As educators, we can learn from the Jeremy Lin story

Jeremy Lin on the cover of GQ Magazine

I have been wanting to write this post since I read this New York Times article, entitled, “The Evolution of a Point Guard” in February. Now that I have some time over the holidays I’m able to finish this post up. The article describes the 18 month transformation of Jeremy Lin. Since then Lin signed a 3-year, $25 million contract with the Houston Rockets. This makes his story even more legendary. As an educator, I find the story to be inspirational.   The article by Howard Beck explains how Jeremy Lin went from being undrafted and cut twice in two weeks to an NBA superstar. Over 18 months and hundreds of hours working with assistant coaches, Jeremy Lin, reworked his jump shot, bulked up his body, strengthened his legs and developed a “sharper view” of the court. He did this through deliberative practice and hard work.

Howard states, “What scouts saw in the spring of 2010 was a smart passer with a flawed jump shot and a thin frame, who might not have the strength and athleticism to defend, create his own shot or finish at the rim in the N.B.A.”  While the article highlights his “perseverance, hard work and self-belief”, I was inspired by the entire story because it was a team approach. Lin was certainly dedicated but without the help and support of coaches and trainers, his success would not have been possible. For me there were three important takeaways.

1. Recognizing the potential in each student – Coaches along the way recognized that Jeremy had the potential to be a talented player in the NBA. Lin was known for getting into the paint off the drive and being able to see the floor well. These were two key skills that are essential for point guards and the coaches felt that he could build upon these areas of strength.

2. Clearly identifying the skills, knowledge and attributes that students need to improve on – For Lin, he and his coaches determined that his real issues came from not being strong enough to maintain balance and direction and he lacked the strength to explode and raise up into the air when getting into the lane; his ability to shoot the outside jump shot; and his ability to read different situations and then deliver the correct pass. It was in these areas that Lin spent hours on the court, and in the weight and film rooms working on. He was deliberate in his approach to improving and the coaches helped him monitor his performance along the way.

3. Finding the right people and/or resources to support individual students –  Lin worked with several NBA coaches and each one had their specialty areas. He found a Bay area high school coach to help him with his shooting and he sought out strength coaches to help him develop the right types of muscle mass. There wasn’t one individual who helped him develop in all of these areas. He relied on specialists who had access to the appropriate knowledge, expertise, and resources.

When these three things happen the results can certainly be powerful and transformational for all parties involved.

How do groups work in your learning environment?

Fairly early on in this MOOC we had to form teams. I’m very interested in how this process works because it seems quite different than how we typically assign groups in the classroom. Note that I used the term “assign”.

Below is detailed information on the assignment, team formation and suggestions for teams. Are you using any of these during your team or group work? Do you provide the groups/teams with detailed information? Can the kids self -select? Are the students coached on selecting teams based on interest and complementary skills and knowledge?

The Following information was taken from the Designing a New Learning Environment, Professor Paul Kim, Stanford University

  • There is no deadline to form a Team, but it is an important step to complete so that you can begin meeting, working, and innovating together!
  • Anyone may create a team. When you create a team you are the Team Leader.
  • The Team Leader can add new members by contacting classmates and asking them for their registered email addresses.
  • When creating a Team, use detailed descriptions and information so that others will be able to thoughtfully consider whether your Project idea and interests may be a good match.
  • If you have started a Team and are looking for members, you should use the Students menu (under Community) to find recruit your classmates.
  • If you are looking for a Team to join, you should use Teams menu (under Community) to search for different teams. Use the contact button on the team page to contact all Team Members the Team Leader to join the team. Every time somebody invites you to their Team, you will receive a new invitation under your Conversations, Team notifications tab. That message contains links to accept or reject an invitation.
    • Team formation has a very open dynamic, at any point you can decide to leave a Team and join a new one, without penality. The Team Leader can decide to remove inactive or uncooperative members from the Team. (In that case the member will receive a team notification about this decision, and if you think that the Team Leader has made a mistake, you can appeal Team Leader’s decision. If half of Team Members agree with you; you will be added back as a member of the Team. If a Team Leader chooses to leave his/her Team, he/she can assign Team Leadership to another user. Continuity among Team Members will be important to successful execution of the Team Project, however all users have the option to switch a Team that is not a good fit for them.
    • The recommended Team size is 4-7 people.
    • You may only be a member of one Team at a time.
    • One of most important variables in Team composition is shared passion about the project idea / topic area. We suggest that Teams be made up of people with a range of backgrounds and technical skills, but ultimately a shared interest in the idea is what will support project momentum and involvement. It is useful to think about geographical considerations in a variety of ways: if you are considering an educational innovation for primary education in Tanzania, for example, it would be very useful to have a team member from, or knowledgeable Tanzania, to help inform analysis of needs, barriers, implementation, and sustainability. However, geographical considerations, such as time difference, may also come to play when collaborating or scheduling Team Member tasks. We encourage you to think and be transparent about these in terms of what is important for your project and for your working style, while also demonstrating the flexibility and generosity of spirit that will help us grow from each other’s perspectives and experiences.

