Category Archives: reflection

12MonthlyHabits – January Update Completed

January’s monthly habit is complete, and I can speak for both Caroline and me when I say that “no screens once your head hits the pillow” is the best thing!  We could not have chosen a better habit to pick up for January.  We both agree that we are sleeping better and feel more rested once the day gets moving.  But you could have probably concluded that based on my last post so let’s move on.

Caroline’s biggest complaint was that she couldn’t watch “big games” in bed, which she loves – and it’s one of many reasons I asked her to marry me.  We were “forced” to watch State games, Panther games, and other must-see sporting events downstairs on our 70 inch HDTV in my leather man’s chair (emphasis on manliest of men) and plush, comfortable couch. Seeing as how this is an honest place — sometimes being downstairs until 11 to finish a game was brutal and we wanted nothing more than to lay in bed and watch the game. #FirstWorldProblem

The Verdict: We have decided to continue this practice with one exception.  We will continue the no screens habit for the foreseeable future, but we will permit the TV to be turned on to a game that specifically interests us.  We will never use phones again.  I might also pick my kindle back up (remember we had to read actual books for January), but it’s not the fancy kind so I can only read on it.

Siemens and the Flipped Classroom

2014-06-24 11.39.17During my trip to Germany with The Center for International Understanding (@GlobalCIU) and 32 other educators, we had the opportunity to visit the Siemens (@Siemens) Professional Education Center in Berlin, Germany.

Before I really sell home my idea…here is a rundown of what you could expect as a teacher or student in the Siemens Professional Education Center.

  • The average age of the first year student seemed to be around 20, but I met some 18 years old and some 25 year olds who were just getting started.
  • The Siemens Professional Education Center is a cross-over between a trade school, a community college, and a 4-year college.  Students have completed high school (and some even college) and they are learning a unique skill set (electrical engineering, mechanics, etc.).
  • These students are being trained to join the Siemens workforce, but theoretically, their training would allow them to work for any company offering the same job they are being trained for.  Their education is highly specified for Siemens, but the core principals can be applied in any similar setting.  As a Siemens’ teacher pointed out, his students should be able to walk into any factory and identify and fix any problem with a production assembly line.
  • Lecture/lessons is always accompanied by intensive, collaborative, problem-based learning projects.
  • Team work is a STRONG focus at Siemens.
  • They have just started an international program, but you are expected to learn German within two months.
  • Teachers are very highly respected and the environment appeared more relaxed than traditional American schools.
  • Many of the teachers (if not all) were products of the same school.
  • Siemens spends millions of dollars on their professional training center in Berlin.  When asked, “what is their monetary return for their company on this huge financial investment?,” the director of the Siemens Educational Department replied, “our future.”
  • Knowledge is important at Siemens, but the vast majority of the knowledge is obtained through practice and real-life application, which leads me to my overall point…

I noticed more and more that what Siemens prides itself on about its Professional Education Center are the same principals that are rooted in the flipped classroom.  The flipped classroom – if done correctly – works so well because of the focus on real-life application.  Students are provided with a small amount of basic content via videos, VoiceThread, or any other multimedia.  Then the students are asked to investigate a topic even further and deeper and apply what they learn through that investigation to a larger, more applicable problem.  A flipped classroom allows for a problem-based learning environment that many teachers say they do not have time for, and Siemens also recognizes the value in a similar approach.

Siemens incorporates the flipped classroom ideals (minus the videos) in an effort to help their students become highly successful and knowledgeable employees.  Flipped classroom teachers incorporate the videos, the investigation, and the application in an effort to help their students become highly successful and knowledgeable citizens (assuming we never mention standardized testing).  Slightly different outcomes with very similar processes.

***The picture above features a once gas-powered car that was converted to an electrical-powered car by students at Siemens.

Germany Blogposts

2014-06-23 08.31.21I was fortunate enough to spend roughly 9 days traveling throughout Germany with 34 other amazing North Carolina educators as we studied the German education system.  The trip was sponsored by The Center for International Understanding (@GlobalCIU), and they did a great job of putting together an exhausting but incredibly informative trip.  I learned so much about what the German education system has to offer its students, teachers, and communities.  The next few blogposts are dedicated to what I learned in Germany – both red flags and achievements.

