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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Book Review: Payoff by Dan Ariely

I am back to reviewing books. After taking more than a year off from writing reviews I have realized how much I benefit myself to post my thoughts. I write notes and store them in various locations but I can never find them. My book review posts are to help me better organize my thoughts and like everything I hope you find something new to discover, read, and connect.

I am starting off 2017 with this nice short read. This book is part of the TED book series. What I liked about this book is that it helped me grapple with some things that I have struggled with mentally the last few years. The whole basis of this book is to look into motivation, what it means, and how to make it work for us. In the end what I took away from the book is that motivation works best when we simply treat people like people. Basically, treat people like we actually care about them, appreciate their hard work, and do our best to remain loyal to them.

The author shares many of his research projects, but in the end this is what I felt was the key for me.

For me personally, something that really resonated with me and for me made the read completely worthwhile was the following idea:

“THINGS THAT GIVE US A SENSE OF MEANING DON’T NECESSARILY MAKE US HAPPY”

I instantly think of parenting. It is not always a job that provides happiness. There is no template, no recipe, no guidebook to being a great parent. What works for one, fails with the other, and sometimes you just shake you head, brush off your knees, and try again. It is tough. However, parenting provides meaning to our lives. We want to do what we can to lead and model the best way we know how. It provides meaning that is hard to put into words, but there are many moments when happiness is the feeling we experience.

This is same for teaching and coaching. They all go hand in hand.

It is really like trying to build IKEA furniture and scratching your head with the instructions. They don’t make sense so you go your own way in hopes it turns out right and when it does you feel proud.

The other idea that stood out to me is that money is not what motivates us. We continue to push this myth into the workplace and society, but really people just want to be acknowledged and appreciated for their work. It is as simple as that. If we know that many of our motivations “spring from trying to conquer a sense of helplessness and reclaim even a tiny modicum of control over our lives”, then we must realize that in order to help people move forward they need encouragement. Criticism and negativity does not work and will kill motivation quickly.

I encourage you to read the book. It is worth your time. I skimmed some parts faster than others because it did not apply to me personally, but being a short read you can gain what you need in just a few hours.

Check out this Amazon deal: Payoff by Dan Ariely 

 

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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.

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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.

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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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The End of Average: Is It Time?

No one is average.

 

Point blank. The whole point of the book that I currently read, The End of Average by Todd Rose,  and my current thinking is simply that average does not exist. At first I could not grapple with this concept because my whole world is dependent upon average. I had to read this book, pause, write things down, rethink, question, scribble notes, and in the end it started to sink in. Below is my stream of thoughts woven into a semi coherent blog post.

 

  1. There is no such thing as an average student because we just have too many variables as a human. You can replace the word student with any other term such as athlete, kid, musician.
  2. One of the key ideas that constantly swirled in my head was how much we try to rise above average. We constantly try to seek the “average” and do just enough to rise above to not be average or point fingers at those who are below average.
  3. There has been so much talk in education about moving away from the industry style model of teaching and learning in schools. We know this is based on a system that has been ingrained in factories for over a hundred years. However, despite a shift with makerspaces, deeper learning, and project based learning we still have the tenets of averagarianism where we still evaluate, sort,and manage students by comparing them to the average. We do this in PLC, team meetings, standardized data, state tests, grades, and pretty much anything else we do in school.

As we push for personalized learning and student voice in schools we must ask ourselves, “Where does individuality come into place in a standardized system?”

 

You know what I will answer that for you. It doesn’t. I cannot exist.

 

So why do we continue to fool ourselves that operating in a school system based on Taylorism where preparation of a mass amount of students is to develop average workers instead of developing a system of geniuses? We still use the Gary Plan system in many schools to mimic the factory setting. We still work to make sure every student obtains a standardized average education – you know, teaching to the middle. Or I mean creating some extension opportunities outside of the school day because those needs cannot be met during the 8 hours students are already in school. Why can’t we simply do more of this during the 8 hours they are at school? Is that not enough time? At what point do we begin to stop doing things the same way because it is just the way it is or is simply cannot be done? Oh I know….. because to do anything unlike others would go against the grain of the factory model of average.

