Students First

     Throughout time there has been a lot of open debate in education about how to best meet the needs of students. My question has continually been, if each and every student comes to school with different and varied needs, wants, and desires, then how can we take an antiquated curriculum and process every student through it like beans in a canning factory? I remember pedagogical discussions from years back in which colleagues would state that the gap between the top students and bottom students is so large that we ought to just aim for a middle ground. I was never satisfied with that line of reasoning, and seeking ways to make things better and more engaging for my students helped me become a better learner and leader.

Put Students First

     I have never a big supporter of common assessments for students. A common assessment is just another way of saying, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

http://jimmycasas.blogspot.com/

Used with permission.

It’s a different way of preparing students for the industrialized notion of sorting students into five or six pigeon holes and getting ready for testing. Many administrators and researchers will turn to industry and economic movers and shakers to glean the types of skills that employers are looking for. Just because Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world does not mean that he knows what should be taught in schools, and if we believe that the industrial model of education doesn’t work anymore, then why would we turn to business for guidance on educational issues? After all, the bottom line for business is to make money and the more money the merrier. See, at the current rate of change, content that is accurate when a kid is twelve might be completely irrelavent upon graduating from high school. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that knowing or accessing “content” is what we want from kids as preparation for college or careers. The best thing we can do for kids is to model a burning desire to learn more and the tenacity or grit to go out and learn. For me, it is an insatiable quest.

Do we really believe that doing well on a test is what matters in this world? Wouldn’t standards based grading be a great first step toward personalizing learning for each unique student? Personally, I believe that it is.

Love of Learning

     In my world view, I want to help kids sustain their love of learning. I overheard someone at a conference this year state, “…the kids are really upset with the work they are getting in math class so she must be doing something right.” This was not said tongue in cheek it was said with all seriousness! Well, if the goal of that math teacher is to have her kids become grumpy pencil pushers that excel under the leadership of a dictator, then I would say that she is well on her way to the goal.
     I do not want kids to become automatons that simply do as they’re told, regurgitating information and processes. Variety is the spice of life and I would rather be with a whole load of boat rockers than sailing in languid waters. There is a whole world of knowledge to plunder and I want true, spirited pirates on my boat while I’m out to sea. I think that what we truly want and need from the educational community is to help students be excited learners, questioners, researchers, creators, innovators, teachers, and problem solvers.

Students can make a difference today! 

     Every day there are reports about students making positive impacts on our world. Recently, there was a report about an eighteen year old who was not satisfied with the designs of the brassiere industry so she created her own and started her own line lingerie called raspberry. Also, a fourteen year old boy found that the federal government could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year by simply switching the font that they print documents with.

The world and technology are changing rapidly 

     The change is so rapid that many people are getting new cell phones every two years, whereas I spent the greater portion of eighteen years with the same corded phone attached to the kitchen wall. I am writing this blog post using a blue tooth keyboard and mini iPad connected wirelessly to the Internet where my document is physically nowhere but the cloud and maybe digitally on Evernote’s servers. I will never see this post on paper. Change is the only constant in life and students need to be able to adapt to that change. Now, I don’t mean change just for the sake of change but the ability to adapt to changes rapidly. Gone are the days where people answer the question “why are you doing that?” with “because we have always done it that way.” It’s not good for society and kids will refuse to buy into it.
     Technology is certainly not a panacea, and just being able to Google the answers faster than anyone else is not good enough. I was raised to believe that through hard work and by getting a degree my efforts would be rewarded by getting and keeping a good job with benefits. Happiness was not even talked about in my world. A good work ethic is not enough any more. My dad did tell me one time to do something I  was good at. Being good at something doesn’t necessarily bring with it happiness or fulfillment. Fortunately, I selected a career that I am passionate about filled with people that I care deeply about.

Next steps

     I get to encourage the future through my efforts today. I get the chance to help make people happy today and excited about the world of tomorrow. I know that I can create classroom experiences that I can sell tickets to! (I know that’s a bold statement but after being encouraged by Dave Burgess, you too might be bold enough to make that statement) Bettendorf High School, in eastern Iowa, has embraced the mottoes, “Passion, Purpose, Pride.” “Be the change you want to see.” “Students First.” If everyone in education embraced these mottoes, then kids would become life-long learners with the fortitude necessary to tackle the ever present changes in our world.

