Students need freedom to develop critical skills with edtech

My first question when working with teachers and the technology they have available in their classrooms is, “what do you want the kids to create?”

And when we look at the 4 Shifts protocol, this question from the technology infusion section is also essential:

Does technology add value so that students can do their work in better or different ways than are possible without technology?

– 4 shifts protocol

When students can use technology to create, I hope they have been equipped with the necessary training to use that technology effectively. Otherwise, there’s trouble.

I’ve come to the realization that technology will have its greatest impact in the classroom when educators allow learners to use digital technology as a self-directed learning tool. This means not just providing students with laptops and online resources, but ensuring they have the necessary skills to find, validate, apply, and curate the vast amount of information now available to them.

Rick Cave, eSchool News

Just for the Sake of Being Creative

Sometimes, you just have to do things to flex that creative muscle.

“Do things that light your soul on fire and that help you fall in love with your life every single day. I had no clue when I started making content that I was going to be met with so much love in a place that is notorious for being unloving: the internet. do not filter yourself do not make yourself a version of you that you think is more palatable, digestible, lovable… don’t filter the humanity and the personality out of yourself. we already have that version of you. it’s everywhere.   it is everywhere. we don’t want that version of you. we want you to make content that makes you happy, that fills a creative void in your life. Do things for creative sake just because you love doing them. Don’t try and monetize everything. Don’t make every hobby a side hustle, don’t make every hobby a job, just do things because you love them and watch your life just like change. you  are suddenly doing things because they make you  happy, and that’s a really, really powerful thing.”

Elyse Meyers



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How the 4 Shifts Protocol Supports Teachers in Providing Deeper Learning Opportunities for Students

I’ve had the pleasure of working with a small cohort of teachers this year to redesign lessons for deeper learning opportunities. I called it the “Future Shift Fellowship” for two reasons: 1) I hoped that this group would begin moving our district into the future by focusing on student-centered lesson design and 2) we would be using the 4 Shifts protocol to guide our work.

To say that I’m pleased with what we’ve done this year would be an understatement. Each of the members of the cohort has stepped far beyond their comfort zone with their work. And, if you asked their students, I’m sure you’d hear how much they appreciate the opportunities for learning.

But you may be asking why we used the 4 Shifts for this work?

I’m happy to explain…

Whenever I work with teachers, my number one thought is that whatever we do together must be easy to implement. Teachers have little or no time to spend on new strategies or techniques in the classroom once the school year begins. Their days are filled with so many tasks beyond just those of teaching students that it’s difficult to squeeze in learning, even when there are demonstrable benefits to that learning.

So, any changes must be easy to make. Also, if the changes made can provide a visible impact on student learning, whether that be in the form of student engagement, assessment, or simply just changing how students talk about learning and school, then the changes are worth the time.

These two reasons above all others are why I chose to use the 4 Shifts protocol to guide the work of our fellowship.

The 4 Shifts Protocol, designed by Scott McLeod and Julie Graber, is a comprehensive framework that aims to help educators transition from traditional teaching methods to more modern, student-centered approaches that promote deeper learning opportunities. The protocol focuses on four key shifts: deeper thinking and learning, authentic work, student agency and personalized learning, and technology infusion.

  1. Deeper Thinking and Learning: This shift encourages teachers to design activities that require students to engage in higher-order thinking skills, such as analysis, evaluation, and creation, rather than just memorization and recall. By doing so, students develop critical thinking abilities and become more adept at problem-solving and decision-making.
  2. Authentic Work: The protocol emphasizes the importance of connecting classroom activities to real-world situations and contexts. This shift encourages teachers to create tasks with a genuine purpose, audience, and impact beyond the classroom, fostering relevance and meaningful student learning experiences.
  3. Student Agency and Personalized Learning: This shift focuses on providing opportunities for students to take ownership of their learning and make choices about what and how they learn. Teachers are encouraged to create learning environments that support individual learning preferences and needs, allowing students to progress at their own pace and follow their interests.
  4. Technology Infusion: The protocol recognizes the power of technology in enhancing learning experiences and facilitating the other three shifts. Teachers are encouraged to integrate technology tools and resources into their instruction, allowing students to access information, collaborate with peers, and demonstrate their learning in innovative ways.