 

Still don’t believe me? Then why do we rank students? Why do we look at data and say, “Well on average this many got this question right….”

 

This leads me to the most important statement of the book

 

“We all strive to like everyone else, only better.”

 

Let that sink in…….

 

Sinking in some more

 

And some more

 

You see we squeeze out the passion for individuality. I do it as a parent despite trying not to. My five year old stated the other night that she wants to grow up to be an artist of everything! How great is that? I  love it and yet I know that this beautiful goal and aspiration will be sucked out of her soul to do something that makes the economy float, to blend in like everyone else, and to avoid being different. To be different has become taboo, an obstacle, a headache to those that just want to be like everyone else. The majority of the world “is clearly set up so the system always matter more than you.”

 

One of the mind opening examples in the book for me was the question comparing two men and asking, “Which man is bigger?” In the photo one is taller while one has a larger belly and other variables(just read this book already!).

 

The question leads to the answer that there is indeed no answer. There are simply too many variables and therefore we cannot rank them because of the jaggedness principle. According to the author this principle is defined as not applying a one dimensional thinking to understand something that is complex and “jagged”. We can argue that the question above has too many variable to come to one conclusion. The same holds true for IQ. Two people could arrive at same score but for different reasons. We see this time and time again when we do summative assessments in our classrooms and projects. One thing we could do is look at one specific standard and even then it is tough because there are so many variables that allow students to either achieve or come up short.

 

As posed in the book, a question that I yet don’t have an answer for is “If human abilities are jagged, why do so many psychologists, educators, and business executives continue to use one dimensional thinking to evaluate talent?|

 

I thought about it. I pondered what my answer would be. And then I started to dive into more about statistics(which I am not great at). Todd Rose discusses how a .4 correlation is really just explaining 16% of the behavior of the two dimensions. So when we look at the work of Hattie how impactful are these numbers really? I am not suggesting that he is all wrong, but what is the great impact of 16%? Not much, unless you are once again looking for the average to do average thinking to do average work.

 

So what do we do? What are some answers? I don’t want this to be a post that all I do is complain. Complaining is easy and actually these are not complaints but my ideas typed up from the side margins.

 

One idea I loved from the book is IGN and how it operated Code-Foo. Instead of looking to do the same old average system of resumes(I hate resumes by the way) they had applicants submit a statement of passion and then apply their knowledge by answering four questions on coding. What they were looking for were people eager to learn and be part of something special. I think the same idea could be applied in education. If I could run an innovation lab where I could connect students to things they love doing and in the process cover the “requirements” that we think every student needs to know. The hard part to all of this is that the people in education have not been trained, educated, and hired to be thinking this way. We have been hired to meet the average, to follow order, instructions, and be like minded. It is who we are and who we have trained to be. To break this system would require new training, and restructure of higher education teaching courses, and a whole new model of how schools operate, look, and feel. These ideas are calling for a rebranding of education across the nation from the ground up.

 

I believe that we must not scrap everything. The world does not work that way. What we need to do is question why we keep doing the same. Why do we do things when we don’t have a why? We just allow ourselves to follow a path and we don’t know the destination in which we are headed. We must be able to think for ourselves.

 

If we know as a parent, coach, and teacher that we develop, grow, change, and adapt through our own process based on our physical, mental, moral, and social aspects of our lives then why don’t we allow our students to develop on their own path? We constantly try to get the below average caught up to average and let those above just float along. If we have children of our own we see the flaws in these systems and do everything we can as parents to build upon the skills and help them develop. Is it any wonder that outside companies and organizations are raking in millions to meet our kids needs?

