First ever Craft Maple and Beer Festival satisfies Jefferson, Ohio’s sweet tooth

Honored to be a part of this inaugural festival held right here in Jefferson, Ohio. Very enjoyable!

Northeast Ohio craft brewery news

The inaugural celebration and competition drew craft breweries from across the country, along with maple producers offering a range of innovative maple products. 

 

JEFFERSON, Ohio  Craft maple beer and bourbon-barrel-aged maple syrup—what could be sweeter? The inaugural Craft Maple Festival, Oct. 20 to 21, brought together the craft maple community for a celebration and competition. Customers ate up specialty maple products that use maple syrup as a base, some aged in bourbon or whiskey barrels, others incorporating spices and other fresh ingredients. 

Not to mention, guests got to sample a full menu of maple craft beers, getting 16 tickets for 3-ounce pours. Beer-drinkers rallied for their favorites, and breweries from around the country were represented. “We had a lot of great beer at the Craft Maple and Beer festival,” said Rob Titt

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How I Celebrate St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick came to know God during his years as a shepherd on the Irish hills, later to return and forgive those who enslaved him. Patrick wrote many letters denouncing slavery, and promoting peace among warring clans.

Today, the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh is called the Primate of All Ireland (cool, no?). The cathedral in Armagh is built on the stones of a church laid in 445 by St Patrick himself. Rev Dr Robin Eames held the seat in St Patrick’s Cathedral

during The Troubles in the 80s & 90s when every priest on either side of the border and conflict was burying innocent people, along with some not-so-innocents.

One day, Eames encountered a house fire surrounded by an angry mob with a Roman Catholic girl trapped. Due to his position, he was able to carry her through the loyalist crowd to safety. Many years later, he was hospitalized. One of the nurses said, “Do you remember me? You saved my life. Thank you.” Due to her position, she was able to carry him back to health.

Eames’ tenure saw a great deal of controversy, but he was adamant about one thing: no victory flags.

Parades, protests, and rallies only sow further division. As recently as 2006, when 3 boys were burned in their beds, he responded: “In the name of God, please leave the hill at Drumcree. You’ve made your points.”

Studying that period, particularly areas where true social change was achieved in a period of unrest, I have taken this to heart:

the way to peacefully resolve conflict is through prayer, relationship, and diligent research. Heated dialogue, years of study, sure. But be aggressive about uncovering Truth, not defeating people.

This is how we pass along the torch of our noble Irish and Christian heritage: by celebrating those who uphold the dignity of the human person, and strive for integrity in the life of faith.

Teaching 3.0: Technology in the Adult Education Classroom

New tech tools are released every day to enhance education. What are some best practices and easiest-to-use applications?

Are you in the Greater Cleveland area? Bring Your Own Device to join me on Friday, February 16th for a FREE workshop hosted by The Literacy Cooperative. Register ASAP to attend (limit 30 participants). Bring your own device to this workshop and add some new solutions to your toolbelt.

Not in the Greater Cleveland area? Sign up for the online version of the workshop and follow along LIVE from home or work, anywhere with an internet connection.

Both in person and online, our focus will be on interactive technology: tools that can improve communication and build relationships. In particular, we will play with creating online courses, polls, short instructional videos, and live quizzes. Meanwhile, we will learn about transactional distance, formative assessment, zone of proximal development, and blended learning… in a fun environment of exploration.

Register for the pre-sale NOW for 50% off. This sale only lasts until the workshop starts at 9:00am EST on Friday, February 16th.

2018 Book Challenge #2: The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

New book review available! I’ve enjoyed KK.com for a while, and finally finished this longer work on the verbs that HUMANS will be doing in our new digital age. I’m having a little trouble with YouTube Live, so there’s a delay in posting, but I have a third book review video hopefully processing now on Little Book of Conflict Transformation by John Paul Lederach. I’m also in the process of reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and Laudato Si by Pope Francis.

Please support this read-a-thon by subscribing to the YouTube playlist and sending a donation to Henderson Library Association, 54 E Jefferson St, Jefferson, OH 44047.

2018 100 Book Challenge: Video Reviews!

As you know, I love books, and I love serving my community, which leads to a natural love of my local public library. So this year, I’ll be joining Henderson Memorial Public Library’s 100 Book Challenge…with a twist.

I’m going to vlog my book reviews on YouTube live, at the pace of 2 books per week. This read-a-thon is also to raise funds for Henderson Memorial Public Library Association: a small town library with a big furnace problem.

Check out my first edition, and subscribe to see them all:

Let me know: What are your quick reading suggestions for 2018?

How to Find What is True on Facebook

I haven’t been posting much about the racism, violence, and controversy that have enveloped our nation. I have become convinced this is an historic time, and that we are seeing what the US was like in the 1960s all over again.

