So last week was all about academics and colleges. The blog for this week is all about athletics. The NCAA needs some changes. I have seen the need for change at every level; first as an athlete, then as a high school coach, and now as a parent. Is change likely, no, but we can always hold out hope.
I have a daughter who is interested in playing a sport that's going to require her to be on a club team to make her high school team. That's crazy, right? There's a whole lot of money involved there, but it's also the place that she would have to go to be seen by colleges. It's crazy to me that we have to think about that in seventh grade. The problem is that if I don't, it's highly likely we are putting her in a place where she won't make her high school team. I have to keep up with the Jones, or my daughter may not get where she wants to be. As a parent, I feel like I have to try and help her do that, even though I may need to give them both an arm and a leg.
There has been a lot of talk about reforming the NCAA to benefit the athlete today. Just recently, California passed a law that gives athletes the ability to benefit from their likeness. That's a slippery slope. While the NCAA is a huge business, there won't be enough to go around to make that process very fair or equal. It's easy to be the Quarterback at Alabama and profit, but what if you are the Volleyball player at that same school? Those sports don't tend to be very lucrative and the group that will let you make money off of your standing as an athlete is very niche. I think there are some ways to reform that process and I include it below, but I also include 4 other things that will make a real difference.
1) Take Club Teams Out of It
I don't necessarily have a problem with club teams as a whole. I think getting extra practice is not a bad thing, but the NCAA can make one small change that lets every kid have a chance to be successful. They need to force NCAA coaches to recruit from high schools.
We want athletics to be about learning life lessons, and we have worked our selves into a place where they learn a lesson that isn't positive: obtaining your dreams is infinitely harder the less affluent you are. Club teams are ridiculously expensive, and unless it's a sport with a lot of potential money in the future, the cost is going to be incurred by the parent. The sports that have that potential money in the future (like men's basketball) have
This is especially prevalent in sports where the “sponsorship money” just isn't there. Think about where the state champions in sports like baseball, volleyball, soccer, and swimming are in your state. I can guess with almost certainty that they come from affluent urban areas, and there is a reason for that.
Those kids are playing a crazy number of games on traveling club teams, and that gap is just going to keep growing as the NCAA loosens rules on recruiting for club events. Parents will do it because they want kids to play at the level and they dream of having the crazy cost of college paid for. It's a matter of weighing your options
Do you know what sport has the smallest amount of this and the most parity? It's actually football. College coaches still have to recruit from high schools because playing that many games in a contact sport just isn't feasible. It's the sport where the gap between the have and have nots is the smallest, but the scary thing is the rise of 7 on 7 tournaments and special camps may be changing that. The NCAA can head that off by simply making coaches recruit from high schools. Maybe they can do that for every sport.
2. Spending caps
One of the scariest things that is happening to the sport today is that the financial gap between certain programs is starting to trickle up to colleges. It's always been there in high schools as the parents of affluent schools can make their programs whatever it hey want, but now it's trickling up even more to college athletics and the effects can be a little scary
Take college football as an example. There is a reason Alabama, Clemson, and others are winning. They are spending folks under the table. Their coaches have ridiculous salaries, their facilities are insane, and they have extra staff that isn't necessarily what others have across the board.
Why if the NCAA put a spending cap in place? The NBA and NFL have them and their parity could never be better. MLB doesn't and the big teams dominant. If the NCAA had spending caps it would improve parity, and it would also redirect funds to actually educating kids which makes us all better.
3. Get the shoe and apparel companies to cool it
Again, the money tap is open and it's hurting the sport. The shoe/apparel companies are in a mad rush to get every team they can to sign up, and that money means they can dictate what they want. The scary thing is it keeps trickling down to high schools.
I have seen a growing number of high schools in the past couple of years take money from shoe companies, and I honestly don't blame them. They get better deals on uniforms and apparel. It brings brand value. The problem is though, is it's continuing to add to the haves and have not mentality of society. No apparel company is going to put its name on a high school that has a poor reputation. They want a nice suburban school.
