My day at TEDxNYED

Yesterday I was able to go to TEDxNYED, an independently organized TED event with some great speakers from different spectrums of the education field in New York. I wish every teacher went to TED talks, it gets you inspired and pumped up to do something great after you finish listening. I really enjoyed every teacher I met yesterday, they were friendly, innovated and so excited to do what they did. With all this talk of teacher assessment in NY right now I wish that could be a form of teacher assessment in itself: did you attend TEDxNYEd (or watch it on livestream) and get pumped after hearing about innovating and creativity in schools? Awesome! This honestly says a lot more than the ridiculous, inaccurate teacher evaluations published publicly in some big time NY press.

I just wanted to highlight a few speakers I especially enjoyed:

Jose Luis Vilson explained the importance in redefining the teacher voice: a voice that balances emotion and reason, is confident, and continues to put students first.

Jim Groom gave a hilarious short talk filled with animated GIFs. I love animated GIFs. He also began ds106, a open online digital storytelling course, where students have done some really awesome stuff.

Sree Sreenivasan is the Dean of Student Affairs at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and he teaches in the digital media program, including social media and digital entrepreneurship. (took that bio straight from my program book!) I was excited to hear him speak because I really wanted to go to Columbia School of Journalism’s Social Media Weekend, but I didn’t for some reason or another (money? sold out? I don’t remember). His talk was about 10 minutes, so it certainly didn’t make up for an entire missed weekend but I was excited just the same. He made some excellent points about the realistic value of social media.

Tony Wagner spoke. His talk is really great, I actually saw a similar talk he made last week at the Skillshare Penny Conference via livestream. You can watch it here.

Bre Pettis, the founder of MakerBot, explained how schools don’t allow students to make things anymore. Classes that have been removed from our school like Shop and Home Ec, these were all opportunities for students to make things with their hands. (I had woodshop, but my brother doesn’t take it 10 years later. They let me play with jigsaws, wood burning pens and huge sanders at 12 years old… sweet!) He discussed how empowering it can be, especially as a child, to make something and also be able to fix it later. That is something a lot of kids aren’t able to do anymore.

Frank Noschese is a high school physics and chemistry teacher, and he’s moved away from that typical worksheet based high school science class that has zero relevance to student’s lives. I never took Physics because I knew I would have failed horribly, but I honestly would love to be part of Frank Noschese’s Physics class. The students are given a scenario and they come up with their questions and collect data based on what they want to learn about the situation. My favorite thing he showed: his students had two different robotic cars that went at different constant speeds and they had to calculate where they would meet in the 3 ft area of the hallway outside of class. (The classic two trains leaving the station problem you see on worksheets worldwide!) The students calculated their answer and placed a piece of tape on the ground where they thought the cars would collide. They let the cars go and they collided right on top of the piece of tape. I was excited just watching the video, the students all cheered and high-fived when the cars collided. Noschese also lets his kids come to class with problems on their own, for example they once saw a ridiculous commercial with Kobe Bryant running and jumping straight across a swimming pool to dunk a basket. Was this possible? He allowed this question to become the focus of his class lesson. As someone who has hated math my entire life: this really did look like a great time.

Some of the talks are already available on the livestream website. I assume the rest of the talks will be available later. Take some time today to watch a few! Also as a side note, if you have an iPad I really recommend the TED app. I love to watch talks before going to bed.

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Leaving College Confused

Today I came across this Washington Post opinion piece by Ezra Klein, entitled “Wall Street Steps in When Ivy Leave Fails” and I think he really hit a nail on the head.

To make this short: We live our K-12 lives waiting for college. Junior year is a whirl of SAT’s, ACT’s, AP’s, followed by the crazy fall of senior year where everyone is applying to their schools (sometimes upwards of 12 applications) and the calm of spring after everyone has been accepted. Your parents and family are so proud. You graduate and everyone is so excited… you feel like you’ve accomplished the hardest challenge of your life.

Then you go to school and learn some really neat things, meet awesome people and learn to be yourself. Is it valuable? Yes. Does it leave you feeling confident that you will excel in the work force? (oh right, that’s why we went to college isn’t it?) Not really.

So why are Wall Street and Teach for America (polar opposities of one another) able to get most of this new Ivy League talent?  It’s because both of these positions have something extremely important in common: they give college students what they know best. An application to fill out, and interview and the promise that you will learn the skills you need to be successful and will finish off their two year commitments able to do anything you want.

