Friday, August 28, 2015

Today's Reads, Views, and Links end of summer edition

It's been awhile since I've shared some of the more interesting things I've come across via Twitter, so here it goes -

First, how awesome is this -

I'm totally changing how I teach College Comp this year.  Each period will have 10-15 minutes of silent sustained reading embedded into hear block.

This will take some time for students to get used to, but to help motivate them to read every day (and build up the habit and cognitive muscle to read) while they read, I'm going to have a different picture to display on the Smartboard every SSR section for each day the first few weeks.

What are those pictures?

Well, I decided to text several former students and asked them to share their reading load for this first semester.  Those are the pictures I'm going to show my juniors.  Just to get them thinking about all the reading they will have to do soon.

Here are some of the examples that came in -


One thing I love about Thomas Friedman's stance on fixing education is his emphasis on everyone bringing their "extra."

For me, thinking about my "extra" (which Friedman defines as that extra or special quality you bring to your customers, employer, or job) helps me define my role as a teacher.  Here is what I consider my "extra" to be - I bring a passion and curiosity to teaching that (I hope) infects my students.  I work hard to get them to consider what their element (Sir Ken Robinson) is.  Then I push them to become remarkable so that they can survive the dips (Seth Godin) that will come their way so that they will eventually become linchpins (Godin again) who bring their "extra" (whether that be creativity (Austin Kleon) or innovation (Steven Johnson)) every single day (Thomas Friedman).

This article talks about how American schools need to rediscover their "extra," namely what their true purpose and story is for the 21st century.  American education used to be about creating tiny little consumers and cogs (Seth Godin's Stop Stealing Dreams).  Then under the real golden age of American education (post World War II), it became the story of economic and social mobility.  When all those GI's came back from WW II and flooded the universities thanks to the GI Bill, it changed America.  Prior to that you could find a job as a cog and do relatively well . . . all without a high school degree.  However, once those GIs went to college and saw the power of even more education, well there was no way their children weren't going to go to college . . . and now we have hit a wall.  Today up to 2/3 of students leave college with massive debt and no degree.  Something needs to change at all levels.

For the record, the article give some tips on how to redefine American education and to get us moving forward

1.  Appreciate this unique moment in education history.  In other words, rise up to the challenge and act on it.  Don't do more of the same.

2.  Contribute to a global vision.  This whole thing is too good for me to butcher by paraphrasing.

Thinking about test scores is important for job security and job satisfaction. But confining performance to your school or district, or even your country, is a small slice of reality. Instead, imagine how 300 million youth under the age of 18 world-wide will rise out of poverty, find decent jobs, seek fulfillment, and design a livable world. Know that a significant shift has taken place world-wide: The concerns of teachers everywhere have converged, and every forward-focused teacher can be not just a local teacher, but part of connected network of educators trying to rally the world on behalf of youth. It’s a noble effort.

3. Redefine smart.   No longer does a four year college degree mean that you're smart.  Rather getting skills that match your talent and passion, and find you a career, that means you're smart.  Here is an excellent video that I show my LINK class every year.  It perfectly illustrates what a student must do to be "smart" in our new economy.

4.  Live the collaborative reality.  We used to teach in isolation: close the door and do whatever you want with your classes.  However, that must change now.  After all, if you have a Twitter account, you have access to more information and resources than every teacher in the history of the world before now combined.  There's no excuse not to have excellent resources and information.  It's just a search away.


What Teachers Can Learn From Vsauce's YouTube Show

This is my favorite part -

Stevens understands that the best teachers don’t just hurl vast shovelfuls of wisdom at their students, hoping some of it sticks as it whizzes by. Great teachers know that education is a long game, and much of the time, the lesson at hand is not the final destination but an opportunity to contextualize and support future learning. Stevens does hurl a lot of information at his viewers, but he also creates a massive net for his audience so they will be able to catch and hold on to his teaching.

Here is the Vsauce channel on YouTube.

Here is an example of one of many of his interesting videos


I love stuff like this.  The author of this article asks several people to list their favorite subjects and explain why those should be focused on more than they currently are.  See if your subject is listed!


Now why didn't I find this one earlier this week when I presented to several staff members at an EGF school about using social media to build their classroom brand?  10 Ways to use Instagram in the Classroom.  I love these.


I love Fast Company.  This article really caught my eye: Five Traits of Creative Leaders.

For the record they are -

1.  They rattle cages.  In other words, they aren't worried about holding people accountable or challenging the status quo.

2.  They listen to intuition.  Having all the research, evidence, and outside opinions are great, but excellent leaders seem somehow to have a very strong internal compass that leads them in the right direction.

3.  They move fast.  Again, they don't have to spend massive amounts of time gather all the opinions and research.  They can see the right thing to do and begin taking action quickly.  This is vital.  How many times do those of us who consider ourselves to be leaders (and every teacher should be a leader) come across a great new strategy or best practice, yet we often struggle to take action.  Why?

4.  They have convictions and stick to them.  Perhaps this is what is most admirable about great leaders.  They aren't afraid to, as our leader says - "die on a hill" for their convictions.  What is great about this is that while I might not agree with the conviction that someone is willing to die on a hill for, I will always respect them for their convictions.  As opposed to someone who is wishy-washy or willing to just say what is popular.  And that's something I had to learn to do myself.  It's always easy to agree with the prevailing opinions.

5.  They don't do (only) what's expected of them.  I think this gets back to what Thomas Friedman means by bringing your "extra."  Leaders have the innate ability to do more than just what is expected of them.  They somehow have a way to do things that only they can do in the way that they can do it. If you have ever thought "how on earth are they able to do all of that in just 24 hours?"  Then you are seeing this idea in action by a leader.

Now, how many of these do the people you consider to be leaders (bosses, coaches, mentors, politicians, teachers, parents . . .) have in abundance?


After reading this article, "The Gift of Failure," I would argue that teaching students how to develop grit and learn from their failures is an aspect that must be included in how we redefine education today.

There is no doubt that we stigmatize failure in our modern culture, and this isn't just limited to education.  I think parents unwittingly do this.

There is a great anecdote that illustrates this - Seth Godin was telling Dave Ramsey that he used to coach his son's soccer league in New York.  Now if you don't know who Seth Godin is, he is an entrepreneur/marketer/billionaire/philanthropist who is brilliant.

His take on coaching 5 year old soccer players is to put them all out there and let them find new and interesting ways to play soccer.  If they score a goal, great.  But the key point is to develop a love for the sport.  It's hard to be willing to put in the massive amount of time to actually get good at soccer if you don't first love it.

Godin didn't really care if the kids scored a goal as long as they learned something and loved soccer.

And what happened?

The other parents ran him out of the league!

As Godin told Dave, "Apparently, parents think that there is a trophy shortage."


Another way of thinking about failure is this - your kid comes home from school with a very high A, three B's and one C and an F.

What do parents always freak out about?  The F, right?

And there is a cause for concern, surely.  But where should that student focus the bulk of his or her efforts?

The "right" answer is the "A"!!  Shocker, right?

Here is why you should play to your strengths - being well rounded is overrated.  Very overrated.

I always struggled with math.  It doesn't come easily to me.  I need a lot of re-teaching.  I didn't get that at critical stages of my elementary school years.  So I was always behind.  In college I slaved over my homework in College Algebra and did very well on it.  But when it came to anything beyond that, I was lost.

Yet, English and composition came easily to me. And I have great strength there.

Where would I be if I didn't spend all of my time reading and writing up in my room and instead spent that time trying to raise my high school math grades from C's to A's?

Certainly not with a job that I absolutely love and am good at!  (Well, how good, I don't know since as an English major I just ended the previous sentence with a preposition!)

Play to your strengths.

That doesn't mean you should glorify your weaknesses or totally ignore them.  I'm just saying don't hinder your best traits by wasting time on the weak traits that will never ever be strengths.


The Power of Impatience. Interesting.


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