Search this site
Other stuff

Follow me on Twitter at:


All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

Locations of visitors to this page

My latest book:

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Fan Page on Facebook


Must-read K-12 IT Blog
EdTech's Must-Read K-12 IT Blogs





Learning guide words for the test

The LWW, my librarian wife, came home frustrated one day last week. She had spent the afternoon looking for a classroom set of print dictionaries so she could teach her kids how to use guide words.

"Seriously?" I asked. "I don't remember that being a terribly important skill even when I actually had to use a print dictionary."

"It's on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment test I was told," she replied

Nice to know Minnesota is on the cutting edge of teaching life-skills - from the 20th century. I wonder if braiding buggy whips and sharpening quill pens are still essential for "career and college readiness as well?




BFTP: Reaching students who don't care about grades

If you want people to perform better, you reward them. Right? Bonuses, commissions, their own reality show. Incentivize them. That's how business works. But that's not happening here. You've got an incentive designed to sharpen thinking and accelerate creativity. And it does just the opposite. It dulls thinking and blocks creativity. Daniel Pink

Dan Pink's TED talk about intrinsic motivation is well worth watching.


Pink very much comes to the same conclusion about what motivates adult workers as Alfie Kohn observed about what motivates students in Punished by Rewards back in 1993. See: "Creating Fat Kids Who Don't Like to Read."

Here's what both Pink and Kohn both tell me as an educator. If you want permanent, long-term learning or behavioral change, you won't do it with M&Ms, a special event for doing well on a test, or even saying "good job."

In fact we've all known lots of kids who were plenty smart but just didn't give a damn about what little letters appeared on their report cards. (My children will NEVER see my old report cards!) Yet we as a profession still pretend that all kids should care about their GPAs and state test scores.

Many kids, possibly a growing percentage, will only be reached through the heart, not the head. Only when they care about the topic and understand its relevance, interest, and meaning to them or to those they care about will they engage.

It's one reason we still need libraries with books on a wide range of reading levels on a broad range of topics if we want to create readers. It's why every child should have access to the Internet with its seemingly infinite range of topical information (and librarians to help children learn to find it) if we want to create life-long learners.

Unfortunately Arne Duncan or Barrak Obama don't understand this. At all. I'm guessing they were both "good" students for whom it was all about scores and stars.

Maybe it's time for somebody who had "not working to his potential" written on her report card running education. It would be different.

Original post September 4, 2009


Who Owns That Course - Ed Leadership column online

My Power Up column,"Who Owns That Course?", in October's Educational Leadership is now available online.