Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the tag “technology”

Education and Innovation

For a long while, we’ve been in a rut where we’ve tried to shove a metaphorical square peg into a round hole. The way most kids learn today doesn’t look tremendously different from how I learned in the 80’s and 90’s which didn’t look all that different from how my parents learned in the 1950’s. That is both good and bad.

By nature, I am a traditionalist. I believe in the importance of canonical literature, for example, but that is a very controversial and (these days) unpopular opinion. I can’t help it, though. I can’t help but see the value in art, history, philosophy, literature, and a whole mess of other stuff that has kind of been pushed aside. I’m an English teacher and these days this means “get your kids to pass a standardized test” and “get kids to have basic literacy skills and that is all they need” (in other words, if kids can read, that’s good enough). There’s long been a push (at least as long as I’ve worked in the industry) to help kids gain “21st Century” skills, but I am not sure everyone is on the same page as everyone else on what that actually means.

Original Artwork by Casey Reynolds

My anecdotal conclusion is that when folks generally think about 21st Century skills, they think about technology. Cool. Yep. Technology is completely important and fundamental these days. No doubt.

But, I’d like to argue that real 21st Century skills are not so black-and-white.

I’m not sure it makes much sense to divide up learning into separate subjects like we’ve always done. I’m not sure that Readin’, Writin’, and ‘Rithmatic are all that different or should be all that separate anymore.

Educational startup, Edalex published a cool infographic that demonstrates the most-often needed skills in modern-day workplaces. They include the following soft skills:

  1. Creativity
  2. Persuasion
  3. Collaboration
  4. Adaptability
  5. Emotional Intelligence

The Edalex website also includes these “hard” skills:

  1. Blockchain
  2. Cloud computing
  3. Analytical reasoning
  4. Artificial intelligence
  5. UX design
  6. Business analysis
  7. Affiliate marketing
  8. Sales
  9. Scientific computing
  10. Video production

You might notice that, indeed, the “hard” skills mentioned are tech-heavy. But, one thing I notice is that NONE of the skills on either list is a class taught to teenagers and only some are taught at colleges and universities. So, my argument is that “English I” and “Algebra” and “American History” and “Chemistry” aren’t necessarily best-suited to exist within their own little corners of education alone. They need to be a part of a larger conceptualization of learning where multi-faceted problems must be solved by considering a variety of lenses, areas of expertise, and “subjects.”

In the biz, we refer to this as “interdisciplinary” or “cross-curricular” education. It isn’t the norm in most places, though there is a cadre of organizations doing this sort of thing online. Most brick-and-mortar schools still have “periods” in a day where student shift from one classroom to another doing work that is largely taught as being completely separate from what they learned in any other classroom that same day.

But, the world doesn’t typically exist within these confines. If I need to plan community infrastructure or evaluate best practices in marketing or build programming for veterans or create solutions to political conflicts, I won’t just use “math” or “English” or even “engineering.” I’d need an interconnected and collaborative team of folks who have more than just niche knowledge in a sub-subject. So, why do we pretend, still in schools today, that music class and geometry class and biology class are so…different?

When I was in school, I was “not good at math.” I was, instead, “good at English.” But, what does that even mean? Now, as an adult, I realize that it meant, at the time, that I struggled to conceptualize theoretical figures and information and that visual forms of data were easier for me to digest. If I had not had English and math separated out and instead had curriculum that intertwined them, imagine how different my understanding would have been not only in those subject areas, but also in my own sense of self-worth.

I encourage you to look more into organizations who are innovating in education. I am not suggesting that you pull your child out of public school right now and send him to a fancy and brand-new cyber academy. But, I mean, you can if you want. But, I actually very much believe in the power and importance of society-building public education. I just wonder if the long-held beliefs about how the public school system as a whole operates might not benefit from taking a look at some alternate ways of doing things.

Some cool folks to check out:

  1. Astra Nova
  2. Prisma
  3. Remake Learning
  4. You Media Learning Labs Network
  5. Quest to Learn
  6. Fuse Studio

Congratulations! You have Water-Elf Disease!

Much is debatable in this day and age.  We are constantly inundated with arguments of political, sociological, theological, philosophical and historical nature.

According to some sites, this little guy has Yellow Fever, Acid Reflux, Bubonic Plague and a splinter.

According to some sites, this little guy has Yellow Fever, Acid Reflux, Bubonic Plague and a splinter.

