Monday, March 7, 2016

Was Your High School Classroom Experience Useful?

Dear Adults,

How much of what you learned in high school do you use every day? Do you think recent graduates think something similar to you? How about current students?  It doesn’t have to be that way. Find out how by joining us Wednesday, March 9 at 6:30pm in the Pickard Auditorium at Neenah High School where we will host a screening of the edu-documentary Most Likely to Succeed.  

The Sundance Film Festival selection details how the the American education system was created to prepare students for jobs in the 1890’s, but is not useful for gaining skills which translate to jobs, or to life, in the 21st Century. The public school system has remained virtually unchanged while our culture and economy have dramatically shifted to an age of information and technology. It is no wonder that students, including many of the most successful, dread going to school because they feel it is being done to them.  While they still see it as their gateway to success, too often it does not apply to their lives.

Most Likely to Succeed examines a thought provoking approach to school by following two 9th grade classes as they grow in their love of learning, confidence, and skills which directly translate to the 21st Century while attending High Tech High, a Project Based Learning (PBL) High School in San Diego, California.  This film will change the way you think about “school” and how it can prepare us for the future.

Learn how it is possible to create a learning environment from education experts Oliver Schinkten of Linkedin and Dr. Joshua Garrison of UW-Oshkosh, which precedes and follows the film will allow attendees to ask and answer questions and see how we have found the same successes as High Tech High with local students in the Arete Academy at Neenah High School.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Help Children Succeed

The American education system was developed over 100 years ago to prepare students for jobs of that time.  So why has that system remained virtually unchanged when our culture and economy have dramatically shifted to an age of information and technology? Most Likely to Succeed is an edu-documentary which will change the way you think about “school” and how it can prepare us for the future.

Join us at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Pickard Auditorium for a free public showing of Most Likely to Succeed and a discussion with education experts Oliver Schinkten of Linkedin and Dr. Joshua Garrison of UW-Oshkosh.

Learn how the Neenah Joint School District is embracing the revolutionary ideas in the film through the Arete Academy at Neenah High School and how it prepares your children for success in the 21st Century.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Is It Most Likely to Succeed?

In October of 2015, I went to see the edu-documentary Most Likely to Succeed at the Downer Theatre in Milwaukee as part of the Milwaukee Film Festival.  The theater was filled with people of all ages, and possibly socioeconomic and political beliefs. I assumed that these people came from all over Metro Milwaukee and that we would have a scintillating conversation afterwards. Except we didn't. Ushers cleared the theater immediately after the film because another started 20 minutes later.

In the week leading up to the festival, I watched the trailer and checked out the website for the film and I was impressed with the concepts presented. I followed that with the excellent article from Fast Company Create, which provided extra background information. Despite my background information, I failed to recognize the film magnifies the discussion I have had with my friends for years--essentially that everything in the world has changed except the education system in the United States.

Even while I was still watching it,  I knew we had to screen Most Likely to Succeed in Pickard Auditorium at Neenah High School and that we had to have a discussion afterwards. There are too many questions raised by the film not to engage the audience in discourse and provide a way to debrief, and to hear the perspectives of those with different backgrounds and experiences. I wanted to know what business owners and others in HR would feel about the hiring employees with the skills developed by the featured students. Would they say that memorization was more important than problem solving, collaborating, organizing and being creative?  Would they say that through employee training at their business, group or organization they teach employees the content skills they need for the job, but that they expect employees to come to them with the "soft skills?" What other thoughts would people have about the film, the portrayal of teachers, students, parents and others featured in it. And ultimately, what will people say in regards to the same type of education that we provide in the Arete PBL Academy at Neenah High School?

We have two dynamic speakers who will discuss their experiences with education which emphasizes skills directly applicable to the world. The first speaker, Oliver Schinkten, is a former teacher who felt strongly enough about changing education that he spent a year writing about reforming education, creating instructional videos and traveling the country as an educational activist speaking about the need for education reform.  He found that most people, whether they are in education or not, feel like education needs to change, but just don't know how to go about making it happen. . 

Dr. Joshua Garrison is a Professor of Education Leadership at UW-Oshkosh.  He did his undergrad work at Evergreen State College, a progressive liberal arts college in Olympia, Washington. He brings the perspective of having experienced a project based learning environment as an adult and now, as a professor, can speak about the too frequent attitude of students who don't care about learning, only their grades. 

