Eight Books to Read If You’re in a Creative Slump

notebooks
Photo by Julia Joppien on Unsplash

Struggling with a creative block can feel like being stuck in quicksand—every effort to escape seems to pull you deeper into frustration. You stare at the blank page or screen, willing for an idea to spark, but nothing clicks. Before you resign yourself to despair, let these seven remarkable books be your lifeline. Each one offers a unique perspective on overcoming creative hurdles, from grappling with perfectionism to finding inspiration in unexpected places. Dive into these stories of struggle and triumph, and rediscover the magic of creativity in the most unexpected ways.

The Luminous Novel by Mario Levrero

Levrero’s diary kept during his Guggenheim fellowship, chronicles his struggle to write a novel. It captures the essence of a creative block with dry humor and honesty. His distractions and failures reveal that creative work often involves attempting the impossible and finding meaning, even in failure.

Sale
The Luminous Novel
  • Levrero, Mario (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 431 Pages – 08/03/2021 (Publication Date) – And Other Stories (Publisher)

Scratched by Elizabeth Tallent

Tallent’s memoir explores her 20-year struggle with perfectionism after early literary success. Through her dense, introspective prose, she examines how perfectionism stifles creativity, ultimately learning to embrace imperfection and reality over-idealized art.

Sale
Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism
  • Hardcover Book
  • Tallent, Elizabeth (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages – 02/25/2020 (Publication Date) – Harper (Publisher)

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Chabon’s novel follows Grady Tripp, a writing professor stuck in a never-ending manuscript. Amidst personal chaos, Tripp’s creative struggle highlights how we create our own obstacles. The book offers solace and humor for anyone feeling creatively isolated.

Sale
Wonder Boys: A Novel
  • Chabon, Michael (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages – 04/29/2008 (Publication Date) – Random House Trade Paperbacks (Publisher)

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Johnson’s book shifts focus from individual creativity to environments that foster innovation. Exploring how ideas develop through serendipity and collaboration encourages cultivating variety and openness in one’s creative process.

Sale
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
  • Johnson, Steven (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 344 Pages – 10/04/2011 (Publication Date) – Riverhead Books (Publisher)

So Many Olympic Exertions by Anelise Chen

Chen’s novel blends fiction and nonfiction. It follows Athena’s struggle with her dissertation amidst personal tragedy. The book critiques society’s obsession with achievement through sports metaphors and offers a reevaluation for those stuck in their projects.

Sale
So Many Olympic Exertions
  • Chen, Anelise (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 232 Pages – 06/27/2017 (Publication Date) – Kaya Press (Publisher)

What It Is by Lynda Barry

Barry’s unique work combines a graphic memoir, a meditation on creativity, and an activity book. Her collages and exercises emphasize play and relinquishing control to revive creativity, arguing that embracing the unknown can overcome creative blocks.

Sale
What It Is
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Barry, Lynda (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 209 Pages – 05/13/2008 (Publication Date) – Drawn and Quarterly (Publisher)

Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer

Dyer’s account of his failed attempt to write about D.H. Lawrence is filled with humorous distractions. His book demonstrates that the obligations of creative work are not as rigid as they seem, offering a liberating perspective on tackling creative blocks.

Sale
Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence
  • Dyer, Geoff (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages – 11/10/2009 (Publication Date) – Picador (Publisher)

The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. 1

This collection features interviews with great writers discussing their creative processes and struggles. The practical advice and diverse voices provide reassurance and inspiration, emphasizing that there are many ways to create art and encouraging readers to be true to themselves.

Sale
The Paris Review Interviews, I: 16 Celebrated Interviews (The Paris Review Interviews, 1)
  • The Paris Review (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 528 Pages – 10/17/2006 (Publication Date) – Picador (Publisher)

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

"Sunrise" An epic view of Torres del Paine. In the early morning, when conditions are just right, the first sunlight beautifully highlights parts of the mountains.
“Sunrise” An epic view of Torres del Paine. In the early morning, when conditions are just right, the first sunlight beautifully highlights parts of the mountains.

Greetings Starfighters,

Yesterday, I had the chance to present at the Murray State University Summit and show off some of the amazing work our students completed this past semester. You can find my slide deck and the resources I shared with those fine folks right here.

And now, on with the show!

