Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Soldier Anyone Package"

Anyone who works in a school today or follows the edublogging community knows that our kids are wired a bit differently. They expect to use technology from the time they wake up, throughout the school day, and during their down time . They are gamers, social media consumers and texting feigns. But one thing we may not always discuss is that our students have grown up in a world when the United States has been at war nearly all their lives. As educators we must create the appropriate opportunities for our students to appreciate the hard work, effort, and sacrifice a soldier experiences each and every day. The working day of a soldier is not what is portrayed in any video game our kids play. Our students need to experience the human element of deployment. I am grateful that a few of our teachers created the opportunity to help our soldiers while teaching a valuable lesson to our kids.

Last night at 2:25 am I received and email regarding a few packages our students mailed overseas. The packages were put together by our Family, Career, Community, Leaders of America (FCCLA) students during the week of our Veterans Day Assembly and addressed to "Soldier Anyone Package". The email states,

"Mr. Gallwitz,
First let me introduce myself, my name is Jim Wood and I am a Chief Master Sargent currently serving in Baghdad, Iraq, commonly referred to by many as "Chief". I am currently serving with the 447 ELRS (Expeditionary Logistic Readiness Squadron), we are coordinating all of the air and ground movements out of our location.  Today when leaving the dining facility I was stop by one of our mail folks who asked if I would like to have a "Solider Anyone Package".  Upon opening the package I discovered a couple of Christmas cards with your schools Veterans Day2011 post card inside; the 2 cards included in the box were signed by Cody and Salina K.
The contents in the package brought smiles to a number of folks here at my current location.  The time and effort that were placed into putting this and I am sure other packages together is very much appreciated by all. The decorations will go nicely on our tree, picture included. Our current tree is made out of MREs, (Meal Ready To Eat) by to of our folks who are very creative. I have also added a couple of other pictures that you may wish to share with others or the school. The one group shot is at Al Faw Palace where the official turn over of the Victory Base Complex took place, I am sure it was on the news the Vice President was here to speak.
The mission here is just about finished and we all look forward to getting home to our families as soon as possible.  However we understand it is not complete until all the folks are home. 
Once again thank the school for the package.
Chief Wood
Jim Wood, CMSgt, USAF
Sather AB
Baghdad Iraq"
Thank you to everyone involved in this project. I hope it helped lighten they day for a soldier and made their time overseas a bit more enjoyable. Your work is greatly appreciated.

Chief Master Sargent Wood, you and your group have become the face of our "Soldier Anyone Package". I want to personally thank you and the men and women serving with you. Thank you for being defenders of freedom. Thank you for your work, sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears. Thank you for being an American soldier. I wish you and all of the 447 ELRS a Merry Christmas and a speedy safe return home.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Are we educating kids for life or for school?

Are we educating kids for life or for school? I had the opportunity to attend the 21st Century Skills Ohio Summit 2.5 yesterday and this question was a reoccurring theme that caught my attention.  The hashtag for the event was #21oh11 The stream of comments provide significant insight even without available wifi. Some of the best include:

State superintendent , Stan Heffner, shared his thoughts regarding how schools can and should include 21st century skills into the classroom. It was encouraging to hear his perspective regarding the use of cells phones in the classroom. He stated that that 78% of Ohio's high school students have access to a smart phone and he expects that number to rise in the near future. Many schools prohibit cell phone use during the school day. Policies, pedagogy, and assessment all need to evolve to meet the needs of the next generation of learners.

Karl Fisch and Ewan McIntosh both shared amazing presentations. Fisch shared his perspective on the power of social media and the impact it had on his viral Did You Know video.  He discussed the collective power and knowledge of a group or network of individuals and how students need to build their own personal learning network to problem solve for the future. Speaking of problem solving, Ewan McIntosh shared what he had discovered while working with schools around the world. Anyone can solve a problem; the world needs problem finders. McIntosh stated that,
"We need young people to go into the world to find problems that really need solving and have the capacity to solve them."
Students can work through and solve pseudo problems created by their teachers but is this preparing them for life or school? We can assess more, end of course exams, graduation tests, achievement tests, practice tests, and more practice tests but is this preparing kids for life or for school? As states get on board with the common core, will this move prepare kids for life or for school?

My big take away - Keep it real. Get your kids involved in finding problems that really need solving. Have high standards without standardization.

Are you preparing your kids for life or for school?

