Happy Gratesgiving!

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As we prepare to break for that most American of holidays, I am inventorying so many things in life for which I am grateful. Not just thankful…grateful. What’s the difference?

Being thankful has a transactional connotation. Learned skills. Good choices. Hard work. These puritan values helped build this country, but they are not altruistic. They come with an expectation of benefits and advantages in a world where nothing is certain: if I do this – I get that in return – and I acknowledge my thanks. Being thankful is the human response to assistance provided and objectives achieved…and at its most gratuitous, expressing thanks is simply smart and polite. So I am grateful. Grateful for my circumstances…things from which I do not receive satisfaction simply because I put in some requisite effort…for things I cannot earn or finagle.

I’m grateful for my life, my health and my family. I am grateful for my career, and to be working in such an exciting time in education. I am grateful for my friends, those from boyhood with whom I am still in touch all the way up to new friendships recently made. I am grateful for my home and neighbors, knowing that so many will be hungry and homeless as the winter sets in. I am grateful to have been born into a society where I have more rights and freedoms than I would have had anywhere else. I am grateful for every opportunity to contribute and make a difference. I am grateful for every student whose life I’ve touched, and for every one of them who’ve reconnected with me over the years to thank me and continue the relationship. And I am grateful to have a future, however long it is and whatever it entails. There is no greater gift than each new day’s opportunity to live and learn and grow and leave the world a better place by leaving the world a better me. For all these things, I am unconditionally and unabashedly grateful.

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Does a grateful mindset preclude me from aspiring to greater things? Certainly not. But it prevents my attitude from souring when life comes up short. I can adjust and move on. No bitterness. No jadedness. No self-righteous indignation. I am grateful for my life, as is. Disappointments dissolve in a sea of gratitude.

Being grateful is transformational, because I am open to all the possibilities in life. No give-and-get expectations. No sense of entitlement. No guarantees. Gratefulness is, simply put, graciously embracing all that life offers.

Gratefulness is self-fulfilling. At first it’s a choice, but it becomes a way of living, and eventually anything less is unacceptable. Why spend energy fighting the inevitable? Life will continue to deal, and I will continue to be grateful.

Join me this week in celebrating a Happy Gratesgiving, here in America and around the world!

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6 Quick Questions to Determine Technology’s Value

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Reposted from MindShift:

“Author, speaker and former teacher Alan November agrees with Graber that SAMR doesn’t provide enough concrete guidance. Many of his graduate students present technology projects that they define as a redefinition of learning — the highest level in the SAMR model — but November sees them as merely substitution. For example, one of his students presented on Leafsnap, an electronic field guide app that allows students to take a photo of a plant leaf and quickly learn about its biological traits.

“What did they just learn?” November asked a crowd of educators at ISTE 2014 in Atlanta. “How to take a picture. That’s what they learned.” While the Leafsnap app is cool, it doesn’t meet November’s criteria for using technology. “I think it’s really important to start with a framework of: Does technology add any value?” he said. He uses six questions to determine value, arguing that if the answer is “no” to any of the questions, the use of technology should be considered suspect.

1. Did the assignment create capacity for critical thinking on the Web?

2. Did the assignment reach new areas of teaching students to develop new lines of inquiry?

3. Are there opportunities to broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world?

4. Is there an opportunity for students to publish (across various media) with an opportunity for continuous feedback?

5. Is there an option for students to create a contribution (purposeful work)?

6. Were students introduced to the best example in the world of the content or skill?

“I think these six elements separate what’s transformational from what I would call the $1,000 pencil,” November said. Instead of using Leafsnap, November would like to see teachers challenge students to think critically with a question like, “Which plants will die first when the effects of climate change begin to be felt?”

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