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Who’s in charge? You, or your email?

I was fortunate to spend some time chatting with the super smart Spike Cook and Jessica Johnson talking about how to handle email. In short, you could take a few small steps to get your email accounts under control to allow you to focus your energy and attention on more meaningful tasks.

My suggestions:

1) Read Getting Things Done by David Allen
2) Have a system for how you will track your tasks and get them done.
3) Realize that email is likely not a good way to spend your time.
4) Do not let your inbox serve as your to do list. See #2.
5) Don’t clutter anyone else’s inbox with your own messages. Keep five.sentenc.es in mind.
6) This lands at #6 on the list, but maybe it’s the most important point. If you work in a school, don’t even have your work email on your phone. It will only distract you from what’s most important (real live people in your actual physical presence), and if it the message is really that important, people will call/find you. If you are worried you’ll miss an email from a very important person (spouse or supervisor), set up an IFTTT recipe to text you when one of those emails hits your inbox.

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Spike shares his thoughts on the topic here.

Miguel Guhlin was also a viewer of the video cast below and he shares some excellent ideas on how to use Evernote to keep email in check.

Doug Johnson has also been riffing on the topic of email too.

The next time you reach #inboxzero, change the lyrics and then sing along to this epic rock tune.

Category:  Education ,Technology     

Learning through play, at a conference

Peter Gray was the keynote speaker at the IntegratED professional development event in San Francisco on October 3 and 4. He’s a professor at Boston College and his research is in the area of how kids learn by play. He has studied this in hunter/gatherer cultures and also in modern settings. His main point is that kids learn through play and that a lot of the compulsory educational activities we “do” to kids isn’t really necessary. If given time, kids will figure things out. Let them deeply explore what they are passionate about, and it will pay big dividends (beyond just economic success) for them later in life.

Like most education PD events, after the workshops and other conference related activities were done for the day, I’d find myself out and about for dinner and drinks with the other attendees. While the event was done, our learning kept going. Without the constraint of the clock of the conference schedule or the constraint of the title topic on the program, our conversations and debates would take us to what we were passionate about. We were “off the clock” and could talk about anything we wanted to, but the conversations kept coming back to teaching and learning. It was our choice to explore (in our conversations) our experiences as educators. Judging by the amount of laughter that was part of these conversations, you could definitely say that it was very playful.

I’ve heard other people say that the best part about conferences are the conversations that happen at lunch, dinner, and during the car ride home. This was definitely the case for me at #isf14. The scheduled learning was top-notch. The follow-up playful learning was extraordinary.

I’m a big fan of the IntegratED learning events that are organized by Darren Hudgins of the OETC. I’ve been to the Portland conference twice and just went to the San Francisco version for the first time. The official sessions during the day certainly lead to excellent conversations that last beyond the conference.

Here’s a photo of me and some “playmates” after the event. I’m thrilled that I can call these educational leaders my friends. (clockwise from me: Kelly Kermode, Rachel Wente-Chaney, Karl Lindgren-Streicher, Kristen Swanson, Kristina Peters)


Category:  Education     

Learning Space Design

Here is my learning space design presentation for the IntegratED San Francisco. Feel free to use, copy, change, share.


Category:  Education     

School Culture workshop

Here is the presentation and links for the school culture workshop at IntegratED San Francisco.


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Post workshop comment…

This is probably the best workshop/presentation I’ve led. I felt really prepared for it, but what I enjoyed most were the conversations and the ideas that were shared from the participants who were there with me. The two hours seemed to fly by so quickly. I had a great time and learned a ton. I hope the participants (more than just attendees!) can say the same.

Special thanks to Amy Fadeji for being my “hype man” during the session and tweeting out a lot of what was shared.

Category:  Education     

Leadership Day 2014 #leadershipday2014

I’m remixing some old and new thoughts for my participation in Scott Mcleod’s #leadershipday14.

I’ll start with my vision for what Technology leadership should be…

Effective school technology implementation does not occur if there is not effective leadership in place to make it happen. As Doc Mcleod himself said, “If the leaders don’t get it, it’s not going to happen.”

