Tag Archives: learning

Current Reads to Grow My BoW

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The month of March continues to be one of the busiest for most in my circle (including my amazing sister who just came back from a trip to London and was recently accepted to my alma mater, the University of Florida). This week’s posts have been short and sweet, but I am happy to say next week will be packed with articles on course development (designing the instruction sheets for the PCP reboot), the first installment in the Ideate content development series, and a post on the design process for my first slidedoc. I think part of what has made 2014 so fruitful has been the drive and commitment by my colleagues, family, and friends to grow their body of work. That kind of commitment is contagious! I am working to expand my BoW by taking on three new books (in addition to inhaling the second book in the Sword of Truth series). This month, I am reading Words that Work by Dr. Frank Luntz, Creative Workshop by David Sherwin, and Cook This, Not That! by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding. Four very different books, four ways to tap into areas of potential growth in this the year of the Body of Work.

Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind

I’ve always been a big fan of science fiction (I’ve devoured most sci-fi shows and am on my second viewing of the Dr. Who reboot), but good fantasy from my perspective was hard to come by outside of LOTR. I picked up the first installment of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series after realizing it was the basis for a fantasy series I’d sampled a few years before, Legend of the Seeker, a mostly forgettable but entertaining show featuring several folks from the film adaptations of LOTR. I have enjoyed immersing myself into Goodkind’s world. I cannot help but see Joseph Campbell’s Hero Cycle in Richard Cypher’s journey from simple forest guide to Seeker, wizard, and lord. Reading and becoming invested in this story is teaching me more about crafting stories and integrating them into presentations, as well as bringing to life Duarte’s idea that conflict is a constant in a great story.

Words that Work by Frank Luntz

The name Dr. Frank Luntz is familiar to me from reading Alex’s blog, in particular her review of Win, so when I ran across Words that Work while perusing the bargain books at Barnes and Noble (yes, I love a bargain!), I of course bought it immediately. I am looking forward to learning more about the impact words have on decision making. I teach my students that language and the ability to use it well can have immediate and lasting impact. Learning the right words to create resonance can help me not only teach others but also achieve my own professional goals. I am particularly intrigued by the use of real case studies of working words in action.

Creative Workshop by David Sherwin

Another area I’d like to grow is my design skills. While I have found a way to design pretty much anything and everything I need in Keynote (so intimidated by Photoshop, even after completing a Lynda course on the subject), I have reached the point where I know I need to learn to use the tools of the design trade, and I’d like to learn by designing new types of deliverables. Creative Workshop is an application-based, skill building book. It contains 80 exercises broken up into seven categories. The purpose of the book is to help designers push and challenge their creative skills, to tackle the spectrum of design (from branding to video) in order to grow creativity through practice. I’ve owned the book for a few years, but felt intimidated by the projects. After completing Ideate, for which I created several icons and visualizations, I realized that innovation and growth as a designer will only come from challenge, so it’s time to tackle Sherwin’s challenges!

Cook This, Not That! Easy and Awesome 350-Calorie Meals by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding

As I mentioned previously, I have been perfecting a few of my own homemade recipes, in particular my mojo marinade. If you know me well enough, you know I love to cook. In my home, we create a menu for each week’s dinners. Trying out new recipes and cooking for and with my significant other is the highlight of my day. I don’t usually buy cookbooks anymore because, let’s face it, I can Pinterest pretty much anything, but I loved the first book from this duo, Eat This, Not That!, so I picked this book up on my B & N bargain book trip. As soon as I opened the book, I was hooked. Not only were the recipes easy and yummy, the book is so well-designed! My favorite sections are the preambles to each category. For instance, the salad section contains a “salad matrix,” a visual breakdown of salad bases, vegetables, toppings, and dressings one can create hundreds of combinations with. Each section is color coded, includes call outs, variations, and visual representations. I can’t wait to plan this week’s menu using Cook This, Not That!

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Data Display of the Day: The Flipped Classroom

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The phrase “Flipping the Classroom” has become a hot topic of discussion among my colleagues–workshops have been offered on the subject, teachers have been implementing flipped strategies in their campus and online classes, and a student even proposed this as his persuasive speech topic several months ago. So what exactly is a flipped classroom? The concept exists at the intersection between the opportunities offered by video and online modes of delivery and a much needed response to the problems with our factory model of education, one that Sir Ken Robinson asserts is killing our creative centers.

The concept was first introduced via MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses), by teachers like Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, and fueled by the rise of online videos and lessons (in large part made possible by presentation software like PowerPoint). In essence, in a flipped classroom, students experience lecture on their own in video format and learn the subjects they study through experience. For schools, teachers, and students who spent countless hours in lectures, delivered those countless hours, or dealt with the ramifications of a failing school system in part driven by a lack of actual learning, the flipped classroom is an open window of opportunity.

One of my big goals for this year is to devote more time to activity in the campus course. While I do not seek to remove the impact a deep socratic discussion of course ideas has on learning, I do see the benefit of keeping instruction and the dissemination of information minimal for the sake of application. One of my big goals for this year is to add even more in class activity and application than is already present in the course. There’s no reason our campus students couldn’t study the same videos as online students as they study their course textbook. This would leave more time for application and activity-based learning and help students see the ideas they learn about in action. Today’s infographic provides a visual introduction to the concept of Flipped Classrooms. Check out this infographic and the rest from Knewton, a learning systems/learning platform company (their adaptive learning platform sounds so cool!)


