Monday, January 6, 2014

Our Failure to Change is Failing

Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.
-John Wooden

There is a LOT of quality learning taking place in schools every day, but we should aim to help students learn.

A picture of Pluto

***  We are not sure why the author of this blog post has chosen to put a picture of Pluto under the title.  It seems very strange and doesn't really seem to fit.  We apologize for any confusion this may cause.

I love education!  I am a lifelong learner and a true believer that everyone has the potential to change the world in a positive way if they are given the support and resources.  I am constantly looking for better ways to help students reach their potential and be successful in their future.  The more that I read, research, and think about learning, the more I am confused about what we are doing in our schools.  What is the purpose of schooling?  What are we preparing students for?  It seems to me that we are assessing them on their ability to memorize & conform - both of which are not very hot commodities these days due to Google & a desperate need for innovation and outside the box thinking.  We don't even do a very good job of assessing these, though.  Right now the only thing a student could tell you about their success in school is a letter grade, percentage, or number of points.  Yuck!

Check out Webb's Depth of Knowledge:(from   -  I believe, STRONGLY, that we need to be engaging students at level 3 & level 4 learning, but I do not see much of this in schools.  In fact, most of the final exams and assignments that I have seen over the past 30 years of being involved in schools as a student and teacher are comprised of simple level one knowledge.  Why?  I mean, I know it is more difficult to assess and teach deeper level thinking, and it calls for more personalizing in education.  Still, why are we not doing this?



In my opinion, the MOST EFFECTIVE & PERMANENT ways of learning are:

It's fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to
heed the lessons of failure.-Bill Gates

1.  FAIL!TRYING SOMETHING, FAILING, REFLECTING, LEARNING FROM MISTAKES, TRYING AGAIN, FAILING, REFLECTING, LEARNING FROM MISTAKES, TRYING AGAIN, etc...........  Wisdom comes form experience. You must experience failure in order to learn from it and avoid it in the future. Every truly successful innovator has experience a TON of failure along the way.  In my opinion, school is the BEST place for students to fail.  It is a controlled environment in which they have someone able  to coach them, assess their progress, and then give feedback.  These conditions allow for a lot of learning and growth to take place every time that failure occurs.  Also, this controlled environment designed for learning is a MUCH better place to fail rather than out in the real world at a job, relationship with a family, handling of finances, poor health decisions, etc...  The stakes are infinitely higher outside of the brick box we call school (although many Universities have convinced intelligent K-12 students otherwise).  We DO NOT allow for this environment to take place.  We teach kids that there is a right answer, and they better get know it.  If they do not, they will be downgraded and their chances for a high GPA will be decreased.  These students have been trained NOT to RISK FAILING.  This is sad.  I wish this concept could do a 180-degree shift.  In fact, if there is a student with a 100% that has not failed at anything, I would question whether they have set their goals high enough.  It should be about the process.....not the final product.  Until this shift in thinking takes place, education is doomed.  The culture needs to change!

2. TEACH!the other best way to learn is by teaching something.  To memorize something is not really that cool any more.  Anyone with a smart phone is as powerful as you are.  To be able to understand the concept behind the information is pretty awesome.  I really think that we need to emphasize CONCEPTS over CONTENT right now.  This still isn't that great, though.  To be able to "do something" with this this is pretty awesome.  If you can actually apply the information, that is incredible.  Finally, if you can TEACH someone how to do something, you have reached the pinnacle of understanding that topic & concept.  Not only do you have to know the concept, but you have to be able to explain it in a unique way to different people, assess progress from many different angles, and find ways to engage others in this concept.  That is very, very, very difficult and truly represents a deep understanding.  The good news, is that this is taking place in every school every day.  The bad news, is that it is only being done by TEACHERS.....not students.  Why?  In the beginning of this article I said that:

There is a LOT of quality learning taking place in schools every day, but we should aim to help students learn.

.....and there is.  Unfortunately the high quality learning is being done by the teachers.  The students are just being TALKED AT and told to memorize irrelevant things (most of which will not apply to their future).  

So here we are.  We are 14 years deep into the 21st Century and education is still resistant to place the emphasis on 21st Century Skills, as if they are too "George Jetson" futuristic for us to implement. Most classrooms are completely dismissing the two most effective ways of learning from our schools and continuing to teach students in a model of learning that was designed for the world 100 years ago, and is no longer relevant or effective.  Rather than motivating students to become passionate learners who are thirsty for learning, most do not like school (and therefor learning) and do not understand the point of it.  At times, I don't blame them.

The politicians and the "old school" teachers/administrators and the "new school" teachers/administrators and the universities are elephants in this game and they are constantly fighting.  They fight, fight, fight, yet make no progress.  In the end, they only thing that dies when these elephants fight, is the grass beneath them.  Unfortunately, in the case of education, that grass represents the kids and their learning experience.

***  We now, after reading this, actually think that the author of this blog post may have intentionally placed a strange picture of Pluto at the beginning.  The fact that it seem out of place and strange for where it is shown, seems to be a metaphor for our education system.  Also, Pluto, which was once considered a no longer relevant in the discussions of planets.  It has been demoted.  This same effect seems to be happening to education.  Hmmmmm...  Thought-provoking.  I think this is a call to action.  Education seemingly needs to be transformed, or go the way of Pluto.

Look your students in the eyes every day at school and tell them that "To the best of your ability, you are preparing them to be successful at LIFE in the future".  Then, at the end of the day, look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you tried hard doing so.....and even though you may have failed...... REFLECT, LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES, & TRY AGAIN THE NEXT DAY.  Students deserve it.

Oliver Schinkten
Twitter @schink10



Blogs:  LEARN ON


Saturday, January 4, 2014

3 Wonderful Things from Twitter Today

Sharing Some Social Media Goodness!

If you are not connected on Social Media, I highly recommend it.  The platform that I have benefited the most from has been Twitter.  Building a strong group of people that you follow is an incredible way to develop professionally.  A couple years ago I felt that I was one person, on an island, trying to come up with innovative ideas for the classroom.  Now, I feel that I have a support group of thousands of passionate educators that share their ideas daily.  Wow!!!  This has been amazing.  I have learned more in the past year on Twitter than I did while earning my Masters' Degree in Education (by far).

I wanted to share a couple posts every once in a while that I think are "must read" links that I received on Twitter.  Today I have three that I want to share:

#1 - This post is only relevant to you if you use Twitter.  If you do not use Twitter, you should.  This is a post that I saw from  David Hochheiser (@DavidHochheiser) about how to use TWEETDECK.   I believe that tools such as TweetDeck are necessary in order to get the full experience from a social media website such as Twitter.  His tutorial with pictures is superb.

#2 - This article, tweeted out by Daniel Pink (@DanielPink) is THOUGHT PROVOKING.  I have goose bumps reading this stuff!  Love it!  Check out what Zappos is doing.  In a day and age when almost everyone is afraid to try something wonderfully innovative because it has the potential to fail, this is big time!!!

#3 - Last, but definitely not least: This post which was tweeted out by Scott McLeod (@mcleod) - all I can say is AMEN.  I hope people start stepping up SOON.

As long as we are at it, if you have time for a PHENOMENAL 6-minute this.  If you do not have time for a 6-minute video, you need to loosen up your schedule a little.

Angela Lee Duckworth:  The Key to Success?  Grit.

It is pretty cool if you think education needs to be reformed or transformed.  It is a lot cooler if you start doing something about it RIGHT NOW.  How can I help?

I love education too much to stand outside the ring and let it get knocked out.

Oliver Schinkten
Twitter @schink10
Google+ -
Blogs:  LEARN ON

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Red Flags - Students are Trapped

"How many years into the 21st Century will it take us to acknowledge that it is the 21st Century?  The Industrial Age is over.  Let it go."

I have noticed a very disturbing trend in my conversations with educators about education.  When we discuss classroom practices, assessment strategies, etc.. a common theme comes up.  It seems that the main concern is to be sure that there are no loop holes for people who do not "try hard" to earn a good grade.  I challenge you to propose a new teaching strategy that you are going to implement.  One of the first things that another educator will say to you is "what happens if someone takes advantage of that style and just does nothing?"  I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS QUESTION.  Are there teachers saying this that have 100% buy in and engagement.  If I didn't try things that I was afraid a small handful would try to take advantage of, I would have never tried anything in new in my classroom in the past 12 years.......which, when I think of probably true of many educators.

If you are afraid to try something new in the classroom because a couple students might take advantage of it, please slap your forehead and rethink this position.  I think that it is time we start to shift our thinking.

Instead of -->  How can I close any loopholes that some students might take advantage of.

We need to start thinking -->  How can I clear as many obstacles and gather as many resources as possible for all of those students who WANT TO LEARN.  

I think that our education system would flourish if we started thinking of education as:

An opportunity for students to receive a free education where they can use resources to improve and educate themselves so that they will be ready to reach their potential and be as successful as they possibly can be in the future.  

If a student "tricks" me and earns a better grade than they deserve....they didn't trick me. They have tricked themselves.  My life will not change.  They are heading into their future unequipped with the skills I was trying to teach them.

Right now we have every student "Playing the Game of School".  Even the best students ask questions such as:

*  Does this count for a grade?
*  Is this graded?
*  How many points is this worth?
*  What do I need to do in order to get an A?

THESE ARE RED FLAGS.  These are not students asking for feedback because they want to improve themselves.  I wrote about a study I did once in which I asked students if they would rather earn an "A" and learn nothing or earn a "C" and learn a lot.  62% of students, including many very hard working students, said they would take the "A".  I asked them why, and they usually respond that "you need A's to get into college".  Wow!! - check out this article

I think maybe it is time that we try to convince them that they need SKILLS & KNOWLEDGE in order to be successful at college, in a career, in a relationship, as a parent, as a citizen, as a voter, as a person.  

Then, after we convince them that they need these skills, we should start teaching these skills to them.  We should toss out the worksheets that drill students on facts that are completely irrelevant to their futures.  We should start teaching communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, inquiry, altruism, and the passion to be a lifelong learner.

The students are crying for help.......they just do not know what to say.  We have taught them a vicious game called "SCHOOL" that gives them a false sense of what their future holds.  This may be part of the reason that over 50% of students who enter college drop-out and why business owners are complaining about the lack of skills that this generation has.  We need to identify the red flags and then fix the problem they represent.

How can I help?

            Oliver Schinkten
Twitter @schink10
Google+ -
Blogs:  LEARN ON