How do you do more with less?

KanBan board

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As a leader, parent, spouse, and teacher, the demands on our lives seem to be increasing.   How do we do more with less?

In conversation I had with Vicki Davis( aka coolcatteacher ) this weekend, she introduced me to the connection between a project management style known as agile and education. (see white paper for more details)   Since I work as an agile coach in my job, I was instantly excited about exploring this topic more.

When I learn a new topic, I instantly search for the “WHY” in the content.   In my personal life, I am already doing a LOT of work as parent and professional.   Why should I invest my time in learning how to make my life more agile?  My days are already long enough!  To give a simple answer,  we want our daily efforts to focus on results and great teaching while respecting the professional bounds of our lives.  I personally feel that great teachers shouldn’t be over worked.    Over working our teachers is not sustainable.

Here are 5 key principles behind agile that you can use to get more results today!

  1. Eliminate waste – Let’s find ways to cut out steps or processes that are not needed.
  2. Amplify learning – Consider dividing your semester into two week iterations.  Try to take notes every two weeks about what behaviors worked REALLY well.  What behaviors did not work well?   What can we remove from our teaching processes?  Create a personal learning network for yourself.
  3. Empower the team – Do I have a community of peers to help me get better at my craft of teaching?   Do we share ideas?  Are there ways that I can empower my students to learn on their own?  If I set clear and achievable learning results or goals, can I empower my students to learn a topic in their own way?
  4. Build integrity in – This is huge! How do we teach character and integrity?
  5. See the whole – How often do we step back and look at the big picture?
As a disclaimer, I have to confess that I am software engineer.   So, this blog post may be a bit academic.   In my role as a parent, leader and builder of software, I have to continuously learn and get better.   I am not a professional educator, but I have to be a teacher.   I hope you can see that our worlds do have a common core of continuous learning.
The common connection between leadership and professional education is continuous learning and teaching.
Let’s get the conversation going.   What went REALLY well in the past two weeks?  What improvement opportunities are you excited about?
Related posts:

Ananth Pai: engaging students through scalable game based curriculum

Abstract: Submission to the United States Innovative Education Forum Ananth Pai’s objective is to achieve fifth grade level growth from third grade class by individualized learning using NWEA MAP assessment and their learning continuum (DesCartes) for Reading and Math, and engaging students at all times through scalable game based curriculum

I first learned about Ananth Pai through a TED talk on gamification  by Gabe Zichermann.

Why do I believe that Ananth Pai’s innovative teaching strategy thoughtful?

1) Students are encouraged to learn in small groups according to learning style.
2) Mr. Pai uses “off the shelf” games.
3) Data is used to help improve the teaching style.
4) In 4.5 months, his class performance moved from a mid 3rd level to a mid 4th grade level.
5) In some cases, the students are learning with children across the world.
6) The students are having fun learning math and reading. Wow!
7) Ananth shares his data and resources openly at

I had a pretty cool third grade teacher growing up.  I, however,  have to confess that I wish I had a teacher like Mr. Pai.

Please make sure to connect with him through Twitter at

What do you like most about Ananth’s style of teaching with games?




New Beginnings

The new semester has begun. I love the beginning of the school year. I always have. When I worked outside the academic world I was always a little bit sad at this time of year. I would get jealous of the people that I knew that were still in school or that had children were. The rhythm and structure that the school year provides appeals to my need for order in an otherwise chaotic world. Call me a nerd, but there is something wonderful about new school supplies. Empty notebooks and unused pens are filled with the promise of a fresh start.

The biggest difference for me this year is that I now have some experience under my belt. I have some room to breath. I am teaching two courses that I have taught before.  have a better feel for the abilities of my students and how to pace my lectures. For example, I now know that I need to spend several weeks covering genetics in my introductory biology course. The students are more interested in that material and ask more questions. They also struggle more with the concept of Punnett squares are genetic bookkeeping. I also have a year’s worth of powerpoint slides, exams, in-class activities to draw from rather than building everything from scratch.

Now that the framework is built I can start to work on introducing some new teaching methods and technologies. As I have lectured over the past few weeks I continue to struggle with student engagement. I look out over the classroom and there are students falling asleep. I ask questions and I get little more than quiet muttering in return. I am not boring. At least I don’t think I am. I try to make the material as interesting a possible and bring in real world examples, but the traditional lecture format simply is not enough, especially for the group of students that I teach who don’t tend to be the most self motivated. Starting next week I will be using a student response system from Turning Technologies in my intro course. It will allow me to ask a question during my lecture and all of the students will have an opportunity to respond via an electronic clicker device. My initial approach will be to use the clickers to encourage a form of collaborative learning called Think-Pair-Share described in the video below.

One advantage of using the clickers for this activity is I can immediately assess how well their level of understanding as individuals and as a class. This tool will allow my students to become active participants in the learning process rather than passive receivers of knowledge. I am hoping by breaking up my lectures and requiring student responses to questions I will get them to become move invested in the course material. What other tools and methods can I use to encourage active learning?


Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!

Abstract: In this poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning — creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish.

