Posts Tagged ‘Education’

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THE MINNESOTA ECONOMY

July 1, 2013

 

We really do have to quit complaining here in Minnesota….all in all, we’ve weathered the Great Recession better than most.  75% of the Star Tribune 100 experienced gains this year.  The SAMPLE of what I assume may be the top 12 ranged from + 16.4% to +151.8% increases.

 

Certainly, I am not dismissing the problems; the troubled economy and my own battles and physical therapy since the fall of 2011 have erased a bit of the “glow” I felt after my TWO BEST years in business in 20 years – 2010-2011.

 

But certainly, we can say “it is working” and better than the projections when the 2006 “cracks” and the 2008 “crumble” happened.  Remember the warnings?  The depths to which we fell led economists to project a 9-12 year recovery time and suggested we needed to RESET our expectations because what had just crumbled was “unsustainable”.  How quickly we forget the warnings!

 

Nevertheless, the naysayers continue to grumble and indeed, we all can cite examples of trouble and what still needs repair…and none of us are very good at remembering that life was not Nirvana before the Recession, nor are we very good at determining what is REAL and what is being played as trouble by an opposing political party – whomever that may be – anytime we have economic concerns.

 

So the timing was good for an interview upon of the retirement of the Minnesota state economist, Tom Stinson after holding the post for 26 years  [READ:  1988-2013- the Golden Years of the Republican Party under Reagan through today with Obama]

 

Stinson actually believes the Minnesota economy is stronger today than in 1988, and he suggests we can do better in the future.

 

“Minnesota isn’t broken says the state economist as he leaves the post after 26 years.  Don’t try to fix it without knowing the source of its success.”

 

The discussion that followed between Stinson and Lori Sturdevant of the Strib is worth noting:

 

What is the key things that has helped us? It is improvement in the education of the workforce and productivity of the worker.  Stinson suggests that we will need more output going forward…not achieved just by more workers but more productivity closely tied to education.

 

He reiterates one more time something we have all heard most of our lives here.  “We have never been a low-tax state.”  Rather, our competitive advantage is the quality of the workforce.  “Bright 20-and 30-year olds don’t make decisions based on tax rates.  They think about quality of life and the availability of amenities.”

 

Yes!  I thought.  For at least the last 30 years, I have been saying the same thing a little differently.  I have traveled around the world and spent a lot of time in some great US cities from coast to coast and border to border.  Many were nice places to visit and experience but no, I never wanted to live there!  The most tempting might have been the Canadian Vancouver – but no, I was not about to become an ex-pat.  The “anti-everything that is not a Republican-initiative” folks will loudly disagree of course as they weep and wail about tax increases and like Chicken Little,  keep up the cry of “the sky is falling; the sky is falling.”  And yet, as I have said many a time in past blogs – even the snowbirds fly home to roost at life’s end.  But I digress.

 

Stinson did expand on the disability of Minnesota to grow our own workers to meet the needs of the future.  His suggestion regarding mature workers staying involved in the workforce longer is a hot button as well; addressing the racial achievement gap and the growing gap between lower class and middle class is another, and his concern about education is key:

 

  • GED won’t do it; at a minimum we need tech school and community college education levels

 

  • Evaluate the pros/cons of high tuition for secondary education

 

  • Educate here results in greater worker base

 

  • Education access won’t solve issue; graduate-level research is another key strategy and challenge

 

We all would do well to keep his last thought recapped in the article in mind:

 

I have a lot of confidence that we’ll figure this out.  This state still has a great commitment to education and workforce development. We’ll figure out how to use those tools to keep our workforce more productive than the rest of the country.  As long as we don’t give up on education, we’ll continue to be successful.”

 

That all makes sense to me and I agree. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We really do have to quit complaining here in Minnesota….all in all, we’ve weathered the Great Recession better than most.  75% of the Star Tribune 100 experienced gains this year.  The SAMPE of what I assume may be the top 12 ranged from + 16.4% to +151.8%.

 

Certainly, I am not dismissing the problems; the troubled economy and my own battles and physical therapy since the fall of 2011 have erased a bit of the “glow” I felt after my TWO BEST years in business in 20 years – 2010-2011.