Just a few highlights…

~We heard many times that Germany could not depend on itself to produce much due to its lack of renewable resources.  The energy sources are just not available in their country to produce at a high volume unless they depended on an alternate source.  This meant that the German education system prided itself on helping students think creatively and independently to solve this issue.  Their renewable resources are the minds of their people.

~Some students have the opportunity to work directly with companies like Siemens and participate in a company internship along with their regular class studies.  In a nutshell, they went to school at work and went to work at school.  Companies like Siemens spends billions of dollars on their education department to allow for students to apply what they know.  When asked, “what is their monetary return on this huge financial investment?,” the director of the Siemens Educational Department replied, “our future.”

~In Baden-Württemberg, Germany, which is a federal state similar in population size to North Carolina, the spending budget for education is $40 billion.  Do I even need to mention how much North Carolina spends? (this year’s proposal is around $8 billion)

~Germany has an entire branch of their educational system dedicated to helping students develop a tradecraft.  What a novel idea?  However, their system isn’t perfect, and I will explain in later posts.

~Germany values conservative teaching methods and pedagogy.

~”Handlungskompetenz” is a common buzz word throughout many German schools that means having a well-rounded competence of a variety of skills.  This concept applies to students and teachers.

~Personal responsibility is huge in Germany. You are expected to rise to the occassion, and if you don’t, then you suffer the consequences.  This idea is noticeable throughout all of Germany, but I want to visit what this looked like in schools.

Needless to say, I have a lot to write…stay tuned!

Common Curriculum Lesson Planner

Are you tired of plan books? Sick of word documents? Tired of 3 inch binders?  Common Curriculum takes all the frustration of lesson planning away.

If you aren’t amazed by the potential of after watching the video, then watch it again!

Here is just an abbreviated list of what is possible in Common Curriculum:

More Homework Meme

So I’ve been given homework to complete on my own blog.  Who does that?  This guy does that!  But it’s okay…I’ve been meaning to get back to this blog, but life happens.  The goal of this homework is to share a little bit about myself. In order to finish my homework, I have to complete three different tasks, but I changed task #3.

The first task?  Share 11 random facts about me that you don’t know:

  1. I went to Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.  Their mascot was the Whirlie, which was originally the Whirlie Bird. Lamest mascot in athletics…period.
  2. I’m a smelly guy.  Not that I physically smell, but I have a hyper-sensitive nose.  My family would tell you that it’s obsessive, but if it stinks, I will febreeze the mess out of it.  If my clothes smell funny, I will wash them immediately.  My wife has embraced it.
  3. I’ve been to Europe twice (lucky guy…I know).  I’ve visited London, Paris (twice), Munich, Rome, Berlin, and Vienna (that’s in Austria).  I would move to Rome tomorrow.
  4. Growing up, I thought I was going to be a minister, and then I discovered education.  Every now and then I think about going to seminary, and then something awesome happens in a classroom.
  5. Halloween is my favorite holiday.  What other day of the year is it okay to scare anyone and binge eat candy?
  6. My wife’s grandparents lived just around the corner from me growing up.  I used to cut through their yard without them knowing to reach a neighborhood playground.  My wife’s high school and my high school were in the same conference and we both played sports and had friends who played sports.  My wife’s parents went to the same high school as me.  My wife and I never met until we both attended NC State.
  7. My grandfather taught at T.C. Williams High School, the school from Remember the Titans. #strongside #leftside
  8. I have a huge sweet tooth.  Right now I’m diggin’ Sour Patch Berries candy.
  9. I hated all roller coasters as a kid.  Just got the courage to ride them when I was in college.  My parents took us to Six Flags over Atlanta and I rode the Superman roller coaster.  So the courage is there, but now I get unbearable motion sickness.  I passed out before the ride was over.  Now I take dramamine before I get on rides so I have a tendency to fall asleep standing up in the long lines.  It’s tough to be Luke Miles at theme parks.
  10. I have always wanted to act, and I also have a secret affinity for musicals (seen a lot and like most of them).
  11. My family says I make this one particular sound (like a grumbling laugh, which is a cross between Bane and Santa).  Apparently, I make it all the time, but I have no idea what they are talking about.

The second task? Answer the questions given to me by that guy I mentioned above.

