Tools of Titans Review Part 1 Healthy

Application and Self Development

I recently wrapped up reading the first section of Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. This massive book of insights gathered by top people in all categories of life is one of the most transformational books I have read. I wanted to gather my notes and ideas and share out what I think so far and the goals I plan to accomplish.

To do this I have decided to break my takeaways down into sections. There is simply too much to gather even by going this route, but it is what I have decided to do.

This part focuses on section 1 which is all centered around health and taking care of our bodies. Enjoy

If nothing else this reminder serves as the cornerstone to all growth mindset. We must be willing to push forward and create our own path in life.

If you are able to grasp this concept then you know that you must focus only on what you can control. We cannot do anything about the hand of cards we have been dealt, but we are responsible to make the best hand possible.

The section that shared the insights with Jason Nemer really struck a chord with me. In this section I read the following statement which clicked in my brain. This statement has become my 2017 Focus of the Year.

In February I plan on doing the exercises shared by Dr. Peter Attia. I have been doing core work with my athletes, but these exercises might be a good addition to the schedule. I will do a few times a week in February to see how the results turn out.

This part of the interview with Dr. Attia really hit home with me as well. It serves as a great reminder to be the best father I can be. I have worked to do less this year to be home more. As my youngest daughter is growing up too fast and my other two children are starting to look like young adults I realize time is going by too fast. I miss them even when I am with them.

Next up was Justin Mager who had some really great insights. One of the best ideas was the following:

This is more important than you realize. When you read between the lines it makes you realize how much we judge by good or bad. So often this is why we have problems reaching goals, being happy, and more. Not everything is black and white.

Just like in school as well as in life we need to justify that there is a fundamental difference between understanding something and simply knowing its name or labeling it. These are two completely different concepts that we often confuse.

Pavel Tsatsouline

Another great part of the book. Something that I was able to relate to was the notion that as a leader we must realize that people are going to mimic our behavior. Some of it might be positive mimicry and some will do more mockery. Regardless, people are watching.

As a coach I don’t yell, scream, shout, or do any of the typical behavior often associated with being a “good” coach. Instead I stay calm and believe that I must model how I want my players to be behave both on and off the court. As Pavel states, “Calm is contagious”

The one piece that really resonated with me as a person as a whole(father, husband, educator) was the section with Laird Hamilton, Gabby Reece, and Brian MacKenzie. For some reason I pictured myself hanging out with them and in the process being the best version of myself. The elements of using social connections for health is so true and powerful. We often don’t realize how important it is to have another person keep us accountable when trying to eat healthy, exercise, and do right.

One idea that I am trying to develop further is Laird’s Man Book Club where they read a nonfiction book a month and discuss the ideas. I keep drawing up this vision of a book club that is not gender specific but the discussions would take place on long runs. I am falling in love with the notion of strengthening my mind and body at the same time.

These are two great reality checks for us to use from time to time!

I never imagined in a million years that I would feel so connected to Triple H, but his podcast episode and section in the book is my favorite of the section.

Something that I grapple with every single day when working with students and my own children is the idea of helping them determine the difference between a dream and goal. There is a difference. A dream is something you fantasize about that will probably never happen. A goal is something you set a plan for, work toward, and achieve.

When I work with teams that get nervous before a game or watch my kids become stressed before a test I often remind them the very thing that Floyd Mayweather discusses. The work is already done. There is no need to stress now. Either you are ready or you are not ready. Simple as that. Deep down you should know if you put in the necessary work. After the results you need to analyze and figure out what needs improvement, what needs to be eliminated, and what needs to delegated.


Books I ordered or placed on hold at library

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

Mistakes Were Made by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman

Joy On Demand by Chade-Meng Tan

Concepts I am going to experiment with in February

  1. Dr. Peter Attia exercises at home and at practice.
  2. Jane McGonigal idea of using Tetris as therapy to help sleep. I struggle sleeping.
  3. Drink Yogi Soothing Caramel Bedtime Tea to help with sleep
  4. Develop and further focus on my morning rituals. I know that when I wake up early and do certain things I often have good days or not so good days. I want to analyze and further develop these ideas.
    1. What are my five rituals and how many do I do each day?
    2. “The small things are the big things”
    3. Ideas to try
      1. Make my bed
      2. Meditate – I suck at it, but I need to develop this routine more. Forcing myself this meta-skill when it does not matter is most important. If I can teach myself to focus when it does not matter, then I will be able to focus when it does matter.
        1. Headspace or Calm app will be loaded up and experimented with in February.
      3. 5 Minute Journal and Bullet Journal
      4. Exercise
      5. Brain Dump

Each day I write a daily thought to my basketball team. These are thoughts and ideas that I hope roll over to their mind training for life(the biggest game of them all). As we win and lose games I cannot help but bring to light this quote.


