Notes from the #Hwy21 Keynote

The Hwy21 Conference kicked off with a unconventional keynote done with 7 panelists addressing innovation and the local landscape in education. These are quotes and paraphrased comments that resonated with me.

“When we talk about EdReform we talk about students globally…need to talk about ss with names bc they have stories. THEY are waiting for us to innovate for THEM.”

I believe it is vital for leaders to practice what we preach, model hands-on, differentiated PD. We expect it for students, we should expect it for teachers

Innovation comes from unhealthy systems. Healthy systems adapt..unhealthy systems have innovation hoisted upon them. We have to ask ourselves if we must innovate or whether we can adapt.

It’s the kids acting differently about learning that makes (colleagues] want to maketheir kids act like that. — in response to question about environments with resistance to edtech and innovation

There needs to be a sense of kindness and grace. Allow it to ourselves and extend to others. We will fail and when we have kindness and grace it leads to resilence to do better next time.

Money is nice but not the barrier to doing something nice and innovative in your own classroom. Do it yourself. Do it cheap. Do it dirty. [Mentioned “eduPunk”]

I was surprised that the only one burdened by my innovating was me.

Take time to recognize and value the Beautiful Oops.

My students don’t need my help with the what and probably not the how. They need me to help them reflect.

It wasn’t until I started connecting with folks outside my school that I realized the possibilities that are out there. I love my school and we are a great school but seeing what others do really helped me expand and innovate.

Break the bubble. Get into other classrooms and you will grow as a result.

Innovation = Mario Brothers. Get to the flag and move to level 2. You’re moving along but there’s always more.

When genius is unleashed and alumni come back and say ‘I can breathe here,’ that is success for me.

Every kid matters. Kids being proud of their learning and watching them change things is a huge measurement of success.

Panelists were Kelly Tenkely, Kevin Croghan, Nate Ubowski, Chris Moore, Glenn Moses, Liz Walof and Kiffany Lychock

Going beyond “We should do something about that…”

I overheard a conversation last week in a coffee shop in which someone was claiming that she is “so over TED Talks.” My gut reaction was to intrude and educate her. TED Talks expose us to new and exciting and ideas, I would tell her, and can really inspire us to change the world. Before I could get up, she cut me off at the pass by leading with a nearly identical statement about TED Talks’ power. “BUT,” she quickly added, “anymore it feels like a smart and inspiring person with a cool story to share and not much else. It’s like a motivational poster hanging on the wall except it lasts 10 minutes instead of one sentence.”

All of a sudden, I was the one being educated. She really got me thinking.

Anyone reading this probably represents (at least) one of the 5 million views of Derek Sivers’ How to start a movement talk. You know the one I’m talking about: Crazy Dancing Guy on a grassy hill at a concert who, thanks to his first followers, grows his dance party from one person to hundreds of people in under 3 minutes. It’s a great talk. If there’s such a thing as an archetypical TED Talk, this is it.

And that, I think, is exactly the point my eavesdropping ears were hearing. The whole talk could have just been a picture with the caption, “Without motivated followers, a bold leader is nothing more than one lone nut.”

Compare this to a recent Elon Musk keynote in which he begins:

“What I’m going to talk about tonight is a fundamental transformation of how the world works.”

He goes on to talk about batteries and how he plans for them to eliminate the need for power plants that burn fossil fuels. It is decidedly unsexy. It’s unfit for even a motivational poster. And yet, the talk is captivating. Musk grabs our imagination, defines a huge problem and offers concrete takeaways about how we might overcome.

This was still on my mind when I read Terry Freedman’s great post, 7 Questions To Ask About Big Name Speakers At Education Technology Conferences. Like most of us, Freedman is a fan of speakers who reallydeliver and shares 7 questions we can ask that function as a sort of rubric to measure whether the headliner will hit us with sexy buzz and little substance or actually leave us with something meaningful. The point shared is that the author will get more out of attending a session by a local teacher sharing her actual work and strategies with students than from a keynote with a well-known speaker who offers little beyond inspirational hype.

Conference speakers of all stripes, not just education conferences, would do themselves and their audiences a service to read Freedman’s post and reflect on it. They need to challenge themselves to be better. It’s not enough to identify a problem nor is it sufficient to proclaim that we should do something about it. If a problem is worth discussing on a big stage, it should inherently be worth addressing.

