Tag: learning

“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?

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?



We have a group at Bolivar High School known as the SWAT team. SWAT stands for Students Working to Advance Technology. The club started in 2015 to support our 1:1 program that was just getting off the ground. 



SWAT provides valuable support related to how we use technology in our school. For instance, they have presented how-to workshops for teachers during our annual PD day, the past two years. And they’ve been involved in parent open house to demonstrate ways technology is being used for learning in our school. They also help out in the library with issues students are having with their Chromebooks.






Most recently, the group offered tech support for senior citizens in our community every Thursday after school in February from 4-5:00pm. We publicized the opportunity in our local newspaper and on Facebook. It was a simple concept. We had some digital natives (our students) on hand to help the older crowd in our community with anything tech related we could help with.



The senior adults could bring their own device (most of them did) or the students used their Chromebooks to help with Facebook, Gmail, or whatever tool they wanted to learn.



We didn’t really know what to expect. It was our first time trying something like this. But it was a huge success. We had customers every single Thursday, and several of our guests came back week after week.








This activity was beneficial on several levels. 



1. It was helpful to the senior citizens we served.



Our students helped with Macs, PCs, iPads, Android devices, multiple smart phones, and a Kindle Fire. I don’t think there was a single question that our students didn’t handle effectively. In one case, it took about 45 minutes to research a solution, but in the end, they resolved the issue.



2. It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with our community.



I think it’s great when students can go out into the community or we can bring the community in. In this case, we had quite a few people into our school building that might not normally stop by for a visit. 



3. It was a great learning experience for our students.



Our students had the opportunity to give back and lend a helping hand. They got to practice communication skills, empathy, patience, and problem solving. It gave them the opportunity to serve others.



4. Everyone seemed to love it. 



Our students enjoyed this experience so much, they asked me if we could keep doing it each week. For a variety of reasons, I made them take a break for the month of March. We’ll see after that. But I was proud they wanted to continue. And the senior citizens seemed to have a great time too. Some of them asked me if we could keep doing it, too! Okay, after reading that I feel like a scrooge for making them take a break. 🙂



Here’s a 2 minute video that includes some student voice about how they experienced this project…




Question: Is this something you might try with your students? What questions do you have about this activity? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More What Happened When We Launched Student-Led Senior Citizen Tech Support



We have a group at Bolivar High School known as the SWAT team. SWAT stands for Students Working to Advance Technology. The club started in 2015 to support our 1:1 program that was just getting off the ground. 



SWAT provides valuable support related to how we use technology in our school. For instance, they have presented how-to workshops for teachers during our annual PD day, the past two years. And they’ve been involved in parent open house to demonstrate ways technology is being used for learning in our school. They also help out in the library with issues students are having with their Chromebooks.






Most recently, the group offered tech support for senior citizens in our community every Thursday after school in February from 4-5:00pm. We publicized the opportunity in our local newspaper and on Facebook. It was a simple concept. We had some digital natives (our students) on hand to help the older crowd in our community with anything tech related we could help with.



The senior adults could bring their own device (most of them did) or the students used their Chromebooks to help with Facebook, Gmail, or whatever tool they wanted to learn.



We didn’t really know what to expect. It was our first time trying something like this. But it was a huge success. We had customers every single Thursday, and several of our guests came back week after week.








This activity was beneficial on several levels. 



1. It was helpful to the senior citizens we served.



Our students helped with Macs, PCs, iPads, Android devices, multiple smart phones, and a Kindle Fire. I don’t think there was a single question that our students didn’t handle effectively. In one case, it took about 45 minutes to research a solution, but in the end, they resolved the issue.



2. It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with our community.



I think it’s great when students can go out into the community or we can bring the community in. In this case, we had quite a few people into our school building that might not normally stop by for a visit. 



3. It was a great learning experience for our students.



Our students had the opportunity to give back and lend a helping hand. They got to practice communication skills, empathy, patience, and problem solving. It gave them the opportunity to serve others.



