Tag: learning





Sometimes I hear people complain about kids nowadays. I can tell you it doesn’t really set too well with me. Sure, there are examples of kids making poor choices. There are kids who are lazy. Some are selfish. We know they are into their devices. But hey, so are we. And there are some challenges they have now we probably didn’t have when we were growing up.



But I can tell you I’m going to defend our kids. I’m going to challenge them, but I’m also going to defend them. I’m going to remind everyone of the amazing things our students are doing. I’m going to share the incredible work of the ones who are leading up and lifting up every day. They are making our school a better place. They are making our world a better place.



And even when they make mistakes or show up with all the baggage any of us can bring, I’m not going to stop believing in them. They are the future. Most kids want to do the right thing. But like all of us, they are still learning and finding their way. And some of them haven’t had the best examples. 



They need someone to lift them up and believe in them. I can tell you with certainty, you’ll have far more influence on kids by believing in them than by doubting them. If you want to make a difference, stop doubting kids. They’re not going to rise above your low expectations. They need you to believe in them.



Today, we held our semi-annual academic banquet to celebrate the success of some of our students. I know some people on Twitter have written about not having award ceremonies and that type of thing because it can reinforce a fixed mindset and not acknowledge the growth of other learners who are achieving but may never get recognized. I get it. We need to notice the good work all students are doing.



But at the same time, I’m not going to apologize for recognizing kids who have achieved at a high level. They even had to miss part of the Kansas City Chiefs (Go Chiefs!) game to join us for lunch and a short program. It’s a great opportunity to interact with parents and say thank you.



I asked a few students on short notice to talk about the Bolivar Way (see the visual below). It’s become our mantra. It guides most everything we do.



I was blown away by the comments our students had about the importance of questions and curiosity.



About making excellence a personal mission and doing your best.



About lifting up others and being a great friend and teammate.



About leading and showing others the way. And to never give up even when it’s tough. 



I was amazed by the comments and was totally pumped about this year and what’s happening in our school. Our students are “making us better.” I’m so proud of them.




So if you want to complain about kids these days, I’m probably not the person who is going to commiserate with you. But what I would like to talk about is how things are different today than when we were kids. Things seem increasingly complex and uncertain. Change is accelerating. The ability to adapt and learn is more important than ever.



So instead of talking about how kids these days need to change, let’s talk about how schools need to change to meet the needs of today’s kids. 



We owe it to them to teach the enduring principles that will help them succeed. And we need to teach them the skills that are going to be uniquely necessary for this generation. 



Let’s challenge the status quo at every turn and build on the positives. Let’s create schools that are relevant and passionate. Fill your school with laughter, hope, friendship, purpose, curiosity, creativity, and togetherness.



What kind of culture does your school have? Are you complaining about kids these days? Or, are you investing in kids these days? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. And keep being great!

Read More Are Today’s Kids Different?





Sometimes I hear people complain about kids nowadays. I can tell you it doesn’t really set too well with me. Sure, there are examples of kids making poor choices. There are kids who are lazy. Some are selfish. We know they are into their devices. But hey, so are we. And there are some challenges they have now we probably didn’t have when we were growing up.



But I can tell you I’m going to defend our kids. I’m going to challenge them, but I’m also going to defend them. I’m going to remind everyone of the amazing things our students are doing. I’m going to share the incredible work of the ones who are leading up and lifting up every day. They are making our school a better place. They are making our world a better place.



And even when they make mistakes or show up with all the baggage any of us can bring, I’m not going to stop believing in them. They are the future. Most kids want to do the right thing. But like all of us, they are still learning and finding their way. And some of them haven’t had the best examples. 



They need someone to lift them up and believe in them. I can tell you with certainty, you’ll have far more influence on kids by believing in them than by doubting them. If you want to make a difference, stop doubting kids. They’re not going to rise above your low expectations. They need you to believe in them.



Today, we held our semi-annual academic banquet to celebrate the success of some of our students. I know some people on Twitter have written about not having award ceremonies and that type of thing because it can reinforce a fixed mindset and not acknowledge the growth of other learners who are achieving but may never get recognized. I get it. We need to notice the good work all students are doing.



But at the same time, I’m not going to apologize for recognizing kids who have achieved at a high level. They even had to miss part of the Kansas City Chiefs (Go Chiefs!) game to join us for lunch and a short program. It’s a great opportunity to interact with parents and say thank you.



I asked a few students on short notice to talk about the Bolivar Way (see the visual below). It’s become our mantra. It guides most everything we do.



I was blown away by the comments our students had about the importance of questions and curiosity.



About making excellence a personal mission and doing your best.



About lifting up others and being a great friend and teammate.



About leading and showing others the way. And to never give up even when it’s tough. 



I was amazed by the comments and was totally pumped about this year and what’s happening in our school. Our students are “making us better.” I’m so proud of them.




So if you want to complain about kids these days, I’m probably not the person who is going to commiserate with you. But what I would like to talk about is how things are different today than when we were kids. Things seem increasingly complex and uncertain. Change is accelerating. The ability to adapt and learn is more important than ever.



So instead of talking about how kids these days need to change, let’s talk about how schools need to change to meet the needs of today’s kids. 



We owe it to them to teach the enduring principles that will help them succeed. And we need to teach them the skills that are going to be uniquely necessary for this generation. 



Let’s challenge the status quo at every turn and build on the positives. Let’s create schools that are relevant and passionate. Fill your school with laughter, hope, friendship, purpose, curiosity, creativity, and togetherness.



What kind of culture does your school have? Are you complaining about kids these days? Or, are you investing in kids these days? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. And keep being great!

Read More Are Today’s Kids Different?





As I think about what I really want for our students, it always comes back to learning and leading. I want our students to be stronger learners and stronger leaders. I want them to develop habits and mindsets that cause them to continue to grow as learners and leaders even when they leave school.



In my new book Future Driven, I shared what Google senior vice president of people operations, Lazlo Bock, had to say about leading and learning at Google:




For every job, though, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information. We assess that using structured behavioral interviews that we validate to make sure they’re predictive.

And the second is leadership—in particular, emergent leadership as opposed to traditional leadership. Traditional leadership is, were you president of the chess club? Were you vice president of sales? How quickly did you get there? We don’t care. What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else? Because what’s critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power.



So does content matter? Sure it does. However, the content will change over time, but the ability to learn and the desire to lead will endure even as shifts occur in the world around us. As educators, we only have so much time to work with these studentsthe current groupbut if we can inspire them as learners and leaders, that will carry forward with them. Our impact can endure and continue to pay dividends beyond our time with them.



But we need to help our students have the most authentic learning experience possible. Students need opportunities to practice leading and learning. They need to do things that make a difference beyond just getting a grade or completing an assignment.



You cannot develop as a leader by only reading about it in a book. You can learn leadership principles, but you will only build your capacity as a leader by applying what you learn. You could memorize all sorts of leadership ideas and be a terrible and completely incompetent leader. Growing as a leader happens with the opportunity to practice leadership skills and to get feedback and reflect.



Similarly, you cannot develop fully as a learner if you are only accepting new information. You can memorize stuff. You might get right answers. But that’s not enough. Students need opportunities to apply learning, to make choices as a learner, and to refine their personal learning interests. 



The traditional model of school has not served students well in developing adaptable learners or leaders, in my view. Sure, there have been some opportunities to develop in these areas, but we need to consistently provide opportunities for students to develop their capacity as learners and leaders.