This is where I am at. I will be taking the rest of January and February to develop these ideas, attempt to live and model them, and work to being a better person. I know I won’t get to them all, but I will continue to document, record in my Bullet Journal and further experiment with the ideas and concepts to make my life and myself better.

While I develop these ideas I will begin to read the next section on Wealth. More importantly I look forward to blogging about these ideas in greater detail as I apply them to my life.

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2 Essential Books To Read on Learning

I have not blogged about books in a very long time. It is weird how one goes through phases in their learning journey. It was not that long ago when I blogged about books I read on an almost daily basis.

Recently, I have read two books that I believe are really important to help educators and schools revisit some key ideas about learning as well as pushing the thinking forward.

First and foremost I have not forgotten that most teachers barely have any time to read anymore and if they do it is for pleasure and getting away from the grind of teaching. These two books are short reads, easy to process, and neither one really has to be read from front to back. You pick a topic and explore.

The first one is Lessons for LifePractice Learning by Ginger Lewman. I recently had her on my podcast. This book focuses and centers around project based learning, but in essence it is all about how to be practical and moving education and learning to the real world, right now. The ideas in the book don’t require a monumental shift. Your admin won’t go crazy and you won’t lose your job. However, what you will do is begin to change your classroom where kids are excited to learn even more than they are now.

I recently read her latest book and after reading the book, scribbling mass notes in the margins, and being reminded about the key things we must be doing in schools I want to make sure more people know about this book.


I won’t go into great detail about the book as I really think you should read it yourself. She even mentioned on the podcast that it was written to be processed small doses.

Here a list of my favorite ideas from the book

  1. A one full school day project that is started and finished in one day. I want to do this so bad that I almost wet myself thinking about it.
  2. The importance of soft and hard deadlines
  3. The topic of assessment and when to do it and whether it is always the best method
  4. The importance of the launch of a project and what are you going to do with the students who are not impressed?
  5. How to group students?
  6. The power of a midpoint regrouping of the project
  7. Wow’s, How’s, and Bow’s – my favorite idea of the whole book

If you are just experimenting with project based learning or if you feel as if your projects have grown stagnant then I would highly encourage you to read this book.

My second required reading suggestion is STEAM Makers by Jacie Maslyk. I believe I have more words highlighted in green than non highlighted. This book really helped me to frame what I needed to think about when it comes to makerspaces and STEM. It helped me grapple with some of the practical ideas that are hard for teachers to put into place with all the expectations on their plates.


What I love about this book is how she acknowledges the accountability and pressures of teachers, but helps to push them forward by not using it as an excuse to do nothing. We know the world is changing along with the job market. It is time we push more and more to do the things we know in our hearts are best for kids.

Some of the key ideas that really stood out to me

  1. The importance of leadership from administration. If we want change makers in our students and teachers, then we need leaders who are willing to support this. If you have an admin that is not supportive, then I recommend sending them this book or Innovator’s Mindset as a Christmas present
  2. Role of Facilitator – this idea is not new but exploring how to shift our teaching practice to make sure we are actually doing so.
  3. All the practical examples of how schools are actually doing all of this. It is great to scan and check the resources to see that not only is she talking about it, but people are actually doing it. I have already implemented like three ideas and will continue to add more.
  4. Failure – don’t cringe. The way she addresses failure is spot on.
  5. The scale up process about how a school started small and continued to build. These stories are important.

Both books have so much more to offer, but you have to read them. I encourage you track these books down and give them a try. If you read them and want to chat let me know. I love talking books. Heck, we could chat as a podcast.

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SuperBetter: A Review and Request to Read This!

Do you struggle with completing the things you want to get done, but just cannot quite make it happen?

