Planning For A New Year

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Ringing in the New Year provides an opportunity for a revision to the game plan. What should we start doing more often? What should we start doing less often? Many people will set resolutions that they will fail within a short period of time. Having been a victim of this myself numerous times, I tend to stay away from resolutions.  A post on LifeHack by Daniel Wallen, 10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail, highlights the reasons most resolutions don’t stick.

I read three other recent posts about how individuals attempt to set themselves up for success in the New Year:

  1. 4 Ways To Make 2018 The Best Year Of Your Life – Dan Rockwell’s Leadership Freak Blog
  2. 4-Hour Work Week Author Tim Ferriss Is Convinced New Year’s Resolutions Are A Waste of Time –  Richard Feloni on Business Insider
  3. My Three Words for 2018 – Chris Brogan

My personal approach for the year is to set three specific areas to work on improving and to track my results by reflecting daily. I think it is important to track progress daily and to measure my progress weekly and monthly in the areas in which I am looking to improve.  If I miss the mark for a day or a week, I will revise my gameplan in order to get back on track.

I know that my success in achieving my goals will be dependent on my ability to manage my time effectively.  This post from Tim Denning, You’re Wasting Your Spare Time and It’s Killing Your Success, really summed up the excuse of too little time nicely.

Should We Ban Technology In Classrooms and Meetings?


Last Tuesday’s New York Times had an article on the downside of taking notes on a laptop.  The piece, Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meetingwas written by University of Michigan Professor Susan Dynarski who bans electronic devices in her classroom.  Dynarski cites research from Princeton, UCLA and a few other schools where students who were allowed to take notes electronically performed worse than students who took notes with a pen and paper.

A follow-up post on The Verge yesterday gave a great summary of the article. I especially liked the conclusion:

Writing things by hand is becoming less common as gadgets and speech recognition software continue to replace pen and paper, but it’s long proven that handwriting improves motor skills, memory, and creativity. So even though note taking with a laptop might be faster, you might want to think about how much information you’re retaining.

My final thoughts on this center around the idea that we need to take away the opportunity for the individual to make the choice on which method works best.  As students get to the later stages of high school and move on to college, shouldn’t they have the chance to choose the tool that works best for them?  If people become aware that their productivity drops when they take notes on a device, will they still choose to work in the same manner? Isn’t the process of figuring out what works and what doesn’t a critical part of the learning process?

I can’t help thinking about the Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment developed by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).  This framework includes “students’ self-evaluation and reflection on process and product integrated into the learning process and contributing to students’ continued growth.”

In short, we need to be careful that banning is not our default reaction. We will teach students a great deal if we help them be more introspective about what works best for them.


There Can Be No Innovation Without Empathy #IMMOOC

My favorite quote from Part I of The Innovator’s Mindset is highlighted below:


I was involved in a conversation with a group of educators recently about best practices and what school leaders and school districts can do to create greater equity in regards to access of technological resources. One of the points of view was that the school cannot do it all and at some point we have to put the responsibility on others (i.e. local businesses or parents) to find the solution. One person stated, “at what point does it end”? in talking about the lengths that schools and school leaders should go to for things like providing WiFi at home.

My feeling is that when we choose to work as public educators and take on the challenge of supporting ALL STUDENTS, then our responsibility never ends. If our kids are getting less than they need to grow as learners and human beings then our job is to find the resources that they need for them and their families.  For some students, school is the place where they find the greatest level of support from caring adults.   For most students, school is the place where they get more adult interaction than they get anywhere else for at least 180 days out of the year. This is not because adults at home are guilty of neglect, it is a simple math problem. Students spend roughly 6.5 to 7 hours of their days (Monday-Friday) at school and much fewer with their parents. They need to be able to rely on the adults within the walls of the school to build a supportive relationship that revolves around more than supporting subject-area knowledge.  If that means helping them access resources that will allow them to have the same opportunities as other students, then we need to take on that challenge.


What is the value of homework?

One topic that has been coming up during the community forums about the potential of a later start time for Burlington High School next year is homework. With this in mind, I thought I would share a clip from last week’s Innovator’s Mindset episode with Alice Keeler.  Alice is a well-known math teacher and presenter from California who has changed her practice in regards to assigning homework to students.

In the clip, Alice also mentions John Hattie’s research on homework.  Hattie is the Director of the Melbourne Educational Research Institute. His research has gotten a lot of attention since the publication of his Visible Learning meta-study.  I encourage you to watch Alice’s entire interview from last week and also to delve into the research that Hattie has done on the topic of homework.

What do I say to my 11-year old about the Las Vegas shooting?

Driving to school today with my daughter, I had the radio station tuned to the local country music station. Because of last night’s horrific shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas, the break between songs focused on the news of over 50 dead and over 400 injured in the deadliest mass shooting in our country’s history.  A few years ago, I would have quickly turned the radio off and changed the subject. But my daughter is in middle school now and she and a lot of her friends like country music and there is a good chance she will hear something about this news somewhere in her travels today.

So I decided to ask her if she heard the news about what happened last night. I explained how the shooting happened and that this was an outside concert with a hotel nearby that overlooked the venue. I reminded her of the security checks that happen at the concerts that we go to and how this would not happen. I also told her that this was the worst shooting in the hundreds of years that our country has been established.

While I know that the conversation between adults on this matter might be a little different. My main goal is to not raise my daughter’s level of concern when it comes to these types of events.  I want her to know she is safe and that she has to worry about. I am not sure I handled it perfectly, but I don’t think to turn off the radio would have been the right thing to do.

With this in mind, I decided to do a quick Google search on talking to kids about mass shootings and found a good article from Psychology Today on the topic.  I encourage parents to read the entire article, but here are a few highlights:

“…many experts recommend no news viewing until age 11 or so, and after that age, minimized viewing together with adults who reassure them and help them process information from a calm, accurate, adult perspective.Reassure them that shootings and attacks are very unlikely to happen to them, their friends, or family…Ask if they have any questions (it’s okay not to have all the answers) and say you’d like to talk again whenever they want. Say it’s good to talk about concerns…”