Category Archives: Discovery

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

Being Self-Aware

Mirrors

I’ve had a few conversations lately with family, friends and colleagues about self-awareness. I find it fascinating as a personal introspective but wondering if it can be and should be explicitly taught. For the most part, I consider myself pretty self-aware. I suppose most people would say the same. We like to think we’re honest with ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses and foibles and annoyances. It usually takes more than simply being reflective to address this. It requires the eyes of others to at times let you know when you’ve missed the mark or even when you’ve done well but weren’t even aware of the impact. On more than one occasion, I’ve come to terms with my own lack of self-awareness.

Exhibit 1:

I’m one of the worst complimenters on the planet. This is now a running joke among the folks I work with at Discovery Education. I have a bad habit of using “actually” or some other odd qualifier when I give people a compliment. “Actually, that’s not a bad shot” (ask Steve Dembo for the full story) I certainly wasn’t aware I was doing this but after being called on it more than once, I now can … Read the rest

Am I Successful?

I’ve had my struggles in measuring success. I first encountered my mild disdain for the notion when I was introduced to SMART goals. Every time I tried to create a goal I was excited about, I was immediately confused and challenged by my inability to identify measurable goals. Some told me my goals weren’t written correctly. They were probably right. I also struggle with such a strong focus on goals in general. Many will tell you that unless you write down your goals you’ll never achieve them. Maybe. Maybe not.

As a teacher, I knew my efforts to help students be successful went way beyond grades and scores, yet that remains the simplest way to measure things. When I began working at the district level, things started to get complicated. Every year I completed a growth plan and was asked to identify my plans/goals and measures of success. I would typical try and include quantitative goals such as numbers of workshops offered, participation, etc. Like grades, these are fairly trivial measures of success but because they are easy, I defaulted to this.

I’m grateful that as I now work for Discovery Education, I have a great deal of say about … Read the rest

Lessons From 70+ Ignites

Over the past 18 months, I’ve hosted 8 Ignite Events as part of my role as Community Manager for Discovery Education. If you’re not familiar with these events, here’s a brief invitation I created for our upcoming event in Vancouver.

I’ve heard superintendents, principals, teachers, community members and students share over 70 of these talks. Mostly hosted in pubs or restaurants, there are several factors that make this one of the best networking/learning events I’ve been a part of.

  • Location: The fact we hold them in a pub is important. It’s purposely not in a school and not just because people can drink, although that can helpful. 😉 An offsite location immediately relaxes people, let’s them know this isn’t necessarily work related as well it represents a neutral meeting space. In addition, the less fancy, the better. Each location has had its challenges in terms of viewing screens and hearing speakers but those constraints actually make people work harder to support one another.
  • Social first, learning second: The order is important. In most professional learning environments, social is at best acknowledged, at worst ignored. Our focus is on the networking. We create time and space to have conversations. For many participants,
Read the rest

My Best Work This Year

IMG_1016This was another incredibly satisfying year professionally. My work with Discovery Education continues to evolve and my role as Community Engagement Manager is one where I get to work with so many wonderful people. I spoke to thousands of people in keynotes and workshops. I collaborated with colleagues on many projects and contributed to lots of content online. However this year my best work came in the form of a passion around storytelling.

A few years ago I saw a great series of videos produced for Prudential Insurance called Day One Stories. These were short videos featuring people on their first day of retirement. While that may or may not sound very interesting, they were shot beautifully and told simple but compelling stories.

I immediately considered both how a similar concept could be used within the Discovery Education Community. Having dabbled with video over the years, I relished the opportunity to create something based on these stories. The DEN (Discovery Education Network) began in 2005 so this was our tenth year. We celebrated in various ways and I was given the opportunity to celebrate by creating my own version of the Day One Stories.

Ben Grey, who helped create 59 in 59 in his district, spent time with me sharing his expertise and insights as I set out to create the DEN in TEN stories. Over the next few months, I shot and edited 8 videos featuring 9 community members. We showcased educators from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.  From elementary and high school teachers, principals and vice-principals and district leaders and coaches and even retired educators, the Discovery Education Community is diverse and full of great stories.

For example, here’s RJ Stangerlin. She’s a founding member of the community, retired educator and cancer survivor. I was privileged to share her story.

DEN in TEN: RJ Stangerlin from shareski on Vimeo.

You can view all the stories here.