4. Everyone seemed to love it. 



Our students enjoyed this experience so much, they asked me if we could keep doing it each week. For a variety of reasons, I made them take a break for the month of March. We’ll see after that. But I was proud they wanted to continue. And the senior citizens seemed to have a great time too. Some of them asked me if we could keep doing it, too! Okay, after reading that I feel like a scrooge for making them take a break. 🙂



Here’s a 2 minute video that includes some student voice about how they experienced this project…




Question: Is this something you might try with your students? What questions do you have about this activity? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More What Happened When We Launched Student-Led Senior Citizen Tech Support

Last month I was honoured to be interviewed on Corey Engstrom’s Teacher Tech Trails. Near the end of the podcast, I mentioned the ‘greatest’ injustices that we tend to do in more traditional schools and classrooms to three different kinds of students. While I would question my choice of the word ‘greatest’, I think these […]

Read More 3 Injustices in Education

More than likely, you’ve seen the video below. It is designed to test the power of your attention. It will take careful concentration to succeed in the task. 



In the video, two teams are passing basketballs, one team is wearing white shirts and the other team is wearing black shirts. Your task is to count the number of passes by the white team, ignoring the black team entirely. Before you read further, I would like for you to watch the video and see how you do.











The video has been watched millions of times. And over half those who view it do not see a person wearing a gorilla suit appear, join the other players, thump its chest, and exit. Were you among those who missed the gorilla? If so, don’t feel bad. You may have the ability to focus in ways others could not. You didn’t allow a silly gorilla to distract you.



The blindness to the gorilla is caused by the focused attention on counting the passes of the white team. Our brain has the ability to ignore what it doesn’t perceive as important. And we all know the idea of effective multi-tasking is a myth. You can learn more about this study on selective attention at theinvisiblegorilla.com



One of the remarkable findings of the study is how surprised people are to realize they missed the gorilla. “No way!” they think. They cannot imagine how they could have not seen someone in a gorilla suit in the video. They can’t believe they missed it.



The invisible gorilla study reveals a couple of interesting facts about our minds. 



First, we can be blind to the obvious. We can miss the forest for the trees. We are so focused on the details we miss the bigger picture.



And second, we are not only blind to the obvious, but we are unwilling to admit we didn’t see clearly. We are also blind to our blindness.



This gorilla business got me thinking about blind spots we may have as educators. The day-to-day problems we face require intense concentration, and unless we pause to reflect, to listen, to pay attention to the world around us, we may miss some of the most important changes happening. Or we may miss things we need to change.



The world is changing rapidly. And we can be so busy we don’t even realize what’s happening. Because of our intense focus on the routine parts of our work, we may not be aware of how our classrooms and schools need to change. 



We can’t afford to let that happen. Our students can’t afford for us to have blind spots. Here are five questions to help you think through some issues that can be blind spots for educators. You may have assumptions that haven’t been tested. Maybe these questions will help you see any ‘gorillas’ in your approach.



1. Are my lessons designed to help me teach better or to help students learn more?



Some teachers design lessons to deliver content to students. They strive to teach better. They seek better presentations, better strategies, more tools. They rely on a test at the end to know if students are learning. Other teachers design lessons that cause students to own their learning. Students are the ones doing the heavy lifting. They are creating instead of consuming. They are active in the process. Their learning is visible throughout.



2. Am I teaching students first, or a curriculum?



Some teachers implement a curriculum. They teach the standards of their curriculum with fidelity. But if that is all they do, in my mind, they are not an effective teacher. If you teach students first, you recognize their unique needs. You seek to guide them, mentor them, and help them grow as people. You make learning personal. And you want them to be more excited about learning when they leave your class than when they came. It’s more important to develop a passion for learning than to check off standards.

