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Thanksgiving at the Trolls

My 4 year old daughter has a book that we have been reading each night for the past few weeks: “Thanks for Thanksgiving” by Julie Markes.  (It’s a sweet book detailing what kids could/should be thankful for…)  But it got me to thinking about what I’m thankful for as an educator.

I feel like most of the blogs and presentations I read, watch, give, or write about are about the downside of education.  I know this is “part of the job” as very few speakers are hired because they are solely excited about the status quo!  There is work to be done and we need some healthy, constructive dialogue about the problems and issues our industry is facing.

That said, we have some things to be thankful for too, right?  I hope you agree that it’s not all doom and gloom, so I thought I would try to piece together a few of the things I am thankful for in education.

1. Pick up your mobile. Have you ever stopped to think about how amazing it is that we can (essentially) read someone’s thoughts today?  Find an rss or a twitter feed for someone you want to follow and you get their thoughts delivered right to your phone, which is likely never out of reach.  Even though we may gripe about technology sometimes, it’s amazing isn’t it?  (I’m reminded of a VERY funny bit by Louis C.K. on Conan years ago where he proclaimed that, “…everything is amazing and nobody is happy…”  He went on to explain that people get so frustrated with their phone downloading slowly, even though it’s getting a signal FROM SPACE!  Funny stuff…

Anyway – don’t you think that this kind of technology can (and should) have an incredible impact on education?  I can’t believe I live in a time when the world’s information is freely available to me at the touch of a button. I’m thankful for wireless.

2. Read “Mind Rules” by John Medina. We know SO much more about the brain than we ever have before, even though Medina is quick to point out that we know almost nothing…but we have the ability to truly change how we teach and learn with statistical, fact based inferences guiding us.  That is powerful indeed.  Get your students moving – brain research connects fitness to learning in a significant way.  Teach in a multi-modal / multi-nodal methodology – brain research showcases the power of differentiation.  I’m thankful for knowing what we know about learning.

3. Turn on TED. Looking back over my blogs on various sites for the past 3 years, I cannot believe how often I reference the TED talks.  From Sir Ken Robinson to Stephen Wolfram to Dan Meyer to Jane McGonigal, there are dozens of amazing talks that directly impact education (in addition to the hundreds that impact everyday life).  And what’s more?  It’s FREE!  Some of the greatest minds of our time provide their ideas, suggestions, solutions, and unique understandings of our world at no cost.  I’m thankful for TED.

4.  My contacts list. I’m going to break a rule here and NOT do an odd number of things.  I’m sticking with 4 this time and I’m ending with something in and around education that is probably more meaningful to me than any of these other 3 things.  As I look at the contacts that I have in education – the amazing practitioners and thinkers who create new and innovative ways for students to learn, my jaw drops.  I won’t start naming names as I’m afraid I would miss one, but my friends from New Jersey to Iowa to California and everywhere in between are fantastically inspiring to me.  And my friends in Denver, where I live…wow.  The ideas we have generated together truly are changing the world.  It’s hard to see sometimes since we’re knee deep in it, but it’s true.  From creativity to analytics to eLearning, we are making a difference.  I’m thankful for my colleagues.

So what are YOU thankful for, educators?  This list should be the start of a long set of things that get us excited and passionate about what we do.  After all, if it were all darkness and distain, why would anyone keep at it?  So to all of you, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Let me leave you with one final Thanksgiving thought.  My daughter found a cartoon on Google the other day – I don’t know how exactly.  I just know she was practicing spelling “Thanksgiving” and this image came up.  Picture all of the muppets sitting around the Thanksgiving table.  There’s Ernie, Oscar, and Grover – all of my daughter’s “friends” – awaiting the feast.  On the table are all of the trimmings, from potatoes to yams to cranberries.  And there, right in the middle, is the turkey….or what seems to be turkey-esque.  It’s actually the browned, crispy skinned bottom of a roasted Big Bird…try explaining THAT to a four year old.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Jeff Borden

About Jeff Borden

Jeff Borden is the former head of the Center for eLearning. He is also a consultant, speaker, professor, comedian, and trainer. As an Enriched Lecturer at Chaminade University and past college administrator, Dr. Borden has assisted faculty, administrators, executives, and even politicians in conceptualizing and designing eLearning programs globally. Recently he testified before the U.S. Congress’ Education Committee, keynoted a 6,000 audience member conference in Asia, and presented in the New Media Consortium’s Virtual Symposium for the Future.
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