 

But certainly, we can say “it is working” and better than the projections when the 2006 “cracks” and the 2008 “crumble” happened.  Remember the warnings?  The depths to which we fell led economists to project a 9-12 year recovery time and suggested we needed to RESET our expectations because what had just crumbled was “unsustainable”.  How quickly we forget the warnings!

 

Nevertheless, the naysayers continue to grumble and indeed, we all can cite examples of trouble and what still needs repair…and none of us are very good at remembering that life was not Nirvana before the Recession, nor are we very good at determining what is REAL and what is being played as trouble by an opposing political party – whomever that may be – anytime we have economic concerns.

 

So the timing of the retirement of the Minnesota state economist, Tom Stinson after holding the post for 26 years  [READ:  1988-2013- the Golden Years of the Republican Party under Reagan through today with Obama]

 

Stinson actually believes the Minnesota economy is stronger today than in 1988, and he suggests we can do better in the future.

 

“Minnesota isn’t broken says the state economist as he leaves the post after 26 years.  Don’t try to fix it without knowing the source of its success.”

 

The discussion that followed between Stinson and Lori Sturdevant of the Strib is worth noting:

 

What is the key things that has helped us? It is improvement in the education of the workforce and productivity of the worker.  Stinson suggests that we will need more output going forward…not achieved just by more workers but more productivity closely tied to education.

 

He reiterates one more time something we have all heard most of our lives here.  “We have never been a low-tax state.”  Rather, our competitive advantage is the quality of the workforce.  “Bright 20-and30-year olds don’t make decisions based on tax rates.  They think about quality of life and the availability of amenities.”

 

Yes!  I thought.  For at least the last 30 years, I have been saying the same thing a little differently.  I have traveled around the world and spent a lot of time in some great US cities from coast to coast and border to border.  Many were nice places to visit and experience but no, I never wanted to live there!  The most tempting might have been the Canadian Vancouver – but no, I was not about to become an ex-pat.  The anti-everything that is not a Republican-initiative folks will loudly disagree of course as they weep and wail about tax increases and like Chicken Little,  keep up the cry of “the sky is falling; the sky is falling.”  And yet, as I have said many a time in past blogs – even the snowbirds fly home to roost at life’s end.  But I digress.

 

Stinson did expand on the disability of Minnesota to grow our own workers to meet the needs of the future.  His suggestion regarding mature workers staying involved in the workforce longer is a hot button as well; addressing the racial achievement gap and the growing gap between lower class and middle class is another, and his concern about education is key:

 

GED won’t do it; at a minimum we need tech school and community college education levels

 

Evaluate the pros/cons of high tuition for secondary education

 

Educate here results in greater worker base

 

Education access won’t solve issue; graduate-level research is another key strategy and challenge

 

We all would do well to keep his last thought recapped in the article in mind:

 

I have a lot of confidence that we’ll figure this out.  This state still has a great commitment to education and workforce development. We’ll figure out how to use those tools to keep our workforce more productive than the rest of the country.  As long as we don’t give up on education, we’ll continue to be successful.”

 

That all makes sense to me and I agree. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy to be here-in the Crossroads of North America

September 21, 2012

Polaris expanding R&D plant-aims to hire up to 350; Apogee…stock soars; Target to hire…90K holiday workers; Boston Scientific buys local medical device company Bridgepoint; UM launches record 12 start-ups in Fiscal ‘12; MN companies named finalists in 13th Annual Tekne Awards; Mpls boast highest average credit scores in the nation…

All that good news packed into the TCB Briefcase yesterday afternoon, and yet I’m sure the Minnesota naysayers still started this morning filled with gloom and doom-most likely fueled by the one negative in that recap:  the loss of 2000 jobs puts MN unemployment rate at 5.9%.

It’s the old story…is the kettle half full or half empty.  Ever the optimist, when I saw the job loss, I wondered two things.  Was that the impact of the end of student summer jobs?  How does that amount of fluctuation measure up to pre-recession fluctuation?  Neither question was addressed in the article.