Do you wish you could find a book that not only contains quality information, but will move you into action?

Are you ready to power up and make the changes needed in your life, work, family, and personal goals?

If you answer yes to any of these questions like I did, then it is time that you buy this book or track it down and give it a read.

About a month ago I had the opportunity to read this book before being released. After reading the book, making many highlights, taking notes, and figuring out ways to implement the ideas into action into my own life, I finally think it is time to write-up a review.

The book releases Tuesday, September 15th and this should be a book that you get your hands on.

Back at the beginning of August I blogged about how my life would change with the principles in this book(Coffeechug #Superbetter Journey Begins)

A small part of this blog post(which was a bit of a confessional) states

I just finished reading the book SuperBetter by Jane McGonigal  which has been one of the most powerful reads for me personally this year. A review of the book is coming shortly, but the book came at the perfect moment in my life where her research and message connected with me at a deep level. This book is a book we should all read because everyone can gain something from this book no matter who you are, your age, or what you do.

This book has helped me map out a plan to make myself SuperBetter. It is going to help me take care of myself and reach the goals I have not achieved yet. I have many layers to the quests and epic wins I plan on going after, but the first thing is simply fitness.

Without rehashing that whole post I have found a book that actually moved me to action. I have read many high quality books, but often times the ideas float in my mind but never quite make it to the surface where I begin to act on the ideas.

This book is different.

In this blog I will have things coming out soon documenting my soon to be journey as I have been experimenting with some ideas to reach some goals, but in the meantime I encourage you to read the book.

The book itself reads quite smooth. I love the fact that as you read there is a whole website containing every single piece of research used and conducted. I really enjoyed the massive amounts of quests layered into the book to give the reader practice, ideas, and ways to test the waters while reading.

Without giving too much away, here are some of the ideas that really stood out to me. I am not going to discuss them in detail as you should read the book, but I would love to chat about these more if and when you do read.

  • 7 ways of thinking for growth in gaming
  • We need to play with a purpose
  • 1 billion people play digital games for an average of one hour a day
  • “all games teach us to be comfortable with failure, because loss is always a possibility”
  • you are in control of your cognitive resources
  • Theory of Mind
  • motivation alone is far less important to success and willpower than you think
  • when you feel strong and capable you are more likely to use those strengths to help others
  • 21 hours/week of video seems to be the tipping point where things go south
  • games are a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles
  • epic wins
  • goals come and go, but values stay with you

These are just a few of my notes in my notepad where I scribbled so many ideas. I cannot wait to get my hardcopy so I can actually write in the margins and really up my reflection process.

No matter who you are and no matter what you are trying to accomplish I really believe there is something valuable in this book for you. I know the book goes on sale Tuesday, but if you do preorder she is giving away so many goodies. Act fast!

And don’t forget to listen to her speak with Tim Ferriss and my favorite podcast ever.

Jane McGonigal on Getting More Done with Less Stress and The Health Benefits of Gaming 

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Worlds of Making by @NMHS_lms

Recently I read the book Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School by Laura Fleming. This is a book that is part of the Corwin Connected Educators Series where each book is a short read about a specific topic. In this case, the book was about Makerspaces. This book provides a nice overview of makerspaces and the importance of establishing one in your school.

If you are looking for a how to guide on what to buy and how to build a space, then this is not the book for you. It does provide you a basic understanding of things, but it is not a step by step guide. There are plenty of resources that address that very topic. What this book does provide is the general context for planning and creating the culture needed for a makerspace to thrive. What this book does so well is hit on the most important idea of any makerspace – Your makerspace should be built with your own personal touch and less worry and focus on tech.

The book hit on many key ideas that I firmly believe in as a maker and educator. When I read the book I felt like I was receiving confirmation after confirmation about my own beliefs.

She emphasizes that makerspaces can help encourage the growth mindset, they can help students work through failure and prototypes, and that the process of making is what allows success and innovation to take place.

At the end of the day, a makerspace that is running smoothly should hit upon the 4 C’s and all the essential skills we expect out of our 21st century learners.

I really enjoyed the focus on collaboration. There is still a major tendency to think of makers in isolation and by themselves. Makerspaces are where we share our knowledge, our mistakes, our journey. Students can be teachers and teachers can be students.

