Classroom Podcasting / Radio Shows 101 (April 2018)

We are continuing an almost weekly “Making Media Monday” series of workshops at our school, and today we focused on creating podcasting / radio shows. I recorded a 9 minute narrated slideshow version of the introduction I shared with our teachers today, and uploaded it to YouTube. The linked slides are also included below, along with our Google Doc of resources for all these “Making Media Monday” workshops. My BIG recommendation in this workshop is to use the app Anchor! It’s free for iOS, Android and web browsers (so it works with Chromebooks, Macs and Windows PCs) and Anchor also provides FREE hosting for audio podcasts!

This is a link to our “Casady Voices” audio podcast channel on Anchor. Here’s the 3 minute audio interview podcast we created today during our workshop as an example of how to use the app.

Access more resources about podcasting and radio shows on ShowWithMedia.com.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Engaged, Educated and Impressed by the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C.

This week my daughter and I had an opportunity to spend several hours at the new Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. Wow were we ever impressed! I can’t wait to go back with other members of our family and spend a LOT more time taking in the exhibits as well as the special events and media “extras.” In this post I’ll share a few highlights.

There were many standouts from our visit, but the biggest one was an experience which we couldn’t video or document. It’s the “Hebrew Bible Experience.” This was, without a doubt, the most media-intensive museum experience I’ve ever had. It reminded me of the initial modules of “The Bethel Series” Bible study which we took a number of years ago at our church in Lubbock, Texas, except it was exceptionally media intense. The Pentateuch is the collection of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible in the Torah, and is featured in this 30 minute museum experience taking visitors from the first chapter of Genesis through the reign of King David and King Solomon. The creation, Adam and Eve in the garden, Noah and the Flood, the story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob/Israel and his sons, Joseph in Egypt, David and Goliath, David and Bathsheba, the reign of Solomon, the fall of the temple, the division of Israel into the northern and southern kingdoms, the exile of the Jews to Babylon and the return to Israel… All of these events are portrayed with a stunning combination of videos, lights, sculptures, and multiple rooms which visitors journey through in different segments. A room of white filled with rainbows after the flood, a dramatic burning bush and the voice of the Lord speaking to Moses, a room surrounded with blue water as visitors metaphorically pass through the waters of the Red Sea escaping Egypt… all of these are masterfully stitched together in a powerful experience that was both engaging and emotional (for me) to experience. Wow. This history and these stories are incredibly powerful without any media, but it was even more inspiring to experience them again through the media of cutting-edge digital storytellers in 2018. This is an experience at the Museum of the Bible which should not be missed!

Backing up a little bit, the entrance doors to the museum are really impressive. The main idea and focus of the Museum of the Bible is to encourage and support members of the public to interact with and experience the Bible, and this is obvious as soon as you walk into the building.

I really loved the way the museum’s digital storytellers creatively employed media to tell the story of “the Great Awakening” in the United States, in the second floor exhibit “The Bible in America.” The screen in one area is a wrap-around design, and has black outlines of colonial village buildings and trees. On top of that background, images of people and scenes are displayed with voice narration, creating an extremely unique interactive experience. Photos of that era are not available, but these techniques overlaying silhouette images with music and voice narration was extremely immersive and effective in telling the story of this time.

I also loved how, in this section of the museum, different actors interactively read letters between different founding luminaries of the United States, bringing their ideas and contrasting views to life. Subtitles on the videos show who the actor was portraying, and subtitles help emphasize the words and message of the letters being read. This is masterful museum storytelling! So engaging, and much more inviting than simply printing the words of these letters on displays to be read by visitors.

Live museum docents narrate and bring to life other elements of the Bible’s story, like the section about Gutenberg’s printing press and moveable type. Although we saw the traveling Bible artifact display in Oklahoma City several years ago which included elements that have become part of the Museum of the Bible collection in Washington D.C., it was great to see some of these elements again and experience the ways museum creators encourage visitors to interact with the. One small story which I don’t remember learning about previously was how Gutenberg was unable to pay back the financial loans which had permitted him to build his printing press, and as a result his press and all the materials he’d created were repossessed in a bankruptcy legal proceeding. A sad footnote to the man who had ushered in a huge revolution in communication and information sharing on our planet.

In the museum’s third floor exhibit, “World of Jesus of Nazareth,” realistic homes and village areas are re-created. In the synagogue area, a docent shared about how the village synagogue was a place of gathering and teaching, but not of worship: Worship happened several times a year in the Temple in Jerusalem. This was a clarification which was also new to me. I thought of the village synagogue during Jesus’ time as a place of worship, but I learned that was not the case. Overall, this was a very immersive, powerful way to get a better understanding of the world, rituals, customs, and life experiences of Jesus and those with whom he lived 2000+ years ago.

The elevators at the Museum of the Bible is remarkable because they include video LCD screens on three sides, showing vistas of Jerusalem and other parts of Israel. The projected stained glass and paintings on the ceilings of the museum, and these elevator video experiences, serve to further immerse visitors in the world of the Bible and Holy Land where the Bible has its origins.

The food on the sixth floor of the museum is also exceptional. We had two different plates which included various types of Middle Eastern food, with lots of vegetables as well as meats. Sarah had chicken and I had lamb. Yum! Definitely plan to eat at the museum when you visit. The view of the U.S. Capitol and other areas on the mall from the 6th floor of the museum is also impressive.

