I’m Takin’ a MOOC, and this is actually my first assignment….

Yes, yes I am taking a MOOC  (that’s a Massive Online Open Course for the uninitiated….and yep – it’s just about as geeky as it sounds, and definitely more fun!) I have tried this before, and wasn’t really impressed. HOWEVER,  this course, titled “Today’s Blended Teacher: the Blended Schools MOOC” is all about blended classrooms, so it is more relevant, and is much better organized. Whether you call this format blended, hybrid, or flipped (which is not quite the same thing), it appears to be the direction that much of education is going.  For those who are uncomfortable with a fully online class – whether it is in higher education, or elementary and secondary schools, it can really create functional and exciting ways for teachers to teach and learners to learn.  As an instructional designer and an instructor, I frequently suggest that my faculty use this technique, especially for certain subjects – those requiring field work for example, or if they would benefit from complicated real-world projects where the student can go out and get the information online (maybe even doing some ground work), then come back to the classroom to discuss, create, and question.

Blended classrooms are, by definition, at least 50% online and 50% face-to-face. They allow students to do their own learning and discovering, but maintain the hands-on guidance that many instructors and students desire, and some subject matters require.  Some of the examples that we have created in my office are a virtual reality airplane accident for an Accident Investigation class, a crane accident for a Safety class, a three course “block” of blended courses for Early Childhood and Elementary education, and a World Diversity course which is allowing students to discuss some very touch subjects in more protected ways. This course design is allowing these teachers to develop projects and assessments that meet more than one Learning Objective at a time, thereby giving them more time for learning and demanding less time for assessing.  How can that not be a good thing!

Blended learning is here – and it has great places to go. I really am excited about this course I am taking. I have even enrolled my 13 year old son in a MOOC, and if he can keep up, I’m sure he will enjoy it as well. Yes, MOOCs are kind of “geeky” – but then so Runescape and Minecraft….and that being said, I will revel in my Geeky-ness, and continue my search for a certain police box driven by a man in a bowtie….and continue to learn about blended classrooms while I wait.

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ASCD Express 8.14 – Five Findings for Leading Common Core Implementation

ASCD Express 8.14 – Five Findings for Leading Common Core Implementation.

Common Core is the “latest and greatest” at the k-12 level. I saw this while browsing through my Zite account (AWESOME tool, if you haven’t yet tried this one). I thought my fellow teachers might like it – enjoy!!

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5 Disruptive Education Trends That Address American Inequality | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation

HI All! I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get anything new up – I hope people have actually been reading what I post, so I’m sorry if you have and I fell short. I think you might like this article – it’s really interesting. It addresses many of the new trends I have seen at various levels of education: software that learns learning styles, MOOCs, Flipped Classrooms, Gamification, and online (Free) tutors. I’m not totally sold on MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) or learning software, but they are definitely on the horizon (and some of these are even mentioned in the Horizon Report – Gamification is given a “Time-to-adoption” of 2 – 3 years, and MOOCs are 1 year or less! I’m getting ready to take 2 myself, just to see how they work!

So – those of you who have been patiently waiting for me to show back up – what are your thoughts on this? Is it as exciting and scary as I think?? Will it help American Schools regain our standing in the world? Or at least keep us competitive?

5 Disruptive Education Trends That Address American Inequality | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation.

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Well, the Election is over….

and I lost – but thanks for your support everyone – I shall try again next time. But keep an eye out – I’m not going away…. communication needs to improve and our Special Needs communities need some help, so I will be taking this energy a different direction. We shall see how it plays out!

Oh – and BTW – Positive Connections will remain, and I will continue to post regularly – see you in a day or so! 🙂
Thanks all!! Have a great day!

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Well – it’s almost here..

The election is Tuesday, and I’m ready to see if I win or lose. Either way, Positive Connections is staying, even though the outcome may affect the direction it takes.  I have visited with teachers, general voters, and Seniors. I have shared my views through FaceBook and through this wonderful venue. I hope that I have explained myself well, and that the voters will understand what I am after, and will support me in my quest. I really do believe that communication and cooperation between parents, teachers, administrators, and the board will lead to positive connections, and that will lead an already good district to be that much better. I have learned of many problems that need addressing, and many strengths that need nurturing. I know a board member is only one of 7, but that one can offer support to many and encouragement to others, and I want to be that one.

