Category Archives: Musings

My working definition of Creativity

What is your definition of creativity? Innovation?

I started typing out my working definition and this is what I came up with. I’d love to hear yours.



  • has to have impact on how we solve a problem, comprehend a concept, define entertainment or beauty, or live our daily lives
  • is likely to be made up of previously conceived ideas, but put together in entirely new ways
  • is not boring; humans will intuitively recognize a creative piece as engaging even if they don’t particularly like it
  • will sometimes be dismissed or ridiculed by those who hold firmly to a particular standard set in the past
  • a creative work can become aligned to a particular place or period in history as it helped to define movements that were happening during that place and time

Corporal punishment in American schools in 2013

It happened as we were conducting practice walkthroughs during principal training. I was working with a group of administrators on gathering formative data on teacher instructional practices and, as we were making our way down the hallway, I overheard one principal say to another, “…after that smart @$$ comment, I turned to [name] and just said, ‘Whup ‘im.'”

I let out a half-laugh as I turned to him, not sure whether to be aghast or amused at the absurdity of joking about spanking a student. The moment I saw his face, however, I realized that he wasn’t joking. I’m sure several emotions were evident in my expression as the realization of what he was saying sunk in – disbelief, disgust, horror. Mentally recoiling, I managed to create space between us as we continued walking, giving one of the other principals a chance to come up alongside me and whisper, somewhat apologetically, “Corporal punishment is still legal in Texas.”

I have memories of classmates being called to the office for punishment that can only be categorized as child abuse, but I had naively assumed that those brutish practices had been discontinued in the ’80s. How wrong I was.

I recently told a co-worker this story and she, like me, found it difficult to fathom that this form of punishment was still legal. She forwarded data from The Center for Effective Discipline on frequency of corporal punishment by state (and those that have banned such practices). I’ll let the data speak for itself. I am especially dismayed to see that Colorado, my adopted home of 15 years that I consider to be such a role model for healthy living and innovative ideas, still hasn’t banned corporal punishment.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is corporal punishment still legal in your state? Is it still a part of your school’s culture? How frequently is this happening in your world?

It’s not you; it’s me…or maybe it’s you…

As with many of you, I maintain a few professional memberships of organizations who focus on certain issues and to whom I look for learning and networking. I have been a member of one in particular since the early 2000s when, as I was getting my Master’s degree, I decided that becoming a member was of paramount importance on my career path. I happily doled out my yearly fees and looked forward to its monthly magazine and yearly conference. By reading its publication, I learned of people, ideas, and tools that I might not have learned about otherwise.

In recent years, however, I find myself disengaged – not with my profession…indeed those conversations seem to be getting richer and more thoughtful as my network expands – but with one organization in particular. I have stopped going to its annual conference, finding it more focused on pens, prizes, and over-populated lecture halls than about improving pedagogy.

I scan the periodical and only occasionally find anything that I think helps teachers who are working to meet the needs of their learners. Wanting to contribute (and not just complain), I submitted an article last year to its publication that looked at digital learning through the lens of research-based instructional strategies, thinking of teachers more as instructional designers than providers of information. The feedback from the editor was dismissive at best:

“…this felt a bit to me like dressing up old ideas in new vocabulary, rather than presenting truly new ideas.”


I recently received an email reminding me that my annual membership was about to expire. I have to ask myself: what am I getting out of this relationship? These days, I find that I learn more through Twitter feeds, blogs, and smaller, more intimate gatherings (e.g. salons, local or state conferences) than I do through its publication, special interest groups, or conference. Has it gotten too big? Or has my learning style simply shifted so much that glossy periodicals and over-stimulating conferences don’t engage me anymore?

Is anyone else dealing with this?

The If/Then To-Do List

if thenYesterday, I started the morning as I often do by writing out a to-do list of tasks, phone calls to make, emails to send, etc. What I noticed about yesterday’s to-do list, however, was that many of my actions were dependent upon the outcomes of conversations with others. My to-do list looked less like a list…more like a string of If/Then statements or a flow chart.

This got me to thinking about the digital tools that I currently use for creating to-do lists. Many have syncing and check-box features that I like, but I can’t think of any that allow for multiple actions based on a decision preceding. Do any of you have tools or resources that you can recommend?

Good-bye to a mentor

About a month ago, I had to say good-bye to a mentor from whom I have been learning for the better part of the past decade. No, he didn’t pass away – he is still alive and well – but I realized that I could no longer reconcile my admiration of his educational work with his personal views. Let me explain.

Ever since I began paying attention to “21st century” learning and using the many tools and resources available to teachers and students, I have followed wonderful blog posts and Tweets from this mentor. I’ve learned everything from simple trouble-shooting tips to seeing exciting and dynamic examples of relevant and engaging instruction. This mentor is personable, funny, smart, and I am so glad that he is doing the good work that he is.

And yet…

Having been raised in – and having left – a society where racism, sexism, and bigotry are still very much an accepted part of daily life, I find that my patience with these viewpoints is scarce. Hatred, even in its mildest form of exclusion, has no place in our society in 2011, even especially when it comes under the thin guise of “tradition,” “beliefs,” or “culture.” We live in a multi-faceted, global society where NO ONE should be excluded from pursuing their life’s calling because of their race, gender, or sexual preference.

And so…I unsubscribed from my mentor’s blog, unfollowed his Tweets. A part of me wonders if this very act is also a form of exclusion and if I’m now guilty of hypocrisy. The message I wish to send, however, is the same message I wish we sent to politicians, musicians, sports stars, and anyone else to whom others look for guidance, entertainment, or inspiration: you cannot expect me to join your fan club for the good work you do while turning a blind eye to something as despicable as bigotry.

I wish this person no harm or ill-will and certainly will not engage in slander or anything close to a witch-hunt…I have simply and respectfully removed myself from his list of followers.

If you have a response, I welcome your thoughts…please keep your comments respectful.

ASCD 2011

I’ve only attended one other ASCD annual conference back in 2007(?) in New Orleans. Being accustomed to ISTE’s and (Colorado) TIE’s ubiquitous wireless, informal gathering stations, and incorporation of technology, I found myself disappointed with that experience several years ago. The New Orleans conference used nothing but paper, there was virtually no Internet, and it just seemed….old. As we left, a sign encouraged us to attend next year where the focus would be on “technology.” I have to admit…I chuckled.

Fast forward to 2011 – WOW! What a difference a few years makes. We were able to create virtual schedules of sessions we wanted to attend and exhibitors we wanted to see, several of the sessions (including my iPad session) provided free wireless for participants, our handouts were uploaded electronically, and there were MANY sessions that focused on the use of modern tools and educational ideas. What was really telling was the constant flow of tweets using the hashtag #ascd11. Not only does it seem that ASCD has undergone lots of change internally, externally they are attracting the very audience who is focused on transforming our schools into engaging and dynamic learning environments.

I was also extremely impressed with the involvement of upper management in the conference. The Chief Program Development Officer passing out umbrella bags as participants enter the conference center? That speaks volumes….all good.

Kuddos, ASCD. I can’t wait to attend the next one.

Sending Good Thoughts…

Having worked in Guam, Saipan, and Tokyo over the past several years, I find myself thinking of my friends today in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. While I’ve heard word that all is OK with the folks in Guam & Saipan, I still haven’t heard anything from the wonderful people in Tokyo. Thinking of you all and hoping to hear from someone soon.




Me at Kagman High, Saipan


Historic Gate at the American School in Japan - Tokyo