So, as we screen it at 6:30 on Wednesday, March 9 in the Pickard Auditorium, my biggest question is:  Is it likely to succeed in convincing people that education has to change here?  Now? If the film doesn't convince them, then I am hoping the radicals Dr. Joshua Garrison and Oliver Schinkten will be the catalysts.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Learn to Be Disruptive

Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors. He is a disruptive force in the world of business and marketing, but I see his writing as directly applicable and disruptive to education as well. Depending on the situation, clients may be students or parents, bosses might be students, parents, or actual bosses. It is really all a matter of being able to see the connections.

Recently I have started Godin's Freelancer class on Udemy, a place for online learning. The classes on Udemy are not for college credit, but are for general learning of any kind. People make their own courses based on their expertise.

Because we are only in the second year of the program, by my way of thinking as members of our PBL program,  Arete PBL Academy at Neenah High School, all teachers and students are freelancers because we do not have an automatic clientele. Students often join us based on student or parent word of mouth, our presentations at other schools or our public displays of learning.

In the last three days, teachers and students in the program have presented at both Neenah High School and at Shattuck Middle School to inform families about our program. It really struck the  teachers in our program, Suzy Weisgerber, Emily Bennett, Tara Meinke, Lynn Heyn and I how impressive it was that students were willing to give up hours of free time to go to school and talk about how important our program has been to their lives.

One of the most effective lines that our students used while talking with families was, "Do you like tests?" The question usually stopped every kid in their tracks. Every student knows that for most classes and for most tests the goal is to get the highest grade possible and then forget the information as quickly as possible. In response to Godin's suggestions of how to increase demand, by asking that one question our students initiated a need in younger students. I feel it is the need for a way to do school that doesn't include tests.

Students followed that question by telling the story of our program, the way they learn, the learning outcomes both in terms of the academic expectations which all students have and the "soft skills" that they learn as part of how they are learning and showing the evidence of their learning.

Another element of Godin's (@thisissethsblog) freelancer course is to be an instigator, which is someone who decides what they are going to do rather than waiting for something to happen. Our students have instigated change in their lives and are encouraging others to do the same. It will be interesting to see how many students eventually join our program based on the student storytelling and instigation.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Christmas in the Trenches--The Best Assessment Yet

On December 22, 2015 Arete PBL Academy at Neenah High School had their assessment for the World War I unit. Despite extensive studying in the days leading up to the assessment, students were excited and nervous. Except that instead of taking a written test, their assessment was in the form of a play...performed for the entire freshman class of 500. Then, an hour later, they performed another for their parents, school administrators, school board members and upper class-men.

In a two week period, the play, entitled Christmas in the Trenches, was conceived, written, directed and performed by Kassidy Schmidt and the 10th grade students in the Academy.  In addition to the creation of the play, the set was also built by students.

As I look back on the year and a half of our program, this was, by far, our greatest success.  We had students who, in September 2014, would barely speak above a whisper, stand on stage and perform entire memorized scenes.

Our kick off event was to attend the professional production of All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 at the Appleton Performing Arts Center. After seeing the professional production, students learned about World War I scientists, poets, military and national leaders, events, inventions, discoveries.  They displayed their learning by writing scenes including the most important aspects of the war.

Throughout the two weeks of working on the production, many students were exposed to a world they had not previously and likely never would have experienced had it not been for the play. It was exhilarating, exhausting but ultimately a source of pride for everyone involved in the production.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

School is an Egg Carton

After reading Seth Godin's blog post today,  I thought about how school, like the egg carton, has looked the same for a long time. Instead of the same old egg carton of a school, there are new possibilities. One type of education that is out of the egg carton is our program, the Arete PBL Academy

It became obvious that one problem our program has to solve is the fact that every student is not applying to be in the program.  In our first two years we have had about 45 students each year for both 9th and 10th grades. I think it is because we haven't given people enough of a chance to be, according to Godin, "proven right" that our program is the future of education and the "heritage" style of classes no longer compare as a useful and desired way of learning. 

It is unbelievable that so much money is spent on education each year, people complain about schools, but the call by some is more of the same ideas and strategies which have caused school to be a detested and useless part of the day. It is a part which many would skip (and do) if they could. Instead of focusing on the current egg carton school, what if we repackaged it by asking "which skills will make people successful in their lives," "which skills do employers want students to have" and "to what kind of school would students be drawn?" Our answers should lead to the design of a school  which fits those concepts rather than making excuses as to why the current system is not working the way people think it should. The answer will include concepts espoused by the staff of Arete PBL Academy of giving students voice and choice in a learning environment with direct ties to the "real world."