Wait…an application to a program with the promise to provide skills for future careers? That sounds a lot like college, right?

Exactly, it’s all we know and it’s [almost]  all we were taught.

My Thoughts: Short and non-descriptive.

I’ve been reading a lot of education blogs lately, especially blogs that discuss technology in education. It has brought a lot of ideas to the front of my head; some new, some I’ve already thought but I have just forgotten about over the past few months. This is a list of some of my beliefs. I’m not going to go in depth to describe them. These are thoughts and there are definitely some generalizations in here. If you wanted to talk with me further about something that would be awesome, feel free to do so in the comments.

The average student in a public school today is often bored during the school day. 

Much of the content being taught in an average public school does not properly reflect what many Americans do when they graduate and eventually go out into the “real world”.

Our public schools do not put enough focus on what students are interested in. 

There is no incentive  for a teacher to go outside of the comfort zone of typical structured lessons based on core standards and test prep. This is what the administration and eventually our students expect of them.

A teacher that does try to step out of this comfort zone, in order to engage or challenge the students, will not necessarily be supported or praised for this decision. It is very unlikely they would receive increased benefits or a higher salary. 

Technology is a valuable tool in schools. But technology could never replace strong instruction and student support from a guiding teacher.

Technology is not going to be used in innovative, modern ways if you don’t have someone innovative and modern there to use the technology. Because of that there is no point in shoving  technology down each teachers throat. But make sure you do have innovative people in your school. They will be the ones that use technology effectively, and will slowly help other teachers grow fond of the possibilities technology offers their classrooms. 

Teachers should not have more than 20 children per class until college. I think class sizes should be even smaller than that before Middle School. Around 10-15 students per class. 

Standards and curriculum should focus more on skills and less on content. Creative thinking, problem soloving, writing skills, critical thinking skills, reading comprehension, logic, organization, time management, etc. SKILLS are what we are judged on when we go into the workforce. I do not need to remember what moles were in Chemistry (what are they?) I do not need to remember the quadratic formula. We don’t need to know what the last battle of the Revolutionary War was. 

High School should have a career resource center similar to colleges to help students prepare for internships, part time jobs, and give students someone to talk to when they start considering their future. There is a life other than/after college, but you wouldn’t know that if you walked into many high schools today. 

High schools are not in touch with the current job market. You can be “anything you want” in this country, but you probably don’t even know most of the careers you can have when you leave K-12 school.

I realize these are all negative. Nobody likes someone who complains about a problem but has no solution. I plan to write another, more positive list like this suggesting some solutions in the future.

I want libraries to become the new MTV

I’m getting a kindle in the mail on monday because books are too bulky for my commute. One reason it has taken me so long to get a kindle is I don’t buy books, I rent them from the library. Once I get my kindle I want to try out the e-book service my local library has. I have no idea how that works but I’m excited to try it out.

I started thinking about what’s going to happen to libraries in the next decade. Sure, now everyone claims that they still want paper books. Right now we still need them. But in 10 years…so much can happen with technology in 10 years, and I really feel that books are going to be a dying art. Even with an e-book rental system, soon enough we are all going to realize we shouldn’t have to go to the actual library to rent an e-book. But libraries are a great resource to a community. They host important community events and they are a safe, quite and friendly place to learn and do research. I love libraries and I would hate to seem them die out along with paper books.

That’s why I am making the analogy that libraries need to become the new MTV. MTV, which stands for Music Television, devotes maybe 8% of its airtime to music videos and music related content. They realized they can get much higher ratings when they show bizarrely addictive reality television shows about guidos and teen moms. Music television may be a dying art, but MTV isn’t dying with it.

I want to see libraries remain just as strong. I’m obviously not saying libraries need Snooki and JWow to stay current. But instead of devoting most of their energy to books, I hope libraries are able to realized what is most valuable to their communities and focus on that. Libraries can offer their community state of the art technology, valuable classes and programs, kindle rentals, e-book clubs. Paper books will always have a certain niche… children’s books for example really are best in paper form. (What is childhood without a few books on the shelf with bite marks from when you were two? You can’t do that to an iPad!) And I’m sure a library will always embrace paper books. But I hope they can change with the times and create a new system for themselves so they stay a timeless and valuable part of our society long after paper books are removed from the shelves. It might seem weird for a library to focus on technology more than books, but MTV is doing just fine with little focus on music.

