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Education and Technology

I’ve found some interesting articles about technology integration in education that I wanted to share.



Response to: Education Standards are not like the Chicago Cubs….

Herald-Tribune columnist J. Robert Parkinson recently wrote an article entitled “Education Standards are not like the Chicago Cubs…” you can check it out at

Upon initial reading I had plenty of things to say, my mind was spinning. I commented immediately on the linkedin group page where it was posted and now would like to offer a few more deliberated ideas:

Yes, businesses must perform.

Yes, education(al) institutions provide the workforce for all businesses.

Yes, businesses can’t afford to wait until next year.

But the issues with education are so much more complex than Parkinson suggests in his article.

Let me say first off: as a teacher and as a professional, I have very high expectations for myself and for any student. Academic excellence is not only expected, but is certainly attainable by all students – if given the proper tools.

There is nothing wrong with expecting students, or any other individual, to prove mastery of specific material; but taking a multiple choice test once a year (or possibly several times in schools that use them for ongoing assessment), and expecting every student to demonstrate mastery in this manner, seems ridiculous.

Testing for a drivers’ license, the Bar, Boards or the knowledge needed for a specific professional field is very different than the testing that happens year after year in elementary school to meet the demands of the government regulations.

When teachers complain about “teaching to the test” it is not because they do not expect mastery of a subject or specific material, it is because it means they are not able to actually teach ‘material’ but must help the students maneuver around the logistics of a  fill in the dots, guess which is the best of several possible – and often plausible – answers which, in many instances would be obvious if encountered in any real life situation, and to race against an incredibly arbitrary clock.

The other issue here is that Parkinson is equating teaching to learning. The methods many teachers are using to teach do not lead to learning. And testing certainly does not lead to learning. We all know there is a marked rise in learning disabilities, emotional disorders, physical ailments, and social problems that have impacted the way children learn. Recent scientific studies have shown how the brain of the current generation learns differently than previous generations because of the impact of technology. To assume that classrooms can be run as they were at the time of the industrial revolution also seems ridiculous.

The question we must, as educators, ask is how will the students best learn? We need to create environments wherein our children are set up for success rather than failure. We must provide the support systems necessary for children who struggle; we must continually ask, what tool is needed for this individual to be effective and successful?

I am not advocating that we lower standards, but I would remind Parkinson that just because we continue to test students, when this method has failed to produce the desired results, “no one is fooled, and everyone loses.”

Another issue I have with Parkinson’s ideas is that he would seem to prefer that we teach students to “compute” rather than “think.” Really? Where would we be if the most creative, prolific minds of recent years had stressed the need to compute accurately over the ability to think? How does a test help an individual learn to understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, or create?

What I’ve seen so often in schools is that children who come in ready, even eager, to learn are drained of their enthusiasm, crushed even, from the standardization of teaching that require them to recall content rather than engage in active analysis, application, evaluation and creativity.

If we simply want citizens and employees who can accurately “compute,” then let’s keep teaching to the test – otherwise, let’s put our intelligent, creative, analytic minds together and start discussing what we can do to help every child learn.


I’m back… Jan of many trades, master of some…

I haven’t posted recently because I’ve been struggling a bit with what angle to take, what direction to move with this blog. I’ve finally decided to just forge ahead with my thoughts, not afraid that I might offend someone if I get too political, too Christian, not Christian enough, etc. So, as I said on day one, “My passions are many: all things education, nutrition, cooking, doing good, helping the less fortunate, you might find anything here. Comments, views, thoughts, musings… all are welcome to share; if what I might post does not resonate, share your own.”

I read an article this morning that got my head spinning and clarified for me that, as anyone who knows me well can tell you, I am driven to share my opinions. So, look out … here we go…


Murphy’s Law or a Myrna Day?

I think Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Yesterday, I just had one of those days. Nothing serious, just an off day. What an old friend, Myrna and I used to call a “Myrna Day.” The day started out less than perfect – I woke in a bit of a funk because I do not have any new networking opportunities planned for this week and last week was non-productive because of my bout with the flu. So, low energy, feelings of frustration and maybe of utter failure – a typical day for self-pity. I tried to snap out of it – by playing just the right song, thinking positive thoughts, deep breathing – my routine. After running an unexpected errand that had to be taken care of and hoping to get started on my writing for the day, a neighbor called needing me to pick up her child from school – unexpected emergency; rearranging my afternoon plans a bit I picked her up and headed to get my own. Managed the first two and headed for the last pick up of the afternoon, just a block from school and he calls, “Can you pick me up later? I have to meet such and such teacher and work on such and another project….” Quickly calculated how I could complete the evening calendars of the other two and agreed to pick him up in two hours. Half hour drive home, left me an hour to get something done. I had, by this time, checked the day off as ‘wasted’ so that I didn’t allow my frustration to boil over into anger. When I promptly fell asleep – missing the pick up by half hour. Scrambled to get him and get back forty-five minutes later – just in time to pick up the other son and get him to basketball. And finally, half an hour to do my own thing until his game started. So, I sat in my car to work when a sudden noise – a small, almost inaudible ‘click’ – left me with the realization that my battery had just died. Thankfully I have roadside assistance – but that meant a 45 minute wait. Since all the power windows were down, I had to stay with the car. Grateful for the moments to get my work done and found myself chuckling with a thought: What a Myrna Day!

Thanks Myrna for all of the memories of our Myrna Day’s over the years and for providing a chuckle at the end of a long, frustrating day!


Potholes and smiles

Potholes abound on the roads of Chicago. Some get repaired immediately; others go for months with astute drivers navigating around the tire damaging sinkholes. With each heavy rain or a few days of snow, a new hole appears. Then, with a few days of sunshine and warm air, tar patches appear, and tires roll down bumpy roads with rocks dinging  the bottom side of the car.

I’m not complaining – I am simply stating a fact. As I was driving down one of these incredibly bumpy roads yesterday morning I began to ponder potholes. Potholes are a reality of life in Chicago. Everyone knows it and we drive accordingly: slow down, swerve around, avoid the worst roads.

And this is what we do with life isn’t it? With the recession, people slow down, avoid extra bills, save when they can – just in case. But just as with potholes, trouble comes from the unexpected. You can be rolling along, paying attention and being careful – when all of the sudden a new pothole appears. Job loss, medical expense, an unexpected car repair bill. Life happens.

So, what can we do?

For me, I try to remember my blessings. My son’s high school classmate just lost her mother to cancer after losing her father to the same disease last year. My brother has just lost his second wife to illness; twice widowed. Hundreds, if not thousands, lost their homes last week to tornadoes. Of course, the list can go on and everyone has a story….

As I was walking down Michigan Avenue in Chicago yesterday heading to an interview, a transient man stood on the corner and with a sense of calm respect, simply asked the passers-by to give him A SMILE.

Somehow amid life’s potholes were you able to count your blessings and smile?



Education. Schooling. Learning.

What does it all mean? If someone is well schooled are they necessarily well educated? Some of the most influential people in history have struggled with traditional school. Others breezed right through.

Proposed solutions abound: education reform, differentiated instruction, closing the achievement gap, extended school days, longer school years, alternative assessment, educating the whole child, project based learning, inquiry based learning — the list could go on.

New positions and titles have been created to address the issues and create solutions. But drop out rates, illiteracy and incompetence is still pervasive.

I think I have the solution – but so do many others. We all know that something is wrong with the picture but we seem desperately afraid to change the picture.

If you had an opportunity to create the perfect school – no holds barred, no price limit, no restrictions – what would it be?

I’m interested to hear other people’s thoughts.


I Think I Get Donna Reed

After years of making snide remarks about how ridiculous it was that Donna Reed wore high heels and pearls to vacuum, I think I finally understand.

Donna Reed was the first person to ever completely practice the “Dress for Success” challenge that we hear so much about when talking to young people about navigating the job market. Dress for Success is one of the mottoes behind school uniforms  that incorporate dress shirt and tie for young men. I am still not certain how a plaid skirt helps young women dress for success – but that is a completely different discussion. I do know that in her day, Donna Reed certainly knew how to dress for success.

In this world of networking and job acquisition being as much about who you know and timing, as what you know, dressing for success is crucial.  As tempting as it may be to don jeans and a sweatershirt, dressing at least to the Casual Friday standard could be to your advantage. Donna Reed, regardless of who knocked on the door, was prepared for the task at hand. Donna was never going to be caught off guard.

So whether you meet a recruiter, a hiring manager, or the CEO of the company you have been trying to connect with – at the local Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, or Panera – you will be ready. Dressed for success and business card in hand, rather than excusing your appearance…

Of course, at the local sports event or the beach – maybe just the business card needs to be handy. Did Donna Reed ever go to a Bears game or the lake?


This Ain’t Nothin’

My brother once said that you can tell much about a person by asking him/her to name an all time favorite movie. His? It’s A Wonderful Life. This plays at the top of my list for sure, but I have trouble naming favorites of anything. My tastes are extremely eclectic in movies, books, music. A quick review of my ipod or goodreads account demonstrates this. So, from time to time I’ll refer to songs, movies, or books here – and possibly different references to religion or philosophy. I do not fit comfortably in boxes….
So, today I share thoughts on a song from Country singer Craig Morgan who sings a beautiful song by the title “This Ain’t Nothin’,” wherein a man facing the rubble of a tornado that destroyed his home tells the reporter about the sorrow he has faced in life.

We all face challenges and difficulties, mostly unexpected – like losing a job or even a home. We may rightfully feel hurt or angry. We don’t always choose what happens to us – but songs like “This Ain’t Nothin'” (and movies like It’s A Wonderful Life) can help put things in perspective when we need it.

Check it out on you tube….


Defining Moments

On Jan 2, I found myself without a job. Not a complete shock because I resigned – (I had been preparing collaterally for a while), but when the deed was done, my reality stunned me a bit. I was at a defining moment.

I’d been here before. Back in April 1994 when, after thirteen years, I left a religious congregation to start my life over at 30: I landed in Chicago with a suitcase of second hand clothes and prayer books in hand; no job, no credit history, no real resume to speak of, and my cousin’s couch to sleep on; in May 1995 when the job I’d secured for the year felt too much like the convent I’d just left, I quit with no idea of what I’d do next; after marrying, bearing two children, and realizing we needed a support system – my husband and I quit our jobs in 2000, and headed to California to find a house and employment so we could be near family; and again in 2007 when we had some philosophical differences with the institution we both worked at, we quit our jobs, put our house on the market (just as it tanked) and returned to Chicago looking for work and a place to live, three children in tow.

I’ve had several defining moments if you consider unemployment and moving cross country defining (not to mention marriage and having three children). But defining moments are not always major life changes. Sometimes we are simply confronted with choice. Like the hidden camera program on television we are asked, “What would you do?” 

A few weeks ago as I was driving my children home from school I noticed a teenage girl being head-locked and pushed to the ground by another as I passed by a neighborhood Chicago Public School. I stopped the car, pulled over, got out and approached the young ladies just as a group of teens approached. A defining moment.

On another occasion I saw a man lying on the sidewalk unconscious – as I was running late to get my son to a school event. A defining moment.

This morning my daughter woke me, having vomited all over her bed, her wall, and a good deal of the junk she had let drop around her bedroom floor. A defining moment.

We are all faced with defining moments – some major life events, other simpler happenings in life. But at these moments we get to choose: what type of cut string kite will we be? Will we soar, get tangled in knots, or allow ourselves to drop momentarily for needed repair and start all over again?