I loved the section of the museum which included short video clip testimonies from a wide variety of people, both celebrities and “regular folks.” People shared how they came to know God, how the Bible is a vital part of their daily routine and walk with the Lord, and how God has supported them during difficult times of their lives. Of course, this made me think of my book and project, “Pocket Share Jesus: Be a Digital Witness for Christ.” As Christians we are each called to tell our story, and it was inspiring to see digital storytelling used in such effective and inspiring ways at the Museum of the Bible to share the Good News of the Gospel.

I could write more about the exhibits and experience, but I think I’ll close for now so I can share this before we board our Southwest Airlines flight back to Oklahoma City tonight. Most of my photos from our trip this week, including many from the Museum of the Bible, are included in this Flickr set.

If your travels take you to the Washington D.C. area, I strongly encourage you to make plans to spend several hours or several days at the Museum of the Bible! You will be so glad you did! The story of God’s continuing love and relationship with humankind is the most important of all stories… and it’s wonderful to experience it in new ways with rich multimedia as well as a wealth of artifacts from the Bible’s history.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Innovating in the Fast Lane: The Role for Technology Leaders in the Coming Decade

These are my notes, tweets and re-tweets from Donna Orem’s opening keynote at the 2018 ATLIS Conference in Washington D.C. The title of her keynote was “Innovating in the Fast Lane: The Role for Technology Leaders in the Coming Decade.” Donna is the President of the National Association of Independent Schools. The description of her keynote was:

Accelerated change is the forecast for the next decade. From Artificial General Intelligence to digital platforms, emerging technologies are altering the context in which independent schools have traditionally operated. At the same time, we are experience a blurring of boundaries as traditional service providers are disrupted by new entrants. Technology leaders can play a key strategic role in partnering with heads of school to navigate change and seize new opportunities. We’ll examine the trends and call out the possibilities.

Book to Read: The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, And Prosperity In A Time Of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson (@erikbryn) and Andrew Mcafee (@amcafee).

Disrupter: Unprecedented Boost to Mental Power

Forces of the 2nd Machine Age
– exponentially improving technology
– the digitization of everything
– network effects in a connected world
– exploding combinatorial effects

Third Education Revolution
– early 1900s: high school for all
– 1960s: college for all
– Today: continuous learning

Stanford Open Loop University

How are workforce changes going to affect our educational system
– The Gig Economy
– The Sharing Economy
– cutting out ‘the core institutions’ that used to link us (me: disintermediation)
– Uber, AirBnB

Digital Divide of Haves and Haves Not
– movement to look at how you consider that the wealth isn’t all concentrated at the top
– co-op platforms

Favorite Site: KnowledgeWorks: Leading the Future of Learning

Blurring of boundaries between home schooling, bricks and mortar, and community in the future
– society is very blending
– people no longer want to consume in silos

PEW research: Themes of Change by 2025 – What will digital life look like in 2025? Highlights from our reports

Key challenge for leaders: we need board representation from our past, present and future
– often our boards don’t change much

Book recommendation: Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future

With AI’s advance we are going to need to let go of some things and some control

Social and emotional aspects of the value proposition of independent schools will continue to be more important to share with parents

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Digital Health and Wellness: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach

These are my notes from the breakout session “Digital Health and Wellness: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach” at the 2018 ATLIS Conference in Washington D.C. on April 16, 2018. Presenters were by Jenni Swanson Voorhees (@jsvoorhees), Richard Griffith (@doctorgriffith), and Angela Smith (@angelasmith21), from Sidwell Friends (@SidwellFriends). Presentation resources are available on the Google Doc linked on bit.ly/SFSDigLit.

Session Description: Does your digital citizenship curriculum primarily focus on preventing bad behavior? We are reframing our approach by creating a “Digital Health and Wellness” curriculum. Our team includes counselors, librarians, academic technologists, principals, and deans. Together we focus on consistent messages that are integrated into our K-12 curriculum with concepts that support positive, reflective, and healthy online behaviors.

Problem 1: Historically no one took over job responsibility for digital wellness

Problem 2: Generally issues focused on the negative

Problem 3: Many division directors / principals just dealt with these issues from a disciplinary standpoint

Problem 4: Things seem to reset as students matriculate from lower school on up, continuity

Want a process: Everyone is responsible
– Approach from positive standpoint as WELLNESS
– meeting across divisions and departments
– calling together principals, counselors, deans, academic techs, and librarians

Identified leads in each division
– those in a variety of roles with students
– agree on common language and share with colleagues
– shared responsibility across all faculty
– approach from the positive rather than the punitive initially

Also wanted to recognize our Quaker identity as a school through this
– focus on equity, justice and community

Created survey to help identify where lessons are taught K12
Created framework for curriculum: a work in progress

Promoting the positive
– thinking about who you want to be online and in person

Practicing mindfulness
– meditation
– intentionality about why and where you use technology

Creating Balance
– being intentional about time spent in the digital and non-digital world

Identity
– understanding how your identity in the real world is carried into the digtial world and always reflects who you really are

Touchpoints for K-12
– we wanted to develop consistent language across divisions
– ensure students would hear similar messages

We have a health and wellness committee
– this used to be separate from what we were doing with technology
– now we look for threads between each

Focus points:

1 Consent
– respecting the wishes of others on the playground
– when representing / posting about them online
– in personal relationships

2 Integrity and Identity
– showing up as your true self in the digital world
– understanding and taking responsibility for your actions both in F2F and online contexts

Balance
– mindfulness
intentionality about why, when, where you are using technology

These questions aren’t new, but integrating these with other departments / areas across campus may be
– awareness about how much time?
– are you modeling the things you want students to do?
– teachers, administrators, need to walk

Activity: Trade your smartphone with someone near you with the understanding they will JUST hold it and not use it!
Turn and Talk: How did it feel when you were separated from your device?
– How well did you listen?

