Byron's Babbles

Angry Fishing

Posted in Angry Birds, Education, Global Education, Global Leadership, Innovation, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 5, 2020

I just tweeted that having your son in Murray, Kentucky at Murray State University had its advantages; one of which is getting to spend the day on Kentucky Lake fishing for Crappie. Heath picked such a beautiful place in the world for college. We had a great day that started at 5:30am. It’s always great to spend the day doing anything together with the boy. We have been blessed to make so many memories doing a variety of things together. I’ve always said that raising this kid has been the single most important and rewarding thing I am doing.

Today, we had the opportunity to use some of the latest computer vision technology for fishing. Thus the title for this post: Angry Fishing. It was truly like a video game, at times, that I would call Angry Fishing (referring to Angry Birds). As always, I was fascinated with the technology and learning how to use it. I was also amazed at how being able to use the technology, in much the same way a video game does, enabled me to improve my fishing skills.

We were fishing for Crappie today and they require a very patient technique, but you must be quick to set the hook at the right time. With the video technology we could literally watch the fish going for the bait. I’m not going to lie, I missed several today because I got caught up watching fish going for Heath’s hook and him catching them. We were able to, in real-time, just like when playing Angry Birds, know what adjustments to make in our techniques. And the great part about Angry Fishing (real life fishing like we were doing) is you get to do it over and over, just like you can when playing Angry Birds. It was fascinating!

This was a reminder of how we need to always employ ways to give students, or anyone we are teaching for that matter, immediate and usable feedback. Today, I was even able to begin to self diagnose areas for improvement and make those changes immediately. Another reason we need to always be teaching using real-world and relevant contexts. We all, no matter what our age learn best when we are using adaptation. We need to be applying across disciplines, thus why I am right now applying this day of fishing to doing a better job of teaching and professional development. This also gives us the opportunity to apply the learning to real-world predictable and unpredictable situations. I talk about these same things when using Angry Birds as a throughline for discussing high impact teaching strategies.

It is also my hope, and I believe they are, that these technologies can be a catalyst for transformation of fishing and fishery policy. Under a sustainable approach, where we satisfy the needs of the present without compromising the resources of future generations, technological innovations like my son and I used today offer an opportunity to improve the fishery and seafood industries; as well as protect the environment. Electronic monitoring systems and computer vision technologies combined with artificial intelligence machine learning is being used to improve the cod fishery and preventing overfishing of halibut in the Pacific.

I continue to be amazed and hungry to keep learning the technological innovations that can help us all learn more effectively and continue to make the world a better place. The possibilities are as vast as the great bodies of water we love to fish on. Join me in continuing to explore and learn!

Open Your Mind To The Past & All Of This May Mean Something

Posted in Community, Educational Leadership, Global Education, Global Leadership, Leadership, Star Trek by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 4, 2020

Late last night I found myself flipping through the television channels. Actually, using the term channels probably really ages me – are they even called channels anymore? Anyway, I came across an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TV Series). This was my favorite of the Star Treks because I love the character Captain Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart). My favorite line of his that is in almost every episode is “Make it so.” I practice “Make it so!” leadership and just realized I haven’t really blogged specifically about that. Maybe tomorrow.

As I surfed and found Star Trek, the episode was just beginning. The episode was Season 2, Episode 17 and was titled Samaritan Snare. There were two throughlines established early: Captain Picard needed heart replacement surgery (routine in the 24th Century) so was traveling with Wesley Crusher in a small craft to far away Starbase 515. The Enterprise was on a rescue mission to a Pakled vessel that turned into an attempt to steal computer knowledge.

On their journey to the medical facility and surgery Picard and Crusher had a deep and revealing conversation where Picard shared how his heart had been damaged in a fight with Nausicaans as a young ensign. While at the base Crusher will be taking Starfleet exams. Here is the conversation:

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: There’s no greater challenge than the study of philosophy.

Wesley Crusher: But William James won’t be on my Starfleet Exams.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: The important things never will be. Anyone can be trained in the mechanics of piloting a starship.

