Learning Through Listening

The “Reading Through The 21st Century” series was inspired by my near-insatiable desire to read professional books and my reflections on how I can connect the ideas from those books to teaching and learning in the 21st century. 

I have a stack of eight books next to me on my desk right now that make up my immediate “to-be-read” (TBR) pile at work. I have another dozen or so at home that are my TBR-over-the-summer books. 

My goal here isn’t to review these books but to reflect on the innovative pedagogy they inspire. That being said, regular readers may wonder why this article’s title is “Learning Through Listening.” After all, reading is not a listening activity, right?

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Why Standards?

Standards. Learning outcomes. Expectations. Goals. Targets. Objectives. Whatever you may call them, your work as an educator is directly related to having a clear understanding of what you want your students to be able to understand or do by the end of instruction—whether that “end” is the end of the lesson, the end of the unit, or the end of the course. (For the purposes of clarity, I will just refer to them as “standards.”)

While the formal push for standards-based education has only been around for a few decades, it is worth noting that teachers have always had standards for their students. What is a standard? The Common Core State Standards Initiative defines standards as “clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do” which also “provide a way for teachers to measure student progress throughout the school year and ensure that students are on the pathway to success.”

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Overcoming The Status Quo Through Mastery Learning

It is the rare teacher in 2021 who has not seen or heard Sir Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk on public education and how it kills creativity. Presented in 2006 and posted online a year later, it has since been viewed well over 19 million times. If you happen to be one of those few who haven’t seen or read the transcript of this talk, you can watch it here. Sir Robinson has since passed, but his words linger. Here is part of what he said:

“Every education system on earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one. Doesn’t matter where you go. You’d think it would be otherwise, but it isn’t.

“At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on Earth. And in pretty much every system too, there’s a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are normally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance everyday to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why?

“… Now our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. And there’s a reason. The whole system was invented — around the world, there were no public systems of education, really, before the 19th century. They all came into being to meet the needs of industrialism.”

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All Tied Up – The Cosmoknot

First, a story.

Back in early February, I plugged my phone into my computer to charge during a Zoom meeting. Doing so somehow both turned on my phone’s mobile hotspot and switched my computer’s internet connection from my district’s secure network to said mobile hotspot. This managed to completely deplete my mobile hotspot data in about 15 minutes.


Tangent: My district’s secure network has a very robust filtering system which means that I cannot access my wordpress blog on the network so if I want to publish a post, I either have to remember to do it at home or turn on my mobile hotspot to do it at work. (I usually write these posts when I am eating lunch or after work when I am waiting for a meeting to start, like I am doing right now.) If I wait until I get home, I usually forget because my dog needs to go for a walk, dinner needs to be made, and am I am just tired of looking at my computer screen.

So, all of this connects to why I didn’t publish this last week, even though it would have perfectly coincide with the landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover on the surface of Mars. You see, the knot that I am highlighting is called the Cosmoknot, designed by Mr. Alex Krasny.

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Criticism: Destructive, Constructive, or Instructive?

Let me start by sharing four related facts you may not know about me:

  1.  I am hard-of-hearing and so there are times that I literally do not hear everything someone says and so my brain fills in the gaps with what it thinks was said and I respond.
  2. This is not a fool-proof process and thus there are many times when what I thought I heard was not what the person said.
  3. Sometimes this mishearing leads me to think of a concept in a brand-new way.: I have some pretty nifty hearing aids that allow me to stream audio from my phone directly to my ears.
  4. Sometimes the audio skips, causing my brain to do the same thing I described above.

This happened recently.

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In Defense of College Hoodies

I love hoodies. I especially love college hoodies. It was 20 years, as I was getting ready to celebrate my 18th birthday, that I found myself reflecting on the different paths my friends and I were about to take after we graduated high school. Many of us had been friends since our early days of grade school. Other joined the group in middle school or even high school. But those bonds were real, they were meaningful and, absent the social media that is so ubiquitous today, we knew we would likely not see each other very often after graduating if, for that matter, at all.

Yes, my hoodies have their own closet.
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All Tied Up – The Four-in-Hand Knot

I was all set to get these posts going out at least once a week and I did really well for… *checks calendar* two weeks. I have heard several friends suggest that when you set a goal, you are allowed to miss once but don’t let yourself miss twice or the goal is essentially over. So this is me not missing twice.

One thing I appreciate about this oft-repeated bit of advice is how simple it is. And, as luck would have it, simplicity is the theme of this week’s featured knot: the Four-in-Hand.

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All Tied Up – #OneWord2021 Special Edition

I am taking a break from my regularly planned All Tied Up posts about necktie knots to finally get around to sharing my One Word for 2021. I am hoping that, by the end of this post, I will have made a connection between my word and this series in general.

For those who don’t know, #OneWord2021 is part of an ongoing practice of changing how we approach goals at the start of each year. It was inspired by the book One Word that Will Change Your Life, co-authored by Jon Gordon (author of The Energy Bus), Jimmy Page and Dan Britton. Educators around the world, especially, have embraced this movement by selecting one word that will drive their focus for the year. Some select a word for professional purposes, some for personal, and some for both. The amazing Lindsay Titus, founder of Define YOUniversity, recently offered a live webinar to help people through the process of selecting their word. (I was unable to attend due to a prior conflict.)

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All Tied Up – The Merovingian Knot

When I was in high school, I auditioned for a school play my freshman year and I did not make the cut. I didn’t even get a tiny bit role. To be fair, I did not plan, rehearse, or even consider what it meant to audition for a play. I literally walked in, read a bit from the script, and walked out. Several of my friends, on the other hand, received small roles, as did my older brother and his friends, who had been involved in plays and musicals for several years.

Wanting to be supportive of my friends (and also as an excuse to spend time with them during rehearsals, I took a role with the tech crew as one of the spotlight operators along with another of my best friends. The teacher who oversaw the theatre department assigned two students to each spotlight so that when the older students graduated, the younger ones would be able to continue operating these crucial theatre tools. By the start of my sophomore year, the other students who had been trained having either graduated, taken onstage roles, or moved on to other hobbies. As a result, I was the undisputed chief spotlight operator for my high school, running the follow spots for every play, musical, and special stage event the high school had.

Nowadays the spotlights are often programmed and run via computer rather than directly by students, but I continue to reflect on my experiences with the old-fashioned spotlights and what they taught me about teaching.

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