Books I Read in September 2022

I wrapped up several books in September of 2022 because I focused my time better than I had in many months. Beginning my doctoral work at the end of August necessitated that focus.

I also ramped up my audiobook listening this month, taking advantage of my 30-minute commute and a couple of road trips. September was a busy month. Heading into the last three months of the year, my reading stats will drop due to coursework and coaching our high school esports team.

We’ll see how it goes in October. For now, here’s what I read or finished reading in September 2022.

Sale
Blade Itself (08) by Abercrombie, Joe [Paperback (2007)]
  • Abercrombie (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 01/01/2007 (Publication Date) – Pyr, Paperback(2007) (Publisher)
Sale
How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading
  • Simon & Schuster
  • Condition : Good
  • Easy to read text
  • Mortimer J. Adler (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Sale
Writing the Winning Thesis or Dissertation: A Step-by-Step Guide
  • Joyner, Randy L. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 344 Pages – 07/13/2018 (Publication Date) – Corwin (Publisher)
Sale
The Name of the Wind: 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Rothfuss, Patrick (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 752 Pages – 10/03/2017 (Publication Date) – DAW (Publisher)
Best of Verne: Journey to the Center of the Earth: Illustrated Classic
  • Verne, Jules (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 236 Pages – 10/15/2020 (Publication Date) – SeaWolf Press (Publisher)
Sale
Meditations: A New Translation (Modern Library)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Aurelius, Marcus (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages – 05/14/2002 (Publication Date) – Modern Library (Publisher)
Sale
Discipline is Destiny
  • Hardcover Book
  • Ryan Holiday (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages – 09/06/2022 (Publication Date) – Profile Books (Publisher)
Sale
Teaching for Deeper Learning: Tools to Engage Students in Meaning Making
  • McTighe, Jay (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 130 Pages – 01/22/2020 (Publication Date) – ASCD (Publisher)
Sale
The Original
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Brandon Sanderson (Author) – Julia Whelan (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 09/14/2020 (Publication Date) – Recorded Books (Publisher)
Sale
Leadership: Theory and Practice
  • Northouse, Peter G. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 600 Pages – 02/08/2021 (Publication Date) – SAGE Publications, Inc (Publisher)

I’ll share my thoughts on a few of these books in the coming weeks. If you haven’t subscribed to my newsletter yet, I hope you do so I can share these thoughts with you!

Link Roundup Friday for 9-30-2022

  1. Take a peek at this animated map showing the spread of writing worldwide over time. It’s an interesting perspective on something we all take for granted.
  2. I’m really enjoying Ryan Holiday’s latest installment in his Stoic Virtues series: Discipline is Destiny. As I continue my own journey to better health, fitness, and completing a doctoral degree, I’m finding several great stories in the pages.
  3. RIP Coolio.
  4. NASA blasting an asteroid off its path is just about the coolest thing ever. Google it for more info and a fun treat.
  5. An ode to the idea of an infinite canvas and tools that support that idea.
  6. I’m now actively trying to find a usage for a colash or a semi-colash.
  7. Metaphors of Ed Tech

Teachers: You Don’t Have to Be Great Every Day

“The most important thing a young ball player can learn is that he can’t be good every day”

– a baseball scout to Lou Gehrig

If you’re familiar with the great Lou Gehrig’s story, you probably also know that he held the record for over fifty years for consecutive baseball games. 2,130 games, to be exact. An incredible accomplishment, especially when you know that he suffered many broken bones (pretty much every bone in both hands), injuries, and sickness over his career.

But he never stopped. He was, most importantly, consistent. Early on in his career, he took to heart the words of that wise scout and decided that he didn’t have to be the greatest player every day. He just had to show up and do the work, even if he failed in the trying.

There’s a lesson there for educators…

How often do we think as educators that we must be perfect every day? How many frustrations come from lessons that didn’t work right, technology that didn’t work at all, or the one student who never shows up finally showing up on the day you wished he hadn’t?

Don’t lie. You know exactly which kid I’m talking about.

Of course, we want to do our best. We’ve been given a sacred trust to educate the next generation. We work hard and take our time to ensure our students have great learning experiences. We look for new ways to engage our students, new ways to get their brains thinking and making new connections.

We search for resources that will help the struggling student overcome an obstacle, and at the same time, we’re challenging the student who seems to excel at every task to do something new and creative.

We diligently work to expand opportunities for students who don’t have what they need to be successful. We meet with parents and community members to support programs that reach at-risk students, talk with local businesses, and get their support for our after-school activities and teams.