Wesley Crusher: And Starfleet Academy…

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Takes more. Open your mind to the past – art, history, philosophy. And this all may mean something.

Star Trek has taught generations of us how great humanity could be if we study and learn from our past, learn to deal with our biases, and work together (I bolded that for emphasis) to create a better future. People have always faced difficult times and situations, and Star Trek always reminds us that when smart people come together they can come up with smart answers. It would be interesting to know just how many have been inspired to leadership, science, engineering, medicine, or many other careers because of Star Trek. As Edmund Burke taught us, “People will not looking forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.” Thus, pretty good advice from Captain Picard to open our minds to the past so that all this does mean something. Pretty good advice indeed in the 21st Century year of 2020!

I hadn’t thought about philosopher William James for a long time. William James, the father of psychology and a leading thinker of the 19th Century, actually laid the groundwork for the study and research that continues on leadership. James asserted that individuals do make a difference in history, and that the study of influential people an important pursuit. Interestingly, as I studied more and more on this I came back across the work of Thomas Carlyle and the “great man” theories I talked about in Leaders Crashing and Flying Higher. It also had me looking at studies on “hero-worship.”

According to James (1880, 1884, 1890/1956) any change that happens can be attributed to an individual or multiple individuals. The potential of a group, organization, business/industry, community, or country will be brought out not by just one individual leader, but by a collective of leaders. Thus why I believe everyone is a leader. I really believe James believed this too. No one leader has the power to determine change. No one has that kind of power. Instead a leader must work within the context she is given. Leadership then brings together individuals with circumstances.

And, I really got to thinking that this theory was modeled by the entire Enterprise crew. It took leadership from all to solve the issue with the Pakled vessel and Picard’s surgery that ended up having complications. The head surgeon said that the complication was out of his realm of knowledge and that Picard was dying. He then said that he knew someone who could solve the issue – she was summoned and did. Nothing happens in a vacuum. This is why the context matters and everyone’s expertise matters and must be brought to the “table.” This is why everyone must be a leader.

Leading Like A Superhero


Ever since we were kids we’ve dreamed of becoming superheroes. During our first fall gathering of 3D Leadership, I used a superhero throughline and had participants research superheroes and pick one that best represented themselves; or they could create an all new one. As always, they were super creative (a superhero power) and as they shared out I asked them a few questions:

  1. What is your superpower?
  2. How did you get your powers?
  3. What’s something that your arch nemesis has?
  4. Where would you live when your not saving the world?
  5. If you were on a team of superheroes, what would your role be?
  6. What would you fight the enemy with?
  7. In addition to your powers, what weapon would you want?

A couple of these superheroes really jumped out at me: Wonder Lori and Glinda. Wonder Lori was a new and made up superhero and Glinda was based on the good witch in the Wizard of Oz. The superpowers for these two were empathy and serving. Pretty good superpowers for leading like a superhero, right? Really being a superhero is about tapping one’s ability to do extraordinary things; and, being able to help others doing extraordinary things.

I was really struck by the superhero Glinda from the Wizard of Oz. The participant picked Glinda because of her power of always showing up at just the right time. This blew my mind because I had never thought about this in all the times I have watched the Wizard of Oz. But, what a great superpower, right. All of us as leaders would love the superpower of showing up at the right time. Glinda really did show up at just the right time, every time.

Additionally, the participant quoted Glinda at the end of the movie when she said, “You had the power all along, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” This is such a powerful statement. Glinda was a great teacher—and this compliment is not undeserved. The first lesson she teaches is one of delegation. She tells Dorothy the Wizard might be able to help her get home, but that the journey to Oz is a long and treacherous one. Dorothy needs, as always seems to be the case, more information and asks for it (she’s very good at asking questions). Glinda tells Dorothy to follow the Yellow Brick Road and never take the ruby slippers off her feet. Of course, the Munchkins help her get started and find her way on the yellow brick road. Dorothy has more questions, but Glinda is a master delegator: she waves her wand and disappears! Remind you of any great leaders you have worked with?

