Wednesday, October 20, 2010

FBI - Expedition to the Brain

I have many theories, but here is my latest...about the FBI (Fabulous Brain Injured).

Based upon my May 2007 Brain-Injury and 15 years of teaching high school, I wonder how many of my students may have received some level of brain injury that may have made them behave differently. I wonder how many may have had a significant head trauma, but were not treated in a hospital. I also wonder how many may have gone to the hospital after a head trauma, but traumatic brain injuries were not identified.

Years ago, as a football coach who was also an emergency medical technician, I participated in a workshop that members of our rescue squad conducted for local high school and junior high football coaches. The workshop was about how to manage and inspect football players for signs of concussion. I remember one comment that I laughed about back then, but now makes me mad to think about.

A high school football coach said,"I figure if they don't get their bell rung, they are not playing hard enough."

I was presenting at the time and I mildly, sarcastically laughed with the other coaches. Now, I am embarrassed/frustrated that I allowed the situation of concussions to be joked about. Now, I have a strong desire to help all coaches and players understand that the brain is a fragile limb. A limb that if damaged, can be far, far worse than a broken bone.

FBI (Fabulous Brain Injured) people need to step up, and share the challenges of potential traumatic brain injuries with young people and adults.

John F. Kennedy challenged the United States to take an Expedition to the Moon. Today, FBI should challenge the United States to take an Expedition to the Brain.

Expedition to the Moon: Sputnik launched our Expedition to the Moon. Scientists discovered much new technology from our Expedition to the Moon.

Expedition to the Brain: The wave of baby-boomers are rapidly approaching retirement, and some analysts predict that we will encounter a 'boom' of people who will suffer with dementia and Alzheimer as they age. Thirty years ago, traumatic brain injury was not well understood. Advancements in science, wars, and traumatic brain injuries has allowed man to dramatically improve the understanding of the human brain.

FBI members need to encourage an all-out Expedition to the Brain. It will cost much, but the potential return-on-investment priceless. Unless technologies change, money and riches cannot be transported to heaven.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wasted Donuts & Ag Teacher Math

A comment at the 2009 Ag Ed Conference spurred the following thoughts.
Comment: "Our school has probably wasted lots of donuts at meetings which did not have a clear purpose."

Using my ag teacher math skills, I did some figurin'.

370 schools times 6 meetings per year times $5 for donuts at each meeting = $11,100 potentially wasted dollars.

Some (not all) of us need to utilize our advisory committees much better...BY GIVING THEM A PURPOSE.

Programs of Study and 3rd Party Assessment are not new concepts. (For eons, DHIA has served as a 3rd Party for dairy producers. If a dairy cow if polite and friendly but is a low producer, she probably gets culled.)

CTE needs to CULL the practice of having advisory committee meetings "merely to meet the law". Utilize Programs of Study and 3rd Party Assessment to give Advisory Committee members a PURPOSE and USE thier input. (Remember: Advisory committee members are NOT the educational experts, they are the industry experts.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thinking In & Out of the Box

For house cats, thinking out-of-the-box, is bad and may get them kicked out of the house.  For humans that live in the house, thinking out-of-the-box, may generate wealth which may allow them to buy a bigger house, to which which they move their in-the-box thinking cats.  Humans that think in-the-box may be stuck living in a small,boring house with cats that think in-the-box.

When everyone else was doing what they were told to do, "build computers."   Bill Gates was like Curious George, thinking out-of-the-box, to develop software for the computers that the robotic humans were building.  If only Bill had listened to what others told him to do.  Then  he could be average and would not have to be bothered by the hassles of being the richest person in the world.  Thinking out-of-the-box has its burdens, like being the richest man in the world.

The United States economy has thrived because our FREEDOM-based society has allowed CREATIVITY and INNOVATION to thrive, and generate wealth.   People who are NOT free to be creative or innovative, are sometimes forced to memorize and regurgitate, allowing Americans to buy their inexpensively manufactured products.  

Oppressive nations tell their students, "Do what we tell you to do. Do NOT ask questions."

In the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, we should strive to say the opposite, "Ask questions.  Be creative. Do NOT do what we tell you to do, WITHOUT questioning us first."

Be a house cat or be a human, you decide.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Life or Death Problem-Solving

(Contextual Learning Lost - part 2)

Barb Lemmer recently told me a story about her favorite student field trip. Each year she takes students to the swine farm at the local community college, as students enter the farrowing-facility the veterinarian hands each student a baby-pig. The each hold the pig as they tour the facility and listen to his presentation. Before they leave, they are asked to place the pigs back with their MOTHERS...put them with the wrong mother and they may be killed. Because students do not remember which crates their pigs came from, they begin to FREAK out because they don't want their new porcine buddies to die. The stress and emotion caused students to perform their own critical problem-solving to determine where to put each piglet. (Thanks goodness for ear ID. We were not wanting to make kids think they were pets, but these are very teachable-moments.)

Sort of like the real-world, the final answer to the pig-placement problem has real-world and potentially deadly results. Contextual learning does help students to implement and utilize problem-solving skills.

Contextual Learning is NOT about requiring students to memorize and regurgitate lots of information. Contextual Learning is about teaching students in a real-world situation that has significant, real-world improtance. Because nearly 100% of high school students eat food, agricultural education is a perfect format to provide contextual learning.

Soft Skills are ultimately more improtant than Technical Skills.