While I say it was my best work, I’m fully aware of the flaws and areas that need improving. I’m not a professional videographer but am passionate about storytelling. I’m grateful for people like Ben who are so willing to share and offer great feedback.

For those interested in the technical side or process here it is.

I began each project with a Skype call to do a mock interview. As you might be able to tell, the videos follow a pretty basic plot line. Your role as an educator, your personal life and interests, your connection to the community. A 30-minute pre-interview gave me a better idea of what I would like to capture. I arranged to travel to the subject’s location and tried to capture the audio first. Using a snowball mic and a quiet space, we mostly just talked. I wanted to capture as natural a conversation as possible. Usually, I ended up with anywhere from 15-30 minutes of audio. Then we went to film. Knowing that none of the audio from the video would be used, simplified the process. I used a Canon Rebel ti3 DSLR with a 50mm lens. I tried to only use footage that was shot from a single position. No panning or zooming. I didn’t always keep this rule but tried. The challenge came in shooting in classrooms. I tried to use a variety of shots so that classrooms didn’t become generic. I captured about an hour of total footage.

Editing always began with the audio track. Using Audacity, I essentially tried to find snippets that might be useful. Rarely were these longer than a minute. I ended up with 6-8 minutes of audio and then tried to edit it down to 3-5 minutes. This was the most difficult part of the editing but the format I used meant that after this was done, the rest would be much easier. I used iMovie to do the rest of the editing. Having access to the Discovery Music library I looked for minimalist soundtracks that did nothing more than kept the story moving at the appropriate pace.

I could talk for hours on the nuances of this kind of storytelling, not as an expert but as someone who appreciates and is trying to learn this craft. I hope to continue telling these stories and more importantly, hope the help you understand better the Discovery Education Community.

My Best Work This Year

IMG_1016This was another incredibly satisfying year professionally. My work with Discovery Education continues to evolve and my role as Community Engagement Manager is one where I get to work with so many wonderful people. I spoke to thousands of people in keynotes and workshops. I collaborated with colleagues on many projects and contributed to lots of content online. However this year my best work came in the form of a passion around storytelling.

A few years ago I saw a great series of videos produced for Prudential Insurance called Day One Stories. These were short videos featuring people on their first day of retirement. While that may or may not sound very interesting, they were shot beautifully and told simple but compelling stories.

I immediately considered both how a similar concept could be used within the Discovery Education Community. Having dabbled with video over the years, I relished the opportunity to create something based on these stories. The DEN (Discovery Education Network) began in 2005 so this was our tenth year. We celebrated in various ways and I was given the opportunity to celebrate by creating my own version of the Day One Stories.

Ben Grey, who helped create 59 in 59 in his district, spent time with me sharing his expertise and insights as I set out to create the DEN in TEN stories. Over the next few months, I shot and edited 8 videos featuring 9 community members. We showcased educators from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.  From elementary and high school teachers, principals and vice-principals and district leaders and coaches and even retired educators, the Discovery Education Community is diverse and full of great stories.

For example, here’s RJ Stangerlin. She’s a founding member of the community, retired educator and cancer survivor. I was privileged to share her story.

DEN in TEN: RJ Stangerlin from shareski on Vimeo.

You can view all the stories here.

While I say it was my best work, I’m fully aware of the flaws and areas that need improving. I’m not a professional videographer but am passionate about storytelling. I’m grateful for people like Ben who are so willing to share and offer great feedback.

For those interested in the technical side or process here it is.

I began each project with a Skype call to do a mock interview. As you might be able to tell, the videos follow a pretty basic plot line. Your role as an educator, your personal life and interests, your connection to the community. A 30-minute pre-interview gave me a better idea of what I would like to capture. I arranged to travel to the subject’s location and tried to capture the audio first. Using a snowball mic and a quiet space, we mostly just talked. I wanted to capture as natural a conversation as possible. Usually, I ended up with anywhere from 15-30 minutes of audio. Then we went to film. Knowing that none of the audio from the video would be used, simplified the process. I used a Canon Rebel ti3 DSLR with a 50mm lens. I tried to only use footage that was shot from a single position. No panning or zooming. I didn’t always keep this rule but tried. The challenge came in shooting in classrooms. I tried to use a variety of shots so that classrooms didn’t become generic. I captured about an hour of total footage.

Editing always began with the audio track. Using Audacity, I essentially tried to find snippets that might be useful. Rarely were these longer than a minute. I ended up with 6-8 minutes of audio and then tried to edit it down to 3-5 minutes. This was the most difficult part of the editing but the format I used meant that after this was done, the rest would be much easier. I used iMovie to do the rest of the editing. Having access to the Discovery Music library I looked for minimalist soundtracks that did nothing more than kept the story moving at the appropriate pace.

I could talk for hours on the nuances of this kind of storytelling, not as an expert but as someone who appreciates and is trying to learn this craft. I hope to continue telling these stories and more importantly, hope the help you understand better the Discovery Education Community.

Critical Literacy


In case you missed it, Discovery Education offered a free virtual conference in October that centered around Kathy Schrock’s 13 Literacies for the digital age. Unique presenters all shared in 30 minutes or less many perspectives on these various literacies. All of them have been archived and edited so they are great for review and sharing at staff meetings or PD events.

I closed the event with a presentation on critical literacy. There were some new elements I had to explore and had a great time putting together this talk. My colleague and friend Steve Dembo did some fancy editing to remove the 10 minute debacle that took place as I lost sound to my computer and had to transfer my slides to another machine. All in all, it worked out and here’s the presentation if you care to watch.

Critical Literacy, featuring Dean Shareski from Discovery Education on Vimeo.

Why We Work

The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz remains one of my favorite TED talks.

The insight and wisdom from Schwartz come through in his latest book Why We Work. Of course, we all seek work that is satisfying and fulfilling but Schwartz provides an interesting historical background that in my mind parallel the way in which public schools were created. The default perception of school tends to be something students have to endure. Much of this was borne out of its history. Schools were designed to address the needs of the industrial revolution and were developed from a factory model.  Educating the masses required a system built on efficiency. The needs of the child were not considered nearly as much as the needs of society. And while this is changing, its impact and structures remain.

Schwartz points out the industrial revolution and mass production of goods created a need to convince people to do menial tasks. Previously, most people earned a living by doing things they were good at and were self-sufficient. Getting someone to do repetitive tasks was difficult and thus the way to convince people to do these tasks was through monetary incentives. Before this, working was as much about a satisfying way to spend a life as it was about making money. Today, the default assumption is that primary reason people work is for money. Schwartz attempts to debunk this idea by suggesting creating work environments where other elements supersede just working for money.  Essentially, he argues that:

If we design workplaces that permit people to do work they value, we will be designing a human nature that values work. If we design workplaces that permit people to find meaning in their work, we will be designing a human nature that values work. 

Schwartz provides much greater detail about what this might look like and I urge you to read the book.

Lance sharingI shared this book with my boss Lance Rouguex who decided to everyone on our team a copy.  Lance does many things to design the kind of workplace that Schwartz suggests. I could write a great deal about the many things he does, but something he did at a recent meeting made me think about its application to schools and classrooms. He asked each of us to share what we love about our work and one highlight from the past year. It was inspiring to hear from everyone and reaffirmed the great privilege we have at Discovery Education to do meaningful work. Lance does so many things to create the kind of work environment anyone would want to be part of. In previous meetings, he would take the time to do positive affirmations. While these were often tongue and cheek, and we giggled through them, it was sincere and full of detail that would remind us all how great it was to work where we did.

What a great lesson for leaders and teachers. What if, at your next staff meeting, you asked teachers to share what they loved about teaching and have them share a highlight from the week? What if, as a leader, you send out a weekly or monthly note highlighting something you valued from your staff? 

As teachers,  we know that we’re supposed to love our job because we’re shaping minds and all those other flowery and pithy phrases. But until you have people think, reflect and share out loud the many little moments, it’s a very easy to forget. I would suggest that in many of our staff rooms, negativity often emerges as the dominant culture. Not because people are bad but because teaching is a draining profession that too often focuses on things we aren’t doing well. I love that George Couros recently asked people to change their perspectives on data.  Schools are notorious on focusing on deficits. Continually focusing on what we still have to do or what we’ve been doing wrong is a recipe for burnout and job dissatisfaction.

I think we’re at a crisis in education with teacher shortages continuing to garner headlines.  The easy answer is “pay teachers more”. To me, that’s a bandaid solution. The real answer lies in making the job better. This isn’t done with cash but with creating environments where teachers feel valued and see the value in what they do. For too long this has been a solitary pursuit with only a select number of leaders working to support teachers in this. Read Why We Work and consider what it means for our schools.