Thursday, July 30, 2009

kid insight ...on whining

an issue came up last night with some students.

they had come to a conclusion about the direction a project was going to take. upon diving in - they came across some snaggles. a few started grumbling and soon - at least the loud ones - had decided that they should change the direction of the project. a debate ensued. the loud ones (at least) were divided. more debate- this time however with more listening. finally - a conclusion. and things forged on.


1) listening to each other is huge to working together

2) letting each voice be heard is different than pleasing each voice

3) a voice needs to speak up - BEFORE - the decision is made, most voices after are a distraction/wasted energy

4) once the decision is made - don't let dips make you doubt your decision. keep testing for sure - but don't change your mind because things get difficult
5) even if you didn't vote for the final decision - creating one voice through your actions is vital to success - so jump in for the good of the cause (if the cause doesn't seem worthy - you're probably in the wrong place)

how often to we let dips rule us (take us places we don't really care to go) rather than letting dips define us (is our character, insight, strength, etc..., enough to get us through dips with no whining.)

we found that dips and whining/debating often stood in the way of action. and often resulted in wasted energy and weary people.

made me think of teacher's meetings and professional development. how much time we spend debating things - rather than doing things. we should take note of the consequences of labeling weakness and whining as listening. listening is hard. we have to listen to what is NOT being said as well. and we have to listen with discernment. not just nodding to please every response. we have to challenge each other to rise above roadblocks. and realize that many of the roadblocks we face are simply - us.

encounter a dilemma.
listen to solutions.
create/determine a solution.
act it out.
filter weak thinking. keep the focus strong.

i love how simple learning can be when you listen.
especially to kids.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

listen with grace

from a recent conversation with some kool bean student leaders, my thoughts are lingering on how to get people to think more of others than themselves - or as our conversation started - how to be a good leader.

i'm thinking the most important skill needed to be a good leader, is listening.

i read once about blogging, that a blog worth reading is one by a person who reads more than they write. that's listening.

per john gardner in jacqueline novogratz's blue sweater, -we need to find innovations that release the energies of people...focus on supporting others to do what they do well...the goal should be making a difference rather than pleasing others or achieving your own agenda.

this takes grace. decency. we have to care about others more than ourselves. we have to believe that all of us really do want to do good - even though that manifests itself in various ways. if we don't keep this focus, if we don't listen with this mindset - most things people do/say will tick us off. we'll stop listening and start ranting or ignoring or blaming.

when you treat people with grace, when you really listen to them - what they are saying - what they aren't saying - how they are acting - - you unleash powers not only in them but in yourself. relationships give meaning and listening is the beginning of relationship.

once relationship exists, then you can learn/work/play together. helping others to help themselves has to be the greatest gift a leader can give.

this quote from jacqueline's book - says it well,

go to the people:
live with them, learn from them
love them
start with what they know
build with what they have.

but of the best leaders,
when the job is done,
the task accomplished,
the people will say:
we have done it ourselves.
-lao tzu

what power? what empowerment? what better way to lead?
it's not about all the things you can do for people. it's not even about all the things you can do with people. it's about how you do those things. how you treat others. how much you care about others - enough to help them be the best they can be.

so let's listen more.
let's listen with more grace.

let's just see....

happy day

my story -

growing up i always thought i'd be in ithe peace corps. peace...keeping it, sharing it, having soul peace...huge to me.
my life goal - has been to help others. i remember feeling embarrassed more times than not that my goal was so simplistic.

i did really well in "school math" - i did really well in "school" - but only because i played the game well. it wasn't until i started teaching math that i started getting it.

despite my enthusiasm/love for math - kids weren't getting it. in fact - when i walked into other classrooms, incredible teaching was going on - but a lot of kids were not at all engaged.

so began my journey - to address the meaning of the 7 hrs a day kids spend in school. i asked kids constantly, what would help? what would engage you?
as you can imagine - the answers varied. ---- i can't listen to lectures, i need more lectures. i don't like homework, i need more homework. i have test anxiety, i want to just take the tests. i need hands on, i don't like group work.

so ...dilemma.

just about then i joined an online community. and my world grew and shrank all at once.

