Archive for the “Uncategorized” Category


Something that encourages a reaction to take place.  Catalysts are never consumed by the reaction, they just help it occur.

When I taught students biology, catalysts were always an important topic as they are involved in just about everything the human body does.  When students learned about DNA replication, they learned about DNA helicase, DNA ligase, and DNA polymerase, and role these enzymes (a type of catalyst) had in promoting and supporting the duplication of DNA in human cells.  Without these enzymes, DNA can’t duplicate.

In the educational technology world there is a great ongoing debate about the types of devices students should have, and whether schools should supply them (1:1), students should bring their own (BYOD) or some other combination, such as a combined device approach (see the work of Ryan Bretag) where students receive a device, but can still use their own.

The argument does not have a universal answer, other than that students need a device.  

What types of devices schools elect to have,or not have, should be based on each school’s culture and climate, and their vision for student learning.  

But I’m not that concerned about device type.  What I am interested in is the ability of the device to serve as a catalyst.  So, here is my question:

Is the true value of the device not found in its form factor, its cost, its available apps, but in its ability to connect learners?  

And when you connect learners through that device, no matter what the device is, the device serves as a catalyst for the interactions that fuel learning.  It empowers connections.  I would argue that the connection is most important, that the dialogue of that interaction is essential, and that the sharing of ideas and resources through that interaction represents what the device really should do, that’s the true value, that’s its essence.

I don’t want to talk about operating systems, keyboards, apps or whether the device works with Google Apps.  Every device has some type of limitation.  

Is the connection the catalyst that causes a shift in how students learn?  In how teachers design learning experiences? 

What happens to the device question when the question of importance is about connecting learners?  

Because every device can do that.

Posted via email from David Jakes

Comments No Comments »

Written at Educon, January 27, 2013

Report Card.

An object for communicating performance, typically from school to parent, based on five letters of the alphabet.  Traditionally delivered by mail and then intercepted by crafty and wiley students.

For me, the report card joins the rank of legacy education, along with such things as the worksheet, the unit, instruction, the classroom, and professional development.  These are things we just do as educators, and accept as the normal, they’re almost absolutes.  But the first step in school improvement is accepting that there are no absolutes, and that everything can indeed be part of a new normal.

Unfortunately, these things are normal for students and parents as well.  Most students want the A, so do parents-they want A’s on that report card.   In many ways, a transcript of letters assembled by years and by courses becomes a passport to the next step in life.  How relevant that passport is today is a question that should be a consideration of all educators.

But the report card is merely a symptom of a deeper need, a need to rethink how we measure students, and how that measurement informs us on how to help them grow as a learner, but more importantly as a person. That need also includes how and when we make performance transparent, as well as to whom.

In 2013 and beyond, performance, what a person knows, and what a person can do, who a person truly is, is reflective of a much more complex mix beyond a simple letter grade.  The online world now provides the venue for students to demonstrate who they are and what they know.  The online world now provides students with an opportunity to create themselves into existence, by standing up and saying this is who I am, this is what I have accomplished, and this is what I believe.  No report card will ever do that.

In the end. looking back, successes accomplished, failures overcome, a first love even, and the transition from childhood to adulthood will be remembered not by a series of letters on a paper, but my the rich memories of that formative time in life that ultimately contribute to who and what that person is.

Those are the things that matter, those are the things we should help students understand, and how me measure that, or at least try to understand that, is a worthy goal of all of us and what we do.



Posted via email from David Jakes

Comments No Comments »


Definition:  The process or act of imparting knowledge (The Free Dictionary).  Typically done by teachers.

Does your school focus on instruction?  Does your organization seek to improve instruction?  

That's a worthy goal, right?  I think that most would agree that improving instruction is one aspect of school improvement.

But, in the end, it might just be the wrong goal.

In my opinion, focusing on understanding and improving learning, and ultimately the student experience, should be the goal.  

And this is just more than semantics.

