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Do the best leaders really just leave people alone?

I often ask educators what qualities they like most in their administrator, and the following statement really makes me cringe:

They just leave me alone and let me do what I want.

First of all, I understand the needs for both trust and autonomy and how it is essential to motivation, but there is also a larger purpose to what we do in schools.  If we truly believe that schools are greater as a group than simply individuals, simply “leaving people alone” is probably not the best approach.

I think about the best leaders that I have ever had, and how they have balanced this approach of trust and autonomy, while providing strong mentorship.  This is not necessarily in telling you things to do, but often by pushing your thinking and abilities through asking questions, and challenging perceptions, without micro-managing.  I have always craved mentorship in whatever role that I have taken, and find that I do much better when I have someone who is pushing me in my work.  I love the idea that “if you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room” (often attributed to Michael Dell).  We only get better when we find those that truly elevate us.  Leaders are meant to unleash talent, not control it.

If you think that you have outgrown leadership, what are you doing to continue that growth? Books and blogs are great to push your thinking, but in my opinion, they never beat the conversations you can have others.  Great leaders not only create spaces where they challenge your thinking, but they encourage you to do the same with themselves.  That is part of what makes them great leaders.

Early on in my career, I remember asking my mentor teacher what I needed to do to meet the highest standards of my internship.  She would give me space to make my own mistakes, but she was also always there to not only encourage me, but to ask questions, and push thinking as well.  It was such a great experience that I can’t imagine doing it another way.

I love the following quote:

“Once you stop learning, you start dying.” Albert Einstein

If we just want our leaders to “get out of the way”, it may suggest that we are either not really open to learning or perhaps, we might be in the wrong room. Neither situation is beneficial to our own development.

Categories: Planet

School’s out Friday

Lucacept - Jenny Luca - 3 July, 2015 - 23:29

*note: swear word within video and inappropriate ad from College Humour at the end. Just so you know.

Yes, I’m going to confess. I have an Apple Watch. (run of the mill variety, definitely not Gold)

Do I need one?


Do I feel pretentious wearing it?

Yes, a little bit.

Do I like it?

Yes, I have to admit, I do.

My family gave me a voucher on Mother’s Day this year for an Apple Watch, and I got it this week. They know how much I love new gadgets and I love them for indulging me and recognising that this is something I would enjoy. I do feel like it’s an extremely unnecessary thing to own and I do feel slightly uncomfortable wearing it. The thing is ridiculously expensive here in Australia and it seems frivolous to own one, but I have to confess that I am liking it, even if I remain pretty clueless so far as to what it can do.

I am away from home at the moment, holidaying with my gorgeous daughter in Port Douglas. I know, you don’t need to say it, I sound like someone who is just throwing money around – forgive me, but having just been paid out for long service leave and knowing that I’m never going to get to take that time off, then this was the next best thing. Anyway, back to the Apple Watch part of the story. I’m liking the activity tracker that is reminding me to get out and get moving – it’s a good prompt that I think is going to be beneficial. I can read my incoming mail, send a message using Siri, and answer and send phone calls from it. You do feel like you’re in an episode of Get Smart when you’re holding your wrist near your face and talking into it, but it has been handy in the car. I can hold the driving wheel and talk quite normally and the people on the other end have been unaware that I’m communicating via the Apple Watch.

There are a myriad of apps available and I’m really in the infancy stages of using it. For the first day, it was noticeable, but four days in and I’m starting to see it as a functional device that I think may prove really useful once I am back at work managing meetings and trying to organise myself in what is going to be a very different pattern of commuting for me.

I have to admit that I do feel a tad freakish with it on, given that wearable devices like this aren’t the norm (yet). Mind you, no-one else seems to have noticed it at all, so maybe there’s nothing big deal about it. Mind you, I’m yet to answer a call in a crowded space and I’m not sure I would. I think reaching into the bag to get the phone would probably be my course of action in shared spaces!

If I discover any noteworthy features, I’ll try and write about them. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the warmth of Port Douglas, a far cry from the depths of a Melbourne winter. My daughter and I walked along the beach at Cape Tribulation today, and I marvelled at the fact that I was treading on sand that I can pinpoint on a map of Australia. It seems so pristine there, I do wonder if the shoreline has altered much from the time James Cook and his men encountered it when they circumnavigated Australia’s East Coast. Even more significant, I wonder if our indigenous people have stories that illustrate what this coastline was like before the arrival of white settlement?

I’m going to be enjoying the sun and relaxation space this holiday is offering me. I hope you can find some space for yourself this weekend, be it in the sun, or by a warm fire. Enjoy. :)

Categories: Planet

Thoughts on #ISTE2015 Wednesday–Exhibit Hall

There are all sorts of interesting people working the various exhibit hall booths at ISTE and other conference. There are as I see it several groups or types.

Sales/Marketing People

Some are all about closing the sale. Not necessarily for you to take something away and give them a check but they are all about convincing you to buy. They are not going to be easy to get away from. They are doing their job and are not bad people but you may get more marketing speak and less useful information than you will from some of the other people. Sometimes these people used to be in the classroom so don’t always write them off.


