Yesterday (or several days ago) I wrote about success as the element of learning that trumps lazy. By success, I mean learning that accomplishes a meaningful goal, as opposed to one that achieves an external and often symbolic outcome. This morning, I thought of a classic example.
After my first year of teaching, I traded in my aging Fiat station wagon for a brand new 1977 Toyota Corolla. It cost $2,700 and was a wonderful car; drivetrain, chassis, body and four wheels – basic transportation that I kept tuned myself. It cranked every time and never failed to get me to work or to Arizona or wherever I was going. Until four years later.
The starter motor would turn, but the engine simply would not engage. However, if I left it alone for about a half hour, it would start right up. This didn’t happen every time I used the car, but each time it did, the pattern was the same. I took it to a number of auto repair establishments, but, as is always the case, it would start flawlessly.
I remember as if it was today, a rather short stocky fellow, slipping his Exxon cap off as he leaned under the hood and with grease- and tobacco-stained fingers, flipped open a plastic box that was mounted to the wheel well. Seated into a circuit board were several microchips. He said, “That’s your problem. I don’t know what that is, but that’s your problem.”
The car cranked right up and I drove back home. It was the next day that I was telling this story to a teacher friend, outside our rooms, during class change. Several students were lingering close by, including a young man we’ll call Bobby.
I can picture him today; a good looking kid, tall, straight as an arrow, curly back hair and day-old stubble (before it was cool), and the broadening chest and shoulders that come to some boys as early as 15. ..and he was still in the 7th grade.
From the other side of the radiator he said something that I didn’t understand. My teacher friend asked him to repeat and he said almost clearly, “h’it’s yer cule mista Warlick.”
After engaging him in something similar to a conversation, I got that my coil was the problem. An ignition coil is ”an induction coil in an automobile’s ignition system which transforms the battery’s low voltage to the thousands of volts needed to create an electric spark in the spark plugs to ignite the fuel.“1
This was better advice I’d gotten from any of the trained and experienced auto mechanics I’d consulted, so that afternoon I stopped off at Advance Auto, bought an ignition coil for a Corolla, installed it myself, and the car ran without fail until I sold it a couple of years and 95 thousand miles later for $2,300.
I’d never taught Bobby, but I knew that the teachers liked him, one of those guys they didn’t mind holding back year after year. I told the story to another friend, whom I respected deeply, a woman who’d taught Bobby for all of these years, and she said,
“Don’t worry about Bobby. His Dad owns a trucking company that hauls trees to the pulp wood plant. He’s a millionaire, though you’d never know if you saw him. Bobby’s going to go work for his Dad when he turns 16 and he’ll inherit the business. He’s not dumb, he’s just lazy, and he always will be when it comes to learning.”
I don’t know what happened to Bobby. I do know that pulp wood played out in the region, and Bobby’s business either folded, or he found some way to repurpose his assets into another line of business.
What I do know is that Bobby was not a lazy learner. That he was able to diagnose the problem with my car, just from the telling of my story, convinces me that he engaged in deep and powerful learning experiences that taught him not only fundamentals, but how to apply those fundamentals for solving real problems.
They were learning experiences that were qualified by
not by a SCORE.
Why don’t you have a seat and let James May explain to you exactly how we came to the measurement of time we call a second. I certainly didn’t know when and why it came to be. I’ve only known James May as a presenter on Top Gear, but it seems like he also likes to spend his time teaching us things on Youtube. Might be worth checking out more.
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Earlier this month I spoke at Wyoming’s WyTECC conference in Rock Springs. Even though I was only able to spend one day at the conference, the hospitality of the event’s organizers and intimacy of the venue made it feel like a longer stay and I left behind some new good friends. Lately I’ve had the honor of speaking at a number of 20th and 25th annual state ed tech conferences. Wyoming was holding their second and there was an enormous amount of energy in that, not to mention excitement and pride. I was proud to be helping them celebrate their 2nd annual conference.
Evolution of a Blog Post
Have I become a lazy blogger?
Unlike most first, second and third state edtech gatherings, there was a good deal of tweeting going on in Rock Springs, and I ran my Knitter Chat tool during my two pre conference sessions and the evening keynote. The backchannel was active and rich and Knitter captured both knits and tweets.
One phrase caught my attention as I was reviewing and inserting comments into the backchannel transcript – during my three legs back to Raleigh. Someone mentioned how so many of his students were lazy. It’s a term, lazy, that works quite well in conversations about classrooms, and a term I would have readily used as a teacher almost 30 years ago, “Lazy learners.”
