Small Moves: The Key To Digital Leadership

This post was first published in August 2014, so please forgive any outdated references. I began my student teaching and carried many dreams and plans in my mind. Looking back on these words, I still carry many of these ideas with me eight years later. Maybe I was on to something…

I’m a huge movie fan. Many of my favorite films are science fiction, which, if you know me, is probably a foregone conclusion.

I love Star Wars, Star Trek, The Last Starfighter, Dune… the list goes on for days.

One of my favorite sci-fi films is Contact, based on the book by Carl Sagan. If you’re unfamiliar with the book or film, the plot revolves around what might happen if the human race received a message from another world.

Spoiler alerts ahead if you haven’t seen this nearly 20-year-old movie yet…

In the film’s climax, the main character speaks with a member of an alien race in the guise of her dead father. He explains a bit about how they were able to contact our planet and how things will progress in the future.

Our fearless heroine wants all of her questions answered at once, excited at what this incredible discovery could mean for science and the human race. However, she doesn’t get her wish.

The alien explains to her that progress and communication will come slowly over time. He tells her…

“Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.”

Change is a good but incredibly difficult thing. Especially in education. No matter how great we think some new technology or process is or how much we will benefit from it, the implementation will not come quickly. Not will it come free of pain, problems, and complaints.

Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today

Small moves.

Writing this post, I’m in my second full week of student teaching. Of course, I bring with me a fairly large amount of tech experience with a boatload of tools that teachers can use in the classroom. I am not, however, an experienced classroom teacher.

But, I can still show other teachers a few small ways that technology can make their lives easier, engage students, and bring some 21st-century methods into their classrooms.

But it has to start small. A friend of mine introduced Plickers in his classroom as a way to perform formative assessments. He called me over to see the trial run.

Of course, the students loved it. It was cool to see this app grade their responses instantly rather than waiting for their answers to be graded. I knew the kids would love it, and I knew my friend would love it, as we’ve been talking about using it since long before school began.

What I didn’t know would happen was the response from other teachers around his classroom. The buzz in the hallways after school about this little app was astounding. One of the guys from the district IT department even came over to see what we were doing.

Small moves.

Sometimes as tech evangelists, we forget that not everyone is as comfortable with tech as we are. There are teachers in your building right now that have been teaching long enough that they can remember a time when the only computers in the school were in a computer lab, and no teacher had a school email address.

And now we’re asking them to implement tools like GAFE, Microsoft LYNC, iPads, laptops, Chromebooks, and tablets….

Small moves.

If we really want to be great digital leaders, we have to be willing to meet others where they are with tech. Too often, we get carried away with the latest and greatest shiny app that will “revolutionize” our classrooms. We don’t understand why EVERYONE doesn’t use it the day it becomes available.

It’s not about beating other teachers and administrators over the head with new technology. It’s about showing them how one tool can improve or help them. How one tool can ignite a student’s interest in a new way.

It’s about small moves, not giant leaps.

We must be ready to make those small moves quickly and guide others to do the same. When that happens, teachers, administrators, and students win.

Sure, there will always be those asking, “Well, why are you doing this? What’s your motivation? What do you want to get out of it?” They balk at every suggestion and idea made.

But if we’re making small moves, those people will soon be drowned out by the gathering crowd of people making their small moves toward a better system for us all.

And soon, that gathering crowd will no longer be the minority that wants change; they will be the overwhelming majority that drives change and sends our education system in a new and exciting direction.

But it all starts with small moves.

Small moves, Ellie.

As leaders, that’s what we have to do.

Thanks for taking a stroll down memory lane with me.

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The Connected Educator Book Summary

The Connected Educator is more than just someone that uses technology in the classroom. The connected educator is a lifelong learner, ready to adapt and use the tools available to improve their practice. They embrace new ideas and viewpoints throughout the connected world. Through the development of connected learning communities, the connected educator can improve their practice, encourage the work of others, and build an ever-changing repository of shared knowledge to benefit the education community as a whole.


As educators of 21st-century learners, we must embrace different models of learning and connectivity that are native to our students. Learning happens for our students in a connected world. The same should hold for educators. Collaboration between educators of diverse backgrounds and levels of expertise allows for creating connected learning communities: an amalgamation of communities of practice, professional learning communities, and personal learning networks. Connected learning communities provide the same benefits as the three aforementioned communities but on a scale not previously achievable due to the connected tools available today.