Companies look to bring real classroom teachers to work at their booths. Large companies are more likely to do this than small companies. You’ll find lots of  teachers at the Microsoft booth for example. These are my favorite people to talk to in the exhibit hall. They use the tools/products, they love the tools/products but best of all they can tell you how they work in a real classroom with real students. Find these people, talk to them, and get their contact information as they can be very helpful in the future.

Product People

Sometimes these are marketing people. in a role called “evangelist.” Sometimes they are actually developers of the product. You’ll see a lot of these people at smaller companies. These are the people who work on the product every day. They know it. The people who come to conferences from this group tend to be good listeners. They want to know how to make the product better for YOU. Also they often talk to a lot of people using their product and can share a lot of ideas. These are the people who can make the product better for you though so it is usually worth talking to them.


Not often in the booth. More likely than not someone else working in the booth will introduce you although in small companies the CEO may also be wearing the Product People hat and talking to everyone. For a big company these people will be in meetings a lot with people who make buying decisions. They’ll likely be wearing suits too.

What did I mess? Did I mischaracterize anyone? What is your exhibit hall experience like?

Categories: Planet

Don’t Forget About Local Either #ISTE2015

The Principal of Change George Couros - 2 July, 2015 - 05:20

“I have found my tribe.”

Little comments like this about people connecting around the world are something that really has the potential to make an impact on education around the world. I have often said, that the real power of technology now is not that we have access to all of the information in the world, but we have access to one another.

At #ISTE2015 this year, I asked the room I presented in, “how many of you are NOT on Twitter?”, and one hand rose. It was the person running the audio for the session. For the first time was I in a room where every single teacher was on Twitter. Whether they saw the value of it or utilized it in ways to make an impact on teaching and learning is another story, but I have seen a tremendous shift in the past few years.  The world is at our fingertips and people are willing to embrace it.

There is a huge power in bringing experts into our classrooms, but what about sharing our expertise to the rest of the world? Or even sharing it within our own schools?  The walls in our own schools need to be taken down, as we can utilize these technologies to learn from one another.  The idea of “crowd accelerated innovation”, is powerful, and something we need to embrace by opening our classrooms to the world, and to each other.  I shared this idea recently, and asked a simple question:

Many people have started global, but we need to think how we can also make an impact locally in our schools.  Transparency to each other can make a big difference in learning and culture.

It is easy to focus on all of the awesome ideas that are shared on Twitter and put educators from around the world on pedestals, but how many times do you see worksheets shared on Twitter? Do we really believe that this never happens in any classrooms?  We often are inclined to share our “best stuff” as opposed to a random sampling of the day-to-day workings of a classroom. Sometimes by focusing solely on the greatness outside of your school, we can sometimes belittle the efforts of those that we work with everyday.

So as conferences like ISTE come to a close, it is great to be inspired by those that we meet at these events, but let’s remember that we can be inspired by those we see every single day. The idea of “you can’t be a prophet in your own land” is something that we as individuals are guilty of because we often choose to applaud the people we see daily the least. We often find greatness in the places that we choose to see it.  The world is at our fingertips, but so are the people in our own organizations. Let’s make sure we look and acknowledge the valuable work that they are doing daily.

Categories: Planet

Thoughts on #ISTE2015 Wednesday–Poster Sessions

I spent a lot of time in playgrounds and poster sessions. There is really not a lot of difference between a poster session and a playground session. The big difference is that a playground has a lot of posters on the same theme. Some of these are great and some are ok. I’ve come up with a few conclusions about how they should be done. My opinions and your mileage may vary as they say.

QR codes are great as far as they go.They are a great way to take people to more information and resources online.  I’ve been taking pictures of many of them. I’ll look at them when I get home. But honestly I would rather look at most resources on my real computer than my phone or even a tablet. I recommend two things with regards to QR codes. One is put them on cards that people can take away with them. The second, more important to me, is show the URL the QR code leads to for people like me.

People are taking their notes by taking pictures. Make your poster cell phone camera ready. In other words have some large print. If your poster shrunk to 8.5x11 is unreadable taking a picture and printing it or reading it online later may be a problem for some.

Have tangible things to people to see and touch. If you have student work you can show off bring it. Pictures of the dinosaur your student made is nice seeing the actual creation in person it better.

Many of the poster sessions had students along to talk about what they are learning and how. Wonderful experience for them and for the teachers they talk to. I’m a bit old fashioned but I thi8nk the international students in their uniforms looks classy. They looked sharp and serious about their education. But as long as they bring enthusiasm with them kids are always great.

I got a lot of ideas from these sessions. Well worth taking the time for at ISTE. I’ll leave you with a thought, a question, that I saw on one poster session. “What do you want your students to be ready for?” That’s something I will keep in mind as I work on next years plans.

Categories: Planet

Thoughts on #ISTE2015 Tuesday

Today was about the conversations. I was able to connect with a number of the people I respect and admire who I communicate with online most of the year.  One of the conversations was with Vinnie Vrotny who is one of the people whose work with MakerSpaces is an inspiration for me.

