Browsing articles in "Goals"
Sep 24, 2015
Comments Off on A FitBit for Learning

A FitBit for Learning

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My mother has taken to wearing a FitBit to track her steps, her water intake, her sleep cycles all in an effort to stay healthy. She finds satisfaction when the little piece of plastic vibrates to celebrate her hitting 10,000 steps in a day. The presence of it reminds her to drink another glass of water. She can look at the data it provides over a day, a week, month or year.

I trained harder than ever for two Ironman races earlier this year. Every time I went for a run or ride, I linked into the GPS satellites and tracked my movement. I strapped on a heart rate monitor and stayed within set ranges. I used the data to focus my training on my aerobic threshold, rather than training like I have in the past by going full on every workout.

My students get into class and they have no FitBit. They have no heart rate monitor to focus their efforts.

They have me.

The data I give them is not enough. It is scattershot, often after the task is complete, and is not well-documented enough to really allow them to do solid data analysis.

How can we change that?

What data can they harness while working to increase productivity, flow, learning and progress?

What variables affect these things and how can I help them create the specific range that will focus their efforts?


At this point, I have asked them to try and track certain variables: time on task, breaks (even if they are minor daydreams), words written or pages read, happiness, the challenge of the task, who they are sitting beside, the music they are listening to, stress level, what they’ve eaten today, and how much sleep they had.

By gathering this data, I’m hoping to be able to start helping students make sense of their data in hopes that they can isolate the variables that affect (positively and negatively) their focus and productivity.

I’d like to work up to including outside data about quality of work, etc. I haven’t figured out exactly how to do this.

I want a FitBit for learning for my students. I haven’t totally figured out how to do this.

Any ideas?

Oct 30, 2012
Comments Off on A Culture of Kindness

A Culture of Kindness

It’s around. With the internet, it never turns off. You can’t find any quiet places to get away from it. You can’t ever take back your actions online. All of this, yet in conversation with my class a week ago it seemed that they were content with blaming the victim. “Yeah well, she …” always leads to justification.

It’s mob mentality run amuck.

I wonder if this is the straw. The one that broke the camel’s back. The last piece before those ignorant of technology recognize that we have a lawless wild west right now. And Jesse James has rounded up the old n’er-do-wells and is using them to inflict damage.

Part of the problem is that we don’t really know how to define bullying.

My take is that our problem is not bullying. The problem is our culture of meanness.

We have politicians who would rather find faults, than fix breaks. We have a media culture that looks for another group of people that we can all safely sit and laugh at. We have students who think saying, “I was just joking,” is enough justification for being mean.

What I propose is a new culture of kindness. A conscious attempt at holding each other accountable.

It starts with parents and teachers. It starts with turning off Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo. It starts with making a concerted effort to praise, compliment and acknowledge. It is too easy to be mean, especially when the victim isn’t present, or no one holds you accountable.

Too many people blame technology for the bullying and not enough spend time thinking about the tone of our conversations.

We must be better than this. Kindness works too.

Jan 9, 2012
Comments Off on My Three Words of 2012

My Three Words of 2012

“When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.”  – Greg Anderson

I don’t often do New Year’s Resolutions.

A buddy of mine (@spegg) pointed me to an interesting blog post by Chris Brogan. Brogan has been framing the changing of the calendar for the last few years based on three words. Three words that capture the “why” of the concrete goals. To act as “lighthouses” in the murky fog of motivation and change. Obviously, this got me thinking.

Without further ado, my three words of 2012:

Create – I want to make more time to pursue the creative. But more than that, it is not enough to start. Anyone can start a project, but the hard part of creation is completion. Create is also connected to the idea that I want to create more authentic connections with people, in person and face to face. Creating is about being open, about being willing to put the work in and about the will to finish.

Challenge – Obviously, I have laid down my major personal/physical challenge for the year. I will be competing (relatively) in the Mont Tremblant Ironman. It is a major physical and mental challenge. My training, my race and my recovery will greatly define the year, I’m sure. On top of that I have set various challenges for myself, including writing goals, learning goals, and relationship goals. These challenges will push me. I like the idea of a monthly challenge, I just haven’t fully realized that yet.

Discipline – I like to say yes. I am scatter brained. I am sometimes inconsistent. I, at times, lack discipline. I, at times, lack organization. I’m pushing myself to find my inner discipline. I need to push past laissez-faire and become more effective, productive and focused. This may require me letting some things go, which will be hard, however, I need to come to the realization that I can’t do it all, however, hard that is to accept.

So there are my three words, what are yours?


Oct 14, 2011
Comments Off on Gratitude and Generosity

Gratitude and Generosity

Shameless Idealist

The two tenets of education should be:

  1. Have gratitude.
  2. Be generous.

These should permeate every action public education is involved in.

This is what a teacher should always exemplify. You have skills, knowledge, the ability to learn, now give it away.

Show students how it works.

Be thankful, share what you’ve got.


Aug 29, 2011
Comments Off on September Syndrome – My Attempt to Avoid It

September Syndrome – My Attempt to Avoid It

Time to sharpen the pencils. We’ll be in the thick of things before you know it. And I can’t wait.

There is something about the wrap up of September that excites me. One of the many reasons I love this job. Every September we can refocus, declare our direction and set our trail. New chances for everyone, students and teachers.

As a student, I loved September too. Every year, I convinced myself that this would be the year of underlining my date, staying organized, doing all my homework and getting straight ‘A’s.  Now, of course, the wheels would inevitably fall off by mid-September. But things are different this time, no really. The goals I laid out for myself last September have been more or less kept.  I re-up my commitment to the education revolution that we are in the midst of having.

Set Goals

My Goals This September

To start:

  • contacting parents more frequently. I’d like to start with three from each class per week. That ensures the connection with their child’s learning is constant and constructive. By trying to hit the number goal, I’ll also be calling regarding more positive things. I’m going to make a concerted effort early to get e-mail addresses for parents as that is the easiest form of communication in my mind.
  • bringing my lunch to school. This is connected to my training for Ironman, in which, keeping good energy is essential. But it is also connected to my desire to maintain my energy throughout the day. I want to be as engaged and passionate at 2:30 as I was at 8:30.
  • sharing more in my building. My reading, my experiences, my thoughts/ideas, the tools that are working. But more importantly, try to get people to share with me more and develop the rich conversations I have online around pedagogy with those folks I’m teaching beside. As I’ve mentioned previously in this blog, I have been encouraged to share more. I think I will. And I’ll hope for my colleagues to share more too.
  • using Evernote with every student to provide feedback. It worked so well in Summer School and the second half of last semester, I will be employing these methods across the board. This tool allows me to provide timely, personal feedback but more importantly, have a reservoir for all that feedback so a student/parent/myself can look back from the beginning of the course and see all the feedback I’ve given.
  • keeping an organized calendar. This will be essential as I am always busy, but with Ironman training as well, this year will be madness. This is one of the goals I’ve tried before, but this year it will be even more essential.  Keeping a calendar will allow me to maximize my time working towards my why.
  • choosing the right battle. My father always told me to, “Pick my battles.” This is the year, I stop picking the wrong ones and I stay focused on those that are most important. Too often I get mired down in the small battles that cost much and accomplish little.
  • answering emails promptly. I’m one of the world’s worst for receiving an e-mail, reading it and planning on responding later. Of course, that inevitably leads me to forget about it and never respond. This September, I am going to stop waiting for tomorrow what can be done today, especially around e-mail.

To remember:

  • my daily gratitude notes again. I once heard an interview with Seth Godin and he was asked, “What is the most important thing you could do today to make the biggest change?” and his response, “Say thank you to someone every day.”  I employed this idea a year ago when I left a thank you note in someone’s mailbox every day. I fell off the wagon last year, but it is time for me to start again.
  • “It is not what has been taken from you, but what you do with what is left.”

To clarify:

  • student’s learning at the end of every class. What have we learned? Why have we learned it? If it is minor or major does’t matter, I think clarifying what we are doing every day will help us prepare to learn for the next day.
  • the why, every time it gets muddled.

To unlearn:

  • the role of the teacher, student and administrator.
  • the door of the classroom.
  • the either/or frame of thinking and embrace the both/and. (A blog post dedicated to this concept and my thoughts around it is coming.)

And there they are. As with any goal setting, I’ll be constantly adding, revising, removing these as I buffet in the wind, but this list will help fix my direction and help me set my sails.

What are your goals for the year?

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