Book Review

Creating Innovators – The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World

How are we going to educate students to be prepared to live and work in a world where up-to-date encyclopedic information is as close as a smart phone click? Where new technologies are being developed at lightning speed? Where many jobs are being outsourced to countries where they can be accomplished at lower costs? And other jobs are being automated? Tony Wagner explores these questions in his book Creating Innovators – The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.
Wagner and videographer Robert Compton interviewed parents, young STEM and social innovators, and business and military leaders, to find out what it takes to create a mindset that is ready to be creative, take risks, identify needs, and work toward solutions. The message for teachers is that we need to take the role of guide on the side rather than sage on the stage. Gone are the days when sitting in a lecture hall to “receive” information will be sufficient to develop the skills students need. As Paul Bottino (of the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard) says, “The value of explicit information is rapidly dropping to zero. Today the real added value is what you can do with what you know.”
This may come as good news to students whose forte is not memorization, but instead, the ability and desire to explore, experiment, work and play with others, and think in divergent and convergent ways. It may come as bad news to teachers who like their students to sit quietly in neat rows and not ask questions that start with, “What if…” Wagner says, “It is a rare class that genuinely encourages students to take intellectual risks, and that encourages learning from- rather than penalizing – failure.”
Wagner quotes General Martin Dempsey of the US Army who tells rising battalion brigade commanders “I [make} three promises: one, we are not going to give you an organization that is perfectly fitted to your needs; two, we are not going to give you the equipment that is exactly what you’d like to have to accomplish your mission; and three, the guidance you get is likely to be late to your need. The answer is you – you the leader- have to figure this out.”
When I think about the path real life takes for most people, I think Dempsey has it just about right. You could promise that to anyone in any situation and be true to your promises.
As all of these interviews were taking place, Robert Compton has his camera running. The book is full of QR codes which, when scanned with a QR scanner such as Tag Reader, will bring up the video so you can watch the interview. All of the interviews can be found at
Whether or not you agree with Wagner, this book offers food for thought about how we should approach the education of today’s students.
My favorite Wagner quote:
“If you don’t fail, you are probably playing it too safe. But you will learn some of your most valuable lessons from failure – far more that your successes.”

Click here for more information on the book.

Categories: 21st Century Skills, Book Review | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

If You Don’t Feed the Teachers

I am reading a great little book called If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students by Neila Connors.

If You Don’t Feed the Teachers by Neila Connors

I think Debbie Hanger had this book when she was at Steward.  It’s a treasure chest of ideas.  It contains common sense advice about how to “feed” your faculty so that they know they are appreciated for their hard work and creativity.  I know that feeling of working really hard on something and then wondering if anyone really noticed or understood the effort I had put into it.  The children benefit, but it does not come naturally to a seven year old to thank a teacher for planning something special or effective.  Their appreciation shows in their enthusiastic engagement in the activity.  Another teacher or administrator would never know of my accomplishment unless I told them about it – and that takes time and effort as well.  So in that respect, teaching can feel like a lonely and unappreciated job – with no fault on the part of the teacher or administrator.  How can we find ways to celebrate and show appreciation for the effort and successes of our teachers?

Categories: Book Review, Professional Development | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Copyright Clarity: How Fair Use Supports Digital Learning

A while back I read a wonderful book called Copyright Clarity: How Fair Use Supports Digital Learning written by Renee Hobbs. The book is sold on Amazon in paperback, as well as an ebook.

Copyright Clarity by Renee Hobbs

With schools worldwide realizing the importance of teaching students to be digitally literate, there is a pressing need for teachers and students alike to understand the laws which limit, as well as support, them in using digital text and media in their presentation of lessons and projects. The four components of media literacy as defined by the Aspen Institute in 1993 are “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and communicate messages in a wide variety of forms.”1 This means that teachers and students will probably, at some point in their interaction with the “messages,” copy them.

Hobbs strives to clarify the rights of educators to use copyrighted material for educational purposes under the protection of the Fair Use Doctrine. She says, “In order to ensure that copyright law did not become a form of private censorship, the copyright law of 1976 includes section 107, the doctrine of fair use. Fair use is an exemption – a type of “user right” that limits the rights of the copyright holder, allowing users to copies without permission or payment under certain conditions.”

