Our Words Matter – A Personal Example

I am sorting through my Gmail account trying to get back to an empty inbox and organized online and real world life. As I was sorting through all these links, emails to myself(I send myself emails all the time), and just general decluttering I was reminded of a very special and cool moment for me.

Vicki Davis a.k.a. Cool Cat Teacher who is an education extrodainer and someone who has really helped me find my passion for flattening classrooms and making global connections bookmarked one of my projects via her Diigo account. I know not a big deal as many people do this, but her words mean so much

Here is the link to her blog and this page – http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2013/01/daily-education-and-technology-news-for_22.html

If you don’t follow Vicki, then you have missed out on some integral thoughts, visions, and ideas that can really help  you as a teacher.

A few days before this she had posted a really insight blog post – http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2013/01/3-characteristics-of-people-builder.html

I left a comment in regards to her post because I felt that I needed to. Her words spoke to me. What stood out was her taking time to respond and I cannot tell how good her words felt to me.

I am not sharing this to toot my own horn. I am showcasing this to get to an even more important idea.


It might be that one sideline comment that students overhears or that one little phrase that we don’t think twice about that can make all the difference – good or bad. Her words helped me. They still help me and still hold a place in my mind(obviously here I am writing about it a month later). It is a reminder about how we phrase our words and statements to students, family, friends. Are we really delivering the true message that we want to get across?

Sometimes we need these little positive urges to continue our journey. There are times where I question why I am up late working and up early prepping for the day. I question if it is all worth it when I sit and converse with educators and other professionals around the world to find something to make me better in my classroom. I connect and hear positive things and I am reminded that it is worth it. I always go back to my own kids and what would I want? I would want that teacher always striving to be their best and expecting the same for their students and my own children. I want my kids to come home and tell me that their teacher(s) have a burning passion for what they do. I want to provide this same feeling as an educator.

This weekend I will return the favor of positive words. I am going to handwrite a few positive notes to people and send out. I need to remember how important these words from Vicki were to me and return the favor. Maybe, just maybe, that is all that person needs to keep the journey alive with whatever their passions might be.

And maybe sharing this will spawn others to do the same.

Have a good weekend.

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Round 2 Reflection of Eracism: Global Debate, An Amazing Learning Experience

The team at work

This morning I was lucky enough to have another group of students take part in a championship round debate in bracket B of the Eracism project. We came to school early arriving around 7:15 to get ready for a 7:30 am debate. This is a small sacrifice to make compared to our friends and debating opponent, AISG from China, who had to stay at school until 9:30 pm to take part.

I have not had the luxury to actually meet with my students since the semi-final debates which were a few weeks back. Between then we have communicated through some emails back and forth. I was just hoping that we would have enough students to come in early to debate as I had not heard from many of them. However, they were all there except for a few so we were ready to go.

Trying to make sense of notes and rebuttals

More random notes to organize on the fly!

We did have a major scare. I am not sure where the miscommunication was between the students and myself, but my students came to my office ready to debate the wrong side of the debate. They had all their notes and information ready for the negative side. We did not catch this error until 7:27 am which was three minutes before we started. In a mad scramble and panic we printed off a few notes for the affirmative side and the students were left to quickly change their mindset, their arguments  and really to have all plans fall to the wayside.

To say that I was proud of these students is an understatement. Here we are hearing the beep of Blackboard telling us it is time to speak and we have nothing prepared. Our first speaker took our notes and crafted a great opening based off the bullet points of our research from months ago. During this time we quickly assembled small squads –

The winning pose!

  • some were developing a framework for our second speaker for rebuttal, which when even organized and prepared proves to be the hardest speaking part of the debate
  • some were constructing a conclusion to wrap up and drive home key points that we were speaking on the fly 
  • some were simply working on organizing any notes that we had and preparing for the other team and getting prepared to argue back
Our secret ingredient: donuts!

If you read my first reflection on this project then you have seen the office that we work in. It is small and quite cramped. We have to shut all the doors which makes the room cook us like hot dogs as the heater in the ceiling pumps a ton of hot air. As we started and continued through the debate not only were we sweating from the heater, but from the intensiveness of this debate as we scrambled to sound intelligent.

