Snow Rollers and Cancelled Classes…

snow rollers.JPGWhat are two things you may never experience again in your lifetime?  Snow rollers and Clarion University cancelling classes…  Both have happened this winter!

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If WeMo Then That?

I’ve recently become intrigued by home automation.  By home automation, I mean being able to control and monitor objects around the house remotely.  I’m not talking about making the vacuum run itself, I’m talking about controlling the thermostat, lights, and appliances.  It’s an entirely new world to me, with the possibilities still a little fuzzy in my understanding.

So the first thing I did to help me better understand the concept was to buy a Belkin WeMo Switch.  This could best be described as a plug that plugs in.  WeMoBut the plug that plugs in actually has a little WiFi network.  It was easy to configure and I had it up and running in a matter of minutes.  It took longer to figure out where to plug it in than to set it up.

What does it do?  Well, it connects to my home WiFi and allows me, with the WeMo App, to control the power to the switch from my SmartPhone and Tablet.  Needless to say, my wife was not terribly impressed with the fact that I could turn a light in my house on and off, on and off, and on and off, from my iPhone.  But the coolness is that I can do it from anywhere… and that means anything I plug into the WeMo switch can be controlled from my iPhone.  In addition, you can create and add many, many different rules of when it turns on and off.

The Belkin WeMo Switch is cool, but then…

Then I discovered IFTTT!  IfThisThenThat!!  IFTTT is a website that’s been around for a couple of years.  I’ve heard of it but ignored it.  But when I saw it described as one of the ways I could control my WeMo Switch, I IFTTTtook note.  IFTTT lets you create “recipes” of scenarios that may occur in your technology world.  So, by connecting my WeMo Switch with IFTTT, I can now tell my switch to turn on at sunset, or turn off when I leave the house, or… or… or…  If you think of the scenario, the recipe can be developed.

But IFTTT doesn’t stop at a little ol’ plug in the wall.  IFTTT can have recipes for just about any technology site and/or app you can think of.  How about having any Instagram Photo you take be automatically sent to your Flickr account?  How about having a text message sent to yourself every morning with the weather forecast?  How about having your new blog post be posted on Twitter?  There are literally thousands of recipes available, and you can also build your own.

Now all this new-to-me information about IFTTT and WeMo and blah, blah, blah is revolving around one single, simple plug in my house.  But of course, there are WeMo Light Switches, Motion Sensors, Cameras, and more.  The possibilities are endless.

And WeMo is just the tip of the iceberg.  Z-Wave… here I come.

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Spring 2014 Semester – Week 1

A brand new semester is upon us.  We at Clarion University have had a challenging year so far due to budget problems and “Workforce Plans.”  Our College of Education and Human Services has been streamlined and by Summer 2014, we will be the “School of Education.”

ED 417: Teaching with Technology is starting out well, each semester students seem to be more and more comfortable with “new” technologies that I introduce.  There are still very few that search the web efficiently, but most catch on quickly.  The biggest struggle in this class is to get students to look beyond the technology they use for personal purposes and see how they can employ technology to teach and learn.  Unfortunately, it takes a long time for them to understand that employing technology to teach and learn means that they must stop thinking like students and start thinking like teachers.

ECH 415: Learning and Teaching Mathematics, Grades 1-4 is going to be interesting this semester.  To begin, there are too many students for a hands-on, interactive, concrete-focused class.  30 students in this class is too many.  Add to that, I’ve completely redesigned how I’m going to teach the class.  In the common terminology, I’m “flipping” the class.  I’ve begun recording lectures and posting them online.  Students will be required to view the videos and be prepared for classroom discussions, homework, and quizzes.  Actual class time will focus on activities and group projects.  Time will tell… I hope the students adapt.

ED 610: Mobile Educational Technology is a graduate-level class that I am teaching for only the second time.  I am always a bit uncomfortable with new classes and tend to make them a little too easy.  So, although the students may not complain, the content is not terribly challenging and focuses mostly on their exploration.

