Let’s Choose Curation! #BCSLearns

In a post on her blog, Cult of Pedagogy, Jennifer Gonzalez, a profess and teacher of teachers, contributed a thought-provoking post called, Are you a Curator or a Dumper?  Her distinction between these two nouns is spot on!  Gonzalez writes that “Our brains learn by grouping lots of pieces of information into groups and patterns—cognitive scientists call these patterns schemas—and connecting it to knowledge we already have in long-term memory.”  Thus, dumping is overwhelming for learning, if not dangerous to the brain.  As I read her post, the idea of a landfill came to mind when I thought of this concept of dumping.  It just piles up more and more in no particular order and with no particular purpose.  With curating, on the other hand, the concept of museums come to mind, and Gonzalez shares that “Curators take piles and piles of artifacts and selects only a few to represent an idea, a moment, an event, or a phenomenon…[They are] given time and space to savor each artifact one at a time.  In the field of technology, this is called “experience design” or UX.  “UX designers spend all of their time looking at how to improve the way users interact with websites and other digital products.”  As we think about this notion of curation, what instructional approaches do we see at BCS where curation occurs? Gonzalez points to these approaches where schools curate:

  • Student-Directed Learning: differentiated, flipped, blended, and student-directed learning models
  • Classroom or school libraries: building a thriving classroom library
  • Communication with Parents: apply some basic curation and design principles to this communication. Why No One Reads Your Classroom Newsletter.
  • School or Teacher Websites: Gonzalez shares sites that make her want to click around, learn more. They make her excited about the learning that is happening in these schools. And it all comes down to the design, the thoughtful way the content is organized with the user experience in mind.
  • Sharing Research: Take the time to narrow your focus to just a few items, then share them in a way that’s appealing will make it more likely that people will actually consume the stuff you’re sharing.

Be it, pedagogy, material selection and organization, communication, or collaborating and researching, it goes without saying, that schools are constantly curating.  But, to what level of expertise?  According to Gonzalez, the following guidelines are critical to keep in mind as we curate with each other or engage our students or parents in curating:

  1. Keep the Best, Lose the Rest
  2. Chunk It
  3. Add Your Own Introductions
  4. Use Images as Anchors
  5. Polish your Hyperlinks
  6. Always, Always Build in White Space

How? Check out all the curation tools she lists at the end of the post.

To finish off this post, take a look at Innovate – curation! a TedTalk by Steve Rosenbaum, author of Curation Nation, who contends that “curation is the new magic that makes the web work…fixing the signal to noise problem, and making the world contextual and coherent again.”


Want to Innovate? Check your Mindset #BCSLearns

In a February 7, 2018 article in Fast Company, The Breakthrough Mindset: 5 Keys For Exponential Innovation to Solve Global Problems, John Elkington and Richard Johnson (colleagues at Volans a company that helps “leaders move from incremental to systemic solutions”) share five keys to “how big business can solve the world’s largest, most mind-numbing problems.”  The word innovator and innovation is oft-invoked term in global business and education today having posted about it in the past most notably in this December 6, 2015 post Moving from Pockets of Innovation to an Innovation Culture.  In their 5-minute read, Elkington and Johnson share their five keys to innovative problem solving after which I share my take on each:

  1. Re-perceive challenges as opportunities – to me this sounds a lot like Stephen Covey’s notion of reframing where he “uses the concept of a paradigm to explain how the way we see a situation and how we interpret its meaning, determines our possible choices of response.”  A mantra in which I work tirelessly to live, is presuming positive intent.  An approach closely aligned to this idea of re-perceiving or reframing.
  2. 10X your ambitions – see number 4.  How can we “forgo preconceived notions of how a problem should be solved” if we do not invite others to join in?
  3. Love the problem, not the solution – this has everything to to with Simon Sinek’s persuasive argument that we Start with Why.  Check out his book or the summary he give in this 18-minute presentation.
  4. Invite others to join in – meaning, at all costs, collaborate and bring divergent perspectives to the table
  5. Embrace uncertainty – the superintendent that hired me for my very first principalship, prior to recommending me for the position, share some poignant words with me back in 2000, “Be comfortable with ambiguity.”  How right Dr. Maxfield was.  Uncertainly is where dialogue, collaboration, innovation, creativity and problem solving rest.

Check out this 8-minute video that highlights how “Project Breakthrough is working with business to solve some of the world’s largest challenges.  [They have] spoken to leading innovators, and they all agree: it starts with a new mindset.”

