Leonardo's Apprentice

Information

Tools of the Trade

Back in 1988, I took a photography class at Glendale Community College.  This was in PDA (pre-digital age).  Like my fellow students I brought in my brand new Minolta 35mm camera.  Our first assignment was to go around campus and take a composition picture in black & white showing textures.  Our teacher went out as well, taking his 1950 Brownie camera to take shots.  When we returned we all prepared our film, chose the best negative, developed it, and proudly placed it on a viewing rack.  We then voted on the best picture.  Okay, you’re jumping ahead, but you’re right!  The teacher’s photo won.  I still remember his words, “It’s the eye of the photographer, not the camera that takes a good or great picture.”  Years later, when I taught a digital video production class I passed on the same phrase to my students.  Composition is a communication skill that should not be left to the camera to decide.
TechInClRm2 My teacher’s quote can also be applied to today’s professional teachers.  The technology available for classroom projects, presentations, and experimentation is awesome.  But in the end, it is still the teacher not the tool that motivates a child.  Today’s teachers are graduating from the best universities coming out with knowledge and insights on how the human brain learns, memorizes, and thinks.  Neuroscience research has become part of the university’s curriculum with the newest information and studies on learning impairments, learning styles, cultural integration, and motivation motif’s.  And yet, not one class is set aside on the topic on current technology being used in the classroom.  Not one class discusses the best methods and procedures on how to implement any of the technology tools available into lesson plans that will engage and motivate young learners.
Some will say, today’s technology is quite intuitive, and there doesn’t need to be any training in it.  There is some truth in this.  My Canon Rebel digital camera can take good automatic pictures once I set the auto dials, then all I have to do is push a button, and instantly I get to see my taken image.  But professional photographers learn how to compose their own shots, manually setting their own speeds and lighting, using raw files instead of tiff files.  Pro photographers expand the envelope of their tools to invent and create new ways to communicate visually.  There is a difference between a candid shot and a professional shot.  But what has all of this to do with teachers?

Teachers who are not trained in how to manipulate the technology given them are limited to only the program instructions and device functions.  Student engagement and motivation becomes a reality when teachers are trained properly on what their technology is capable of doing.  An iPad device has access to thousands of apps, however, understanding how a child thinks and learns opens up opportunities in not just choosing the right app, but being able to manipulate it into a functional teaching tool.  Teachers need to be taught how to choose the right technology and software programs that will meet the student’s learning style.  There is no one size fits all here.  It is at this point we transform the classroom facilitator into a EduTech professional capable of changing lives, engaging students, motivating them to their highest potentials, and in the end, even keeping the bureaucracy satisfied with higher test scores.
TechInClassRm

MOOC’s Achilles Heel

achilles-heel1The ancient warrior Achilles had only one vulnerable spot, MOOC has three potential vulnerable spots.  MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) is not exactly new, but some of the participants running MOOC are.  I’m not talking about some fly-by-night business Website that is not accredited.   I am talking about prestigious universities that are offering free courses for credit:  MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Yale Harvard, and Duke and more.  All that is needed is access to the Web and some time.  And yet, the completion rate is low and the failure rate is high!  Duke University’s Coursera MOOC program, which registered 12,700 students, had only 350 finish the course–that’s a 97% drop out rate (Rivard, 2013).  A lot of students from high school to retirees are jumping on board, but leaving the educational train before it completes its journey.  Why?

The first MOOC was created back in 1995 in a project called, “Space Island’s,”  which was logged into the Library of Congress in 1996 as the first long distant online educational program ever done in history.  The course study was on space flight and space station research.  The courses and lessons were free, as today, and reached over 2.3 million students and teachers in forty nations.  I know this program well, because I’m the one who developed and managed it.  The program started out as a high school project but then exploded into global historical event.  Based on my past experiences and the evolution of the Web I think there are three vulnerable spots that MOOC needs to patched up.

Issue #1 :Student Knowledge Expectation
I took and finished my B.S.I.T. degree through the University of Phoenix online course.  The first thing I learned was the college’s posit that I had to have already knowledge and experience in the subject matter.  For example, one of my courses was programming in JAVA.  No problem for me, I had taught computer programming since the early 1980’s.  From FORTRAN to BASIC, Pascal to C, from C++ to JAVA.  When given a project to create a program in JAVA I was expected to know the software and how to program.  Several of my student colleagues went into panic mode when asked to develop a program they had never learned.  They expected the class to teach the course, when in effect the course had expectations of already knowing much of the subject matter.  I found this true in many of the online university courses.  In the words of Albert Einstein, “Information is not Knowledge.”  MOOC requires knowledge to succeed.  For the most part, the courses are not taught, they are designed to evaluate your knowledge in the subject matter.