It takes vision, passion, resources, and coordination to bring technology (or any new tool) into an organization to make a positive impact on learning and teaching. The school leader is the key player in these areas. Leithwood and Riehl (2003) highlight the importance of school leadership by noting that it is second only to instruction from teachers when it comes to impacting student learning. Leaders set a vision, share the vision, outline expectations, make goals, and then monitor performance toward that vision (Leithwood & Riehl, 2003).

The school leader must have a solid understanding of best instructional practices and pay attention to the effects they have on student learning. The use of technology can be considered a best instructional practice, but tech use can’t be “business as usual with computers” (Bosco, 2003; p. 15). Flanagan and Jacobson (2003) share that, “Merely installing computers and networks in schools is insufficient for educational reform” (p. 125). We need to move past the focus on acquisition of resources, and put work into using those resources to have an impact on learning (Bosco, 2003).

This type of instructional shift is where leadership really matters. It’s not enough to own and install the shiny gadgets. We also have to know how to use them to impact student learning.

Professional development is essential for schools to move beyond the mere presence of computers, to effectively using them as a powerful teaching and learning tool. Flanagan and Jacobsen (2003) show how student technology use progresses from productivity, to foundational knowledge, to the desired level of using technology for communication, problem solving, and decision making. Staff members will need to make these progressions themselves before they will be able to help students do the same. Professional development is the means to make this happen. Not only should school leaders make staff development available, they can also help these changes occur by modeling appropriate use of technology themselves (Anderson & Dexter, 2005).

If we continue to add modern technological devices to outdated and ineffective educational practices, we will find ourselves stuck between two worlds that only hinder the growth of our students.

old tech

Anderson, R.E. & Dexter, S. (2005, February). School technology leadership: An empirical investigation of prevalence and effect. Educational Administration Quarterly, 41, (1), 49-82.

Bosco, J. (2003, February). Toward a balanced appraisal of educational technology in U.S. schools and a recognition of seven leadership challenges. Paper presented at the Annual K-12 School Networking Conference of the Consortium for School Networking, Arlington, VA.

Flanagan, L. & Jacobsen, M. (2003). Technology leadership for the twenty-first century principal. Journal of Educational Administration, 41(2), 124-142.

Leithwood, K.A. & Riehl, C. (2003, January). What We Know about Successful School Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.dcbsimpson.com/randd-leithwood-successful-leadership.pdf

Category:  Education ,Technology     

“Information” by Daniel Donahoo

I found this video and poem while checking out the In Bb 2.0 music and spoken word project. Love the message about this hyper-connected world in which we live.

she closes the lid
and unplugs the device
no bigger than her thumb
from the computer.

My life’s work, she says. But, it isn’t her life’s work.

You see, we store information like an Escher painting.
It shouldn’t all fit in there. But, it does.
And every day we manage to fit more and more into smaller and smaller spaces until one day
she says,
we will be able to fit all the information the world has,
everything that everyone knows and believes and dreams
into nothing.

It will all be there. Stored and filed.
Tagged with any keywords you might imagine.

Our hard drives will be thin air.

They will make nanobots look like elephants.
And elephants will be in there too. Tagged. Accessible with search terms
like grey, ivory,
and the largest land dwelling mammal.

We will process away at nothing and understand everything.
We will think of a word and the information will slip in, not through our ears or eyes
but straight through our skin. Information will breathe in and out of us,
permeate our skin.

Our knowing will be as deep as it is wide.
You see our work here is to learn so much,

to be so full of knowing,
that all there is left to do is unlearn.

Humanity must get to a point where we let go.
We leave the useless ideas and the spent ideologies in the recycle bin,
like an adolescent brain shedding neurons,
like a snake slithering from its old skin,
like an old man who has come to understand so well the point where reality meets the intangible that he is able to decide which breath will be his last. And, he will enjoy that breath more than any that he has taken in his entire life.

And, her life’s work is more than a four meg flash drive.

My life’s work, she says, is the impact that this has.

This is not about what I produce. It is all about what others receive.