Take the advice of the book

Take what you can get

Prepackaged is easy, but not authentic

Space should grown organically

Inspire play, tinkering, and learning through both fixed and flexible stations

Establish a culture of innovation

And most important – a makerspace is more than just a room.

Read the book. I wish it was longer, but being this short makes it a quick read for teachers who are limited in time. It is a great resource and starting point for anyone looking to get started.

Check it out here

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Most Likely To Succeed

“….But while students may graduate with credentials, by and large they lack the competencies needed to be thoughtful, engaged citizens and to get good jobs in our rapidly evolving economy.”

A sentence from the opening paragraph in what I believe should be required reading for every educator as well as every educator in college preparing to earn a degree in education. The book is Most Likely To Succeed by Tony Wagner and I really think this book will change your mind, challenge your thinking, and lead to some very serious discussions about the state of education(I know from experience!).

I know I recommend a lot of books, but if I had to pick one book this would be it for the simple fact that I feel like this book speaks to the many ideas I think and believe, but even more important the ideas force us to think about the issues at hand. I shared out two passages from the book and it lead to many people not agreeing with what I shared as well as arguing the opposite. This conversation was powerful. It challenged me to think about what I shared, it forced me to really think about what I believe, and because people on social media are awesome they fired right back with their ideas. These types of interactions is what will help education move forward. I share this so that you understand that I am not telling you to agree with everything(even though I think you should), but to read it and process what he is saying and how you approach these very same ideas and concepts.

If I can go back to the opening quote for a minute. This statement is constantly being shared with many educators and admin. I know that at our school this is the very reason we have invested heavily in project based learning where the projects dig deep, solve real world problems, contain an authentic audience, and a “right” answer does not exist. We are working to help students develop skills instead of simply memorizing content for the sake of a test that nobody cares about a week later.

This is really the crux of the book. We need to rethink our schools to move away from simply memorizing content and work towards developing the skills needed to function in society. Many of us say we don’t just memorize, but if you really look at your classroom this still happens more than we like to admit.

I really like how the book placed a focus on skills. I have attended many summits and forums where business leaders and community leaders state time and time again how they are looking for people who can problem solve, work with others, collaborate, think on their own, are creative, and basically can help the company function without 24/7 monitoring. This is nothing new, but despite knowing this our schools are organized to do the opposite. We continue to do a patchwork fix it system to an obsolete education system. As stated in the book, “Students who only know how to perform well in today’s education system – get good grades and test scores, and earn degrees – will no longer be those who are most likely to succeed.”

Now, with that being said I do think it is important to note two things that I think are very important in regards to this conversation.

1. There is no set formula that will allow someone to succeed and be productive in life.

2. You have to have a base level of content understanding in order to dig deep and work on skill development.

As you read the book you can find all his research and examples that support his idea that we need more skill development. I think it is hard to argue that “there is no longer a competitive advantage in knowing more than the person next to you because knowledge has become a commodity available to all with the swipe of a finger.”

How often do we tell students that we don’t know all the answers or those times when a student is more tech savvy than the teacher? This right here proves the point. So why do we constantly place students in school situations where time and time again it is about knowledge and little access to the tools that we use on a regular basis? It always drives me crazy when I hear/see teachers ban all technology in a classroom, but on prep periods/meetings we use our phones/tablets/computers to do everything!

As I read this book and highlighted hundreds of passages I think the sum of the book can be described by this one simple sentence

What are we doing to help develop the skills to help students make sense of all the knowledge at their fingertips to create, problem solve, and innovate?

In the book he talks about an experiment ran by Lawrenceville School where they asked students to retake a science final after returning from summer vacation. When the test was given in June the average grade was 87%, but when the simplified test was given again in September the average grade was 58%. I found this very fascinating. What was awesome is that the school changed how they worked and operated. I would love to do this at our school and look at the results to make change. But, more importantly, if this happens time and time again are we wasting precious class time stressing and worrying about things that really don’t matter? I cannot remember most of what I learned in school, but I feel like I am a somewhat productive and contributing member to society. I have learned more about who I am, the skills I possess, and what I can offer from everything I have done outside of school. Take for example a summer class I took. The class was about using computational tools in the classroom. I had to write a paper that was 60% of my overall grade. However,  my application and use of the tools was only 10%. Are you kidding me? If we want educators to use tools we have to break free from the old system. Anyone can write a paper about tech, but how many can actually use it to create deep level learning experiences. What I am saying is that we need to change where we place our emphasis in the classroom and schools.

