Fathers and the Learning Process

Over at Getting Smart, they are running a new Smart Parents series that looks at parent perspectives on many topics exploring the future of education. One of those topics is what relationships help drive the learning process. And this week, dear ol’ Eduflack has a piece that explores how fathers are an important driver in the learning process. For this piece, I put on my Dadprovement hat, reflecting on some of the parenting lessons that have come as a result of my award-winning Dadprovement book.

As I conclude in the piece:

Last year, there was a study in Psychological Science that found that daughters aspire to greater professional goals when they see their fathers doing tasks such as washing the dishes. Consider that for a moment. A young girl has a better chance of become a CEO or governor of even president if she sees her dad at the sink, scrubbing away at the remnants of dinner.

If that’s true, imagine the possibilities for all of those girls (and boys) who see their dads volunteering in school or visiting the classroom, right alongside all of the moms they come to expect. Imagine how much more interesting that science project looks when dad is in the class to help. Or how intriguing the field trip can be with dad leading a group. Or how that device can be transformed from a Netflix machine to a learning device that opens up new worlds and unlimited possibilities.

I hope you’ll give the full piece a read here. And I really hope you give the #SmartParents series a deeper look. It is definitely worth the time, and provides some interesting perspectives on school improvement and technology in learning.

STEM Priorities, STEM Teacher Ed Investments

Earlier this week, President Obama celebrated the White House Science Fair. As part of an event celebrating all things science, he recognized recent investments in his administration’s STEM initiative, talking about jobs and the impact on the economy.

In its coverage, Tech News World went a little deeper than most, exploring recent STEM progress and where it is headed. In his story, Jack Germain endulged Eduflack, as I pushed a topic near and dear — STEM teacher education.

There is no question that STEM is important to our economic and societal success. But STEM success doesn’t come without a real investment in STEM education. And high-quality STEM education only comes when we have truly excellent STEM teachers leading our classrooms, particularly those classes in high-need schools.

As Germain wrote:

 The United States has experienced a shift from a national analog industrial economy to a global digital information economy.

U.S. social institutions — including education, finance, government, media and health — were created for the former, observed Patrick R. Riccards, director of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. That’s a problem, because Americans live in the latter, in a society that demands we transition from the models of the past to those needed today.

“This is particularly true in education,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“As a sector, we have been reluctant to embrace change, whether in the form of research findings, shifting demographics, technological advances, or similar triggers that demand change in other fields. Even as our methods of old work less and less well than they did previously, we have too often resisted the necessary transitions,” Riccards explained.

“Slowly, though, we are seeing a transformation in public education. This has been particularly true in the ways we prepare children with the science, technology, engineering, and math skills they will need to be college and career ready,” he pointed out.

If we truly see STEM as our future, the focus must be on developing a generation of excellent STEM educators for our schools — particularly our high-need schools, Riccards urged.

All the love in the world for STEM is meaningless, he said, if schools are staffed by ineffective teachers who are not truly versed in the STEM disciplines.

Couldn’t have said it better. The full article is definitely worth a read.

Celebrate Music … But Do It Right

Readers of this blog know that Eduflack is a strong advocate of arts education. I myself was an (award-winning) drama kid in high school. And while I have no musical ability whatsoever–despite years of piano lessons and attempts to learn other instruments–I passionately believe in the role of the arts in our schools. 

So I was saddened when I saw a promotional photo from the Texas Classroom Teachers Association this week, promoting Music In Our Schools Month. No doubt, we should be celebrating music in our schools. But let’s do it right, in a way that honors the art. 

A quick look at the photo below, and you’ll see a few things.  A sax player with no mouthpiece, no reed, and hands in no place that would actually help her play the instrument. We could go on. 

My sister is a professional musician, a jazz singer in Chicago. She is a poster child for the arts in school and all it can do for a learner. When I shared the photo with her, all she could do was tell me that it has been making the rounds in the music circles, as a punchline, I assume. 

Judge for yourself. Does this help or hurt the cause of arts and music education? 


And a big HT to Matthew Tabor for putting this on my radar. 

The Biggest Priority for Young People Should be Climate Change? Really, Mr. President?

“First of all, it shouldn’t be young people’s biggest priority,” Obama chided. “You should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace. Maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana.”

This was a quote from President Barack Obama, as reported this week by Politico. It was in response to questions about the legalization of marijuana and how such a move was what many young people today are seeking.

When I first read the article, Eduflack though, “good for President Obama.” But that feeling quickly left when I re-read the President’s priorities. The first thing out of his mouth that young people should be concerned about is climate change? War makes the top four?

Anyone notice what is missing there? No, President Obama made no mention of the biggest priority for young people being their education. With all of our efforts on ensuring all kids are college and career ready, with all of the work to have the highest percentage of college graduates in the world, with all of the focus on college affordability, somehow education and learning and school doesn’t quite rank on the President’s priority list for today’s youth.

