Monday, February 27, 2017

WELCOME MEMO to STUDENTS (#4): Some of our procedures

Welcome letter to a new student
Welcome to the Online Middle and High School.
You might already know that we are more than a high school… we serve students in grades 6-8, too.  We have seen that many students do well up to about grade 5 and then “BOOM” the middle school years are difficult.

Our school has a number of procedures that are different from traditional schools.   You can see the entire list at and you can read the Little Book at to get a brief look at our primary focus:  skills and portfolios (and blogs).

Today I’d like us to focus on two main ideas.

What are the skills that you need to move ahead?

What is the easiest way for us to measure your progress?

1.  SKILLS:  Find the skills that you need by asking the parents and the student.  Then look at the lists that forward-thinking educators (like Tony Wagner) propose.

2.  Measuring your progress
A wise teacher has written:  

You can judge our program by looking at the work of our graduates.  

This idea comes from the idea that we have choices.

Another way to look at this school is “voice and choice.”  John Spencer, George Couros and others have written deeply about these two ideas and you can follow them to learn more from these teachers.  Today we want to cover two important procedures:

VOICE - You can speak about what’s on your mind — instantly.  You can send an email message and you can “interrupt” your studies to let the teacher know what you are thinking.  In a traditional school, you need to write your idea on paper (so you don’t forget the idea), wait for the right moment and then approach the teacher or raise your hand.  In an online school, your opinion matters more than in a face-to-face school, since your participation drives the school.   In a traditional school, students can spend large amounts of the day relaxing, waiting for the next subject to be presented.  In an online school, it’s you who decides what happens next.

CHOICE - you can decide what you do next.   Who has more stress, the CEO of a company or a telephone receptionist?  The owner of a restaurant or one of the servers?  The principal of a school or one of the teachers?

Many of us might say, “The person who is the boss has more concerns and more weight on her shoulders, so the owner is more likely to have more stress.”

But what is stress?  Stress comes from not having control over what your day looks like.  Think about the server at a restaurant.  Think about the teachers.  Think about the telephone receptionist.  Can any of them tell someone to “hold my calls.  I’m taking a nap”?  Who can decide what she will do next?
The CEO of a company, the owner of the restaurant and the principal can say, “I was up late last night thinking deeply about our challenges.  I need to take a nap.  Please hold my calls.   Wake me in 30 minutes.”  The telephone receptionist, the server and the student can’t easily decide what order they will do their work.   These people have to answer the phone, take the and do what they are expected to do.  Now.

“You can take your break in 15 minutes.  You are needed now to….” (complete a task).

The point is this:  You have control over much of your day because you are a student in an online school.  You can decide which subject you will work on in this next hour.   Yes, you can decide to listen to music while you read and you can eat snacks while you put your feet up, relax in your pajamas and sit on your bed.  After all, you are in home school and you are working online!

Show up to school in your home
Studies show that people who work from home can be more productive and produce more results if they: 
— work in a special area of their home that looks like an office;
— wear work clothes;
— reduce the number of distractions (some students often turn off the notifications on their phones so that there is no signal when an email arrives);
— avoid eating throughout the day and instead schedule breaks to stretch and breathe deeply. 

Daily contact
Our school is unusual:  students and teachers don’t meet face-to-face very often, but we have frequent contact with each other via technology. 

Let’s go through some of the procedures.

Each day you can make progress by doing small tasks.

1.  Thought for the day
2.  SAT or ACT test questions
3.  IXL math and English
4.  Use an app:  Math Workout for 20 questions
Spread the words SAT:  3 words.