Ideas for kids
– log screen time
– later log ‘screen free time’ and write reflection on it
– get older students to share / talk with younger students

“The Wellies” – a student group promoting health and wellness

How are we modeling tech use when adults are popping out phones to check messages during class time

Goals for a Cross-Divisional Curriculum

Connect Themes
– Faculty intentionally connect threads and themes across the years
– contexts, experiences as the school
– Great conversations about what to do when we take a photo of someone
– asking if it is ok to post it
– this is what we all do…

Book recommendation from Larry Kahn (@larrykahn)

“Mindful Tech: How to Bring Balance to Our Digital Lives” by David M. Levy

Discussing why if someone breaks into someone’s online account and takes coins, is that the same as a student taking something from another’s cubby

Build students’ capacity to recognize positive and negative behaviors and act appropriately in response to those behaviors

Story of how our “consent lesson” was born, from iPads in lower school and not disucssing how to use the camera / what to share

Media Literacy
– students are media literate and develop a demanding and discerning skepticism when online

Great media literacy questions to use with students from Drexel University:

1- Who created this message? Who is their audience? What is the hook? (Who is the messenger?) Who is the publisher? Who is funding that research
2- Why do I like it? (is this something that becomes a norm for me?)
3- How might people understand this message differently? Is this trying to pull me in or push me away from a message?
4- What values and attitudes / points of view are presented? Who is being omitted? Included?
5- What is the purpose of the message? Who is benefitting?

Content creation
– students create content with integrity, attending to validity, attributions and citations, and originality

We’re constantly talking about biases, both conscious and unconscious
– print and digital resources
– look at “the 8 factors” handout we have in the back
– equity in addressing sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc.

Great book for teachers and librarians to use / read with students when teaching media literacy (perfect for 3rd / 4th grade) “Did Fleming Rescue Churchill?: A Research Puzzle” by James Cross Giblin

Nim’s Island also good book for these discussions: Girl represents herself on email to get another adult to come to the island

Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French, more eco-fiction
– includes good story about problems leaving work email open, having a password that is easy to figure out

Eco Fiction is really popular now, focuses on students being the change they want to see in the world, much integrates technology

Forest World by Margarita Engle
– poachers in rain forest, trying to get indigenous rain forest, boy from US creates fake website to draw in poachers, great opportunities to discuss “is this ok to do?” and discussing values, online behavior, ethics, etc

High school books to read and discuss:
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Feed by MT Anderson

The sound of dial up internet

Value Contact
– students recognize teh value of direct contact with others

Session presentation on Prezi: bit.ly/SFSDigLit

 


My addition: Our school is focusing on conversations and dialog about digital citizenship and the ways our screens intersect with wellness. Our website with videos, discussion questions for advisory time, resources for meetings with parents and students, is: digcit.us

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Arab Spring and the 2018 Oklahoma Teacher Walkout

This week in Oklahoma has felt a little like Arab Spring in the midwest of the USA. I traveled to Egypt in November 2017 to speak at an educational conference, and the conversations I had with a family friend during that visit about the populist uprising in Tahrir Square which led to the mixed results of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution have been on my mind frequently ever since. Last week in Oklahoma City, thousands of public school teachers from around our state converged on the capitol to pressure legislators into taking action to improve funding for public education and our state agencies. Our teachers and state employees in Oklahoma haven’t received a pay raise in 10 years, and as a state our Oklahoma legislature hadn’t passed a revenue raising bill in 28 years since 1990 when a Constitutional amendment passed requiring a “supermajority” of three-fourths to raise taxes. Our teachers are 49th in salaries nationwide, and in the bottom 10 even when cost-of-living adjustments are considered. Repeated cuts for all state agencies, including schools, have decimated most Oklahoma public school district budgets. State emergency teaching certifications have soared over 1000, and the crisis in our classrooms affects everyone involved in public education in our state. The situation is dire, and teachers have finally stepped in via a coordinated walkout to try and reverse our political and economic course as a state.

A historic tax bill was passed by our Oklahoma House and Senate the week prior to our 2018 Oklahoma teacher walkout, and was signed by our governor, but the funding elements of that legislation were changed the same week so its mandates (today on April 9th) remain only partially funded. The week before us promises to be historic in Oklahoma, and perhaps for our nation. In this post, I’ll summarize a few key ideas I’ve been thinking about over in the past week as we’ve had the start of a populist uprising in our state reminiscent of other eras when activists have taken to the streets to change government, both here in the USA and in other countries. I pray the long term outcomes we’ll have in Oklahoma will be more constructive and democratic than those we’ve seen in Egypt since Arab Spring in 2011.

For background, I encourage you to read my post from last Saturday, “Pre-Reflections on the April 2018 Oklahoma Teacher Walkout.” I’ll repeat an abbreviated version of my disclaimer from that post: None of the comments and opinions expressed here (as always) reflect those of my current employer. These are my thoughts as Wes Fryer, current OKCPS parent, lifelong educator, Oklahoma taxpayer and voter.

Outpouring of Support for Teachers

It continues to be inspiring to see and hear evidence of broad support for our public school teachers in Oklahoma for the teacher walkout. 3 days ago at our Friday morning men’s group at church, and yesterday at church, I had several conversations with people who were very supportive of Oklahoma teachers. I also had some conversations with others who were not supportive, but as I’ll discuss below, those folks continued to repeat the same three refrains I’ve heard from them for years on the topics of educational reform and education funding. Overall, my sense has been that most Oklahomans realize we’ve fallen into a destructive pit of underfunding for our schools and our state, and we need help getting out. They recognize the Oklahoma teacher walkout is about much more than just teacher salaries: It’s about our kids, their future, and ours as a state.