Issue #2: Teacher vs Facilitator

dropoutOnline courses don’t have teachers they have facilitators.  In addition, many of the MOOC online courses have online videos lectures.  Now, there’s an innovation!  Okay, so you are a high school or jr. college student already bored with sitting in a class taking notes.  You read about a course you can take for credit on the same subject you are learning in school, and it’s free!  Unfortunately, you must listen and watch a 30 to 60 minute video.  Head goes down at this point.  The statistics gathered from MOOC (Flowler, 2013) shows the best attention span for a lecture is somewhere between 6-9 minutes.  Not new to elementary and secondary teachers.  But, college professors are not trained to be public speakers nor how to engage student learning.  It is expected that students will motivate themselves.

The video, if you are lucky, is probably the only visual you really will see.  The majority of the class interaction occurs on a message board.  Not much different than receiving a text or email.  The interactions can become stagnant when you find the only way you can express yourself is using the Bold key, CAPITALIZING words, or making the same graphic texting symbols you use on your cell phone.

Issue: #3:  Technology Evolution

When I launched ‘Space Island’s” back in 1995, the browser was just coming into existence, telephone modems (300 baud) were used to connect to companies like AOL and CompuServe.  Some people were still using their own television screens as monitors.  The interactions were still by emails, and many of the images were still being sent via FTP site servers.
However, 18 years later, technology has evolved into real-time interactions with the ability to access multimedia, hypermedia, and many forms of interactive and engaging technology.  Yet, I was still seeing simple and boring PowerPoint presentations, videos that were not streaming correctly, and communicating with the same black and white text formats in Times Roman I had used 18 years before.
Today’s students need engagement and interaction.  Even the Baby-Boomer generation has evolved into the new world of technology selections, and are learning how to use them.   Universities that are providing MOOC programming must realize what makes up their audience.  The age group, subject knowledge, background experience, and reasons for taking MOOC programs needs to be addressed.  Facilitators need to be replaced by teachers, and 21st Century visual interaction needs to be implemented to make these programs work.

Achilles was young, arrogant, and self-assured that he was invincible.  However, if MOOC’s efficacy is to prove out the above three issues need to bypass the hubris of college and university MOOC status quo programming and move from the inuring on-campus traditions to addressing ancillary 21st Century learning.   Comments are welcomed.

References:

Flowler, Geoffrey A. “An Early Report Card on Massive Open Online Courses.” The Wall Street Journal. WSJ, 8 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. <http://on.wsj.com/19gcXKX&gt;.

Rivard, Ry. “Measuring the MOOC Dropout Rate.” Weblog post. Researcher Explore Who Taking Moocs and Why so Many Drop out. Inside Higher Ed., 8 Mar. 2013. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. <http://bit.ly/10oGf7Q&gt;.

Supervision is unanswered question to iPad distribution

I have to confess I’m often amused when I read an article in the newspaper or the Internet about school districts that have given computers to students who then break into ‘secured’ areas or forbidden websites.  The real punch lines comes with the words, “this was unexpected!”   Really?

30 years ago (1983)

Wargames

Back in 1983, the Commodore International released its newest computer model, the Commodore 64 home computer that cost $595 dollars and had only 64K memory.  This was an 8-bit computer that could be hooked up to a modem (300 baud), and more importantly–programmed.  In 1983, the movie,”War Games,” with actor  Matthew Broderick, playing David Lightman a high school  student, told the story about a young teenage hacker who breaks into a government computer facility and nearly starts WWIII.  In 1985, a real fourteen year old boy from Escondido, California, was under FBI investigation after hacking into the Chase Manhattan Bank computer (Arrington, 2008).  Most security people at the time were surprised that a 8-bit computer could log into a million dollar mainframe computer.  Oh yes, he did use his Commodore 64 computer to do the job.

30 years later (2013)ipad-mini-creative-apple

According to a recent article (Jones, 2013) Bernadette Lucas, director of the Common Core Technology Project for LAUSD, purchased 50,000 iPads, at a cost of $678 each, and handed them out to 47 schools to test them out on program integration and security verifications.  Within a short period, 300 David-Lightman-type students breached security measures designed to prevent students from accessing websites such as Facebook and YouTube, plus in house security.  When the iPads were called in thirty iPads were missing.

