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Taking Notes vs. Taking a Picture of Notes; Which Wins?

The Principal of Change George Couros - 24 August, 2015 - 04:29

Although I have seen this picture before, I saw it tweeted again recently:

Although this seems like a no-brainer as a method to quickly capture information, there is also the challenge that if you want to “retain” information, writing it down is a much better method.  In an article titled, “Want to retain information? Take notes with a pen, not a laptop”, the author shares the following:

To examine the possible advantages of longhand note taking, researchers from Princeton and UCLA subjected students to several TED Talks and then – after a break featuring “distractor tasks” designed to disrupt memory – quizzed them on their recall of the content. Students were equipped with either (internet-free) laptops or paper notebooks while they watched the talks and instructed to take notes as they normally would for a class. Test questions included both factual recall (names, dates, etc.) or conceptual applications of the information.

Because the quantity and quality of notes have been previously shown to impact academic performance, students’ notes were also analyzed for both word count, and the degree to which they contained verbatim language from the talks. In general, students who take more notes fare better than those who fewer notes, but when those notes contain more verbatim overlap (the mindless dictation issue) performance suffers. As one might expects, students who watched the TED Talks equipped with laptop were able to take down more notes, since typing kicks hand-writing’s butt in terms of speed. However, the luxury of quick recording also resulted in the typed notes having significantly more verbatim overlap than the written ones, and this was reflected in test scores. While, laptop and longhand note takers both fared similarly on factual questions, those taking the tedious pen-and-paper notes had a definite edge on the conceptual questions. So while laptops allowed students to generate more notes (on average a good thing), their tendency to encourage writing down information word-for-word appeared to hinder the processing of information.

So one is easier and much less time consuming, and one seems to improve the ability to “retain” information and be able to share it back.  So which one is better for learning?

How about neither?

The ability to simply obtain information and recite it back is not necessarily learning as much as it is regurgitation.  I might better be able to retain the facts shared, but it doesn’t mean I understand them.  On the other hand, if I am taking a picture, putting it in my camera roll and doing nothing with that information, then really, what good is that?

What is important here is how you make your own connections for deep learning.  Taking a picture is obviously much less time consuming (why would not just give the information over in the first place?) than writing notes, so with the extra time, the ability to do something with the information is where the powerful opportunities for learning happen.  For example, taking this picture and writing a blog post on it, will help me more than simply retweeting the picture out in the first place.  When I speak, I try to challenge people to create something with the information I have shared, whether it is write a blog post, reflection, podcast, video, or any other type of media.  If they really want to process what I have shared, they will need to make their own connections, not the connections I have made for them.

Having easy access to the information is great, but what we do with it, is what really matters.

“The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it).” Thomas Friedman

Categories: Planet

A Really, Really Well-Written Set Of Classroom Rules

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 23 August, 2015 - 22:55


  • "Classroom rules posters for those who believe that behavior is not only learned, but a product of self-awareness and self-respect–then a new tact must be taken. " - Rhondda Powling

Tags: teaching, class rules, education, classroom activities, posters

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

Starting a new job is like…

Lucacept - Jenny Luca - 23 August, 2015 - 21:42

…becoming a Mother for the first time.

There’s the anticipation of something new. The transition phase you move through as you leave one life behind and approach the next. The sense you have of being competent in what it is you do and a quiet assuredness that this next stage will be OK, you’ll be up for it.

Then it happens. The birth of the new. There’s the intake of breath when you walk through the door and appreciate the expectation, the responsibility that lies with you.  The realisation that you really don’t know the rules, that you have so much to learn. You need to understand the personality, appreciate that it’s developed and you need to work with it, not fight against it.

You leap in, because it demands that you do. Sometimes there is calm, but often there is chaos as you stumble from one new experience to the next. You are constantly learning, and it engulfs you. You feel out of your depth and you seek reassurance  – you are grateful when others reach out and offer support, a kind word, an encouraging smile.