The way many of our public school districts, as well as other organizations supporting Oklahoma youth and families (like the Boys and Girls Club and YMCA) have stepped up to provide meals and child care have also been fantastic. This is a community-wide effort, and it’s inspiring to see so many people coming together to support our teachers, students, and ultimately the families of our state.

Importance of Political Institutions

One of the key lessons I took away from my November 2017 visit to Egypt and conversations about “the troubles” (as many Egyptians now refer to “Arab Spring”) involves the importance of political institutions. Social media played a key role in the Arab Spring protests in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, and it continues to play a pivotal role in protests here in Oklahoma. While the voices of individuals can be amplified with far greater power and effectiveness today thanks to social media, the importance of ongoing advocacy and a reform agenda by state INSTITUTIONS is also vital. As our statewide teacher walkout enters week 2, we need to remember this.

The closed Facebook Group “Oklahoma Teacher Walkout – The Time Is Now” now has over 78,000 members. Started by a Tulsa-area classroom teacher, this Facebook group has played a key role in shaping and directing the course of Oklahoma teacher protests in the past week. Institutions and organizations have also played an important role, however, like the OEA, our “Oklahoma Education Association.”

A myriad of other groups, like “Pastors for Oklahoma Kids,” have used social media and hashtags like #OklaEd, #OkLeg, and #OklahomaTeachersWalkout to share their messages and amplify the voices of individual Oklahoma teachers participating in these protests.

Photos of thousands of protesting teachers gathered at our state capitol captures headlines and attention, but we need to remember that institutions remain vital to the effective and ongoing functioning of a Republic. As I wrote back in December 2017 following my Egypt trip, one of the biggest problems Egyptians faced following their protests in Tahrir Square was their relatively weak political institutions which could fill the political vacuum left by the departure of Hosni Mubarak, who had served as the President for three decades. The Muslim Brotherhood was the most organized political group in Egypt at that time, and as a result was able to mobilize voters and propel their candidate into elected office. This eventually resulted, as you may recall, in the Egyptian military stepping in to stop his government from severely curbing political freedoms, quashing opposition protests, etc. Since then, the military’s replacement president (Abdel Fattah el-Sisi) hasn’t been a champion of human rights either. It’s been a mess and the cause of democratic, free elections as well as open, representative government in Egypt has been set back many years through this course of events.

Parallels to our populist teacher uprising in Oklahoma and Egyptians rising up in 2011 are limited in many ways because of different contexts, but there are similarities as well as lessons to be learned which we would ignore at own peril. Clearly, social media is a key tool for organization, communication, and idea amplification. Our abilities to organize and assemble, thanks to social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, is unprecedented in human history on our planet. In the context of the Oklahoma teacher walkout, these are good things and show others in our state, nation, and the world the power and potential of democratic activism.

No one knows exactly when the Oklahoma teacher walkout will end, or the conditions necessary for it to end, but at some point it will. This is my big idea relating to what I learned in Egypt five months ago: When the crowds have dispersed, and the social media-charged protests are over, who will continue to carry the torch forward for political and economic cultural change in Oklahoma? We have roles to play as individuals in this ongoing struggle, but OUR INSTITUTIONS have vital roles to play as well. As Oklahoma voters, taxpayers, parents, teachers, and yes – even students, we need to recognize the importance of our institutions and our need to both INVEST and SUPPORT them.

Political parties are not popular with many people in the United States today, and I’ll be one of the first to bend your ear at length about how both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party let down the voters of our nation in the 2016 Presidential election with the candidates which were eventually put forward on the ballot. Our party system in the United States IS sick and in need of change. But that is exactly the point. “We the people” have the power and the right to change our political parties, and this is exactly one of the goals we need to have as we emerge from our Oklahoma state teacher walkout.

We need to make our voices heard and act to strengthen, rather than weaken, institutions which can continue to talk and collaborate with our elected state officials. The demonstration effect we can have for our nation and the world, when it comes to changing the course of our state government in Oklahoma, is potentially significant. These changes will not be wrought by individuals and Facebook groups, however, they will be sustained and shaped by INSTITUTIONS which can persist in advocacy for the long haul. This is a key lesson to learn from Arab Spring and the 2011 Egyptian Revolution specifically. We need to keep this in mind as Oklahomans.

Need for Community Building and Parent Dialog

What are the long term actions we can take as Oklahomans to not only support goals like increasing teacher salaries, but increasing and sustaining funding for all our state agencies? I wrote about this in my March 31st post prior to the start of the teacher walkout: Community Dialog is Essential, and Without Regular Civic Engagement Our Democracy Doesn’t Work.

The town hall meeting my wife and I attended a week ago Friday evening at Wilson Elementary School in Oklahoma City highlighted many of these solutions. We need to strengthen local PTA groups and other organizations which bring together parents to talk and work together. We need to find ways to bring members and leaders of our churches together. We need to “get out of our respective bubbles” and comfort zones, and engage in dialog about issues that matter to us with others in our community with whom we might not regularly see or talk with.

Value of Social Media for Organization and Communication

Social media continues to play a vital and CONSTRUCTIVE role in our Oklahoma teacher walkout. We need to be studying and helping students as well as parents understand these uses of digital communication technologies. We need more conversations about digital citizenship. Yes, social media can be addictive and can have a dark side. It can also have an incredibly powerful and positive side as well, and we need to both study and explore together the ways we can participate in both face-to-face and virtual advocacy for positive changes within our communities for kids and families. Social media will continue to play a huge role in this struggle.