I hope to see you Tuesday – but however and wherever you do it, don’t forget to VOTE!!

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Warrensburg Teachers Association Forum last night! (It’s a long one….)

Yesterday, I got to spend some time speaking with our Warrensburg Teacher’s Association, and answer a few questions for them. We were provided with 4 specific questions, and then one additional one was asked at the end. I know there were some who didn’t get to attend that event, and maybe some ‘non-teachers’ who would like to know what was said, so I thought I could at least provide my answers here. If you know anyone who might be interested, please share this with them! The following are the four questions that we were given in advance, with my notes for my answer.

  1. Please give a brief introduction about yourself and tell why you are running for the upcoming school board.

I am have been in the Warrensburg area for over 20 years, and would like to introduce myself through  my reasons for running for school board:

  • I am a mother of 3, two of whom are in Warrensburg schools and one with Special needs, gives me a certain insight and drive to help build and maintain strong relationships between administration, faculty and parents.
  • Professionally I have taught for over 17 years, and currently develop online courses and technology-enhanced instructional materials. I also evaluate and assess online courses and instructional content and have a very strong interest in ADA compliance and UDL (Universal Design for Learning) in technology.  My combined experience as an instructor and an Education Technologist gives me a strong understanding of the importance of technology in the classroom as well as the risks and possiblities.

From what I have seen, we have a good board, and we have a good district, but I think it can be better. I think more and better communication and cooperation is possible, and I would like to make it my “cause,” if you will, to improve what we have and continue to improve it as long as I am on the board.

  1. If elected, what would you like to address within your upcoming term as board member?

I have seen a number of things over the past few weeks during my tours of the schools, most good, but some needing some improvements.  In the upcoming term, I would like to specifically address a number of topics, including the following:

  • Although I would of course support all our schools, I would especially like to find a way to support both the Career Center and Reese.  In different ways, I think these are invaluable institutions to our district. They are widely known and used, and I would hate to see budgetary cuts impact them too harshly. They barely have what they need now and still do a great job. I would hate to see them stretched any further.
  • I would advocate for all our special needs individuals – from the gifted to those needing Special Education. This is an extremely diverse group that needs every ounce of support it can get; this “cause” will never be exhausted.
  • Technology must be encouraged, supported, and constantly monitored. We have an excellent Education technology staff in this district, but if there is anything that comes close to needing the same constant vigilance and support as Special Needs, technology is it. I even combine these two by specializing in ADA compliant online courses in my current studies.
  • Above all, I would like to focus on building a strong line of communication between families and the members of the district – from administration to faculty to support. I’m not saying it’s bad, but it could be better. This blog is my means for communicating my experiences and thoughts as I have gone through this process.  I intend to continue with this, whether I make it onto the board or not. I will develop a similar thing specifically for the Special Needs families of the area, but I hope to use this and a place on the board to build communication between ALL families in the Warrensburg district.
  1. What are your long range goals for our district?

I would like to see a district that has an even more vibrant, active community of parents and district professionals working together. I would like to build a localized ‘hub’ for all kinds of helpful information, such as scheduled events, special interests like special needs resources and scholarships, calendars, contacts, and even external links like local Special Olympics and Community organizations. This would be connected to the District website but would go about 3 steps further as a true “hub” of information.

I would like to continue to build our technology programs, our Emints programs, laptop and iPad classrooms. I would like to see the Middle and High school have more science and art rooms, and a performing arts center for the HS; the Middle School needs to move the lunchroom away from the front door, and Reece and the Career Center really could use better securityReece also needs at least one more teacher and a lunchroom staff (not to mention computers), the Career Center needs much more room, as do all our elementary schools. But all this costs money, so these are definitely long term, and other goals have to be reached first. I think positive working relationship with communication and cooperation are the first steps to achieving these goals.

