Sunday, February 7, 2016

Is Military Service The Key To College + Career Readiness? - My #VibeEdu @VibeIsrael Tour

This is just one in a series of ongoing posts on the educational innovations in Israel. You can see additional coverage here.

In the United States, youth have become what school critics like John Taylor Gatto refer to as infantilized. Their days and activities are structured by what adults tell them to do. They view their work as disconnected from them, having little relevance or meaning in their lives.

In many cases they are right. Their responsibility is to hand in work that most of the time an adult told them to do. Their final accomplishment is represented not by a body of work that is meaningful to them and shared with with others; instead, it is represented by a one-page transcript that encapsulates years of testing, assessing, and work that was “turned in.” This work has no real audience and almost never sees the light of day beyond the classroom or school.

While in school, these students have little responsibility beyond themselves, and have only limited control over where they go and what they do. Unlike previous generations, the percentage of employed teens has declined significantly from about 36% in the 90s to about 16% today for high school students and from about 60% in the 90s to about 47% today (Source: Child Trends Data Bank). Students move from the doors of high school to those of college where their first two years are usually prescribed. Majors are often chosen without much contact with what the course of study entails, and without meaningful experience that could help them make an informed decision.

About half of those who enter college exit without a degree. Of the half of those dumped out on the other end are unemployed or underemployed.  Those who graduate often don’t pursue careers related to their field studied in college. Those who do generally assimilate to the company culture operating as they have their whole lives. They do what they are told, how they are told to do it, when they are told it should be done, moving to and from their cubes under florescent lights. They go through the motions, unfulfilled. Just another cog in the machine.

To remedy this it is not uncommon for the unemployed, underemployed, and unfulfilled to go back to school. This makes sense, as many professions that previously required only a bachelor’s degree, now require advanced study. This extends the dependency of young people on school well into what had traditionally been early adult life. Individuals are prevented from taking up their own important work until a relatively advanced age. As a result, what we regard as adult maturity and independent life happens late. This affects schools little as they are not usually reviewed based on student employment. It affects students as potential candidates though. Back in the workforce, employers are left looking at candidates without much meaningful experience and little to show for all the time they’ve spent under a school’s umbrella. Employment rates for graduates is one concern. Finding work that is fulfilling is another. (Sources: Washington Post, Inside Higher Ed, Money, USA Today)

Does any of this sound familiar?

What if there was a way to change this scenario?

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading

This is the saddest of The Innovative Educator’s recaps. That’s because it filled with posts from three educators we've lost in recent months: Deven Black, Joe Bower, and Bob Sprankle. I am happy to recognize the lives of these innovative educators. I hope what I shared about each gives you a little insight into their lives and the legacy they have left behind.

Jan 29, 2016, 
Jan 17, 2016, 
Jan 4, 2016, 
Jan 10, 2016, 
Jan 31, 2016, 
Jan 12, 2016, 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

4 Reasons A Regional #STEM Lab Is Key - #VibeEdu @VibeIsrael Lessons Learned

This is just one in a series of ongoing posts on the educational innovations in Israel. You can see additional coverage here

Whether we call it STEM, (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math), STEAM (add Art), or STREAM
(add reading or research), countries across the globe are doing their best to develop students who are prepared to pursue careers and studies in the areas of Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math. Despite these efforts, few are accomplishing their goals. Efforts include creating STEM schools, AP classes, and virtual classes for schools where there are not enough students or qualified teachers for a class.  

What if there was a way to give students with the most interest and potential state-of-the-art opportunities with leading scientists and equipment in actual science labs?

In Israel, there is. It’s called HEMDA.

HEMDA is a regional center for science education that serves high school students in all of Tel Aviv. The HEMDA building ensures that all studies take place under lab conditions in industry-standard labs, with every single classroom a multipurpose space. This enables students to conduct experiments and use computers and teachers have access to the innovative and qualitative teaching strategies and methods.
Tehila Ben-Gai, Director of HEMDA explains the resource center.
Materials are stored in a central space and an be wheeled to classrooms on the periphery as needed.  
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Sunday, January 31, 2016

How A Collective, Connected Community Can Stand Up for Those Who Are Down - RIP @DevenKBlack @BobSprankle

As I shared a few days ago, friend and award-winning connected educator, Deven Black was violently murdered in a homeless shelter. Many of those who knew Deven at the height of his career, just a few short years ago, tried to make sense of what had happened. Some felt guilty because they hadn’t reached out to Deven with a call or an invitation to meet.  As one person said, “I think this highlights the power of social media to bring people together, but also its power to make us think that we're helping when we really aren't.” Another put it this way, “"We posted kind words to a social media profile and assumed that was enough."

Some people conveyed that they were connected to Deven through their online conversations though they never got to meet him. Some called him an online friend who they never got to know in real life.  Some warned of the dangers when we let the the lines of online life and real life blur.  

We need to take a step back from the notion that online communication is interaction in a world that is not real or is somehow less valuable than face-to-face life.  This impulse to dismiss social media as less than other communication is detrimental. It leads to a false belief that if only we had selected a different medium in which to communicate, there would have been a different outcome. I'm not so sure.

Here's why.
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The Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading

My post about those horrible bells in school resonates with readers for another week. Out with the industrial model bells, and in with more modern and civil ways for queuing students to move between classes. Making its way to second place for the first time are 5 tips from digital influencers on how to make a great education blog. Following that is a post that I wrote to let people know the benefits of going paperless and how to make agendas that make that possible. Next up is post that I have found really helpful. It explains how to write a killer Tweet. I find myself referring to that post often and sharing it with others. Rounding out the top is a post about how to use social media to change perceptions. It’s an important post for schools and educational organizations to read understand how their digital image can support a positive reputation. 

Dec 30, 2015, 
Jan 17, 2016, 
Jan 10, 2016, 
Jan 12, 2016, 
Jan 3, 2016, 

I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired use one of those icons below the post to share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Friday, January 29, 2016

RIP to Award-Winning Librarian @DevenKBlack

Last month educators had to say goodbye to Joe Bower. Shortly prior, we lost Bob Sprankle. This week, I was stunned to learn we lost another innovative educator, Deven Black. I knew Deven as an intellectual out-of-the-box thinker. I loved speaking with Deven because he appreciated having lively conversations where we might disagree on a topic and knew on the other side of it, we’d both come out smarter.

Deven credits me for getting him started with social media. He said he was pissed when my advice on how to get started with Twitter and other social media was, “Just create an account and do it.” He was looking for a more complex answer I suppose. He told me he followed my suggestion and later grew to appreciate my advice to simply jump right in. At the time Deven was a special education teacher and later he became a librarian (which you can read about here). Because of his intellect and insights, it wasn’t long before Deven became quite well-known in the world of education.

In 2012 he was named one of the top 20 education bloggers by the Bammy Awards. You can read his take here. The same year he gave a great talk at Jeff Pulver’s #140Edu Conference. His topic was “How to make dropping out work for you.” It’s worth watching. You can watch his talk or read the transcript here. Deven was also was part of a group that contributed to the New York City Department of Education’s ground breaking social media guidelines which were the first in the world to be created with students and teachers.  

Bammy 2012 Top Education Bloggers. Devin is on the left. Back row.
Photo credit: Kevin Jarrett
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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

10 Practices to Help Bilingual Students Succeed from a Tel Aviv School via #VibeEdu @VibeIsrael Tour

This is just one in a series of ongoing posts on the educational innovations in Israel. You can see additional coverage here

New York City is indeed a melting pot, and while New Yorkers embrace its diversity, teaching in a school where students are not fluent in English, and often are not even literate in their own language, is challenging. Students are often unable to perform at grade level, not because of their capacity to learn, but because of their capacity to understand the language. What’s more, after just one year in the country, foreign-born students are expected to perform on the same standardized tests as native speakers. When they don’t, there’s a domino effect: the student is labeled a failure. His parent feels like a failure. His teacher a failure, and if there are many such students in attendance, the school is labeled a failure. The failure however is not the student, teacher, or school. The failure is the a school system that is failing these students.

Does any of this sound familiar?

What if there was a way to change this scenario?

As one of five bloggers invited to be a part of #VibeIsrael’s #VibeEdu Education Innovation tour I had the chance to visit a school where none of this is the case. The Bialik Rogozin School provides a unique model where refugees and children of migrant workers, some of them with little or no schooling at all, are integrated into Israeli society with common sense educational strategies that any school or district could adopt. 
Students at Bialik Rogozin Scohol connect through the common language of the arts.
Here they dance to music from various cultures.
Here they are:
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