Biblical Leadership

cognitive functions
cognitive functions

In the past couple of weeks through my employer, I’ve taken and received results back on leadership/personality types. In summary, I took the Meyers Briggs test for the first time since early college (forgot what I was but I think INFP?)  and was a bit surprised to learn that I am classified now as INTJ.  The parts that kind of surprised me were the Judging over Perceiving and Thinking over Feeling. In some ways after thinking about it more it makes sense but I guess I usually see myself as too soft when it comes to people so thus good to see I’m starting to be able to see the bigger picture better.

I also received feedback in the form of a 360 feedback survey. I had done this two years ago when I was part of the Fresno Unified Leadership Cohort, but the time and context is quite different in the business world now than coming from a classroom teacher! My main feedback before was confronting people; and it still is one of my weaker points.

In church this morning the sermon was on David and Goliath – not so much the grandiose things, but about how David just needed to ‘show up’ to be used by God to do great things.

One of my own biblical leadership heroes has always been Nehemiah because he:

  • Was bold in asking for money and time to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem
  • Asked God to simply “Strengthen his hands” (Neh 6.9)
  • Was resolute in times of darkness and attack
  • Was not a flashy leader, but led from example and resolve

In light of my personality type assessment, 360 degree feedback comments and essentially how I’ve been feeling lately at work, excited to continue to ground myself and lead from example into the future. I am most excited about being able to integrate my passions for “open everything” (educational resources, open source software products, open pedagogy/open educational practices) into my day job as opportunities present themselves.

 

OER and Equity

Over 20% of children in the United States live in poverty (http://www.nccp.org/topics/childpoverty.html)

Most internet access in the United States takes place on “mobile” devices such as phones and tablets (https://techcrunch.com/2014/08/21/majority-of-digital-media-consumption-now-takes-place-in-mobile-apps/)

 

Taken together, we know that most internet consumption in the future will not happen on big screens with legacy OS’s. While this presents a problem for some sectors (software development, heavy graphics etc) for most of the internet this is a welcome problem.

Open Educational Resources is a term that’s been around a while, but with varying degrees of fidelity. I use the definition defined at opencontent.org by David Wiley and others at opencontent.org/definition:
The terms “open content” and “open educational resources” describe any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like “open source”) that is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  • Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)

  • Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)

  • Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)

  • Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)

  • Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

When it comes to reaching students in poverty with OER, my observations are that the ball has often been dropped but doesn’t have to be. Part of the Open Content definition is the ALMS rubric:

  1. Access to Editing Tools: Is it easy to edit the content?
  2. Level of Expertise Required:Is it hard to use the tools that edit the content?
  3. Meaningfully Editable: Is it easy to edit the content in a way that would help remix it (ie a PDF is a terrible way to publish open content)
  4. Self-Sourced: A more technical one, but “It the format preferred for consuming the open content the same format preferred for revising or remixing the open content (e.g., HTML)?”

A lot of the open content that I have seen thus far does not fit this definition. Sometimes folks have great content within their LMS, but it’s just sitting there. Or it’s on a website somewhere but you can’t easily copy and paste the text, or it’s in a Google Doc and thus not as easily searchable as perhaps other public information. PDF’s still make up almost 80% of non-HTML documents on the internet, so that’s a lot of information that for most intents and purposes is trapped.

There are a lot of great efforts happening to free this content – much of it thanks to folks like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, Creative Commons, IMS Global and various Open Education groups/consortiums.

I taught middle and high school for about 10 years in and around Fresno, CA. Many of my students grew up without fathers, without parents having even any kind of job (government assistance for_their_entire_lives) and computer use was either at school or cell phones. Some middle and upper class people mock those considered low-income and their use of often higher-end cell phones – not realizing these people don’t have a car, don’t have a mortgage, a retirement fund, etc – so money goes toward the immediate need/gratification.

Open Educational Resources need to be made with Universal Design for Learning principles in mind. My wife retells this image from the comic strip when talking about the need for universal design in all educational settings:

http://www.uvm.edu/~cdci/archives/mgiangre/
http://www.uvm.edu/~cdci/archives/mgiangre/

This need is still true even now. All OER should:

  • Be easily translatable (Google Translate works great)
  • Allow the option of being read aloud
  • Be licensed with no restrictions CC-BY
  • Follow the norms laid out by the ALMS rubric
  • Be printable: Of course being able to print materials easily (read: Not a string of oddly formatted HTML pages!) does a lot of good as well. If kids can print it they can access it, period – as long as the other accessibility guidelines mentioned are present like language, etc.

