Monday, December 15, 2014

Are You Faking It? Spread What Is Real

Well, at least he's keeping it real! 
Unlike the photoshopped pic in the back.

In the day and age where images can be easily filtered, altered, photoshopped, cropped, and edited in anyway, it's hard to spot if an image is real or not. Many images go viral in the hopes to cause excitement, confusion, hysteria, or hope, when what they do is just make us more gullible. What we see is not really what we get: 100% of images in fashion magazines are retouched, and it doesn't stop there.

You don't have to be a professional photographer to photshop these days thanks to our advanced technology. We live in a society which thrives on shock value and "reality" is nothing more than a sitcom. Popular images and promoting any kind of news takes the front seat. Whether it is real or not.

Here are three quick ways to help you spot a faker:

1. Reverse Image Search
This picture went viral after someone posted that it was taken during Hurricane Sandy.
This picture went viral during Hurricane Sandy, when a person posted it  stating it was taking during the hurricane weather conditions brought on by Sandy. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery is continuously guarded. However, this picture was not taken during Hurricane Sandy. According to reverse image search and some other sleuthing, this picture was found to be taken a month prior. Don't worry if you were fooled, The Washington Post, NPR, and The Daily Beast thought it was real too.

2. Read Between the Lines

Published in The Riverfront Time, October 1, 2014
Published on November 27, 2014 by the Imgur user Bdawgid, then was reposted by the above user on another media site without obviously checking it authenticity.

Pictures go viral for many reasons. Research shows that one of the top reasons an image goes viral is when people have a positive (to them) emotional reason to share it. What may be positive, may not have the same effect on someone else. Many times when emotions are running on overload, it is easy to overlook clues in the image which could identify if that image is actually real or not. Case in point, the two images above. The first one is real, the second one went viral and is fake. The Ferguson case has become a top national news story, tied to many different types of emotions. If one would take the time to look at the writing on the sign, you could see that the writing has been altered. Regardless if you feel you are graphologist, you do have the responsibility to ensure someone else's words were really written.

3. Use Common Sense

When we first teach kids to read, one of the strategies we teach them is using their "context clues". Look at the details in the picture. What do you see? What do you think this picture is about? What is this picture portraying. There are ways you can use the clues in the picture to help you see if the picture is real or not.

Know as the "Accidental Tourist", this image circulated right after 9/11. 
  • Lighting; Doe the lighting and shadow images in the picture line up, make sense?
  • Coloring: Is the coloring throughout the picture consistent. This is different than using a filter from your phone which changes the coloring overall.
  • Distortion: Are there objects in the picture which are distorted in anyway?
  • Realistic: Seriously, is this image real? if you question it, it probably isn't!
  • Other helpful websites are: Snopes.comHoaxes.orgPaleofuture
As you can see from the "Accidental Tourist" image above, the lighting is off as there are different shadows in different areas of the pictures which are not consistent. The coloring is is fake, as 9/11 was a warm and sunny day, which is not reflected in this picture. The plane is obviously distorted and added, as the size is not even accurate. The plane in this photo is a smaller version (Boeing 757) then the plane (Boeing 767) which actually hit the WTC. Not to mention, do you really think it's realistic for someone to being taking a picture at the exact moment a plane is coming at you? No matter what, it went viral and stirred up the emotions set by the tragedy of that unforgettable day.

Be a digital careful what you share or pass on, unless you are certain it is the real thing. 
Spread what is real, not a rumor.

Throwback to the '80s, before digital cameras and photoshopping at your fingertips. Timex Social Club sings about "Rumors". The vintage video will make you laugh, if nothing else!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Are You Hands ON? Hands OFF? Get Hands FREE!

It's that time of get togethers, coffee with friends, drinks with colleagues, dinners with families. It's that time of year...we should be spending together, really together: hand in hand, hands on listening, hands off our mobile devices and hands free from distraction.

But, we are not.

So, let's change that.

I recently heard one of my favorite songs from the past, by Jewel, "Hands" and it got me thinking about this season. How to handle freeing up our hands from that non living device that really doesn't matter, but using them to hold and hug those living people we really care for. 

"If I could tell the world just one thing, It would be that we're all OK..."

Misuse of technology can be frustrating, believe me, I teach with it most days! It's the way our world works, and it's OK that it's frustrating. What isn't OK, is just throwing in the towel and allowing ourselves to ignore those around us who absolutely deserve our attention.  We need to check our phones, we like to use social media, we enjoy taking pictures. It's OK. Just limit yourself and encourage those around you to limit their mobile device usage during times that are special.  A survey conducted last year shared that 9 out of 10 people feel their loved ones neglect them on a weekly basis by using their technology. Ouch! Make a plan and stick to it, invite your families to be part of the plan too. Perhaps it's something as simple as: everyone power off their devices and throw them in one of the stockings until after dinner. I'm sure Santa won't take them.  Your family, your special time, your decision. 

"I won't be made useless..."

