Most Likely to Succeed–Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era, CH 1

Most Likely to Succeed

What do you want for your kids? Think about that for a minute… We’ll come back to that question.

Here is another question posed by one of my high school parents: “[Do] you have any thoughts on helping and not hindering our kids with struggle? … I’m a believer that the struggle is where we all grow and that allowing our kids to fail and struggle is essential.” We’ll come back to that one in a just minute too…

As noted last time I updated my blog, I wasn’t entirely sure if I would agree with the authors of this new text I started reading. Part of my concern was whether or not the ideas set forth in the text would reinforce or contradict the work we do as a college prep high school. But as I started to read chapter 1 of the text this past week, I came across some very encouraging thoughts. What Wagner and Dintersmith suggest not only addresses both of the previous questions but also suggests that we are doing something very right here at SkyView.

When Wagner and Dintersmith asked parents what they wanted most for their children, the answer was nearly unanimous: “I just want my child to be happy.” But then Wagner and Dintersmith note that much of what we do in schools is actually “counterproductive” to achieving that.  We “fail to provide them with relevant or engaging challenges during their four years in high school. We ingrain in kids that the key to success in life is getting into a great college, but then parents are amazed when their child feels completely inadequate after a few rejection letters. … in today’s world, there is no longer a competitive advantage in knowing more than the person next to you because knowledge has become a commodity available to all with the swipe of a finger” (p. 20).

As I reflect on that, I think that what I am hearing is this: many schools have become too obsessed with basic knowledge and facts, lacking focus on creating meaningful challenges (dare I say, meaningful struggle) that might actually help students to become successful (and by extension, happy). But that then just creates another question: what should schools be doing to help challenge students? …and how do we help students to embrace that struggle?

Fortunately, the text provides an answer to both of these questions suggesting that schools must be teaching students how to “ask great questions, critically analyze information, form independent opinions, collaborate, and communicate effectively” (p. 20). None of this is easily achieved by way of a multiple choice test–it takes hard work, patience, dedication, and struggle.

This intrigues and encourages me. First, I believe that this text will likely explore the implications of this for this schools (especially high schools)–and that should be a very interesting journey. Second, we are already doing this at SkyView! We are already working diligently to teach our students how to “ask great questions, critically analyze information, form independent opinions, collaborate, and communicate effectively.”

As educators, parents, or students at SkyView, we should be delighted to know that we are already preparing our kids for the innovation era. We are helping them learn to think critically and collaboratively about the world around them, seeking solutions to new and previously-unknown problems. This is teaching them how to battle through struggle–perhaps even embrace it–and to utilize failure as a launching pad to new learning.

I can’t say for sure where the authors are going to go from here. But I do hope to learn a new thing or two about how we might continue to improve the formula for success that we are currently using at SkyView.

Cheers!

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Wagner, T. and Dintersmith, T. (2015).  Most likely to succeed, preparing our kids for the innovation era.  New York: New York.

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Most Likely to Succeed–Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era

Most Likely to Succeed

When I graduated from high school, my class voted me Most Athletic and Most Likely to Succeed. There were a few other students up for Most Athletic, so I was officially dubbed the Most Likely to Succeed. I have always been honored by that peer nomination (although at the time, my real preference as a teenager was to be recognized as Most Athletic – oh well…).

I’ve always sort of wondered what exactly led my peers to see me as the most likely to succeed in our class. Was it something quantifiable? …a gut feeling? …the only option left that simply defaulted to me?

And now, as a principal, I find myself reflecting on “success” through another lens and constantly considering questions like:

  1. How do we define success in life? …in society? …in school?
  2. Why do we define it as such?
  3. How can we help our students to be successful – academically, socially, morally, and otherwise?
  4. Is success teachable/coachable?
  5. If so, what are the hard skills? …or are they soft skills? …perhaps a combination of both?

Recently, I was discussing these questions with one of my mentors, and he mentioned a book he’d been reading called Most Likely to Succeed. Naturally, the mere title of the text piqued my curiosity, and I purchased a copy for myself.

I have just started reading, and I think this book could offer some good food for thought to share periodically throughout the year. With that being said, here is an excerpt to whet your whistle:

“For the last century, the classroom experience for most students has revolved around lectures, note-taking, recall-based tests, and grades. Clubs, sports, and social interaction were regarded as providing a welcome break from the intense learning process. We will see, however, that most lecture-based courses contribute almost nothing to real learning. … Experiences, rather than short-term memorization, help students develop the skills and motivation that transform lives. … In this book, we will explore the contradiction between what students must do to earn a high school or college degree versus what makes them most likely to succeed in the world of work, citizenship, and lifelong learning” (pp. 7-8).