GBL vs. Gamification a Video Blog Post

Transcript of Video
Music
Hi there, welcome to educational technagogy. BAAAAAAAA!
ya that’s a sheep you heard. Did you know that sheep had knuckles? That’s what the first dice were played with sheep’s knuckles. Well, they were made out of a sheeps knuckles.
BAM! Yeah that’s right, football <cheers> WhoYa Fumble!
I’d like to tell you a story. The ancient Lydianswere a group of people that lived around three thousand years ago in the Mediterranean area the world most likely near present-day Turkey. They had a problem, no this problem didn’t have anything to do with sheep knuckles, they had a problem with food. There was a great famine throughout the land that lasted at least two decades.
And, what these people decided to do to handle this famine was they would eat one day and the next day they would play games the entire day without eating. This would take, playing games, would take their minds off the fact that they didn’t have enough food. And so they ate every other day and played good hard games the other days of the week. They did this for at least eighteen years so the story goes whether it’s true or not, we’re not quite sure but we have found, through research, that games do even today help take our minds off of the awful things that may be happening in our lives.
BOOM! <crack> Baseball! it’s a game it’s not just a game some people make a living at baseball.
<noises from device> Oh mighty Time Lord! yes my sonic screwdriver just like Doctor Who I can pretend to be in a game.
Game-based learning
Game-based learning, GBL, is simply taking games and implementing them into your curriculum. It can be as simple as taking an off-the-shelf game such as Monopolyto teach economic facts or it can be using computer-based games such as doctor Kurt Squire from University Wisconsin used in his doctoral research Civilization 3. Civilization 3 he found really helped his students to understand geographical concepts through time. He was hoping that it would help them
understand history better but going through these periods of time they learned geographic concepts much better than historical ones. But, games can be used to learn any number of concepts. There aretons of games available and game-based learning is something that we’ve been doing throughout time.
I was thinking just the other day how could I take a twenty sided and in use in my classroom? Hmmmmmmmm……..
Gamification
Gamification is basically taking game dynamics and game mechanics and using them in non-game settings such as a classroom. Game dynamics are kinda the touchy-feely sort of stuff the narrative, the relationships, the emotions, progression, and storyline. All these things are qualities of good game dynamics. Game mechanics also need to play into gamification this is HOW the game is played it’s the rules it’s things like leader-boards, levels, resources, badges, how are you going to win? what are the winning conditions? challenges, quests. These are the mechanics that make up a good game.
Some of the story lines that people use are story lines from great games such as World of Warcraft, Game of Thrones is a good excellent story line The Hunger Games is a story line that’s often used, Some people have even used the different factions from Veronica Roth’s Divergent series as a setting for their games.
I think that’s all I’m going to go over for this week. Join me next week for a further discussion of gamification in education. Go ahead roll the dice, and see if you can implement games in the classroom.
Thanks and have a great week! yeah

Commercial by Lars and Kat.

I wonder if John Green started out this way?

Conferences, Connections, and Culture, A Conversation

I attended theice-logo Illinois Computer Educators (ICE) conference from Wednesday, February 26 to Friday, February 28. You might be wondering why? Why would someone who is only a substitute teacher pay all that money to attend one of the best technology and teaching conferences in the Midwest? Well, for this veteran teacher it comes down to relationships and building lasting relationships.

For the past few years I have not held a full-time teaching job (except for a little jaunt into North Carolina for a semester, but that’s a completely different story). See, I am a teacher. Teachers enjoy being around others who are passionate about kids, teaching, and technology as they are. I was totally blown away by the fact that I was able to meet many people who I have had online relationships for a couple years face to face for the first time. These education rock stars keep me striving to be the best teacher I can be.

On Wednesday I attended a workshop lead by Steve Dembro (@teach42) and co-author of Untangling the Web. He shared with the group many gadgets and devices that made many people salivate. Now I must confess that I am a gadget geek, and it sometimes drives my wife batty, but I just can’t help that when I see a new gadget I also see possibilities for how that gadget may be used to teach my future students better. I ask myself how can that gadget help improve me as a person? How can it help improve my teaching, and how can using the gadget improve relationships with other people? Just having a new gadget in and of itself sometimes helps spark people’s curiosity and brings alive conversation. Witness the fact that if you ever ran into someone wearing Google Glass that they look like Mr. or Ms. Popular. It’s not a popularity contest at all, because people are generally asking the wearer all kinds of questions and they are engaged in conversations.