“We’re learning from what’s happening,” was Ms. Lucas’ response.  Considering the history of computer hackers that have been well documented since the 1980’s, at what point does information become knowledge.  This becomes a serious question because the district goal to distribute 600,000 iPads to LAUSD students that will be in full force by next fall.

The Real Question

The iPad is a useful tool that can be used in very creative ways.  The key is not about allowing or not allowing students to have access to the technology hardware.   The real issue is supervision.  This is no different than having a teacher in the classroom or on the playground.  Unless LAUSD or any school district can guarantee total supervision, and 600,000 independent users is not in the mix for this security task, then the prudent solution is to keep the units locked up in school.  If school districts become responsible for incidents (cyber bulling, adult sites, or any questionable sites not allowed in school) created outside their school campuses by students using assigned school equipment, I think the solution is quite evident.  Use them only in the classroom because in the end the teacher, the school, and the school district are still responsible for giving out Pandora’s boxes to discoveries and potential future lawsuits to minors!  I welcome your comments!

Reference:

Arrington, Michael. “MySpace Cofounder Tom Anderson Was a Real Life “WarGames” Hacker in 1980’s.” Weblog post. TechCrunch. N.p., 30 Aug. 2008. Web. Oct. 2013. <http://tcrn.ch/aUNn13&gt;.

Jones, Barbara. “LAUSD’s IPad Problems Frustrate Those Involved in the $1Billon Technology Project.” Huff Post Los Angeles. N.p., 2 Oct. 2013. Web. 7 Oct. 2013. <http://huff.to/16igCYc&gt;.

Point of Perspective

Question:  What does a 15th Century oil painting have to do with the development of NASA’s Augmented Reality iPad App?

I’m always interested in the connections that today’s digital devices have with history.  Take for example, NASA’s Augmented Reality App (http://bit.ly/GA82dS).  Imagine printing a simple image from your inkjet printer.  Then placing the printed paper on your desk, and then turning on your NASA app and iPad camera to scan the printed image on the desk (fig. 1).  Suddenly, as if by magic, up pops up a model of the Mar’s Rover, with the appearance of taking up space and volume, but no weight!? (fig. 2).  Finally, you have the ability to pick up the model and view it from 360 degrees, as well as animate many of its functions (activating its’ antenna, or moving it a few degrees.)  (see figures 1-3)

AR01

Fig 1.  Printed paper being scanned by iPad camera

AR02  Fig. 2:  NASA app locks on to image and Mar’s Rover pops up.

AR03

Fig 3:  Rover can be turned and viewed in 360 degrees.

 

 

 

 

As I viewed the image on my iPad and enjoyed the ability to see a 3D image that I could move and maneuver in the palm of my hand I marveled with the science fiction I was playing with.  In the palm of my hand was the result of years of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and yet, one crucial element in history had been overlooked.  In order to appreciate the full visual affect I was enjoying with this Augmented Reality App I wondered if this was the same wonderment experienced by the few people who saw Filippo Brunelleschi’s painting of the Baptistry in Florence, Italy, 600 years ago.  Brunelleschi was a man who was an engineer, architect, artisan, mathematician, and inventor.

Prior to Brunelleschi’s work, artist’s painted and drew in a flat plane with figures that had no weight and sometimes seemed to float in space.  Perspective waCharlemagne and the Popes not important.   For example, the castle in the painting (Left) looks like some child’s doll house with no depth, no perspective.  The three figures behind the churchman also seem to have no order of depth–no perspective.

 

Brunelleschi’s work would literally change history and how people would view the world because of rediscovered geometry called “linear perspective.”  Without linear perspective today’s video games, movies, holographic  projections, virtual reality, and apps like Augmented Reality would not exist.   Brunelleschi was the first to introduced the geometry that would gave way to these discoveries and inventions.  Using a mirror, he was able to understand how all lines converged to one point.  Mapping this information out on a canvas he painted the Baptistry building in Florence, Italy.  People were encouraged to view the painting by looking through a hole made at the bottom of the canvas and placing a half mirror at a distance (see figure below) that would reflect the artists work and then give view to the real building.  The whole experience had a wow affect.  This new discovery would change how artists would paint, and even how maps were to be made.  In effect, our 21st Century GPS also has its history to this same event in history.  Art is another form of recording data and information, and yet it is many times over looked and shoved aside due to bias and ignorance.

brunelleschi

Leonardo da Vinci said, “There are three classes of people: those who see.  Those who see when they are shown  Those who do not see.”   It’s important to remember we see and think in images not words.  Technology won’t motivate, but Art has the power to motivate and create, and in the end, isn’t that what we, as educators, are striving for, ways to motivate and encourage our students?