In the extended version of your day, you can add 
5.  a phrase in another language.  Pazhalsta (“please” in Russian)
(what language do you want to learn?)
6.  Find something to think about that happened recently (watch Student News on CNN or some sort of summary of the news on the internet).
7.  Pick up a book.  Look at the cover, the back text and the first page of each chapter.  Read one of the chapters, quickly.  Choose a title that interests you.  In about ten minutes you have a pretty good idea about the book.   Write that summary (and perhaps a quote from the book) in your blog

How much will happen over four months?
1.  Thought for the day 
1 x 30 days x 4 = 120 short quotes 
2.  SAT or ACT test questions 
2 questions x 30 days x 4 = 240 questions
3.  IXL math and English
5 math questions
5 English questions
10 x 30 x 4 = 1200 questions on IXL
4.  Math Workout and Spread the words SAT
1 x 30 x 4 = 120 sessions in multiplying or adding
3 words x 30 x 4 = 360 new words in four months
In the extended version of your day, you can add 
5.  a phrase in another language. 
1 phrase a day x 30 x 4 = 120 phrases
6.  Student News 
1 topic a day x 30 x 4 = 120 news items
7.  You will have looked at 120 books in 4 months.

That’s the power of being consistent.  You can set your own pace.  You can choose to do half of these items on ODD days and the other half on EVEN days.

It’s your choice.
1.  Two quotes for the “Thought for the day” 
2 x 15 days x 4 = 120 short quotes 
2.  SAT or ACT test questions 
4 questions x 15 days x 4 = 240 questions
3.  IXL math and English
10 math questions
10 English questions
20 x 15 days x 4 = 1200 questions on IXL

4.  Math Workout and Spread the words SAT
2 x 15 days x 4 = 120 sessions in multiplying or adding
6 words x 15 days x 4 = 360 new words in four months
In the extended version of your day, you can add 
5.  a phrase in another language. 
2 phrases a day x 15 x 4 = 120 phrases
6.  Student News 
2 topic every other day x 15 x 4 = 120 news items

GRAD POINT (the online courses)
The Online Middle and High school uses a program called GRADPOINT.  This is a typical part of any online program:  
deliver information (often in videos and in articles)
ask students some short questions
then test the student with longer tests
The exams “show” that the online student has received the content of the lesson.

This will take about 80% of your time.  Spend at LEAST 4 hours each day in the online clicking. The credits for your academic progress come from Gradpoint.  The world wants to know what you have learned.  Grad point (or a similar program) will show that you have “made progress.”

The other items that we ask you to complete also show some sort of progress:
a. Khan Academy has “leaf points” to indicate progress.
b. Spread the words SAT shows “completed” on the app
c. IXL delivers “badges” and keeps track of the number of questions and amount of time spent in the program.

We ask you to do book reviews and to keep track of your academic work in a blog.   The book reviews and the “extended work” (language learning, vocabulary practice, IXL and Khan Academy) are about 15% of your time.

Daily you should put about 5% of your time into the Thought for the day and reflecting in a blog post about your academic activities.  

Here’s a typical blog post:

Thought for the day

Academic Activity


Future Work

One of the principles that we use at Online Middle and High school is “Do what we expect the students to do”… So here is a typical blog post.

Feb 25, 2017
Thought for the day:   Mark Twain once wrote that “I never let schooling get in the way of my education.”  To me this means that the things that teachers ask me to study are not what’s important.  I need to pursue my interests and think about what I need to learn… and then find something to help me learn those other things.

Academic Activity
Today I read from John Greene’s book about “The Fault in Our Stars.”  I can see why the book was a success.  I like the way the narrator, the girl who has cancer, speaks openly about “cancer perks” and 

I talk with a parent about what the parent would like the son to learn and he mentioned Thomas Pinckney.  I didn’t remember that name and I need to follow up on this hero from South Carolina in the 1770s. 

My new phrase in Portuguese is Eu sinto falta de voce  (I miss you.  Literally it looks like “I feel the fault or lack of you”)

SAT words:  vicarious (I live through someone els’s life):  I had a vicarious experience listening to the sailor describe the ports that he visited.

vivacious (sparkling, lively): the woman’s vivacious laugh caught my attention.   

Seen on Social Media:  a list of companies that sell products created by Trump’s family.  I noticed that there is a complex issue confronting consumers.  The Daily Topic that I ran into is the list that is circulating on social media showing companies that carry products by Donald Trump’s family.