Vinnie and I talked about creativity and how it seems that too often we school the creativity out of students. Makerspaces with their open ended projects are a way to encourage students to recover and hold on to their creativity. In my visits to the exhibit hall I have been looking at creative maker space sorts of tools. There are a good number of them.

Another conversation was with Cameron Evans who is a education CTO with Microsoft. He was pointing out that there is a lot of the same every year in the exhibit hall.. Largely the same companies showing the same sorts of things, albeit in new versions, in isolation Cameron’s thought was that it would be interesting if ISTE got a bunch of companies to set their products up in a sample classroom of the future. It’s an interesting idea. A virtual school with different rooms set up by different groups of companies might be very interesting.

Some things do change though. The blogger café is not as it once was. Having a space with chairs and places to plug in technology is great. At the same time the community is not what it was in the early, pre-power and chairs, days. A lot of people there are not big social media people are there. And that is fine. IT makes it a little harder for the bloggers/tweeters/etc to find each other. Not as easy but not impossible. I managed to find someone pretty much every time I stopped by. So better or worse doesn’t really mean anything – different is the word.

In the area of computer science I am seeing a little more this year than last. Most of it this year is focused on elementary schools. Code.Org logos are on almost every poster or playground session that involves coding for elementary schools. My interpretation is that code.org is energizing a lot of teachers. It will be interesting to see how that develops.

Speaking of code.org, the organizations founder Hadi Partovi was on a panel at ISTE debating the idea that CS should be required for all students. The discussion covered the usual points. Thinks like a shortage of trained teachers, trouble fitting it in the schedule and money of course. It was pointed out that most of the money these days goes to the things that standardized tests test. I think the session was attended mostly by people who already believe that all high schools (at least) should offer CS even if not a required course. I don’t know it if changed any minds but it was interesting.

Tomorrow is the last day and I am looking forward to the maker space playground.

Categories: Planet

June 2016: My Reading

Darcy Moore's Blog - 30 June, 2015 - 20:36

“…by writing about himself, Knausgaard has really written about them, that reading ‘My Struggle’ is like opening someone else’s diary and finding your own secrets.”      

                                                                       (Evan Hughes writing in The New Republic)

The Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard, born in that most seminal of years, 1968, has featured in my reading and life this month. Readers of this blog would know that his autobiographical cycle of six books, of which only four are currently translated into English, are controversially titled, Min Kampf, in Norwegian but as one would expect are not published with that title in Germany.

I read Book 3: Boyhood Island and carried straight on to Book 4: Dancing in the Dark having finished the first two books of My Struggle, which is usually described as autobiographical fiction, in 2014.  All four books make for compulsive reading and reflection about all manner of things. Funnily enough, one does not really learn much about Norway or the Norwegians. Knausgaard feels completely international. 

The passages that explore music and books are particularly interesting. I always like it when a writer reflects on what he reads or has read; I really must read Knut Hamsun’s Pan. Knausgaard is a month younger than me, so international popular and literary culture makes it easy to relate to his tastes. Who’d have guessed that an Australian band, like The Church, would loom so large in his musical tastes? I laughed aloud when he talked about a flabby Jim Kerr, from Simple Minds, refusing to play on until the fan who pinched his hat gave it back. Not very rock that. The young Knausgaard pens highly opinionated album reviews and I wish, like Nick Hornby or Brett Easton Ellis, he’d include more of this in his writing.

Reading Knausgaard must propel most readers into their own half-forgotten past. I imagine males find this particularly true of Book 3: Boyhood Island and Book 4: Dancing in the Dark revisiting those earliest years of life where memories are especially vivid and, in some cases, painful. Knausgaard manages to capture young Karl Ove’s, often gormless, viewpoints about those who people his life and himself. So often, he cannot see what is really happening or indeed, lacks self-awareness, especially of his own selfishness. When the penny drops it is often very painful. One is often led to remember the personal, salient and the somewhat less significant events too, from childhood while reading.

Knausgaard’s stated intention was to write in plain language, honest, simple and direct, without literary pretension. He captures boyhood and growing-up in an endlessly readable way. One does wonder about the translation by Don Bartlett and it is always hard to know and one tends to rely on the opinions of others as to how faithfully the work has been rendered from another language to English. I have read some criticism of Knausgaard’s tendency to sloppy writing or falling into cliché, especially in Book 3. The POV is of a young boy, so some argument could be made that it is to do with the simple characterisation or worldview but the interesting letter below suggests that the translation is sometimes limited.


Source: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n10/ben-lerner/each-cornflake


Here is an interview with Don Bartlett, the translator, that may interest.

It seems obvious to muse on how much, in the way of notes, diaries and stories that Knausgaard had to plunder when he commenced writing these novels. In Book Four, Karl Ove commences writing short stories while working in a school in the north of Norway and the reader recognises material from Book Three. One of the strengths of these two books is that he captures the worldview he held in these early years of life which is quite different to the adult POV of the first two books. Surely that cannot have just been memory and imagination? I’d like to know more about what Knausgaard had already written which he re-worked or found instructive, especially in understanding his own ways of seeing, at an early age. It seems to me he must have had extensive notes or journals.

