Celebrating Emerging Scholars, NSCS, and the Power of a Crazy Idea

The following article was originally posted as part of my blog series on the Huffington Post where I am sharing experiences and insights I gained from my recent travel. 

 

National Society of Collegiate Scholars

 

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a twenty-year anniversary celebration for the National Society of Collegiate Scholars in Washington, D.C. It was a special honor to be there because I knew the founder, Steve Loflin, some twenty-five years ago before this concept had completely gelled in his mind. What started as a “crazy idea” to convene a college honor society on scholarship, leadership, and service was hatched with two of Steve’s friends over a lasagna dinner at his apartment. Twenty years later, this organization is a million strong with chapters at some 400 colleges. In Steve’s speech he spoke to the messiness of start-up ideas and the organic, sometimes random nature in which crazy ideas take root; an excellent perspective as the college culture can protect students from the uncertainties and ambiguities they will meet in the reality outside of school. With all of the news stories and data on how students struggle academically, emotionally, and socially, it is nice to see so many examples of students who are thriving and doing their best to make the world a better place.

 

Continue reading on the Huffington Post.

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Wisdom From an Eighth-Grader in Saudi Arabia

 I recently returned from a trip where I spoke in Bangkok at the Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools (NESA) Conference and in Singapore at the International Association for Scholastic Excellence (INTASE) Conference. The following article was originally posted as part of my blog series on the Huffington Post where I am sharing experiences and insights I gained from my trip. 

Haas Hansen Award

 

 

When I was in Bangkok a few weeks ago at the NESA (Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools) conference, I met an extraordinary young award recipient from the American International School — Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Karen Grace received the Stanley Haas/Luke Hansen Student Award as a student who displays “consistency, persistence, willingness to take risks, acceptance of other cultures and points of view and a genuine interest in and commitment to the welfare of others.” The Stanley Haas/Luke Hansen student award shares the names of Stanley Haas, the late executive director of NESA and Luke Hansen, a remarkable middle school student who died in an accident.

At a time when students are commonly awarded for taking AP classes, getting a 4.0, and getting high scores on standardized tests, eighth-grader Karen Grace was awarded for her strength of character. Karen Grace opened her acceptance speech, stating:

My family and I were so amazed to find out that there is an award out there, given on character and not on grades. Competing towards the good of mankind is the most positive and sensible idea anyone could come across.

 

Continue reading on the Huffington Post.

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Lessons From the Near East: How America Can Learn From Educators on the Other Side of the World

I recently returned from a trip where I spoke in Bangkok at the Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools (NESA) Conference and in Singapore at the International Association for Scholastic Excellence (INTASE) Conference. The following article was originally posted as part of my blog series on the Huffington Post where I am sharing experiences and insights I gained from my trip. 

 

 

Two weeks ago I spoke in Bangkok at the Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools (NESA) Conference. Educators and school leaders from around the world attended, ranging from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Nepal, Greece, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Bangladesh to name a few.Some of the teachers were originally from countries in Asia like the Philippines, but have relocated to places like Dubai for better job opportunities in order to support themselves and their families back home.

This single conference housed a tremendous amount of economic, educational, and situational diversity. Some schools struggle with limited resources to bring their students a world-class education in places like Bangladesh and Pakistan and the provinces of the Philippines, where even a private school education is in competition for resources. Conversely, educators in oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia are challenged to inspire their privileged students to see their unique gifts and talents, not just those bestowed on them from their parents, royalty, or any other outside force.

Continue reading on The Huffington Post. 

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Are Non-cognitive Skills the Key to Academic, Professional & Personal Success?

 

 

What are the top skills employers demand? Communication skills, judgement and decision making, active listening to name a few. These skills are referred to as soft skills, or non-cognitive skills that are not measured by a cognitive or academic test, like IQ, for example.

In an age when our economy demands more college grads in order to fill the jobs of the future and to be globally competitive, the answer has been to make our classes harder and rank students, schools, and teachers by the scores students earn on their standardized test. Put more effort behind increasing IQ and get a better prepared workforce, right?

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Who Does It Better? Eastern vs Western Learners

Is the culture around learning in the Eastern world better than Western, and if so, is it possible to change how a culture learns to one that’s more effective?

