Sunday, March 29, 2020

Helping your local community

From my hometown, Muskego, Wisconsin. What a cool idea that can easily be replicated in your own community! The profits from this "Muskego Strong" apparel, which is made by locals here, will be used to purchase gift cards from local small businesses, which in turn will be donated to local families in need! Check the full story out in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Profits from 'Muskego Strong' apparel made by locals will be used to buy gift cards from small businesses

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Thought-provoking articles

Another mixer post containing links to several awesome articles that I've come across over the last few days. Some really thought-provoking, engaging, and genuinely fascinating ideas, research, and concepts here.

Talking the health benefits of coffee; how the invention of the computer can be traced all the way back to Aristotle; the effects of absentee leadership in the workplace; a simple way to improve memory; why forming a daily writing habit will dramatically change your life for the better; and a woman who can detect Parkinson's disease, tuberculosis, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and diabetes - all through her sense of smell.

"4 Cups a Day: 4 Surprising Health Benefits of Drinking That Much Coffee"

Two cups aren’t enough, research suggests.

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/4-cups-a-day-4-surprising-health-benefits-of-drinking-that-much-coffee

"How Aristotle Created the Computer"

The philosophers he influenced set the stage for the technological revolution that remade our world.

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/how-aristotle-created-the-computer

"The Most Common Type of Incompetent Leader"

Absentee leadership rarely comes up in today’s leadership or business literature, but research shows it is alarmingly common.

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-most-common-type-of-incompetent-leader

"An Effortless Way to Improve Your Memory"

A surprisingly potent technique can boost your short and long-term recall – and it appears to help everyone from students to Alzheimer’s patients.

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/an-effortless-way-to-improve-your-memory

"Form A Daily Writing Habit - It Will Improve Your Life"

Writing can help you gain clarity and confidence in many areas of life. The sooner you start, the better.

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/form-a-daily-writing-habit-it-will-improve-your-life

"Her Incredible Sense Of Smell Is Helping Scientists Find New Ways To Diagnose Disease"

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/03/23/820274501/her-incredible-sense-of-smell-is-helping-scientists-find-new-ways-to-diagnose-di

Friday, March 27, 2020

Labor-Management relationship

A look at the relationship between labor and management from a sociological and philosophical perspective.

Aaron S. Robertson

Labor has always needed management/ownership. It is management that creates the conditions and sets the tone that leads to the various economic opportunities available to a society through the processes and activities of vision and foresight, identifying market need, planning, organization, staffing, procurement, and negotiation. Not everyone can be in management, nor does everyone wish to be in management. Management is simply not for everyone.

Management/ownership has always needed labor, but in different ways at different times in different eras. In the nineteenth and well into the twentieth centuries, much of the labor force needed by management came in the form of sheer physical strength and an ability to endure endless repetition fit for an environment of manufacturing and heavy industry. During this period, labor was arguably more disposable – a worker could easily be replaced, if necessary, and for any reason, by another worker with similar physical endurance. Labor was not required to think much or deviate from what were often mundane, repetitive tasks. There simply was no need to.

As the linear line of natural time and evolutionary progress went on, a combination of labor unions, public outrage, and a variety of laws and regulations sprung up to put a damper on runaway practices by management – child labor was eliminated; trusts were broken up; safety and environmental concerns addressed; the standard eight-hour workday put into place; fairer wages and hiring processes implemented. Technology naturally improved and became more readily available, helping to make manufacturing processes less physically-intensive for labor and more economical for management/ownership. New industries and professional fields emerged. More and more in labor’s ranks began pursuing higher education as it became easier to access. All these factors, combined, created the conditions for a thriving middle class and a better-equipped consumer.

Now well under way in the twenty-first century and in an era of information and innovation often referred to as “the knowledge economy,” management/ownership needs labor for another reason – their mental strength and ability. Again, this is all in accordance with the linear line of natural time and progress. While it was arguably easier for management to quickly replace a worker in the previous period with someone of comparable physical strength and ability, it is arguably more difficult for management today to find a replacement with the ideal mix of comparable, ready-to-go intellectual capability, talents, interests, skills, and practical experience. With the variables no longer confined to sheer physical metrics, coupled with a strong emphasis on the need for knowledge in an ever-complex economy, each worker today is truly unique – truly differentiated from everyone else – because each mind is truly unique.

