What are our students doing?

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From: Internet Addiction Blog 

“Why didn’t you let me know you were at my house last night?” Griffin’s friend asked as we walked into the scout meeting. Griffin had stopped by the night before to get signed off on requirements for his first aid merit badge by his dad. “Where were you?” Griffin inquired. “Downstairs, asleep! My summer awake hours are 8 pm to 6 am.” As a parent listening to this conversation I was stunned that parents allowed their children to live this way. I asked a few questions. He explained that during the summer he plays Call of Duty with friend online at night. If he is up during “normal” hours he gets bored. Lucky for me Griffin thinks staying up all night to video game online is crazy.

As I reflected on this conversation, I got to wondering what my students are doing this summer. Before school got out, I surveyed my classes about what they were looking forward to during summer. Many responded with “TV, Video games or Movies.” Aren’t these things that students can do year round? Some did share about camping, sporting or trips to see family. A few responded with “Nothing”.  I guess I am lucky, I can spend most of summer at home with my kids. They read, write, and explore many things. This week they spent 3 days at Stony Creek Metropark attending a nature camp.

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Photo Credit: T Bloch

Our students need sumer activities to stimulate their minds, challenge their thinking and keep them busy. Yes, children need to have voice and choice in what they do. They need free time to explore on their own, but they also need structured time. Time to explore new things. Time to be challenged. If children only choose what they want to do, how broad will their experiences be? Some children love trying new things but others resist. Children need to be pushed into trying a variety of activities out. Often they find something new they enjoy! My son Gavin didn’t want to goto nature camp, he told me he would rather spend quality time with “Netflix” but he learned he likes making! After building a catapult he said: “Dad can I make a Robot?”

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Photo Credit: T Bloch

Society needs to make sure their are plenty of opportunities for students in the summer. Students should not be allow to just sit at home with screens as sitters. Many communities have camps at their churches or schools that offer this opportunity. Hopefully my students are taking full advantage of their summer! I will be tagging all my children’s summer learning with #summerlearningfun on Twitter and Instagram. Join me in shedding light on how our youth should use their open summer time to learn independently.

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Blinking Red Light – Why Teachers Have Unions!

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The light is blink on the phone as you enter your classroom at 7 AM to start the day. Who called? What did I miss in my e-mail/newsletter/web-page update/remind announcement? A familiar voice comes on the speaker, it is your principal, “I need to see you when you get in!” What is so urgent? What did I do?  Worry enters the mind, all kinds of emotions take over as tears start to form at the corner of your eyes. Why am I being called to the principals office?

This scenario doesn’t happen very often, when it does teachers are thankful for being union members. The message creates panic; students goto the office not teachers. Usually if a Principal needs to talk to a teacher they stop by their room to converse casually in the hallway. What causes an unscheduled teacher office visit? It can be a number of things: Phone call from parents, concern shared by co-worker or student, observation by principal. Teachers fear the worst. They need someone to sit by their side. Help them gather their emotions and discuss the situation. Good administrators will give the union representative a heads up. The teacher is offered the opportunity to have the representative in the meeting. No harm in having an extra pair of ears attend to listen and give them an unbiased view of the situation.

Most teacher office visits are simply to clear up misunderstandings. “I saw you leave school before the designated time!” the administrator might assert. “I had to make it to my son’s sporting event, it was a one time occurrence” the teacher humbly answers. “Next time let me know ahead of time, hope you made it” would be a reasonable administrator response. Other meetings can be more serious dealing with allegations from students or parents. The union representative is present to be an extra set of ears and make sure the teacher’s contractual rights are followed. Representatives help calm nerves to enable clear communications about the situation. Imagine hearing serious allegations from an administrator all alone!

Teachers learn how to teach. They learn how students learn. Learn the in’s and out’s of curriculum, best practices and how to integrate technology. No where in their educational process do they learn how to read a contract and deal with allegations (which can often unwarranted). Teachers go into teaching to help students and feel that everything they do is what is best for their students. Misunderstandings and mistakes happen. This is when an expert in the contract and teacher rights is needed. The teacher’s union provides this expertise.

There are so many reasons to be a member of your teacher’s union. Five main reasons listed here. In a time of need teachers need someone to help guide them to their best decision. Union representatives provide this support. No teacher ever plans on getting called to the office but it can happen when they least expect it.