For more awesome inspiration, please visit

In this talk, I believe Mr. Robinson is trying to understand why every education system in the world is under reform.   I appreciate that Mr. Robinson observes at an industrial style of teaching may not be working for everyone.   Teachers know that students learn in many different styles.   (visual, audio, touch, movement, etc.)   Do our common teaching standards and methods try to appeal to these learning styles?   He also hints at ways that media and technology can be used to adapt to learners.    I will be considering this idea more as we conduct our game based learning research.    How should games adapt to learners?

Mr. Robinson asserts that college education may not be a goal for everyone.   In my life, I have met various people who are amazingly smart people who did not thrive because of college education.   I have to confess that it’s hard for me to accept that college may not apply to everyone.   In it’s origins, the university was built to help promote person-hood and create well rounded thinkers.   When is teaching person-hood a bad idea?  In the case of my friends who did not attend college, they learned their most profound life lessons on person-hood through a different path.   This is probably Mr. Robinson’s point.

Let’s start a education revolution!  How do we connect our students with their passions?  How do we help our students to thrive in person-hood and creativity?


5 reasons to love Khan academy for computer science

Girls Coding

Stop! Take 10 seconds to consider a world where computer programs did not exist.   In this world of “no computer programs,”  the following is true:

  • The internet does not exist.
  • Facebook does not exist.
  • You would not be reading this blog article.
  • Your phone would just make phone calls… Oh… phones won’t work either.
  • No angry birds. 🙁
As you can see, the world without computer science and programming would be less delightful.   I feed my family with computer science every day.    I have worked as a professional programmer for over 11 years.   As a software engineer, I have the opportunity to create software solutions so that engineers do better engineering.   I love my work.   In contrast with other types of engineering that require potentially expensive raw materials, computer science enables you to convert ideas to cool stuff with a computer, focus, and passion.  Computer science is service oriented too.   The craft of programming serves business, science, education, and medicine.
Like many in the industry, I am concerned about passing on the craft of computer science to future generations.   I personally would like to see the United States remain a leader in innovation.    As a US community, we need to mentor the next generation of NASA engineers, video game designers, and innovators in health technology.    As we nurture these young minds, their leadership will give rise to new jobs and a thriving economy.
I really appreciate the work Mr. Khan and his team have done with Khan Academy for computer science.   If you have not visited their site, I would I would invite you to click this link.   For more background on the work of the Khan Academy and flipping, please visit my previous article.

5 reasons to love Khan academy for computer science

  1. JavaScript is the language of the web:  The JavaScript language could be one of the most influential languages in computer science.  Why? Most major websites will not function without JavaScript.   Great products that we love today like GMail, Google maps, WordPress, Google, and Evernote could not function without JavaScript.   I believe it would be challenging to find a major website that did not include a few lines of JavaScript.
  2. It’s like LOGO on steroids: Teaching programming with pictures is a great idea. When I started to learn about computers in elementary school,  the popular game based learning experiences included “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiago”, “Oregon trail” and “Number munchers.”   At this period in technology, the Apple II was bleeding edge technology.    We loved our 8-bit graphics!   I was one of those weird kids who enjoyed the idea of drawing with a computer.   We used a small computer programming language called LOGO to create small pictures.   In researching this blog post, it appears that LOGO has been ported to the web browser.  Cool!!!
  3. Instant feedback: As I teach my kids about technology, I have observed that they react to instant feedback.    I believe one of the killer features of Khan Academy CS is that you can make edits to programs and instantly see the impact of the change in a picture.
  4. Math is yummy when paired with programming: I remember learning about 2D coordinate systems on graph paper.    This technology can help math teachers introduce this idea with programming.    The introduction to drawing tutorial teaches the idea of drawing using simple shapes using coordinate systems.
  5. It teaches basic programming, games, and more: As a student of computer science, I am amazed at the scope of learning that’s possible through this site.   Introducing basic concepts like variables, loops, calculations and statements can be challenging concepts to teach.   The site teaches very robust topics beyond this scope including game programming, fractals, and game of life.
I hope you take Khan Academy for CS a spin.

What are other tools and games that help teach computer science and math?




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How to reduce stress by keeping work organized using EverNote

In a previous post, we had introduced Getting Things Done(GTD), a system for productivity focused on helping you reduce stress by helping you stay organized.  A friend of mine from Forerunner communications, sponsored a cool series of YouTube tutorials on GTD.   These videos help you implement the GTD system in EverNote.  My wife and I are big fans of EverNote.

You can review  the whole series of tutorials here:

Do you have any favorite tips for staying organized?

The Role of a Teacher

Posting by my wife Dr. Sarah Rosario

As I begin my second year as a college professor I find myself examining the purpose of my job. I read this article ( the other day and it made me think hard about my role as a teacher. A couple of lines stood out for me:

“Education is not the transmission of information or ideas.”