I have commenced re-reading the first two books, now I know a little more about Knausgaard’s younger years, in preparation for the publication, in English, of My Struggle: Books Five and Six. It is interesting to contrast the style of the first two books, written before the storm of publicity broke, with the subsequent two. Journalists were tracking down his family and friends as his surname is uncommon in Norway and this cramped Knausgaard’s ability to be as trenchant. Knausgaard, according to some Norwegian reviews, returns to form for Book Six, which looks very interesting as he writes about that other author to write about their struggle – Adolph Hitler! Now I think about it, some of the multimedia display that I saw at Bergen University last year, was Knausgaard reading from Book Six about the challenges to Norwegian notions of democracy caused by the massacre perpetrated by Anders Breivik. Here’s two stills from the reading:

flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

The Lake District

I have a pile of books, that are loosely about nature, walking, literature and travel to read but doubt I will enjoy many of them as much as this story about a shepherd, his life and musings about place and family. A Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebanks is a truly wonderful read and certainly has given me greater insight into the culture of the land so many walkers love, unaware of the traditions that have shaped the landscape, in Cumbria and surrounds.

Rebanks writes about a range of subjects that interested, especially if familiar with The Lake District. His musings about the poets and writers who have shaped the imaginations of tourists and travellers over the centuries are really thoughtful. He also talks about class, Beatrix Potter and the professional relationship with she had with her own shepherd (their letters have been published).

It seems like an unlikely book to recommend to educators but there are some insights to be gained that translate well beyond the school the author attended in the North of England. Rebanks describes his alienation from a school that had no respect for anyone who would plan to stay and work locally rather than move away to university. Interestingly, Rebanks does just that as an adult when he studies at night and eventually gains a university education. There’s some great passages musing about the nature of schooling, teaching and respect that are really worth reading.

His twitter account is worth following, if you like this kind of thing:

The North Sea

Barry Cunliffe opened my eyes to the trade and travel along the Atlantic seaboard in the period prior to 800 BC and I am super keen to read his latest book: By Steppe, the Deserts and the Ocean (October 2015). In the meantime, The Edge of the World: How the North Sea Made Us What We Are by Michael Pye is a very satisfying read focusing on the post-Roman period. Pye regales the reader with story after fascinating story that helps us to see this period in a different light. In many ways, he describes what could be effectively viewed as a period of modernisation rather than a ‘dark age’. Pye specifically explores how trade led to common understandings and cultures for money; the books; fashion; written law; science; and, the growth of cities.

Silver worked: small, thick silver coins that were often minted locally. The Frisians minted them with the old god Wotan on one side, with spiked hair, a drooping moustache and eyes that stare out like goggles; and on the other side a serpentine kind of monster with clawed feet and a high tail. The Anglo-Saxons in England imitated the Frisians, and put a creature like a porcupine on their silver, or sometimes a king.

The first I really knew of the Frisians was via Melvyn Bragg’s, The Adventure of EnglishOf course, I had some sketchy understanding that the Frisian language was the oldest spoken antecedent of Old English but Pye has really fleshed out these people in a number of other important ways. He suggests that as Rome declined, the Frisians became an important link for the North Sea communities. These people are briefly mentioned in Tacitus and The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that the Frisians had a distinctively boat-building style that was clearly different to the Danish longship. Pye says Frisian means ‘merchant’. These people ‘reinvented’ money and were key in controlling the ports where trade routes flourished, often using the old Roman roads.

Fashion may have a longer, stranger history than we thought. The great sagas from Iceland have everything you expect: heroes, killings, dragons, feuds, great voyages and great horrors; they also have something less likely, they have dandies.

The chapters on the book trade and fashion are particularly interesting. The importance of the written word led to ‘significant libraries libraries in England’ by the 7th Century CE. The beautiful, rare and expensive books were a currency in themselves and often, when lent, travelled much further afield than expected. Originally transcribed in Gaul, the Irish scribes taught the Anglo-Saxon ones their trade and a burgeoning industry developed.

I knew much of what was in the chapter on the book trade already but the quotes and excerpts regarding fashion were an eye-opener. I knew that cloth was a currency but the importance of fashion in both confirming and undermining status and social hierarchies was fascinating. I was surprised, considering it all, that books on fashion did not really exist until the sixteenth century. Pye does range across the centuries, often from sentence to sentence, and his commentary about fashion may have benefitted from a less rangy approach. This is not a real issue though, especially when there’s such a cavalcade of historical characters to be enjoyed. Philip Stubbes, ‘a professional moralist’, who was greatly concerned at the importance of fashion to all classes and he mocked the ‘great and monstrous Ruffs’ that ringed Elizabethan necks, would have read that tome with disgust, no doubt. Stubbes was the crustiest of conservatives and his concerns have been echoed ever-since. “He made choice seem like sin”.

“The inhabitants of England go bravely in apparel changing fashions for every day for no cause so much as to delight the eyes of their whorish mates withall, and to inamour the minds of their fleshly paramours.”

Pye’s bibliography is impressively extensive, as is his thesis, that too much regard has been paid to our Roman heritage rather than the cultures that flourished around the North Sea. I should acknowledge that I enjoyed a perceived weaknesses in his thesis, that is, the scant regard he pays to Roman christianity and the influence it wielded in the formation of Western Europe. I thought that quite refreshing!

What have you been reading?

The post June 2016: My Reading appeared first on Darcy Moore's Blog.

Categories: Planet

Thoughts on #ISTE2015 Monday

ISTE is huge. I mean really huge. There are something like 20,000 people here in Philadelphia. There are a lot people here I want to see and talk to. I was able to connect with a bunch of them on Monday. Very lucky in some cases and we happened to bump into each other. Others I sought out and still others tend to be interested in the same things I am.

The exhibit hall is also huge. It is, depending on your point of view, the worst thing about ISTE or the best thing. There are a lot of people who get paid to speak about education and technology who will tell you the exhibit hall is too commercial. and down right evil.  And there are a lot of others who will agree with them. Other people see the exhibit hall as a place to learn about new technology and learn how to use it to teach better. I lean towards the latter. Yes, there are companies who are just interested in making a buck and others who are out to control education whether their products work or not. But I believe that most people in the exhibit hall honestly believe they are offering tools that will help make education better. Some of them may even be right!

I tried to get into a session on educational use of Minecraft. The line was huge and there were easily twice as many people as could possibly be allowed into the room. Needless to say I didn’t get in. I got a brief demo of it at the Microsoft booth but I still don’t “get it.” There are other sessions this week and maybe one of them will make it clear to me.

Also at the Microsoft booth I learned how to create a Sway. “Sway is an app for expressing your ideas in an entirely new way, across your devices.” It looks like it may be a more interesting way for students to share information. And maybe for me as well.

I also learned about a new student response system. I’ll blog more about that after a) it is officially released and b) I have a chance to try it out. I am hopeful it will make my classes more interactive.

Beyond that I am excited about all the robots and 3D printers on display in playgrounds (being demonstrated by teachers) and on the exhibit floor. My wife and I picked up a pair of Ozobots and a Finch robot that she will use in her school. OK one of the Ozobots will probably run around my desk in the fall. A lot of people seem to be using robots to help teach programming these days. (Note I list a lot of educational robots elsewhere on my blog)

The Maker movement is alive and well at ISTE. Lots of playground and poster sessions. Lots of 3D printers as I said. Most of the 3D printer companies seem to be developing curriculum materials as well. The authors of Makerbot’s curriculum guide are at ISTE trying to talk to teachers about how they are using 3D printers so they can improve the book for the next version. I find their people very friendly and very willing to help teachers BTW.

Tuesday I have some more sessions I want to attend. And I hope to talk to more people. The one on one conversations are often as educational as sessions. And I only made it about a third of the way through the exhibit hall today. So lots to see and learn.

Categories: Planet

How to Actually Use Your 3D Printer: 17 Tips I learned my first year [Link]

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 30 June, 2015 - 09:05
How to Actually Use Your 3D Printer: 17 Tips I learned my first year Vicki Davis’ Edutopia Blog
June 29, 2015

I named my 3D printer Bob Marley. He just jammed and smoked at first. But after persistence, we jammed in a good way.

In this blog post, I share 17 tips for using a 3D printer. I learned these tips the hard way. If you read this post, you can save time.

Read: Year One with a 3D Printer: 17 Tips

3d Printer

The post How to Actually Use Your 3D Printer: 17 Tips I learned my first year [Link] appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

Many Education Games Are Worksheets with Points. 6 ways to find better learning games.

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 30 June, 2015 - 08:11

ECM 155: EdGaming expert Kae Novak tells us how to find good learning games for kids.

Stop telling kids that every game is fun. They’re not. Some stink. Some rock. The word “game” doesn’t make learning great. Games shouldn’t be worksheets with points. There’s research behind good games. Learn to tell the difference. Your students will thank you.

Listen to Kae Novak talk gaming on iTunes

Listen to Kae Novak online

Where are we going wrong with games in the classroom? As Kae Novak @kzenovka shares in the show, too many games have a “chocolate on broccoli” approach. She should know, she’s the chair of the ISTE Games and Simulations network. She teaches us all how to use games in the classroom. Kae says,

Pedagogy first, then technology. @kzenovka Powered By the Tweet This PluginTweet This

What is chocolate on broccoli? I asked teachers on the ECM Awesome Educator Network. They say:

  • “Where the students are “told”  – eat this [game name omitted] game. It’s good for you.” Ann Oro @njtechteacher
  • “Pretty much all of the drill and practice ‘games’ are like that. They seemed to work 20 years ago when computers were new and novel. Kids are far beyond that today.” Alfred Thompson @alfredtwo
  • Dr. Lee Graham@ak_leeg says the teachers she instructs, “call those games ‘computerized worksheets.’”

When I taught my children math facts, flashcards got boring. They preferred Math Baseball. It helped. Memorizing happens. But if it is the only thing happening, you’re not educating.

What can good games do for us?  Ernie Easter, 35-year retired teacher from Maine, says,

I have seen the results [of Minecraft] with my three granddaughters, ages 6, 8 & 10, at home. Our 8-year old’s reading blossomed when she started playing Minecraft and watching the videos. Her language expression also just exploded.

In a good game, learning is part of the fun. Let’s find good games. Let’s teach with them.

6 Ways to Find Good Games for Learning
  1. Understand what makes a good game. Jim Gee has researched what makes a good game: identity, interaction, production, risk taking, customization, and agency. The first step in understanding a “good game” is reading Gee’s paper “Good Video Games and Good Learning.” It explains good games simply.
  2. Become a game master. Kae says to read The Multiplayer Classroom by Lee Sheldon. It will help you create exciting good game learning experiences.
  3. Find Good Games. Kae likes the Games for Change website. They focus on the “good games model.” She says you should still check every game before using them with kids. (After learning what a good game is, you can find them yourself on sites like  Graphite, Appolicious, and Gamifi-ed.)
  4. Learn Best Practices. Join the ISTE Games and Simulations Network.
  5. Connect with other teachers using games. Kae has two ways: 1) MetaGame Book Club and the 2) Inevitable Betrayal Educator Guild.
  6. Consider how games can teach more. In addition to learning things, some games can impact attitudes, motivation, and successful habits. (Note for educators: Kae says games can also impact the affective domain, not just the cognitive domain.)
Before I write a show’s blog post, teachers are talking about the show. We do this on the Every Classroom Matters Awesome Educator Network. It is a closed group on Facebook. You’re invited if you’re an educator. 8 Every Classroom Matters Shows with Gaming/Gamification Experts

Listen and learn more about gaming.

The post Many Education Games Are Worksheets with Points. 6 ways to find better learning games. appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

The Power of “I Don’t Know”

The Principal of Change George Couros - 30 June, 2015 - 00:42

My idea of a leader or an administrator when I was starting early on in my career, was that they were “all knowing”, like some type of “Wizard of Oz” figure.  What I realized was that not only was this not possible, but something is actually lost when we do not feel comfortable to say “I don’t know”.  I have noticed some administrators, when told of a new idea, feel the need to say, “I thought of that a long time ago”, are playing a game where they feel the need to always assert their status as “leader”, when in fact, it actually disconnects.

Think of the difference between saying, “I had already thought of that idea”, as opposed to, “I never thought of that…that is a really great idea”.  Essentially you are not only giving power over (which some are afraid of losing), but you are showing value in the ideas of others.

With a lot of things that I have found myself thinking about, I am not as much “black or white”, as I am somewhere in the middle of grey.  Lately, I have more questions than answers, but the point is that I am trying to understand new and complicated ideas. “Not knowing” is part of this journey.

This post was inspired by Dean Shareski’s latest blog posts on having conversations, where he keeps using the word “trust”, which is needed to really go deeper into our own learning.  This tweet nicely summarizes some of my thoughts on the topic:

@gcouros @shareski Its pride wanting 2 look impressive 2 others that we have it 2gether, we don’t. World dmands perfection We crave honesty.

— Kerry Odonga (@KerryOdonga) June 29, 2015

Think of that student that is in your class, that tells you something, to which you respond, “I did not know that! Thanks for sharing that with me.” Once they realize they were able to teach something new to the person of “authority” in the room, it creates a much more powerful dynamic in the relationship.  Adults are no different, especially when they feel they can teach the “expert” something that they didn’t know.  To gain trust, we have to give up power.

Empathy is crucial in developing the innovator’s mindset, and that takes listening, and trying to understand someone else’s viewpoint, while being able and open to learn from them as well.  It is not about who can shout the loudest, but often who can listen best. Being open to learning from others, is crucial to our own development.

Image created by @SylviaDuckworth

Being able to say, “I don’t know” and being willing to be able to go find out, is much more conducive to building relationships than “I already knew that”.  Great leaders often show vulnerability, which in turn, helps develop teams that feel their contributions are not only valued, but necessary. Learning organizations value learning together over learning from one. Saying “I don’t know”, is crucial to not only our own curiosity, but shows an authenticity that helps to build relationships with those that we serve.


Categories: Planet

Interesting Links 29 June 2015

I’m at ISTE in I’ve already connected with a few old friends and hope to connect with many more. If you are also at ISTE I hope you’ll track me down. I’m attending as many CS related sessions as I can. For links this week I have a mix. Some information about what looks like a great professional development opportunity and some humor for teaching about passwords among other things.

Last week Microsoft hosted a teacher boot camp  for about 40 teachers to learn about teaching with the material that is used in Harvard’s famous CS50 course. They are hosting a second on at Harvard in early August. More information at  https://cs50.wufoo.com/forms/register-for-cs50-ap-bootcamp/

Katie O'Shaughnessey ‏@KTOCompSci (shown below) has been blogging about the Redmond boot camp. I think she had fun!