Those are the questions proposed in a recent encore NPR story. Jin Li, professor at Brown University has spent the last decade studying conversations that American mothers and their children have about learning versus the conversations between Taiwanese mothers and their children. Two sound bites give great insight into how the two cultures have distinct views.

In the first clip, an American child tells his mother that he and his friends like to talk about books at recess. She responds, “Do you know that that’s what smart people do – smart grown-ups?…that’s a pretty smart thing to do, to talk about a book.” Professor Li explains the mother is reinforcing the idea that because her son is smart he is successful in school.

Compare that to the conversation recorded between a Taiwanese mother and her child who just won first place at a piano competition. She tells her son, “You practiced and practiced with lots of energy. It really got hard, but you made great effort. You insisted on practicing yourself.” In  Eastern cultures, success is thought to come from persistence when faced with a challenge, not necessarily inner intelligence.

Reporter Alix Spiegel makes the disclaimer that these comparisons don’t prove that one culture’s take on learning is superior to the other. In fact, professor Li makes the point that though Eastern students are scoring higher than their Western counterparts in STEM areas, Westerners are typically more creative because of how their culture nurtures individuality.

As a teacher or parent, how do you talk to your kids about the reasons behind their successes or failures? How did your parents or teachers talk to you about your success in school?

 

 

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Will MOOCs Equalize or Divide Accessibility to Higher Education?

MOOCs are on the minds of many educators and students today as the new open source trend opens many discussions on what learning will look like in the 21st century. Technology can bring a free college course taught by the best of the best professors from universities like Stanford and Harvard right to your living room. The popularity of MOOCs has people asking, why pay for a college education when you can get one for free online?

In his latest op-ed Thomas Friedman shares what he learned about the future of MOOCs at the recent conference “Online Learning and the Future of Residential Education.” The following are a few points I found most compelling:

  • Friedman quotes historian Walter Russell Mead, writing higher education will move from a model of  “time served” to “stuff learned.” 
  • Blended learning will optimize learning in and out of the classroom. Today’s college students spend classroom-time getting lectured at and their time at home studying for a test. In the near future, at-home studying will be reserved for students to master basic skills at their own pace and time in the classroom will be spent applying their basic knowledge in labs and discussions.

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How Math Skills Can Fuel the U.S. Economy

As a result of lost manufacturing and outsource jobs, the U.S. needs to look to the future—to new opportunities and growing markets to be able to compete globally, and all indicators point to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

According to research compiled by the Joint Economic Committee Chairman’s Staff in their report, “STEM Education: Preparing for the Jobs of the Future,” technology innovations have fueled the American economy, with some studies crediting over half of our economic growth in the past fifty years coming from improved productivity resulting from innovation. And the trend seems to be continuing. The demand for workers with degrees in the STEM fields is rising and expected to increase according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Illiteracy and Poverty in America: Defining the Future of our Students

In America, it doesn’t matter what socioeconomic standing you were born into, we believe everyone deserves an equal chance at an equally fulfilling life. In the land of opportunity, a general sense of optimism for our futures sets us apart from other countries. A 2009 Pew Poll found even after the beginning of the Great Recession, Americans remained optimistic that they would still get ahead.[i]
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Are U.S. Students Born Entrepreneurs?

High unemployment rates have led more people in the U.S. down an entrepreneurial career path, and some believe this is just the pathway all Americans should be taking. Yong Zhao, presidential chair and associate dean for global education in the college of education at the University of Oregon, recently gave a keynote at the International Society for Technology in Education conference where he compared high-achieving students around the world with American students, known for their declining test scores, according to a recent Education Week article.
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Putting Students in Charge of Their Own Learning

Today, the U.S. is in 21st place for high school completion rates and 15th place for college completion. Only 40 years ago, American students were at the top of the list.Students need to be engaged, motivated, challenged, and supported. Above all, they need to be challenged in ways that will allow them to take responsibility for their strengths and interests. They also need role models, mentors, community, and their own space. In addition, they need learning programs such as tutoring, extracurricular activities, and summer enrichment, which enhance learning basics.

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