The Forgotten And Most Used Tool

Would you consider a pencil a tool?  If you said yes, then it should have its own rubric along with the rest of the technology requirements being given to students today.

Pencil Rubric

   I had some fun putting this rubric quickly together.  Yes, it’s ridiculous, but so is the idea that technology will motivate students.  The 16mm films didn’t do it, nor the filmstrips, even with sound; and when television and VCR’s were put into the classroom that technology didn’t motivate students.  VCR were eventually replaced with DVD’s with the same results.  Computers are common place today, students are quite comfortable with iPads and e-books.  But, math scores are still low, reading is still average, and students are dropping out of school at all levels.

Bill Ferriter, who runs his own blog, recently did a simple hand drawing on the topic, “What do you want kids to do with technology?”, and posted on the Net (which got a pretty good response.)  He pointed out that today’s students are motivated by opportunities created by the students not the technology they are using.  I agree, and add that the mighty little pencil is still being used by the top designer, architects, and computer leaders today.

9223386478_20cf5bb693_b

AstronautPen Interesting enough during the 1960’s, NASA spent $12 million dollars to develop a pen that could be used in zero gravity.  Those pens were eventually sold by Fisher Pens and called, “Fisher Space Pens.”   I remember buying one, it cost $1.98, which was expensive at that time.  Meanwhile, our competitor for the space race, Russia, invested in pencils and mechanical pencils, and saved millions of dollars.  Considering there is no place on our planet that has zero G, unless you are falling out of an airplane and writing your Will on the way down, there is no way a Space Pen can give you any clear advantages or better grades.  But, better grades was one of Fisher’s selling points, along with the ability to close sales, think clearly, and clear up acne (Okay, the last one wasn’t in the original marketing makeup).

So, if you agree that a Space Pen, or any pen or pencil will not help you get better grades, what makes you think buying a computer, iPad, or e-book will?  Some might say, “Today’s technology has access to the World Wide Web, Multimedia, it’s interactive, it has the ability to cross communicate with all kinds of digital devices, it’s…it’s…it’s a tool!”  In the end, it’s simply a tool.  I’m open to comments, send them.

Apple Slicing Its Own Share Of The Pie!

young-math-science-boy-genius-writing-thumb16021029This past Sunday, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune’s front page focused on the New and Improved Core Curriculum story titled, “Raising the bar for education.”   The article centers on the release of some sketchy details to the new Core Curriculum.  I say some sketchy details because they are all still being worked out as we speak.  This is equivalent to preparing a full four course dinner, setting the table, and then sending out the guest invitations.  A year from now 44 other states are also planning to launch the Core Curriculum.  The goal, the article continues, “is to create new benchmarks for mathematics and sciences”, and in the end, they say, “to better prepare students for college and careers.”  Of course, the real underlining objective is to increase low achieving test scores and public opinion.

The story continues that in the new program educators will no longer be at the front of the room lecturing, but interacting with their students.  So, how is this to be done you ask?   By providing the top schools, students and teachers with iPad technology (600,000 iPads).   I guess walking around the classroom hasn’t been thought of yet.  The article reports that “The project (that is the iPad purchase) penciled out around $450 million dollars.”  Good idea to use low tech to explain high tech pricing.  Okay, so we know what the better schools are getting, but what about the poorer schools.  Thanks to a $1.25 billion dollar infusion from the State of California, these schools will be able to order tablets, desktops, and other technology.

This whole scenario is being played out across the board in both public and private schools throughout the State of California.  I recently interviewed for a position at a private school in Los Angeles where the position was to train both teachers and students on their new iPads and Mac Pro laptops.  Buying the technology first and then figuring out how it will be used has been going on for a long time.  I admire Apple’s move into the educational world back in the 1980’s.  It was a shrewd and intelligent undertaking to line up their product into education.  But, lest we forget, the Apple Corporation is not in business to educate, they are in business to make one thing, — larger profits.