Something that boycotting people don’t know is the anti-boycott measures that are in place.  “If you discontinue our line before the contract ends, you will forfeit 40% of the stock or you can’t get the special pricing or you are banned from ever carrying our materials again.”  I would like to write to the companies to find out what life is like from their side.  What penalties do they face if they walk away from the agreements made with Trump’s family businesses?

That’s what I wanted to think about instead of simply writing quickly to Zappos and declaring a boycott.   

Why do I want to hurt the creativity of some people who work for Trump?   Trump won’t be significantly hurt if the line of clothing is dropped.  There are other sources of income to the family.   The people employed by Trump will be hurt.

I am interested in learning more about history of South Carolina.  More than just Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox).


That summary took about 20 minutes to complete.   That’s about 5% of a 400 minute day.  400 minutes is about 7 hours.  If you want to make serious progress in completing Gradpoint in a month, you need to put in at least 6 hours a day on the courses:  6 hours x 30 days = 180 hours to complete a course.

Thank you for looking through this introduction!

Steve McCrea
(954) 646 8246
get started by texting me…. 

What does education look like in the 21st Century? A lot like

Search "21 Century Education" and you'll get pages like this:

21st Century Skills Definition - The Glossary of Education Reform

Aug 25, 2016 - The term 21st century skills refers to a broad set of knowledge, skills, work habits, and character traits that are believed—by educators, school ...


  • Critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, analysis, interpretation, synthesizing information
  • Research skills and practices, interrogative questioning
  • Creativity, artistry, curiosity, imagination, innovation, personal expression
  • Perseverance, self-direction, planning, self-discipline, adaptability, initiative
  • Oral and written communication, public speaking and presenting, listening
  • Leadership, teamwork, collaboration, cooperation, facility in using virtual workspaces
  • Information and communication technology (ICT) literacy, media and internet literacy, data interpretation and analysis, computer programming
  • Civic, ethical, and social-justice literacy
  • Economic and financial literacy, entrepreneurialism
  • Global awareness, multicultural literacy, humanitarianism
  • Scientific literacy and reasoning, the scientific method
  • Environmental and conservation literacy, ecosystems understanding
  • Health and wellness literacy, including nutrition, diet, exercise, and public health and safety
THAT IS A HEALTHY CHECK LIST!   Let's read this list at least ONCE A WEEK and decide, "How can we prepare for these many areas?"


15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher | Edutopia

Jun 20, 2015 - Changing the "20th" to "21st" brings different results: a 21st-century school, 21st-century education, 21st-century teacher, 21st-century skills ...


Here are some ot the items that the article presents:

1. Learner-Centered Classroom and Personalized Instructions
As students have access to any information possible, there certainly is no need to "spoon-feed" the knowledge or teach "one-size fits all" content. As students have different personalities, goals, and needs, offering personalized instructions is not just possible but also desirable. When students are allowed to make their own choices, they own their learning, increase intrinsic motivation, and put in more effort -- an ideal recipe for better learning outcomes!
2. Students as Producers
Today's students have the latest and greatest tools, yet, the usage in many cases barely goes beyond communicating with family and friends via chat, text, or calls. Even though students are now viewed as digital natives, many are far from producing any digital content. While they do own expensive devices with capabilities to produce blogs, infographics, books, how-to videos, and tutorials, just to name a few, in many classes, they are still asked to turn those devices off and work with handouts and worksheets. Sadly, often times these papers are simply thrown away once graded. Many students don't even want to do them, let alone keep or return them later. When given a chance, students can produce beautiful and creative blogs, movies, or digital stories that they feel proud of and share with others.
3. Learn New Technologies
In order to be able to offer students choices, having one's own hands-on experience and expertise will be useful. Since technology keeps developing, learning a tool once and for all is not a option. The good news is that new technologies are new for the novice and and experienced teachers alike, so everyone can jump in at any time! I used a short-term subscription to, which has many resources for learning new technologies.
4. Teachers connect on SKYPE and go Global
5. Be Smart and Use Smart Phones
Once again -- when students are encouraged to view their devices as valuable tools that support knowledge (rather than distractions), they start using them as such. I remember my first years of teaching when I would not allow cell phones in class and I'd try to explain every new vocabulary word or answer any question myself -- something I would not even think of doing today!
I have learned that different students have different needs when it comes to help with new vocabulary or questions; therefore, there is no need to waste time and explain something that perhaps only one or two students would benefit from. Instead, teaching students to be independent and know how to find answers they need makes the class a different environment!
I have seen positive changes ever since I started viewing students' devices as useful aid. In fact, sometimes I even respond by saying "I don't know -- use Google and tell us all!" What a difference in their reactions and outcomes!
6. Blog
I have written on the importance of both student and teacher blogging. Even my beginners of English could see the value of writing for real audience and establishing their digital presence. To blog or not to blog should not be a question any more!
7.  Teachers "Go Digital" and put their lessons online and on blogs

