Tag Archives: education

Riding the Wave

As we sit on the beach for our family vacation watching my daughter ride the waves on her boogie board, the term “riding the wave out” keeps coming into my head. I have often heard veteran educators say this phrase. They have seen so much happen in their career, they have created the habit of just riding the wave out. Over the last twenty  years politicians have taken more and more control away from the educators when it comes to how we run schools. Is it because we continually ride waves out? It is time for us to stop riding waves out and ride crashing into the waves. Many constraints have been placed upon us, but constraints are just the soft walls around our creative space. All creative spaces have constraints. Lets hop on our boards and ride crashing into the waves. We may fall off our boards a few times in the process, but in the end we will have taken back the ocean of education.

What Elephant are You Going to Eat Today?

How do you eat and elephant?

We all have big grand ideas. Let’s call them elephants. Elephants are ideas we believe will change the world. Because of their enormity, it will take a long time to fully develop our elephants into a “doable” plan of action. It may take even longer to convince those around us that the elephant is a good idea. Many people will be scared of the elephant. Elephants are nice to look at from afar, but when it is time to get up-close and personal, most people will stay behind the fence and watch.

So how do we get our elephants to become reality? We eat the elephant. Yep, the entire elephant. So how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. If you truly believe in an idea, take a small bite out of it each and every day. Spend at least 15 minutes doing something that will move your idea forward. It can be as simple as writing a blog post, reading an article, talking to someone or sketching notes. If every day you take one bite out of the elephant, over the course of days, months, and even years you will have eaten the entire elephant. Just think how satisfying that meal will be.

What is your elephant and what bite are you taking out of it today?

What Would my Classroom Look Like? Part 1

If I were to ever reenter the classroom, what would it look like? I have been out of the math classroom for 10 years. A lot has changed. I have changed even more. So, what would it look like? Here are some of my thoughts.

  1. I wouldn’t have grades. Yes, there would be letters at the end of the 9 weeks because the system tells me I have to report out a letter. What would be different is how the letters were generated. There wouldn’t be any daily points that lead to a sum out of a huge total in the end. Mastery of the content and skills would be used to generate the letter. As Dan Pink recently tweeted, “learning should be the carrot.”
  2. I would gamify the classroom. After read Game Storming, I understand that you can turn anything into a game environment. Start with a hook, some way of getting the kids to enter the “game.” Let them diverge from the start into the learning. In the end, they reach a goal. That goal will serve as the starting point for entering the next “game.” I’m not completely sure how to do this yet, but I hope to play more with this idea.
  3. I love the idea of flipping. I hate the misconceptions that are coming with it. Flipping is not a way of removing the teacher. Flipping is a way for the teacher to do more of what is important, spend time with small groups or individuals meeting their specific needs. I would create and use online lessons to serve as the direct instruction. Students would receive the direct instruction on an as need basis. I would use formative pre-assessments to drive the direction students would go.

In part two of this post and beyond I plan on expanding on each of these ideas. Before I get to that, what do you think? What would a secondary math classroom structured this way be like for students?

QR Code Craze

qrcodeAfter attending a session on QR codes at the Ohio eTech conference on Monday, I have become obsessed this thinking of innovative ways to use them in our schools. On Tuesday I was working with a group of 10th grade language arts students. I am helping them create a digital book or magazine. The students get to pick the site they want to use. The teacher created this nice chart to show them some of the potential sites. After doing a quick show and tell we talked about the potential to print these books and put them in our library….ah ha moment…Lets go green. Lets create a QR code for everyone’s book, create page with all the QR codes, and put the codes in the library. A few minutes later after showing what a QR code was and discussing it a bit more, we had decided to do it.

All day I keep thinking of the projects we have coming up and how I can use QR codes with those projects. I now have codes on my desk in the library just hoping when teacher walk by they will ask, “What is that?” Our media specialist had the idea to do something with codes and the upcoming release of the Hunger Games movie. We are also going to steal this idea that Karl Fisch share at the Ohio Summit on 21st Century Skills. Create video book trailers and put the QR code on the spine.

I need more ideas. How are you engaging students with QR codes?

Pedagogy Before Technology Part 1: The Rant

Today I attended the Ohio eTech State Technology Conference. The day started of with physicist and Futurist Dr. Michio Kaku. He made us laugh, but I’m not sure I left the session with anything that will affect how or what I do anytime in the foreseeable future.

I then headed down the hall to listen to a teacher list off the technologies he uses with students. He didn’t:

  • tell why he used the technology.
  • tell how the technology supported student learning.
  • give concrete examples of what he was using the technology for.

I lasted 20 minutes or so before I hit my breaking point. That point was when he asked, “Does anyone have examples of project based learning that works? I haven’t had much success with it.” I respect anyone who chooses to take the risk of getting up in front of their peers from around the state to share their work. I remember my first time, it is a nerve wracking experience. With that said, if you’re going to get on stage, have something worth sharing.

I feel like every year at least half the sessions I attend are this way. I used to attend all three days of the conference, I’m now down to one. Honestly attending is more about presenting with my wife and running into good friends in the halls between sessions.

My biggest frustration is there are teachers out there who believe what they see in these sessions is good. They take the lessons they learn and take them back and try to implement them. They try to use technology for technologies sake, not thinking deeply about how the use of the technology supports their learning targets. They are not thinking about pedagogy.

So how do we make this a conference better, come back tomorrow for, Pedagogy Before Technology Part 2: The solution, when I’m not in a sour mood.

eTech Time

On Monday I will be attending the Ohio eTech conference. After attending, and presenting, at this conference for more than a decade, I sometimes wonder why I attend. Just like our schools, this conference looks almost exactly the same today as it did the first time I attended in the 90’s. The technology has improved, but the use of time and space are pretty much the same. Shouldn’t a technology conference that has the power to get thousands of Ohio’s educators in one place be a model of 21st century learning? Shouldn’t this conference look more like an edcamp than every conference held in the 20th century?

The question becomes, how do we get them to change it?

Till then, I am going to make eTech a little like edcamp myself. Instead of worrying about what session I am going to attend next, I am going to seek out who I can have a conversation with next. I hope to see some old friends to reconnect with and make some new ones. I look forward to learning something from the stories I hear.

Oh, I just remembered why I do attend. I get to share the stage with the best teacher I know, my wife.

Is Convergence the Key to Change?

So often in education we hear about this initiative and that initiative to the point where educators have initiative overload. How do we fix this? There are always going to be new thing, the nasty C word, changes. How do we make the new feel like it is part of where we are and just the next step to where we are going? How do we structure new initiatives so they don’t feel like reworking the old structure. Many times educators feel like change is made for changes sake.

As I read the book: Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers I am starting to understand the process of how and idea diverges and then converges.

When a new initiate comes about, there is a period of time where some diverging will occur. In education this is where you see the early adopters vs the laggards. Then people talk, get professional development, and implement. If those things go well, you start to see a convergence. A large majority of the people moving together toward a goal.

So if my analysis is correct, the new goal is getting to the convergence faster. Now off to ponder how to make that happen. What are the keys to speeding up this vehicle of change?


Go, Edcamp Go

I just read a new post on the Edcamp Foundation website that:

Based on current known & planned events, by May of 2012, we estimate the total number of edcamps will be 92.

Think about this, there are 92 education un-conferences happening around the world being organized and ran by volunteers. What makes someone dedicate hours of their own time to creating one of these events?


When a person finds something they are passionate about, time disappears. They enter the state of flow. The people who run these events understand that changes need to be made to our education system. These changes cannot happen unless those who are doing the work have the opportunity to get together and figure out the best way to make the change happen.

While those who organize the events are the first line of change catalyst, those in attendance have the ability to turn a murmur into a shout. Those who show up on a Saturday morning to lead and join in on conversations are just as important. They are the people in the education community who are seeking the answers to how do we make it happen. Are you one of these people?

The message on the Edcamp Foundation website closed “go edcamp, GO!” My message is a little different, go to an edcamp, GO!

If you are in, or near Ohio we would love to see you at Edcamp Columbus on March 3rd.

TED Talk Tuesdays

Writing a new post everyday for 30 days had made me start to think about how I can sustain my writing over time. My answer, use cheesy gimmicky themes. So every Tuesday’s post will be about a TED talk that has made me think, motivated me, taught me something new, or just plain entertained me.

I am going to kick off the series with a TED talk I was lucky enough to see in person. On November 10th, 2011 at the TEDxYouth@Columbus event Chris Timko gave the following talk:

My talk will be about my involvement as a rider in Pelotonia and my cross country bike ride two summers ago. I will focus in specifically on the way I went about getting involved in Pelotonia and how I took it one step further with my cross country ride. The talk will focus more about the methods I used to go about accomplishing these things and less about the accomplishments in and of themselves. The talk could be summarized as a story about my involvement with cancer as a whole.


As I listened to this story I knew I had to ‘ride’ for what I believe in, for what I am passionate about, learning. Not the learning that comes from our standards, our classrooms, what we the adults think students should learn, but the learning that stems from kids passions. This young man learned more from riding a bike than school could ever teach him. He learn about life, himself, selflessness. He learned what he was passionate about and what he wanted to dedicate his life doing. How many of our students have experiences by the age of 19 that teach them that lesson? Why don’t they? Isn’t that our hopes and dream for every kid to figure out who they want to be? Don’t we want our students to find something they care so much about that they will ride a bike across the country to achieve it?

So why doesn’t it happen more? Why is this story an anomaly for a 19-year-old as opposed to the norm?  We can find every excuse in the book, testing, standards, funding, on and on. The truth of it is, if this is what we as educators truly value for our kids, we will find a way to make it happen. For me, my moment of dipping the tire in the Pacific Ocean will be when we do make it happen.