You can also see the influence they have over the major money sports. Football and Basketball both have apparel money pouring into them, they want that next major star to start with them from a young age, and they are doing anything they can to make that happen. They also know those suburban kids they are sponsoring at a suburban high school are much more likely to have the affluence that it takes to be future customers. Is that really fair?
The NCAA can curb all of that. I am not saying that they have to end it. Just curb it. Put some restrictions in place on what Universities can do with the shoe companies. Restrict how coaches recruit from their events. What they do, tends to trickle down.
4. Paying athletes (Sort of)
There are lots of conversations going on around paying college athletes, but that is an incredibly slippery slope. It's easy to say pay Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama because the university is already making a killing off of him, but how do you pay that swimmer at the same University where there is very little money coming in?
I think the key is to walk a really fine line. You need to give them the chance to make money off their likeness, but there also needs to be rules to keep outside influence out, to prevent the shady agents, friends, and keep away the other hanger ones. These are kids and the NCAA must protect them.
It means that the athletes should be able to hold a job, they should be able to get an appearance fee for going to a car dealership, and they should be able to make money off YouTube content. They should not, however, be able to just get paid for their skills. There has to be a transaction of some service. They have to do some type of work to actually get the money. Having to do something will teach them better lessons for the real world, and isn't that what the NCAA is supposed to be.
5. Improve Real-World Training
The goal with NCAA athletes should not be to get to the pros. It needs to be to get out into the real world and make a difference. Athletics teaches all kinds of lessons about life, yet the NCAA doesn't require any expansion on that.
Schools do things like teaching their players about financial, literacy, the law, and making a difference in the community individually. The NCAA can make a huge difference by just making that a requirement. They could require pieces of training that really set these kids up, and they can even go as far as making something like community service an eligibility requirement.
Getting those kids to have a huge heart to help people will make a huge difference in our world. No matter what sport they play, some people look up to them. Maybe the NCAA can help us build that type of community
The blog this week is all about failure. It's something we all hate, but in the end, it makes us better. It also means we have to take the time to give a person enough space to make sure they can recover and improve from that fall. It's going to happen, so why not use it as a learning experience rather than a judging experience.
The idea for this blog really started with my beloved Florida State Seminoles. I did not go to school there, but they have always been my team. Both my parents were graduates, and the only reason I did not go, there was simply because I was not good enough to play there.
If you have not seen, they are failing. They have a new coach, Willie Taggart, who is in his second year, and it's easily the hardest to watch Florida State team that I have ever seen. Folks are calling for Willie to get fired.
I know college sports are a ruthless game but is this fair to him? He has not had time to implement his ideas fully. He has not had time to fail and learn from it. He has not had time to take what he learned and apply it for the better. He might have experience, but each new set of people and places brings its own challenges.
Being the educator I am, that lack of rope Willie is getting led me back to both education and my own career. I think we as both a society and in this education field that we have all chosen, don't let folks fail enough. We judge people by their failures when really we should judge them by their progress. You can tell the real winners by the ones who do everything they can to not fail the same way twice.
Is there a place that shows this more than in the education field? If you are or were in the classroom, think back to your first days in the classroom. Where you good at what you do? I know I wasn't. I sucked. I had a great student teaching year, and I thought I could just conquer it. My first year was alot of failing though.
I did not want to fail. I was not satisfied with being bad or just average. I tried to make things better continually, and those little improvements got me to a point where I was somewhat (are we ever fully?) satisfied after ten years. Yes, it took 10 years.
Teaching is a hard profession, yet right now, we judge people based on data and numbers. If we keep doing that, we are going to continue to drive educators out of the field. Educators should be judged on their ability to improve. If they have that want to, they will be fine. They may need a little guidance (that's what a good administrator does), but they will eventually get there.
Students are the exact same way. We repeatedly give them numbers and data that signify if they are good or bad. Why do we do that? Think about the student who regularly gets those bad marks. It's easy for them to fall in the trap of not believing and not caring. Why can't we have a system that lets them know they made a mistake or got something wrong, and then allows them to fix it. We need to let them grow, not take away their spirit.
