Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer Reading

One of my favorite parts of summer is the ability to sit down and enjoy good books. As the summer progresses I plan to write about the books I read and make connections to teaching.

The topic of creativity is hard to discuss without being vague. Jonah Lehrer aims to take the mystery away from creativity and provide examples of how creativity can be increased in real life. His main point throughout the book is that creativity is not something mystical but is a skill that can be honed.

My main takeaways from Imagine were:

  • Creative ideas tend to happen when we are relaxed and able to let our minds make connections between topics and ideas that are not obviously connected.
  • Creativity must be balanced with hard work. Once the idea is hatched it takes grit and determination to follow through and make something actually happen.
  • Creative solutions and ideas often arise by seeing problems through someone else’s eyes. I need to encourage my students to interact with people who are different than them and will push their thinking.
  • Relax. Creativity requires time to marinate before coming alive. School can be such a rushed and hurried environment. When it is within my power I plan to allow for more time for my students to relax and daydream solutions to tough problems. Each quarter my students develop side projects (similar to Google’s 20% time) and this would be the perfect time to practice this in our classroom.

I would encourage anyone to pick up a copy of
Imagine and read it this summer. I learned a ton and I am still thinking over the ideas and suggestions provided. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have had a chance to read it.

I don’t really want to start a business per se. But, I do want to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in my students. I have this crazy idea for my students to start a couple of businesses next year and I thought this book might give me a few ideas.

As you read this book it is impossible not to dream about potential businesses you could start. I dare you to try it.

Some takeaways for my students were:
  • To start a business you only need three things:
    1. A product or service
    2. A group of people willing to pay for it
    3. A way to get paid for it

  • Focus on what you can add or take away to improve the quality of someone’s life. How can your product or service give them something that will make their life better and how can you take away something that is a negative for them.
  • Value means helping people. How can you provide value to someone else?
  • Keep it simple. Be able to explain your business in 140 characters or less.

What a great story. I loved this book. I can’t believe it took me so long to get around to reading it.

This book reminded me of the great joy that can be found in discovering lovable characters and fantastic new worlds within a story. It reminded me why I work so hard to get good books in the hands of my students. I want them to experience that joy.

The summer reading list grows by a book or two each day - better get back to reading!

Friday, May 18, 2012

QR Code Yearbook / Have a Great Summer!

If you found this post you can use QR codes - nice work.

Thanks for a great school year 6th graders. Have a wonderful summer. Enjoy relaxing, exploring, and learning all summer long. See you next year!

Mr. Ferrell

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Stop Stealing Dreams

Looking for something good to read? Take a look at Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin

Stop Stealing Dreams is a 30,000 word manifesto about how to improve education. It will challenge your thinking and push you to dream about how we can make our schools better for our students.

Throughout his book Godin explores the essential question of "What is school for?"

Godin does a masterful job of painting a picture of what education could be that is drastically different than our current methods of educating our students. While I do not agree with all of his thoughts - I appreciate his ability to cast a vision for what the future of education could be.

Stop Stealing Dreams is written as a series of quick, easy to digest blog posts that make great discussion material.

Grab a free copy of Stop Stealing Dreams in multiple formats (webpage, PDF, Kindle, and more) and let me know what you think. Britt and I would love to discuss his ideas more over a cup of coffee.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Gigabit Challenge Finale

On Wednesday, January 18th, we will be blogging live from the Gigabit Challenge Finale in Kansas City, MO.  Last Spring, Google announced the recipient of it's high-speed fiber internet project - Kansas City (both KS and MO).  I was especially excited because I live and teach in Kansas City, KS.  As part of the deal, the schools would be receiving the service free.

After the initial buzz, I found myself wondering how my classroom would benefit from the speed.  Would innovation be more possible with my 5th graders because of the service?  Would the internet service attract ideas that could be tested in my classroom?  Would it do anything?

At the finale, I will learn about the range of possibilities.  I will seek to filter these business plans through my education filter.  I hope to be able to dream clearer after Wednesday.  I am excited to learn more from the event - check out the speaker line up!  If you would like to join in the fun you can check out this blog again on that day, watch the event live here, follow the hashtag #GBfiber and @gigabitchallengekc, or follow either myself or my co-blogger on Twitter:

Jon - @jonathanferrell
Britt - @brpumphrey

I'm curious to find out what I learn.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


We are at #EdCampKC today in Lee's Summit, Missouri today. Looking forward to learning with everyone who comes!

What is EdCampKC?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

ShowMe App for the iPad

A few months ago I came across this *free* app and I have been excited about its potential use in the classroom.  Below I have embedded a ShowMe recording that shares a few of the ideas that have been bouncing around in my head.  Share your ideas for other ways to use this app with students.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Learning to Present to Adults

Over the weekend we had the opportunity to present at the Podstock conference in Wichita, KS. We chose to discuss why and how we have our students blog in our classrooms. Blogging has been around for a while now so this was nothing revolutionary. But, it is a simple starting point for teachers who want their students to be more engaged in their writing and it is great practice for interacting appropriately online.

This was just our second time to lead a presentation at a conference so we have a lot to learn about the art of effectively communicating to a group of adults.

What we know so far ...
  • Discussion rules. Questions are difficult to frame well, but very important.
  • Blended discussion (verbal and using a Google Doc) appears to be a great method to involve all participants.
  • Allow the group to learn from each other. Provide a backchannel opportunity to foster interaction among participants. Don’t pretend that we have all the knowledge.
  • Keep it simple. Avoid the theoretical and the education jargon and just talk about what works in the classroom.
  • Be a learner before being a teacher.

What we need to learn more about ...
  • How this format will work with other topics. We have the student blogging presentation down at this point. But, will this format work well for other tools?  
  • Working with larger groups of adults.  Both of our presentations have been between 20-40 adults.  
  • Differentiating technology.  

Reflecting on this experience I (Jon) am struck by what I have learned can be applied to the classroom. Far too often I will get in a rut of gushing out information at my students. This year I will strive to involve my students more the learning process. I would like to have a Google Doc serve as a discussion platform and backchannel throughout the day in my classroom.

Reflecting on this experience I (Britt) find myself mulling over all of the professional development I have been a part of at the building and district level.  I wonder if this more interactive approach would enhance those times.  There is a significant difference between the voluntary mid-summer conference and the mandatory, district inservice in February - but I am not sure the mid-summer conference holds the advantage.  I believe teachers would thrive in the interactive learning environment, and make strong connections to their own rooms (as Jon did).  I mostly wonder if the average professional development session involves enough learning to inspire the kind of discussion we got to be a part of?