I have to admit that I have invested much of my time over the last year trying to deliver information in a organized, and efficient fashion. I want the material I present to be as clear and polished as it can be. I am constantly revamping my powerpoint slides to make them as concise as possible. I make it a point to provide explicit study guides outlining my expectations. I refer students to additional resources on YouTube and other websites. I give vocabulary quizzes and homework assignments to make sure they actually crack open the texbook. It is becoming increasing clear that this is not enough. I am still not satisfied that my students leave my class knowing more than they came in with. Yes they are passing my exams and can regurgitate the information, but I’m not sure that they could piece together a coherent argument or critically evaluate a news article on a topic covered in class.

“Educators are coaches, personal trainers in intellectual fitness.”

How on earth do I get my students to exercise their brains? I feel like I have laid down the framework for my courses, but now I have to step up my game. I need to encourage them to move beyond role of passive receiver of information into a role of active learner. Communicating information is the easy part. The harder part is getting my students to apply that knowledge. I have to change the way that I behave in the classroom. It is my job to make sure they are not just memorizing facts, but that they can see the bigger picture. For my introductory biology course I am introducing a small project that will require them to present and critique a news article related to something we’ve studied in class. I have no idea how well it will go over, but it is at least a start. For my part, I am going to resist the urge to cover as much information as possible and focus my attention on making sure that my students truly understand the material before moving on.

Here are a few resources I am exploring to help me on my journey:

How to Encourage Critical Thinking in Science and Math ( – an article aimed at K-12 teachers, but helpful nonetheless

HHMI Biointeractive
( fantastic resources for engaging students in the material

Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education
( full of articles on creative teaching ideas.

3 Resources to connect with other educators and have a great school year

Connect with other teachers

I love to discover deals and free stuff(books, resources, tools.)   I am the type of person who thrives on connecting with people too.   The act of forming relationships and learning about other people and their ideas have profound personal education benefits.   As I help my wife start to prepare for her school year, many other teachers are kick starting their classrooms.   How do you make it a GREAT year?

To be clear, I am a dad, a team leader in a software engineering organization, and a choir director.   I do not have the explicit title of teacher.   Since my wife works as a college biology professor, our family has come to value the craft of teaching.   In my effort to support her, I have actively tried to learn what helps busy educators.   My wife encouraged us to start blogging together to help blend our passions for teaching and technology.

So, what can a computer geek do to help you have an awesome school year!??

Connect with other teachers 12 minutes per day

I would like to introduce you to three people who will help you connect with other teachers.    Teachers supporting teachers is always a epic win!

  • 1- Go to the principal’s office!

    • I had recently met Jessica Johnson through   I appreciated her taking time to chat with me.   She has written resources to help teachers use Twitter to enhance their teaching.    She encourages educators to connect with each other and support each other.   She has written a great blog post introducing teachers to the BEST of the Twitter community:
    • About @PrincipalJ: Elementary Principal, Twitter Evangelist, passionate about learning/daily5/cafe/instructional leadership, comoderator of #educoach chat, mom of 2 boys
  • 2- Follow the leaders

  • 3 – Free book using Twitter to connect with people

    • Ok.  There are a few of you reading who are resisting the idea that Twitter can help me.    How can lines of 140 characters each help me be a better teacher?  I would challenge you to consider trying Twitter for 12 minutes a day for two weeks.   If you do not get any value from Twitter, I will give you your money back.  🙂
    • This awesome book from Becky Robinson will help you connect with other teachers and leaders 12 minutes per day.   While the book is written from a marketing perspective, she does a great job of introducing twitter in baby steps.   What other professional development tool will cost you so little time?  Twitter can be very fun too.  To support you on your journey of Twitter, consider downloading this awesome e-book.   It’s free till the end of August:
    • About @beckyrbnsn: a mom, wife, friend, writer, and the founder and CEO of @weaveinfluence. I want to help you grow your online presence, 12 minutes at a time.

I hope these resources will help you connect with fellow educators.   As a parent, thank YOU for all the love and time that you put into your craft of teaching.    Thank you for loving our children.

If there is more that a computer geek can do to help you, please let me know!   As an educator, what was the last cool idea that you found on Twitter?

Curiosity has landed! Touch down confirmed!

W00t! @wilw stopped by @NASAJPL today. He seemed pretty happy... on Twitpic

Curiosity and NASA team… You’ve made us all proud!   This is the Olympics of engineering!

Wow! The rover sent back pictures too!

Buzz on the Curiosity Rover?

  • @MarsCuriosity New #Spacecraft3D augmented-reality app from @NASAJPL puts me in the palm of your hand:
  • @NASAJPL Teachers: Bring @MarsCuriosity into your classroom! JPL hosts landing educator workshop, Aug 3-5. Apply by July 13:
  • @MarsRovers This Mars panorama is the next best thing to being there. 817 pics from Oppy stitched into one 360º view:
  • @MarsCuriosity W00t! @wilw stopped by @NASAJPL today. He seemed pretty happy to see my double. (The feeling’s mutual.)
  • @MarsCuriosity Dare mighty things. Team shares challenges of the final “7 minutes of terror” of my landing on Mars. Video:
  • @NASAJPL Share your ideas about future Mars exploration plans, including prep for human exploration! Closes July 1: