When The Answer is Both

Should schools prepare students for college and careers or to be good citizens?

Do we want students to get good grades or love learning?

When it comes to teaching Math, should we focus on procedures or problem solving?

Should learning be fun or hard?

Do we want students to consume content or create content?

Should we be using ebooks or printed books?

All of these questions and dozens more are discussed pretty regularly and by many different folks. Our default answer to these is “both”. Often we add “it’s about balance”.

It’s hard to argue that and generally, I agree. But for me, it’s not so much about balance as it is about emphasis and what we lead with.

When Arnold Palmer was learning to play golf, his father told him “Learn to hit the ball as hard as you can and worry about accuracy later” If you know anything about golf you know you want to hit it long AND straight. But in this case, it was about what to focus on and in what order.

Should learning be fun or hard? While I personally question whether learning should be hard, this question is about what we emphasise. … Read the rest

Why We Work

The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz remains one of my favorite TED talks.

The insight and wisdom from Schwartz come through in his latest book Why We Work. Of course, we all seek work that is satisfying and fulfilling but Schwartz provides an interesting historical background that in my mind parallel the way in which public schools were created. The default perception of school tends to be something students have to endure. Much of this was borne out of its history. Schools were designed to address the needs of the industrial revolution and were developed from a factory model.  Educating the masses required a system built on efficiency. The needs of the child were not considered nearly as much as the needs of society. And while this is changing, its impact and structures remain.

Schwartz points out the industrial revolution and mass production of goods created a need to convince people to do menial tasks. Previously, most people earned a living by doing things they were good at and were self-sufficient. Getting someone to do repetitive tasks was difficult and thus the way to convince people to do these tasks was through monetary incentives. Before this, working was … Read the rest

The Language of School

I was asked to sit down and share something I was passionate about in education during ISTE 2015. The use of language is something I’ve been noticing for a while and in my estimation doesn’t get enough attention. It’s a one-take video full of ums and stutters, but take hopefully there are some ideas in here with exploring and discussing.

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And What Do You Mean By…

People listen to leaders. Whether we’re talking about true leaders or people considered leaders because of status or authority, their words impact culture. Over the last several years of the “reform” movement, words like “accountability” “data driven” “student achievement” “rigorous curriculum” and “college and career ready” are used frequently in many districts. By themselves these words and phrases may not be particularly offensive but over time, combined with countless new initiatives send a sometime subtle and sometimes overt message to teachers and students.


Working in districts where these terms are embedded into the culture, I’ve often had leaders defend these terms by saying they aren’t meant to oppress anyone but can be seen as empowering. I don’t usually buy that. Here’s why.


Accountability is what’s used when relationships and trust haven’t been fostered. I realize in many large organizations, this is challenging and being accountable to someone isn’t necessarily negative but it’s a word that’s very authoritarian and suggests there’s a problem. As Sahlsberg suggests, we should replace “accountability” with “responsibility”. It makes a big difference. You can read more about my thoughts on accountability if you wish.

Data Driven

My issue here is that “data” is … Read the rest

A Word I Hate Almost As Much As Rigor

First off, my distain for the word is no secret. The word suggest authority and hierarchy. I suppose in some institutions that still works but as someone who has spent 25+ years in education and now works for a company that has a relatively flat organization in terms of leadership, this article is problematic is many ways.

Whenever I come across something about accountability my ears perk up. It’s kind of the same way I feel about rigor. Yet I know some people like the word. Usually those in authority.

I pretty much disagreed with this article called “6 Practical Ways to Create a Culture of Accountability” in its entirety. I looked at the author and he’s a college student. I’m trying for the life of me to figure out what he would know about creating a culture of anything, let alone accountability. My fear is that coming from a reputable source, this is the kind of list people love to share. I decided to tackle it and address each point. Keep in mind this is a generic article about culture. I react to this from an educational institution perspective as well as my current role in a business … Read the rest