Conversations with a community of practice can lead to deep, connected learning. Learning as a connected educator is important to connect with global educators in a globalized world. Educators can make learning relevant for themselves and their students through communities of practice. The focus of connected learning is on a collaborative culture that includes having a shared vision, shared values, and opportunities for inquiry.

Magnetic Connections
Magnetic Connections by NASA Goddard Photo and Video is licensed under CC-BY 2.0


In the past, connecting outside of the classroom was relegated to professional development opportunities and conferences that only a few educators attended. With tools like Twitter and Facebook, teachers can participate in groups and chats based on grade levels, content areas, teacher leadership, and more. Bookmarking and sharing sites such as Diigo and Wakelet allow teachers to curate resources around any topic and share them with the larger community. Blogging tools like Blogger, WordPress, Squarespace, and more allow teachers to reflect on professional learning with a worldwide audience.


Educators must have a plan and purpose for how they will build their personal learning network (PLN). Tips for getting started creating a PLN include:

  • Begin with one tool and add others when comfortable.
  • Establish a consistent username across all networks.
  • Find a mentor to help along the way.
  • Choose well-respected and familiar educators, see who they follow, and select connections from their list.

Educators assume roles and responsibilities in a PLN: linking, lurking, learning, and leading. Linking and lurking involve staying on the sidelines and being reluctant to share thoughts. Learning and leading members are frequent users who share ideas and help shape the community. The learning and leading roles should commit to bringing those linking and lurking into action.

people doing group hand cheer
Photo by Dio Hasbi Saniskoro on


While forging ahead in new connected realms, it is important that educators work to sustain these communities and foster growth. Through appreciative inquiry, educators can sustain the initial work begun in newly connected virtual communities by focusing on their strengths and asking “what if?” to explore possibilities. Community members can keep a positive perspective on what can be accomplished using the 4-D model of appreciative inquiry: discovering what they feel the group is at its best, dreaming about what it would be like to see those discoveries happen, designing the community to make those dreams happen, and fulfilling the destiny for the community by implementing those designs.


Transformational leaders collaborate, encourage connected learning, and believe in distributed leadership. Distributed leadership is shared throughout the school by many people to strengthen the community. To shift to transformational leadership, traditional leaders must let go of control to move forward. Distributed leadership requires having a shared vision and shared responsibility in problem-solving. In a connected world, solving these problems includes making online connections with experts to inform ideas. Being connected allows teams to collaborate outside of the school day in a shared space.


Being a connected educator goes hand in hand with teacher leadership. It is important in leadership to be an effective communicator and collaborator, which are also important aspects of being connected. Connected educators build their personal learning networks, or communities of practice, to continue professional learning and build connections outside of their school community.

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Hord, S. M., & Sommers, W. A. (2008). Leading professional learning communities: Voices from research and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Nussbaum-Beach, S., & Hall, L. A. (2011). The connected educator: Learning and leading in a digital age. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Real-World Learning – Content is Nothing Without Context And Application

Do a Google search for Real World Learning. Then take a look at the number of search results.

Depending on where you are in the world and what day you perform this particular search, you will likely get a different answer, but you should still come to the same conclusion I have:

Real-World Learning is a popular topic, with many people contributing ideas as to exactly what it should be and how it should be accomplished.

But what is real-world learning? What does it look like in a classroom? Is it a goal that can only be reached by the most progressive teachers and schools? Can you actually cover content standards while engaging students in authentic, real-world tasks that involve more than just giving them a “scenario” that mimics a real-world situation?

Giving Context and Application to Content Standards

Real-world learning is a topic that educators have discussed for many years. Research on the topic of integrating social, interactive processes into learning stretches back to 1938 (Maxwell, Stobaugh, and Tassell, 2015) and carry into today with schools offering internships and even job shadowing as part of their curriculum.

But, can real-world learning incorporate standards that students will be tested over on the all-too-emphasized standardized tests taken at the end of every school year for most public school students?

The answer is: yes.

Standards for math, science, ELA, and social studies are not prescriptive in the methods used to teach the standards, only in the content that should be covered. This flexibility provides ample opportunity for educators to design and implement programs that meet the required content standards while providing students with real-world activities that reach beyond the classroom walls.

By doing so, students can see how the content they learn in class has practical applications in the real world and is not just information that must be stored in their brain cells for a year-end dump on a standardized test.

According to Maxwell, Stobaugh, and Tassell (2015), “When a student learns from, interacts with, and has an impact on the real world, higher retention of learning will occur” (p. 21).