The Trap of Conservative Constituent Thinking

This topic deserves a much longer post in its own right, but I don’t have time to say much on it before I leave for work and school myself today. So, here’s a short summary.

I’ve gained more insight into the routine of thinking which has trapped us in Oklahoma in our current funding mess by listening to the men at our church talk periodically about educational issues. Generally, there are three things they always mention:

  1. Wasn’t the Oklahoma lottery supposed to fix our educational funding problems?
  2. Why can’t we consolidate the number of school districts in Oklahoma (we have over 500) and stop paying so many superintendents over $100K per year?
  3. Why can’t we stop teacher unions from ruining education and keeping poor teachers in our classrooms?

We definitely need to address long term revenue raising solutions in Oklahoma, because on the revenue front we’ve continued to see repeated CUTS over the span of decades in our state. We fund our schools in fundamentally different ways than other states like Texas, and we need to have these conversations. We need to stop wondering why the lottery hasn’t solved all our problems, and recognize that even if the lottery does have a constructive role to play in increasing state funding (and it can) it’s just one part of a larger, more complex solution.

Secondly, we need to consider our values of local control as well as funding mechanisms before we gripe about school district consolidation. We are a very rural state, and local schools are very important. Community schools are important. As I wrote about in last Saturday’s post, the urban and rural divide in Oklahoma as well as other midwestern states needs to be addressed. We’re naive as residents of urban areas to imagine that “simple school consolidation” resolves our funding issues, or that it necessarily meets our needs as communities. Yes, we need to discuss this, but we need to stop using this issue as an excuse holding us back from addressing revenue needs through other means.

Long Term Agenda for Change

We need a political sea change in Oklahoma. As I wrote a week ago:

Radical, extreme voices of conservatism and libertarianism have literally wrought destruction upon not only our state agencies and public schools, but also left a scarred legacy upon the lives of our students and teachers in public schools in Oklahoma. Enough is enough. Let the peaceful, respectful, and resolute revolution in Oklahoma political culture begin.

I’m hopeful we’ll see constructive dialog and ACTION in our Oklahoma legislature this week, thanks to the leadership and sacrifices not only of our state public school teachers, but also MANY others who are supporting these efforts.

Let us pay attention to the lessons of history. Individual voices are powerful, but the importance of our political institutions should not be missed or undervalued. Let’s resolve to support and work together to transform them in Oklahoma in the weeks and months ahead.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Pre-Reflections on the April 2018 Oklahoma Teacher Walkout

Next week many public school teachers in Oklahoma are staging a walkout to gather in Oklahoma City at our capitol. There are multiple goals for different teachers and educator groups for the walkout, and securing a pay raise from the state (which has not happened in 10 years, not even a cost of living increase) is one of them. The walkout is not just about teacher salaries, however. The Oklahoma teacher walkout is also about repeated cuts to other state agencies which serve the children and families of our state, and the need for our state lawmakers to pass long term revenue raising legislation that will address the financial quagmire in which we currently find ourselves as Oklahomans. This past Friday evening, my wife Shelly (@sfryer) and I attended the last half of an evening town hall meeting at Wilson Elementary in Oklahoma City Public Schools (@okcps). Speakers included Representative Cyndi Munson (@CyndiMunson85), Senator Kay Floyd (@KayFloydOK), and Representative Jason Dunningham (@jdunnington). In this post, written on March 31, 2018, I’ll share some reflections on our Oklahoma teacher walkout next week and the bigger struggle we have before us Oklahoma voters and taxpayers.

Before sharing these observations, I’ll note that Shelly and I are parents to a current senior in high school at Classen School of Advanced Studies (ClassenSAS) in Oklahoma City Public Schools, as well as a ClassenSAS graduate who is now a sophomore in college. I have served as a public school teacher in Oklahoma (Yukon Public Schools) and Shelly taught for 4 years at Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City, a privately funded school exclusively serving homeless children and their families. Both Shelly and I have been educators respectively for 20+ years each, and currently serve as a third grade teacher (Shelly) and technology director (Wes) at Casady School in Oklahoma City. Our youngest child attends Casady in 8th grade. We’re highly invested in public and private education in Oklahoma, and committed advocates for education and children here in our state and literally on a global scale thanks to our social media connections and educator networks. None of the comments and opinions expressed here (as always) reflect those of my current employer. These are my thoughts as Wes Fryer, current OKCPS parent, lifelong educator, Oklahoma taxpayer and voter.

Here are my thoughts.

Teacher Voices can be Powerful

One of the most important points made at Friday’s town hall meeting at Wilson Elementary, by Representative Jason Dunningham (@jdunnington), is that Oklahoma teacher voices can be powerful and ARE powerful right now. Rep Dunningham said many of our Oklahoma legislators are scared right now of the prospect of teachers descending on the state capitol next week. In the past when Oklahoma teachers have descended on the capitol in large numbers, some legislators actually locked their office doors or left their offices to avoid meeting with teachers. This could happen again, and if it does, (this is my thought) then it should be documented with photographs and video, and shared on social media. State officials are elected to do many things, and one of them is to meet with constituents and listen to their ideas. It is eye opening to hear about how FEARFUL some of our Oklahoma state officials are today about the prospect of teachers and other voters exercising our democratic rights to gather, speak, protest, and meet with elected legislators.

