Jim Messina – “Messina”

I really like this Messina disc, but it’s so all over the place. It’s Messina, but it’s also got tracks that are uncharacteristically disco influenced. And some latin flavored bits? But the folksy roots are still there, and “Child of My Dreams” and “Whispering Waters” stuck hard in my brain since I first bought a cassette of this one from a bargain bin at Camelot Music in the mid-to-late 80s.

“Money Alone” is a ripper, with some funk undertones that don’t feel out of place at all. You won’t remember any of this disc from hearing it overplayed on the radio, but once you give this collection a full hearing, you’ll want to keep it handy for the occasional long car ride or background music for a hobby project.

“Messina” by Jim Messina

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COVID-19 and School Re-opening

What will “school” look like in the Fall?

This question has been in the minds of administrators, teachers, staff, and students. Will schools be able to go back to the way they were before (and should we?), will we still be operating under “remote learning”, or will we have some combination?

If the current (Ohio) Department of Health recommendations hold until school resumes for the 2020-2021 school year, here are my thoughts on how to best make use of available resources while taking steps to provide a safe environment for all.

— Some of your students will do just fine under “remote learning”. They have the skill, the means, and the support to achieve expected outcomes without setting foot in the building. Let those students stay home and learn with remote feedback and support.

— Take the rest of your students, and put them in 3 or 4 groups. No, don’t “ability group” or “level” them. Mix them up. Let’s say you have 3 groups, and we’ll call them “A”, “B”, and “C”. Bring Group A in for the first week of school. All day, all week. The “core” subject teachers should expose the students to new material, and preview what they will learn for the next two weeks. Arts and other specialized subjects should be a big part of students’ experience. Groups B and C will stay home this week and participate in online instruction. For Week 2, Group B comes to the building and Groups A and C participate in online instruction.

— For a small percentage of your students, uninterrupted daily presence in the building is essential. These students need the most support, and depend on many specialized services they receive at school. These students should be scheduled to be in school every day. Every. Day. Scheduling them for two days a week while scheduling the gifted honors dual-credit senior two days a week sounds “equal”, but it is by no means equitable or fair.

— Allow students to have more than whatever the minimum state requirement is for lunch.

— Forget the seven or eight equal-timed class periods. Divide the day into twenty-minute segments and have a different small group of students moving at those twenty-minute intervals. Some classes may only meet for 40 minutes (two twenty-minute segments). Some may meet for three or four. Just don’t put all of your students in the hallway at the same time. Teachers in “departmentalized” schedules shouldn’t have to be in class with students for more than half of the school day under this system. The rest of their day can be used to provide feedback and assistance to remote learners. Students in self-contained classrooms should still have about half of their day in specialized courses, recess, literacy/library support,

— Most of all, remember that the system is supposed to be there to support the students. The students aren’t there to support our system. We must not try to force our comfortable routines to fit an extraordinary situation, and then complain that the job can’t be done when we find that we can’t do things the way we’ve always done them.

We can do this. We can do things we’ve never been able to do before, if we are willing to make the best use possible of what we have available.

Fallsville Wildlife Area

Fallsville Wildlife Area is a 1,300+ acre preserve in Highland County, Ohio.  I live about 20 minutes away from it, but I don’t think I had ever been there before my wife, Angie, suggested checking it out as an evening getaway place to visit for the family.

The trail to the falls on Clear Creek is about 3/4 of a mile.  It is a rough walk, over exposed root systems and around wet places.  But, the payoff at the end of the trail is a gorgeous waterfall, about 20′ high.

Where to find it.

The entry point is located at 20211 Careytown Road. There is a small gravel area where a few cars can park.  A narrow gravel road goes back to the beginning of the trail.  The trail is beaten earth, with lots of exposed roots.  The only way to make the trip is on foot. You won’t make it very far if you try to push a stroller or pull a wagon.

The trail winds a bit, and you will pass fishing areas along the way.  Once you reach the falls, the first path down to the gorge at the bottom of the falls is steep and narrow.  If you go further down the trail (downstream), you will find easier ways to get down to the water.  My son and I made the walk in slides, so there’s really no need for special hiking shoes unless you plan to wander off the paths.

The water was very shallow, so I just left me slides on the bank and walked in.  Cool water, cooler air than what we breathed in the parking area, and lots of singing birds and the rushing of water.  This is a great place to rest and relax, and just enjoy a quiet place that feels like it may be hundreds of miles from civilization.