In any case, the headlines certainly reminded me of many of the positive things in the news over this last month about Minnesota.  I’ve called out a few of them on Facebook as they crossed my desk:

  •          Twin Cities is the 10th largest export market in 2011
  •          Minnesota is # 1 state in credit-worthiness
  •          GDP is higher today than prior to the 2007-2008 collapse with increases of $6.4 Billion
  •          Minnesota has low unemployment rate of 5.9% relative to the country as a whole
  •          More jobs were available in MN on August 30 than any time since 2007
  •          UM/MN business collaboration on improved technology for fracking industry
  •          A recent naturalization ceremony of 1500 recent immigrants was the largest in MN history
  •          A slow but positive recognition in MN that our “jobs” issues are education-related
  •          MN Millennial preference for “walkability” and urban life over the burbs
  •          MN education system in process of transformation integrating new technology that   supports today’s revised learning theories

Week after week, the good news in Minnesota outweighs the bad.  This week, for instance, has been especially positive:

  •          Minneapolis 1 year growth rate for jobs outpaced the state 2.1% to 1.7%
  •          MN has recovered 98% of all jobs that existed when the recession began in 2007
  •          Private sector jobs stand at 99% of 2007 levels
  •          Building permits are increasing; traditional housing sales doubled between the first and     second quarter of 2012
  •          Median housing prices increased 15% for traditional sales; 30% for lender-mediated sales
  •          Income average of $57,000
  •          Poverty stands at 12% – not great, but better than most
  •          MN just received $16 million grant from Department of Labor to support high tech training to meet demands for advanced manufacturing skills (no degree needed) with salaries averaging $42,000 nationally.

All this, and if we don’t remind ourselves differently, we are pulled down into gloom and doom when listening to national news.  While improving, our national economy was in far worse shape than Minnesota, and is recovering a bit slower. If we are not careful, the national picture becomes our individual excuse for not moving forward at a pace we want….we cannot let that happen.

Instead, I prefer to focus on our realistic local picture, and I try to remember some powerful statements I quoted in my August 10 blog entitled “the Opportunity of the Century”.  Both are the words and optimism of the author of that article, Guy Eggers:

The Midwest with its reputation for ingenuity, hard word and common sense will be at the helm of the recovery of the American Dream.

Rather than keep supporting a system that is fundamentally broken, we should harness the collective spirit and creative energies that so define this great nation to create a new business paradigm that truly reflects our values and vision for the world and that will lead to renewed growth and sustainable prosperity…let’s not leave this to the banks, the oil companies and the Chinese to build…Let’s get back to creative, innovative and smart.  Let’s build the world that we would like to see, together.  We have done it before and we can do it again.

To that I only add…let’s stop thinking of ourselves as the “flyover zone” and dream that as we once were, we can become again, the Crossroads of North America.

 

 

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ECONOMIC ‘RESETS”

June 18, 2012

It is only June and already, I am tired of the political discourses that fill the news about the economy.  One day Chicken Little is forecasting the “Sky is Falling” and the next day, we read about economic optimism as Neal Anthony reported this morning. 

 And in the back of my mind, there is a nagging thought about our response when it happened….dimly I remember the honest dialogs that shared the viewpoint that this should have been expected; the prosperity of the previous decade was unsustainable and we were in a historical adjustment that we should have expected and planned for. Terms like “A New Economy” and “Economic Reset” filled the news and many of us agreed that the first decade of the 21st century was reminiscent of the “Roaring Twenties” – our thinking was flawed, it was not sustainable, and we needed to adjust.

For all of us, I think, that message has faded.  For some, It’s a childish battle between the political parties driven by the single goal of Republicans to oust Obama and regain power at all costs, paired with  Democrats  who foolishly cling to the idea that this new generation of leadership should be able to walk on water and accomplish dreams  despite the absence of collaboration.  In either case, it is finger-pointing of children.  It’s George Bush and the Republicans fault; It’s Barack Obama’s fault – he said he would fix it and it’s not fixed. 

 As for me, I have continued to focus on the uniqueness of the changes we are going through due to the rapid arrival of the digital age, and have lost sight of the historical perspective that indeed, this is a reset-  created because we as a country have gotten off track.

Richard Florida’s the GREAT RESET, kept coming to mind, and after a thorough search of my library so I could refresh my memory, I realized the book must have suffered the fate of so many others when I moved….it was in my office, not my library, and so did not make the cut when I packed last October.   So recently, when I saw the paperback copy at B&N, I grabbed it, and yesterday, sat down to re-read, and discovered a new preface written last year for the paperback edition.  Those few pages brought it all back….

