Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why Care About Water?

After viewing the video and reflecting on the video about water levels on Earth are going to rise over the next 100+years, share some of your thoughts on this issue. You might wish to discuss what you see as the biggest concern, things we can do now to help reverse the damage, and things that you can do as an individual to help with the water shortage issue. Please explain how you think these issues will impact you in your lifetime.

REMEMBER---type your reply in a Google Doc then copy and paste the text into the reply box on this blog. This will protect you in the event your post doesn't save properly.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Importance of an Education

Malala Yousafzai is a brave young woman. She takes education very seriously. What are some things you learned from listening to her? Why do you think many American students are not as passionate about their education as she is? What could we do to improve the school system in our country to make it more appealing?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Feared or Loved?

In The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli says,  “it is much safer to be feared than loved because is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness (lack of character) of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.” 

This advice was intended for political leaders, but it can be applied to a number of situations. In your response, you must make an argument for both sides then explain which approach you believe is most effective. 

You will have at least three paragraphs that are 4-5 sentences in length. One paragraph will be about why being feared is better than being loved. Another paragraph about why it is better to be loved than feared and then a final paragraph where you explain which one you believe is more effective AND why you believe this to be true. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Read this story about a student in Texas who is refusing to follow a school policy that has students wear a name badge that contains an electronic tracking chip.

If you are in my afternoon classes (Monday/Wednesday) then you must make a case FOR the school and why wearing the badge is a good thing. If you are in my morning classes (Tue/Th) then you must make a case FOR the student and back up her reasons why it is not a good thing to wear the badges.

Your reply should be at least one FULL paragraph or at least 6-7 sentences in length. Your arguments need to be valid, not "this is stupid" type of comments.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Write a reflection in which you include the following points. Your reply will go on the class blog AND you will copy and paste it on the "Blog" page on your Google Site. You also need to link to your blog on the "Blog" page of your Google Site.
  • What does it mean to you to know that when you blog your audience can potentially be anyone in the world?
  • How do you see blogging changing the way you communicate within the classroom?
  • Pretend you have the opportunity to explain to teachers how blogging can make learning more relevant. What will you tell them? What suggestions would you make for ways you could use blogging in the classroom?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Different Path to Educational Success

"Finding a Different Path" from Nebraska Loves Public Schools

I have had the privilege of teaching at VALTS since 2005. If you follow me on Twitter you will often see me tweet things like, "You know what I get to do today? I get to teach!" I am truly passionate about teaching and making a positive difference in the lives of my students.  I can count my "bad days" at VALTS on one hand. 

VALTS is an alternative school which is under the direction of ESU13. Districts participate in VALTS by purchasing seats. Students attend classes at VALTS, but they are still considered students in their home districts. They follow the credit requirements of their home schools. Students earn credits by taking classes at our school, working, and taking college classes. Once they meet the requirements they are eligible to graduate and earn their diploma from their home district. 

We just learned our school might be in jeopardy when Scottsbluff, the owner half of the seats at VALTS, announced they are exploring the option starting their own alternative program. While it is depressing to consider the notion that VALTS might have to close its doors at some point in the future, it is important to acknowledge that Scottsbluff has the obligation to make decisions that are in the best interest of all of their students. I sincerely hope that VALTS can still be part of their overall plan to meet the needs of their students.

Both current and former students are taking it upon themselves to use various social media outlets to share their personal stories of how VALTS changed their lives. I am trying to aggregate all of these testimonials in a Google Doc which is linked just below the video at the top of this post. I'm only sharing posts and stories that are positive. Negativity does nothing but create rifts during a time when we all need to work together to find a solution.

Within an hour of hearing about the possibility that their school might close, one of the students made a Facebook group and another one started a Facebook page. A current student who feels very strongly about out school created this moving video.

As an alternative education teacher, I have always been curious about what causes so many students to drop out of school. Since the vast majority of my students are "at-risk" I respect and value their insight and expertise on this topic. On at least two dozen occasions since I started teaching at VALTS,  I have asked my students what factors brought them to my school. They usually look at me with a puzzled expression then go on to explain that nobody has ever thought to ask them something like this. What they have to say is not always easy to hear, but they are brutally honest and their answers help explain why so many students simply quit. It is our students that can provide the answers to fixing what is wrong with our schools.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Identity Day!

VALTS students are in the midst of preparing for a very special event. On the afternoon of March 1 the students are going to participate in our first ever Identity Day. I learned about this idea from George Couros, an educator in Canada. The idea is really very simple. Students select a topic that they care deeply about, they create a project around this topic, and then they share what they have made with the school community. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to learn more about my students and for them to get to know each other better. This event also serves as a reminder that learning should focus on the students.

We are going to open up our event to parents and the principals and counselors from the local area schools. I hope that it is well-attended. My students have selected some really great topics to share.

If you happen to be in the area on March 1 from 4-6pm please stop by the Harms Building.

More examples of Identity Day

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Do Leaders Have Moral Obligations?

During the last couple of weeks the media has covered a story from Penn State regarding a coach who has been accused of sexually abusing a number of boys over many years.

We will discuss this event in class using the following resources:

Once we discuss this in class your job is to write a response to the following questions which have been taken from the NY Times post:

  • Tell us how far you think responsibility extends for leaders like Joe Paterno.
  • Do they generally have a moral obligation to take action in cases that do not necessarily fall under their specific authority? Or is that too high a standard?
  • Is it enough to have major achievements and a great deal of respect?
  • Or does leadership carry with it higher responsibilities?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Google Search

If you were like most people you more than likely familiar with using the Google search engine. Chances are you were also not conducting the best search possible because you just weren't aware of how to do a more efficient search.

Take a few minutes to reflect on what you learned about searching during this unit. What are some things you will do differently from now on? Did you learn anything from this unit that you will share with your friends or teachers to help then navigate the web more effectively?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cloud Computing and Google Docs

Take some time to think back on what you have learned about cloud computing and the impact that services such as Google Docs can have in the typical classroom. Reflect on the following points:
  • Knowing what you know now about cloud computing, what will change about the way you work with documents, pictures, and other types of files?
  • Will you be more likely to use Google Docs?
  • Pretend like you are having a conversation about Google Docs with a teacher. What do you tell them to convince them that Google Docs will help improve communication and collaboration with the students in the school?
  • How do you see a tool like GoogleDocs allowing the classroom to extend beyond the physical walls of a classroom? How can it allow students and teachers to communicate beyond the classroom?
  • Please share any other thoughts you have regarding GoogleDocs on this blog post. I'm looking for your reflection over what you have learned about GoogleDocs over the last few weeks. I'm most interested in hearing about how you would apply this knowledge to your current and future classes.