Category Archives: social media

“But time is a scarce resource…”

I can still remember moments from school when I started in 1980.  My first teacher was Mrs. Stock, and I still keep in touch with her to this day (thanks Facebook!).  There was no one better to invoke a love for school than her.  I remember being so excited that in grade 2 or 3, we would actually start cursive writing.  This was not because I was thinking of all the opportunities that it would provide for my future, but because it seemed like a rite of passage.  The “big kids” wrote cursive, and so you would wanted to be like them.

Yet as a student in 1980, and an educator in 2016, so much has changed in our world, but one thing hasn’t changed at all (and never will); the amount of time we have in our day.

The reason I was thinking about this, is based on a tweet that I shared the other day regarding “cursive writing” in schools.

I have written about this topic before, starting back in 2011 with a post called “Thinking About Cursive” (seriously…if anything, read the comments thread. It is pretty fascinating). Here we are five years later, and the debate continues. In fact, Louisiana just made it state law to teach cursive handwriting. In this one response, the author wonders out loud the relevancy of teaching this from 4th to 12th grade (I didn’t even have to do cursive past the 8th grade):

Is this handwriting requirement based on anything other than the argument that we learned it and turned out fine?

It would be nice if my daughter learned cursive, but not at the expense of her falling behind her counterparts around the world whose fingers will be flying over keys.

And when she’s a high school senior, I hope she’s wholly focused on the future and not being held hostage to state officials’ glorification of the past

Here is the other argument for teaching cursive in schools that many have heard. This article titled, “The Benefits of Cursive Go Beyond Writing” from 2013 (Thanks for sharing Adam Woelders!), the author shares the “brain development” that happens when writing cursive.

Putting pen to paper stimulates the brain like nothing else, even in this age of e-mails, texts and tweets. In fact, learning to write in cursive is shown to improve brain development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory. Cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing and typing.

Yet if you read past the article, and into the comments, this one REALLY stuck out to me:

I’m dubious about there being hard evidence showing that cursive provides some significant benefits in brain development, and would want to see some real studies and numbers on that, not just claims that could be mere correlation. Moreover, if the relevant activity is putting pen to paper, why should cursive be any better than simple neat printing.

Beyond all that, however, I don’t think it’s simply a question of whether cursive has some tangible educational value — the really important question is whether it has MORE value than something else that could be taught in the same time. There are many subjects to cover in class — what will be omitted to make room for cursive , and what is the argument for that omitted subject being less valuable than cursive?

This is anecdoctal, but I look back on the time I spent learning cursive in grade school and find it was completely wasted — I never write in cursive and instances where I am called on to read it are vanishingly few. I would have got significantly more benefit had that time been used on foreign languages or math, for example.

If time was no object, and schools could instruct on all subjects equally, then sure, why not teach cursive? But time is a scarce resource, and if you’re teaching cursive at the exclusion of some other subject, there better be a good reason to favor it beyond appeal to nostalgia or aesthetics, or the vague invocation of educational benefits over printing. I’m not seeing that good reason.

When I look at this ongoing debate, this is about more than cursive.  This is the constant fight in education between asking if we should let go of some things from the past in anticipation of the future.  I have used cursive more in the last year than I have in the previous 30 because of people wanting me to sign the book I wrote.  I cringe a little each time because my writing is so poor, but hopefully it is legible.  Yet not one note from that book was ever written on a piece of paper.  It was either notes on my iPhone, or written on my computer.  The “signature” argument is also changing.  People that have bought my book in person through credit card on my phone, don’t sign with their pen, but their finger.  And really…if we are teaching kids about writing their signature, I hope it doesn’t take us to focus on this practice from grade 4 all the way to grade 12!

Some think that we should replace cursive with “typing”, and I struggle with this.  Do you know of any school that teaches kids how to type on an iPhone?   Yet many kids are not only fine with this practice, but excel it.  Quick hypothesis…when you care about what you are doing, you will do whatever you can to figure out a way to become good at it on your own.  Many kids learn to type when they actually care about the project they are doing, not simply focusing on how to type.  I personally can type so much better than I ever could when I was taking classes in school because I get to write about things I am interested in. This matters.

The world has changed a lot, but are we taking a good hard look at what our kids need right now, let alone ten years from now?  Many students are learning cursive in schools to this day, while we ignore their digital footprints in school, and many are less than positive to say the least.  What do you think an employer is more likely to do in 2016; ask for a sample of their cursive, or google the candidate?  What are schools doing about this in schools other than telling kids not to “be bad” online?

With the constraint of time always being a factor in our schools, we need to take a serious look not only at what we teach, but what kids need to learn to be successful not only in the future, but even in the world today.  Let’s spend more time not only talking about “what” we teach, but asking “why” we teach it.  Many schools get tested on writing a “newspaper article” while the industry is dying all over the world.  Would you invest your lifesavings in a newspaper?  Yet we still invest our time, and the learning of our students doing this practice.  We definitely want kids to be able to write for different audiences, but are they learning to embed media, hyperlink sources, and effectively communicate to an audience where anyone in the world can have access to the ideas they share?  There is only so much time we have with our kids, so we need to make the best of it.

The debate continues…I wonder if I will be writing about this five years from now.


Successful Adaptation

Have you seen any of these contradictions in schools?

We need to ask our students to become critical thinkers, but educators need to accept the system the way it is.

We want students to challenge ideas, unless they are challenging the ideas of why, how, and what we teach.

The world is constantly changing and we need to teach our learners to be flexible and adaptive, while we are making five and ten year plans.

Kids should be creators, but adults are good with consuming information.

Reflection is crucial to a child’s learning, but it is hard to find time for reflection in practice.

Empowerment is crucial for students, but you need permission to go to the bathroom and use the device that works for the teacher.

We need to do what is best for kids, without asking kids and educators what that even means.

A “growth mindset” is crucial for educators, but unfortunately we have to follow this ten year old policy.

What is important to note, is that this is not in all schools/systems around the world.  Take a look around at so many schools, and the things are doing compared to five years ago, is astounding. Lots of growth has happened.

This is about challenging the system of “what is”, and thinking about the possibilities of “what could be”.  This is going to take courageous leadership from all levels to develop innovative learning opportunities for our students, and an openness to having our current system challenged.

So let’s remix some of these statements, and turn them into questions.

The world is constantly changing and we need to teach our learners to be flexible and adaptive…how we are modelling this in our teaching, learning and leadership?

We want students to challenge ideas, so how do we promote that within our own classrooms?

We need to ask our students to become critical thinker…how are we promoting this practice in the way we look at our schools?

A “growth mindset” is crucial for educators, so how do we become adaptive  and create a system(innovator’s mindset) that is reflective of constant changes?

While the change in the world is mirroring a google document (constant change, revision, adaptation, and collaboration), we cannot be stuck on a static piece of paper.

“All failure is failure to adapt, all success is successful adaptataion.”

The Innovator’s Mindset (Book Study)

It has almost been one year since I committed to writing “The Innovator’s Mindset”, and decided to go with Shelley and Dave Burgess, and I couldn’t be more grateful. The response has been overwhelming, and my hope of this book starting conversations instead of ending them, has been something that has come to life.  My hope was to make people think differently about the possibilities for education, within the “box” that we work inside.

I was overwhelmed when I saw this tweet just the other day:

Seriously humbling.

People like Mandy Froehlich have been using it for book studies for pre-service teachers, many schools have coordinated group talks, some innovative leaders in Ontario coordinated a book study with it, and many others. Brandon Timm is doing a series sharing his thinking with his wife Jo, and making YouTube channels for each chapter (love it!).  I have done my best to jump into these conversations as much as possible, to use this to connect and learn from others. It has been an awesome experience.

This weekend, Bethany Ligon shared this book study resource that she used with her own district, and has graciously shared it with me for others to use, modify, and remix it, for their own purposes.  This was my hope and it is awesome to see it come to life.

I have also been updating resources on the blog for people to use and modify as well, with links to videos, books, articles, and anything else that I can find, relative to the book.  Please feel free to use it how you see fit.

Heather Campbell shared this picture that she created from the book the other day:

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 1.26.50 PM

As more changes happen in my life, I had to remind myself of this quote above. I just wanted to write this post to acknowledge all of those who have not only supported this work, but have pushed my thinking. The twitter chats, the voxer groups, the “skypes” with schools, and all of the face-to-face conversations,have been awesome.  I am looking forward to the continued journey.


Created Serendipity


Check out this tweet from Nicole Papuga:

This is “created serendipity”. To understand what that means, let’s first look at the definition of serendipity. Here it is when you look up the definition on google:

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.08.51 AM

Often I will tweet things out and someone will say something along the effects of “we were talking about this just last night! Thanks for the article!”, or “I definitely needed to read this today.” The funny thing is that I was already thinking about this when I saw Nicole’s tweet, and favourited it in the first place, so I could share it in the article.  Yet these seemingly serendipitous events, are also based on our willingness to create connections and be in the space, and to put in the effort in the first place.

I often tell people that if you start connecting with others in online spaces, you won’t just find great ideas, but the  great ideas will find you.

They are not totally coincidental, but in some ways, the “luck” was created long before it happened.

“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.” Oprah Winfrey

Compliance does not foster innovation.

Attachment-1 (2)

I’ve been reading the book, “The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace”, by Ron Friedman, and was struck by this part on Google’s 20% time.

“With 20 percent time, there’s always another product in development. For Google the gambit has clearly been paying off: Gmail, Google News, Google Earth, and AdSense—an advertising vehicle that nets Google $10 billion in revenue a year—are just some of the products that were developed during 20 percent time.

Which raises the question:

Would Google be nearly as profitable if its employees sat around waiting for Larry Page and Sergey Brin to tell them what to do?” – Ron Friedman



I thought about this statement in regards to a moment I had in a session I was leading at a conference. A long time friend of mine, Beth Still, had sat down in the session (although it was not necessary for her to be there as she could have easily led the session), as I shared some ideas for empowering use of social media for both teachers and students.  In my workshops, I always encourage people that if the session doesn’t work for them, they are more than welcome to leave (but not in a threatening way, more in the idea of the Edcamp model of “voting with your feet”), or they can work on things that they are interested in learning.  With the world at their fingertips, and time being a very precious resource, I want people to make the best of their time that works for them, not just what I want them to learn.  The only thing that I expect is that they do not infringe on the learning of others.

As I am sharing ideas, Beth is totally immersed in working with another teacher sharing and helping her through the process. They were creating a new Twitter account, a blog site, and she was fully immersed in working with someone who was extremely committed to learning. Neither of them were listening to me, and to be honest, I didn’t really care.  They were getting a ton out of their time, not just the session.

The power of this was not only for the person learning from the wisdom of Beth, but Beth as will. As she gave me a ride home, she was invigorated about the experience for herself and the contagious excitement of the teacher for learning something new, and feeling empowered to go on with the learning after the fact.

Can you imagine if I asked them to “pay attention”, or even asked them to take their learning outside?  I fear I would have caused deflation in both of them, for the sake of my ego, over their learning.  The impact they had on one another was great to watch and I was proud of not only my friend, but also that it happened in the space that we were all working.  It was great to see the after-effects of their time together.

This is something that I truly believe and shared in the book, “The Innovator’s Mindset“, when I talked about moving from a culture of compliance to empowerment (engagement is not a high enough bar in my opinion):

“Compliance does not foster innovation. In fact, demanding conformity does quite the opposite.”

People learn to wait for people to tell them what to do, because the culture dictates it, not because it is innate.  Does your culture promote innovation or creativity (with actions) or does it promote compliance?  If it is the latter, this will eventually trickle down to kids.  We should not only prepare kids for the real world, but hopefully develop them as the leaders of today that make a better world.  They won’t do this by waiting and being told what to do.

“Support Without Interference”

This was an image I posted on my #YourDailyAwwwwww hashtag of a young boy catching a fish.

View post on

Is it adorable? Absolutely. I love sharing adorable stuff in my blog.

But why I share it is the following top comment from the post that really stuck out to me.

“Good work Dad, support without interference.”

I have a very good friend who is doing amazing things in education.  She often asks me for advice and support, and I am open to giving it to her.  She wants to get better.  Yet sometimes she goes in a direction that is opposite of what I suggest.  Instead of being frustrated, I always support her.  Nobody knows her context better than she does, and how she got to the place that she is already, was not based on my advice, but her gut.

You see, when we are open to providing support, this sometimes means people will go in ways that we don’t necessarily agree with or understand.  This is okay.  And in fact, sometimes they go in an opposite direction and it was the absolute right decision for them, and worked out better than your advice would have if they would have accepted it. What is important is that you are still there to support them, and be okay with them going in the direction their gut sends them.  Leadership is about trust and when we “interfere”, that trust is obviously lacking. With support though, trust is shown in an abundance.  Sometimes it is important that others “step in”, but choose those moments wisely.

Some ideas that others have will fall on their face.  When we try to “control” the direction, we often lose great people that were willing to do great things, because they felt they weren’t allowed.

Support without interference.  

Just a amazing idea for not only catching a fish, but leadership in general.

The Policies In Your Head

Working with educators and trying to help challenge the traditional notion of schooling, many of them will come to me privately and say, “I would love to do some of this stuff, but our policies won’t allow us.”  When I talk to their principals though and ask them about those same policies, they will tell you that they don’t exist.

Sometimes we create something in our head as a barrier, or we hold onto something from years previously.

At a session with a group of teachers in Winnipeg that I am working with, one of the comments was that they were reluctant to go on Twitter because “the union wouldn’t allow it”.  Serendipitously over lunch, the following tweet was sent by the same union:

The barrier was either in their own mind, or no longer existed.

I know people will always say, “Ask for forgiveness instead of permission”, but I have never been in that mindset. I like not getting into trouble.  One thing that I would always say to my teachers as a principal is that “I cannot solve problems that I don’t know exist.”

Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the pursuit of doing what is best for kids. Otherwise, the thing that might be holding you back is your own thinking, and nothing else.

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Thinking Deeply About Why We Do What We Do

Yesterday I wrote a post on the “absolutes” in education, and I asked what should every student be able to by the time they leave school. Since it was posted on April 1, some people thought it was maybe a practical joke.  This image shared yesterday seemed extremely relevant.

April Fools

Well the post was serious so obviously I need to work on my writing skills!

Yet the questioning of it was actually in line for what I hoped for.  We often ask questions in hopes for answers, but I am trying to ask more questions to simply get people to think, and hopefully, come up with more questions.

Some of the ideas and questions (there were a lot) that came up in response to the tweet were the following (paraphrased):

  • Can there truly be any “absolutes”?
  • Shouldn’t this be dependent upon the community?
  • Kids need to be able to think
  • Learn, unlearn, and relearn
  • Be happy

Again, the question was a prompt for conversation, not about absolute answers.  I truly think that these are conversations that we should be having with our community, to really think about not only what we are doing, but how and most importantly, why.  I believe in teacher autonomy, but I also believe in a shared purpose.  Do we truly go beyond a “vision” or do we bring that vision to life?

One way that I have seen this done recently is through districts creating a “global graduate profile”. Here is an example of one from Houston ISD (Houston, Texas).

For more information, click the image or go to:

For more information, click the image or go to:

From what I know, this was a shared process to figure this “profile” out, which makes it all the more powerful. This post is not to question the elements you see in the profile from Houston, because each community is different, but to think about the process.  Do we go beyond grades and kids getting jobs or going to post-secondary, or do we go beyond this?  I think these questions and images could help a lot of schools in bringing their community together in thinking about what our students really need and compare it to what we do.

I would love your thoughts on this.

(Check out the image below from Houston ISD. I think this could be a great discussion piece.)

Screenshot 2016-04-02 11.27.10

Getting Proper Permission for Posting Student Pictures Online

A lot of educators ask me about posting student pictures on social media, to be able to celebrate the great things that are going on in their classrooms and schools.  Not only does it share the learning, but it also helps students to understand their presence online and what it tells people.

Usually the process is that through some vetting, a school or district will provide some type of form.  There will be discussions with parents, and hopefully there is a process where parents sign that they are okay with what you are doing.  Ongoing discussions with staff also may discuss what are some good things to post, and things that you might not want to.  Yet, I have noticed that sometimes there is something missing.

Asking the kids for their permission.

Now I am not saying all teachers do this, but I think that if we want to model something to our students, we need to constantly ask them if it is okay if we post their picture online, even if we have their parents permission and even if the student signs off on something previously.

There are a few reasons that stick out to me on why you should ask students for their permission…

First of all, each day is different and there are days where maybe a student is not up for you sharing their picture to the world.

Secondly, we need to model that if we are going to post something online of someone, that we should ask permission.  Even if a student is younger and may not understand the full breadth of how many people can actually see the picture, it is still a good practice to model.

Finally, tying into the last point, how comfortable would many teachers be of students just taking a picture of them with their phone and posting it online without permission?

I appreciate the educators that make this a common practice, no matter what forms are signed. If we do not ask the student for their permission, do all of the other forms and permissions matter as much?

What we modelis whatwe get.

The (Nearly) Invisible Portfolio

Portfolios are something I think that we need to really take advantage of in the realm of possibilities for school today.  I have written about this extensively for the past six years, and this very post is being added to my portfolio in which you are reading right now.  The interesting thing about this idea is that my portfolio may have found you, or you may have found it, but in both cases, anyone can see it.  There are different ways I can share my learning through different mediums.  I love to write, but I also am able to share through visuals, podcasts, video, or things that I couldn’t even imagine.  This opens up doors for students to communicate their learning and understanding in ways that we didn’t necessarily have when I was a child.  It is not just assessment of learning, but assessment as learning.  The creation of learning and the thought process of whether I should share this to the world are critical skills we need to teach our kids, let alone, understand ourselves.

I also have the option of allowing you to see it or not. I do have spaces where my learning is for my eyes only, or in what I choose to share. Talking with educators, this component is crucial. The learner should have the option of what they want the world to see, not the teacher.  The conversations that can come from this are so crucial.  Asking the learner why they chose the piece of work that they did to share with the world, is a critical conversation that we are not having enough with our students, because frankly, we aren’t giving them this opportunity enough.

Yet many of the “portfolios” that I have seen being shared now are for the school and for the parents only, with no intention of it going any further.  There is power in putting your learning in one place, but are we taking advantage of the opportunities that digital allows us to connect and share our learning with the entire world, if we so choose? Not only can I share my learning, but I am developing a digital footprint every time I press publish.  There is a lot of learning we can have through these places that many schools are using, but have you ever heard of a potential employer asking a student to see their Edmodo account?  Me neither.

I wrote about this earlier in the year:

Your dream job is available and the deadline for your application is tomorrow so please bring a resume and portfolio,” you could probably put that together the night before. It might not be great, but it is definitely doable.

Now, what about this scenario?

“Your dream job is available and I am going to need a resume but I will also be Googling all candidates to see what they share online.”

How would you fair?

How would our kids fair?  Creating a digital footprint is not an overnight thing, but are we even helping them share the positives of what they are doing in school with the entire world?

There are opportunities in these spaces and I see them as well. If we are replacing report cards with these “hidden digital portfolios”, that’s a great step, but is it really the end of our vision of what is possible right now?  Do we as educators teach kids to separate what they do in school from what they do outside of it?  I love this quote attributed to Rushton Hurley:

good enough

Do our kids have this opportunity to share their abilities to the world? Is our own lack of vision holding them back?

“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” Wayne Gretzky