We think we are using our mobile devices to be so useful and efficient, when really we are useless to our friends and families when they need us most. Remember the last time you had a "conversation" with someone by looking at the top of their head because they were looking down at their phone? It sucks. Model the behavior you seek to change. You can use some humor too, like saying, "Hey, I'm right here, you don't have to look for me on your phone!" Be honest and proactive. Find ways to finish your phone business before you meet up with others and expect them to do the same.  "Disconnecting is a luxury we all need", as New York writer Lesley Blume reminds us.

"We'll fight, not out of spite, for someone must stand up for what's right..."

Ok, don't fight, but what do you do when the phone doesn't get put away? Do you combat rude behavior with rude behavior? No, that won't get you very far. In the article, "How to get everyone to put away their damn phones at your party", Rebecca Adams discusses the importance of making it clear that the event, or time together is going to be unplugged. However, in the end, you shouldn't  embarrass someone or make rude comments if he or she continues to waste time on their phone. Remember, it's likely there's always going to be that one person. So, let it go...let it go, or don't invite them back! (Unless, they are family, then you are stuck, or need to be more creative.)

"My hands are small I know, but they're not yours, they are my own.."

Well, maybe you have big hands, but that's not the point here. The point is that we have to stop blaming others and other things because of our technology addiction. Saying comments like, "I have to check my work email right now before you pass the gravy," "I have to text back my friend before they get mad," or "I have to finish this game!" makes us sound like we are being ruled by a non human device which we OWN, it doesn't not OWN us. They are your hands, take control of them and use them more to hug and hold, rather than to post and not be present.

"In the end only kindness matters."

Whether you are a Jewel fan or not...she's onto something here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

You Have A Big Head! Make It Last

A phrenology chart: "Know Thyself" which labels 37 parts of your brain such as:
firmness, self-esteem, memory, time, friendship...

I don't know about you, but I think the Holiday season can be a little overwhelming. Each year it seems that the my to do list doubles when December 1st hits. How much more can my brain handle? How can I use my mind to find peace and also accomplish the million things I need to between Thanksgiving and New Years?

Let me start off by stating, I am not a phrenologist. A what? A phrenologist is a scientist who studies the brain.

However, along the way, I have become fascinated by how big our brains are, how they work and how they continue to grow, literally. I also am an educator who realizes the importance of following brain research and what it tells us about understanding our diverse group of learners.

Over the last 300 million years, our brain size has tripled. Yep, way back when, they had small brains, we have big ones! Aren't you curious as to why and what that means? Your brain is a machine, YOUR machine which gets you where you are going every day. If you don't take care of it, you may just lose your mind...

Size does matter:
Our brains are completely fascinating. If you are curious as to what all your brain can do, according to phrenologist, here is a list. It will blow your mind what you are capable of. Since the size of the human brain has grow significantly over the years, we have the opportunity and capacity to do bigger and better things.

Which side are you on? The question pops up all the time, "is he/she left or right brained?". Who cares? You have two hemispheres! Use them both. Sure, you may think with one side more than the other, but recognize that and be blessed you have both sides to help you through life. In case you need a refresher on which side of the brain connect to your who you are, explains:

  • The left hemisphere is dominant in language: processing what you hear and handling most of the duties of speaking. It's also in charge of carrying out logic and exact mathematical computations. When you need to retrieve a fact, your left brain pulls it from your memory.
  • The right hemisphere is mainly in charge of spatial abilities, face cognition and processing music. It performs some math, but only rough estimations and comparisons. The brain's right side also helps us to comprehend visual imagery and make sense of what we see. It plays a role in language, particularly in interpreting context and a person's tone.

Free your mind:  Your brain was created to interpret, challenge, assess and resolve things that happen in your environment. Therefore, your brain is constantly evolving. Over the last twenty years researchers have uncovered and confirmed that brain degeneration  and damage can be reversed. It is all based on how stimulated your brain activity is. Since then, many have developed brain games, and activities which they market as ways to stimulate your brain, to keep it active. Beware. Recent research shares that brain training apps or programs such as Luminosity, don't actually increase brain memory, nor is there compelling evidence to support an increase in cognitive functioning. Dr. Michael Merzenich, a famous and respected neuroscientist explains that because the brain is comprised of over 100 billion neurons, it is important that we keep these neurons busy and useful. He is known for us extensive research in brain plasticity (no our brains are not like tupperware).  It was once was believed that our brains became permanent at a certain age, thanks to Dr. Merzenich, we know now that our brain continues to build new pathways and avenues of learning throughout our life as long we keep ourselves exposed and experiencing new things. Take a different way home, pick up a new hobby, meet someone new, or just take the time to be a life-long learner.

This is your brain on music:  The holiday season brings many traditions, special moments and can be music to our ears. Did you know that listening to your favorite songs can actually keep you healthy? One recent study observed patients who were about to undergo surgery. Participants were randomly assigned to either listen to music or take anti-anxiety drugs. Scientists tracked patient's ratings of their own anxiety, as well as the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. What happened? The patients who listened to music had less anxiety and lower cortisol than people who took drugs. While this is just one study, it does point out a powerful medicinal use for music. We know that music is less expensive than drugs and easier on the body (unless you dive into a mosh pit). The study also highlighted evidence that music is "associated with immunoglobulin A, an antibody linked to immunity, as well as higher counts of cells that fight germs and bacteria."