In the end, both teams did an amazing job. The topic is difficult.  It is not easy, but to listen to these students articulate their thoughts is impressive.

I am not going to be redundant from my first post reflections because many of those ideas still reign true(click the link above to read), but I would like to reflect on some other ideas.
  • I love the ideas that AISG brought up in the debate. The whole notion of new emerging leaders who are empathetic is a great thought to absorb and think about. I need to follow the new emerging leaders and start to figure out how their empathy affects the countries that they lead. We argued back stating that conflicts of many lands go back generations to almost the beginning of time and a new leader cannot make change, but I would like to believe that this is perhaps a start of something positive
  • I love the whole notion that AISG brought to the table about education. Projects like this where students from all over the world work together to increase their learning is powerful. How can we continue to push this global education concept to the next level? We debated against one another, but how can we take these projects further where students can begin to build empathy and understanding of one another so that when these students become leaders the acceptance and equity of all people are just common nature? As I was wrapped up with the idea of current events and education from the debates last week, this new thought of mine is also taking hold of any extra brain cells that I have.
  • Debating and communicating with students from all over the world does two great things
    • Raise the local bar of expectations – Our students knew that they had to bring their A game in order to be ready for these debates. We came across some amazing students, research, rhetoric, and speaking skills. This was a good wake up call that perhaps we are not as amazing as we sometimes like to think. (I don’t think the students would ever admit this, but just an observation from a teacher perspective)
    • With all the hype in the media about American schools falling apart and not being ready to compete globally with other children is just that….hype. Our students proved that despite all the negative press of education in America, our students are doing high level thinking and can do anything they want to do. The key as a school system is create more opportunities for them to feel motivated enough to challenge themselves while they are within our walls and school days. If we don’t provide the necessary challenges and relevant issues we miss opportunities for our youth to expand and explore.
As I bring this post to a close I just want to say that all credit goes to the kids. I shared our victory with my staff and they were all very happy. The kids were ecstatic who participated. It is the joy of their emotions that reminds me that projects like these must continue. They were beyond the notion of grades. They were beyond the notion of just doing school for the sake of school. They wanted to do well. They wanted to make sure they could articulate their thoughts. Even during the moments of this debate when we struggled here and there to figure out what to say they continued to work hard and take measures to do all they could do(being ready for the correct side would have helped with this :)) The intrinsic motivation to learn was beyond anything that I could create in a regular room.
My new favorite line that I read on another blog was –
 I’m the chief learner in my classroom of middle school students.

This line is so true. I have acquired many new thoughts, ideas, questions, and development of my teaching skills through the observation of these students. Eracism has given me a new sense of how amazing students can really be and when we don’t think students can do this or that, they can(that is a great reminder for ourselves as teachers!)! Today they could have just quit and said no when we realized we prepped incorrectly. Instead they thought on their feet and did awesome. Their quick thinking to prepare in 2 minutes was more impressive than actually thinking on their feet during the debate. 
Thanks to everyone who judged, participated, and helped to organize. There are too many to name. However, I would love to create a Google Hangout to talk with others about their takeaways, questions, thoughts on global ed, etc. Let me know if interested and I will work on setting a date.
As Vicki and Julie state, “Once you go Flat, you never go back!” My passion for global education has only gotten stronger through the participation of this project.

All of these students that I had the opportunity to work with through both teams that we operated have done nothing but remind me why I love my job! Kids are amazing! Simply put. When they shine and show their talents and you know that it is all them that have done the work, then as a teacher/leader you know you have done your job. I simply sat back and watched them blow my mind. It is amazing what kids can do when you place them in a situation where there is no ceiling but the ones they place on themselves. When they remove that ceiling WATCH OUT! because it is a spectacle to behold.