I also learned about many uses for Google in education that I wasn’t aware of. I attended a session lead by Molly Schroeder (@FollowMolly). She shared with the group many different ways that teachers can learn from and with Google all in an effort to help aid communications, connections, and understanding today’s culture. It is truly amazing the possibilities that exist for all of us to build lasting relationships that are focused around improving ourselves, our teaching, and our society.

The last workshop I attended on Wednesday was lead by none other than my social studies hero, Mr. Dave Burgess (@burgessdave). Dave is the author of the great book Teach Like A Pirate as well as founder and moderator of the #tlap twitter chat. (Don’t know what the pound symbol means or what a twitter chat is? You are becoming an illiterate. Find out now! Don’t even finish reading this post. FIND OUT! If you have not heard of the book or read the book, then you haven’t been having the right conversations with other teachers. The book is full of ideas and idea starters all geared to pump a teacher up and sustain energy to make teaching and learning matter for kids. I consider Dave a friend and the most important part of our friendship is that we communicate regularly about how to become better teachers. Meeting him in person made my day and had me grinning from ear to ear which is difficult for me as I am in the dumps about not being in the classroom again. But, meeting one of my personal teaching heroes made me feel giddy and like a first year teacher again. If you ever get the chance to see Dave in person and present, run for the opportunity. You will not be disappointed.

I almost forgot. I attended my first #EdCamp on Wednesday evening. Teachers getting together all on their own, discussing the things that matter the most to them is an experience every teacher should have. ICE After Dark is an experience I will never forget and It makes me look forward to #EdCampIowa this coming weekend.Print
As teachers, we can become very isolated in our classrooms, hence the importance of professional conferences, connections to others, and creating a culture of life-long relationships and learning. In this post I do not have room to write about the other two days of the conference. I did however meet face to face and/or learned from the following great friends of mine: George Couros (@gcouros), Paul Solarz (@PaulSolarz), Holly Clark (@HollyClarkEdu), Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher), Joy Kirr (@JoyKirr),  and Maria Stavropoulos (@mstavi3). Yes, I consider them friends, because we learn together, support each other, and when we meet face to face we get to enjoy the company and knowing that comes from connections to the profession of teaching and doing what’s best for kids.

If you have read this far, please look at or pass along the link to my resume at the top of my blog. Thanks 8-)

A Pre-Interview, Interview

CC Image by wmacphail http://www.flickr.com/photos/wmacphail/4466242719If you would like to know me better as a 21st Century instructional leader, then please read my answers to the following questions. I took about an hour to answer the questions using no references. Thanks to all of you who are praying and helping to guide me in finding my ideal fit teaching position.

Do you consider yourself to be a risk taker? (Give an example to back up your answer.)
Yes, I consider myself a risk taker. I took a risk five years ago and left the classroom so that my wife could pursue her passion which is also teaching. I take risks every day by engaging my PLN and opening myself up by having a transparent digital footprint. I also took risks in the classroom to try new things and to never be satisfied with mediocrity. I always push myself to be in the moment with my students with an eye on the future.

 
If I were your principal and we were setting goals for next year, what would they be?

  • Make sure that all our teachers and administrators are comfortable using social media for professional development & provide support for them via professional development.
  • I want to do action research on the benefits or drawbacks of gamification in the classroom.
  • Explore best practices of using technology as another tool in the teaching toolbox.
  • See how the flipclass works for our student body and faculty meetings.
  • Explore connections for the maker movement and coding in the history classroom.
  • Make connections with other classrooms around the world by collaborating on projects via Skype or Google Hangouts.

What is the last educational book you read? Why that book?
I most recently read, Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager, PhD. I read this book because I am very interested in engineering, the idea that kids will be our fuure inventors, and we need to become not just consumers but also creators, makers, and doers. I would like to pursue these ideas further to see how they can connect with the social sciences.

