Things I Was Never Told

Having spent the last 7 years teaching pre-service teachers and working with districts and schools across Canada it’s easy to see a disconnect with new teachers and the environments they are entering. In times of fairly significant change and disruption to varying degrees, the role of hiring and finding great teachers is much more important than ever before. At the same time young people entering the profession likely have certain expectations that have been shaped by their past experiences in schools. My beginning of term speech to students in my courses goes something like this:

“You’re the winners of education. You got good grades, listened well and did what you were asked. School worked for you. This is going to make teaching difficult for you because education is in the midst of tearing down this system of compliance based success. Yes, many are still holding on to this but it’s changing and you’ll be placed somewhere in the middle of this. You’ll have a tendency to want to replicate the success you experienced in your own classrooms and it may work for a few but understanding this isn’t a plan for all or even the majority of your students will

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On Motivation and Engagement

This post was last updated on February 2nd, 2018 at 08:54 pm

File this one under “thinking out loud” or “I need help”

It’s no secret to readers, friends and my students that I have a thing with grading. Take your pick of posts and you’ll get the idea:

I’ve recently been sharing this graphic from Phil Schlechty on Engagement:

If you look at how he defines engagement, you’ll see it suggests that it’s simply about learning and grades are inconsequential or at least way in the background. This is essentially my target. Yet I realize for the vast majority of the students I teach they are largely in the strategic compliance stage. This led me to think about a question I might pose to my students:

“If I were to give you an A at the beginning of the class and you didn’t have to take the course, would you accept that offer?”

I’m going to guess that if most were honest, they’d take that deal. I’m not … Read the rest

Mapping the Internet

This post was last updated on 11 months ago at 11 months ago

If you’ve not aware of the work of David White and his Visitor vs. Resident idea, you should. It began as a response to Marc Prensky’s Digital Native/Digital Immigrant concept. I actually first discovered this back in 2008 but White has updated his thoughts to reflect the increase in social media the last 6 years. Here, just watch this.

Beyond this basic idea, which, if you didn’t watch the video can be summarized as:

When in Visitor mode, individuals have a defined goal or task and select an appropriate online tool to meet their needs. There is very little in terms of social visibility or trace when online in Visitor mode.

When in Resident mode the individual is going online to connect to, or to be with, other people. This mode is about social presence.

I’ve asked my undergrads to map their version of the internet but I did mine in front of them and talked through the various spaces and tools I use.


Let me walk through each of theses spaces and the way I use them. Keep in mind that for me “Institutional” can … Read the rest

Who Owns the Data?

This post was last updated on February 3rd, 2018 at 12:33 am

Any working in a district or school talking about “data-driven decision making?” I see that hand.

Data has been a big word for a long time. I have a natural knee-jerk reaction to the word for two reasons.

1. In many cases, the data that is being used in schools is often superficial, low-level test scores. Not always but in an effort to have lots of data, the tendency is to go to the lowest common denominator and collect wack sacks of numerical data that fits nicely in a spreadsheet in order to spit out fancy graphs and charts. The minute you go down this road, it’s easy to get lost in numbers and rarely does the conversation move towards determining if the data collected even matters. Good assessment is expensive and messy. These are not traits most schools and districts are willing to tolerate. “Messy” makes for great conversations, but lousy graphs.

2. The second opposition I have is about agency and ownership. ¬†Alan November has been asking for years, “Who Owns the Learning?” which is an important question. But I’ve been asking “Who Owns … Read the rest

The Thing that Bugs Me

The most challenging aspect of teaching for me is understanding my role and responsibility for student learning. Teaching undergrads, many who are in their 4th year and preparing to enter the teaching field is mostly very exciting. I generally am thrilled to be able to introduce my students to so many new ideas and people that I believe will empower them as they get classrooms of their own. Grades are almost no indication of their potential or future success. The best assessment I have is being able to watch and observe many of them as they incorporate things they learned in my ECMP 355 class.

I’m not delusional. I realize that my class represents a very small part of their capabilities and yet I can’t help being a little bit proud of many who stay connected and do great things with students.

In general, the vast majority of my students put forth a great effort and are genuinely engaged and excited about the opportunities they have to connect with really smart people. I’ve focused on embodying this ideal:


Being I’m not delusional, I also understand not every student will be excited about my course. I have students who tell … Read the rest