This holiday season, use your brain:  keep yourself healthy and listen to your favorite music. Live longer and learn to experience new things with those you love!

My favorite song of the you have have it running through your brain all day.
Sing it Blue Eyes...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Be Small Town: Come Together As A Community

When you hear the word "community", what is your first thought? Probably geography. Where you live, your neighborhood, your closest proximity to a group of people who generally have the same physical location you do.

However, communities can also be defined in broader terms, looking past geography and more into cultural heritage, language, beliefs, and interests.

What brings a community together? Peace, listening to others, common goals, a passion for growth, and healthy values.

What rips a community apart? Disagreement, violence, decreased support for education, voicing opinions and turning your back to opposing views.

We live in a society where it’s not enough to just be a community. There needs to be community development. When negativity comes into our communal systems, we must find ways to plan, empower and grow. We can't stop believing.

When I hear the word community, I still think of my high school in the small town of Rolla, MO, "the middle of everywhere." I moved there at the end of my 8th grade year. Talk about ruining one's life.  I really thought my parents had charged me with the death sentence: forcing me to a rural town eight hours away from my whole beloved family, an only child with no siblings to protect me. Little did I know, it would be one of the biggest gifts they ever gave me. My experiences at Rolla High School continue to have an impact on the communities I serve through my professional and personal life. This is why:

One Space Can Fit All:  
There was only one high school in Rolla. It did not matter what street you lived on, your IQ, if you had special needs, who your parents were, what your religious beliefs were, or even if you wanted to go there or not. If you lived in the city boundaries of Rolla High School, you were a Bulldog! We came from opposite sides of town,  from trailers, apartments, and houses. Some lived with their parents, others with friends, family members or some by themselves. There were kids with money, others with none. There were also a long list of programs which reached out to the different interests of students: 4-H, Foreign Language Clubs,Choir, National Honor Society, a variety of sports teams, Band, Future Farmers of America, Pom Pon Posse, Yearbook and Vocational Tech classes, just to name a few. Multiple communities of students were formed throughout our one high school community.

Everyone Had A Teacher They Loved
I have asked my friends over the years to name which teachers they remember the most at RHS. Everyone has someone they connected with on some level, a teacher who believed in them. For me it was Mrs. Wolford, my creative writing teacher. I never really enjoyed writing until I was in her class my junior year. You know how she inspired me to write?  By getting to know me and one day sending home this thoughtful note to my parents. She had high expectations and we all worked hard for her because she made a point for each student to feel special. Then there was Mrs. Zink, my home economics teacher who showed us just how interesting cooking and nutrition could be, but she still kept a tight kitchen. When you heard her say "Whoop Whoop" you knew you were on the right track. She cared about EVERYONE. Who could forget Mr. Lucian? He let us blow up whatever we wanted to (within reason) during chemistry. He was never boring and I always looked forward to his class. Yes, there were teachers I didn't connect with, but the ones I did, boy did they shape my interest in being a teacher and still encourage me to make learning lively!

Low Water Bridges and Back Roads Inspired Friendships:
My high school years came before social media (thank goodness). Our friendships were not defined by how many “likes” we had, how many times we received text messages, pictures or phone calls from someone. Our friendships were made and grew in different ways which were supported by real conversations, not virtual or digital ones.  There wasn't a whole lot to really do in Rolla (outside of the normal school activities and work), which encouraged us to create our own fun. After school or on the weekends, we would pile in someone’s car and go hang out in nature, talking about school, our families, or just singing songs and enjoying the fresh air. Sometimes the day would take us all out to a field, a low water bridge, or just to some one's house down a gravel road.  I still feel it’s important to not have a care in the world, every once in a while, and be able to take the day as it comes. Deep conversations, belting out a song, or laughing uncontrollably with your buddies outside the four walls of a classroom is just another way we learn. Everyone needs a back road (whatever that means to you) to take a break from life and refuel.

But, We Were Not All Friends:  
Like I said, we all came together to one school, many from complete opposite worlds. Not everyone liked each other, there were fights, and kids were very cruel. I'm certain my big perm and braces didn't help. What I learned from going to a small town high school is that at SOME point, on SOME level, there is connection with everyone in your class. Their family member may have lived down the road from you, you probably had a class with them at some point, or end up in the same school club,  or play on the same team, maybe even have mutual friends or family. Down the road, your paths may cross when you least expect it.  With about only 140 students in my class, you got to know each other whether you wanted to or not. Over the years, I  found this to be a blessing.  I cannot tell you the number of times, having a Rolla connection has opened a door when one has closed. When I think about where all my classmates have landed, it reminds me of how unique that place was on Bulldog Run.

Encouraged To Find Our Own Place:   
Small town living exposes you to people outside of your group of friends, requires you to work with others you may not want to be around and introduces you to someone you may not have ever met if you lived in a big city. Throughout it all, we had an equal opportunity to attend what is now a nationally recognized school, an accredited Technical Institute/Center live in a town with the Missouri University of Science and Technology. We were given opportunities to learn in class, develop our skills, and decide ultimately where we wanted to land. There was an emphasis on graduating, but an appreciation that not everyone needed to go to college. Many of us left, some stayed, and a few returned. We gained unforgettable experiences, special memories, and lessons learned that will forever have a positive impact on our lives.  My former classmates today work in their own communities as police officers, nurses, doctors, farmers, insurance agents, teachers, homemakers, engineers, principals, city workers, firemen, builders, manufacturers, and local business owners. We are fortunate to have those who also serve our country, and others who are in all types of successful careers with or without a college education.

Community is developed through collaboration of people for change. Community shouldn't be defined by just geography, but by circumstances which open your eyes to others who who may not live a life like yours. It takes people believing in each other. You may not always agree, but you learn to listen because that's how you end up in one place, together. As I seek out ways to develop the STEAM Studio in Westport, I feel thankful once again to be part of a diverse community. One place where all kinds of kids can come together and learn in unique ways.

Thanks mom and dad for not listening to me in 8th grade when I said you were ruining my life. I still love coming back to Rolla and always look forward to that back road which leads me home.

I encourage you to get to your back road as soon as you can..Sing it Rodney!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

HOT Blogging: Light Some Fires!

Encourage others to share their voice and their passion for learning will ignite.

Why blog? Who cares? You should.  In a digital world where online communication can be cold and negative, here are some ways to make it HOT and positive.

Two graduate students in my ED  6030 course: Technology in the Classroom at Rockhurst University, did some research about blogging and the important impact it can have on students. 

Ashley Duvall, RU graduate student shares what she learned from her research article:

The issue I have chosen to learn more about for this journal is blogging and its place in the classroom. As an elementary teacher, literacy is a huge area of concern that I need to be on top of for my students. The new literacies created by technology make my job more complex, and finding ways to help students with comprehension and writing skills in this changing society requires that I seek knowledge of new teaching strategies. Blogging has become a hot topic for its effectiveness in helping students with comprehension, synthesis, and writing, and because of this, I wanted to learn more about ways that it can be used in the elementary classroom. The article I read,  HOT Blogging: A Framework for Blogging to Promote Higher Order Thinking  by Lisa Zawilinski (2009), describes a model that was proven effective in a fifth-grade classroom. HOT blogging gives students an online forum to: 

  • voice their opinions
  • do research 
  • see what others are thinking
  • learn to gather information
  • critically evaluate it
  • write about it
  • read other student’s opinions
  • synthesize all of the different pieces together
In the process, they learned about the value in hearing other students’ ideas as well as the importance of supporting their own thoughts with evidence so that they could get their point across. With such positive outcomes, this article should definitely impact the way technology is used in the classroom. It leaves very little question about whether or not it should be implemented. There are questions of privacy, confidentiality, and maintenance, but Zawilinski explains that many of these issues can be taken care of by changing settings during the blog creation phase and by modeling the process for students every step of the way. She mentions a site called  Edublogs  (,  which is just one of the many free blog sites that an educator can use to implement this practice of HOT blogging in the classroom (Zawilinski, 2009). 

I could simply stop at the training I receive here at Rockhurst, but I would be doing a grave injustice to my future students. If a teacher is unwilling to take a risk in learning about new technological tools, their students will be unwilling to take a risk in learning about them too. Likewise, if a teacher uses technology in ineffective ways, students will see no benefit to use them in the future. 

It is my job to show my students the benefit in continuous learning and to lead them and my colleagues in a direction that promotes both growth and effective use in the area of technology

For those of you who are still skeptical about how it can help students....

Carolyn Lynch, 4th grade teacher and RU graduate student further explains her research findings:

 The idea of blogging is somewhat uncomfortable  to educators, especially when the word “student” is thrown into the mix. Student blogging can seem like an incredibly scary thing to conquer, especially for me. Blogging is a difficult concept to understand and it’s hard to know whether students really get significant meaning out of the time spent writing and publishing on a blog. However, some teachers are taking the leap with their students and finding that student blogging is beneficial to students as writers. 

This is just the information I wanted to find when I chose to research blogging in the classroom, as blogging takes technology use to another level. Students can blog on laptops, desktops, iPads, etc. Blogs are very mobile and very easy to make. In fact, I made a blog in about ten minutes. Blogs are not very time consuming, but very beneficial to students’ learning. Blogging pushes them to use higher order thinking and creates audience-aware authors (Davis & McGrail, 2011). Both of these skills are invaluable when it comes to a lifetime for our students. 

