Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Empowering Students to be Digital Leaders

"Teachers are no longer the gatekeepers of information. Educators have been outsourced by YouTube" - Matt Miller - Ditch that Textbook
 Need proof? My two sons, ages 15 and 13, pulled a 1947 John Deere "A" tractor home from the iron graveyard; tore it apart and had it running in a week. How did they do it? An I-phone and YouTube.
There is no question that the use of technology can enhance student learning and creativity.  Standards have been adopted by districts across the country to help schools keep up with the rapid advances in technology on a global scale.  Educators are realizing that they are being tasked to prepare kids for professions that don't even exist yet.  In reading this, one may think that the education profession is in jeopardy.  For those educators and institutions that are not willing to adapt, innovate and give up control; then yes, you best be searching for a new career.  Those teachers that are willing to guide, encourage and empower; you are on the right track.  

Don't let the fact that your students know more about technology then you do scare you.  In fact, this is where your role as a teacher comes into play the most. You now have the job of teaching them how to use technology responsibly. Empower your students to create content and lessons that interest them.  Make it personal. Use social media to help you. YouTube is social media. Use social media to connect to experts around the word to share their stories and knowledge. If you are wanting to use social media in your classroom, but are still wanting a "safety net",  I encourage you to check out Class Intercom.

Class Intercom is a platform that allows students to generate content through your school's social media account(s). Student content is submitted and then approved prior to being posted.  I've seen this platform in action and it has amazing educational value.  Students can generate Twitter, Facebook and Instagram post to tell your school's story.  Use student posts to teach syntax, semantics and proper grammar.  Use Class Intercom with your Journalism and Digital Media classes to create "quick hitter" informational posts.  Elementary teachers can designate a "daily reporter" empowering students to post and share what they've learned throughout the day.  

George Courus mentions in his book titled The Innovators Mindset, 
"We have the world at our fingertips, the ability to connect and create with people around the globe...yet what do most schools focus on when talking about technology? Cyberbullying and digital safety" 
Good or bad, social media is where this generation of students gather their information. Let's help students focus on using social media to make a positive impact. Want proof that this generation of digital natives are capable of using social media in a positive way, check out Hunter Radenslaben's story.

Technology will not make our jobs obsolete as we continue to teach and practice LEADERSHIP lessons learned from the generations before us.  Innovative educators are needed now more than ever as we empower future generations to be DIGITAL LEADERS.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Pioneers Needed - #GO

History was made by those who went. A concept I didn’t fully understand as a nine year old struggling to listen to boring lectures on how the Pioneers settled the American West. Pioneers, as a noun, dominated textbook assignments and teacher lectures to the point that using the synonym term as “setters” would guarantee a correct answer on a short answer test.

Pioneers didn't settle, they blazed a trail, and thanks to a once a week rolling cart Apple II computer, Pioneers were made exciting via a floppy disk titled The Oregon Trail. That game didn’t show Pioneers settling; it showed them doing....If only those lectures, worksheets and reading assignments would have focused more on the verb of the same term; when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I may have answered, “I want to be a Pioneer!”

Think of a time when you wanted to set a new idea into motion. I'm guessing, like most, you stopped to weigh the risks versus rewards; which is a smart plan. Unfortunately, that's where so many good ideas end up; stopped because risk already has a head start based on the sequence of words in that statement. I am certain that the Pioneers, previously mentioned above, used the same thought process prior to blazing their trail through the "wild west" but with one major difference, they focused on the rewards rather than the risks. With their focus on the reward it motivated them to GO.

As teachers, administrators, businesses, non-profits, entrepreneurs... we must have that Pioneer mentality - GO. Don't let the risks stop you. You will fail. However, you must EVOLVE, DEVELOP, CREATE and ORIGINATE. Whatever you do, don't settle. The rewards out-weigh the risks. #GO!

Want to be a Pioneer? Follow these educational Trailblazers:

Friday, April 28, 2017

Last Lesson Served Soaking Wet

Seventeen soaking wet seniors sit silently on the bus. You could hear a pin drop. Nothing to say. Nothing needed to be said. They've just completed thirteen years of schooling, yet the best lesson learned took only 25 minutes.

Senior Sneak Day 2017.  I usually keep the destination and activity a surprise, however I told them where we were going and what they were doing a week prior to this day as I wanted them to dress according to the forecast, which called for 40 degree temperatures and a 100% chance of rain.  Buzzkill avoided as all seventeen showed up prior to the 8:15 tardy bell.

9:30AM - We arrive at The Bay in Lincoln. Alex, a former student of mine, greets us and invites us to order coffee and enjoy a few minutes in the indoor skate park.  Some grab a skate board and helmet, while others grab a coffee, relax and take advantage of a Friday morning outside of the school walls.

11:00AM - The mood gets a bit more serious. We load bags full of caps, gloves, socks and food, while Alex gives us a quick lecture on what we should expect.

"Talk to them."
"The conversation is just as important as the items in the bag"
"Follow my lead".
"I will be right beside you"
"It's 38 degrees and raining. You guys are amazing for doing this"
"Thank You"

11:10 As expected, the weather cause those normally underneath the bridge to seek refuge indoors. We leave a few bags under the bridge then head to People's City Mission to deliver more packages. While on our cold, wet walk, we encounter a gentleman. Alex smoothly begins a conversation with him while the students huddle around. We offer him a bag. The man graciously accepts. Alex commends the group and gives them the option to dry off and warm up on the bus before we continue. Soaking wet, and colder than before, the group declines and keeps marching on.

11:30 - Cold. Wet. And a bit hungry, we enter City Mission with twelve bags left to give.
11:32 - All twelve bags are gone. Alex quickly escorts us back outside.
11:35 - Seventeen soaking wet seniors sit silently on the bus. You could hear a pin drop. Alex breaks the silence.