School needs to change. Godin is correct, as a high school program, we do have to do a better job of connecting with our audience: specifically community members, middle schoolers and their parents. In the world of twitter, we cannot just wait for others to recognize the inherent authenticity and superiority of a multidisciplinary education, but we must go out and create situations for others to see for themselves at times and locations and with events which will draw the audience we want, which is everyone. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Palmer, E. Teaching the Core Skills of Listening and Speaking

Teaching the Core Skills of Listening & Speaking
Palmer, Erik

Palmer offers a detailed analysis of speaking and listening standards with many examples, specific exercises, rubrics and tips culled from years of teaching. What follows is a collection of notes and examples from my reading of the book

Ch 1 Intro

Ch 2 core skills, core standards

Ch 3 Collaborating/Discussing

30  Collab requires people to agree on a goal, divide the task, delegate responsibilities and agree how to combine pieces to create the desired end product

collaboration brings people together to achieve something that could not be achieved individually

Standard 1--prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively."

high school students required to take more responsibility for discussion They don't just participate in teacher created discussions, they initiate them. They set the goals and the roles. Actively participate, not sit and listen to others. they bring others into the discussion and promote differing opinions.

Teachers guides not leaders, they ask questions..."What rules should we have for the discussion?" "How can we be sure we have heard all views?" When problems occur, "How can this be solved?  Is there new evidence or a new argument that we need?"

Collaboration--interacting with others in a group to accomplish a goal.
1 must have a specific purpose or point,
2 work towards a goal
3 be given freedom to use all tools at their disposal

40 Take action: Developing Collaborative Discussion Skills

Algebra--group members get questions with same process different problem--explain problem and answer to group members

English--comma usage different writing piece to edit, are there introductory phrases in the paper, are there items in a series--in groups discuss comma rules present in piece

Sci--give different labs, identify control, variables etc and explain to group

42 Require groups to collaborate to produce a single product

hand out difficult article to all members--all read discuss and write one summary per group they all agree summarizes all key points--can have person 1 write 1st sentence, 2nd person write 2nd sentence etc. If there is disagreement, they must collaborate to resolve the differences.

43 Collaborate then generate individual products

After showing a video, put in groups, each writes a paragraph with powerful topic sentence and three supporting points

44 Assign roles

writer/recorder,  timekeeper, summarizer, messenger, questioner, keyboarder, noise monitor, supervisor, reader, reporter

48 Take Action: Developing Civil Discussion Skills

collaboration cannot occur in a hostile environment--leads to shouting
discussion is not to make sure your idea dominates, but to increase understanding or come to a consensus

All discussions should have an announced and specific focus

50 Rules for Civil Discussion

1. Focus on the task at hand--clear desk, free hands in order to concentrate
2. Don't interrupt--cutting others off denies them their right to express themselves and shape the discussion
3. Build on what others say--shows you are paying attention to others and that you respect others' thinking ("I want to add to what Mary said..."
4. Control emotions--outbursts do not advance ideas--they shut them down.  Those too emotional may not understand others and may make others shut down
5. Control nonverbal signals--gestures and facial expressions can convey disrespect and shut down conversation
6. Don't jump to conclusions--don't assume you know where the speaker is going
7. Don't judge the messenger--separate people from actions--hate cleaning up the milk, not the person who spilled it.
8. Practice empathy--you may not know what someone or their family member has been through
9. Be patient--wait for others to finish speaking trying to interrupt shows you don't care about what others have to say
10. Ask questions--before stating your comment, ask one question of the previous speaker.  "You said ___________, but would you say the same if the situation were ___________."
11. Presume positive intentions--
12. Everyone's contributions are essential--don't let a class leader shut down conversation

52 Have evidence based discussions--require each speaker to cite a specific piece of evidence to support their comment

53 Traveling debate
Choose topic with yes/no answer
Choose one yes speaker objective is to convince no's to change their minds vice versa

54 model civil

Ch 4 Listening/Media Literacy
Standard 2  Grades 9-10
integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media (e.g., diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively and orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source

"Consider the article we read, the video we watched, the chapter in ____. All have different perspectives. Which one is the most credible to you?  Why?"

Julian Treasure TED Talk--"How to speak so people want to listen."  People spend 60% of their time listening, but retain 25 percent of what they hear.

61 Take Action: Developing Listening Skills
Ask students to define "good listening"
What does good listening look like? Sound like?

62Listen with purpose

Give students a recipe and read it for different purposes: find out if it includes ingredients found in their kitchen, to assess if it will be difficult to prepare, to evaluate if the recipe is healthy, etc.