This instantly makes me think of this video

Why do we not place emphasis on the things that will help people in life? Most Americans don’t understand or know much about the Constitution. With the elections going crazy already most viewers don’t know how to process all the stats. We struggle to make sense of the numbers and the media channels know this. Many people are in debt so why not make sure we know how the banks work, compound interest, how to invest, etc. There is so much math, thinking, problem solving, and real world application in just these examples that could help so many and yet we don’t have to completely blow up our system.

I could go on and on, but I would not say things as cohesively as the book. In closing, I encourage you to read this book. I encourage to dig into the research. I encourage you to check out the schools mentioned. I encourage you to reflect on your practices and teaching. In the end we all want the same thing and this book helps to bring to light some key issues to help us get there. No matter what side you take on the issues I know there is one that we can all agree on.

Most Likely To Succeed by Tony Wagner

Check the website


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8 Ideas from The Dip by Seth Godin

A short read, but a very powerful read. Anything by Seth Godin has always turned out to be a treasure and in some aspect a life changer for me. I recently read another of his books The Dip which really gave a me a lot to think about. As always, I have purchased almost every single Seth Godin book and they are books that will never be discarded because they are the few books I read over and over.

Seth Godin takes on the topic of quitting and places the whole idea into a whole new perspective. There is always talk about failure and quitting on social media and in particular education. This book challenges many of the common ideas often discussed. Here are some of the key ideas that stood out to me in no particular order that will hopefully inspire you to read the book for yourself and provide some ideas for you to think about.

1. Never quitting is bad advice. Right from the start he argues one of the most common ideas quoted time and time again. He says that the quote from Vince Lombardi, “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” is bad advice. Instead he claims that winners “quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”

2. Zipf’s Law – This law is mentioned in the book so I had to look it up on wikipedia. I am instantly fascinated by this concept where we basically love winners. Not just winners, but the whole idea that frequency is key. When something wins it usually wins big. Think about the popular records, box office, tv shows, books, etc. The top of the top sell more than anyone else. You could be 2nd or third, but end up way behind. Now that I aware of this law I start to notice it time and time again.

3. Well Rounded is Bad Advice – Anytime education is challenged my ears perk up. Seth states, “Just about everything you learned in school about life is wrong, but the wrongest thing might very well be this: Being well rounded is the secret to success.” I have to agree 100%. I shared this graphic a few posts back and also here specifically about this topic so reading this book after further cemented my beliefs.

Who are You-


4. The Cul-De-Sac

I love this thought. I really do. And I think it is the state of education. Basically it means a “situation where you work and you work and nothing much changes. It doesn’t get a lot better, it doesn’t get a lot worse. It just is.” Not only is this happening in education, but it happens in our own personal lives. This idea seems so simple and yet I keep going back to it. I think it goes much deeper once you move past the surface of simply a definition. Sometimes we have to get on the highway….(my new idea developing from this neighborhood metaphor)

5. I think that the reason many live in a cul-de-sac is because it is easy to be mediocre. It is easy to blend in. Quitting is hard  because you must admit that you are not number one. This is tough for many of us. We don’t like to admit these type of things so we will continue to do things just so we are not quitters. Our society has pushed our thinking to believe that quitting is bad.

6. The key to quitting is understanding The Dip. We must learn when to quit. We don’t want to quit at the wrong time. We have to realize that the systems in place want us to quit. They operate on us quitting. If we can push past the dip and not quit, then we hit the results of being number one. We breakthrough and hit new levels of success that cannot we believe we can achieve. What is the dip? Well, read the book!

7. The one idea that makes sense, but I struggle with agreeing with is if we are going to quit we must quit before we start. If we cannot be the best in the world he suggests we don’t even try. I don’t know how I feel about that. I think we have to shoot for the stars sometimes. Perhaps I must define what it means to be the best in the world. Does this mean I must be an Olympian in running? No, I think he is going after something much grander in concept, but it is important to at least think about the message. When thinking about quitting we have to think about…….

