15 important reminders

The title caught my attention:

When not to use technology: 15 things that should stay simple in education

I agree with the author that we know better than to use technology for technology’s sake. An unfortunate pressure that some teachers face when their school invests in new educational technology is that they are asked to substantiate the heavy financial investment with student academic achievement gains that can be attributed to the use of technology, thus demonstrating a good return on investment.

While there have been researched and documented benefits in integrating technology with instruction, this article was a good reminder that certain aspects of using technology for learning need to remain “simple” to help students in their learning.

Of the 15 reminders, numbers 4 and 5 resonated deeply with me:

#4 – Don’t use technology when it decreases student interaction.

Technology as a tool can lead to incredible social connections for learning. The author rightly notes that technology can also reduce the amount of face-to-face interaction because people are “connected” online. We need to remember the important value of interacting, and learning, in a physical learning community. This is partially behind my thinking why it was so important to include on-campus classes in our hybrid community.

#5 – Don’t use technology when it reduces the chance of failure.

I believe that mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process, and ideally, an important step in self-discovery, too. In fact, I often encourage my students to take risks and make mistakes as part of their learning. This can help them arrive at a deeper level of understanding and learning. For these reasons alone, we shouldn’t simply rely on technology as an “easy way” to arrive an answer. Students need the challenge and feel the joy of success when they overcome and learn through their failures.

These are two important reminders. Why don’t you check out the remaining reminders? Do you agree with the list? Which ones resonate most with you?


S. Briggs – When not to use technology: 15 Things that should stay simple in education.


Let’s do an “exploriment”!

The weather was crisp, cool and clear last weekend when I went out with my family for a walk through the woods alongside the river. We stopped regularly to pick-up fallen leaves, examine tree trunks or toss pebbles into the water. What I enjoyed watching the most was how my daughter carefully investigated and asked questions about what she saw. She wanted to know more and learn about the growth cycle of trees now that they were losing their leaves, the process of animal hibernation, and the use of an old railroad trestle that we happened upon. When we were by the river side, she said it:

Let’s do an exploriment!

What a great word to hint at the learning that was taking place!

She wanted to continue exploring the riverbank for natural debris that she could toss into the river and experiment with different weights and materials. I loved how she wanted to combine the discovery of learning (exploration) with a reasoned inquiry (experimentation) to create her “exploriment”! It was great fun, too!

Back at home, I wondered later what the classroom would be like if I more deliberately fostered an “exploriment” attitude to learning? I asked myself if I sufficiently allow student exploration of ideas, materials, and passions? (Our learning from a question week was insightful.) Do I encourage them to test and experiment new ideas? How would this impact overall student engagement for learning? Would the classroom become more vibrant? Would my teaching practice become more vibrant?

I have to believe that the answer would be ‘yes’!

My resolution (once again) is to try my best as we ‘exploriment’ together in the classroom. I look forward to sharing my classroom ‘exploriment’ with a trebuchet after Thanksgiving break.


An important day – Our first college counselor visit!

Today was an important day in the history of the new high school. We received our first visit from a college admissions counselor!

A representative from Life Pacific College stopped by to talk about the college and life as a freshman. I thought that this was pretty significant in that Life Pacific College is actually out-of-state, so the counselor needed to find information about us as a smaller school and then make a deliberate attempt to stop by for a visit.

It was a good feeling to be considered worthy for a stop on the college admission tour.

How do you know if you are a leader?

Leadership is not about experience, education, or talent. It’s about choosing to lead.      -Michael Hyatt

I enjoy following Michael Hyatt’s blog where his tagline is “Helping leaders leverage influence.” One of his recent podcasts offered 12 ways to know whether or not you are a leader. This was a good list to review and apply to my own situation. Am I exhibiting the qualities and mindset that he suggests, especially as it applies to leadership for learning?

A few qualities jumped out to me:

#1 – You long to make a difference.

#2 – You’re dissatisfied with the status quo.

#5 – You acknowledge what is but inevitably ask what could be.

These first three have been at the heart of what I am trying to do in the classroom and with the new school.

I remain convinced that we need to change our thinking and approaches to teaching and learning in order to be more responsive to the needs that students have today. We live in a society and culture that has changed dramatically in the last few years. Unfortunately our approaches to teaching and school have not.

  • We need to engage students in their learning by honoring their interest and initiative to learn. We need to envision a learning space as one in which students are dynamic and passionate participants in the learning process.
  • We need to equip students with the knowledge, skills and dispositions that will help them face an uncertain future with confidence and preparedness. Our teaching needs to address the headware and heartware needed for their future.  It needs to develop a student’s capacity for innovation.
  • We need to empower students with a mindset for growth and service to improve the world in which we live. They need to believe that what they are learning can help them influence and contribute meaningfully to society.

Qualities #10 and #12 resonated more with who I am as an educator and my attempt to align my actions with my beliefs:

#10 – You value relationships more than tasks.

#12 – You’re a learner.

