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Posts published in “Strickland”

More online possibilities

by Michael Strickland

Higher tuition, budget cuts, course shortages and parking problems are merely the beginning of a long list. Daunting challenges face many Idaho students who want to attend traditional colleges and universities. In October 2016, the State Board of Education reported that the percentage of Idaho students continuing their education after high school dropped for the second year in a row, dipping below 50 percent.

How can we reverse this trend? Connie Malamed of the eLearning Coach website reminds us that “one of the most important areas we can develop as professionals is competence in accessing and sharing knowledge.” Nationally, 3 million students are enrolled in fully online degree programs and 6 million (one in four) take at least one online course, according to Babson Survey Research Group. Online education has become one of the most popular alternatives. In our state, it opens doors to thousands of Idahoans who live and work in rural areas as well as others who face social and economic hurdles.

Significant skepticism still runs through some academic circles regarding measurable learning outcomes in online courses. However, I’ve been fortunate to benefit from years of consultations, training and faculty learning communities. These experiences have demonstrated to me that when best practices are implemented, online learning can be just as effective as face-to-face education.

“For example, what do you do if your current job suddenly requires a college degree?” wrote Boise State President Bob Kustra in a recent letter to the community. “This happened for thousands of nurses across the region ... Demands of work and family left many facing impossible scheduling challenges, and those working in remote areas couldn’t travel the distance. … By May of 2017, more than 1,000 registered nurses from all over the country will have completed their bachelor’s degree through Boise State’s RN-BS online program.”

I have been able to greatly enhance my online and hybrid courses with my faculty and staff cohorts from BSU’s eCampus as well as our Instructional Design and Educational Assessment (IDEA Shop). The eCampus Center is dedicated to expanding the programs and offerings beyond traditional borders to meet the academic needs of students anytime, anywhere. In the IDEA Shop, high-tech tools, research-based practices, innovation and experimentation all combine to make learning happen.

With such tools in hand, online programs can be a more affordable option than traditional course offerings. For example, there are no commuting costs. In 2012, the State Board of Education launched a goal to have 60 percent of Idahoans ages 25 to 34 earn a post-secondary degree or certificate by the year 2020. The Complete College Idaho initiative is significantly enabled by online offerings. No matter what students wish to study, from nursing to neuroscience, they can find online the courses or degree programs they need. In our Gem State, students can also earn every academic degree online, from a career certificate all the way to a doctorate.

Online learning has the potential to revolutionize higher education. We must continue to make such access a priority for the future of our state and its citizens.

Michael Strickland teaches literacy education at Boise State University.
 

Making good, giving back

A guest opinion by Michael Stricland of Boise State University.

"I teach from the Harvard Business School cases; they're not as exciting as what's on 'The Apprentice,' " said Beth Goldstein, an adjunct professor at Brandeis University's International Business School, who used the show in her consulting class. "If there (was) a lesson on (the Donald Trump show), it can become integrated in the whole learning opportunity." There has been an entire management class at the University of Washington in Seattle that is devoted to 'The Apprentice,'. From Georgetown to Harvard Business school, the DVD from that first season is still discussed.

Fortunately that magic extends, in an even more special way, to Idaho …

I first met Troy McClain a month ago and can safely say that I am amazed at an opportunity I have to work with him on some writing. With Trump's popularity booming, it is fascinating to take a look at this Idaho legend who first rose to the big stage on one of Trump's reality TV shows.

"Who would have thought a country boy from Idaho could go on national television, be seen by 28 million Americans every week and still appreciate the simple things like fly fishing on a backcountry stream?" Troy's official website reads. "That is Troy McClain. Troy’s rise to prominence happened as he climbed Donald Trump’s ladder on NBC’s 'The Apprentice,' advancing all the way to the finals."

Called a “Living Energy Drink” by the Idaho Press Tribune, Troy is a ball of energy and enthusiasm who seeks to utilize his success to Give First to his community and to those who need help the most. Beating all odds, Troy rose to the top from the original 250,000 contestants, landing second only to Harvard MBA Kwame Jackson.

Starting from a challenging, low-income country upbringing, Troy's philosophy is: The best way to get ahead is to give back. A classic rags to riches story, he has collaborated with the top names in business, including Warren Buffet, and has shared the stage with with Tony Robbins, Mark Victor Hansen (of Chicken Soup for the Soul) and many other influential leaders, athletes and entertainers. He’s served and been honored by Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, the Kellogg Innovation Network, Special Olympics International and a long list of others.

Troy has been outspoken about literacy and what he says educators and businesses need to do to improve the country. "We're neutering the American entrepreneur because we don't nurture innovation. Success leaves tracks. So follow them."

The Gem State was not only Troy’s springboard, but the place to which he returned. Shortly after the Apprentice, he received scores of offers from all of the big cities. "Most people in business will tell you you've got to have your Ph.D., you've got to have an MBA. I tell everybody, I got my Ph.D. a long time ago. I was Poor, Hungry and Driven. That's my Ph.D. Today, what I'm working on is my MBA. My Massive Bank Account. ... But I'm going to give back. Why Idaho vs. LA or New York? The answer is that Idaho took care of me. Idaho embraced me and my family."

Even before The Apprentice, Troy was a successful business man having owned, operated and sold his companies, from health clubs to lending institutes. Today, he is a sought after consultant, investor and mentor for business men and women looking to accomplish what he has done. He invests in Idaho and innovation and currently runs an online success club. Since the Apprentice, Troy has built up and invested in two Idaho companies.

I love the fact that he spends so much time working to pass the American Dream that he is living, on to others.

Effective resignation letters

Michael Strickland teaches literacy education at Boise State University. He consults about writing, publishing and social media. Join the discussion and for free tips and resources.

An employee baked a cake with her resignation letter written on top. A marching band accompanied one guy with his announcement. The worker threw a brick through the window with the words “I quit” written on it. An employee left a sticky note explaining he was quitting. The individual sent an email blast to all staff.

These examples, from real cases, are from an article called “The Worst Ways To Quit A Job” written by The Office Team. As the above scenarios illustrate, moving on from a job can be fraught with emotion and a wide variety of potential perils. Sometimes it is clinical exercise. Other times it’s as messy as breaking up with a lover.

A well-written resignation letter is crucial to setting the tone for a positive transition. The business world is surprisingly small and word-of-mouth travels like wildfire. In the future, you may find yourself working with a previous co-worker or boss. You may need to request a letter of recommendation from such a person. A professional reputation is a priceless commodity that is yours to own and protect. Here are tips to keep your resignation letter safe and effective.

Since the official document you submit will set the tone for your relationships throughout the rest of your career, a good resignation letter sets you up to leverage your former position and relationships. Your writing style should be formal and friendly. Whenever possible, schedule a meeting to hand the letter to your supervisor in person. If you feel inclined to, you could offer to help make your resignation easier for the organization. For example, include a sentence or two that offers to train another person to do your job.

If a future employer calls to verify your employment, you want them to see that the last thing you said was “positive, uplifting and thankful,” according to Jacob Young, a small-business consultant and Web developer. “Even if there are marks on your file, the human spirit will take over and pause on the side of caution if you look nice and non-threatening on paper.”

Include the reason for your resignation if it is due to positive circumstances such as relocating or going back to school. In negative situations, spare the details. Instead, focus on the date of departure. Senior executives should give more than two-weeks notice. Use the length of your vacation as a good measure of the amount of time before the final day, since vacation time is typically a measure of seniority. Thus, if you have six weeks’ vacation, offer a minimum of six weeks’ notice. If there are specific terms in your contract, follow those.

Avoid negative criticism. No one will appreciate being blindsided by information that reflects poorly on their managerial or work skills, especially in a document that others will read. Avoid silly grandstanding, as in another case from the Office Team article in which a woman created a music video to explain she was leaving. This letter will be part of your permanent employment file so it's important that it doesn't contain much more than the basics.

Several samples of good resignation letters can be found in the web article “How to Write a Resignation Letter” on WikiHow.com. Jobsearch.about.com has several samples, too, including Professional Resignation Letter, Independent Contractor Resignation Letter and Maternity Leave Resignation Letter.

Finally, close on a warm note and show gratitude. It’s always good business etiquette to thank your employer for the privilege of working with him or her.

Have you written – or received – a resignation letter? Do you have suggestions for doing it right? Please share them in the comments section..

Love and leftovers

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

Anyone interested in the world generally can't help being interested in young adult culture - in the music, the bands, the books, the fashions, and the way in which the young adult community develops its own language. - Margaret Mahy

Romantic and bittersweet, Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay captures one girl's experience with family, friends, and love. I first met Sarah at an author signing at The Cabin in Boise. After perusing her work, I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in some of the books I saw.

In this debut novel in verse, Marcie is dragged to New Hampshire for the summer and soon realizes that her mom has no plans for them to return to Marcie's father in Idaho. As Marcie starts at a new school, without her ragtag group of friends called the Leftovers, a new romance heats up, but she struggles to understand what love really means.

