A Refreshing Reflection on UNHS Graduation

Hugh_Responsive_Thumb
Hugh McDermott, Principal, UNHS

As 2018 nears its end, I have been reflecting on some of the more memorable activities that happened at UNHS this year, and my thoughts immediately turn to our annual graduation ceremony. This past summer, I presided over my third UNHS graduation ceremony. What a fun time it was for all, as we had 18 students attend this year’s ceremony on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln campus. Relative to previous years, this was a large group to be in attendance and was part of the more than 200 students who graduated with us this year. For those who are not familiar with UNHS, we are a distance education program and therefore we serve students all over the planet. So, it can be difficult for students and parents to travel thousands of miles for the actual ceremony. Therefore, we “live stream” our commencement so that folks around the world can see what it is about and stay connected with us.

At this year’s ceremony, we had 12 students from Nebraska, but we also had students from Thompson’s Station, Tennessee; Centerville, Georgia; Lubango, Angola; Katy, Texas; Bogota, Colombia; and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Our total class of graduates represented at least 31 different countries and 30 of these United States. The graduating class had at least 26 Nebraska students, representing approximately 15% of the total class. The cultural and geographical diversity of our graduates demonstrates the strength of our program and the need that exists for UNHS.

Graduation remains one of those rites of passage that allows students to recognize that a high school diploma is a “big deal.” It’s the culmination of many years of strong academic work and other activities and experiences. Just for a brief moment in time, students can reflect on reaching this milestone which then opens the door to many additional opportunities and experiences ahead of them. At UNHS, we are anxious to support our students in any way we can. Some students take our courses to supplement their local high school diploma, while others take all of their coursework with us to obtain the UNHS accredited diploma.

Here are some comments I gleaned from the 2018 student biographies at our ceremony:

Cassara dreams of one day working for National Geographic or starting her own business and is toying with the idea of pursuing a degree in photojournalism or business management.

Nick is planning to become an electrician and liked UNHS because it allowed him to work independently and at his own pace.

Abigayle’s advice to others is to embrace hard work, not avoid it. Hard work is what helps you grow and achieve what you want in life. Abigayle plans to pursue a Bachelor of Nursing degree.

Jazmine learned that UNHS teachers play a valuable role and are critical to helping students learn. She also encourages students to “find a good role-model or someone you can depend on to help you through difficult times.”

Gabriel had the experience of playing soccer at age 16 in Spain! He believes that taking courses online taught him to assume responsibility for himself, and he is thankful for his teachers who were always there for him. He also mentioned the importance of family support in helping him reach this goal.

Maxwell is looking forward to an internship at a medical center in Omaha, which may also guide him in the direction of his future course work. He commented how UNHS provided him with access to a good curriculum.

Conner expressed several options awaiting him, such as attending a community college to further his skills in auto mechanics, or he may join the U.S. Army or Army National Guard as a helicopter mechanic.  His optimistic advice for fellow students was, “go for it” and to not be afraid of learning online.

Logan indicated that he will pursue an occupational therapy degree because he finds great satisfaction in helping people make the most of their everyday lives. He even is attempting to write a book by the end of this year! His advice, “Keep going! The end is never the end until you say so.”

Emma stated that what she liked best about UNHS was that she was able to travel whenever she wanted without worrying about the structure of a traditional school. This gave her the freedom to learn the way she wanted to and at a speed that worked well for her.

Denton plans to major in Agricultural Business. He was raised in an agricultural community here in Nebraska and was exposed to the business side of it at an early age. He chose UNHS because his local school schedule made it difficult for him to participate in rodeo at the level he desired.

Paul is interested in multiple fields in the area of information technology. What Paul looked for in UNHS was, “I wanted a school that could teach me from home but still challenge me and carry the weight of a proud Nebraska program.” He especially enjoyed psychology and several elements of the English reading assignments.

Camryn is taking a “gap year” to pursue her modeling career before making other career choices. Camryn advises others to establish a schedule that works well for them and stick to it. She also says that in times of need, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

Jay has recently been an artist intern at a non-profit. Jay is passionate about animation, cosplay, sewing, art, and writing. Jay’s advice is, “Do whatever works best for you and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.”

Odon came all the way from Lubango, Angola (approximately 8,000 miles) and believes in “investing in technological innovation and providing resources to encourage bright ideas and talents.” UNHS allowed him to travel with his family without compromising on his education.