IT GREW in that my vision expanded. i was now able to work overseas, help people in africa, find out what it's like to live in the uk, in belgium. i was able to interact with people i had no right interacting with. social class disappeared, economic status meant nothing, ed prowess didn't even interfere. relationship and conversation allowed my world to become wide.

IT SHRUNK in that i hooked up instantly with like minds. traveling to the same destination (mentally/emotionally) was a breeze. no more time wasted on triteness and trivialities. we fed off each other like clockwork. some became much needed individual expert tutors. relationship and conversation allowed my learning and my life to become rich.

and then i realized - this was the way to cater to 100+ students' needs.
the coolest thing - i was learning how to become a part of a network that sharpened each other, challenged each other, was transparent with each other, loved each other - all for the sake of learning - for the sake of helpin
g others.
what i've learned from all these interactions - a new take on education - and on my simplistic life goal. education is learning to learn. you learn by helping others. you can reflect to tweak yourself - by paying attention to those around you. how those around you are doing - says how you are doing.

we all have value. we all want to do good. but we are better together.

well - this bit of info is unleashing drive in me - drive i didn't realize i had.
i've gone from a high school math teacher who felt uncomfortable with a graphing calculator, to a math/life coach who's students are creating their own curriculum/hw/tests, mentoring through skype/blogs with middle schools/colleges/businesses and africa (for starters), creating tailored modules/ebooks/projects/videos in order to help others learn math/life, working with wolfram alpha/google squared and graphing calculators....michael wesch has inspired in us a platform on netvibes. i'm listening to my wise peers, like dan meyer, who suggests we - be less helpful, alan november, who asks - who owns the learner, bill strickland, who says we should - look like the solution not the problem, and will richardson, who says personal learning networks are the way to go in ed, we just need to model how to do them 1) safely 2) ethically and 3) efficiently.

my pln model is triiibes.

thank you triiibesters. i can't even start listing names...if you want to hear your name you'll have to listen t
o my heart.

thank you seth godin.
my model is in what you created. for us.

i'm indebted to you for focus. and exhilaration.

oh - happy day.

for latest revelation....and there's more
and latest thoughts on what public ed should be

Saturday, July 25, 2009

more thoughts on school and boxes

just read these two pieces – seeking more insight from you all. aren’t these two conversations similar? interestingly similar? two different eras – but aren’t they saying the same thing… about boxes….

@danah boyd I desperately, desperately want my colleagues to be on IM or IRC or some channel of real-time conversation during meetings. While I will fully admit that there are times when the only thing I have to contribute to such dialogue is snark, there are many more times when I really want clarifications, a quick question answered, or the ability to ask someone in the room to put the mic closer to the speaker without interrupting the speaker in the process.
I have become a “bad student.” I can no longer wander an art museum without asking a bazillion questions that the docent doesn’t know or won’t answer or desperately wanting access to information that goes beyond what’s on the brochure (like did you know that Rafael died from having too much sex!?!?!). I can’t pay attention in a lecture without looking up relevant content. And, in my world, every meeting and talk is enhanced through a backchannel of communication.

@richard feyman This man also speaks about a new institution, in a talk in which he was resigning as Director of the Institute of Parapsychology. And, in telling people what to do next, he says that one of the things they have to do is be sure they only train students who have shown their ability to get PSI results to an acceptable extent— not to waste their time on those ambitious and interested students who get only chance results. It is very dangerous to have such a policy in teaching—to teach students only how to get certain results, rather than how to do an experiment with scientific integrity.

two fears i get from the topics of this post - not from the people commenting or the content - just of the topics. (and by fears – i don’t mean – gosh what if i can’t answer the questions my kids pose, or fears like tim ferriss addresses – but rather – fears of claustrophobia a box brings.)