 
If you could create the ideal school, what would it be like?
The ideal school would look like Google. A place where every space can be utilized for creativity, learning, collaborating, sharing, exploring. Every person in the school would have cutting edge tablets that have the memory of desktop computers for ease of use, therefore blurring seamlessly the disconnect that often exists between teaching, learning, and technology. Everyone would work together as a team to model life-long learning and relationship building within the whole community. Students would love coming to school because they know that everyone is working together toward common goals and they feel like their ideas are valued and they are valued as persons.

 
How do you deal with failure? (Your own and that of your students)
Jerry Blumengartner explained to me that failure is actually First Attempt In Learning. It’s okay to fail, but we must have perseverance. We need to consistently work toward our goals, because there are times we will not be successful, but if we keep striving with perseverance we will eventually succeed. Even a “failure” can be viewed as a success. If we don’t take risks, try new things, and fail, we cannot be successful. Think of babies, they learn to crawl after many failed attempts, they learn to walk only after falling a lot. You cannot make progress in a video game without trying and failing a number of times. Failure is a part if life, every one of us needs to have the fortitude to keep trying.

 
How will 21st century competencies be developed in your students? (Provide examples both with and without technology)
Students in my classroom will become digital citizens by learning how to leverage the Internet effectively, efficiently, and ethically. We all need to keep up with the real world by being involved in the world and using the tools that others use in the world. Why? Because the world is the classroom today and we are all building connections that are helpful now while remaining flexible and adaptable. Change in the world is the only constant and we all need to be able to handle that change. Dr. Tony Wagner came up with a list of seven essential survival skills that are based on research. We should embrace those skills and make them the focus of our learning communities. These skills or competencies are applicable to technology and working with others in face to face situations. Dr. Wagner’s essential survival skills are always at the forefront whenever I am planning learning experiences.

 
Have you built a Personal Learning Network (PLN)? Why or why not?
I have built a PLN that Rocks! I believe that my PLN is centered around many people who are actively engaged in moving education forward. Whether they be researchers at the university level, teachers at the elementary level, or administrators across the globe I am constantly challenged to think and become a better person. Right now Twitter and Google+ are the main components of my PLN. While connecting with and collaborating with awesome teachers across the globe is important, it is also important to develop close working relationships within a school and district. A forward thinking PLN is a must for everyone in every field.

 
In what ways will you challenge your colleagues and the principals thinking?
First off, we need to eliminate the attitude that we are doing something because we have always done that. We need to constantly be evaluating whether or not actions we take will be of direct benefit to the students. It’s important to challenge each other to become better. Establishing a culture where sharing what works and presenting classroom techniques/strategies to each other will hold people accountable for their professional learning and the learning of colleagues. Monthly book clubs, game nights, and twitter chats will help our community bond more deeply.

 
How will you differentiate instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners in your class?
I believe that every student needs to have an Individual Learning Plan. I can also meet the diverse needs in today’s classroom by being prepared, making learning relevant, and allowing for student choice and voice. Keeping in touch with my PLN and reaching out with questions that can help my students also helps me to differentiate for diverse learning.

 
Take 10 minutes to prepare yourself to lead the interview panel in a conversation about an emerging educational topic of your choosing.
I would lead a conversation about gamification. What beliefs does the team have towards games and gaming (beneficial or not)? How does the team view this technique and would they support a teacher trying this technique?

I would also try to get a bead on where the team stands on assessment, ILPs, and pushing the boundaries of education.

The questions that I answered come from Mr. Greg Miller’s blog post The New Look Teacher Interview

Can You See Me On Your Team?

resumeI have been scouring the Midwest for social studies positions for about a year and a half. I have sent out well over 200 resumes and applications and have had over a dozen interviews. The interview process and the reasons administrators give for not offering a job range anywhere from pre-canned E-mail responses to ridiculous qualities that I could never compete with. Quite honestly, I am fed up with the entire application and interview process. I am at the point where Justin Tarte was last summer when he wrote this post, Read My Blog, Not My Resume. I will however add a question to the mix, can you see me on your team?

Let’s assume that I am seeking to work for a particular school district and/or administrator. Let’s further assume that since I have 15-16 years of teaching experience that I pretty much know the kind of people I would like to work for and I know my abilities and limitations. I always do my homework by investigating the districts and administrators BEFORE I even fill out an application and submit the requisite resume. I have already determined that the district (including student demographics) and the administrion would be a “good fit” for me. I mean why would I go through the laborious time consuming process of filling out an application, answering screening questions, and tweaking my resume and letter for a position I would not want, working for people I would not like, somewhere I don’t want to be, and doing something I might not be able to handle?

