How to assess your biases

How One Simple Tool Helps Uncover Your Biases

Listen to “69: How to Easily Uncover Your Biases” on Spreaker.

An excerpt from Hacking Engagement: 50 Tips & Tools To Engage Teachers and Learners Daily

The Problem: Teachers accidentally alienate certain students

As a rookie teacher, I thought I had it all figured out. For some odd reason, I went out on a limb and professed a position on a controversial subject to my kids. As I bellowed my views, I was inspired by a lot of nodding. There was no doubt the majority were thoroughly on board. I could sense them thinking, Go Mr. Sturtevant. We’re with you.

I was shocked, however, when a student confronted me after class. This young lady, while a good student, always seemed standoffish. But she was anything but aloof on this day: “Mr. Sturtevant, you should be careful about promoting your views so passionately. I don’t agree with you, and I’m not alone.”

While this interaction unnerved me, my ego was still invested in my position. After she left, an intense sinking feeling suddenly drained my body. It was truly an epiphany. Of course my student was right. I was erecting barriers between us. Why in the world would I alienate certain kids who may not agree with me on a certain issue?

The Hack: Create a Teacher Disposition Assessment

A Teacher Disposition Assessment (TDA) measures bias. Student experts, who consume your presentations daily, generate critical information. The TDA is a set of teacher-created prompts based on potentially controversial subjects that may surface in the course content. A TDA is a fantastic exit ticket at the end of a semester, but it can be used anytime.

Hacking engagement-no-1-new-release

Look inside

Creating the TDA on a form creation platform like SurveyMonkey is awesome because student responses are anonymous. Plus, learners can see how their classmates responded collectively. SurveyMonkey displays results with colorful bar graphs.

I teach a World Civilizations class. Here’s one of my TDA item prompts:

“Muslims should be restricted from entering the United States.”

  1. Sturtevant strongly agrees
  2. Sturtevant somewhat agrees
  3. Sturtevant somewhat disagrees
  4. Sturtevant strongly disagrees
  5. Sturtevant’s opinions on this issue are unclear

It’s fine to be provocative; such statements will engage your audience. Student responses provide wonderful insights. This hack could help you dramatically in the engagement department. You may be shocked by what you learn. You may have to make adjustments in your statements and actions, but that’s the idea behind the TDA.

What You Can Do Tomorrow

  • Craft a list of “loaded” topics. These are potential content bombshells that frequently emerge during a semester.
  • Create a Teacher Disposition Assessment (TDA). This assessment will be comprised of controversial statements about topics in your content. Students will try to determine your disposition toward such statements.
  • Conduct a post-assessment debriefing. You could learn much from student feedback. Share the overall responses to the TDA and ask students what it says about you and their perceptions of you.
  • Empower students to act as consultants. After they’ve completed the TDA and participated in the debriefing, share an anonymous Google Form where they can give you advice and feedback. Note: you can create a Google Form like this in less than five minutes.
  • Prompt students to reflect. Ask students to monitor their statements and actions over the next twenty-four hours. Perhaps this activity will influence their behavior as well. It could lead to some fascinating conversation the next day.

You can’t engage all students if you’re biased. A Teacher Disposition Assessment will help you make adjustments and bond with kids.

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3 hacky ways to improve memory

3 Hacky Ways to Remember Things Immediately from Memory Athlete Brad Zupp

Renowned author, presenter, and memory expert Brad Zupp rarely forgets things. Since 2009, Zupp has been dedicated to testing the limits of his own memory while helping others learn the benefits that come from memory improvement.

Zupp shows both adults and children how to supercharge their memories to improve grades, relationships, productivity, and peace of mind while remembering more of what they see, hear and read. One might even call Brad Zupp a memory athlete; he’s a two-time American record-setter at the World Memory Championships and is going for another record this month.

In Episode 62 of the Hack Learning Podcast, Zupp, author of Unlock Your Amazing Memory, shares 3 surprisingly easy ways to remember things and provides right-now solutions for improving memory at home and in school.

The Problem

Teachers and learners can’t remember valuable information: It’s not that the brain is incapable of remembering, Zupp explains. Both adults and children struggle to remember because they are often too distracted by outside stimuli and don’t realize where the problem with memory lies. Zupp explains the problem this way:

We have to figure out where we’re struggling. We have to focus. There’s so much going on, and we don’t have a system.

Empower students today!

Empower students today!

The Hack

Focus on 3 easy steps tricks: Sure, it’s easy to say, “I need to focus and be more organized,” but Zupp suggests that physical factors can also inhibit memory–things like lack of sleep and stress. If we take care of the physical part, memory can be improved with these 3 hacky steps:

  1. Focus–Declutter the brain and actually say, “What is it I’m trying to remember”?
  2. Organize–Create a simple memory system, like self-talk and dialogue with peers about what you want to retain.
  3. Recall–Once people clear away the distractions and integrate a simple system, recall becomes easy, according to Zupp.

