Just keep learning

 “It is no longer believed that neurons in the brain are incapable of being regenerated. It was once wildly believed that we are born with our full conpletement of neurons and that new neurons are not gerneated. This idea is now untenable, at least in a region called the dentate gyrus.” ~ Jamie Ward (2015) Student’s guide to cognitive neuroscience.  

This means you need to work your brain out to keep it healthy just like your heart. You do this by learning something that’s just beyond the reach of what you think you can do. 

Teacher evals should better reflect needs of profession

Charlotte Danielson's article in Education Week has been on my to-read list since it came out, and I'm glad I finally got to it. Chalked full of ideas and thoughtfulness, it's a must read for any administrator looking to create a better culture around the profession of learning.  

My favorite spot:  

"There is professional consensus that the number of teachers whose practice is below standard is very small, probably no more than 6 percent of the total, according to the Measures of Effective Teaching study and others...

Given this landscape, it makes sense to design personnel policies for the vast majority of teachers who are not in need of remediation. And, given the complexity of teaching, a reasonable policy would be one that aims to strengthen these educators' practice. Personnel policies for the teachers not practicing below standard—approximately 94 percent of them—would have, at their core, a focus on professional development, replacing the emphasis on ratings with one on learning."

Yes! Teachers are masters of the social science of learning. Our profession of understanding learning is twofold: one is student-facing and one is profession-facing. It's like a good psychologist: they know how to navigate a session and what to prescribe for a patient to improve their mental health & at the same time they are constantly learning more about the science of psychology in their field. 

Looking forward to new ways to support this profession as it grows into a respected field.  

FREE resource: Differentiated Framework

Went to the Vermont Fest 2016 this week, where the best tech and innovation minds in Vermont's education system come to share ideas. A common theme I heard was differentiation. However, in many sessions, teachers were frustrated that they didn't leave with enough tools to really help implement. So, I'm sharing my favorite go-to: a differentiation framework I built for myself that helps me check to see if my lesson really does differentiate for students. It's based on the premise that I give students a survey at the beginning of the year that identifies a few of their foibles, interests, fears, strengths, and weaknesses as learners and a bit more about who they are as people. Armed with that info, this framework becomes my go-to to keep myself accountable. 

Enjoy! And if you have questions about how you can do more to implement differentiation in your classroom, reach out. I'm happy to help. 

Come here, Watson!

IBM is working with a Texas school district to pilot a one-stop-shop for student data, both qualitative and quantitative. IBM's powerful Watson is spending the year gathering loads of data entered by systems and humans (like teachers) about the students with the hope of providing insight into students that is more comprehensive than traditional assessment scores. 

If this proves to work, this could free up brain space for teachers and staff to take that data and make use of it. 

Read more at EdSurge.

Mirror, mirror, in my brain

 "...imagination lets us live in the past and in the future, and by escaping the present moment we can use our memories of the past to predict what will happen in the future; ie: I know from past experience that fire burns skin, so I know inside my minds-eye that if I stick my hand into a fire I will lose my flesh. This is so instinctual we don’t even recognize it’s constantly happening with every symbol that we’re perceiving in our day-to-day moments. But it is this ability that allows us to navigate the complexity of our society. Even more exciting is the fact that this skill also works with emotions, not just situations.

The premise, again, is quite simple: When we see someone experiencing an emotion ( be it anger, sadness, happiness, etc), our brain “tries out” that same emotion to imagine what the other person is going through. And it does this by attempting to fire the same synapses in your own brain so that you can attempt to relate to the emotion you’re observing. This is basically empathy. It is how we get the mob mentality, where a calm person can suddenly find themselves picking up a pitchfork against a common enemy once they’re influenced by dozens of angry minds. It is our shared bliss at music festivals, or our solidarity in sadness during tragedies." (1)


Such an important bit of knowledge. Think on this the next time you get stressed out in a situation: remember that people are watching you and will mimic your neurons. 

It can work the other way too: if you have a confrontation, be aware of how your own brain and body are trying to mimic their frustration. Own that, learn from it to understand where they are coming from, but don’t let that emotional mirroring seep into with how you approach or resolve the problem. Again: their neurons are watching yours - modeling cool, calm behavior is necessary to get them to trigger their own neurological mirroring. Articulate your empathy through direct words “I can see how you are frustrated by this and here’s why I can see that…” But everything else should be how you want them to act: cool, calm, and professional.

1. From:  http://soulanatomy.org/the-neurology-of-happiness-how-complaining-is-literally-killing-you/


Need help to find your business and leadership acumen

People ask from where I got my business prowess and growing leadership skills. I did what anyone in my shoes would do: surrounded myself with people who could help me. A collection of curated friends and colleagues with whom I could feed my learning to fill in the holes. 

I'm so excited that my most influential mentor - who has grown into a good friend - has set up shop, called Leader 180, to help other leaders and businessfolk grow. If you are looking to develop as a leader or get some strategic perspective on your business, you need to reach out to Leader 180. Dr. Cindy Larson has escorted me through every turn in my career, and I know I'm better for it. She's assembled a powerful team: I know and have worked with most of her team, and they are the best human beings around. They listen to you and get excited about helping you solve problems. 

Take advantage of this team. I cannot recommend them highly enough. 

