Tag Archives: toby fischer

I’m Unhappy and Tired

The last three weeks at school have drug me down. I feel like I am spinning my wheels dealing with drama and situations that do not impact the learning happening in the school. This is frustrating. I went into administration to support great teacher trying to do great things. I know discipline is part of this support, but (ah, there is that magic word).

I fell into the trap. I fell into the downward spiral of the “yeah but” trail that leads to nowhere positive. So now it is time to reflect on why I am truly in the spot I am? Where do I want to be? What are the steps I can take to bridge the gap between the two places?

I am unhappy. Not unhappy with where I work or what I do, I am unhappy with myself for letting myself get into the “yeah but” mindset I hate. I am tired of not being the leader and instigator of positive change I walked into this role planning to be. Right now is the moment that changes. I am kicking my “but” and getting a better attitude starting right now. How many of you feel the same way? What do you do to “kick your buts?”

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.

Shopping for Change

This is the story of a shopping trip for a new shirt and tie. I went into the store and started to get overwhelmed by the choices. There were 7 different blue shirts that all looked the same, but had a different name of blue on them. Then I go over to the ties. 20 different ties that match, or seemed to match since I don’t always have the best eye for fashion. How do I pick one? In the end I was overloaded by the number of choices so I went home and keep wearing my old worn out ragged shirt and tie.

The metaphor: The shirts are education initiatives and the ties are our methods of employing them. Project Based Learning, UBD, Problem Based Learning, 21 Century Skills, RTI, Differentiated Instruction. These are all good things, but not when you have all of them presented to you and you have to choose. As a school district, you cannot have 7, 5, or even 3 major initiatives happening at once. You need to do one thing and do it well. This doesn’t mean you can’t do more than one of the things I mentioned above. It means you have to create a clean package where the initiatives are one thing. For example, you can do UBD, project based learning, 21st century skills and differentiation (or RTI since it is the new d-word).

Once a district picks a focus (if they do), how often do they pick the right tie? This is the interesting part…Not all people want to wear the same tie. Just like our students, all teachers come to us at different places. There needs to be a plan put in place where each individual can pick their own tie. The method they feel most comfortable with. Some people just want to know what to do, others want intensive professional development, others need peer coaching. You can pick any tie and it will look good with the shirt, but you have to feel good with the tie or in the end you wont wear it.

Just like my shopping trip, when we give teachers too many choices (or mandates), they don’t buy anything. How can we make changes to a system when the most important cogs in the machine don’t buy into the change?


What is the Key to Saving Society?

I just finish Andy Andrews most recent book, The Final Summit. If you are not familiar with Mr. Andrews’ books, he mixes history, the art of story telling and faith to lead the reader through an exciting journey. I believe his goal¬† for the reader is to use the characters in the book and their experiences as motivation to reflect and take action. This book is no different that the others I have read. After a slow start, Winston Churchill, Abe Lincoln, King David, Joan of Arc and the rest of the cast help David Ponder answer the question, what is the one principle that will save humanity? Oh yeah, and the answer is only two words.

I wish I would have tried to answer the question before reading the book. What would I have said thought? Compassion? Understanding? Trust? I’m not sure what I would have thought, I know I wouldn’t have come up with the answer from the book. With that said, I agree with the book. I am kind of sad I can’t say more. I don’t want to ruin the book for any of you. It is on my must read book. So my question for you, what would you answer to the question? What is the one principle that will save humanity?