Failure to follow these principles of design will serve only to widen the gap between the tech elite and the tech poor. As we have seen in society today, there is a large gap not just in the reality of Americans but in the ability to have a perception of reality.

“How does it feel to be white?”

In the past few months several leading math organizations (NCTM, NCSM, CMC) have released joint statements talking about the conversations of Math Equity.

From the NCTM paper, one quote stuck out at me regarding teacher education perspectives:

Providing all students with access is not enough; educators must have the knowledge, skills, and disposition necessary to support effective, equitable mathematics teaching and learning.
In other words, while I suppose you could have students read Flatland and then connect that to social injustice etc, that’s not the point here. In December Dan Meyer wrote about the problem of the proliferation of tall good looking white guys at education (of which I don’t think I fit into two of those descriptors, but close enough).

In college a friend of my roommates came into our dorm and casually asked, “How does it feel to be white?” when he saw my computer set up (nice looking case, big monitor), and I didn’t quite know how to react. I was taken aback –  I tried to justify his comment in my head – if I’d bought it new I can see that – but I hadn’t. I’d worked extra money, made a bags of skittles last a week just to save the extra buck and things like that for years. It took me a while to fully understand what he meant. After all, I’d worked really hard to buy that computer more than just financially – but hours learning about Linux, about hardware and how to best optimize things.

I cared for my computer almost much and probably more than my car. My parents told me in 8th grade that if I saved up at least $1,000 for a computer, they would match it. They thought this would take a few years as my allowance at the time was I think $20 a month for snacks and small trips – I had $130 in ‘savings’ at the time I remember. That summer and all throughout my freshman year I took extra small jobs whenever I could, even taking over my brothers chores to double the amount of income I could make. So by my sophomore year I had the money and carefully went about choosing what I wanted. I settled on an AMD-based Gateway system with all the trimmings. This computer would last me about 6 years through upgrading everything except for the case. I added a 17″ flatscreen monitor my sophomore year of college which was about $250 but looked more expensive.

What I eventually realized about his comment was that it wasn’t the amount of money having a nice computer took, it was the priorities in my life that let me spend money on that. It was the fact that because my parents were able to provide for my basic needs so something like a computer – which at the time wasn’t really needed for any job and something as nice as that wasn’t needed for school per se. It was that I’d chosen to spend that money knowing that I’d be able to get more money later. And when I was in middle school tinkering with spare parts and putting them together, having a dad that could help explain or point me to the right places, and even drive me to another city to get the needed parts (yes, this was in the days before amazon and ebay).

As a math teacher who taught predominately in lower-income areas, I couldn’t pretend to know exactly what kids were going through, or experienced, or even what daily life was like. I’ve never struggled with not having enough money to buy food or at least couldn’t put it on a credit card if I needed too (been there in my early teaching days!). But I could listen with empathy, keep in mind that their parents may not be able to help them, and give students opportunities. Through Tri-This! Inc I was able to help take kids to the snow often for the first (only?) time, go camping, travel up and down California and complete triathlons. Through math I was able to explain things to them and encourage them to college – several of my students even ended up at Fresno Pacific University my alma mater!

Being white is not a negative thing – it’s who we are. Because we are born into white privilege – and we are – doesn’t mean we can’t be that much more compassionate and strive for empathy. I cannot be the same type of figure in students lives that my sisters and brothers of color can be, but I can just be who I am – a mentor who strives for compassion, integrity and shows students unconditional acceptance and love.

 

I’ve been writing this post off and on since about November 2016, and I’m still not sure what I’m trying to say I guess. Justification for me to be slightly offended at the comment? Guilt or embarrassment about working hard for it? Not sure. What I do know is that little comment 15 years ago helped give me perspective whenever I did have physical possessions that were important to me, but not important to other people for very good reasons.