Waterfall at Fallsville Wildlife Area. Waterfall at Fallsville Wildlife Area. Waterfall at Fallsville Wildlife Area. Waterfall at Fallsville Wildlife Area. Waterfall at Fallsville Wildlife Area. Waterfall at Fallsville Wildlife Area.

FREd Talks at Ohio Educational Technology Conference

Ohio’s annual educational technology conference, known as OETC, took place February 12-14, 2019, in Columbus.  This year, educators from all over Ohio took part in a series of pre-keynote presentations called “FREd Talks”.  “FREd” stands for Finding Real Education, and is the brainchild of Ohio educator, Toby Fischer.

FREd Talks have much the same format as an Ignite talk, where a prepared set of 20 slides is set to auto-advance every 15 seconds.  Five minutes.  No problem, right?

Michael delivers his FREd Talk on stage at OETC 2019.
photo from Natalie Rinehart, @NatalieRinehar3

I was honored to share the stage with two other long-time friends in education to deliver a FREd Talk before Wednesday’s keynote panel discussion of current and emerging applications for artificial intelligence.  Marcia Kish, Ryan Collins, and I are veterans to the FREd scene, having taken part in previous FREd Talks at past OETCs when it was a separate session.  Video of each of the FREd Talks is coming soon.  My talk was a five-minute version of “Five Rules of Design Thinking to Reach All Students”, condensing my workshop materials from designingeducation.org.

Can you deliver your message in five minutes?  The process of preparing for a FREd Talk is not a simple one.  I find it to be much more difficult than preparing for, say, a 45-minute or 60-minute presentation.  There is no time for an ad lib, no time for wandering off on tangential thoughts.

Preparing your 20 slides and rehearsing your five-minute presentation is a great idea, even if you don’t have an invitation to speak somewhere… yet!  What would your message be, if you only had five minutes?

 

 

Lessons My Daughter With Autism Has Taught Me – TEDxDayton 2018

It’s live!

My October TEDx Dayton Talk, “Lessons My Daughter With Autism Has Taught Me” is now live on YouTube.

This presentation was probably the most difficult to prepare for of any I’ve done.  The process made me deeply search what I think, what I feel, and what I believe – not only about Amelia, but about education and all students.  I hope the result, and Amelia’s story, can serve as an inspiration to think deeper about learning and expectations.

TEDx Dayton 2018 – “Shift”

The 6th annual TEDx Dayton event has come and gone.  The theme for this year’s program was “Shift”.

Michael, speaking about his daughter, Amelia, on the TEDx Dayton stage.I was so honored to be included as a speaker for this year’s program. My talk was about lessons I have learned from my daughter, Amelia.  Amelia just turned 9 years old, and was diagnosed with Autism just before her third birthday.

I have told versions of this story in other formats – as a five-minute Ignite session at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference a few years ago, in an article that was published in a booklet called “Sharing Hope”, and as a brief keynote address to special education and school improvement consultants in Ohio.  But, the presentation was never as “polished” as it needed to be for TEDx Dayton.

The process of breaking my thoughts down to their bare essence, and then building back up to a connected and meaningful series of thoughts, was one of the hardest things I have ever done professionally.  I am deeply grateful for all of the support that the TEDx Dayton organizers offered me to help get my talk to that point – after all, it will soon be available on the Internet for the world to see. (Yikes!)

It takes several weeks for the recordings to be finalized and posted among the videos on the TEDx site.  But you can bet that once it is there, I’ll happily share Amelia’s story with anyone who would like to listen!

 

 

TEDx Dayton 2018 is coming!

Earlier this year, I submitted a TEDx Talk proposal for this year’s Dayton event.  Mine was one of nearly 200 proposals submitted.  I was very pleased to be chosen as one of about 50 to get to audition.  And now I have the honor of being chosen as one of the speakers at this year’s TEDx Dayton!

My talk is titled “Ten Things I Have Learned from Amelia.”  Amelia is my soon-to-be-nine-year-old daughter, who was diagnosed with autism just before her third birthday.  This talk has been brewing in my mind for years, and I have already used it as the basis of a five-minute “Ignite” style talk, and it appears in the CCHMC booklet “Sharing Hope”, which is given to families of individuals who are beginning a plan of care at their Department of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.  While there have been many discussions over the last six years about what and how we might teach Amelia, I have found it to be much more powerful to pay attention to what and how she is trying to teach me about herself and the way she sees the world.

The organizers of TEDx Dayton have pushed me (and all of the other speakers), to make sure that we are able to give the best quality delivery we can of the best quality construction of our message that we can.  On Friday, October 12, Amelia’s will be one of several stories that are told that day, on the stage of the Victoria Theatre.

I have many, many people to thank for their contributions to Amelia’s development over the last nine years, and I won’t have time to thank them all on October 12.  But, my goal is to let Amelia, and all of her friends and family, and everyone out there who can identify with her, know just how amazing she is and how much we can all learn from one another if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons being taught.

 

Active Learning

My role as a Technology Integration Specialist with Forward Edge has taken a twist this school year. I am supporting teachers in the Felicity-Franklin Local School District for the third year in a row. Two years ago, I was there two days a week. Last year, I was there three days a week. This year, I will be there every day they have school!

So, here’s the twist: I will still be supporting their implementation of educational technology, K-12. But this year, Felicity-Franklin is implementing a new makerspace, and I have been so fortunate to see it grow from an idea to a reality.

Our first two projects in the Active Learning Center are complete, and they were a great way to get started.

Student green screen video, standing at a crime scene.The Forensic Science high school class researched careers in the field, and created brief informational videos about them. They recorded their videos in front of a green screen, and used OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) to superimpose their videos on backgrounds that matched each topic.

Students build their prototype catapult.Several Agricultural Education classes participated in a Catapult Challenge. In this project, students had to design and build a device that would perform three different tasks.

Design Thinking and Learning-by-Making is built upon exploring questions that do not have a “one right answer”, and students get plenty of opportunity to brainstorm, build, test, refine, as many times as they need.

I heard students say, several times, “Let’s try both ways and see what works better.” “Can we try again?” “What if we…?” I never heard one student speculate about what their grade might be. They weren’t worried about a grade.

It was a little noisy. It looked a little chaotic at times. But, we had zero behavior problems.  Our makerspace is a little under 900 square feet, and our biggest class was 27 students.  It felt a little crowded at the “build space” when four or more teams wanted to use it, but we weren’t stepping all over each other.

Some students had the idea of using their school-issued Chromebooks (or their personal phones!) to research catapult designs to get ideas for where to start or where to improve their designs.  They were a little nervous to let the adults see them doing this.  They’ve grown up to believe that looking up an answer is against the rules.  But, when the question is constructed properly, looking things up is “research”, not “cheating.”

Perhaps my favorite observation came from the class using the green screen.  They were fairly hesitant to get in front of the camera to record their first video.  I had visions of the students “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” over the technology and the opportunity to do something different!  In reality, everyone wanted to go last.  Eventually, the teacher imposed a list of who would go when, and the students complied. However, when they came back the second day, it was a completely different story.  I posted the videos from their first day in their online course management system, so they had a chance to see them before coming back.  When they returned to the makerspace, they were all ready to have a chance to do their video again.  They saw what they had done, and they saw that it could be watched by everyone else in their class.  Now, they wanted to do it better, and they knew where they needed to make improvements.

Try. Review and reflect. Refine. Try again. That type of approach to learning results in remarkable achievement.

Book Creator Ambassador

I am not one to pile up professional endorsements “just because”.  But when there is an ed tech tool that I have found exceptionally valuable, and that tool conducts a program to recognize people who want to help others get the most out of that tool in helping students, I like to dig into it to see what else I can learn about my favorites.

Book Creator Ambassador badge.

My newest credential comes from one of my longest-running favorites in ed tech: Book Creator.

What started as one of my all-time favorite iPad apps is now a first-ballot hall of fame cross-platform application.  You and your students can become published authors and create your own high-quality multimedia electronic books.  The old excuses and barriers of self-publishing being too hard, too expensive, and too time-consuming are gone.  The world is your audience.

The newest iteration of Book Creator goes beyond the idea of you becoming your own publishing house, to connecting your classroom, your building, and your district in such a way that you can collaborate in ways that were not possible before.  A classroom, building, or district can publish entire libraries of self-created multimedia eBooks!

Book Creator is a great way for students to produce their own content-rich textbooks, create memento/souvenir eBooks of special events, get creative with project portfolios, and capture volumes of evidence of their learning with ease!

I have to thank Jon Smith and Mike Marotta for introducing me to the incredible power of Book Creator back in its early days, and for creating challenging ways to use it to help all (yes, ALL) students.  One of my professional goals this year is to help a group of students publish a book of their own original work, and Book Creator is going to be an important tool in making this happen.  As Rushton Hurley says, “When students know that others will see their work, they want it to be good. When it’s just for the teacher, they want it to be good enough.”  Book Creator helps students produce good work.

Check out bookcreator.com for the free version for Chrome, iPad, or Android – great for an individual teacher wanting to help their whole class become published authors.  Full versions can be a very affordable part of any building or district’s curriculum plan.