Tag Archives: Chris Wejr

Fitting Into the Same Standardized Hole

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein

I was having a really interesting conversation with a parent about technology and the thought that it is leading to the decline of intelligence.  She shared with me her belief that many students struggled with reading and writing because of a dependence of use on things such as spell check, and that kids just didn’t seem as “smart” as we were in our youth.  Then she asked me about where she could learn more about this idea, and I simply said “Twitter”.  She responded that she had no idea how to use it, to which I asked her, “Do you think some kids could show you?”  Obviously she responded with the answer “yes”, to which I replied, “to some of those kids, they would think you are the dumb one.”

I didn’t say this to berate her in any manner, but to challenge her thinking that sometimes we base someone’s intelligence on the information we value, not necessarily on what they value and/or know.  To the person that can fix my car, I see them as a genius.  I honestly don’t know if they finished high school or what their grades were, but looking at them as someone who is expert in an area that I have no clue.  Because you know something that I don’t doesn’t make me less intelligent, and vice versa.  We all have different strengths and knowledge, but the question we should focus on is how do we tap into people, instead of trying to fit different shaped pegs into a single standardized hole?

That’s why I look to people like Chris Wejr, who not only focus on developing strengths into students, but also in staff.  Staff that are recognized and encouraged to develop their strengths, also treat their students with the same regard.  So instead of focusing on what people don’t know, schools would benefit from focusing on what they do know and helping them develop those strengths as long with their weaknesses.

It is easy to constantly focus on what is lacking, but it also loses people along the way who do not feel valued.  Knowing and tapping into someone’s strengths often leads to the confidence and competence to learn in other areas.  As learners, we are individuals, and should always be treated as such.

Digital Citizenship in the Time of “Instant Celebrity”

I have to admit it…I could watch Vine videos all day. I didn’t really think much of the “6 Second” service until I met Ray Ligaya. Ray was at a speaking event I had in Waterloo, Ontario, where I was talking about social media, where he was serving. We started talking about Twitter and he asked me if I had heard about Vine. I had but didn’t really think much of it, until he told me had hundreds of thousands of followers on the service. I started following him, and he has the typical videos that I would have made when I was his age, with a lot of potty humour, yet it appeals to a ton of people. He told me already that time that he had been “recognized” often because of his work through the service, so I was hooked, and started looking more and more at the service.

What I had noticed was that a lot of the popular Vine accounts were created by teenagers. Some of them dancers, some of them comedians, and some of them just sharing little aspects of their lives, in a compelling way. There is seemingly a little and a lot that can be created in 6 seconds which is creativity, even if it looks different than what we are used to seeing, and there is actually a lot of money being made from the serviceBrandon Bowen is a 16 year old who has seen tremendous success through using Vine (he has over a million followers on the service), but also still deals with a tremendous amount of bullying, yet has a tremendous sense of humour:

Talking about this with my friend Chris Wejr, he asked the question, “what would it be like to grow up as a kid today? This has to have some kind of impact.” The instant “celebrity” is something that many kids dreamed up as a kid but did not have the same opportunities that exist today, but with that, comes the down side. There are probably a lot of kids dealing with harassment online, nasty comments, and things I couldn’t even imagine.  “Alex from Target” had instant fame and he talked about the downside and the impact of his life. According to the story, it wasn’t even of his own doing (although there are reports that the story was made up), and now he has to deal with the impacts of being “famous” which, according to Nick Bilton, has had some huge negative consequences:

While Alex is clearly enjoying some of the attention, he and his family have also had to deal with more serious consequences of web fame. A crafty marketing firm, Breakr, tried to take credit for Alex’s rise. (Everyone the company claims it worked with, including Alex’s family and @auscalum, has denied ever hearing of Breakr.  In a report, BuzzFeed said that the company’s claims simply don’t add up.)

Thousands have taken to social media to call Alex names (including vulgarities) or fabricate stories about him being fired. Twitter is littered with posts that denigrate his looks (e.g., “Alex from Target is so damn ugly”) or spew envy at him (“Alex from Target is a nobody who doesn’t deserve fame”).

There have even been dozens of death threats on social media and in private messages (“Alex from target, I’ll find you and I will kill you”).