Blogging has also proven to be a good writing tool within elementary aged students, so this will impact technology use within the classroom. Students benefit from blogging by becoming more aware of their audiences through writing. Blogging also makes it easier for students to spend time on the writing process. They are able to proof read others’ work and make adjustments to their own work.  This greatly improves their writing process over time. Blogging creates good habits and makes it attainable to proof read and revise work. To further reinforce this subject, blogging research shows that blogging is something we should be incorporating within our classrooms to help our students grow more than they already are.

As a teacher trying to develop life long skills in my students, I will incorporate blogging in to my classroom. Using blogging will encourage my students to try new things, as I will also be new to this process. However, incorporating this into my classroom will not only help them. It will also help me to become a better teacher by pushing myself and constantly growing. This personal growth will then transfer to my students. 

By trying something innovative, I will set a tone of learning and technology use within my school. 

Ed 4030/6030 RU students (and anyone else who would like to share their thoughts):
      1.     These articles covered many benefits about blogging in the classroom. Can you think of any potential issues that might arise in the creation, maintenance, and/or implementation of classroom blogging?

2.     Is blogging something you might want to implement/use within your classroom now? Why or why not?
    Answer these questions below in a comment, please.

Works Cited:
Edublogs (2014).   The world's most popular education blogging service.   Retrieved from http:// 

McGrail, E & Davis, A.  (2011).The influence of classroom blogging on elementary student writing.  Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 25 (4), 415-437.

Zawilinski, L. (2009). Hot blogging: a framework for blogging to promote higher order thinking.   Reading Teacher 62 (8). Retrieved from 

Special thanks to Caroline and Ashley, my insightful students and guest bloggers.

 "....doesn't matter what sex you are, where you are from...don't let anyone hold you back, don't let anyone stop you." Alicia Keys

Let's encourage kids to channel their talents in a positive way. Blogging can be one of those ways. Listen to Alicia Keys sing live setting your life on fire.  Love her passion!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Parents Just Don't Understand! Or Do They? Kids Digital Device Activity

This isn't the late 80s, so get with it!
You know parents are all the same, no matter time or place, they don't understand that us kids are gonna make some mistakes. 
The Fresh Prince with DJ Jazzy Jeff

Over the last month I have had an increase in emails and requests for information revolving one big topic: Kids and Internet Safety, specifically Social Media Communication.

I give workshops, consult and talk at great lengths about how parents, teachers, and the community can be more proactive and promote keeping kids safe online. Parents seem overwhelmed and sometimes feel helpless. They are not sure where to go to get simple, straightforward information that is easy to follow and keep updated on.

I'm here to tell ya, you don't need to read every social media parenting self-help book (many of them are obsolete as soon as they are published anyways because of the ever changing technology), surf the internet for hours looking for advice, or even spend anymore time worrying about it. Hopefully, this blog post will help PARENTS UNDERSTAND the why, how and what they are doing with these devices that seem to making our world more complicated at times.

Simply stated:
  • Developing their dignity: If you ever had a child development course or have read anything about child development in general, you know that there are stages of moral reasoning with kids from babies through adulthood.  We expect our kids to act like adults, when, they really are not. Kohlberg and Erikson, two psycholgists researched the stages of moral development. See the cliff notes version of their research below.  You can clearly see why kids make the decisions they do at the different developmental ages they progress through which also relates to their internet and social media behavior.

Erik Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Development

Lawrence Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development.

  • Their reality is not real: Thank you very much "Reality TV." Research shows that kids brought up watching reality shows actually think what goes on is "real." What does this mean? In my opinion, two big issues. First, there will be more drama then their parents grew up with. Why? Have you ever watched a highly rated reality show? More drama, more viewers. Secondly, it (whatever 'it' is) keeps going. Whether it is a comment on a pic or video, sharing of a link about someone, a rude text of some sort...whatever it is, our technology driven society makes easier than ever to keep it going on and on.
  • Porn before puberty? So, this is the real deal, anyone, kids included can see a huge variety of pornography whenever they want. I don't care how many filters, firewalls, locks, security or dog watching you have or are doing, kids can get to it and fast. Then there's the unsuspecting parents  who say, "what's the big deal, I use to look at pics of Playboy when I was in junior high. We all were curious."  The open access to pornographic material out there which kids can view at an instant makes old school Playboy look like G-rated.  Being that it is easy to send and receive pics, texts, sexts, links and videos, kids can actually become numb to the crazy things they see coming across their digital devices. 

Be the proactive parent. I'm not a big believer in quantity over quality, you don't need a list of 20 websites to read, just these.
Check these two out and you should be set.

Some points for solutions:

  • Facebook is ancient to your kids:  Know which social media apps are trending and which new ones are coming out. (listed above) gives parents updated rankings of all social media apps (new and old). See how a fairly new social media app Yik Yak scores here: Each report gives you ratings for categories ranging from violence, sex, language and privacy. The app report also gives talking points for families and valid information about the purpose of the app and the positive or negative capability it has.

