What’s up, Dr. Tony Wagner?


I have been a long-time fan of Dr. Tony Wagner. His quote, “it is not what you know, but what you do with what you know” is one that I repeat regularly – to myself and to colleagues in order to switch our focus from collecting knowledge to connecting ideas and concepts, to creating and sharing with others.

In November of 2014, Dr. Wagner wrote a blog post for that led with the driving question:  What is really needed to prepare students as citizens and workers in the 21st Century? In this post he said:

…as long as we insist on testing every student every year, instead of testing only a sample of students every few years, we will be unable to afford the kinds of assessments, like the College and Work Readiness Assessment, that measure the skills that matter most.

…I believe that this “reform” will only serve to accelerate the trend of teaching to the tests and to ensure that whatever good qualities that may exist in the Common Core will be lost in an increasingly test-prep-centered curriculum.

…no corporations make important hiring or promotion decisions on the basis of a standardized test score…

I continue to worry about the impact of a test-prep curriculum on student motivation, as well as on teacher morale.

Dr. Wagner describes the current situation as one in which there is an “overzealous focus on standardized testing”. So, can you imagine my surprise when I open an email from NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) and find that at their Fusion Central conference in July, none other than Dr. Wagner is the keynote speaker.  NWEA is the author of MAP tests (Measures of Academic Progress).  A standardized test.


This seems like such a disconnect to me in light of everything I know about Dr. Wagner and his high regard for experiential learning and a holistic education. Has he sold out?  Gone over to the dark side? I can’t believe that this is possible, so why is he there?

Part of the potential reason is hinted at in his blog post:

To scale innovation, we need broader agreement on the education outcomes that matter most, as well as an accountability system aligned with those outcomes. The key to accomplishing these two tasks, I believe, is for educators to more actively engage with business and community leaders and to work together to develop a more 21st Century appropriate accountability system.

My hope is that Dr. Wagner is seeking to become part of the solution. That he wants to have a hand in how the tests are created in order to help develop tests that are broader in scope and take into account things beyond the limitations of current standardized tests.

Or, perhaps his goal is to show educators who are required by schools or districts to administer these tests how they can use the results of these tests to ‘create innovators’ and build upon student strengths. I would like to think that there is a way of making valuable something that takes so much of a student’s time and removes them from the classroom.

And yet another part of me hopes that he will just stand up there and declare “NO MORE STANDARDIZED TESTING!” And the audience will go wild!  Whichever way it plays out, I will definitely be following closely to see what comes of this.

21st Century, Coetail

Connect, Connect, Connect

This post was previously published on my COETAIL blog as part of a five courseCertificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy.


In The Connected Educator , Nussbaum-Beach and Hall write of the emergence of a new culture of teaching in which “conversations turn to topics of practice rather than staffroom complaints.” They go on to describe the evolution of the teacher as a process in which there is “a shift from seeing education as a series of things we do to students and instead as a dynamic learning environment in which learners take ownership for their own growth and pursue it passionately.”

I am so inspired when I sit with a colleague at lunch (as happened recently) and they recommend the ideas and passions of their former colleagues and it turns out they and I have long been connected, virtually.  I have stopped expecting someone else to take care of my professional development and I am dedicated to ‘passionately pursuing’ my own growth.

From links to articles, to ideas on lesson plans, my Personal Learning Network is a real time professional development network of educators that I rely on to help me do my job as an educator. –Jeff Utecht REACH, p 10.

I agree with Jeff wholeheartedly although I would go so far as to define ‘educators’.  I was intentional in the way I set up my Facebook and my Twitter accounts (although the lines in Facebook are becoming more blurred as educational organizations like Edutopia,Mind/Shift, Making Thinking Visible, and various PYP groups are pushing a more visible presence on Facebook). My intention was to keep Facebook for keeping up with friends and family and Twitter for education and educators.  And authors.  And humanitarians, poets, activists, innovators, ruckus-makers, and disruptors.  I made a conscious decision to not follow friends who tweeted about their coffee/dinner/workouts. I love these friends but Twitter was my sacred ground for teaching and learning.

I started my blogging life with a blog that was a little bit of everything – personal, professional, cooking, crafting, photographing.  Then I found myself leaning more toward the education side of things, buoyed by comments from friends and parents of children I was teaching or had taught. This blog evolved from there. I wasn’t sure if I had anything to say but I blogged anyway.

When Jeff talks of the time it takes to develop a PLN he is spot on.  There have been times over the course of the past two years when I have felt like quitting the blog.  Who would miss me amongst the excess of 200 million blogs already in existence? So I eased off and then I stopped (and had a baby) and then I got going again because I missed not being connected.

Recently my dad sent me a message on Facebook.  It read:


Dads are great, right? But he touches on the same issue that Jeff mentions: blogging when no one is looking (or reading).  My stats indicate that I have a lot of ‘lurkers’ and I would confess that I too, am a lurker at times.  But when I get out there and post and comment and respond, that is when the learning happens.

A quote that has stayed with me since I first read it in his book, Creating Innovators is as follows:


Who are you plugged in to?  How do you connect with other educators?

Creativity, Innovation, Inspiration

Putting It Out There

Recently a friend started a blog and I started a book.

For both of us, the idea of ‘putting ourselves out there’ is a scary one.  “What if….” thoughts run through our minds: what if no one reads it, no one likes it, no one cares?

So what?

As I have gotten further along with my book, quite a few people have asked me, “Who is your audience?” or “Who is your target market?”.  And I haven’t had a crystal clear picture.  I am sure there are a million reasons/blog posts out there that would tell me that finding my market should have been done before starting my book.  But I didn’t do that. What I have come to realize is that the person who I am writing this for is me.  I am choosing to respond to something I read that resonated LOUDLY with me.  It inspired me.  It moved me.  It has, daily, motivated me to be a better teacher and a better student AND a better advocate for change in the way we deliver education to kids.

Writing this book has clarified ideas. It is has made me articulate my thinking.  I have questioned my position and I have asserted my opinions.  I have thought creatively, collaboratively and independently.  I have tapped into prior knowledge and I have built new understandings. I have gathered a ton of knowledge.  A ton.

But as Tony Wagner so eloquently said:


What am I going to do with my knowledge? 

I am going to put it out there.

I don’t know how this will look just yet but I think it will be great – no, awesome. And if it is not?

My book is inspired by the work of Seth Godin – specifically his manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams. I therefore did not find it at all surprising that this morning, I was delivered a special message from Seth to me (ok, he sent it to all his blog followers, but I would like to think he knew what I needed to hear). And what did I hear?  That putting it out there is what matters.  Shipping it.  Committing.  Seeing it through.  Doing something with the information.  Finishing it.

As a teacher, I wondered how this applied to the work I ask kids to do? We are in the middle of our Exhibition and it is a big deal.  I have enjoyed sharing my journey with them so they can see that it really is true that it doesn’t end once you leave school.  That you might always be a little scared of putting yourself out there but the worst that can happen is that no one else applauds.  Feedback from our kids today was that hearing my journey, really helped to clarify how they are going to shape and share their own journey – fantastic!

I know there is more to this though. I have a whole lot of other information swimming around inside my head about effort and grading and rubrics and grading and how that links to putting it out there.  I know there is a connection, I just need to smooth it out a bit in my mind.  Ultimately, I want to focus on how I can support my kids in also choosing to put themselves out there.

What do you do?  How do you encourage them to take that leap?  Or do you?



21st Century, Creativity, Design, Innovation

Innovation 101: How to Create an Innovative Student


Are people born innovators, or can they learn to become that way? An interesting new book, “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World,” by Tony Wagner, a member of Harvard’s Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, explores this question in detail.  The book will be released on April 17th – I can’t wait!  In the book, Wagner does some pretty cool things.

He uses over 60 QR codes within the book to link to video footage of many of the interviews he undertook for the research into this book.

He outlines what he sees as the four main characteristics of an innovator – which, not surprisingly, are very similar to the 4 C’s of 21st century education:

  • Curiosity, the habit of asking good questions and a desire to understand things more deeply
  • Collaboration, which begins with listening to and learning from others who have distinct perspectives and expertise
  • Associative or integrative thinking
  • A bias toward action and experimentation


He talks to loads of really interesting people who share really interesting ideas with him from their perspective, on innovation:


How important is innovation?  How important is oxygen to life?  Dean Kamen, Segway Inventor


Raising someone with the intention that they’ll be an innovator is actually different to raising a child that you want to behave all the time and be quite compliant.  Annemarie Neal, CISCO Vice President


Knowledge is a commodity.  You can get this on Google.  It’s about asking the right questions.  It’s about having the right insights and perceptions.  Richard Miller, Olin College


Let them fail. Because they are going to learn more from that than we could ever teach them directly. Unknown



Here is the book trailer that I can almost guarantee will leave you wanting more.  The reviews thus far indicate that this is ‘must have’ for those looking to move themselves or their students or children forward as innovators in the 21st Century – and beyond!