Delight 26: Validation

What’s bad about the Internet is that you can find a study to prove almost any idea or belief. What’s great about the Internet is that you can find a study to prove almost any idea or belief.

That said when you come across something that puts into words or helps explain a behaviour or an idea you’ve had that might seem counterintuitive it’s kind of delightful.

I have shared this tweet often:

I’ve developed a routine or method of creating presentations and keynotes that usually has me beginning early. While that tweet says I start a month out, that’s not exactly true. A month out is when I begin to build an actual slide deck. What happens before that is I begin a note in Evernote where I write random thoughts and ideas. It’s a total mess of images, quotes, conversations, and general brain dumps. The month before I begin to flesh things out more succinctly. I always have a good that a week prior, my presentation is in the “good enough” stage. It’s that last week where I pick at, revise and tweak sometimes with my computer in my lap moments before I speak.

While this has always felt a bit frantic, I couldn’t imagine working another way. I’m currently reading Originals by Adam Grant and he writes an entire chapter on procrastination and timing. While I don’t consider this procrastination, I was tickled as I read these four sentences:

Once a task is finished, we stop thinking about it. But when it is interrupted and left undone, it stays active in our minds….Great originals are great procrastinators but they don’t skip planning altogether. They procrastinate strategically , making gradual progress by testing and refining different possibilities.

Grant, Adam, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, p 102, Penguin Books

I’ve always felt like my approach was less efficient or productive than it ought to be. Reading that made me smile and realize that my approach isn’t a flaw but a feature.

The One Thing Teachers Want That No One is Talking About

Ask any teacher what is one thing they wish they had that would make their job better. For most the answer is time. 

The solutions to this problem are complex and in many cases outside the purview of educators but there is one increasingly growing aspect that no one seems to be talking much about. Time spent looking for stuff. 

“Stuff” is more or less content. While many jurisdictions are understanding that content may not be as important as developing skills, content is still important and necessary for learning even if your focus is on skills. 

The most progressive curriculum I know is in British Columbia. Teachers are free to focus on big ideas and core competencies and student agency is the goal. Yet as excited as educators are to embrace this, many I’ve worked with and spoken to are struggling to find content. The curriculum is less concerned with content and yet without something to build upon, analyze, create with, the efforts to develop skills and competencies fail.

School Has a Content Problem. It doesn’t seem to want any. ….But try as we might to think of reading or mathing as a skill, we cannot divorce any of it from specific content in the classroom. These aren’t Subjects that can be studied or mastered in any manner divorced from content, which is infinite in possibility and purpose and audience. ‘Content’ and ‘Skill’ are not equal partners, because skill is universal while content is specific. You cannot learn a skill without the content, but the content requires the skill no matter what it is.

In other jurisdictions where standards are more focused on content, teachers are dissatisfied with textbooks and formulaic approaches. Their print-based world often seems outdated and lacking engagement. They know there is better stuff out there. 

So in both cases, teachers turn to “the google”. I’ve witnessed this first hand as my wife worked endless hours at night exploring possibilitites for her grade 2 classroom. I tried to do my own research to see if this was indeed widespread so I reached out to Twitter and asked a simple question:

While not scientific, my hunch is the results are fairly accurate. I believe this is something new. I recall as a young teacher prior to the Internet that I spend very little time culling for resources. I might spend time at the beginning of a unit at the local library but I exhausted my search relatively fast. The other resource I had was a teacher librarian who would also alleviate some of this work. The majority of my time at home was spent planning what my students would do with the content.  I’d say on average I spent 25% of my time finding and culling content and 75% of my time on what the instruction would be. Today I’d say for most teachers that’s reversed. Today’s educator is both blessed and cursed with infinite access to content. While there are many ways to find content and tips to better curate, it still takes time. A lot of time.  I also think much of this time is wasted.  Like going into a giant mall when all you need is a basic pair of socks, what should be a 5-minute job suddenly becomes hours. Yes, there are times when that’s part of the experience but doing this on a daily basis is costing many hours. Most of us can already admit to wasting more time online that we’d like, we don’t need to be adding to the problem. It seems that teachers and administrators are okay with this or maybe they just haven’t thought about it very much. I have. 

I don’t often mention on my blog that I work for Discovery Education. Over the past 7 years, I’ve been grateful to work with so many forward-thinking districts, leaders and teachers. While we offer a whole lot more, we are best known for our content. When I first began, our team would often highlight the fact that we offered 300,000+ resources from video, text, images, audio, interactives and more. We don’t talk about that much anymore. Instead, we might say that our services offer a handful of multi-modal, quality and vetted resources for nearly every grade, subject and standard. Teachers don’t want/need more stuff, they want/need good stuff and they want/need it easily accessible. When we do our job, we help teachers and leaders see how our products and services save time. We want to shift teachers time to allow them to focus on differentiating instruction, addressing the needs of individual students without having to spend a whole bunch of time finding just the right content. 

The reality is, the internet and youtube provide great content. The trouble is you have to find it. While there are many teachers who are willing to spend the time to find that content, it’s not fair to expect teachers to spend hours each night searching for stuff when they could be spending that time on instruction or better yet, resting. 

I don’t mean for this to sound like a pitch for Discovery but I’m simply surprised by how little anyone is paying attention to this growing problem. With growing stress among teachers, giving them the one thing they really need seems like something we all need to be paying more attention to.

To quote my friend Bill Ferriter, Is any of this making sense? Is this true for you? Do you see this as a problem Anyone you know addressing this? 