Smartphones saving victims of domestic abuse

In 2014, Veronica Arreola began a goal of taking a selfie once a day for a year in an effort to capture herself in real life situations - an attempt to support the idea that selfies could be used as a platform of humanizing women (a goal of feminism, to counteract the objectification of women). She encouraged other women to do the same and created the hashtag #365FeministSelfie

Over the course of the year, something happened: the community started to notice women who repeated posted selfies wherein they celebrated things like surviving another rant from their husbands about "how worthless you are." The community started to ask questions:

Some eagle-eyed selfie-ists noticed a pattern with a few fellow participants: far too many selfies posted with a caption about a husband's rant. The questions began. Does he do this a lot? Are you happy? What else does he say to you? Do you have friends close by who can support you? 
It soon dawned on a few of the women in our community that their husbands were emotionally abusive and had separated them from nearby friends and family. These were not typical quarrels; this was domestic abuse. The awakenings were devastating.

I wanted to post this because this narrative offers two revelations.

1. A call to engineers and designers to use technology for social change

I'd like to see more makers - those who hold the skills to create - rise to the challenge of becoming heroes for social change. To those I say: you hold the ability to change the world; why aren't you doing it yet? Said with love.

2. The potential for mobile devices to make positive social change

I believe mobile computing is a powerful tool and we are still trying to figure out how it integrates into our lives. Behavioral sciences are still processing what data they have about the use of mobile devices, but this narrative provides clear evidence of how the integration of these devices might actually provide help to those who otherwise wouldn't have it: 

People can be physically isolated from their communities, but a simple smartphone can connect us to people across the country who are able to see the forest for the abusive trees. 

The moral of this post is that we are ultimately accountable to each other. How we use our talents and leverage the tools at our disposal impact others. I'm thrilled that Veronica Arreola started her hashtag and saw it through to the end, finding ways to support the social change it stirred up. We should take our cue and join her. 

At the Helm

I am so proud and honored to have been appointed CEO of Mobile Makers Academy. Speechless, humbled, and excited are all words that come to mind. Thankfully, I have a great team to help me articulate my thoughts: 


Experts in leadership roles


" 'In most sectors board of directors include many industry experts, and in higher education that's not true. There are often one or two, if any, members of the boards who are higher education experts,' said Merrill Schwartz, vice president of consulting at the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. 'It's a lot to ask of members to understand the industry, and trustee education really is a leg up.' "

New Push for Trustee Training by Kellie Woodhouse

We we cannot forget that education is a profession and a field unto itself. Education is no different than medicine: a field in which thousands spend their life in research, practicing, and review with the goal of improving the quality of life for all.

We must start treating it as a profession. 

Get Students to Read their Assigned Readings

Faculty Focus had a quick little blurb on getting students to do their reading assignments, outlining which standard techniques work best. 

However, one technique they're missing: explaining what the reading will teach them and how the reading will aid them in life and/or work. Students don't read because the assignments lacks the weight of import. Especially with adult students, something often has to get sacrificed in education or life (there are only 24 hrs in the day) - reading assignments will fall off because students often don't buy into their importance. Help them understand the import. 

A bonus of this activity, you'll be forced to evaluate the real importance of the reading. If it's not full, rich, and thick with weight, pitch it. Find one that is. 

Is iTunes turning into an LMS?

Not quite, but ZOMG - coming July 8th, you'll be able to submit homework via the iTunes Mobile App. I have loads of questions that I'm hoping to answer when I get my hands on it. More evidence that the idea of learning and education is expanding into our cultural mindset. Remember, there will always be a place for the four year institutes, but I'm thrilled that learning is becoming more of an ordinary expectation of our people. 

In case you're interested, my questions: 

  • Why mobile? This will naturally hinder submission of some files and be an extra step for others. 
  • Who controls where the submissions go?
  • Is there a feedback loop to the students? 
  • What file types are accepted?
  • What size?
  • How intuitive is the submission process?
  • How is this woven into the iTunes system to naturally flow (aka cognitive flow)?

We all suck at things once in awhile.

A handful of close friends and I message each other whenever a business issue comes up, a pep talk is in order, or we need advice on which shoes to wear for the networking event. Today, a message came through - a mild panic that visits everyone once in awhile: "I suck at my job." 

In honor of this event, I put forth my 7 steps to being suck-cessful, as we all have days where we feel like we have no idea what we're doing. You must do these in order, and cannot move on to the next step until you have completed the previous. 

  1. Find something you want to do that scares the hell out of you. 
  2. Do it and suck at it. No, really. Do that thing - small and quiet if you like - and just let it drip with awfulness. The key here is to do it; don't be paralyzed with fear of failure. Embrace the suck.
  3. Do nothing for a spell. You'll want to fix everything about it immediately. Don't. You need the time away from it.
  4. Listen to it. Take a deep breath; calm you inner angst, and listen to it. You will start to hear where it's potential lives. If you don't do this exercise, you will only see what's wrong with it and never hear what's possible. Without this, you will inevitably be chasing your tail: there will ALWAYS be something wrong with it. Your energy is much better spent growing something than spending your entire existence in fear and fixing a prototype.
  5. Reflect on the suckiness of Step 2. Suck is a teacher - a wise teacher, who is only as cruel as you let him be. What did you learn in step 2? List only 2 things. Keeping it focused will prevent you from falling into the vortex of "everything is awful and the world is burning." It's not. Stop it. Don't let the Fear bug eat your brain. 
  6. Commit to next growth spurt. Once you know the potential and the 2 things you need to look out for, you can figure out how you want to move forward in a controlled, purposeful fashion. 
  7. Repeat, starting at step 2. 

Flowers do not start out with the blossom - don't lead with petals, build strength with roots. And don't forget to care for it with patience, sunshine, and wine...er...water.  

What happens when policy supersedes outcomes

Marla Eck, founder of Leihigh Valley Vanguard, shares the disheartening story of how - and more importantly why - the journal was started. The tl;dr version: adminstration forebade her students from writing on the course's blog because the school was worried about privacy and didn't wanted to share what was being taught in re medial English. I'll let you read between the lines yourself on that one. 

But read it. It's worth it.