Here's Connie Yowell, of the MacArthur Foundation:

"Education is fundamentally starting with the wrong questions.  The educational system now often  starts with a question of outcomes."

"What do we want kids to learn?  What are the goals, and what is the content, the material, that they need to cover? And, then everything is defined by that."

Our core question is: what's the experience we want kids to have? So, the core question is around engagement, and as soon as you start with is the kid engaged, what is the learning experience we want the kid to have, then you have to pay attention to the kid.

"You have to start with the user, you have to start with the experience of the young person, of the learner."

Exactly.  Put the learner and their experience first.  

And you can't do that by simply focusing on instruction.  Instruction is what teachers do, learning is what students do.  Determining what the instructional role of the teacher comes after developing a vision for the student learning experience.

The Bottom Line:  If you want to really flip something, focus on the kids, their learning, and their experiences, instead of instruction and what teachers do.


Posted via email from David Jakes



Comments No Comments »


Definition:  clearness or lucity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity…

There are times when you see things cleary, times when the path and course are illuminated with focus and purpose.

During these times, seeing with clarity can lead to conviction, and conviction to action.

At other times, the ability to perceive may be clouded, and action is impeded by hesitancy.

It is a lucky person who percevies his or her world with perfect clarity.  Most likely that does’nt occur – our worldview is often clouded by the events of our lives, our profession, and our families and responsibilities, forcing us to view our actions through a lens that is less than clear.

It’s easy to get distracted – there are constant demands on our attention and our vision of what’s next.  The hyperlinked world is just that, with the next distraction just a click away, with the next conversation starting, and with the loud and permiating distraction of multiple voices, all competing for your time, thoughts, and effort.

But can you recall a moment, that moment, a fork in the road for you perhaps, either personally or professionally that you saw with absolute clarity?  And how you acted in response?  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you know it.  What were the conditions that contributed to that clarity?

Of course, over time, age and experience contribute to your abiltiy to see with clear eyes.  

It’s called wisdom.  

What conditions can you create personally that would enable you to see with clarity and act with conviction? 

What would that take and would it be worth the effort?  What would you need to discard?  What would you keep?  

Do you have that strength to do that?  How would you rethink you?

Similarly, what has your organization done recently to clarify the purpose and intent of the organization itself, and its path of action?   Has leadership created the conditions that favor focus and action, and that enable all to see the course, the way?

Or, has your school lost its focus, its clarity of conviction?  Has your school become bogged down in minutia, trying trying to satisfy the demands of too many mandates and too many special interests?

Is your school so narrowly focused now that you’ve lost sight of the most important aspects of what you do and what you want to become?  Have you?

So, take the time to refocus.  Strip away the extraneous. Talk about your vision and what’s important for your school. Teachers, step up and demand that conversation.  Administrators, listen and help build concensus towards a dedicated pathway. Help build clarity of purpose, conviction and action.  That’s what leaders do.

But most importantly, trust that you know what to do.  Trust what you want is what you should do and become.

“We see in order to move; we move in order to see.”  -William Gibson

Posted via email from David Jakes

Comments No Comments »

Professional Development.

An event where teachers gather and learn about some aspect of education.  

Typically, schools often professional development days and most have professional development programs.  Some schools even have specialized professional development events like "Technology Tuesdays" and my all-time personal favorite, the "Lunch and Learn."  Professional development is also referred to as "staff development" which I think is somehow different.  Sometimes, you even hear that schools will offer training, but that should be reserved for your golden retriever puppy.

The hottest thing in "professional development" now is social media, specifically Twitter.  Many believe the most valuable "professional development" can be found on Twitter, and of course, that's mostly nonsense.  But that's for another post.

It's occurred to me that words like classroom, school, and even instruction, are words that are rarely challenged for their meaning.  For educators, they're just givens, they're absolutes even, and we seldom think deeply about what they really mean when we use them in our conversations and work.  We can add "professional development" to the mix.  And I'm just as guilty as the next.

So, let's talk about "professional development."  Let's begin with the intent.

