Browse Month

January 2018

Step by step to make your School an Awesome Work Environment and Learn

Consistently I am reminded that it is really a gift to work at West Port High School. At the point when individuals go to our school they let me know there is a sentiment guarantee and energy. There is a feeling of reason and the understudies are engaged and glad to be a piece of our learning group. There is a structure, yet inside that structure we have innovativeness and creativity that separates our school from different schools. Understudies are cordial and well mannered, the grown-ups really glad to be here. It regards be a piece of West Port High School today.

When I was assigned to West Port High School 12 years ago my closest friends told me that they believed in me, but they would not be sending their children to West Port High School. In the four short years that the school had been in existence it had developed a reputation that drove people to other schools. People I did not even know said the school looked like a prison. The teachers were writing hundreds of discipline referrals every day and bells were apparently a suggestion because students did not move toward their classrooms when they rang. Teachers were looking for every opportunity to move to another school and would not bring their own children to the school.

With all of these challenges to greet me as I walked through the doors, I was energized by the opportunity of creating a learning center that would provide students with the prospect of a bright future. There was a cadre of some of the brightest most talented teachers I had ever worked with at this school, but we needed to change the negative message that the staff was unintentionally creating by their words and actions. The first thing I did was gather everyone together once a week for Friday Faculty Focus. This was a time to celebrate West Port High School, identify opportunities for improvement and work on our teaching craft. We start every Friday Faculty Focus with five positives. A positive can be something great that happened in the classroom, something someone did for someone else, anything that would share the good news of West Port High School. The first couple of times we did this it took a while to get five positives, but we did. It did not take long for the teachers to catch on and we started having 15 and 20 positives to start our time together. Teachers and staff were now hearing the great things that were going on at our school and began sharing these great accomplishments with their friends in the community. The more positive things they heard from other teachers and staff members, the more positive they felt about our school and they began sharing what was positive about West Port High School.

At the same time we began working with our students by creating time within the week we called Student Improvement Time where we worked on character education, we infused school wide expectations in every corner of the school. Teachers were empowered. Posters saying “We are Prompt, We are Prepared, We are Polite, We are Productive” were posted in every classroom, hallway, and work space. Students without prompting began signing off our morning television show “We are Prompt, We are Prepared, We are Polite, We are Productive, We are West Port!” While the students and the staff were working hard to create a positive culture there was something missing. We had a beautiful facility built for 2,500 students with just over 1500 students. The superintendent challenged me to do something to draw students to attend our school. I met with focus groups of students, parents and community members to find out what they wanted from our school.

It Is Not About The Building Or The People: Schools Need To Achieve To Succeed

The missing link with our school was the opportunity for academic acceleration. We had a couple of Advanced Placement classes with a few students enrolled. However this was not enough. These classes were highly selective and the perception was that rigorous learning was for a few entitled students. We had to change that perception and create more opportunities for all of our students. We had a staff member who was an adjunct professor at the local community college. I decided to see if we could arrange for him to teach a dual enrollment course on our campus. After meeting with the college president and his staff we began offering college courses on our campus. What started with two courses resulted in students clamoring for more. It was not long before our students were able to take all of the courses necessary for their associate’s degree on our campus. Teachers began eagerly working on their qualifications to become adjunct professors at the college so they could teach the college courses on our campus. We now have as many as 400 students a year enrolled in one or more dual enrollment courses on our campus and this year we have 85 students on target to earn their associate of arts degree before they graduate from high school. They will be joining nearly 200 students who have earned their AA through our Early College program. In addition, enrollment in AP courses has exploded. Three years ago we gave around 300 AP exams, two years ago over 700 exams, last year nearly 1100 exams and this year we will be giving over 1800 AP exams.

Deliberate, Purposeful, Strategic.

As our student enrollment has grown from 1,500 students to 2,657 it has not happened by chance. Everything has been done with the deliberate, strategic purpose of creating a positive learning environment for all students. Students and teachers have been empowered to control their learning environment through Power Hour. Three lunches have been replaced with one Power Hour giving students and teachers autonomy over one hour of the school day to structure it to meet their needs. Course failure has dropped from 37% to 3%. The graduation rate has climbed to 92%. But more has changed then these numbers reflect. Realtors claim our school to be the best in the district. Students can be over heard sharing with others that we are not just an A school, but the highest performing A school in the district. Our school is described by visitors as having the feel of a college campus.

