Thursday, September 8, 2016

It's A National Emergency

This is my thirteenth year in public education, I've been a teacher - Assistant Principal - Principal and am now a Director of Innovation, my dad taught 2nd and 3rd grade for thirty-eight years, my oldest child is now in Kindergarten. 

I'm connected with educators all around the country, and many that I talk with feel the same frustration. 

No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core - in my thirteen years there's been so many new programs from the federal level. Yes, when I started teaching the iPad and Chromebook had not yet been invented. Google Docs hadn't been created yet either. And of course, we have much more educational research at our fingertips in those thirteen years.

It's so great working with smart, caring and passionate educators. As a country are we just spinning around and around though? 


Do the people making these decisions that hold public office know what it's like to work in a public school, day after day? That many of our teachers rely on Donors Choose to fund new and innovative ideas for their class.

A Chromebook is 100x more powerful than a pencil, yet so many of our students, classrooms, schools and districts don't have them or don't have enough. I believe this is a national emergency, spend less money on politics, politicians, aircraft carriers, weapon systems, fancy flights for dignitaries and do what's best for our kids. 

Get all kids connected, get all kids access and provide quality programs and pathways for teachers to support our kids.

I just wonder how many articles I'm going to read everyday in numerous different media outlets about the importance of coding in school. How many jobs we're going to outsource to other countries because our kids in our schools are not being taught how to code, why they should code and making it an actual part of the curriculum.

Just yesterday I was visiting one of our middle schools and EVERY 6th grader is taking a coding rotation. They're learning how to code in Scratch and it was an absolutely amazing sixty minutes that I observed. I truly believe that it's a national emergency that our students learn to code.

They all won't become programmers after high school or college. But they all will learn extremely valuable problem solving skills, communication skills, working in partners/teams, and they'll have the satisfaction of building something and then seeing an outcome based on what they've done.

I wish we could all get in sync. I wish we could all be on the same page. I wish the elected officials making the decisions that impact us, were previous teachers - Principals - district office personnel. Then they would actually know what we're going through. That quite often many educators feel like they're in a hamster wheel. Spinning around and around and around. Working super hard but not really going anywhere. Not being supported, encouraged or guided in a direction of success.

This is a national emergency - we must all come together, it's not about the adults - it's about the kids. We need to stop listening to lobbyist and text book companies who try and package the new shiny curriculum. We need more coding, more recess, more kudos, more technology that's integrated thoughtfully, more relationship building and less profit margins.

We can do this, I really hope we come together as a country to do what's best for kids - they deserve it.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

I Like Computers?

It happened again. Of course I'm use to it, but it's a bigger problem than what's really on the surface.

Yes - I'm a Director of Innovation and Technology. Yes - I use to set up Google Apps domains for Principals when I was still a teacher. Yes - I really love enhancing the curriculum in classes with laptops, tablets, coding and robots.

Spoiler alert - it's not just me. I do like computers in education and my life, but kids really do too!

Very recently I was around some teachers and I could hear their chatter about technology, iPads, their iPhones etc. To be transparent I was really only half listening but then the group addressed me directly. 

One teacher said - "I know, I know - you like computers."

It was accusatory almost, like it's my fault. Like I invented laptops, iPads and the app store. Like I'm the one who started this digital revolution as a way to enhance the curriculum in school.

(Some thoughts racing through my brain)

Don't make me the scapegoat because you don't want to learn, you don't want to transform your classroom into a mecca of digital learning that kids can't wait to participate in on a daily basis, because sometimes the wi-fi is slow, because you only have six Chromebooks, because you're scared to admit that your students know more about computers than you do.

Spoiler alert #2 - those same students probably know more about computers than I do, and that's totally ok! You don't to know everything about computers to integrate them into your classroom. You only need to facilitate the learning, exploration and discovery with kids!

Blaming, finger pointing, complaining and making excuses doesn't help. It doesn't benefit anyone, it's not encouraging, it actually takes away positive energy and only hurts the cause.

So I thought for just a second before I responded.

"I do really like computers, but kids REALLY like them too, it's not just me."


Me - "Don't your students really enjoy using computers, tablets and online programs?"

"Yes they do."

That interaction stayed with me the rest of the evening, and even into the next morning during my run. 

Computers are all around us, like everywhere. I almost can't think of a profession where computers/phones/tablets aren't used. My cousin married a guy who owns a 10,000 acre farm in Iowa. His entire crop is digitized, all the way down to his tractors and where he plants the seeds. Because he uses satellites and past data to know where exactly he should plant so he gets the highest yield.

And he's a farmer in Iowa!

My goal is to make everyone a 'tech person' - it's the language our kids speak, we must speak their language - it's about being relevant! Their language is tech and if we don't speak that language then we're teaching an entire generation of kids in the wrong language. 

Just yesterday I was reading an article from Inc magazine about coding skills and how they are so desperately needed for so many different reasons - read the article here but see some highlights below!

- Coding helps develop logical thinking and problem-solving skills.

- Coding requires working in teams.

- Learning to code opens the door to job opportunities.

- Learning to code gives non-coders confidence with technology.

Educators must embrace computers and technology, the future of our children depends on it.

Spoiler alert #3 - computers aren't just in technology companies! Remember my cousin and his farm! John Deere the tractor company is currently hiring a Senior Software Engineer right now. Tech and computers is not relegated to just technology companies, tractor companies hire people with these skills as well.

Please don't find a scapegoat,  please don't have that mentality, please don't have that attitude. If you're uncomfortable with integrating technology or have questions there are plenty of resources to help you out.

It's not about you, what you like, what you think kids should be doing (it's for sure not learning cursive) or what you think they're ready for. By the way, Kindergarten students can log into Google Apps - they can. I've seen it, I've done it, they can do it. Please don't limit kids based on your perception.

I'll say it again and I may even make a bumper sticker - I. Like. Computers.