By implementing the 4 Shifts Protocol, teachers can create more engaging and meaningful learning experiences for their students, fostering a deeper understanding and long-lasting knowledge. This approach prepares students for success in the modern world and cultivates a love for learning and a growth mindset.

Does the 4 Shifts protocol answer all the questions? Of course not. In fact, sometimes you have more questions than you started with after working through the protocol. This is why it is key to only focus on one of the shifts at a time when redesigning your lessons.

You could change a lesson to the super ultimate checks all-the-boxes learning experience in one go, but you and your students would likely be so exhausted and confused from all the changes that any benefit would be lost.

But, the protocol gives you the structure to make small changes to your lessons, whether you are a classroom teacher or an instructional coach working with teachers to make the changes.

I can’t think of a better tool to use to begin moving toward more student-centered learning.



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Book Review – Traitor’s Blade: The Greatcoats, Book 1

Title: Traitor’s Blade: The Greatcoats, Book 1

Author: Sebastien de Castell

Publication Date: 2014

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0 stars

What It’s About

I have the pleasure of diving into the pages of Traitor’s Blade, the debut novel by Sebastien de Castell. This novel is the first entry in the critically-acclaimed Greatcoats series, a swashbuckling adventure set in the fictional realm of Tristia.

traitor's blade

Traitor’s Blade follows the story of Falcio Val Mond, the First Cantor of the Greatcoats, a group of traveling magistrates and warriors who once served the now-deceased King Paelis. Alongside his companions, Kest and Brasti, Falcio embarks on a thrilling journey to preserve their king’s legacy and restore justice to the kingdom. As the trio navigates the treacherous political landscape of Tristia, they must confront the formidable Dukes and Duchesses, who have plunged the realm into chaos after the king’s assassination.

De Castell masterfully weaves a tale of camaraderie, loyalty, and betrayal in a world filled with complex political intrigue and unforgettable characters. The author’s background in fencing and historical reenactment lends an authentic touch to the vivid swordplay and duels that punctuate the novel.

Falcio’s narrative voice is relatable and engaging, drawing the reader into the heart of the story. His unwavering dedication to the Greatcoats’ mission, combined with his moral compass and quick wit, make him a compelling protagonist. Meanwhile, the supporting characters, including Kest and Brasti, are well-rounded and contribute to the story’s emotional depth.

The novel’s pacing is brisk, and de Castell adeptly balances moments of humor and heartbreak with thrilling action sequences. The author also skillfully reveals the broader world of Tristia and its history, hinting at the larger narrative that will unfold in subsequent books.

traitor's blade

In conclusion, Traitor’s Blade is an exhilarating and captivating fantasy adventure that pays homage to the swashbuckling tales of old while carving out its own unique space in the genre. Sebastien de Castell has crafted a world full of intrigue and memorable characters, leaving readers eager to follow Falcio and his friends on their quest for justice. This novel is a must-read for fans of epic fantasy and those looking for an immersive, action-packed story with heart.

How I Discovered It

I wish I could say that there was great intention and planning that led me to this book or that it had been on my TBR for a long time. But that’s simply not the case. I finished another book on Scribd and was just browsing the catalog. Traitor’s Blade looked interesting, and I dove in. And I loved it!

Thoughts

As I said, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. The characters are well-developed, and you feel the sense of urgency they have throughout their travels.

In Traitor’s Blade, we join Falcio and his fellow Greatcoats, Brasti, and Kest, on a thrilling journey through a corrupt kingdom. From the very beginning, the novel charges ahead at an exhilarating pace, leaving readers breathless as they experience Falcio’s sheer determination firsthand. The relentless action and challenges faced by our heroes make for an incredibly immersive read, as they must utilize every weapon, tactic, and bit of cunning at their disposal to survive. Through it all, the witty and razor-sharp dialogue stands out as some of the finest in the fantasy genre.

traitor's blade

At the heart of this enthralling tale lies the unbreakable bond between Falcio, Brasti, and Kest, which proves to be an absolute delight to behold. Falcio’s strategic mind, Brasti’s cheeky archery skills, and Kest’s unrivaled swordsmanship make for a captivating and formidable trio. Indeed, the comparison to the Three Musketeers is apt, as the natural and playful camaraderie between these characters is one of the novel’s strongest elements. As a reader, you can’t help but laugh, smile, and feel the heartache alongside them as they battle adversity, bicker, and find themselves in the most precarious situations imaginable.

What I Liked About It

The worldbuilding in Traitor’s Blade is top-notch, with a rich history and political landscape that feels fully realized. The addition of the Greatcoats, with their unique blend of law enforcement and warrior skills, adds an intriguing layer to the story. The swordplay scenes are also incredibly well-written and exciting, making this a must-read for fans of action-packed fantasy.

What I Didn’t Like About It

One thing that might be a drawback for some readers is the occasional nonlinear storytelling, which can make the timeline of events feel a bit disjointed at times.

Who Would Like It?

As a fan of the book, I wholeheartedly recommend Traitor’s Blade to anyone looking for a fast-paced, action-packed fantasy adventure that showcases the power of friendship, loyalty, and the human spirit. Other books in the Greatcoats series include Knight’s Shadow, Saint’s Blood, and Tyrant’s Throne.

Other Books You Might Enjoy:

  1. The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch – A gritty, fast-paced tale of a talented con artist and his band of thieves in a richly detailed fantasy world.
  2. The Blade Itself (The First Law Trilogy #1) by Joe Abercrombie – A dark, character-driven fantasy that delves into the lives of a diverse group of protagonists, each with their own agendas and motives.
  3. The Riyria Revelations series by Michael J. Sullivan – A captivating fantasy series following a pair of thieves, Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater, as they navigate a world filled with political intrigue, danger, and adventure.
  4. Kings of the Wyld (The Band #1) by Nicholas Eames – A humorous and heartfelt story about a group of retired mercenaries who reunite for one last epic quest.
  5. Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo – A fast-paced, character-driven heist story set in a richly imagined world featuring a diverse and morally complex cast of characters.
  6. The Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan – A gripping tale of magic, politics, and revolution set in a unique world where powder mages wield gunpowder-based sorcery.
  7. The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks – An action-packed fantasy series following the story of a young assassin, Azoth, as he navigates the treacherous world of magic and politics.
  8. The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books #1) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – A literary thriller set in post-war Barcelona, where a young boy discovers a mysterious book that changes his life and leads him on a dangerous quest.
  9. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb – A richly detailed, character-driven epic fantasy series following the life of FitzChivalry Farseer, a royal bastard turned assassin, and his complex relationships with those around him.
  10. The Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence – A dark and compelling fantasy series about a ruthless prince, Jorg Ancrath, who embarks on a brutal journey to claim his birthright and conquer a fractured empire.

Book Review – The Lies of Locke Lamora

Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Author: Scott Lynch

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0 stars

What It’s About

In the bustling, corrupt city of Camorr, an orphan named Locke Lamora emerges as an ingenious thief, a master of deception, and the leader of a band of skilled swindlers known as the Gentleman Bastards. In Scott Lynch’s captivating debut novel, “The Lies of Locke Lamora,” we are transported to a richly imagined world of criminal intrigue and breathtaking adventures that keep us hooked from the very first page.

The story follows the life of Locke Lamora from his tragic childhood to his rise as a skilled con artist under the tutelage of Father Chains, a blind priest who is, in fact, a criminal mastermind. Alongside his fellow Gentleman Bastards, Locke sets out to carry off the ultimate heist: swindling the city’s wealthy nobles of their fortunes while avoiding the attention of the city’s powerful criminal underworld, led by the mysterious figure known as Capa Barsavi.