Shaye said that UNHS was a good fit for him as he traveled to Barcelona, Spain to play for a soccer academy. He progressed at his own pace and worked around his soccer schedule. He learned from UNHS that communication is key, and he encourages students to consult with teachers anytime they do not understand a concept or material.

Laura came all the way from Colombia, South America and loved the fact that UNHS courses allowed her to take control of her studies, and she also chose UNHS because of its accreditation. She encourages students to use their time wisely and take advantage of the many things that UNHS has to offer them.

Princesse also came from far away, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and headed to Fresno State University this fall. She believes the courses at UNHS have made her more independent and responsible without sacrificing her ability to participate in her extracurricular activities.

William is planning to pursue a degree in construction management and someday become a general contractor. He learned through UNHS to manage his days well and still make time for his extracurricular activities such as fishing and camping. His advice to others doing online schooling is to maintain a strong network of friends to feel connected and supported.

As I reflected on these students’ comments, I am reminded of how important a role UNHS plays in all of these situations. Every student is unique and UNHS helps each of them meet their specific goals. The UNHS graduation ceremony will always be a special event that reinforces the importance of students earning their diplomas. Congratulations once again to all the graduates of the UNHS class of 2018! And for those interested and eligible to attend the UNHS graduation ceremony in 2019, mark your calendars for Friday, June 14, 2019

How UNHS Courses Promote Student Success

 

Debby
Debby Bartz, UNHS Academic Adviser

All UNHS courses are designed with a gating and sequencing component.

Gating

Gating means only one assignment per course can be submitted per day. If students are enrolled in five courses, they may submit one assignment from each course. Gating ensures that students study at a pace that helps them understand the subject matter before moving forward with the coursework. The purpose of gating is not to delay learning but to allow students to study at a pace that sets them up for academic success and increases content retention.

Students may always move forward and explore the next lesson in a course. Parents should expect their student to complete all reading and activities within a course and textbook assignments. Although some course activities are not graded, they will help students expand their knowledge and ability to answer questions of higher order thinking and problem solving. Doing everything that is offered within a course is important for success.

By monitoring study sessions and assignments, and making certain their student has a dedicated place to study, parents can emphasize that they value education and believe in being proactive in UNHS’ academic expectations. Gating in courses is appreciated by parents as it helps students get a better learning experience while preparing them for college-level coursework.

Steps students can take toward their own success

  1. It is important to invest in note-taking that will support course, unit and lesson objectives. All Unit Evaluation and Progress Test questions are written to the objectives. Students will be better prepared for the Progress Tests if they can discuss their knowledge thoroughly and answer the objectives.
  2. Wise students will read the maps, charts, and diagrams offered throughout a course and look for patterns, variables, rates of increase or decrease, and expand the chart to predict future outcomes. Important information is missed by the scholar when these reading opportunities are skipped.
  3. Students are advised to look up unknown vocabulary that impedes understanding. Flash cards are an important tool so that students gain the ability to accurately apply the learned terms to future assignments.

Sequencing

Sequencing means all Teacher Connect Activities, Unit Evaluations, Projects and Progress Tests within a UNHS course must be completed in the order they are presented. All UNHS courses are presented in a progressive manner (step-by-step) and this helps students with both retention and understanding. Students can achieve a higher level of understanding if they go through a course correctly. Sequencing is like a map for success, and taking shortcuts may hinder the students’ intellectual development.

Gating and sequencing are tools designed to help students be successful and ensure that the love of learning will be sustained throughout their lifetime. At UNHS we believe that success in academic life is a collaborative effort involving parents, teachers, and advisers as well as the support staff who work together to ensure students always have access to a world-class education.

Decisions That Matter

Ray
Raymond Henning, UNHS Academic Adviser

I hope you choose to read this blog because that decision is yours.

From my limited research on the Internet, it is estimated that every adult makes about 35,000 decisions a day. Our choices can be something as trivial as what socks to wear, what to have for lunch, or whether to watch a particular show or movie on TV. However, I want to focus this post on decisions that matter, because some of the choices we make do have a significant impact on our lives.

Whenever I have a decision to make of significance between viable alternatives, I have learned to use four steps in the decision-making process and in evaluating the results.

First, I want to do what is right. This starts with asking myself, “Are any of the possibilities dealing with a right or wrong choice?” It is important to me to be a person of integrity and I want to eliminate any alternatives that would compromise my values.