A Vine video of Liam Payne from One Direction tells a powerful story of fame in our world today where he is smiling for each “selfie” he takes with a fan, yet in the milliseconds in between pictures, you can seen the wear it has on him, even in complete adoration.

There are so many people who will come up to person and not ask their name, or want to have a question, yet will simply want a selfie, to say that they met that person. I really loved listening to Louis CK talk about how he actually refused to take pictures with fans but actually made them have a conversation, and the sheer disappointment that some of them had for actually having to talk to the celebrity.

This is not just kids mind you,but adults as well. Think about this…if you could meet a celebrity and talk to them for one minute without any of your friends ever being allowed to know, or could take a selfie with them to share with the world, which one would you take? I don’t think many people would have an answer.

So if we continue to talk about “digital citizenship” with our kids, I think the conversations have to evolve past solely focusing on “being safe” and cyberbullying (which are important but there is so much more to discuss), but also about the impact that this media can have on our lives, and how some would even say that it is making us “needier”. More and more kids are answering the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, with answers like “YouTube celebrity” or “Vine Star”. Too many, it is an easy step to fame that comes with many benefits (like a salary) at a young age, but also can easily turn to online harassment from many that can turn likes (or sometimes the lack of them) into anxiety. We don’t have to worry only about the psyche of a kid who doesn’t get the “likes” or is not “reshared”, but also the ones that do get the likes.

This is so complicated for so many reasons.

There are lots of questions that we need to ask in a world where a kid can create a life for themselves that we couldn’t create this quickly even ten years ago. But as with all learning, our understanding of “digital citizenship” has to continuously evolve and we need to continuously have conversations with our kids about this topic.

We have some tricky waters to navigate.

(If I could suggest a book to read on this topic that is extremely worth it, take a look at Danah Boyd’s “It’s Complicated; The Lives of Networked Teens”. It will definitely help with conversations in your classroom on this topic that go beyond “Don’t talk to strangers.”)

The Vulnerability of the Web

I am probably babbling but here goes…

This week has been tough.

Travel is always wearing on a person, but having to make an impromptu trip home to say goodbye to a long time friend (my dog Shaq), has worn on me.  I miss her a great deal and am going to have a hard time going home this weekend and not see her waiting at the door for me, wagging her tail.

The documentation of my life, the ups and downs, in an open space, has been some of the most powerful learning that I have done.  Reflection has been extremely therapeutic in dealing with some tough times, but the love of people from around the world that genuinely care and try to make things better for others, has been overwhelming.  As I shared one of my last pictures of my sweet girl and I on Instagram, many people sent their condolences and love my way.  The “virtual hug”, as always, was greatly appreciated.

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From my sharing of this picture, I received several messages from dog lovers who may have given their own pup a little more love, an extra treat, or just spent some great time with them.  That loss of life may have reminded others that life is short and fragile, and we need to appreciate all that we have as much as we can.  I know that every time I see something similar to what I have shared, it brings me closer to the loved ones in my life.

Sitting in my hotel room alone and trying to deal with a range of emotions that I was going through, from sadness of losing my baby girl, and relief that I had made it home to say goodbye, I casually and almost lifelessly looked through Facebook and twitter to try and pass the time.  In a short 24 hours, I saw so much from people that way past “education”, but deeper into humanity.

My good friend Chris Wejr, who is a big of a dog person as I am, really struggled with the idea of bringing another dog home after the loss of his beloved Ozzy.  We had several conversations about getting another dog, and I was at the vet saying goodbye to Shaq, Chris was bringing a new dog home to his family.

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The hurt of saying goodbye and then the power of saying hello. Sharing death and sharing renewed life.  In my loss and grieving, I smiled at my friend who loves dogs, giving one a new home.  I was so happy for him and his family.

Then I received a message from Paige that my niece Bea had sent her condolences through a video message to her and I.  It stopped me in my tracks.

So much love coming from such a place of sadness that was so powerful. Even though she is so far away, I felt her love and caring, and social media and the literacy of creating a video allowed me to FEEL that.