As the plot unfolds, the stakes rise, and the intricate web of lies and deception grows ever more tangled. The Gentleman Bastards find themselves embroiled in a perilous game of cat and mouse with the enigmatic Gray King, a deadly figure who seeks to overthrow the established criminal order. As the danger escalates, Locke must use every ounce of his cunning and guile to outwit his enemies and protect his friends while navigating the thin line between loyalty and betrayal.

Lynch’s writing is a delightful blend of humor, suspense, and rich world-building. He has created an intricate, layered society that mirrors the complexities of our own world. The Lies of Locke Lamora is a tale of friendship, loyalty, and the fine art of deception. With its vivid characters, razor-sharp dialogue, and thrilling action sequences, the novel is a masterclass in storytelling.

In summary, “The Lies of Locke Lamora” is an enthralling and inventive fantasy novel that will leave readers eagerly anticipating the next installment in the series. Scott Lynch has created an unforgettable protagonist in Locke Lamora, a character whose cunning and charm will undoubtedly resonate with fans of the genre. A must-read for anyone who enjoys immersive world-building, clever heists, and unforgettable characters.

How I Discovered It

This book was recommended to me by nearly everyone I know who reads books similar to those I enjoy.

“When you don’t know everything you could know, it’s a fine time to shut your fucking noisemaker and be polite.” (Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora)

Thoughts

While I enjoyed the book, it did take some time for me to get into it. There is quite a bit of world-building at the beginning of the book, so much so that I began to wonder exactly where the plot would end up.

However, once the story picked up, I was completely engrossed. The characters are well-developed, and the plot is full of unexpected twists and turns. I especially enjoyed the intricate heists that Locke and his crew pull off. The world-building is also impressive, with vivid descriptions of the city of Camorr and its various factions.

What I Liked About It

I loved the dynamic between the members of the Gentleman Bastards and the witty banter that they engage in. The world-building is also fantastic, and I found myself fully immersed in the richly imagined city of Camorr.

What I Didn’t Like About It

As mentioned before, the beginning of the book can be slow due to the extensive world-building. Additionally, some of the violent scenes may be too graphic for some readers.

Who Would Like It?

Fans of fantasy heist novels will love “The Lies of Locke Lamora.” It’s a great choice for readers who enjoy complex plots, well-developed characters, and immersive world-building.

Related Books

Readers who enjoyed “The Lies of Locke Lamora” may also enjoy the sequels, “Red Seas Under Red Skies” and “The Republic of Thieves,” as well as “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo.

All your base are belong to us

Hey, y’all. We’re nearing the end of March, and for many public schools, that means Spring Break is near (or maybe already arrived). It’s a very busy time for educators as one school year ends, and plans for the next are already taking shape.

My hope for you as we approach the end of another school year is that you take the time to take care of yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup, and it’s easy to get caught up in all the things at the end of the school year.

atomic habits by james clear

Take a beat, catch a deep breath, and center yourself. Rediscover what is really important to you and what you can control.

“We have so little control over our lives. The only thing we can really control is what we spend our days on.” – Austin Kleon

Anyways, here are ten things I thought were worth sharing with you this week:

10 Things Worth Sharing

  1. I worked with a senior English class this week, showing them some AI tools. They might write a book.
  2. Here’s a curated list of prompts, tools, and resources regarding the GPT-4 language model.
  3. Wanna learn financial literacy? This 300-page book was written completely with ChatGPT.
  4. The TikTok trial is a mess and is only proving that the US government is targeting this specific company over other social media platforms. Any issues with TikTok are the same with Facebook, Instagram, Snap, and many others.
  5. What is the right amount of agency to give to learners during their interactions with EdTech? Blog post and paper
  6. Are you a Wordle fan? I’m totally not, but I’ve also never liked Scrabble. Not that you care. Here’s Every Possible Wordle Solution Visualized
  7. An AI course creator – according to the page: “Start with a description and let AI-Assistant offer title and outline suggestions.”
  8. You might be violating copyright in your classroom. Maybe.
  9. Bill Gates explains why AI is as revolutionary as personal computers, mobile phones, and the Internet, and he gives three principles for how to think about it. Also, he recommends this book, this book, and this book as helpful in shaping his own thinking about AI.
  10. An Introvert’s Field Guide to Friendship: Thoreau on the Challenges and Rewards of the Art of Connection
rocking the boat
Rocking the Boat by Debra Meyerson

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The Reading List for February 2023

Two things came to mind as I began compiling this month’s reading list: deeper learning in schools and the power of embracing your authentic self. The first one is, of course, on my mind pretty much every day. Any work that I have done in education has ultimately been centered on creating deeper learning experiences for students.

Second, the idea of embracing your authentic self is important to me since I spent the majority of my life not being my authentic self. Growing up in an environment in which I was expected to do “the right thing”—a pretty subjective idea—and what I wanted to do wasn’t easy. I’m getting there, but there haven’t been many of my 46 years on this planet that have been guided by my own passions and thoughts.

Now, on to this month’s book recommendations:

Failure to Disrupt

If there was ever a book that arrived at the perfect time in the education world, it’s this one.

In this book, Justin Reich argues against the idea that technology can completely change schools and how students learn. He does this by describing and analyzing different educational technologies in a realistic way. Reich draws on his positions at Harvard and MIT to provide unparalleled insight into the progress of these trends and their limitations in practice.

This book sheds light on the issues with educational technologies, such as the various approaches and tools developed by technologists. It offers valuable insights into what to consider when adopting, utilizing, and implementing technologies in different educational settings, especially during the era of virtual learning and social distancing.

In Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education, the author questions the ability of educational technologies to bring transformative changes to education. Despite the promises of affordable, accessible, effective, and engaging education for all students, the author points out the inconsistencies in enrollment and completion of online courses and the limited benefits for students from low socioeconomic statuses. The author also highlights four challenges: the Curse of the familiar, the trap of routine assessments, the EdTech Matthew effect, and the toxic power of data and experiments.

The book’s last chapter, “Conclusion: Preparing for the Next Learning-at-Scale Hype Cycle,” is key. The author urges readers, including educators, administrators, policymakers, and technologists, to carefully evaluate educational technologies and be cautious of tools that claim to be transformative. To do so, he poses the following questions: 1) What’s new? 2) Who guides the learning experience? 3) Is the pedagogy trying to fill pails or kindle flames? 4) What existing technologies does it adopt? He also emphasizes the need to examine how and when technological tools can be incorporated into students’ learning processes and warns against factors that could hinder learners’ abilities to achieve desired results.

Failure to Disrupt offers compelling arguments on educational technology, examining the hype and laying the foundations for a promising future in the field.

Leadership for Deeper Learning

Full disclosure on this one: I am lucky to call all three of the authors who collaborated on this project friends. Even if I didn’t have that connection, I’d still recommend this book to you. It’s a fantastic look at innovative schools and what they are doing to create deeper learning experiences for students.

This book examines how leaders have introduced, maintained, and advanced innovative, deeper learning opportunities in their schools.

Schools are changing to be more action-oriented, focused on performance, digitally relevant, and democratic. This book highlights innovative practices across seven categories: vision, agency in learning, trust in teachers, openness to new ideas, over-communicating change, equity-mindedness, and courage to live outside norms.

Leadership for Deeper Learning explores how school leaders can create new learning environments for students and teachers, with practical strategies and stories to inspire change and innovation.

Most Likely to Succeed

While this book has been around for a bit, the message is no less relevant today than it was in 2015, perhaps more so in the wake of COVID-19

Most Likely to Succeed looks at the problems with the US education system and suggests ways to better prepare future generations for the age of innovation, such as changing the way we teach and what we teach.