Representative Dunningham was clear and unequivocal on this point: Our Oklahoma state legislators finally took action to pass a historic tax bill (the first tax raising bill in 28 years) last week because many want to PREVENT teachers from not only coming to our state capitol April 2, but also STAYING LONGER than one day. The March 28th article by William Savage (@thricesavage)  for NonDoc (@NonDocMedia), “Historic vote: House hits supermajority on revenue plan,” provides a good summary of that legislation on Wednesday. It’s important to note the following day, however, the Oklahoma House voted to cut $50 million of the required funding for that teacher pay raise, which was to come from a new hotel/motel occupancy tax. See KFOR’s (@kfor) March 29th article, “House Democrats speaking out after repeal of hotel/motel tax” for background on this, and particularly attend to the comments by Rep Dunningham. Unless other tax raising legislation is passed, YET MORE CUTS to other Oklahoma state agencies will be required to fund the teacher pay raise at it stands now. This is unacceptable.

Some Oklahoma Elected Officials Want to Silence Teacher Voices

Governor Mary Fallin’s recent statements corroborate Rep Dunningham’s opinion that some Oklahoma officials want to silence Oklahoma teacher voices. According to Ben Felder’s (@benfelder_okcMarch 28th article for The Oklahoman, regarding the possibility of Oklahoma teachers choosing to still walkout of classrooms despite last week’s legislative action to pass a historic teacher pay raise, our governor stated:

That’ll be up to the teachers, but I hope they can come up here [to the state capitol] and say ‘thank you’ on Monday and go back to the classrooms.

Oklahoma teachers deserve and should expect their voices and and opinions to be listened to and respectfully considered by elected officials. No one should silence the voices of Oklahoma teachers. To the contrary, we should empower and amplify the voices of Oklahoma teachers to tell their stories from the classrooms of our public schools.

If you’re headed to the Oklahoma capitol next week as a voter and citizen, keep this in mind. Some of our elected officials may want to silence your voice and prevent you from exercising your rights as a citizen to both express your views and assemble, but you have a RIGHT to do these things. We need MORE DEMOCRACY and democratic engagement in Oklahoma today, not less. Our civic participation is essential, needed, AND constitutional.

Respectfully Tell Your Stories to Your Legislators

Another key message from Representative Jason Dunningham (@jdunnington) at Friday evening’s town hall meeting was to “tell your stories to your legislators.” When Oklahoma teachers and other voters come to our state capitol this week (and perhaps for longer) to meet with legislators, keep this in mind.

Just as they matter in religious evangelism, “sharing your testimony” and stories from your life and circumstances can be effective and powerful to sway the opinions and ideas of others. Be a witness to the economic tragedy which continues to unfold in our Oklahoma public schools and classrooms! Be a digital witness as well as a face-to-face witness, sharing facts and stories like this one from Christy Melot (@christymelot) last week:

It’s also VERY important, when we are discussing issues like these about which we are passionate and have strong opinions, to remain civil, respectful, and polite. This was an important point shared by Representative Cyndi Munson (@CyndiMunson85) at Friday night’s town hall.

If you’re headed to our Oklahoma capitol this week, even when you’re meeting with a state official who has an opposite opinion to yours, remember to take the high road and choose kindness. Yes many of us are frustrated and angry, and yes we want our state elected officials to take action to remedy the economic emergency we find ourselves in today in Oklahoma. Angry confrontation is unlikely to be constructive, however. What CAN be constructive when it comes to meeting with legislators and others, however, is SHARING OUR STORIES.

Share your story in person, and share it online. Share it on Facebook, on Twitter, on your personal blog, or somewhere else. Use the hashtag #OklaEd to find a wider audience for your story. As Oklahoma educators, we are well connected with social media. Follow this Twitter list of almost 1000 Oklahoma educators. Amplify other Oklahoma educator voices.

Most of all, however, remember to TELL YOUR STORY with kindness, respect, humility, and love. It’s one of our most effective weapons to change hearts and minds in this struggle for our students, our communities, and our future.

Our Teacher Walkout Needs to be Extended Not Short

In Friday’s townhall meeting, Representative Jason Dunningham (@jdunnington) was clear that to be effective, the Oklahoma teacher walkout needs to last longer than one day. Rep Dunningham stated that many Oklahoma lawmakers will be both surprised and nervous if Oklahoma teachers continue to show up at the state capitol on day 2, day 3, day 4, or longer following the April 2nd launch of the walkout.

Governor Mary Fallin and some (or many) of our current Oklahoma legislators want this teacher walkout to be a one-day flash in the pan. They should be embarrassed by the way their lack of leadership has put our state in an economic quagmire. Webster’s defines quagmire as “a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position.” We cannot find our way out of our funding quagmire in Oklahoma with the limited legislation that was passed last week in the House and the Senate. YES it was historic, and YES it was a step in the right direction, but NO it was not enough.

To effectively pressure our Oklahoma state legislators to take action that addresses long term economic needs of our state and state agencies, the teacher walkout needs to be MULTI-day and not just a ONE-day event.

Long Term State Revenue Solutions Are Needed

As previously noted, Oklahoma teachers are staging this walkout not only because our teachers DESERVE a substantial pay raise, but also because our state has severe funding problems which must change.

Senator Kay Floyd (@KayFloydOK) made this point in a persuasive and articulate matter during Friday evening’s town hall meeting. She exhorted the audience to recognize,

We’ve got to take a long term focus when it comes to raising revenue in Oklahoma. We must consider our values and the kind of state in which we want to live.

