Just earned my #Minecraft Global Mentor badge! Looking forward to being apart of this amazing community! @MeenooRami https://t.co/E2CCSyPVKS via @MicrosoftEDU
The new year is now in full swing and resolutions are being broken everywhere. Somehow it’s easier to slip back into our regular routines than it is to form new ones. Why is this? Obviously, the answer is because it’s hard to change. Exactly how hard is it?
The last post talked about benchmarking yourself. This is an underrated activity. Writing down your goals is good, but actually writing a life plan is even better. In our short-sightedness we often assume that going to the gym for a few weeks will ultimately stick because we’ll feel better and see the benefits. That’s wrong. Often these goals of improved fitness, better diet, improved relationships, feeling happier arrive at the end of a very long marathon. Real lasting change occurs drip by drip and is almost unnoticeable. You’ll looking the mirror after six months and realize that where you came from is much different than where you are today. Lasting change.
So how do you make it happen?
Write down what your idea life would look like. Keep the dream anchored to reality. We all want that billion dollar lifestyle with personal jets and mansions, but unless it can be realistically achieved within 5 years, keep it off the table. A more appropriate vision would be to reduce/eliminate your current debt and have more financial stability.
Add in as much detail as possible. Use as many adjectives as you possibly can. This will help make the your dream the most vivid.
Here’s a small expert from my life plan:
…being financially stable enough to send my kids to private school and have the opportunity to travel with the family at least once a year.
…speaking in front of an audience at least 5 times a year on topics that interest me (motivation, education, fitness).
A life plan should be long enough that it reads like a detailed story, but short enough that you can quickly review it to ensure you’re still on the right path. Since the life plan is your creation, you can add as much or little information as you’d like. Just remember, murky details are the easiest ones to abandon. Make it SMART - or at the least the first two letters - specific and measurable.
Write down the worst case scenario. What if you did nothing? What if a few certainties in your life disappeared (ex your job)? What would your life look like? Don’t hold back - doom and gloom is the name of the game.
This is the bad life plan. This is what you don’t want your life to become. It’s just as important (perhaps more) than the life plan because it shows you where you’re going to end up if you DO NOTHING. Goals don’t fail because people do them incorrectly, they fail because they do nothing. They stop. Thinking of a life that has you in the dumps can help motivate you to do because doing is the name of the game.
More will be written in the coming weeks about life plans. In the meantime, the best thing to do is get started!
New Year’s resolutions. Good or bad? According to a Globe and Mail article, 92% of all New Year’s resolutions fail. Well, lets be nice and put it more positively: 8% of all New Year’s resolutions succeed. Yikes, not a very motivating statistic, is it?
A New Year’s resolution is a Hallmark holiday that failed. It is supposed to be this time of year where you can wipe the misery of holiday’s and the entire away in one swoop by setting a goal and going for it.
I’m going to lose 10 pounds!
I’m going to be nice to people!
Shop less, save more!
Fail. Fail. Fail.
Why is that we’re so terrible at setting and attaining goals?
If you take a naturalistic view, we’re the only animals that actually attempt to set goals. All animals in nature live in the present, spending their time seeking food, mates and not dying. That’s a bit of a cop-out explanation though. We’re clearly more sophisticated than other creatures and are the only animals that can understand the concept of the future. Naturally, we’re going to want to improve ourselves over time. So it’s not too difficult to recognize the connection between setting goals and bettering ourselves.
The challenge is that we have a difficult time constructing a pathway between the present and some future where our goals are realized. You see this all the time at the gyms in January where new people show up in flocks and work themselves to exhaustion. They’ll do it for a week, maybe two and they’re gone.
Real change requires a complete lifestyle overhaul. People want to lose weight quickly but fail to realize that they didn’t gain weight quickly. There’s this illusion that if and when you do reach your goal, you’ll get the green light to live like you want forever.
Instead of setting goals, we need to first imagine the life we’d like to live. What would you look like? How would you act? What would you wear? How would you know you’re happy?
Once you imagine this vision, write it down in as much detail as possible. This is your benchmark. Set your goals based on this benchmark.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end here. Look for more in part 2 of New Year’s Resolutions coming soon!
Now that winter has arrived in southern Ontario, we can expect to spend the next 3 or 4 months covered in a pasty layer of white salty mess. The first usage of salt on roads was by Detroit in 1940. Salt was used because a large deposit was discovered in the Detroit area in 1914. Salt was found to be more effective than sand for improving traction on roads. A 1992 study conducted by Marquette University in Wisconsin found that road salt reduced crashes by 88 percent, injuries by 85 percent, and accident costs by 85 percent.