Management has also always been dependent on labor in the sense that managers come from the ranks of labor. Put another way, labor provides and stocks the pipeline of managerial candidates, serving as the sole source of fuel. This holds true whether a particular manager in question has come from the ranks of labor within his or her own work organization at the time – the concept of promoting from within – or if the manager has joined his or her current organization after immediately coming from labor at a prior organization. Even if the manager has come to his or her current organization from a previous one as a manager, the lineage of his or her time spent within the ranks of labor can be traced back to some earlier point in his or her career. One does not enter the ranks of management without ever first spending time in the ranks of labor.

With this context established, then, that management is, and always has been, reliant on labor, and vice-versa, the dialogue for the conversation of a strong organizational culture backed by high levels of employee engagement and abundant professional development opportunities becomes more apparent and easier to have.

Fun activity with a favorite video game

Lately, I've been reading a book called, Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts - and Life, written by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts, and published in 2014.

In a previous post I recently published here on this blog, I adapted a fun activity/lesson from the book for you to try involving your favorite song. In this post, I have from the book another activity/lesson for you involving your favorite video game. Let's get started.

The post involving songs has its focus on examining text closely. This lesson involves looking at the structure of something. See, authors, editors, screen writers, movie directors, playwrights, engineers, builders, inventors, scientists, artists - video game publishers - etc., etc., all create with a structure in mind. It's this structure - essentially, the way and the order in which something is assembled, packaged, and presented - that gives the final product its meaning, purpose, function, and value.

For this activity, you'll need paper, a pen or pencil, a plot synopsis of your favorite video game, and a couple video clips from the game you selected. If you have more than one favorite game in mind, great! That just means more practice - and more fun! But let's focus on one game at a time. You can come back and repeat the steps for the next game.

Now, to find a plot synopsis of your game, simply enter into your favorite search engine something like [insert name of video game here] narrative, or [insert name of video game here] synopsis. For the video clips, try searching on YouTube. Ideally, we want one of the clips to be early in the game, and the other one sometime later on. You can try search terms in YouTube like [insert name of video game here] opening, or [insert name of video game here] cutscene.

Here's our overall goal, what we want to accomplish by engaging in this exercise - let's listen to the authors of the book here for a moment:
As we look at the most popular games out there, most have one thing in common - a compelling story that stretches across the game and gets us to invest in the character we are playing. In video games, the same structures are often used as in books - ways of organizing - like the plot mountain, or techniques like descriptions and dialogue. Let's see if we can find these structures in the games we play. (Lehman and Roberts, 2014, p. 55)
Next, read the synopsis of the game that you found, followed by viewing the video clips that you located.

Reflect on, and write about, what you learned and discovered by reading the synopsis and viewing the video clips. Here are some questions to guide you in this process:

Is the video game telling a story? If so, how is it telling a story? What is the story about? Who are the main characters of the story?

What is the dialogue between the characters (if any) telling you?

Are there flashbacks in time? Are there written or verbal descriptions of anything? Are there any other unique elements/effects being utilized? If so, what purpose(s) are these parts serving? Do they offer insight to a larger story, or theme, or message?

Look at the order of things - why, do you think, the game's creators chose the order of events and effects that they did? Would there be things not making sense if the order was changed, even slightly?

After going through this exercise, you may be surprised at what you learn about your favorite video game(s)! As the authors of the book point out, "In fact, some students have been surprised during this brief study, saying, 'I didn't even realize this was telling a story the whole time!'" (Lehman and Roberts, 2014, p. 55).

We'll close with another observation by the authors, this one involving a class of sixth graders:
...we read through the first part of the synopsis of the popular game Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (Sony Computer Entertainment 2011). Together, we used our structure chart (see Figure 4.2 on p. 54) and determined that the first part of the synopsis is the 'exposition,' which includes a flashback to Drake as an orphan and ends with him meeting his mentor, Sully, who teaches him to become a thief. The class then briefly talked together about the purpose of that part. First, they noticed that the flashback helped us understand Drake and even care about him. One student said, 'Drake is lost and alone as a kid, so maybe we feel bad for him, like it's OK that he is stealing things. Or at least a little bit more OK.' (Lehman and Roberts, 2014, pp. 55-56)
Lastly, with our participation in this fun learning activity, we're further enhancing a number of skills, and you may not even be aware of it. Just as with the activity involving your favorite song, we're working on our listening, writing/communication, reading, and critical thinking/reflection skills. We're building new connections in our minds, and creating new meanings and understandings. As the authors state, "The first step in studying structure is being able to notice it. As students learn to see the parts of things, the steps involved, they develop the ability to see how those parts work and interact with each other" (Lehman and Roberts, 2014, p. 56).