But as a white person growing up in a white community surrounded by structural racism, I know my knee jerk reactions tend to be ill-informed, even if they are well intentioned. And quite frankly, who needs to hear from one more “born again” white anti-racist about how holy I am now?

The ugly truth is that I have to constantly question my sub-conscious responses built as a child.

Like any other type of recovery, I do anti-racism work one day at a time. Most days I will have internal voices, and often external voices, flooding me with images and words and feelings that I know are damaging. My job is to identify what is untrue and hurtful and say no… over and over again.

But I have hope for myself, and want to share my process with you.

To rewrite my internal script, and resist the racist vortex I live in, I try to take the advice of this week’s Sunday reading:

“whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.” –Philippians 4:8

It is so hard to find reliable sources that are gracious and just. Lately it seems you can’t get a following if you’re not rude and crass. I try to follow and support and understand black-led efforts for justice and peace, particularly ones I learned about while I was living in the Hough neighborhood for 8 years.

Here are a few sources of information I follow on Facebook (and before that, in real life) that help me focus on what is true, honorable, just, and excellent:

Because of Them We Can

Equal parts history, news, and inspiration, this page is full of heart-warming content

Black on Black Crime Inc

“Why don’t black people talk about black on black crime?” Oh wait. They do. All the time. It’s just most white people don’t listen until it’s about them.

This Cleveland-based organization is one of many similar ones in the country trying to use arts, public forums, outreach, political action, and dialogue to address the underlying issues causing high crime rates in our city/cities. If you’re not in Cleveland, find and support an org like this near you.

National Black Catholic Congress

I’m Catholic, and was a member of an amazing Afro-centric parish. Our quiet Mass was 90 minutes of spirituals, and the big service was 2 hours with full Gospel choir, African drums, praise dancers… Talk about lovely and praiseworthy!

“I give you praise / I give you praise…” Oh, sorry, did I wander off into worship again? Just thinking about it and I am transported.

The US Black Catholic Conference is a wonderful place to learn about Black Catholic history, news, and how to support justice efforts aligned with Catholic social teaching.

Freshwater Cleveland

Though this isn’t solely about Hough, I find it to be the most positive and realistic source of news on the neighborhood. Neighborhood Voices used to be my favorite, but it looks like it went under. Sad.

If you want to hear about what’s honorable and excellent in Cleveland, check it out. Support local media that shares positive and honest information about people of color.

Otherwise all you will see is memes and mug shots.

What are your favorite sources for just and true media? Comment with links!

The Results Are In: Edtech Alone Will Not Fix Adulted

Adult educators: consider carefully before investing in more devices and edtech products! 

Do students need tech skills for success? Yes. 

Do they need to perform well on computer-based testing? Yes.

Will edtech products increase student outcomes? That depends.

The Joyce Foundation funded a study to determine if edtech products would make a significant difference in adulted outcomes. Their conclusion? Probably not.

What does this mean for funders, administrators, teachers, and edtech companies?

First of all: Funders, Invest in Educators

Silicon Valley, and your entourage of investors, please consider throwing money at educators over edtech. Seriously, slow down. ROI in the edtech marketplace is siphoning money away from ROI for society.

Investors who look for quick tech money, do so at the expense of what actually works for education.

Second: Edtech Companies

Having participated in this study from the vendor side, I suspected it would confirm that products or devices alone do not improve outcomes. 

This is disheartening for organizations who were hoping the research would give them a leg up on competitors. 

But the truth is that programs need to buy the materials that their teachers and students feel comfortable using.

Although some of my colleagues would beg to differ, I really think what matters in the end is the teacher, not the product. The “best” product is the one you actually use.

Teachers: Learn how to troubleshoot

My look at the preliminary study data suggested a correlation between the digital literacy of the teacher and student usage of technology. My assessment of a TEACHER’S digital literacy seemed to line up with their time-on-task reports. 

However this study did not measure the variable of teacher’s digital literacy. So how did I know?

I used a quick behavioral assessment: If a teacher did not know how to troubleshoot login issues, then they generally did not feel confident implementing edtech products. The students of less confident teachers showed less time on the product, particularly out-of-class time. If the teacher wasn’t comfortable with tech, their students didn’t get to the point of working independently.

While edtech alone isn’t correlated to outcomes, self study DOES increase success rates. But student self-study requires teachers to be able to troubleshoot their students’ use of materials.

Webinars, out-of-state trainers, and vendor technical support can only do so much in those situations. A part-time teacher who encounters any sort of issue with technology in class will just shrug their shoulders and fall back to paper copies or lecture. Same with students who are juggling other responsibilities to make time to study.

Should we expect any different? 