As the weeks go by, the new becomes more familiar. There are ups and downs, moments where confidence reigns and moments where it plummets, but gradually, you begin to find a routine. You begin to move in step with the new.

You’ve reached an understanding, a reciprocal relationship. You’re in this together.

Categories: Planet

Curriculum - The messy field of education

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 23 August, 2015 - 16:50


  • A discussion of curriculum review and nationalisation reveals a messy field with no clear way of meeting the needs of all involved. What lessons might we learn from high-performing international systems and what are the dangers of borrowing ideas? - Nigel Coutts
  • http://treehousecottages.co.in/
    Tree House Jaipur - World's largest, most unique, 5 Star & Luxury Tree House Resort. Located atop "trees", the tree have several live branches running through the rooms making nature universal in the Lap of luxury. Jaipur Airport is 40 km from Tree House resort Jaipur - hill_stations

Tags: education, learning, teaching

by: Nigel Coutts

Categories: International News

Hopes for the Future

The Principal of Change George Couros - 22 August, 2015 - 08:48

I thought this was a very powerful video:

Just an idea…would this not be an amazing project to do with students if they talked about their hopes and dreams for both long term and short term? What would they hope for at the end of the school year? What would they hope for ten years from now?

Developing the questions for themselves would be powerful as well. This could make not only for a neat project, but it could help you understand the hopes and dreams of the students that we serve, and build relationships with students in a pretty powerful way.

As the new year is upon us for many teachers and students in parts of the world, a question I always think about is, “What would the students say about this year ten or twenty years from now? What impact will this year have on their lives?” Every moment is precious and while so many are so focused on the future, it is greatly important to remember to also be fully immersed in the present. This year could mean all of the difference to many students.

Categories: Planet

How I Spent My Summer Break From School

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 21 August, 2015 - 20:21
I'm in school today - first day back for teachers. I guess that means that summer is over for me. Every fall and through the year I always tell myself that I’m going to spend the summer doing what my friend Lou Zulli calls “retirement practice.” And every summer I pretty much fail to do this. This summer was no exception. Oh I did get out to the golf course during the week a couple of times but no where near what I thought  I’d do. Rather I spent a lot of time on professional development. I might even have over done it.

Image from SimpleK12’s Facebook page

First was ISTE in Philadelphia. My wife who is a library media specialist really loves this conference. I like it as well. Not as much CS as I’d like but more than there used to be. So I learned some things for sure.

Next was the CSTA Annual Conference followed by the CSTA board meeting. I love this conference. I learned quite a bit both at sessions and informal conversations. If you teach computer science and only do one PD event a year THIS is the one to do.

I was home over night and left for an unconference in Charleston SC. This one was small but everyone there could (and many have) speak at ISTE or CSTA. Most attendees were Microsoft Innovative Educators including some people who have gotten national and international awards for their innovation in the classroom. Inspiring only begins to capture it.

The last big event was a two day teacher boot camp at Harvard regarding their adapting of CS50 for the AP CS Principles course. That was pretty cool and I learned a few things I will be using in class this year.

Like most teachers I spent a lot of time working on my curriculum. Every year I try to take what I have learned from teaching the previous year and use it to improve. I think I’m ready. Well close anyway.

In case you are interested in more about any of these events I did blog about them over the summer.
ISTECSTACharleston Mini-ConferenceCS50 AP Teacher Boot Camp
Categories: Planet

What about the title of “teacher”?

The Principal of Change George Couros - 20 August, 2015 - 20:20

There is an interesting conversation that was started by Daniel La Gamba on Twitter, regarding the terms “sage on the stage” and “guide on the side” in reference to the changing role of the teacher.  It started with the following tweet and his attached blog post:

Instead of sage on stage/guide on side; what about guide on stage? http://t.co/JQVnA4sgWf #edchat @avivaloca @ajjuliani @gcouros @dougpete

— Daniel La Gamba (@DanielLaGamba) August 15, 2015

Daniel facilitates some great discussion on the topic and the following conversation on Twitter that has gone on for a few days, reminded me of why I love the medium so much.

In the pursuit of creating the new cool title for a teacher, maybe it is more important that we understand the role of a teacher, instead of trying to give it a new name.  Instead of saying, “You shouldn’t be a ‘sage on the stage’, but a ‘guide on the side'”, maybe it is about understanding the fluidity of the role.  That sometimes a teacher is the sage on the stage, and sometimes the teacher is the guide on the side.  Sometimes they are an “architect of learning experiences” but sometimes, they let the student design the experiences themselves.  Sometimes teachers can lead the learning, and sometimes they have to take part in the learning (in the classroom). Sometimes it is doing both at the same time.  This also doesn’t recognize when a teacher has to decide between when to be firm, and when to soften up.

Maybe we need to realize that for years, the title of “teacher” encompasses all of these things (and more), and instead of renaming the role, we just have to talk about the shifts that are happening, and how the best teachers in the world have always recognized that the title of “teacher” means a lot more than what we have given the term credit for.  Some of the best teachers I have ever known have done all of the things that I have discussed and so much more, and the title of “teacher” was one that was defined by how they brought the role to life, not how someone else named and defined it.

If we embrace  and understand that the role of the teacher can change multiple times daily, and that the title does not mean any one singular thing, we might spend less time trying to change the title, and more time focused on the actions that make it so meaningful in the first place.

Categories: Planet

Digital Storytelling: What it is… And… What it is NOT | Langwitches Blog

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 20 August, 2015 - 18:02


  • A great post that goes into some detail about digital stoytelling by @langwitches.
    NB: Digital storytelling is NOT just a story told/created/published on a digital platform.

    - Rhondda Powling

Tags: digital storytelling, storytelling

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

Part 1: Over 35 Formative Assessment Tools To Enhance Formative Learning Opportunities | 21 st Century Educational Technology and Learning

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 20 August, 2015 - 17:51


  • In this post there are a range of good formative learning tools, in nine different categories, for use in the classroom.
    One teaher shares his ideas in this series. "Please keep  in mind they are only tools and are best utilized through the important art of teaching. " - Rhondda Powling

Tags: assessment, formative assessment, educational technology, tools, teacher tools, learning

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

Guidelines for Parliamentary Research Services

HeyJude Judy O'Connell - 20 August, 2015 - 12:23

The Guidelines for Parliamentary Research Services, a joint publication between IFLA and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), was launched on 13 August at the Section’s pre-conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

A working group comprised by members of the Section on Library and Research Services for Parliaments, led by Sonia L’Heureux, Parliamentary Librarian for the Parliament of Canada, compiled the guidelines based on their experience and in consultation with other members of the Section.

These Guidelines for Parliamentary Research Services are a new step in the capture of our collective knowledge. Developed in response to a persistent demand from members of the Section for guidance in strengthening research services for parliaments, this publication is an example of how results can be achieved by working together and by mutually supporting each other in our professional work. The Guidelines are grounded in the work that librarians and researchers carry out every day, in the reality they face while serving the institution they work in, and in the collective expertise and knowledge grown in the Section through cooperation, collaboration and the sharing of ideas.

The result is a document that takes into account different realities and parliamentary contexts, capacities and levels of development, organizational structures and institutional environments. As underlined in the publication,

“many considerations can shape the design of a parliamentary research service. The observations offered here should not be construed as strict recipes to be followed. Ultimately, they must be assessed and pursued with deference to the culture and context within which the parliamentary research service is established”.

The IPU translated and published the guidelines.

Filed under: Library 2.0, Research Libraries
Categories: Planet

NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Library Edition

HeyJude Judy O'Connell - 20 August, 2015 - 12:17

What is on the five-year horizon for academic and research libraries?  Always provocative, and worthwhile reading arrives again with the publication of the NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Library Edition examines key trends, significant challenges, and important developments in technology for their impact on academic and research libraries worldwide. This publication was produced by the NMC in collaboration with University of Applied Sciences (HTW) Chur, Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) Hannover, and ETH-Bibliothek Zurich. To create the report, an international body of experts from library management, education, technology, and other fields was convened as a panel. Over the course of three months, the 2015 NMC Horizon Project Library Expert Panel came to a consensus about the topics that would appear here. View the work that produced the report on the project wiki.

>Download the NMC Horizon Report > 2015 Library Edition (PDF)

Filed under: Innovation & Creativity, Learning 2.0, Library 2.0, Maker culture, Open Access, Research
Categories: Planet

Successful Parent Teacher Communication Tips

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 19 August, 2015 - 21:27

3 Important Times We Have to Talk

Students need parent teacher communication. We need to work together to help kids. There are three essential times for parent teacher communication.

The Global Search for Education has a monthly question. This month: “What are the best ways parents can help teachers and that teachers can help parents?”
  • Introductions
  • Ongoing communications
  • When problems or unforeseen circumstances happen

I’ve been a teacher for fourteen years and a Mom for twenty. I’ve seen the good and bad from both sides. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Introductions: Parent Teacher Communication Point #1 Teachers to Parents.

Seasoned educators stress that the first parent communication should be positive. Make a phone call. Host a meeting. First impressions are everything. If the first time you call a parent, it is for bad news, they are going to dread hearing your name.

Set expectations for ongoing and emergency communications.

Parents to Teachers.

Make your first communication positive too. Send a note. Be helpful. Set the tone. Even if you’re busy, a quick email to say you’re excited will help.

Tip #1: Start strong, eager to get along. Ongoing Communications: Parent Teacher Communication Point #2 Teachers to Parents.

Keep parents informed, but keep it short. I start off with email, but I’ve found that linking with a parent’s cell phone is vital. (Just texting them anytime is NOT the way. Use a tool like Bloomz.)

Share pictures, stories, and successes. Tell parents when a child succeeds at something. I try to communicate with parents every 7-10 days or when a major project is happening.

Go to ballgames. Be where the kids are. You can build great relationships at events.

Parents to Teachers.

Give teachers time to respond. If you email, realize that they are teaching during the day. If you text, be respectful and don’t do it too late.

Communicate concerns with the teacher first before taking it to the principal. When you don’t, you aren’t partnering, you’re trying to coerce.

Tip #2: Communicate consistently. Know how the other person likes to communicate. Listen. When Problems Happen: Parent Teacher Communication Point #3 Teachers to Parents

I have a rule. If I have bad news to tell someone, they will hear it from me first. Superintendent Joe Sanfelippo says,

“In the absence of knowledge, people tend to make up their own.”

A child gets teased. Something happens, and the teacher is involved. Nowadays, people who gossip have fingers of fire. Rumors fly.

When problems happen, I tell the principal and quickly call the parent. I want them to hear it from me first. I prefer verbal conversations over email.

Parents to Teachers

Problems at home. If a close family member is ill, a new child is born, or parents are divorcing — tell the teacher. Children internalize hurt. Eventually, it comes out in behavior. When teachers know, we can better understand a child. We can be more understanding.

Problems with the teacher. Listen to your child’s complaint. Before you communicate your thoughts with the child, contact the teacher. Hear the teacher’s side.

Advocate for your child. But realize that children need to be in a successful mindset to succeed with that teacher. You destroy that mindset when you criticize the teacher in front of the child. Teachers aren’t the enemy.

And realize this:

  • your child is not the only child in the classroom
  • the teacher is not a mind reader and may not know about this problem
  • you may not be hearing the whole story
We can work it out if we give each other the benefit of the doubt. But in the end, kids need people who care more about doing right than being right. In Conclusion

The success of our children is in our hands. Let’s clasp hands in helpfulness. Let’s work together to help kid’s lives be awesome.