Walking onto our campus you cannot escape the energy. Visitors and callers are greeted with “we are having a great day at West Port, how can I help you?” Positive, engaging classrooms are buzzing with students who are collaborating with teachers who are providing challenging opportunities for students to learn. The focus is purposeful. There is structure, yet freedom and creativity is supported.

School culture is a way of work that when structured to focus on student achievement creates a climate that empowers the people on the campus to create a culture of excellence where all students can succeed.

In what capacity Will the Digital Native Generation Impact Consumerism

When we consider the eventual fate of consumerism, and postconsumerism, we ponder what the forthcoming eras are being educated and how that could conceivably affect the hold of addictive consumerism on the country. The relationship that the present era has with computerized life might be an advantage or a disadvantage; it’s too early to say. In any case, it’s absolutely justified regardless of an idea piece analyzing how the advanced local era may have more advantageous perspectives on consumerism – or may not.

But, You Say, What is a Digital Native?

Have you interacted with a preschooler or even a child as young as a toddler recently? One thing that you may have noticed if you did was that they seem to intuitively know how to use touch screens on tablets and smartphones. In fact, we know some toddlers in real life who can already maneuver a touchscreen but are confused by a laptop keyboard. For this generation of children, unlike most of the generations before them, this type of technology has always been in their lives and they grow up with a natural and organic sense of it. Think about it. For a forty-year old person right now, VCRs and laptops and the internet all were invented within their lifetime. No matter how much they use that technology, there’s always a sense of it being foreign to them. The current generations are referred to as Digital Natives for that reason.

Just for a little history (because it’s interesting), the term Digital Natives was coined by Marc R. Prensky, an education consultant. His theory, which is elaborated on in his book, is that one of the core problems with contemporary education follows that children born after 1980 are Digital Natives, but they are being taught by a generation of Digital Immigrants. Therefore, the teachers can never really truly understand the needs and learning patterns of the children. It’s a bit unrelated to what we’re talking about, but we think that it’s fascinating history nonetheless.

How Will Digital Natives View “Stuff?”

That’s the big question, isn’t it? This generation will grow up with as much interest in “digital stuff” as in physical stuff. That may or may not be healthier. After all, you can experience the same type of emotional displacement with virtual stuff as you can with physical stuff. There are plenty of actual cases of hoarding in The Sims. That said, there may be a benefit from the move towards digital capital and digital “stuff.” Obviously, online transactions can transpire without full capital. Bartering and trading is more common. As power (may) shift away from consumer dollars, it may shut down the mass production and creation of consumer marketing infrastructures.

There’s also the more obvious benefit. If Digital Natives ultimately grow up to put a higher premium on digital “stuff” than they do physical “stuff,” there is certainly an opportunity to treat the planet more kindly. We don’t need to tell you how much carbon footprint is created to support the mass addictive consumer needs of contemporary society. Less physical stuff may not solve the mental and emotional (or possibly even the economic) problems of mass consumerism, but it can ultimately help to heal the earth.

Of Course, Digital Stuff Needs Digital Mediums

Don’t rush to get too excited, though. There’s also the possibility that this could go the other way. We’ve already seen the mass consumer hysteria (yes, we’re choosing that word with intention) that can happen around a new smartphone, tablet and now wearable piece of technology. And we’ve previously discussed how much the tech industry relies on the economics of upgrade marketing. It’s also no global secret that much of the manufacturing of those endless electronics and their upgrades results in serious pollution as well as no shortage of human rights issues. So while the Digital Native generation may love virtual “stuff,” they need physical “stuff” to operate it on. That may just shift the types of products that make up the core of society’s consumer addiction.

Or, You Never Know. The Change May Not Be Because of Technology.

It seems impossible in this day and age to not speculate how technology and our increasing relationship with it will impact the future, but there’s a very real possibility that the relationship of Digital Natives to technology will have nothing to do with the postconsumer shift that we truly believe will happen. Perhaps this generation of children will simply learn from the mistakes of previous generations and look to find happiness and satisfaction in ways that don’t involve “stuff.” As stewards of the next generation, we can all help to make that change happen by teaching postconsumer lessons early. In fact, our desire to help do that is why we created our entire Postconsumer Parenting collection of articles.

No matter what happens, there are likely two things that we can all agree on. Firstly, the world that children born after 1980 will live in is entirely different from the one experienced by their predecessors. Secondly, we hope that it’s a better world and that part of how they make it that way is by understanding the role and limitations of materialism as a societal backbone.

Some Innovation What It Means for the Future of Higher Education

some-innovation-what-it-means-for-the-future-of-higher-educationWith the goal understudies should succeed, foundations need to succeed. Here are three key zones where advanced education organizations could improve.

Whether understudies select in school since it’s the normal next stride after secondary school or they’re attempting to change the direction of their lives, what is most imperative is that they succeed.

While the use of advanced technology in education has been increasing rapidly for decades now, many colleges and universities lack the resources needed to drive technological innovation from within. Consequently, these institutions turn to external experts for help, often finding themselves dependent upon consultants and software vendors for the long term.

Here are three areas in which colleges and universities should look to insource innovation:

Online Learning

As mentioned earlier, online learning is commonly outsourced in higher education, but insourcing innovation works wonderfully here, too. For example, Educators Serving Educators (ESE), a division of Excelsior College in Albany, New York, helps colleges develop their own online learning initiatives.

By working with schools to develop skills and technology to support online course development and delivery, ESE helps organizations create their own equity and intellectual property.

ESE has built partnerships with a variety of institutions, including the University of New Haven, the University of Bridgeport, and Wheelock College. For some, the primary motivation for launching an online initiative internally was the ability to avoid the multi-year revenue-share agreements required by online program management firms. Other motivators included maintaining more control of their brands or ensuring that new online initiatives aligned closely with existing programs.

Regardless of the motivation, through partnerships with ESE, institutions have access to the expertise ESE has acquired throughout years of successful online programming at Excelsior College. The ultimate outcome is not only a new online program, but also internal knowledge and experience with the 21st-century best practices necessary to serve today’s post-traditional learners.

Course Materials

It doesn’t make sense for each institution to develop its own course materials, yet dependency on outside course material providers can prove expensive for students and the institution. That’s where open educational resources (OERs) come in.

OERs are teaching, learning, evaluation, and research materials available for free educational use. By adopting OERs, institutions are able to benefit from one another’s innovations in teaching pedagogy and technology.

One of the longest-running OER initiatives is the OpenCourseWare project from MIT, which has released materials for more than 2,300 courses over the past 15 years. Instructors, librarians, and other institutional staff are free to use and adapt the materials under a Creative Commons license.

At Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, Michigan, 10 professors signed up for an OER pilot program, revising a single course so it used only free learning materials. The program saved students$200,000 in one year.

Ed Tech Development

Many of the most revolutionary developments in consumer technology have roots in faculty research, yet most institutions aren’t playing an active role in the development of innovative educational technologies.

Pennsylvania State University is one institution that’s bucking the trend. It recently launched the Penn State EdTech Network, a partnership among members of the Penn State community and leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs in education technology. Complete with office, manufacturing, and research space for partners to co-locate on campus, the network has already engaged a number of leading companies, investors, incubators, and others since it launched in August 2015.

Acting as a hub for ed tech innovation, Penn State is accelerating the development of its internal capabilities while providing valuable opportunities for students, faculty, corporate partners, and others to collaborate on technology development projects. As a result, they’re breaking down barriers between public, private, for-profit, and nonprofit entities that share common goals.

In the end, it’s important to remember that society thrives when students succeed, and students succeed when the institutions that serve them are empowered to maintain the best possible student experience. By insourcing innovation, institutions can tap the collective expertise of the entire higher education ecosystem in a way that enables them to independently and continuously enhance their offerings.