This is something that even society needs to take hold of. Unless someone is super well trained, they are going to do a lot of failing at first. If they have the right drive that won't happen for long, though. They will learn from their mistakes and try new things. We need to give everyone the ability to do that.
Let's change society. Failure isn't a bad thing. It only becomes bad if you don't have the drive to change it. We should remember that we deal with both students and teachers.
Google is taking over education. The Chromebook is everywhere, and so many students now have access to Drive. The collaborative features, ease of use, and availability make Google products a favorite of lots of teachers. It's also a favorite of administrators because it's so simple to manage.
What can you do to take it to another level, though? Sometimes it's all about the little things, and that's what this blog is all about. These are five little tips and tricks that will take your Google game up a level.
There is an easy way to fix that, especially for Word. Start by clicking the settings wheel in the top right, and then check off the box that converts everything into a Google Doc. As soon as that's checked off, every time you upload a Word Doc, it will automatically switch to a Google Doc. For Slides and Sheets, you will need to upload first and then hit the button that says convert to the corresponding Google product
If you use Google Classroom, this trick is a MUST. It makes the workflow in Google Classroom so much easier. If you don't use Google Classroom, it's still a great thing. It allows you easy sharing and collaboration. You can easily share it just by changing the last word in the URL from edit to copy
There are great educational tools in there like WeVideo, Kami, Pear Deck, and more. You might also find that tool that lets you do that one thing you have always wanted. The overall beauty though is that if it's in Drive, it makes the Classroom connection easy!
It all comes down to adding multiple-choice questions and sections. At the bottom of each multiple-choice question, there are three dots in the bottom right corner that you go to section based on a response. Sections are basically new pages. It allows you to send students to one page if they get the question right, and a different one if they get the get the question wrong.
It allows you to add a video or a different question if they get it wrong. Where it really can be great, though is that you can insert a live URL to take kids anywhere on the internet. You can do things like adding a HyperDoc link that asks students to complete an activity if they get it wrong. It means the possibilities are endless.
An excellent resource for this is Eric Curt's site which can be found HERE.
I don't typically like writing about politics, especially since the politics of today's world are so toxic, but I think this week is an exception. U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson announced his retirement this week, and I want to tell you about an educational experience I had with him that changed my life. We get so tied down to what's going in our class, that sometimes we forget how much an experience matters. Hopefully, this post will show you why.
My family has known Senator Isakson since the early '80s. My mom was in Junior League with the Senator's wife, and we have been following his political career since he was a Georgia State Representative. In 2003, I had the honor of being selected as one of his summer interns in Washington, D.C. At the time, I saw this more as something fun, but as I reflect now, the effect it has had on my life is incredibly profound.
When I went to Washington in the summer of 2003, Senator Isakson was a representative that was running for U.S. Senate. It meant that most of my job as an intern came down to giving folks capitol tours. It used to be that people could move across the capitol freely, but since the attacks of September 11th, it requires having a staffer (either a tour guide or intern) with you. Since Senator Isakson was running for Senate at the time, it meant he could never turn these down, and it meant they fell to me.
The experience of leading these tours set me up incredibly well for my future. At the time, I only had one semester left to get my degree in Social Studies education. By touring the capitol each day, I was getting to experience one of the things I would teach about for the next ten years. I was able to take groups into the galleries of both houses of Congress, and literally sit there and watch them work. I developed stories that I used with my students for years. It was learning by experience, but it wasn't the only great thing about it.
While I knew of Senator Isakson and I had met him a few times, I had never really talked with him. This internship gave me a chance to, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that he is just a great person. Think about that for a second. In today's toxic political environment, I know from experience that I can trust in the humanity of one of Georgia's only two Senators. Can you say that about your votes? If we all could say that, would we be in the political climate that we have today? I may not always agree with the Senator's stand on the issues, but just knowing him personally made it the most comfortable vote I ever cast.
