I Don’t Read Educational Books

My good friend George Couros gives me a hard time about this. He gives me a hard time about a lot of things. I like that. The truth is, it’s been a long time since I’ve read an educational book and in particular an educational book written in the last 5 years.

I’ve thought about this quite a bit and yet I hadn’t been able to fully articulate my own thinking on this until a recent conversation with Kristina Ishmael. (Disclaimer: We didn’t actually jump after we talked but we should have)

It’s not likely that it is because of a single reason so I’ll list a few. I’m not writing this to convince anyone of anything but perhaps this might alleviate some guilt folks about who for their own reasons, don’t find educational books particularly compelling. Keep in mind, I wrote a book and am grateful for those that have read it.

  1. I’m immersed in this work. Particularly in the last 10-15 years I’ve spent my work life not just as an educator, which I had for the previous 15 years, but immersed in conversation and thought around the topic. Unlike a classroom teacher, I’ve had the luxury of exploring lots of ideas and issues that most teachers can only do outside the regular day.
  2. Blogging. Creating a blog and writing opened up a brand new world for me. For me, connecting directly with others in the field offered a very personal, intimate, conversational way to learn. Books were limited and fixed ideas. Having direct access to authors spoiled me. Another aspect of blogging I value is that it’s highly personal. I like blogs that are specific and don’t try to make their learning universal. I like the unpolished, raw nature of blogging. Many times, when bloggers, including myself, write a book, the tendency is to make it less conversational and more prescriptive. Certainly, you can argue this isn’t always the case but too often people take their own learning and want so badly to make it accessible for others they resort to things like cute acronyms and frameworks that magically align to their learning. Again, I know they are just trying to be helpful and they certainly are helpful for many. I’m just voicing my own reality. I prefer folks sharing their learning in a less packaged way.
  3. I need another perspective. When your world revolves around education you can get pretty insular with the way you see the world. I take great pleasure in taking ideas that live outside of traditional education and seeing how they might be beneficial for classrooms and schools. I want to read someone who has had vastly different experiences than I’ve had.

Again, this is in no way a knock against all the great people who are writing and telling their stories through books. As someone who thinks of himself as a learner it would seem natural to be reading these books. So when I find myself disinterested, I need to ask why that is.

As a follow up to this post, I’ll share what it is I am reading .

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 the things I’m passionate about and get to hear from others and their passions as well.

When I do read a post, it’s because it’s caught my eye on social media. So I still read blogs, just not like I used to. My RSS reader is largely for my students which I do read even after the course ends. Other than that, there are dozens of unread subscriptions and feeds that I’ve once subscribed to but just don’t read because when it comes to consumption, I don’t  want to read about education all that much. I can’t remember the last book I read about education, I don’t listen to any educational podcasts either. This isn’t to brag or to say anything more than I’ve made some intentional decisions about what I consume outside of my work. I can’t help but taking the ideas I hear or read about that are not necessarily about education, and apply them to learning. The downside of reading fewer blogs is I’ve lost connection to some really great people that I don’t talk to much on other social spaces where I reside.

I’ll keep blogging but I don’t expect anyone to feel an obligation to read it. I’ve learned a long time ago that blogging is mostly for me to reflect and synthesize ideas, like this post. I’m grateful when others also find it useful and comment but that’s a bonus. I hope this doesn’t make me a bad person, but just wanted you to know, I still like you, respect you, I just don’t read your blog anymore.


Is Sharing Still a Moral Imperative?

The video I created in 2010 for the K-12 online called Sharing: The Moral Imperative remains a fairly widely used bit of content. I was proud of my efforts from a production, content and delivery perspective. Also if you want to see George Couros, before he was George Couros, have a look.

That was over six years ago. As I rewatched it, I had to ask if I feel the same today. What, if any changes would I make to this video if I were to update it?

Focusing solely on the content, I still value and believe sharing is integral to learning and our profession. My claims in the video focus mainly on efforts to share online. At the time, only a small number of educators were actively sharing content online. Blogs were beginning to take traction for some, but their value wasn’t anywhere near a universal belief. Twitter and social media opportunities were nowhere near where they are today. Twitter was seen much like Snapchat is perceived for many today.: wasteful and for posting of minutia.

My original message was to encourage and create a culture where teachers look to share their ideas, thoughts, lessons, resources projects, and stories. Sharing online means that serendipity could happen more often. Not because of my video but I think sharing has increased.  That’s a good thing. More and more educators are connecting online and while it’s difficult to assess, I’d argue that for most of those teachers, they found it beneficial for themselves and for their students. But for most teachers, sharing means Twitter and Facebook. In general, I would say that’s fine. Share where you’re going to impact the most people.  The main challenge of these spaces are noise and with Facebook, in particular, your lack of control over who sees your work. If Facebook is your primary platform to share, I would ask you to rethink that.  If you want to expand your network or allow others to find you, it’s flawed. Twitter has its place, but it’s the appetizer equivalent of a full course meal. I realize some people are great curators and Twitter is a great place to share links and other useful content. If that’s something you do, that’s great, but that’s one very niche kind of sharing.

So perhaps my message today would be more focused on the process of sharing, rather than outcome. Writing this blog post, for example, is a reflective act that, while I hope others find useful, is highly beneficial for me as a thinker and writer. A blog also serves as an archive of my ideas. Facebook and Twitter don’t allow you to do that very easily. Once upon a time, a blog was a new and powerful way to publish online. I know that blogs are somewhat passe. They aren’t new or sexy and for many people that have created them, they represent a space of guilt. You may not even get all that many views as RSS has also seemed to have died. But they still are in my mind, the most versatile, powerful way to store and share your stuff.

You can see this post is a muddled mess which is typical of what I do here. But unlike Facebook and Twitter, this is my house, I can do as I please. Am I saying every teacher should blog? Maybe, I don’t know. I said that once. I also know it’s not an easy thing to do.  Without reflection, there’s no way you can improve or be great at anything. Through reflection and sharing you and others can benefit. Maybe I’d change the video to “Reflection: The Moral Imperative.” Help me out here.

PS. if you feel a bit guilty, that’s good. 😉


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 him over the last 4+ years, it was amazingly refreshing to read that post about ISTE. Hearing his voice, his humor as I read made me realize that was such a big part of what attracted me to blogging in the first place. Then reading Amanda’s reflection about a conversation we had last week, pushed me to think about sharing and writing about conversations, experiences and reflections I have more regularly. Blogging’s appeal to me is that it’s personal. I know too many smart people like Steve and Amanda and many more that teach me not just because they’re smart but because I know them.

So I share this goofy story from my wife knowing there’s no real lesson here other than it’s a funny story. I own this space and can do as I please. I choose to share this. Enjoy.

Looking Back: The Value of the Archive

In the age of instant and public publishing, what’s trending now seems to be what we focus on most. What someone wrote last month, last year or even 20 years ago seems less relevant that what comes across our various feeds today. One of the great promises of digital is it’s ability to archive and store. All of us have been thankful we’ve saved that email from 8 months ago but with the great affordance of storage and easy retrieval, how often to we use “old” stuff? I was thinking about my rather large data collection and how much I value being able to reference it days, months and years later. For the better part of 10 years I’ve been blogging, posting images to flickr, videos to youtube and sharing bookmarks and a scattering of other artifacts to other spaces and still have access and reference these in a variety of ways.

Let me share how I use my personal archives.

My Blog

I’m now in  my 10th year as a blogger. I proud of this space as a place of professional thinking and learning. After over 1,000 posts, I think I’ve become a better writer and communicator and have relished the interactions and connections I’ve made because of this space. While others do a better job, simply categorizing posts have helped me easily return to ideas that I’ve had or wondered about. Often as I’m writing a post the thought strikes me, “I think I’ve written this before” sometimes I have and then either scrap the post or try and take a different angle but include the previous post as a link. Other times I’ll use my posts as building blocks to presentations I’m creating. While I certainly recognize my thinking has changed in some respects, I often re-read things I’ve written and update ideas or use that to build upon.


My Bookmarks

Having been a social bookmarker for a long time, I have over 3,ooo bookmarks on Diigo. Tagging has been key to be able to reference articles and create bundles for students or workshop participants. Often times I recall an article and only remember a word in the title. Most often I find it very quickly. I don’t usually bookmark an item for reading later. I most often read, then decide if I want to save it. Read for later is usually how I use Pocket, although I do have an IFTTT recipe to autosave them to diigo as well. If I’m working on a course or specific topic I might add articles without much discernment but generally most of them are fairly substantive  ideas that I can re-read at any time and discover the value and insights anew.


I blogged the details about this before but having an automated, searchable archive of my tweets is quite awesome. While I understand that a high percentage of my almost 100,00o tweets are banal, there are some things I’ve said or have had discussions I want to preserve and recall. Certainly you can favorite tweets but often it’s ones you didn’t save that are important. Sometimes I’ll use it as a timeline. I recall a conversation or topic but can’t remember the context. This allows me to reference everything I’ve shared since my first tweet in January of 2007.

My photos

I use my flickr account for a variety of purposes. I review images often. I see many people take lots of photos but rarely look at them. I repurpose many photos for presentations or other projects for both work and family. I create monthly albums within iPhoto but also have a tagging system. With over 15,000 photos on flickr, finding old photos is futile unless you tag them. From a personal perspective, this is a wonderful way to relive moments. I typically have a slideshow that displays on my apple TV in my living room. It takes some forethought in making them most usable and I’m surprised how many people don’t take advantage of their own work more.

My videos

My youtube channel features a mix of produced content (although I’ve tried to put most of my produced videos on vimeo) and one take messages to my class or a conference. More so than writing, I see my skills and quality get better more dramatically. Largely because of improved tools and sharper learning curve. That said, my 2010 video for the K-12 Online Conference still resonates with many. Almost more than anything I’ve created, it reminds the value of “old”, although 5 years doesn’t seem all that old but in Internet years it’s pretty much ancient.


I think what I’m exploring here is the notion of old vs new. In some respects I’m completely ignoring the value of pre-internet ideas. I recently noticed Darren Kuropatwa reading Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friend and Influence People” Written in 1937 and given the enormous number of self help books written since that time, it would seem as if that book might be irrelevant. But knowing Darren, I know he possesses the gift at being able to make connections between things that are always naturally related. While that’s a fabulous mindset to have, I don’t think that’s the real issue here. I suppose it’s the dopamine impact of social media and technology that constantly seeks something new. While I know tools like twitter aren’t meant to be consumed like a book or other media, I do think we need to develop strategies and tools that support us in not only slowing down but enhance our ability to reflect on all the content and ideas we collect. Libraries are prime examples of archives of thought. While the notion of paper has its flaws, the idea of pondering on what you thought, wrote about, created or saved last week or even 10 years ago is something we’re not very good at.

My challenge or question to you is: How are you archiving your thoughts and work? Do you look back? How does that make you a more thoughtful person?