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Eracism: Global Debate, An Amazing Learning Experience

I am not going to blog about the whole journey of this amazing project. You can find all information about Flat Classroom and this particular online global debate project here

You can check out my other thoughts after speaking to Dr. Zeitz from UNI earlier this week

Rather, I am going to reflect about the final championship debate for Bracket C. I want to start off by sharing an email I sent out the students who I was so lucky to work with for this project. My students were 8th grade students that were pulled from social studies for about 6 weeks to do this project. I am ever so thankful for the teachers willing to work with me and being flexible to allow this happen.

Here is what I shared with my student via email this morning. I have removed parts that are not necessary for the sake of this blog post.

Happy Friday everyone!

I have a couple of things to address and final confirmation on the debate against China.
First, team 2B did an outstanding job on Thursday! With little prep leading up the final debate this team did amazing. I am so impressed by the work and articulation of your arguments  I know you were bummed to not win, but I hope you took away some vital learning concepts and life skills. As mentioned that day, you have crafted your skill set to be able to sell your ideas or yourself when you are in the workforce, applying to college or a job! I have received several emails afterwards from teachers who attended the debate speaking on behalf of how impressed they were by you guys! Remember you were in the high school division and you held your own. Great job! I really mean that.
Second, the team 8B you debate has been finalized. It has been very difficult to overcome the 14 hour time zone difference and seeking permission for students to stay late or come early. After many negotiations we have found the following time to work. We will be debating on Wednesday, December 19th at 7:30 am. You will need to be at school no later than 7:15 am to make sure we are ready to go. This is a small sacrifice for us to make considering that this means the students in China will be debating at 9:30 pm. They will probably not get home until midnight due to transportation issues and such. They also don’t get to leave school and will be at school for almost a full 24 hours. Please don’t make excuses and come prepared. Let us give them a debate they deserve and make the time worthwhile. I have not heard from any of you on this team so I hope that you have been reading your scripts and slowly getting prepared. I will bring in donuts and juice. You will be done with your debate around 8:30 am so missing TA and part of 1st period. 
Some tips we received from the judges when they spoke about why we did not win that could benefit this team are
1. Impact Statement – What is our impact statement? Our slogan/motto that we want to use to drive home our entire debate? This has been missing in all scripts and has been discussed before. Think about it and see how we can incorporate one.
2. Current Affairs – a very interesting statement from a judge from another country and one that has me thinking things over as a teacher and in my curriculum. She mentioned that we need more current affairs in our research. She stated that anyone can pull from a historical text, but students should be able to show understanding of the world in which they live in. Pretty powerful and therefore if you see anything in the news that could be used bring and perhaps work it into our already existing script.
3. We need to be able to have judges feel that what we are saying is important to them. Why is what we are saying important to me(judges, you, students, the world, etc.)? Bring that passion and prove that what we speak about is urgent and important!
When debating we need to make sure we debate face to face. I think this is what cost us our victory this week. When they bring up facts or points we need to debate them directly and head on. We tend to quickly talk about a point and then resort to the script. We need to really pick apart what they opposing team speaks about.
Have a great weekend and please let me know that you read this will be here on Wednesday!

I decided to share this email because I think the information shared from judges and our experience are things that apply to life in all aspects. The examples are focused on the debate, but I always like to think big picture and figure out how what I teach can transfer to real life.

IMG_4657As a teacher I cannot get over #2 on the tips for judges. How do we as teachers bring in the real world? There is so much going on in the world how does a teacher decide what to focus on? It goes back to an old idea of mine where social studies is taught backwards. You find current events and trace the history of the event backwards and explore our past this way. I don’t know yet, but I know that as we push for more global education students need to understand the world and cultures. Sometimes I think that reading about the past eliminates time to teach these broader concepts. I don’t know the answer, but I am stuck on this piece.

Perhaps at this point I should step back and talk about our debate system.

First, Mrs. Hatch brought in some super power brain food to get us started. Can you start your day any better than with some donut holes?

Next, due to schedule and conflicts we all had to cram into my office. I brought my Mac in as the mic on this is very good and I don’t always trust our school equipment. It never seems to work for me. We had to gather around the one computer and listen as best we could. It was not super loud, but loud enough.

These pictures speak volumes to process, learning, and teamwork involved.



These two pictures show education at a high level. We have students listening, analyzing, and trying to process new ideas and concepts in real time without much time to finalize as a team. During the short quick breaks they quickly dispersed ideas and had to quickly gather all their ideas, write ideas down and looking for that one loophole that we needed to win. It was remarkable. I sat on the floor with my coffee and just watched it unfold. I try very hard to keep my thoughts and ideas out as this is their debate. I do give them things to ponder, but never give facts or information directly.

Go to the debate – http://eracism.flatclassroomproject.org/Debate+Finals+12-2

It is bracket C.

Listen to the articulation of these students from both teams. It is amazing. I have never been part of such high level system of thought with middle school students before.

We have one more team ready to debate against China next week in Bracket B. I am excited to watch them debate and see how they argue. They are on the opposite side so it is much different in terms of thought and strategies. I hope to connect with them before the debate, but who knows. I know they will be ready and I will once again share the information and reflect as well.

I would love to hear from you about the ideas and thoughts shared in this post. What is your reaction? Do you have other food for thought? What would you like to know more about? I want to keep this conversation going because I feel like these students were pushed to a whole new level and really explored their capabilities without worry of grades and rubrics. Rather, they had a live audience that they wanted to impress and do well. THINK Global was amazing we have learned a great deal from them. It is awesome how much we can learn from other schools and students through engagements like this.

This is my first time working a debate and something like this with middle school. As a teacher I learned a great deal about myself and my teaching. I have things to improve as well. More importantly, I am excited for teaching and learning. I am now intrigued by the things mentioned above and how I can make changes to my teaching to bring these concepts to life.

I will be blogging again soon when I have time to gather my thoughts a bit deeper.

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Global Education/Flat Classroom: Discussion with Dr. Leigh Zeitz and Students from UNI

Last night I had the awesome opportunity to jump online and chat for a little bit with Dr. Z who is a professor at UNI

You can check out his very insightful blog here – http://drzreflects.com/

I was contacted by Dr. Z last week to speak to his students about teaching and preparing students for a global project. Currently, his college students are the judges for the Flat Classroom Eracism project. This project is an international debate project for all grade levels. It is a very intense, high level thinking project that requires students to use a variety of tools and thinking skills to prepare to debate students from all over the world. I won’t go into all the details of the project, but it is one that you should check out. Here is a link to the project page where you can find all information, rules, recordings, etc. – http://eracism.flatclassroomproject.org/

Last night I jumped online and met up with Dr. Z to talk about what it takes to get involved, stay involved, and succeed in online learning project.

You can see the recording at http://univnia.adobeconnect.com/p6zpn2lptwq/

A couple things that I wanted to elaborate on from the discussion is that when you do any project that incorporates other countries and classrooms you have to have persistence and patience. Never think things will go perfect. You have to be flexible and be willing to adapt. I think this is essential to making projects like this work. It also is a great example and teaching moment for your students. For me, I have several students who are perfectionists. It is good for them to see me, the teacher, working and adapting, making decisions, thinking on the fly, and keep an open and honest dialogue with all of them. It is good for them to see that as a teacher I don’t have all the answers and sometimes I am wrong. These projects keep me on my toes as a professional and allow me to incorporate teaching life skills as they occur.

A few things that I did not get a chance to talk about in the meeting last night that I think are very important are the following:

1. Real world audience – I touched a little bit about how my students quit asking about their grades. By giving them a real, breathing, living audience the students worked very hard to show others that they could compete, think, and articulate their thoughts. The grade was not nearly as important as not coming across ignorant in these debates and recordings. This is so important in teaching. For about 6 weeks these students came to class ready to engage in material and content for themselves and their learning and not to just get it done for a grade. This is how education should be.

2. My students. They are awesome! My students that I worked with are amazing and really pulled together as a team and assembled great information, scripts, and delivery of content. I cannot take credit for anything they did. I was merely an organizer and devil’s advocate. I did not stress this enough, but my students rocked this project and I want to make sure I give them credit!

