Joy and Love

This past week was Discovery Education‘s annual summer institute affectionately known as DENSI. 150 educators from all over the world spend 5 days together at what really can’t be described as a conference or professional development. It’s something different. The affection I feel for the people I just spent the last number of days with is hard to articulate. Just watching people learn and play and laugh is intoxicating. It’s particularly amazing to see folks from other countries cross-cultural barriers to simply connect as educators and humans.

The theme for this year’s event was joy. In education words like “joy” and “love” are often reluctantly used. We have historically left those ideas for other institutions to manage. Learning can happen without them but when you include them, the idea of “community” takes on a whole new meaning and learning goes to another level.

Yesterday for our final celebration event folks came dressed in whatever outfit/costume brought them joy. A group of community members decided to dress in colored pants and a Canadian t-shirt as a tribute to me. I was humbled and slightly embarrassed at this gesture. Sheila organized it all and represents the quality of people in … Read the rest

The #deanies

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What are the #deanies? Simple. They are a prestigious award designed to recognize the very best in education. Or maybe not.

As with much of my goofiness on twitter, this started on an impulse. I’m not 100% sure what triggered it but I think I was reading my stream and someone posting about an award they won. There is lots of controversy out there about the need and purpose of awards. Frankly, I’m not that invested in the conversation. However, I think, for the most part, they don’t mean a lot other than someone thinks you deserve some recognition, which is a good thing. But the reality is, most awards are given by small groups of people with little or no authority. Again, that’s not a big deal but then I wondered, what’s stopping me from giving out awards? And the first #deanie was born.

Since then, I’ve given out more than 100 #deanies. You can view them here or here or even here (be sure to filter by twitter). My criteria follow strict guidelines of whim … Read the rest

Is “Hard” The Goal of Good Learning?

I often ask people what they believe about learning. I suggest many people view learning and schools synonymously which while they aren’t, I think many schools inadvertently send a message that  learning is like Buckley’s cough syrup: “It tastes awful but it works.” Learning isn’t supposed to be easy. Or is it?

As I explore the way we characterize learning I continually see how much we value words like: “hard, challenging, rigor, and difficult” In my efforts to make school more engaging and joyful, these ideas, while maybe not opposing, are certainly seen in a hierarchy. Think of all the teachers, particularly high school and higher ed teachers who take pride in knowing how hard their course is. The classic statement: “Look to your left and look to your right, only one of you will pass this course” shows learning as elitist and rooted in ranking and grades. Knowing they have challenged students is the goal. “If everyone gets an A, how hard can it be?” Learning is supposed to be hard. Or is it?

Frank Smith reminds me how much school has impacted what we believe about learning.

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“Effortless” vs “hard work.” In his book, Smith … Read the rest

What’s With All the Jumping?

Those that follow me on twitter, instagram or have heard me speak, might know about my jumping photos. Today someone asked me about its origins.

As a family we were about to take a family vacation about 8 years ago. My wife had read an article online about adding some pizazz to your family photos. So we decided to give it a try and it quickly became a family favorite.

We continued to jump,usually on vacation but not always and now we’ve printed out many of them and put them up on a feature wall in our house. Now it has become a staple in our travels. Often times before we leave we talk about where we should jump. It’s always a bit of a challenge finding strangers willing to not only take our photo but be patient with the fact it may take them several tries. (Although using burst mode has solved this issue)

I’m certainly not the first person to do this and in fact, someone shared this recently.

“Starting in the early 1950s I asked every famous or important person I photographed to jump for me.  I was motivated by a genuine curiosity.  After all, life

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#Socks4Dean

It was a big one. 50. 50 years old. To celebrate I planned a week of golf with buddies. Sandwiched in between was a couple of speaking gigs. I left 5 days before the big day. The day before I left I received a package in the may from Phillip Cummings. In it was a pair of Memphis Grizzlies socks. What a lovely gift. I left town and didn’t think much more about it other than to thank him for his thoughtfulness. A few days later, my wife began posting pictures of packages that were arriving at the house. In a strange twist, these packages were not for her. Each day more were added to the pile. By the time I arrived home 9 days after my birthday, there were 52 packages for me from people all over the world.

 

 

Looking over this pile I was completely overwhelmed at the thought that so many people would think of me. I didn’t want to open them, I saw the cumulative as a an unbelievable gesture of care and community. Many of the people are people I’ve known for many years but others I’ve never met. As I … Read the rest