It will take many years to replace the jobs that were eliminated by the crisis and its aftershocks.  The deep economic and financial trauma that hit America represents a crisis of epochal proportions that reflects a deep structural transformation of the economy…

Florida then went on to categorize our “Great Recession” as a Great Reset similar in characteristics to the Long Depression of 1873 and the Great Depression of the 1930s, and together he named them “generational events”.   It took 30 years to recover from the Crash of 1929; adjustments of this nature cannot be fixed overnight, but more important, lasting recovery hinges on four key factors:

  •         Technological Innovation:  Crises reset the innovative engine of the economy
  •          New Systems of Innovations:  Crises create the impetus for building of broad systems of innovation and infrastructure that undergird long-run growth
  •         Educational Changes:  Crises lead to substantial upgrades in our educational system in ways that increase worker’s skills and improve the human capital that powers the economy.  [They] make us better at using our most precious and critical economic resource – human talent.
  •          A Spatial Fix:  Real recovery hinges on major changes in the very way we live (Move from farm to the city; move from city to suburbs, etc.)

 

Basically, Florida maintains that these changes are not initiated by top-down policies and programs from either political party in power, but happen gradually as millions of people respond by changing the way they live.   The lessons of this crisis should remind us that we need to live within our means, reject defining ourselves in terms of material goods and strive for a more meaningful and sustainable way of life.

Yes! This aligns with my own thinking but I mistakenly have attributed it to a perspective based on age. 

Not so, says Florida:

Individual Americans of all ages have already begun resetting their lives and changing the way they live and spend but our political and business leaders have utterly failed to appreciate and engage this economic transformation.  They continue to look backward, with futile attempts to resuscitate the dysfunctional system of banks, sprawl, and the inefficient and energy-wasting way of life that was the underlying cause of the crisis.

Our leaders just aren’t getting it; their mental models are so determined by the old order that they can’t acknowledge that [that order] has already passed.

We need to break with the past and engage the future that is already upon us.

From my own perspective, let’s also add the PRESS to the list of culprits and then try to move forward together in the LONG FIGHT BACK, recognizing we need to address the underlying problems we created that caused this…and neither Romney nor Obama can provide a quick fix.   But as Florida indicated, if we break with the past and engage the future, there is hope we can speed up the recovery so it does not take the 20-30 years of past Resets of a similar nature. We as the people need to fix this; the politicians cannot-no matter whom we vote into office in November.

 

 

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THE THIRD INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

May 24, 2012

 Every day, our politicians and press fill our newspapers, radios and TVs with short silly sound bites about the Economy and Job Creation….All we hear is the way to lowering unemployment is through creating more manufacturing jobs and putting people back to work in factories….and the sad story of those long-unemployed that have given up looking.  Sometimes those stories focus on the over 50; sometimes they focus on the 20-30 year olds that can’t find that first job.

And certainly, these are issues, and certainly business and government ALIKE, need to work together to improve the situation.  Repairing our crumbling infrastructure (yes, that means spend money to FUND these projects) make the most sense to me – it helps provide jobs and income for both ends of spectrum  of the unemployed.

But the argument never seems to focus on real questions.  Of those recent graduates, what have they been trained to do?  Can they not get jobs in their field, or at their salary expectations?  Have they been willing to look at other fields and lower their salary expectations? Are those that cannot get jobs holding degrees based on 20th century skills?  Are there options available in other areas? Are they being enabled by parents who in trying to help,  allow them to move home, and not contribute in some way?   Or, how many of those unemployed that have quit looking for work have quit because they have become entrepreneurs and are now self-employed?  Have we honestly looked at education and how our next generations are still being taught by a method developed to prepare them for the manufacturing world of the early 20th century?    I am not questioning the problems, nor the numbers, I am just questioning where we are putting the emphasis when we report it.

And I do so because as you have all heard me say over and over – the world has changed.  The paradigms of the 20th century have shifted.  I hear little discussion on this, nor what we as a people are trying to do about it…other than grieve for the “good old days” , blame the “other side” and promise to bring them back.

So  I was pleasantly surprised a while ago to see the STRIB report on the “Third Industrial Revolution”.  Yes, this is reality!