In it for the Outcome!

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This weekend as I was watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 Celtics/ Lakers Best of Enemies a line about the late 70’s Celtic players attitude from narrator Donnie Walhberg resonated with me. “The paychecks come if we win our lose, so just cash your check.” It was referencing the lack of passion from players who just seemed to be going through the motions.  It is seen in every profession, when passion gives way for a need of income to just live. This attitude often come from a lack of voice and choice in career or when employees feel their outcomes are beyond their control. Outcome focus is lost and income focus only remains.

Anytime educators raise their voice about income, the common comeback quickly shifts to outcomes. “Teachers are in it for outcomes not incomes.” Yes, every teachers know that they will not get rich teaching, but they expect to support their families and live a decent life. Why is this saying only about teachers? Shouldn’t it be about ALL careers? From doctors, lawyers, dentists, engineers, and politicians to janitors, bus drivers and service careers? Society is contempt paying ever increasing prices for everything but their public services like education. Individuals in most careers are seen as successful by their income. Corporations can turn what ever profit they see fit. Our politicians feel that tax cuts will enhance the business world because they will have more money to create jobs. BUT in education more money is seen as a waste? Society needs to focus on outcomes! If we desire well educated students, we would spend more on schools than sporting events, concerts, movie tickets and prisons.

Right now schools don’t seem to be performing well. Should we blame teachers? or Society? Parents treat their school systems like day care, anxious for the first day of kindergarten so they no longer have to “pay” for someone to watch their children. Constantly pulling students out of school for vacations and to be their day care providers when one can be found. Most doctors and dentists offices only have hours during the school day because their services are more important than school. Our music and mass media often works against most school’s teaching. Modeling poor behaviors, bad grammar and lack of respect for others. Why do some students hate school? Because their world is entirely different than anything they see in schools.

We need to all work together to focus on OUTCOMES! Collaboration will lead to a increase academic gains. It is time educational values are reflected in out society! Start by listening to educators and valuing their opinions. Teachers are role models! Their average income is less than $50,000. So feel athletes or other professions are role models here is a look at their salaries:  On average, NBA players make $5.15 million, MLB players make $3.2 million, NHL players make $2.4 million, and NFL players make $1.9 million per year, according to Forbes doctor’s average $189,000. dentists $146,000, lawyers $136,000. Pay reflects what we value in our society. Are we all focused on outcomes? Sports teams have millions spent on players who don’t even play. The United States is not ranked even ranked in the top 10 for health care!

It is time for our society to show it values education! Spend money here and we will all be supporting positive outcomes!

Feeling Unvalued

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The media constantly buzzes with the news of how teachers and our schools are failing our students. Politicians bemoan the failings of schools offering up new legislative initiatives to “solve” our educational whoas. Society feels teachers suck!  Many who used to dream of going into the profession are choosing different career paths. Current teachers are all extremely dedicated, care deeply about students and their learning, but even some of them are looking for alternatives to staying in the classroom.

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Teachers are valuable to our society. They make every other profession possible. In today’s society many tout their success forgetting how their school experiences molded them. Praising God, mom, dad, their hard work or luck for their success. Just listen to any athlete talk after winning a sporting event. Teachers take a back seat and are frequently forgotten at the end of a long journey to success.

When teacher advocate in efforts of elevating their profession, they are beaten down by society and government. Comments like “Teachers only work 9 months!” or “Those that can do and those that can’t teach” demean our profession. Legislative bodies meet when teachers teach allowing no time for them to give input of policies that regulate their profession. Teachers are constantly reminded that they have to be in teaching for outcomes not incomes. What about other service professions? Doctors, Lawyers, Dentists and Insurance companies? These profession seem to focus more on income than outcome these days! Nobody belittles their career choices constantly.

Teachers need to be valued! As concerned teachers raise their voices listen to them, show you care and hear them. This is how we will attract the best and brightest to the career that needs them!

 

Tricks and Tips for Effective Video-Based Learning

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*Guest Blog Post by Ethan Miller

Videos are not just a source of entertainment anymore. In the past decade or so, video based learning has become one of the most preferred methods of online learning. Ever since the advent of social media, videos are accessible to anyone and everyone irrespective of their geographical location and the devices they use. With such a wide reach, it is not surprising that video based learning is ruling the e-learning market.