I can also say this experience changed my life in a very profound way. I met my wife while I was an intern for the Senator. She was interning at the same time for a farm lobbyist group, and we actually met on a bus. We spent the entire summer together, seeing the sites, and now we have four kids. It all came off an educational experience.
If you are in a classroom, you may not be able to offer trips to D.C. or meeting a future spouse. You can, however, facilitate an experience that changes a kids life. You could have the next broadway star sitting in your classroom, and your field trip to the theater is what sparked that curiosity. It could be bringing in a career day speaker whose ideas were so profound that one of your students changed that career path. It could be setting up kids with local internships that turn into future jobs. You never really know, so trying new things is what can make an incredible difference.
I think as teachers, we get tied up too much into content, and we don't stop and take a look at the things that really matter. We in this field to prepare kids for the future, and we never know what they will really use. Why not give them the experience that lets them make a better decision?
I have meant to write this post for several weeks, but life got in the way. I went through what this post is all about July 14-19, but then I went on vacation, had a few speaking engagements, and I had to play catch up, so it's not coming till now. It might end up perfect, though. As you start the new school year, make this one about finding your tribe. I know I added to mine July 14-19, and I want to tell you about it.
Last October, I joined the team at Tynker, and it has been an exciting ride when it comes to finding my tribe. I have been in the EdTech community for several years now, and I have a vast swath of friends and colleagues that I can depend on. They have been built through years on the conference circuit and participating in things like Twitter. I lacked a tribe, though around what I actually did at Tynker. That all changed in the middle of July.
I have learned over the years that my favorite PD's are the ones that let me pull out with a group of like-minded people. Spending that quality time allows you to not only work and grow together, but it also allows you to socialize. It's a time to get close, and I had the privilege of leading something like this in the middle of July thanks to the Infosys Foundation.
One of the Infosys Foundations goals is to enhance computer science education across the country, and one of the ways they do that is through a summer institute called PathFinders that becomes summer camp from teachers. I helped lead a full week of PD for those that signed up for the Tynker track, and I am so happy that I did.
We repeatedly talked during the week about coming to PathFinders to find your tribe, and I think our group for sure did. Sometimes in schools, that can be incredibly hard. Just because you teach the same thing or the same grade level, does not necessarily mean those folks are your tribe. I know from personal experience I struggled with that because I was the teacher doing video and creation projects. There just weren't many Social Studies teachers that thought the same way I did. I needed to go outside my school to find the group that I could learn and associate with, and finding that tribe is especially essential when you are talking about coding.
Coding is at a place where so many know it's essential, but there aren't necessarily set standards for it everywhere, and a large swath of teachers don't know how to integrate it. That's why this week was so important. We were able to give almost 40 teachers background and experience with both coding and Tynker, but the best part might have been giving them the group that they can continue to collaborate with and feel community. That's what is going to carry them.
If your reading this and you feel like you don't have that tribe, start going outside your usual circle. Things like PLC's and grade level committees have their place, but they aren't always the best place to get you where you need to be. An excellent place to start would be to begin participating in Twitter chats. They are discussions on a specific hashtag (# and a keyword) that put like-minded individuals in the same place. You never know who you will find, and they may become a fast tribe member.
You also can get yourself out there. I started speaking at conferences, and you quickly find like-minded people who are doing the same thing. All it takes is applying. You can also apply to academies like PathFinders, Google Innovator, and Raspberry PiCademy. I have done all three, and they were some of the best PD I have ever had.
Don't hesitate to find the tribe. Education is one of the most rewarding professions you can be in, but it can also be an incredible drag. You need that group who thinks like you and who can pick you up. It's just a matter of finding them.
So, to start, this is my experience. I know others approach things differently, and it's ok that I don't understand that approach. With that out of the way, let's talk about summer. Schools are off, and so are teachers, right? I know that in my time in the classroom that certainly wasn't the case, and I am going to use this blog to convince you that it isn't. If you're a teacher, summer should be a time for work, but it's finally time to work at your own pace. If you use summer correctly, it also means that some of the garbage that you have to do during the school year is worthless. Maybe if we change the perception, we can change that.
