December 30, 2016

Stuff you gotta check out...(From 2016)

As with most folks, I feel the need to wrap up my 2016 with some "go-to" things I wish to share. Some are educational, some are not...well for that matter, they are all really get the idea. 

I like to share, if you want to see a weekly, short list of cool things like articles, videos, podcasts, etc. then click HERE.

Disclaimer - I am a blogaholic, so there are many more that are awesome, just can't list them all. I hope that I am on someones list of good ones but only because I want it to be relevant, not for my notoriety (fame would be nice though).

Favorite Blogs 
(I read a bunch but these are the ones I link to and share on a daily basis).

Austin Kleon - A writer who draws. Great blog, loves to share what he learns. Author of the book Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work

Teacher Tech with Alice Keeler - Probably the Google Queen, not a week goes by that I do not share one of her posts about G-Suites or something I find useful for teachers. 

Matt Miller has a site called Ditch That Textbook which is loaded with tips and ideas on how to personalize learning and use technology to your advantage. Just recently he had a FREE online digital summit with expert videos from all of the U.S.

I get sucked into these three blogs REALLY quick. They are really cool and have some fun and doable projects. If you are a DIYer or aspiring one, these are must sees - Rogue Engineer and I Like to Make Stuff, and DIY Pete

Julie Davis, met her through Twitter and became fast friends. She is very insightful and knowledgeable in All Things EduTechie Oriented. She takes pride on being a transparent educator and produces high quality articles on a weekly (sometimes more) basis. 

Here is another I share weekly, A.J. Juliani. He always has interesting topics in the world of education and technology, specifically the idea of 20% time...don't know what that is?? Go to his site, he has a plethora of resources. 

The ADHD Nerd with Ryan McRae is a great one, especially for people like me who know the title describes them perfectly.

Favorite Podcasts

Chris Nesi has accumulated three year of House of #EdTech. No, I have not listened to all of them but I have listened to a BUNCH. He has great guests, great topics and his podcasts are a great travel companion. 

Malcolm Gladwell ALWAYS intrigues me with his story-telling. Revisionist History is no different! In fact, I am checking regularly as to when the next season is going to come out. I can't wait!

How I Built This - just recently found this one. Guy Raz talks to different entrepreneurs on how they made it. Fascinating! So far my favorites are the ones with Mark Cuban, LA Reid and Jim Koch.

The RobCast - This is my spiritual podcast. Rob Bell, former pastor, keeps me thinking about all things spiritual. I have met him twice, great dude!

Leadership Technology Learning - This goes without saying...a trio of GOOD-LOOKING Educators trying to navigate this ever-changing world...Seriously, it is good (and I am a co-founder/co-host). The new year will bring new episodes and new guest...Stay tuned. 

Books I have read in 2016 
(just a list and a link, click the link for a description, why re-invent the wheel??)

The More of Less - Joshua Becker
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy - Eric Metaxas
The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg
The Revenant - Michael Punke
Hacking Leadership by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis and Hacking Education by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez
The President's Shadow - Brad Meltzer
How to Be Here - Rob Bell

Apparently I read a crap load on pocket...I was in the top 5% of their readers for 2016, check out my stats here...

Books I plan to tackle...a few 
(same as the link).

Tools of Titans - Tim Ferris
Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson (got several Civil War ones I need to check out) - S.C. Gwynne
The Whistler - John Grisham
Several of the Hack Learning books - including Hacking PBL by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy (not out yet but SOON).

Man I wish the following would come out with new ones this year: Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, Tony Horwitz and Erik Larson.

Binge worthy 
(meaning you can find these on Netflix, Amazon or HBO and waste an entire weekend watching a whole season...or two).

The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones - Beware, you will get HOOKED. Don't let kids (or flimsy adults for that matter) watch these.

House of Cards - probably more real than we would like to believe.

Man in the High Castle (just started and hooked)

American Horror Story - The show my wife and I share (on season 3, also not for kids).

ZNation - "B" movie version of Walking Dead...but AWESOME. I love The Murphy!

Any ESPN 30 for 30 documentary - Seriously, have they made a bad one??

What's Next?