For the past twenty years, the United States has invested billions of dollars to upgrade technology infrastructures, hardware, and software programs in its school systems.  All of this with the promise that the updated technology would motivate, stimulate student interest, increase learning, and in the end improve student test scores.  During this same twenty year period, the Programme for Student Assessment (PISA) has been monitoring 52 countries and their educational programs especially in reading, mathematics, and science.  From 2001 to 2012 the United States has consecutively placed AVERAGE in reading, and BELOW AVERAGE in the maths and sciences.  So, if technology hasn’t increased motivation, stimulation, and increased test scores in the past 20 years, why do the politicians and educators think putting more money into technology will do the job?

But soon I’m interrupted.  The article reports, “The technology Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 9.29.23 PMwill help students on the new California state standardized tests, which will be administered online and will reply on in-depth rather than multiple questions.”  So, students will learn how to take state tests by taking similar tests in the classroom.  “Another brick in the wall.”  That means teachers, who will now be called “facilitators” will be guiding students on how to do the test online.  Still teaching to the test!  The article ends with “the promise that the funds given by the state will cover the cost for Apple to train teachers on their new technologies.”  Well, after all, Apple wants their share of the financial pie.

What will the future report?  In the end, the politicians will get their votes, the technology companies will report high earnings for their stockholders, and the educational report will remain mediocre.   The technology panacea has already had 20 years to prove itself, it’s time that we put the teacher back in the classroom to fix what the politicians and computer companies have screwed up. It’s time that technology take its proper position as a supporting actor, and develop the real core of our future–our students, who should be the apples of our eyes.

Reference:  San Gabriel Valley Tribune. (2013). retrieved from SGVTribune.com

The Day the Universe Changed

 
To be, or not to be –that is the question:
 Whether ’tis nobler in  the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of  outrageous fortune,  Or to take arms 
 against a sea of  troubles,  And by opposing end them.”
                                                                      Macbeth, Shakespeare
Interesting enough when a change occurs it is not the change that causes attention, but the future results because of that change.  Back on March 18, 1997, the science and technology committee, assembled by President Clinton, finished their 80 page report (Becker, H.J. et al., 1997) called, “Report to the President on the Use of Technology to Strengthen K-12 Education in the United States.” The report carefully outlined all the issues and problems that would face educators to implement any technology program(s) into their schools. So, I am not sure if it was news pressclintonure or political agenda, but after the report was made public, President Clinton in 1998, increased resources for educational technology by over 3,000 Percent, including training over 600,000 new teachers to use technology effectively in the classroom. The training was at best at the level of ‘computer literacy.’ The edict was given with no instructions on how to implement technology based programs into the classroom, or by what weight success would be measured. Interesting enough, no one seemed to read the last sentence of the report, which read, “The Panel does not, however, recommend that the deployment of technology within America’s schools be deferred pending the completion of such research.”
With no weights or objectives given to educators from the government other than ‘make it happen,’ the conditions were now set for the Bush Administration on how to find and develop accountability.
In 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, and Standardized testing became the benchmark panacea for all Federal programs including STEM. Since then, many of the online STEM software companies have  developed either their  own benchmarks for STEM or have developed their software programs under NCLB policies. In either case, after 20 years and billions of dollars spent on implementing technology into the classroom arena, the United States report card from PISA² is still showing average readers, and below average test scores in mathematics and the sciences. Back to Hamlet “…or not to be that is the question.”
Therefore, do we answer the question of “to be” by having our children, our future, suffer the slings and arrows of a political agenda that has had twenty years to prove itself, and hasn’t; or, do we now face the reality of blunders and mismanagement and oppose it by developing new entrepreneur solutions ?   The apprentice of Leonardo seeks to develop alternative solutions.  Acta non verba!
References
Becker, H. J., Shaw, D. E., Bransford, J. D., Davidson, J., Hawkins, J., Malcom, S., … Young, J. (1997, March). Report to the President on the use of technology to strengthen K-12 education in the United States [Scholarly project]. In Technreporttopresident. Retrieved July 10, 2013, from http://tacticalthinkers.com/technology/Teacher %20Resources/technreporttopresident.html
² Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/pisa_19963777

Knewton’s Knitch: Thoughts to Ponder

On the Today Show, a segment was dedicated to, “The Classroom of the Future.”  [see TV segment below] The initial comments pointed out that the “present educational system is impersonal, a factory model.”  This is followed by a set of statistics with no sources to verify.  Then the background voice of Jose Ferreira, founder and CEO of Knewton, makes this comment, “How many da Vinci’s, Einsteins, and Marie Curie’s, and Michael Jordon’s are we losing every generation because we are not giving them the opportunities that some of us have?”  What?  How did Michael Jordon fall in the same category of the great scientists?   Okay, move on, the broadcast continues, in order to solve this problem of inequity and problems in the status quo, the solution becomes a what if question.  What if everyone had access to the Internet?