I woke up the next day wondering how I would make it through an emotional day of speaking to educators.  If there is a place that I would feel safe, it with individuals that are in the “people business”, where nurturing and caring is part of what they do.  When I had shared what I had went to, they grieved with me, whether they knew me from Twitter or my blog or whatever.  Seeing others struggle often brings out the best in others to step up and help, and I knew that I could be vulnerable around them.

But about 15 minutes after I was done speaking, I received a text message from my 9 year old niece, who sent me a picture of her new baby brother.  Remembering when she was born and now seeing her send me the news through a text message was a pretty amazing reminder of how time flies by so quickly, and how a mobile phone has allowed us to connect so much more now from when it had existed before.  I quickly checked Twitter and Facebook, and saw my brother share the following picture and realized that I had a beautiful new nephew:

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Death, life, sadness, and happiness.

All  of this was shared in 24 hours from people that are close to me emotionally, yet far in terms of proximity.  The humanity that is shared from those simple “tweets” is what brings me so much closer to them, and them to me.  The “learning” through social media is great, but the human aspect is why I stay.  The willingness to share ourselves is something that is very powerful, yet makes us very vulnerable. I have tried to embrace that vulnerability although sometimes it can be extremely tough.

What I was reminded of in this short amount of time, while I still try to deal with something very tough, is that there is more good than bad out there, and every little share we make can bring us closer together.  We have to remember the impact we can make on others, both positive and negative.   I am also reminded of how social media can truly “humanize” us, when we deal with the great moments and also the tough ones. That “humanity” can bring us closer together as people than we have ever been before.  I was also reminded of the following quote:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Unknown

Every action can make an impact; I am going to try every day to make it a positive one.

To Those That Have Heard Everything

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Steven Shorrock

I was a little surprised to see a tweet from someone talking about how we shouldn’t be talking about “being connected” with people anymore because everyone should just be doing it.  I found it rather interesting as a great teacher would differentiate learning for students and understand that people are are different points in their journey, not simply say, “you should all get this by now”.  It should be no different with educators.  Differentiation is not just for kids, and if we treat people like that when we are in an administrative position, you will lose more people along the journey then you will gain.  I understand the “push” that many people make, and have been guilty of doing this myself, but the support has to be there.

My mentor would say to me when I was frustrated with what I sometimes felt was a slow pace by others was, “not everyone is you”.  Because something makes sense to me, it does not necessarily mean it is common practice for others.

Now I have been in keynotes where I have heard the same message over and over.  So what can I learn from this?  Well as someone who is in an administrator position, and especially someone who does keynotes myself, the “content” is only one part of what is happening in any presentation.  I am a huge basketball fan and decided years ago that I wanted to become a referee.  When that happened, the way I watched games changed.  I wasn’t watching the games as much as I was watching the referees.  My focus had shifted onto something different.

This was made abundantly apparent to me when I recently keynoted a conference in Vancouver and Chris Wejr, a good friend and colleague, noted that although he had seen me speak several times, he was more focused on what I did as opposed to what I said. There are great elements of teaching and leadership in many keynotes/talks/presentations, and if you think that you know all of the content being presented, you need to shift your focus.  You can learn from the great speakers as well as the bad ones.

For example, I remember seeing a keynote at a conference who started off with saying something that was totally lost on the audience and was a great way to show he was smart, but he made the audience feel dumb.  He lost them immediately.  Because of that, I really try to focus on taking something complex and making it simple so that is relatable to people, especially in larger settings.

Now for the great lessons that I have learned from others watching them speak.

My brother Alec, who helped me get into speaking, showed me the power of visuals and media to supplement ideas in a talk and was a great way to engage the audience

Dean Shareski taught me that is important to empower the audience to do something great, not for them to feel lesser in their work.

Jenny Magiera showed me that laughter and learning go hand-in-hand and it is way easier to connect people t with an idea when they are smiling.

Adam Bellow showed me to honour and value the people sitting in front of you and although you can share a similar message, it is important to show that you are focused on that audience.

Will Richardson continuously teaches me to ask tough questions, and to push people to think deeply about their work.

I honestly could not tell you much about their content, because in reality, I feel the people that I have listed talk about many similar things.  That being said, all of those lessons can apply to any position, whether you are a speaker, principal, or teacher, or a combination of any of those.  There is a lot to be learned even when sometimes we act like we have seen this all before.