Even though we don’t see Glinda very much in the movie, she’s clearly behind the scenes keeping watch, removing barriers, and doing things to help without desiring any recognition. We learn this in the scene in which Glinda sends snow to counteract the effects of the sleep-inducing poppies. Glinda never rushes in dramatically on a white horse (even thought there are really cool horses in the movie that change colors) to fix everything herself and, in the process, undermine Dorothy’s self-confidence as a leader. Even when Glinda reappears at the end of the movie, it is only to make sure that Dorothy has learned the lessons of the ruby slippers for herself – “You had the power all along, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

“Sticky” Learning

Screen Shot 2020-08-26 at 11.35.50 AMI made the comment last week that relevance makes the learning “sticky.” This really caught on and caused quite a bit of discussion. As an old Agriculture Science teacher I have preached about using relevant and real-world contexts for facilitating learning for years. In fact, I even wrote a book about it: The Hand In The Back of  The Room: Connecting School Work To Real Life. This book is all about how we (four agriculture science teachers at one school) went about teaching science in the relevant context of agriculture. The great part of the story is the statistically significant impact leading learning in a relevant context had on student learning. In other words, there was proof that relevance makes learning “sticky.”

41mQxC0XQNL._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_ML2_In the book I state, “It has always been my belief that there are three worlds that a student exists and learns in; school world, real world, and virtual world. While these three worlds can be drawn as three separate circles, I believe that for true learning to take place we must, as educators, help connect the circles for them. This means finding a way to facilitate learning in a way in which the student uses real world contexts where the student plays an active role” (location 320 on Kindle). Right now, during the Global Pandemic (we are in day 165) we have some real opportunities to make use of these world colliding. I wrote about this yesterday in When Worlds Collide. I also argued in the book that, “…facilitating learning in a relevant context enables the work to be student centered and for there to be a connection made between the student’s real world and school world for learning” (location 331 on Kindle). This connection is what makes the learning so “sticky.”

“We have to make sure that all our students have access to these kinds of challenging and hands-on activities. Although much of the focus has been on the new technology that is fueling the maker movement, even more important are the values, dispositions and skills that it fosters, such as creativity, imagination, problem-solving, perseverance, self-efficacy, teamwork and “hard fun.” ~ Secretary of Education, John King Jr.

I proposed at time of writing the book and would still advance six ideas for improving learning (Ernest, 2016):

  1. Knowing what the end product needs to be before practicing the parts
  2. Study content and apply it to authentic real world predictable and unpredictable problems/issues
  3. Applied learning opportunities must be afforded to the students
  4. Students must participate in active exploration of real world problems
  5. There must be opportunities for students to make adult connections
  6. We must make schoolwork more like real work and real life.

If we intentionally use the six ideas, we will make the learning be what former Secretary of Education, John King Jr. called “hard fun.” The nature of using relevant contexts makes the learning more rigorous. I love the term “hard fun” over rigor. If our students are learning to adapt what they have learned by addressing real world situations they will be more motivated and the learning will stick with them.

The bottom line is that education can be inspiring for our students. I believe agriculture education has an important place in creating a real world context for our students to learn in. I also believe that there are many ways for cross-curricular collaboration to be done in all subjects. At the very least, we have an obligation to our students to find ways to give our students hands-on, real life lessons that answer the questions of the hand in the back of the room and make the learning sticky for our students.


When Worlds Collide

Screen Shot 2020-08-25 at 9.43.38 AMLast week I did a professional development webinar for teachers where we were talking about one of my favorite topics that I am most passionate about – making learning relevant, authentic, and engaging. As we continue to try and disrupt education as we know it and move from a teacher-centric model to a student-centered model, there are two ways to go about this:

  1. Focus on making learning more customized to each student
  2. Focus on making learning more relevant, authentic, and engaging.

At times it seems these two foci collide. We also discussed how our students live in three worlds – school world, virtual world, and real world. Right now, as we enter day 164 of the Global Pandemic, I believe these worlds have collided as well. The point is we must truly be preparing our students for the complex, rapidly changing, technology driven, increasingly connected world they will face. I said that I thought there was a song about worlds colliding that is often played at football games. A participant quickly reminded me it was When Worlds Collide by Powerman 5000. Of course I had to listen to the song and check out the lyrics. I loved that one of the lines in the song that is about being strong and not giving up was, “What is it really that motivates you?” That is what we really must find out from each of our students; or, even help them find out for themselves.