The STRIB briefly traced manufacturing history from the first “revolution” in late 18th century  in Britain and the mechanization of the textile industry; weavers cottages disappeared and the factory was born with the cotton mill.  The second phase is one we are most familiar with, when early in 20th century, Ford created the moving assembly line and mass production was born.

And now, what I have been referring to as the impact of technology and digital-everything, combined with customization has created a new environment, that we as a people all live in, use, and push for more of the same…and yet, cannot make the connection with what that means for jobs and education!

The article calls this the “Third Industrial Revolution”.  Technologies have emerged with new software, new materials, better robots, new processes and have created a changing definition of Web-based services.    We all know this; we see the impact in each of our lives…and we think it’s a better world for it…we talk about great strides made in our understanding of our environment, our universe and our minds , but no one stops and reflects on what changes occur in the transition – never to be resurrected again. 

 Although this is my passion and my frustration with our transitional world today, I was surprised by one item in the article…”Some carmakers already produce twice as many vehicles per employee as they didonly a decade or so ago”.  Think of that impact without the emotion.  Are we each buying twice as many cars as we did a decade ago?  How does that all reconcile with the expectation that when production goes up/costs go down…and how in the world do we expect that manufacturers will employ the same amount of workers they did even at the beginning of the 21st century-when it takes half as many to do the same job?!! 

 We are balancing on the precipice between two worlds – pushing for the changes and progress of the future, but seeing no connection to what that means in terms of changing needs that made up our 20th century world.    We want the new and we want it cheaper and faster but we still train our kids for a life in the old world; we pick our leaders on who can best argue how they will BRING BACK the old and none of its fits together for a promising future. 

We cling to old educational theories; when we need to think about what we know today regarding how people learn and what the world needs as expertise; then craft a new educational system that works for the challenges that lay before us.

We judge the existing President on what Truman and Eisenhower, Kennedy , Reagan would have done – all of whom lived, learned, and governed in a world very foreign to the one in which we live today; we consider an alternative to run our country whose business experience all dates back to a time when laptops, and notebooks, I-pods and I-pads were not even words in our vocabulary – let alone what they mean and the changes that they have brought to the very “business world” he boasts about.   The list goes on and on.

In all arenas, we continue to give credence to a hierarchical approach that served tribes and families and even businesses well in the old days, but has been replaced.  To quote the title of a book resting on the corner of my desk, “Collaborate or Perish”.  Big Blue had to face that reality and the strides they have made in RE THINKING their world in a collaborative environment put most other major corporations to shame.

And although I know thought-leaders through-out the centuries have all experienced similar struggles as they toiled to bring about change, the difference is that the WORLD is changing at an exponential pace around us.  We do not have time to let the influencers in my generation die off; we need to get with the program.   While we doddle along patting ourselves on the back for what we accomplished in World War II, the rest of the world is moving forward – and soon will be moving ahead without us.  Let’s stop re-fighting old battles of the 1950s and 1960s and focus on how we as the US can contribute and influence the world of the future!

Let’s embrace the Third Industrial Revolution and contribute to it, not try to deny and destroy it!

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HOORAY FOR THE LAKEVILLE SCHOOL SYSTEM!

February 8, 2012

In the fall of 2010, I posted a blog entitled “The Fisch Flip” praising the concept not only for its innovative approach to education, but also suggesting those of us in the meetings/events world consider variations on the approach as we contemplate how to  better facilitate adult learning and improve the existing conference education model.

That started a to-be-expected dialog with the nay-sayers that continued offline with colleagues suggesting oh-so-many reasons why it was a far-fetched idea.

But undeterred, our collaborative team has continued to experiment with this and other unique learning exercises within the corporate environment and I have continued to advocate for needed change for improved results. So I was tempted to turn my morning coffee into a champagne breakfast this morning so I could appropriately toast the Lakeville school system whern I read in the Strib about their high-tech plan!

Not only has one instructor, Jason Just, “flipped” his classes by posting lectures online and facilitating interactive discussions and homework in the classroom, but the Lakeville superintendent of schools, Lisa Snyder, has launched a three-year plan to make Lakeville the “most wired” school district in the state -from first to twelfth grade.