We spend sleepless nights searching for the answers to prepare our students for a world that we can’t predict. We drive ourselves mad, stay tired, and put up with less and less support from our government officials and budgets that just don’t seem to get the job done.

And we somehow forget that we’re not going to be the best every day. We want to be. We want to scream when we aren’t. We’d rather die than fail our students or for something to go wrong that ruins our plans.

However, our students need to see that we’re not perfect, and that’s perfectly fine. They need to know that we make mistakes, but we learn from them when we do. They need to understand that sometimes things happen beyond our control, but we always try our best anyway.

“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”

– Jean-Luc Picard

We’re not superhuman. We’re not perfect. We will fail. We will fall. But so has everyone else who has ever set foot on this planet of ours. We won’t be good every day. But we don’t have to be, because our students won’t be good every day.

Sometimes, we just have to remind ourselves that it’s okay if we’re not good every day. Because our students need us to be human. They need to know that even the best of us make mistakes and that even the most prepared can have a bad day.

Because what they really need to learn is that it’s not about being good every day. It’s about being good enough and trying again tomorrow.

Our students need us to be real so they can be too.

We have good days and bad days. What’s important is that we learn from our mistakes, strive to be better tomorrow than we were today, and never give up on our students.

And when they see us struggle and move through problems, they see that they can do the same. And that lesson is more important than just about any other we could give them.

“The most important thing a young ball player can learn is that he can’t be good every day.” The same is true for educators. We must continue to learn and grow to be the best we can be for our students. They deserve nothing less.


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Bridging the Digital Divide: Access is Only the Beginning

While we can blame the COVID-19 pandemic on many things, we can’t blame it for the “digital divide” among students across the United States. That divide was in place long before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19.

However, the pandemic did shed more light on the inequities of digital access across the country.

Three primary obstacles faced by students from lower-income households when trying to complete digital homework during the pandemic:

  • Had to complete work on a cell phone
  • Had no computer access at home
  • Had to use public wifi to complete work

These obstacles disproportionately affected lower-income families and Black teens. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Black teens faced these same issues. In fact, they were more likely to have no home computer access than any other group.

But what does the digital divide look like across the US? When we talk about the digital divide, how do we define it? What areas do we need to address to close the gap? And what do we have control over at the local, state, and national levels to initiate change?

Equitable Internet Access at Home

First, let’s take a look at internet access at home. While you may think you have great internet speeds, I can promise that you likely don’t when compared to other countries. And the number of people in the US with internet speeds slower than the FCC minimum is disturbing.

For now, let’s embrace the fact that 27% of adults in households earning less than $30k/year access the web only through smartphones. No cable internet, no fiber, no DSL. Just whatever they can get through their smartphone or hotspot.

And it’s not just adults. One in five children also lives in these households. That number is even higher for Black and Hispanic kids.

What does this mean for digital equity and equal access to education? It means that a lot of students are starting at a disadvantage. They’re trying to do their homework on a phone, with patchy service and no guarantee of privacy or quiet.

They may not have reliable transportation to get to a library or other public wifi hotspot. And they certainly can’t afford to pay for data overages each month.

This digital divide has serious consequences for students from lower-income families. They have less access to the internet and are less likely to have a computer at home. This means they have fewer opportunities to do homework, research projects, and develop 21st-century skills.

How do we think about designing instruction when we know that over a quarter of students in low-income homes will either do their work on a smartphone or connect to the internet through a smartphone hotspot?

When we think about equal access, it’s important to consider the digital divide and how students from low-income families have less access to connected technologies. This impacts their ability to do any homework assigned on a computer or participate in remote learning if needed.

Issuing school devices is helpful and needed for many families but is not the final step in ensuring equitable access. Planning for the type of access students have at home is a prime consideration when designing technology-infused instructional activities. Even if they have a school-issued device, they may not have a stable, high-quality internet connection.

I live and teach in Kentucky; a state with very urban and very, very rural areas. I know plenty of my teacher friends who have difficulty accessing high-quality high-speed internet access from their homes simply because of where they live.

Yes, if you live in a large city like Louisville or Lexington, you have the opportunity to access decent internet speeds. But, if you live a few miles outside of town, your choices quickly disappear.

It’s not just about location here in Kentucky. Kentucky claims three of the top ten counties in the US with the lowest median family income as of 2020; Owsley County at $25,997 (number 2 on the list), Clay County at $28,886, and Bell County at $30,202. The median household income for the United States was $67,340 in 2020.

How much do you think a family making $25k a year will spend on internet access? I feel certain it’s not a high priority.

We must provide better internet access to more people. At this point in our country, it’s a moral imperative. Children and adults who don’t have equitable access to the internet are at a disadvantage. It’s time to treat internet access like a utility.