Screen Shot 2020-08-25 at 9.43.18 AMStrategies for deeper learning that increase student engagement and produce the kinds of skills needed for today’s economy and career requirements can be improved by leveraging the practices of personalized learning allowing each student to get the kind of differentiated instruction needed to ensure that they have mastered the content.  Additionally, when implementing personalized learning students benefit when we balance their computer aided learning with robust, relevant, and authentic projects. And, guess what? When taught with these strategies, in this environment, students will be more engaged.

As our students’ worlds collide we have to remember that in the world outside of school, learning happens in real time as students begin to realize they need to know something. We must remember, however, that in the real world being knowledgeable is only part of what makes a student successful.  Making sense of the knowledge, communicating effectively with others about that knowledge, grappling with diverse perspectives, applying that knowledge, and validating their ideas are just as important. Our students must be able to adapt what they have learned to both predictable and unpredictable real world situations.

Don’t Be Lazy!🧰Use The Right Tools!

I had the chance to do some work in the barn today. That brings the same joy to me that going to the beach might bring to many of you. My son and I have been doing some cleaning and reorganizing as part of a larger campaign we were calling our “Farm COVID-19 Cleansing.” Now that he is back at college, I am on my own. Today as I was working, I realized that I would get along much better if I would use a different pitchfork. I had the other style in another barn, not 50 yards away. Finally, I told myself, “Don’t be lazy; go over and get the right tool.” I did and finished up the task much quicker and effectively.

Then I began to ponder about all the things going on in education, business, industry, and all our lives due to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic (we are in Day 161, now). We must not get lazy. We need to deploy the right tools to get the right things done effectively. Go the extra yard (in my case it was 50), so to speak, to do things right. This post is not about what those specific tools are, but about, for instance, in education that our students deserve to have the right tools to fit whatever education modality he or she is in – online, blended, or in person.

161 days ago we all said, “Let’s just do the best we can.” That was appropriate 161 days ago. Not now, though. Now, we need to be doing all the right things and using the right tools no matter what industry we are in. Good enough isn’t good enough.

Where Is The “Twin”?

Today I had the opportunity to moderate a great global webinar entitled “Creation of a Digital Twin.” The webinar was put on by GIA SMART Factory League. I am always honored to have the opportunity to work with this organization and it was incredible to be in the [virtual] room with industry representatives from over 36 different countries. And…now that we have learned we can hold these events effectively virtually and learn together apart, we can get together more often and not have the huge travel expense. Talk about holding the whole world in your hands!

I value the opportunity to spend time learning from those in business/industry and manufacturing. It saddens me that many leaders in education talk a big game about wanting to hear from business stakeholders, but most of what happens is lip service. We need more walking the talk. Those in education must stop thinking we know more than those that hire the students we educate. It must be a partnership. There must be a true dialogue of listening to understand.

That’s why I love events like the one today where we can learn together and learn each other’s industry specific languages. Today we were learning about the “digital twin.” The creation of a digital twin enables us to simulate and assess decisions:

  • Before actual assets are built and deployed
  • Before maintenance
  • Before a design change
  • Before complex tasks

A number of industries are creating digital twins, digital replicas of products, and many other things including body parts. Today we saw a digital twin of the heart done by Philips Innovation Services. The heart digital twin performs patient specific adaptation. It was amazing. Imagine the testing of procedures and products for heart repair. Also, think of the possibilities for training and education. Endless!

The digital twin mirrors what it is twinning in bits keeping the bit replica synchronized with the real one. I learned today that just certain parts of an asset can be selected to twin. Thus making it easier to focus in on specific functions or parts. It was pointed out that this could be of incredible use in education and training. In this sense digital twins are a new tool for education: rather than studying on the real thing you can study on its digital representation. Even though in a polling question I asked during my introductory statement today, there were only 7% of participants using digital twin technology for training/development and education, and 27% just starting too, technologies like virtual reality provide new tools for education.