Although the article in the Strib captured the students positive reaction, my one disappointment was that no reason(s) were given for why earlier experimentation with high-tech learning in Stillwater, Edina, and Hopkins was abandoned.  That would have created a powerful “learning opportunity” for those willing to continue the search for improved methods.

“These are the tools of the 21st century.” Snyder said.  “It’s a whole new world.  You just have to open  your mind to it.”

AMEN to that!   What a great way to start the day – with the HOPE that my own passion for experimenting with new learning methods is indeed alive and well in Minnesota!

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EDUCATION FOR TODAY AND TOMORROW

February 4, 2012

I am not a scientist, a brain specialist, or educator by profession, but I AM a student of the world around me and I am appalled at the swirling arguments in Minnesota today on how to “fix” Minnesota Schools and our education system.

And so, about the ONLY thing I agree with in the misdirected, emotional and pandering stands on the topic is that YES, we need to examine why as a state we have evolved from a belief in providing a school system that continues to feed our greatest asset – our citizens and their children that make up and will continue to make up our work force pool- to a growing belief that the Minnesota school system is simply a solution to a financial problem.
These are pretty strong words from one that admits to not being an expert in the field, and yet, I would go one step further: I would vote to put a HOLD on the posturing debates and attempts to legislate until we are sure those “in charge” within our school systems and all branches of government have put aside their outdated 20th century positions and pledged that each can provide credentials that certify they have stopped, listened, and evaluated the body of knowledge available today on how our brains work, how we learn, and what will be needed from our labor pool in the future to support a state of which we are proud, Once they have done that, I realize some will still revert to their out-dated modes and fall-back position and at best, all will emerge with new differing views on how we best achieve our common goals. But at least those differences might be based on an understanding of the reality we have before us, rather than the reality of our past.

If my own bookshelves are full of tomes that reflect these advances, from John Medina’s “Brain Rules” to Davidson’s “Now You See It – how the brain science of attention will transform the way we live, work and learn”; why is it a stretch to expect that those to whom we have entrusted our state’s greatest resource should at least be familiar with this body of thought?

In the 19th century, we built our educational system on existing knowledge and our agricultural needs; In the 20th century, we updated our educational system based on existing knowledge and our emerging industrial needs; In the 21st century, it is now time to update our educational system based on existing knowledge and needs of the digital information world in which we already live-and what we envision our state’s needs to be by 2050 if not 2099!

I borrow from the Davidson thinking to challenge us all. When we have answers to these questions, we will be prepared to move forward towards implementing needed change:
• How can we redesign our schools to prepare our kids for the challenges they’ll face as adults?
• What will the workers and workplaces of the future look like?
• And how can we learn to adapt to life changes that seem almost too revolutionary to contemplate?
Of course it won’t be easy. Of course we will not all agree. Of course, what we envision today, will be far different than that which actually emerges in the next 30-50 years. But if we put our heads together, listen to each other and collaborate on potential solutions, we will have a much better chance of success than if we continue to dig in our heels and shout loudly about preserving the out-dated methods of the past.

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ODE TO MR. “J”

May 16, 2011

And just when I needed it most – out of an almost forgotten past came rejuvenation and recommitment. Yesterday, I learned a significant influence in my life passed away. And I quote from the shared obituary:

Mr. “J” was passionately dedicated to the power and possibility of education… His educational innovations were many.  He brought the first musical to Staples and the first dinner theatre production to Rochester.  He advised the original creators of the Mantorville melodramas and sat on an early advisory board for the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis.  By the late 1960s, he developed what is believed to be the very first high school television studio in the country.  In the 1980s, he left teaching to create the Rochester Instructional Television Studio…His hallmark was pushing his students to achieve…(and) throughout the years, students always found an open door and an even-handed assessment when academic or personal problems found them in need of someone to listen.

The Post Bulletin suggested Mr. “J” gave his students a “taste of success”.  And that taste, for me, was three-theatre filled years of personal accomplishments that taught me much about myself as he pushed me on ever-forward to explore my skills and talents and overall , gave me permission to be ME; then turned me over to Bob Wise at RJC as well as to his friends at the Rochester Community Theatre.

The theatre skills themselves are long-since forgotten; but the passion remains – as does the message I heard over and over from both Mr. “J” and Bob Wise:  In twenty years, no one will care about your grades or academic success.  You will be judged and rewarded on your love of life and how you use your leadership skills.  If only all students in the world has such wise council!

