Help students evaluate schools

Requiring schools to burden the work of getting approval in every state they serve online students and to meet the needs of each individual state requirements for licensure just adds to the bloat if administration costs that increase tuition. 

Another idea: the DOE should make an online course that empowers students with knowledge and skills needed to assess an online course and seek out what their state requires for licensure. Imagine giving students the power to assess the programs themselves. 

its another way to give the power of learning back to students. They need to be involved in their education more than they are.

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.

Education is a form of tech

“Education is one of the formative technologies of human civilization, a constructed system of logically ordered parts intended to be the bedrock of social and political advancement.”

Michael Thomsen  

I don’t agree with his arguments against digital tech in the classroom, but this little nugget I love. 

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:


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.