Hmmmm… very interesting. I’m not sure whether I am going to agree or disagree with these authors, but I already have lots of questions, and I’m curious to see what research they share and where the go with this text. Until next time…

Cheers!

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Wagner, T.  (2015).  Most likely to succeed, preparing our kids for the innovation era.  New York: New York.

Welcome back! Here’s to another great year!

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Welcome back! I trust that you had a wonderful summer!

Somebody told me last year that I write too much and it takes too long to read my blog. I can’t promise that I’ll always be able to keep it short, but today I will. It is already late in the day, and one of my best friends is visiting from KS on his 50th birthday. He just finished climbing Pikes Peak today! So I’m going to keep it short and spend the rest of my evening with him.

I have one question I would like to ask though: what topics would you like me to research and write about this year? I have a few ideas in mind, but I’m open to suggestions as well. I always have something to say about cell phones. Despite all the research, things don’t seem to be improving. …sort of like Calvin’s outlook above. Anyway, I’m willing to consider other ideas if you care to share them.

Looking forward to a great school year…

Cheers!

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Cell Phone Addiction – Suggestions (and closing thoughts for the year…)

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I have been terrible about updating my blog this past month. Planning for graduation certainly doesn’t help at all. So with that being said, this will be my final thoughts for the school year. And since I don’t have tons of time at the moment to read, research, and reflect, I’m going to be as succinct as possible and try to wrap up this text with a few quick thoughts about cell phone addiction, sharing a few suggestions given by Adam Alter.

  1. Nip addiction at birth. “Today the average schoolchild aged between eight and eighteen years spends a third of her life … engrossed in new media, from smartphones and tablets to TVs and laptops. … Since the turn of the new millennium, the rate of non-screen playtime fell 20 percent, while the rate of screen playtime increased by a similar amount” (p. 237). Alter develops this point by referring to the recent birth of his own child and noting how much “screens” are used in a variety of capacities to introduce infants to the world around them. He goes on to discuss how this compromises our ability to develop relationships, read emotions, remain active and engaged, or appreciate the content more than the medium used to deliver it. Fortunately, research and science are beginning to identify these trends and equate cell-phone addiction to alcoholism, noting “either you abstain from the addictive behavior, or you’ll never shake the addiction” (p. 258).
  2. Find a replacement for addictive behaviors. Without a replacement behavior, it is nearly impossible to quit an addictive behavior. Alter makes a number of suggestions, but the most notable behavior he suggests is to simply remove temptation. Don’t cut yourself off entirely from your cellphone, but at least make it more difficult to access. Find a way to make the device less available and make it challenging to respond immediately. I suppose you could opt for something more direct, like having somebody smack you in the face every time you look at your device. Or you could simply try something simple like turning the phone off and leaving it in another room. Feel free to get creative I suppose, but don’t overthink this one. Just try to remove the temptation.

I’m not sure what all of this means for us at SkyView next year. Because of what we are learning from emerging research, there are bound to be some changes. For now, I’d at least encourage you to take a close look at your own personal habits and consider making some adjustments. I’ve tried to help make you more aware of the issue, but it’s up to you to utilize this new knowledge in a positive way.

Good luck! We’ll talk again this fall…

Cheers!

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Alter, Adam. (2018). Irresistible The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Penguin Group USA.

Cell Phone Addiction – Ingredients of Behavioral Addiction: Cliffhangers

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So I’ve fallen a little behind in my reading (and my blogging) lately. Sorry about that…

But do I really need to write about cliffhangers? Seriously: who hasn’t experienced the addiction created by a good cliffhanger??? “Who shot JR?” introduced us all to the addictive power of the cliffhanger, and the last 30 years have simply allowed us to refine this power and discover new ways to capitalize on it’s ability to control people.

So here is what I am going to do instead: I’m going to jump ahead to Part 3, The Future of Behavioral Addiction (and Some Solutions). I will utilize that part of the text to wrap up the year on my blog, and I’ll try to provide some solutions for us all as we head into the summer months.

Cheers!

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Alter, Adam. (2018). Irresistible The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Penguin Group USA.