What about in your classroom? I certainly hope students are learning content. But are they also having opportunities to develop more deeply as learners and leaders? Are they learning HOW to learning? Are they learning HOW to lead? Leave me a comment. I want to hear from you. You can also share out on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Creating Stronger Learners, Stronger Leaders





As I think about what I really want for our students, it always comes back to learning and leading. I want our students to be stronger learners and stronger leaders. I want them to develop habits and mindsets that cause them to continue to grow as learners and leaders even when they leave school.



In my new book Future Driven, I shared what Google senior vice president of people operations, Lazlo Bock, had to say about leading and learning at Google:




For every job, though, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information. We assess that using structured behavioral interviews that we validate to make sure they’re predictive.

And the second is leadership—in particular, emergent leadership as opposed to traditional leadership. Traditional leadership is, were you president of the chess club? Were you vice president of sales? How quickly did you get there? We don’t care. What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else? Because what’s critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power.



So does content matter? Sure it does. However, the content will change over time, but the ability to learn and the desire to lead will endure even as shifts occur in the world around us. As educators, we only have so much time to work with these studentsthe current groupbut if we can inspire them as learners and leaders, that will carry forward with them. Our impact can endure and continue to pay dividends beyond our time with them.



But we need to help our students have the most authentic learning experience possible. Students need opportunities to practice leading and learning. They need to do things that make a difference beyond just getting a grade or completing an assignment.



You cannot develop as a leader by only reading about it in a book. You can learn leadership principles, but you will only build your capacity as a leader by applying what you learn. You could memorize all sorts of leadership ideas and be a terrible and completely incompetent leader. Growing as a leader happens with the opportunity to practice leadership skills and to get feedback and reflect.



Similarly, you cannot develop fully as a learner if you are only accepting new information. You can memorize stuff. You might get right answers. But that’s not enough. Students need opportunities to apply learning, to make choices as a learner, and to refine their personal learning interests. 



The traditional model of school has not served students well in developing adaptable learners or leaders, in my view. Sure, there have been some opportunities to develop in these areas, but we need to consistently provide opportunities for students to develop their capacity as learners and leaders.



What about in your classroom? I certainly hope students are learning content. But are they also having opportunities to develop more deeply as learners and leaders? Are they learning HOW to learning? Are they learning HOW to lead? Leave me a comment. I want to hear from you. You can also share out on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Creating Stronger Learners, Stronger Leaders

I’m happy to announce the release of Future Driven: Will Your Students Thrive In An Unpredictable World! Back at the start of summer I made a public commitment that I would have this passion project finished before the start of the new school year (See: Do Something Today to Move In the Direction of Your Dreams).



Well, we’ve been in school for a couple of weeks now. So I didn’t exactly meet my own deadline. But hey, there are still many schools who haven’t returned from summer break yet, so technically maybe I did!



The book is now available on Amazon. And for a very limited time, the Kindle version of Future Driven will only be $2.99. I encourage you to download it now. 



Plus, through the end of September, I’m donating all of the proceeds from Future Driven to Care to Learn, an organization in our community that provides for the health, hunger, and hygiene needs of disadvantaged school-age children. It is important to me to give back to our students. It’s always about students first. I want to be part of creating a better future through better schools. It starts with us.



Care to Learn was started in Springfield, MO by philanthropist Doug Pitt. You might have heard of his brother, Brad. Yes, the same Hollywood Brad Pitt you see regularly in the grocery checkout line. The organization now has many chapters in our area, including here in Bolivar. 



Image may contain: one or more people, text and closeup


About half of our students are from low income households and qualify for free/reduced lunches. With Care to Learn, we are able to instantly meet the emergent health, hunger, and hygiene needs of our students. 



If a kid needs shoes, clothes, eyeglasses, groceries, etc., our counselors take him or her shopping and meet the need right away. We know it’s impossible for students to learn their best if they have unmet needs. We are so thankful for Care to Learn.



I certainly hope you find Future Driven inspiring and helpful. Your work matters. You are needed as a change maker. Just know that if you get your copy now, you’ll also be helping kids have what they need to learn. Your support of Care to Learn will make an impact too.



Let me know if you have any questions about Future Driven or my process of being an independent author. It has been an unbelievable adventure and so many have helped me along the way. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.



Be sure to the use the hashtag #FutureDriven as you share your passion for being a future-driven educator.

Future Driven: Will Your Students Thrive In An Unpredictable World?

In Future Driven, David Geurin describes how to conquer the status quo, create authentic learning, and help your students thrive in an unpredictable world. He shares how to simultaneously be more committed to your mission while being more flexible with your methods. You’ll discover strategies to …

Read More Future Driven: Looking Forward, Giving Back

I’m happy to announce the release of Future Driven: Will Your Students Thrive In An Unpredictable World! Back at the start of summer I made a public commitment that I would have this passion project finished before the start of the new school year (See: Do Something Today to Move In the Direction of Your Dreams).



Well, we’ve been in school for a couple of weeks now. So I didn’t exactly meet my own deadline. But hey, there are still many schools who haven’t returned from summer break yet, so technically maybe I did!



The book is now available on Amazon. And for a very limited time, the Kindle version of Future Driven will only be $2.99. I encourage you to download it now. 



Plus, through the end of September, I’m donating all of the proceeds from Future Driven to Care to Learn, an organization in our community that provides for the health, hunger, and hygiene needs of disadvantaged school-age children. It is important to me to give back to our students. It’s always about students first. I want to be part of creating a better future through better schools. It starts with us.



Care to Learn was started in Springfield, MO by philanthropist Doug Pitt. You might have heard of his brother, Brad. Yes, the same Hollywood Brad Pitt you see regularly in the grocery checkout line. The organization now has many chapters in our area, including here in Bolivar. 



Image may contain: one or more people, text and closeup


About half of our students are from low income households and qualify for free/reduced lunches. With Care to Learn, we are able to instantly meet the emergent health, hunger, and hygiene needs of our students. 



If a kid needs shoes, clothes, eyeglasses, groceries, etc., our counselors take him or her shopping and meet the need right away. We know it’s impossible for students to learn their best if they have unmet needs. We are so thankful for Care to Learn.



I certainly hope you find Future Driven inspiring and helpful. Your work matters. You are needed as a change maker. Just know that if you get your copy now, you’ll also be helping kids have what they need to learn. Your support of Care to Learn will make an impact too.



Let me know if you have any questions about Future Driven or my process of being an independent author. It has been an unbelievable adventure and so many have helped me along the way. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.



Be sure to the use the hashtag #FutureDriven as you share your passion for being a future-driven educator.

Future Driven: Will Your Students Thrive In An Unpredictable World?

In Future Driven, David Geurin describes how to conquer the status quo, create authentic learning, and help your students thrive in an unpredictable world. He shares how to simultaneously be more committed to your mission while being more flexible with your methods. You’ll discover strategies to …

Read More Future Driven: Looking Forward, Giving Back



Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sub for one of our classrooms from start to finish. The regular teacher was called away with a sick child. It’s not that unusual for me to cover a class temporarily but to teach the whole block doesn’t happen that often.



Let me tell you it’s tough to be a substitute teacher even when you are the principal in the building. You are coming into a classroom with an established routine and culture that you’re not familiar with. You don’t know all of the students and their needs. And the subject matter is brand new in that context even if you have some background in that area.



I had the advantage of the kids knowing me, and I knew most of them too. And the teacher left me incredibly detailed plans. He teaches dual credit biology so many of the students are getting high school credit and college credit for this class. They are a sharp group of kids.



I showed up with all the energy and enthusiasm I would want for my own kids. I let them know from the start I would need their help in making this successful. I told them my background is not in biology, but we will work through any challenges and make sure that we do everything possible to accomplish the goals for the day.



