Monday, September 22, 2014

Westport Bound: Bringing Education to the Original Entertainment District

Read about another reason Westport rocks!

For those who live in Kansas City, Westport brings us entertainment, hotels, restaurants, services, shopping and some of our favorite bars. What many do not know is that this area is a great place to learn. Learn about culture, engage in interesting conversations, walk around and observe people from all different walks of life and enjoy a thriving setting that is over 150 years old.

This past week two groups of students (K-8) from Visitation Catholic School were bused down to Westport to the Gould Evans Architectural Firm for two different after school clubs provided by a non-profit STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) Engine. STEAM Engine has been a passion of mine for quite awhile. After much planning and paperwork, we just got the green light a few weeks ago. My partners, Matt Gunter and Hank Stratemeier and I are thrilled to have started a non-profit organization that will focus on encouraging learners of all ages to grow through STEAM initiatives and activities.

Why Westport?  Last fall, I started collaborating with David Reid and Emily Harrold from  Gould Evans Architectural Firm to create a STEAM Studio in the available loft space in their building. Gould Evans has partnered with our non-profit, STEAM Engine to provide a unique, "anti-classroom" collaborative space for kids to feel comfortable being in. You can read more about how we designed the space to pilot some programs this summer. It was a huge success! Westport has been especially popular and continually growing over the last few years. I am beyond excited to support this growth in a different way.

Why Buses?  Our Catholic School K-8 kids don't take buses to or from school.They typically are housed in the same building for all nine years of their K-8 schooling. Last week they all boarded buses and were excited to collectively take this trip together. No technology allowed, so they talked and visited about their day, some did their homework, while others actually looked out the window and made comments about what they saw on their way. Not to mention, how many parents have the time or means to drive their kids to Westport after school? This bus transportation is also good for the environment as it promotes cleaner air (buses 80% emit less carbon monoxide than cars). Bus trips encourage conversations, observations and exposing them to a ride they won't get elsewhere.

Why After School?  Learning doesn't have to feel like "school" and should extend outside of the school day. Allowing kids to experience a different setting and explore by making choices on what they want to do and how they want to approach it, is key. Parents and teachers cannot do it all. STEAM Engine activities encourage design thinking and the time it takes for kids to feel like they can be creative and express themselves as they want to. Many people have the creativity knocked out of them at an early age. Design thinking, in a nutshell, promotes learners to solve their own problems by designing their own solutions. This builds confidence, risk taking. It also teachers them how to plan out their projects. instead of just jumping in and answering a question or starting an activity.  STEAM Engine activities promote brainstorming, planning, testing and the development of what they want to manufacture: collaborating, inventing, testing, designing and redesigning before the final product. Less consuming, more producing...their way.

Why Should You Care? Because kids are our future. Education is evolving. We are suppose to be preparing them for jobs which require them to think for themselves and solve problems. Our school systems need work and it all can't be done during the school day. Read about some benefits of after school programming which range from boosting academic success, to reducing use of drugs and teenage sex while providing stronger self-esteem and confidence.  Getting kids out of their school bubbles and offering them ways to be creative, enjoy working, and exploring keeps them growing and loving learning.

Please support our cause, STEAM Engine by reading my future blogs about what we will be doing and who we are. We are starting small but will be growing big involving more schools and adding more exciting programs. And, most of all, we are going to have fun doing it!

Watch how Dublin's got it going on. We can all learn from each other, and we should.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Back It Up! Go The Distance With Your Devices

Be a winner when it comes to backing up your files, not a loser!

When was the last time you got knocked down because you didn't back up something you needed?

School is on, work is picking up, fall is here, and Christmas is around the corner. Are you backing up your photos, docs and data? You should be. Just as you schedule to rake the leaves, do your laundry and pencil in time for some football games, you need to be backing up what's on your digital devices often.

Your Corner (wo)Man:

I tend to get a frantic phone call, text or email about once a week from a friend, colleague or student. I can't find ______. What do I do!? So, I have compiled the top 5 questions I've been asked about backing up personal and work items. No clinching.

Here they are blow by blow:

1. I want to back up files as I share them with others without clogging my email and their email.

I have mentioned these before but here are my favorite apps/programs for file sharing:

  • For simple file sharing: 
    • Dropbox is simple, user friendly and very common. Find out more here
    • iCloud is the obvious choice as well for Apple devices.
    • Google Drive for all types of devices
  • For extensive backup (family/home and/or business):
    • Crashplan is one of the highest rated online backup services. It has it all. See for yourself here.