Getting Started with Your Team:

    • Start communicating about your Team Project idea. Complete and maintain your Team Profile with an up-to-date (brief) Project Description (these may start simply as general interests, and may change or evolve over time).
    • Every Team has a Team Journal. You should feel free to write on it about your Team activities, post pictures of your meetings or collaboration strategies, and write about your new ideas or progress for the Team Project. The Journal can also be used as a discussion tool. Your classmates will be able to follow your team blog and receive updates.

Team Project:

    • Teams will design a new educational technology or learning environment catering to 21st century environments and learners. Designs should include interaction activities and learning support features in ways that are effective and appropriate for today’s computing and communication devices, and that consider the classroom, school, and community ecosystem in which it will operate.
    • Presentation of your design should include details about the users, environment, and educational objectives of your design (the “who? what? when? where? why? and how?” questions).
    • Your presentation should also address how your designed innovation would implemented and sustained, including considerations about idiosyncrasies with various learning devices (e.g., web, iOS, mobile devices, and Mac/PC) and infrastructure requirements (e.g., cellular network, wi-fi, Bluetooth).
    • Your team should create and defend a business model (non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid) for the launch and scale up their solution.
    • You will not need to conduct an actual needs analysis or develop an actually functioning technology or solution. You may describe a hypothetical solution in detail through text, visual mock-ups, and prototypes.
    • Additional consideration will be given to teams that come up with system feature ideas presenting meaningful learning interaction and performance analytics.


    • The Final Team Project will undergo the official Peer Review process.
    • The broad criteria for Final Team Project Evaluation (these will be addressed further later in the course):

1) Creativity and originality of the system design (Is the design substantially distinguishable from existing and conventional solutions?);
2) Educationally sound (Does the design promote higher order learning or generate learnable moments?);
3) Engagement and interactivity (Is the design engaging and interactive for the learner?);
4) Accessibility (Is the design accessible for people with disabilities or for people living in underserved communities?)
5) Scalability and sustainability (How sound is the implementation plan and business model?)

    • At the end of the course, you will also be evaluated by your other Team Members on your contribution to the Team efforts and Team Project. In addition to your Assignments, this peer evaluation will affect your Rank in the course.

Intellectual Property and Confidentiality Considerations:

    • Some of the major goals of this course are to instill the mindset for thinking about innovations aimed at improving education, and to create a space for developing those ideas into thoughtful designs. We would like you to continue to develop your work and Projects beyond this course into the real world. The Intellectual Property rights relating to your Individual Assignments, Team Assignments, Journal entries, and other materials created by you remain with you (and with the Co-Creators for Team Assignments and Jointly Authored Works)–they are not Stanford’s, not Venture Lab’s, and not Dr. Paul Kim’s.
  • At the same time, this space is public to others in the course–all Journal and Forum posts, as well as all Assignments will be visible to all others enrolled in the course. Viewing and learning from each other’s discussions and work products will expose us to new ways of approaching different problems and will help us develop a more critical eye for the benefits and limitations of technology solutions. Because all projects are shared with other DNLE-ers (strictly for educational purposes), an idea or product requiring strict confidentiality or formal business agreements would not be a good candidate for a Final Team Project. Please consider this when creating or joining a team.

Learning from my first MOOC Experience: I’m taking a course from Stanford!

A colleague of mine and I are taking “Designing a New Learning Environment” course taught by Paul Kim, Chief Technology Officer and Assistant Dean, School of Education, Stanford University. I have no idea how many thousands of students there are but I’m looking forward to the experience. The course is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) which theoretically sounds really cool.

I signed up before I read the MOOC Guide.

“The effect of a MOOC is not to be taken lightly! Many of the participants who went through a MOOC experience have had a powerful learning experience which in some cases resulted in strong personal or professional projects with impact. On the other hand the drop-out rate in a non-credited MOOC is high and some participants simply do not like the approach of a MOOC for it has specific dynamics. The diversity in appreciations and feelings is not new: the playground felt like a mental warzone to some and a great adventure to others.”

The topic is of interest to me and if it works I will be able to:

After the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  •  Identify advantages, disadvantages, limitations, and potentials of at least 10 interactive learning models and solutions.
  • Describe how online communication, collaboration, and visualization technology play a role in the behavioral, cognitive, constructivist, and social dimensions of learning.
  • Describe the major components and processes involved in development of interactive education systems.
  • Communicate rationales of learning technology design approaches through team-oriented collaborations.
  • Evaluate the value of ideas, principles, and techniques used in educational media or systems.

While we have lectures to watch, assignments to complete and discussion forums to contribute to, our major assessment is a team project that is due at the end of the semester.

Let’s see how this learning experience goes.


How much are you willing to expose yourself?

ImageOn my recent trip to New York I happened to see the Naked Cowboy in action. He seemed very comfortable in only his hat, underwear and boots and he was putting on quite a show. He’s obviously quite the extrovert and performer and I could not help but think about how comfortable he was exposing himself to thousands of strangers. It got me thinking about how much I’m willing to expose about myself online with blogging and social networking tools. While I may have been timid in the past, I actually find myself becoming more comfortable exposing myself online. My thinking is that it will offer a wider audience some insight into my thinking and personal life.
Let me test out a few scenarios for comment.
1. Friending Colleagues on Facebook – I still remember reading in First Break All the Rules by Buckingham and Coffman that questions #5 is “Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?” As a principal what do you think about friending others from your school on Facebook? Do you see it as a way to learn more about your co-workers and a way to let them into your life? Or, do you see it as a risk?
2. Sharing The Work of Your School on a Blog – Doug Johnson’s guidelines for blogging have always seemed reasonable to me. He suggests that you…
  • Write assuming your boss is reading.
  • Gripe globally; praise locally.
  • Write for edited publications.
  • Write out of goodness.
How much are you willing to share about the work that is going on at your school? Are you only willing to share the positives while you keep the negative issues and conflicts internal?
3. Posting Photos and Media Online for the World to See – This Thursday we’re offering a parent workshop on digital footprints and we’re talking quite a bit about what types of photos and videos we will post online. I recently traveled with a student group to do community service and I was anxious to share photos online via Flickr or some other tool. How do you view the sharing of school related media online?
4. Sharing Your Personal Life Online – If you’re on Facebook how much of your personal life are you willing to share? Does your stance on this have anything to do with your school community? For example, will you post photos of you with alcohol? Are you careful about the language that you use?
Going through the process of determining how much you want to expose yourself can be exciting and scary at the same time. The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone in trying to figure out the right level of exposure. I for one don’t plan on parading around in my underwear online but I may be seen in my swimsuit at the beach.

Why everyone raves about Educon 2.4

Photo by assorted stuff

I had the pleasure of attending Educon 2.4 this weekend at the Philadelphia Science and Leadership Academy (SLA) and I was not disappointed. I went because I’m passionate about conversations on learning in today’s world and to gather ideas on how to organize a first-class learning experience. Graded will be hosting the Innovate 2013 Conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil January 19 – 21, 2013 and our planning is underway. So, why is Educon such a great learning experience for participants?

  • SLA truly is a special place where all members of the community have a common vision and they are focused on learning in today’s environment. There is a solid foundation in place and they are continually working on improvement. The learning is connected to today’s world, students work on real life problems, they create for a larger audience, and the community is tight. They are walking the walk.
  • Educon attracts educators who are passionate about their work to make teaching and learning relevant for today’s students. The presenters are excellent and the participants take the conversations to a higher level. Everyone can be challenged during the weekend. Pretty amazing that so many leaders in this field attend since everyone pays their own way.
  • The two panels were on Innovation and they brought in a diverse group of experts to present. The fact that the first six weren’t educators was plus. Imagine hearing from the following people.
    • Dan Barcay – Lead Software Engineer, Google Earth
    • Alex Gilliam – founder, Public Workshop
    • Zoe Strauss – artist, photographer, innovator.
    • C. J. Taylor – Professor, U. Penn GRASP Robotics Lab
    • Phoenix Wang – Co-Founder, Startl
    • Moderated by Dr. Frederic Bertley – Vice President of the Center for Innovation in Science Learning, The Franklin Institute

This type of opening was much better than having one person as a keynote.

  • The structure provided participants with 90 minute sessions and time in between sessions for conversations. Friday was an excellent time for visiting the school and starting up conversations.
  • Participants were eager to meet new faces and to develop relationships. This is not a conference for those who want to sit alone at lunch. You have to be prepared to mingle with new friends.

I have to thank the SLA Gang for creating this wonderful learning experience and we hope that the  Innovate 2013 Conference can offer South American educators a similar experience.

When do we get the chance to get the creative juices flowing?

“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.”
Walter Lippmann

I’ve had the luxury of not working this school year and It’s been the best sharpening of the saw that I can imagine. Today I’ve been contemplating creative thinking and how excited I get about letting my mind wander to create new ideas (at least they’re new to me). For people like me I have to really work at being creative and it takes time to put serious thought into something, scanning the work of others who look at things differently, and exercising the right brain.

Want a few ideas that may light a fire under you creative juices?

1. I occasionally pull out Fredrik Haren’s book, The Idea Book, when I need to exercise my brain. The book “inspires creative people to be more creative, and It teaches uncreative people how to develop their creativity.” It’s full of quotes, exercises and space to write down thoughts. Use it to come up with 50 ways to use a brick, develop a metaphor for your idea, think of 50 different solutions to a problem, invent new words in order to invent new ideas, do the opposite of what people would normally do, and much much more.

2. I wasn’t able to attend ASB’s Unplugged this year but I’ve already taken a look at Scott Klososky’s presentation on Creativity and Innovation. I’m somewhat familiar with Scott’s work and I love his forward thinking approach. Want some ideas on how to develop your next outstanding presentation? Take a look at his slides. He uses excellent design principles. I only wish that I was there for the entire session.

3. Tonight I watched these two music videos by OK Go with my children. My son said that he loved the video even though the music was OK. I love imagining the planning sessions that led to these two very innovative videos.

This to Shall Pass by OK Go

Here it Goes Again, by OK Go

What do you do to develop your right brain?

I want to find visuals/photos that match the motivational quotes that I’ve chosen to put on notecards that I can use in my school. This seems like a very good exercise to get the juices flowing.

Do you remember how you felt when you got your first comment to a blog post?

Initially posted on LeaderTalk.

If so, keep this feeling in mind while you read this post.

I love the idea of LeaderTalk and think that the group has some very talented and knowledgeable individuals posting daily. I also know that I have been focusing hard on developing my posts each month and spending very little time commenting on my peers’ posts. It seems very possible that I am not the only one doing this each month. I recently went through the last 20 posts and found that there were a total of 44 comments. When doing the math consider that one of the 20 posts received 9 and another 8. I also noticed that post are not happening daily, as planned. We all know that the small number of comments is not due to the quality of the ideas that are being shared.

I’d like to suggest that the assignment for this month (and future ones) be that, in addition to our monthlhy post, we comment on at least 2 of our peers posts. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach in her 21st Century Learning blog highlights the importance of members of the PLP receiving responses to their posts.

“As the community leader you should make sure in the practice posts and introductions that 100% of member posts get a response from you or someone else. The thrill of getting a response encourages more participation.”

My guess is that all of us can relate to the ‘thrill’ that she mentions and we can probably agree that more comments lead to more learning, excitement and a stronger learning community.

Feel free to comment!