8. Teachers work with other people and with other teachers and with students   to ask students in USA to teach Phrases in English to students in other countries (and learn some phrases from the other students)

9.   Teachers give out their mobile numbers and Use Twitter 
Text me   +1 (954) 646 8246   let's talk on SKYPE and WhatsApp
whatsapp +19546468246
10. Teachers Connect with other teachers
Find me on Facebook. Our school connects with other schools
We hope to visit Keen School by internet someday

11. Teachers ask students to learn with Projects

So when are you going to DOWNLOAD the BLAZEK list?    list of projects
Our philosophical sibling school
We want to be "keen", too

12. Teachers have their own FREE WEBSITES (Digital Footprint)
13. Teachers write Code
While this one might sound complicated, coding is nothing but today's literacy. As a pencil or pen were "the tools" of the 20th-century, making it impossible to picture a teacher not capable to operate with it, today's teacher must be able to operate with today's pen and pencil, i.e., computers. Coding is very interesting to learn -- the feeling of writing a page with HTML is amazing! Even though I have ways to go, just like in every other field, a step at a time can take go a long way. Again, is a great resource to start with!
14. Teachers try something new:  They Innovate

15. Teachers Keep Learning
My students told me about Genji and Hanzo and they want me to develop a GAMER Brain


P21's Framework for 21st Century Learning was developed with input from teachers, education experts, and business leaders to define and illustrate the skills ...

2. Learning and Innovation Skills: 
3. Information, Media and Technology Skills:
  • Flexibility & Adaptability      BING! requires students to develop  the 7 Survival Skills defined by Tony Wagner
  • Initiative & Self Direction
  • Social & Cross-Cultural Skills
  • Productivity & Accountability
  • Leadership & Responsibility

21st Century Support Systems

1. 21st Century Standards
  • Focus on 21st century skills, content knowledge and expertise.
  • Build understanding across and among academic subjects as well as 21st century interdisciplinary themes    BING! requires students to develop at least another language.
  • Emphasize deep understanding rather than shallow knowledge   BING! requires students to develop deep learning of an industry (see
2. Assessment of 21st Century Skills
  • Emphasize useful feedback on student performance that is embedded into everyday learning   BING!  see the blog
  • Enable development of portfolios of student work that demonstrate mastery of 21st century skills to educators and prospective employers  BING! requires students to develop portfolios


How Do You Define 21st-Century Learning? - Education Week

Oct 11, 2010 - To get a sense of how views on the subject align—and differ—we recently asked a range of education experts to define 21st-century learning ...

The Role of Education in the 21st Century › articles

Our world is changing, and in order to prepare our children for this new world we need to change the way we educate them. In the 21st century educators must ...

21st Century Education Foundation

Go ahead.  

Look at these pages.  

What do you find?

The Three Baskets and how to use the ONLINE Platform. See 20 minutes of an actual lesson. THIS IS HOW TO PROVIDE fully guided instruction.

Today's note
THE LOGIN for Gradpoint is located at

Ashton is working on an essay due (tentatively) around March 10
The essay can be seen at Ashton demonstrated the use of GRADPOINT, completing nearly 30 minutes of instruction

Note the "false choices" that I offered him in the second video.
"Do coyotes live in Asia or Africa?"

