Advice to the Class of 2013: Guest Post by @SeanHCole

by Guest Author, Sean H. Cole

Advice to the Class of 2013

As you finish your school career and embark in the next phase of your life, I thought I’d share some advice with you.

  1. You don’t have to lead a conventional life. You don’t need a conventional relationship, or a conventional job, or a conventional family, or conventional values. Too many people get to the middle of their lives before they realise this.
  2. It’s never too late to make a change. Habits of thought and action are hard to break, but they can be broken. (You’ll know its time for a change when your old habits start making you miserable.)
  3. If you don’t like it, fix it. If you can’t fix it, live with it. If you can’t live with it, get rid of it.
  4. Be kind to people. At the end of it all, success is not a figure in a bank account, it is a life well lived. And a life well lived is one where compassion features heavily.
  5. Compare yourself to people you admire. Admire people for what they do, and what they know – not for what they look like or what they’re selling.
  6. Be open to new ideas and experiences. Too many people funnel their existences into ever narrower little worlds. Travel, read, think, talk to people and take the time to reflect on lessons learnt.
  7. Try to have at least one big thought a day.
  8. Don’t ever say you love someone when you don’t. And don’t let others do the same to you. Real love is in your actions, not your words – and it is more often a deep friendship than sentimental cards and meaningless gifts.
  9. Don’t judge people too quickly.
  10. If you let other people’s opinion of you guide who you are, then they are always right about you.
  11. Make a little bit of time to exercise – at least three times a week.
  12. Be wary of putting too much of anything into your body: alcohol, carbs, fast foods, soft drinks and prescription pills can be very bad for you in the long run. The exception to this bit of advice is cheese – you can never have too much cheese.
  13. Don’t be afraid to be silly from time to time.
  14. Don’t be swept away by what’s in fashion. Learn to spot what’s timeless and has lasting value: whether this is clothes, gadgets, music, furniture or even your concept of beauty.
  15. Don’t watch too much tv. You’ll know it’s too much when that’s all you have to talk about with friends and colleagues.
  16. Be critical of the information that comes your way. Especially if someone is making money off of it in some way. Realise this: easy fixes and shortcuts are always scams.
  17. Always assume the best of people… until they prove you wrong. But also, don’t be afraid to give them a second chance. (And only a second chance – if you give them a third, you’re just a doormat.)
  18. Be kind to animals.
  19. Be patient with the elderly.
  20. Just because your car might be bigger or newer or faster or more expensive doesn’t entitle you to use the roads more than anyone else. Be courteous and be careful.
  21. Look after your teeth.
  22. Try not to spread negativity at work. Blowing off some steam is fine, from time to time, but constant complaining and bickering marks you as someone to avoid.
  23. Don’t be afraid to change jobs and even careers a few times while you are young.
  24. Try to invest in property as soon as you can.
  25. Respect your boss. Until you are the boss.
  26. Take up a hobby that involves some kind of physical activity. This helps you to get away from yourself from time to time.
  27. Don’t look down on other people. The cleaner, the tea lady, the maintenance guy and the driver are vital to the functioning of any workplace. And they always know the juiciest bits of gossip.
  28. You don’t have to have children to leave a legacy.
  29. Don’t be afraid to apologise when you get it wrong.
  30. Don’t be afraid to get it wrong.
  31. Rather face the potential consequences for doing something after the fact than be paralyzed into inaction. Life is too short to be a photographer – be a part of the action.
  32. Help where you can. Walk away when you need to.
  33. Spend time with your parents. Later in life you’ll be so glad you did.
  34. Realise that you’ll never get to ride this roller coaster again. Its a one time thing. Try to have fun and make it worthwhile.

Videos to show students

Have you got any advice you want to add? (Please feel free to add your ideas in the comment box below.)

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photo (1)Sean Hampton-Cole teaches / unteaches at a liberal high school in South Africa. Visit his blog at: or look him up on Twitter at

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10 Simple Ideas for Transforming Your Teaching This School Year

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”~ William Butler Yeats

Many of us will face many new learners as a new semester of classes begin. For many of us this can be a frightening and stressful experience. It should be. We have an enormous responsibility as educators to inspire our students to be continuous learners, explore their curiosities, and search for possibilities to problems that need to be solved. We have the responsibility to inspire our learners to immerse themselves in the beauty of learning whether it is for their own passions, curiosities, or self-discovery.