Tregay, who I lives in Eagle, Idaho -- “with my husband, two Boston Terriers, and an appaloosa named Mr. Pots” (according to her website) -- effectively captures the angsty life of a 16-year-old. Booklist said “after her father leaves her mother for a 27-year-old man, Marcie and her depressed mom move from Idaho to a family summer home in New Hampshire.”

The protagonist falls for J. D., a boy who is an irresistible cross between Prince Harry (his hair) and David Beckham (his abs), writes reviewer Ann Kelley. Only problem: Linus, her emo-rocker boyfriend 2,000 miles away. Seven months later, Marcie moves back to Idaho with her father, confesses to Linus, and has to deal with the fallout. Marcie funnels her pain into writing poetry— “there is no three strikes / when it comes to dating. / One heartbreak and that’s it.”—and her poems, which vary in form, are what compose this verse novel.

While the subjects cover typical teenage problems, including breakups, friendships, and parental issues, Tregay adds depth with her ability, in just a few words, to palpably express both the emotions of love and the physical longings that go along with it, the Booklist review says. This first novel may make teenage readers’ hearts beat a bit faster.

The poetry in the books is used skillfully and enhances a plot that keeps the reader engaged. Filled with the turbulent emotion of teen years, IM conversations, and emo love songs, Love and Leftovers is great for reluctant readers and poetic souls alike.

Love and Leftovers is an ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults title. Kirkus Reviews said that Tregay’s choice to write in verse works well, her spare but effective language artfully evoking what otherwise might be a conventional high-school romance.

Perfect for fans of romances like Anna and the French Kiss and those by Sarah Dessen as well as readers of poetry, Love and Leftovers is a beautiful and fresh take on love.

An effective business report

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

Effective decision making is vital in the business world. Companies require access to information that is concise, easy to interpret and clearly presented. Many decision makers refuse to deal with reports or proposals that are over specified lengths. Reports must be useful to accurately assess situations, solve problems, and meet goals.
Imagine that one of your managers at work has given you an assignment to write a professional report. What should you do first? A good framework for how to proceed is found in the outcomes of Boise State’s English 101. In that course, students apply strategies for generating ideas for writing. They deal with planning and organizing material, illustrating their awareness of a writer’s relationship to the subject, context, purpose, and audience. In the BSU First-Year Writing program, students produce writing in non-fiction, inquiry-based genres, and use an academic documentation style. They use a variety of strategies to integrate evidence gathered from experience, reading, observations, and/or other forms of research.

With this in mind, you should begin by identifying clearly what you are writing about. A client or your supervisor may request a written document from you in the following way:

Our organization is interested in receiving a proposal that shows how we can lower our security costs with sustainable sources from our current base of employees, especially our essential personnel.

Once you have clearly identified your topic, explore its scope. What is “inside” and “outside” of the main idea? A good way to determine the boundaries of your topic is to create a concept map. Write your topic in the middle of your computer screen or a sheet of paper. Circle it, and then write down everything connected with it that comes to mind.

Good reports feature carefully constructed introductions, detailed bodies and logical conclusions. You need to clearly state your purpose. Workplace documents tend to be written for two primary reasons: to inform or persuade.

Write specifically for your audience. Who are your readers? Are they familiar with your topic or completely new to it? What are their needs and expectations? Will they be reading at their desks, in a meeting, on an airplane? Will they read your report from a printed page, a computer screen, tablets or smartphones? (more…)

Poetic end to a toxic relationship

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

A poetic journey through the emotions we endure at the end of a toxic relationship, Through the Trees: The poetic end to a toxic relationship uses nature and metaphor to express each stage of grief.

I first met author Nina C.Palmer at a group signing run by the Idaho Authors Community. Immediately striking was her passion for poetry and a particular cohesiveness between her presence, our chat and her work.

Each chapter of her book is a stage, each poem a part of a the journey taking you through denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance.

Written from personal experiences, it truly captures the occurrence of verbal and emotional abuse experienced in a toxic relationship. Whether your loss is a friend, husband or wife, a brother or sister, mother or father, these writings will hit home with all. A truly inspired collection of work, it relates with the heartache of the loss but also uplifts and inspires. This poetry acts as an emotional guide leading you through each stage and leaves you at the end with the courage and strength to move on.

I sat down with Nina in December at a coffee shop in Boise, to learn more about this intriguing journey. (more…)

The Idaho winemaking tale

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

The Idaho winemaking tale is ripe and ready for picking. It all starts with the grapes, according to the Idaho State Historical Society.

Peppershock Media Productions of Nampa, Idaho has adopted this story and developed an outstanding new film. The feature length Idaho Wine From Bud to Taste Bud is ideal for introducing students to documentaries and media literacy. The work also promotes local business in order to increase economic viability and to highlight Idaho’s vineyards and wineries in the national arena. It has uses for teachers and learners across the curriculum.