Lest we forget, Jose Ferreira runs a business.  A subtle note focuses that this is a company (.com) versus an educational research group (.org).  On his webpage (www.knewton.com) you are faced with a large screen counting the number of sales pitches he is making in the global market.  When I viewed the page the count was 270, 952,575 and counting.  This is not the number of students that are using his software, not the number of students learning from his program, and not the number of students graduating because of his program, but the number that are being ‘invited.’

In the broadcast, Mr. Ferreira says, “the present system is impersonal, a factory model.”   And, what exactly is a software program?  It is impersonal and a factory made model.  Now, at this point, I should state that I am not against technology.  I hold two B.S.I.T. degrees and worked in a secondary technology school for 22 years.  I also was the first teacher, documented in 1996, to launch the first global educational program on the Internet.  My program, Space Island’s, reached 2.3 million teachers and students in forty nations, and was placed into the Library of Congress as a historical event in 1996.

The Knewton Webpage is full of pictures of adults working one-to-one with young people, however, the software program is designed to work one-to-one with the student.  It is a template of problems and clocked timings to match the student’s ability.  Where is the challenge for student growth by matching those variables?  But that is what his knerds, yes that is what they call themselves, I believe this must be the generation that ate Knudsen products.  Anyway, the knerds design standardized templates!  Now, where have I heard that term before?  I believe that knerds are well educated and excellent programmers and data collectors, but lest we forget where these individuals got their education.  It wasn’t from the Knewton factory but from the public or private schools these engineers graduated from.

If you go to the careers tab of Knewton Website you’d think you would find examples of students who have used the Knewton program and what careers  (engineers, teachers, scientists, and programmers) they have landed in.  No, you find out how lavish the knerd employees are being treated with their own private areas, food services, and perks.  This is the selling page for those interested in employment to Knewton!   Now, where do you suppose the money comes from to cater to these benefits?   There is much hype that this software and program is a pantology that will create a panacea for the present educational system.  However, in reality, it is nothing but a set of organized, timed, impersonal-factory templates.

The broadcast also details the work of Khan Academy and its founder, Sal Khan, whose Youtube math tutorials are quite good and free.  Mr. Khan’s approach is to tutor in short segments with a lively and entertaining presentation.   Adding the good works of Sal Khan’s Academy model to Knewton is comparing apples to oranges.

Knewton is not free, but its founder at the beginning of the broadcast states, “…we (the status quo, which he has now joined) are not giving them (students) the opportunities that some of us have.”  Yes, Mr. Ferreira, what opportunities did you have?  How is your program giving students in the global arena those same opportunities?  The only opportunity I see is Knewton found a nitch to sell its product like Apple Computers did.  It will be interesting to see how many Michael Jordon’s make it to the big league by playing a video game instead of one-on-one on the court!

Rough and Tumble: Parent pointers

Rough And Tumble Play Can Be Good, Clean Fun

boysplayingrough

(NAPSI)—Most parents have seen it before—their kids begin playing so hard that it looks as if they are becoming aggressive. However, this kind of intense physical activity can actually be good for a child’s physical, social and emotional development.

Called Rough and Tumble play by the experts, this activity is a positive and necessary form of play for children, especially boys, says Rae Pica, a children’s physical activity specialist.

“Rough and Tumble play gives boys an opportunity to learn their power and boundaries, develop competence in their motor skills and imitate their role models,” Pica said.

Rough and Tumble play can be perplexing for parents, who have to gauge when it turns to a form of aggression. The difference lies in the intent: During appropriate Rough and Tumble play, there is less risk of injury than with combative play because there’s an understanding between the players.

For boys, the closer the friendship, the more intense the Rough and Tumble play can be, so children should collaborate and agree on limits.