We had a successful 83 minutes together. There were some excellent conversations. We explored the questions and topics with active participation. I’m sure my insights and feedback were not to the level of the regular teacher, but we gave it our everything.



As the students were leaving, one of them commented, “Thank you. You did a good job.” Of course, that made me feel like a million bucks.



But last night, I was reflecting on the class period and what I wish I would’ve done differently. I kept thinking of things that I would improve if given the chance.

  1. I didn’t learn every student’s name. I called students by name when I could. That’s something we emphasize. And I think I learned a couple of more. But I missed a great opportunity to learn everyone’s name.
  2. Every student was supposed to share the Google doc for the activity with the regular teacher. I reminded them several times, but I did not go to each table and confirm that they did this. As I reflected, I was concerned that some may not have completed that step. I could’ve made sure that happened instead of just hoping it happened.
  3. They had a jigsaw activity near the end of the class. I wish I would’ve gotten a better sense about how well they summarized their reading. I don’t think I provided very good feedback on that part.
But overall, it was a successful class. We had some really good conversations and lots of participation. The teacher had established that type of learning culture already. That made it easy for me.


The opportunity to teach this class was a fantastic experience. I felt like I was seeing through the eyes of a teacher. I thought about how important reflection is. It’s easy to get in the routine and always be thinking only of what’s next, but we have to circle around and think about how we can improve. I think that’s an essential for growth. It’s important to always be thinking, “How could that have been better? What could I do next time to improve?”


We never want to be entirely satisfied with what we’ve accomplished. But we also don’t want to be too hard on ourselves. We want to be content, but not satisfied. I’ve known teachers who sweated every detail and beat themselves up over every mistake. That’s not being content. Do the best you can and be okay with it for today. But never be satisfied. Always try to be better tomorrow than you are today. The only way that will happen is when you honestly reflect and push yourself to improve.


The next time I get a chance to sub, I will try to be better than I was this time. It’s important to always keep aiming for excellence.


Question: How do you make reflection part of your routine? Are you able to keep a healthy balance of not being satisfied, while remaining content? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Always Reflect, Always Learn: Be Content, but Never Be Satisfied



Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sub for one of our classrooms from start to finish. The regular teacher was called away with a sick child. It’s not that unusual for me to cover a class temporarily but to teach the whole block doesn’t happen that often.



Let me tell you it’s tough to be a substitute teacher even when you are the principal in the building. You are coming into a classroom with an established routine and culture that you’re not familiar with. You don’t know all of the students and their needs. And the subject matter is brand new in that context even if you have some background in that area.



I had the advantage of the kids knowing me, and I knew most of them too. And the teacher left me incredibly detailed plans. He teaches dual credit biology so many of the students are getting high school credit and college credit for this class. They are a sharp group of kids.



I showed up with all the energy and enthusiasm I would want for my own kids. I let them know from the start I would need their help in making this successful. I told them my background is not in biology, but we will work through any challenges and make sure that we do everything possible to accomplish the goals for the day.



We had a successful 83 minutes together. There were some excellent conversations. We explored the questions and topics with active participation. I’m sure my insights and feedback were not to the level of the regular teacher, but we gave it our everything.



As the students were leaving, one of them commented, “Thank you. You did a good job.” Of course, that made me feel like a million bucks.



But last night, I was reflecting on the class period and what I wish I would’ve done differently. I kept thinking of things that I would improve if given the chance.

  1. I didn’t learn every student’s name. I called students by name when I could. That’s something we emphasize. And I think I learned a couple of more. But I missed a great opportunity to learn everyone’s name.
  2. Every student was supposed to share the Google doc for the activity with the regular teacher. I reminded them several times, but I did not go to each table and confirm that they did this. As I reflected, I was concerned that some may not have completed that step. I could’ve made sure that happened instead of just hoping it happened.
  3. They had a jigsaw activity near the end of the class. I wish I would’ve gotten a better sense about how well they summarized their reading. I don’t think I provided very good feedback on that part.
But overall, it was a successful class. We had some really good conversations and lots of participation. The teacher had established that type of learning culture already. That made it easy for me.


The opportunity to teach this class was a fantastic experience. I felt like I was seeing through the eyes of a teacher. I thought about how important reflection is. It’s easy to get in the routine and always be thinking only of what’s next, but we have to circle around and think about how we can improve. I think that’s an essential for growth. It’s important to always be thinking, “How could that have been better? What could I do next time to improve?”


We never want to be entirely satisfied with what we’ve accomplished. But we also don’t want to be too hard on ourselves. We want to be content, but not satisfied. I’ve known teachers who sweated every detail and beat themselves up over every mistake. That’s not being content. Do the best you can and be okay with it for today. But never be satisfied. Always try to be better tomorrow than you are today. The only way that will happen is when you honestly reflect and push yourself to improve.


The next time I get a chance to sub, I will try to be better than I was this time. It’s important to always keep aiming for excellence.


Question: How do you make reflection part of your routine? Are you able to keep a healthy balance of not being satisfied, while remaining content? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Always Reflect, Always Learn: Be Content, but Never Be Satisfied

I am passionate about growth. So when Julie Woodard (@woodard_julie) asked me about collaborating on the visual featured in this post, I was all in. She’s the amazing artist, folks. I’m just glad to think about a topic that matters to me. So here goes. 



It’s so important to always continue to grow and build capacity, both in yourself and in others. Of course, as educators, we want our students to always be growing. I’ll be curious to know your thoughts. I rattled off this list in a very short time. Ask Julie. So it probably could use some further thinking. Your thinking is one thing that makes me stronger and keeps me growing. So thanks!



Here’s the list: 11 Ways to Build Capacity and Never Stop Growing

1. Take Risks



You can only grow if you step forward into the unknown. It requires a leap of faith. Sure, you must establish a secure foundation, but you must be willing to go out on a limb to be able to truly grow. Okay, so maybe I just mixed my metaphors terribly. That’s a risk I’m willing to take.



2. Ask Questions



Questions are essential to learning and growth. Physicist and Laureate Richard Feynman said, “There is no learning without having to pose a question.” We must constantly ask questions if we want to learn. We must question ourselves and question others. We should strive to consistently have the perspective of a curious learner. 



3. Help Others



When you help others, you will grow. If there are two things that go together like peanut butter and jelly, it’s giving and growing. When you give, you grow. And when you are growing, you are better able to give. Helping others is a wonderful reason to never stop growing.



4. Learn From Mistakes



You should never be afraid to make a mistake. We learn by making mistakes. You should just strive to not repeat them. You should always strive to learn from them. Everything worthwhile is challenging. There will be mistakes. There will be difficulties. There will be impossible situations. But these are incredible opportunities to grow.



5. Embrace Change



To grow, you have to willing to grow. You have to be willing to change. You have to want to be better tomorrow than you are today. You have to be willing to challenge your assumptions and be open to another way. 



6. Be Future Driven



We cannot grow by clinging to the past. In fact, many people are stuck where they are because of things that happened yesterday. The choices you make today will shape your future. Being future driven is having a vision for a better tomorrow and then growing into that vision. Of course, this one is also a nod to my soon-to-be-released book, Future Driven.



7. Generate Positive Energy



Growth can be difficult. There will be obstacles and doubters. There are people who will try to bring you down. The only way to press forward is to choose a positive attitude. It gives you the energy to never give up.



8. Practice Reflective Thinking



Reflective thinking is how we learn from the experiences of our life. We test our thinking. We consider what went well and what didn’t go well. The ability to honestly and accurately reflect is critical to your growth. We need feedback to grow. But we will only learn from the feedback if we reflect on it and act on it. Feedback is dust in the wind without reflection.



9. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone



If you want to grow, you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. This week in meetings with students I showed the video below. I let them know we are going to push them. We are going to have very high expectations. Sometimes, it might make them uncomfortable. But know we are doing it because we care. We want you to grow. You will only grow with some discomfort. Sometimes it feels hard. Sometimes it feels a little frightening. Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean. But in the end, when we push through the discomfort, we will accomplish great things.






10. Feel Affirmed and Supported



These last two are related to how you feel about growing. It’s great to have someone in your life who is speaking words of affirmation and support into your efforts to grow. But even if you don’t have those positive voices from the outside, you can be your own source of encouragement. You choose the conversation going on in your head. You choose your thoughts. If you discipline yourself to choose the words that build you up and keep you moving forward, you can overcome even the negative voices in your environment. What are you going to listen to?

11. Be Challenged to Grow



Again, it’s great if you have someone in your life who is challenging you to grow. It’s great to have someone who believes in you, pushing you, leading you, and helping you along the way. So try to bring those people into your life. But even if you don’t, you can challenge yourself. You can choose thoughts that are challenging. You can push yourself. Just keep in mind, you won’t be great by small thinking. You will only be great when you go after the big challenges. Be bold. 



So what are your thoughts? How could this list be improved? How are you challenging yourself and others to grow? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 11 Ways to Build Capacity and Never Stop Growing

I am passionate about growth. So when Julie Woodard (@woodard_julie) asked me about collaborating on the visual featured in this post, I was all in. She’s the amazing artist, folks. I’m just glad to think about a topic that matters to me. So here goes. 



It’s so important to always continue to grow and build capacity, both in yourself and in others. Of course, as educators, we want our students to always be growing. I’ll be curious to know your thoughts. I rattled off this list in a very short time. Ask Julie. So it probably could use some further thinking. Your thinking is one thing that makes me stronger and keeps me growing. So thanks!



Here’s the list: 11 Ways to Build Capacity and Never Stop Growing

1. Take Risks



You can only grow if you step forward into the unknown. It requires a leap of faith. Sure, you must establish a secure foundation, but you must be willing to go out on a limb to be able to truly grow. Okay, so maybe I just mixed my metaphors terribly. That’s a risk I’m willing to take.



2. Ask Questions



Questions are essential to learning and growth. Physicist and Laureate Richard Feynman said, “There is no learning without having to pose a question.” We must constantly ask questions if we want to learn. We must question ourselves and question others. We should strive to consistently have the perspective of a curious learner. 



3. Help Others



When you help others, you will grow. If there are two things that go together like peanut butter and jelly, it’s giving and growing. When you give, you grow. And when you are growing, you are better able to give. Helping others is a wonderful reason to never stop growing.



4. Learn From Mistakes



You should never be afraid to make a mistake. We learn by making mistakes. You should just strive to not repeat them. You should always strive to learn from them. Everything worthwhile is challenging. There will be mistakes. There will be difficulties. There will be impossible situations. But these are incredible opportunities to grow.



5. Embrace Change



To grow, you have to willing to grow. You have to be willing to change. You have to want to be better tomorrow than you are today. You have to be willing to challenge your assumptions and be open to another way. 



6. Be Future Driven



We cannot grow by clinging to the past. In fact, many people are stuck where they are because of things that happened yesterday. The choices you make today will shape your future. Being future driven is having a vision for a better tomorrow and then growing into that vision. Of course, this one is also a nod to my soon-to-be-released book, Future Driven.



7. Generate Positive Energy



Growth can be difficult. There will be obstacles and doubters. There are people who will try to bring you down. The only way to press forward is to choose a positive attitude. It gives you the energy to never give up.



8. Practice Reflective Thinking



Reflective thinking is how we learn from the experiences of our life. We test our thinking. We consider what went well and what didn’t go well. The ability to honestly and accurately reflect is critical to your growth. We need feedback to grow. But we will only learn from the feedback if we reflect on it and act on it. Feedback is dust in the wind without reflection.



9. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone



If you want to grow, you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. This week in meetings with students I showed the video below. I let them know we are going to push them. We are going to have very high expectations. Sometimes, it might make them uncomfortable. But know we are doing it because we care. We want you to grow. You will only grow with some discomfort. Sometimes it feels hard. Sometimes it feels a little frightening. Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean. But in the end, when we push through the discomfort, we will accomplish great things.






10. Feel Affirmed and Supported



These last two are related to how you feel about growing. It’s great to have someone in your life who is speaking words of affirmation and support into your efforts to grow. But even if you don’t have those positive voices from the outside, you can be your own source of encouragement. You choose the conversation going on in your head. You choose your thoughts. If you discipline yourself to choose the words that build you up and keep you moving forward, you can overcome even the negative voices in your environment. What are you going to listen to?

11. Be Challenged to Grow



Again, it’s great if you have someone in your life who is challenging you to grow. It’s great to have someone who believes in you, pushing you, leading you, and helping you along the way. So try to bring those people into your life. But even if you don’t, you can challenge yourself. You can choose thoughts that are challenging. You can push yourself. Just keep in mind, you won’t be great by small thinking. You will only be great when you go after the big challenges. Be bold. 



So what are your thoughts? How could this list be improved? How are you challenging yourself and others to grow? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 11 Ways to Build Capacity and Never Stop Growing

“Educators who work in isolation improve incrementally, while educators who collaborate transform exponentially!” I said this in a Twitter Chat a few days ago in response to the question: “Why do you believe that a shared vision and belief system is important to transform education?” This was one of the Twitter Chat questions posed by […]

Read More Isolation vs Collaboration



More and more classrooms are gaining access to digital technology. And that’s a good thing. In a world that is increasingly reliant on digital tools, students need to have opportunities to learn with access to technology. Schools are adding Chromebooks, iPads, and other devices more than ever. Some are simply inviting students to bring their own devices (BYOD). But either way, access to devices is only growing in schools.



But the availability to devices doesn’t automatically result in more learning or better experiences for students or teachers. In fact, the addition of devices presents new challenges for educators to consider. When our school added Chromebooks for every student, we quickly learned we would need to address some new challenges. These obstacles can derail learning in classrooms where the potential pitfalls aren’t addressed or avoided.

If you are an educator who is fortunate enough to have access to digital devices for all your students to use, be ready to take steps to teach the procedures and routines that will help create success for using these tools in learning. It’s important to establish and maintain boundaries. And it’s also important to never make assumptions about what your students may or may not know about using the devices.

1. You can’t assume students are tech savvy just because they are digital natives.

It’s true that students in today’s classrooms are digital natives. They’ve grown up around technology and tend to have some skills that are helpful in navigating the digital world. However, it’s a mistake to think they are proficient in using any tool you might throw at them. For the most part, kids have used technology for social media or entertainment. Using technology for learning, productivity, or creativity might be new to them. So, when you plan for using a new tool in class, plan to spend some time orienting students to how it works.

Or, if you prefer for students learn the tool on their own, provide time for them to experiment with the tool and share out their learning to others in the class. It can be a good idea for students to “teach themselves” a digital tool. New tools and apps are being developed all the time. It’s great practice for students to be able to adapt to new tools and work on the intuitive thinking and problem solving required for “clicking around” and figuring it out. You might want to provide them with a list of tasks they should be able to do with the new tool. And it’s great for the teacher to model what to do when getting stuck. The ability to research solutions via Google or YouTube search can be very helpful.

2. Don’t just teach digital citizenship, embed digital citizenship.

It’s never a good idea to hand students devices without also supporting safe, responsible use. Many schools create their own digital citizenship curriculum or buy one to use with their students. There are also some excellent digital citizenship resources available for free online, from Google or from Common Sense Media for instance. Try to anticipate the problems your students might encounter in using the digital devices in your classroom. Be proactive and have discussions up front with your students about what is appropriate to share, how to judge validity of resources, how to respect content ownership and fair use, and how to report something that is threatening.

While it is important to teach digital citizenship up front, it’s also very important for teachers to monitor student use of technology and use teachable moments to address situations that may arise as students utilize tech. Often the most valuable lessons occur as opportunities arise to discuss relevant issues in authentic context. Digital citizenship should not just be a scheduled lesson. It should be part of everything we do related to the use of technology in the classroom. It’s something educators must model and discuss regularly. Moreover, it’s part of the bigger issue of developing good citizenship in the broadest sense. How are we helping students contribute as positive, productive members of communities online and in physical space?

3. Plan to manage distractions.

One of the most common challenges of implementing devices in the classroom is dealing with the potential distraction technology can present. While technology open up a whole new world of possibilities for learning, it also opens a world of possibilities for diversion away from classroom learning priorities. This prospect is very frightening for many teachers. How will I make sure my students aren’t wasting class time? How can I make sure students are watching content that is not appropriate for school? Will the presence of a screen take away from learning instead of accelerating learning?

Keep in mind distractions are nothing new in the classroom. Keeping students attention has always been a chief concern for teachers. Even in a class without devices, students can find a plethora of things to occupy their attention besides learning. The key to alleviate boredom is to stimulate curiosity and plan engaging lessons. Device distractions are no match for an amazing lesson! At least I think it pays to think like that.

Some schools also choose to purchase classroom monitoring software that allows teachers to view and even take control of student devices. This type of system typically allows teachers to monitor an entire classroom from the teacher’s computer. You may not have this type of software available, and I actually prefer not to utilize it. It’s better for the teacher to be able to move around the room and interact with students rather than being tethered to a computer monitoring students like Big Brother.

Here are some solid tips for managing distractions with no software required.

-Clearly communicate times when students should and should not be on devices.

-Clarify when it is okay to use earbuds and when earbuds should not be used.

-Set up the classroom so you can easily move around and behind students using devices. You need to be able to easily view student screens.

-Require students to only have one browser tab open at a time. This prevents switching tabs when the teacher is not watching to games or media that might be distracting.

-When transitioning from devices to whole group instruction or another activity, wait until you have everyone’s attention before you move on.

-Give specific instructions about which apps or sites should be used during a particular activity. Hold students accountable to use these tools only unless they ask permission to access another site.

These considerations are an essential part of establishing a strong culture of learning in the digital classroom. Other issues will also arise like caring for devices, dealing with tech questions, managing battery life, etc. The most important thing is to work with students to establish classroom expectations and revisit them consistently. It works best when teachers can develop a shared responsibility with students for using devices responsibly and productively. Just like any other classroom behavior, it’s not enough to proclaim a rule and never discuss it again. Students will need reminders and guidance to be successful.

Ultimately, the opportunity to develop digital learning skills is invaluable to students. Students will need to be able to successfully use devices for learning and productivity for the rest of their lives. Although there are challenges with implementing technology in the classroom, with the right approach, teachers can help students become strong digital learners.



Question: What other tips would you share about creating a safe, positive, and productive culture for digital learning? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I can’t wait to see what you’ve got to add. Together we are stronger!

Read More 3 Classroom Tips for Stronger Digital Learning



More and more classrooms are gaining access to digital technology. And that’s a good thing. In a world that is increasingly reliant on digital tools, students need to have opportunities to learn with access to technology. Schools are adding Chromebooks, iPads, and other devices more than ever. Some are simply inviting students to bring their own devices (BYOD). But either way, access to devices is only growing in schools.



But the availability to devices doesn’t automatically result in more learning or better experiences for students or teachers. In fact, the addition of devices presents new challenges for educators to consider. When our school added Chromebooks for every student, we quickly learned we would need to address some new challenges. These obstacles can derail learning in classrooms where the potential pitfalls aren’t addressed or avoided.

If you are an educator who is fortunate enough to have access to digital devices for all your students to use, be ready to take steps to teach the procedures and routines that will help create success for using these tools in learning. It’s important to establish and maintain boundaries. And it’s also important to never make assumptions about what your students may or may not know about using the devices.

1. You can’t assume students are tech savvy just because they are digital natives.

It’s true that students in today’s classrooms are digital natives. They’ve grown up around technology and tend to have some skills that are helpful in navigating the digital world. However, it’s a mistake to think they are proficient in using any tool you might throw at them. For the most part, kids have used technology for social media or entertainment. Using technology for learning, productivity, or creativity might be new to them. So, when you plan for using a new tool in class, plan to spend some time orienting students to how it works.

Or, if you prefer for students learn the tool on their own, provide time for them to experiment with the tool and share out their learning to others in the class. It can be a good idea for students to “teach themselves” a digital tool. New tools and apps are being developed all the time. It’s great practice for students to be able to adapt to new tools and work on the intuitive thinking and problem solving required for “clicking around” and figuring it out. You might want to provide them with a list of tasks they should be able to do with the new tool. And it’s great for the teacher to model what to do when getting stuck. The ability to research solutions via Google or YouTube search can be very helpful.

2. Don’t just teach digital citizenship, embed digital citizenship.

It’s never a good idea to hand students devices without also supporting safe, responsible use. Many schools create their own digital citizenship curriculum or buy one to use with their students. There are also some excellent digital citizenship resources available for free online, from Google or from Common Sense Media for instance. Try to anticipate the problems your students might encounter in using the digital devices in your classroom. Be proactive and have discussions up front with your students about what is appropriate to share, how to judge validity of resources, how to respect content ownership and fair use, and how to report something that is threatening.

While it is important to teach digital citizenship up front, it’s also very important for teachers to monitor student use of technology and use teachable moments to address situations that may arise as students utilize tech. Often the most valuable lessons occur as opportunities arise to discuss relevant issues in authentic context. Digital citizenship should not just be a scheduled lesson. It should be part of everything we do related to the use of technology in the classroom. It’s something educators must model and discuss regularly. Moreover, it’s part of the bigger issue of developing good citizenship in the broadest sense. How are we helping students contribute as positive, productive members of communities online and in physical space?

3. Plan to manage distractions.

One of the most common challenges of implementing devices in the classroom is dealing with the potential distraction technology can present. While technology open up a whole new world of possibilities for learning, it also opens a world of possibilities for diversion away from classroom learning priorities. This prospect is very frightening for many teachers. How will I make sure my students aren’t wasting class time? How can I make sure students are watching content that is not appropriate for school? Will the presence of a screen take away from learning instead of accelerating learning?

Keep in mind distractions are nothing new in the classroom. Keeping students attention has always been a chief concern for teachers. Even in a class without devices, students can find a plethora of things to occupy their attention besides learning. The key to alleviate boredom is to stimulate curiosity and plan engaging lessons. Device distractions are no match for an amazing lesson! At least I think it pays to think like that.

Some schools also choose to purchase classroom monitoring software that allows teachers to view and even take control of student devices. This type of system typically allows teachers to monitor an entire classroom from the teacher’s computer. You may not have this type of software available, and I actually prefer not to utilize it. It’s better for the teacher to be able to move around the room and interact with students rather than being tethered to a computer monitoring students like Big Brother.

Here are some solid tips for managing distractions with no software required.

-Clearly communicate times when students should and should not be on devices.

-Clarify when it is okay to use earbuds and when earbuds should not be used.

-Set up the classroom so you can easily move around and behind students using devices. You need to be able to easily view student screens.

-Require students to only have one browser tab open at a time. This prevents switching tabs when the teacher is not watching to games or media that might be distracting.

-When transitioning from devices to whole group instruction or another activity, wait until you have everyone’s attention before you move on.

-Give specific instructions about which apps or sites should be used during a particular activity. Hold students accountable to use these tools only unless they ask permission to access another site.

These considerations are an essential part of establishing a strong culture of learning in the digital classroom. Other issues will also arise like caring for devices, dealing with tech questions, managing battery life, etc. The most important thing is to work with students to establish classroom expectations and revisit them consistently. It works best when teachers can develop a shared responsibility with students for using devices responsibly and productively. Just like any other classroom behavior, it’s not enough to proclaim a rule and never discuss it again. Students will need reminders and guidance to be successful.

Ultimately, the opportunity to develop digital learning skills is invaluable to students. Students will need to be able to successfully use devices for learning and productivity for the rest of their lives. Although there are challenges with implementing technology in the classroom, with the right approach, teachers can help students become strong digital learners.



Question: What other tips would you share about creating a safe, positive, and productive culture for digital learning? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I can’t wait to see what you’ve got to add. Together we are stronger!

Read More 3 Classroom Tips for Stronger Digital Learning



I gave an assignment to one of the graduate classes I teach to consider a technology purchase a school has made recently. Was there a good return on the investment? Was the total cost of ownership considered? Was there a clear purpose for obtaining the technology in the first place? Students then explore these questions by talking with a principal or other decision-maker about the process of acquiring the new technology in their school.



One of my students shared about how their school had purchased a software program to help with a broad array of learning objectives. I am paraphrasing below the response she shared from the school leader she interviewed.  

We don’t really spend much on technology. We purchased the software to help with mastery of content, but our data didn’t show it was effective. We bought it to increase student achievement across the curriculum. It was fun, engaging, and relevant for students, but we make our spending choices based on how it impacts our data. We are data-driven.

Now I certainly realize there are limited resources in every school, and honestly this software sounds like test-prep to me, and there are far more valuable, authentic ways to use technology in my view. But I was also puzzled by the idea that a method or strategy could increase engagement, be fun and relevant, and yet if it doesn’t show an measurable impact in data, it’s not valuable or worthwhile. That seems to be the line of thinking.



We’ve spent a significant amount of money in our district on Chromebooks as part of our digital learning initiative. And I’m thankful for the support of our district to provide this learning tool for students. But there have been questions raised about how we know this digital transformation is resulting in learning gains. What data proves that this is working?



And I can understand when a school is spending a lot of money, we want to see evidence that it’s money well-spent. But that evidence may not be quantifiable. I believe providing a Chromebook for students to use for learning is a necessary part of preparing students as learners for life in a world that is increasingly digital. But I don’t think it’s possible with any degree of validity or reliability to show direct links between this tool and a learning outcome.



What if we applied the same type of thinking to other aspects of school?



Can you show me that your school library has a measurable impact on student achievement?



Could you please show us that your textbook has a measurable impact on student achievement? 



What data can you present to demonstrate that music, art, career education, or athletics has a measurable impact on student achievement? 



We spend significantly on all of these in our district because we think they are incredibly important (the importance of the textbook might be up for debate). And we know they are important not because we have data measures that tell us so. But we do have plenty of evidence that demonstrates their impact. We know they are good for kids and good for learning.



When I hear the term data-driven, I admit it makes me cringe just a little. I always try to view learning through the lens of being a dad. I never want the complexity of my child’s learning reduced to a number. It is dehumanizing. Is it inevitable in the current system? Yes, it probably is. College entrance emphasizes the ACT score for instance. But I know there are many brilliant students who are not accurately represented as learners based on an ACT score.



Instead of data-driven, shouldn’t we first be student-driven. George Couros has written about this idea and shared it in his presentations. People are always more important than any metric or number. When we reduce a person’s abilities to a number we risk putting limits on their potential and capabilities. NBA superstar Stephen Curry didn’t allow the numbers to keep him from greatness. Coming out of college he was considered by scouts to be undersized with athleticism far below the NBA standard. He couldn’t run as fast or jump as high as the typical elite athletes in the league. From a data-driven perspective, at best he would be a marginal contributor on an NBA team. He would be a role player.



But what the NBA scouts didn’t account for was his commitment to excellence, his incredible work ethic, his passion and instincts for the game. He turned the numbers upside down. He used creativity and risk-taking to gain the upper hand on superior athletes. His success reminds me of this Jon Gordon quote:

The world will try to measure you by scores and numbers, but they’ll never be able to measure the power of your desire and size of your heart. 

When we are student-driven, we make decisions that recognize a student has potential far beyond what the numbers might indicate. We don’t make our decisions based on numbers alone. We make decisions based on good thinking that includes what we know about human potential and what students need to succeed in a complex, uncertain world.



So even if we can’t quantify the impact of a digital device, that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable to learning. Our world is increasingly digital and being an effective learner means being an effective digital learner too. Being student-driven also means being future-driven, especially in today’s rapidly changing world. We are doing the right thing for our students when we do what’s best for them in the long run, not just to raise a score in the short term.



Later this summer, I’m releasing my new book, Future Driven: Will Your Students Thrive In An Unpredictable World? It will empower you to crush the status quo, create authentic learning, and unleash your passion to help students succeed in a time of unprecedented change. In hockey, the puck is traveling at speeds up to 100 mph. And that’s why players say you don’t skate where the puck is, you skate where it is going. The same is true for our students and schools. We must be student-driven and future-driven to create learning that will serve students well in our modern world. The puck is moving fast, and we have to help our students keep up.



In the coming weeks, I’ll share more details about my book release and give my blog readers an in-depth preview. I’ve poured all my energy, effort, and enthusiasm into this project, and I’m excited to share it with you. It truly is a passion-project. And I think you’ll love the message and want to add it to your professional library.



You might also want to check out this post from George Couros and this one from Lisa Westman both with strong ideas regarding being student-driven.



Question: What are your thoughts on being student-driven and future-driven? What role does data play? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Not Data-Driven But Student-Driven And Future-Driven



I gave an assignment to one of the graduate classes I teach to consider a technology purchase a school has made recently. Was there a good return on the investment? Was the total cost of ownership considered? Was there a clear purpose for obtaining the technology in the first place? Students then explore these questions by talking with a principal or other decision-maker about the process of acquiring the new technology in their school.



One of my students shared about how their school had purchased a software program to help with a broad array of learning objectives. I am paraphrasing below the response she shared from the school leader she interviewed.  

We don’t really spend much on technology. We purchased the software to help with mastery of content, but our data didn’t show it was effective. We bought it to increase student achievement across the curriculum. It was fun, engaging, and relevant for students, but we make our spending choices based on how it impacts our data. We are data-driven.

Now I certainly realize there are limited resources in every school, and honestly this software sounds like test-prep to me, and there are far more valuable, authentic ways to use technology in my view. But I was also puzzled by the idea that a method or strategy could increase engagement, be fun and relevant, and yet if it doesn’t show an measurable impact in data, it’s not valuable or worthwhile. That seems to be the line of thinking.



We’ve spent a significant amount of money in our district on Chromebooks as part of our digital learning initiative. And I’m thankful for the support of our district to provide this learning tool for students. But there have been questions raised about how we know this digital transformation is resulting in learning gains. What data proves that this is working?



And I can understand when a school is spending a lot of money, we want to see evidence that it’s money well-spent. But that evidence may not be quantifiable. I believe providing a Chromebook for students to use for learning is a necessary part of preparing students as learners for life in a world that is increasingly digital. But I don’t think it’s possible with any degree of validity or reliability to show direct links between this tool and a learning outcome.



What if we applied the same type of thinking to other aspects of school?



Can you show me that your school library has a measurable impact on student achievement?



Could you please show us that your textbook has a measurable impact on student achievement? 



What data can you present to demonstrate that music, art, career education, or athletics has a measurable impact on student achievement? 



We spend significantly on all of these in our district because we think they are incredibly important (the importance of the textbook might be up for debate). And we know they are important not because we have data measures that tell us so. But we do have plenty of evidence that demonstrates their impact. We know they are good for kids and good for learning.



When I hear the term data-driven, I admit it makes me cringe just a little. I always try to view learning through the lens of being a dad. I never want the complexity of my child’s learning reduced to a number. It is dehumanizing. Is it inevitable in the current system? Yes, it probably is. College entrance emphasizes the ACT score for instance. But I know there are many brilliant students who are not accurately represented as learners based on an ACT score.



Instead of data-driven, shouldn’t we first be student-driven. George Couros has written about this idea and shared it in his presentations. People are always more important than any metric or number. When we reduce a person’s abilities to a number we risk putting limits on their potential and capabilities. NBA superstar Stephen Curry didn’t allow the numbers to keep him from greatness. Coming out of college he was considered by scouts to be undersized with athleticism far below the NBA standard. He couldn’t run as fast or jump as high as the typical elite athletes in the league. From a data-driven perspective, at best he would be a marginal contributor on an NBA team. He would be a role player.



But what the NBA scouts didn’t account for was his commitment to excellence, his incredible work ethic, his passion and instincts for the game. He turned the numbers upside down. He used creativity and risk-taking to gain the upper hand on superior athletes. His success reminds me of this Jon Gordon quote:

The world will try to measure you by scores and numbers, but they’ll never be able to measure the power of your desire and size of your heart. 

When we are student-driven, we make decisions that recognize a student has potential far beyond what the numbers might indicate. We don’t make our decisions based on numbers alone. We make decisions based on good thinking that includes what we know about human potential and what students need to succeed in a complex, uncertain world.



So even if we can’t quantify the impact of a digital device, that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable to learning. Our world is increasingly digital and being an effective learner means being an effective digital learner too. Being student-driven also means being future-driven, especially in today’s rapidly changing world. We are doing the right thing for our students when we do what’s best for them in the long run, not just to raise a score in the short term.



Later this summer, I’m releasing my new book, Future Driven: Will Your Students Thrive In An Unpredictable World? It will empower you to crush the status quo, create authentic learning, and unleash your passion to help students succeed in a time of unprecedented change. In hockey, the puck is traveling at speeds up to 100 mph. And that’s why players say you don’t skate where the puck is, you skate where it is going. The same is true for our students and schools. We must be student-driven and future-driven to create learning that will serve students well in our modern world. The puck is moving fast, and we have to help our students keep up.



In the coming weeks, I’ll share more details about my book release and give my blog readers an in-depth preview. I’ve poured all my energy, effort, and enthusiasm into this project, and I’m excited to share it with you. It truly is a passion-project. And I think you’ll love the message and want to add it to your professional library.



You might also want to check out this post from George Couros and this one from Lisa Westman both with strong ideas regarding being student-driven.



Question: What are your thoughts on being student-driven and future-driven? What role does data play? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Not Data-Driven But Student-Driven And Future-Driven



We’ve been talking about Bloom’s Taxonomy and critical thinking for as long as I’ve been an educator. And yet we still have work to do to get kids cognitively engaged in classrooms. We can’t seem to shake the traditional methods that turn education into a delivery system, rather than a powerful engine of discovery and inquiry.


So much of the conventional wisdom is wrong. For instance, many teachers believe we should teach the basics and then if we have time, include opportunities for critical thinking. Our assessments are often organized that way. Most of the items will be recall/knowledge level questions with one or two performance events or critical thinking tasks at the end. It seems like critical thinking is always an after thought.


In my first year of teaching, I remember one of my mentors gave me this advice, “Make them (the students) think.” And that’s exactly what we need to do. We need to design learning that involves students in making meaning, not just accepting information. If we want students to get deeper understanding and enjoy learning, that is what we must do.


Here are some of the differences in approaching education as a delivery system vs. a discovery system.


Delivery


1. Students are expected to accept information (textbook, lecture, study packet, notes, etc).


2. Learning is impersonal and disconnected. 


3. Understanding is limited to what was taught.


4. The teacher is doing much of the thinking and explaining.


5. Learning is measured by right and wrong answers.


6. The teacher mostly decides the direction of learning.


7. Teaches step-by-step problem solving (at best).


8. Relies on compliance, following instructions, rules.


9. Passive, receiving, accepting, memorizing type of learning.




Discovery


1. Students are making meaning of information (thinking critically and creatively).


2. It connects to the learner’s interest, aptitude, experience, and even their personality.


3. Understanding often results in new ideas.


4. The student is forced to assume more cognitive load. 


5. Learning is measured by the quality of your thinking (and ultimately quality thinking will result in right answers).


6. The students’ questions help determine the direction of the learning.


7. Teaches students to activate their reasoning skills to solve problems.


8. Relies on curiosity, interests, and exploration.


9. Active, reasoning, questioning, connecting, synthesizing type of learning.


There are numerous advantages to discovery learning. Students will remember more of the facts and fundamentals of the discipline when they learn this way. They will have more context to connect ideas and make learning stick. They will also develop skills as independent learners, something that will serve them well their whole life.


And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Although I’m a big fan of project-based learning, we can make students think in simple ways without an extended project. Sometimes the simplest teacher moves are the most effective. Try this: Wait longer after you ask a question before you accept a student answer. Then, wait longer after the student responds to the question before you say anything. Instead of saying the answer is right or wrong, ask, “And why do you think that?” 


This summer I challenge you to think about how a lesson could be better next year. How could you improve your lesson design so that learning becomes more discovery and less delivery?


Question: What tips would you share for making students think? How do you achieve cognitive engagement? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. Your suggestions are like gold!

Read More Deeper Learning Is By Discovery, Not Delivery



We’ve been talking about Bloom’s Taxonomy and critical thinking for as long as I’ve been an educator. And yet we still have work to do to get kids cognitively engaged in classrooms. We can’t seem to shake the traditional methods that turn education into a delivery system, rather than a powerful engine of discovery and inquiry.


So much of the conventional wisdom is wrong. For instance, many teachers believe we should teach the basics and then if we have time, include opportunities for critical thinking. Our assessments are often organized that way. Most of the items will be recall/knowledge level questions with one or two performance events or critical thinking tasks at the end. It seems like critical thinking is always an after thought.


In my first year of teaching, I remember one of my mentors gave me this advice, “Make them (the students) think.” And that’s exactly what we need to do. We need to design learning that involves students in making meaning, not just accepting information. If we want students to get deeper understanding and enjoy learning, that is what we must do.


Here are some of the differences in approaching education as a delivery system vs. a discovery system.


Delivery


1. Students are expected to accept information (textbook, lecture, study packet, notes, etc).


2. Learning is impersonal and disconnected. 


3. Understanding is limited to what was taught.


4. The teacher is doing much of the thinking and explaining.


5. Learning is measured by right and wrong answers.


6. The teacher mostly decides the direction of learning.


7. Teaches step-by-step problem solving (at best).


8. Relies on compliance, following instructions, rules.


9. Passive, receiving, accepting, memorizing type of learning.




Discovery


1. Students are making meaning of information (thinking critically and creatively).


2. It connects to the learner’s interest, aptitude, experience, and even their personality.


3. Understanding often results in new ideas.


4. The student is forced to assume more cognitive load. 


5. Learning is measured by the quality of your thinking (and ultimately quality thinking will result in right answers).


6. The students’ questions help determine the direction of the learning.


7. Teaches students to activate their reasoning skills to solve problems.


8. Relies on curiosity, interests, and exploration.


9. Active, reasoning, questioning, connecting, synthesizing type of learning.


There are numerous advantages to discovery learning. Students will remember more of the facts and fundamentals of the discipline when they learn this way. They will have more context to connect ideas and make learning stick. They will also develop skills as independent learners, something that will serve them well their whole life.


And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Although I’m a big fan of project-based learning, we can make students think in simple ways without an extended project. Sometimes the simplest teacher moves are the most effective. Try this: Wait longer after you ask a question before you accept a student answer. Then, wait longer after the student responds to the question before you say anything. Instead of saying the answer is right or wrong, ask, “And why do you think that?” 


This summer I challenge you to think about how a lesson could be better next year. How could you improve your lesson design so that learning becomes more discovery and less delivery?


Question: What tips would you share for making students think? How do you achieve cognitive engagement? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. Your suggestions are like gold!

Read More Deeper Learning Is By Discovery, Not Delivery



I’m guessing many students feel like school is a place where someone is always wanting something FROM them. 



Turn in your homework.



Stop talking.



Get busy. 



Walk in a straight line.



Follow instructions.



Pay attention.



Don’t forget.



All of the demands can really weigh heavily after a while. For some, I’m guessing school starts to feel like a huge burden. They don’t see the relevance. They feel like teachers are constantly wanting more FROM them, and they may not feel adequate to meet the expectations.



But maybe students don’t understand the why behind all the expectations and requests. Maybe they don’t realize that the best teachers, most teachers in fact, don’t really want something FROM students. They want good things FOR their students.



The expectations and demands are intended to help students succeed now and in the future. The demands aren’t because teachers want to make things easier for themselves or want to make things harder for their students. Teachers are successful when students are successful.



So I think we should spend more time and effort showing students what it is we want FOR them. And maybe we should spend a little less time talking about what we want FROM them.

Of course, expectations are part of life. And if students are going to be successful, there will be accountability. But they should always be reminded that the accountability we provide is because we care. It’s because we want good things FOR them.



Teachers who get the best FROM their students are the same teachers who show their students how much they care FOR them. 

Try reminding your students you want these things FOR them…



FOR them to be leaders.



FOR them to develop strong character.



FOR them to believe in themselves.



FOR them to never stop growing.



FOR them to be more excited about learning when they leave us than when they started.



FOR them to demonstrate empathy and concern for others.



FOR them to learn from their mistakes.



FOR them to make the world a better place.



FOR them to learn more about who they are.



FOR them to build on their unique strengths.



FOR them to have hope.



FOR them to develop a great attitude.



FOR them to be adaptable to change.



FOR them to reach their potential.



FOR them to realize their dreams.



FOR them to feel like they belong.



FOR them to have healthy relationships.



FOR them to never give up.



FOR them to be curious, creative, and compassionate.



Question: How can we help students see school as a place that wants good things FOR them and not just FROM them? I want to hear from you. Leave a message below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Do You Want Things FROM Your Students Or FOR Your Students?



I’m guessing many students feel like school is a place where someone is always wanting something FROM them. 



Turn in your homework.



Stop talking.



Get busy. 



Walk in a straight line.



Follow instructions.



Pay attention.



Don’t forget.



All of the demands can really weigh heavily after a while. For some, I’m guessing school starts to feel like a huge burden. They don’t see the relevance. They feel like teachers are constantly wanting more FROM them, and they may not feel adequate to meet the expectations.



But maybe students don’t understand the why behind all the expectations and requests. Maybe they don’t realize that the best teachers, most teachers in fact, don’t really want something FROM students. They want good things FOR their students.



The expectations and demands are intended to help students succeed now and in the future. The demands aren’t because teachers want to make things easier for themselves or want to make things harder for their students. Teachers are successful when students are successful.



So I think we should spend more time and effort showing students what it is we want FOR them. And maybe we should spend a little less time talking about what we want FROM them.

Of course, expectations are part of life. And if students are going to be successful, there will be accountability. But they should always be reminded that the accountability we provide is because we care. It’s because we want good things FOR them.



Teachers who get the best FROM their students are the same teachers who show their students how much they care FOR them. 

Try reminding your students you want these things FOR them…



FOR them to be leaders.



FOR them to develop strong character.



FOR them to believe in themselves.



FOR them to never stop growing.



FOR them to be more excited about learning when they leave us than when they started.



FOR them to demonstrate empathy and concern for others.



FOR them to learn from their mistakes.



FOR them to make the world a better place.



FOR them to learn more about who they are.



FOR them to build on their unique strengths.



FOR them to have hope.



FOR them to develop a great attitude.



FOR them to be adaptable to change.



FOR them to reach their potential.



FOR them to realize their dreams.



FOR them to feel like they belong.



FOR them to have healthy relationships.



FOR them to never give up.



FOR them to be curious, creative, and compassionate.



Question: How can we help students see school as a place that wants good things FOR them and not just FROM them? I want to hear from you. Leave a message below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Do You Want Things FROM Your Students Or FOR Your Students?

Your team just upset the #3 seed, and for the first time ever, your school will advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. And then you’re asked this question by a 13-year-old reporter from Sports Illustrated Kids.

SI Kids reporter: “When you coach or teach your team defense, what’s more important, technique or attitude?”

South Carolina Coach Frank Martin: “First of all, a lot of respect to you. That’s a heck of a question. I’ve been doing this a long time, and that’s the first time anyone’s ever asked me that, that’s a heck of a question. Attitude comes first. We gotta have guys that are gonna believe in our mission, that are going to believe in what we do. Once they believe, then we can teach them the technique.”

Kudos to Frank Martin for how he fielded this question from the kid reporter. It was a great moment. The coach showed the kid all the respect and sincerity he deserved in that moment.

But it was, after all, a great question.

Our school has enjoyed its own March Madness story this year. Our boys basketball team made it all the way to the state championship game. It was an incredible run with some unbelievable comeback victories along the way. We didn’t win the championship game, but our players played like winners.

Our coach has a mantra he uses to outline the core values of his program. E-A-T.

E – Effort

There is no substitute for consistently trying hard and giving your best effort.

A- Attitude

Your positive attitude is a gift to yourself and others. Your attitude will determine your impact in life.

T- Team

Be a great teammate. Care about others ahead of yourself. Be unselfish.

The messages from Frank Martin and from Robby Hoegh (our coach) are essentially the same. Attitude is more important than technique. You might not have the greatest talent level or the best technique (…yet), but you can always show up with great effort, enthusiasm, and energy.

It’s hiring season for schools all across the country. What is most important to you about who joins your team? Do they need to have the most sophisticated teaching strategies, the best understanding of subject content, and the most proven track record? Those things aren’t bad. In fact, they are all important.

But what’s most important is that you bring people on your team who are winners. You want people with winning attitudes. You want people who are on a mission to make a difference. Who are good teammates. Who bring positive energy every day. Who will continue learning and growing. And who want the best possible learning experience for EVERY kid.

If those qualities are in place, it’s impossible to NOT grow in your technique, knowledge, and effectiveness.

Developing these aspects of your CHARACTER is more important than your PRACTICE. Who you are is more important than what you do, because what you DO will always flow from WHO you are.

Question: How can we generate more focus on Effort, Attitude, and Team in our school cultures? What is your school doing to promote these qualities? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More What’s Most Valuable Attitude or Technique?