In all my year's in the classroom, I only came into one where I was not a coach. I coached football, wrestling, and one fateful year of lacrosse. I also wanted to be a good teacher, though. It means that if I did not plan in the summer, I was pretty much screwed. There was no chance I could plan effectively during the school year and put in the time that I needed as a coach. It meant summer was work, and I accepted that. I could finally make my own schedule.
I don't understand the teachers that take the whole summer off, and I think the number of ones that do who are also good at what they do is limited. Summer absolutely needs to be a time to decompress, but if I can take some of that time to create original experiences for my students, I am going to do that. I want to do that. I want to get ahead, so I am not scrambling during the school year. It doesn't mean I won't have to make some adjustments, and it doesn't mean I will finish my lesson planning. It just means I will have a great head start.
If everyone took the summer planning approach, though, it means administration and leadership teams would need to look at things differently. PLC's have some value, but they also take away creativity. Forcing teachers to "co-plan" in them means they could lay out the best-laid plans in the summer to just have them thrown out. Why are we forcing them to do that? Teachers have different strengths, and they should be able to use them to get the most out of their students.
It doesn't mean PLC's don't have value though. To start, they should be almost entirely virtual. Why are we wasting teacher valuable time during the year when we could set them up in a great virtual way that lets them share with each other even in the summer months. Yes, it takes training for folks to do it effectively, but it would also make them better using virtual platforms which every school now has with Learning Mangement systems.
I also think PLC's need to do a better job of getting together like-minded teachers. Just because teachers teach the same subject, it does not mean they teach the same way. I know I had a PLC one year where I was having students create with video, and I had to partner with a teacher who had just gotten their first cellphone....in 2010. I would have benefited much more from being with a teacher who thought the same way I did about student creation. It could have even been a teacher of a different subject. With all the practical methods of connecting, why aren't we letting teachers do that?
I also think we need to have a renewed emphasis on teacher PD in the summer. Guess what? Most teachers aren't going to give two thoughts about PD that comes in and tries to happen during their regular school process. There just isn't enough time, and they have too many other cares (I don't include coaching in this as it's a different kind of support.) You have to be able to pull out of the environment and focus on your own learning.
What better way to do it than the summer? We need to provide teachers the opportunity to do it. It could be as severe as finding the money to send them to a big conference like ISTE, or as easy as setting up ways for the best teachers to show off what they are doing. It's really up to you.
With all that I am trying to say make the most of your summer. Use it to be less crazy during the year, and to make yourself better. If your admin doesn't support that, then you need to tell them why they should.
So, I meant to write this blog last week, but I think the message is still a good one, so better late than never. It all stems from my 5th-grade daughters, "moving up ceremony." I think ceremonies like this are inherently silly, but I am also the one who has only walked in 1 graduation ceremony ever. I was there for my daughter, but there was something before the ceremony that stood out to me. It was a simple slide show.
Before the kids walked in (again, it's 5th grade, so a procession is silly), someone had put together a simple slide show with pictures of the kids and of the year. The thing that stood out to me, though was that each kid held up a sign that said what they wanted to be when they grew, and the answers were pretty astonishing.
There were the usual pro athlete answers, but there was also a considerable portion that was for the sake of this blog, "high-end educated professions" Those included things like neurosurgeons, engineers, lawyers, and others. I could not help but wonder if that was a product of the area I live in, and I think the answer is almost certainly yes.
I live in the suburbs. It's an area with high-end professionals and filled with adults who are doctors, lawyers, and engineers. It's easy for kids to see those professions. It might be their parents. It might be their friends' parents. It might just be something their parents are setting them up to strive to. Whatever it is, I think it means that it's easier for kids to dream based on their location. It made me think, "How do we break that cycle?"
I would be very curious to see the answers from children in a school with a high poverty percentage. Are their dreams the same, or are they things that simply come down to are you blessed with a certain level of talent like athletics, music, and movies? Are their dreams things that can be obtained with hard work and education, or are they things that are just a bit more out of reach?