1) mandates: any use of the word mandate in education. if – because we are an institution, we are mandated to use the word mandate, then let’s use it like this – let’s mandate that kids learn how to learn. isn't any other mandate is building a box?

2) division: any talk of division, separating “us.” the blue sweater by jacqueline novogratz, is steeped in insight for ed. especially ch 5, the blue bakery. from my take on newbies – very similar to the impoverished rwandans. she writes: “the story of the bakery was one of human transformation that comes w/being seen, being held accountable, succeeding.”

i’ve spent so much time in the classroom trying to get the “impoverished/newbies” to let their voice be heard. to convince them that every voice is key to our journey. it makes me cringe to think we aren’t modeling that. @dean @bengrey – dan meyer is a great example.

unboxed. together. we are more.

Friday, July 24, 2009

why students don't like school

i was in scott mcleod's book club this summer.
we read why students don't like school by daniel willingham.
the last post for the club - takeaways.

interesting - a lot of smart people upset that the question in the title wasn't answered. here's my take on that takeaway please know that i'm talking to myself first...

1) it's funny how all the things we complain about the most in kids - are the things we are the worst at. if we want them to get it - we have to get it (model it) as well.

2) it's also funny that as teachers we talk a lot about cycles - meaning - been there done that. so now i'm wondering if we've really "done that" - i'm wondering if we've even "been there."
why do cycles seem to appear? perhaps we aren't getting it right the first time.
for instance - we've tried discovery learning and groups - oh so many times. well - after being bashed and failed by so many - they appear to be back - in the guise of plns personal learning networks and pbl project based learning.
and with the web - both have become so much more - just saying.

3) i think this book frustrated people because they were looking for a quick fix answer. which translates - we want to be spoon fed.
we often comment - if kids were self-regulated, self-advocates..., all my problems would be solved. well - what about us? where do you think they learned the whole "spoon fed" approach. come to my class - learn this - so i can test you on this. that's not teaching them to learn. it's teaching them how to take tests. my takeaway - kids would like school if the teachers modeled learning...

first steps
by the way - true learning doesn't need a plug - if it's true - the energy of it "happening" will generate the public/community.

1) LEARN STUFF - become active in a pln (off or online) quote from @timwhitby - motivational speakers may motivate educators to feel good about teaching, but a good PLN motivates them to feel good about learning.

2) TWEAK YOURSELF - reflect on a frequent/regular basis - so that your learning stays fresh and can sustain
from @ddmeyer
assessments should be ongoing - not end of unit freak out time.

seem overwhelming? a bit scary....
well - boxes are safe. but hey - you're in a box.
once you get going - you'll wonder what took you so long.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

school life should become more like real life

envision schools report...

on laptops - maine - the only state where all middle school kids have laptops. cost - per the last 5 years - for everything, maintenance, etc $250 each

on pbl - (project based learning) - from a kid: it allows me to explore the rest of the world - rather than select pages from a book....

ira socol's comment about cell phones

ira's comment in regard to banning cells in the classroom was so spot on - i'm posting it here:

My mobile is my computer, my note-taking platform, my reference guide, I often load my books onto it. It is my assistive technology in many ways as well, and you are not taking it away from me because you can not master contemporary classroom management.

All around the world - outside of North America - the modern mobile is being embraced as the greatest tool of education. Imagine, the world's greatest library in the palm of your hand, plus the perfect way to engage with the teacher, with classmates, to make the backchannel an essential part of the learning environment. A word processor - a voice dictation word processor if you'd like - a camera capable of converting text into speech - a GPS device - a calculator. Yes, what might any of that have to do with making school work for most students?

So, here are my mobile phone rules:

(1) Keep it out, on your desk. That way, if you've forgotten to silence the ring, we're not waiting for you to find it in your backpack.

(2) If you need to talk, go outside. No big deal.

(3) Have it on all the time - we'll be using it - polleverywhere, todaysmeet, SMS questions to people out of the classroom, sharing links, putting important notes in our calendars.

