All posts by Dean Shareski

Watershed Moments of Learning

I was chatting with someone the other day and the idea of watershed moments came up. Specifically, we reflected on watershed moments in our own learning and careers. Watershed moments are those occasions where there the lightbulb came on or something profound was shared or understood. They happen in various contexts no doubt. As I thought about my own I was instantly curious about other people’s experiences.

A few years ago I shared what about believe were seminal moments in edtech history but this is a more personal look at important events that transform my thinking and practices. I thought I’d share my watershed moments in the following format. Professional Learning event or conference, speaker or presentation, book, tool, and person.

PD/Conference:
I go to a lot of conferences and can be pretty critical. It’s a challenge to try and make an event have the kind of impact organizations plan. I’ve been to a number of really good events but the one that stands out is Un’Plugd. It took place in the summer of 2011 and was a one of a kind event. 40 educators from across Canada gathered for a weekend in northern Ontario to spend time writing … Read the rest

Joy and Love

This past week was Discovery Education‘s annual summer institute affectionately known as DENSI. 150 educators from all over the world spend 5 days together at what really can’t be described as a conference or professional development. It’s something different. The affection I feel for the people I just spent the last number of days with is hard to articulate. Just watching people learn and play and laugh is intoxicating. It’s particularly amazing to see folks from other countries cross cultural barriers to simply connect as educators and humans. 

The theme for this year’s event was joy. In education words like “joy” and “love” are often reluctantly used. We have historically left those ideas for other institutions to manage. Learning can happen without them but when you include them, the idea of “community” takes on a whole new meaning and learning goes to another level. 

Yesterday for our final celebration event folks came dressed in whatever outfit/costume brought them joy. A group of community members decided to dress in colored pants and a Canadian t-shirt as a tribute to me. I was humbled and slightly embarrassed at this gesture. Sheila organized it all and represents the quality of people … Read the rest

Yesterday, I Wasn’t My Best

First of all, I’m fully aware I have one of, if not the, best job in the world.  Most days I acknowledge this fact and work passionately to fulfill our goal to build and foster community. But occasionally, like all of us, I have a day or moment when I don’t give my best.

As part of Discovery Education’s Summer Institute, we host a unique event for principals. What a great group of enthusiastic leaders who are give up 3 days of their summer to further their learning. Yesterday I gave a presentation I had done once before called “No More Boring Presentations”. While I don’t think it was boring, I also don’t think it was very good. It certainly wasn’t my best. The first time I gave it, it was for a different audience. Instead of taking the time to rework the content for a different audience, I tried to adapt on the fly. I ended up with a disjointed session with hopefully a few takeaways but a largely unsatisfying experience. In short, I sucked.

People are too kind. This image was created during my session and I’m guessing many walked away with an idea or two that … Read the rest

Yesterday, I Wasn’t My Best

First of all, I’m fully aware I have one of, if not the, best job in the world.  Most days I acknowledge this fact and work passionately to fulfill our goal to build and foster community. But occasionally, like all of us, I have a day or moment when I don’t give my best.

As part of Discovery Education’s Summer Institute, we host a unique event for principals. What a great group of enthusiastic leaders who are give up 3 days of their summer to further their learning. Yesterday I gave a presentation I had done once before called “No More Boring Presentations”. While I don’t think it was boring, I also don’t think it was very good. It certainly wasn’t my best. The first time I gave it, it was for a different audience. Instead of taking the time to rework the content for a different audience, I tried to adapt on the fly. I ended up with a disjointed session with hopefully a few takeaways but a largely unsatisfying experience. In short, I sucked.

People are too kind. This image was created during my session and I’m guessing many walked away with an idea or two that … Read the rest

Reminding Myself to Keep My Mouth Shut

I believe strongly in debate and civil discourse. I’ve gone so far as to design a course that explores what this looks like particularly online. I’ve not hesitated to critique language and ideas I think may be harmful. 

That disposition always needs to be tempered with an understanding of the world we live in. Social media means the newest app, trend or idea often gets positioned as revolutionary and then immediately bashed by naysayers. Neither are right. 


Pokemon Go arrives and soon folks go from downloading to playing to seeing potential for learning. As quickly as that’s shared, they take a beating. I was one who downloaded the game and before I could play was immersed in the hype and sniffed the “game changer” claims. 

But before I hit the snark button I better step back. Just because someone thinks something has potential and gets a bit excited doesn’t mean we attack. This happens too often to anyone suggesting something might have educational value. I’ve been guilty of this myself. What I need to remind myself is to keep quiet and let people play. 

