“Kids These Days . . . “

Adults these days start sentences with¬†“Kids these days . . . “ way too often. ¬†And here’s the thing that I want to point out about that phrase:

Any sentence starting with “Kids these days” is not an excuse. ¬†It is an observation (it’s also a loosey-goosey generalization, but we’ll save that for another post). ¬†However, adults often use it as an excuse.

So? ¬†Isn’t “excuse vs. observation” just syntax? ¬†Well, you may think it is¬†until you see an educator who’s struggling to lead his/her students to mastery shrug their shoulders and say something like “Kids these days want to play on their phones and video games instead of studying.”

Why is it important to draw the line in the sand between excuse and observation on this statement?

Excuse – “Sure, my students aren’t achieving mastery, but it’s not my fault – kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study.”

Observation – “Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . ”

What’s up with the “.¬†. .” in that observation?

Any good educator uses observations (a.k.a., informal formative assessments) to make decisions about how to best lead their students to deeper learning. ¬†It’s what you put after the dot dot dot that is what makes a good teacher a great teacher.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll try using gamification in my course.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll start integrating more technology into my teaching.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll look for an app that they can interact with on their mobile devices to continue their learning.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll learn about the apps, games and sites that they’re using to see what I can learn to support my instruction.”

The most important thing about this . . . 

If you’ve made it this far in this post, and I hope you have, then you get to hear what I consider to be the most important thing about “kids these days”:

We are teachers these days.
It is our responsibility to teach kids these days.
We can’t change them, nor should we want to.
Kids from “back in my¬†day” are gone.
Learn to understand kids these days.
Strive to inspire kids these days.


***NOTE: On 8/29/18, I received word on Twitter that TwitListManager is either no longer working or not working consistently. I haven’t confirmed “what’s up.” An alternative called twitterlistmanager.com was suggested.¬† I have not used it and cannot confirm its quality, safety or reliability. Others do recommend it though!***

If you’ve been on Twitter for a long time, you probably follow more people than you can possibly keep up with. ¬†And, if you’re like me, it probably bums you out when you’re missing some good posts from some of the people that you really want to see¬†everything from.

The solution is lists. ¬†Create lists in Twitter that contain the “important” people or that relate to a certain thing (i.e., the school you work for). ¬†Don’t worry: your lists can be private.

Well, if you’ve ever created lists in Twitter, you know that it’s clunky. TwitListManager is the best solution for that that I’ve found. ¬†Go to the site, log into Twitter and assign all of the accounts you follow to certain lists. ¬†Easy-peasy.


TwitListManager Animation

My strategy:

  • First, I have lists for my school district and my friends (I read every tweet in those¬†lists).
  • Second, I separate¬†everyone into Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3. ¬†Level 1 are the people who I really want to see posts from. ¬†I try to read all of them. ¬†Level 2 are people who I’d like to read the posts from, but they’re not a priority. ¬†Maybe if I have to wait an hour in the doctor’s office waiting room… ¬†Level 3? ¬†Well, I’m just following them to be polite.ūüė¨¬†Sorry, if you’re in Level 3!¬†ūüė¨
  • Finally, I have some other lists that I use at certain times. ¬†That includes things like the NFL Draft–I use that list for a few days every April–and Fantasy Football–I look at that lists on Sunday’s in the fall and when I’m setting my lineup.


The Draftback Extension

One of the earliest edtech tools that I recommended to the teachers involved in the Writing Ourselves project, which I am the Technology Director for, was the DraftBack Extension.  Once enabled, the extension allows you to playback your writing process for any doc that you are an editor on.  Obviously, the best use case for this would be to have students do this.

What a powerful way for students to reflect on their writing process and for educators to assess (and offer feedback on) the way that they go about the writing craft.  Awesome sauce.

Draftback animation

I was a Coward

I knew it as it was happening, too. ¬†A little voice in my head was yelling, “Don’t be a wimp! ¬†You’re missing an opportunity!” ¬†But I didn’t listen.

I had been frustrated with a quality educator whose mindset was blocking her from buying into a new initiative that was good for our learners.  I knew that the right conversations and experiences could ease her out of this mindset and help her move forward.

I had been thinking about it as I walked to the staff lounge to get my lunch. I was looking forward¬†to grabbing my lunch and heading back to my desk to watch a few videos from¬†my YouTube “Watch Later” list. ¬†And then . . . there she was. ¬†In the lounge. ¬†Eating alone. ¬†It was like fate. ¬†A perfect opportunity to have a friendly trust-building conversation and ease into working on that mindset.

But that didn’t sound enjoyable. ¬†So, I walked away. ¬†I knew it was the wrong thing to do, but sitting there sounded uncomfortable. ¬†Awkward. ¬†I was a coward.