Purposes of listening

  • to remember or understand what happened in a story
  • to remember or understand a procedure
  • to learn important dates
  • to find examples
  • to find reasons supporting main ideas
  • to solve a problem
  • to find metaphors and similes
  • to identify inflections int eh speech of the person talking
  • to focus on how the speech was delivered
  • to focus on the message only, ignoring the delivery
  • to identify places where they have questions or need help understanding
  • to indentify points they agree with or disagree with
  • to find errors in verb tense, pronoun use, or word choice
  • to find places where they might offer suggestions for improvement in an argument
  • to identify how the speaker is feeling
**Watch short video multiple times and listen for something different each time.  LIsten to:
  • determine th actions Kid President wants us to take
  • to id different vocal styles he uses for emphasis
  • notice how the scene changes/montage affect the message
  • notice how the music in the video contributes to the mood

--listening is not the same thing as hearing

64 Teach about filters--
All messages are received through filters (beliefs, attitudes, experiences, expectations, etc)

"Making a lot of money is good"  Received differently by American and Buddhist monk

65 Ask students to paraphrase during discussion

Attention is key to effective listening, people spend too much time waiting to say their ideas and to little time listening

***require students to paraphrase what previous speaker said before adding their own comment

Sample phrases to use when paraphrasing:

  • So you're suggesting
  • You think that
  • Your plan is to...
  • What you are asking is...
  • If I am hearing you right you believe...
  • You feel that...
  • You disagree with the statement...
  • As I understand it, you want to...
  • According to you, a good reason to _____________ is to ____________
  • If you had your way, we would...

67 Teach Active listening

RASA--consists of verbs  listening is active

Receive--Pay Attention
Appreciate--give small acknowledgements ( um, hum"," oh year" Sure")
Summarize--repeat or paraphrase
Ask Questions get clarification or elaboration

67 Understand Media Literacy

No TV month
How many commercials per hour?  What persuasive techniques are used? What is the structure of a sitcom? What stories are on the local news and why were they chosen?

Teach a unit on internet literacy/ digital citizenship

"Getting information off the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant"

Mitchell Kapor

70 Take Action:  Developing Media Literacy

Teach visual literacy
consistent message--message about success in some area should include pictures of you being successful, all pictures should match subject matter

National Archives and Register media analysis sheets

71 Taxonomy of internet domain names--what do they stand for and how reliable is the info found on these sites


Teach Wikipedia as tool and topic
--ease of editing, view history

1st source of info not last

Pacific Tree Octopus

U Conn researchers asked 25  7th graders to review website.  All found the website to be "very credible"

Have students peruse the website and then look for clues that it is a hoax

Teach students to find the source of online content

"about" or "About us" tabs--research people or group on the website

Truncate--shorten address to the domain suffix (.com, .net )

Google--before including info from a website research source of info

Find website owners

Teach internet reading

  • web pages read in "F" pattern across top 2or 3 lines, then down a bit halfway across then down left edge
  • 19-27 seconds per page
  • browsing, scanning, keyword spotting, one-time reading & and non linear reading
How internet changes reading habits
how and why to resist hyperlinks--focus on research question 
how web pages are structured and traps build into them

schmoop--award winning website, but includes ads, pop ups 

81 Require multiple sources--find youtube video, articles, blogs, etc about a topic and discuss which is most credible? most evidence? most persuasivee?which techniques worked to affect opinion?  Which one is best site?

81 Teach students to use internet evaluation forms see p 82 for form

Ch 5 Questioning and Reasoning

Standard 3
Evaluate a speaker's point of new, reasoning and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence. 

Argument is a series of statements that lead to a logical conclusion

question statements to examine argument

Take action: developing questioning skills
 Question starters

  • Can you explain what you mean by
  • do you disagree with
  • is there evidence for
  • have you considered
  • why would the author/speaker/expert believe
  • would you agree that
  • how did you know
  • would you try to convince us that
  • what would someone on the other side think about...
  • Why would he
  • what do you thing she was feeling when
  • why did the character decide to
  • What would have happened if
  • How did the speaker's style contribute to the feeling of 
  • What do you think we are supposed to feel about
  • Have you ever felt like...
95 "Platonic Seminars"
Discussion with small group in Socrates role.  Socrates is responsible for asking questions once a claim is made. They may not respond with anything other than a question. No "good point" or "yes"

Require note taking
  • write each speaker's name in discussion
  • after the name write at least one comment the speaker made
  • if you think of a question based on what the speaker said, write it down
96 Give students process models for analyzing evidence
expert opinions

98 Take Action: Developing Reasoning Skills


101 Reasoning errors 
  • attacking the person instead of content
  • circular reasoning I like ice cream because I like ice cream
  • cause vs correlation correlation is not causation eating skittles before getting an "A" on the test does not mean skittles are the key to academic success
  • derailing--purposefully changing the topic to come up with something easier to argue
  • posing a fake argument-misstating the opposing view to make it look worse
  • distracting with emotion- diverting attention by using an emotional appeal
  • changing the burden of proof--forcing the other side to disprove your point
  • generalizing--taking one example and making a general statement "I was in Paris last summer and the weather in France is awful"
  • either/or--suggesting there are only two possible answers
  • ignoring some facts--selecting only facts whhich support you point
  • prejudice/stereotype--making claim based on personal bias
Teach persuasion techniques
104 Teach rhetorical devices
  • allusion
  • analogy
  • hyperbole
  • parallel structure
  • alliteration
have students find others

Ch 6 Speaking Well
Standard 4

"Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance and style are appropriate to purpose, audience and task."