So I am sad for the world but glad for Mr. “J” that his battle with Parkinson’s ended this month.  And thanks to Dave who let me know, I am reminded that this man’s encouraging words captured forevermore in that ’63 Rochord will be there as the push to move me through this stormy time in my life:

As one of the “reliables” of the theatre department, you have been of invaluable help-how can we ever replace you.  Not only has your contribution affected the shows you worked on, but you have established a standard that people will be attempting to attain for years to come.  So you have actually contributed to the shows we will give in the future.  I shall always be grateful to you, but I hope theatre has been its own reward.  Best of luck for bigger and better partys.  – Mr. “J”

If only this kind of support and encouragement were available to every student, our world would be a better place.

And here’s hoping that Mr. “J” is smiling down from heaven – recognizing I may not have delivered all he sought from me, but, yes, I’ve had good luck in delivering “bigger and better partys”!

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THE FISCH FLIP

November 10, 2010

Back in September, a Jeff Hurt blog shared a Dan Pink concept of “Flip Thinking” that caught my attention.

As background, Karl Fisch, a high-school math teacher has flipped the traditional classroom model for education.  He uses YouTube to record his lectures and assigns them as homework to his students.  The classroom is reserved for interaction and student engagement as they participate in activities, exercises, questions and discussions that stem from watching YouTube video.

What an innovative thought!  Students listen on their own as after all, listening is indeed an individual activity and this medium allows each to replay portions they did not catch or understand, spending as much time as they want or is necessary to grasp the concept and message.  This reserves the classroom for activities, exercises, questions and discussions, all facilitated by the teacher.  To me, this seems a lot smarter than expecting parents to assist with homework when, at best, they are at least a generation removed from the latest thinking or body of knowledge on any given topic!

I had a “Eureka” moment when Hurt then moved on to postulate we consider flipping the conference education model as well.    The standard lecture presentation is available online pre-conference to registered attendees.  They listen, try out concepts, and come to the conference with questions, best practices and examples of how they applied the concept.  The on-site session, like the flipped classroom, is facilitated by the presenter and becomes an interactive and engaging experience for all attendees.

For six weeks now, I have continued to ruminate on the possibilities and have jumped from the conference setting to a corporate meeting, as I envision a world in which CEO shares his vision, state of the company, needed outcomes, or whatever his message for the meeting might be via the intranet prior to the meeting, leaving time for the audience to react, ruminate, and raise questions.  All of this could then be gathered pre-meeting as basis for the at-meeting conversations and dialogues .  This also allows the standard general session expense to be put to better use in interactive experiences that involve and engage the audience to create a more meaningful experience. 

And along the way, I continue to come back to the education experience envisioning a world where bureaucracy no longer rules and it would be easy to implement without jumping the hurdles of “that is not the way it is done”.

So what a surprise when I read in the Strib on Tuesday that the U of M College of Liberal Arts – forced by budget cuts- has been brainstorming possible changes in curriculum, organization, schedules and….a variation on the theme above as they thought “What if graduate students gave the lectures and the faculty met in small groups with the students?”  Once I got past long-ago personal experiences of hard-to-understand student teachers with English as a second language, and a knee-jerk reaction to additional time commitments, I realized this is exactly the kind of innovative application Hurt held up in the Fisch Flip. 

Perhaps these thoughts are all seeds of the 21st century Learning Revolution we are striving for!  We may not have the solution nailed yet, but good people are having good thoughts as they search for a better way.  Stay tuned on this one.

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THE DECLINE OF CREATIVITY

November 6, 2010

Yesterday, driving home from yet another eye appointment, I was listening to MPR Midmorning Show with Kerri Miller.  Guests were Po Bronson and Shelly Carson discussing the lack of teaching of creativity in schools. The experts gathered in the studio and contributing callers via phone once again reinforced a position I have been studying and following for the past few years.  Brain and learning research over the last twenty years has changed how we should be thinking about education of our children.  Creativity  quotients (think innovation) have been decreasing in public schools since sometime in the late 1950s and we continue to rest on our laurels of American successes gained during the first 2/3 of the 20th century – with minimal progress since.