Unfortunately, the system isn’t exactly cut out to support students in exploration. Students are taught that only one answer is correct and if that one answer isn’t given then the road stops there for learning. The reality is our learners have to take standardized assessments, curriculums will focus on them passing these assessments, colleges will admit those who make high enough scores on these assessments, and education policy will continue to focus on outcomes based on these assessments. As educators we often see these realities as shackles. We think we do not have the freedom to truly inspire great learning in our classes. We feel we do not have permission to teach in the way we know promotes effective learning.

I have often been a new teacher in my career. I have often been placed in new systems and in various institutions where I felt powerless. I was so afraid that if I did not teach according to their standards I would be fired, although, in my over 15 years of teaching I have never seen any teacher fired because an administrator did not like the way they taught. I was so mobilized by my fear I hid away from administrators and other teachers. Then I began to grow some confidence and maybe I was a little fed up. I began to start teaching the way I knew was effective and began to take back control of my classes and curriculum. I began to be of the mindset that I’d ask for forgiveness later. I gave myself permission to be the kind of teacher I always wanted to be if I thought I had the support and freedom to be. Years later I have never regretted that decision and now I am the kind of teacher I want to be and I have never met with any negative consequences. Instead, I have a string of learners worldwide who have thanked me for helping them along their learning journeys.

I want to give you permission. I want to tell you that yes, you have the freedom and power to inspire incredible learning this year. You are the instrument in your classroom that determines whether your students will love learning or hate learning. So how do you begin to implement that power and ensure your students learn effectively? Try a few of these ideas in your class this year. They are meant to be accomplished in one class period. It is only one class period in one semester. This way you can take baby steps. Reflect on the outcomes in the next coming months. If these ideas don’t work then you can always go back to your regular way of teaching.

  • Ask a question with many answers or no answer at all.
  • Give your students reign for one class period. Give them the topic or learning objective, then ask them how they would like to learn about that topic. They might suggest a game, project, or exploration with technology.
  • Allow your students to choose how they will be assessed for one topic. They might suggest through a project, game, or other method.
  • Ask your students what they really are interested in learning and for the day allow them to interview an expert in that field online. Your students can always search for the e-mail address, blog address, Facebook account, or Twitter handle of that person. For example, your student might be interested in skateboarding. Have that student ask Tony Hawk on Twitter or another famous skateboarder.
  • Tell your students everyday for a week that you are glad to be their teacher. Do this by greeting them at the door with a smile, handshake, or high five!
  • Conduct a class in a different environment either by hosting the class outdoors or in another part of the building.
  • Stand for an entire classroom period. Break students into groups or pairs and move around constantly asking them questions or taking notes about the way they learn.
  • Play a fun game in your classroom. Find a way to incorporate games and play to teach your subject matter. Scavenger hunts, board games, and video games have all been used to teach various subject matters.
  • Contact each parent and share with them specific ways their children made you proud of them.
  • Have your students work together in performing an act of kindness for either a charity, organization, or other students. This could be as simple as creating books and reading them to younger kids or volunteering to clean-up the campus.

Many of these ideas can be found in The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators. Join nearly 10,000 educators online who are using various free social networks to support each other in accomplishing 30 short-term goals related to education. We support each other through various social networks, Facebook, Youtube, GooglePlus, Twitter, and blogs.

This post was originally posted on the SmartBlog for Education, another great place I blog!

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Social in Media in Education! It’s Time Has Come

3rd post in a new series: PLN Tips 4 Teachers

digi citizenship

I read this heartbreaking post from kindergarten teacher, Matt Gomez, today, The End of Facebook in My Class, and I was saddened that yet another battle has been lost between a teacher trying to help support students in the kind of learning that will help them in life because school policy got in the way. I’m tired that “learning” has been reduced to an institution, profit making industry, and a bunch of bad policies worldwide.  And I am sickened to know that we as a society have allowed this to happen. But we can speak up now and try to change the system through social media. Social media gives us a voice and I am proof as also many others who use social media in education are that we can spread the message of what great learning is and try to change policy.