Quote of the Day

"The ability to dream is all I have to give. That is my responsibility; that is my burden. And even I grow tired." (Harlan Ellison, Stalking the Nightmare)

“The ability to dream is all I have to give. That is my responsibility; that is my burden. And even I grow tired.” (Harlan Ellison, Stalking the Nightmare)

Musical Interlude

The world is a little brighter in the past few weeks, as Common has blessed us with some new music and an upcoming album release in July. Here’s his latest collaboration with Pete Rock:

Long Read of the Day

Engineers carefully lowered the Cyclops 2 model into the testing tank nose-first, like a bomb being loaded into a silo, and then screwed on the tank’s 3,600-pound lid. Then they began pumping in water, increasing the pressure to mimic a submersible’s dive. If you’re hanging out at sea level, the weight of the atmosphere above you exerts 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi). The deeper you go, the stronger that pressure; at the Titanic’s depth, the pressure is about 6,500 psi. Soon, the pressure gauge on UW’s test tank read 1,000 psi, and it kept ticking up—2,000 psi, 5,000 psi. At about the 73-minute mark, as the pressure in the tank reached 6,500 psi, there was a sudden roar, and the tank shuddered violently.

“I felt it in my body,” an OceanGate employee wrote in an email later that night. “The building rocked, and my ears rang for a long time.”

“Scared the shit out of everyone,” he added.

The model had imploded thousands of meters short of the safety margin OceanGate had designed for.

This conversation took place in July 2016, long before the Oceangate Titan imploded on its way down to the wreckage of the Titanic. This tragedy can be traced to a series of lies, personal hubris, and cheating. While creativity and dreams were certainly involved in this work, there’s something to be said about working with and trusting experts when universal laws are at play.

Read more about the backstory of the Titan here.

Video of the Day

Ludwig Göransson’s work on the Oppenheimer score, especially “Can You Hear the Music?” offers great insights for teachers as designers of learning experiences. His process with Christopher Nolan shows the value of collaboration and giving space for creativity. Starting with a simple four-note baseline that evolved into something complex reminds us that big ideas often start small. Experimentation and iteration were key, reflecting the importance of trial and error in the classroom.

Göransson’s focus on the emotional core of Oppenheimer’s journey underscores the power of integrating emotional and narrative elements into lessons. His blending of mathematical elements with music demonstrates the benefits of interdisciplinary approaches. The innovative solutions to recording challenges highlight the need for adaptability and problem-solving. Finally, his emphasis on impactful elements over complexity reminds us to prioritize clarity in lesson design. Teachers can create engaging and effective learning experiences that resonate deeply with students by seeing themselves as designers.

Final Thoughts

I’m watching the 1948 film version of Hamlet and am fascinated by the practical effects. What were they doing in 1948 to make a ghost on film? Does anybody know or can direct me to some reading?

It still amazes me that I can be blown away by work done over 70 years ago.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

cerro gordo

Greetings Starfighters,

Pardon my absence for the past couple of weeks. The closing of one school year is generally filled with preparations for the next school year, mostly comprised of meeting after meeting filled with lots of planning.

In my case, I’m also catching up on professional development hours. Taking a new position so close to the beginning of a school year and taking most of the year to find your footing in said position does little to help get those crucial PD hours in when you’re just trying to stay afloat.

But I’m back and should be bringing you regular updates again unless the galactic overlords play havoc with the latest beef shipment at Costco…

Anyhow, my brain is consumed these days with creating new professional development sessions for teachers and prepping for our annual Doc Week gathering with the Educational Leadership Studies doctoral students on campus at the University of Kentucky.

As our program is fully online, it’s the only chance we have to get together in person, share some laughs and stories, and commiserate on our struggles as we walk down the doctoral path. Ultimately, it’s about connecting with a tribe of peers, something that can help all of us get through whatever struggles we’re experiencing.

For now, on with the show…

Quote of the Day

“So many who were remembered already forgotten, and those who remembered them long gone.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

“So many who were remembered already forgotten, and those who remembered them long gone.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

Musical Interlude

Bruce Springsteen — No Surrender — Live in Dublin 2024

Long Read of the Day

In June 1944 the landings had been a long time coming. After a series of crushing defeats between 1939 and 1942, the comeback of the British Empire and the USA in World War II began in North Africa in 1942 and continued in Italy 1943. But, it was the landing in Normandy in June 1944 that were the decisive breakthrough. The destruction of the German forces in Northern France opened the door to the liberation of Paris and to the eventual meeting with the Red Army in Central Germany in May 1945.