Ewan McIntosh's London TEDx talk includes similar information as his keynote address. I highly encourage you to view and share it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Successful Blood Drive at EKHS

Yesterday from 1:00pm to 7:00pm the East Knox High School cafeteria was filled with students, teachers and community members waiting to donate blood. The American Red Cross requested that we host an additional blood drive this year due to the supply levels in our area. Traditionally East Knox High School hosts three blood drives - fall, winter and spring. The senior class has been very active organizing, manning and promoting past events. This time we were blessed to have the support of the Bladensburg Sertoma Club and the East Knox Lions Club. Each organization sent members to staff the event and to help spread the word. It was great to see the two service clubs working together for the greater good of our community. Many teachers, students and community members made appointments and waited patiently to donate. Each donor received and free t-shirt and was registered to win a $1,000 shoping spree at the Easton Mall. When it was all said and done the community donated 33 units of blood exceeding the goal of 31.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Darwin's Paradox

Image by USFWS
Last night I jumped into Steven Johnson's book Where Good Ideas Come From, The Natural History of Innovation. The book begins with a great discussion of 27 year old Charles Darwin's struggle to understand the significance of the coral reef located at the Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean. Johnson is able to construct an outstanding visual representation of a very inquisitive individual standing on the edge of an idea. Darwin observes the the flora and fauna of the island and realizes that few species exist but examines the reef to discover a vast array of life. Johnson states on page 5,
"In Darwin's own words, stumbling across the ecosystem of a coral reef in the middle of an ocean was like encountering a swarming oasis in the middle of a desert. We now call this phenomenon Darwin's Parodox: so many different life forms, occupying such a vast array of ecological niches, inhabiting waters that are otherwise remarkably nutrient-poor."
 Darwin realizes that the corral reef is not a geological event but an ecosystem created by millions tiny organisms; an innovative story about the persistence of life.

When I began reading this book I could not help but think about my experiences using social media. I was able to relate my time looking from the outside of a personal learning network (PLN) to Darwin as he studied the creatures within the reef. At first glance I didn't quite understand but I knew I was on the edge of a good idea just like Darwin staring into the sea. The learning ecology or PLN I have been able to participate in, connect with and develop is just like the coral reef - created by all the tiny organisms.

George Seimens states in his American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) article that,
"If the ecology is healthy, it will permit networks to flourish and grow. If the ecology is not healthy, networks will not develop optimally. The task of educators and trainers is to create and foster a learning ecology that allows learners to quickly and effectively enhance their existing learning."
That is why I am here - to advance my existing learning. Every connection is an opportunity to learn. Today I am the learner.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What did you learn today?

It's the end of the day. The bells rings and students are talking, walking and getting ready to head home. The school day is over and it's time to grab belongings, books and make the final stop at their lockers. Many have basketball or wrestling practice and few are staying for the after school program. A hand full of students have jobs and will be heading off to work. The rest are making a run for the bus or filing out of the building on their way to the parking lot. In the hallway I begin asking, "What did you learn today?". It was fun to see the expression on their face when I caught them off guard. Many students were very excited to share and I was impressed by the answers I received.

To often as an administrator I get caught up in managing the building and do not interact with the students about their learning. I did not plan to question the students today. It just happened. Sometimes the best lessons are impromptu conversations. Today's conversation was about learning and I may have learned the most!

As I continued to question students I also learned that a significant group of our kids are using Google docs to collaboratively complete presentations about water pollution. I have been discussing Google apps for education with a lot of people and plan to make the transition soon. Currently our students use their personal Google accounts to complete assigned tasks. In our Personal Finance class students are creating their own video advertisements about identity theft using flip cameras and iMovie. During Anatomy this morning our kids explored a web quest about mad, mad Dr. Dendrite. And, I also learned that our Music Tech class is desperately waiting for Garage Band to be downloaded to the iPod Touch cart. I learned that our kids expect to use technology but I'm pretty sure I knew that all along!

What did you learn today?

Friday, November 25, 2011

I want to connect!

By Caroline Bucky

Why would I create a blog. Why would I spend time writing. Why would a principal need to do this? The answer is very simple. I want to connect. Locally, I can connect with the students, staff, parents and community by sharing details of events, ideas, and passions of our school. We do not share enough about the everyday happenings in our building. I want to connect the community with our kids!

Globally, it is to our advantage to make as many connections as possible. By connecting with the world you create opportunities to learn. Check out the video below, "The Networked Student".

It is imperative that our students become strong connected digital citizens. Providing opportunities and leading by example will assist in the establishment of personal learning networks (PLN). My PLN includes teachers, principals, and educators of all kind from all over the world. Daily, I have relevant information at my fingertips and a multitude of perspectives on problems we all face. The opportunities are endless. This blog is just the beginning. Please connect with me on Twitter  @rgallwitz  and follow East Knox High School on Twitter as well at @EKDogs.

Join the conversation!