Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bag of Hot Air

There are a lot of very busy people throughout my professional learning network and other incredible professional learning networks that intersect with people that I know from learning together, laughing together, and working together. Busy they are trying to make sure that the ideas in which they are passionate are shared, practiced, and spread. It creates a fire hose of reading that is pure pleasure for me as I know that there are allies of action and philosophy around the world. I'm super excited to meet many more of these thought leaders and awesome educators on my first pilgrimage to Educon in Philadelphia later this month. Over the past few years, it seems like these incredible groups of people are growing more coherent with their language, rationale and ideas for a new journey for public schools around the world. There are still many points of conversation and difference which is helpful for our overall growth, but the umbrella of beliefs is growing clear. This creates a tipping point for me and all of those that spend time saying really important things about education. It is time to act, act really big. It is time to surround students, teachers, and leaders that are trying to do things the right way with more than just praise and words. These places need our expertise and personalized professional development from the experts throughout our PLN. They need space to make mistakes, and that means our voices pushing back their doubters in local newspapers and boards of education. They need mentors and resources. They need our time, talent, and treasure. They need our sustainable presence. Our professional learning network is the most intelligent team on paper ever, but words crave actions in a bigger way. What if there were 10 schools around the country that we decided to surround with our collective wisdom? What if we showed that our ideas could work and could scale? This could be the next phase of our grassroots work to build the right public schools in this country. I worry at times that we are a bag of hot air when it comes to big change. Sure there is a little change, and each little change matters, but there is a lot of talk about big change and being a part of whatever that looks like, but the time has come. Will the actions follow? Are we too busy to realize our big dreams?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


How can we keep it simple? The simple pleasures in life should never be locked away. There are moments each day when a smile, a pause, a notice can change everything. There are so many things to be thankful for in our lives, and even with the clouds of reality, stress, and anxiety looming, we can carve out moments of simple pleasure that can change everything. What year did you stop allowing the simple things to be a part of your soul? A new year is a new opportunity to allow the simple pleasures in life to reinfect your DNA. The video inspiration for this post is 90 seconds of great video to remind you how these simple pleasures look, sound, and feel. Take 90 seconds of today to watch. It may change your entire day.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Solitude: The Final Phase of Technology Integration

Have your students collaborated, connected with others? Have they realized that our global learning requires them to reach outside themselves? If so, they are ready for the next phase of technology integration. This phase values solitude and reflection, and asks students to balance their technology time with their time to disconnect and think.  Are you thinking about how to make this happen? Do you practice this in your connected life? Are you OK with the sound that comes when there is no sound?

Be Passionate about Life

I've been trying to boil down my wish list for education for 2014. It could be a really long list. It could include a more meaningful dialogue around Common Core. It could include a desire to focus on engagement of students above all else. It could include doing school different instead of just trying to do school better. It could include focusing on empathy as an elixir to bullying and violence in school. It could include making sure that school is life instead of school preparing kids for life, and it could even include better food in our cafeterias and more active kids at school. In the end, I only have one item on the list. It is a more passionate tribe of adults to surround our kids. We need more passion in education surrounding the right stuff. We need passion oozing out of our ears. We need passion for curriculum, and passion for instruction. We need our kids to see that we care so much that we refuse to let life get in the way of their futures. Passion in education has a wave of reasons to retreat, but let 2014 be the year when we scream from each of our spaces, amplified in power by our connected network, that the reasons that we entered this field on back as priorities. Be passionate about kids. Be passionate about learning. Be passionate about life. Be passionate about change.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Getting the Most Out of a Conference

Many of you are planning your 2014 conference landscape including experiences like edcampSTL, METC, and ISTE.  As a part of your planning, it is time to take some steps to make sure that you get the most out of the your conference experiences. Too often, we rush out of our buildings at the last minute to head to the airport to attend a conference with the details of school flooding through our heads. When we land at the conference, it takes us a few days to decompress, get in the mindset to learn, and inevitably the conference is coming to an end when we are primed for our best growth. To avoid this, think about trying one or more of the following ideas as a way to get the most out of your time with your colleagues from throughout the nation.

1. Think about how you are going to organize your thoughts throughout the conference. How will you organize your notes to make them last beyond the conference? One suggestion would be to write a daily blog post or e-mail summary of the day for your staff. This time of reflection and synthesis are key for ideas to germinate and spread into your building and beyond. Do you have a blog? Look to Wordpress or Blogger for free places to start your digital story. Publishing your thoughts helps spread ideas to places beyond your office and your school.

2. Begin learning on Twitter. There has been no better space to grow professionally over the last five years than through the set of loose connections and networks that Twitter can provide. There are tons of great resources on how to start using Twitter, and I’d be happy to help if you reach out to me on Twitter @ideaguy42. Throughout the conference, the best ideas, resources, and conversations will be on Twitter with school leaders at the conference and beyond. Get started now, so that you can get past the learning curve on how to use Twitter, so that learning will be front and center.

3. Connect with another learner that is attending before you arrive. It is certainly great to have those random meetings in sessions, but it is also helpful to start a new conversation today. Conferences are best when people are able to bring electronic or phone conversations to life face-to-face. It is also a great idea to reach out to someone that you wouldn’t normally talk to at the conference, someone that is outside of your normal comfort zone as those conversations bear some of the greatest fruit.

4. Watch a TED talk. It is important to get in the mode of thinking and exploring ideas, and there is no better place to do that than TED.com. Thousands of incredible ideas are spread through this network each day. Most of the ideas aren’t specifically about education, but they are ideas that provide some lateral capacity building for school leaders. This fresh capacity can bring a new lens to our work, and it can also provide us with ideas that we can carry into education from fields as diverse as botany, rocket science, and poetry.

5. Be ready to share the best stuff at your school. It is so important that the conference feels like a rich marketplace of ideas, and every school has trapped wisdom and ideas that are worth sharing. What three programs are excellent at your school? Why are they excellent? Telling your story to others also helps you and your building grow.

Engaging Our Community on Technology Integration

Our families and community know that technology integration is an important thing. It is a gut sort of thing. They aren't sure why, but they trust that technology integration is good for their kids. It is our role to build a common language, open the dialogue, and journey with everyone as technology integration becomes a part of our learning system. Look at some of the data below, and then think about gathering more data specific to your school using a tool like Clarity from Bright Bytes to round out your knowledge and road forward.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Memphis Marathon Preview

Running has been a part of my attempt to maintain a healthy journey for my body for almost ten years now. It has allowed me to be healthier at 40 than at 30, and I hope that running will help me continue to bend the arc of aging for the next decade. It has led me to new depths about what was possible for me physically as I've driven my times in both the half marathon and marathon to a space that amazes almost every non-runner. There are moments in running that are more important than the finish line and the time displayed when you finish. It can be the first race after an injury when you are able to say "I'm back". It can be a race when you supported a cause with your legs. It can be a run that shines beauty into your soul as you are one with nature. It can be the run to release the stress that comes from losing someone or something. Running serves me, and I hope that I serve running. As I line up for the Memphis Marathon tomorrow morning in some of the toughest conditions that I've run for a race of this length, I remain focused on two things. The first is assisting those around me make it to the finish line to achieve their goal of their first marathon or another deeper goal that drives them to put one foot in front of the next. The second is to run for those that can't. I've always told folks that I run because I can, which has always implied the truth, there are folks that are suffering or have suffered in ways that don't allow them the joy that comes from running. Tomorrow, the kids at St Jude's Hospital will be in my heart, my family and friends that have lost someone recently will be driving me , and all of those that are no longer in a position to put one foot in front of the next in the pursuit of making their way from the start line to the finish line will give me strength. Feel free to send your thoughts and prayers on our way as we journey tomorrow. You can track our progress here. Also, if you want to get a sense of what I'll be feel tomorrow, check out the video below.

Dare to Imagine

As we move into 2014, I have only one hope from my new year. I want to Think Big and Dream Big. I want my life to mirror the energy in my heart to change the world. I want everyday to be a quest to inspire those around me, kids and adults, to lean into the big, hairy problems of our time. How do we feed 9 billion people? How can we quench the thirsty of those without water? How can we create the clean energy necessary to promote peace and health? I believe that the solutions to these things are trapped inside the collective wisdom of our planet, and it will take curators and cross-pollinators to get the pieces of the puzzle in the right buckets to make a difference. Enough with the stuff that consumes our drive to live, learn, and love. Let us lead classrooms, schools, and other learning spaces that get the opportunity to Dare to Imagine.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Caring for Kids is an Academic Intervention

The holidays are a very difficult space for many of our kids. It is a time of financial and familial stress. I feel like I have to remind myself of this every year as we approach these weeks leading into winter break. Do you have strengths to support kids in this space? Are you able to care for kids the way that you would like? Teachers, educators, and learners are caregivers first. Make it a priority to find a moment to slow down and focus on the heart of our children. The video below reminds us of the importance of social emotional growth as part of our work.

The Super ZIP Codes

I was in a school the other night and walked the walls looking at projects that the students had completed. I recognized during my walk that lots of time had been spent to make sure that all of work displayed looked great and that everything was labeled and straight. I was visually impressed. I was impressed that projects served as the summative assessments for the learning in the classroom. I paused at this point to realize that the content of learning was shocking. The heart of excellent project based learning has to be rich, meaty, robust, rigorous topics of learning. I'm sorry, but phases of the moon, Egyptians, and sunlight and shadows doesn't cut it, not for a five year old or a 15 year old. These are topics worth exploring, but not built for robust projects. Finding great project based learning isn't hard. It is about tying students to life and expanding the walls of the classroom. I recently read about the Super Zip Codes, see link below, a concept that explores poverty, education, and more. The graphic interface in the article allows students to explore their neighborhoods and surrounding neighborhoods in an engaging and interacting way. These are some of the themes of great learning. Interview officials, take pictures that represent the learning, share with other zip codes, reflect, and build more learning on top. If time is short, make every second count with BIG LEARNING. THE SUPER ZIPS