Monday, June 29, 2015

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to. Alice: I don't much care where. The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go. Alice: ...So long as I get somewhere. The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.

Saturday, in our annual "Hack Education" unconference at ISTE, I proposed and held a session on "Tech-Ped": technology adoption driven by pedagogy. In other words, how can the education world become more like the Amish--deciding what our core values are, and then making technology decisions based on those values?

Radical thought, I know.

The Amish aren't, from what I understand, anti-technology. They just start by having some in their community test out a new technology, they then evaluate whether they think it is going to help or hurt their core values, and finally they make a decision about when and how to use it.

One gentleman said he thought that most schools were good at doing this. I asked the group. Pretty unanimously they said, "no, usually we're told some money has freed up, what should we buy?"

Neurons fired in my brain.

"Wait," I said. "How many of you actually work in a school where there even exists a defined belief in learning that you could use to measure a technology decision?" Not a hand went up.

As it turned out, there was one school that did. (More on that another day, worth telling). And most individual teachers, the group agreed, adopt technology based on their own personal beliefs about learning. But at an institutional level, technology decisions are typically not being weighed against a set of stated beliefs about learning.


(One then has to ask the question, what about all the other decisions that most schools make?)

Not having stated beliefs about learning doesn't mean you don't actually have shared beliefs. But it makes it much more likely that your shared beliefs are not the healthy, proactive kind, but probably the benign, this-is-just-how-we-do-things kind, and maybe even some of the less-healthy kind.

It would be interesting to ask, what are the unstated beliefs in your school and how do they manifest themselves?

Let's be blunt: if you aren't intentionally building together a culture of learning as a school, what in the world are you doing, and what do you expect to accomplish?

Friday, June 26, 2015

"Getting things done is not always what is most important. There is value in allowing others to learn, even if the task is not accomplished as quickly, efficiently, or effectively." - R. D. Clyde

I wish I could find the original of this story about the rancher and his young son. I remember it something like this:

A rancher takes his young son out to extend a fence on their property. He talks the boy through the work to be done, shows him the materials and the tools, and then--patiently talking him through it--gives the boy the opportunity to do most of the work.

The owner of the adjacent property happens by, seeing their handiwork, and gives the farmer a hard time about the quality. It's not the best fence-work he's ever seen.

The farmer replies to his neighbor: "You don't understand. I'm not building a fence, I'm building a boy."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"The kids in our classroom are infinitely more significant than the subject matter we teach." - Meladee McCarty

One of the most insidious results of mass-education is pervasive self loathing.

Ask students who didn't do well in school, and they will largely tell you that it was their own fault.

"I wasn't one of the smart ones." Or: "When I applied myself, I did well. But mostly I didn't." I can hear the echo of adult voices in those comments. Students repeating what they believe--or have heard--adults say about them.

Yes, taking responsibility for one's self is important. But it doesn't blossom out of thin air. There are a million tiny ways in which youth feel supported and encouraged to achieve; and a million tiny influences that affect their view of themselves. You cannot overestimate the value of a secure home, stable lives, and caring adults.

It's not like children are born responsible or irresponsible, or even that these are conscious decisions that they make; but they are often told exactly that. As they get older, their ability to make those conscious decisions does grow, but even that growth is highly influenced by the care and guidance of those around them.

I recently talked to a woman who had said she was very shy in high school. I told her that I'd heard somewhere that a large percentage of high school students don't have any direct or individual conversation with an adult during their average school day. She smiled, kind of sadly, to say that had been her. She hadn't done as well as she would have liked in school, she said, but it had been her own fault.

It's self-serving that we let her believe that. It saves us, in general, from pulling the emergency brake on the train and having to really sort things out. From recognizing that we take precious children and treat and talk about them like they are industrial output, in a manufacturing process that sends many to the reject pile, as if the process itself were not at fault.

I do an exercise when I'm speaking to large groups. I have everyone stand and ask them to play "rock, paper, scissors" with their neighbor. "Winners keep standing, losers sit down." Those still standing I ask to play with the closest other person also standing. Again, "winners keep standing, losers sit down." After only a few more rounds, there are usually just a few left standing. "Congratulations," I say, "you are winners! I know you're good, smart, thoughtful people." And of course they are, they gladly accept the compliments, bolstered by having so recently won their way to the top.

You can see by the smiles on their faces of the winners that being the winners, even of this dumb game, means something. Those in any circumstance lucky enough to be left standing will always believe that they deserve to be there, even when it has nothing to do with skill or industry.

"The rest of you," I say to all those who had to sit down, "are the losers." Most people get where I am going at this point. They are not in any way at this moment, except by pure chance, losers. They are just as likely to be good, smart, thoughtful people. But the game of chance actually makes them feel badly, and the label of loser certainly does.

How many youth, in the lottery of life, have we categorized as losers? More importantly, how many have we convinced to categorize themselves as such? Are there some we know who will say, as George Bernard Shaw did: "My schooling did me a great deal of harm and no good whatever: it was simply dragging a child's soul through the dirt."

Events + News - Future Ready Online Summit Today - ISTE Unplugged - Unawards - Homeschooling the Teenage Years

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Two Week Calendar

  • Wednesday, June 24th from 11am - 7:15pm EDT Future Ready Virtual Summit: 2015 School Leadership Summit, Future Ready Schools: 2015 School Leadership Summit will be held online using Google Hangouts on Air. The event will be free for all to attend and to watch the recordings. You must register to watch the event live or to see the recordings. For more information and to register, please go to
  • Wednesday, June 24th at 4pm edWeb Webinar: Are You Ready for BYOD?, Have you been thinking about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)? Are you ready to learn more? In this webinar, Rachelle Wooten, Digital Learning Specialist at Fort Bend ISD, will provide a primer on BYOD, including digital tool recommendations, classroom management tips, lesson planning, and teaching tips. Rachelle facilitates the BYOD training in her district and has developed her own model: R.E.A.D.I.E.E to help teachers be Ready for BYOD. Whether you’re new or familiar with BYOD, get some helpful tips for your program during this live, interactive session. Rachelle will field questions from attendees after her presentation. Registration information here.
  • Thursday, June 25th at 3pm edWeb Webinar: The Art of Procurement: Balancing Price versus Performance, Common Sense Education’s Essential Elements for 1:1 Learning is a monthly webinar series that details strategies and practical advice about 1:1 learning programs. Learn how to personalize these essential elements for your schools. The series is presented by Jeff Mao and Steve Garton, who lead the Maine Learning Technology Initiative program for a decade. Registration information here.
  • Friday, June 26th at 3pm Starting to Homeschool: The Teenage Years, How can a teen's needs best be met by homeschooling? Let's talk about unschooling and homeschooling high school, how to decide if college is right for you, and how to take on internships, apprenticeships, work, and travel. We will explore the many different ways teens and young adults can join the adult world and make their way into meaningful work with or without a college degree. We’ll explore the college admission process for homeschoolers and present resources for creating successful applications. We’ll also talk about Uncollege and DIY College, among other options that are available. Register to view here.
  • Friday, June 26th - July 1st in Philadelphia, PA 2015 ISTE Unplugged, Each year hundreds of educators interested in social media, technology, teaching, and learning gather to build and participate in "unplugged"-style activities as a part of the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference. Go to and read below for details of this year's events. We're looking forward to seeing you there!

    As part of ISTE Unplugged we've launched the UNAWARDS site, where you can give your own personal education award to anyone you'd like. Go to and share some love!
  • Sunday, June 28th at 9am in Philadelphia, PA Invent to Learn Day of Hard Fun @ ISTE 2015, Join Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager for an energizing day of learning using modern tools and technology. Making, PBL, STEM and more all on the menu for this hands-on, heads-in workshop. More information here.
  • Sunday, June 28th at 2pm in Philadelphia, PA Global Education Day at #ISTE2015, Join Lucy Gray, Steve Hargadon, VIF International Education and many members of the Global Education Conference community on Sunday, June 28th from 2-5 PM at the Philadelphia Convention Center (Room 103BC) for a special face-to-face meeting. Sign up to be put on the waitlist!

All events are listed in US-Eastern Time. To become an event partner and have your events listed here, please email For a full calendar of all upcoming events and conferences, click here.

Learning Revolution Events

Future Ready Schools: 2015 School Leadership Summit, June 24th

Each year TICAL holds an annual School Leadership Summit. This year's Summit, on June 24th from 8:00-4:30 PDT, will focus on the pillars of the U.S. Department of Education's Future Ready Pledge. The Pledge is a commitment by district leaders to work with educators, families, and community members to make all schools in their districts Future Ready. Future Ready Schools: 2015 School Leadership Summit will be held online using Google Hangouts on Air. The event will be free for all to attend and to watch the recordings. You must register to watch the event live or to see the recordings. This is truly a collaborative event made possible by the leading organization and event partners. For more information and to register, please go to

2015 ISTE Unplugged Events, June 26th - July 1st

Thanks to our generous friends at, our NINTH annual set of extra-curricular events at the ISTE conference this year will launch on the Friday before ISTE (June 26th) with an all-day open Maker Day--expect lots of table, activities, and fun for all ages, geared toward education. Saturday's all-day unconference features special guest Audrey Watters again this year, and huge shout-out to this year's unconference and evening party sponsor, StudyBlue and Shutterfly. Sunday is our fourth annual Global Education Summit, a three-hour event + connecting party you don't want to miss. The Bloggers' Cafe will be open Friday - Wednesday, and we're really hoping to add an education slam poetry event still. Stay tuned for all events at, which also has Facebook event links for each activity.

Global Education Day at ISTE 2015, June 28th

Join Lucy Gray, Steve Hargadon, VIF International Education and many members of the Global Education Conference community on Sunday, June 28th from 2-5 PM at the Philadelphia Convention Center (Room 103BC) for a special face-to-face meeting in which you can connect and collaborate with other globally-minded educators.

Library 2.015 Worldwide Virtual Conference: Tools, Skills & Competencies, October 20th

The fifth annual global conversation about the future of libraries is scheduled for Tuesday, October 20th, 2015. The conference will be held entirely online and is free to attend. Everyone is invited to participate in this open forum designed to foster collaboration and knowledge sharing among information professionals worldwide. The Call for Proposals will open May 1st, immediately following the Library 2.015 Spring Summit (which had over 2,000 registrants and the recordings for which are now available). See this year's conference strands and plan to get your proposal in early. We are looking forward to the fifth year of this this momentous event, and to your participation!

2015 Global Education Conference, November 16th - November 19th

The sixth annual Global Education Conference is a free week-long online event bringing together educators and innovators from around the world. This year's conference will take place Monday, November 16 through Thursday, November 19, 2015. The call for proposals will open on June 28, 2015. The Global Education Conference is a collaborative, inclusive, world-wide community initiative involving students, educators, and organizations at all levels. It is designed to significantly increase opportunities for connecting classrooms while supporting cultural awareness and recognition of diversity and educational access for all.

Learning Revolution Blog Posts

Check out or subscribe to our new curated blog of posts from around the web that are focused on the disruptions taking place in teaching and learning: If we've missed a story, send it to

Partner Spotlight


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Steve Hargadon

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"We have met the enemy and he is us." - Walt Kelly

When my grandfather was in the last stages of his life, suffering from dementia and unable to care for himself, he developed pneumonia. I took him to the hospital, where by mistake they administered a sulfa-based antibiotic.

His medical history and information clearly indicated he was allergic to sulfa-based antibiotics. Because of the allergy, he developed a large ulcer on his arm.

I'd learned, in my life, that in large, busy hospitals, it's important to be on top of everything as a patient (or a patient's caregiver). No matter how competent and caring the doctors and staff are, no one knows as much or can devote the time and attention as you can.

I'm sitting in my grandfather's room, nurses treating the ulcer, when the doctor comes in. "So," he says, "we're treating your grandfather for an ulcer."

"No," I said (politely). "He came in with pneumonia. He was given a sulfa-based antibiotic, which he is allergic to, and that precipitated the ulcer." Maybe the doctor would have caught this, but maybe not.

How often do we start treating people for problems that we have caused?

As a parent, I think the third decade of my parenting has been all about figuring out the damage I did during the first two decades to our children, and trying to make things better.  :)  I'm kind of joking, but I'm kind of not.

How much of the behavior, attitudes, and even aptitudes of children in school have actually been created by us? Are we busy trying to "solve" problems that we created?

If so, what does that mean about how we look for actual solutions?

Monday, June 22, 2015

"My child is not defective." - Steve Hargadon

Years ago we had a child struggling in school. Really struggling. I went to watch this child in class, probably in the third grade, and I vividly remember how painful it was to see our child completely faking it--not really understanding much of anything that was going on, but pretending to; it had to be a living hell every day.

So we took our child to be tested at the local offices of a national organization that specialized in learning challenges. When the tests came back, my wife and I sat down with the counselor and she went through the results.  "Your child has difficulties in the following areas," she said. Yes, we agreed, it made sense. I said: "So, students who have difficulties in those areas--what do they tend to do well? What kinds of things are they normally good at so we can focus on those?" My idea was to figure out positive areas so that along with any remedial work, there could be encouragement in areas that would be more reinforcing.

"You don't understand," she said. "These are deficiencies. There are no positives."

We walked out.

I'm not happy with the way in which I allowed the system to lead me to believe, over lots of years, that this child was behind, not capable, and defective. But I am proud of leaving that meeting.

How many students and parents allow a rigid system, that recognizes and rewards only certain kinds of capabilities and skills, to define a child as defective? How many start down the path of medications, making it difficult to determine what are the results of the lack of play and outdoor time and caring adults, and what are the effects of the actual medications? How many children who are physically-oriented, or just naturally start reading or learning later, carry the label of defective learners their whole lives? How many children blame themselves for problems caused by confined learning, dangerous additives, or commercially-driven food illness?

The first step, it seems to me, is declaring that our own children are not defective. This is something we have to, as parents, come to realize for ourselves, and it is often not easy. There are so many ways in which it is tempting to collude with the negative and disabling messages which are at the very heart of consumerist propaganda. Those messages are designed to instill in us the belief that we are not capable on our own, without the help of such-and-such person or program or expert. If we don't actually determine, ourselves, that the idea that our child is defective is unacceptable, we'll never be able to stand up to those messages or the messengers.

The next step is to add an exclamation mark to the phrase. "My child is not defective!" Once we realize that the defective label on any child is not OK, then we need to be willing to take a stand and push back on those who have accepted the views of childhood and learning that allow significant percentages of students to be declared such, instead of working to help every child. I believe this is at the heart of the opt-out movement, but I also worry that 1) for many, it's just the particular tests they are concerned with, and 2) that those tests are just one element of a broader culture of defectiveness that remains unchallenged in parents' own minds, not just in the system.

When I traveled in India, I was intrigued by a caste system which gave a rationale for one's place in society. If you were born into the lower caste, it was because of something you did in a previous life that caused this. It gave a comforting rationale both to the dispossessed and the upper castes for your place in life. No need to actually wonder if it was fair, since ultimately you were to blame or to take credit for what were clearly accidents of birth.

Think things are different here? Think again.