We’re only a few days removed from the 80th anniversary of D-Day, and these reflections from Adam Tooze are a compelling read.

Video of the Day

One of my favorite YouTube channels belongs to Brent Underwood. Brent took up residency in Cerro Gordo, California, just as COVID broke out here in the US. Now, that may not sound all that interesting until you learn that Cerro Gordo is an abandoned silver mining town that some say is haunted.

Let the fun begin.

Brent has worked for the last few years to restore the town, even rebuilding the American Hotel for future travelers (he published a book about his journey recently). It’s not hard to look at all the Cerro Gordo restorations as one massive project-based learning unit, albeit far more expensive and lengthy than anything we could ever pull off in a school setting (but it sure would be fun to try, wouldn’t it?)

Last year, Brent hosted a race from the entrance of the Cerro Gordo road up to the town itself. Again, that may not sound all that interesting until you learn that the road is about eight miles long, mostly dirt and gravel, and achieves nearly 5,000 feet in elevation gain over those eight miles.

In other words, it’s a hell of a run. 230 people signed up for this year’s race on Memorial Day weekend. Here’s the recap:

Final Thoughts

My friend, Brian Rodman, is publishing his book, Memoirs of an Angel, on Kickstarter later this month. It’s a great blend of horror, spirituality, and good ol’ storytelling. From Brian,

It’s been almost two thousand years since the Final War destroyed planet Earth, and nearly a thousand years since The Grand Republic brought peace and order to an otherwise chaotic world. Every day, ordinary citizens of the Republic work, play and rest with the knowledge that utopia is well underway. But Jonathan Young knows better than to put hope in such things. For as long as he can remember, his entire life has been an ongoing battle. And once he comes face to face with Etrulia, the Witch of Endor tonight, that battle and his torment will end one way or another. Across space and time, two elohim race against the Dark Kingdom of the unseen realms to venture inside the mind of a demon-possessed boy, attempting to free him from the clutches of the diabolical Xexxus, Last of Legion. However, the further they progress on their mission, the more they realize this possession is much more malevolent than it seems. Mattia Bajuma, a Cleric of the High Council of The Grand Republic, flees to the witch-infested land of The Grey. Her mission: to find her old Mentor, Obadiah, and seek his guidance in a desperate bid to save her young client. This new world order, with its utopian façade, threatens to euthanize the innocent. But Mattia, with her unwavering determination, is willing to risk everything to save him. These lives will intertwine and crash together across the seen and unseen realms. They must learn to unite if they are going to prevent what is seemingly becoming inevitable…the undoing of the order of the cosmos; the destruction of The Cosmic Wheel.

If this sounds interesting, head over and get on the notification list.

memoirs of an angel

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

8 Strategies to Improve Organizational Learning in Public Schools

pile of covered books
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Professional learning communities (PLCs) are pivotal in fostering meaningful and sustainable changes in the ever-evolving education landscape. Drawing from extensive research and real-world examples, here are eight strategies that PLCs can implement to improve organizational learning in public schools.

1. Empower Teachers as Leaders and Change Agents

One of the most effective ways to enhance the impact of PLCs is by empowering teachers to take on leadership roles. Teachers are not just implementers of change but also key drivers. By recognizing their agency and providing opportunities for leadership, schools can leverage their educators’ unique insights and expertise. Empowered teachers can lead initiatives that align with the broader goals of school improvement, creating a more dynamic and responsive educational environment.

2. Develop a Shared Vision and Culture

A clear, shared vision is fundamental to driving deeper learning and student success. Establishing a school-wide culture that values continuous learning and promotes collective responsibility for student outcomes is crucial. Schools prioritizing creating and sustaining a positive organizational culture are often more successful in implementing and maintaining changes. This shared vision should be reflected in the school’s daily practices, language, and interactions.

3. Promote Collaborative Inquiry and Reflection

Collaboration and reflective practice are cornerstones of effective PLCs. By fostering a culture of collaborative inquiry, teachers can engage in joint problem-solving and share best practices. Structured collaboration allows teachers to collaborate on curriculum design, student assessment, and instructional strategies, leading to more cohesive and effective teaching practices. Regularly scheduled meetings and collaborative planning sessions are essential for this process.

4. Use Data to Inform Practice

Data-driven decision-making is a powerful tool for improving instructional practices. Within PLCs, teachers should use student performance data to identify areas for improvement, develop targeted interventions, and monitor the effectiveness of these interventions. By grounding changes in evidence, teachers can tailor their strategies to meet the specific needs of their students, ensuring that their efforts are both effective and efficient.