Clearly, when a student can move from solving problems or answering questions on a worksheet to solving problems that could have an impact on their community, region, country, or the world, the likelihood that they will work harder, engage in deeper thinking, and ultimately learn more from the problem then we, as educators, must move to more of this learning in our classrooms and schools.

Let’s look briefly at each content area and see how real-world learning can occur around content standards.

ELA Standards and Real-World Learning

In the ELA Literacy standard for 7th graders W.7.1.A, students are tasked with introducing claims, acknowledging other claims, and organizing thoughts and evidence logically (English, n.d.).

From reading just the standard, there is no detailed method for teaching this standard to students, nor an evaluation of any type that can measure student mastery of this topic. Teachers must be able to create or find lessons or projects that can address this standard, leaving much room for introducing real-world learning.

I looked for a sample lesson that might give an example of real-world learning for this standard and found this lesson that tasks students with tracing an argument on whether or not schools should get rid of sports (Doolin, n.d.).

While this lesson does incorporate some real-world learning, I believe it would attain a Level 3 on the Create Excellence Framework (Maxwell et al., 2015, p.19).

Students are engaged in a real-world activity that could have possible consequences but is not asked to create their own argument, and the task is guided by the teacher rather than allowing students to take the lead through inquiry.

However, a project like this could be easily modified to a more real-world task that could be presented to a school-based committee or school board.

Math Standards and Real-World Learning

Applying real-world learning to standards in mathematics is a task I am involved in every day. I teach math to 6th & 7th graders and am always looking for ways to bring real-world learning into the classroom. However, after reading several articles, I now understand that many of my efforts are far from meeting true real-world learning standards.

In the video Individualized Real-World Learning (Teaching, n.d.), we see a senior that is working in a veterinarian clinic as part of an internship program.

While a great many life skills are incorporated into this experience, the student does reference using math to complete tasks such as calculating correct dosages of medicine for animals.

In this example, the math standards are not the focus of the learning but are an integrated part of the entire learning experience, along with many other subjects. As Maxwell et al. (p.29) noted, Real World Learning “is integrated across subject areas” and takes place not necessarily in a classroom but in the real world.

I am beginning to see how the math standards allow for much flexibility in teaching the necessary content while providing rich and meaningful tasks to students that incorporate ideas and standards from other subject areas to make the learning more meaningful.

Social Studies Standards and Real-World Learning

Social Studies standards have direct tie-ins to real-world learning. The guiding principles for the standards give direction for the standards and how they should work with other standards and benefit students. Principles include “Inquiry is at the heart of social studies” and “Social studies prepares the nation’s young people for college, careers, and civic life” (College, n.d.)

Science Standards and Real-World Learning

As with every other content standard area, the Next Generation Science Standards allow for ample real-world learning opportunities for students. Amy Abbott created a project for her class involving analyzing environmental controls in factories that produce clothing and how the dyes are disposed of (Abbott, 2016).

Students were asked to investigate the impact of chemicals being dumped into water sources and draft a portfolio for submission to the United Nations. Included in the lesson are not only standards for science but also standards for ELA (Abbott, 2016). Certainly, this lesson is a fine example of real-world learning with applied content standards.


From the evidence above, we can clearly see that standards for many academic content areas in public schools can be taught using real-world learning.

The opportunity exists for teachers, both current and future, to create programs that are more concerned with creating experiences and authentic learning for students than simply ensuring that content standards are covered at a basic level.

As educators, we should focus on teaching students in environments that mimic or are based on the environments they will have when they are finished with their formal education.

In the video Taylor Mali: In My Middle School (Mali, n.d.), Taylor Mali provides an overview of what he thinks middle school based on real-world learning might look like. Perhaps more educators must work towards creating an ideal environment for our students.


Abbott, A. A. (2016, March). Chemical Connections A Problem-Based Learning, STEM Experience. Science Scope, 39(7), 33-42.

College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Doolin, K. (n.d.). Should Your School Get Rid of Sports? Retrieved September 11, 2016, from

English Language Arts Standards » Writing » Grade 7. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Mali, T. (n.d.). Taylor Mali: In My Middle School. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Maxwell, M., Stobaugh, R., & Tassell, J. H. (2015). Chapter 1: Real-world learning. In Real-world learning for secondary schools: Digital tools and practical strategies for successful implementation. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree. ISBN: 9781935249443.