Category:  Education ,Life in General ,Technology     

Digital Student Portfolios

Matt Renwick is a friend and fellow elementary principal in Wisconsin. He’s a very student-centered school leader and always has learning for his students and staff in the focus of his work. Just spend a few minutes perusing what he thinks about and shares on his blog, and you’ll realize that this is the type of person we absolutely need leading our schools. He’s thoughtful about how to best accomplish the work of schools, and he serves his own school community very well.

Matt has recently written the book Digital Student Portfolios: A Whole School Approach to Connected Learning and Continuous Assessment, and this is an excellent resource for learning how to implement a very effective system for documenting student learning.


I was fortunate to be an early reader for this project, and then was thrilled when Matt asked me to co-write the foreword to the book with Jessica Johnson. This is a digital book published by Powerful Learning Press and you can purchase a copy here. In the book you will find text, screen casts, and videos to help you understand effective practices in learning assessment in addition to how you can create a powerful portfolio assessment system in your own classroom or school. This isn’t just another book about specific tech tools. Matt’s work goes deeper than that and will help you understand important principles in assessment, school change, and true student learning.

The book can stand on its own to help you understand and replicate his work, but do reach out to Matt if you have any questions or other resources to share. He’ll take time to give you additional information and would truly value hearing more about this topic.

Category:  Education ,Technology     

Power of an idea — from the ASIDE blog

This paragraph got my attention this morning. If you aren’t a regular reader of the ASIDE blog, do subscribe.

We can talk all we want about “genius hours” and “authentic learning,” but unless the current evaluative system for schools, teachers, and students changes, it’s a moot point. The pendulum has swung so far away from the block areas and free play in kindergartens and toward learning “centers” that we are losing that inventive spirit in kids. They are less creative to think of ideas, and they constantly look for instruction on what to do next. Oddly enough, the successful and highly educated adults who try to initiate reform, who participate in open discussions on social media, and who publish commentary did not go through the school-testing mania, and they’re okay. So how did education get so off track? If we want kids to dream BIG, we need to let them.

via Innovation Design In Education – ASIDE.

Category:  Education ,Technology     

The world without WiFi

HT to @drspikecook

The video below is pretty humorous, but also sadly true. Couple the video with research from Timothy Wilson about how some people are uncomfortable being disconnected from their devices, “forced” to rely only on their imagination and thoughts. Even more alarming is, “In a follow up experiment, it became disturbingly clear that many people will engage in self-destructive behavior to avoid a numbing solitude. When placed in a room with a machine that delivered a moderate electric shock, most people preferred to give themselves a jolt of painful electricity than entertain their own imagination.”

I appreciate what I learn from my digital devices and connections, but it is a good reminder for me to explore and enjoy what is going on in my own mind.

Category:  Education ,Technology     

The “in real life” fetish

Image from Flickr user Strellevik

Image from Flickr user Strellevik

If I didn’t Instagram it, did it really happen?

I’ve been reading a lot of Nathan Jurgenson’s posts the past couple weeks and this line really made me think.

While eating, defecating, or resting in our beds, we are rubbing on our glowing rectangles, seemingly lost within the infostream.

via The IRL Fetish – The New Inquiry.

I think about my own attention span and realize that when I do have a few minutes of down time, I choose to reach for my device and see what my friends and followers are doing. I’m hoping that they are all doing something interesting or at least have the creative ability to make the pedestrian seem poignant.

I often seek to fit into that “try to be interesting” crowd. I was fortunate to be able to spend the last 3+ weeks in Ireland and Norway on a family trip. Every venue I went to (beaches, rock formations, museums, restaurants, taverns, galleries) I was sure to take a photo and then carefully apply the appropriate digital filter to make the image interesting to those who would view it. Had this trip occurred 20 years ago and I was taking photos, I would have likely thought only about the memories I wanted to capture for myself. While the photos I currently take are great artifacts that document the experience I had with my wife and children, I too often find myself thinking about how many likes or shares I might get for these photos. I do enjoy looking at IRL scenarios with the eye of an artist, but am I doing it for contributing beauty to the world or just to feed my own ego by ticking up my Klout score? I’d like to think the former, but can’t argue persuasively against the latter. I enjoy the creative mental processes of finding an interesting subject to photograph, but it’s a fine line between that and simply participating in the “look at me” culture.

Category:  Education ,Technology