In the video, The Single Biggest Reason Why Startups Succeed, Bill Gross shares how he gathered data from hundreds of companies and ranked each company on five key factors.  Though, he found one factor, surprisingly, that matters most.  These key factors are:

  1. Business model
  2. Funding
  3. Idea “truth” outlier
  4. Team/Execution
  5. Timing

Which one do you think matters most?  Check out Gross’s video below…

Nurturing this Empathetic Habit – Take it from a Navy Seal #BCSLearns

This year at BCS we have focused on our theme were lean in and lead with EMPATHY always embracing our BCS Moral Compass.  Each month we have embraced a different habit of empathy, and with February upon us and a new habit, we embrace the the notion that empathetic people can keep their cool.  Helping children and ourselves learn ways to manage strong emotions, self regulate, and reduce personal distress to keep their empathy open, avoids what Michele Borba calls the “Empathy Gap” and allows them more likely to empathize and help others.  Below, I offer some strategies and a video for our young children from Borba and some strategies and a video from leadership coach John Baldoni for our older students and us adults.

In the below video (2:57), Borba suggests that we help children employ the strategies of a Navy Seal!

  1. Deep breaths as a relaxation response
  2. Mental rehearsals in advance of a potential stressful situation
  3. Chunk it – take it in small parts
  4. Positive self-talk – “I can do this!”

Not only will these four strategies reduce stress in our children, according to Borba, they will also keep their “empathy open.”

In the next video (2:36), John Baldoni “offers some techniques for leaders who want to keep their cool when the heat’s on.”  We need to maintain composure.  How?  Similar to Borba’s Navy Seal strategies, he suggests we invoke the strategies of battalion commanders.

  1. Breathe deeply
  2. Relax your facial muscles
  3. Keep your voice low
  4. Try a mindfulness exercise


In the final video (11:19), Katie Couric interviews Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger about his recollection of the final moments before he dramatically landed his U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in N.Y.’s Hudson River.  Notice how “Sully” stayed calm and maintained composure.  Notice the rehearsal, his breathing , keeping his voice low, the positive self-talk.  What else do you notice as he recounts the near tragedy?

Guess What Drives Creativity? #BCSLearns

Have your own kids ever said they’re bored? Has a parent ever told you as a teacher that their child is bored in your class? How have you responded to these questions in the past? I’m guessing you didn’t say, “you’re so lucky that you’re bored”? Or, “I’m just trying to nurture your child’s creativity.” Well, if you did, you’d be on the right track.

In the book Bored and Brilliant, author Manoush Zomorodi “shows the fascinating side of boredom. She investigates cutting-edge research as well as compelling real-life examples to demonstrate that boredom is actually a crucial tool for making our lives happier, more productive, and more creative. What’s more, the book is crammed with practical exercises for anyone who wants to reclaim the power of spacing out – deleting the Two Dots app, for instance, or having a photo-free day, or taking a ‘fakecation'” (Gretchen Rubin, author of #1 NYT Bestseller The Happiness Project).  Zomorodi explains how boredom and original thinking are intricately connect and she exploring how we can harness the power of boredom to become more productive and creative individuals. While the book is grounded in neuroscience and cognitive psychology Zomorodi also shared practical strategies each of us can take to slow down our busyness and enhance our ability to dream and wonder in both our work life and personal life.

Check out my previous blog posts on creativity:

In the end, Zomorodi shines a light on how boredom can lead to the most brilliant ideas.  Take a listen to her 16-minute TedTalk where she describes how “sometimes [you] have your most creative ideas while folding laundry, washing dishes or doing nothing in particular…because when your body goes on autopilot, your brain gets busy forming new neural connections that connect ideas and solve problems. Learn to love being bored as Manoush Zomorodi explains the connection between spacing out and creativity.” 

Equip yourself with a practical and research-based response to the age old comment from kids, “I’m bored,” and help them understand how lucky they should feel to have that moment of boredom, as well as the greatness they can achieve from it.

Make it More than Simply STEM #BCSLearns

In a Washington Post Article, The surprising thing Google learned about its employees — and what it means for today’s students,  reporter Valerie Strauss shares a study in 2013 called Project Oxygen where Google learned about its employees concluding that mastering STEM skills is a “gross simplification of what students need to know and be able to do.”  In the study, ranking the most important skills, “STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.” 

Now, most recently, Google’s spring 2017 Project Aristotle showed “that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying. To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes.” 

Compare these two “lists” from Google from Tony Wagner’s 7 Survival Skills from his 2008 book, The Global Achievement Gap.  Below is his list and a 4-minute clip from his TedTalk where is summarizes the skills (or your can check out a 30-minute video worth the time).