 

Let’s first take some time to understand what video-based learning is. It’s the process of gaining knowledge by watching an informative video. In video-based learning, the instructor puts together all the information that he/she wants to convey through audio-visual medium, in such a manner that it catches the attention of the audience. Be it recording yourself lecturing about a topic or explaining through enacting a scenario or just using plain text with voiceovers, these are all varied examples of video-based learning.    

 

Now let’s focus on what makes video based learning popular:  

 

  • Videos provide a great platform to convey information in a captivating manner with the help of audio-visual aids.
  • It also allows teachers and instructors to delve in deep on a particular topic without the fear of students losing interest.
  • Images and sounds have great impact on human minds, and thus it helps students to retain what they have learnt for a longer period of time.
  • One of the biggest plus points of video based learning is that it allows students to learn at their own pace. It is a big step towards personalized learning.

 

 

Now that we have seen why video-based learning is so big in the e-learning market, it’s time to discuss how to make video learning effective for students so that they can get more out of the entire process. The only key to effective video based learning is creating a video that powerfully drives the idea into the minds of its audience. So let’s focus on how one can create a powerful video lesson from scratch.

 

Here are a few tricks and tips on creating an effective video for successful video-based learning:

 

Pre-defined Goals

Video-based learning is a goal-driven method to learning. So before you create a video lesson, you need to be clear about what the end goal is. Once you have the answers to questions like what should students take away from this lesson or how this lesson is going to benefit students, you can focus on planning your video around the end objective.    

 

Unconventional Lesson plan

Creating a lesson plan around videos is rather different from what you would create for traditional classroom learning. As video gives you a wide range to explore and experiment with your lesson, don’t feel shy to add unconventional ideas in your lesson plan. Video-based learning gives instructors an opportunity to show different aspects of a lesson that are not possible to address in textbook style teaching. So chuck out the conventional lesson plan and go crazy with your video lesson.  

 

Short and Sweet

One of the problems with video based learning is that the video can meander into off page topics if the instructor doesn’t pay close attention. With so many cool things that you can incorporate in your video, it is quite easy for an instructor to digress into subjects that are not related to the main topic. And when a video lesson shifts its focus from the main topic at hand, it leads to the audience losing interest and thus dilutes the entire learning experience. Apart from the obvious drawback of losing out on the audience, lengthy videos take up more size and are difficult to upload or access from different devices. So, it is better keep it short and sweet.   

 

Voiceovers and Captions

One of the simplest tricks to make your video lesson way better is by adding voice-overs and captions to the video. It might sound like a very small addition to the video, but it does wonders to the overall quality of your video lesson. Voice-overs and captions make it simpler for your audience to understand better and also benefits students with hearing or visual impairments. However, one must understand when to use voice-overs in order to avoid overusing them. Captions and voice-over at right places can magically enhance the experience of video-based learning.     

 

Audio-Video Quality

It might sound very basic but a lot of instructors overlook the audio-video quality of the lesson. You might have created an amazing video lesson with interesting analysis but all the effort will go down the drain if your audio-video quality is not good. Watching a poor quality video is an instant turn off for the audience. So there needs to be great emphasis on creating a decent quality video with good quality sound to go with it. You don’t need a high end camera and audio mike to create an effective video. You can record a decent quality video on your cell phone camera and use voice recorders to get clear audio sans interference.     

 

Record Examples

 

Video lessons are not just meant to impart theoretical knowledge. They can be used to show practical applications as well. For example if you are teaching about how to use a software or an app, you can pepper your video lesson with practical examples by just recording the screen while you use the software/app. This gives your audience a clearer picture about the lesson and minimizes chances of making mistakes while they use the software in real life.  

 

Apart from the aforementioned tips, one can even use animation tools or get in touch with a graphic designer to add extra spark to your video lesson. Although animation is not everyone’s cup of tea, it adds additional value to your video lesson.

 

Even without animation, you can ensure an impactful video based learning by following the simple tips that I have mentioned above. I hope this article helps instructors and teachers who are new to the world of video based learning.  