Spaceballs 12345 is a funny bit from the classic movie Spaceballs it’s a humorous example of bad passwords

Bloomberg Business has an interesting article about The Old Coding Languages That Refuse to Die How did they leave out BASIC? 

Five of the Best Computer Science Classes in the U.S. is also from Bloomberg Business. You’ll find Harvard’s CS 50 on the list.

9 App Features That Developers Should Consider When Creating EdTech Apps is an interesting article from Sam Patterson @SamPatue If you are thinking about having students write educational applications

Categories: Planet

Are you willing to take the hit?

The Principal of Change George Couros - 28 June, 2015 - 04:02

I was recently listening to a Seth Godin podcasts regarding “Startups“, and it reminded me of something earlier in my life. Having grown up playing any sport I could try at a young age, I at one time played baseball. It was not my favorite sport nor was I particularly any good, but it was something to do in the summer. Like most young kids, it started with TeeBall, and then a coach throwing, followed by kids allowing to pitch.

As I got older, I remember one pitcher who threw so fast, yet so wild. Nights before the game against his team, I would stay up all night worried about getting hit hard by a pitch, like I saw so many others going through. I remember thinking, “I really don’t like this sport that much to get hit in the head”, and at the end of the season, I quit.

Godin used the analogy about his own childhood in Buffalo playing hockey, and he described three ideas that stick out to him if you are going to be successful.

It helps if you know what to do.
Are you able to do it?
Do you care enough to get hit?

To be successful, we know that it takes hard work and to develop skill in any area, but we rarely mention and focus on the “hits” that we could take. Every time I write a blog post, I’m vulnerable to criticism and pushback, but I want to develop in what I do because I am passionate about my work.

I watch young Vine celebrities with millions of followers, get criticized often simply because they make videos. Brandon Bowen talked about some of the taunts he received about his weight, and he simply said “I just block out the haters”, and continued to do what he loves.  I am sure that it is something that sticks with him, but not to the point where he would quit.

Anything worth doing is going to be risky and open to criticism. Sometimes justified and sometimes simply because of  schadenfreude. But I love the following saying:

That’s why I have never really focused on celebrating “failure”, but on grit and resiliency, as on any journey you will take a couple of hits, and fall a few times, but as the movie character Rocky famously said,

“But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits…”

Sometimes we have to realize that some of the hits we have taken are not worth it, not because we are weak, but maybe it’s just not something we love. Sometimes quitting shows more bravery than continuing to do something you don’t love. But if you truly are passionate about something, don’t let falling down keep you from getting back up to do what you love.

Categories: Planet

School’s out Friday

Lucacept - Jenny Luca - 26 June, 2015 - 23:26

I suspect many of you have seen this on mainstream media this week. Cats can certainly wind up in some funny spaces – seeing this brought to mind an experience I had with my dearly loved and recently departed cat, Bella. And yes, if you’re a regular reader you may recall me mentioning our loss last year of our dearly loved dog, Bella. That’s right, we had two animals in the same house with the same name. It’s a long story. Suffice to say, two animals often fronted for dinner when called!

But back to the story related to the video above. My parents live nearby, around ten minutes away. I drove there one day, stopping at a set of lights on the way. When I arrived, I could hear a cat wailing when I stepped out of the car. I thought I must have hit the neighbour’s cat so started looking around the car for an injured animal. No sign, but the wailing continued. I eventually narrowed it down to the bonnet of my car. Lifted it, and yep, there was Bella, huddled on top of the engine, wailing. I spent time in the weeks after this checking where Bella was before venturing out for any car trip!

Bella, daredevil cat, is on the left. Bonnie, far too slothful for any such adventure, is still with us and on the right. No need to check my car when I venture out now. She’s never going to be hidden in the engine – that would require too much effort!

Have a great weekend. Seek out enjoyment. Make it your mission.  Just avoid positioning yourself on the wing of a glider or the top of a car engine.  :)


Categories: Planet

Free Technology for Teachers: How to Use PicCollage - And Five Ideas for Using It In Your Classroom

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 26 June, 2015 - 17:50


  • "PicCollage is one of my favorite Android and iPad apps. It is a free that allows you to quickly arrange pictures, video, text, and stickers into collages. From the app you can share your collage to Google Drive, Instagram, Facebook, Dropbox, and many other file sharing services. In the video below I demonstrate how to use it without creating a PicCollage account." - Rhondda Powling

Tags: how to, PicCollage, ideas, educational technology, images, photographs

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

Learning is Relational

The Principal of Change George Couros - 26 June, 2015 - 04:59

Sitting in a session with Tracy Clark, about “A Posture of Experimentation“, she asked us to fill in the blanks on the following statement:

Trying something new is like ___________  because _________.

This was a great exercise in having the group think about, and embrace the opportunities for our own growth.