Parents can help reinforce those limits by following these tips:

1. Set some basic rules, such as “no touching of faces” and “no shoes.”

2. Let children be in charge of making some of the rules and enforcing them.

3. Intervene only when the play turns combative; if parents intervene too often or too soon, children won’t learn conflict resolution on their own.

4. Not sure if it’s playing or fighting? Ask the participants if they see the difference and if everyone agrees.

5. Parents should also engage in Rough and Tumble play with their children—whether it’s wrestling with Dad or “tickle fights” with Mom. The physical contact helps kids build relationships.

If play turns combative, parents can redirect the children’s energy by inviting them to race outside as fast and for as long as they can, as well as provide pillows or soft toys such as Mattel’s new Brawlin’ Buddies with which they can wrestle. “Brawlin’ Buddies offer kids a toy to actively engage with alone or with other children to foster physical connection,” said Pica.

Modeled after WWE Superstars such as John Cena, Sheamus and Rey Mysterio, the 16-inch plush figures are built tough to take a pounding that will trigger one of 10 signature phrases recorded by these athletic stars. Kids can flip, toss or throw down the figures, go one on one or form a tag team Superstar battle.

Toys such as Brawlin’ Buddies encourage children to safely re-create action-packed story lines and experiment with speed, force, cause and effect, balance and spatial relationships. “The open-ended, heroic play lets children create their own stories while also fostering the kind of active play that kids need,” said Pica. “Rough and Tumble play, when directed properly, can be a very positive experience for kids—and their parents.”

Madison Avenue Doesn’t Have the Answer

How Madison Avenue Runs Schools

How Madison Avenue Runs Schools

I have just finished reading an article written by Michael Horn, for Forbes magazine called, “Building Motivation, Instilling Grit: The Necessity of instilling Mastery-based Digital Learning.”  The author presents his arguments that unmotivated students are unmotivated because they have not been instilled with the purpose and potential of competency-based and digital learning.  The author states the reason for this is two-fold:  First, they (students) want to feel successful and make meaningful progress. Second, they (students) want to have fun with their friends.

The author goes on to blame educators that their feedback is generally slow and lacking.  So, when was the last time your boss came by your cubicle to tell you how well you were doing?  Today, many schools have their grades online and have Cloud access.  After work has been graded, by the teacher, it is posted online for access by both parents and students.   Obviously, the author is not quite up to date  in the latest educational technology developments.

The author continues, “So how do we help students who aren’t buying what schools are selling?”   The response is a loud affirmation that digital learning is the all purpose solution.  It slices, dices and can even do your homework.  But more importantly, it will motivate the unmotivated.  Sorry, but technology has been around for over 50 years in education from 16mm film projects to today’s Smartboards.  Technology is a tool, it is not a motivator but an enhancer, in the hands of an expert educator, it can be used to explain complex subject matter, demonstrate with both visual and auditory equipment, but it can’t motivate anymore than the 1958 16mm film projector or DVD player in the 1980’s could.

It all sounded like a great sales pitch, and then I realized, I was reading a Forbes magazine article.  The author named one of his sources–Madison Avenue.  Now, Madison Avenue may understand Marketing but the article proved it still doesn’t understand Education. Three authors, who did not identify themselves as educators, wrote a white paper called, “Rethinking Student Motivation,”  The paper first states that, to date, there is no one size that fits all. They were right! And then they try to ‘market’ their position as the solution. The paper is a testament to Industrial Age Mentality that many schools have been trying to evolve from. Education is not about jobs, it is not about getting a job.  It’s not about selling education as a commodity.  The last time I looked I had a choice of either buying something or not.  Education is compulsory in the United States, students don’t have a choice.   If education was a choice, like at the college level,  we might need selling techniques for our K-12 students–Ah! But, it is compulsory and that’s the rub, the problem, the issue facing all educators in trying to find techniques to motivate the unmotivated.

Brain studies, behavior intelligence, multicultural studies, and socioeconomic, and global education studies are now part of the 21st educator’s arsenal for motivation. Education is about motivating both the group as well as  the individual.  The motivated and the unmotivated.   In the business world of marketing the industry focuses always on the group. The individual is passed by. We can’t do that in Education.

But let’s leave on a reflective note.  The Forbes article does have one positive supporter and that comes from the author’s last comment,  “A competency-based learning system on the other hand literally embeds grit—sticking with things until you master them—in its DNA.” Yes, it is the perfect tool for Standardized Testing, which has already shown itself as a failure  along with it NCLB program.