My biggest challenge this semester will once again be keeping up with my blog.

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My Own Domain

Welcome to my own domain…  I am now master of my domain!  😉  Creating and buying it were ridiculously easy and cheap.  WordPress Rocks!!



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Free Book Weekend – Two C.B. McCullough Titles FREE

I’ve never used the “reblog” feature… Not sure how it works. I’m attempting to reblog my son’s blog about is new book.

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Summer Classes Begin….

The following is my introductory message for my new online graduate courses.

Hi, I’m John. I’m not Dr. McCullough, I’m John. (Well… I am a Dr. but we’re all adults here… please call me John.) I’m a Professor in the Education Department at Clarion University. I have a D.Ed. in Elementary Education, a M.Ed. in Science Education, and a B.S. and Secondary Ed. Certification in Mathematics.

This is my 22nd year as a full-time faculty member in the Education Department. Prior to working in the Education Department, I worked for a Science Education Grant, also at CUP. My first education job was teaching at Cranberry Area School District in Seneca, PA. I taught Junior High Mathematics and Senior High Computer Science for 4 years.

I have been married to my best friend, Leeann, for 28 years. We have 3 sons, Corey – 25 and his wife Vanessa, Shawn – 22, and Kyle – 17. We also have a great family dog, Mac, a yellow labrador. In addition, we provide food and shelter for a stupid cat and a sleepy turtle. We live in the big city of Kennerdell, PA. Kennerdell is mostly known for its lookout high above the Allegheny River, its old railroad tunnels, its scenic beauty, and laid back attitude.

In my spare time I love to be outdoors, fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, photography, golfing, or building yet another deck. I have been using computers and the Internet for many years. Since 1989, I have been a die-hard Apple Macintosh fanatic. My tech skills are quite good on Macs and adequate on Windows machines. I just wish computers would work all the time! (Wasn’t that what we were told… they always work?… Ha!) My favorite thing to tell anyone that will listen regarding computers is “if all else fails, deprive them of power.” If they stop working correctly, pull the damn plug!

Not long after they came out, I bought an iPad. A couple of years ago I bought an iPhone. Before owning these devices, I couldn’t quite figure out why someone would want them or need them. I cannot believe the amount of time and work I accomplish now with these devices at my ready 24/7. That might also be a problem, so sometimes I have to leave them behind for peace and quiet… literally and mentally.

I believe very strongly in the educational theory of Constructivism. You learn as you do. I am not a good instructional presenter, but I’m a damn good instructional facilitator. In other words, I can’t lecture well, but I can effectively lead you in the right direction. One of my favorite quotes is “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.” I have taught a bunch of online courses, so I hope that my method of teaching is appropriate for our web course and your learning style. I have spent a TREMENDOUS amount of time planning and designing this course so that you can complete it mostly at your own pace. I look forward to reading about each of you!

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Just a test for summer class prep.

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What goes around, comes around…

Many years ago, when my father was alive and teaching, I remember him telling me for no particular reason, “if you go into education, never throw anything away.”  When I asked what he meant, he mumbled something about having to rewrite curriculum.  I didn’t understand what he was talking about, and being the typical teen, didn’t care either.  But, I went into education.

During my second year of teaching, I was asked to help design the curriculum for 8th grade pre-algebra.  A colleague and I worked very hard, reviewing textbooks, developing objectives, designing units, and building assessments.  At the end of several months of work, work of which we were proud and of which our math colleagues approved, the curriculum director decided that the time wasn’t quite right to revise the curriculum after all.  We threw away our work, disgusted at the massive amount of time we wasted.

During my fourth year of teaching I was asked to design the curriculum for 8th grade pre-algebra.  I embarked on the tedious task again, this time alone.  I worked very hard, reviewing textbooks, developing objectives, designing units, and building assessments.  As I worked on this project, I remembered my dad’s advice, “if you go into education, never throw anything away.”  I knew then what he meant.

