Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sit n Get


My K-12 experience spanned from 1961 through 1974. My butt polished a lot of chairs in that time.


I can't recall many times, outside of PE class, where I wasn't sitting down in school. Sure, there were those terrifying moments working problems on the blackboard. But this activity wasn't something a kid looked forward to.

The classrooms I knew had rows of chairs. Desktop collaboration was difficult. Aside from the floor flat surfaces to spread out and collaborate on were few. I cannot recall a time when we used the floor.

Photo of urbie and his granddaughter Carly

@ErikWahl and @KidsDeserveIt if you want to move education forward then your delivery needs to get students' bodies moving.


I design learning experiences for adults. In the almost two years that I've been participating in EdCamp I have learned many ways to teach kids. I have been able to use some of these techniques and strategies and tools with the learners I support. The best of them involve movement.

Devices and technology give students reach: to information and each other. The information stores, libraries, that I encountered in the 1960s were places to borrow books. The Internet of the day, card catalogues, were slow and cumbersome and in the end useful only insofar as the library was able to keep the resource: book, periodical, or map. Accessing the resource required that I go to the library. Today the information comes to students through browsers and apps.

Students need to be set in motion. In a Twitter chat some time ago I heard about Heutagogy. In a nutshell I think its about going after learning. Students, whether adults or children know what they need. It's arguable that maybe adults have a more definite idea of their needs than children. I'm not so sure.


If we're serious about growing flexible, curious, and creative people we have to set them free to go after what interests them. It's our job as educators to design learning experiences that facilitate that chase. Set our students free. My granddaughter Carly is counting on you.



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Focus Operandi


There are lots of things vying for our attention. Maintaining the laser-like focus many of our jobs demand can actually distract us from innovative insights.


Erik Wahl, guest writing in the Kids Deserve It blog notes that innovative insights often occur during times when people are intent on doing their jobs. The problem is, given how busy we are, it’s easy to miss ideas that flit in and out of our consciousness during while we’re busy doing our thing.

Wahl suggests setting aside moments to let our minds wander. Hopefully we’ll notice and be able to cajole some of the insights to stick around long enough for us to get our minds around them.


Storytelling and sketching are what I do to open and rest my mind. It helps me focus on something quite different from what I’m usually doing. If only for a few minutes I listen to my little voice of wonder and curiosity hoping to hear something cool.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Training Has a Problem


I read the other day where the Classroom Desk has become passé.

It’s finally bit the bullet.


The best training experience I ever in my life had was in 1993 when Intel hired me as a manufacturing technician (MT). Hundreds of people were hired to work in Fab 11 in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. It was the stuff of myth. You see, the state of the art Pentium factory existed mainly as a dream on blueprint. It was over a year away from going online.

In my experience before Intel, training happened piece meal. It seemed an after thought. It was all about skills for jobs that existed now.

To gain the skills I needed Intel sent me to work at an existing fab in New Mexico for a couple of weeks. Then I went to a fab in Santa Clara for three months. It wasn’t just me. The many hundreds of other new hires were sent to Intel factories throughout the world. Yes, the world. It was as much about learning Intel’s culture as well as process, operations, and problem solving skills. Like I said, the stuff of myth: developing critical thinking workers.

Some of the training happened at desks. Most of the training involved movement, collaboration with others, and making things like reports and job-aids.


I started writing this post in response to reading “Is This a Training Problem?” by Dr. Patti Shank. She was sharing her thoughts about a process for improving human performance. The hook in her post that grabbed me was whe she said “Training is expensive."

After I read her post I skimmed the Six Boxes document she referenced. I think it’s missing something. In the Analysis section the Six Boxes author describes a process for gathering information about environment and individual as they relate to a performance problem or opportunity. It’s similar to the process I’d learned for developing training. That is, up until I learned about Design Thinking at an EdCamp in 2013.

The bit I added to my workflow is Design Thinking. I do the same things the Six Boxes describe. But I do it with the learners I’m supporting instead of to. I think it’s an important distinction. It’s like being at a carnival and watching the action from the perspective of a parent. I like to get on the ride with the learners.


Is training expensive? In the grand scheme of things the cost of training pales compared to the cost of not training. It’s more than the cost to the organization though. What about the cost to individual learners? Are they a piece of a workflow leading towards a solution to a training problem? Or are they a contributing member of the learning and development team?

Friday, July 3, 2015

(Not) Being There


Time was that to get something out of something one had to be somewhere. No more. A bit vague? Read on.


ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) had it’s annual conference in Philadelphia last week.

The conference brought thousands of K-12 educators and others together for several days of professional development and networking opportunities. I wasn’t able to attend. Except that I did. Sort of.

Through the magic of streaming media technology like Periscope and the efforts of caring teachers like Jen Wagner, Cori Coburn-Shiflett, and many others I was able to observe bits and pieces, some large and some small, of keynotes, presentations, and conversations.


My being able to connect with the ISTE15 experience as much as I did started with the NotAtISTE15 Google+ group created by Wagner. The group brought together lots of people interested in learning as much as possible from ISTE15 participants. The other half of the equation was people like Coburn-Shiflett using Periscope to live-stream keynotes, presentations, and other events. I hadn’t experienced this level of connectivity and collaboration before.

Most of the time when I connect with others attending an event its through Twitter; its 140 character limit constrains the conversation. While tweets are useful as pointers to deeper and richer content or to arouse curiosity it’s a bit harder for deep (content) diving.

That’s about all I have to say about NotAtISTE. For a little more you can check out my PuzzlingMix blog.


Reflecting on my not being there learning experience started me wondering. How might we leverage Google+, Twitter, Periscope, Pinterest and other collaborative social media tools for other events? What might a framework for NOTAT___ look like?


And that’s as far as I got. Jen Wagner read my mind (or a tweet/blog) and provided an amazing How To #NotHere step-by-step guide.

I love my PLN. Thank you so much Jen!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bumpy, Nests, and Bests


I have this Honda Pilot. It’s got all-wheel-drive. I go off road, the beaten path I call it, when I can. Yesterday I could. So I did.


I was on my way home from Long Beach, California to Phoenix, Arizona. A little past Chiriaco Summit I left Interstate 10 to follow an old jeep trail that roughly paralleled a string of high tension lines.

Now and then I’d stop to stretch my legs and think. About whatever. This is a wonderful time for me: out in the open, no distractions, just the burning summer desert sun and a hot breeze blowing through the cottonwoods.

It’s during times like this that I make connections. With what? Stuff. Like something I heard Scott McLeod say during NotAtISTE15 about “routine cognitive work” which led me to his blog. And an HBR (Harvard Business Review) article (thank you Lesley Price for putting it in front of me) on neglected workplace activities like learning. The part about the 70-20-10 learning rule was particularly illuminating. Turns out the science behind it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.


Did I come up with anything? What did I connect?

Distractions. I need more of ‘em. Especially when I think things make sense without me expending much effort. I probably missed something (major?) along the way.

There’s a couple-three-four PD (professional development) opportuntities coming up I’d like to participate in: EdCampLdr, EdCampGlobal (online), EdCampHOT, and CueRockstar Las Vegas. I’m going to try my best to make it to all of them because they’re distracting. They’re humdrum-less.


I’m going to go Periscopey during one or more of these upcoming PD gatherings. I’m going to do this with the fervent hope that I distract someone enough that they’ll go off the beaten track and maybe, just maybe, discover something (major?). At least until my iPhone's battery gives out. If you don’t have the Periscope app as yet..

Friday, May 29, 2015

EdCampUSA Reflections


"When the student is ready the teacher will appear." -- Buddhist Proverb?


Out of focus photo of several teachers and a laptop

Friday May 29, 2015 saw me keeping company with educators at EdCampUSA in Washington, DC. It was quite a the learning experience. My PLN (Personal Learning Network) grew a few sizes whilst I listened and shared.


I'm going to be thinking about the stuff I learned today. Chief among these includes wearables in education, student voice, and caring enough to figure it out. Not for the first time something occurred to me along the way. Some of what I heard wasn't new. Maybe it was deja vu? Or perhaps I was rehearing something I had heard before and set aside. I can't say for sure. But engaging with peers in conversation and chiming up when I had a mind to made for an exciting time.


Brad Pitt, in World War Z, said something to the effect of, "Movement is survival." I think he said it. Any, I think of learning in a similar way. I have to put myself out there where others are. Deja vu or new doesn't really make much difference. When the student is ready learning happens and stuff begins to make sense.




Monday, April 20, 2015

High Hopes


“Next time you’re found, with your chin on the ground

there’s a lot to be learned, so look around.” — High Hopes by J. Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn


AprilBlogaDay Day 20.. What am I working on? Designing a learning experience that looks a lot like a workshop that a bunch (say around 50 people) can work on and complete in no more than 40 minutes. Oh, and the activity will be written on the fly given that I don’t know who will actually be in the room with me.

What I’m afraid I’ll end up with is something that looks like this tractor (I think that’s what it is) that I came across a while back in Texas.


I’m trying to get better at designing learning activities that are grounded in the interests of whatever learners are in the room with me. I have high hopes that I’ll get there.