Blogging - setting a schedule and sticking to it.
Podcasting - setting a schedule and sticking to it.
Improve weekly sharing, share with MORE. You can be a part of that HERE.
Read More...and share.
Binge watching... (this one is probably the easiest)
Oh, did I mention Hawaii...Yep, the Shurans are going to Hawaii with the THS BAND! It will be a trip of a lifetime!

Lastly...appreciating life, every day is a blessing.

Two Great Men who left us in 2016, way too early...Lucky for us, their legacies live on.

In Loving memory of Mike Shuran and Jeff Taylor.

Hope EVERYONE had a Merry Christmas and is looking forward to a GREAT New Year!


November 29, 2016

What is a Disruptor (Part 1)?? defines the root word of disruptor (disrupt) as the following:

1. to cause disorder or turmoil in: The news disrupted their conference.
2. to destroy, usually temporarily, the normal continuance or unity of; interrupt: Telephone service was disrupted for hours.
3. to break apart: to disrupt a connection.
4. to radically change as by introducing a new product or service that creates a new market: It's time to disrupt your old business model.

Pay particular attention to number radically change as by introducing a new product or service...

THAT is the ONE I am looking for!

Who else is tired of doing things for the sake of doing things?
Who else is tired of doing things because that is the way we have always done it?
Who thinks things need to be disrupted a little in our world of education?

Hear me out...I do not believe in destroying, causing turmoil, breaking apart or any of those other definitions listed above.

But...radical change may not be that bad.

 Here are some disruptors you may recognize...

(Steve Jobs, Mark Cuban, Rita Pierson, Rodney Mullen, Malcolm Gladwell, Kid President)

All of these people look (or looked) at the world from a different perspective. They make people think and are not afraid to be different. 

They are all responsible for great ideas, great enthusiasm and people who follow.

Disruptors are:
intelligent risk-takers
enthusiastic for what they believe
makers, tinkerers, creators, innovators

Disruptors are not:
afraid of failure
status quo

Do you want to be a disruptor??  

Here are 5 ways:

Find something to change then CHANGE IT.
Create an atmosphere that encourages intelligent risk-taking.
Give problems to your students but DON'T have an answer in mind.
Rethink grades...maybe even do away with them.
Do NOT be satisfied with the status quo.

I will add more in part II, feel free to share your ideas.


October 26, 2016

Special Kind of Creativity (Part II)...

Remember this guy??

We talked about him last time. He is none other than Rodney Mullen, one of the greatest skateboarders of all times.

I promised last time I would talk more about him so here you go...

Last time I linked a video by Rodney Mullen called Pop and Ollie and Innovate and used it to help discuss creativity.'s another one, Getting Back Up. Seems like a fitting video for a skateboarder but I believe it is also related to many other topics, including education.

Take a few minutes, watch the video, it is worth it.

Well...what did you think?

Let me tell you how I think it relates to "our" world.

Community...there is that word again. In my experience, when I see the same words/phrases/ideas over and over, I tend to pay attention to them. Community is important.

All skateboarders speak a common language. They take pride in communities. Skaters take small movements, rearrange them and then create more complex movements and then...they name them. Then all of sudden, everyone is using that name to describe the move. But guess what happens next? Someone adds another complex move and then it becomes something adapts. And then, the community is cyclical.

Here is an interesting question. Why is it, you can get a group/community of moderately talented (Mullen's description) individuals to start producing extraordinary things?

You know why?? 

Rodney Mullen says..."They don't know they can't do it." They are not told it is impossible, they are not told or encouraged to give up when they fail. Their community encourages them to build on each other...and then share and not worry about failing.

For every trick that gets named, for every awe-inspiring jump there are many, many times of failing, falling, crashing etc. But...they get back up.

Mullen says that everything about the skaters tells them to STOP (pain, frustration, lack of support) but for whatever reason, they keep going.

I think it has to do with their community.

Mullen also mentions that the biggest obstacle to creativity is breaking through the barrier of disbelief. If a skater does not know it is impossible, then their drive is to complete the trick no matter how many times it takes. They become intrinsically motivated.

If people can see success, see it being done, then they too can start to complete the seemingly impossible tasks.

How does this relate to "us?"

What do skaters share in common with educators?