This semester, during my 25th year of teaching, I was asked to serve on a committee to develop the Academic Plan for my College and my Department at the University.  After 25 years in education, I’ve learned that there are many tasks that administrators feel are very important, while faculty feel they are essentially useless.  Developing an “academic plan” is one of those tasks.  I understand that it’s important to reflect on what we’ve done and occasionally re-load our vision of where we want to go.  But I’ve yet to see one of these “academic plans” really make a difference.  As part of my responsibility on this committee, I was asked to write our Education Department Goals.  So today I searched through my computer hard drive, located the 2009 Strategic Plan, plucked out of that plan our proposed objectives, revised them briefly, and submitted them as our 2013 Education Department Goals.

It took about 20 years, but I finally heeded my father’s advice, “if you go into education, never throw anything away.”

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She did good… I did bad.

Today I re-learned an important lesson, I re-learned the actual lesson I’ve helped to teach many times.  Come to think of it, I’ve been the poster child for this lesson.

Today I observed a teacher candidate working with children in a public school classroom.  This teacher candidate has been one of my weakest students this semester.  This teacher candidate has had poor attendance, has seemed disconnected most of the time, has done poorly on exams, and has weakly participated during class sessions.  While driving to the school this afternoon, my expectations for this teacher candidate’s ability to work with children was low.

In 1985, I sent a letter to my local school superintendent.  Paraphrasing, the letter stated that if they ever needed an un-certified, un-qualified, inexperienced individual with a degree in Mathematics to teach any high school math classes, I was their man.  My expectations of ever hearing a response from the superintendent was lower than low.  Within 6 months, I was teaching at that school, enrolled in a PA Secondary Mathematics Teacher Certification Program, and well on my way to a career in education.

In 1990, I sent a letter to my local University Education Department.  Paraphrasing, the letter stated that if they ever needed an un-qualified, inexperienced individual without a terminal degree to teach any of their education courses, I was their man.  My expectations of ever hearing a response from the Education Department was lower than low.  Within 6 months, I was teaching part-time as an elementary mathematics methods instructor.  Within a year, I was teaching full-time.  Within 3 years, I was enrolled in a doctoral program and a permanent tenure-track faculty member.  Today, I am a Full Professor with a D.Ed., I am at the top of the seniority list in the Education Department, and I am finishing my 21st year as a permanent faculty member.

While driving to the public school this afternoon, my conflicting history of low expectations vs. positive results never crossed my mind.  I watched in amazement as this “weak” teacher candidate deftly presented content and maintained great classroom control, all while teaching with passion and humor.  This surely was not the same student from my class.  My expectations had been lower than low.  This teacher candidate should have slapped me, and in many ways, did.

Personal and professional reflection is interesting.  It’s timeless, it’s revealing, and sometimes it’s inspiring.  Today I re-learned a lesson that has been taught many times in my life and career.  Today I re-learned that I’m my weakest student.

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Field Experience

My last post focused on how undergraduate students don’t typically think like teachers, at least not until they participate in a field experience.  I want to continue to focus on that topic.

Last evening, my colleagues and I hosted a meeting of our Block Students.  The purpose of this meeting was to bring the students together and discuss how their experiences have been going.  These students have been in the field for a little over a week and have less than 3 weeks to go.  We, the faculty, assumed that about half of the students would attend since the meeting was not mandatory.  However, all but one student attended and the discussions were amazing.  They joined together is discussions about PSSA testing, about classroom management, about professionalism, about lesson planning, and many, many other topics.  Not only were they thinking like teachers, they were acting like teachers.  It was a very rewarding experience for me.  But, it’s also a sad experience because this may be the first time they have felt like real teachers since they began their college careers 3 1/2 years ago.

As I posted previously, this type of field experience needs to happen sooner and more often.  So how do we do it?  How do we place teacher candidates attending a college in a rural, NW PA community with a limited number of schools, into more field experience settings?   How do we provide more rich, authentic field experiences without overwhelming our local school districts?

If you have suggestions, feel free to add comments with your ideas.  I’m stumped…

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