fair job of waiting on his tables.  He wasn’t the friendliest person to the customers, but again he was getting the job done.  He also had a girlfriend that happened to be a waitress at the same restaurant.  He spent quite a bit of time creating drama with her and some of the other employees.  This drama among the servers affected the service of the entire restaurant.
 
The young man ended up getting fired, even though his performance of waiting tables wasn’t terrible. It was his behavior and how it affected everyone else that blew it for him.  This is also true in our classrooms.  A student could be pulling a decent grade academically, but causing others to be distracted because of his or her actions.  I have seen this with at least one or two students, sometimes more, every year that I was in the classroom.  You end up spending more of your time with the student causing the distraction, instead of helping those that may need your attention the most. 

Now, with the new teacher evaluation process that is going to begin next year, teachers’ salaries are going to depend upon how much growth the students are making from year to year.  Student behaviors can affect that growth, just like the young man in the restaurant caused all of the servers not to do their best.  In a business when someone, like the waiter, is causing a problem they can be fired.  The business can then interview and find someone that will benefit and help the business make progress or growth.  The owner and manager do not have to find a way for anyone that walks in the door and wants a job to get along with and work well with the other staff members. 

In the classroom, a teacher does not have the luxury of sending away those that bring down the classroom and bring in other students that will improve the students’ performance or growth.  Teachers have to find a way to reach every student that comes in the classroom and help him or her to be successful.  That, my friends, is one of the most difficult jobs in the world.  That leads me back to my title question.  Should grades and discipline be separate?  Do you think students would behave better if discipline was factored into their grade?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Do You Know the Power of a PLN?

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             I have presented a few workshops at conferences on how to build a PLN and they have had low attendance.  It could be that I stink and nobody wants to come to my session.  I don’t think that is it because my Weebly and Google Docs sessions are busting at the seams.  So my guess is, people do not understand what a PLN is and what it can do for them.

            If you are a newbie, then I will go ahead and let you know that PLN stands for personal learning network.  You could actually have more than one.  You could have a PLN for any topic that you want to learn more about.  For example, if I am an educator that teaches history, I have a hobby where I collect WWII memorabilia, and my favorite movies are the Star Wars series, then I could actually put together three PLNs.  I could have one for my job, one for my hobby, and one to connect with other Star Wars fans.  How is this possible? 

            One of the easiest ways to connect with people around the country or even around the world that have a common interest is through Twitter.  I know, one more thing that you need to do or keep up with.  Believe me, I felt that same way when a friend told me about this idea.  I thought great, another social network where people are going to tell me what they had for dinner and when they took their dog for a walk.  Reluctantly, I signed up for a Twitter account.  I didn’t seek out friends or people that I already knew on Facebook.  Instead, I followed people that were keynote speakers at recent conferences.  I followed a few leaders in my school corporation.
 
            As I would read articles posted by the people I followed, I would begin to follow the people that actually wrote the articles that I liked.  Before I knew it, people were following me.  I began exploring hashtags and would read posts from educators within the hashtag.  For example, #edchat or #edtech.  A hashtag is the pound sign followed by a topic.  While watching your favorite television show you may have noticed a hashtag followed by the name of the show.  You can now get on Twitter and type in that hashtag and read people’s comments as the show is broadcasting.

There are several places on the web to find good hashtag lists.  I have one on my website for education along with a list of people to follow by subject area.  Also on my website, you can check out a PLN Livebinder created by a colleague of mine.  Here is the link to that page: http://elearningtolife.weebly.com/developing-your-pln.html

Well, I said all that to say all this.  At the moment I am now following 234 people, I have 150 followers, and I have tweeted 952 times.  As I login to Twitter I get a plethora of great eLearning articles to read, new webtools to explore, ideas to use, and advice to follow.  If I have a question about something I can tweet it out and usually someone in my PLN will respond with an answer.  It is an awesome support group that I wish I had had access to when I started teaching 20 years ago. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What Is Your Dream Job?




            A few months ago, my boss asked our eLearning team what our dream job would be if we could have it.  He wanted us to think about it because he was setting up appointments to meet with each one of us and this was going to be part of the discussion.  During my meeting, I told him that I love my job.  It is by far the best job I have ever had and what I am doing now is what I was born to do.  I love to make people happy.  I get to do that every day as I show teachers how to do something they can use, or show them a tool that will make their life easier.  I love to be able to answer questions quickly, find solutions, and make people smile.

            I remember what it was like to be in the classroom with a need or a question.  Sometimes it was like pulling teeth to get help or find someone that could answer a question for me.  Occasionally I felt like people just didn’t care, they were too busy, or that I was not a priority.  I don’t want anyone that I work with to ever have that feeling.  I strive to make a difference for my school corporation and the eLearning department.  I remember sitting in class during my 8th grade year listening to my industrial arts teacher.  It was the first week of school and his room was short about ten stools for the students to sit on.  He made the following statement: “If everything runs like it normally does in our corporation, then we should have those stools by Christmas time.”  I have never forgotten what he said and I don’t want to have that type of reputation.

            When you enjoy what you are doing so much that it doesn’t feel like work, then you are doing the right thing.  But if you hate going to work everyday, then you need to find something else to do.  Life is too short to wake up every morning and dread where you are headed.  That doesn’t mean you won’t ever have a bad day, but the bad days should be few and far between.  How do you feel each morning about your day ahead?  Do you love it?  Do you have anxiety about it?  Could you keep doing it forever?  Do you need to make a change? 

            So, what is your dream job?  Is it one that pays more money?  We all would love to make more money.  I am not going to lie, I would love to earn more money, but it is not the most important thing.  My job meets my family’s needs of food, shelter, clothes, and transportation.  It also pays for many of my family’s wants.  If your salary is meeting your needs, and you love what you do, then keep doing what you are doing.  There are plenty of people that are making six figures, but dislike what they do, never have time for family, or experience a crazy amount of stress.  My mother always said, “Money will NOT buy you happiness.”

            For the year 2013, I would like to challenge you.  Write down five to ten things that would be necessities for your dream job.  Set goals on how you can make those five to ten things happen.  You cannot just say you want them, your really have to set goals and decide how you are going to achieve them.  Now go and start working toward those goals.  What is stopping you?  Start working today for what you have always wanted to do.  If you wait for it to happen, it never will.  Make some contacts.  Talk to people.  Lets make this thing happen!  Lets make 2013 the year things started happening for you!  Lastly, I would like to recommend the book 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.  It is available at Amazon and you can get it in audio format as well.   Check it out and make it a Happy New Year!