In order to do this we need to help people get over their fears. Systems control us because they feed on our fears. Policy has been allowed to ban and block sites and the use of various technologies, because we fear students will access them, post terrible things, and it will have detrimental repercussions. Let me tell you that this fear has already happened. 1000s of students have even committed suicide due to cyberbullying and sexting and guess what they didn’t access social media at school, they did this at home with only their peers to guide them and talk to them. Kids can’t come to us with these problems, which is sad because now social media is embedded in our lives and society.

We don’t teach students how to make positive footprints and how to handle sticky situations in social media because we fear that in schools they will make mistakes. That’s learning. Learning is making mistakes and having a guide to help you along the way correct those mistakes so that when you are alone and have to make the decision you make a much better one.

We miss so many magical teaching moments because the majority of policy bans us from guiding our learners to a better path with their social media use once they make mistakes.

How can you help?

Spread your examples of how you use social media in education. Get the word out and get people excited and try to alleviate their fears. I spend a lot of time in the media talking about the issue and I will continue to spread the word out through social media and my travels. I hope to reference the following great examples of social media use with learners. I’m including the great work Matt Gomez did using Facebook with his kindergarten class. I will miss reading about that great learning that took place with this initiative and can only hope that one day I will live in a world where learning isn’t controlled and schools really prepare kids for their lives in the real world.

You may want to also visit a post George Couros wrote in response to Matt Gomez’s post, The Power to Kill Innovation.

Great Examples of Social Media in Education

These posts are in no particular order:

Why I Am Using Facebook in the Class Again This Year by Matt Gomez


CSI Twitter- Crime Scene Investigation by Langwitches, Silvia Tolisano


Integrating Language and Science by Aviva Dunsiger

Teaching with Twitter in the Classroom by Shelly Blake Plock

Teaching Digital Citizenship Using Twitter and Lord of the Flies

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Filling the Gap by Joel Josephson

by Guest Author, Joel Josephson


Learning timeAs educators we are more than constantly frustrated by the interference of academics (with little or no experience of the teaching of children), politicians and administrators with little or no direct pedagogic experience in the education process.

Their solution to raising educational standards, almost globally, is to test children as a way to weed out bad teachers, so that children get good teachers. This testing regime flies in the face of all conceived notions of how to teach and motivate children to attain and learn.

But why do the powers that be, completely ignore reality and disrespect educators. It is even worse, they constantly zip of to Finland and other successful educational systems and then find a million reasons, ‘Why it wont work here’.

We know that testing of children produces failure, stress, teaching to the test, not learning or even more importantly today, learning how to learn.

But how did we get to this, why has education slipped out of the grasp of professional educators and in to the hands of amateurs?

I do not think there is a single answer, but I do think that educators are perceived to have left a vacuum in educational pedagogic theory and a vacuum is always filled, even with toxic ideas. From a scientific standpoint it is obvious that education is a social science without any clear room for a single ‘Law’. The children represent even more parameters than the possible teaching theories, from academic homes, deprived homes, immigrants, gifted, with special needs etc etc etc.

So without a ‘General law’ or even agreement on how to teach, we cannot prove that our ideas and methods are any better than the politicians.

I am going to use the Finnish school system as the nearest thing we have to a ‘General law’ to see the different methods they use to achieve the most successful school system on the planet. Finnish children consistently come top or very close to the top for science, reading and mathematics


  • The national curriculum is only broad guidelines


  • All teachers in Finland must have a masters degree, which is fully subsidized.
  • Teachers are selected from the top 10% of graduates. (In 2010, 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training slots)
  • Teachers only spend 4 hours a day in the classroom, and take 2 hours a week for “professional development”
  • Experienced teachers are paid at similar levels to other graduates
  • Teachers are given the same status as doctors and lawyers


  • Finnish children don’t start school until they are 7
  • They rarely take exams or do homework until they are well into their teens
  • The children are not measured at all for the first six years of their education
  • There is only one mandatory standardized test in Finland, taken when children are 16
  • All children, clever or not, are taught in the same classrooms
  • Finland spends around 30 percent less per student than the United States
  • Elementary school students get 75 minutes of recess a day
  • 30 percent of children receive extra help during their first nine years of school
  • Finally, Finnish children spend less hours in school than most other developed nations

Reference link to the OECD data:,3746,en_2649_39263238_45897844_1_1_1_1,00.html

General Law

So lets try to build a ‘General Law’ or should it be called the Finnish Law. But before we go there we should remember that this huge advance in Finland occurred in the 70s before that they achieved average results and were not a wealthy or innovative country. This was a conscious change.