3.Confidence – For the first time my students were nervous. They are so used to being on the top here in our school, but going global put them in check and gave them a new perspective. They had to learn the hard way that the real world does not just care if you have the facts and figures, but you have to be able to deliver the goods. Speaking with confidence, persuasion, and proper tone to sell your idea is just as important as having facts. This is a life skill and we talked about how this is key to job interviews or pitching a new idea. You have to sell and market your ideas.

4. Student Frustrations – I think this is just as important. This generation lives in the NOW! world where they expect results instantly. They found it increasingly frustrating when teams did not deliver as promised, dropped out, or deadlines were not met. We had several conversations about making sure that if these things bother you to make sure you don’t drop the ball on others. Also, working on patience and taking time to understand where others are coming from. We cannot go right to angry mode until we get all the details.

I am ever thankful to Dr. Z for giving me a chance to talk about the project. It has given me time to pause and reflect as well. I leave you with some key links to others things to explore and digest. Please contact me if you have further questions or would like to chat about global education.

Resources to Explore

1. http://coffeechug2.wikispaces.com/ – my wiki page where I have links to resources and my presentations about going global in the classroom

2.http://eagleeyecamera.wikispaces.com/ – a projected I created with a few other teachers that will be starting in January. If you are looking for a cool project, then this might be for you. We wrap up registration soon!

3. Flat Classroom Network – http://www.flatclassroomproject.org/

4. Books worth reading

World Is Flat – Thomas Friedman – see notes

World Class Learners – Yong Zhao – My review – This book is an eye opener!

Flattening Classrooms – everything you need to get organize online for global education
My video review of this book!

Last check out all my projects and online connections – http://about.me/coffeechug

Let me know how I can help and help myself in the process

Thanks again Dr. Z

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Flat Classroom: Eracism Round 1: AMAZING!

This year I have students participating in another Flat Classroom Project.

I have 16 8th grade students taking part in the Eracism project which is an international debate.

A link to this project is here

The debate topic is

Debate topic:
“Global management of natural resources will cause conflict between cultures”

Talk about intense! My students had to take time to focus on the content, deciphering what this really means, creating research, outlines, arguments, etc. Everything that goes into a debate. These are some of the top students in our building. This project has not only opened their eyes, but my eyes as well.

Aside from gathering researching(basic skills that they are sick of), these students have to take their thinking to a whole new level that I really feel they have not reached before or not too often.

After a team dropped out, both of my teams are debating against THINK Global school located in Argentina. What I found to be most fascinating about this process is during the first day when I exposed the students to this project they all had a common reaction:

