What We Do/What We Get to Do


One of the blogs I hate miss, learn from, and quite often post comments to is “Leadership Freak” written very capably by Dan Rockwell. Today’s post was particularly interesting to me. I clearly agreed with the topic of the post, gratitude, and its importance to effective leadership.

But my attention was drawn to another sequence of short statements transitioning from what we do to what we get to do next – the opportunities we are offered. As I considered it further, I understood the attraction to this portion of the post and posted the following comments:

“No question that gratitude EXPRESSED is so important to trusting relationships. But there’s another part of this post that grabbed my attention and Consideration:

“You become what you repeat.

Repetition is consistency.

Consistency is predictability.

Predictability is reliability.

Reliability creates opportunity.”

Thoughts and concerns (these ALL fit together):

1. Your REPUTATION is from what you repeat. To me, at least, there is only ONE repetition that leads to that produces the consistency that at least I would find worthy of predictably: considering new and previous options when dealing with situations.

2. Consistency is predictability. Really?? Not always. Favorite Einstein quotes: ‘We can’t solve the problems of today with the same knowledge and skills with which they were created.’ And ‘Insanity: Doing the same things over and over, expecting different results.’

3. Predictability creates CONFIDENCE (most times). That impacts reliability but reliability should require more – e.g., considering new and previous options when dealing with situations.

So how about a rewrite on the part of your post copied above:

You reputation comes from what you repeat.

Reputation for repeated sound problem solving is valuable consistency.

This consistency is useful predictability.

This predictability is worthy reliability.

Reliability creates opportunity to address meaningful situations.

My key point (and the reason I repeated  these thoughts here) is the process we use to deal with situations faced: Everyone must expect new approaches will be necessarily considered. And only then should what is done previously lead to additional opportunities.

Parallels Between Success in Sports & Effective Learning


It has been my thesis that successful sports teams (having excellent coaches) have much in common with effective learners (having excellent teachers). Here is an example that I believe illustrates this quite well.

From the Manchester Journal Inquirer of Thursday, November 12, 2015; article by Carl Adamec titled “WINNING FORMULA” on Page B4:

“So many times teams that put the focus on ‘Refuse to lose’ would be better off putting it on ‘Desire to win,’ ” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “No one wants to lose. Who goes into a game saying it’s OK to lose? Nobody. But not everybody goes in with the will to win.

“Some have a greater will to win. To do that, you can’t be afraid to lose. Sometimes teams are their own worst enemies. Coaches are their own worst enemies. At Connecticut, we don’t talk about losing. We know that losing is part of the game. Any time they keep score, you might lose. If it happens, it happens. You focus on, ‘What do we have to do to be successful?’ It works for us.”

[Aside: For those of you who don’t follow NCAA Women’s Basketball, Geno Auriemma is the head coach of the University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball program. They have won ten national championships since 1995 and will be seeking their unprecedented fourth national championship in the season beginning for them on Monday, November 16, 2015.]

Let’s take the excerpt from the Jounal Inquirer and change / add just a few words (italicized and underlined):

“So many times schools that put the focus on ‘Refuse to make mistakes‘ would be better off putting it on ‘Desire to learn,’ ” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “No one wants to make mistakes. Who goes into a situation saying it’s OK to make mistakes? Nobody. But not everybody goes in with the will to learn and get the best outcome.

“Some have a greater will to learn and get the best outcome. To do that, you can’t be afraid to make mistakes. Sometimes teams of learners are their own worst enemies. Teachers are their own worst enemies. At Connecticut, we don’t talk about making mistakes. We know that making mistakes is part of the learning / doing process. Any time they assess learning, you might make mistakes. If it happens, it happens. You focus on, ‘What do we have to do to learn from our mistakes and be successful?’ It works for us.”

Two thoughts: First, Coach Auriemma could talk about his team and his coaching style using the alternate version I concocted and his players might wonder about the lack of basketball terminology; but they would understand the message I think. Second, I believe this alternate version should be the goal of all schools and teachers for their students: take risks, learn from your mistakes, don’t focus on not making mistakes, and you’ll have greater success.

A Disturbing Post From ASEE On K-12 Engineering Education


This blog post is associated with an item in a newsletter I received today.

From ASEE Connections of 06/23/15:

“A new Purdue University-led study found that only a dozen states have clearly defined engineering curricula for K-12 students in their science standards. But it also found that of those 12 states, only four had “comprehensive” engineering programs. The researchers created a framework of 12 indicators to define an ideal K-12 engineering program, then used that framework to assess state-level standards in all 50 states. The four with comprehensive engineering standards were Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon. The framework is now being used in an $8 million, National Science Foundation-funded curriculum-development project called EgrTEAMS, or Engineering to Transform the Education of Analysis, Measurement and Science. The investigators are working with 200 teachers in the St. Paul, Minn., area to introduce the approach to 15,000 students in grades 4 to 8. The project includes professional development workshops for teachers. Lead author Tamara Moore, an associate professor of engineering education at Purdue, says the goal is to teach science and mathematical thinking through engineering and problem-solving.”

This is sad for two reasons, for me at least: (1) the obvious lack of significant statewide programs – in spite of NGSS; and (2) the fear that the funded project curriculum will be seen by politicians as THE curriculum to mandate for use – or if they do not, policy people will, maybe even school systems will. I’ll be Considering the proposal further and eagerly looking for reports on efforts made!

I sincerely hope the curriculum is NOT detailed enough to be used without the understanding of what engineering is!!! A comment to Professor Moore (If she happens to see this): Neither you nor I nor anyone else can “teach science and mathematical thinking through engineering and problem-solving” to anyone!!! Once the students choose to learn, you can facilitate that learning – but only that and only then!! Right?

But here is my main concern. The curriculum being developed will be expected (if not mandated) to be used for all students across the country. To me, I have absolutely zero confidence that success doing this is possible! And this does not reflect one bit on NSF, on Purdue, or on the project investigators; no matter the source, NO curriculum can work for every student. I personally have facilitated topics for two different sections of the same course, taught using the same textbook and notes, taught during the same semester at the college level. While these sections might be expected to have more comparable success that two different K-12 classes, there were many instances where the same approach yielded drastically different levels of success… So, I ask you about two classes with different teachers: one in an urban neighborhood and one in a rural / small town neighborhood. How can anyone expect the same curriculum to work?

My beliefs: We should work with teachers (as the investigators are doing with teachers from Minnesota) to provide experience with engineering and to facilitate rich discussions about engineering based upon that experience. And we should facilitate their efforts in developing curricular approaches to use with their students. AND of course, we could provide scripted lesson plans and engineering kit lists for their use with their students. I do not recommend the latter – even with attention to the previously noted efforts! The latter, while done with good intentions, invites the horror of blindly following that script! Only the teachers in every class can know what curricular approach will likely work for their students; they should be / need to be the ones doing the development! Good suggestions from an effort similar to the one identified here will be very helpful – but not curriculum please…

UDL, Considerations, and Effective Learning



In my efforts to constantly reflect on and refine the “Considerations” tool that is the focus (and title) of this blog, it is important for me to consider (using my tool of course!) many of the learning sources available to all of us, using the visions thus developed to refine the concept and application procedures of the tool. In this post, I have two objectives: (1) I want to (maybe, may already be familiar) introduce readers to the notion ofn Universal Design for Learning (UDL); and (2) I want to discuss a few of planned upcoming posts to this blog that will explore UDL and its inclusion with consideration to further enhance learning.

Universal Design for Learning is an extension, as I understand, of Universal Design – an approach utilized in architecture. Architects seek to include universal access to and engagement with the structure(s) being designed from the first concept developed (as contrasted with revising near-final designs for universal access and engagement). Similarly UDL seeks to enable engagement of ALL learners in effective learning through the improved education design. I am in the midst of participation in a SOOC (Supported Open Online Course – NOTE new participation is closed) on UDL and Applicable Apps offered by ISTE. Through this learning opportunity, I am gaining the knowledge and practice that willbetter align with my facilitation of effective learning AND lead to revisions as appropriate of my Considerations tool. One important research-supported UDL conclusion that I find easily logical: ALL students, with and without special needs, learn more effectively in UDL-based education opportunities!

Let me give a brief overview of the role of considerations in effective learning. For more information, the reader is directed to the previous posts to this blog. It is my thesis that PBL (Problem Based Learning) is the optimum approach to learning. The sketch at the top of this blog, taken from a piece from George Couros, is very much aligned with PBL. Indeed, there are also many of the eight items included that are consistent with UDL as well. Via the voice of the students, their choices, the problem finding / solving, and connected learning, involvement of all students (i.e., UDL aligned) in the effective learning is enabled. Where does “Considerations” fit with this notion of classroom effective learning? Interestingly, for me at least, the one shortcoming of the sketch is the near void of learning (really only directly in the connected learning)! INDEED, after the students’ voice and choice, after the reflection, after the problem finding, and after the self-assessment, THERE ARE LIKELY NEEDS FOR CONSIDERATION: individual or sub-groups of team members addressing the hurdles identified, developing those visions to share / refine within the team, to indeed move forward with this student-controlled effective learning.

The SOOC in which I am participating has quickly shown me that I have been far too lax in intentionally and specifically including UDL components (beyond their fortunate but unplanned inclusion as noted in the previous paragraph). This tool and personal pedagogy shortcoming will be remedied and then discussed in future posts to this blog. A few ideas that I am already exploring:

1. Please note that this and all previous blog posts are all provided in text-only format. The SOOC materials provided to us participants have included text, voice-only, video (often accompanied by transcripts and/or subtitles). I will be investigating many apps (e.g., YouTube, Text-To-Speech, Grid Diary, and Today’s Meet) to broaden the options for engagement.

2. Please know that while I personally have provided Internet storage sights (through Blackboard) for student teams to save and share their files, I have much to do to broaden collaboration opportunities. One example: I intend to learn better the use of Google Hangouts (or similar) to enable teams to collaborate from different locations.

3. Please know that previously I have required teams to summarize their efforts in written progress and final reports. I intend to invest in the learning necessary to broaden the reporting options – including presentations, poster discussions, videos, and other options as appropriate.

4. MOST IMPORTANTLY, to me at least, I must investigate the more subtle concepts of UDL in both the PBL pedagogy and the “Consideration” tool. Subtle??? Yes, as I continue to learn in the SOOC, I am uncomfortable, believing that the “visible” changes such as those noted in #1 – #3 above under-represent the true importance of UDL for both in PBL and consideration! The ability to have empathy for ALL learners and to facilitate their special and individual effective needs are chief among these subtle features.

I realize this is short on new information and more on setting the commitment. I welcome the interaction with you through replies to this post or by email. For further UDL material, Internet searches have been invaluable to me. Here’s two of my favorites:  this CAST website and  this one. Stay tuned…

Mathematics in Perspective


I have two engineering degrees, each with a mathematics minor. Wish I could say that I chose that minor because “there’s a great deal of mathematics in engineering.” Not really… I took mathematics because generally it was the easy “gut” course any semester; mathematics learning came very easy – at that time, much easier than history or philosophy or similar.

Move forward in time fifty years or so: I’m now an emeritus engineering professor after almost thirty years at the University of Connecticut, having eleven years earlier in industry, and sprinkled with a variety of consulting opportunities. How many differential equations did I solve in this time? ONE that I can recall. How many integrals did I do? Very few unless you consider the easy ones (such as the integral of Sin(x)dx or xdx). BUT how many times did I use the “basics” of mathematics (calculus)? I.e., “integral of a function equals area under the curve.” Very often, routinely… FIRST PERSPECTIVE: Unless one is teaching mathematics, only the fundamentals of calculus will be important. Too bad the math departments, textbook authors, and faculty don’t think about that…

Now, thinking back on my faculty period. For students in my classes or for my advisees, I was always eager to facilitate their learning. With my mathematics minors, I was frequently able to assist with clearing up confusion – in their math courses or for the math considerations in their engineering courses. The most common difficulty that I identified: When their were multiple paths to use, they had no idea how to decide which one to use! They knew how to use one if selected for them; but no clue how to choose. Learning this, my facilitating was quite straightforward: help them figure out what to look for in order to optimize the likelihood of choosing correctly. SECOND PERSPECTIVE: It’s not enough to facilitate the learning of procedures; optimizing their use must include selecting the best procedure to use. Too bad math departments, textbook authors, and faculty don’t think about that.

My final thoughts for this blog relates to the context of mathematics use. Consider the components WITHIN mathematics: There are the math facts (e.g., 1+1=2 or the previously noted “integral equals area under the curve”), the math procedures, choosing the best procedures, using those procedures correctly, and assessing the outcome for correctness. I’ve already noted the issue with choosing the best procedures. And assessing seems to be expected routinely but not really common among students. The other three components are staples of most math courses and textbooks.

BUT, too bad most mathematics courses, even so-called APPLIED mathematics courses, don’t contextualize the mathematics. Before “doing the math,” the situation encountered has to be understood and MODELED – developing the appropriate mathematics equations, etc. to enable analysis. After “doing the math” then, one has to use the math outcomes to answer the questions identified in understanding the situation. THIRD PERSPECTIVE: There is very little real-world situations included in mathematics courses to assist with gaining experience as well as motivation by the students.Too bad math departments, textbook authors, and faculty don’t think about that.