3. Am I preparing students for the world they live in or the one I grew up in?



Some teachers are teaching exactly the same as they were taught. If you visited their classroom, there would be no way to distinguish between this classroom and one from 1991. Your classroom should never become a time capsule. It should actually be more of a time machine, helping students to see what they will need to be successful in their futures. The next 20 years will be the most dramatic period of change in the history of the world. How are you adjusting your classroom to prepare students an uncertain, complex world?



4. Would I want to be a student in my own classroom?



If you are like most learners, you don’t enjoy sitting for long periods of time, listening to someone else, and having very little input about anything. Be the teacher who prepares learning experiences, not lectures. Listen to students and try to see learning through their eyes. That’s one of the most powerful weapons a teachers can have. If you can understand your students better, you can create learning that is irresistible.



5. Do my students see me as a learner too?



Some teachers are afraid of being wrong. They want to have all the answers and be seen as the expert in the classroom. But more important than being the content expert, teachers need to be learning experts. They need to model how to be an effective lifelong learner. If you asked most student if their teacher learns new stuff, they might say yes—at a conference, or a training, or in teacher meetings. But what about the classroom? Do your students see you learning side-by-side with them every day?



Question: What other blind spots might educators have about learning? I think we all have areas we could see more clearly. Or, we miss the forest for the trees. Or, we don’t acknowledge the gorilla. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.



Read More 5 Blind Spots Educators Must Address

More than likely, you’ve seen the video below. It is designed to test the power of your attention. It will take careful concentration to succeed in the task. 



In the video, two teams are passing basketballs, one team is wearing white shirts and the other team is wearing black shirts. Your task is to count the number of passes by the white team, ignoring the black team entirely. Before you read further, I would like for you to watch the video and see how you do.











The video has been watched millions of times. And over half those who view it do not see a person wearing a gorilla suit appear, join the other players, thump its chest, and exit. Were you among those who missed the gorilla? If so, don’t feel bad. You may have the ability to focus in ways others could not. You didn’t allow a silly gorilla to distract you.



The blindness to the gorilla is caused by the focused attention on counting the passes of the white team. Our brain has the ability to ignore what it doesn’t perceive as important. And we all know the idea of effective multi-tasking is a myth. You can learn more about this study on selective attention at theinvisiblegorilla.com



One of the remarkable findings of the study is how surprised people are to realize they missed the gorilla. “No way!” they think. They cannot imagine how they could have not seen someone in a gorilla suit in the video. They can’t believe they missed it.



The invisible gorilla study reveals a couple of interesting facts about our minds. 



First, we can be blind to the obvious. We can miss the forest for the trees. We are so focused on the details we miss the bigger picture.



And second, we are not only blind to the obvious, but we are unwilling to admit we didn’t see clearly. We are also blind to our blindness.



This gorilla business got me thinking about blind spots we may have as educators. The day-to-day problems we face require intense concentration, and unless we pause to reflect, to listen, to pay attention to the world around us, we may miss some of the most important changes happening. Or we may miss things we need to change.



The world is changing rapidly. And we can be so busy we don’t even realize what’s happening. Because of our intense focus on the routine parts of our work, we may not be aware of how our classrooms and schools need to change. 



We can’t afford to let that happen. Our students can’t afford for us to have blind spots. Here are five questions to help you think through some issues that can be blind spots for educators. You may have assumptions that haven’t been tested. Maybe these questions will help you see any ‘gorillas’ in your approach.



1. Are my lessons designed to help me teach better or to help students learn more?



Some teachers design lessons to deliver content to students. They strive to teach better. They seek better presentations, better strategies, more tools. They rely on a test at the end to know if students are learning. Other teachers design lessons that cause students to own their learning. Students are the ones doing the heavy lifting. They are creating instead of consuming. They are active in the process. Their learning is visible throughout.



2. Am I teaching students first, or a curriculum?



Some teachers implement a curriculum. They teach the standards of their curriculum with fidelity. But if that is all they do, in my mind, they are not an effective teacher. If you teach students first, you recognize their unique needs. You seek to guide them, mentor them, and help them grow as people. You make learning personal. And you want them to be more excited about learning when they leave your class than when they came. It’s more important to develop a passion for learning than to check off standards.

3. Am I preparing students for the world they live in or the one I grew up in?



Some teachers are teaching exactly the same as they were taught. If you visited their classroom, there would be no way to distinguish between this classroom and one from 1991. Your classroom should never become a time capsule. It should actually be more of a time machine, helping students to see what they will need to be successful in their futures. The next 20 years will be the most dramatic period of change in the history of the world. How are you adjusting your classroom to prepare students an uncertain, complex world?



4. Would I want to be a student in my own classroom?



If you are like most learners, you don’t enjoy sitting for long periods of time, listening to someone else, and having very little input about anything. Be the teacher who prepares learning experiences, not lectures. Listen to students and try to see learning through their eyes. That’s one of the most powerful weapons a teachers can have. If you can understand your students better, you can create learning that is irresistible.



5. Do my students see me as a learner too?



Some teachers are afraid of being wrong. They want to have all the answers and be seen as the expert in the classroom. But more important than being the content expert, teachers need to be learning experts. They need to model how to be an effective lifelong learner. If you asked most student if their teacher learns new stuff, they might say yes—at a conference, or a training, or in teacher meetings. But what about the classroom? Do your students see you learning side-by-side with them every day?



Question: What other blind spots might educators have about learning? I think we all have areas we could see more clearly. Or, we miss the forest for the trees. Or, we don’t acknowledge the gorilla. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.



Read More 5 Blind Spots Educators Must Address

am·bi·gu·i·ty noun • uncertainty or inexactness of meaning in language. synonyms: vagueness, obscurity, abstruseness, doubtfulness, uncertainty; • a lack of decisiveness or commitment resulting from a failure to make a choice between alternatives. Ambiguity has potential to be a catalyst to new learning. It can be the spark to kindle lateral thinking and creative solutions to huge problems […]

Read More “Learn to live with ambiguity.”



There are a number of visuals like the one above that illustrate some distinctions between a boss and a leader. I bet you can think of a specific person who characterizes the boss list. This type of person tends to make big impression. You can probably also think of someone who exhibits the leader qualities. You probably admire that person. Of course, these are illustrations intended for the workplace, not the classroom.



Clearly, they are relevant to school administrators, but I’m also thinking they can be applied to classroom leaders as well, aka teachers. In fact, they can apply to anyone charged with leading people and charged with getting something done.



Here’s another. This one is similar but contrasting management vs. leadership.




Source: Verma and Wideman (1994)

Most everyone would agree leadership is a top priority in moving any group of people toward a desired outcome or goal. But in education we use the term classroom management frequently to refer to how teachers get things done in the classroom. Some educators actually reject the term. They would say you manage things (grading papers) and you lead people (students). 



But I’m not overly concerned about using the term classroom management as long as we can work from a shared understanding of the meaning. To me, it’s all about the things we do to create a positive and productive learning culture in the classroom.



But that will never happen just by managing. If we rely on the lists in the left columns without having the necessary leadership qualities, we are doomed to failure. Sure, some students will still learn, but the overall classroom learning culture will not thrive. And there will be little passion or inspiration for learning.



But on the other hand, if we don’t also establish some ‘management’ qualities to go with leadership, we may have great ideas and willing students but a lack of specific steps to achieve the goal.



Although several items from each column have value in context, I would always choose leaders over managers. Most everyone leans one way or another.



In fact, most every problem that persists in the classroom is at its root a leadership issue. That is not to blame the ‘leader’ but to say that if an ongoing problem is to be overcome it will usually happen by good leadership and not through better management.



Here are 7 Reasons ‘Classroom Leadership’ Is Better Than ‘Classroom Management.’



1. Establishing a Vision for Learning



Leaders create a vision for learning. They communicate why the learning is important. Better yet, they help followers (students) unpack for themselves how and why the learning is important. When there is a clear vision, students will be empowered to move toward aims without having to be pushed there forcefully.



How are you clarifying a vision of learning for your students?

2. Building Strong Relationships 



Building positive relationships is essential to establishing a positive classroom learning culture. Leaders develop a ‘we’ feeling with students. Students feel safe, connected, like they belong. Every student feels like they are valued. The leader doesn’t use fear as a motivator. Instead, they rely on relationship building to correct and guide.



How can you commit to building stronger relationships with your students?



3. Generating Enthusiasm



Leaders are inspiring and energizing. They have passion for what they are doing and it’s contagious. They encourage others to come along on the learning journey. Managers don’t think about the energy they bring. They rely more on structure and organization to be efficient. Efficiency is more important than passion to the manager. 



What are ways you show enthusiasm not only for your subject but also for your students?



4. Building Trust 



When trust is lost, it does incredible damage. A leader is careful to ensure students don’t feel disrespected, overlooked, or misunderstood. When things go wrong, leaders help to shoulder blame. And when things go right, they are willing to share the credit. Leaders are quick to forgive. And work to repair a relationship that is hurting.



Will you protect the dignity of each child in your classroom?



5. Honest and Clear Communication



Even if you establish great, trusting relationships with students, you won’t have a strong learning culture unless you are communicating effectively. Sometimes this includes delivering hard truth to students. Sometimes it means standing firm. Setting boundaries. Giving consequences. However, consequences are never as effective as communication for establishing a positive change.



Are you consistently communicating with students and clarifying the classroom norms and expectations?



6. Leading By Example



Managers don’t feel the need to set an example. They view their role as making sure the kids are doing what they’re supposed to, but don’t look at their own actions. Leaders have high expectations for themselves. They start with the person in the mirror. They model the types of behaviors and mindsets they want to see in others.





How are you modeling the values you want to establish in your classroom?



7. Being Proactive vs. Reactive



Managers react. Leaders prevent. Managers focus on what just happened. Leaders focus on what will happen next. An effective leader anticipates the needs of followers and works to stay in front of problems. 



In what ways are being proactive in building a learning culture rather than being reactive when the culture goes off the tracks?



Question: What are your thoughts on building a learning culture in your classroom or school? What would you add to the thinking I’ve shared? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Facebook or Twitter.





Read More 7 Reasons ‘Classroom Leadership’ Is Better Than ‘Classroom Management’ {Infographic}



There are a number of visuals like the one above that illustrate some distinctions between a boss and a leader. I bet you can think of a specific person who characterizes the boss list. This type of person tends to make big impression. You can probably also think of someone who exhibits the leader qualities. You probably admire that person. Of course, these are illustrations intended for the workplace, not the classroom.



Clearly, they are relevant to school administrators, but I’m also thinking they can be applied to classroom leaders as well, aka teachers. In fact, they can apply to anyone charged with leading people and charged with getting something done.



Here’s another. This one is similar but contrasting management vs. leadership.




Source: Verma and Wideman (1994)

Most everyone would agree leadership is a top priority in moving any group of people toward a desired outcome or goal. But in education we use the term classroom management frequently to refer to how teachers get things done in the classroom. Some educators actually reject the term. They would say you manage things (grading papers) and you lead people (students). 



But I’m not overly concerned about using the term classroom management as long as we can work from a shared understanding of the meaning. To me, it’s all about the things we do to create a positive and productive learning culture in the classroom.



But that will never happen just by managing. If we rely on the lists in the left columns without having the necessary leadership qualities, we are doomed to failure. Sure, some students will still learn, but the overall classroom learning culture will not thrive. And there will be little passion or inspiration for learning.



But on the other hand, if we don’t also establish some ‘management’ qualities to go with leadership, we may have great ideas and willing students but a lack of specific steps to achieve the goal.



Although several items from each column have value in context, I would always choose leaders over managers. Most everyone leans one way or another.



In fact, most every problem that persists in the classroom is at its root a leadership issue. That is not to blame the ‘leader’ but to say that if an ongoing problem is to be overcome it will usually happen by good leadership and not through better management.



Here are 7 Reasons ‘Classroom Leadership’ Is Better Than ‘Classroom Management.’



1. Establishing a Vision for Learning



Leaders create a vision for learning. They communicate why the learning is important. Better yet, they help followers (students) unpack for themselves how and why the learning is important. When there is a clear vision, students will be empowered to move toward aims without having to be pushed there forcefully.



How are you clarifying a vision of learning for your students?

2. Building Strong Relationships 



Building positive relationships is essential to establishing a positive classroom learning culture. Leaders develop a ‘we’ feeling with students. Students feel safe, connected, like they belong. Every student feels like they are valued. The leader doesn’t use fear as a motivator. Instead, they rely on relationship building to correct and guide.



How can you commit to building stronger relationships with your students?



3. Generating Enthusiasm



Leaders are inspiring and energizing. They have passion for what they are doing and it’s contagious. They encourage others to come along on the learning journey. Managers don’t think about the energy they bring. They rely more on structure and organization to be efficient. Efficiency is more important than passion to the manager. 



What are ways you show enthusiasm not only for your subject but also for your students?



4. Building Trust 



When trust is lost, it does incredible damage. A leader is careful to ensure students don’t feel disrespected, overlooked, or misunderstood. When things go wrong, leaders help to shoulder blame. And when things go right, they are willing to share the credit. Leaders are quick to forgive. And work to repair a relationship that is hurting.



Will you protect the dignity of each child in your classroom?



5. Honest and Clear Communication



Even if you establish great, trusting relationships with students, you won’t have a strong learning culture unless you are communicating effectively. Sometimes this includes delivering hard truth to students. Sometimes it means standing firm. Setting boundaries. Giving consequences. However, consequences are never as effective as communication for establishing a positive change.



Are you consistently communicating with students and clarifying the classroom norms and expectations?



6. Leading By Example



Managers don’t feel the need to set an example. They view their role as making sure the kids are doing what they’re supposed to, but don’t look at their own actions. Leaders have high expectations for themselves. They start with the person in the mirror. They model the types of behaviors and mindsets they want to see in others.





How are you modeling the values you want to establish in your classroom?



7. Being Proactive vs. Reactive



Managers react. Leaders prevent. Managers focus on what just happened. Leaders focus on what will happen next. An effective leader anticipates the needs of followers and works to stay in front of problems. 



In what ways are being proactive in building a learning culture rather than being reactive when the culture goes off the tracks?



Question: What are your thoughts on building a learning culture in your classroom or school? What would you add to the thinking I’ve shared? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Facebook or Twitter.





Read More 7 Reasons ‘Classroom Leadership’ Is Better Than ‘Classroom Management’ {Infographic}





Are you beating the state average? The teacher down the hall? The school down the road? How about the Fins or the Singaporeans? How do your scores measure up? Is your school keeping up with the Joneses?



Lately, I’ve seen lots of comparisons of achievement data. Including the PISA international benchmark results that were just released. Once again, U.S. scores were not stellar in comparison to some of the best test takers in the world.



While reading Linchpin by Seth Godin, I was challenged to think about how we define success. And where we spend our energy to develop world class schools. Godin illustrates how difficult it is to be the best by any statistical comparison.

❝Donald Bradman was an Australian cricket player. He was also the best athlete who ever lived. By any statistical measure, he was comparatively the best at what he did. He was far better at cricket than Michael Jordan was at basketball or Jack Nicklaus was at golf.

It’s very difficult to be as good as Donald Bradman. In fact, it’s impossible. Here’s a chart of Bradman’s batting average compared with the other all-time cricket leaders. 

Bradman’s Test batting average was 99.94. In cricket, a player’s batting average is the

total number of runs scored by the number of times they have been out.



Everyone else is quite grouped near sixty. Bradman was in a league of his own, not even close to the others. 

The challenge of becoming a linchpin solely based on your skill at plying a craft or doing a task or playing a sport is that the market can find other people with the skill with surprising ease. Plenty of people can play the flute as well as you can, clean a house as well as you can, program in Python as well as you can. If all you can do is the task and you’re not in a league of your own at doing the task, you’re not indispensable. 

Statistics are a dangerous deal, because statistics make it strikingly clear that you’re only a little better than the other guy. Or perhaps not better at all.

When you start down the path of beating the competition based on something that can be easily measured, you’re betting that with practice and determination, you can do better than Len Hutton or Jack Hobbs did at cricket. Not a little better, but Don Bradman better.

And you can’t. 



And this demonstrates the problem with measuring school performance based on standardized tests. To clarify…



1. Someone is always statistically better. 



You cannot be the best just on your effort or the effort of the students in your classroom or school. You cannot measure up. Even your best will not be enough. There will always be a Don Bradman. So when we accept this measure as judge and jury of our effectiveness, we are setting ourselves up for frustration and inadequacy.



2. More achievement is not always better.



A recent article about the learning culture in Singapore shows just how unhealthy a culture of over-achievement can be. Even in our own schools, we should not celebrate unhealthy attitudes toward achievement. How many ulcers, headaches, and mental health issues are a result of students, and educators, who are placing too much emphasis on achievement results? Being an effective human being involves a healthy attitude toward achievement, not high achievement no matter what it takes.



3. What can be measured doesn’t always count the most.



And what counts the most can’t always be measured. There are so many things about being an effective learner, a well-educated person beyond test scores. In fact, there are many people in our communities who are incredibly successful and lifelong learners, but who did not excel as test takers. Their success is attributable to many intangibles that cannot be easily measured. As Godin points out, “The easier it is to quantify the less it’s worth.” The most valuable things are often hard to measure.








4. High test scores are not a vision for learning.



When raising test scores becomes a chief aim of a school or district, it can easily become the vision of the school. And raising test scores is not a vision for learning. This approach marginalizes the individual and their learning needs in favor of data objectives that may not even be meaningful to the individual. In a sense, it dehumanizes learning. A vision for learning should always focus on the individual learner and create a culture that helps each student reach his or her goals. 



5. A school’s identity should not be contingent on achievement.



The identity of a school, or individual, should not be contingent on achievement. It should be comprised of the way the school seeks to fulfill its mission. We should seek to have a high level of commitment, collaboration, and care. We should strive to help our students achieve, but also to fully engage, to be more excited about learning, to gain hope, to learn more about who they are, and to fulfill their potential in the broadest sense. We control our identity, but we can’t always control our scores. Any teacher knows this, but sometimes we do our best work with students who DO NOT demonstrate achievement on tests.



So what’s the alternative to playing the test score game? Godin suggests using emotional labor to make yourself indispensable. I think this principle can be applied to schools, too. The idea is to focus energy on connecting, supporting, reaching out, lifting up, and offering hope better than anyone else. It is always teaching students first, then curriculum.



Even though many educators realize how important emotional labor is, it is rarely included in strategic plans, teacher evaluations, or educator standards. It is not considered a strategic advantage. In my review of my state’s principal standards, the word data was found 15 times. By contrast, the word relationships was not to be found. The era of accountability has created an assembly line approach to schooling. It seems to almost eliminate the human element. 



But the truth is the human element is everything in education and in most every profession. Once you have achieved a measure of expertise in polishing your craft, you become a game-changer only through your interaction with each child. Your emotional labor is what makes you able to do your job unlike anyone else on the planet. And if your school collectively does it’s emotional labor better than anyone else, it will indeed be world class. And I’m betting your test scores will improve as an added bonus.



Question: How do you view the role of emotional labor in your classroom and school? Is it a measure of success? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Reasons to Look Beyond Test Scores as the Measure of School Success