Imagine if we had a digital twin of ourselves. We would still have all the flaws, but some some smart technician might find ways to help us improve. Far fetched? I think not!

Messy Creativity

On Monday I was doing a professional development gathering for Cardinal Charter Academy in Cary, North Carolina entitled “Flat Stanley Goes Virtual: Let’s Be Engaging, Not Flat.” Of course, I used a through line: Flat Stanley’s and Flat Sarah’s. We were discussing achieving high student engagement. Participants made their very own Flat Stanley or Flat Sarah that represented their journey during the, then 156 day, journey they had spent during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic.

The participants were super creative and it is always interesting to hear the share out stories. One really caught my attention (see picture in this post) when the participant pointed out she had put a paint splatter on Flat Stanley’s right knee to represent the messiness of our lives right now during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic – the mixing of colors without a set plan or vision of a final piece of art. While it is true, there seems to be a lot of messiness and paint slinging, it got me to thinking that we should try to treat our current situation more like an artist.

In education we have always relied on our function being to provide clear standards and the facilitation and tools needed for student success. This function has been, and continues for the most part, done in a very rigid and standardized way. While reform attempts have been made there is still much work to be done to disrupt the status quo.

All of our lives have become messy during the now 158 days of the pandemic. Additionally, the pandemic has exacerbated the messiness of leading learning in education right now. To address an issue standing between a problematic status quo and student success, we must travel into an uncomfortable unknown territory with no signposts pointing toward the destination. Right now, in these times, we are on a quest not knowing our destination before arriving. We must recognize and accept the scariness and messiness of the unknown.

We need to find ways to let loose and let the paint splatter, like on the knee of our participants Flat Stanley, into beautiful art. This makes me think of the paint splatter rooms that are popping up in many cities. Basically, you go, suit up in protective clothing, and sling paint (🎨 6+ colors) at each other and a canvas. What fun! Upon completion of your 30-45 minute “splattering” you have a beautiful piece of art. I really want to go do this! Leadership is so messy, and this splatter room concept makes such a great metaphor.

These splatter rooms have been used for therapy and team building because of the feeling of freedom achieved by just slinging the paint and the random mixing of colors. A messy process where the splatter artist doesn’t exactly know how the canvas will look in the end, but has created a beautiful product. There is so much we can’t predict, much less understand and control, especially right now. We need to keep leaping into an exploration of the possibilities with unscripted questions and activities – the splattering of paint.

We need to embrace the messiness and discover previously unimagined possibilities. Leadership is not about finding one’s courage. Rather, leadership is accepting the messiness and fear that goes with the new and unknown, and then finding the courage to surface its possibilities and beauty.

Boom! Hang On Tight! Oooooh So Close! Woohoo! Go Enjoy Your Time!

“Boom! Hang on tight! Oooooh so close! Woohoo! And… Go Enjoy your time!” were all descriptors I was receiving on my phone last night in Murray, Kentucky. We were at Mister B’s Pizza and Wings. Because of the need for physical distancing this great restaurant has an app that tells you where you are in the seating process. Once we gave them our number, a text was sent with a link to our personalized app. It gives you how many parties are ahead of you and an approximate time for seating. Genius, right? It also gave us the menu so we could be thinking about that.

I loved the descriptors along the way:

  • Boom! Let me know we were in the system and to click on the app
  • Hang On Tight! Meant we had one party ahead of us.
  • Ooh So Close! Meant we were next.
  • Woohoo! Was our text telling us they were ready for us.
  • Go Enjoy Your Time! The app’s message telling us they were ready to seat us.

Now, I know some of you are saying, “Big deal, Byron! Other restaurants do that too.” I get it. Others use QR codes to go to their menu, but I just thought the descriptors and the design of the app was cool. It may have also been the fact that we were eating at my son’s favorite go to place (data shows he can eat 15 Mister B’s famous buffalo wings in one minute – I guess there was a contest) in the home of Murray State University.