8. Two Choices – Don’t be average. If you find yourself being average you must make a decision. Either you quit or be exceptional. “Average is for losers”. This is a tough pill to swallow, but a necessary one. I think about my life and things that I want to fix. If I quit the things that are just average in my life due to average work and commitment I could really push some elements to be exceptional by freeing up time and energy spent on doing things average in my life in the cul-de-sac. This idea is one that has hit home with me and is really forcing me to think through things deeply.

Those are just a few ideas that really stood out to me when I finished the book. I have many more passages highlighted, but if I shared everything then what would be the point to read the book? This book packs a lot in 80 pages, but that is what Seth Godin does.

If you are interested in his other books here are the others I have read and recommend.

My favorite book of his so far. I have read this one many times! Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

Oh man, this one is so good also! Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Poke the Box by Seth Godin 

Last, here are all my posts with Seth Godin references, projects, and more.

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Mandatory Book Read: One Nation Under Taught by Dr. Vince Bertram

I have not posted many of the books I have been reading this summer for a couple reasons. First, I have not read much as I have been immersed in action and application. Second, many of the ones I set out to read just were not worth my time.

Until I read this book. This little zinger packs a mandatory read in just 77 pages. This book explores the problem with education but instead of doing nothing but complaining and pointing fingers(which is the case on most books about education these days), Dr. Bertram showcases how things have not changed and how to make it happen.

The book is not a step by step plan, but more of a call to action. It is time that we admit that we need to move. We need to do things that all know must be done. The status quo is not working. Over the last thirty years we have not see the change we need to see. This does not mean starting from scratch. It does not mean that what we are doing is wrong. Rather, it is time to stop being okay with what are doing and pushing things to the next level.

The need for a STEM focus, a change of teaching and learning, and helping to make the irrelevant relevant goes beyond just student engagement. We are talking about our students being able to be qualified for the jobs that are open. We are talking about developing our own citizens to help the country, the budget, and production of life to allow us to continue to be at the top and creating ideas that need creating.

I talk all the time in my Young Engineers of Today class that we are so eager to spend countless hours and unlimited budget for sports, weekend tournaments, equipment, etc. for athletics, but we must be able to help our students see that STEM is what will allow them to find employment, function in life, and be successful. I am not suggesting no sports as I played sports through college, but we must find a balance. Many don’t want to spend time and money on STEM and we need to. It can be just as fun as sports if done right.

I won’t quote all my quotes I marked(I will in future blog posts), but this one stood out to me the most.

The point of this quote is that we get what we praise. It is time we start to honor education like we do celebrities, sports, and entertainment.

Please read this book. It will open your eyes. It will make you think. It will challenge you to step up your game. I will admit I did skim through quickly the Project Lead the Way push in the end chapters as I don’t believe in pushing programs. However, the rest of the book will share simple ideas that we all know needs to be done in education. It is time to step up and quit accepting that we are a nation under taught.

Check out the book here

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Make Learning Personal by Barbara Bray & Kathleen McClaskey

I would like to add one more book that is required of your time and mind when it comes to Deeper Learning, Project Based Learning, and anything that will help schools enhance education. This book has been waiting a long time for me to review and finally after crafting out some time to get back to blogging I am ready to introduce the book Make Learning Personal by Barabara Bray and Katheleen McClasky.

The reason that I feel this book should be required reading for all educators is that the book brings up so many thinking points about how we learn and ideas that work best to reach our learners. I will be honest in that when I hear the phrase personal learning I get it, but I don’t get it because I feel like the term is overused and everyone seems to have a slight adjustment to the meaning. Additionally, the phrase is often linked to blended learning and flipped classrooms which can either make you a fan or not based on your experience.

When I started reading the book I was not sure if I would be sold on the idea or not. However, I was hooked right away in the preface when the following statement was read, “…personalizing learning is not something someone does to a learner.” This phrase is the backbone of what I believe with education and one of the main reasons I push for student voice, makerspaces, project based learning, and deeper learning. Learners should be driving their education and schools should not be thrust upon them.

“Learning is personal”

I think this statement is one that everyone would agree with so the question becomes how do we do this and make it happen in schools across the nation? Our goals in schools should be to prepare students to accomplish what they want to do in life and not force them to learn the game of school and figure out the best ways to be compliant to just jump through the hoops.