Something Old is Something New

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Brian Moore

From several conversations, one of the biggest reasons that many people say that they have nothing “new” to share with an audience. This fear is often confirmed when you hear people say things such as, “Reading blogs is like reading the same thing over and over again.” Pretty tough to jump in when you hear comments like this and the fear of lacking originality is a big deal.

The reality is though, the more connected someone is, the less likely they are to see many new ideas. It is rare that I see any speaker and I haven’t already read their material, looked up their work, and know their message before they deliver it. As a speaker myself, if you read my blog, you probably have a good idea of what I am going to talk about. What I do know is that the majority of people that watch me speak have never read my blog. Whatever I am sharing to the majority of the audience is something that they may not have heard before, or maybe, I am presenting in my own unique way.

One of my biggest struggles with being connected is seeing something that is “amazing” one day, that dominates the sharing online, yet a week later, that same piece is just lost in the shuffle. There are a lot of articles that I bookmark and refer to often and have shared several times, sometimes including my own.

My rationale? What is old to you might be new to someone else.

For example, I just met someone the other day that talked about doing “Identity Day” and how they fell upon this idea only recently. This is something that I had shared almost four years ago but they are only seeing for the first time. The other component that I found interesting? Although I shared this work from our school where it was an “original” idea (I think…I mean it is REALLY hard to have an original idea) from my assistant principal, yet they referenced being inspired by Chris Wejr sharing the idea from the work that he has done at his school.

Now some people would be bothered by this, but I honestly could care less. Chris has always referenced that he got the idea from my former school in his posts but not everyone remembers that in reading his post. Ultimately, if your school is doing this day and it helps your kids, why wouldn’t I want it to be shared? Identity Day was one of, if not the most powerful day I have ever seen with students. I am glad that others are sharing it.

So a couple of things to think about it…

The chance of your work being “original” to everyone, in many cases, is “slim to nil”. But the chance that your work is original to someone is extremely high. There are more people connecting everyday which means there is always a new audience. I am not encouraging that you steal other people’s ideas and use them as your own, but rather crediting where you got the idea from, and sharing it with others. This is part of the “remix” culture that we live in and have to embrace as educators. Sometimes the best ideas at one school, need some tweaking for another. Each iteration of an idea opens opportunities for others.

The other thing is that writing should always start with your own reflection in mind. I use blogging as a way to work through my ideas and knowing that I am reflecting openly pushes me to really clarify. I rarely, if ever, write the exact idea that I started with. The process of writing helps me to connect my ideas and bring them to life.

To all of the people that complain that there are new original ideas out there on Twitter or in the blogosphere, just remember that once those ideas were once totally new to you while old to someone else. And those same “old ideas” probably sparked you to action then, as they might spark someone to action now.

Share away!

You Should Read… (November 25, 2012)

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Plug Us In

I have been off and on writing this “weekly” post but I think that it is important to recognize some of the great content that I am reading out there that may have been missed in tweets and I like trying to culminate some of my favourite content for others to share in one space.  Here are a few things that I thought were great to share:

1.  Teachers Should Change How They Teach Students Today – There constantly seems to be a back-and-forth about changing teaching practices vs. teaching the way that worked for us as students.  In this great article that was a response to a New York Times piece and then offers a comparison to another article discussing students in an Ethiopian village and how they had learned to hack into a device and do some pretty amazing things:

Kids without schooling, without literacy, HACKED the Androids to turn the camera back on . . . without instruction.  That is a breathtaking example of how learning can happen with new technology if we are open to new ways of peer, community-based, shared learning…What the teachers in the NY Times piece need to take from this Ethiopian experiment–what all of us as educators on every level have to take from this experiment–is that, if we do not think learning is something so dreadfully dull that it has to be regulated, assessed, made compulsory, rule bound, divided into disciplines, and in all other ways “measured out in coffee spoons” (as T. S. Eliot would say), then the potential of kids and all of us to learn is enormous.  I have had to unlearn a lot of my own didactic forms of teaching over the years and have had to learn how to practice what I call “structuring possibilities for openness.”   It means biting my tongue, not solving the problem or coming up with the answers, but providing the opportunities in which students can help one another to learn and having faith that, if I stay back, they will in fact learn because, as humans, learning is what we do, it’s how we thrive.