I was very surprised to learn that the guidelines for educators’ use of copyrighted material, so often verbally shared by teachers, are not laws at all, but, in fact, guidelines created by the media industry (publishers of text, music, and video) who have an interest in limiting the free use of their products. It is, in fact, our right to use their products, as long as we make a case by case justification of our purpose.

Section 107: The Fair use Doctrine of the Copyright Law of 1976 states:
“Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”

If someone who makes use of copyrighted material can justify its use based on the above factors, then they can feel confident that they haven’t violated copyright laws. It is my hope that understanding this will have a liberating effect on those educators who have previously been reluctant to make use of the rich multimedia resources available to educators of today.

I urge you to read Hobbs’ book for a more complete understanding of how the Fair Use Doctrine protects our rights as educators.

1 Aufderheide, P., & Firestone, C. (1993). Media Literacy: National leadership conference. Washington, DC: Aspen Institute. (p. 6).

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What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly

Waht Technology Wants I am reading good book called What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly. The book is available in hard copy, as an ebook, and as an audio book.   It has me thinking about technology in a different way. Kelly, himself, has an interesting relationship with technology, as he describes in chapter one. As a young man he spent eight years traveling around Asia with a sleeping bag, a change of clothes, a pen knife, and a few cameras. He became familiar with different cultures and what they deemed essential for survival. In many cases these needs did not involve anything powered by electricity or batteries. Upon returning to the U.S. he travelled the country by bicycle before settling down in upstate New York and building a house out of oak trees he and a friend cut and milled themselves. He then worked for the Whole Earth Catalogue and was one of the founders of Wired Magazine. After all that lack of technology, go figure that one out!

In this book he traces the evolution of technology beginning several hundred thousand years ago, when bipedal primates in the Hominidae family began using tools and language. Kelly discusses how the evolution of technology progresses hand-in-hand with the evolution of man. For example, as man learned to cook meat, his teeth became smaller; as man started wearing clothes, his body became less hairy. ”As fast as we remake our tools, we remake ourselves. We are co-evolving with our technology. And so, we have become deeply dependent on it.”1 This makes me think of how, in my generation, we have evolved from maintaining a mental data base of phone numbers, addresses, and maps to handhelds that hold all of that information. If I no longer make the effort to remember my friends’ phone numbers, will I lose the ability to store them in my memory? I have heard the debate currently going on in educational circles about whether or not to require students to memorize, as my generation did, names, dates, events, etc. when they are readily retrievable from digital devices with just a few click. What do you think?

He also notes how technology has become an “extension of man’s body,” something we have come to rely upon for our daily functioning. Much like the bee builds, and then relies upon its hive, we have built a system of technologies that seem to us essential for our survival. (Many of my friends were at a loss in the recent power outage caused by Hurricane Irene.) Do we need to remain prepared for life without technology?

1 Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: The Penguin Group, 2010

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The Human Side of School Change


I’ve been reading Robert Evans’ book, The Human Side of School Change, and driving everybody crazy quoting what he has to say about trying to implement a change in philosophy and practice in a school setting.  The most important message for me is the not-so-new idea that asking a teachers to change their beliefs or their methods challenges the very core of their identity as a teacher.  Teachers do what they do in their classrooms because they have come to believe, through experience, that it is the right way to do it.  They have seen the effects and the results of their methods first hand.  Yet sometimes change is necessary to provide our students with the knowledge and skills they will need to be successful in a world that is different from the world as experienced by their teachers.

My grandmother taught me how to make a killer pound cake – literally.  Six eggs, three cups of sugar, three sticks of butter…. this is not a heart-friendly pound cake.  But, oh, it melts in your mouth like no other cake can.  When I make it, I try to do it just as she taught me because I know that’s what works.  But I have to wonder if her grandmother or great-great-grandmother made it the same way.  They certainly didn’t have the KitchenAid mixer or the Samsung oven I have.  Did they beat the batter by hand?  Was their oven heated by wood?  Could I make the same cake that way today?  Would I want to?  Would they watch me do it my way and tell me that my cake is not the same as, not as good as theirs?

Times change.  Needs change.  Some of the skills we taught our students in the past may not be relevant anymore.  Yet that fact does not make it any easier for teachers to embrace change.  I think this will be a topic I will revisit many times, trying to find the best ways to ease in new attitudes, new ideas, and new skills.  Our students are waiting for us.

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