Teaching channel. (n.d.). Individualized Real-World Learning. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Asking the Right Questions about Educational Technology

What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question. — Jonas Salk

When we make decisions about the technology we use in our classrooms, we very often ask the wrong questions.

We think about how we can use the latest, greatest, coolest tools and gadgets available to get students in a desperate attempt to engage them in learning while ignoring what we should be focused on in education.

I was the world’s worst offender of chasing the cool factor. Whatever came down the edtech release line, I was there for it. I would watch the Twitter stream during the yearly ISTE conference waiting for new announcements from old favorite companies or to see what the hot, new tool would be this year.

This was a time when every educational technology conference was filled with “60 apps in 60 minutes” sessions that were not unlike the opening of floodgates upon unsuspecting teachers as a skilled pitch person wowed them (most often a classroom teacher themselves) dazzling them with what you could do with kids with this new fandangled whizbangadoodle.

What a time to be alive. And what a sad time to look back upon.

The problem was that there was so much new technology appearing from seemingly nowhere and being adopted by teachers far and wide that we weren’t really sure what to do with all of it.

And no one was asking any questions. If they were, they were shouted down by the cheers of the edtech Illuminati.

If one doesn’t watch the introduction of new technologies and particularly watch the infrastructures that emerge, promises of liberation through technology can become a ticket to enslavement. 

— Ursula Franklin
Photo by Daniel Josef on Unsplash

The failure to seriously consider how new technologies might be weaponized reveals a stunning degree of either naivete, hubris, or recklessness.

— LM Sacasas (@LMSacasas) June 1, 2021

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s be clear: I don’t think that educational technology is being weaponized. But I think that we have serious questions to consider before we implement new tools.

The technology we use with our students isn’t just about the tech. It’s about the environment that is created by using technology. Technology usage changes the world around it for either good or not-so-good.

But once a given technology is widely accepted and standardized, the relationship between the products of the technology and the users changes. Users have less scope, they matter less, and their needs are no longer the main concern of the designers. 

— Ursula Franklin

As the number of devices in our schools continues to increase and our reliance on technology to complete even the most mundane tasks in schools increases, we should ask better questions about the technology we use and how we use it.

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Yes, our questions about technology usage need to be about how these tools are used to support student learning outcomes. We need to know what students will create with the tools we provide them.

We need to ask about issues of access and equity. Not just access to devices and programs but to qualified teachers with the training and support to appropriately leverage any technologies.

Technology distributed and used equitably enables opportunity and voice, dismantles barriers around learner exceptionalities, democratizes access to information, and disrupts racial and economic privilege hierarchies. 

— Ken Shelton

We must ask questions about how we use devices in our classrooms and shift the focus from low-level digitization of paper activities and ineffective repetition of skills practices for intervention to deeper learning activities that provide personalization and student-centered learning.

But we should also ask questions about how our technology usage affects us as humans.

LM Sacasas has compiled 41 questions concerning technology that would be excellent conversation starters among teachers, administrators, and students.

Here are the first five of those questions:

  1. What sort of person will the use of this technology make of me?
  2. What habits will the use of this technology instill?
  3. How will the use of this technology affect my experience of time?
  4. How will the use of this technology affect my experience of place?
  5. How will the use of this technology affect how I relate to other people?

I don’t write this article to overly criticize my fellow educational technologists. Several great things are happening in our schools that are directly related to the recent influx of technology and the support that continues to be offered by experts in the field.

We’re doing good work. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do better work or that there are things we haven’t thought about in our race to improve.

It’s sometimes important to take a breath, get perspective, and ensure we’re on the right path.

The decisions we make with students make impacts that we may never see in our time on this planet.

Let’s be sure we’re asking the right questions.

What is a Hyperdoc?

The reason HyperDocs work is because each one begins with strong lesson design, curates quality instructional content, and packages learning in a way that engages learners. A HyperDoc shifts the focus from teacher-led lectures to student-driven, inquiry-based learning, allowing students to actually learn through exploration.

The HyperDoc Handbook

HyperDocs are an emerging tool in education. They offer teachers an effective way to design and deliver interactive lessons that keep students engaged, organized, and on-task. But what exactly is a HyperDoc? What are the benefits of using them in the classroom? And how can they be used to improve student engagement and understanding?

What is a HyperDoc?

Developed in 2016 by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hinton, and Sarah Landis, Hyperdocs are a digital lesson hub designed by teachers and given to students.