The video will explore from bud to tastebud–including culinary features. It will highlight the past and fruitful future, as well as educate and explore modern agricultural, specifically viticultural, practices by seamlessly blending the voices of those whose lives are impacted by the Idaho wine industry.

Idaho is considered, by some, part of the new frontier of grape-growing areas in the United States. The first grapes planted in Idaho were actually grown in Lewiston in 1864, according to an official state website, wine.idaho.gov.

“In Idaho we're the oft-forgotten 'other' state in the Pacific Northwest, said John H. Thorngate Ph.D., formerly a professor at the University of Idaho, now Applications Chemist, Research & Development, Constellation Wines U.S. “Which is rather ironic, considering that the first wineries in the Pacific Northwest were located in Idaho, and that Idaho had a nationally renowned wine industry until Prohibition, as in other regions, closed the industry down.”

Students will benefit from classroom explorations of many such little known gems of Idaho history. An article dated September 5, 1865 in the Idaho Statesman reported that a vineyard of Royal Muscadine cuttings had been planted early in the spring of the previous year (1864) and it had survived the winter well and was beginning to produce grapes.

Economics and business classes can learn more about Idaho’s fruitful future. Wine.idaho.gov says that the Idaho wine industry has been a steadily growing community for the last 30 years with remarkable growth in the past decade. With 11 wineries in 2002, Idaho is now home to more than 50, with over 1,200 acres of grapes planted. In order to see the impact Idaho wine industry is having, the Idaho Wine Commission completed an Economic Impact Study in 2014. The results were startling. It was concluded that the Idaho wine industry had a $169.3 million dollar impact in 2013 and created nearly 1,250 jobs. This growth led to an increase in visibility, more tourism, an enhanced reputation, and has created tremendous opportunity for expansion. (more…)

An Idaho children’s book

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

I first met Stan “The Bookman” Steiner at a reading conference many years ago. He was dubbed “The Bookman” by his students because of his vast knowledge of children’s literature. That is why I was very pleased to see that the acclaimed Discover America State by State series continued with his P is for Potato: An Idaho Alphabet. Lyrically written with his wife Joy, this title explores the lush land and rich history of a state too often overlooked.

Kids of all ages wil love the A to Z rhymes boasting about all the treasures found within Idaho’s borders — from the Appaloosa steed to the zinc mines to Mount Borah, to, you knew we couldn’t forget it, the potato. But after a few pages readers will also allow peregrine, Union Pacific, Quinceanera, Nex Perce, and other Idaho icons to share in the spotlight.

Amazon reveiwer K. Rue wrote:

The cover of this book caught my attention and once I glanced inside I was completely captivated. I purchased 4 copies. One for myself and one for each of our three children – to read to our eleven grandchildren. We live in Idaho but none of them do. What a wonderful way for them to learn about our state. Additionally, I placed a copy in my piano studio. It has been reviewed by numerous students and parents. All have been extremely impressed. The format allows one to enjoy the highlights with beautiful water color illustrations or read on for more in depth information.

Educators can find many wonderful and engaging strategies in this free teachers guide to the book.

A. M. Hansen added:

As a librarian and former early childhood educator, I was very impressed with this book for several reasons. I first heard about the book while researching my family history on various Idaho Internet sites. The main reason I purchased the book is I had read that my great grandmother was in it. Upon review of the book, I was so excited about the wonderful write up about Emma Yearian, Sheep Queen of Idaho, and that an alphabet letter had been designated just to her. In addition, I was elated that I was able to share this book with my Mother, which would be her grandmother. My Mother, whom just recently turned 88, resides with me and will be purchasing more books to give away as gifts. My co-worker, 90 years of age, and who has been a librarian for years, also loved this book. He often will mention to me, with a big smile on his face, how much he likes the illustration of the big potato on the flatbed train. I especially enjoyed the beautiful water colored illustrations. I felt like I was in beautiful Idaho again. I would highly recommend this book for every school and library in the State of Idaho.

Other critics chimed in, including blogger Limelite, who runs the Readers & Book Lovers thread on Daily Kos. “Sounds delightful!” she said.

You write about this series in such an inviting way that I’m inspired to learn my ABCs all over again. I think the organizing premise of state-by-state alphabet books is brilliant. Geography and literacy go hand in hand.

Reminds me that many kids first learn to read by reading road signs and advert logos from the windows of the family care during road trips.

Remember that old license plate game kids used to play? Reading and geography partner up again.

The text comes dancing to brilliant life behind the talented strokes of illustrator – and Idaho native — Jocelyn Slack’s brush. “P is for Potato: An Idaho Alphabet” is as unique as Idaho itself. The Steiner’s “P is for Potato” excels through the love and knowledge of their home state.

It is not only rare to find a children’s book on our 43rd state, but it is a great discovery when children can find this one is done well.

A high-stakes testing crisis

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

The need to "raise standards" and insist on "high expectations" for all schools and students is clear and obvious. But unfortunately, in practice, these fine ideas are often reduced to crude slogans: "Test scores are too low. Make them go up." As Alfie Kohn said in his Boston Globe column: Poor Teaching for Poor Students, "the implications are ominous for all students because standardized tests tend to measure the temporary acquisition of facts and skills, including the skill of test-taking itself, rather than meaningful understanding."

Today's crisis in Idaho education has been caused by an amalgamation of high stakes testing, accountability, markets and privatization tied to the Common Core. I generally support the standards, which are designed to ensure that when Idaho students graduate from high school, they will be competitive at the state and national levels and be able to create the futures of their choice. But in Idaho, there appears to be some gaps in some of the goals from grade to grade. And we are over-testing our children at the expense of best practices for teaching and learning. These problems are exascerbated by the new eight-hour Common Core test: the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

“Our students are the most over-tested in the world,” writes education historian Dr. Diane Ravitch. “No other nation—at least no high-performing nation—judges the quality of teachers by the test scores of their students. Most researchers agree that this methodology is fundamentally flawed, that it is inaccurate, unreliable, and unstable, that the highest ratings will go to teachers with the most affluent students and the lowest ratings will go to teachers of English learners, teachers of students with disabilities, and teachers in high-poverty schools.”

It is a bad idea to tie test numbers to teacher pay. To raise scores on a standardized test, when those numbers determine whether a student will receive a diploma and how much teachers will earn, is fundamentally destructive to schools and communities.  Educators often feel compelled to put test preparation ahead of richer forms of teaching.  In years of research that I conducted with my mother, Dorothy Strickland of Rutgers University, we found that this more likely to happen in schools with higher percentages of minority students. Skills-based instruction, the type to which most children of color are subjected, tends to foster low-level uniformity and subvert academic potential. This has stark implications for Idaho's large and rapidly growing Hispanic population.

In November of 2013, I wrote about the fact that Hispanic enrollment growth is outpacing non-Hispanic growth in Idaho’s public schools, colleges and universities. From 2000 to 2011 there was a 75 percent increase in enrollment of Hispanic students in K-12 schools, compared to an increase of 8 percent in non-Hispanic student enrollment. Hispanic student enrollment in four-year universities increased 118 percent, while non-Hispanic student enrollment increased 9 percent. Hispanic students make up 16 percent of K-12 public school enrollment.

Hispanic parents of 10th-graders are more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic parents to say they wish they had more time to be involved in their child’s education — 48 percent of Hispanic parents versus 19 percent of non-Hispanic parents. However, Hispanic parents are much more likely than non-Hispanic parents to say they lack the knowledge to help with math and science homework — 51 percent versus 26 percent for math, and 44 percent versus 13 percent for science.

Idaho educators should make use of multiple measures of assessment for important educational decisions and recommendations. These can include formative assessments: Assessment for learning, not assessment of learning. Interviews, visits, observations, peer-reviews, self-evaluations -- as well as end of course evaluations tied to the actual courses -- are examples of alternatives to the high stakes model that sets up schools and students to be labelled as failures.

Your grammar, your job (or not)

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

“If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me.” Kyle Wiens in the Harvard Business Review.

While Idaho’s job market is slowly improving, the buzz around the Treasure Valley is still filled with stories of unemployment and underemployment. A business grammar course in the College of Western Idaho’s Business Partnerships /Workforce Development program suggests a way you can get an edge.

“Clear communication is the foundation for success in the business world, and grammar mistakes create barriers to this communication,” reads the introduction to the CWI student manual for the training. The consensus among teachers, scholars and grammarians is that clarity and correctness have taken a nosedive in the “information age.”

Employers often peruse Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages of job applicants that are filled with spelling mistakes, poor grammar, and textspeak. This is one of the quickest ways for a candidate to seal their own job rejection. According to Time, out of the 70 percent of hiring managers who utilize social media profiles to gather more information regarding an applicant -- one-third have declined on candidates due to “poor communication skills.”

“The employer is more apt to question your professionalism if you show a pattern of misspelled words… or your commentary seems rash, uninformed or non-cohesive,” said Jennifer Grasz, a CareerBuilder spokeswoman. (more…)