Landscaping: My students used to love getting outside each spring to conduct landscaping projects. Most importantly, it instilled pride in their accomplishments when adults praised them and thanked them for their work. Students learned that QUALITY of work is very important.

Tractor Restoration: Out of the blue, we would sometimes have old-timers that wanted a few ag students to restore his old tractor. The few times this happened, I would have the old-timer come in and talk to the designated students so they could develop a personal relationship. Once students got to know the person they were restoring the tractor for, they would police the project so no other students touched it.

Golf Course Retaining Wall = $2100.00; Restored B John Deere = $800.00; Contextual Learning provides real-world development of technical skills and soft-skills = PRICELESS.

CTE educators need to fight to ensure that contextual learning does not disappear. English, science and math skills ONLY matter if used on-the-job.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Building Freedom

An event to implement the old cliche...

"You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

"Building Freedom"  (Youtube video link)
Building Freedom is an initiative by the Central City FFA (Iowa).  This project was developed with Bret Himes to share information with Iraq and help aid in thje rebuilding process by sending them agricultural supplies.  

  • Stimulate the U.S. and world economy by purchasing, collecting and shipping items to help Iraqi and Afghanistan farmers...via the U.S. military.
  • Most importantly, protect U.S. citizens by making friends out of our enemies.
  • Honey not vinegar
Challenge every FFA member to donate the equivalent value of one or more cans of pop.  (Or soda, here in Iowa, we say pop not soda or coke.)
  • Improve you personal health by drinking a few less pops
  • Improve the world's health by Building Freedom
For more information, contact, Rob Pangburg, Central City FFA Advisor at:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

SAE and the Ford Pinto (analogy, I live by analogies)

Caution:  Teachers under age 40, may not understand some of my analogies.

Fuel efficient sub-concept cars are trendy and a solid marketing concept (i.e., Smart Fortwo), but Ford is re-claiming the Fiesta name, not the Pinto name.    Possibly because of the Pinto's reputation for exploding during rear impact.

(Dodge has started using the Challenger name again, but Ford has continually avoided renewing the Edsel.)

Based upon the statements of a majority of current college it time to abandon the "SAE" name while retaining and re-packaging this solid concept under a new name?  A new moniker that de-emphasizes the A.

Would it be easier to establish a new name for a revised concept, rather than try to change everyone's thinking of the old name?  (Heck, I am old enough to remember when SAE was SOE.  The concept has been re-packaged before, and it survived.)

National FFA data:  The number of Ag Ed students with an SAE has decreased significantly in the last 20 years.  

It may be easier to create a new name and revised concept, than to bring new life to a name that seems to have worn out its welcome.

A newly engineered and re-designed Pinto may still be thought of, by some (not all), as an exploding car.

We probably need to re-design SAE before it hits the bottom of its downward spiral.

S vs. A vs. E...the ongoing dilemma of SAE

Iowa Degree time of year, the ongoing debate about SAE continues. However, calls/questions are at a lower level than previous years.

I taught a sophomore-level AgEDS class at ISU this morning, and I spent the entire period gathering the ideas/perspectives of our future teachers.

Their random comments are hard to quantify as data, but following comments were common themes:

  • Supervised is important, critical
  • implies over-seeing the program or project, collaborating with the student to help the student learn
  • does not imply SAE visit only - supervision  can be provided in ways other than an on-site visit; could be conducted in school or at the end of a class
  • providing input and/recommendation to help the student improve is important


  • too hard to define, almost impossible to classify careers that are agricultural vs. careers that are not agricultural
  • in the big scheme of transferrable skills, the A is less important than the S or the E


  • contextual learning / learning in the context of real-world careers
  • communication skills are transferrable to many, many careers
  • help students build upon what they learn in an agricultural education course, even if they cannot find an approved "agricultural" job

S a E (rather than SAE)

  • From an educational standpoint the "a" is far less critical than the "S" or the "E"
  • we should not be turning away kids or discouraging kids because of the little "a"
  • almost any skill is tranferrable to agriculture or vice versa

S & E do not imply that this learning must be conducted outside of the classroom. Thinking that all SAEs must be conducted outside of the school or outside of the classroom is un-realistic for some students.  The goal is learning, no matter where it happens.  Teach all students, anyway that is feasible.

I told the following story to the AgEDS students: 

I used to select a 'weekly' manager in my aquaculture class. During class, they did the same things as the other students, but I would have them present a 3-5 minute overview of the aquaculture system from their perspective as a manager. Because the internet was a brand-new technology, they loved searching for aquaculture information in their attempt of provide managerial input. (I never had them keep SAE record books for this, but wish I had.)  The majority of these students were not FFA members, and were not in any of my other Ag Ed courses.

In summary, the Ag Ed students in AGEDS said:

SAE should continue to be a requirement for FFA membership, but decreasing the emphasis on the "a"...SaE...would allow ALL Ag Ed students to have an SAE.

? Cash register at McDonalds ? They said, this absolutely should be considered an SAE, because of the valuable communication skills students can learn. The S & E are far more important in the big scheme of life than the lower-case "a". They are in an agriculture course and are already learning far more about agriculture than other students.

Does not seem to make sense to punish some "agriculture" students because their SAEs are not "agricultural-enough".

If the student's chapter advisor rules the SaE as "agricultural", it should be accepted as "agricultural" by teachers who do not  know the student or the project/program.

SAE should be thought of as SaE

An SaE may not provide the size and scope needed to adequately compete for an FFA award, but it should be considered as acceptable as an SAE. ( A degree is NOT an award.)