Simply stated, I think all of us would agree that the intent of "professional development" is to learn.  

So, shouldn't we just call it learning?  (a question my colleague Ryan Bretag asks all the time).  Why do we label learning as something else?

Why do you have to separate your learning into professional and something else?  It's all just learning, right?  And why would you ever call it "development"?

So, here's an important question for you, the educator readiing this.  

Are you a learner?

Since you're reading this, my guess is that you probably are proactive about learning about your craft.  But how would you answer that question across the range of educators (teacher and administrators, everybody) in your institution? 

Is the typical teacher a learner?  Are they in charge of their own learning?

And I'm not talking about learning about their kids, about their performance and their strengths and weaknesses.  Most do that.

I'm talking about identifying a passion or area of interest in education, and really digging in, a deep dive if you will.  Becoming well-educated on the topic.  On your own or with someone else or with a group, and without waiting for an institution to offer you the time, the permission, and worse, payment for your time to learn.

If you are a learner, and I asked you to prove it, what metrics would you use?  What would you tell me about your learning, and what you've learned, that's interesting, compelling, and epic?  My guess is that you would describe something that didn't occur in "professional development."

Here's the problem with "professional development" and why it probably is not the most interesting, compelling or epic experience.

Professional development carries baggage, and lot's of it.  For teachers, it's seen as more institutional control and time-wasting on topics of little interest and meaning to them.  And for the institution, and one even with the best intentions, it's about low attendance and interest on the parts of teachers, complaints about time, and little carry-over to the classroom.  Mix in vendors and consultants offering to change all this by providing their version of "professional development," and you've got a real mess on your hands and a legacy system of questionable value.

Right now, I have more questions than answers regarding educators and their own learning.   I wonder about the mix of formal learning opportunites, and a schools need to provide them as education moves forward through an era of technology-induced hyperconnectivity and opportunity, balanced against the need for informal learning (or do we not need formal and informal designations, since its all- ah, leanring.) I do recognize that their are times when all educators in a particular school or district must learn something together.  And I understand, and have communicated here, that personal, passion-based learning is something of high value.  I think a lot of this makes sense within a context that I will describe in an upcoming post- the learning of a colleague as he prepares for a new media class, and how he learned what he needed to learn – without professional development.  Finally, I'll have some thoughts about Twitter and other social media and their role in learning.

My friend David Warlick used to begin his presentations with a story about something he learned last night, about anything really – an elegant touch to set the stage for his audience to let them know that he was a learner, and that continual learning was important to him.

As educators, we don't do enough of that in schools.  In our classrooms, in our meetings, we don't communicate much about our own learning.  We need to do that.  Why not start a new year off by describing to your kids at the beginning of each class what you learned yesterday or last night.  Model it, live it, make it visible.  Do this, and you'll tke some significant steps towards developing a learning culture…and that's the real prize.

So, add "professional development" to the long list of the things that need to be changed in education.  I'd also challenge you to deeply think about your own learning, how and when and why you do it, how you share it, and how it makes you, and your colleagues better – and how it makes the learning experience for your kids better.







Posted via email from David Jakes



Comments 3 Comments »

What if?

What if is about possibilities.  Its about free thinking and not being boxed in by preconceptions.  Its about and, and, and more and, about extending ideas, not being limited, but being creative and open and generative.

What if is the opposite of Yeah But.

Instead of looking at why things can’t be, look at why they can.  What if gives you permission to dream a little, step out of your comfort zone, and see connections where you couldn’t, and wouldn’t, see them before.

Now is a time when global connectivity, technology,and new approaches and understandings about education are emerging and should be a focus of many.  It is a time of exponential possibilitiy, of what could be, and should be.  But at least in the States, we’re headed in a different direction, down a different path, towards a limited, narrow world that has at its foundation misguided legislative mandates that ultimately create a climate of fear, failure, and prescriptive education.