A “Blank Page” Google Docs Add-On

I was talking with my online friend Tim Brzezinski the other day about the great work he does with Geogebra and how to accelerate even more synergy between the interactive element and Google Docs.  He is experimenting with linking to google doc exploration guides from within Geogebra applets. I wondered what it might look like if we embedded the Geogebra applet into a sidebar so created a simple, blank sidebar add-on to embed the Geogebra applet. What I found  was that it was far too small (300 pixels set width) to really be usable, but it was a good little project nonetheless.

To use this in practicality, click the link below, Make a Copy to your own drive from the File Menu, then select Tools, Script Editor.

You will see something like the image below – click on over to Sidebar.html and edit the HTML code (a few examples down below)screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-3-28-56-pm

 

Google Scripts Project

 

Example HTML that embeds a youtube video

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<head>
<base target="_top">
</head>
<body>
<iframe width="300" height="100%" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ghfcrjTpZE0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> </body>
</html>

The main change I made is of course the width to 300 and the height to be 100%. (Sample Document) 

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-10-04-34-am

 

 

 

 

 

 

Map on the Side

Document

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-10-14-29-am

 

 

 

 

 

Admittedly the method isn’t very pretty, and before I publish to the Chrome store I’ll make it so people can just paste the embed code into the frame and it will then automatically embed it (thus it will be able to be changed for each new doc…), but what are some thoughts for how this could be used?

AIMS Zone of Proximal Construction – Tools for Productive Struggle

The AIMS Center on the campus of Fresno Pacific University is an organization that I’ve admired for at least 15 years. I actually was an AIMS scholarship recipient as an undergraduate mathematics major and as a teacher I used AIMS activities whenever I could.

AIMS has changed a bit in the past few years from producing print curriculum – they realized there was a bunch of OER stuff out there that it was getting hard to compete – and focusing on professional development and research.

My wife Meagan and I were invited to speak last week on behalf of their Colloquium Series – research-minded talks to math and science teachers going through an AIMS-related cohort.

We spoke about ways to help teachers let their students experience productive struggle. Emphasis on productive. Meagan, a special education teacher and adjunct professor, focused on environmental factors and things that teachers can do specifically for the learner. I focused on making the math connections when possible, as well as technology tools for formative assessment and PD to give the best information to both students and teachers. Formative assessment should really be called feedback in my opinion, and I made the comment either on the podcast or during the talk that if our formative assessment tools aren’t giving the STUDENTS feedback we’re missing the point.

Universal Design for Learning – designing learning not to accommodate learners with special needs, but thinking about those accommodations and then designing the lesson to reach ALL Learners with those methods – was the biggest takeaway so much so that Meagan and I are planning on attending the CAST conference in Boston this summer. It was a great night with feedback from the, ‘students’, conversations with Dr Brownell for the podcast, and overall feeling like being home and fun to be in front of people with great questions. My main points:

  1. Make formative assessment something the students themselves can learn about  – don’t keep the ‘dashboard’ confined to the teacher!
  2. Give students multiple ways to express their learning and struggles
  3. Design your classroom in a way that there are no questions for what is expected of students – the less outside stressors, the more they can focus on the academic tasks at hand.

Podcast

Video Archive of the Presentation

Slides

Thanks Lori Hamada, Dr Chris Brownell and the entire AIMS staff for making our visit welcoming and great! We can’t wait to be back!

#TT4T Book Study – Turn Weakness Into Strength

Note: This is an ongoing book study started by Chase Orton about Tim Ferris' Tools of Titans. Intro Post

I was reading this week about how different people have taken what were considered weaknesses and turned them into their greatest strengths. Take Arnold Schwarzenegger talking about his heavy accent even after being in the United States for several years:

Arnold was able to use his biggest “flaws” as his biggest assets, in part because he could bide his time and didn’t have to rush to make rent. He shared an illustrative anecdote from the Terminator set: “Jim Cameron said if we wouldn’t have had Schwarzenegger, then we couldn’t have done the movie, because only he sounded like a machine.”

He took what critics told him was preventing him from further roles and made it something that became his trademark.