  • We have to go against other schools from other countries? Awesome! Oh wait, they are going to tear us up. 
  • We are the only public school? That is not fair!
  • How are we going to beat these teams?
I found this so striking. When time presents itself I am going to have a class discussion about why they felt this way without even knowing who these other schools are and what they do.
My 16 students are spread across three class periods. They don’t get to meet together as a collective team due to scheduling so they have to communicate and work together through Google Drive and gmail. It has been interesting. What we have discovered is that nothing works better than face to face communication. In a tech saturated environment, these kids are realizing the power of human interaction.
We are in the midst of our first round debates. We have had two of our speakers speak so far. One team is done presenting and just waiting for the final speaker of the other team. 
What do we think?
Well, I think my kids felt inferior. The speaking skills of the other teams were amazing. We have done an outstanding job preparing. I am quite impressed with the scripts and research we have conducted. One student contacted an author, has been asking questions, obtained a copy of the book, and just started to explore beyond Google. 
My kids felt the pressure of thinking on your feet. They only get 5 minutes to plan a rebuttal after listening to the other team. I cannot even begin to describe how intense my office felt while they were talking, discussing, planning the strategies, and then speaking rebuttals. I am not going to lie. I was sweating I was nervous. And I am the teacher and really play no part in the process. I really wish I took pictures. Actually, I am going to take pictures and video next round so I can show how we operated. It is quite amazing to watch them break down the information, make a plan, write some ad lib scripts and begin recording in a matter of minutes. I am so proud of these kids.
There is such a sigh of relief when the recording ends. Then we talk and celebrate for getting it done. 
As an educator I feel like I am being challenged. This platform challenges me to think of more ways to push my students in this way without it being detrimental to their learning. I think that they are enjoying this project. They know there is a real audience listening to them. At this stage they could care less about grades, but instead they care about sounding intelligent, making sound arguments, and winning!
Now that they have done a few speeches(for a lack of a better term), I feel like we have a grasp on things. We know what to expect. We know how to better prepare. Regardless of how we do first round, we have second round. 
This is their project. I don’t even have access to their scripts. I fill their minds with ideas, strategies, how to work as a team, etc. I leave it up to them to organize content, find content, write the words, etc. Should I proofread their scripts? I don’t know. Some might say I should. I have decided to be an advocate of the “team concepts” and “thinking skills”. I feel that if I read the script, offer ideas, give links, etc. then the arguments become mine. I don’t want that. I want them to find their voice. I want them to discover their ideas. I want them to feel like this is truly 100% theirs.
I am fortunate enough to be working with another amazing teacher that runs the Argentina schools. This teacher communicates back and forth daily. It has made life great. This teacher helped when another team had to drop. I feel blessed to be competing against THINK Global. We have learned a great deal from the effective speaking and articulation of their speakers. They are examples of where we are trying to be. 
This is phase one. I will keep things updated and will post pictures and video next time we go through the process. It is too much fun to not document. Education is good when at the end of the day the teacher has learned as much as the students.
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Expect The Best From Yourself: Small Details Matter

Tuesday I am delivering my first education presentation ever. I am nervous. I feel prepared. I spent most of today finalized everything. I will admit that I feel good about what I put together. With anything, I had tremendous help from so many people helping me, offering ideas, suggestions, topics, links, etc. Amanda had to check out all things today when she had other issues.

I have high expectations for my students. Ask any of my 6th grade students that I just wrapped up an extension with and they will tell that I expect a lot from them. In order to expect great things from others you have to expect a lot from yourself.

That is the reason for this post. I want to show my students and others that small details make a difference.

Today I spent more time that necessary working on the layout of my handout. I was not going to hand anything out, but I was advised that teachers love handouts so I agreed.

I started out with this version to begin with:

I used my own face as images because I could not find what I wanted. I originally liked this one quite a bit. However, it was pointed out to me that the glare in the posters behind were tacky. Then I thought that an image of myself could come across as conceited.

So I moved to version 2.0

I was trying to achieve a Zen like approach, but this just seemed to be “off”. I don’t know, but it did not work and I was frustrated. Then it hit me and I came up with version 3.0

I started to really like where this was headed, but this was still not quite right. I changed some fonts, increased the images just a tad to eliminate white space and reduced some dark shades of black and came up with the final version.

Yes, that looks nice. I like this handout. This is one sharp looking handout.

I expect a lot from myself. This is just a silly handout. The real worth of my presentation is all online with my Google Document and the slides and the website I built for one 60 minute talk.

So, to all my students. I do have high expectations. I expect great things from myself and my family. I expect great things from my colleagues. I expect great things from all people. Why not work to your potential? We are only here for so long so what will your mark be that you leave behind?

In case you care all things for my presentation can be found here on the website I built – http://coffeechug2.wikispaces.com/

Feel free to check it out. As always leave any suggestions or ideas as there is still time to make any necessary changes.

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My First Presentation About Going Global in the Classroom – Your Help Is Needed

Coming up in just a few short weeks I will be conducting my very first presentation at a conference. I don’t normally get nervous about these types of things, but I am nervous for this. I am nervous because I don’t want to suck.

My whole topic discussion is about breaking down your classroom walls to expand your classroom globally. This topic is challenging because I don’t know the experience level of my audience. So I have plans to gain their level of comfort and adapt on the fly.

I am presenting at a Talented and Gifted conference 

Here is my presentation description for the conference 

Going Global

This presentation will cover my experiences with taking down the walls of my classroom and expanding globally to bring the educational experience of my students to the real world. This presentation will discuss how I started small and progressed to some amazing projects. I will share various resources and some projects to get started with going global.