2. I can't load anymore apps or take pictures because I have no more storage, what should I do?

  • First, go to "Settings" then look up what is eating up all your storage
  • Once you get to "Settings", tap "General" then "Usage"
  • From there, give it a minute or two while it aggregates all your storage info and will list which apps are using the most storage. Typically it's videos and pics.
  • For pics and video back up: You can back them up easily to you computer (Mac or PC) by following these directions.
  • I use Dropbox (as mentioned above) for automatic upload/backup of all my pictures and videos, then I arrange them into folders to share with others or print.

3.  Ah!! My iPad is disabled from trying too many passwords, how can I get it enabled again?

If you have entered the passcode incorrectly more than 6 times your device will become diabled. Don't worry, it's actually pretty common in this day of a million passwords, passcodes and usernames to remember.  Here is a step by step process, with images to get you back up again.

but then...

Ok, but I haven't synced it with my laptop, now what? Please don't say I have to go to the Apple Store and wait.

You need to get to "recovery mode": (follow these steps to a T, and be patient it can take up to 10 minutes or so)
  • Disconnect the USB cable from the device, but leave the other end of the cable connected to your computer's USB port.
  • Turn off the device: Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button for a few seconds until the red slider appears, then slide the slider. Wait for the device to shut down.
  • While pressing and holding the Home button, reconnect the USB cable to the device. The device should turn on.
  • Continue holding the Home button until you see the Connect to iTunes screen.
  • iTunes will alert you that it has detected a device in recovery mode. Click OK, and then restore the device.

4. So, my phone jumped out of my pocket and into a pool, toilet, puddle of, what now?
Well, here's the long and short of it. Quick dos and don'ts

  • DON'T:  microwave it or blow dry it. Heating it up this quickly is not going to save it. The high heat can damage the precious electronics inside. Don't worry about powering it off, just leave it.
  • DO: take it out of the water immediately (duh, but you would be surprised how many people freak out and leave it in there longer.) Take a deep breath, take out the battery (if you can). Then get it in a sealed container if you want to try rice or those desiccant packets (you can save from shoe boxes, etc). There are also other products you can purchase, if you want to be prepared ahead of time. 

5. How do I check what my kids have backed up? Messages? Texts, you know, just to make sure we are all on the same page.

You should be checking in on your kids. I mean that. Maybe I sound old fashioned but if you are paying for their phone, their data, if you are providing them with a roof and safe place to live, then you need to come up with some type of agreement and checking system. It doesn't always have to be a trust issue, it's caring and being a parent.  Developmentally (even though they will argue they are mature enough), they are not psychologically mature to deal with all this social media stress. Communication and finding natural ways to talk to them is best.

This clearly could be it's own separate post, so I will just give you two pieces of advice for now:

a. Talk to your kids, FREQUENTLY, about what they are posting and why. Many kids have multiple social media accounts, for obvious reasons, one they show their parents, one they do not.  Here is a great article to follow up and read. It's up to you on how you want to set expectations and how much you want to monitor what they do. Be proactive, not reactive.

b. There are social network protection programs out there, here is one to check out: Avira Social Network Protection.

And finally, somewhat unrelated but here you go.
BONUS ROUND.  I just backed up into someone else. What should I do?

Unfortunately, I have been there and done that. Get a back up vehicle camera and there's an app for that! Much cheaper than the factory models. Check out an example here.

Saved by the bell! Don't throw in the technology towel, stay active and current with your important docs, pics and data. Give it your best shot.

Here are some funny clips of Muhammad Ali's boxing days (you can watch this when you get frustrated with your digital device).

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

24/7 Technology: The Pendulum Keeps Swinging

Back and forth: how do you find balance with technology?

I always tell my technology educational courses, I feel as though technology is represented by a pendulum. Technology trends high one way and then come back full swing the other way. I tend to think of iPads, mobile devices... the "next-best-whatever-technology-is-coming-our-way" trendy technology tools as such.  

If you remember your basic physics you know that when a pendulum swings there are two common types of energy: potential energy and kinetic energy

This is how I see them represented in today's techy times:

Potential Energy: The energy stored as a result of it's position. The higher the "bob" (pendulum ball that swings around) from it's equilibrium position the more energy it has. When Apple gets ready to launch a new product, hello iPhone 6 , it gains momentum as we are all waiting and waiting for it. It gets elevated higher and higher because of all the hype with the launch. 