Today salt isn’t just used on roads. It’s found on sidewalks, driveways, wheelchair ramps, parking lots and playgrounds. It’s become the de facto safety measure when winter strikes.
The problem is that in almost all cases, too much salt is used. Salt is most effective on cold dry winter surfaces that are covered in ice. If conditions are too wet, the salt dissolves and becomes useless. Too much snow and the salt melts to the surface rendering it useless. Yet, you see the salt truck out spreading it’s load on wet road. The maintenance company spreads so much salt in the mall parking lot that it crunches as you walk by.
Salt is an oxidant speeding up the rusting of metal on your car. It stains fabric, turning those Uggs from beige to cream coloured.
Salt gives us grip. It helps us because we don’t slip, fall and possibly hurt ourselves.
What happens if a spot gets missed and a thin layer of black ice forms on the sidewalk? It’s likely that we’ll slip. We’re not used to walking on ice.
What if one day the world runs out of salt? Will cold climates descend into chaos? Unlikely. We’ll probably learn how to walk on ice. We’ll take our time, maybe even help each other. We may fall, but over time we’ll learn how to fall properly. We’ll become good at walking on ice.
How much salt are you laying down in your classrooms or even as a parent?
The interesting thing about predicting the future is that it’s ALWAYS a gamble. You may guess correctly, but it’s far more likely that you’ll guess the opposite and be completely wrong. In the late 90s during the first dot com boom, business students were told that unless they understood how to code a website using html, they’ll be left behind.
That, of course, never happened. Neither did the idea the internet was a fad or Amazon would never make money.
In education it becomes even more of a gamble when you try to guess the future, especially in the context of technology. If you guess incorrectly, you may send a student into the world with an incorrect or inappropriate skill set. The predicting is the most dangerous when you judge the usefulness of new technology.
The paper never ran out.
Tablet and smart phone technology has become increasingly important in education.
Access to the web has become a fundamental human right.
Rather, technology seems to shape us quickly, intensely and permanently. Think of Facebook. Nobody really resisted Facebook, they just didn’t understand how to use it. Once it’s critical mass hit, it went gangbusters. Now there’s so much noise on a person’s Facebook feed, it’s essentially impossible to read it all.
If, as an educator, you dismiss technology as useless you run the danger of being over run by students who are more capable then you because they embraced it.
The person who thought that slate was never going away became outdated and expendable very quickly. The teacher who saw the potential of paper and began to use in their classes saw the realized potential very quickly.
Which teacher do you want to be?
What value is there hard work? Why sacrifice and commit to something beyond yourself? Why do anything where the reward might not equal the effort?
Watch the video above.
Think of how much effort the rabbit puts into creating the girl rabbit only to have but a fleeting moment of satisfaction.
Was it all worth it?
Would you do it?
It’s easy to reflect back and say that you wouldn’t given that you know the result. All that work for a momentary reward.
Here’s the thing: you should do the work anyway.
We’re often head-faked by this idea that effort should always be rewarded. Children are taught from a very young age that if they help they will get a prize. Work should be done because putting the in the time and effort make it right, good and just. Even though each of the rabbits tasks didn’t lead to a reward, in the end, the entire effort resulted in the creation of something new. And, that tiny moment made it all worth it.
How do I feel?
Am I interested?
Can I do this?
The answers to these 3 questions determine our effort, motivation and commitment when facing new challenges. People often let their subconscious answer the questions which can lead to excuses avoidance and, in a worse case scenario, lies.
The next time you’re faced with a new challenge or experience, consciously make the effort to ask yourself these important questions. You may be shocked by how much your answer differs from your subconscious!
"A great teacher is smart enough and connected enough to run an interactive conversation, a participatory seminar in the concepts that need to be learned. We shouldn’t even consider wasting a professor’s time on real-time monologues.”
Seth Godin recently contended that college and university lectures are an expensive, archaic way of disseminating information to students. Data suggests that students who listen and take notes on laptops don’t do any better than those who write by hand. Seth goes one step further and questions why live lectures are happening at all. With cheap access to good technology at an all time high, professors should be filming their lectures and putting them online for free. Students can watch the lectures at their own pace and can re-watch them for increased value.
In K-12 education we call this a flipped classroom. Students watch the lesson prior to class and use the scheduled class time to review homework, work in small groups and use their new found knowledge to investigate interesting problems. It’s a wonderful way to organize a course and works exceptionally well in technical classes such as math and science.
However, there are some downsides. Flipping a classroom puts extra pressure on students to come to class having spent a significant time learning and watching on their own. In an increasingly busy and stressful world, students are struggling to keep up in a traditional schooling system. What happens when a student misses one or two lectures in a flipped class? They’ll show up and be completely lost. Yes, they can spend the class time watching the lecture, but it’s still a net loss because the other students will have had an opportunity to practice and use their knowledge. What if the student misses a few lessons in a row? It could be devastating.
A hybrid method would likely be more effective. Film the lectures and lessons as they happen with all the students present. Most modern elementary and secondary classes don’t have 60+ minute lectures anyway. Plenty of time is given for students to practice immediately after they’ve learned. Ideally, the teacher would film the lesson and have it available instantly so that students who need to review could do so at their own pace without requiring the teachers attention (a la asking questions).
The reality is Seth is totally right. School is becoming very expensive and the information that the teachers and professors is increasingly becoming a commodity (see YouTube on any educational topic). In his AltMBA, Seth has students work together and review each others work at a pace that is intense. At the end of the day, his students are making art, putting it into the world, having it critiqued and revising it. This is where the real learning happens!
Discipline = Freedom
Says Jocko Wilnick a former Navy Seal commander. His photographs of a Timex watch reading 4:40 am have become legendary. He’s not waking up to take the picture, that’s the time he begins his daily workout.
“I like to get it done before the sun rises.” says Wilnick.
Why on God’s green Earth would someone get up that early to workout?
Discipline = Freedom is why.
Not only does waking early give you an opportunity to get the most difficult part of your day (well for most of us) out of the way early, it forces you to remained disciplined. It takes commitment to follow such a tough and well, early schedule.
By conditioning yourself to follow such a regime, it will inedibly spill over to other parts of your life. You may find the grit needed to finish that last email before the day’s done much easier once you’ve adapted to an early morning workout.
You’ll also find yourself reinvigorated knowing that you’ve seized the day. Invitations and opportunities will now be easier to accept knowing that you’re one step ahead of the rest of the working world.
For me, it’s been an emmesly positive experience. Don’t get me wrong, when my alarm goes at 5 am there is nothing but pain. Once I’m able to bury those emotions, stepping on the treadmill becomes a piece of cake. I find that simply ignoring my thoughts and getting to it makes it much easier to endure. Speed is important too. The faster I can get on the treadmill, the more likely I’ll have any second thoughts. I’m simply a robot doing what robots do best - follow instructions. After about 5 - 10 minutes of sweating, my body and mind can’t tell if it’s 5 am or 5 pm. The rest is a piece of cake.
The best part of the morning workout is the time it frees up in the afternoon and evenings. I get more Freedom to spend time with my kids. I’m open to more activities after work. I’m finding that I can get lots more done.
Yes discipline = freedom. Try it out for a month and see what happens.
The slide-cast version (with slides) of a chapel talk I did on November 20, 2017. Approximately 700 students from K-12 were in attendance to hear the importance of setting goals and making sacrifices to achieve them.
Part of my job as a science educator is to deepen the learning for each student. The basics are nice, but sometimes its interesting to pursue the latest questions and discoveries in science. A few years ago, the Higgs Boson changed the way we understand the universe. I wrote about it in a science teachers magazine. Check it out!
How much of your professional time is spent in meetings? According to Psychology Today, 30% of the average professionals day is spent in meetings. If that person works an 8 hour working day, 2.5 hours are spent in meetings (including lunch) reporting, brainstorming, debating, creating action plans and whatever else happens there.
Corporate meetings originally began at the dawn of the industrial era when managers met with workers at the start of the shift to prepare them for the day’s work. Prior to that, corporate deals were done over dinner among families or at parties.
Town hall meetings were common place from the Victorian era onward where people would meet to discuss issues that affected the community.
Of course there was those Greek philosopher guys who held some open forums too.
Modern day meetings have negative malaise surrounding them. Everyone who attends usually has something better to be doing and most of the communication at these meetings can be done via technology like Google docs or email.
While meetings are increasingly becoming useless, our need for more human interaction is not. Meetings do offer a way for people - real people - to interact.