If your goal is to be a leader or a coach, a catalyst or a bus mover, you’ve got to have the uncomfortable, unenjoyable conversations. ¬†You’ve got to take the first awkward steps at building rapport and trust. ¬†Those awkward steps are uncomfortable.

The steps you take when¬†walking away? ¬†Comfortable. ¬†Not awkward at all. ¬†But they’re missed opportunities.

I missed an opportunity that day. ¬†It won’t happen again.

I am not a technician.

I am not a technician. Technicians spent long hours and put in lots of work to become qualified to fix software, network, server, hardware and other technology issues. I can’t perform the tasks they can.

I, on the other hand, spent long hours and put in¬†lots of work to become qualified to lead in the integration of technology into the learning experience. For that reason, call me a Technology Integration¬†Specialist. I’ll accept¬†Tech Coach as well, but not technician. And please, don’t call either of us “tech guy” (or girl).

PS. If I help you fix something with your computer or other technology, it’s probably because fixing it benefits student learning and¬†not fixing it detracts from student learning. ¬†It’s all about the kids. ¬†Not the tech.

PPS. If I help you fix something with your computer or other technology that does not relate to student learning, it still does not make me a technician. It makes me nice. And you should buy me a cup of coffee for that. Or a burrito. Or a taco. I will also accept nachos. Heck, I’d be happy with a¬†“Thanks, bro!” and a fist bump.

Feedback & Improvement Happen Incrementally

I couldn’t stop laughing. ¬†My son was running all around the basketball court. ¬†Behind the coach, behind the player with the ball, under the hoop, out of bounds, into the backcourt, all over. ¬†And his defender was annoyed. ¬†I would have been embarrassed, but it was too funny to consider that option.

Image shows kids playing basketball and the title of this post: "Feedback & Improvement Happen Incrementally"

Why was my 7-year-old running around the court like a hyper chihuahua? Continue reading Feedback & Improvement Happen Incrementally

Reflections on “Misconceptions about Progressive Education” Video

I’m not sure where I found this video – at some point I put it into my YouTube Watch Later playlist – but when I sat down with my lunch one day and watched it, I was blown away by how spot on it was.

After researching a bit, I discovered that this video is from Green Acres School in Maryland. ¬†The gentleman in the center with the beard is Neal Brown, who appears to be their Head of School. ¬†To his right, with the dark hair, is Dan Frank from the Francis W. Parker School. ¬†To Brown’s left is Robert Shirley from Charleston Collegiate School. ¬†There is a series of videos from this event that I intend to watch in the future – probably over a turkey sandwich, bowl of cottage cheese and some Doritos – but for now I’d like to reflect on my favorite parts of this one.

Check out the video and then meet me in the space below the video to see some of my thoughts. Continue reading Reflections on “Misconceptions about Progressive Education” Video

EdTech Insight from Google’s Cyrus Mistry on The Chromebook Classroom Podcast

In the first episode of The Chromebook Classroom podcast, John Sowash interviews Cyrus Mistry, Group Product Manager, Android & Chromebooks for Education.  The episode is full of interesting nuggets about the history and future of Chromebooks, but my favorite part was something that Cyrus said about education in this information age.  It happens at about the 20 minute mark:

A teacher that used to have a section on learning the 50 capitals of the U.S., steps back and says “You know what? having all of these kids already have that¬†answer¬†makes me want to¬†give them a different type of skill: maybe more problem solving, maybe more critical thinking, maybe less memorization, maybe . . . ” Maybe it reminds them, that when the kid leaves or when they graduate, they’re all going to have Google in their pocket and the answer to every question. ¬†So what they won’t have, though, is that ability to critically think and to analyze . . . We see [the teachers]¬†moving to higher order learning.”

I think this is a really powerful point. Educational technology is not an opportunity for substitution.  It is not an opportunity for augmentation.  Nor is it an opportunity for modification.  It is  an opportunity for redefinition. (SAMR Model)

Check out the full episode below and follow John Sowash at @jrSowash.

STEM Fun at the Akron Children’s Museum

Akron Children's Museum Logo image
Akron Children’s Museum Logo image from http://www.akronkids.org/

The Akron Children’s Museum is a great place. ¬†I love spots that give my kiddos a chance to play, pretend, explore, discover and¬†learn¬†(Plus, the fact that they’re not making a mess of our house helps).

As an advocate for STEM learning, I am especially drawn to the activities that relate to engineering. ¬†So, in this post, I’ll share about those activities at the Akron Children’s Museum. ¬†They also have a lot of other fun things that involve pretending, climbing, playing and having a blast. ¬†I recommend checking it out if you’re in the area! Continue reading STEM Fun at the Akron Children’s Museum