Speakers who stop at a call to action are more of a footnote than a keynote. The challenge is to move beyond that and issue a claim to action that shares how they are changing the world. Speakers who can convince us that they are the real Crazy Dancing Guy will inspire us with their plans and truly start a movement.

Digging into SAMR: How to get to Redefinition

A deep dive with Ditch That Textbook’s Matt Miller.



I had the fortune to steal a few minutes of Matt Miller’s time to do a Hangout about the SAMR model that some educators are using in order to self-assess the impact of their choices with technology tools on learning tasks. Matt is a Spanish teacher, blogger and author of Ditch That Textbook. He recently blogged about “10 ways to reach SAMR’s redefinition level” and I was excited to chat with him about what some of those tasks look like before they get to redefinition, exploring how each functions at thesubstitution, augmentation and modification levels in order to provide educators with more concrete ideas that they may apply to their own practices.

In addition to pacing through how each task progresses through the levels, we had a great dialogue about our mutual feelings that:

  • SAMR isn’t a ladder or checklist for making qualitative judgements about a task. It is simply a tool to help us self-assess how we are using technology to impact learning.
  • SAMR is subjective. One teacher may think her task exemplifiesredefinition while a colleague believes it to be more in the realm ofmodification. That is OK! We do well to be critical and reflective of our practices and don’t always have to agree.
  • SAMR is not about an EdTech implementation arms race nor should it be used to intimidate or silence. Tasks do not all need to be transformational. It’s fine to have a task functioning at the substitutionlevel; the valuable piece is to be aware and intentional about it so that you are achieving your goal for your students. We all share the aim of helping kids and using SAMR to check ourselves can better inform our efforts.

Check out the interview and please feel free to post a response! There are few if any folks with 10,000 hours of SAMR practice. Lacking experts, we all have far more questions than answers. I hope that Matt and I jumping into the sandbox and publicly skinning our knees and elbows can be helpful and informative for your own work!

5 Things We Need To Quit Pretending

I was inspired to write this after reading Rachel Murat’s challenge of the same name. My initial inclination was “No.” I stick to positivity and optimism and it’s too tempting to delve into the negative with this theme. I avoid topics like this like I avoided looking in the mirror when I had a black eye.

After some thought, it hit me: Rachel’s whole point is that just because we don’t look at it doesn’t mean the black eye isn’t there. When we will ourselves to ignore our blemishes, our pretending hinders our growth and that is not what’s best for kids. It is in this spirit that I offer my list of 5 Things We need to Quit Pretending.

  1. We need to quit pretending that we don’t know how to say, “I don’t know.” None of us has all of the answers. And that is OK. The danger is when we don’t feel comfortable or safe admitting it. We do a disservice to students when we pretend we know things that we don’t. We are experiencing the most exciting moment to be in education and a reality of this is that when something is new, there will be an void of expertise. We fill this void with humility and a willingness to ask questions.
  2. We need to quit pretending that our thumbs don’t point. Using our index fingers to signal the faults in the people and systems around us is easy. The tough part is using our thumbs to point back at ourselves. Put another way: we need to quit pretending we live in houses with only windows and start to use the mirrors to reflect on our own roles and responsibilities.
  3. We need to quit pretending that “old school” teachers are “wrong school” teachers. An example of this: I’ve been seeing a lot of tweets and blog posts that call out our colleagues who are not active in the “Connected Educators” movement. This is unfair and divisive. Just as our instruction should not be one-size-fits-all, our approach to professional development ought to be a tent large enough to fit the varied attractions that meet the needs of ALL teachers. We are in this for students and we don’t help the cause when we drive wedges between educators.
  4. We need to quit pretending that there’s enough time in the day. The most valuable resource a teacher has is time and you’d be hard-pressed to find a teacher who’s not already in the red and running a time deficit. Any new ask of teachers is an add to their already overflowing plates and failures to acknowledge and consider this problem are unjust and inexcusable. Educators are dedicated and resourceful but they (probably) aren’t wizards who can wave a wand and make new time where there was none. Providing adequate time must be part of change management.
  5. We need to quit pretending we know the words to the verses. There are a lot of folks in Education and Ed Reform who have gotten good at singing along with the chorus. It’s catchy. It rhymes. It sounds good. And, it’s only surface level. The real meat and potatoes are in the verses where we go beyond the buzz words and establish the true meaning of our work. It is fine to sing along with chorus but if you cannot or will not join in with the verses, then you are just a backup singer and need to own it.