 

I cannot tell you how many times my wife(8th grade algebra teacher) has come home blown away by all the methods in which students solve a problem. It is amazing to listen to their ideas and see how they came to their conclusion. Why can we not allow more of this to happen in schools? This is what I want to solve and come up with more solutions. Why do we care if it takes one child two weeks to solve a problem or master a standard while another takes two years? Do you care if your doctor took 4,6,8 years to earn their degree? No, you care if they can perform to the highest level to keep us alive and healthy. Same is true for a variety of things. The headache is how does this look in schools? We cannot have 1000 different pathways going on in any one school. Perhaps we leave the Gary Plan operations behind and move away from age specific grade levels? Just a thought.

 

We must work to push for new methods of operation. We still work in a world that rewards those above the “average”. We provide a class rank of one metric that allows for scholarships and access to elite colleges. Until higher education changes their one dimensional value of student’s there is little that can be done. We must work to change the system. What if…

 

What if…

  • Schools offered credentials where students could earn legit certificates of learning in various skillsets?
  • We got rid of grades altogether since they mean nothing(one dimension of compliance and not learning)
  • Created schools within schools to allow students to begin focused learning on what they want to learn
  • Developed a unified badge system that could be accepted by higher institutions where students had to prove their work and showcase they can actually create what they claim.
  • Classes were not based on seat time, but competency proficiency

 

What if schools eliminated the mindset of average and truly changed methods to meet the needs of all learners and pushed them to be their best? What if we stopped striving to be like everyone else and got back to what made America amazing in the first place and allow individual creativity and flare to take hold again?

 

Please read the book The End of Average by Todd Rose to understand where my brain is going. This book has made me rethink my whole perspective on life and what exactly it is we should be striving to accomplish.

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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 http://amzn.to/1IxiiLK

Oh man, this one is so good also! Purple Cow by Seth Godin http://amzn.to/1IxilYa

Poke the Box by Seth Godin http://amzn.to/1JFluKL 

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

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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.

PLAY

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.

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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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Transforming Schools: Using PBL, Performance Assessment, And Common Core Standards

I  have been doing a lot more research and book reading this year to make an effort to really educate myself around solid principles in project based learning, deeper learning, and how to infuse these elements into the classroom without teacher burnout.

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In 2014 I read and reviewed a book titled, Deeper Learning by Monica Martinez(MUST READ!!!!) which really inspired to push the envelope of thinking and learning in my school. The book opened my eyes to so many solid ideas that it lead to a book club, chats with the author, and some very powerful conversations with educators in our building. Over time we have slowly made subtle changes to our teaching and culture to allow deeper learning to take root. We have begun to develop some very high level projects and opportunities for deeper learning in our school due to the hard work, perspiration, and boundary pushing of the teachers in our building.

Recently I came across this book, Transforming Schools Using PBL, Performance Assessment, and Common Core Standards, and just had to buy it. I was so intrigued by the long title because it spoke to the exact dilemma that we are working through in our school right now. How does one incorporate the framework of Deeper Learning with quality elements of project based learning while not losing focus on the Common Core and still finding time to enter grades into a gradebook to keep parents and students happy?

Bob Lenz and crew have written a book that speaks volumes of honesty, learning, examples, and more to make this all happen. The book comes with an appendix about the same size as the contents of the book to give the reader everything they have developed in their schools. This is a huge bonus as it allows the reader to absorb the ideas, see examples, and then time to go make a modified version to fit the needs of a particular school.

This book proves that it is possible to dive deep, craft high quality projects, meet the standards, and not burn yourself out. The book provides many examples, links to further resources that just the resources alone are worth the cost of the book.

What I found to be powerful for me was to first read Deeper Learning by Monica Martinez to understand Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 3.03.08 PMthe framework for Deeper Learning. Understand how to look at your school and identify what needs to be fixed and what is working. It is more like the Why this system works. It develops the overarching framework. From there you can move into Transforming Schools to learn the How to make this happen. This book provides examples. It speaks truth. It walks the walk and does not talk down to the reader. It keeps a sense of reality in check when sharing the ideas. If you want to take it a step further you can move into the What by reading Leaders of Their Own Learning: Transforming by Ron Berger  to develop day to day teaching tools to make sure you are on the right track.