A HyperDoc is an interactive document created by teachers to provide students with an engaging learning experience. A HyperDoc is a digital document, accessible through any number of devices, that contains all the components of a learning cycle in one place. Within the document, students can find hyperlinks to all the resources they need to complete the learning cycle.

The earliest known example of a “digital lesson hub” was WebQuest, which used only online resources to guide students through a lesson.

This makes it easy for teachers to monitor student progress without searching multiple documents or websites. It also provides students with a clearly defined structure to which they can refer back as needed.

Benefits of Using HyperDocs in the Classroom

HyperDocs have several key advantages over traditional paper-based documents or worksheets.

First, they allow teachers to easily incorporate multimedia elements such as videos, audio clips, images, or animations into their lessons. Whatever resources students need for the lesson can easily be linked or embedded into the Hyperdoc.

Second, they give teachers the flexibility to offer extra support for students or enrichment opportunities for others. Since the hyperdoc is digital, teachers can easily use a template to differentiate instruction.

Lastly, Hyperdocs make it easier for students to collaborate with each other as well as stay organized throughout the lesson plan.

How Can HyperDocs Be Used to Improve Student Engagement and Understanding?

HyperDocs can be used in many different ways to help improve student engagement and understanding in the classroom. For example, teachers can use them to create virtual field trips by incorporating videos and other multimedia elements into their lessons. They can also use them for project-based learning activities by having students work together on a single document instead of individual worksheets or projects. Finally, they can use them as online portfolios where students can showcase their work and reflect on their progress throughout the course of the year.

HyperDocs are quickly becoming popular among educators due to their flexibility and ease of use. They make it easier for teachers to organize their lessons and provide students with an engaging learning environment that encourages collaboration and critical thinking skills while helping them stay on track with their assigned tasks. Ultimately, using HyperDocs in your classroom will help you save time and help your students become more engaged learners who understand the material better than ever before!

More HyperDocs Resources:

The HyperDocs Handbook

How HyperDocs Can Transform Your Teaching

9 reasons why HyperDocs can transform your class

How HyperDocs Can Make Schoolwork More Student Friendly

Simple or Easy: Edtech Edition

I read Ev William’s brief thoughts on the question of simple or easy. In short, Ev states that we often decide to do simple things rather than easy things.

I contend that we do this in education when dealing with technology. We go through our days doing simple rather than easy things.

It’s simple to pass out papers to a class of students and collect them later. Teachers have done this for decades. But it’s easier to have students complete work in a digital format. Especially when dealing with large numbers of students.

But this task isn’t simple. Teachers have to create what they want the students to complete. Teachers have to create this assignment, whether it’s a quiz, a document, a spreadsheet, a presentation, etc.

Even if that means posting the assignment in a learning management system, the task is not as simple as passing out papers. This task might be impossible for teachers who have been in the classroom since before there were any computers in the classroom, and no one had a school email address.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not easy. It’s not simple.

Simple is comfortable. Simple gets the job done without question.

But easy? Easy might involved work upfront. Easy might involved setting something up or learning a new tool.

And that’s when the issues begin.

Teachers are, in case you didn’t know, stressed out. They always have been. Amid a global pandemic, their stress levels haven’t lowered. They’ve raised.

And expectations are higher than ever. So when teachers face change after change after change and deal with things they’ve never dealt with before (hello, temperature checks & social distancing), why would they not choose to go with simple?

This is the challenge for us in the educational technology world. We have to find ways to encourage easy over simple. We have to be there to support.

We have to understand what teachers are going through. We have to be patient. And we have to accept when some say “no.”

We have to make our own choice of simple or easy. It’s simple to create some videos or documents to support teachers and then walk away.

But it’s easy to support and empower a small group of teachers who will run with their version of “easy” and help you spread the work to others.

What will you choose? Simple or easy?

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The Speech Kennedy Never Gave

“…I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.”

Remarks at a Closed-circuit Television Broadcast on Behalf of the National Cultural Center (527), November 29, 1962, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1962.

59 years ago today, shots rang out across Dealey Plaza as President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade passed by thousands of onlookers.

I’m sure many of you can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing that day.

While questions still surround the circumstances of JFK’s assassination, there can be no doubt about his legacy. The President was scheduled to deliver remarks later that day in Dallas.

Much of the speech is no longer timely, but the main ideas and philosophies are certainly as important today as they were 59 years ago.