5. Engage in Continuous Professional Development

Ongoing professional development is vital for keeping teachers abreast of the latest educational research and practices. Providing job-embedded professional development opportunities, such as workshops, coaching, and peer observations, can help teachers refine their pedagogical approaches. Professional development should be context-specific and aligned with the school’s goals and vision, ensuring it is relevant and practical for teachers.

6. Leverage Technology to Enhance Learning

Technology, when used purposefully, can significantly enhance teaching and learning. Incorporating digital tools and resources can facilitate student collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. Teachers should be supported in integrating technology to enrich the learning experience rather than merely automating traditional practices. This approach can help students develop essential 21st-century skills and engage more deeply with the curriculum.

7. Build Strong Community Partnerships

Developing partnerships with local businesses, organizations, and experts can extend learning beyond the classroom and provide students with real-world experiences. These partnerships offer additional resources and expertise, making education more relevant and meaningful for students. Engaging the community in the learning process can also create a supportive network that enhances the overall educational experience.

8. Cultivate Trust and Professionalism

A culture of trust and professionalism is essential for fostering innovation and continuous improvement. When teachers feel supported and valued, they are more likely to take risks, experiment with new approaches, and learn from their successes and failures. Building a trusting and professional environment involves creating conditions where teachers can collaborate openly, share ideas, and work together towards common goals.

Implementing these eight strategies can significantly enhance organizational learning within public schools. By empowering teachers, fostering collaboration, using data effectively, engaging in continuous professional development, leveraging technology, building community partnerships, and cultivating a culture of trust, PLCs can drive positive and meaningful changes that lead to improved student outcomes and a more dynamic learning environment.

Martinez, M. R., McGrath, D. R., & Foster, E. (2016). How deeper learning can create a new vision for teaching. The National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future. Retrieved from NCTAF.

Seashore, K. R. (2009). Leadership and change in schools: Personal reflections over the last 30 years. Journal of Educational Change, 10(2-3), 129-140. doi:10.1007/s10833-009-9111-4.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Microschools Offer Montana Families Creative, Learner-centered Education Options

microschools

Montana families are choosing microschools for personalized, learner-centered education. Educators like Christa Hayes are creating small schools focused on outdoor learning and project-based academics. These microschools offer new educational options and a strong sense of community for students.

Covid was the catalyst. When her children’s schools shut down in the spring of 2020, and her college classes went online, Hayes began hearing from parents who wanted tutoring services. She also wanted to help her own three children stay on track academically, and find a way for them to have small, safe social interactions. 

In fall 2020, Hayes leased a gym downtown with large garage doors that opened wide, providing for maximum ventilation. She spaced children six feet apart, enabling them to meet in person while working through their remote public school curriculum. In addition, Hayes offered all kinds of enrichment activities, focused on project-based learning and frequent outside expeditions.

The Micro-School Builder’s Handbook: Personalized Learning for Your Child, and an Amazing Business for You
  • Linaberger, Mara (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages – 04/08/2018 (Publication Date) – Independently published (Publisher)

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Thursday, May 9, 2024

books
An actual photo of the actual state of my books. And this isn’t all of them…

About two years ago, I admitted that I had a book problem. I’ve heard that the first step to overcoming a problem is admitting that you have one.

Plot twist: That didn’t work. I still have a book problem — a major one — and it’s starting to spread to other physical media.

Of course, all the Kindle books are rattling around the cloud because I can’t seem to choose a format and stick with it. Sometimes, I want to hold a physical book, and sometimes, I want to go digital.

Admittedly, adding to my growing zettelkasten is easier with a digital book, but there is still a great benefit to writing down my notes and entering them in the system.

Two years ago, my TBR on Goodreads was around 1,500 books. It’s floating around 3,000 now, which I know sounds ridiculous until you learn about the concept of the antilibrary, and then 3,000 books don’t seem like such a big deal.

Here’s the real issue: the school year is coming to a close, and I will have way more time to read than I have in the past few months, so I’m getting a little excited and have books on my mind all the time.

Or, maybe I’m still trying to make up for nearly 20 years of doing what other people thought I should do before figuring things out for myself. Maybe one day, I’ll figure it all out.

Until then, I’ll just keep reading…

Quote of the Day

Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.

“Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.” -Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

Musical Interlude

I love Kacey Musgraves’ voice, and this cover of Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know provides ample room for her vocals.

Long Read of the Day

In our era of electronic communications, we’ve come to expect that important innovations will spread quickly. Plenty do: think of in-vitro fertilization, genomics, and communications technologies themselves. But there’s an equally long list of vital innovations that have failed to catch on. The puzzle is why.

Why do some innovations spread so swiftly and others so slowly?

Video of the Day

I know you’ve been asking yourself, “I’d love to know they make Japanese swords — from the gathering of the iron sand to the smelting of the steel to the forging of the blade.

Have no fear, here’s your answer:

Final Thoughts

Is it Friday yet?

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

allergies
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

That’s just the way it is…

Greetings Starfighters,

Living in the Southern United States during the months of April and May is, to be quite honest, one of the most ill-informed choices a human being can make, especially for those of us suffering from seasonal allergies.

I mean, when you can wash your car and come back out to it a few hours later to be greeted by a powdery covering of yellowish-green stuff that is often a little sticky and definitely irritating, you know that you’ve made poor life choices.

But that same yellowish-green stuff is the sign of life returning to the world. My grass is the greenest of greens right now, thanks to more than enough rain and the nearly perfect fertile ground that covers much of Kentucky. I love looking at the world around me, but OH MY GOD, CAN WE GET SOME SUPER-SIZED AIR FILTERS FOR ALL THE POLLEN?

Ah well, such is the life of a Kentucky boy. All allergies and longing for time spent in the woods. Time for more nasal spray…

Quote of the Day

"The world only cares about—and pays off on—what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it)." (George Couros, The Innovator's Mindset)

“The world only cares about—and pays off on—what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it).” (George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset)

Musical Interlude

It’s September 1986, and I’m just nine years old. My summer had been absolutely destroyed by two things: my family moved from Campbellsville, KY, to Elizabethtown, KY (there’s a movie about this place that is great, but not because they portrayed E-town properly), and Optimus Prime died in the Transformers movie.

Even now, it’s difficult to say which event was more traumatic.

Regardless, this song hit the radio waves, whether it was Q104 in Campbellsville or WQXE in E-town, and I loved it. The simple melodies combined with the incredible piano lead hit me. Of course, I didn’t understand the lyrics then, but they stuck with me.

That song was The Way It Is, written by Bruce Hornsby and recorded by Hornsby along with his band, The Range, at the time.

Hornsby has said he wanted to create a sense of place with the song lyrics, providing a snapshot of small-town life in Virginia. Much like Springsteen with New Jersey or Mellencamp with Indiana, Hornsby wanted to take listeners to Virginia and talk with them about racism.

I’m quite certain that’s exactly what he accomplished, and given the song’s enduring legacy in the nearly 40 years since its release, many millions have had the chance to talk about it and its meaning.

And that enduring legacy has reached beyond the pop and rock genres with many artists covering or sampling portions of The Way It Is for their own hits, most famously done by Tupac Shakur with Changes.

There’s not a version of The Way It Is that I don’t enjoy, but this one from BBC 2 Radio is quite good. The orchestra adds something special to Hornsby’s iconic piano.

Long Read of the Day

In the late 18th century, officials in Prussia and Saxony began to rearrange their complex, diverse forests into straight rows of single-species trees. Forests had been sources of food, grazing, shelter, medicine, bedding and more for the people who lived in and around them, but to the early modern state, they were simply a source of timber.

So-called “scientific forestry” was that century’s growth hacking. It made timber yields easier to count, predict and harvest, and meant owners no longer relied on skilled local foresters to manage forests. They were replaced with lower-skilled laborers following basic algorithmic instructions to keep the monocrop tidy, the understory bare.

Information and decision-making power now flowed straight to the top. Decades later when the first crop was felled, vast fortunes were made, tree by standardized tree. The clear-felled forests were replanted, with hopes of extending the boom. Readers of the American political anthropologist of anarchy and order, James C. Scott, know what happened next.

It was a disaster so bad that a new word, Waldsterben, or “forest death,” was minted to describe the result. All the same species and age, the trees were flattened in storms, ravaged by insects and disease — even the survivors were spindly and weak. Forests were now so tidy and bare, they were all but dead.

The Internet as we know it now has become a little too well-maintained and planned. We’re not seeing the true purpose of this amazing tool; in fact, we’re moving further and further from that original purpose.