If we extend the logic, are we saying that EPA and the Treasury Department, and the Departments of Labor and Defense have greater impact on the lives of today’s young people than the Education Department should?

Color me disappointed. A perfect opportunity to refocus the next generation’s thinking on what is important, and the President swings and misses. It is any wonder they grow up into voters who don’t see education issues as a reason to cast a vote?

Imagine What a Father Could Do …

This week, I was in Austin talking about my Dadprovement book, fatherhood, and parental engagement at #SXSWedu. Had a tremendous time, and met a growing number of folks eager to see dads more involved in their kids’ school lives. 

I’ll reflect more on that over the weekend. But I wanted to share the following. Typically, when I give speeches, I work without text and without notes. Partly due to habit, partly due to dyslexia, it is just easier for me to think in advance about what I want to say and then just let ‘er rip once I get there. 

So I’m thankful for one of the audience members for capturing this nugget from my presentation. I was referencing a recent study ther found the girls who observed their dads washing dishes were ultimately more successful than their peers who did not. 

And special thanks to Ethan Demme from Demme Learning for capturing the photo. 

(Also posted on the Dadprovement blog.)

#SXSWedu Tools

We are now less than a week from SXSWedu. For those attending, dear ol’ Eduflack will be doing a session on parental engagement and the importance of fathers in the education process. Following that session, I’ll be over at the SXSWedu bookstore for a book signing of my Dadprovement book.

At such events, I’m always a big fan of the online app, something that lets me see the entire schedule on my phone. As expected, the SXSWedu app is top notch. For those who will be in Austin, it is definitely worth checking out here.

I’ll admit, I’m a newbie for SXSWedu. This will be my first visit. I assume it’ll be the first for many of those who will be in attendance. So I was intrigued by a “SXSWedu Survival Guide for Educators,” offered by the folks at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education.

In the Guide, Rossier offers lists of tips, dos, don’ts, and even an organizer to help folks plan for the time at SXSWedu. Many of these items are generally useful for the education conference circuit in general, a core tick list before one descends on conference central. But for those headed to Texas next week, particularly for the first time, check out the “Helpful Links” at the end of the post. Those Trojans have pulled together blog posts from past SXSWedus to get folks in the right frame of mind. Definitely worth the look.

Game On, Social Studies Teachers! Game On.

We’ve all heard the civic horror stories. Kids who can’t name their elected officials, either in the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House. Adults who can’t identify a single member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Man-on-the-street interviews who are unable to list the three branches of government. And forget asking folks if they can name a majority of U.S. presidents.

When Eduflack was a kid, we could rely on Schoolhouse Rock to help us with the finer points of U.S. history or civics. (Yes, I get I’m dating myself, but I actually own the Schoolhouse Rock soundtrack on CD and sing along when I get Conjunction Junction while on hold with someone from the U.S. Department of Education.) But today’s students are far more sophisticated and far too technologically advanced to have a singing scroll teach them about the legislative process.

So how do we teach the finer (and even broader) points of U.S. history and civics in an era when kids want to be playing Minecraft or engaging in social media? How do we apply the technological advances finding their way into our classrooms to teach the foundations and roots of our civic society?

Last fall, Eduflack wrote about how the Ted Kennedy Institute in Boston would be using simulations to teach today’s students the finer points of the legislative process. Brilliant, I said at the time. Just what we need to better engage today’s students through a medium that they better appreciate.

Not to be outdone by Ted Kennedy, today the Woodrow Wilson Foundation (those who know their civics realize a president can often trump a senator, even a legendary senator like Teddy Kennedy) announced its HistoryQuest Fellowship. In partnership with the Institute for Play, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation has created a new program for classroom educators to help them learn and use gaming to teach social studies and civics in their classrooms. The full announcement can be found here.

In launching this new effort, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation is clearly stating that effective instruction can be adapted to meet the needs and interests of the children in the classroom. Recent survey data has shown that 78 percent of teachers who use games have seen an increase in student mastery of curricular content and skills. So how better to take advantage of technological advances and student interests than incorporating games into teachers’ lessons and equip educators to create their own game-based learning experiences for kids.

Woodrow Wilson is currently soliciting nominations for the inaugural class of HistoryQuest Fellows, focusing on secondary school educators in New Jersey. This first cohort will begin its work this summer, with hopes that the lessons learned from HistoryQuest can be applied to improve WW’s work in teacher and education leader preparation across the nation.

Imagine playing a 21st century version of Axis and Allies to better understand World War I. Imagine learning about the western expansion through a Minecraft-like platform. Imagine learning about the American Revolution by not only dressing the part, but actually role-playing loyalist versus revolutionary. Imagine what can be imagined by the many excellent teachers who can learn from organizations like Institute for Play and Woodrow Wilson Foundation on how to make powerful lesson plans even more effective through gaming-based approaches.


(Full disclosure, Eduflack works with the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.)