My point here really is just how far we’ve come during this, as of today, 155 day journey of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. Business have adapted and created new ways, including our experience I described above, to enhance the customer experience; while at the same time doing their best to keep us safe. Those of us in the education world are constantly navigated the fluidity of school no longer being a place. And, individuals and families are making adjustments we never dreamed of.

I believe we need to take a moment and acknowledge and appreciate some of the great things that have been done during these 155 days, such as:

  • Telephone befriending services to keep communities together
  • Supermarkets, banks, and other businesses offering “elderly/senior only” times for shopping.
  • We’ve become comfortable having virtual gatherings where we can come together globally without the expense and fuss of travel (I had the opportunity to spend and hour and a half with neighbors from 42 different countries, recently). We wouldn’t have even thought of that a few years ago.
  • Finally, leaders are realizing working remotely can be effective. Let’s face it, big egos are the only reason for fancy buildings, offices, and “places” to work in many cases.
  • Our abilities to provide professional development have improved greatly – the way we time them out, delivery, access to more people, et cetera.
  • Creative money raising events
  • Creative virtual concerts with some of our favorite artists. Some great artists, like Mark Tremonti, send out regular clips of personal recorded music with a message. In some ways we can feel closer to these artists than ever before.
  • A chance to break routine and restructure our lives. We’ve gotten back to do some of the things we want to do, but never had the time to.
  • We have learned to access culture without having to travel.
  • Demand has made the internet providers make improvements; along with all technology providers.
  • Educators have been allowed to be, and have risen to the challenge I might add, creative.

I know we all want the Pandemic to be over, but I believe we need to take a moment and celebrate the accomplishments from around the world. This has given us a chance to grow and improve in so many ways as a global community. Let’s not ever fully go back to the way it was 155 days ago – let’s keep the improvement momentum going and strengthen our community. Let’s keep asking, “What can we create together?” Perhaps the biggest positive emerging from this crisis, though, is the realization that we humans are capable of global, collective action. If the stakes are high enough, we can take on these challenges together and, most importantly of all, rapidly abandon business as usual. I would love to hear about other positives you believe should be added to the list.

Become More Human & Less Machine

Back in June I had the opportunity to facilitate human development of the National FFA Organization‘s Teacher Ambassadors. The National Teacher Ambassadors for FFA Programs is open to any current middle/high school agriculture teacher all over the United States with the goal of having representatives from every state. Teacher ambassadors are responsible for presenting workshops, working with state officials, conducting webinars, and serving as content specialists in agricultural education and the FFA. I had the opportunity to work with teachers from all around the country and Puerto Rico.

comp_backtohuman_3d_5bf57cbf4616eOne of the things that past years’ participants had recommended is that there be a book chosen to use along with all the other professional growth opportunities being provided. As an avid reader, FFA leadership deferred to me to pick the book. I was thrilled to get to do this! The theme of “making connections” rose to the top as a theme for the two week development. It is so great to have a theme developed organically from the participants. We even used the hashtag #FFAConnections on twitter. I did my due diligence thinking of books I had read and reviewing others, but a book that I had read in the past kept jumping to the top of the list: Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation by Dan Schwabel.

Dan Schawbel is a New York Times bestselling author and the Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence, a research and advisory firm helping HR adapt to trends, drive performance and prepare for the future. He is the bestselling author of three career books: Back to Human, Promote Yourself and Me 2.0. Schawbel is also the host of the 5 Questions podcast, where he interviews world-class humans like two of my heroes Richard Branson and Condoleezza Rice; among others like Rachael Ray, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Jay Shetty. At the beginning of the book Dan said, “The point of Back to Human is to help you decide when and how to appropriately use technology to build better connections in your work life.” He also told us in the book that leaders can only be successful if we are able to create emotional connections to others – connections that allow empathy, performing acts of kindness, and avoid hurting others. Because these teachers would be making connections during the continued Global COVID-19 Pandemic (we are now in day 147), this topic was so relevant.