  • I did not inhale.  Right. Well, your kids may ask, "did you look at dirty pics when you were my age? Did you send mean notes when you were in junior high?" It's like that age old question about drinking and smoking pot. Should you answer this question? Many psychologists will say that you cannot win this battle. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Meaning, if you share with your child that you did engage in an inappropriate behavior when you were that age, they will come back with something like, "well, you did it!" On the flip side, if you explain you did not do anything of the sort, they will respond with, "then you don't have any idea what I am going through, how could you even relate to what I am feeling?" If anything, you should divert the conversation back to your child by saying something like, "let's focus on you and what you are going through." So, keep the conversation on them and about them. as much as you can, unless you just feel like sharing your past experiences. Many experts like Danah Boyd explain, it's the way you parent through these situations, not the technology causing all the problems.

  • To track or not to track? That is the question. You are the parent, if you want to track everything, some, or none of what they do, it's your call. Curious on how you do that? Check out this website to choose which tracking app makes the most sense to you and what you want to do:,review-2261.html. Some parents sleep better at night knowing that they are able to locate their kids at anytime. Others will sometimes do spot check. Please do talk with your kid(s) about what you are tracking and why. You don't want to be that hovering parent and send them running away from you, but you do want to know they are being safe and wise when it comes to using their device.

Is this really necessary?

  • Get to the root: No one is perfect, especially your kids. As parents, our main goals are to keep our kids healthy and happy, right? Remember that.  Every expert will tell you that the number one way to approach social media issues is to figure out the cause of the behavior. Talk with your kids about the what, why and how: what happened, why did it happen, how can they prevent it from happening again? Consistent casual conversations; in the car, at dinner, while shooting baskets, when you have one-on-one time with your kids are great ways to keep a pulse on what they are doing in their private (or not so private lives).  Use the resources at (also listed above). This amazing website has trendy videos for kids, tweens and teens. Some are cartoon videos, others are real stories about how teenagers have been influenced or affected by internet and technology influences.  A great example of how this website supports proactive parenting is here: This webpage shares stats, conversation starters, resources including activity cards, handouts, videos and more.

Bottom line: Being approachable, keeping that open communication and having a close relationship with your kid is the best way to avoid the downfall digital devices can bring.
Show 'em you DO UNDERSTAND.

There are more tips and resources I can share, so email me or book me for a workshop!

You can sing or dance along as DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince explain this age old issue in the video below.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Where's MacGyver? How Scarcity Can Encourage Creativity

Who remembers MacGyver? This guy was a true hero, he could make and solve anything with household items in a matter of minutes. He had a great lid too.

In a day and age where many of our children are given 1:1 devices, their own room, their own toys, even their own box of crayons and bag of supplies, why is it surprising to us that there is a loss of creativity and gratefulness?

A few weeks ago at STEAM Studio, one of our after school clubs, STEAM Club for Girls (grades 1-4), was engaged in an activity where they brainstormed, designed, then built their dream room. Being that this is our first session in our new space and we are supported by our non profit organization, STEAM Engine, supplies are limited. Some might even think they are scarce.  BUT...

...there is a bigger reason for that and here's why:

  1. The sky is not always the limit:  When a child dreams big, we all are excited. Really there is no crazy idea when you are in the brainstorming stage. It's when you start thinking about planning and developing that idea, reality sets in. During our activity, we showed the students the cubbies where all the materials where. Ten cubbies with a variety of materials ranging from craft sticks, rulers, glue, marshmellows and toothpicks, scissors, tape, markers, paper, fabric, textiles, and so on.  We discussed that they needed to sketch out their room, make a list of what materials they were thinking they would need, then we would move on from there.  Sure, some of them wanted materials we did not have, pipe cleaners, stickers, or small wooden furniture. However, what happened from there was exciting to see and incredibly encouraging to hear...
  2. Soft skills develop when you share: Twelve scissors for twenty - eight girls. Yep. Purposeful and planned to show them the importance of waiting your turn, sharing of resources and kindly asking someone for something you need. We role played and then gave gentle reminders. You know what? No one got stabbed out of frustration and every one of the girls got to cut what they wanted.  They learned how to move on to something else while they waited and the importance of working as a team to get through what they needed.
  3. Real world application comes alive: What happens when you want to make a waterbed for your dream room and you only have some craft supplies to do it?  You brainstorm and share. One girl saw some sandwich baggies and said, "what if we put some water in a sandwich baggie,closed it, measure, cut and tape some fabric over it? we can make a waterbed!" Other girls decided to make a fish tank out of water in a baggie, then add blue food coloring. We even had a hot tub made! In the real world, there is a budget when you are building something and you may only have a limited amount of resources/materials to use. Kids need to be reminded we can't just run to the store every time we need something. You don't have to throw money at a problem to solve it.
  4. Ideas ignite and brains spark solutions:  As the sharing continued, more ideas came out of the discussion. Cotton ball pillows, marshmellow and toothpicks made furniture, craft sticks  stairs, it went on and on. It literally was like watching a domino effect go around the studio. One girl would share an idea and the others would add their twist or another idea would spark. Sure, there were challenging times for them when they had to go back and figure out another way to develop their design.  Through some encouragement and thinking, they built their room from their dream.
  5. A better tomorrow: We encourage our families and friends to recycle, we are trying to prepare our next generation of learners for jobs which do not even exist and for jobs we are losing to other countries. If we want to keep our country growing in a positive way, our kids need to not only think outside the box, but under it, on it, over it and all around it.