So, heavily redacted, here are verbatim excerpts from the speech JFK never gave.

Leadership and learning

“It is fitting that these two symbols of Dallas progress are united in the sponsorship of this meeting. For they represent the best qualities, I am told, of leadership and learning in this city — and leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. The advancement of learning depends on community leadership for financial political support, and the products of that learning, in turn, are essential to the leadership’s hopes for continued progress and prosperity. It is not a coincidence that those communities possessing the best in research and graduate facilities — from MIT to Cal Tech — tend to attract new and growing industries. I congratulate those of you here in Dallas who have recognized these basic facts through the creation of the unique and forward-looking Graduate Research Center.”

The Best Books about JFK

“This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs.”

“In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason — or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.”

“…fewer people will listen to nonsense.”

“There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternative, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility. Those voices are inevitable. But today other voices are heard in the land — voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness.”

“We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will “talk sense to the American people.” But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.”

Words alone are not enough.

“Above all, words alone are not enough. The United States is a peaceful nation. And where our strength and determination are clear, our words need merely to convey conviction, not belligerence. If we are strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help.”

“Freedom can be lost … by ballots as well as bullets.”

“I have spoken of strength largely in terms of the deterrence and resistance of aggression and attack. But in today’s world, freedom can be lost without a shot being fired, by ballots as well as bullets. The success of our leadership is dependent upon respect for our mission in the world as well as our missiles – on a clearer recognition of the virtues of freedom as well as the evils of tyranny.”

image via Wikimedia

“An America which has fully educated its citizens…”

“Finally, it should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live. And only an America which is growing and prospering economically can sustain the worldwide defenses of freedom, while demonstrating to all concerned the opportunities of our system and society.”

“It is clear, therefore, that we are strengthening our security as well as our economy by our recent record increases in national income and output…”

“My friends and fellow citizens: I cite these facts and figures to make it clear that America today is stronger than ever before. The strength will never be used in pursuit of aggressive ambitions — it will always be used in pursuit of peace. It will never be used to promote provocations — it will always be used to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes.”

“We, in this country, in this generation, are – by destiny rather than by choice – the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength.”

From the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

How the Pandemic Made Me a Better Reader

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent my days hunkered down at my desk. I spent my time creating and sharing technology resources for teachers.

My teachers were thrown headfirst into a world many of them weren’t prepared to experience. So, I did my best to support their remote learning work.

Those first few weeks didn’t leave much time for extracurricular activities. When I did finish the day’s work, I disconnected. Exhausted from sitting in front of a computer, I’d chill out with my family.

We played games and invested in several outdoor activities, like horseshoes and basketball.

But spring turned to summer and the school year ended, leaving me with a lot of time on my hands.

Diving Into Reading

I had to find something to occupy my time, so I retreated into the land of the written word.

I’ve always enjoyed reading but never committed to reading regularly. During those nascent months of the pandemic, I decided it was time to establish a regular reading habit.

I used GoodReads to compile a “to be read” list (TBR). At first, there were only a handful of books. I participated in Daily Stoic’s “Read to Lead” challenge and began building my list.

One of the challenges put forth in that challenge was to read a book “above your level” – rather than always reaching for your favorite genre or a book you’ve read before. Reading a more challenging book builds your “reading muscle” and likely brings new ideas to the forefront of your mind.

A challenging read is necessary for your personal growth. So, I started building my list.

Yes, I included many science fiction and fantasy books. I dove headlong into the worlds of Brandon Sanderson and regretted not diving in long before now. I found my favorite prose in Patrick Rothfuss’s “The Name of the Wind.”

If you haven’t read that excellent tome, go out right now and get it. Even if you don’t usually read fantasy books. It will make you weep.

But my journey didn’t stop there. I included Pulitzer Prize winners like “A Confederacy of Dunces” – a hilarious book with a sad back story – and biographies of Steve Jobs, Ulysses S. Grant, Harry Truman, and more.

I’ve read classics like Meditations and The History of the Peloponnesian War. I’ve discovered authors like Robert Greene, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Yuval Noah Harari, who have informed my thinking and broadened my viewpoints.

Since March 2020, I’ve read or re-read 236 books, some 74,000 pages of content. They’ve been a mix of physical, digital, and audio formats.

I’m not sharing those numbers to boast; I’m encouraging you to bump up your reading numbers. We are all busy, but if we want to expand our minds, we must make the time to do so.

Sometimes I read for pure entertainment. But, I’m often reading to learn something or expand my brain.