 

  • Ethan is a dedicated private ESL teacher who also works as an online tutor at various education portals. Apart from his passion for teaching, Ethan loves to write and holds a degree in creative writing. When he is not teaching or writing his book, Ethan loves to blog and is a huge fan of educational technology. You can follow Ethan on FacebookTwitter and check out his blog on WordPress.

 

 

Testing Season

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It is testing Season in Michigan. The M-Step started for 8th grade two weeks back as most students returned from spring break. School schedules are morphing regularly to fit the test in around continuing instruction. Students have mixed reactions to tests. Some want to see where they stand. Are they ahead or behind. Most who care, just want to be “better” than their friends. Others just see the tests as another rite of passage. They endure theses like enduring visits to the dentist. Still others just dread they testing days and the changes of schedule. Often getting physically ill just with the though of having to sit in front of the computer for an hour.

 

I hope every parent gives a similar message to their children as this principal! Tests are just a snapshot, a moment in time. Some students will succeed. Others will fail. The standardized tests schools give don’t focus on all the skills our students learn. Their focus is on rating students in a subject area against all the other students who take the test and a standard. Is everyone good at every subject? NO.

All students learn, but they learn differently and at different rates. Master of one subject or skill doesn’t mean a student will master them all. School need to focus on celebrating the diversity of learning. Our test outcomes focus on all students doing the same work. Students will master what they are passionate about! This passion leads to hard work. Some will grow up to be doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, painters, artists, actors or musicians. Do all these careers need to master the same skills?

Education is about learning how to learn and being exposed to a wide range of ideas. When this happens in time students will find their passions and blossom. Society can’t let test dampen students passions for learning. Let’s endure the testing season trying our best but remembering it is just a snapshot from the day it was taken. I wonder what all the CEO’s snapshots looked like when they were in school?

Life in the Middle: #ProudMIeducator

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Anytime someone finds out I teach in a middle school, the responses are: “I couldn’t do that!” “You must be a saint!” or “God Bless You and thank you for what you do!”  Being a middle school teacher is a calling that many teachers fall into by chance rather than by choice. Once a teacher spends a year in the middle, they often never want to leave. Middle school students are no longer kids but not quite adults. They are eager sponges with attitudes, never afraid to ask a question in class but too timid to say hi at the grocery store. Teaching in the middle means no two days are the same. We learn to expect the unexpected.

During the past 16 years of teaching middle school, I have worked with the most giving, passionate staff. Teachers arrive early to tutor students in need. As the first bell rings teachers walk the hallways greeting students with smiles and high fives. Most middle school classrooms have wide ranges of student ability levels. Teachers tirelessly prepare to meet their students’ many needs. During lunch, students find refuge from the cafeteria in classrooms where tutoring and camaraderie are offered. When the final bell rings, the teacher’s day is not done, coaching or advising a club is on many teacher’s schedules. Then off to home to grade papers and plan for the next adventurous day in the middle. Middle school days are always full. Full of energy. Full of excitement. Full of Drama. Full of problems. Full of answers. It can be easy to get swallowed up by the middle school schedule. To be successful, a good supply of coffee and a positive support network is needed. I am a proud middle school educator.

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My students are growing physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially. They don’t all grow at the same time or at the same rate. It is a daily challenge to motive a classroom of 32 students growing in 32 different ways. A lesson that works second hour often won’t work third hour. Changing plans on the fly is necessary to meet the many needs in my classroom. Last week I found myself pulling supplies out of a cabinet to do a hands-on activity after students got confused reading about diffraction. Students ended up using a metal cooking tin to make waves bend around a rock.

March is Middle Level Education Month, all middle school teachers should be proud for making a difference in students’ lives daily. It may look different in each classroom but in the end we make students smile, laugh and feel good about learning. Be a Proud Michigan Educator like me. Proud for working hard everyday for our students.

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Image from AMLE.org

#proudMIeducator is a Michigan Department of Education initiative that aims to acknowledge, elevate, and celebrate the work of great educators in the State of Michigan. This is a collaborative venture including any supporters in Michigan who want to celebrate our educators.

Celebrate Proud Michigan Educators – use #proudMIeducator to share your own stories!

Interested in writing a #proudMIeducator blog post or learning more about the campaign? Visit www.michigan.gov/proudMIeducator or contact Alaina Dague at daguea1@michigan.gov.