Just like in our schools, we need to have a little less structure and let things get a little wild.

Video of the Day

Not to get into a huge debate here, but I will talk about AI. As a tech guy, I know all sides of every argument around the arrival of Generative AI tools like ChatGPT, DALL-E, and more. Yes, there are some very clear ethical issues attached to the usage of these tools, especially in the creative world.

However, there are very valid uses of the technology, provided we operate on the assumption that we are human beings and should treat everyone as such. We should only use AI tools to better ourselves or our work and NOT use AI as some all-encompassing replacement for the creativity of the human spirit.

This week on CBS Sunday Morning, Randy Travis got a feature. Travis, an award-winning, massively successful, Hall of Fame country music artist, suffered a stroke in 2013. Given only a 2% chance to live, Travis has battled against the odds and is still with us more than a decade later. However, the portions of his brain tasked with speech and singing were the most damaged by the stroke. His singing career was essentially over.

Until some folks thought about all the voice-generating tools powered by AI that create something that sounds a little like a famous artist but without any of the heart, passion, or humanity behind their voice. They decided that there must be a way to use these tools responsibly and help Randy Travis get his voice back.

Trust me, you’re going to need Kleenex for this one.

Final Thoughts

Admittedly, I’ve switched to publishing daily thoughts as a bit of an experiment. I’m trying to force myself to push out more content to continue developing my writing practice. However, I don’t ever want to get to a place where I’m publishing just for the sake of publishing. Veteran web publisher and all-around genius Om Malik recently talked about excessive activity leading to average quality, especially in the online world as the almighty algorithms continue to dominate. Cory Doctorow talks about the ‘enshittification’ of everything and I certainly see that on every social platform out there.

So, I’ll keep publishing daily but promise to remain vigilant about content quality. Yes, I like to share my thoughts, but I don’t want to share without providing value or insight. Only add good things to the world friends, never take away.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Monday, May 6, 2024

group of people staring at monitor inside room
Photo by Jake Hills on Unsplash

Greetings Starfighters,

I’ve come to grips with something that will be very helpful when working with teachers and students going forward. I’ve come to understand that my brain works a little differently than others regarding visualization.

I had just assumed that everyone sees images or even films playing in the inner theatre of the mind when thinking about events in the past or even as they tell a story. If I’m saying something about something I did or somewhere I went, I can very easily see the events unfold in my mind like I’m watching a movie.

I just assumed this is what everyone did when accessing memories. And, of course, I was hopelessly, completely wrong.

When I write a story and share it with my wife, I often say to her, “I just write the movie playing in my head.”

I don’t know how much that ability affects designing lesson plans or professional development activities for teachers, but I imagine that it does. Some people just can’t do it. I have to come to terms with how they see the world and how they process memories because they are not like me.

Yet again, I’m learning that you must learn the experiences of others before you can truly understand how they see the world, even in the world of their own mind. More on this in a bit.

Quote of the Day

"When you appeared in this world, you cried, and all the people around you rejoiced. You have to live your life in such a way that when you leave this world, you will rejoice, and all the people around you will cry." (Leo Tolstoy and Peter Sekirin, A Calendar of Wisdom)

“When you appeared in this world, you cried, and all the people around you rejoiced. You have to live your life in such a way that when you leave this world, you will rejoice, and all the people around you will cry.” (Leo Tolstoy and Peter Sekirin, A Calendar of Wisdom)

Musical Interlude

I have these five questions I ask people when I’m getting to know them; questions I stole directly from super music producer David Foster. The first question is simply, “Beatles or Stones?”

I may have to change that at some point, but while I have a healthy appreciation for the Beatles, I know I’ve found my people when I hang around those who answer Stones.

Of course, I’m speaking of the Rolling Stones. They are brilliant, with just enough bluesy rock to really get the adrenaline flowing and settle into a great jam.

Here’s a performance from the Tokyo Dome in 1990:

Long Read of the Day

Hyperphantasia, or intense visual imagery, can teach us about creativity and mental health. People like me, with hyperphantasia, can imagine things very clearly, sometimes blending our thoughts with what we see around us. This could change how we think about mental health.

On the other hand, aphantasia is when you can’t picture things in your mind. People with aphantasia think and remember things without seeing pictures, which differs from the bright images of hyperphantasia. While hyperphantasia can make creative work more vibrant, aphantasia can lead people to jobs where they don’t need to imagine things visually.