The post Successful Parent Teacher Communication Tips appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

The Educator’s Guide to Pinterest | Edudemic

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 19 August, 2015 - 15:01


  • A good start for any teacher not already usig Pinterest. It explains how to set up an account, how others are using Pinterest, and a few places to fin some inspiration on this tool. - Rhondda Powling

Tags: pinterest, educational technology, tools, e-bulletin boards

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

10 Free Resources for Flipping Your Classroom | Edudemic

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 19 August, 2015 - 13:17


  • "This "Teacher’s Guide to Flipped Classrooms", offers one place for a teacher to go to if they want to try changing their classroom focus. You get a good grounding in the principles and mentalities that a flipped classroom requires.
    "The following 10 amazing (and free!) resources will further ensure the flipped classroom is as successful as can possibly be" - Rhondda Powling

Tags: flipped classroom, learning, teaching, tools, classroom_practises, classroom activities

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

8 things every teacher can do to create an innovative classroom | eSchool News | eSchool News

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 19 August, 2015 - 13:07


  • "Eight basic principles for the “Innovative Classroom,” around which one teacher designed a middle school course called Physical Computing. Some of the projects and tools are specific to that course, but the fundamental ideas could be applied to almost any course at any level" - Rhondda Powling

Tags: innovation, classroom activities, learning, teaching ideas

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

International School Library Guidelines

HeyJude Judy O'Connell - 19 August, 2015 - 12:09

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) has produced another significant international milestone for school libraries in the publication of the new IFLA School Library Guidelines. This achievement is thanks to the hard work of a team led by Barbara Schulz-Jones and Dianne Oberg, and has involved collaboration with many colleagues around the world through numerous workshops and meetings, substantive discussion and ongoing feedback. The editors are indebted to the contributions of members of the Standing Committee of the IFLA Section of School Libraries and the executive board of the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL), as well as the other members of the international school library community who shared their expertise and their passion for the project.

These guidelines constitute the second edition of the IFLA ‘School Library Guidelines’. The first edition of the school library guidelines was developed in 2002 by the School Libraries Section, then called the School Libraries and Resource Centers Section. These guidelines have been developed to assist school library professionals and educational decision-makers in their efforts to ensure that all students and teachers have access to effective school library programs and services, delivered by qualified school library personnel.

This will provide a strong and flexible up-to-date framework for the ongoing development of school libraries across the world although it will require revision again in the future.

In the words of Ross Todd this document:

  • provides a strong philosophical and empirical basis for the development of school libraries worldwide;
  • articulates a strong coordinated and international voice, something that is so critical in the diverse educational contexts around the world;
  • unifies, because it gives voice to transnational values that we hold very dear – a strong voice that can resonate across diverse cultural contexts and educational frameworks;
  • provides wonderful flexibility for individual countries, regions, local contexts to establish their own vision, mission and strategic development plans that recognize where countries and regions are at, and the complexities that they face; and
  • is such a strong foundation for the continuous development of libraries world wide.


To cite this document please use the following:
International Federation of Library Associations. 2015. IFLA School Library Guidelines.

Filed under: School Leadership, School Library, Teacher Librarianship
Categories: Planet

So You Think You Want To Be A Computer Science Teacher?

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 19 August, 2015 - 07:28

Recently I was asked an interesting question: “if a foresighted student asked how to prepare to be a CS teacher, what advice would you give him or her?”

My initial reaction was that I would first ask if they were interested in teaching first and CS as the subject to teach or if their interest was computer science but they didn’t want to work in a traditional CS career (ie. writing code for a living)? In the first case I thought I would recommend an education major and a CS minor. In the second a CS major and an education minor.

In the first case one would really want to go deep into education but one also needs a solid grounding in computer science. In the second case, one may find themselves looking outside of teaching at some point and the deeper and broader knowledge in CS would come in handy then.

But I’m not so sure those are the best recommendations. I have some experience with curriculum for a computer science major. I was on the ACM/IEEE 2013 task force after all. But I don’t know much at all about education programs. I got into teaching through a back door more or less.