I like to learn. I like to ask questions and understand more. I try to direct this desire for learning into meaningful conversations and relationship development with others who are committed to improving teaching and learning in the classroom. Together we can achieve more as an investment in our students’ future than if we are working alone.

I think it is helpful to review lists such as these and then self-assess one’s growth accordingly. It helps reinforce what we believe and provide reference points as we project a future of positive impact and choosing to make a difference.

We’re all influential in ways we don’t fully appreciate, but the person who is intentionally influential is going to use their influence for good, to influence a person to help them grow, get what they want, become what they were meant to be. That’s a leader. -Michael Hyatt

Even more on leadership for learning

I have been thinking about leadership skills, and especially those that are needed to advance student learning in a school setting. My first post emphasized the “real power” of relationships, collaboration, equality, conversation and coaching:

  • Acknowledging and developing all the relationships involved in the learning process.
  • Collaborating to achieve results in learning.
  • A spirit of equality that fosters trust and opportunity for growth in everyone’s learning.
  • Meaningful conversations that honor a teacher’s voice and ability to impact change for learners.
  • Coaching as a meaningful investment in growing people for further thought, creativity and innovation.

My second post attempted to frame these essential skills as an action-response to the important question “Why are we here?” Leadership for learning helps remind teachers and staff members why they committed to engaging students in the first place; that we possess a sense of vocation that really matters as we make a positive difference in the lives of kids.

I have been thinking that this type of action-response comes out of a professionally-oriented growth mindset that acknowledges the potential and possibilities of working together to further student learning. Such a mindset focuses on fostering relationships and commits to a “with proper support, collaboration, and partnership, where you are 8-12 years from now will be further than I will ever be at any time in my career” mentality when working with others (see here for more about this idea). This mindset values open communication and providing timely feedback, too, as we all work together. It would seem to me that such a mindset would continually create a culture of progress and achievements in learning.


L. Fliegelman – 2 Top things teachers want from their principal

S. LeDeaux – Leaders: Strive to be the weak link

Teach content or teach thought?

I have been giving a lot of thought lately to curriculum development and 21st century fluencies. How can I help students develop those essential literacy skills, or fluencies, that will help them succeed in today’s society? What balance do I need to establish between “crystallized intelligence” and “fluid intelligence”:

If our job is to teach skills, facts, and concepts–crystallized intelligence–then thinking is simply a tool, and our curriculum is content.

If our job is to teach critical thinking, design, and problem-solving–fluid intelligence–then thinking is our collective circumstance, and our curriculum becomes thought. – Terry Heick

An emphasis on the former has been the standard for generations of students and classrooms. This has been the default in our planning for teaching, too. I often tell colleagues that “We teach as we have been taught”; thus the persistence of this emphasis in schools. We need to be deliberate in our efforts to change.

What if we were more intentional to make critical thinking and 21st century fluencies the focus in our classrooms? How might this change the classroom? How might this impact the way that the curriculum is experienced by students? How will it change me as my students’ teacher and as the learning leader for the school?

I like how Heick explores this implication on teaching, teachers and the classroom environment:

To learn to think, students need powerful and inspiring models that reflect the design, citizenship, creativity, interdependence, affection, and self-awareness we claim to want them to have.

To teach careful, creative, and truly innovative thinking, students need creative spaces and tools, and frameworks to develop their own criteria for quality and success.

They need dynamic literacy skills [read: ‘fluencies’] that they practice and build upon endlessly.

Not projects that have creativity and design thinking added on, but projects that can’t function without them.

And they need control of it all.

I am reminded how I argued for a paradigm shift in how we “do school” when I first presented my ideas for a new school to the Board. It isn’t an easy challenge. It can be messy, too, Nevertheless, I still believe that the positive impact for students and their learning is worth the effort.


T. Heick – Are you teaching content or teaching thought?

Students as creators or consumers?

I have been reflecting on the “learning from a question week” experiences from last week as my students were clearly engaged with the learning opportunity throughout the week. This reminded me of the importance and value of having students experience themselves as creators, rather than consumers in the learning process at school.

I returned to my copy of “Creating innovators: The making of young people who will change the world” by Tony Wagner, which I have been using as one of many resources to guide my thinking. It brought back to mind the value in providing opportunities for students to pursue personal interests at school in order to develop their passions. Such opportunities are inherently motivational. This is what happened last week. The students were so focused in what they were doing that they often commented at how quickly each class session seemed to speed by. Pursuing personal passions can also help develop student expertise and creative thinking skills, too. This is why I often said to the students that they were going to be our ‘local expert’ in the question they were researching; they needed to share their insights with the rest of us. The challenge was to do this in a manner that could keep the rest of us engaged (thus the need for some extra critical and creative thinking in their blogs).

My big take-away: Last week reminded me once again that the teaching and learning environment can help develop a student’s capacity to innovate, especially when students are afforded opportunities to create rather than simply consume information.

My question: How can I design learning situations that continue to foster a creator orientation to learning rather than a consumer orientation?