As teachers we often face the same thing. I’ve read books (can’t remember from where!) where they talk about some teachers on teams maybe aren’t great teachers, so make up for it by being really nice people. Or maybe the teacher who is always involved in fundraising and supervising sports never comes to the professional learning community collaboration time. For myself personally, I found that while I understood the math well, I wasn’t very good at things like recognizing kids birthdays, or even sometimes recognizing when discipline wasn’t quite what I needed it to be in a classroom. In other words, I was so inside my head about the lesson I would miss the bigger story of what was going on in my classroom.

This flaw was pointed out to me by the principal who became my friend that shaped my teaching career the most, Jeremy Ward at Computech Middle School. He had a good way through feedback in Google Docs and in person about being honest about what he saw. Organization was the root cause of my struggles – often I’d be fumbling from class to class for markers or materials that I would miss the cues from kids coming into class.  So over time I was able to become a minimalist teacher, and with less, “stuff,” I became more effective.  Likewise, I was able to point this out to both students and other teachers who may have struggled with being able to focus on the task at hand.

What are your weaknesses that you have turned into strengths?

#TT4T – The Damage Done In Not Waiting

I’m reading Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers after a gentle nudge from Chase Orton, whom I’ve gotten to know through CMC conferences recently.

There is a part in the first part of the book where it’s talking about learnings from Siddhartta Buddha. A merchant is asking what Siddhartha can give him if he can’t give him possessions. A short portion of the exchange is follows:

Merchant: “Very well, and what can you give? What have you learned that you can give?”

Siddhartha: “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.”

He can’t give money, he can’t give things. But he goes on to explain a bit – if he doesn’t have food, then he can fast.

Let’s take the same ideas and apply it to teaching mathematics:

I can think (Math Practices 7,8)

Tim Ferris extrapolates further that because he can think, he can make good decisions.

We can teach kids how to memorize things, or we can teach them the why behind the algorithms. We can give them a goal without support, or we can teach them a system of how to study and achieve in education and in life. Specifically I’m thinking about being able to give our students the foundational skills needed to really engage deeply in DOK 3 level problems – we know that we can’t immediately engage kids with a DOK 4. I once saw a chart from an administrator who thought the DOK levels were like a ladder, and that the end of every quarter should automatically see DOK 4 level problems… a blatant misrepresentation of the paradigm

I can wait (Math Practices 1, 3)

In the book, Tim expands – because he can wait, he can play the long-term game and not make short-term bad decisions.

This idea of waiting for students to understand things hit me pretty hard. When I moved from high school to middle school, I noticed that I was quicker to help the middle school students – probably because I felt they needed it. This was incorrect! I only discovered this fact when I recorded myself teaching over the course of several days and then watched the recordings on fast-forward to be able to spot trends.

I didn’t wait for kids to answer incorrectly or not. I was not giving kids a chance to struggle. This affects equity and as is talked about over and over again in Mathematical Mindsets, my classroom was not a safe place to learn by making mistakes and then being able to apply that knowledge in a new context. I made immediate changes to pre-write questions I knew I wanted to ask and adapt those questions from class to class as needed.

I can fast (Mathematical Practice 1)

Obviously we aren’t going to ask students to not eat here. But we can stop, “spoon-feeding,” them answers (see what I did there?!). Too often I would catch myself asking leading questions without even realizing it – but why should I be asking guiding questions at all when students should have the tools to self-diagnose.

What to do about it

Some ideas I had while writing this post:

  1. Use puzzles during warmup to help remind students that just as they can find different ways to solve a puzzle, they can find different ways to solve a problem.
  2. Have students explain their steps out loud to another student or explain it back to me using an app such as Recap. I would also often have students in a group be recording into an audio device and then the next day, have them play back parts of the audio to be able to hear themselves solving problems – their own insights to their thinking process was often quite interesting!
  3. Strategies/activities I have used to stimulate students perseverance include the Four Four’s activity, Grazing Goat, and having students find multiple ways of solving the same linear equation. When appropriate, three act tasks are also great to see results!

What tools/tasks do you use in the context of “Think, Wait, Fast”?

#ShareYourLessons – Youtube

Introduction Post

The Problem

Youtube is by far the most popular video platform on the Internet with over a billion users. But a standard youtube license quite simply isn’t good enough. When you upload to youtube you are given a choice of these two licenses (and one has to navigate to the ‘advanced’ tab to find it):screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-2-57-42-pm The problem I have with the Standard Youtube License being the default is that others can’t remix the content which is one of the five R’s.

The Solution

Since 2007 Youtube has allowed users to remix others content to make their own original content. Go to the Youtube Video editor (https://www.youtube.com/editor ) then click the CC button.

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-3-17-27-pm

You can add multiple videos to include, trim for size, add your own text, change the audio settings… and it doesn’t even have to be your own video!

As the image shows, you can also add your own free music tracks to the videos!

While I’m a huge fan of students using tools like WeVideo and others, why not use Youtube itself for basic editing/discovery? The native platform is almost always the best. Imagine the possibilities of students with youtube accounts now able to make their own mix-type style videos to share with friends and teachers. More education content could be created faster and with more fidelity then waiting for Khan to get around to recording more videos, that’s for sure!

Here’s the problem – if I search for just “math” on youtube, I get about 6,910,000 results. However if I filter for Creative Commons-licensed videos, I only get 279,000 or 4% of the total videos out there.

Share It Better!

  • When you upload your video, use a CC license
  • Write a good description – many education videos on youtube have terrible or NO description and thus are harder to find. Please write good descriptions!
  • Always include contact information in your description as well. As I watch videos on youtube I hate having to track down someone through their channel, then website, then contact page…
  • Make sure no background music etc that you use is copyrighted. It will get taken down.
  • Share your content on social media! Twitter, Facebook, you can even just take a screenshot to share it on Pinterest and Instagram! People are hungry for quality content…

Tutorial:

output remixed video

#ShareYourLessons – Intro

This is the first in a series of posts designed to help teachers share their lessons and learning better.

I’ve gotten quite involved in the OER(Open Educational Resources) movement the past couple of years, building on a love of open source software in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. While the idea of OER is getting to be more commonplace in higher education, it’s still relatively new in K-12. Even within the US Dept of Ed’s #GoOpen movement, there is a lack of understanding of what it means to be open source.

A common definition that I will use here comes from David Wiley over at opencontent.org/definition :

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)

  2. Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)

  3. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)

  4. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)

  5. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

Mr. Wiley also uses the ALMA framework to determine if a resources is sufficiently accessible.  Essentially, if something is published in a file format like PDF that may make it not able to be edited, then it would be difficult to call it truly ‘open’.

Some common content types (*my own analysis which may be flawed!)

Retain Reuse Revise Remix Redistribute Blog Post
Youtube Video Can't download natively IF CC-licensed Yes - but only by owner if not CC-licensed IF CC-licensed Yes - shareable Here
Google Doc YES YES YES with caveats around proprietary technology (google sign-in) YES with caveats around proprietary technology (google sign-in) YES
Word Doc YES YES YES with caveats around proprietary technology YES with caveats around proprietary technology YES
PDF YES YES NO NO YES

I’ll be taking a look at some of these content types and how teachers can actually share with fidelity in the coming weeks!

Puzzles!

I’ve been having fun lately playing with puzzle games on my phone as I rock my daughter(s) to sleep. One is called Roll the Ball and another one introduced to me by Daniel Rocha is Flow Free.

I used to read books on kindle but sometimes it’s nice to have a little more stimulation. What I like about both of these games too is they offer a variety of ways to play the game.

Roll the Ball

My favorite mode here is when they will put stars in different parts of the tubes. It’s a fun way to engage my brain in thinking about different patterns and ways to solve things with or without a time or star challenge.

Flow Free

Flow Free is Roll the Ball’s bright, easier-to-play and faster brother. You start with dots throughout the screen and create paths to the other dot of the same color. I love it because it allows you to easily overwrite past paths. Daniel Rocha, whom I’ve only really met on Facebook/Twitter and we have a fair number of mutual friends – posted a great video of his kid playing and the conversations they were able to have about the experience of solving the paths. Hoping he’ll blog about that… my two year old was not interested 🙂

I would love starting off class every so often with these kinds of puzzles to get the students minds thinking, have some fun and of course occasionally remind them that solving a math problem can be very similar – we may take different ways to get to the answer but that doesn’t mean it’s invalid!

AIMS Center Colloquium Series Video on Puzzles as Models:

Puzzles as Models of Thinking from AIMS Center for Math and Science on Vimeo.