I think my ideal answer would be to attend a program in computer science education so that one could learn both the CS and the specifics of how to  learn CS at the same time. Good luck trying to find an undergraduate program like that!

There are some people who think it is easier to teach a teacher the computer science they need to teach those courses than to teach a computer science person how to teach. I’m skeptical of that idea. I think it can be done either way and I’ve seen it work well both ways. But too often I think that a “repurposed teacher” learns enough to stay a lesson (or a week) ahead of their students that first year and is tempted to stay at that level. After all there is a lot of work involved in getting deeper into computer science.

Most high school computer programs don’t get much deeper than the first two or maybe three courses a computer science major in a university would take. So why bother learning more? I think we’d have a problem if a physics, math or English teacher only took the first two or three courses in that subject while in higher education. Sure there are people who make it but is that the way to bet your child's education? I don’t think so. We really want teachers to be subject matter experts.

We don’t see summer programs that promise to turn art teachers into English teachers in two weeks. Or English teachers into French teachers in 5 face to face sessions and Google Hangouts during the school year. Why are we so ready to accept that sort of thing in computer science?

Categories: Planet

“Hard Work is No Guarantee of Success”

The Principal of Change George Couros - 19 August, 2015 - 05:44

This is a post where I am trying to write to understand and process my thoughts.  I think it is important that we try to make the process of learning visible, not just what we have learned.

One of my favourite speakers of all time is Jim Valvano. His speech at the ESPY’s where his famous words of “don’t give up, don’t ever give up”, remain powerful so many years later. I love watching his other speeches as well, and in this one, he shares something his dad shared with him;

Hard work does not guarantee success, but lack of hard work guarantees that there will be no success.

I have noticed this theme in some articles that have passed through my feed as of late. James Harrison, a football player with the Pittsburgh Steelers known for his amazing work ethic, while also having one of the greatest touchdowns in Super Bowl history, shared how he took the trophies away from his children that they received for participating. He shared this on his Instagram below which has gone viral.

I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues

A photo posted by James Harrison (@jhharrison92) on Aug 15, 2015 at 10:09am PDT

This is not about demeaning the effort of people “showing up”. In myself, I am trying to get back into better shape, but going to the gym is not enough. It is what I do with that time that matters, and how I eat. It is a struggle. Waking up early to go to the gym means something, but not if I slack off while I am there, and do not achieve results.

This is also understanding that winning isn’t everything as well, but how we develop as people under adversity.  As a coach for many years, I would try to communicate to my team that at the end of the year, only one team would ultimately be the “champion”, so if we deemed success as winning it all, we would most likely fail.  But if we looked at how we developed as people, how we would look at working together as a team, and how we were when we faced adversity, those were things that were really important.  How you are when you win and how you are when you lose, in my opinion, are both equally important.

In an article titled, “Iterate, Iterate, Iterate, Innovate”, they share a story of how WD-40 came to be, it shares the name that the “40” comes from the number of times it took to get the formula right.

The term WD-40 is derived from “Water Displacement, 40th formula”.  It was the 40th formula the chemists tried before finding success. The product is produced by the Rocket chemical company and is distributed in over 160 countries.

If the company stops at 39, this is not being shared, but since it kept going, here we are talking about it.

I have shared before that failure is nor the thing that we should be celebrating, but the grit and resiliency to move forward. But “showing up” is only part of the story. I believe that school should be enjoyable, but I also believe that it should be challenging. “Flow” is something that we should constantly strive for in our learning with ourselves and our students, but it takes hard work.

Whether it is “success” or “innovation” or both that we are striving for, the common element is the work ethic that it takes to get to that point up. It goes way beyond showing up, and is important that we help to instill that into ourselves as well as our students.

Categories: Planet

Want kids to love school? Stop telling them they stink and find their strength.

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 18 August, 2015 - 20:52

The Teacher as a Talent Scout

Good schools don’t just teach you subjects. Good schools teach you about yourself.  A focus on strengths is the secret to a better school. We want students to be leaders, but we never let them lead. Let’s change that! Here’s how.


Do you want your teachers to be six times more engaged in teaching? Do you want your students 30 times more likely to be engaged in school? Would you like to triple your teachers’ quality of life? Then, focus on strengths, not weaknesses.

Recently, I sat down with, Dr. Brad Johnson on Every Classroom Matters. He says

“When you combine student talents with their passion you’ll find their purpose.”

We must move the emphasis from standards to strengths. Sure, we need to help kids with their weaknesses. Most people need basic math, reading, and writing.  But when we hyper-focus on weaknesses, we forget to nurture talent.

If Baryshnikov was born to dance, why should he die in trigonometry?

While I’ve already written up the show that inspired this post, I’ve been thinking about three of the ways Brad says we can focus on student strengths and make our schools stronger. (Read more, in his book What Schools Don’t Teach.) Here are some thoughts on what all of our schools should be doing.

1. Encourage teachers need to bring their talents to their teaching.

Figure out a way to teach with what you love. You’ll be more excited. Your students will too.

If you want to be more exciting, be excited. Think of what you love. Use it to teach. 2. Help students enjoy and appreciate their strengths and the strengths of other students.

A grade is not a measure of value as a person. Everyone matters or no one matters. (Hat tip Harry Bosch.)

Sadly, ask a student about where they stink, and they’ll answer.

Ask them about their strengths, and they’ll shrug.

What’s wrong with this picture? Don’t we give genuine compliments? And we only focus on the weaknesses? If a parent did that, we’d say they were a bad parent. Why are some schools getting away with it? 3. Create leadership positions for students.

Instead of giving strict instructions, we should be appointing leaders. Brad says,

We want students to have a leadership, but we never let them lead. @DrBradJohnsonPowered By the Tweet This PluginTweet This

Here are some of the job titles from my classroom this past year:

  • Project Manager (PM)
  • Assistant Project Manager (APM)
  • Lead Graphic Designer
  • Production Coordinator
  • Lead Programmer
  • Database Auditor
  • Audio Engineer

In my classroom, if there’s a job we create a title for it. Jobs have a responsibility. If there is responsibility, there is accountability. Accountability and responsibility cause incredible learning activity.

To teach leadership, we have to have leadership positions. Yes, it changes our classrooms. It makes us more of a coach. But that’s the way it should be.

Let students lead. Give them responsibility. Don’t be a dictator. How Do You Measure Up?

Do you give tests to help students find their strengths? (I do.) Are you only looking for weaknesses you can “fix”?

A 2007 neuroimaging study by Arnaud D’Argembeau of Belgium found the forward most region of the medial prefrontal cortex is important in

“Helping a person reflect on their traits and abilities versus those of others.”


How do we help students know themselves? Look for their strengths first.

Strength-finding is part of the brain that we can develop. We can shift from standards to strengths, from standardization to personalization, from weakness to wonderful.

As we look for strengths, we’ll build stronger schools.

As I started this year, I showed a picture of an uncut diamond to my students. I asked them what it was. Most didn’t know. I said it was valuable, but sometimes didn’t look like it. I said it represented them and it was an uncut diamond. My job this year is to help them find their talent. We might only find a few facets but that we’d look for it. I will know I have succeeded when I have told every parent and student something truthful that I’ve noticed that student does well.

The mentality of looking for strengths instead of deficits changes everything. The classroom becomes a place where we rejoice in talent. We celebrate talent. Students point out strengths of each student. I would daresay, it even makes class more fun.

How do you look for talent? How do you spot strengths? How do you communicate such a mindset to your students? Empower students with hope, don’t crush them with their incompetence. We can do this. We can help students find their talents. If you look at people who tell stories about great teachers, it was almost always those teachers who saw something in the student they didn’t see in themselves.

Be that kind of teacher. Be the noble teacher. Be a talent scout.

The post Want kids to love school? Stop telling them they stink and find their strength. appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

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