The book does a wonderful job exploring the what, who, WOW, where, and why for personalized learning. It does a fantastic job defining what it is and what it is not. For example there is a great passage discussing the difference between individualization and personalization. The key between the two is control. It provides the example of when a teacher differentiates instruction, the teacher is in control and working harder than the learners. I like this concept, but realize the control piece is the most difficult. How do we handle learners who don’t want control? How do we handle learners who don’t know what to be in control of let alone establishing goals for themselves? How do we help teachers let go of control? These are major barriers that must be thought through very carefully when thinking of implementing. This book does an excellent job providing so many ideas, tips, and complete thought into the topic of personalized learning to help the reader process through these situations.

I read a lot of books and not all get reviews. The ones that do have to strike a chord with me. These are the books that hook my attention, challenge my current thinking with new thoughts, or lead me down a new path to explore. This book does all three. I really liked the attention spent on what is personalized learning before diving into the many more complex ideas. I found this to be an essential piece to really make sure the reader understands what is meant by personalized learning.

If you are an educator or administrator looking to find more information about how to move the learning into the hands of learners, providing learners to take control of the learning, and to develop a stronger culture of learners not only in classrooms, but schools system wide, then read this book. I will be infusing the many ideas I gained from this book into my Deeper Learning and PBL blog series as there were so many great things I read as well as ideas that I question and need more time to digest. This is what makes for a quality read and the authors have done a nice job.

As schools are starting to realize that the way we have done things in education is not the answer anymore, the concept of personalized learning is one piece to the puzzle. It is a critical component as we move forward to find what works best for learners. I hope you read this book and when you do please reach out and let us discuss!

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Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie

I picked up the book, Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie, for one reason only – the title! I love the title despite my huge hatred for hair and the grossness of the idea of hairballs. This is a hidden gem written back in 1998.

When I started reading the book I really liked the artwork mixed in with the writing. I really had no idea that the author was a Hallmark Card creator. Perhaps I should start reading the backs of books before I read, but then I would not have delightful surprises like this.

I found the book to be humorous and entertaining as the author, Gordon MacKenzie, shares his story of life and lessons learned from 30 years of work and creative endeavors.

What did I learn from this book?

One of the things that I am working on myself is the fact that I don’t always need to be working. I need to give myself time to learn at my own pace. Our society has overdone it with work, work, work, and no play. In a passage about this issue he states, “A healthier alternative is the Orbit of trust that allows time — without immediate, concrete evidence of productivity — for the the miracle of creativity to occur.” 

This reminds me so much of education where everything needs to be documented. We must have data points on everything. It won’t be long until we have to start documenting restroom breaks. On that same line of thought, we test kids like crazy. Each week there seems to be a test of some sort. How will we ever see growth if all we do is test? What about giving them time to actually spreading their wings to fly a bit?

“If memory served me well, a more common experience, for me anyhow, was to finish a workshop filled with a step one, step two, step three, voila, solution! dogma and return to the world beyond workshops to find a waiting lineup of problems that quickly had me wonder once again: What the hell is going on?”

There is no magic bullet for life. What works for one person does not work for the next. There is no one solution for all that works in life, education, or work. We must take bits and pieces from what we learn and adapt to our model. This is true for teaching students. My son often brings home worksheets where we fill in the blanks. He learns very little, but he has figured out the system to fill in the right answers. However, when asking him about what he has learned he cannot tell you. He is not processing anything, but has figured out the steps to the game of education. In which I am sure he thinks, What the hell is going on?

“Teasing is a disguised form of shaming.”

This quote is a little off the beaten path, but how many times do we tease with best intentions? My hand is raised as I tease all the time.  This statement really struck me as I stop to think about my teasing I realized that there is a bit of shaming in what I say. I must work hard to eliminate the teasing both in my private and professional life. It just does not lead to anything positive, even with good intentions.

These are just a few of the quotes I enjoyed. I took snapshots of his drawings for inspiration, I took away a great presentation idea, and jotted down many notes for myself in my idea book. Many of the ideas are nothing new, but just shared through the lens of someone you don’t normally get to hear from.

I enjoyed the book. I think you will too if nothing else for the stories of Gordon how me might take some of the concepts shared and learn to infuse them in our life and work.