Sheryl Sandberg TED Talk: Why we have too few women leaders

Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. She has made big headlines this week with the IPO of Facebook, making her  the “1.6 billion dollar woman.” I say good for her and good for Facebook in general. I’m sure everyone has different opinions but you cannot deny the powerful influence Facebook has on so many people in the USA and in the world. It’s a big deal.

Not sure if this is an embarrassing confession, but I hadn’t heard of Sandberg until this week. She is a big supporter of getting more women to pursue those top management positions in companies. Her talks are well known and they have even been included in the syllabi of some business classes at Harvard and Stanford. I just watched this talk, from December 2010, for the first time this morning. I loved it and thought it was worth sharing for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

The video speaks for itself. The only thing I would mention is Sandberg discusses how her generation will never have a 50/50 balance of women to men in leadership positions. Sandberg is just a few years younger than my parents. I would love to see my generation be the one that creates that balance. We’ll see!

New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! Not to be negative, but today is typically one of my least favorite days of the year. December 31st and January 1st are one day away, just like any other day of the year, but the idea of “saying goodbye” to 2011 makes me sad. 2011 was a year of change for me, it was the first year since I was 4 years old that I wasn’t a student. From January-May I student taught 3 different grades in 2 different schools. I would wake up early and go to bed late, created lesson plans and assessments at the same time that I was trying to enjoy my last semester of college with my friends. In June I visited Athens and the Greek Islands with my boyfriend, that was such a fun trip and it has put me in the mood to travel again. After the trip started my collection of different jobs to finish off the year. I worked my lifeguarding job for my fifth and final year, I was a Business Development intern at foursquare from August-October, I’m currently working retail, and I ended the year with two internships that start in January. I also applied to the Teachers College, so there are lots of possible opportunities in my future and I’m excited to see how it all pans out.

I rarely have resolutions for the New Year, but as this year draws to a close I wanted to mention a few things I plan to do next year.  Here are my goals for 2012:

These are simple tasks that I know I can do. I can’t promise you I will exercise everyday or have greater patience, but I know I can do these things.

So goodbye 2011, like all years there were some incredible events along the way. 2012 will be a huge year as well, the US presidential election just being one of the many things that will happen. I look forward to seeing how things pan out and I am so thankful for everyone that has made 2011 so special for me and for others. I hope 2012 is just as special.

December 26th

My commute to Woodbury Commons typically takes about 15-20 minutes. The last stretch of the trip varies about 5 minutes due to traffic near the mall. I’d heard today was a busy day for shoppers and that I might want to ask a friend to drive me because it could be difficult to find a parking space. I drove anyway but gave myself 35 extra minutes added on to the typically commute time… I had now added over double the amount of time I typically needed to get to work.

Today that last 5 minute stretch of the trip took me an hour and 10 minutes. I never actually reached the mall, I finally parked off-site and walked to the outdoor outlet center. At first I though this disgusting amount of traffic had to do with Holiday commuters going home. But all the traffic was actually people trying to go shopping at the Commons. Once you got to the Commons you had to sit there for another hour (I heard) just to get a parking spot.

My mind was blown. Here were are, the day after Christmas, and everyone wants to go shopping to pick up sale items. Crazy, crazy, crazy. My words of advice to everyone: If you have December 26th off, stay home and enjoy time with the family for one more day. Please, I beg you… DON’T GO SHOPPING. And if you really need those sales,  just order online.

$5 and no distribution control? I bought it.

Recently Louis CK uploaded his latest stand-up video at the Beacon Theater to his website. You could download it for $5 and you have the opportunity to stream the video twice and download it up to three times. There is no distribution control on the video so if you wanted to you could easily upload the video to a torrent site or burn it to a DVD.

Louis CK paid for the production of the video himself, so the $5 you pay would go directly to him. The video has been up less than a week. He was able to make a profit on the video in less than 12 hours and he has already made over $500,000 (therefore over 100,000 people have downloaded the video.) This is a great example of a new experiement many artists are testing. Give your material directly to the consumer with no middle man. There are also no sharing restraints, so it is possible to illegally pirate the material, but the artist charges a low fee (or allows the consumer to chose their own price, like Radiohead for example) in hopes that most people will chose to pay for the product instead of pirating the content.

I am one of the 100,000 people who have paid $5 for Louis CK’s new video. I did this for several reasons, the primary one being I think Louis CK is really funny and I wanted to watch his stand-up. But I also love this idea of paying a small fee directly to the artist themselves. And I think this is a really great idea for artists that would like to see some revenue. It has worked for Louis CK and Radiohead, so why wouldn’t it work for others as well?