  1. If you could teach anywhere in the world (other than your current location), where would it be? As I stated in #3 above, I would move to Rome tomorrow.  I’m sure I could get a job teaching over there…if not…that’s okay.  I wouldn’t stress too much about because…come on…it’s Rome.
  2. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, or Green Lantern?  Why? Is this even a fair question? Absolutely..all the time…every day…BATMAN! All the others have super powers.  Batman gives all other regular joes (like you and me) a little bit of hope that we may be able to do what no other human can do.
  3. What is your favorite comedy movie of all time? Life of Brian…absolutely hilarious, and I watched it with my minister.
  4. Would you rather have the super power of invisibility or flying? Invisibility would be cool especially if you are able to walk through walls when you are invisible.  I get pretty bad motion sickness (see #9 above) so I doubt flying would be the best thing for me.
  5. If you could drink milkshakes with any person, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be? Real – President Abraham Lincoln, Fictional – President Abraham Lincoln, the Vampire Slayer
  6. Favorite dipping sauce? Chick-fil-A Barbecue Sauce
  7. What one quality is your greatest asset? My sense of humor gets me around pretty well.  I like to think that having an adaptable sense of humor allows me to socialize with just about anyone.
  8. Put in order of most awesome to least: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, The Lone Ranger, Walker Texas Ranger, Galaxy Rangers, Army Rangers. Walker Texas Ranger (I put him first because I know we all know what would happen to me if I didn’t #chucknorris), Might Morphin Power Rangers (really I think they should be first, but don’t tell Chuck Norris), Army Rangers, The Lone Ranger (movie was lame), Galaxy Rangers (who?)
  9. What is the best way to reduce the number of school shootings in the United States? I think a combination between gun laws, more efficient school security, raising awareness for mental health, and prayer would take us a long way to helping us with this problem.  It’s one of the saddest stories I read in the news way too often.
  10. What mobile app do you use the most often? Twitter, Chrome, and Calendar are all tied at the top
  11. On a scale of 1 to 10, how dope do you dance The Robot? Been dancing the ‘bot since 1995 so an 8…pretty dope.

Since I started this homework, I was tagged by another colleague (this gal!) therefore I am changing the third task.  So I’m going to do a little something unorthodox with this homework.  Instead of passing the blogpost to other bloggers, I am going to answer her 11 questions as well since the majority of bloggers I follow have been tagged for this homework and many of them have completed it.  I’m sorry for breaking the chain, but I hope you enjoy the extra answers.

  1. What is the one biggest challenge you face in the classroom that has a solution? I am actually no longer in the classroom, but one of the biggest challenges I face as an Instructional Technology Facilitator is convincing teachers to work with me.  They are really pressed for time to get through the curriculum so fitting me in is a little tough, but I have a few leads 🙂
  2. What character from a book, movie, or television are you most like and how so? I’ve been told that I remind people of Luke Wilson…it could just be the name.
  3. What’s something other people really seem to like that you think is either totally pointless or a waste of time? My teammate for life, Sarah Baker, will kill me for this, but I just can’t get into Yoga despite being surrounded by yogies for much of my life.  I’m going to try again in 2014 (it’s my New Year’s Resolution) because I know it’s good for centering, de-stressing, and many other things.
  4. Are you a “dog person” or a “cat person”? Dog person all the way.
  5. If you could time travel to any time period in history for one week, when would you choose and why? As I stated above, I would love to spend a week with Abraham Lincoln.
  6. Favorite type of candy? See random fact #8
  7. If you could live forever, would you? Why/why not? Absolutely not.  Knowing that my time on Earth is limited and out of my hands, motivates me to positively contribute to the all the circles I run in.
  8. In which House would The Sorting Hat have placed you at Hogwarts? Feel free to use this Sorting Hat QuizHufflepuff – 12, Ravenclaw – 12, Gryffindor – 11, Slytherin – 7
  9. On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you feel about sushi? If 1 is the worst, then I’m a 1.  If 10 is the worst, then I’m a 10.
  10. What’s your favorite tech tool for the classroom? The new I’m going to try out is Touchcast.
  11. You’ve just received an unexpected $5,000. What would you do with it? Buy something cool for my wife and myself, and then I would save the rest.