What You Can Do Tomorrow

Teach students to ask, “How am I going to remember that?” According to Zupp, this simple question helps eliminate distractions and focuses kids on what they are attempting to remember. While this may not be possible with every lesson, when there is something new and critical to remember, Zupp recommends a dialogue with students that begins with simply asking them to explain their system for remembering.

Create an internal dialogue. When receiving new information, Zupp says to apply it to a creative, even bizarre, self-dialogue. For example, if you struggle to remember someone’s name, you might tell yourself a story about the name that is so outlandish that it becomes easy to later equate that name to the story and to the face that the name accompanies.

Discuss forgettable information with friends and families. Encourage students to talk about skills and concepts that they learned in school at home with family and with friends. Zupp says that this conversation tells them that it is important and to move the information into long term storage.

Record setter?

Brad Zupp is attempting a new memory record, by memorizing the first 10,000 numbers of Pi. Watch for updates on Twitter at #HackLearning, and on this post in the comment section below.

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Brad Zupp is a world-renowned memory expert and author of Unlock Your Amazing Memory. For information about Zupp’s keynote speeches and seminars, coaching, or for memory improvement tips for adults and students, visit www.BradZupp.com. Still need more? Connect with Zupp via Email at Brad@bradzupp.com.

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Jon Harper on mistakes - Hack Learning Podcast

Hacking Teacher Mistakes with My Bad Host Jon Harper

Jon Harper admits that in more than a decade in education, he’s made plenty of mistakes. Some might call Harper a mistake guru. He interviews experienced education stakeholders about their mistakes on his popular Bam Radio podcast, My Bad.

In Episode 61 of the Hack Learning Podcast, Harper shares his journey to becoming a mistakes expert and provides steps for leveraging the power of mistakes, so we can become better teachers and learners.

The Problem

Teachers fear mistakes: Most educators don’t want to look bad in front of students or colleagues, so they keep their mistakes hidden. Jon Harper says that owning his mistakes has taught him many valuable lessons and helps him create a classroom environment that eliminates fear.

In order to forward the conversations that are taking place in this country, we have to accept the fact that when we have these tough conversations, we’re going to make mistakes.

Harper shares a powerful story (time index 4:00 in Episode 61 embedded above) that demonstrates improbable courage and how owning his mistake and sharing it helped him overcome a potentially negative image.

He says that people are conditioned to “want to show the world our best side.” Then, when mistakes inevitably happen, people feel guilty, instead of realizing that they’re no different from everyone else.

The Hack

Leverage the power of mistakes: In classic Hack Learning style, Harper says that the best thing to do with colleagues and with students is remarkably simple–admit your mistakes. When educators and parents share our failings and discuss how we’ve moved beyond them, people, especially kids, appreciate this honesty and learn more readily.

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What You Can Do Tomorrow

Harper has learned from experienced educators how to embrace mistakes and leverage their power, in order to help kids improve. He suggests three simple strategies for getting started tomorrow:

1 – Have a “Family” Meeting: Bring students together and begin the conversation by telling them that you’re going to share a mistake you made with them. (Listen to an excellent example at time index 10:50 of the podcast.)

The more mistakes we share, the more powerful we become.

2 – Discuss student mistakes as a group: It’s easy to minimize a mistake by inviting the class to discuss it. Harper suggests beginning this discussion by explaining that the student is human and that we all make mistakes. Then, emphasize how we can learn from the error.

3 – Blog about mistakes: If both teachers and students write about their mistakes and lessons learned from them, they can share with peers and with the world, which can be cathartic for the blogger while making readers who may have made similar mistakes feel better about themselves.

What they will find is that pushing Publish is difficult. But once they do they will have legions of others thanking them for sharing. Not only that, they will also realize that they are not alone in making whatever mistake it is that they shared.

Jon Harper was a National Board Certified teacher before becoming an elementary school principal in Cambridge, Maryland. He is the host of the popular Bam Radio Network podcast, My Bad, where he interviews experienced educators about their mistakes and what they learn from them. Follow Jon’s work at his My Bad podcast and on his Bam Radio Blog.

What do you think?

It’s time to embrace mistakes, but how do we do it? Please share your thoughts in comments below, on Twitter at #Hacklearning and on our Facebook page.
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Hacking Engagement author James Sturtevant

Talking about Change and Hacking Engagement with James Sturtevant

Maybe Episode 54 of the Hack Learning Podcast should be called Hacking the Live Show instead of Hacking Engagement because my good friend Jim Sturtevant and I definitely hacked learning during this collaborative effort.

Jim is the author of the Hacking Engagement: 50 Tips and Tools to Engage Teachers and Learners Daily. He’s also arguably the most engaging educator anywhere, and I can’t imagine you could find a 32-year classroom teacher who is better at connecting with students and making them love learning.

One day, as he was writing Hacking Engagement, I told Jim that he should create a podcast, around his book ideas because it would give stakeholders one more way to connect to the powerful knowledge he has to share.