Lazy learners were part of the landscape of the classroom back then and that was OK. Where I taught, lazy learners would become active workers packing peaches and harvesting pulp wood. Where I grew up they would have become lint heads in the textile mills, and not apologized for it.
Today, however, there are not quite so many places for lazy learners to go when they graduate or don’t. ..and fortunately, we no longer excuse laziness. But how do we fuel energetic learning?
What trumps lazy?
Success trumps lazy!
I want to explore two words that have been on my mind for a long time. I want to make a distinction between these two words, though it is one that is not made in the dictionary. Some may say that I’m making up a distinction. But let’s plow ahead. It’s my blog after all.
The words are achievement and accomplishment. They are so close that each is often used in the other’s definition and even in descriptions of their etymologies. Yet I would not necessarily use them interchangeably. The contexts determine the word I would us — and in the education context, I most often see, read or hear achieve.
“This student has achieved proficiency.”
“We are narrowing the achievement gap.”
To achieve something is to accomplish attain some predefined goal.
As difficult as it was to avoid using accomplish in that last sentence, accomplishment is, in my way of thinking, a little different. When I accomplish a thing, I can turn around and see something that is the result of my efforts — and it is real. It is not symbolic. And it is not easy to measure. It is, more times than not, of my own design and purpose. I did it, at least in part, for my own reasons.
The more I think about it, the less certain I am of differences between achieve and accomplish. Yet the distinction is real. When our children complete a school task, have they merely learned something new, or have they become more capable. Can they, the next day,
- Do something that they couldn’t do before
- Build something they were unable to before
- Participate in a conversation that was foreign to them before
- Sway someone’s opinion or earn a collaborator
Do they, in anyway, feel larger than the day before or noticeably further done their road.
I would suggest that many lazy learners are just tired of standing still.
This is an interesting video that seems to be a conversation about finding new planets set to an animation. Most of what these guys are saying I won’t even pretend to be able to fully grasp, but I was able to understand a few basic concepts from watching this video.
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I was surprised to learn yesterday that Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and his crew had arrived back on Earth from the ISS, I hadn’t realized Expedition 35 was coming back so soon. You may remember a couple videos I posted before from Chris Hadfield. Pretty much everything he’s put out is worth watching as he’s really in to interacting with us earthlings.
Additionally there is a video of the actual extraction of the astronauts if you’re interested in seeing a bunch of disoriented men sit in giant baby seats.
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We’ve all heard the legends of their ability to survive and I’m sure some of us refuse to believe it but the fact remains that cockroaches are incredibly resilient creatures. This video will give a rundown of just why they are so special and which cockroaches are more special than others. This video isn’t for everyone.
Not so much a how-to video, but more of a chronicle of one man’s journey through turning wood into something more useful. This is a very neat video that actually does go step by step through his process of making this contraption. The simplicity of this video really makes me think I could do something like this.
Application of information is the only reason to gain information, and thus it is a very important skill that was not adequately taught when I was in school. It is useless to make students memorize and recall information, if they don’t know how they can use it later in life. This is why I have chosen today’s infographic. Part of the fifth grade curriculum is weather in North Carolina, and in my own experience, many students do not know why they are taught this information. However, this infographic is a great example of why it is important to learn something that can be sought otherwise.
Hurricane Sandy affected many businesses. Many were forced to close their doors, and those who served the entire country were greatly affected, and greatly affected others. For instance, I worked in a stationery store for a few months this past winter. Several major stationery companies were forced to close during the winter months because they were based in the Northeast. There was no way to call about questions, and production time was increased due to these closures. Another example involves a friend of mine here in North Carolina, who works in the marketing department of a major supplier of electronic supplies. When Japan was hit with the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, many plants were forced to rebuild their machinery, and she noticed a drastic spike in sales. So companies can be affected in two ways, by weather where they are located, as well as by weather to their suppliers.
Challenge your students to make other correlations. How will they use other skills in their future lives? How do politicians use history? How do marketing analysts use science and math? In the end, why are your students learning this information?
Another random clip today but this one was just too interesting to pass up. These ants have linked together, are floating on top of water and now even with the force of a tool coming down on them they won’t sink below the surface. Pretty cool.
I do not recommend its reading as a curtsey to Canadian education thought leaders, as much as to point out a disturbing trend that is not limited to the ongoing education conversation.
This is something of a personal rant, but it has confounded me, the support that many of my country’s poor and aging pay to political elements whose legislative activities serve the rich and powerful — until I realized that there is a narrative being told that in America anyone can become rich and powerful and that we should all protect our potential membership in that club.
In other words, if you aren’t willing to be the first to monetize it, then you shouldn’t expect to be part of the pitch.
Shame on us!keep looking »