I am not a wet behind the ears greenhorn just looking for that first job so I can get my foot in the door of education. I mean, come on folks, I’ve been in the game for quite a while and I have continued learning, changing, and adapting to the ebbs and flows of our profession. If you can’t learn, change, and adapt, you cannot be a teacher in today’s connected world.

Anyone can look good on paper and possibly smooth talk their way through an interview, but what is that person’s digital footprint look like? What have they been doing currently to advance the profession and student learning? Do they actually engage with people on a national or international level? It is imperative in today’s world to establish a professional learning network and a robust transparent digital presence. The online presence of a person shows, in a very open and vulnerable way what is important to that person.

Go ahead and Google your name to see where your digital footprint leads. Better yet Google the name Timothy Scholze and check out my digital footprint. I am proud of what I have out there in cyberspace because I take the risk to stand behind what I put online. Take a look at what I have to offer and then ask yourself, can you see me on your team? 

Teacher Reboot: Lesson from the Schoolhouse

Teaching is a noble profession, but leaving a teacher to deal with EVERYTHING in a school setting is not fair. Teachers need support! 

I recently taught for a semester where there was no collegiality between some staff members. A member of the teaching staff decided to turn our school into a political firestorm and a teacher popularity contest. That teacher is the only one participating in the contest so that teacher wins. While other teachers work tirelessly to enforce school rules, acceptable behavior, and learning, one teacher turns the students against the other teachers.

It is highly inappropriate and not very professional for a teacher to become friends with middle level students. Now, don’t get me wrong here, because we do want to develop meaningful and lasting relationships with our students, but there is a fine line that teachers need to walk between friendship and friendliness. It is also very unprofessional to put down a fellow teacher with students. Professional relationships require a collegial attitude and teachers need to approach students and teaching as a team. The days of the lone ranger, I close my door and teach, are gone. No teacher has ever made real progress in education by thinking that what they have is best for the students and nothing can be learned from other teachers.

As teachers, we should always strive to bring our “A game” for the students we teach and for the teachers we work with. I made it my mission to Teach Like A Pirate (@burgessdave) this school year, but it shocked me how easily one person could knock the wind right out of my sails. When students refuse to learn, refuse to behave, refuse to follow directions, refuse to participate what can a teacher do? 

New teachers, please do not scoff at your colleagues in front of your students. Please do not commiserate with your students negatively about another teacher. Try to learn from everyone around you. That old teacher that everyone complains about just may be able to impart some kernels of wisdom if you don’t take the effort to make life more difficult for that teacher.

What did I learn from my semester in negativille? Surround your self with great people and if you can’t find those great people nearby, then leave to find them. Life is too short to be surrounded by negativity. Sometimes in order to live life to its fullest we need to go back to our roots and reboot. 

Rebooting now.

My Review of RadioShack Electronics Components Pack 2

Originally submitted at RadioShack

  • Chapters 3 & 4 of Charles Platt's Make: Electronics book
  • Contains over 130 components
  • Great Kit – Excellent Price

    By Tim S from Raleigh, NC on 12/25/2013

     

    5out of 5

    Pros: Quality, Bargain Price

    Best Uses: Hobby, Experimenting, Learning electronics

    Describe Yourself: Enthusiast

    Primary use: Personal

    Was this a gift?: No

    This is an EXCELLENT kit in both price and quantity to go along with the Make: Electronics book. Instead of scouring the Internet or catalogs for all the individual pieces, RadoShack has come up with a real time saver for those of us just getting into electronics. Some of the pieces are very difficult to even find and order online. This kit would also be ideal for after school STEM activities. An awesome kit at an affordable price. All you need are a few tools and you’re on your way to MAKE something cool.

    (legalese)

    Living the Dream: Goals can be Motivating

    Goal setting has never been one of my favorite tasks as a teacher. In fact, the goals I have set over my career were always related to what an administrator or school district has deemed important. There always had to be a connection from my goals to the building and/or district goals.