I also covered the screen and asked him to define "mood" and "tone" and then we checked our personal definitions.

Expository and Narrative and Persuasive essays were discussed. 1 of 2 videos showing the Gradpoint session (14 minutes)    14 minutes  2 of 2 videos showing the Gradpoint session (9 minutes)   The three baskets of "how to persuade" and "Articles and comics" and "Tools of learning" with a special reference to "the Hand," a book recommended by Enrique Gonzalez, former principal of Frida Kahlo High School in Los Angeles

Bacteria and worms, grown in a Sheep's blood Agar solution of 5%

Students also need to visit the NEIL POSTMAN Video

I learned something yesterday PINCKNEY

I come from New Jersey, so I know the Revolutionary War heroes John Witherspoon and Richard Stockton

The Battle of Trenton and Princeton
"turning the tide of the war"
I din't know about Thomas Pinckney

I love the tales of the Swamp Fox, Francis Marion and his procedure of drining apple cider vinegar to avoid mosquitoes and maintain a strong body.

I learned about Pinckney and his role after the War.

I heard about Pinckney from a parent of one of my students.

I learned something yesterday.   Here is the link to the WIKI Page

I also learned about the AIDS virus (which is a PARTICLE!  It's not alive!)
HEre is a link from SFGate (a blog for the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper).

The power of a boycott?
I have been asked by some friends to send messages to vendors who sell Trump materials.  I wonder.  
What jobs are lost or threatened because of a boycott?  Some people are part of the situation.   They just work for Ivanka.
Is there a middle ground?   Can I write to the vendors and ask for their side of the story?  Are they on the way to phasing out the products?  Do I need to be harsh to get my point across?   Some companies are nice, like Zappos.

See Interesting that someone has started a comprehensive list.  Feel free to share.

What should a teacher know how to do?
See the new document

Friday, February 24, 2017

Memo to Students #3 Thought for the day

A daily procedure:  find a quote or a lyric of a song or a meditation that appears in  and tell us what it means to you.

Put your thoughts as well as the quote in your blog.  Send the blog link to your parents and to the teacher.

The school has a list of proposed Thoughts for the Day
Here is collection 1-10

Memo to students #2: Read a bit about Littky every Friday (once a week)

Once a week, look at Dennis Littky's book.  OVer 20 weeks you will get a good idea about the book.

Then you can write a "Guide to The Big Picture for Students and Parents."

Here is the schedule

Week 1  p. 34  Robert Reich quote about curriculum
Week 2 p 66-70  small schools

Week 3 p. 154  "grades are so meaningless"

Week 4 p. 162-166  tests vs. exhibitions

Week 5 p. 11  Learning is talking

Week 6 p.102  Go deep    depth over breadth

Week 7 p. 65  advisory.  what does an advisor do?  at other schools there is "no time for advisory" because .... (see the reasons)

Week 8 p. 1-3  the goals of education

Week 9  p. 12 and p. 51   Democracy in schools

Week 10 p. 105  the 5 areas for study and projects

Week 11 p. 106  Reggio Italy.  Trust kids to hep direct their learning

Week 12  p. 63  what does an advisor do?

Week 13  p. 194  by making sense of information  (what does this mean?)

Week 14  p. 194 by learning in a real context (get an internship this week)

Week 15  
p. 194  by making connectings, by connecting things.  make a youtube channel.  monetize it
Week 16 p. 194  by  producing knowledge.   make an ebook this week 

Week 17p. 185   what methods and procedures do we need to remove?

Week 18  p. 44  respect:  bells, public announcements, passes

Week 19  p. From Dennis Littky's bookshelf   ZOOM by Istvan Banyai

Week 20  p.  53:  the newspaper office.

Now create a "A Student's and Parents' Guide to the Big Picture by Dennis Littky.... Commentaries by a student"

Week 1

Week 2

Week 1

Week 2

Week 1

Week 2