Friday, May 30, 2008

Backwards Design the Summer

We are the point of the school year when projects become plentiful and overpowering while performances and playoffs become prevalent. Overall, I'm pooped. We're all pooped.

I sat down with my oldest son and helped him map out all of the things he has to do in the next few weeks. Then we sorted the sticky notes (yes, Dr. Educational Technology took the low-tech/no-tech approach) by due date.

Not surprisingly, it seemed more manageable to him when it was broken into small pieces. He was finally able to see through the overwhelming calendar of tasks. He could finally see the end.

I mentioned this process to a fellow educator and she immediately said, "Oh, backwards design." I knew the term but had forgotten it even though I use the strategy.

That got me thinking. Each summer I work with my boys to establish a list of educational projects and opportunities with varying levels of commitment and difficulty. From typing skills to iMovie projects each one has a monetary award that I set.

Last year, I saved a lot of money. They were excited at the beginning but didn't follow through; it got overwhelming. I'd rather pay out, so I need a new approach.

Enter backwards design. In two weeks I'll sit down with them and go through the same process as last year except that we will establish their goals and then apply a backwards design strategy.

I think this will work when they can see both the end goal and the steps to take each day to get there. Backwards designing their summer is a process and a path they can enjoy all the way to the bank.

Friday, May 09, 2008


I'm back. I've returned to where I came from. Some people have their 'crib;' I have my grid.

For the past three days I've lived and worked with a school 'off of the grid,' deep inside the rural counties of Florida. Rural life appeals to me a lot. I hope someday that I retire to a calm and serene ranch filled with nature's goodness. The community people that I met sure seemed to enjoy their lifestyle.

I missed my grid while I was there. The creature comforts of connectedness blatantly absent. Cell phone service? Very limited. Internet access? Sort of. VPN for e-mail? Nope. Television? Six channels, two of them in Spanish. And the kicker... no Starbucks. Perhaps that is the lack of a kicker.

When I got back to a big city with cell phone access I was greeted by a plethora of text, Tweet and e-mail messages and voice mails. Apparently people still expected me to be on their grid. 

As I sat waiting for my plane and sipping my grande, single-pump, hazelnut latte, I thought about how good it felt to be back. But I also thought about how nice a few days of gridlock felt.

I'm looking forward to a rural lifestyle someday. I just hope it has a Starbucks.

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