Looking Back to Move Forward

“I don’t need to see where I’m going…….I just need to know where I’ve been!”

Name the movie. I’ll give you some wait time….if you said Cars good job! More specifically that line came from Mater the tow truck as he demonstrated his mad backwards driving skills to his buddy Lightning.

As I caught a glimpse of the Daytona 500 tonight, this reminded me of the brainstorm I had for this post. My good friend Steven Anderson will be glad to hear I had a Nascar event on the TV. Anyways, let’s get on with it.

We always talk about “moving forward” and “looking to the future” when conversations arise about making school better. You can take it a step more specific by talking about what we’re having students do with technology, design of learning spaces, or anything really that’s related to education. It is important to do that. Long term goal setting and planning is important work.  Dreaming big is really fun too and can really help getting some creative ideas stirred up.  We should always Keep Moving Forward (coincidentally enough I quoted another Disney movie in that post 🙂 ).

While we do need to have somewhat of an idea where we’re headed, don’t forget to look back on what we’ve done.  Don’t forget to celebrate those things. Teachers some times say to me, “But I only tried one new tech tool in my classroom this year. But I planned these four things and I only did two of them.” So what?!? You achieved something! Look back on this and celebrate where you were when you started and pat yourself on the back for where you are now. Talk with your students about it. Get their feedback! That’s growth! You worked to make learning better for your students! Knowing where we’ve been can be equally as important as having a vision of where we want to go.

I’m meeting with some teachers this coming Friday to continue work they’re doing with various (yes they have choices) ways to use technology to make learning better for students. The first thing we’re doing though, is looking back at their “action plans” they began at the beginning of the school year. To look at what they set out to do, what they’ve accomplished, reflect on its impact in their classrooms, refine as needed, and keep plugging along to accomplish more between now and the end of the year.

Making time to look back, can often be the best plan for help with moving forward.

I welcome your comments. Thank you for reading.

photo credit: Avard Woolaver via photopin cc

Wired for Sound

This video has certainly made the rounds in the last couple years with over 3 million views to date. It’s posted over at TED, however, it is from the  2009 World Science Festival. Take 3 minutes and give it a watch. The video features Bobby McFerrin. You might remember him from this video (but don’t watch that one right now, watch the one below…unless you really want to).


Interesting and entertaining at the same time isn’t it? Over at TED the title of the video is, “Bobby McFerrin hacks your brain with music”. He shows that by creating a “common chorus”, or finding something we’re all commonly connected by (in this case music), we can tap into the ways we’re naturally wired to produce something great.

What if we took more time to learn how to do this for our students? That is, finding commonalities that give deeper connections to learning for everyone, that tap into those ways we’re naturally wired; rather than trying to re-wire (back to a previous time period many times).  Is this just another way to say “differentiated instruction”? Or is it more than that? Will Richardson calls this “Beyond Differentiation” in his latest piece over at ASCD called Preparing Students to Learn Without Us, where he states:

For schools and teachers, it means connecting our expectations to students’ passions and interests as learners. That is both a challenge and an opportunity for educators working with 20 or 30 students in a classroom. The reality is that despite having talked about personalized learning for more than a decade, most schools and teachers have been slow to discover its potential through the use of the social web, interactive games, and mobile devices.

Would you agree that our students are coming to us being naturally wired this way? All of this technology (social networking, devices, etc.) is not just part of, or an add-on in our students’ world. It IS our students’ world. A world we as educators need to catch up to.

I had the pleasure of being invited to keynote TeachMeet Georgia a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta, where I talked about a new responsibility we (teachers) have to our students: the ability to Connect, Collect, Curate, and Create. Most of the time I was working on that presentation, in my head I kept referring to these as “skills”. I was then reminded of Howard Rheingold’s “Crap Detection 101″ , where Dr. Rheingold conveys the importance of this not just being a skill, but a literacy. We should want all our students to have these new literacies to truly empower them with the tech and devices that is their world, the “wiring” that they come to school with if you will. It must be more than consumption of information. It needs to be creating, investigating, criticizing (constructively), and sharing.

However, these literacies start with us. Teachers, Administrators, Librarians, and Parents.  We must model them and refine them. Regularly.

Which is harder: to change how we’re wired or how they’re wired?

Moving Beyond Adequate

‘All learning begins when our comfortable ideas turn out to be inadequate.’ ~ John Dewey

This quote from John Dewey has really got me thinking. How do we move from acceptance of adequacy? The status-quo. The norm. Our comfort zone. I catch myself doing it all the time. I find myself in that all too familiar place where I’m just fine with the way things are. I don’t know if I would call it a rut per-se. Some might. I catch myself and think, “Kyle, you’ve got to take it to the next level, then help teachers do the same. Which we want to ultimately impact students and their learning experiences.” As the quote states, I can’t let my ideas get too comfortable. How do we measure inadequacy? Is it OK for some practices to stay adequate for longer than others? Am I trying to develop a new professional mission statement? Brother, one paragraph in and I feel like this could easily be multiple posts!

In my profession I obviously would be focusing the idea of “taking it to the next level” on technology to enhance teacher instruction and student learning experiences. Even if we weren’t talking specific to technology, how do you plan to take it to the next level in your classroom this year? If you’re in a similar position mine, what do you plan to do to offer more enriching PD experiences and support for teachers? For me, one thing I plan to be better at is sharing/showing concrete examples when I share a new tool or resource with teachers. Not just say, “This is a cool tool and you should use it.” Not that I haven’t done this nor have I ever said that. I believe I can do it better. I believe I can do lots of things better. I plan on hashing out those specific items as I start the coming school year.

I just don’t want things to be adequate for too long. So many in my PLN want to bring about real change. We can’t let adequate stay around for too long if we want true change to occur. We might have to get more creative with our efforts as times continue to be tough, but we must adapt just like we do with anything else.

My friend Mary Beth Hertz shared this video recently via Twitter. It’s by Alan November and it’s called Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom. There are many key points in this video that I think we need to take heed of if we’re going to truly move beyond adequate in our districts and classrooms. Key components to the change that so many of us seek.

As I challenge myself to move beyond adequate, I hope you will do the same. Let’s exceed adequate! Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your comments.