Equitable Access to Devices

Currently, Chromebooks rule the world of student devices. Somewhere around 60% of student devices are Chromebooks. No device has become so associated with education more quickly than the Chromebook.

During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, some 30 million Chromebooks found their way to the hands of students, ready to use them for various learning needs.

The reasons for this are many and varied, but the most important factor is price. A Chromebook can be had for as little as $149. That’s a price point that schools can afford. It’s also a price point that families can afford. The tight integration with Chromebooks and Google’s Workspace for Education tools makes purchasing a Chromebook the perfect choice for many schools.

Chromebooks have been a game changer regarding student access to technology. But equal access is only the beginning. The real challenge is using these devices to create student-centered learning experiences. And that’s where we have fallen short.

When traditional learning was disrupted by the pandemic, many teachers didn’t change how they taught, even though the learning environment looked nothing like the traditional American classroom. Students were forced to sit in Zoom meetings for hours and were flooded with work as teachers tried to keep them engaged in learning. Meanwhile, parents struggled to help their learners, and everyone realized that simply giving a student a device did not equal instantaneous learning.

And let’s remember the all-important internet access issue. Just because we gave students a device didn’t mean they could use it. It certainly didn’t mean that their home internet connection could support five children on video calls at the same time.

And parents were given little to no support or time to help their children use the devices they’d just been handed. How were they supposed to know how to set up Zoom, Google Classroom, or any other tools their child’s teacher used? It was all very overwhelming.

Acknowledging what we didn’t do well during the pandemic gives us a chance to change how we do things in our classrooms right now. Not because we are trying to prepare for another pandemic but because we realize that what we were doing before the pandemic wasn’t working. And it hadn’t been working for a long, long time.

The Shift to Student-Centered Learning

We’re beginning to tackle the digital divide with school-issued devices. While we’re not buying as many as we did during the pandemic, our schools are forever changed concerning student access to technology.

We need to keep pushing for better internet access for everyone. While we can’t do much at our schools, we can take up the cause in our communities and work with companies and our local, state, and federal governments to make quality internet access affordable and accessible for everyone.

The next mountain we have to climb is rethinking what we do in our classrooms daily. We can’t exist by focusing on inert learning because we live in an age where most students now have the access and the device to learn any bit of information or knowledge we might have shared.

Our focus must shift to creating deeper learning experiences for our students, focusing on authentic work and student choice. The days of the teacher being the arbiter of all knowledge are over. We must now be the facilitators of learning and provide our students with experiences they can take with them long after leaving our classrooms.

To close the digital divide, equal access to technology is necessary, but that’s only the beginning. Schools must shift their focus to student-centered learning for students to truly benefit from using connected technologies. Too often, teachers try to keep teaching in a traditional way even though the environment has changed, which isn’t effective. Student-centered learning allows for more creativity and deeper engagement with the material.

Our students frequently obtain only a superficial level of understanding that fails to equip them for more complex problems in school and beyond. Rethinking our lesson design with tools like the 4 Shifts protocol can allow every teacher to make small changes that can benefit students.

When we make the shift to student-centered learning, we provide our students with opportunities to think critically, solve problems, and create something new. All these can lead our students to deeper learning that will last a lifetime. And when we integrate technology into our lessons in meaningful ways, we help close the digital divide for good.

Infrastructure, devices, and content are three primary ways to bridge the digital divide. Infrastructure includes ensuring that all students have access to high-speed internet at home. Devices include providing students with a laptop or tablet they can use for schoolwork. And content includes creating digital resources that are accessible to all students, regardless of income level.

Lastly, we must help our teachers prepare for this new world of deeper learning supported by technology. We need instructional coaches and technology coaches to work with teachers in the field to provide ongoing, job-embedded, and content-aligned professional development.

The digital divide won’t close overnight, but we can make strides by focusing on equal access to technology, student-centered learning, and quality professional development for teachers. It’s time for us to take up the challenge and provide all students with the resources they need to succeed in school and in life.

If you’re looking for more ways to move away from inert learning and toward deeper learning in your classroom, be sure to sign up for my free newsletter. I’ll update you weekly on the latest deeper learning strategies supported by technology integration. I’ll also include links to helpful resources and provide tips for making the most of your teaching time.

Why Do We Spend So Much Time on Inert Learning in Our Classrooms?

How much time do we spend on inert learning daily in our classrooms?

I’ve been asking that myself a lot lately as we’ve had more and more discussions in my schools and across the country about deeper learning and what our students are learning in schools. I’m watchful of any inert learning happening in classrooms I visit and in my own practice as I work with teachers.