Cell Phone Addiction – Ingredients of Behavioral Addiction: Escalation

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According to Google Books, there are more than thirty thousand books about ‘making life easier.’ … These books suggest that our lives are hard, and that we’d be happier and better off if we could learn to replace hardship with ease. But most of these books weren’t written for people enduring major hardships, and there is very little evidence that people with regular lives become happier when you replace challenges with ease. … As thirty thousand books tell us, we may be looking for an easier life on some level–but many of us prefer to break up a period of mild pleasantness with a dose of moderate hardship. … That’s why people spend precious chunks of time doing difficult crosswords and climbing dangerous mountains–because the hardship of the challenge is far more compelling than knowing you’re going to succeed” (Alter, pp. 167-169).

While this hardship of challenge that we crave may drive us to do great things, it may also be a destructive force in our lives. Let’s start with the positive and look at this through an educational lens.

Most educators are quite familiar with the work of Lev Vygotsky. His “Zone of Proximal Development” supports the idea that to some degree we’d prefer a little hardship over success. In fact, he concluded that students not only prefer a little challenge, but also learn better (and enjoy the process better) when they are pushed just beyond their capabilities. Great teachers know how to develop a rigorous class by making sure that learning is not too easy and not too hard, but “just right.” And as it turns out, “just right” is a zone that is slightly out of reach for students in an area that might be described as “hardship.”

Interesting…isn’t it? Well as it turns out, it is not only great teachers who understand and utilize this concept. Great app developers and great video game designers also understand this concept well. And they’ve become quite adept at utilizing this knowledge to addict us–especially those of us called Millennials (I happen to be a Gen-Xer by the way).

You see, Zone of Proximal Development and escalation used to create rigor and ensure learning is a good thing–it’s very positive for students and learners. However, when escalation is used against us with regard to video games, apps, and even with the simple design of our Smart Phones (which become increasingly more streamlined, reliable, and able to immediately meet our needs), it leads to behavioral addiction.

Although I’ve become much more aware of behavioral addiction in recent years, I wasn’t always so careful. In 2003 when Denver was hit hard by our April blizzard, my room-mate, and I got a 3-day break from teaching. We spent those three days creating a fantasy Madden league. We would take turns retreating to the game room and playing Madden football for long stretches of 5-8 hours. As one of us would stumble out of the game room, the other would rush in to continue managing the league. And that’s the point: most of our time was spent just managing the league, making trades, designing teams, and enjoying all the new, exciting, advanced (dare I say: “escalated”) features in the latest version of Madden. Only half of our time was actually spent playing football.

The sense of creating something that requires labor and effort and expertise is a major force behind addictive acts … It also highlights an insidious difference between substance addiction and behavioral addiction: where substance addictions are nakedly destructive, many behavioral addictions are quietly destructive acts wrapped in cloaks of creation” (Alter, p. 174).

Just something to keep in mind next time you find yourself re-designing your Bitmoji avatar for an hour…

Cheers!

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Alter, Adam. (2018). Irresistible The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Penguin Group USA.

Bonus Article: Can cell phones cause cancer? Experts surprised by latest test results.

Cell Phone Addiction – Ingredients of Behavioral Addiction: Progress

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It’s been a while since I last opened Irresistible.  …my apologies for the extended break.

Thus far, Alter has shared two ingredients (surprising ingredients at that) for behavioral addiction: goals and feedback. In this next chapter, he adds another shocking ingredient for behavioral addiction: progress.

As if the first two weren’t hard enough to accept, this third ingredient is even more challenging to understand as an ingredient for addiction. After all, didn’t we just have parent-teacher conferences at the school to discuss how to promote and pursue progress for our students?

Well, let’s be clear: progress is a good thing.

But too much of a good thing or a good thing in the wrong proportions/quantities can be bad. Alter uses a host of examples to help make this point: Nintendo, auction games, penny auction sites, bumper bowling, and internet addiction. As always, he paints an interesting picture and makes it clear (albeit, anecdotally) that progress can be used to addict us.

Progress is a little bit like cholesterol, carbs, or calories. Our body needs calories to survive. But too many calories and calories in the wrong form can be utilized to addict us.

Likewise, progress is a good thing and necessary for our growth and development. But progress can become addictive.

Do you know who is especially good at using (mis-using) progress to addict us?: video game creators and Smart Phone app developers. Yes, that’s right: our cell phones are cleverly designed to become addictive. (You didn’t really think I’d miss an opportunity to remind you of how dangerous cell phones are, did you? 😉 )

Don’t throw away your SmartPhone (yet). Just be aware…

Cheers!

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Alter, Adam. (2018). Irresistible The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Penguin Group USA.