Has learning changed or the opportunities that make it more conducive and engaging?  Just a question I thought of when reading this article.

2.  The Daily Routines of Famous Writers – I just love some of the quotes and thoughts from this article as that many people are exploring blogs and how we can have students engaged in their own writing.  What I get from the article is that there is not “one-size-fits-all” approach to this but we just have to just start:

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

But if we are blogging do students have to write?  Darren Kuropatwa offers a different perspective on what the blogging medium provides and how text is not the only option.  What are some tips that you have to get students and/or teachers to write?

3.  Freedom < —  A Vehicle For LeadershipKristen Swanson refers to a recent Leadership 2.0 session offered by Chris Wejr and shares thoughts on the differences between “Freedom From” and “Freedom To”:

Chris caught my attention by talking about freedom. While everyone wants freedom, some people want “freedom from” and others want “freedom to.”

In unhealthy, fear-based organizations, people want FREEDOM FROM the rules that exist arbitrarily. They want to escape the entire situation. They seek points, credit, dollars, or some other external reward. A leader in this type of organization must constantly monitor the team’s compliance.

In vibrant, collaborative organizations, people want FREEDOM TO innovate, create new structures, and solve problems. A leader in this type of environment simply needs to nurture the ambitions of the team.

So here is my question on this…can a healthy organization have elements of both?  For example, if a leader provides “freedom from” boring staff meetings so that teachers have the “freedom to” spend more time focused on professional learning, is that not what we want?  Kristen discusses this in her own post but what are your thoughts? Is one more important or is there a correlation?

So Star Wars and Disney have created a partnership and I love this “Disney Song” that was created from the movie.


Share Great Stories

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by Salim Virji

This post is one that I am doing to model the suggestion I made through the Summer Blogging Challenge that I posted recently.  I really believe that we need to model what we ask of others and I also know that is important to share some of the other great ideas and stories being shared by others through social media.

I recently found this great post by Chris Wejr through his Twitter feed about small things that can make a difference and I was absolutely moved by his story.  Chris was extremely comfortable sharing how people connected with his children and went way beyond what they had to do within their normal job expectations:

These guys (the one on the left in particular) could drive on and do their job as they have been directed to do.  Instead they take the 45 seconds to do their job AND make a small effort to make a big difference to my daughters.  Why do they do this?  I am not sure but I would assume that they want to make my daughters smile; in addition, the feeling they get from the waves and smiles from the girls probably brightens their day too.

In my own learning, it is amazing to see when people feel they have a purpose and the flexibility to go above and beyond what is expected of them.  It is through this where people find true satisfaction in what they do, and you always see that the best teachers do this.  I have often said that if the only thing that the teacher does in a school is teach the curriculum, they have let their kids down.  There is so much to teaching than simply sharing content so we have to do our best to empower our students to become learners that lead the way.

Barry Schwartz talks about the limitations of rules and what happens when do not provide the flexibility to people to have the wisdom draw outside the lines:

Rules and incentives may improve the behavior of those who don’t care, though they won’t make them wiser. But in focusing on the people who don’t care—the targets of our rules and incentives—we miss those who do care. We miss those who want to do the right things but lack the practical wisdom to do them well. Rules and incentives won’t teach these people the moral skill and will they need. Even worse, rules can kill skill and incentives can kill will.

What I love about what Chris talks about is that this story that has nothing to do with school yet everything to do with learning is a great way to connect emotionally with people.  Data is important in our work and is something that we need to continue to build upon.  Still data does not move people; stories do.

So a couple of questions and thoughts from this:

How do we cultivate a culture in our schools that has teachers feeling comfortable to go beyond their job, take risks, and be innovative?

How do we create a culture where teachers feel comfortable sharing their amazing stories with a larger audience?  It is important that we share them with our own school communities but I think it is powerful that we share them with a larger audience as well.

Thank you Chris for sharing this great story; we need to do this more.