  1. critical thinking and problem solving
  2. collaboration and leadership
  3. agility and adaptability
  4. initiative and entrepreneurism
  5. effective oral and written communication
  6. access and analyze information
  7. curiosity and imagination

Empathy Equals? #BCSLearns

BCS founding principal, Dale Truding, shared this article with me recently.  With our theme of empathy this year, I thought this read was quite fitting.  Posted in MindShift and written Thom Markham, In Our Connected World, What If Empathy Is Learning? is well worth the read.  As educators, we have known for years the important impact emotion has on learning.  To that end, we all can tend to believe that empathy helps learning. From the earliest work of Eric Jensen around brain-based learning, emotions can drive cognition.  Taking this notion a step further in this article, Markham outlines his argument that doesn’t just help “empathy is learning.”  Markham contends that “it’s time to match the emerging science with the tempo of the times and upend established ‘truths’ around learning. It’s time to act on the assumption that knowledge is flowing through students, not being delivered to them, and that the chief skill is openness. That means, for the foreseeable future, empathy is learning.” How?  Read, really read, the article whose key points are noted below.  Here’ how…

Promote a Holistic, Non-Brain Centric View of Learning: “All the emotions associated with empathy, such as openness, humility, gratitude, and compassion, affect the heart positively.”  Remember Jensen?  Emotion drives learning.

View Empathy as the Foundation:  “acknowledging empathy’s fundamental role in cognition and achievement.”

Turn Empathy into an Outcome:  “Empathy is the first step in the design process. Empathetic behavior makes teams function better and can be identified in teamwork rubrics as active listening, open body posture, kind critique, and similar behaviors that can be assessed.”  Post this Design Thinking Process and note the process in your classroom (in your home) as an everyday tool for solution finding.

Continue to Personalize Learning:  “Many choices equal many paths equal multiple ways to become educated.”  There is no one way!

Recognize Teachers as Co-creators:  “Teachers will inevitably begin to apply their subject expertise to real-world demands for solutions, innovation, and problem solving. That’s really the outgrowth of an empathic model of learning: To make a positive difference in the world.”  It is those service learning opportunities in which you involve your students that help them problem solve, innovate and solution find.

Get Students Out of the Classroom and into the World:  Service learning, “learning while doing, in service to the greater good.”  As our BCS Mission statement reads: “BCS is a dynamic and collaborative learning community. We cultivate an engaging environment that embraces all students and empowers them to pose questions, integrate resources, synthesize, evaluate and apply their knowledge to positively influence our diverse and ever-changing world.”  Let’s be sure to continue to act on our BCS Vision, Mission, Values & Beliefs!

Check out this 20-minute video The Heart-Brain Connection: The Neuroscience of Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning where neuroscientist Richard Davidson presents his research on how social and emotional learning can affect the brain.  If Davidson concludes that “Social emotional learning changes the brain,” then empathy is learning, right?  I welcome your thoughts on this.

How Am I Livin’? #BCSLearns

Many of us will enjoy a day of rest and reflection from the hustle of a school day tomorrow, Monday 1/15/18, as we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the legacy of peace and persistence with which he leaves us:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

With the New Year in full swing and reflecting upon Dr. King’s legacy, I wanted to share Rick Rigsby’s 10-minute speech where he delivers wonderfully powerful and poignant nuggets of truth in simple phrases based on his father’s teachings.  Take a look at some of these thought-provoking phrases from another powerful African American orator, and take a listen to the speech in the below video.  As you read below and view the video, think about our empathetic habit of the month, moral imagination, as well.

Which one of these four phrases from the speech most resonate with and for you?

  • combine knowledge and wisdom to make an impact [knowledge isn’t enough]
  • Mark Twain once said, “I’ve never allowed my schooling “to get in the way of my education.”
  • Quoting Michelangelo, saying to us, “Boys, I won’t have a problem if you aim high and miss, but I’m gonna have a real issue if you aim low and hit.”
  • Henry Ford saying, “If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Which one of these lessons/quotes from Rigsby’s father speak to a resolution you’d like to make for 2018?

  • Son, you’d rather be an hour early than a minute late.
  • Maybe one of my boys will catch me in the act of excellence.  Aristotle said you are what you repeatedly do, therefore excellence ought to be a habit not an act.
  • I know you’re tough but always remember to be kind.
  • Make sure your servant’s towel is bigger than your ego.  Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity.
  • Pride is the burden of a foolish person.
  • You wanna make an impact? Find your broom. Every day of your life, you find your broom. You grow your influence that way. That way you’re attracting people so that you can impact them.
  • Telling myself every single day to shoot for the stars, to be the best that I can be. Good enough isn’t good enough if it can be better. And better isn’t good enough if it can be best.
  • When you hit rock bottom remember this, while you’re struggling, rock bottom can also be a great foundation on which to build and on which to grow. I’m not worried that you’ll be successful. I’m worried that you won’t fail from time to time. A person that gets up off the canvas and keeps growing, that’s the person that will continue to grow their influence.
  • Just stand. You keep standing. You keep standing. No matter how rough the sea, you keep standing. You keep standing. No matter what, you don’t give up.
  • It doesn’t matter to me any longer how long I live. What matters to me most is how I live.
  • I ask you all one question, a question that I was asked all my life by a third grade dropout. “How you livin’? Everyday ask yourself that question. “How you livin’?”

Now, have a listen to Rigsby’s 10-minute graduation speech “The Wisdom of a Third Grade Dropout.”