Sunday, February 15, 2015

Today's Reads, Views, and Links

Guy Kawasaki has a great bit in one of his presentations on the ridiculousness of mission statements. Kawasaki argues that these are often way too complex, and worst of all, meaningless as they sound good but have no real value to anyone working in an organization or business.

Kawasaki believes mission statements should be mantras instead, boiled down to just a couple words.  Kawasaki's person mantra is to empower people.  Nike's is authentic athletic apparel.  Zappo's is deliver happiness.

 Weird Al chimes in on this debate with this hilarious video -


This is something I've (ironically) been stressing to my College Comp 2 classes for a few years now: Degrees Don't Matter; Skills Do.

Or as both Thomas Friedman and Tony Wagner have stated: "The world doesn't care what you know; the world only cares what you can do with what you know.

This of course is a concept vital to Carol Dweck's growth mindset concept.

This article is vital for us at Lincoln I believe because we already have so many of these tools in place.

First, we have 1:1 technology.

Second, we are retooling our curriculum thanks to the state's requirement now that every junior take the ACT and how they do will reflect on our school's success or failure.  The World's Best Workforce legislation is also shining a light on areas that we never bothered to examine so closely previously.  So we now are well aware (like never before) where our weaknesses lie.

Third, since we are aware that what we have been doing for the past 5-10 years (and quite possibly longer) hasn't been working, there is no reason to protect any of our sacred cows.  We can shoot them all, take a deep breath, and approach our classes with a new mindset, a mindset rooted in best practices but also we have to have a willingness to do things differently.

Because 50 minutes of notes and 35 homework problems hasn't been particularly effective for a large portion of our student body . . . in every single subject: math, English, science . . .

At least that's what the ACT scores reveal.

This article suggests how to approach things differently -

*  differentiated learning (customized lessons tweaked to each student's learning style).  Now I would love to see this happen, but I don't know how it possibly can.  Students don't even know how they learn best (we just had this conversation on Friday in College Comp), let alone teachers don't have time to individually craft lessons based on the students' learning styles.

This would be amazing, but I don't know how we could do this.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm all for it.  I'd much rather spend money on a program that would both identify student learning styles and help teachers craft individualized lessons than spending it on new textbooks or even ACT prep courses.

*  Flipping classrooms.  This is actually something I've started doing more and more.  Just because it makes a ton of sense.  Why should I craft a 45 minute lecture on finding your passion, when I can show two TED Talks from Ken Robinson - a world class expert on creativity and passion?  Then when students come back to class, I can find out what students think about his thoughts.  Best of all, I can individually strive to meet with them and help them devise a product (it could be an essay, an info graph, a Storify document, or something else) that shows their understanding and application of Robinson's ideas.

*  Engaging education software that makes subjects as engaging as video games.  This is a double edged sword, if you ask me.  I hear from a lot of teachers: "why do we have to constantly entertain you?"  I agree, this worries me.  Now, I personally don't struggle with this because somewhere along the way (I blame my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Mueller for having a very innovative assignment (especially for 1985) where he video taped us doing a skit of To Tell the Truth.  He cast me as the game show host.  That single lessons pushed me outside of my comfort zone and turned me into a ham . . . it unlocked my passion for being an entertainer) I became an entertainer.

While this is a concern, I also see the other side of the issue: who doesn't like to be entertained?  There is a reason, documentaries don't go over all that well in large theaters.  I love them, but I am not going to plunk down what amounts to $50 to see them, for they don't entertain the way a big budget action film does.  Again, who doesn't like to be entertained?

Every single staff member loathes the safety training videos we have to spend hours watching over the summer.  Why?  They aren't in the least bit entertaining.  If I go to the fair, I don't want a tour of how the rides function or how the fair spends their revenue (though that would be interesting).  Instead, I want to be entertained on the rides.  Same way if I go on a cruise, I don't want to go on a behind the scenes tour of how the cruise line pulls it all off, I want to be entertained!

We all do.  The trouble is we all aren't comfortable with having to entertain.

*  Flexibility for students to learn at their own pace.

Another touchy subject in schools today.  I don't think all students can learn at their own pace as not all students have a pace!  But there are others that can totally handle this. How this will actually pan out in practice is anyone's idea.


I'm an invention and innovation geek, so this visual history of American ideas is amazing.

What I find interesting is how 'quiet' innovation becomes in the last quarter of the 20th century.  Early on in American history innovation revolved around 'noisy' industries such as coal and steam and the combustion engine and factories.  However, after '75, the innovations began to focus more on "internal" or "silent" inventions that revolve around software and computer code.

What will the world look like in 25 years?  I can't wait to see it.


The spirit of pioneers are alive and well: Meet three people who intend to die on Mars.

People today seem shocked that there are people who would sacrifice their lives to land and live (but who knows for how long) on another planet.

I don't find this remarkable in the least.  Just look at those who did pretty much the same thing to land and live on the New World.

Without GPS and any kind of radar or storm tracking technology, how safe do you think it really was to sail across the Pacific?

Now certainly, at least if you survived the trek across the ocean and you indeed landed in the New World, you could breath the air and eat the food.  That won't happen to anyone on Mars.  But just because you could eat, breathe, and drink that doesn't mean life here wasn't lethal.  There was the wildlife that could kill you, that natives who would kill you, not to mention diseases (just look at what small pox did to the native population).

So the fact that people over 500 years later are still willing to do the same thing isn't surprising in the least.


When I first saw the headline, At Today's Rate, Half of all US Children will be Autistic by 2025, seemed preposterous.

Then I read the article, which correlates the increased used of Roundup to the increased cases of autism.  This isn't conclusive; however, after reading Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map, where Dr. John Snow and clergyman Henry Whitehead convince the powers that be in London to remove the handle from the Broad Street pump in 1954 because - even though the didn't have the technology to prove without a shadow of a doubt that the water was infected with Cholera - they were able to show a direct correlation between the vast numbers of dead in the Broad Street area and the fact that they drank for the Broad Street pump.

Maybe Dr. Stephanie Seneff is doing the same exact thing.  The one thing that The Ghost Map illustrated, though, is that change is glacial.  After all, Snow and Whitehead both died without ever knowing that Cholera was a waterborne disease.


I love this idea from a blogger: 10 Things We Didn't Know Last Week.  I'm going to use this as an exit slip activity at the end of each week of College Comp.  One of our core values is leave with something new, so learning should be a daily activity.  I love this idea of listing the new things we've learned from each other.

Then I'd like to connect the dots over the weekend and present it back to the class on Monday was we move forward in adding more knowledge.


The Church of the Right Answer.  This is awesome!

This blog post recounts a teacher who comes across a student who can get the "right" answer without doing all of the hard work.  He doesn't get all of the thinking and struggle that goes in to getting the right answer or showing his work.

I think he's missing the real point.  The point is the learning and the struggle, not the right answer.

If you ask me, we have too many damn kids who can get the right answer but that's it.  They can't solve anything with the right answers or do anything interesting with the right answer.

Remember, the world doesn't care what you know; the world only cares what you can do with what you know!


I'm a huge infograph fan, especially now that they're relatively easy to create.  Here is an article on the surprising way the brain processes visuals.

The best part is the top five takeaways at the end on how to generate effective infographs -

1.  Focus on strong, universally colored elements.  Too many colors is distracting.  Having the same colors for specific elements (such as captions or stats or directions) will be a cue for the reader.

2.  Remove unnecessary embellishments.  This is where I struggle.  Sometimes, I just want to cram too much info in there because I get carried away.

3.  Create anchors.  For each section of the infograph, make sure you have consistency to help the reader focus.

4.  Limit your color palette.  This I had to learn the hard way on my presentations.  Too many colors disorientates the viewer.  Keep it simple and clear.

5.  Don't be afraid of going abstract.  People, for whatever reason, prefer abstract maps. 


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