1. They started to change their system with the teachers and built a ‘Trusting’ regime were teachers are considered, and are, top professionals in their field. They respect the teachers abilities by letting them teach as they see fit, not to a rigorous, test orientated curriculum. The teachers work together and collaborate all day, every day, gaining support, and ideas.

2. Respecting early childhood as the base for all further human and learning development and allowing children to PLAY, learn to learn and discover how to become responsible members of society

3. Taking the stress out of primary and secondary education. There is no testing of the children or the teachers, there is very little homework, there is loads of support to overcome difficulties, loads of time to play, lots of bright committed, well-trained teachers who have the responsibility for their own teaching.

So what is the ‘General Law’ we can arrive at from this brief study?

Good effective education requires: Trust. Respect. Play, Learning to learn, Support.

Teach the teachers, very well. After you train them, trust them, respect them and leave them alone to do the job they are committed to.

Let babies and toddlers have a childhood free from ‘Teaching’. Provide them with opportunities to learn how to learn. Let them arrive hungry at the dinner plate of education with healthy appetites.

Children learn best in a stress free environment, without tests, lots of support (so it is difficult to fail or be a failure), lots of play, lots of great teachers.

Are our societies ready to implement this simple ‘General Law’ can politicians believe their own eyes?

Joel Josephson is the initiator/partner in 17 innovative European language projects. Joel is well known for his exciting and effective approaches to motivate language learners. Joel runs theEU_Educators Facebook group, that is sharing EU projects globally. He also founded the Kindersite Project early learning website, one of the first effective sites for schools. Formerly involved in high tech at the start of the Internet, he had 2 successful start-ups and consulted to technology companies. He has brought his understanding of technology into education by initiating many interesting projects with innovative uses of ICT. His Twitter handle is @acerview54.

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What Will You Learn this Summer? 26 Professional Development Resources

Part of the Cool Sites series

Photo adapted by Kevindooley's photo The Teacher Creative Commons Attributes 2.0 Generic

Photo adapted from Flickr by kevindooley licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Summer has officially started for many of you! I know that you will probably be relaxing for the first few days, but eventually you may feel the need to be inspired and motivated for the upcoming 2011-2012 school year! Social media provides us with incredible opportunities to choose the way we want to develop professionally. You can choose the topic, the medium, and who you want to learn from. You can choose the way you like to learn, because social media provides us with several multimedia experiences, such as webinars, LMS, live video, and more. The experience is usually dynamic and motivating because you are learning with others around the world! Additionally, you will be developing your Personal/ Passionate Learning Network (PLN).

Professional Development Opportunities to Choose From…

Free Programs:

  • The 30 Goals Challenge- Over 5000 educators have participated in the 1st and 2nd editions of this global challenge for educators with the premise of getting you to complete 30 professional development goals by 2012. These are short-term goals, such as guest posting, changing your classroom environment, providing effective feedback, establishing an online presence, and more. How do you participate?
  • SEETA Courses- The South Eastern Europe Teachers Association offers several week courses with a guest author or expert in the field. You will have to register, but the courses are free!
  • 31 Days to Become a Better Edtech Leader- With his vast experience, Terry Freedman offers excellent goals to accomplish each day that help you use educational technology effectively. Goals include conducting a SWOT analysis to organizing an inservice! Here’s a handy list of each post and the links.
  • The 23 Things Project- Take Steven Anderson’s 10 week course that shows you how to use various web 2.0 tools effectively in the classroom.
  • ASCD Free Summer Boot Camp- Webinars by various guests. First one is Lisa Dabbs, @teachingwthsoul
  • Arts Integration E-Course on Education Closet- Registration is happening now for an online arts integration professional development course this summer. This was submitted by Susan Riley!
  • Integrating Technology for Active Lifelong Learning (IT4ALL)- provides free online workshops on Moodle for Teachers (Orientation, Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced), Professional Electronic Portfolios (PEP), WebQuests, Facilitating Online Classes, Grant Writings, TESOL, Integrating Technology and using Web 2.0 in the classroom. This was submitted by Nellie Deutsch!