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TED talk of the day: Jacob Barnett says think, don’t learn

Jacob Barnett is a speaker, budding mathematician, and physicist; he is also 14 years old and was diagnosed with ADD and autism at a young age. After years of special education classes and failed attempts to “correct” Jacob’s inability to learn, his parents took him out of school and allowed him to think (not just learn). Jacob believes it was the freeing of his consciousness from the bonds of traditional education that enabled him to finally think and innovate. Further, he supposes that some of our greatest thinkers (Newton, Einstein) began to really think only when they put aside learning. Now, this may not work for most of us, who don’t have the innate genius and can thrive and think once the constructs of learning are in place. However, I am fascinated by the idea that learning happens not when we are forced to exist within the constraints of lesson plans and diagnoses but when we are freed from the bonds of learning and begin thinking and tapping into our creativity. As I work on the next post in my content development series, developing a presentation’s big idea, it’s good food for thought.

Under what conditions do you stop learning and start thinking? What gets your creativity moving?

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A Superteacher’s Views on the Learning Divide

This 11th year of teaching has been one of contemplation and reflection on the craft of teaching. Today, I thought a bit about the apparent divide between a teacher’s perspective on learning and a student’s perspective on learning. I believe a starting point to correcting this situation is teachers and students communicating. Here is how I managed to reconcile the two over the course of my educational journey as student and teacher:

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A real teacher’s only job is to serve and help her students. At our core, we want all of you to succeed, to reach beyond the miasma of the average, the just good enough, to true mastery. Mastery to me means more than just scoring well on tests (tests suck. Seriously); mastery is reaching a level of immersion and understanding that leads to true passion, perhaps even the ecstatic bliss of knowing one’s purpose in life. I know this because I’ve experienced it myself with teaching. I resisted for a bit, always remembering my humanities and AP language teacher Dr. Earls, who taught me that learning is the thin veil between human and troglodyte. But yes, teaching is what fuels me, what keeps me motivated to be more. It’s this drive that should fuel your love of learning, but for so long learning has been a chore on a checklist, whose mark is the letter grade, a number on a sterile scale.

So, we come to an impasse. You believe learning is about getting a grade. I believe learning is about earning a grade. You believe your fate is in my hands. I believe only you can determine the course of your own education–you are entirely responsible for the choices you make.

I learned this as an undergraduate at the University of Florida. My first semester, a complete failure, is the one I’ll remember most because it forced me to live with the consequences of the choices I’d made. I reveled in my newfound freedom. I was away from home, living the awkward teenager’s dream of dorm rooms, dining hall food, and 6-dollar football games. I wasted my time sleeping, watching TV, going to the movies, and generally not going to class. I also wasn’t smart enough to save my money to purchase the class notes that semester. I’d chosen to take a particularly challenging course, AST 2037: Search for Life in the Universe because I loved science fiction (naturally), and assumed it would be an easy pass. I was wrong. The class threw so much math and physics at me that I was instantly lost, but instead of helping myself to learn, I gave up. So, after weeks of not attending my classes I earned the lowest grades of my life–a D+ in astronomy, two C+ in biology and to my utter shame, theater appreciation, and a B in art history. I knew instantly my scholarship was gone. I was downgraded from a Florida Academic Scholar to a Merit Scholar, putting more of the financial burden of school on me.

I worked for the next four years with single-minded purpose, never taking a summer off, taking on several concentrations to finally graduate with honors. I never blamed my teachers for my failures, nor did I hold them responsible for what grade I earned–if I earned a C on a paper, it was because of me. If I’d not taken advantage of the time given to me to work on an assignment and turned in what I knew was sub par work, I took the ding to the grade and added it to my list of “do not ever do this agains.”

So, it’s difficult for me to see it any other way, to feel that I should apply rules only in certain instances or occasions, to subjugate the worth of someone’s education by not holding them accountable to the standards everyone is expected to meet and exceed. To me, doing so would cheapen your education, making it worth less, making it less impacting on your immediate community and the larger human community. Yes, I want you to succeed, and I will do anything within my power to help you–within the scope of my responsibilities.  I am a guide, facilitator, evaluator, and cheerleader; I am not the learner, the one who must embark on a journey with a new set of tools, face a series of challenges, and return to the world with a new boon–mastery. You are the learner, the hero on your own journey.  I commit myself to ensuring you learn, to clarifying ideas, providing you with guidance and constructive critique, to constantly updating and polishing my craft to better serve your learning needs. I only ask that you embrace the call to adventure and make your world better through learning.

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A blessed break from an epic tweak

I am taking a two month break from the classroom courtesy of an individual I have since realized is some kind of super robot, Alex Rister. She is teaching two months worth of very lucky folks. I know because I love being Alex’s student every other month! I love learning, enough to know I want to be a part of the proceses that lead to learning for the rest of my working life. This month, Alex taught a group of go-getting superstudents who outshine their contemporaries in diligence, commitment to excellence, and a positive spirit.

I took a break from working on my behemoth latest deck to review their final self-reflections for the month. Needless to say, they moved me–from admissions of this being a refuge from a tumultuous life to this being a hellishly difficult yet unforgettable month, the students gained so much from their experience this month. It echoes the concept of “naches” which I am reading about in Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken. Naches is the feeling of pride in someone else’s accomplishment; it is often felt by parents and teachers. I love a good naches. It happened this month and in many months prior. Every month, I feel naches, a sort of teacher win when a student labors towards awesomeness.

August’s class not only chose these as the qualities they most admired in other speakers; they also embodied them.


This post is written for superteacher, Alex Rister, who inspires her students to warm my cold, cold teacher heart each and every month.

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Limitless by David Crandall

Today, my students presented their persuasive PechaKucha presentations. This assignment is a true challenge for students who spend 32 hours of their week in a classroom and still have another 15-20 hours of work to complete weekly. The prospect of putting together a pre-timed, fast-paced presentation is daunting, and often leaves students feeling completely frightened. However, super students past and present have risen to the challenge to create amazing presentations. Today was no exception. In honor of my amazing June class, who has restored my faith in teaching and learning, I share David Crandall’s Limitless.

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