This is a must read. It is a book you must purchase as you will write notes, highlight passages, watch the DVD contents, cross reference with Deeper Learning and Leaders of the Their Own Learning and soon you will be making changes to the classroom to develop students in ways nobody thought was possible. I found the book to be very powerful in terms of thinking project based learning. I have written on project based learning for several years and this book gave me pause to think through some ideas and where I need to improve my thinking.

I guess this review is a suggestion for three books. Over the course of April my reading of these three books will lead to a blog post a day documenting my ideas about Deeper Learning, Project Based Learning, and Student  Engagement. I look forward to sharing more specifics. In the meantime start reading these books! Transforming Schools is a must read and will be one of  my main staples of books to use again and again.

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Coffeechug Book Review: The Teaching Brain

Finally a book about education that places an emphasis on the importance of teachers in the equation of learning in school. This book explores the issues in education reform today and provides some answers to how we can improve our classrooms right now.

I found this book to be a really powerful read. It is not a long read(200 pages), but I did find the material at times a bit above my head. However, I took down many notes and really want to grapple with the issues discussed in the book.

What I found so interesting is how the author broke down all the different theories of learning from behaviorists, theories of mind, cognitive and more. I found this part quite interesting and made me think about which strand I fell in. I had to do some additional research.

If you are an educator you should read this book because it will fuel your brain with why we are a vital ingredient in the education system and development of learning. You should read the book just to gain a glimpse into how educational reform is based on these theories and the flaws in them all as well as the key ideas to work with.

With this review I am trying something different. Instead of writing paragraphs of my thoughts from my notes and sketches I thought I would just share the actual notes with you instead.

Here are my notes, sketches, and key takeaways from the book. Maybe you find this helpful or perhaps not, but I thought I would share a bit into how I read through this review.

Go read this book, work through the jargon, and reach out to me when you want to discuss the contents as I think it would allow for some powerful conversation.

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Zero To Maker: Another Essential Makerspace Reading

Last week I reviewed the book TinkerLab which I found to be a required reading for anyone looking to work with students in creativity, problem solving, and developing that maker attitude.

I would like to add another essential reading to the collection and that is the book, Zero To Maker, written by David Lang.

I consider myself a maker wannabe and newbie. I am learning a great deal this year in both my personal adventures as well as operating a engineering program for students after school.

Reading this book reminded me that we all start from somewhere. The book basically follows David and his journey with this underwater robot and how it all came to be. Along the way he breaks down resources, how to connect with others, types of tools, tips, and other great ideas to help anyone get started. This is not a manual for each tool and resource. Rather it reads like a story and it is up to you to figure out what your next steps will be.

I wrote down a bunch of notes in my Make notebook(notebook only used for Maker ideas and development projects) that I can go back and reference as I continue to learn more and more.

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A key part to this book was his emphasis on what is important. There are so many new tools and devices being created and promoted. At the end of the day you can start small with the tools that brought us up to this point. Start with what you have. Don’t feel like you have to have it all. Don’t worry about knowing everything. David talks many times about seeking help, going to the experts, and learning from the best. Asking for help is a quality that we must all have and many of us are afraid to ask for help.

Overall, his story is an example of his message. We must share and continue to help one another explore, learn from mistakes, and keep that growth mindset. This is a great read to get you started. The best part was it was not a tutorial. It is about the message that anyone can be maker. We are all makers in some aspects and we can develop at our own pace and our way to accomplish what we want to do.

Finally, something that I think gets lost in the many discussions of Makers, DIY, Makerspaces, etc. is that it is a team sport. I love the book when he states that making is not actually a DIY(Do It Yourself), but DIT(Do It Together). Making is a team sport that requires a community to do things. I witness this with every engineering lab where students work together to work through problems whether it is soldering, coding, or building ancient engineering weapons.

Check this book out if for nothing else to remind yourself that you are on the right path and we are all in this together.

 

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