A few months and many episodes later, Jim invited me to be a guest on his Hacking Engagement Podcast. So, what did we do? We hacked the project, creating a cross-posted podcast episode; that is, we chatted live on my show (embedded above) and recorded the discussion, so Jim can publish it on his show and launch it later.

Meanwhile, we had a fantastic conversation about our journeys in education, the evolution of Hack Learning, engaging teachers and learners, and enjoying a meal together in Little Italy, near Cleveland, Ohio.

Thanks for Listening

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Also, please leave an honest review for the Hack Learning Podcast on iTunes. We love every rating and review and read them all. We even share them on our show notes archive here! Ratings and reviews make all the difference in the rankings of the show, so please take a moment to tell the world what you enjoy about the Hack Learning Podcast.

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reflect, connect, decompress - Hack Learning Podcast with Mark Barnes

3 Guaranteed Ways to Improve Teaching and Learning Tomorrow

Hack Learning was born from a single blog post and some follow-up conversation on social media. The blog post promised immediate improvement to teaching and learning if principals made a few simple changes.

The key to the success of the post was the idea that you could solve problems tomorrow — sans five-year plan. You see, most educators say there are very few fixes at all–fast or slow.

Almost every solution to any education problem is something that is sent to committee, then to senior administrators, before being relegated to some five-year plan, etched in a 20-page mission statement.

Roughly two years after that initial blog post, five Hack Learning Series books, and other Hack Learning content are providing one quick fix after another.

Are you skeptical? Need evidence?

It’s time to reframe your thinking and to change your attitude about problem-solving in education and in life. It’s time for right-now solutions. Here are three examples of solve-today-implement-tomorrow strategies that are sure to improve teaching and learning in your class, at your school, and at home.

1 — Teach Reflection

On the surface, this might appear to be an obvious strategy. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most overlooked, yet best, practices any classroom teacher can use. Consider the elements of a typical lesson:

  • direct instruction
  • interaction
  • practice
  • assessment
  • closure.

While teachers have many variations on this format, what is typically left out (mainly due to lack of time) is reflection and self-evaluation. The best way to overcome the issue of time is to plan daily reflection into your lesson.

How can this be done in a class period that might last 40 minutes? Give your students a space to write–a blog, a social network, or even a spiral notebook, and plan as little as five minutes at the end of class for process writing. Build these journal entries around questions like, What did I learn? Why is it important? What is unclear? How can I explain this in under a minute?

Experts like Thomas Guskey, Dylan William, Starr Sackstein, and Alfie Kohn have touted the impact of this kind of reflection and feedback for decades. When you consider the time invested–roughly five minutes–and the value of encouraging independent, self-evaluative learning, reflective writing must be a part of your daily routine.

2 — Connect to Like-Minded People 

This might sound a bit cliché, but every teacher needs at least one tribe–professionals that challenge your thinking every day. Creating and joining groups of like-minded educators on various social networks is growing in popularity. You can find teachers discussing all education topics on networks like Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Hacking Leadership

One teacher told me he had learned more in six months, participating in an ongoing Voxer chat with 30 other teachers than he had in the prior 10 years of school-initiated professional development. In minutes, you can join a public group or page on Facebook like Talks with Teachers or follow a Twitter feed like #edtech. These places are rife with progressive-minded educators, who are friendly and eager to share hidden resources.

3 — Decompress

You are responsible for the safety of dozens, or even hundreds, of children. You face pressure from administrators, colleagues, and parents. There’s rarely enough time to complete all tasks, and you worry that you won’t be ready for tomorrow. Whoa, hold on a moment; slow down. For more than 15 years as a classroom teacher, I ran through 10-hour days like a bonfire was chasing me down the hallway. I ate lunch at my desk and rarely socialized. One day, a sage colleague strolled into my room and ordered me to the faculty lounge. “You have to get away from the chaos, or it’s going to kill you,” he said. “You have to decompress.” This advice may have saved my life.

For more than 15 years as a classroom teacher, I ran through 10-hour days like a bonfire was chasing me down the hallway. I ate lunch at my desk and rarely socialized. One day, a sage colleague strolled into my room and ordered me to the faculty lounge. “You have to get away from the chaos, or it’s going to kill you,” he said. “You have to decompress.” This advice may have saved my life.

Not long after that conversation, I began studying meditation and mindfulness. Not only did I start eating lunch with friends away from my classroom daily, I began practicing at least five minutes of relaxing meditation. When I learned to escape the rigors of daily teaching and to decompress, I felt better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I stopped venting at students. I smiled more. Sometimes, I even laughed. So, take five minutes (no social media or texting), and close your eyes. Inhale deeply; exhale slowly. Do this tomorrow, and teaching and learning will improve immediately because you’ll be calmer, cooler, clear-minded, and better.

Do this tomorrow, and teaching and learning will improve immediately because you’ll be calmer, cooler, clear-minded, and better.

So, what’s your right-now solution for teaching and learning? Let us know in the comment section below and on Twitter at #HackLearning.

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