    This year, I get to set my own professional development goals. I set the bar pretty high, but I feel that as a teacher I should be held to a higher standard than most people in other professions. I am fortunate to work with 7th grade students, in a state where teachers are pushing the boundaries of education, and I am connected via social media to world renowned professionals.

    I think that with the proper administrative support and a little pushing from my PLN, that I can achieve my goals. I know that I will not be able to accomplish my goals over night, but I think that they are definitely achievable if I arise each day with the proper mindset.

    Goal #1: I want to be a positive role model for my students, fellow staff members, and my PLN.

    This goal should be in everyone’s top five list. Like most of you, I have students from all walks of life and every type of family situation. Many of my students have not had positive male role models in their lives. I feel that I need to live the Gospel message every day and try to walk in the footsteps of giants. I want every one of my students to be successful in world history this year. I want every student to see how history influences their lives every day, that they matter in this world.Image courtesy of http://teachersreflect.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/transformers/

    Just showing up with a positive attitude each day and a fully realized plan is half the battle. I mean, anyone can do those two things on a daily basis, right? It sounds easier than it actually is, but the commitment should be there. Leading by example should be a positive, easily achievable goal also, yet it is taxing when there are so many unmotivated people. It feels like the energy is literally being drained from the body because of the reactions and actions of a few. As a teacher I need to fight this unmotivated drain by getting all my students as excited about learning as I am. I need to be the model.

    Goal #2: I want to gamify my classroom and course.

    CivIVI never thought that I would even be thinking in gaming terms to try and motivate my students. I have just begun researching gamification and I find that through others successes I can model their success and help bring new life to my students and their work in my classroom. I am hoping that student achievement, motivation, and self-directed learning will increase as I develop the gaming aspects into my class.

    I definitely need to be on the lookout for fresh resources and collaborate with people like @MrDPasion, @avantgame, Dr. Kurt Squire, and @constances. If you think of any others, please let me know via twitter (@scholzet) or in the comments section. I definitely am going to begin doing this with my current students, but I need to work out how to make it work with an antiquated grading and reporting system.

    Goal #3: I aspire to become a sought after keynote speaker on topics like Social Studies and S.T.E.M.x, Massive Multiplayer Classrooms, the #flatclass project, and Educational Technology in the Middle.

    I know that with this particular goal I might have to start small. I mean, I don’t see ISTE knocking on my door any time soon, but that is what I aspire to be. Not only do I want to be an awesome teacher, but I want to share my joys and sorrows, my passion for teaching with teachers who might be doubting their own abilities. Teachers who don’t believe that they have a creative bone in their body. Teachers who want to make their classrooms and students ROCK! Can I really be that guy? Someone once said that nothing is impossible, so I figure that if I surround my self with the right people, that they just might help me make this happen, I mean stranger things have happened, right?

    Goal #4: I want to reach the pinnacle of education by receiving a doctorate degree in educational technology.

    There is a professor at NC State (her name escapes me) who is working on developing lessons on the Grand Challenges of Engineering. Not only would I like to be helping her develop and try those lessons with my S.T.E.M. Design students, but I would like to become a teaching professor of educational technology for pre-service teachers. I know this one is down the road somewhat, but I believe in long range planning and I need to walk the walk with my students. I’m not the most brilliant mathematician in the world (statistics aren’t me according to my most recent GRE scores), but I have skills in research and I believe that my research should be action research in my classroom any way. If it happens, I will have achieved my ultimate educational dream. Will the learning end? Nope, it will always be pushing me forward because I will never know enough.

    Goal #5: I want to be the best S.T.E.M.x Social Studies Teacher in North America! It could happen.

    I figure that I should set the target out there, for it is better to aim and miss than to have never tried. Someone said that once. Also, in reading Dave Burgess’s (@burgessdave) book Teach Like a Pirate, I found that as a teacher I should not be afraid to want to be the best. Parents, students, and school districts would rather have someone who is constantly seeking to improve and to be the best than to have a group of mediocre teachers who are just there for the vacations and a pay check.

    best-of-the-best

    In order to achieve this goal I will need to observe Awesome social studies teachers at work. I need to see how they interact with their students, how they present their students with learning opportunities, and I need to see how they find the energy and stamina needed for greatness.

    I’m just a middle aged man who grew up in the Midwest and moved to North Carolina to live out my passion for teaching. I have a great wife and four awesome kids. Why would I set such “lofty” goals? I want to model for my own family that they can achieve anything they set their minds to.