Then they drop the bob, and there it goes...just another new device with another new charger that we all have to buy. One more new tool or update teachers and parents have to try figure out  over the next six months while students already have mastered it in a day. These shimmery new gadgets have the potential to blind you from what you really need.

Kinetic Energy: The energy in motion. Hands free revolution seems to be gaining some traction. It's in motion and come to think of it, it always has been.  What is "Hands Free Revolution"? It's basically getting back to the basics, where we were before all this technology as far as relationships and valuing physically being with those we are surrounded by.  We know that kinetic motion is dependent upon the square of it's speed. In relation to hands free revolution, the more speed we give it, the more force it will have.

Technology: along for the ride?

Pendulums also represent balance. Back and forth, keeping the equilibrium. So if we view technology as a tool and not a 24/7 addiction. we can keep our balance. Hands free revolution offers that balance.  It's a way we once lived our lives and a way we need to get back to with ourselves, our families. Setting boundaries with our digital devices and which ones we choose to purchase and operate.  We can easily find ways to use our techy tools to help us be more efficient and grow without our stunting our minds and relationships.

Le't set limits, model the behavior we seek to see. I was in a meeting last week with six other people. Two of the committee members were on their phones texting the entire time. Did I say anything. No. Did I ever get out my phone and text? No. Was I tempted to retaliate. Yes. But at the end of it all, I walked away thankful for the other four people who I was able to listen to and enjoy their company. The five of us actually got quite a bit accomplished!

Let go of the constant swinging and enjoy hands free moments!

Letting go of daily distractions and grasping onto what really matters. Get that momentum. Take your time and indulge in precious moments with those you adore. Find ways to detach from your devices. Don't judge those that may not follow along. Every person, each family has their own way of handling how they are going to move forward in this 21 century society. It's important for us to think about it, plan for it and communicate it. In a world where we feel like we need our devices to survive in our professional and personal lives, let's stop for a minute and see which way we are moving.

Sir Isaac Newton once said, "We build too many walls and not enough bridges."

Let's figure out ways to use our keep our digital devices from building walls and focus on building and restoring some bridges.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sloppy Joe's? Not These HS Kids...Tucked in Shirts, Neckties and Working Hard

Everybody is crazy about a sharp dressed man.

Just when I think I couldn't love and respect a school anymore, I show up to a Cristo Rey High School meeting this week and find their marketing card, "Neckties are required." 

When was the last time you wore a necktie or equivalent of (I realize not all ladies wear neckties like me)?

Saw a kid wear a necktie in high school school?
Noticed someone wear a necktie to work!?

Something that seems to be fading in our work environments today is looking professional. Now, I'm not saying every man or woman needs to be wearing a suit, but you have to admit, some people take "dress down day" to the extremes. I understand many jobs and careers require their employees to wear casual attire due to the type of work they do on a daily basis. I'll be honest though, I have been out in factories and through warehouses where I have seen workers dressed in better uniforms and more respectful work clothes then some people out in business offices. What happened to" more is...appropriate and less is...inappropriate? When expected to dress up for the occasion, dressing down seems to becoming an issue.

Not at Cristo Rey High School in KC!

Uniting in their uniforms:  At Cristo Rey High School, every student wears a uniform at school and at work. They are expected to look professional and take pride in themselves and their school. They literally work to be at school, not just keeping up with their academics, but also for their tuition. When I was in high school, we did not have uniforms, but we were not wearing anything racy either. The early 90's brought the "layering of clothes" style coupled with one of my parents inspecting my outfit before I ran out the door. Not every student is going to default to wearing appropriate clothing, which is why schools need to emphasize a dress code policy, but more importantly, have honest and respectful conversations with students about the why. Why shouldn't students wear super mini skirts to school or jeans hanging off their bottoms, could you explain that to a High School student in a way they would relate to? If not, we need to try and connect with this generation. Some of them feel it is perfectly fine to dress half naked at school. Cristo Rey has taken the initiative to keep high standards of dress attire.

Working for a better education: The students Cristo Rey work for their tuition. The way the work study program is this: Most students perform entry-level clerical work. They answer telephones, maintain files, sort and deliver mail, scan and fax documents, perform data entry, or create documents with Microsoft Office products. Corporate job sponsors commit to a fee-for-service contract stating that money earned by students goes directly towards the cost of education at Cristo Rey Kansas City. The Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) is an essential component of a Cristo Rey Kansas City education. Students earn credit hours for work study and roughly half of the cost of their own education. Cristo Rey staff consider the skill-level required for the job and the particular interests and skills of the student. Then CWSP assigns students to a job site. All new students attend a four-week Summer Training Institute. The institute teaches students a range of workplace skills:  communication on the phone, face-to-face, and by note or memo; use of office machines; file and record maintenance; business ethics and etiquette; and, essential computer skills. Returning students participate in an intensive one-week refresher course at the beginning of the school year. What do the students wear to their job site? Their professional school uniform.