Why not change the culture of meetings by having people work instead of listen? Come, talk, gossip, plan brainstorm, but do work. Have a goal. You can’t leave this meeting unless you generate 3 new ideas and have a plan in place to implement them. Meeting should be like team sporting events where we come together work for a common goal. When the game is over we head back and prepare for the next one.
What does your classroom look like? It a place where people come to chat, finish some questions and maybe listen to some instructions? Or is it a place where students show up, work with a common goal and create something new, interesting and helps the world?
The word innovation has been thrown around the education community as a key attribute for success in modern times. Many educators are ‘innovating’ in their classrooms. Design thinking and genius hours are being developed under the umbrella of innovation and deemed necessary for the education of the whole student. Innovation labs are popping up in well-funded schools equipped with 3d printers and iMacs loaded with AutoCAD. The idea is that students are facing a world where innovation is necessary for success.
No argument here with the general definition of innovation.
The issue comes from the overuse of the word innovation in the classroom. There’s still a very gray definition of what actually constitutes innovation. Is it inventing something new and exciting? Is it updating an existing technology to make it more efficient? Is it 3d printing a Darth Vadar egg holder? Is all of these ideas?
We need to tread very lightly when talk about the value of innovation in education. If we teach a student to use AutoCad to 3d print an object they’ve designed, we’re only providing a map for innovation and not engaging in the process itself. When we give someone a map, they usually follow it without wandering too far off course.
Real innovation comes from within. It’s comes from the recognition of a problem that needs to be solved. The most important innovations in history were born out of conflict, disasters and impossible situations (see microwave, printing press and nuclear energy). The greatest achievement of the human brain is it’s ability to work with less to achieve more.
We do students a disservice when we hand them expensive tools with step-by-step instructions on how to use them and call it innovation. Instead, we need to teach students to look for interesting problems to solve and let them figure out how to do it.
In a recent "Ask Me Anything” on Reddit, the internet asked teachers what the biggest change in education has been from 1997 to 2017. The overwhelming response was failure. 20 years ago students understood that failure was a part of education and without the proper effort (and luck) you could conceivably fail a test, essay or course. Today there is no failure. Students cannot be held back, failing a test results in the opportunity to re-test and re-test and re-test until the student achieves the mark they desire.
What is the ramification for this?
First the good: Having the opportunity to fail without actually failing should empower students to take greater risks in their academic careers. Instead of writing an essay to meet the standards of the rubric, maybe a student writes a manifesto on the current state of the politics of their school. They may fail, but at the same time they’ve made a gross statement and perhaps ruffled some feathers. If they have to redo the essay they’ll do so knowing that they’ve put themselves out there.
Now the bad: This generally isn’t what happens. Students who take risks will do so regardless of the culture of failure in their school. Instead, knowing that you can’t fail seems to breed a culture of indifference. Why put the extra work in if you’re not worried about failing?
Indifference is the greatest threat to education.
While the idea of failure has changed, the result is the massive inflation of indifference. This threat doesn’t effect the high-flying high achievers. They’ll continue to their best work no matter what. It’s the kids who aren’t particularly motivated in school who get effected the most. Fear of failure is real and will motivate anyone even if they know there’s no consequences.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
Paint rollers, insulin, butter tarts and life jackets. These are all Canadian inventions and the main theme of Governor David Johnston’s and entrepreneur Tom Jenkins' new book called Ingenious: How Canadian Innovators Made the World Smarter, Smaller, Kinder, Safer, Healthier, Wealthier and Happier.
"We want that eight-year-old girl in Regina, who is thinking about starting a company, to be inspired by hearing a story of a similar young woman in New Brunswick doing something phenomenal,” Mr. Jenkins said.
According to Johnston, over 100 lesson plans have been created by educators for use in the classroom all across the country. The obvious goal is to inspire entrepreneurship among impressionable students.
This is an outstanding idea, but we must be very careful how we approach this topic. Entrepreneurship can be one of the most exhilarating, self-satisfying careers around. Setting your own goals, hours and salary can be extremely enticing.
The challenge is that for every successful life jacket, there are plenty (and I mean a number of MEGA ) of failures. Spend some time in silicon valley and you’ll quickly see that great ideas do not always end up in success stories. People face bankruptcy, mental health issues and straight-up fatigue when they’re chasing down dreams. As one notable entrepreneur said “It’s about the hustle.”