Right Brain/Left Brain theories are out the window.  One can be taught creativity and innovation if the focus of education includes problem-solving, not just high scores on tests.  This is not a movement led by a single person trying to revolutionize the world to his way of thinking.  This is 20 years of amassed facts by a growing body of experts with not only research but case studies to back up their theories.

Just last week, I was enjoying breakfast at the Nicollet Island Inn and overheard (and I confess, then eves-dropped) on a conversation at the next table.  Two gentlemen were discussing break-throughs in bringing design method of learning to K-12; teaching collaboration, socialized learning, and patterning learning found in Design Schools such as the School of Architecture with good results – as they explored how they could work together to bring these results into the forefront in the Minneapolis community. 

And yet, the public discourse on the topic remains tightly held in the hands of politicians wrestling with teachers, administration, parents and the teachers unions over old-school methods , using historical 20th century results  and disproven truths to support why they are RIGHT in their antiquated thinking.  

Surely, education experts focusing on what we know today about learning and innovation should get their chance on the stage soon – but I am not optimistic.  We are so caught up in preserving the 20th century “America Rules” mentality that we cannot open our minds to how we can move forward –despite all signals pointing to the wave of American world dominance is over.

As for me, unfortunately, since I was driving and somewhat distracted by my eye issues, I do not recall all the details of the MPR discussion…so two new books are added to my “Must Read” list – Carson’s “The Creative Brain” and Bronson’s “NutureShock: New Thinking about Children”. 

 So like it or not, expect to hear more on this topic in the future!

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AND SPEAKING OF EDUCATION…

April 8, 2010

I certainly got my money’s worth yesterday at the NACE one day conference at the Hilton. Although I occasionally attend a monthly NACE meeting, this was my first experience at the conference. Accolades go to all those involved in the planning and implementation of this great day.

Welcomed with a “torched” piece of grapefruit and unique breakfast food and beverage stations, I immediately spied a new “find” in the trade show….as I met Meg Hillary, and brainstormed applications for use of her new “luminaries” for special events.

One of the highlights of the day for me was the Opening Keynote by Sonny Granguly of WeddingWired. I often wonder if I will ever be able to absorb, use and get return from all the social media options available and still to come, so it was so comforting to learn from Sonny, there are five social media places where we want to spend our time – and of those, I am already a part of two. Of course, his suggestions for how to be most effective and get the most of those five will keep me busy for some time, but at least I now have clarity on what I need to do. From there, we moved on to his five tips of how to succeed in the world of social media, and ended with his predictions for the future. His closing video has my head spinning yet today.

The hour flew by, not only because of what he was sharing, but because he kept us engaged with questions posed to us, and of course, because he ignored the stage and podium provided to him and joined us in front of the stage. YES!

Our lunch, billed as an”Artistic Food Styling and Presentation” was a very fun experience. As we entered the room, we were immediately engaged as signs of the artist were everywhere – with paint cans, paint sticks and brushes and paint color swatches – a good job by Festivities to tie the table décor to the essence of the lunch. The conference description of this event was right on – “First impressions are lasting impressions even before the food is tasted.” With chefs responsible for each course on stage prepping and finishing their contribution while answering questions on ingredients, tips and trends, the food when served became an affirmation of great culinary artistry as well as an exciting journey through a wide array of intriguing international flavors and tastes.

Perhaps it was my aversion to games; perhaps it was because it was nearing the end of the day, or perhaps it was just my lack of patience with the seemingly disorganization to the beginning of the Catering Jeopardy session, but I chose to leave that gathering and catch up on a bit of business. So I forfeited the chance to test my own catering acumen against those of the professional catering executives in the room –but I am sure I would have learned a lot had I stayed.

And finally, what I thought originally I had come for – the closing session featuring the Experiential Wedding produced by the Wedding Guys. Although I don’t do weddings, much of what they covered in terms of trends in design and experiences were transferable to my world, and yes, Matt, I agree – one CAN find inspiration in a garage! And, Bruce,– who knew a five-course, butler-passed dinner reception could work so well – all inspired by a concern for guest comfort and desire to eliminate the juggling act of plate, fork, and glass while mingling! It worked I think, and kudos to the Hilton to be able to translate that inspiration into a reality.

A job well done by all involved! I’m sure I will be back again next year.