Thursday, January 31, 2013

Is Education Preparing For A "C" Change?


Its importance in education has certainly NOT been minimized.  After all, how often are you told (or tell others) that communication needs to improve?  Communication is so important that it found its way on the list of important 21st century skills (with creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and in some schools - character).

I even wrote a book about improving communication.

However, I wonder if communication alone misses the mark.  Maybe the reason communication is consistently among the most criticized "Cs" is that the need is not really better communication.  Maybe, the need is related to communication, and because the actual need isn't on the list of "Cs" we chose the closest "relative" on the list.  Communication is still important and needs to remain a focus of schools, but maybe what we have been seeking is a cousin of communication.

Maybe what we really desire is a better connection.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Golden Apple Manifesto

Rarely do I go more than two or three days without posting some article here, but I have been busy in the last few days finishing a piece I call The Golden Apple Manifesto.

The Golden Apple Manifesto is the result of a blog post I wrote in August 2012 titled, The 10 Standards of Thrivapy.  Since then, my Thrivapy concept has evolved into a method of student/teacher engagement based upon 7 principles:

  1. Foundation Development (mission, vision, beliefs, philosophy)
  2. Setting goals
  3. Taking Action
  4. Developing/Changing Habits
  5. Growth Mindset
  6. Taking Ownership
  7. Building Relationships/Making Connections

While Thrivapy has evolved, the original 10 "standards" are still very much applicable and, I believe, essential to the success of teachers and students.

The Golden Apple Manifesto is not a "How to" guide.  You will not find any exercises, examples, checklists, templates, etc. for how to implement these ideas into your practice.

What you will find are the ten beliefs of the manifesto with supporting points to help clarify the idea and prompt reflection.

For the Kindle version, click here.

A free .pdf version can be found here.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Make the Connection?

One of the principles of Thrivapy is taking ownership of one's work.  Essentially, operating under the mindset that an individual is the "CEO of Fill in your name, Inc. (or .com, etc.)."  For students, this change in perspective forces them to reexamine their role in school.  Under the new view point, students become producers of educated work (an active role) as opposed to a receiver of an education (a passive role).

This redefining of the student's role has further implications.  As CEO, the student should also understand that the current "business model" is based on making and strengthening connections with your audience.  The student begins with an "empty page" and when finished, has created a new work (of art).  Essentially, the student CEO is also an artist seeking feedback from her audience (teacher, classmates, parents, etc.).

Each response from a teacher, classmate, or parent can be measured against the question, "Did this work (art) make a connection?"  In other words, did the relationship between you, as student CEO, and the other person strengthen, stay the same, or weaken?

If it didn't strengthen, engage in the conversation about how to do better next time.

By the way, the same applies to teachers.  You also put your creations (lessons, tests, projects, etc.) out for your audience.  What feedback are you receiving?  Is your art making a connection?

Interested in how Thrivapy can enhance effectiveness, satisfaction, and success for students or teachers?  Contact me at 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Art of Knowledge Creation

In a connected world, we are rewarded less for what we know than for what we do with what we know.

I've presented an argument before about how knowledge creation answers the question, "What is school for?"  Part of that argument is the understanding that knowledge creation is a social function.  It requires connections to be made between the person with information and an audience whose level of understanding and ability to use the information grows as a result of the sharing of said information.

Of course, by taking the brave and bold action to share, the presenter is transformed also.  She gets feedback that can be used to be a better presenter next time.  She learns more about how the information she shared can help others.  She absorbs the created connections and they now are part of her collective understanding.  In other words, she learns too.

Creating knowledge, while social, is also very personal.  The creator only knows what she knows.  The audience will accept it or not; they may already have a greater understanding than the presenter, they may not agree, they may not care.

The knowledge creator doesn't worry about such matters.  They share because it matters - to them.  In that sense, knowledge creation is like art and the knowledge creator is an artist.  The challenge, then, is to have a clear understanding of who your audience really is.  Is it the teacher?  The student next to you in class?  Your parents?  The college of your choice?

The only real option for the knowledge creator is to keep creating knowledge and learning how to connect better with their audience.

P.S.  This post was inspired by Seth Godin's The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

More Pixels, Please

During the Q/A part of my recent presentation on student goal setting, a participant commented that adding pieces to the process such as knowing where and when in addition to what is like adding pixels to a TV screen.  The more pixels, the clearer the picture.  The clearer the picture, the more likely the student is to fully understand how to achieve the goal.  He said using the ideas I presented was like moving from a big screen TV circa 1980s to a 1080p HD LED set today.

I liked that analogy.

More pixels, please.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Presentation on Helping Students Set Goals

On Monday (January 21, 2013), I gave a presentation to a group of teachers about how to help students set goals.  Setting goals is one of the seven principles of Thrivapy and is often an area that teachers, parents, and students benefit most from some guidance.

Embedded below is the Google Presentation I created for the day.  Included in the presentation is a checklist of questions to use as a guide for helping students set goals.

Want to learn more about helping students set goals, create an appropriate plan, and take action?  Feel free to contact me at: or

Click here for an overview of how Thrivapy encourages school success.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Filling the Void

 There's a void.

It exists in the lives of many students.  The size of the void is not the same for all students, but for quite a few, it largely goes unaddressed.  The assumption being that, in time, the void will be filled by life experience.

The void exists in the space defined by teachers and parents telling students to work harder, ask questions, take ownership, and strive for better.

The problem is that no academic curriculum specifically addresses those skills and many parents are too far removed from being students that they are not able to clearly articulate how students would go about filling the void.  Lessons from adulthood often falling upon confused ears.  The end result is often frustration over potential untapped, effort less than ideal, and students who do not learn some of the most valuable lessons a connected world demands.  Sure some of these students are making good, if not excellent, grades.  However, are they developing the habits and skills necessary to thrive in a connected world?  In the connected economy?  How do students learn to be brave, take ownership, set goals, accept a growth mindset, build habits of success, and learn to engage with others in a respectful and productive manner?

Of course, science has discovered many aspects of how these can be leveraged for success.  Some of these discoveries are finding their way into the board rooms and small businesses around the world, primarily because the business model served by the industrial age factory system no longer serves the needs of the masses.  The masses want a connection.  They seek personalized experiences.  Design matters.

Schools, teachers, students, and parents have been largely left out of the focus on developing those skills.  Collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, character, and communication still matter in the 21st century.  Many schools are addressing those.  But what approach are we using to teach students to be brave, take ownership, set goals, accept a growth mindset, build habits of success, and learn to engage with others in a respectful and productive manner?  How are we helping them create knowledge, work that matters, to become comfortable with discovering their art, linchpins in the making?

Who or what fills the void?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Comfort or Passion? What Drives You and Your Students?

There is comfort in knowing.  Comfort is fine.  Comfort is good.  There is nothing wrong with being comfortable.

Except when you are looking for passion and excitement.

Discovery, art, trial, error, try again, the journey to "better" are driven by excitement and passion.

As a teacher, what is your goal?  What drives you?  Comfort or passion?

What drives your students?  Discovery or knowing?

The answers to these questions may speak volumes about any potential disconnection in your class.  The answers may also explain why your class succeeds where a colleague is struggling.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The "Idea Guy"

I believe I was paid a compliment recently.

A colleague of mine referred to me as an "idea guy."  I wasn't sure exactly what she meant, so I asked.  So she explained about how I was all about change, the change leader, the guy who is always talking about how we can improve what we do, how I am always thinking about what the next best version of the division is like.

Wow.  I wasn't expecting that.

I thanked her and thought about the concept of being the "idea guy" for a little while.

Here's the problem.  Sometimes, people want to be the "idea person" then realize the "idea person" is also the one fighting the status quo (and those who have found a false sense of security in the status quo).

In addition, the value in being the "idea person" is in bringing the ideas out in the open for others to see.  There is uncertainty in being the "idea person."  Maybe the ideas don't generate much support.  Maybe the response isn't what you hoped for.

"Ideas people" are "idea people" because they choose to share.  They are brave because they face uncertainty and still go forward.  They dance where other dare to tread and learn from their experiences.

Unlike the critic masking as an "idea person", the true "idea person" is motivated by growth.  The critic uses the illusion of ideas to promote the status quo.

"Idea people" are valuable because they are in short supply.  However, every school needs one (or more).

Who are your school's "idea people?"

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Do They Know It Is Feedback?

Every response from students in your class is a piece of feedback that you can either choose to ignore or incorporate into your lesson.  For example, you had a plan to give students the chance to brainstorm ideas for a new project, but when you opened the floor to discussion, the conversations quickly turned away from the task at hand.  Soon, you had a classroom management issue to handle.  This was not what you expected when you decided to facilitate this exercise.

So, what do you do?

Do you cancel the idea of student brainstorming and choose the project for them?  Do you ignore their lack of engagement?  Do you stop the class and begin to ask why the class is having trouble staying on task?

Maybe, your class needs to be told that their responses to your lessons are data points that you use to make decisions about future lessons.  The ones that work are repeated.  The ones that do not are adjusted or eliminated.

Going back to our example, ask the students if they really intended to send the signal that your giving them a voice in the planning was something they do not want.  Under most circumstances, they will tell you that they DO want a voice.  At that point, explain how their reaction is feedback and it plays a significant role in how you structure the class.

Sometimes, letting the students know it is feedback can help refocus the group on their work and help you avoid misdiagnosing your lesson's effectiveness.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

A sure way to count on not being successful tomorrow is to refuse to learn from yesterday.