Basically, I don’t want to just stand in front and talk the whole time and show some slides. I am trying to be more engaging. 

My thoughts so far are this
1. Handout – business card or something more clever with a link to a wiki full of resources(what I am currently working on)
2. Twitter Hashtag for people to connect with my audience online during presentation
3. Intro myself
4. Gain a sense of comfort of audience with connecting globally and adapting presentation based on needs
5. Throughout presentation I would like to have some educators join me via Skype or Google Hangout and share a few things they have learned and possibly even a class join for a short Mystery Skype session to give the audience a live example.
6. Q and A

I don’t want to just talk. I want an engaging session of conversation and dialogue to make it more meaningful.

I have some possible connections with bringing in some classes and teachers via Skype to make it real time and meaningful. If you are an educator and would like to jump into the conversation about the importance of going global please let me know.

Actually, I just thought of this – if you and your class can make a short little video clip about the impact of global connections and share it with me I can create a little montage of footage to show during the presentation.

I want my presentation to be meaningful. I want the audience to walk away motivated and excited. Being the last time slot of a two day conference makes this tough. However, I can leave a lasting impression.

Last, I am working on a wiki that will act as my electronic handout. At this point I am working on filling this wiki with resources, projects, information, etc. to give my audience and anyone who checks it out a starting point. Please consider joining the wiki, adding whatever you can provide, and leave your name to get credit. Thank you in advance.

UPDATE – Here is a link to the wiki – http://coffeechug2.wikispaces.com/Home

Back to research! If you have anything to add or suggestions please let me know.

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The World Is Flat: This article is further proof of a Flattening World

I could not help but think about all the ideas swimming around my head from the reading of The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman when I came across an article this weekend.

The MLK Memorial: Made in China?bit.ly/pLPz7U

This article discusses how some people are not happy with the sculptor being Chinese and the material for the project coming from China. It is an interesting article. I am not here to debate the merits of either side of the discussion, but I just wanted to point out that this is just one more example of the world being flat. The world is the competition.

Each day I try to convey to my students that their world is different from ours when we were growing up. They are not competing for a future job with others in Bettendorf or even Iowa. They are competing with millions of people from all over the world. They don’t always grasp this concept. Some think that things will be just perfect, but hopefully I can get through to some about how important it is to challenge themselves, work on their creativity and problem solving skills and to begin to think about their future.

Times have changed. They have changed quickly. They will only change faster and faster. In the perspective of time it was not that long ago that MLK Jr. was alive and working towards equality. It was not that long ago that this nation would not have approved of a memorial for MLK Jr. And now we have a memorial being crafted by a Chinese man. As Dylan has sung many times, The Times They Are a-Changin’

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The World Is Flat: A New Connection To My Son: Trying A New Method To Talk About School With Aiden(my 1st grade son)

That was a really long title with improper grammar, but I don’t know how else to put it so I am leaving it.

Yesterday I started reading chapter 7 of the mind blowing book, The World Is Flat, titled “The Right Stuff”. The chapter was very interesting, but instead of going into a discussion about the contents of the chapter(coming in a future post) I want to focus on my AHA moment(an instant at which the solution to a problem becomes clear ) I had yesterday when reading the quote at the beginning of the chapter.

A friend once asked Isidor I. Rabi, a Nobel prize winner in science, how he became a scientist. Rabi replied that every day after school his mother would talk to him about his school day. She wasn’t so much interested in what he had learned that day, but she always inquired, “Did you ask a good question today?”

“Asking good questions,” Rabi said, “made me become a scientist.”