Perhaps MacGyver was on to something when he said

Maybe it's about time I expanded the realm of possibilities around here." (Season 1)

What realm of possibilities will you expand today?

Check out this initiative about how scarcity and creativity is being researched:
(You can click on a word and it will show you how others are solving problems and not letting scarcity of materials or the mere definition of it hold them back from moving forward.)

Take 7 minutes and watch this video! It will open your mind about how scarcity can encourage creativity, and Gautam is pretty funny.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Royals and the World Series 2014! What Are The Odds?

We are ready! Got Goggles?

Here we come! Sweeping in like Royals do. This didn't just happen because of luck. Hard work and a lot of math shows how we have made it this far....

Just so you know, the Giants have been in 8 playoffs and 4 World Series since 1985 (Royals are zero to zero there).

Nonetheless, we are on a roll! Some of my favorite players, their stats and interesting facts:

Cain is Able
Lorenzo Cain. Will he earn his Gold Glove? We are all rooting for him. This amazing athlete has attracted much attention for his center and right field catches, but nothing holds a candle to this perseverance though it all. He didn't even begin playing baseball until his junior year in High School (!?) and yet he has proven time and time again this season that he has what it takes. He's known for hitting with the wood and catching with the leather. Not only is he an exceptional outfielder but he is ranked #14 in batting average of .353.

Perez Says
Salvador Perez. Can he catch or what? He's got a strong arm. This boy is 1 for 15 in the ALCS and 4 of 34 for the post season which makes him a candidate for the World Series MVP. According to Baseball Reference, compared to the 26% of would be base thieves, Perez has thrown out 33%. In the fantasy football world, he is ranked fifth most valued players among catchers. Fun fact, he has a thing for Victoria Secret perfume, he explains it brings him good luck. I'm not sure what the stats are on that?

Mike Moustakas. A fellow southpaw, bats left but throws right, this third baseman has lit the stadium up with four playoff homers in the post season. How about that monumental diving catch? Yep, you don't see that everyday. In fact, Moose is known for being one of the two highest high school picks  since the 1965 draft (the other was Matt Dominguez/Astros). His game has stepped up since the post season games (coming back from Triple A).  He was quoted as saying, in 2012, "It's a crazy game, there's numbers for everything, there's a lot of stuff we can't explain as players."

Butler Serves
Billy Butler. Who doesn't love Billy Boy? This 240 pound champion stole second base in Game 3 after not taking the leap since 2012 when he went 2 for 3.  Cain expressed his excitement by saying, "When Billy Butler steals a base, you know it's your night." He instantly became everyone's DH favorite. What can you expect from Billy in the World Series? Well, we might lose one of our more accomplished hitters for three games to pinch hitting according to some sources. Let's hope Billy can pull out a homer, a steal or a big hit!

Hot Hosmer
Eric Hosmer. He's on fire. This South Miami native always has a smile and enjoys celebrating. If you remember, he was on the disabled list for a month with a fractured right hand, but that hasn't kept him from coming back and leaving his mark.  Only 11 other American League players have hit more doubles than Hosmer. He won a Gold Glove in 2013 and currently has a batting average of .448. He's double his line drive rate from 16. 9% to 31.3 % . Will he be our next George Brett

Noteworthy mention: Players above who weren't even born in 1985: Lorenzo Cain (1986), Salvador Perez (1990), Mike Moustakas (1988), Billy Butler (1986), Eric Hosmer (1989). Yep-All of them! No playoff experience...but times have changed.

BIG TIP: At the beginning only 10 teams were given a worse chance than the Royals to make it. But now, the prediction is...Royals in 7. Boom!

For more predictions based on math, click here.

We are gonna party like it's 1985!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gifted Programs: Why Do the Smart Kids Get To Do All The Cool Stuff?

What does it mean to be gifted?

I live in a house which was built in 1940. Don't ask why, I'll give you the cliche response that it is charming, but some days it really isn't. It is in constant need of renovations here and there, but it's the place where my kids run around, learn and explore, so it's home to us. 

There is the constant need of fixing toilets, painting, updating decor and making sure the roof and foundation are in good condition. It's not something we can ignore,  we need to keep looking at ways to improve our house so it remains solid in the years to come when we are still living here or want to sell!

School systems are no different. They are in constant need of attention and improvement, just like any other home or facility where we house precious people and things. Yet, we have these systems in place which need some updates, some renovations. One area is Gifted Programs.

The first year I taught 5th grade, I had several students in my class in the LEAP program. Each week, on Wednesdays, they would eagerly board a bus and leave us for a whole day. They would return to my classroom all excited about the projects they were engaged in, the higher level learning they were experiencing. I was genuinely happy for them. What an amazing experience to leave school all day and dive into all types of projects and interactive, collaborative activities with kids your own age from other schools who were excited to do the same thing.