Attend Live Events in Real Time!

You can attend several free conferences, webinars, Twitter chats, and presentations online with your PLN! These usually last one hour, but many conferences also offer free all day live streaming of their keynotes.

  • Free Friday Webinars- Thanks to the American TESOL Institute, I conduct free 30 minute online webinars on the Adobe Connect platform every Friday at 4pm EST (New York Time), 3pm Austin, TX, 1pm LA, California, 9pm London Time, 10pm Paris Time, 11pm Athens/Istanbul Time, Sat 8am Sydney time, and Sat. 6am Tokyo time. Check your time zones here!
  • Attend the free Reform Symposium E-Conference along with 8000 other educators from over 50 countries. This takes place Friday, July 29 to Sunday, July 31, 2011 and we hope you will join us for what promises to be our biggest yet global online conference for everyone concerned with education. With up to 60 presentations and 12 keynote speakers it is sure to be an incredible event!
  • The Educators’ PLN Ning Live Chats with Guest Experts- The Educator’s PLN is a great place to interact and learn from other educators. Join us for free live chats with various authors. In the past we featured Alfie Kohn, Howard Rheingold, Diane Ravitch, Chris Lehmann, Steve Hargadon, Jim Burke, and others.
  • Watch Live Streams of the 140 Character Conference- Jeff Pulver has been amazing in getting celebrities, educators, and leaders in various fields to speak passionately about how social media is revolutionizing their fields. If you cannot attend physically, then attend virtually. Jeff live streams the talks! Follow the hashtag, #140Conffor continuous updates.
  • Edublogs Live Events- Every week, attend a free webinar on various topics. Usually, Jo and Phil Hart hosts these free webinars that cover effective use of web 2.0 tools or instructional methodologies.
  • Future of Education- Join Steve Hargadon live as he interviews some of the greatest minds in education. Past guests included Sir Ken Robinson, Alfie Kohn, Diane Ravitch, and more!
  • Classroom 2.0 Live Events- Every week, attend a free webinar with an expert in a field or listen to some great authors speak live and ask them questions.
  • Simple K12 webinars- Attend free webinars with experts on various topics.
  • Attend Second Life Live Events- Second Life has several educational groups that meet weekly for free conferences, talks, workshops, and more. Download the software and register for free. Consider joining these educational groups:
  • ISTE on Second LifeDiscovery Educator NetworkEDTECH RetreatEDTECH CommunityVisit Edunation Island- a safe place for educators
  • #Edchat- Join over 2000 educators every Tuesday to discuss various topics you get to vote for and suggest.
  • Education Chats on Twitter- Find out the dates and times of educational conversations that occur on Twitter.

Free Online Classes:

Ever dream of studying at Stanford or MIT or being taught by George Siemens? Well you can attend several free online courses taught by authors, subject matter experts, and university lecturers. Below are useful links to find a free online course in any subject!

  • MOOC- Massive Open Online Courses where 1000s attend for free through discussion forums and free webinars. Follow the hashtag #MOOC for the latest MOOC. University professors, TED speakers, and notable educational theorists moderate these courses. You learn from the very best in our field! Topics range from Personal Learning Networks to Mobile Learning!
  • MIT Open Course Ware offers over 1900 free online courses in over 20 subjects. You can subscribe by RSS or get e-mail updates.
  • Stanford on iTunes- Download courses, faculty lectures, interviews, music and sports that will play on your iPod, iPad, iPhone, Mac or PC.
  • 17 Universities with free online courses- Find out how to access these free courses from some of the most respected universities in the world! This article also describes the experience of learning through these online classes.
  • 250 Free Online Courses- Find a list of several more free online courses from the top universities categorized by subject.
  • Edufire Free Live Online Classes- Register for free and have access to various topics such as using various web tools or learning a different language. You get a live tutor on a video.

Find several more professional development opportunities by clicking on the tabs of Mike Fisher’s Live Binder.


Try any of these professional development opportunities and blog about your experience. Blogging helps you reflect and decide how you can apply this learning to improve your instructional methods.

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What are your favorite ways to learn online? Did I miss any other great professional development opportunities?

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