Adulted instructors (in this study or otherwise) are generally not paid for planning time & offered minimal PD. They are rarely, if ever, paid to support students outside of class. So what teachers really need is…

Administrators: Research-based Best Practices

If edtech doesn’t improve the outcomes of adult ed programs, what will? 

Dr Carmine Stewart and Omobola Lana worked together on “A Framework for Program Improvement in Adult Education.” This guide, published by The Literacy of Greater Cleveland, offers a list of research-based best practices for adulted programs.

To download the guide, visit their Publications page and click “Quality Framework.”

Examples for Best Practices include:

  • Managed enrollment
  • A supportive student environment
  • Assessing learners’ progress

This is what I was preaching last week during my Blended Learning course for Virginia Department of Corrections educators. Plus it was my mantra for years as the National Teacher Trainer for Essential Education (GED Academy). 

Edtech is not enough. Teachers and administrators matter.

When people ask me how to set up their adult education program, I always recommended blended learning–a mix of student-led use of technology, and face-to-face instruction. It’s gratifying to see the Joyce Foundation make the same recommendation.

However, this study presents a challenge to administrators working overtime to build, purchase, or implement edtech solutions for adult education. 

News flash: teachers don’t all know how to use this stuff! And more National Trainers is not the sole solution. Once the Expert goes home, to implement research-based best practices, teachers need: 

  • embedded professional development, 
  • on-site technical support, 
  • local professional learning communities, and 
  • regular reviews of data for accountability. 

Adulted teachers are scrappy, creative, passionate… and underpaid. We’ve been doing more with less for decades.

Local administrators can improve outcomes by offering educators planning time, program support, and incentives for implementation… not just more edtech stuff.

That’s what the research suggests, anyway.

My First Classroom: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

One of the biggest differences between teaching adult basic education and teaching K-12 is the classroom. 

Or lack thereof.

Teaching adult literacy and GED Test Preparation, I taught everything from basic pronunciation to chemical equations. WHERE you explain poetry or fractions… that could be anywhere. Literally half of my time teaching adults had nothing to do with teaching. It was mostly: drive to a community center, set up, coordinate tutor-student pairs for 90 minutes, clean up, drive to another site…repeat at a shelter, in a church basement, or an outreach program. At one point my schedule took me to two sites each day, four days a week, with Friday to do paperwork.

Single floor brick building flanked with trees. Sign for Cassidy Center above glass double doors
Where I teach religious education, full of multi-purpose rooms. Looks a lot like other places I taught adults.

On Monday morning, I would walk into a church multi-purpose room and unlock a metal cabinet. From there I would pull out the supplies I needed to make coffee. Next I would put out the sign-in sheets next to a crate of manila folders documenting student work. Usually our cabinets held shelves of workbooks and I would have to go down the hall to make copies in the office, usually in the middle of “class.” We had a few well-used manipulatives like flashcards, fraction stacks, and colorful bingo chips. But since adults in my programs worked at their own level and pace, we never had large group lectures.

Metal shelves holding miniature chalice, paten, altar cloth, and other materials for children to use.
Instead of cramming everything in one metal cabinet, I can space it out for the children to access.

Imagine: each person deciding where to sit, most of the time head down in focus, or leaning over to talk with a tutor. Everything else about the space changed between each class I taught: round tables, long rectangles, desks against a wall… plastic chairs, folding chairs, pews in a hall… One site we were surrounded by high ceilings and stained glass windows in the back of a church. Another site was a dimly-lit, cinder block basement with moldy carpets.

Teaching adults, even as a teacher trainer traveling from workshop to workshop, I rarely had any control over the lighting, the chairs or tables, the temperature, the decorations on the walls… I learned to just walk into a place and make it my own as best I could. I learned to ignore or adjust to the physical backdrop and focus completely on individual students and the words and numbers in front of them.

Until this year.

Small books, folders eith coloring pages, and baskets labeled things like
Child-sized bookcase with work about the Mystery of the Kingdom of God

As a volunteer catechist (that’s Latin for “teacher”) at my local church, I finally have my own classroom. I teach 3-6 year olds using a Montessori-inspired curriculum called Catechesis (Latin for “teaching”) of the Good Shepherd. My students still work at their own level and pace, but I had no idea how much it would transform my teaching to pay close attention to THE ROOM.

Short bookcases and pre-school sized desks and chairs
The right-sized furniture makes a big difference for little people.

I agree that the physical environment matters for learning, but years in adult basic education trained me how to cope without control over my surroundings. Adult educators, particularly those in highly controlled residential facilities (i.e. Corrections) have to be some of the scrappiest, most resourceful people on the planet. I still have the habit of arriving 15-30 minutes early and staying late for set up and clean up, but now I can do so much more with the 75 minutes when my students are present.

Ten wooden sheep in a sheepfold with a shepherd lying down at the entrance
The Good Shepherd: namesake of this program

Yesterday I spent the whole day cleaning, organizing, purging the room from unwanted leftovers of yesteryear, and materials that are not age appropriate. 

Table covered with red cloth, candles, and prayer cards. Bookshelves with abacus, stamps, Playdoh, and more.
Our prayer corner and practical life works are much more attractive without distracting junk.

As I cleaned, I realized that there are a few things I ignored all year (out of habit) that are now within my power to fix. Take this faded construction paper… before classes resume in September, I’ll replace or cover it. I have time planned in the workshop to replace some of my first-attempt, makeshift materials with painted wood. The apple borders are an unnecessary decoration, and take away from the solemnity of the altar work.

Small wooden chairs and tables making a makeshift altar, lecturn, and tabernacle, with a calendar on corkboard.
I didn’t notice the black background was faded and torn. This sends a message to our students.

Becaise this experience is nee, it’s taking up a lot of mental energy to force myself to pay attention to the physical environment. But that’s one of the gifts of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and the Montessori approach in general. We are asked to slow down and pay attention to the unnamed or subconscious messages we send to children through objects and behavior.

Small, painted people in front of an altar table
Jesus said “I have sheep not from this sheepfold.” I painted these figures to represent [Left to Right]: Ireland, India, Bolivia, Germany, our Pastor Fr Sheridan, Lebanon, Uganda, Japan, USA, Australian Aboriginals.

Catechists have a lot of flexibility in the materials, so the physical materials can be an opportunity to set up students to later absorb some bigger theological concepts. For example, in an age of violent anti-Semitism, I find it critical to emphasize the Jewishness of Jesus and His first disciples.

12 Apostles and Jesus gather to celebrate the Passover Seder with four glasses of wine. We don’t know what they were singing on the way to the Mount of Olives, so I taught the kids “dayenu.”
Each Apostle is stamped with his name and a symbol representing his life or death.

I also developed a couple additional presentations that I want to document and share this summer, like the 3 socks of the 3 poor girls saved from slavery by St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. This work fit in nicely with the parables about finding the hidden treasure in the field, and selling everything for the precious pearl.

Legend has it that St Nick threw 3 bags of gold into 3 stockings for poor girls in trouble.

This coming year, I hope to expand on this work in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd by using some of the principles, and even some materials, to teach adults who are new members in the church (RCIA). Adults as well as kids need the space to work with their hands, and reflect on their personal connection with the Good Shepherd.

Index cards, cotton balls, colored pencils, all make sheep
Adults like to color sometimes, too.

What do you enjoy about having a classroom? Or what would you add if you had one?

Will I see you at #COABE17? Visit Booth 145!

In rainy Ohio, I’m packing my bags for sunny Florida. Tomorrow I’m super excited to be at COABE tosupport a new exhibitor: ASPIRE Consulting.

Based on her pioneering dissertation, Dr. Carmine Stewart piloted a series of techer education courses that is available to the public for the first time. Cleveland State University is hosting the seven-course Adult Literacy Master Teacher CE Program. Launch is tentatively scheduled for this summer.

What makes Dr. Stewart’s courses different than what’s already available?

1. Teacher education over professional development

The 15-week courses allow for enough depth to truly absorb and apply key concepts and techniques. Dr. Stewart is an experienced Adjunct Professor for future teachers in multiple CSU departments, and her courses are truly transformative.

If adult literacy instructors have any hope of professionalization, we need true teacher education. Adult literacy instructors are asked to teach content from K-12 grade for the students who didn’t get it the first time. Our students are the most likely to have significant barriers to learning. Yet how many of the 75% of adult literacy instructors who work part-time receive adequate training for such a demanding role? The Master Adult Literacy Teacher program fills this critical need.

2. Topics grounded in research

Dr. Stewart’s dissertation on “Teacher Preparation and Professional Development in Adult Literacy Education” identified several deficiencies in the skills of adult literacy instructors. These skills were then developed into a series of courses already piloted with adult literacy instructors, and shown to improve teacher preparation in these key areas.

3. Performance-based over completion-based

How many times have you sat through a workshop, and at the end still weren’t sure how to apply what you learned? Unfortunately, as a teacher trainer myself, I sometimes see this happen to participants in my own workshops. One hour or three hours is not enough time for the cycle of study, practice, and feedback necessary to truly master a new skill.

These facilitated 15-week courses will allow plenty of time for adult literacy teachers to grow together, and demonstrate the skills necessary to teach our nation’s most vulnerable adult learners.

Please stop by ASPIRE booth #145 for a fun sample lesson, and to find out more about Dr. Stewart’s Master Adult Literacy Teacher program!

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