Children are born innovators. They’re naturally altruistic, they revel in helping solve problems and if you ever watched a kid build a fort - they’re ingenious. Teaching kids to be innovators is redundant. They already process the skill set. It’s raw and not entirely efficient, but given enough time and space any kid can innovate.
Instead of teaching them innovation, we should focus on building up the core competencies of any successful entrepreneur: grit, tenacity, commitment, communication. These are common themes among the most successful innovators (see Steve Jobs, Tony Robbins, Chris Sacca for more information).
By far the most important skill for future innovators is teach them to look for interesting problems to solve. Much of our success as an innovative nation comes from necessity. The life jacket, insulin and dump trucks are just a few examples. Instead of providing materials to a kid and tell them to invent something, push them up against and real world problem and step back.
Full disclosure: I have no intention of living to be 100 years old. However, I am fascinated with longevity. The subtle yet important difference between living to be old and longevity is health. Obviously someone who lives into their 90s has to be healthy, but there's more to it. Longevity is the ability to remain as youthful as possible for as long as possible. Who wants to be a 95 year old that is confined to a bed all day? To you, healthy aging might mean playing golf everyday when you retire. To others it might be relaxing by the ocean with a good book. For me, healthy aging means that I remain active well into my 80s. I hope that by the time I hit 60 I'm still able to run a 10k under an hour. I'd like to be able to live 130 lbs over my head. I'd like to be able to put my socks on without sitting down. It all sounds wonderful doesn't it? Problem is we can't (easily) slow the aging process. There are four pillars to healthy living:
The video below focuses on diet and why fasting is a key component for longevity. Calorie restriction is a hot area of research for ant-aging scientists. Results have shown that fasting can extend the life of monkey's, mice and even worms!
One of the greatest discoveries in science has to be the size of the universe. When we look up in the night sky, not only are we seeing stars that are immensely far away, but extremely old. The deeper we look into the universe, the further back in time we are seeing. The universe is so grand that some of the stars we see in the sky have long died out and their light is only reaching us now. Check out this website for a glimpse into the size and depth of outer space. Each one of those dots is a star that may contain planets which may contain life. Welcome to the rabbit hole.
Commitment is a fleeting trait among young people. A busy technology rich lifestyle can create an environment where you may feel committed to a goal, but in reality you are just contributing. All great dreams come at a cost. Commitment will help you get there quicker!
This is a slide-cast of a talk I did at my school on February 13th, 2017. Enjoy!
The battle of Jena-Auerstadt was fought between the Prussian and French armies. This was the time of Napoleon. His army moved across Europe like a great hurricane, decisively defeating any army it met and the Prussians were no exception. This battle was so lop-sided that a Prussian artillery officer was moved to write arguably the greatest war manual ever written. Carl von Clausewitz forged the pages of On War from memories realized during the battle of Auerstadt. His writing is so powerful that it continues to inform military maneuvers in the modern age.
One rarely known fact lies buried in the history pages of Jena-Auerstadt battle. Quietly, the roots of modern education were sewn in the ashes of the Prussian defeat. Fredrick the Great was completely shocked at the dismay of the Prussian army and he immediately moved forward plans to establish a state funded education system. He recognized that the poor performance of his troops was a result of their inability to follow orders properly.
Only a short while later, a guy by the name of Hoarace Mann took a trip to Prussia in 1843 with the hopes of learning more about state funded education. Not only was he impressed by the system, he implemented exactly the same system back in the United States.
The goal of industrial age Prussian education was to prepare students for work in the factories. There was never any sense that students would be expected to move beyond their basic 8 years of education. Why would a layman want anything other than good factory job?
Fast forward to today. Can you recognize the archaic pillars of the industrial education system in our schools? Maybe they’re even haunting your classroom. Memorization, conformation to authority, rows and lines of desks all speak to the ghosts of our past.
Clausewitz wrote On War after being appalled at the actions of his troops. He sought to change the way warfare was fought. He was an artist. We face the same crisis today.
Are we setting our kids up to lose the battle of Auerstadt?
I recently applied to be an Apple Distinguished Educator and thought I'd share my video. I'm currently working for Apple as an Apple Learning Specialist so this designation was a natural progression. I've really enjoyed using Apple products in the classroom and they have greatly transformed the way students experience science. Worksheets are a thing of the past. Instead students use technology as a means to investigate, communicate and innovate their scientific knowledge. Enjoy the video!