On top of all of this, we’re conditioned to see why things won’t work, aren’t we?  How many in your organization consciously look to find why something won’t work, and who find their passion by shutting down yours?  All organizations have them, the yahbutters…

So, to get you thinking in a different direction, here’s a few What ifs

What if tatoos were medical patches?

What if cigarette boxes actually helped save lives?

What if 2D became 3D?

What if restaurants were trucks?

What if PlayDoh, Silly Putty, Tinkertoys and the 128 crayon box (with the sharpener) were the school supplies?

What if fruit was scan-able?

What if ideas were bigger than 140 characters?

What if walls were writeable?

What if you could check out a rabbit?  (heard at Reimagine Ed this weekend)

What if beef jerky was potato chips?

What if you played Monopoly not on a board but used a city for the board?

What if there was no student-teacher relationship, just learners?

What if instead of making goop, you made edible goop?

What if educators work focused on learning and not teaching?

What if…

Changing the language of interaction is a step towards developing a language that can support change and improvement. When you encounter an idea, why not add to it?  And when that idea needs help, why not help?  Honor the person and the risk it took to communicate the idea by redirecting, adding to, tweeking, or refocusing the idea into something more productive.

What if you helped to build ideas rather than tear them down?


Posted via email from David Jakes

Comments 1 Comment »


Hallways are found everywhere.  They are corridors that enable people to get from Point A to Point B.

Hallways in schools have lockers in them and are inhabited by students copying each other’s worksheets.

Hallways in a typical school are most active before and after school, before learning has started and after learning for the day has ended.

At other times, typically for 5 minutes between classes, hallways are the analog equivilent of Facebook..

Besides lockers, hallways may have bulletin boards, display cases and pictures on the their walls.


What if a hallway had a web site?

What if a hallway had a Twitter account, a Facebook presence?

What if kids checked into their hallway on Foursquare or Yelp?

What if a hallway were spaces to learn at all times?

What if the climate of a school honored hallways as learning spaces?

What if there were flat panels so students could attach their devices?

What if there was some furniture, high cafe tables and chairs.  What if hallways were actually a comfortable place?

What if teachers were assigned to hallways as mentors and advisors, and not for just checking passes?

What if you didn’t need a pass to be in a hallway. 

What if friendly class competitions pitted Hallway AB vs Hallway CD?  See which hallway could learn the most, do the most social good…why freshman vs. sophomore, etc..?

What if there were infographics on the walls?

What if the hallways were the library?

More importantly, what if educators had the courage, the insight, and the desire to look at something old in a new way, to reinvent it, and in the process, rethink the spaces that serve our students education?

What if?

Just image all the reasons not to, why a school shouldn’t, imagine all the Yeah Buts. 

But maybe Yeah Buts should start being replaced with What If’s?




Posted via email from David Jakes

Comments 2 Comments »


A piece of metadata, normally associated with a tweet.  A cousin to the tag, hashtags have a # sign in front of them.

Hashtags can be used to categorize tweets around a central theme.  Hashtags make tweets searchable.   This is believed to be the first hashtag.

You see them all the time if you are on Twitter.  For example, #iste11 was recently used extensively to group tweets around the International Society of Technology in Education Conference in Philadelphia.  Sometimes, the use of hashtags can go very wrong, as Entenmenns recently found out.

Hashtags can also be used to add to interest to a tweet, and even add a little fun.  Sometimes they are even attributed:

#seewhatIdidthere (@jonbecker 2010)

#TTA (me, 2009)   Note:  TTA = Touch Them All and is used to reference hitting a “home-run” with a tweet and touching all four bases in the process, as in a runner rounding the bases after hitting a real home run.

So, hashtags are part of the “conversation,” and serve to make the “conversation” searchable.

But I’m tired of conversation and have written on that before.  Time to move on…more doing, and less talking.

Why not start using these hashtags to address that?




#whatwedid could be used to describe something actually attempted to improve education.  The emphasis on we addresses that attempt to be organizationally-based, and not just a classroom-localized event of a single teacher.