My TBR is now approaching 2,000 books.

Yes, you read that right. I’m in the process of building something.

Building an Antilibrary

I am well aware that I will never finish reading the books on that list for two reasons:

1. I can get through about 100 books a year. I’m working on getting through more, but I only have so much time.

2. So many of the books I read lead me down a path to other great books, and I keep adding more to my list.

I will never read all the books on my list. And that’s ok.

There is power in understanding that you can’t learn it all. That there is always more out there in the world.

There is massive value in surrounding yourself with books that you will never read. The Japanese term for this is “tsundoku,” the stack(s) of books you’ve purchased but haven’t read.

Some people refer to those stacks of unread books as an “antilibrary.” I don’t know if I like that term since it’s still a collection of books, but whatever.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about Umberto Eco’s antilibrary in his book The Black Swan. Here’s a view of Eco’s library of some 30,000 books.

Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. [Your] library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

We tend to overestimate the value of what we know while underestimating the value of what we don’t know. Taleb’s antilibrary flips this tendency on its head.

The antilibrary’s value lies in how it challenges self-estimation by constantly reminding you that there is so much more to learn. Living with this nudge daily will help improve decision-making skills and motivation for learning new things.

So stop beating yourself up for buying too many books or for having a TBR list that you could never get through in three lifetimes (like me!). All those books you haven’t read are a sign of ignorance. But if you know how ignorant you are, you’re way ahead of most other people.

Thoughts on an Education Twitter Exodus

I’ve been on Twitter for over 15 years now (a disturbing bit of trivia in and of itself) and have seen all the changes along the way.

Since Elon Musk took the company private in October 2022, there’s undoubtedly been an uproar from many who believe the site will become a cesspool of misinformation, hatred, and racism.

Even the education world that embraced Twitter as a way to grow personal learning networks over a decade ago has begun to show signs of leaving the platform.

Musk has already laid off roughly half of Twitter’s staff, fired some top leaders, and deep-sixed its board of directors.

The changes could have major repercussions. Back in 2021, Twitter famously ousted President Donald Trump when he declared that voter fraud had cost him the presidential election, despite an overwhelming lack of evidence to support his claims.

Now educators are wondering whether they will be able to continue using Twitter as they always have, or whether it will become a dumping ground for racism, dangerous misinformation, and threats.

via EdWeek

Personally, I have no plans to leave Twitter. I’ll continue to use it as a platform to connect and share ideas with others.

I can’t control what others do, especially not the actions of Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter.

And if you’re leaving, I understand. We all have to do what is best for our mental health.

But I wonder if, by leaving, we are only giving power to those we least want controlling the narrative on Twitter.

Maybe we should stick around and keep doing good things and sharing all the good others do, too.

What is a Personal Learning Network?

A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a group of educators, experts, and professionals that you connect with online and offline to exchange ideas, resources, and support.

Your PLN can be as large or as small as you want it to be, but the important thing is that you are purposeful in who you include.

The benefits of having a PLN are many, but most importantly, a PLN will help you become a better educator by providing you with access to new ideas and best practices.

What are the benefits of having a PLN?

A PLN will help you become a better educator by providing you with access to new ideas and best practices. In addition, a PLN can provide support and encouragement when you need it most. And because your PLN is made up of people from all over the world, you will have 24/7 access to experts in your field.

How do you build a PLN?

Building a PLN is easy! Start by finding people who share your interests and connect with them online. Twitter is a great place to start, but there are also many Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups for educators. You can also attend conferences and meetups to connect with people offline.

What are some tips for using your PLN?

Once you’ve built your PLN, staying connected with them is essential. One way to do this is to share resources and ideas regularly. You can also join conversations and start discussions about topics that are important to you. Finally, don’t forget to follow up offline! Get together with your PLN members for coffee or drinks after work or during summer break.

What are some challenges of using a PLN?

The biggest challenge of using a PLN is making time for it. Just like anything else in life, if you want your PLN to be successful, you must make sure you’re investing time in it regularly. Try setting aside 30 minutes each day to read articles or tweets from your network or reach out to someone new. If you can do this consistently, you’ll find that your PLN will quickly become one of your most valuable professional resources.

A PLN is essential for any educator who wants to stay ahead of the curve and be at the top of their game. Connecting with other educators worldwide gives you 24/7 access to best practices and new ideas. Building a successful PLN takes time and effort, but it is well worth it!