Future Ready is Overrated

Updated: (added this wonderful video thanks to Maria Galanis)

“Future Ready” is a theme I’m hearing more and more in our schools. The idea that schools is about preparing for the future and getting kids ready for adulthood. It’s important stuff and certainly schools need to be in this business. And yet….

Mindfulness has been and continues to be something I try to practice and live daily. The stress that so many of our young people experience as well as adults concerns me. I worry that this stress is partly the fault of schools and the overt and subtle pressures we place on them. I’m concerned with my own parenting as I witness my own children often speaking about “getting through this” or “once this is done I’ll feel much better”. Those are natural but somewhat debilitating thoughts. Living in the moment is very hard. I would argue the vast majority of our day is spent on planning ahead or reflecting on the past and not so much on just focusing and enjoying right now.

I watched this clip on 60 minutes this week and it reminded me of things I’ve been trying to do for the past several years. I have gotten better at this and I suppose it’s partly age, partly experience but I think I’ve also taught it to myself. My photo a day project has been a proactive way of focusing on now. Ditching “busy” from my vocabulary has been another active step in being mindful and present. I’m still miles away from where I should and could be but I am pursuing it.

I think we’d be doing our students a big favor if we first began to model this in our own lives and suggested ways for them to incorporate this as well. Last year I worked with a group of principals and asked them what was their biggest concern. The overwhelming answer was “mental health”. While mental health is a complex issue and certainly schools aren’t currently equipped to fully address it, I think mindfulness would be an important place to start.  The research is pretty compelling not only for addressing and preventing anxiety and depression but to actually make you more productive and innovative. Did you know that your pets can also suffer from anxiety? Take a look at these CBD products for cats/a> that can make them feel better. You can also get cbd oils for dogs

When we are mindful, we are open to surprise, oriented in the present moment, sensitive to context, and above all, liberated from the tyranny of old mindsets. Ellen J. Langer, 1989

I’m not suggesting we don’t prepare our students for the future, I’m just asking us to consider that maybe “right now” is a pretty important idea to appreciate and acknowledge. The future is almost easier to deal with as it can be about hope as well as create a sense of urgency. Those aren’t necessarily bad but I wish we spend a bit more time on now. It’s a concept that as humans, we’re not very good at.

I might suggest a few simple ways to encourage and develop mindfulness in with your students:

  • Build in quiet time. What if you took 1-2 minutes a day to be absolutely still and quiet. Certainly having taught primary students, this is a challenge but I think if you frame it correctly and actually teach it, it would be a wonderful skill to learn.
  • Create an calming atmosphere. When I visited Singapore this year I spent some time with Clay Burell who begins each class with tea and relaxed conversation.
  • Pay attention and acknowledge things others might miss. Simply recognizing a student’s shoes, the way the sun is shining in the room or maybe a play a song or sound to listen to together. The point is to slow down and focus on the now without any stress or overthinking.

These are just a few ideas that come to mind, I’m sure there is a much better list somewhere else or in your own head but I mindfulness doesn’t just happen, you have to be intentional.

I’ll leave you with my latest short video in my Walk and Talk series and would love your response to the question, “How are you being mindful?”

Evernote as an Assessment Tool

I wanted to share how I’ve been using Evernote as an Assessment Tool.

I used Explain Everything on the iPad to create this video. I apologize the audio is not great, not sure how to improve this as I tried yelling, and using a headphone mic.

I’ll be sharing more about how I do the self assessments although I’ve written about it here but I do love the ability to record audio and have a more “conversation like” experience with my students.

Update: I forgot to mention, I email the note back to them but you could share notebooks as well but this way, they don’t have to have an evernote account.


Chris Craft is a smart dude. Actually it's Dr. Craft now. 

2 years ago, he talked to me about a custom url shortener he had installed on his server. Sounded cool but I wasn't ready to invest time into getting it installed. Last year he talked to me about it again, because I asked about it. I thought specifically the ability to track these links and clickthroughs seemed interesting and useful information. Sites like do the same but I think anytime you can own your own stuff, whether it's a domain or website, that's good move. D'arcy Norman's taking this idea to its fullest in his latest pursuits of ownership. 

Anyway, I sometimes get in this geeky mood and want to roll up my sleeves and use things like FTP, MySQL and config files. Truth is I barely know what those things are but sometimes force myself to be geeky because it's good for me. 

So I managed to install the thing on my server and short of had it working. What it does is take your existing domain, in my case I chose my domain as opposed to because it's shorter and also is a little more recognizable. Both domains and sites reside on the same server so it didn't matter which I chose. I created a separate directory for my URLs to live. I thought I had installed it correctly but somehow all my shortened URLs were pointing back to You do that about 3 times and you're officially a spammer. So I left it and got Dr. Craft to take a look at it. (How awesome is that you can give someone full access to your server and he just fixes it?) I think my config file was pooched. (see definition 5) Chris I owe you a breakfast in Philly. 

Whatever he did it now works. What I'm able to do is create bookmarklets to shorten automatically or create custom shortened URLs to share. Great for workshops, twitter and elsewhere. You can tell if your share a link with a specific group, how many may have opened it.  The URLs stay with me and the tracking feature is pretty nice. After a few days using it, here are my overall results:


You can also see where your traffic comes from.

I also am using a WordPress plugin that auto generates a shortened URL and auto posts to twitter. There are probably other features that I'm not aware of yet but I think it's certainly good thing to explore if you have access to a server. 

If you use tweetdeck you can include it as your default shortener. The instructions to do that are here. Lots of other little add ons and tools that you might find useful.