Isn't that what every student wants? Isn't every child gifted in some way?

Then there were those left behind. The average and even considered, "below average" students. We carried on in class and I'd like to think I did my best to continue to make learning just as fun, but in the end, I'm sure it wasn't. I mean, getting bused away to this amazing building, the land of making, exploring and developing your thoughts and learning? 

There are basically two ways schools strive to meet the needs of all kids:

Push In: School programs that encourage inclusion of all different learning types are evident in many educational institutions. Providing extra support in the classroom can be observed through realm of team teaching, para professionals helping students, teacher aides working one-on-one and parent volunteers. These are ways many schools compensate to keep all children in the classroom learning together.

Pull Out: Having children leave the classroom and offering them extra help or enrichment is still on the rise. One of the main issues of pulling kids out of class for enrichment or instructional support is the transition time, at least 10 minutes of learning is lost each time a student is taken from class. However, allowing students to exit the classroom to experience more individualized instruction can be key to moving them forward academically.

The bottom line is this: 

Should identified "gifted" children be the only ones who get to leave and have all the fun?


Should they be required to remain in the same classroom all day exposed to the same material they have already mastered? 


Should students who are average or labeled "below" be required to stay in the same room all day and not access enrichment programs. 


Could every student benefit from leaving the building and experiencing enrichment.


This is where we are headed with STEAM Studio. Teachers and parents cannot do it all. There needs to be a variety of programs out there which cater to the diverse needs of our students. All students deserve enrichment, regardless of the IQ.

Kids aren't just numbers. We need all types to solve problems. They all are part of an equation to make our world a more interesting place. 
Let's renovate our enrichment programs to connect with all students.

How do we really know who is gifted? Appearance and standardized test scores are not always valid indicators.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Blue October: The Science Behind Baseball

#beroyal  #stayroyal

What a feeling! The MLB game Tuesday night will go down in the history books, especially for Kansas City fans, as one of the most significant games ever. Coming back from three decades of losing and an almost five hour game, the Kansas City Royals finally came out as winners.

With the Oakland A's having a 7-3 lead in the 6th inning, it seemed impossible for the Royals to pull out ahead in the Wild Card game. But they did it, their fans, their families and their team persevered to the very end.

So, what happens now? How does a team actually move ahead and win the World Series? It's not luck, it's hard work, and some science.

Here are five interesting facts that you should know about the science behind baseball:

  • Baseball's Dirty Little Secret: How many stitches?  Rawlings has been the MLB official baseball provider since 1977. Each baseball has 108 stitches with the first and last perfectly hidden. It's also perfectly symmetrical. The average life of a baseball is 6 pitches. The official balls are rubbed in a "secret" mud which makes them easier to pitch. It dulls the white color, makes them less slick and gives the pitcher more of a grip on them. America's official baseball is also manufactured in Costa Rica.
  • Swingers: Bat swing and speed vs. batted ball velocity seems to be a topic of controversy. Some will say the heavier the bat, the farther the ball will go. According to researchers that is true. HOWEVER, it obviously takes more effort and strength to swing a heavier bat. If you can't swing as fast then your ball isn't going to go as far. Researchers, consequently, will point out that the swing is even more important as it gets the ball where it needs to go. So, the faster you can swing, the farther the ball will go.  If a player can swing a heavier bat just as fast as they can a lighter bat, then their ball will go farther. But, if a player swings faster with a lighter bat, then stick to that if you want a chance at a home run. More than anything, the moment of inertia means the most (see below, "the sweet spot").Make sense?
  • The Sweet Spot: We all hear about the sweet spot and how it gives home runs. How does it happen? Experts explain that if the ball is traveling at 90 mph, it must hit the swinging bat at 80 mph hour (on the 1/8 of the special spot) which catapults it out at 110 mph, enough for a home run. How does one know it's hit the sweet spot? There is a stinging in the hands when the sweet spot is hit, according to most players, and it feels the best because it produces the longest hit.
  • Head First: According to a physicist at Washington University, it is faster to slide head first than feet first. He explains the arms are lighter than the legs, and the feet give a little extra push. That being said, players risk more injury with their arms out first, which can impede batting and catching.
  • So Close to Home: Most people will tell you 3rd and home base are the hardest to steal. Everyone knows the odds are against you if you are trying to steal home. Obviously, stealing 3rd base gets you closer to home but there are all kinds of variables which come into play. One is, never steal with a lefty at the plate because the pitcher doesn't have to throw over or around him to get to third base. Secondly, according to the kinematic model, most professional players will over slide the base and use the actual base to stop themselves to remain the highest speed possible. Rickey Henderson, of the Oakland A's holds the highest record of stolen bases: 1,406. This gave him the title of the "Man of Steal."

Now you have it--some science to look for next time you are watching America's favorite pastime. Wonder if all these theories are right? 
Go out there and play ball!

Check out the parody of Lorde's Royals. Great shots of KC famous spots.