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Savage Park Reminds Me About Importance of Play

I needed to step away from reading books on education and productivity. With my latest batch of books from the library(currently have 56 checked out) I read Savage Park by Amy Fusselman. I read it without checking out the back cover or trying to remember why I checked it out in the first place. I just dove in.

I am glad I did because the book was a departure from my usual readings. This book is part journal/memoir with a dash of manifesto on play, combined with storytelling, and ideas on importance of space, play, finding ourselves, and more. I don’t really know how to describe it any other way.

What really connected me to this book is that ironically while I was reading about the ideas in the book my son and neighborhood kids took on the task of building a tree fort. As much as I wanted to say no, tell them to be safe, no tools, don’t climb too high, and all the other adult limitations set upon kids today I chose not to. I kept to the integrity of what I was reading in the book to see how things played out. I never gave advice, I did not tell them no(when I wanted to so many times), and just let them figure things out. I was so impressed that after about 30 hours of work they had assembled a fort that they could call their own with some impressive troubleshooting ideas.

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Going back to the book I had to write down some passages that just really hit home.

“Why do we ever stop saying “Hi!” to everything? How is the understanding that the entire world is worthy of conscious consideration ever lost?”

This quote really resonates with me. My three year old will talk to anyone and anything. She does not care and is always so happy. I have written before on that it drives me nuts when you say good morning or hello to someone in the hallway and they walk by and don’t say anything back. How can you look at someone, recognize they are talking to you and not respond? It drives me crazy.

Another passage that really smacked me in the face was the idea of distraction. In the book the author discusses the sad situation of the labels and warnings needed for bathing infants in bathtubs and story of a mother who believed that a bath seat would protect her baby in the water while she was distracted.

“…a parent can become distracted, and a child should not have to pay with her or his life as a result.”

I am reminded of myself and how easily I get distracted. The anxiety I feel when I don’t get all these things done that I think are essential. When I calm my brain down and really process what is important in life I laugh. This blog is not essential. My nerdy videos are not essential, social media is not essential, yet I often am distracted by these thoughts in my daily life or when I should be playing with my kids more.


My topic of love. I blog about play. I have a Play and Tinkering G+ group. I am fascinated by play and continue to push for more play in schools. The book opened up my eyes to so many things. If we take a US focus, play is often described as an activity. The book references Roger Caillois when he says something that I LOVE! “The structure sof play and reality are often identical, but the respective activities that they subsume are not reducible to each other in time or place.” Basically, play is a reality twin of reality!

How powerful is that statement? Yet it is perfect.

“Play is not something that we do; it is something that we are.” This statement is something that we forget as adults. We try to schedule “play dates” or “play time” or we have now moved to an oversaturated society where everything is scheduled with perfectly created uniforms, schedules, rules, and adults involved at every nook and cranny. We have basically eliminated play from the lifestyles of children.

The book continues to take a look at how every playground in America is the same due to all the rules and restrictions. When compared to the Hanegi Playpark where kids just make with tools and scraps found laying around it is quite sad. As Susan Solomon states in her book American Playgrounds, “Existing American playgrounds are a disaster.”

Finally, I love this final quote worth sharing

“To play, you do not need a particular object or game or even a playground, you need only an assent, a grateful and glad yes.”

Kids need space. They need to be able to leave the reality of worksheets, sitting in desks all day, being forcefed useless knowledge and information and given time to explore, to learn, to grow in their own terms. We need adults to step back and give them the space needed to find themselves. I am not suggesting we let them be all the time and ignore them, but how often do we let them find their own path? We allow them to be distracted with devices and video games just as we do ourselves, but that is not what we are talking about.

If I can go back to my son. I wanted to intervene. But for three days my son did not touch his iPad. He is an iPad junkie and I partly to blame for allowing it to happen. He will waste a day away if I let him. For three days he spent 10-12 hours each day in this fort building, fixing, learning how to use tools, and just playing. It was wonderful.


I would encourage you to read this book. If nothing else it tells a remarkable story of people who grapple with space, family, friends, growing up, and most important what it means to be human. At a deeper level I hope you rethink your ideas on play.

Last, next time kids want to play please give them the space to do so and maybe they will create their own fort or something even better.



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