It makes me think that we almost have to have a focus on bringing those types of professionals into high-risk schools and letting them show those kids what their profession is all about. If kids can take field trips to see their profession in action, it's even better. Schools could do something like weekly career Mystery Skypes. It's all about bringing options to kids, and with them, maybe we can break the cycles of poverty that persist in both our country and the world.
The goal should be to turn a few. If we can help a few kids break that cycle, they can be the professionals that you bring into the schools for the next wave. Think about how compelling that story is. It gives them an example. It gives them the confidence that it's possible, and if you can continue on that, you might just have a movement.
Well, it's another week and another school shooting. Actually, there were two this week. I have written extensively on my blog about how I think we have to do something, we can't make schools armed fortresses, and the toll this takes on educators in the classroom. If you want to read some of those, look back to the time around the school shooting in South Florida that sparked waves of protest around the country. If anything those protests prove we still have a long way to go to get lawmakers to do something because this terrible version of groundhogs day continues to happen.
I instead want to make this blog a little different and focus on the students that became heroes to their classmates by making the ultimate sacrifice. Both at the University of North Carolina Charlotte and the STEM school in Colorado, students ran at and tackled the shooter. They prevented further loss of life, and both Riley Howell and Kendrick Castillo lost their lives in the process. The STEM school actually had multiple students assist including a future Marine.
What does it tell me? It tells me that all hope isn't lost, and it drives the point home that kids can do anything. We can complain and moan about what the new generation is, about the problems they face, and about where the world is headed, but as long as we are raising and teaching kids like Riley, Kendrick, and the others involved things will still be ok.
It also tells me that kids can change the world, and we need to do everything in our power to give them those opportunities. Just think of all the students that went home to their parents because of the bravery these students showed. It changed their world.
Kids really can do anything. We need to give them opportunities and projects that connect with the global community. We need to let them solve world problems. Almost any class can include projects that let students get there. Kids might be the group that changes things for the better.
Let's remember Riley and Kendrick, and let's put the power of change in the hands of our students. At this point, we sure aren't going to get the change we need from our government entities. So why not try the group that showed an incredible will and bravery.
Student creation is ideal. It's what we want kids to do. We want kids to be able to show what they know by creating something new. No matter how you slice it any other way, it's the only form of learning that is not a pure regurgitation of material. It's the place where kids can actually think.
What's one of the lowest hanging fruit for creation? It's presentations. There is software everywhere, and it's incredibly accessible. Kids learn about PowerPoint, Slides, and in some places Keynote from a very young age. The problem is that most teachers don't get creative with it. They just want to use it as a regurgitation of information, and that doesn't even really scratch the surface of what a presentation software can do.
When you think about presentations, don't think in the style of just having kids tell you about something. Just doing a presentation about George Washington limits what kids can actually learn. It also limits their critical thinking skills
So, what should you do? It's straightforward. Start with a scenario. Give kids an audience that they are creating the presentation for. Take the United Nations as an example. It's a group that has an interest in environmental, economic, and political issues. All of which makes it a group that can apply to almost any subject area. It means you can use it in nearly every classroom as an audience to build your presentation for. Kids are going to think more critically when they have to convince or inform a particular group, and it just makes the learning deeper.
The scenario is a great place to start, but you can also use presentation software to create a host of things that aren't really presentations. The addition of easy collaboration makes it easy, and there are loads of possibilities. It's just a matter of getting creative with it.
To start, the ability to automatically start a Google Slides presentation just with a link means it has all kinds of alternative use cases. You can do things like apps, books, comic strips, and more. You just need to use need to craft what the slides look like by adding shapes and adjusting the aspect ratio of the slide. You can make it look like almost anything. Then just get a publish to web link from the file menu, and you can choose the option to have it start as soon as a viewer goes to the link.
There are also a couple of ways to use things like PowerPoint and Keynote. You could use shapes to create Infographics, and then you could use something like the Thinglink to make it interactive. You could also use something like Magic Move in Keynote to make what looks similar to a stop motion video.
It all comes down to your imagination. Presentation software can be almost anything you want. You just need to design the scenario that goes around them.