Secondly, once my alternatives have been set, I list the pros and cons of each possibility. This helps me to potentially eliminate certain choices based on my review of the possible negative and positive outcomes.

Next, I have found it is important to involve the opinions of others. If there are people in your life whose words of wisdom you value, it makes sense to get their advice. Ultimately, the decision is yours, but your consultants may think of something that may be of importance or give you feedback on something you did not consider.

Finally, after the decision has been made and I have had ample time to review the results, it is always a good practice to evaluate whether it was a good or bad choice. Obviously, you are not always going to make the best decision each time and it is important if we can learn from the positive and negative outcomes.

So if you have to make a decision that matters today, I hope these four strategies can help you with making the best choice!

Regrets Only

Ray
Raymond Henning, UNHS Academic Adviser

Regrets only,
On some invitations to special events, the person who sends the invite is asking for “regrets only” or just wanting to be notified if the invited person is unable to attend. If the host or hostess doesn’t hear back that the invitee cannot show up, the event coordinator expects the invited guest to be a part of the festivity.

Have you ever received this type of invitation?

If you do not have an obvious conflict or an unplanned emergency and if you really want to attend, you most likely will enjoy going to the special event.

Relating this reply to other everyday situations, I hope your life is not filled with many “regrets only” responses if you really want to be a part of something. Using a sports analogy, I hope you choose to “get in the game” by being an active participant, not a bystander.

As you may well know, there are some obvious risks for participating, both good and bad, and usually, we focus on the negative. Adverse outcomes like failure and criticism (it is especially easy to criticize today with the availability of many types of social media) are not uncommon.  Some choose not to participate because they do not want to deal with these possible unfavorable results.

However, experiencing failure and withstanding criticism can actually help a person in many ways. What is the impetus for improvement if you never fail or are criticized? The by-product of learning successful problem solving and coping skills can only be developed by overcoming these obstacles as well.

I particularly like former U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt’s perspective on involvement:

“It is not the critic who counts… The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly… Who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Please consider this blog an invitation to participation in the life arena of your passion and choice.

And I hope you CHOOSE to get in the game,

No reply necessary.

The Future of Education

 

Barbara
Barbara Shousha, UNHS Director

Recently I have been asked by friends and family what I see for the future of education given changes in technology, changes in society and changes in the political environment. I think people approach me with this question because of my years in education and because I am making a formal study of education. But the short answer is:  No one knows.

 

In the future, education will look completely different. Also, in the future, education will look exactly like it always has. How can both be true? If you think of education as policy, technology and funding, then education in the future will look wildly different. If however, you think of education as the very human endeavor of sharing and acquiring knowledge, then it will look just like it always has.

Trends in Education

I am not a futurist. I admire people who attempt to thoroughly explore the possibilities of the future and how these possibilities may arise from the present. But I am a bit cynical on what can be predicted.  When people look to the future, they often start with current trends. This is flawed in my opinion. Trends are indicators, but they are superficial. Just as I cannot tell you what kind of pie I’m sampling by tasting only the meringue, I cannot tell you what the future of education holds by looking at trends.

Additionally, the trends which bubble up to the general public’s awareness are often driven by technology and money. A trend in education may arise because technology makes something possible and money is available to promote it. If there is no real need for the trend or no real problem that it solves, it is likely to fizzle as a fad rather than continue as a sustainable part of education. More than a decade ago, when technology made online course delivery possible, the trend suggested that classrooms of students would create personas to learn in virtual environments as avatars with knowledge “gamified” and levels of learning achieved by characters which they would direct. Um… Not so much.

Back to the Future

So, I am not a futurist. In reality, I am more of a historian. I have written a history of a school and I am currently working on biographical pieces about educators at that school. It is instructive to look at educational trends in the historical sense.

Education became formalized because societies became increasingly complex. The oral tradition of ancient cultures was no longer sufficient to preserve knowledge and heritage. So writing and reading came into being and as these were not daily life skills, they were taught in a separate environment which came to be known as school. Thank you ancient civilizations! Since then, education has been a swinging pendulum of forces.

“We educate only certain classes who will lead society!” “No, we educate all!”

“Education is the responsibility of the family.” “No, Education is the responsibility of the state.”

“Education should be standardized and taught in a factory model.” “No, education should be individualized and taught in a progressive manner.”

Education is to prepare citizens for basic life functioning.” “No!  Education is to inspire youth to transcend daily life.”

You can probably hear these arguments echoing from ancient Babylonia all the way to today’s current education debates. Along the way, students continued to learn, teachers developed and shared ways of teaching, and societies made practical decisions about structuring and funding education. We will continue to do this.

But aren’t you worried?

So, we find ourselves today and my friends express concern regarding the current state of education and the technological, society and political forces at work. Am I not kept awake at night by what I see in Education?

No. I am not fretful. I am energized by current discussions around education. When my neighbor who farms is as interested in the discussion of education as the professionals at my state department of education, I am a happy person! There is a recognition that education is too important to be left up to politicians and professionals only. Even though it is a challenge to sort through all of the rhetoric and argument, the pendulum of forces has been swinging back and forth long enough that we can see certain truths stand fast.

Education is the transmission of culture. We may disagree as to what cultural lessons are shared and in which ways. But “We, The People” will ensure that education serves this need to bring our human heritage along with us as we move forward.

Standards are for packaging, not people. We use the device of educational standards as a practical way to package up information and set guidelines. We are packaging up knowledge for the development of people. We should not believe that we can package up people in a standard way. We The People will always need to address human differences even as we create guidelines and goals.

Learning is a human endeavor. No app, no technology can open your heart and mind to learning. Even a skilled teacher needs a student willing to learn. A teacher without a willing student is a performance artist.  Education is something We The People do together.

The view from my desk

A current trend that is being noticed in education is the trend toward personalized learning. This is an extension from competency-based learning and stems from the idea that students are individuals whose educational progress will vary. Various groups will descend upon this idea to either promote it or decry it for political purposes. Any number of for-profit enterprises are already seeking ways to monetize this idea.

The Reality Check: “The Wait and See List”

Debby
Debby Bartz, UNHS Academic Adviser

Colleges want to make sure that they will have a full freshman class, so their admissions offices often create “wait lists” to make a plan on how to fulfill that goal if fewer students than predicted accept admission offers.

Receiving a college acceptance letter is an ego boost; receiving a college “wait list letter” may momentarily feel quite the opposite. Emily Dickinson wrote, “Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.”

The first thing to remember is that the sun will rise tomorrow. With a positive outlook, future opportunities may require perseverance and, like Milton Berle once said, “If the opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

  1. Remain calm in adversity; remember that being on the wait list is not a rejection. A wait list letter is just saying that you haven’t been accepted at this time, be patient. Time may allow you to be accepted or you might find the perfect opportunity elsewhere.
  2. As students notify colleges with their enrollment decisions, colleges may begin seeing more room for freshman students. This is when colleges send students on the “wait and see” list acceptance letters.
  3. Reviewing your options is important. Contacting the admissions department will help you develop a clear understanding of the size of the wait list and may encourage you to compare other options.
  4. If you feel the school is your only perfect match, write an upbeat letter to your college admissions adviser indicating your very strong interest. Explain why their school is the best fit for you and give specific examples that meet your needs, wants and desires to build the door.

Don’t depend on a wait list letter to get accepted into a college; keep your other options in mind.

Remember being put on a wait list is not a rejection; it’s merely a test of your patience and a chance for you to evaluate your options thoroughly one more time.

 

From One Procrastinator to Another

 

Ray
Ray Henning, UNHS Academic Adviser

I almost did not write this blog, I just kept putting it off, putting it off and putting it off.  I finally decided to make a procrastination acrostic with statements and thoughts that hopefully can be helpful to you if you have issues with being a procrastinator.

 

Procrastination is a problem of self-regulation.

Recognizing that you are a procrastinator is an important step.

Opt out of putting things off by saying, “I will do it tomorrow.”

Coping mechanism for a lot of people.

Really would rather play video games or do something else.

All people procrastinate sometimes, you are not alone.

Set goals and list the steps needed to meet them.

Time management skills development (use a planning device).

I work better under pressure! Is that really true for you?

Nice to have someone who will help keep you on track (an accountability partner).

Adopt anti-procrastination strategies like a daily to-do list.

Treat or reward yourself for getting something done early or on time.

Idleness is okay sometimes (we all need a break from our pressures).

Opt out of looking for distractions, so you don’t have to do your needed task.

Never give up on improving your procrastination habits!

Famous American patriot, Ben Franklin, once said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” but well-known American author, Mark Twain, also stated, “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done the day after tomorrow just as well.”

It’s your choice which advice you will follow!  All the best to my fellow procrastinators!