According to Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith, schools are not equipping students with the skills they need to succeed as ethical citizens and productive employees, and they are also forcing them to learn useless information superficially. Wagner and Dintersmith say that this makes it harder for students to follow their passions and get real-world experience. They also say that it makes teachers unhappy and keeps society divided along class lines.

The key message of Most Likely to Succeed is this: although society is advancing at an astonishing speed, our education system is stuck in the nineteenth century. Consequently, we’re educating our children to succeed in a bygone era. To give our kids the opportunity to succeed, we must creatively reimagine education for the innovation era.

What Schools Could Be

In What Schools Could Be, Ted Dintersmith shares solutions he discovered while traveling to 50 states, 200 schools, over a hundred community forums, and a thousand meetings. The book talks about innovation in K–12 education, online learning, colleges and universities, and short-term immersive experiences. It’s a great way to learn about the American educational innovation landscape.

In Dintersmith’s model, a great school has four parts (PEAK):

  • Purpose: Where students do actual important work.
  • Essentials: There’s a backbone to what they’re learning that they’ll need in the future.
  • Agency: Students are in charge of their learning and are intrinsically motivated.
  • Knowledge: Everything learned is deep and retained, they are creators and teach others what they know

Kitchen Confidential

I miss Anthony Bourdain almost as much as I miss Tom Petty, which is a lot. I’m sure as you reach this section you’re asking yourself, “What the hell is a book about line cooks doing amongst books about education?”

Allow me to try and explain…

The book takes the form of a biography chronicling Bourdain’s time in the culinary industry. Interspersed with cooking advice, it covers the love between a chef and sous-chef, as well as the chef’s relationship with delusional owners. The biography takes you through Bourdain’s childhood and his realization, while in France, of the importance of food. It then follows his journey from his start in the culinary industry, through culinary college, and up the ranks of various chef positions until he eventually runs his own kitchen with, as he puts it, “brigades of pirates, degenerates, and thieves.” Filled with wild anecdotes of kitchen misbehavior, drugs, sex, rock and roll, more drugs, and truffle oil, the book illustrates the hardships of the industry, including long hours, injuries, and sexual harassment, and how people still choose to do it. One particularly powerful chapter towards the end of the book goes blow-by-blow through an average day in the life of a chef.

While the life of an educator doesn’t have nearly the entertainment value of the life of a chef, there are certain parts of the job that are difficult, frustrating, and perhaps even maddening. The relationships between teachers and students, the demands on teachers’ time, meaningless mandates from far-away misguided legislators, and the never-ending grind of the school year can have many teachers feel like they are on the line. And maybe they are.

But in the relentless pursuit of making something great, there are always obstacles. There are always trying times. There will always be something to improve, whether that is a 7th-grade math lesson or an exclusive dish at a Michelin-star restaurant.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I thoroughly enjoyed this inside look at a madcap world that so many of us will never experience or understand. It’s all fun stuff. The anecdotes, characters, and asides are crazy enough that Bourdain wouldn’t need to be a great writer to make them work. But he is a good writer with a unique voice and a dry sense of humor that makes his TV shows stand out. Together, these elements make the book not only an interesting read but also a real pleasure. I laughed out loud numerous times throughout.

Honorable Mentions

I can’t talk about being your authentic self and driving for what you really want in life without mentioning The War of Art, the modern classic on overcoming Resistance and becoming the creative genius you were meant to become. And if you’re wanting to dive deeper into discovering your authentic self, you should add Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown to your list, along with Victor Frankl’s classic Man’s Search for Meaning. I’d also recommend Flow as a way to get the most out of your creativity and reach your fullest potential.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s reading list! Remember, reading is a great way to expand your knowledge and understanding of the world. Whether you’re interested in education, leadership, or just looking for a good memoir, there’s something on this list for everyone. So, grab a book and start reading!