1. Encourage, Encourage, Encourage - It's ok to fail, fall, long as you continue to try.
2. Model - show how you have fallen and gotten back up, make it relevant, give them options.
3. Don't let too much thinking get in the way - sometimes too thinking can stop you in your tracks.
4. Eliminate the disbelief...if someone doesn't know that it cannot be done, then they will not question their ability to get it done.
5. Encourage and build your community - We do not have to agree on everything, but we do need to speak a common language. Focusing on 1-4 will only help with the community building process.

Last but definitely not least...

Whatever you do...

If you fall down...

If you see someone fall down...

The first step is to Get Up!


September 26, 2016

Special kind of creativity (Part 1)...

If anyone remembers the above picture...then you probably were a young person (or young at heart) in the late 80s and early 90s.

Thrasher Magazine was the go to magazine of the skateboarders (No Posers!!) of the world during this time. It probably wasn't appropriate for kids my age (sorry mom) then but it had some cool articles, pics and especially ads for skateboard favorite!

I loved skateboarding...LOVED IT! I ultimately gave it up because I knew it could possibly hamper my basketball career (my first love).  Anyways, I find myself missing it...not for the reasons you think though. Don't get me wrong, I would love to get out there and ride around...I still grab a board occasionally and just hope I don't break something. But there is something about it that still intrigues me.

Just for the record, the above pics are of my very first deck...I was extremely proud, paid for it with my own money.

Skateboarding is directly related to creativity. When I see a video, documentary or competition about skateboarding on TV or the net, I am glued. The way the skaters move their feet and their hands and their boards blows my mind each time. Sometimes those tricks are planned and sometimes, many times they are variations of what they already know...a function of their creativity. How does that relate to what I do??

So here is how my brain works. I begin to explore those topics to see what I can find. Guess what, I found some GREAT resources on this very topic. And, in my own crazy way of thinking, I am attempting to relate skateboarding, creativity and the world of education.  Stick with me!

If you have time, watch this video ...Pop an Ollie and Innovate. If not, I will give you a little bit of it below.

I am fascinated with Rodney Mullen and have found myself watching and reading different things he is part of (more to come in part 2). He is definitely a unique person, with quite a bit of a different background than me. But, he says things that make me think about what I do every day.

Here are some:

1. Skateboarding is about Community
Mullen talks about his thoughts on creating tricks...he makes tricks and contributes back to the skating community. The community uses those tricks to build on their tricks and shares with the community. In a weird way, the more community building that occurs, the more individual creativity that occurs. It becomes a continuous circle of sharing, creativity/innovation and then more sharing.

These skaters are like hackers...they ALL create "open source" material.

Sound familiar educators??

Have you ever considered yourself a teacher hacker??

You should. The educators who seek the best, who change, who innovate ARE a part of a community of "hackers."

2. Adversity brings about Creativity
Rodney Mullen talks about how he was the best freestyle skater. He was not just blowing smoke, ALL of his peers said the same thing. The problem was, freestyle skating was dying out. When it finally did, Mullen was at a turning point in his career. When Rodney was winning, it came easy. When he was forced to change, his creative "juices" began to flow. He even said that winning all of his competitions (all but one) stifled his creativity. When freestyle ended and street skating began, Rodney did not give up because his style ended...he innovated.

3:58"The crazy thing was, there was a really liberating sense about it, because I no longer had to protect my record as a champion...What drew me to skateboarding, the freedom was now restored, where I could just create things, because that's where the joy was for me, always, was creating new stuff."Rodney Mullen - Pop an Ollie and Innovate
3. Context shapes Content
Simply stated, the experiences/environment can shape the outcomes. One wall or curb or park bench in one place may produce an entirely different experience at a different location. The surroundings, the prior knowledge (or lack there of), the feelings/atmosphere can and will shape the style or creativity of the action...assuming the opportunity to create is there.

I appreciate the creativity that comes with skateboarding. I appreciate that the community engages each other so that the opportunities for more creativity are there. I appreciate that adversity is recognized as a positive and not a negative. And, I appreciate how surroundings play a role in that creativity.

To sum up, here are some words and phrases that describe the creativity of skateboarding.

continuous learner

...any others??

I see those words being great descriptors for educators too...

do you??


August 25, 2016

4 Digitals and an Analog...

I was thinking about the tools I use most each day and realized that I could narrow it down to a few.
That was extremely difficult at first but after much thought, 4 digitals and an analog came to mind.

When people ask me "what does a typical day" look like as a principal, I laugh. Because we all know, there is no such thing! However, the tools I use on a regular basis are pretty consistent and I figured I would share some of those. Granted, I use many, many more but these are the ones I rely on most.

4 Digitals and an you go.

Digital #1 - Twitter
This one I use EVERY day. Whether it is to check relevant articles or participate in a twitter chat (my favorites are #tntechchat, #principallife, #tlap...there are plenty of others), I rely on my daily dose of Twitter.  I do not think people realize how powerful a tool Twitter can be. In one hour of a twitter chat, I can connect with tons of educators from ALL over the world.

By the way, you can follow me @mickshuran

Digital #2 - Google Apps for Education (GAFE) 
I could not pick just ONE! There is no way! I use these apps and extensions on a regular basis and could do a list just on GAFE.  However, I can break it down to what I use the most. First of all, Gmail and Google...obviously. But, I also use Drive, Docs, Slides, Sheets, Classroom, Photos, Hangouts, Calendar...oh and Blogger. This list can go on forever but I really do use this a great deal. 
I also LOVE helping others figure out these tools. As a Google Certified Educator, I am supposed to enjoy this!

Each day I find myself bouncing ideas off of others on how to use the Google Apps for efficiently and to the benefit of the kids and the school. 

Digital Tool #3 - Pocket
I cannot live without my pocket! This extension allows you to save articles and sites in an easy to find location. In addition, you can tag those articles with common themes so that they are easier to locate when looking at specific projects or collecting articles for entertainment.

I highly recommend Pocket! I have a great short video describing how to use Pocket on my videos page, check it out!

Digital Tool #4 - Podcast App
Like them or not, so far Podcasts have stood the test of time. I see them as almost like interactive audio books. You can find a podcast on ANYTHING. The ones I like the best are the shorter ones...mainly because of my attention span. But some of the lengthier ones do still grasp my attention such as Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History and Serial. They are like good books or good get HOOKED!

Here are some others that I listen to on a regular basis:

Leadership Technology and Learning - Yes, this is mine, but give it a shot, it is good stuff.
The House of EdTech - Twitter PLN member Chris Nesi puts on a great 30 or so minute on education.
The RobCast - good for the spiritual soul.
EduRoad Trip - great ideas, cool links to places around the world.
Hack Learning - A new one I just started following but well worth the time.
On the Vendor Floor - Melissa Emler takes the time to check out new products and tools.

Not every podcast is for you. Find one you like then follow it. As you get more adept, then find those specific episodes that relate to you and get ready to learn.

The Analog Tool

I am a Journal Junkie. There, I have admitted it. Sometimes I use them but sometimes I get them because they look cool and one day, I plan on using them. There is something rewarding about actually writing something down or drawing a picture. I like to keep one near me at all times in case an idea pops up.

I am also a pen junkie. I like Uniball and Pilot Gels (yes I accept gifts) mostly but I am still on the search for the perfect pen and journal combo...that one may go on forever.

Understand this, I love my digital tools but...

Do not under-estimate the power of writing something down. Sometimes in life analog is exactly what we need.


August 11, 2016

Getting into the trenches...

Let it be know that on August 11th, 2016, I started my very first "Coaching Day." 

The coaching day was an idea I "stole" from Amy Fadeji (@mrsfadeji), a elementary school principal from Sonoma, California. She was even kind enough to do a Google Hangout with me this past summer to help me formulate my plan. 

Day one was a success!!

Let me share with you what this looks like...

First of all I sent an email to all of my folks at West Middle School. I also shared a link to a video (Click that to watch it) explaining how this process works. Basically, if the teachers need me on any Thursday of the school year, they simply sign up using a Google Form that I have created. I told them I would wash tables, hang signs, teach creative and I would attempt it. At first I do not think anyone believed me so it took awhile for folks to sign up all of the FUN.

The tipping point came when a teacher of mine was trying to figure out how they could leave early to make it to the first Vols football game. I simply said, "It's on a Thursday, sign me up for something!" And now, I will be teaching a lesson on the history of the Tullahoma High School Fight Song...should be interesting.

Today I...

talked about motivation
played volleyball
finished in the top 5 of kahoot in 7th grade math
taught students how to use Google Keep
discussed transportation in social studies.
I even won some Smarties

 The biggest question...Why??

Here is a lesson from a veteran principal (yes I am a veteran). It is IMPORTANT to get out of your office and experience what the students and teachers are doing. It does not have to look like this, it can really be anything. As long as it gets you out of your office and in the trenches.

That is why I did it. I needed to get away from the day to day office work that can CONSUME me. We have all been there. We have all checked our emails and seen 500 in the inbox and been overwhelmed.

My solution...coaching days. One day a week, where I am not consumed. One day a week where I am experiencing what goes on outside of my office. We all know that some of the office work is necessary but I believe so is getting in the trenches. This is my solution and does not have to be the same for you.

I encourage you to step outside of our comfort zone, try something new and different. Reach out to other folks and pick their brains, much like I did. Try it, if it doesn't work, try something else. The biggest reward is not getting away from you office for a day but seeing the awesome things happening first hand.

Who knows, you may even win some Smarties...


August 5, 2016

The "Principal" of Fitness...

When I moved to West Middle I was in the best shape of my "old" adult life. My weight was down, my aches were down. I felt pretty good!

Since that time, my weight, aches, etc have fluctuated on a non-predictable basis. It is possible that my job helps to create that but I realize it is NOT AN EXCUSE.

Since starting at WMS four years ago, I have competed in several 5K's, a couple of sprint triathlons as well as becoming an avid bowler (more strenuous than you think). However, I have also spent time in physical therapy (back issues), changed pants size, and consumed food and beverages probably at a record rate.  In fact, this time a year ago, I competed in my second sprint triathlon. And believe it or not, I am in better shape now than I was then. The difference...I was working out regularly last year but my diet was AWFUL. My LONG swims (only long by my standards), 20 mile bike rides and several mile runs were only taking care of the extra stuff I was eating and drinking.

My mind and my body struggled.

Fast forward to today. My workouts still need to increase. But, my wife and I have committed to better eating and exercising more together.

My mind and my body are improving.

I still have a ways to go.

What does this have to do with my life as an educator?? The answer...EVERYTHING!

If my mind and body are failing, the kids, the teachers, the adults, the community KNOW IT.

Understand, I am still not where I want to be. I still need more exercise daily. My eating and drinking habits need to be tweaked. But I have been inspired to do so.

Here are some who have helped me along the way (whether you realize it or not)...

Jerred Moon (@EO3Fit), Founder of End of Three Fitness - This guy is all about building better humans...and I like that! He has so much to share, both free and paid and I think it is definitely worth some time to examine.

Some Twitter connections - #whyiexercise and #fitleaders
Just found these recently. Dr. Ryan Jackson (@RyanBJackson1) and Josh Bracamontes (@JABracamontes) had a recent dialog on Twitter that had me intrigued and they used those above hashtags. Both are educators in Tennessee, so that really hit close to home. One thing that was said about #fitleaders..."makes it public and highly motivating..." That is maybe what we all need.

I truly value these new connections and makes me realize that my PLN goes far beyond just education.

So as you think about this school you think about testing and you think about observations, evaluations, differentiated instruction, project-based get the idea...

Consider also your health...your mind and body.


July 27, 2016

What successful people know...

Take a minute to look at the image below.

I cannot take credit for the actual idea. I stole it from somewhere (cannot remember where??). The concept is simple...

Many people think that everything we do results in one of two outcomes: Success or Failure.

In reality, what happens in many cases is we have to fail several times to figure out whether or not what we are doing works or is even successful. I am guilty of struggling with this and I am sure I am not alone. As leaders, educators, business folks, lawyers, police...let's just say professionals, we have to take this into consideration.

We have to ask ourselves these questions.

Are we creating a culture where the second image is even possible? 

Are people afraid of what will happen when they fail the first time, so much so that once they fail, there is not a second time?

Are we too competitive to not get it right the first time?

What causes people to be afraid to fail OR to be afraid to allow someone to fail on their watch?

Is it appropriate in all fields?

All legitimate questions worthy of your feedback, that means let me know what you think...send me a tweet.   @mickshuran


July 13, 2016

The Ride Along

I have many titles and names that I am proud of (and some I'm not). But those included that make me proud...

Called and Ordained Principal (given to me by my Pastor)

And now...Deputy Principal! True story, here was my ride...

The weekend of July 4th, I had the opportunity to ride along with friend who also happens to be Lt. Detective Jason Kennedy with the Bedford County Sheriff's Office.

He even went out of character and wore his uniform so I could ride along (you may not know but detectives usually wear shirts and ties or something similar). Here is the proof...

Although I did not personally get to pull people over, shoot a gun, or perform a field sobriety test (did witness a couple). I did learn a great deal on my ride along. Here are a few things.

1. Our police, whether city or county, state or federal, work their tails off regularly.
Jason and I talked about his shifts, his duties and all things police related. Because I know Jason, I know for a fact that many times he gets called into work in the wee hours of the morning. His work cannot wait until normal business hours. I also found out that the deputies will typically work 12 hour shifts and in many cases, difficult shifts. Many will even take on other duties to earn extra money to help pay the bills. Like educators, the police are vastly underpaid but still go at it everyday.

2. They look after each other.
Numerous times, I witnessed Jason pull over to a location where another officer was located. This was not to catch up on old times but simply a reminder "hey, I got your back." They all look after each other. It truly is a brotherhood/sisterhood...or a family to be exact.

3. Our safety is in their best interest.
There are bad apples in EVERY occupation. There are bad doctors, bad teachers, bad cops, bad preachers...However, these folks are there to Serve and Protect. The police have a great deal of responsibility on their shoulders and the officers I met that night know it. It is serious business and it is treated as such.

4. Stress is part of the job.
Although we did not have any seemingly dangerous situations that night, I know they have them. There are some crazy and dangerous people out there. Heck, just the number of folks who were being field sobriety tested for DUI was shocking to me. I know Jason's and his colleague's jobs do not end when the shift does. What they did that shift stays with them. If it was an especially difficult day, it is hard for them to go home to families and act like nothing is wrong. Essentially, the family feels the stress as well.

5. What we do (educators) and what they do is really not that different.
It may just be easier to list the similarities:

Long hours
Not doing it for the money
Work almost always goes home with them
Both work with people they may not like (but give them the same attention as everyone else)
Both see the negative impacts of drugs, alcohol, crime etc.
There are positives every day that keep them going
Public servants
Community leaders
Role Models

...and plenty more.

I have always been a law enforcement supporter, now more than ever. I have friends who are in law enforcement and I worry about their safety but also know that they are in it, not just for me and my family but EVERY citizen. I thank Jason and the Bedford County Sheriff's Office for my opportunity. It truly was an educational experience.

Oh, by the way, in case you needed more proof of my new title, here you go.


July 8, 2016

The Educator and Summer Break

As educators most of us have a little time off in the summer. Typically that time varies dependent on the position. Even those folks who still have to work, do get some quiet time because the halls are empty and that is sometimes like a vacation too.

Despite what others think, educator's summer times aren't all margaritas and sunshine. Work still has to be done. There are still the occasional meetings, the summer trainings, plus the overall preparation for the classroom, school or school year.

Even if we are not attending anything, we are thinking about it. Like many fields, education is always on our minds.

During this "time off," what should we be thinking about, what should be our focus?

I have some suggestions that will help prepare you for that upcoming school year.

1. Review your personal and professional goals.
These are your long-term and short-term goals. We all have things we want to do but sometimes putting them on paper makes them more achievable. You should review them regularly to see if they still fit your agenda. Heck, you can put them in a frame and keep them by your desk as a reminder. Over time, if you see a goal changes for you...CHANGE IT!

2. Choose something you will focus on and spend the whole year honing that craft.
We all have evaluations and we all have those areas we know we could get better. It might be technology or RTI or even our own organization. Whatever it is, identify it and target it. Then spend the entire year trying to get better at it. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

3. Completely clear your space (even change it).
Clutter can be the killer of creativity. To some it helps but not me. I find myself spending time trying to "straighten" things which is more time I am not focused on my improvement. Some thrive in clutter, if you are one of those...congrats! Here is a book I have been reading that helps putting things in perspective.

4. Choose one word that defines you for the entire school year.
Jon Gordon has a book called One Word. It is pretty simple, instead of lengthy goals and resolutions, he says we should simply choose one word that defines us. He does a heck of a better job explaining it that me, so check out what Jon Gordon says.

5. Start (and keep) a journal.
This is a good one and I am terrible at it! BUT, I will get better at this year. There are benefits to writing things down each day. Whether you write about successes, failures or even a good article you read, it does not matter it is yours. It does not have to be of the "Dear Diary" variety. In fact, many of the journals I have seen contain mostly pictures. Do whatever works for you but do it consistently. It is a great tool for reflection. Go get you a mole skin, or Field Notes, or even Post It Notes and start "collecting YOUR data."


June 27, 2016

The New and Improved Blog

I have decided to get back into the world of electronic reflection.

I have purposely left some of my favorite posts from my old writings but will be regularly adding new thoughts, tips, podcasts, videos and more. So be sure to stay tuned. There will also be a weekly email with cool things I found and want to share. Click below if you want that.

I was always good at was talking out of turn that got me. Click below.

You will see that there is a  page dedicated to the LTL Podcast which can be found on I Tunes. All recordings are less than 20 mins and delve into many of the current topics of the day. In addition, we have AWESOME guests.  Click on the Logo, check it out and spread the word.

June 20, 2016

Talent vs. Effort

Imagine a world where we focus more on effort and not as much on intelligence...what would happen?

Carol Dweck, in the late 1970s, did an experiment with 6th graders. In that experiment, she had two groups. One group strongly believed intelligence controlled success while the other felt intelligence did not control everything. This was based on an initial questionnaire that Dweck administered as part of the experiment. Those that believed that intelligence is "set in stone" were referred to as the fixed mind-set, the others were associated with the growth mind-set. Once the groups were decided, each group was given a series of questions. The first set easy, the next set much more difficult.  The fixed mind-set folks started doubting themselves quickly when it came to the more difficult tasks. They began to question their own intelligence, even though just moments before they were confident of their abilities. The growth mind-set folks did not have the same difficulties...they never thought of themselves failing and they continued to work at those seemingly impossible tasks (that some completed)...why???

Dweck did a similar test twenty years later based on the same principles as before only with a focus on words. Two groups, same routine, puzzle to solve...the difference was afterwards the students were given six words of praise; half were praised for their intelligence, the other half praised for their effort. The reason for this was simple...see if words could make a difference in productivity and success.  Guess what??  After the first go around, students were given another test. They were asked if they wanted the easy or hard test. Two thirds of the intelligence-praised students chose the easy test whereas 90 percent of the effort-praised students chose the hard test. The students that were praised as intelligent were "afraid" of failure and not living up to their intelligence label while the effort based folks were ready for a challenge...Interesting!!

Now, step away from Psychology for a minute and think about your own world. How many times have we know a person that has always been the cream of the crop, whether we are talking about athlete, musician, student, etc that never quite lived up to the expectations of others. Was it because their intelligence or "natural talent" was praised as opposed to the effort put into the tasks. Think back to the 10,000 hour rule...those folks that put in hours upon hours (thousands) of purposeful practice most likely did not think much about their natural talent while they were banging the piano keys, shooting free throws, or doing math calculations forever and ever, they were putting in the time...focused on effort.

I find myself doing it all of the time.."you are so smart!...That should be an easy question..." When I probably should be saying, "that is a great effort you put into that really worked hard on that task." Think about those that have low self-confidence or those that are behavior issues. When we tell them how smart they are or how talented they are or how good they that moment they are good, but then reality hits. "I've got to maintain these assumptions about am I going to do that!!!" That is why we see, over and over, the behavior disorder kid do great, then, all of a sudden, tank...self-sabotage. It is harder to maintain the image of an intelligent, well-behaved learner for those kids. 
So is it talent? Don't get me wrong, I am still not convinced that some people aren't blessed with some special talent that allows them to jump higher, hit farther, sing better....However, as I see these studies, my eyes begin to open about the possibilities not only for my students but for ME! Hard work does matter, practice does work, diligence pays off. If I want to learn Spanish, I can. If I want to learn guitar, I can. If I want to become better at calculus as a 36 year old educator...I can! One thing I hope for is to start leaving behind the notions that talent makes a difference and start realizing that hard work, purposeful hard work can overcome those talent shortfalls. 

For more on how hard work overcomes talent read...
Syed, M. (2010). Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham and the science of success. Harper Collins: New York.
Gladwell, M. (2008), Outliers: The story of success. Little, Brown, and Co: New York.


June 13, 2016

Harry Harlow and the Monkeys (old post I repurposed...Enjoy!)

For those of you that do not know this, I am a huge Dan Pink fan. Pink has written several books that are definitely worth the time reading, especially A Whole New Mind and Drive. The focus of this Friday's conversation is based on some of the things I have gathered from the book Drive by Dan Pink (a great deal of the future conversations will come out of these readings). Anyways, Dan Pink spends a great deal of time on the topic of motivation, specifically instrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. This is a topic that intrigues me and it will you too if you ever decide to try one of his books. 

In the 1940s a man named Harry Harlow conducted experiments with eight rhesus monkeys for a two-week period. The task was for the monkeys to solve a simple 3-step puzzle that required them to pull out a vertical pin, undo the hook, and lift up the hinged cover. This would be a super easy task for the normal human but seemingly difficult for a monkey in a lab. To make a long story short, these monkeys (left alone) began to figure out these puzzles and became rather good at solving the problem. Now because there were no rewards, such as food, praise, etc, Harlow questioned why they were able to figure this out. Scientists at this time knew of only two drives that motivated humans. One, was biological...hunger, thirst, etc. The second, rewards and punishments, also not present in this experiment. So what was it?? 

Harlow deduced that there is a third drive, "the performance of task." The monkeys performed the task simply because they found it gratifying to solve the puzzles. It seemed they actually enjoyed it! Harlow eventually called this drive "intrinsic motivation." They later tried similar experiments but added "rewards" such as raisins or other treats for completion of the puzzle. The scientists believed that by adding the external motivator that surely the monkeys would perform even better. Interestingly enough it was discovered that the monkeys actually performed worse. "Introduction of food in the present experiment," Harlow wrote, "served to disrupt performance, a phenomenon not reported in the literature." This was an interesting finding that ultimately lead to Harlow leaving the field...not because of success but because he was "run" out due to it not aligning with conventional wisdom.

What does this mean for us??? Humans react the same way (adults and kids). The carrot and stick approach may work in the short run but over time the "prize" has to significantly increase or the kids simply begin to lose interest in that motivation. As educators we have to continue to look for ways to develop that third drive (intrinsic motivation) in our students. We have to continuously look for ways to motivate these students not for the rewards they receive but because they have pride in what they do and they want to succeed. This is not an easy task but the smiles on the faces of those unmotivated students that finally feel accomplishment is our own little instrinsic motivation. Let us continue to strive to find ways to motivate the un-motivated as well as those that have already set specific goals for themselves.

This is one of the many interesting stories/studies you will find in books such as Dan Pink's Drive. 
Pink, D. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Penguin Group: New York.

June 6, 2016

The Urinal Pattern...

Here is an interesting observation...hang with me on this, it may seem way out there.

I got this idea the other day when going to the bathroom....stay with me.  This was a bathroom I used on a regular basis in a school where I previously taught. My mind was sparked for one reason...I went to the same urinal that I always used when I was a teacher there 7 years ago. I didn't even think about, went straight to the same urinal as I always did.  Again, bear with me...

May 30, 2016

So Shines a Good Deed...

"So shines a good deed in a weary world."
Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

I rarely share quotes from a fictional context....wait, what am I talking about, I do that on a regular basis! For those of you that know me, I think I am a virtual savant when it comes to movie quotes, kind of like Sheldon Cooper is with comic books. Anyways, after some observations in the past few weeks, I feel this quote is fitting. Why you ask??? Well here you go.