The number of cuts which our state agencies have been forced to take in recent years is tragic and continues to have devastating consequences. A political culture has been built and maintained in Oklahoma FOR YEARS that needs to change. The highest value motivating all our elected officials should not be simply low taxes and maximized profits for corporations as well as wealthy individuals. Providing excellent schools and learning opportunities for our students and teachers, providing outstanding (not just “adequate”) state services, maintaining our roads and bridges, insuring that foster care and mental health services are available, seeking to rehabilitate when appropriate and not simply punish all law breakers….. the list goes on and on. We need sea change in our political culture in Oklahoma. The lack of funding in our schools is but a symptom of a larger problem, and we need to address these root causes to change our political culture. Cultures do not change quickly, and that is why (as Senator Floyd aptly observed) we need to take a LONG view on these issues as well as having our list ready for short term demands.

In understanding the need for this “long view” and understanding the forces arrayed against this vision for change, I highly commend Jane Mayer’s (@JaneMayerNYer) book, “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.”

I’m reading it now and am not finished, but am sharing some of the highlights as well as my takeaways with the Twitter hashtag, #DarkMoney. An archive of my tweets with the #DarkMoney hashtag is available via my TweetNest site.

Community Dialog is Essential

Beyond the Oklahoma teacher walkout which starts Monday, we need to look for action steps which we can all take as citizens and voters regarding needed state funding and our quality of life within our state. Both Representative Cyndi Munson (@CyndiMunson85) and Senator Kay Floyd (@KayFloydOK) addressed this issue at Friday evening’s town hall meeting.

Senator Floyd reminded attendees of how important it is that parents are talking to parents! Strengthening each school’s Parent-Teacher organization, encouraging more parents to attend meetings and participate, and supporting other groups within our communities which bring parents together with opportunities for dialog are essential.

Representative Munson reminded attendees that “we all have circles and spheres of influence,” and we need to delicately (at times) and appropriately find ways to talk about these issues within those arenas. This even includes church.

For our family, church is one of the primary places where we have opportunities to engage in conversations and “dialog” (a meaningful exchange of perceptions in a non-threatening environment) with people outside our workplace and generally education-focused environment. Both my wife and I work at a school, and it’s so important that we find ways to step outside that “box” regularly and engage in conversations with others in our community about different issues.

Changing conditions within our society have led to a loss of community and a lowered sense of community connections for many people. This isn’t just an Oklahoma problem, it’s a 21st century issue. Robert Putnam (@RobertDPutnam) addressed these issues in his 2000 book, “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” and his 2016 book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.”

Senator Floyd is one hundred percent correct in highlighting our need to find ways to encourage and strengthen opportunities for dialog within our communities. I believe the EdCamp movement and EdCampOKC specifically are excellent examples of ways we’re moving forward with dialog in educational circles, but these need to widen to include more people in our communities. I’m going to keep working on the idea of an Oklahoma City area EdCamp focused on “Digital Citizenship” as part the work I’m doing on digital citizenship for our school. There’s a LOT more we can all do within our civic groups, churches, and other organizations to address these needs and issues.

Without Regular Civic Engagement Our Democracy Doesn’t Work

I emerged from Friday evening’s town hall meeting more convicted of this idea than ever:

In Oklahoma and elsewhere around our nation, we need MORE DEMOCRACY rather than less.

Before you offer a clarification from social studies class on the differences between a “republic” (as we have with elected officials in the USA) and a true “democracy” where every voter casts a ballot on every issue, let me explain what I mean by this statement. By “more democracy” I mean:

  1. More people registered to vote and voting in elections
  2. More people communicating regularly with elected officials
  3. More people participating in protests, rallies, and marches to champion important causes and issues

Here in the midwest of the USA, we don’t tend to have many marches or protests. We tend to be, politically, a rather passive group of folks, and for our democratic institutions to grow in healthy ways rather than wither on the vine, I’m convinced this needs to change.

If you don’t live or work in a community with an underfunded public school, you might not have a very clear picture of how stark the inequalities are between schools that may be only separated by a few miles or less. Our schools may be officially desegregated, but we are (at least in Oklahoma City and many other urban areas) a long way from the fully funded, diverse and thriving community schools which our children and families both need and deserve.

Democracy works best when moral, informed public servants are elected into positions of authority, and voters remain both informed and active in the political process to insure those officials remain sensitive and responsive to constituent needs. Our lives are extremely busy and demanding today, and many people are challenged to make monthly ends meet. This leaves little time for community involvement and specifically, political engagement. These are enduring challenges as well as needs we need to confront and address together.

The “political experiment” which is the United States of America remains exceedingly young in the annals of human history. It is vital that our system of democratic governance continue to evolve and change, as our framers expected and intended it to. Rather than be dominated by the wealthiest voices or the loudest voices, we need to support and maintain a political culture which supports input from a diverse number of groups as well as individuals. We need to support and celebrate compromise, however, rather than extremism and radicalism, to move forward into our shared future. As recent events with our 2016 Presidential election have shown and continue to reveal, this is a big challenge when powerful tools for persuasion and influence are put at the fingertips of any advertiser willing to pay.

In the past, leaders have emerged in our history to help guide us through difficult times fraught with challenging choices. We need to identify and support those leaders today, and also support institutions within our communities and nation which can help us follow a path of light out of our present civic darkness.

Urban and Rural Divide Needs Solutions

In Oklahoma as well as many of our other midwestern states in the USA, we have divides between urban and rural citizens which need to be addressed. This divide manifests itself when we hear calls for school district consolidation in Oklahoma, and when local control topics like setting the minimum wage and property taxes are discussed.