I think we can all agree on one thing, though:  the best place for medical advice is the internet.

According to WebMD, I may have Cystic Fibrosis, Emphysema, Multiple Sclerosis, Windburn, Breast Cancer, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Dementia, Hepatits A, B or C, Lyme Disease, Malnutrition, Typhoid Fever or Radon Exposure.

To be clear, the sypmtoms I put in were related to being tired.  When asked if I bruise easily, I said that I do.  I also responded that I do, indeed, have dry skin.

That’s it.  From that, WebMD has determined that I have Typhoid Fever, which is frankly not something I have heard of since I used to play Oregon Trail on that one computer we had in the school library during study hall.

Other websites asked other batteries of questions that I answered honestly.  My potential diagnoses ranged from cancer and HIV to dehydration and mild anxiety.

When I put my main complaint as “fatigue,” though, not one website asked me if I was a parent.  Therefore, I was certainly not ever asked if I was a parent of two small children who sometimes have fights that must be broken up and who run seemingly incessantly during waking hours, or if in addition to my work as a parent I also worked a full-time paying job that required me to have a high level of patience and to stand for long periods of time, or if I live in a part of the country not prone to sunshine and year-round weather where my family and I could enjoy fresh air and Vitamin D, or if my boss was a dick, my family didn’t get along, my bills were piling up, my pet needed medical care, my house needed to be cleaned, my car needed to go to the mechanic, or my son’s preschool was giving me shit because I can’t volunteer or be around like the Stay-At-Home Moms can.

For, if the mighty internet had asked some of those questions, it might have come up with something more insightful and less alarming for my condition other than Syphilis.

And, while I don’t have ALL of the above listed “symptoms,” there are people who do.  And, on any given day, we all have a pile of crap we’re dealing with.

Just how DOES she do it?Oh...that's how...

Just how DOES she do it?
Oh…that’s how…

So, this all makes me wonder if anyone is really making the WonderParent thing work.

I would like to hear from you.  If you are a SuperMom or a SuperDad, please comment.  I would love to hear your tips and pointers for getting my act together and becoming the multi-armed Hindu Goddess-type I always thought I might be.

 

She’s Crafty, or, “How Pinterest Saved my Life”

Where have you been all my life?

   Honestly, I have no idea how I lived a reasonable life before Pinterest came into my world.

It occurred to me some time ago that the main cause of Disgruntled Mom Syndrome (or DMS) stems from a vacuous feeling of loss of self and a nagging wonder when one might ever have anything of one’s own ever again. Anyone who is a caregiver can get DMS. The causes are well known: you need only have an earth-shaking priority shift from your own, happily selfish life to a life that will not allow you to make your own schedule or have your own interests. Many people who care for children, elderly relatives or disabled family members may feel the effects of DMS. It is often just too hard to find the time and energy to fix cars, paint, dance, jog, yodel, meditate or whittle wood once your primary focus in life is to look after others.

But, there’s hope!

Have you heard about this thing called the Internet? There are, like, a bunch of ideas out there to help you remember yourself again. You can be online while rocking a baby to sleep (like I am right now). You may find that you stumble across some things you might think would be fun to do, make, read or see “when and if you could find the time.”

But, I always assumed I’d never get that time to myself, or I’d forget all of those fun ideas or I’d decide to use any found spare time for Jello shots or sleep. Either one would typically make me more pleasant to be around afterward.

Now, though, I “pin” the cute ideas and don’t beat myself up if I can’t or don’t get around to them. But, when I do have some time, I check my pinboard every now and again. In many cases, I can be inspired at least to start a fun craft or plan a delicious meal for another day. Pretty soon, these small chunks of “me time” have given me my sense of self back. and, before I know it, I’ve made my own glitter shoes and read “The Fountainhead” (but not at the same time).

Tonight, we shall feast on Chicken Tagine. Epicurious gave it 5 stars. And I wouldn’t have even heard about it had it not been for Pinterest. Of course, if it sucks, then I will be back with another blog about how Pinterest will poison your family and ruin your life. I will let ya know.

 

Follow me…

After my last post, I decided to join the 21st Century in an effort to slow my aging process, act younger and get my shit together. I also drank 3 (Yes — 3!) beers last night with this same goal in mind, y’all.
Join me in my travels through the modern era — @OffDutyMom on TWITTER!!

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