    This post is dedicated to my oldest daughter, Anastasia, who as a freshman in high school is dreaming and achieving and living life to its fullest. She is the inspiration in my life and continually pushes me to be a better father, husband and teacher. Thanks, Stickers 8-)

    New Adventures and STEM for All!

    vance_co_schoolsI was recently hired to teach 7th grade social studies for Vance County Schools in Henderson, North Carolina. What an adventure! Nineteen straight hours on the road from Western Wisconsin to North Central North Carolina! Google Maps said it would only take 15 hours 30 minutes! Way off Google, way off. I slept like a baby for sixteen straight hours afterwards. After reading Teach Like a PIRATE by Dave Burgess.  I am ready and excited to meet my fellow shipmates, captains, and crew members. I will be involved in an early high school STEM program in a 1:1 laptop setting with iPod Touches available for checkout.

    It seems as though many teachers are trying to change the acronym STEM to make sure that their content areas are not left out. For those of you who may be living under a rock or if you truly do not know, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. Some programs have added an A to the acronym. The A stands for the Arts and the acronym becomes STEAM. I also watched a presentation from ISTE 2013 where the presenter added the letters R and A making STREAM the R stands for reading and research. I even toyed with the idea of writing a post about the importance of social studies in a STEM program. I guess that would make it STREAMS. We shouldn’t leave out foreign languages or English/ Language Arts, or what about physical education? Would the new acronym become STREAM FLAPS ( Science, Technology, Reading, Research, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, Foreign Language, Language Arts, Physical Education, and Social Studies)? It can become a rather tricky business and many people can feel left out.EHS2Plogo

    Hey, my Social Studies class is getting the axe!

    We social studies teachers should not be worried about losing our jobs because of STEM initiatives. I understand STEM from the perspective of the National Science Foundation (NSF). “The NSF uses a broader category to define STEM subjects which includes subjects in the fields of Chemistry, Computer and Information Technology Science, Engineering, Geosciences, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, Social Sciences (Anthropology, Economics, Psychology and Sociology), and STEM Education and Learning Research.”[6] (Source: Wikipedia)
    According to the NSF’s broad definition of STEM social studies is an area that is included and I believe, that by extension, history and government are also included in a well rounded STEM program. “(In education) STEM generally supports broadening the study of engineering within each of the other subjects, and beginning engineering at younger grades, even elementary school. It also brings STEM education to all students rather than only the gifted programs.” (source: Wikipedia) It would be a gross oversight to exclude the fields of history and government because we do not want a nation of highly educated engineers and scientists who have no concept of how our government runs and the history that led up to our present situations. Just think about all of the engineering feats throughout history that created giant leaps in technology and quality of life for humans. For example aqueducts, the printing press, the compass, the astrolabe, etc. History and government cannot be left out of the STEM equation, however, there definitely needs to be more of an interdisciplinary or team integration/collaboration approach.

    What about Foreign Languages and the Arts?

    We all know that in order to compete in a global market, we need to understand other languages and cultures, so I believe that taking the study of foreign languages from the equation would also be foolish. Communication and collaboration across the world are necessary and we will still need people who understand the nuances of foreign languages. Where should I even begin with explaining how important the arts are in a STEM program? I think one name should suffice here, Steve Jobs. Just take a look at how Apple takes technology and integrates design to present a product that is practical and aesthetically pleasing. This cannot be done without creative artistic people. Arts programs should not be on the chopping block for any reason or any program! We simply need to have people who are creative and artistic, people who create wonderful music, who create stunning works of art, people who sculpt and build.

    I do not think that we need to add any extra letters to the STEM initiative as people in STEM careers still need the other curricular areas in order to function fully in society. As for reading and research. . . I ask one question, how do we solve real problems without being able to read and research? The letters are not necessary to make sure that a content area is included in STEM. All current content areas are necessary in a well developed STEM program. I think many teachers’ fears about the focus on STEM are unfounded and that adding letters to the acronym are not the answer. Be the best teacher you can be and let your students engage in real world problem solving. A person is never too young to learn how to solve problems and understand engineering concepts. Get your kids out there creating, making, coding, experimenting and be supportive of their passions.