  1. What is your opinion of a tax increase for improvements throughout the district?

I don’t like taxes. I will say that up front – but there are certain things that I can accept paying taxes for – the security of my family and friends, the infrastructure of my state and country, and my children’s education. That being said, I have certain things I think are very important if taxes are going to be collected for improvements in the district:

  • I think the decisions of what the money is spent on should be made by the district – not Washington, not Jefferson City, not the internet, and certainly not some blowhard in the media.
  • I think taxes collected for education should go to education. WITHOUT deductions being made from other funding sources.
  • I think moneys should be spent according to priority – children’s needs first – if they don’t have books, for example, we buy books before we worry about raises,
  • HOWEVER – this doesn’t mean that we buy computers for every child before we pay for salaries – kids can learn without computers. They can even learn without books if need be, but we have to assess the need realistically and decide what is needed most – A raise, or a book. If they can share books, but teachers haven’t had a raise in a year or two, the raise may come first – but all efforts should be made to find a way to do both.

After all this was done, one individual asked a question: what do we think of Collective Bargaining. This was a tough one, and quite honestly I didn’t want to answer it – not because I wanted to hide anything, but because I was afraid I didn’t understand the question as well as I should. My first thought was, of course, Colorado and the disaster that went on up there. My answer, very briefly (after admitting to a need to do more research) was this:

I understand why teachers want collective bargaining, and I think it can be beneficial, but I am afraid the kids get lost in the fight. If the kids are protected, I have no problem with it, but not at their expense.

After the forum, I spoke with the individual who asked the question and she clarified – she meant communication between the teachers and the board – Well, this was an easy answer –

  • The teachers should always have the opportunity and means to come to the board to voice concerns and ideas. Always.
  • If they aren’t comfortable coming directly to the board, they should be able to come to a member who can then take their ideas and concerns to the board.  Always.
  • There is no other answer in my opinion. They might not like what the board decides, but no one always likes everything that their “employer” (so to speak) does. But they definitely have the right to present.

I wish I could have said this yesterday, but I just misunderstood the question. I hope that this gets out to those to whom it might matter!

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A conversation responding to Henry Rollins post. (From FaceBook)

This is from a conversation in response to an earlier post made to Henry Rollins. I thought the points made were important, so I wanted to share them here. I have only edited out the more personal details:


My friend: Kat, your comments are extremely thoughtful, and I agree with many of them. I teach women’s studies courses, and they are not male-bashing in any way; teaching about the history of the constructs of gender and race are formed helps all students to realize that men are just as capable of being nurturing as women, and that women are just as capable of being strong as men. I think the basis of any course, whether it be on gender studies or sex education needs to focus on respect–respect for people as human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity, kindness, and compassion, and not as toys, meal tickets, or status symbols. I think that a course or two on relationships–platonic and romantic friendships–would be extremely beneficial, especially, again, if they focused on respect for others, and what makes a loving friendship or romantic relationship work effectively. “Don’t rape” would work much more effectively if kids and adults were taught “Do respect” first.

Something else that I think needs to be addressed openly in the High School, with all students and parents, is the disgusting “tradition” of Freshmeat Before Homecoming, an unofficial contest among certain senior boys to have sex with as many freshman girls as possible before Homecoming. The boys involved will “groom” certain freshman girls, telling them they’re pretty, look like they’re older, etc., and invite them to parties where they are often–in many instances unknowingly–given drugs (also alcohol) and raped. My oldest daughter and the other girls in her year, were informed of this during the Lock-In night for incoming freshman girls, so they learn how to spot and avoid such boys and warn younger girls later on. But there is no equivalent program for boys, no lock-in or meeting where they are told about this obscene practice and taught why it isn’t manly or cool. There is no information being given to parents so that they can help prevent their sons from participating and their daughters from being unwitting victims. When I first heard of this “tradition” from my daughter, I was, frankly, a bit dubious, and so I asked a friend of mine who is a social worker in town, and she told me it was true–and she had worked with certain faculty and staff in the HS on this problem and counseled several 14 year old girls who had no clue what these parties were really about and who were raped–one got pregnant.