Studying these conditions can show how they affect jobs and mental health. People with hyperphantasia might remember past events very clearly, which can strengthen their feelings. However, people with aphantasia might find it hard to do tasks that require imagination or memory because they can’t use visual images to help them remember things.

Read more

Video of the Day

In this interview, Paul Auster, who recently passed away, discusses his journey to becoming a writer, triggered by a childhood memory of a missed autograph from baseball player Willie Mays. This event led him to always carry a pencil, symbolizing his readiness and later influencing his writing decision. Auster reflects on his early struggles with writing, where he amassed numerous unfinished manuscripts, viewing them as an apprenticeship for his later success. He emphasizes the laborious nature of his writing process, often rewriting a single page multiple times to achieve the perfect rhythm and fluidity, likening it to composing music.

This is a great video to share with your young writers, or if you have that writing itch you need to scratch yourself, take heed.

Final Thoughts

Sitting next to me is quite possibly the greatest shirt I’ve ever purchased. It just arrived in the mail today. If you think you can handle the awesome, perhaps I will share it with you tomorrow.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Croatia street
Photo by mali desha on Unsplash

We’ve reached the very nebulous time in the school year when end-of-year testing begins, my own doctoral courses have been completed, and I’m left as an instructional coach with a few days of, “What the heck am I supposed to be doing?” while I stay out of the way of testing.

Sure, I’m here to support however I can, but that usually just means giving someone a restroom break or contacting vendors for quotes on new tools for next school year.

It’s a very weird time of the year when I feel like I can be the very opposite of productive.

So, I spend my time as best as I can. I’m writing daily blog posts, catching up on some reading—OMG, Dan Simmons’s Hyperion is flippin’ incredible—and listening to a bunch of new music. I’m also searching for deals on physical media as I continue my war on the streaming gods.

If I sound a bit manic, it’s because I am. My usual frantic pace of writing papers and visiting classrooms has calmed down for the moment and will soon be completely stopped with summer break. But there’s still much to do, and I’ll keep sharing with you here.

And, if it all gets to be too much, you can always unfollow, unlike, and generally exercise your right as a human to tell me to go jump off a cliff.

Quote of the Day

"When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal. We become active and busy, but this doesn’t actually move us any closer to success. Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business." (Gary Keller, Jay Papasan, The ONE Thing)

“When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal. We become active and busy, but this doesn’t actually move us any closer to success. Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.” (Gary Keller, Jay Papasan, The ONE Thing)

Indeed, being busy doesn’t necessarily equate to being productive. Filling your day with tasks may not get you any closer to achieving your objectives. Teachers confront this truth daily as they juggle multiple responsibilities. Many tasks, like grading student work and providing feedback, are indeed important, but do they always drive student learning forward?

Students genuinely desire feedback. However, could its impact be amplified if delivered in real time? Could teachers lighten their workload by completing feedback sessions before leaving school?

Consider altering the workflow. By providing more frequent feedback on smaller task segments and setting multiple “deadlines”, teachers can manage their tasks more efficiently. This approach, central to project-based learning, not only encourages active student participation but also facilitates quick formative assessments, which can be automatically scored with modern tech tools.

As students work on their projects, the teacher transitions into a supporting role as a coach. The need to grade work daily becomes redundant. This may contradict the expectations of some administrators and parents who believe regular grading is proof of teaching. However, it’s an opportunity to redefine teaching’s true essence, shifting the emphasis from grading to facilitating learning.

Musical Interlude

Sharing a bit of her creative process, Sara from Teagan & Sara shares this acoustic version of ‘Back in Your Head’ and talks about her guitar avoidance.

Long Read of the Day

In December 2020, as the pandemic kept demonstrating the “digital divide” that exists between socioeconomic classes and the availability of high-speed internet, the US Government created the Affordable Connectivity Program. While the program brought about many worthwhile societal benefits, it’s now running out of money.

Video of the Day

Here’s a collection of Phil Hartman’s host segments when the “Grinch” TV cartoon was screened in December 1994, including interviews with Dr. Seuss’ wife Audrey Geisel, animator Chuck Jones, songwriter Albert Hague, voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft, and superfans like Danny Elfman and Tim Burton.

I vividly remember watching this when it aired and thinking, “holy crap, this guy is hilarious.”

Final Thoughts

OK, my brain is pretty fried right now. Not much here for final thoughts. Keep creating new things, even if they suck, because they will get better. This newsletter is a prime example 🙂


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!