So the subsequent courses (such as engineering or economics) then should build on robust mathematics learning. In dealing with situations, the student, and later the employee, seeks an overall outcome that is SUCCESSFUL – the efforts are USEFUL in dealing with the situation. Note that I personally never use “correct” as because of uncertainty, assumptions, approximations, etc., we don’t ever know the right answer; the best we can hope for is useful input to dealing with the situation. FOURTH PERSPECTIVE: Too often, the source of “non-usefulness” of efforts are the non-math components of those efforts: the modeling and/or the interpreting. Too bad mathematics departments, textbook authors, and faculty (AS WELL AS THE OTHER “USER” DEPARTMENTS) don’t think of that!!!

A New a Learning Opportunity – for Me at Least


I just learned of a new learning opportunity, thanks to Charlene Doland.  It’s the Connected Learning Community (on Google+). They have a terrific Website that includes what they call Maker Cycles – an opportunity to practice skills associated with connected learning. They facilitate Google Hangouts and a #CLMOOC Twitter chat (this Thursday the 10th beginning at 7:00 PM ET). As I said, I’m very new to these opportunities and wanted to share with you. As I understand, I missed their CLMOOC facilitated in June.

i gained and continue to gain so much from the opportunities related to the DLMOOC earlier this year that I’m excited to promote these new opportunities – through this short post to this blog!

Considerations and Memory


I am a dedicated follower of the Brain Pickings newsletter of Maria Popova.  A recent piece discussed short- and long-term memory.  According to the piece, short-term memory consists of four so-called slave systems. Of interest to me and of relevance to this blog is the fourth slave: the episodic buffer.  This buffer “gathers all of the diverse information in from the other slaves, and maybe other information from elsewhere, and integrates them together into what might be described as a multimedia memory.” if you’ve read other posts to this blog or have discussed “considerations” with me, I trust you will hopefully see that this episodic buffer could also be termed short-term memory considerations. i of course am not a brain-function researcher. But I am a firm believer in the importance of “considerations” to effective, deeper learning. Again to me this is the development of long-term memory. Continuing this thinking, may I suggest a few items relating this transferring knowledge from short-term memory to long-term memory:

  • The transfer is the conscious expansion of the considerations relative to the topic. Whereas short-term memory happens “on the fly” as events raise the topic, the transfer to long-term memory happens by design.  That is, the learner decides the importance and sets out to deliberately build long-term memory. To me this means identifying other information to integrate into the vision of the topic as I’ve chosen to call the outcome. In particular, this additional information should include contrasting viewpoints (e.g., if the initial short-term memory resulted from a cold-weather experience, then effort must be made to find comparable information related to the other seasonal weather experiences).
  • The transfer will improve when these additional sources enable the comparison of these viewpoints. Some outcomes will not vary with contrasting viewpoints, some will. Not only will the vision be more complete (helpful in subsequent use), I am convinced the vision will provide those “hooks” to provide recall from long-term memory.
  • it is important to remember that increasing the viewpoints will also help identify the “outliers” – those that don’t mesh with other viewpoints. The tendency is to immediately dismiss those viewpoints as flawed in some way, a distinct possibility. But it’s best, I suggest, to keep them included in the vision – identified as     appropriate. Subsequent discussion or application of the vision will provide input supporting the validity of the viewpoint or its classification as an outlier.
  • The considerations will enable that vision to reside in long-term memory. But now to what the late Paul Harvey called “the rest of the story.” The vision demands regular assessment, starting with self-assessment of course: based upon additional viewpoints gathered as they are identified. But there is also a need for discussion with others. This discussion has many benefits: identification of inappropriate interpretations, of additional interpretations, and further reinforcement of those “hooks” to name just a few.
  • And of course, there is the ultimate reinforcement of and reason for developing this long-term memory: its application to address situations that make people’s lives better.  It’s reinforcement because not all applications will go as planned of course (maybe very few?) – more input to the refinement of the vision; and of course, this refinement emphasizes the hooks as well.

Summarizing then, there is apparently the most elementary levels of my “considerations” notion in short-term memory. However, it’s the conscious expansion of these considerations resulting in the vision, together with the assessing / refining of that vision through discussions with others and applications, that lead to valuable long-term memory. I trust this posting will prove of some value to you – in term of your understanding of short- and long-term memory. More importantly, possibly, this posting might provide input to the process / plan that I utilize when I “consider” a topic (memory) triggered by an article identified of value to me.