Community buy in: With over 120 companies and organizations in the KC metro area supporting the work study program, it is no wonder there is a 90% rate of retention of job placement. Companies are working with our future work force and leaders...NOW. Showing them the ropes, expecting hard and soft skills and mentoring them all along the way.

There are three responsibilities of the business partner:

1.  Provide a positive work environment for the student – give instructions and offer feedback.
2.  Assign a supervisor who believes in the program.
3.  Identify meaningful work for the student and appraise work regularly.

I have such incredible respect for companies that seek out ways to support creative programs which really do make a difference. It takes time and money, but we are seeing inspiring improvements and positive changes brought to these students' lives which will impact them for years to come. We sometimes complain about the millennials and their work ethic, well, here's your chance to do something about it. Teach them, show them, care about them...just like someone did for you.

Let me end by saying that there is nothing wrong with a casual attire work policy, "dress down day" or a wear-what-you-want type of business environment. Anyone can rock a pair of jeans and make themselves look presentable. But that's just it, it's up you, and anyone else out there to take pride in who you are, where you want to be and want you aspire to be. 
The students at Cristo Rey have it figured out. They are dressed for success.

Take 2 minutes to learn more about Cristo Rey Schools and their talents right here in KC:

If you would like more information about Cristo Rey or the work study program, please feel free to contact more or visit their website:

Additional Sources:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Adios! Off to Nicaragua

 "Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, 
a beautiful thing." ---Mother Teresa

This Saturday I will be receiving one of the greatest gifts. An opportunity to serve in Nicaragua. I am  leaving for a week long service-immersion trip through Rockhurst University to Chinandega, Nicaragua. Fifteen RU undergraduate students (selected from over 200 applicants), Ken Mellard,and I will be together on this adventure. I'm fortunate to work and serve at Rockhurst University, where there are several opportunities for service-immersion trips in domestic and international places. This is a trip I have been striving to be a part of for several years. I kept telling myself the time wasn't right, but now it has all come together. I can't stop smiling.

These week-long experiences, which include manual labor, cultural immersion activities, relationship-building, and daily prayer and reflection, move students and faculty to a deeper understanding of the Gospel’s call to solidarity and justice. Extensive trip preparation and follow-up lead students and faculty toward the life-long path of becoming women and men for and with others. 

We will be working with the organization, Amigos for Christ. Amigos for Christ is a nonprofit organization which has been serving the people of Nicaragua for 15 years. This charity hosts over 50 mission trips a year. They continue to hold a four star rating through Charity Navigator. Charity Navigator has been in existence for over 10 years and they evaluate charity organization on two broad areas: Financial Health and their Accountability and Transparency. Amigos for Christ support four different projects:  Water and Sanitation, Health Care, Education and Nutrition, and Economic Development.

A few startling facts related to these projects:

  • One half of Nicaraguan population survives on less than $2 a day.
  • 67% of children in Nicaragua will not finish 6th grade.
  • Skin disease, parasites and diarrhea are the leading causes of death in Nicaragua.
I'll be honest, I have a little bit of anxiety about the language barrier. Even though I took three years of Spanish in High School (thank you Senora Wempe!) and two years in college, I am not fluent, to say the least. But, one of my students who has gone on this mission trip prior said she felt the same way. She explained she just went for it and that made all the difference. Meaning, she just approached everyone she met with a smile and did the best she could to interact and communicate with them through playing and working. Once she started modeling actions speak louder than words, her week long journey in service was a very positive one. She said she felt alive with everyone she met. This reminded me of a quote I read on the Amigos for Christ website: 

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive".  --Howard Thurman

I'm excited for the week ahead! I feel incredibly honored to be working alongside our RU students, the volunteers at Amigos for Christ, and most importantly, the Nicaraguan people. Please keep us in your prayers. I can't wait to share my experience with you when I return. 

True to the picture of those precious little girls from Nicaragua above, I hope to see, feel, share, and receive many smiles!

Here is a short video of some Nicaraguan children:

To learn more about Amigos for Christ and those they serve you can: