Maintaining Innovation

“Innovation” might be the most used word to frame the current narrative of change in education. It’s been used to drive the use of technology but also as my friend George done, used to change mindsets. It’s difficult to argue against the idea that education was, or is still in need of change.

For those who continue to suggest that education has not changed in the last 50 years or so, I don’t think you get out much. The schools and classrooms I visit are making great strides in shifting the locus of control from teachers to students. They aren’t there yet but in the vast majority of districts, this is a driving focus.

As someone who has taught pre-service teachers, I often have them reflect on this chart.


Almost all of them acknowledge a shift from teacher to student focus. Some of the other areas are a blend of the left and right columns but they almost all agree their recentK-12 education was not completely on the left side of this chart.

Ok, so some will debate my perspective and that’s fair enough. My observations are just that. But for those using blanket statements about how school … Read the rest

I Don’t Read Your Blog 

John Spencer is among the smartest people I know. He’s creative, thoughtful and introspective. He also has a really good blog. That I don’t read.
I talk with John frequently. He’s helped me work through ideas. He’s bounced things off me regularly. I have a blog too. That he doesn’t read.  (We coincidentally confessed this to each other a few days ago. We laughed)
I have been blessed to know dozens of people like John, many of whom have great blogs. I don’t read them either. I share this as both a confession but also a reflection in my evolution of learning shifts in consumption.
Blogging has been and remains for me the best way to reflect. When I began it was also a great way to connect more deeply with educators around the world. My job was like most in that outside of my online interactions, I had few focused conversations on topics I was interested in. My job with Discovery Education has me interacting with so many smart people that I work with and as part of our community. I’m privileged to attend many conferences and connect to incredibly passionate smart people. I have regular discussions about … Read the rest

How did it go today?

Today I presented a brand new workshop called “Surprisingly Awesome”. I described it this way:

 Shakespeare, The War of 1812, the Pythagorean theory are just a sample of things we teach in schools that
for many aren’t very interesting. Yet there is something incredibly satisfying and ful lling when you can help students see the awesome and interesting things they originally dismiss. This session will explore some tools and strategies that can turn those kinds of topics into learning that is surprisingly awesome. If you have a great strategy or approach that’s been effective in making something mundane become surprisingly awesome, bring that idea to share.

I blogged about that title and its origins a while back. For those of you who are classroom teachers, you get to try out new things every day. I don’t have that luxury so I’m super excited to be able to test out new ideas and concepts from time to time.

Today was one such day.


I was careful to alert folks that this session had a high probability of failure. Click To Tweet I also warned them that they would be working together and that their feedback about the session would be critical. … Read the rest

“Why Can’t Our Business Be More Like Schools?”

“I’ll take  “Things You Never Hear” for $1000 Alex.”

The Internet is full of “Make Schools More like a Starbucks” Or “What if Schools Were More like Google” or like Minecraft.


For years, schools have been looking everywhere for models of what to do differently. I get it. Schools as an institution are in need of a makeover and are still mired in outdated practices and systems.

But I’m also fully aware of many schools that are creating wonderful learning opportunities and spaces that take full advantage of limited resources. The aren’t really like a Starbucks or like Google but are uniquely like themselves. Schools like SAIL in Surrey, BC, Caufeild Elementary in West Vancouver and H. B. Beal in London, ON. These aren’t perfect and they aren’t much alike in some respects but like hundreds of schools around the world, they don’t need to be envious of any business culture because they’re too busy creating their own unique space.

This is not to say we can’t learn from others or other organizations but my argument is that schools aren’t like businesses or video games in most respects. The danger is leaning too heavily on metaphors which … Read the rest

Three Questions

I say a lot of things on Twitter. Most tweets get very little attention and rightly so. Occasionally I manage a lucid thought that seems to resonate more than I anticipated. Sunday I tweeted:

So I thought I’d provide a bit more context to explain this idea.

My journey into assessment and changing the narrative has been going on for over a decade. Specifically dealing with the question, “Who owns the assessment?” It shouldn’t be about what satisfies me but what aids the learner in getting the most from the experience.

For the most part, we’ve over complicated assessment. Our data-obsessed world and education system continues to look for silver bullets, accountability, and/or justification of our practices. More tools mean more ways to try and measure learning. My mantra remains:

You might not be able to measure learning, but you can document it. 

So assessment and evaluation remain elements of my teaching that I’m always tweaking and ultimately empowering the learners as much as possible. It’s why they … Read the rest