If you are interested in the Barry Schwartz video on wisdom, check out the Ted Talk below:

You Should Read… (June 17, 2012)

Only a few more weeks until school is over for many in Canada but the learning will continue throughout the summer, anytime we are open to it.  Here are some links that I found interesting this week:

1.  Amplify the Positive Outliers – Seth Godin, one of the most popular bloggers on the Internet, talks about the importance of building culture by highlighting the work of those that are making a change:

“The tribe is hyper-aware of what’s being celebrated, and when you celebrate those that are moving in the right direction, you create a powerful push in that direction. It’s tempting to spend your time extinguishing bad behaviors, but in fact, spreading the word about the superstars is far more likely to change the culture of your market.”

Cultures are so important in the work that we do at schools, so this leads nicely into the next post.

2.  Starting the Conversation on Rethinking Awards CeremoniesChris Wejr, a good friend and principal, often talks about how awards impact our students, and provides this post to help schools start the conversation.  He asks some great questions:

  • Does your year-end awards ceremonies and/or student of the month program align with your school vision, plan and/or goals?
  • What does research say about the use of awards/prizes to motivate (or demotivate) learning?
  • At which age do awards become necessary – 5? 10? 15?  Why?
  • How much of the award is based on culture, language, parents (particularly cultural capital and income) and teachers that the winner has/had and how much is based on the person’s work ethic?

So where is the balance between highlighting the great work that is being done by our outliers, but also building a culture of collaboration?  These two pieces will provide a good starting point for that conversation.

3. The Best Twitter Hashtags for Teachers – Just a simple article to help teachers start using Twitter to do their own learning.  This offers some great connections to Twitter hashtags in the classrooms, but it leaves out two that I follow exclusively which are #ConnectedCA and #CPChat.  Which ones do you follow for your learning?

4.  I love this picture from 22 Words about cheating:

We have to look at what “cheating” means in our schools today.  If collaboration is a skill we are promoting in skills and organizations are begging their employees have, does cheating in our schools today look the same?  Something that I have said to many groups when I have been asked about the concern of using Google to cheat on a test is that if you can look up the answer to test on Google, is the question very good?

Maybe this picture can start some conversations on the topic of cheating and collaboration.

Hope you have a great week!

You Should Read… (February 19, 2012)

Working a lot with teachers and parents in the past few weeks, it is amazing to see the shift in focus that our students need  to be more connected.  There is a definite shift in the mindset of many.  With that being said, the focus on creativity, innovation, and the skills that are needed for the “21st Century”, many understand that schools need to continue to focus on strong relationships with their students and school community to thrive in our time.  Relationships continue to be the foundation that great schools are built upon.  It is paramount that we continue to focus on that.

Here are some articles that I found pushed my thinking in the last week:

1.  What does teaching creativity look like? – Creativity is a skill that is needed in our world with the “knowledge economy” becoming dominant in our work place.  With so many traditions that are firmly in place in our schools, does this skew our thinking and take away our ability to be creative?  In this short article, the author asks a similar question:

Perhaps the most important entry on Michalko’s list is his last point, that “creativity is paradoxical.” Schools are places where students are supposed to acquire knowledge—but to create, a person must “forget the knowledge.” If you’re not able to leave what you think you know behind, you can’t approach problems with a fresh perspective. Students must also be taught to “desire success but embrace failure,” and to “listen to experts but know how to disregard them.”

 This is a great, short article to share with a staff to open up some questions on how they are fostering a creative environment.

2.  Autonomy in Teaching Training – My good friend, Chris Wejr, challenges the “status quo” in the way that teacher training programs are preparing new educators for a rapidly changing world and classroom.  I have heard this conversation often, yet it is interesting to not only read this post but the comments that follow as well.  Chris ends the post with the following:

Our pre-service teaching programs seem to be over in the blink of an eye (in BC, they are often only 16-20 weeks).  This is a critical time as this is often the only experience they will have prior to applying for teaching positions.  Providing more autonomy for our future teachers is key to their development so I hope you can add your thoughts to this conversation to see if we can help move our programs forward.

Chris has some great thoughts…how can we better prepare our new teachers to implement the strategies needed to be successful coming into this challenging profession?  I encourage you to add to the conversation on Chris’ blog post.