Before we can determine exactly how much time we spend on inert learning, we must define inert learning.

With inert learning, the student learns and remembers facts or procedures without understanding or being able to use them. So, they can regurgitate the information back to you on a test or quiz, but after the fact, they’ve forgotten it and moved on. We can also think about inert learning as surface-level learning.

There are two types of inert learning- declarative and procedural.

Declarative inert learning is when students learn and remember facts without understanding them. For example, rote memorization of vocabulary words without being able to use them in context wouldn’t be considered deeper learning.

Procedural inert learning is when students learn procedures without understanding why or when to use them. A great example of this is students who can solve a math problem one way, but if you ask them to explain how they did it or why that particular method works, they can’t because they don’t understand the concept, they just know the steps to get the answer.

So, how much time are we spending on inert learning in our classrooms?

The answer may depend on what level you teach. To support younger learners, elementary teachers will spend more time on inert learning to empower their students with the knowledge to make deeper connections. In later grades, teachers can more easily move students to deeper learning opportunities, applying that surface-level knowledge to more practical applications.

This is an important shift. Certainly, before any deeper learning can occur, the facts and information from any surface-level learning must be in place. John Hattie speaks about the transition from surface-level learning to deeper learning in this video and how vital both are to students.

As educators, we can consciously make decisions about the content we’re teaching and the instructional methods we use to ensure that our students engage in deeper learning.

Here are some things to consider as you reflect on your own practice:

  • Do my students have opportunities to construct meaning or create something new?
  • Do my students have opportunities to apply their knowledge in authentic ways?
  • Do my students have opportunities to think deeply about their learning content?

If you can answer yes to these questions, then you’re likely doing more than just teaching inert knowledge. Keep up the good work!

Too often, students are taught inert knowledge- facts and procedures without understanding or being able to use them. This type of learning results in surface-level understanding at best and leads students to forget what they learn shortly after the fact.

On the other hand, deeper learning is when students learn and remember facts with understanding. They can use the information they learned in various contexts and see how it connects to other ideas. Deeper learning also allows for critical thinking and creativity.

It’s important for educators to make a conscious effort to move away from teaching inert knowledge and toward deeper learning. We can do this by providing opportunities for our students to construct meaning, apply their knowledge in authentic ways, and think deeply about their learning content. If we do this, we’ll be setting our students up for success in college and beyond.

Can you remember a time in your own educational past when you learned something new, and then, as soon as you took the test, you forgot what it was you learned?

How often does that happen in your classroom with your students?

I don’t want to ask myself that question because I’m afraid of what the answer might be. You might feel the same way. I know how many times it happened to me during my own time walking through the hallowed halls of public K-12 education.

Those facts you forgot, the ones that had no practical application to anything you were doing at the time? That’s inert learning.

Inert knowledge is “learning that was superficially acquired, never really understood, and promptly forgotten” (McTighe & Silver, Harvey F., 2020). Standardized tests are built on inert knowledge. As a matter of fact, most forms of assessment I can think of are specifically designed to measure inert knowledge.

The problem with inert knowledge is that it’s, well, inert. It doesn’t do anything. It can’t be applied to solve problems or create new understanding. It’s just there, taking up space in our heads until we forget it and move on.

On the other hand, deeper learning is learning that sticks with you, that you can apply in different contexts, and that helps you build new understanding.

It’s the kind of learning that allows you to take what you know and use it to solve problems, think creatively, and communicate effectively. Deeper learning is active; inert learning is passive.

There are a few reasons why inert knowledge assessments still exist. For one, they’re easy to grade and don’t require as much engagement from the student as deeper learning assessments. Additionally, inert knowledge is often seen as a precursor to deeper learning, so educators may use these assessments to identify students who need more support to move on to deeper levels of understanding. Finally, there’s a tendency for people (educators and policymakers included) to value things that can be easily measured, like grades or test scores. And because inert knowledge can be assessed fairly easily and objectively, it has become a staple in our educational system.

Now, let’s go back to the question I opened: How much time do we spend on inert learning daily in our classrooms?

Is there a better use of our time?

If you’re looking for more ways to move away from inert learning and toward deeper learning in your classroom, be sure to sign up for my free newsletter. I’ll update you weekly on the latest deeper learning strategies supported by technology integration. I’ll also include links to helpful resources and provide tips for making the most of your teaching time. Sign up now and start moving your classroom in the right direction!

References:

McTighe, J., & Silver, Harvey F. (2020). Teaching for deeper learning: Tools to engage students in meaning making (Kindle). ASCD.