And with those simple rules, and engaged teaching - "look that up, would you?" "please share that?" "can you text your friend and ask?" "really? everyone knows? everyone text three friends and ask them." We have no problems.

The phone of today is the essential learning and communication "container" (to use Alan November's term). If we are not using it in schools, if we are not teaching best mobile practices to our students, we are failing them.

It is that simple.

battling cell phones....really?

gosh - if we only realized....the things we are asking for are in the room with us. free to us. being wasted on and adding to triteness.

take a look at this post, especially the comments from ira socol.

i keep hearing november - ....who owns the learning...

funny - the more we give it up - how the trite conversations on their phones diminish. they become too busy using it to learn.

respectfully - notice - when we don't give it up - how trite our battles are.

gosh - if we could only listen to students more. it's not about them being disrespectful, it's about them being disengaged.

innovation as simple as this

an adorable display of innovation - and celebrating life with meaning.

their goal - a wedding that would be unforgettable.
i think they got it.

can you imagine the roadblocks - going against tradition and all... how ever did the make it through -....?

did you see sad faces in the audience? watch again...the faces before...the faces after.
did you see movement in the audience? again - before...and after.
the audience embraced the wedding.

let's take this energy into our every day.
at home - at work - at play - .....even at school.

@prettylikedeer - thanks for finding spark out there and sharing it with others...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

we can all learn from acumen and the blue sweater

learning how to help others - is learning how to learn.

jacqueline novogratz has learned so much - through helping so many. her insight is keen from experience. you can learn from her in talks like this one.... and books like this one....

her ideas will not only continue to rid the world of true poverty - but also rid the world of other impoverished sectors, ie: public education.

in her book, she tells a story of the blue bakery (ch 5). it could read as a how to manual.... for business, for ed..., for....

in ch 12 jacqueline writes about the genocide, "if we have learned anything, it is the horror that can happen when people don't think for themselves, but instead follow authority blindly."
she writes about the potential technology is allowing for change in developing countries - like none other in history. but that the process of "helping" has to be completely redefined.
i can't help but see a relation to education in these words.

my biggest take away:
in helping others - not only do we learn what's important - but we feel a sense of purpose and belonging - something we all crave. what jacqueline shares - is a way to make our giving - not only helpful to us - but helpful to the receiver. money is nice, it's needed, it helps - but the true essence of helping others is empowering them to help themselves. so that they can then be about helping others. now there's a cycle worth riding.

find a great summary of the blue sweater at

who should own the learning?

two minute talk from alan november - when asked - the significance of web 2.0 and learning 2.0.

as long as schools own the learner, teachers give hw and teachers give tests and teachers control the curriculum, web 2.0 has no chance to have an impact on learning 2.0. on the other hand if we decide that students should own the learning, and students should co-design the curriculum, and design own's ridiculous to have any teacher say - put your books away - we're going to have a test now - based on memorization...just flies in the face of 2.0... there would be so much we would have to change in the culture to be serious about 2.0...

i want to be serious about it. let's get serious about it.

tests drive us...are we driving kids to a dead end?

been thinking a lot about alternate tests lately.

tests seem to drive just about everything in public ed. per seth godin - are we spiraling to death - giving up the ghost to charter schools - online courses - and anyone else taking a stand against standardization?

funny - i think we have really accomplished a lot in ed. i work with a lot of brilliant teachers. but perhaps we've failed at the most vital point of learning. the tweaking of ourselves, continually revising the ongoing rough draft of our thinking. and worse yet - i think that's the big piece we haven't passed on to the kids. they think assessment is all about one test at the end. their success lies in a one time shot. no wonder test-anxiety has become such a popular attribute. no wonder cheating makes sense to a lot of them.

so how could we assess to create meaning? to create an attitude that assessment/revision is as vital to learning as breathing is to living.