Source Unknown

I read that little story and I was hit upon the head with a problem bothering me as of late. Aiden, who is in first grade never talks about school. I started this little thing where when I pick him up from school or when we arrive at home he needs to tell me two things that he learned that day. I rarely received one thing that he learned let alone two. He always told me he did not learn anything. I think the phrasing of the prompt was incorrect. He is learning. He is learning more than he even realizes, but he does not view it as “learning”. Actually, he may not truly understand what the word means to begin with.
Thoughts of an apple

If you know anything about my son, then you know that he is an investigative, curious, world observer, nature lover, bug expert, and just loves anything that promotes more questions than answers. Like any boy he lives outside. Up at 6 am and often times on the weekend is outside checking for butterflies at 5:45 am. He can tell you about any insect in the QC area(several times I doubted his facts, checked them online to find out he is indeed correct). I state all this not to brag(he is just a normal kid), but to explain why my new idea popped in my head.

Perhaps I was asking the wrong information from him. I took this little story and adapted it to my situation. I hated that he was in school for 8 hours and could not tell me anything he learned. It drove me nuts! I changed things up. I adapted to his nature. Yesterday after school I told him I was no longer going to ask him what he learned in school. Instead I was going to ask, “What is one good question that you asked today?” He instantly changed his emotion and told me, “I asked a good question today.” I was taken aback. He never talks school. I asked him what his question was…..

“I asked how many sentences I had to write.” We then started talking about how much he was to write, how much he actually wrote, what he was writing, etc. All of a sudden we had a 3 minute conversation about school where I learned more about that day than all of last week combined.

I was elated. He had enough school talk by the time we arrived home, but before leaving the car he told me, “Dad, I already know what question I am going to ask tomorrow.” He was already prepared.

Of course his question was, “Can I bring my bugs to school to show the class?”

I love it! These questions are simple, but he views them as important. I view them as important because for at least a day or two(I sure hope it lasts longer) I am finally able to get inside the mind of my son and find out what flips his trigger in school. This will hopefully force him to continue to ask questions. It will help him to continue working on his social skills, but also using his strengths which are his curiosity and his tenacity to find answers.  This makes me a happy father.

I cannot wait to see him today to find out if he asked the question or a different one.

P.S. By the way, having a child go through the education system has already forced me to evaluate how I teach and my thoughts on education. And yes, I will share those thoughts in due time.

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The World is Flat – Reading Insights and Mind Rants!

Being back in school and having my mind begin to go crazy with a 1000 thoughts and ideas I need to take time to put my thoughts and ideas into words.

I started to read The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman. I began reading this book when I started taking the Flat Classroom Teacher Certified class at the end of last year. Due to the end of a school year, reading for the class, and creating new projects and content this book fell far down on the To Do List and I never finished.

I started reading it where I left off this week and find myself obsessed with the ideas presented in the book. I cannot get them out of my head and need someone(s) to discuss them with.

You can see from the picture I have marked several passages in the 30 pages I have read lately.

For this post I want to start with a passage from the chapter labeled “The Untouchables”.

The chapter tells the story of a concession man at the Baltimore Orioles stadium that has created a little song and dance as he shakes up the lemonade for the customers. Due to his personal touch he makes more tips than the rest. The part that really struck me was the following “by adding a personal, intangible dimension to his vanilla work.” he was able to raise himself above the others. Later a page later the following was stated:

Anyone who can take an old middle service job…….and give it something personal, something special, some real passion, will have a good chance of turning it into a new middle job that cannot be outsourced, automated, or digitized.

This immediately struck a chord with me as an educator. I started to think about myself and asking the question, “What am I doing that is allowing me to not be outsourced, automated, or digitized?” What is happening in my classroom that students feel the urgency to make it to my class because they feel that they cannot find what I offer anywhere else? What am I doing to make my teaching methods rise above the rest? Am I actually doing anything to allow myself to provide adequate answers to these questions? The answer lies in my crowd – the kids. It is too early in the year to find answers, but is something that I will dig deep to find. I think these are all questions that we need to ask ourselves at the beginning of the school year to make sure we are ready to do our job.

As educators we have an obligation to be cutting edge. We have an obligation to not get stuck in our ways, but to adapt and change in the same ways we ask our students to adapt to our teaching methods and expectations. We have an obligation to make sure that our classroom is something that cannot be outsourced to an online classroom or course.

What are you doing to make kids want to come to your class? I would love to hear your strategies and ideas.

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