3.  Important Conversations – Some of the practices that I (as well as many other teachers) have implemented over the past few years we now know are not beneficial to learning.  The idea of taking away grades for being late does not show the true understanding a child has over the content of the class, yet it is essential to ensure students are good citizens and respectful of our school environment.  The picture in this blog post is a great conversation starter for staff, students, and parents.   More importantly though then the message, is the conversation.  How do we continue to bring parents in on the learning of school to help enhance the work we are doing together with children?  How do we continue to inform and discuss with them continuously evolving teaching and learning practices?  I think of this Marc Prensky quote when reading the aforementioned article:

“Involve your students’ parents as much as you can. Try thinking of them as your students as well, that is, as people you are educating.”  Marc Prensky

When parents and schools work together, you double the chance of success for each child.

I hope that all of you have an amazing week and I thank everyone for continuing to share and write amazing content that will help all of us continuously learn!

As I end this blog post, I have been caught up in all the “Linsanity” (as most were) and this was probably one of the most inspiring moments that I saw from the last week…enjoy!

You Should Read (September 25, 2011)

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by gcouros

 I would love to share with anyone who reads this blog some interesting articles that I read this week.  Please feel free to comment and share any of these posts as you see fit.  There is so much great stuff that I see in a week that it is tremendously tough to pick three so you can look at any link that I have archived under my Diigo links for this weekly post.

1. Up hill both ways in a snow storm – My good friend Cale Birk, wrote essentially a rebuttal to the “Inside the Entitlement Generation” post that was essentially a ” scathing account of the younger generation of today.”  Ultimately Cale decides to take the “optimist” approach and look for the good things that are in our youth today and I would 100% agree with him:

In my opinion, our students of today are as intelligent and motivated as students at this age have ever been.  I would also say that students are much more well-rounded than I ever was–they are more socially responsible, more globally aware, and more tolerant than any generation before them.  When graduates cross our stage at commencements, I absolutely marvel at how involved they are in their academics, the arts, athletics, the school, and community issues.  I wish I went through high school with the same verve and alacrity that our students do.

This article discusses the importance in believing in our students, and in reality, we can look at them as “entitled” but what does that help?  Chris Wejr also wrote a post on the same topic, and to me, these are the kind of educators that we need in schools.  I know both Cale and Chris personally and they are very real about the work and challenges that we have to do, but they both approach education in the way that it is the positive relationships that we have with our students that makes the biggest impact on the work that we do.  I encourage you to read all of the articles linked in this post.

2. 10 Reasons to Trash Word for Google DocsJeff Utecht, an educator located in Bangkok, has a great blog that I have only come across recently (although I read it for a long time that first night!), and in it, he shares how he feels the use of Google Docs is advantageous over Word.  Personally, I have not used Word for a long time as I find Google Docs much easier, and I am glad that this suite of tools is available to all of our students and staff in Parkland School Division as it really serves the work that we are trying to do with students.  Here is an excerpt from his post:

10. Because it’s the future
We’re headed into a fully web-based world. Even Microsoft is working to make Word fully online in a few years…see I told you they were old school. Get a jump on the future and get use to working on the web now so you’re not playing catch up later.

The one major reason that Jeff did leave out (although it is implied continuously) is that it is just faster.  If you have a stable Internet connection, Google Docs just makes it easier to do things in the classroom.  We could all use more time right?

3. Cybersafety: Do fear and exaggeration increase risk?Sylvia Martinez shares an excellent presentation  about some of the misconceptions that are out in the public regarding Internet safety and cyberbullying which actually lead to more of the behaviour.  Yes, there are some threats, but are they as bad as they are made out in the media?  Here is what Sylvia writes about the presentation:

Be sure to view this slideshow all the way to the end, where Larry gives examples of “positive norming” as an alternative to fear-based messages about cybersafety and cyberbullying. Positive norming is when facts are presented about what most people do – and most people do not bully or engage in risky online behavior. Focusing on behavior that is NOT the norm makes it seem like it’s more prevalent than it actually is.

Please take a look at the presentation and feel free to use it as you see fit: