Monthly Archives: June 2010

Are Teachers Wasting Their Time Teaching Styles?

As I grade a seemingly never ending pile of essays a question continues to pop into my mind. How much time am I wasting teaching students to use the proper formatting style? How much time are they wasting trying to make sure that their essay adheres to this style. How many points are taken off if the style is incorrect even if the content is good? Shouldn’t we be redirecting this energy into teaching students how to make a good argument in their papers? Don’t online tools such as Citation Machine or BibMe make the memorization of formatting obsolete? I look forward to other teachers’ opinions on this.

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What Educators Can Learn From John Wooden

coachwooden.com/

Following up on my post about Steve Jobs, and given the death of the great John Wooden I thought it was timely to write another post about what we can learn by listening to great thinkers. I never knew a lot about John Wooden when I was young. My dad was always a football guy so that was what we watched. But when I moved to Syracuse about twelve years ago to begin my career I became quite a big college basketball fan, and began through conversations about the game to learn about the great coaches including John Wooden. Take a look at this TED talk he gave in 2001 (when he was 91 years old).

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

Here are some of the important lessons I pull from this speech:

  • “And that’s not right. The good lord in his infinite wisdom didn’t create us all equal as far as intelligence is concerned, any more than we’re equal for size, appearance. Not everybody could earn an A or a B, and I didn’t like that way of judging it.” – This seemingly simple statement has profound implications for me as a teacher and as a person who is interested in education reform. How would the educational landscape change if this philosophy were adopted everywhere?
  • “Never try to be better than someone else, always learn from others.” – More than anything this is a character lesson that we have the responsibility of conveying to our students and it seems to be a perfect companion to the point above. It is also absolutely essential in this era we are living in. It is a lesson I have learned this year through the interactions with my PLN, we should encourage all of our students to form their own PLNs. Students need to learn who they can learn from.
  • “Never cease trying to be the best you can be — that’s under your control. If you get too engrossed and involved and concerned in regard to the things over which you have no control, it will adversely affect the things over which you have control.” – This is one that is easily forgotten. Nothing causes us more stress than spending valuable and finite energy worrying about things over which we have no control. This energy can be redirected to things that we actually can control.
  • Peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable. –This is his famous definition of success. There is an image of his pyramid of success above.
  • I think it’s like character and reputation. Your reputation is what you are perceived to be; your character is what you really are. And I think that character is much more important than what you are perceived to be. You’d hope they’d both be good. But they won’t necessarily be the same. – This is simply one of the most profound things I have ever heard. Of course it is something we have always known but rarely considered. In the age of digital literacy this lesson is as important as ever. As students build online reputations are they losing sight of who they truly are?
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What Educators Can Learn From Steve Jobs

Apple has been in the news a lot lately. They recently surpassed Microsoft in terms of market cap and became the largest American technology company, they sold two million iPads in two months, they lost a valuable prototype and then kicked in the door of the blogger who reported about it. They’ve declared Flash a dead technology and entered into a acquisition duel with Google. They’ve been busy. At the head of the tumult is the unflappable Steve Jobs who simply responds to nearly every critique of the company with some infuriatingly short email.

I have been an Apple fan since my friend Mike got an Apple IIe when I was 8 years old. I continued to be an Apple fan despite the additional pinch their products gave to my wallet. I always enjoyed the user experience that Apple provided, it somehow always seemed intuitive, as if it were anticipating my needs. Lately I have had the knee jerk reaction of feeling somewhat put off and maybe even a little angered by Apple’s very public moves. The English teacher in me feels frightened by the walled-garden of an app store that admits some applicants while dismissing others with no clear criteria for either other than Steve’s assurance that he is delivering the best user experience.

As I was reading a transcript of Steve Jobs’ latest interview at the D8 conference it became clear that there was a lot educational reformers could learn from the CEO. The part that I find particularly applicable begins at about 1:02 in the video below.

6:25PM Walt: We wanted to talk about your future mostly… but there have been controversies. I want to talk about them. I want to talk about Flash. You published this letter — even if everything you say in that letter is true, is it really fair or the best thing for consumers to just be abrupt?
6:26PM Steve: Well two things — I’ll come back to what you said. Apple is a company that doesn’t have the resources that everyone else has. We choose what tech horses to ride, we look for tech that has a future and is headed up. Different pieces of tech go in cycles… they have summer and then they go to the grave.
6:27PM Steve: If you choose wisely, you save yourself an enormous amount of work.
6:34PM Steve: Well things are packages. Some things are good in a product, some things are bad. If the market tells us we’re making bad choices, we’ll make changes. We’re just trying to make great products. We don’t think this is great and we’re going to leave it out. We’re going to take the heat because we want to make the best product in the world for customers!
6:35PM Steve: If we succeed, they’ll buy them! If we don’t, we won’t sell any. And I have to say, people seem to be liking the iPad! (huge laughs and applause)

(via Engadget)

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