As I thought about it, it is easy to promote the ideas of others embracing their own personal growth, but as educators, both with our colleagues, and our students, do we create environments that are safe for this type of “experimentation”? For example, I walked into a classroom recently and saw the sign that stated, “Do it right the first time.”  This does not promote the mindset.  Although it is easy to criticize this quote, I honestly would have had the same mindset in my classroom as a teacher when I started in 1999. You often create, what you experience.  But the reality is that it is easy to say, “try something new”, without the work of creating an environment that is safe for this type of experimentation.  In education, this is not simply on one person or group, but about us as a whole.

Even this past week, I watched a Twitter account have their grammar corrected by someone (who was thankfully not an educator) online in a very blunt manner.  Was their grammar incorrect? Yes. Did it really matter? No.

Although I saw the tweet and the response and thought it was not the best way to use the medium, I did not know the person behind the account, until they showed up to my session.  They just happened to be a high school student who was actually crushed by the public correction.  Did this interaction, as small and little for one person, help create a mindset in another individual that was open to “taking risks”?  (I did end up tweeting everyone to follow that account and hopefully made them feel a little bit better!)

This happens online though, but I have seen the same interactions in classrooms and meetings as well.  Instead of seeking first to understand, we can often be quick to correct or squash the ideas and thoughts of others, instead of asking questions or seeking first to understand.  This is not about being “fluffy” and not challenging the ideas of others, or even our students, but it is about creating an environment where this feels safe, and is about helping others, not tearing them down.

Learning is relational. It is not simply a transfer of knowledge between two people or parties, so the connections and moments we have with each other are also crucial to growth. This safe environment is necessary if we want people to truly take risks.

Categories: Planet

What will go if we teach CS?

It’s a constant question that comes up when we talk about adding (more) computer science to K-12 curriculum. Katie O'Shaughnessey talked about it in her excellent post Day -1: #cs50bootcamp: It’s all about scheduling in schools… what will go if we teach CS? Brian Sea asked me via Twitter “why not ask students? They can vote with their feet.” If only it were that easy.

Yes, in theory students can vote with their feet – they can sign up for the courses they want to sign up for. In practice school guidance counselors have a lot of influence and they don’t always see the need for more CS. Much of the reason for that is that they are influenced by college admissions officers who don’t seem to emphasis the value of computer science in their process. Many of us have been asking for universities to look for more CS in incoming students for years with little progress.

The only way to really get enough  people to have some exposure to CS in K-12 (or perhaps focus in during high school) is for there to be a required course. That pushed the “where will it go” question and the fighting begins.

Art, music and world language departments are often the ones with the most skin in this game. They are the departments that depend on elective courses the most. And they are important courses. Adding a new required course may very well cut back on their enrollment. The schedule of a school day is a zero sum game.

I wonder though if the problem is not overstated in many schools. I teach at a Catholic school where four full years are required. We still require more credits than most of the local public schools. If we can find room for four full year courses why can’t other schools find room for one semester or even full year of CS? Oh and by the way we do have a CS requirement or graduation.

I think that rather than assuming the schedule is full schools should look at what is actually happening in student schedules. If there are study halls or students only taking a couple of courses their senior year than clearly there is room for a required CS course. If not, well, than maybe something does have to go but with the increasing importance of CS in every facet of life room for CS needs to be found.

Categories: Planet

Simplicity and reliability

Bluyonder Greg Whitby - 25 June, 2015 - 11:10

Essa Academy

Six years ago, Hayward School on the outskirts of Manchester in the UK was considered a failing high school.  A new principal arrived with a new vision, new leadership team and an expectation that every child can learn and succeed.  It was turned into an Academy, renamed Essa and today it is lauded as a school with a 90 percent pass rate.

Last week, one of its directors, Abdul Chohan was in Parramatta to share Essa’s learnings.  Reflecting on Essa’s learning journey, Chohan said that changing beliefs led to changing behaviours.  Starting with a clear vision, they began encouraging and resourcing teachers who were willing to try new approaches.  These teachers were asked to find another teacher in the school who could try out the idea and if it worked, they brought it forward to the wider community.  This approach to building critical mass had the advantage of teachers leading the change and the professional learning.

Not surprising, the Academy operates within an anywhere, anytime, anything learning environment.  However, Chohan is quick to point out that Essa has no technology plan only a learning plan.  The talk is always on the pedagogy and the tools are in place to enable and deepen the learning.  One of the big lessons for Essa was the move away from learning management systems (LMS) and virtual learning environments (VLE) to an iOS platform.  Simplicity and reliability are the criteria because it allows teachers to maintain a relentless focus on the learning not the tools.

All students have an iPad and the Academy uses iTunes U (the largest repository for educational material in the world) for teaching and Showbie (app for assessment and feedback) for learning.  Using the Open University model as a framework for delivering engaging content, the Academy’s teachers work together to plan, develop and assess coursework.  Chohan mentioned that they now have students demonstrating their learning by creating course content for iTunes U!

Sharing learning is deeply embedded in the vision of Essa Academy: All Will Succeed.  The Academy’s vision underpins everything they do and is inclusive of everyone. It is a great example of one school sharing its experiences and learning so that other schools and students can also succeed.










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