some thoughts on ways to find what needs tweaking (aka alternative assessments):
1) what you find when you google a kid. this would encourage projects that live on rather than getting trashed after they are graded.
2) what kinds of questions the kid asks - are they rich, or trite
3) how everyone else is doing. we know we learn more when we teach - so how are the others in this kid's community/pln (in class and/or online) doing? define success by how well a kid has brought others along - by who he hangs with
4) how the others view him/her. of the things this kid publishes - how many hits does he/she get... etc...

maybe we should quit trying to taxi kids so much. (public vs audience)
if we just drove our own car better - by continually learning and tweaking ourselves - via plns.... maybe they would glob onto that.

what we do says so much more than what we say. especially to kids

network no longer scam only

growing up for me - when you heard "network" - it registered as "scam" - using others to get rich quick.

today - we see the good side of networking.

the teacher's dilemma - inability to tailor learning environments to 100+ kids... now can come to fruition with the use of personal learning networks. (plns)

wieman speaks of expert individual tutors.
christensen speaks of tailored modules - kid-centric/created.

because of the web - we are now able to create communities/public that can differentiate to the nth degree for our students. gosh - let's not miss it.

richardson advises on best practices with pln's for students. we need to model how to create/experience them:
1) safely
2) ethically
3) efficiently

any educator not involved in at least one pln (whether or not online) - give it a shot. i'm thinking it's the change you are looking for. it was for me.

together we are more.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

no more zombie schools

turning zombie organizations around. how do you create real value?

learning in public - bringing others along - authentic value.

getting out of the way

oh the places they'll go.
cameron teaches us - how kids can teach themselves - how helping others is how we all learn best.

public vs "public"

might we turn public school into public school?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

it's leadership day 2009

hello *adult leaders in education ....
*kids will lead too - but they mostly just need us to get out of the way.
they're the lucky ones - needing simply to learn. we have the difficult job of unlearning first.

i believe that on this day - and everyday - bill strickland would encourage us to look like the solution, not the problem.
please join me in initiating/continuing conversations and action about the following in regard to school.

1) focus
learning how to learn
2) audience
too many differences to describe, common thread - each one has value

3) leader role
remover of roadblocks, risk taker, expert individual tutor
4) supplies needed:
individual web access

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

we feel fine

open, wait a bit then start clicking.

twitter wall

allows for more conversation, sharing of opinions, focus on the point of what you are saying...
nice video - showing how it works.

people and story telling at the core

the story of self in order to tell the story of us.

let kids tell their stories for their peers, let them comment on it, and record everything.
the point of this exercise for the kids is to learn how to tell their stories, not just to themselves but also to others

our journey is completely unique for each of us...
that journey is the text from which we can teach...
learning how to draw on that text in order to interpret others...

job of leaders, to introduce new behavior in groups in a credible fashion...

story is about making connection so that is huge
then the leader says, ok - so what are the connections,...where did"this guy" get his sense of hope from....

the thing about story telling - it's iterative..

then leader says - what did you find most helpful in telling your story..

one guy said - telling my story helped me find out what the moral of my story is

telling a story 1) initial moment 2) bridge moment 3) now moment

stories all revolve around choices

story is: protagonist -> choice -> outcome -> moral

the anatomy of a successfull school year

brilliant post by steven devijver.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

unbox your thinking

article about change in ed

must see video (esp educators/students/parents) (ok - everybody)

video here:
will richardson at 0c09

my notes here:
key word - "with"whom they learn - rather than "from" whom they learn
the bu
from a content standpoint - ed doesn't need us
from a learning standpoint - totally needs us
how to use media to connect - are you teaching diigo? wikipedia? (gets 1/4 mill edits/day)

mit has free open coursewhere for all courses

very cool video

click here

This music video was shot for Sour’s ‘Hibi no Neiro’ (Tone of everyday) from their first mini album ‘Water Flavor EP’. The cast were selected from the actual Sour fan base, from many countries around the world. Each person and scene was filmed purely via webcam.
(this about this video via alec couros)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

the teachers made me feel small

check this out if you haven't yet.
be sure to not just be awed by his talent - listen to his words.

amazing what we do to people.
amazing how some people respond.