The next time you play that favorite video game of yours, don't be surprised if you find yourself thinking about it differently after this activity!

Happy Learning,

Mr. Robertson

Feel free to share your favorite video game and thoughts after completing this exercise in the comments section below. We'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Fun activity with your favorite song

Lately, I've been reading a book called, Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts - and Life, written by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts, and published in 2014.

I've adapted a fun activity/lesson from the book for you to try here, one involving your favorite song. If you have more than one favorite song in mind, great! That just means more practice - and more fun! The song or songs you have in mind must have lyrics for this activity, though. They can't be instrumentals. Come, let's dive in.

First, you'll need paper and a pen or pencil.

Next, think about your favorite song. Feel free to pull it up on your computer/listening device, if you'd like, but this isn't necessary. As you think about/listen to this song, what's coming to mind? What is the song about? What message, or messages, is the singer trying to convey? What images do you have? Jot this all down, whatever comes to mind. There are no right or wrong answers.

After you've completed these steps, look for the written lyrics to the song online. Print them off, if you can. Otherwise, have them up on your device's screen.

Read the lyrics. And don't just quickly scan them over. Really spend some time with them. It's important to examine them closely.

Now, jot down what the lyrics appear to be saying. What is the song about? What message, or messages, is the song trying to convey? What images do you have? Write it all down. Again, there are no right or wrong answers here.

Finally, look at what you wrote down the first time (after thinking about/listening to the song), and then take a look at what you wrote down the second time (after a close examination of the song's lyrics). Compare and contrast in a third writing. Synthesize and reflect. Are there any major differences between the first two writings that stand out? Any similarities? Any new ideas that emerged in your second writing after a close reading of the lyrics?

There are several main takeaways here. First, it's easy to form preconceived notions about something without really diving into the available evidence. Now, in many cases throughout life, forming preconceived notions about something without truly examining evidence may, thankfully, prove to be relatively harmless. But in other cases, it goes without saying, this can certainly be very dangerous or even fatal, for ourselves and for others.

In this instance, fortunately, we just happen to be considering a favorite song of ours, and the preconceived notions we're trying to break here may simply be differences in moods. For example, coming into this activity, perhaps you've always identified your favorite song with a joyful occasion. Maybe this song causes you to think about your favorite vacation spot, or a love interest, or what you believe was a more care-free time in your life. After going through this exercise, though, perhaps you now realize, after truly listening to the lyrics through reading them, the song doesn't have much to do at all with happiness. And vice-versa - maybe a song that you've always associated with a more unpleasant or complex time, place, or event in your life, it turns out, is actually a little sunnier in its outlook after a deeper examination of it. If the song tells of a story, maybe you realize now that you had a completely different interpretation of that story before engaging in this exercise.

Lastly, we're further enhancing a number of skills with this fun activity, and you may not even be aware of it. We're working on our listening, writing/communication, reading, and critical thinking/reflection skills. We're building new connections in our minds, and creating new meanings and understandings.

The next time you listen to that favorite song of yours, don't be surprised if you find yourself thinking about it differently after this activity!

Happy Learning,

Mr. Robertson

Feel free to share your favorite song and thoughts after completing this exercise in the comments section below. We'd love to hear from you!

If you enjoyed this activity, check out this other exercise involving your favorite video game

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Emotional Disturbance

Emotional Disturbance (ED) and Emotional Behavioral Disorders (EBD)

The terms EBD (which stands for Emotional Behavioral Disorders) and ED (Emotional Disturbance) are often mistakenly used interchangeably, but Emotional Disturbance (ED) is the official term used in federal special education law, and it has a specific definition and set of criteria that must be met as laid out in the law.

Emotional Disturbance, according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004, is,
A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child's educational performance:
  • An inability to learn that can't be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
  • An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
  • Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
  • A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
  • A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
As previously stated, the terms EBD (which stands for Emotional Behavioral Disorders) and ED (Emotional Disturbance) are often mistakenly used interchangeably, but Emotional Disturbance (ED) is the official term used in federal special education law, specifically IDEA of 2004.



The reason why these terms are often used interchangeably is because it is certainly possible for a student to struggle with an emotional/behavioral disorder that does not meet the definition and criteria of ED as laid out in the special education law.