My position on sex education may be different than yours. I’ve read a lot of studies that show that sex education programs that include discussions about safe, responsible sex as well as about abstinence are more effective in promoting abstinence and preventing pregnancy than abstinence-only programs. Apparently, many students who’ve been through the abstinence only programs are initially willing to commit to abstinence at first but change their minds fairly quickly–and some students aren’t willing at all–and then when they do have sex, they are unprotected against STDs and pregnancy. They also tend to have lots of misinformation about sex and pregnancy. Students who take sex education programs that include safe, responsible sex as well as abstinence are, paradoxically, less likely to have sex, and if they do, are more likely to use protection. In an ideal world, parents would discuss these issues with their children and the schools wouldn’t need to address, but unfortunately, not all parents do address these issues and some parents either turn a blind eye or encourage their kids to “score,” and school is the one of the only places these kids can learn about more responsible behavior.


Kathryn McCormick for School Board: Ok – sorry this has taken so long, but I’ll try and get it all answered now . First, I am so glad you brought the topics up. I wanted to discuss most of them but wasn’t sure I should take it any further at the time. (I didn’t know about one of them, but would have included it if I had!) I rewrote that statement about women’s studies at least 4 times trying to make it clear, and I knew I was still failing. I know you teach women’s studies, and I have all the faith that yours is not one of those that are guilty of “male bashing” – I know you better that that! BUT – I do think it’s a valid concern on two counts – 1 – many people) will expect that in those classes; therefore, they will be hypersensitive, especially at the high school (or lower) level. So design of those courses and the approach to the subject would have to be handled with great care. And 2 – I have heard complaints of that happening in some classes. I think it’s an easy thing to fall into, and a passionate teacher must take care not to be misunderstood (just as one does with any touchy subject). You are a sensitive and concerned teacher, who is cognizant and respectful of the opinions of others – if they were all like that I would feel much more comfortable……and I think others would as well. Unfortunately, sometimes the reputation can color the reception; the only way to make it work is to do it carefully and with transparency into what is being taught – especially at these lower levels.

Skipping to the topic of sex ed (I’ll come back to the other in a minute), believe it or not, I actually support sex ed, although maybe not to the extent that you do. I agree they need to learn the biology of it and the dangers of sexual activity. Now – when it comes to contraception, that’s a tough one. If it could be taught from a purely academic angle, much like alcohol use should be, I could accept that. The problem is when the morality gets taught in the classroom. You start getting into questions of abortion (the pill, the morning after pill, etc.), the definition of marriage (being open to life), freedom of choices, maturity of young people, safety, etc. If a program just said, “this is what this is, and this is what it does,” I would back it, but the parents have to give full consent, and have responsibility for the moral questions – and whether or not they want to teach them.

Now moving back to the “freshmeat before homecoming” – what can I say beside

OH.

MY.

GOD. SERIOUSLY??

I absolutely agree – this MUST be brought out, and I will definitely support you in this. I would be like to discuss it more with you, get the backup information, bring to the board, and seriously look at ways to get it out there into the public view. This is disgusting – it’s the kind of thing that shows up on my crime shows, but NOT in my real life!! I will look into it more, but please send me information – whether I make it onto the board or not. My sonis heading that way, and my daughter will be there someday, but earlier I said all those girls in between need our help and support, and that the boys need what I said earlier – to learn respect, concern, awareness, and a value for basic humanity, but I was wrong. The boys also need our support, and the girls need to learn respect as well!

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Home – Prayer Will Support PWS Organization

Home – Prayer Will Support PWS Organization.

Raising money for Prader-Willi Research – this is a walk-a-thon in Higginsville, MO if anyone following this is local. 🙂  This is the condition my son has, and the money goes to his geneticist – who is recognized as the leading researcher in PWS.

If you can, come walk; if you can’t – donate a little.  And if you can’t do that – send your good thoughts and prayers.  Thank you for whatever you can do!

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Education Week: Which Path for the Common Core?

Education Week: Which Path for the Common Core?.

I have been wondering more about the Common Core, and whether it is a progress or a limitation. I can see both possibilities. This article makes some good points about what needs to be included in curriculum when following Common Core – it is definitely something that should be in the discussion!

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I have heard the public school system identified as a workforce producer repeatedly in the past couple weeks, but I know most of our teachers are trying to nurture their students' creativity.  This guy is fun to listen to, and really lays it out well, I think.

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