People like to support an artist. They do not like paying $1.29 per song on itunes (or whatever it costs) and then be unable to put that song on a thumbdrive and hand it to their friend to have. I do not like that I cannot upload a song to tumblr if it is an mp4… meaning I cannot upload a song that was from a CD I purchased. Pirated music is typically in mp3 format, so if you want to upload that you could get away with it easily on tumblr.(i know, I’m not even supposed to be uploading copyrighted music to begin with, but you know people do it…)

When people purchase music they do it because they want to support the artist. And now technology has made it less expensive than ever to produce your own video or record your own music with professional quality sound. The years of Album artwork are over. The years of huge studios are coming to a close also. It is getting to the point that we do not have to pay $14.99 for a CD/DVD to support the artist (mabye like $2), production company ($3), studio ($2), cover designer ($1), etc, etc. We can just pay $5 (which is more than the artist would have received before) to get our product in digital form(which is cheaper to produce). That is how many people want their stuff these days anyway. If I want a CD I’ll burn one myself. I’ll buy the music online and then do what I want with it and give it to who I want. (Think about books; we have always handed books to our friends after we finished reading them, nobody thinks that is illegal!) The artist is happy because their art is getting out and they are making more money per purchase than they were before with hard copy media.

I know a lot of people that obviously still want hard copy media, and many artists that would still rather work with a production company than do their own stuff. This is the beginning of the future for videos and music. A lot of people are outraged at other people that pirate content illegally. But here’s the thing: you can safeguard it all you want, people are going to do that anyway. But if you still want to make a profit off of those of us that like your stuff and want to support you, lower the price, and just give us the content directly. Yes, some people are going to still listen to your stuff for free, but there are going to be a lot of us that want to help you out and chip in the $5 to support your art.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The concept of Thanksgiving was probably one of America’s best ideas. Hopefully most of us give thanks throughout the year, but having a specific day dedicated to appreciating what you have is very helpful your your mind and your mood.

A few months ago I had a poor mindset. I was stressed out about my future and I felt like I was on my way to failing while I watched all of my friends succeed. Luckily, my mindset has really improved over the past two months and I have realized how fortunate I truly am.

I have the most supportive family you could ask for and I am surrounded by good, trustworthy, honest friends. Even though the economy is difficult right now, USA is still a country that is filled with opportunities and good fortune. And I live an hour away from one of the most exciting cities in the world.

I wish you a great Thanksgiving day, regardless of where you live or where you are and I hope you remember what you are thankful for today. I know I am thankful that you have taken the time to read my blog!

Retail and Savings

Although I don’t want this blog turning into an online diary, I thought a life update might be in order for today. You may have noticed this by now, but my plans I’ve created for myself and my future can sometimes change on a day to day basis. However, I have had a consistent plan for about 2.5 weeks now, perhaps the longest plan streak I’ve had since I graduated this May.

I am now the newest “Sales Partner” and the Brighton Collectibles Outlet at Woodbury Common. I work about 20+ hours per week and I got some free jewelery to wear! Honestly, it is nice to be out of the house meeting new people and making some money for savings. I am the youngest employee, so unlike most retail jobs, my coworkers are actually very friendly, mature and responsible women and the environment is rather enjoyable.

After Thanksgiving I am going to call my local school district about substitute teaching after the Holidays. Although it will be slightly embarrassing, I feel like being a sub is a right of passage for all unemployed teachers these days.

I am applying to the Teachers College and CUNY Hunter for graduate school. I want to focus on something education related, but I would get an MA instead of an MEd, and I wouldn’t go back to school for teaching. These days I feel like it might be good to step away from teaching. I can always come back to it later in life if I am interested, and right now the economy is just too rough and teaching jobs are almost non-existent. While I’m in the city I can work on bolstering up some connections and there will be so many opportunities for me to become involved in things I’m interested in now that I can’t do while living in upstate (I hate to call it that, it’s rather downstate) New York. I’ve got my recommendations prepared and my personal statements should be finished by next week. Then I’ll let you know in March sometime how that all turned out.

And finally my last goal: The reason I am planning on working retail and substitute teaching this year is not only because I may be paying for graduate school/ NYC rent next year (ouch!) but I also need a new laptop and I really want Adobe Creative Suite. I know the basics of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, but I really want to start using these programs comfortably on a daily basis.

So my future consists of two jobs, a new laptop, and maybe grad school! Although I typically just find it stressful to have no idea what the future holds, it is also kind of exhilarating at the same time.