In the classroom I remember introducing my kids to new technologies. Dating myself, I recall handing … Read the rest

Do We Have to Draw it That Way?

My wife teaches grade 2 and has all her students choose their own theme day. She spreads these days our throughout the year. Earlier this month one student chose Legos to be the theme. My wife had her students draw themselves as Lego characters. She had them use this image as a pattern.

As her students started to work, some of the girls asked if they had to draw it that way. My wife wasn’t sure what they were asking but soon some of the boys completed their drawings and she understood their question better.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere, just not sure what it is.


On a side note, this post was prompted in a weird way by my friend Steve‘s return to blogging. Steve was one of the very first blogs I followed back over a decade ago. Back then, educational blogging seemed more niche. People wrote about new tools and apps and conferences. I have to admit, I soon began to see these kinds of posts as less important. I tended to gravitate more towards posts that appeared to have more depth. Knowing Steve as well as I do and having the privilege of working with … Read the rest

Hour of Code is Good Enough

Whenever a new idea is introduced to education, expect a flood of criticisms. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, we need naysayers and critics to challenge all our ideas. It’s what makes a democratic society function and it’s important for our ideas to be challenged in order to improve them.

Photo by Kevin Jarrett
Photo by Kevin Jarrett

Hour of Code is one of those burgeoning ideas that is getting a lot of up take in schools. Proponents love it as an easy way to introduce the coding and computer science to students with little or no background needed from either the teacher or the student. Critics argue that it’s not enough and it dumbs down what is a critical and important skill.

We are doing a disservice to kids by assuming that they can’t grasp industry-standard languages, complex computer science topics, and applications. By limiting them, we undermine their capabilities and stifle their creative and inventive potential.

 

The promise of K-12 education has always been to provide children with a broad liberal arts experience that prepares them for life. While some chose a greater focus on college and career, this still suggests that we offer students a wide range of … Read the rest

How to Become a Brand. Or Not.

Becoming a brand takes intention and thought. It is by definition a marketing approach. In our current era, this is not exclusively for products and organizations but individuals. Educators, specifically are often encouraged to “build their personal brand“. I’ve seen others, incorporate strategies that have led them to successfully creating a brand. Let me share a few things that may help you to build your personal brand.

  1. The majority of your tweets should be links to other sites. A tweet without one has no value. Bonus if you auto-tweet them all day long. Make your brand 24/7.
  2. Never post personal content. No one wants to hear about your naps or golf game or shopping excursions with your wife. The more you tweet about yourself as a human being, the more your brand loses its focus. People use twitter for information, not your silly natterings.
  3. Blog like an expert. Your blog posts should be stand-alone artifacts of authority. Questioning your practice or showing ambivalence makes you look weak. Write as if you’re the smartest person in the room.
  4. Never engage in conversation on twitter. When people question you or reach out to you, ignore them. It’s a time and energy suck. Spend your
Read the rest

Calling BS

Bandwagons are full of people who either love everything or just like being in the majority. In education. of course, bandwagons come and go. I’m sure I’ve been on a few. Some might argue advocating for change is a bandwagon itself. I likely wouldn’t argue that. Bandwagons get boring very quickly and the more folks that jump on them, the more diluted the ideas often get.

I’m a love when people have the courage to question bandwagons and even call BS on them. I teach a course at Wilkes University called “Sustaining Digital Literacy” a major component of the course is to examine trends in education and try to view them with multiple perspectives and even skepticism.

The Skeptical Chihuahua

Today I came across a couple of blog posts where a couple of ideas or bandwagons get challenged. Karl Fisch, a long time blogger, thought leader and genuinely smart person, challenges the long time notion that deadlines are part of the “real world” and that students need to learn how to meet them. In principle, this makes sense but when teachers or schools create hard lines, they ignore the fact that they themselves, might be the poorest examples of meeting deadlines. … Read the rest

Happy Birthday George, Sorry I Suck

If you don’t already know, I’m one of the Courski brothers. I have socks to prove it.


(I’m guessing the reason that Alec is huge and George is tiny in the image is because Alec likely paid for them and George never reimbursed him)

Alec and George have been a big part of my learning for several years. First Alec got me started teaching at the University and we’ve presented together many times virtually and in person. When Alec turned 40, I organized a little video with 75 of his friends to have some fun and celebrate his life.

Alec also conspired with Diana Williams to create my epic 50th #socks4dean birthday.

Over the last couple of years, George has been asking for his video.

I should have really made him one but between my laziness and lack of inspiration, it never happened. Fortunately, I have women in my life who remind me of stuff. Michelle Baldwin let me know what we missed George’s 40th last year and that perhaps some of us should step up. Read the rest