Do What you Love!

At the 2012 ISTE conference, the concept of “Passion” was prevalent. Kids should work on something they’re passionate about, as it leads to self-directed learning, and those 21st century skills.

I was thrilled to see this article in the StarTribune, “Stop being average and start being extraordinary.” It’s a conversation with Phil Cooke, who wrote, “One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do.” Basically, he says to find the things you love to do, and quit spending time doing things because you think you’re supposed to do it.

His example is to think about what you enjoyed doing when you were 10. While you might be able to make a living doing exactly that, you should be able to find something from that.

It makes me think about my kids and their friends. Some of them work so hard on things that they don’t like, but the whole college admissions thing makes them think they have to do so. Do they really need all those AP classes? Don’t get me wrong, that is exactly what some kids love to do, so they should. But not all kids.

My daughter is currently making some decisions about classes: stay in the AP classes, how much math/science to take, etc. While I won’t make a decision based on one article, this article would seem to support not doing that, and instead spending time on what feeds her passion: music, artc, creativity, etc. I’d be ok with that.

Here are his points for doing what you love:

  • Stop focusing on your flaws.
  • Don’t let others tell you what you should do.
  • Embrace change.
  • Don’t burn bridges.

Then there certainly are some adults I know who should also think about this!


Interesting article in the StarTribune about teens’ reading habits, “Young Adults Reading on the Go.”

We always hear that kids don’t read anymore, so I was intrigued to see this article. I disagree that kids don’t read – they just don’t read the way I read when I was a kid. They read texts, blogs, Tumbler, Facebook, more.

Kids are also writing all the time — the same as above: texting, blogs, Facebook, etc. They even write papers on their phones!

Using the Tool

I’m reading the digital version of a monthly education technology publication. As I’m turning “pages” that are basically the print magazine design, just online, I wonder when, finally, these publications will produce content delivery designs that are built for the technology, rather than just print pieces put online. I’m hoping these tech publications, of all things, will lead the way!

It reminds me of the early days of the web when all people wanted to post was their print brochure. We worked hard to get people to understand that content could -and should – be different online. You write differently, you structure the content differently, you choose different words and visuals. Content should be designed from the very beginning for digital delivery, not transforming content written for and designed to be delivered in print.

I’m reading the magazine in iBooks on an iPad. It’s not a bad reading experience, but is constrained, limited. It’s linear, even more so than a print piece. I have to zoom in on most of the pages because to fit both pages in a spread on the iPad, the text is a little small for my late-40s eyes. I started reading the magazine in a browser. Again, not a horrible experience, but far, far from ideal. I know I wouldn’t read the whole thing is I had to read it in that long, linear fashion.

What would a digital native “magazine” look like? I’m not sure, but can see some possibilities. Flipboard, for example, gives some ideas of what a digital native publication could be. Let me choose the articles I not to read without making me scroll. Don’t present two spread pages. Take advantage of the medium: embed video, use more visuals in slideshows, open links in separate windows. Let me share a single article on Twitter or Facebook.

Seth Godin = Awesome

Take 15 minutes out of your day to watch Seth Godin at a recent TEDx talk. He’s inspirational. He makes sense. He has great points. Watch it:

Here are a couple of quotes:

“Open Book. Open Note. All the time. There is zero value in memorizing anything ever again. Anything worth memorizing is worth looking up. So we shouldn’t spend any time teaching people to memorize stuff.”

“Measure experience instead of test scores.”

“No more multiple choice exams. Those were invented to make them easier to score. Computers are smarter than that now.”

“Cooperation instead of isolation. Why do we do anything when we ask them to do it all by themselves, then we put them in the real work and ask them to cooperate.”


Taking Standardized Tests for a Living

No one I know takes standardized tests for a living. So, why are we using standardized tests to see if you’re going to be good when we don’t have standardized tests after you take them?

…It’s infected the entire ecosystem of education.

If we can get parents and kids and teachers and administration to talk about it…then change will start to happen.

-Seth Godin

This is a powerful quote for me to see today, as I’m heading off to a district curriculum meeting (a parent “advisory” committee, where, honestly, parent input is sought because they legally have to. I don’t think it makes one whit of difference, but if I don’t participate, I don’t get a voice.)

Tonight, we’re reviewing proposed Advanced Placement courses. I will likely be skewered when I say that I disagree with this approach. I don’t like AP classes because – and this is fully acknowledged – they are teaching to a test. AP classes give a set curriculum to schools that cannot be changed. AP classes are a mile wide and a centimeter deep. As a professional historian, I have worked against courses like this my entire professional life because students take these broad history survey courses and don’t like them. Thus, they think they don’t like history.

OK, that’s a blog for another post. This one is about standardized testing.

I’m an excellent test taker. Give me a standardized test about anything – nuclear physics, calculus, English literature, whatever. I could take it and probably do pretty welll. Do I know anything about the subject? Nope. But I can take tests.

I love this quote from Seth Godin. Check out the entire video posted in a blog by Josh Gans, “Learning Should Fit the Child.” (As Gans acknowledges, the video is by Ericsson and is a little bit marketing, but hey, it still has excellent content.) The video is worth your 20 minutes.

The blog post is worth your time, too. Memorizing isn’t useful. Learning how to find the information is useful.



Parent Teacher Partnership

Quick post about a great article about Parent- Teacher partnerships (thanks to @Joe_Mazza for the suggestion in tonights #ptchat).

Fascinating article. makes me wonder in a school admin or a parent wrote this!

One theme throughout the post is that parent-school relationships are built on a lopsided power base: schools have more power in the situation, and that it is far easier for admin/teachers to reach out than for parents to reach in.

I definitely see this in my situation. When entering my district’s office,s I feel uncomfortable and out of place. I am a middle-class, over educated, white mother who feels uncomfortable entering the administration building. Think how others may feel?

I appreciate the thought of equal, shared power in this relationship. I question whether it can even happen, but one can hope.


In Defense of No Homework

More discussion about homework today. John Spencer linked to a blog post (by an educational psychologist, not a teacher) called, “In Defense of Homework.”

I won’t recap her points her – please read them yourself.

I truly appreciate John Spencer’s rebuttal to the post:

  • after school time should be used at the parent’s discretion. Spencer argues that sports, music and other non-school activities can also teach time management.
  • kids already spend 6+ hours in school. That can be enough. (It certainly was for both my kids.)
  • let kids pursue their passion afterschool. Incredible learning can come from that. (Again, this has definitely been the case for both my kids. I truly believe they’ve learned far more from being involved in a theater production than from doing yet another math worksheet. And for different reasons – my son could fly through them, it was pointless. He already knew it. My daughter just doesn’t think this way. It’s excruciating and she’s not going to learn it no matter how many worksheets she gets.)
  • authentic assessments can show better true results than “drill and kill” tests. (e.g. a History Day video v. a multiple choice Scantron test)

I really wish I had seen these discussions when my daughter was in elementary school. I was just going through some files from when she was in 3rd grade, and has an assessment. We were interviewed, and we talked at great length about her struggles – our struggles – with her homework in 1st and 2nd grade. SERIOUSLY – why did I ever let that happen? Why didn’t I tell her teachers that this homework was ridiculous? Even then, I knew she was getting far more from her other outside-of-school activities (choir, theater, swimming, etc.)

She is now in high school. It’s harder to make the case against homework, I suppose. But it shouldn’t be hard to make the case that homework should be purposeful and meaningful – not just homework for homework’s sake. I still see too many pointless worksheets and busy work coming home. So far this year, I have yet to see a project where she’s required to interpret content, create something new, or do anything she’s even proud of doing. It’s all taking in vast amounts of information and spitting it back out on a test. While I’m sure I can’t make the argument that there shouldn’t be homework in high school, I’d like to see it purposeful, more than worksheets.