Almost all emphasis is on building the speech

standard mostly focuses on informational aspect of speeches--competent speakers must tell a great story

Building  the speech                            
information, evidence,: concisely, logically such that listeners cna follow the organization, development, substance

 Performing the speech
style appropriate to purpose

114 Take Action:  Developing message-building skills

use real language
be specific and concrete
use organizers
provide a thinking map

122 Multiple Trait Speaking--PVLEGS

P--poise appearing calm and confident
V-voice--making every word heard
L-Life--putting passion into the voice
E--Eye contact--engaging each listener
G-Gestures--matching motions to words
S-Speed--pacing for a powerful performance

Take Action--Developing Delivery Skills

expect more
use mini speeches to practice key skills
video "rough draft" of speech
students watch and give feedback

127 figure 6.3 graphic design presentation rubric

Ch 7 Incorporating Multimedia

Standard 5
Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning and evidence and to add interest

need interactive elements
135 Presentation literacy--having the skills and competencies to analyze, evauate an dcreate presentations using a variety of tools and methods

ask students to justify their use of technology or media

138  Presentation Design Principles
Simplicity--why that picture? for clarification? add to or take away from words? why that sound?

Focus--what is the first thing you notice?

Color-why choose color, why change color

Structure-visual organization

141 Take action: developing Presentation Literacy

Find multiple media sources on one topic--powerpoint, video, poster, audio description
Which did you prefer?  Why? what worked better in the powerpoint than video?

Life after death by powerpoint  by Don McMillan--4 min
Death by Powerpoint 20 min

142  Media Awareness Questions

  • How did the images make you feel about...
  • How did the music make you feel?
  • Did the lighting contribute to the overall feeling of 
  • Why were the shots constructed the way they were?
  • What did the editing/montage do for the effect of
  • Did the images used help convey the message?
  • Did the interaction at the whiteboard add or detract from teh learning
  • Did the slides seem to complex? too simple?
  • Did the design of the visual aids work for you? Add or detract?

144 figure 7.3 tool for creating video presentations

Tips for avoiding listener view fatigue

  • eliminate unnecessary words, sounds or pictures
  • highlight
  • don't ask the audience to read words you are saying
  • put key words right on  the image
  • synchronize pictures and explanations
145 teach design principles and include them in assessments
teach selection bias
teach power of music and images
use 21st C tools
teach advanced media skills

Ch 8 Adapting for the Occasion

Standard 6
"Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate"

There is a culture of power--communicative strategies, presentation of self--ways of talking, writing, dressing and interacting

understand audience--to whom are you speaking?"Is this going to work with this audience at this time?

157 Take Action: Developing students ability to adjust for audience
Audience Analysis

  1. Who is going to be in the audience?
  2. What do they already know about the topic?
  3. What do they need to know about the topic?
  4. What mood are they in?
  5. What  are they expecting?
  6. How will they be experiencing the presentation?
  7. What content adjustments need to be made to suit this audience?
  8. How should visuals be constructed to meet the audience's needs?
  9. What kind of language will match the language of the audience?
Use digital tech to provide practice addressing different audiences

skype google hangouts

Understand different types of speeches
informative-provides info
persuasive- convince listeners

Take action:  developing students sense of task

Assign different speech situations
historical figure to provide eyewitness account

World's greatest expert activity--careful listening
two people sit in front of room
a student asks a question about topic
expert 1 begins answer

teacher claps

expert 2 continues sentence from where expert 1 left off

role play

Ch 9  Assessing Listening and Speaking

170 Take Action: evaluating listening

171-2 listening rubric

  • Gives sufficient evidence of the ability to...
  • includes specific references to places where...
  • Adequately supports...

Evaluate questioning ability

after presenting info have students question rather than give answers
watch video and write questions

Why did director...

173 Evaluate reasoning

175 assess speech construction
rubric--equal weight for building and performing

evaluate everyday speaking

everyday verbal communications need to use pvlegs

choose a day to assess poise, when students speak
involve audience in scoring

fig 9.5 score sheet for student eval for speech