"Sorry guys. That was intense. I've done this many times and I've never seen a mob like that. Helping the homeless is not always glamorous, and you experienced that today.  The cold temperatures and the rain must have them on edge. You guys did amazing.  What are you thinking right now?"

Jamie's quite, soft voice rings loud and clear from the back of the bus, "We should have brought more bags"

A HUGE thank you to:
Alex @TheBayLincoln for being our teacher and guide.
Mike Smith @mikesmithlive for sharing his message and mission.
Taylor Seibert @StrivTV for hanging out with us, sharing our story through his pictures and letting our students use their own voice through social media using @classintercom during the day.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

To Innovate - Disrupt the Routine

Have you ever read something that literally made you stop and RE-THINK?  My most recent was while reading @GeorgeCouros blog post titled “Stuck in a Rut or in a Groove”.  Mr. Couros mentions the following in his blog,

“How often do we think we are on a right path when in reality, we are just doing what we have always done and are not moving forward”

Talk about hitting the pause and think button.........

Some reading such a statement may take offense thinking, “So what I’m doing isn’t good enough?”  No. That’s stuck in the rut thinking. The question you must ask yourself  is,


Let me share my RE-THINK moment.  For the past two and a half years our Tuesday morning staff meetings would consist of sharing the low grades list, reviewing the calendar for the week, and discussing student concerns.  You know, typical boring staff meeting stuff.  I thought I was being innovative when I started sharing the Tuesday agenda, along with short motivational videos followed by assigning a quiz reviewing the content through Google Classroom. (side note: Google Classroom is amazing).  After reading Mr. Couros’ post, I realized, that although I may have been innovative through my sharing of information, I wasn’t MOVING me or our staff FORWARD with the precious time that had been allotted to us.  I was stuck in a rut, and the worst part was is that I was dragging our staff through the rut with me.

Time to MOVE FORWARD.  How do I do that?  I needed to disrupt my routine and, as Mr. Couros states in his post, I need to provide that disruption for others (students and colleagues). I'll start by jumping in and sharing information to our staff from @jmattmiller
No more typical boring staff meetings. Time to disrupt the routine. Lets start by Ditching that Textbook.....

Thursday, March 23, 2017


This time of year I attempt to share some words of wisdom and inspiration as our seniors prepare for graduation and enter the next phase of their lives.  As I was rubbing my chin trying to organize my thoughts, I picked up my favorite book that I have had on my desk the past two years.  As I opened “WALK the TALK” by Eric Harvey and Steve Ventura, the first story I turned to summed up my thoughts exactly.  Please allow me to share:

One of the really nice things about our world is that it’s full of people who have all kinds of good intentions - including the desire to consistently do what’s right, fair and just.  But, intending or wanting to do something and actually doing it are not the same. THE DIFFERENCE IS ACTION.  And the thing that helps ensure action is ACCOUNTABILITY.

Remember when you were in your early teens?  We could hardly wait to become adults because we thought it would mean we could do whatever we wanted.  Well, we became adults (at least age wise) and we found it meant something much different:  Now we were responsible for our actions….and always will be.

Each of us have to answer the external authorities in our lives.  But equally (if not more) important, we need to answer to ourselves.  In the real world, others can mandate that we follow rules and laws, but they can’t force us to be people of good character...individual who remain true to our beliefs and values.  Ultimately it’s up to each of us to choose how we will live our lives, hold ourselves accountable to high standards, and continually evaluate what’s inside the image we see in the mirror.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Time to Get Uncomfortable

Being comfortable can be a good thing.  Depending on the situation, comfort can be the main objective.  However, if you want to see change, then the following quotes ring true.  
You will never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”  - Roy T. Bennett

“Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.” -  Shannon L. Alder

“You have to be uncomfortable in order to be successful, in some ways. If you stay in your comfort zone, you would never do the things that you need to do.”  - L. Poxlietner

I observe great instruction going on in our building on a daily basis.  Data shows that our high school test scores are highly proficient and our students are at or above national averages regarding state and national standards.  Some would think that we should be comfortable with these results, which is true.  However, when looking at other sources, such as individual grades and missing assignment lists, I have noticed a pattern of students showing up on weekly low grade reports and missing assignment lists.  A trend I don’t want to get comfortable with, so I started doing some homework.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I called upon professional colleagues and neighboring districts asking them to share what they've done. So, the past four months I have reviewed strategies and programs that have been developed and implemented showing positive results.  From after school programs to complete schedule overhauls; the challenge isn’t finding a program, the biggest challenge is deciding to get uncomfortable.  

Time to put the quotes above into action.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Prioritizing Value in Education

The education profession is a job in which instant results are rarely accomplished.  I was once told that educators will witness the value of their work five years after their students graduate.  In today's "instant gratification" society, that is a difficult concept to grasp.

Young in my teaching career, I was more concerned about stuffing my students with information as I tried covering as much content as I could in the time that I was given (a very selfish mindset).  As time progressed, I realized that I needed to slow down and 

focus more on my STUDENTS rather than the content.  

In doing so, I learned to 


I was reaffirmed of this today after conversing with Alex and Erin, two former students, on two separate occasions.  Alex was a GREAT kid that has turned out to be a GREAT young man.  I listened to him speak passionately about working for The Bay, a non-profit organization that assists the homeless and at risk youth.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, I visited with Erin while visiting her husband in the hospital.  Erin was a shy girl, that has turned out to be a strong and confident young woman.  I was humbled as I watched her provide support and encouragement to her husband while he received treatment for a recent traumatic brain injury.   

As an educator, there is nothing more rewarding than being able to tell a former student that you are proud of them and what they have become.  Even more satisfying, is being able to say this not based on the scores they received in your class, but by the lives they have led and the legacy they will leave.