In fact, it is estimated that as high as 16% of the student population may have an EBD of some kind, and that 3-5% of all students have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. Out of a class of 30 students, this translates into anywhere from 1-5 students having a psychiatric disorder. Up to 20% of these students show symptoms of disorders, yet only 1% of these students are referred for special education services. Only around 12% of schools and districts conduct universal screening for EBDs.

Students identified with EBD experience intense, chronic behavior and/or emotional challenges that last longer than six months. They are considered to have a mental health disability, and diagnosis is typically made by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. They are at-risk in every social and academic facet. Indeed, many EBD students miss out on instruction due to trips to the office, suspensions, and expulsions. Many have Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) in place that are designed to provide customized strategies and tools for helping them behave appropriately.

Keys to success for these students include strong, healthy relationships with school staff, as well as early identification, intervention, and various academic and behavioral supports. Staff should avoid power struggles with these students.



Further Reading and Additional Resources

Emotional Disturbance - Center for Parent Information & Resources

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) - U.S. Department of Education

Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in the Classroom - EducationCorner.com

Monday, March 23, 2020

Dyslexia

It's said that 15-20% of the population has dyslexia. That equates to roughly four students out of a class of 20. Of those who have dyslexia, 20% drop out of high school. Only 10% of those with it are often referred to as "highly successful," while the remaining 90% often go unseen.

Common myths and misperceptions about dyslexia, in no particular order:
  • Reversing letters is the symptom by which dyslexia is diagnosed
  • If a student can read, s/he doesn't have dyslexia
  • It's the result of a deficiency in IQ
  • Students who don't write or read well are lazy and/or simply not motivated to want to learn
  • Phonics instruction is the key to helping children with dyslexia
  • Dyslexia doesn't really exist - it's just an excuse
  • Affects only, or mainly, boys. The truth: About equal between boys and girls. As with ADHD, more boys tend to get referred for dyslexia screening because they tend to act out more in class. Girls are usually quieter, so they're, sadly, flying under the radar.
  • It will be outgrown
  • Cannot be diagnosed until the age of eight



Potential signs a student has dyslexia:
  • Often spells poorly
  • Often reads larger words without difficulty, but makes errors with words like the, from, was, and
  • Very bright, but doesn't do well in school
  • Has a feeling of being "dumb," or has low self-esteem
  • Gets easily frustrated and/or emotional about activities like reading, school, or taking tests
  • Not wanting to read aloud
  • Writes or reads with omissions, additions, repetitions, and substitutions
  • Good at math laid out in straight arithmetic format, but not with math word problems
  • Overall challenges with reading fluency, word recognition, writing, spelling, and potentially spoken language
  • Often misreads word endings, or leaves them off when writing 



Indicators very inconsistent

The indicators that a student has dyslexia are very inconsistent. What one student shows for symptoms, another student will not. And those who have dyslexia can have different days or even different moments - one day or moment is great, while the next one is a complete struggle. It's this inconsistency and lack of predictability that leads to, unfortunately, the misperception held by teachers and others that a student is merely lazy or unmotivated.

Students with dyslexia are visual thinkers, possess strong imaginations

While we know that indicators are very inconsistent for those that have dyslexia, we also know that dyslexics are strong visual thinkers/learners. They tend to be what is referred to as visual-spatial, or, in other words, non-verbal, in their learning styles. As such, they can have rather strong, creative imaginations. School systems are traditionally excellent when it comes to accommodating verbal learners, but not so much visual-spatial learners.

As visual-spatial, or, non-verbal, learners, the thinking process for those with dyslexia is much faster than for those thinking with words. This explains the apparent struggling with, or stumbling over, words, and being out of sequence. Furthermore, it helps explain why those with dyslexia struggle with simple words like the, from, was, and - there's no point of visual reference with these words. Nothing comes to mind when trying to picture these words. 



Three main solutions/strategies to dealing with dyslexia in the school setting through special education services:

Remediation - reteaching in a different way, in a different setting, or at a different time

Accommodation - changes made to the environment, or to teaching and learning variables

Modification - changes made to curriculum

Further Reading and Additional Resources

What Is Dyslexia? - WebMD.com

Orton-Gillingham Approach (a.k.a. "structured literacy) to reading instruction

Davis Theory - Davis Dyslexia Association International

International Dyslexia Association