A number of Oklahoma school districts have asked their teachers to vote on participating in the walkout next week, and some have decided not to get involved. Andrea Eger’s (@AndreaEger) March 18th article for the Tulsa World addresses some of the reasons. Oil-related revenues have allowed some Oklahoma districts to pay their teachers higher salaries, like Cushing Public Schools. Others, like Pryor Schools, have a Google data farm nearby. Pryor has announced April 2 and 3 will be “snow days” in the district, however, which will give their teachers the chance to participate in the walkout at the capitol on Monday and Tuesday without actually missing classes.

Our largest urban school districts, Oklahoma City Public Schools and Tulsa Public Schools, have both announced school closures for Monday but appear to be waiting to see what happens next before making other decisions.

An Oklahoma City Public Schools district administrator attending Friday evening’s town hall shared that the district has made multiple contingency plans, depending on how long the walkout lasts. If it goes longer, the district will be required to make up days by adding to the 2017-18 instructional calendar. No one knows at this point what will happen, and if a longer walkout would require teachers and students to stay in class into June. With a graduating senior this year, that’s not a fun prospect, since seniors would still “walk” in their scheduled graduation ceremonies at the end of May, but might still be required by the district to attend classes even though those classes would be held after graduation. It’s a messy situation, and there’s a lot up in the air.

Here’s what is apparent when it comes to the urban and rural divide in Oklahoma, however: We need to find ways to address it. Again, community dialog seems vital. If dialog within an existing urban or rural community is hard today, it seems even more daunting to encourage dialog among these communities. Again, however, perhaps the EdCamp unconference model suggests a path forward. This is something we need to keep in mind and work to address intentionally.

Whether your schools are open or closed next week, it’s important for us to share how this teacher walkout is certainly NOT about “teacher greed,” and it’s about far more than just teacher salaries. Whether we live in a large city or small town, or out in the country, we all have an important stake in the quality of services our state provides. These state services affect us all, in our schools, our criminal justice system, our foster care system, our mental health system, and many other areas. We need to encourage not only civic participation but also a civic mindset which looks beyond the immediate concerns of our local community across our counties and state.

Transparency, Accountability, and Strong Local Journalism are Essential

My final takeaway from Friday’s education town hall meeting at Wilson Elementary is that we need continual support for transparency and accountability in state and local government, as well as support for strong local journalism.

One of the attendees near the end of the town hall meeting asked a question about funding state government when she continues to hear reports about misuse of funds and inefficient state government. Her question was, why should we vote for more taxes when we continue to hear about problems with state agencies not managing our tax dollars wisely.

This is an important question, and the answer (as highlighted by the legislators who responded on Friday) is NOT to continue to cut funding for state government. The answer, instead, is to keep pushing for transparency and accountability. We all need accountability, and state government (as well as government agencies at other levels) are no different.

The fact that we can learn about issues of financial mismanagement, political corruption, and other scandals in our press is unfortunate on one level, but it is also fantastic on another. Let me explain.

It’s bad and reprehensible that scandals take place in government. We should have elected and appointed officials in all cases acting honestly and responsibly. It’s a fact of human nature, however, that this isn’t always the case. Again, this isn’t something unique to our state, this is part of our human condition. This is why the founders of the United States and authors of our establishing documents like our Constitution and Bill of Rights included “checks and balances” to prevent abuses of power.

I’ve been fortunate to both travel and live in other countries in our world, and I’ll be quick to tell you the level of press freedom and openness which exists in the United States is QUITE different than what we find in many other places. My recent visit to Egypt in November of 2017 was a case in point. Certainly we have bias in our press and media, which is EVERYWHERE (read “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business” by Neil Postman for more on this) but we still have a comparatively open and freer media society than many other countries.

We need to support journalism locally and on larger scales, to promote accountability and transparency. The “fourth estate” is an essential element of our democratic system of government, although you’d never know if you follow the tweets of our 45th President. This is true at the state and community level, as well as the national level.

We also need to figure out how to navigate the downsides of term limits. As Representative Cyndi Munson (@CyndiMunson85) discussed in Friday evening’s town hall, we sharply limit the potential for elected officials to develop expertise and wisdom in different arenas of public policy when we force them out of office every 12 years.

Government is NOT inherently evil, and elected officials are not all our enemies. We need good people of every gender, community, ethnicity, and creed to run for public office in Oklahoma and serve the people of our state with honesty, humility, and passion. We need to come together not only for the immediate goals of providing educators in Oklahoma with raises and finding sustainable ways to fund our state government, but also for the long term goals of promoting more community and civic engagement. We need to come together and remain together because we live in an open and free society, and these rights have been bestowed upon us along with commensurate responsibilities. That’s why we say citizenship involves both rights and responsibilities, not just the former.

I’ll conclude with a movie reference from “Ready Player One,” which I saw with our family yesterday on Good Friday. When the lead character, Parzival / Wade is rescued from his home and arrest by the authorities, heroine  and co-star Art3mis / Samantha greets him with the statement:

Welcome to revolution.

That’s how I want to feel about the upcoming Oklahoma teacher walkout. Welcome to the revolution. Welcome to the turning point in the history of state government in Oklahoma, when teachers lead the other citizens of our state forward toward the shared goals of providing for our common good together.

Radical, extreme voices of conservatism and libertarianism have literally wrought destruction upon not only our state agencies and public schools, but also left a scarred legacy upon the lives of our students and teachers in public schools in Oklahoma. Enough is enough. Let the peaceful, respectful, and resolute revolution in Oklahoma political culture begin. Nothing less than the future of our state and our nation is at stake, and we all have important roles to play through dialog in the days and weeks ahead.

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