Because we were doing this growth opportunity virtually, I decided to take advantage and see if I could get a Zoom conversation with Dan Schawbel set up to discuss just how we could become more human and less machine. He was more than willing and we had a great conversation that we were then able to provide to our participants. Here is my conversation with Dan split into to two YouTube videos:

What an amazing conversation, don’t you think? Needless to say, our participants thought so. Our participants also loved reading the book. It is amazing to me how applicable a book that was released back in 2018 is even more applicable today than when it was released. This really is a book that I believe every human should read.

Dan was also so gracious in agreeing to answer all questions submitted by these highly engaged teachers. Here are there very thoughtful questions, and Dan’s answers:

1. How do you recommend balancing/setting boundaries when tuning out the noise of technology when so much of our work has to be completed using technology or communicate with our superiors? There is so much pressure to “look like you are working” that sometimes boundaries of not checking emails or not answering the phone after hours can make us “look bad.” When you’re working remotely, there is both external and internal pressure to work harder, longer, and deliver more value above and beyond what would be expected at the office. That’s why you have to self-manage, set expectations, and create boundaries with the people you work with. You need time away from technology or you’ll get burned out and sick from overwork and too much screen time. Block off time during the day on your calendar for walks, phone calls, reading a book, and other activities that pull you away from your screen.

2. What do you believe the long-term effects of the widespread remote working will be? The widespread effects of remote working will be more competition, yet more freedom for professionals globally. By working remotely, people have the freedom and flexibility to work when, where, and how they want. But, with remote work comes global competition because people don’t need to be at a corporate office to interview or work. For instance, if you live in Idaho you can work for a Silicon Valley technology company, which would have forced you to relocate in the past. If you are job searching in Silicon valley, now you have to compete with people who live everyone in the world including Idaho, which wasn’t your competition pre-covid.

3. Even though our students have grown up with technology, and are addicted to it, there was a lack of engagement during Distance Learning this year. Seeing that we are most likely going to have a hybrid type of classroom moving forward (distance learning and in class learning), how do we engage them in the distance/technology learning portion of that hybrid model? Can we trick their brains to make them feel like it is “cool?” I think the smartest thing teachers can do when it comes to teaching in a hybrid model is to experiment and then solicit feedback from the students. Find out what’s working and what isn’t by asking them directly and using the data you receive from virtual learning as an indicator of what changes need to be made. Make two buckets, one for virtual learning and one for in-person learning. As you experiment with your coursework, put activities into one of those buckets based on what’s working for you and the students.

 4. In a world of instant gratification and praise being needed, like discussed in chapter 6, are we enabling this “addiction” by giving that praise and recognition? How do we find a balance between giving the recognition needed in order to build relationships with students, and enabling that mindset? I don’t think it’s wise to give recognition for the sake of it. I think you should be consciously awake that recognition is important to student engagement, but only do it if it makes sense and feels natural, otherwise, it could come off as being fake.

5. As teachers how can we start the new school year with better communication/connections during our new teacher inductions? During this spring I felt like I was chasing students around for attendance purchases. I recommend that you start the communication before the school year begins and when crafting the introductions be vulnerable with what you’ve been through during the pandemic, how it’s affected you, and emphasize the importance of teaching. This will help you connect emotionally to your students and also reinforce the importance of education.

6. If we practice over-communicating, how do we make sure the communication still appears authentic? You be authentic first, then over-communicate second. Come up with an important message and say it in multiple ways across multiple days or weeks.

7. How do we allow those who we are virtually meeting with trust us through what we are presenting or discussing versus being in a classroom or office setting? How do we keep their attention during that time? Trust needs to be earned overtime by being honest, dependable, competent and consistent, all of which you can display virtually but strengthen in person. Getting and keeping attention is hard virtually so you have to spend that much more energy making your teaching dynamic and interactive.

8. What long term effects do you think we will see from using zoom and the virtual communication on real in person communication in the future? Technology can be a bridge to more human interaction and trust, but I think we’re at a point where people are exhausted from it. I think the combination of technology and in-person interaction will be the prevailing hybrid in the aftermath of the pandemic.

9. I LOVE the idea about communicating once on Monday and once on Friday and I actually used this method with my students (optionally) this spring. There were incentives for them to come to my meetings though. I had a hard time making them mandatory because –I knew they had 6ish other teachers that could be expecting the same things or have different demands. What kind of system or pattern of meeting do you recommend when dealing with students in a situation like that vs. An office? Just a short meeting with each teacher -still Monday and Friday –or having like a whole grade meeting and then asynchronous meetings with individual teachers? When it doubt, put the options on the table potentially in survey form to find out what works best for them, then analyze the results and act on the most frequently chosen response as a trial. This way, you can justify your choices to the students if they ask.

10. Is it bad that I am enjoying the “break” of life with the outbreak of covid? No, we all need breaks especially during hard times.

11. What are some ways that educators can make our connections unique through virtual learning? By talking more about personal activities instead of just school work and by asking more questions instead of just lecturing. 

12. The Monday/Friday video calls seems like an excellent idea! I resonate with ideal of having to “prove” your worth when working digitally. Our district has required time logs that have instilled a feeling that the district does not “trust” its teachers. How can school leaders balance expectations and trust? I think you have to run trials and then iterate because we are living through a historical time that hasn’t happened before. Everyone is experimenting to see what works and then running with the results.

13. I find it interesting that he said we are working more and harder when working digitally. Up to ten hours. Part of me felt like I was slacking just because I was working at home and I am not used to that. I also realize now that I was working more because I was checking email, Google Classroom, and other platforms ALL DAY! How will we get away from that if we are more digital next year? I’m not saying that we should be working up to 10 hours more, the data just shows remote workers have fewer boundaries between work and life so they end up working more during their life. It’s not healthy to overwork and burn out and can be counterproductive.

14. A recent impromptu poll I’ve done with my kids showed that the majority of them “cheater, or felt the urge to cheat” because of the lack of structure or supervision with FFA activities. In a period of isolation, besides meetings once a week, what are other possible strategies to promote structure in an online setting? You should equip students with their own structure and not expect them to do it for themselves. This can be done using technology like a calendar where they get alerts when they have to be in class or a homework assignment is due.

15. With so many varying backgrounds and interest levels with students/teachers, how can we keep our virtual/hybrid learning and communication relevant to those that we are communicating with? The video talked about zoom fatigue, but it seems to be something we must learn to live with. I understand communication is key to understand what your audience wants, but it’s much harder than a classroom to adjust virtually to appeal to a virtual audience. We have to adjust as we go because this is new territory for everyone, both students and teachers. Through our experience and by talking openly, and soliciting feedback from students, you should adjust your communication style. When class starts in-person again, people will naturally spend less time on Zoom since we use it by necessity right now.

16. How do you convince school leadership that beginning and ending the week together (as talked about in the video) can create a sense of community within a district? It comes down to a conversation about setting expectations, being on the same page and ensuring that there’s consistency in communication. The start and end of the week create the biggest impression.

17. How do we mimic small accountability groups with our school staff, classrooms, and FFA officer teams if we continue with virtual learning? Right now you can do Zoom breakout rooms in order to do that.  

18. What are some tips and tricks for increasing digital engagement? Quizzes and facilitated discussions work really well. You want the students to participate much more than they normally would because you aren’t in a physical space.

19.How do we turn the digital/virtual/remote environment to where people will want to show up and engage? You pick the right platforms and then use the tools inside of that platform to engage students, allowing them to participate and connect with you and each other.

20.As an individual, how do you suggest employees who consumed with online learning disconnect from the digital world to create a healthier work/personal life balance? You give them time in their schedule for breaks and encourage them to take time off.

21. Are there specific ways/methods of engaging young people/students that are more effective than professionals? Use the platforms that they are currently using as a way to communicate with them and solicit interaction. For instance, Tik Tok is an iPhone app that students are using so you can use that same platform to think of creative ways to engage them.

As you can see Dan really does fulfill his role in society by making information and research universally applicable and digestible by the public. Back to Human and Dan himself really gave these teacher ambassadors useful and immediately actionable information for helping them be effective ambassadors for the National FFA Organization and agricultural education. They also will be better teachers for the students they serve because of the “back to human” experience. How about you? Do you want to become more human and less machine? I sure hope so!