What will you do today?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Randon Acts of School Leadership

There is rarely a shortage of things that a school could do better.  Maybe the garbage cans in the restrooms are too small and are perpetually overflowing with trash or the garden started a few years ago has been overrun with weeds.  Your campus may need better signs to help people figure out where they are and how to get to their destination or the dining hall doesn't serve enough fruits and vegetables.

These are only a few examples of things that, in the big picture, are often overlooked.  However, their presence is a detraction from the overall experience.  These are the little annoying things that, if improved, could make a larger impact on the life of the school.

So, here's a proposition.  Find one "minor" thing that annoys you at your school and instead of being annoyed and complaining about it, empower yourself to lead the effort to fix it.  Take on a project that falls between the cracks, doesn't necessarily have a formal way to address, or is thirsting for attention.

(FYI - I got larger trash cans in the restrooms across from my office)

Random acts of school leadership are not only necessary, they are welcomed - especially by those in formal leadership roles who do not have the time to devote to some of the fine tuning that often gets overlooked.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Easing Student Fears

Fear of the unknown is a natural emotion.

When people are afraid, they generally do one of two things:
  1. They attack.
  2. They hide.
You may get a similar reaction from students when you try something new in your class.  Maybe what you have planned wasn't new to you, but new to the student?  Next time students get angry (attack) about an assignment or, if as you are explaining it to them, they start to slouch down or divert their eyes (hide), consider this:

Their reaction may be based on fear of the unknown.

How can you help ease the anxiety?
  • Recognize their emotions are valid
  • Provide a few examples
  • Guide them through a practice exercise
  • Praise their effort and reward their growth
  • Model appropriate risk taking and provide genuine behaviors
  • Ask them to help you define the fear.  Put a face on it (very likely to be failure)
  • Create a "failure free zone" where students can take a risk and be evaluated based on individual progress rather than by comparison to others

If I Am In Class, Then ...

One effective exercise I use with students to help them find more success is to use "if/then" statements.  "If/then" statements help students think beyond simply knowing what they are supposed to do by bringing a more complete focus to their attention.

For example, you may have a student who routinely forgets to bring his notebook to class.  He knows the notebook is a requirement, but seems to have issues remembering to bring it with him.  In this situation, using "if/then" statements may help.

Ask the student to do the following exercise for one week and help him track his progress.

Step 1:  Just before entering the classroom each day (or whenever according to your school schedule), the student pauses for a moment outside the door.

Step 2:  During that moment before entering, the student tells himself, "If I am about to enter (name of teacher's) class, then I need to have my notebook and place it on my desk at the start of class."

Try using an "if/then" exercise with students fr a few weeks and see if you, too, notice a difference.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Possible "Best" Question

Sometimes, the best question isn't, "What is more important?"  Likewise, it is probably not, "Who's more important?"

Sometimes, maybe more times than we want to admit, the best question is, "What can I do to make the person in front of me feel more important?"

Certainly, this question is not a bad way to approach conversations with students, preparation for classes, or conferences with parents.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Art of Education: Honored With Ranking

I received an email today from Sarah Fudin announcing that The Art of Education was included in's initial rankings for Teach100.  You may (or may not) remember that Sarah wrote a guest post here about professional development back in September, 2011.  Since then, we have maintained contact periodically and I was aware of developing a list of educational blogs worth checking out.  Teach100 is the product of that effort.

Here is some information about Teach100 taken from the web site:

Teach100 is a resource to help educators and those in the field of education find the most relevant blogs from across the Web. The list is compiled based on blogs you recommend to us, and is meant to reflect the quality of education blogs that are available.

You let us know about a blog with relevant, insightful content about the field of education. The blog is then added to our database for review. Every 24 hours, we scan the Internet for blogs in our database, and those blogs are assigned a score based on level of engagement from visitors, quality of content, frequency of updates and more. We post the rankings daily so that you can be sure you’re reading the most influential and transformative blogs on the Web.


There are four major components of the Teach100 score, which are aggregated when calculating a blog’s Teach100 ranking. These four components are:
  • Social (40%) – Engagement as determined through its combined Facebook shares, Tweets and StumbleUpon visits to the blog and its most recent posts. Ranking weighs shares pointing back to the blogs 10 most recent posts as well as for its main domain.
  • Activity (20%) – The frequency of a blog’s updates. The more frequently a blog is updated, the higher its activity score
  • Authority (20%) – The overall authority and influence relative to the rest of the web as determined by the number of sites linking to the blog. This methodology is one of the foundations of the Google Search Algorithm and is a commonly used measure of a website’s authority.
  • Teach Score (20%) – This is the single subjective factor in the evaluation of the Teach100. The Teach Score considers how media is used throughout a blog, how topics in education are discussed, the timeliness of blog content, the capacity to inform, and the overall presentation of the blog.

I was honored to find out that my blog, The Art of Education, was ranked #86 today.  I share this with you not for some shameless self-promotion, but to bring attention to this wonderful list of resources in which I happen to have been included.

If you are looking for a very good list of education blogs to explore, I strongly recommend the Teach100 list. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Blogging Tips For Educators

 I have purposely avoided writing posts about blogging tips until I felt more comfortable with my own blogging. Basically, building some credibility before making any claims is a quality I like to maintain.  At a minimum, I owe you, the reader, that much.

However, having written my first post in July, 2010, and observing a natural evolution to the posts I share, I felt it was a fairly good time to offer a few tips for bloggers - particularly bloggers who write about education.

Here are a few tips that I find very useful and, I believe, would help enhance your own blogging experience.

Tip 1:  If you write a post that is list based, keep the list fairly short.

Lists are popular blog subjects.  Some of my most popular posts are suggestion lists.  However, if you are going to share a list of suggestions, keep the list fairly short.  My rule of thumb is to keep my lists no longer than five items.  If more are needed, break the post up into a two or three part series.

Related to the above item, if someone is inclined to subscribe to your blog, they are also probably reading many others.  Respect their time and write short enough posts for them to read somewhat quickly.  Blog posts that exceed the 400-500 word mark risk losing the reader looking for quicker bursts of wisdom and inspiration.

Tip 2:  Use the drafts function.

I try to publish between 5-7 posts a week.  In order to do so, I need to take advantage of bursts of inspiration.  Since I do not have unlimited time to write out every idea that pops into my head, I employ the draft function almost daily.

The draft function is the method to save your posts before publishing them.  My "drafting" usually begins away from the computer with jotting down ideas in my Moleskine journal.  Once I have a chance to sit at a computer, I will give my post a title (usually changes before publishing) and I write a few notes in the body of the post that will remind me of the larger concept I came up with.  Sometimes, when I have a chance to write the actual posts, I can draft two or three, do a quick edit check, and then set the posts to publish on a schedule or, if I am happy with the post, publish it on the spot.

Tip 3:  Keep it professional.

How many educators have received some bad PR for writing in their blog personal and defamatory comments?  Not only do those educators hurt themselves, they damage the image of the profession in the public's eye.  I am not saying yo do not have a right to your opinion, but if yo choose to share it, you need to be prepared to accept the feedback/consequences of sharing.

My advice is if you are going to write about your profession, keep it professional.

Tip 4:  Publish or perish

Many bloggers are very concerned about building an audience.  Honestly, I can see page view stats, but I have no idea of how many people actually visit here regularly or would be upset if suddenly I stop writing.  My focus is on sharing my insights and, hopefully, helping someone looking to improve their art.

However, if you want a bigger audience, you need to publish frequently.  Infrequent or unpredictable posting will hurt your efforts to gain a solid following.

If you want more visitors, write and publish more often.

Tip 5:  Quality Over Quantity

My final tip in this post is related to Tip 4.  While publishing more often will help you gain more visitors, putting quantity over quality is a sure way to lose your solid base.  People invest time visiting your blog.  They do not want it wasted.  That is not to say that every post must be a best seller, but posting for the sake of posting is a bad idea.

You reap what you sow.  Therefore, if you want to develop a quality blog that has loyal followers, quality is always better than quantity.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sometimes, All It Takes Is An Extra Inch

 The extra mile is easy to see.  They are hard to miss because when you don't go the extra mile, the distance is obvious.  Going the extra mile is, for serving others, the status quo.  If your job involves helping others, you are expected to go the extra mile.

The extra inch is easier to overlook.  As a matter of fact, at certain angles, you can't even see a gap that small.

Here's the problem for educators.

Often, students needing the extra mile are obvious.  The ones needing the extra inch?  Not so much.  Sometimes, the "extra inchers" are the students who are performing satisfactorily, but should achieve the next level of success.

Unfortunately, because their challenges are less obvious (they don't need the extra mile, at least not any more), the "extra inchers" are sometimes misunderstood.  Their passive, content, and I'll say it (but not like it) because we have all heard it - lazy, approach to school is often misunderstood.  You have probably gone the extra mile for the "extra inchers" already, but because they have not quite reached your level of expectation, they have sensed your frustration and have decided that where they are now is acceptable to them.

I'm not sure what is more tragic.  The student who needs the extra mile and is having trouble getting help or the student who needs the extra inch and is misunderstood.

Look for the "extra inchers" in your class.  Reach our to them.  They may need you to initiate the final piece of the achievement puzzle.  Make it obvious (again maybe) that you have a personal investment in their achievement and satisfaction.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Leave No Doubt

Easy to remember advice that will serve every educator well in practically every situation:

In everything you do, never leave any doubt that you are personally invested in the success of the student.

Easy to remember.

Not always easy to deliver.
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