#whathappened could categorize the outcome of that attempt, the consequences of the action…and most importantly,what happened to student learning.

#howweknow could be used when describing how the organization knows #whathappened.

Three years from now will you still be engaged in the same conversations?  Right now, think back three years, has your school changed significantly as the result of the conversation?  Not you, the school

When will conversation turn to action?  When will you share your evidence of that action?

Use the hashtags to let everyone know…



Posted via email from David Jakes

Comments No Comments »


An explanation of some topic or topics, typically made by someone known as the presenter, to a group of people sitting in uncomfortable chairs while typing sound bites into the Twitter.

Or checking their email.

On Twitter, presentations are called presos, most likely in an attempt to conserve characters, but maybe not.  I’m not really sure.

There are multiple ways to give presentations, and multiple reason for doing so or not doing so, but most involve some sort of digital tool like PowerPoint, Keynote or the relative newcomer to the block, Prezi.

With Prezi you can zoom everywhere and that’s pretty darn cool.

It will also require that a healthy dose of Dramamine be passed out to the audience prior to the preso.

If you use PowerPoint, you might be accussed of Powerpointlessness.  Design carefully!

So, if I’m in the audience, here is what I’d like to see from you, in your design:

  1. Passion, heart and soul. Believe in what you are speaking about.  Let that show.
  2. Tell me stories.  I like them, and it allows me to relate to you as a person.
  3. Convince me.
  4. Make it visual.  Not clip art.  Use visuals to communicate, not to decorate.
  5. Oh, and use some words.  But no bullet lists.  And avoid the global killer of using Comic Sans
  6. Limit yourself.  One Hour = 45 slides…or maybe just 10.
  7. I came to hear you.  So, why exactly are you up on the stage and have the big picture in the program?
  8. Practice.  I’ll know if you didn’t.
  9. Perform.  Have some fun up there.  Make me want to check my email later.
  10. Share your ideas.

And Number 10 is the big one.  Anyone willing to stand up in front of people, whether they’re good at it or not, has my respect.

Sometimes you have to step away from Twitter, and ideas in 140 characters.  Step away from your blog as well, and do it face-to-face.

Twitter is easy.

So is putting your ideas in a blog.  Easy.

But at 8:59 when your presentation begins at 9 and all eyes are on you, that’s not.

Passion. Heart. Soul.

And in person.



Posted via email from David Jakes

Comments No Comments »

Dr. Schmoker’s new book Focus recently hit shelves and has brought with it opinions ranging from love it to hate it.

You can read some of my preliminary thoughts about the potential impact of the book in Change Change.

With it being ASCD’s member book and with Schmoker’s reputation, it is imperative that educators begin discussing and understanding the potential implications of a work that is sure to be a topic of discussion in many school districts and one that may influence the pathways that schools choose to take.

For that reason, a number of us on Twitter and in person decided it is worth gathering to discuss this book with educators globally. As a means of making it an easy entry point for discussion, here is what we are thinking as a means of discussing the work.

Discussion Number One: Elluminate (#focusASCD)

Date: Wed February 16th at 9pm EST

Topic: Chapters 1-2 — tweet and discuss quotes, thoughts, questions, concerns, and opportunities (feel free to use the study guide as well)

Discussion Number Two: Elluminate (#focusASCD)

Date: Wed February 23rd at 9pm EST

Topic: Chapter 3-4 — tweet and discuss quotes, thoughts, questions, concerns, and opportunities (feel free to use the study guide as well)

Discussion Number Three: Elluminate (#focusASCD)

Date: Wed March 3rd at 9pm EST

Topic: Entire Book (feel free to use the study guide as well)

Link: TBD

If you have alternatives to the above, please feel free to share in the comment section. This is meant to be informal so we are surely not tied to the above. The key is to find a few common gathering times online that we can discuss the work.

Please complete the following Google Form so we can determine interest.

Thanks and we hope to see you there!

Comments 3 Comments »