Chasing 100: Coaching Achievement or Atrocity?

Chasing 100 : Coaching Accomplishment or Atrocity?

I left my junior basketball team at the buzzer to rush off to a meeting after securing a comfortable but relatively disheartening 55-33 win over the league’s  last place team.  The game started late as the visiting team had to travel from downtown in -17 degree temperatures. The referees didn’t show and colleagues had to step in, giving the game a lacklustre feel.  It was the kind of game where the opponent (0-10) has no skilled players, no team structure,  no depth, and no hope of winning.  Most frustrating, perhaps is that a game  like that  provides very few  learning opportunities for my  top players;  I used reserves exclusively and their performance was less than inspiring.   Later in the evening, I checked my twitter stream and saw several self congratulatory posts by our senior team members , who had decimated the  opponent’s equally  dismal senior squad  by a score of 102-38.  Every single tweet mentioned the score as a focal point of accomplishment.  And I get it-for a 16 year old ball player, putting up lots of points is exciting. NBA scores routinely fall in that realm, and scoring 100 seems like a prestigious milestone akin to earning a six figure salary or turning sixteen and getting one’s license.  But let’s face it- in high school basketball, a  win that pads a team’s resume  and paves the way to prestige is always measured by the quality of the opponent, not the margin of victory.  I know I have been on the opposite side of a similar loss , and it  doesn’t feel great for players  or a coaching staff.  If it does nothing for the losers,  what does it do for the victors? For coaches who ultimately determine their team’s style of play, is this a worthwhile goal to pursue against inferior competition?   If so, under what circumstances is chasing the 100 point game  a legitimate and meaningful goal for  a team?

I think before delving into ethical considerations about playing “competitively” or showing mercy, there are two basic and  related  basketball concepts  to understand to put  the 100 point game into perspective. The first is  offensive efficiency and the second is tempo.

Basic basketball metrics knows that the simplest way of measuring how efficient your team is at scoring is to measure the points per possession:

Efficiency= Points/ Posession X 100

Imagine your  team scores 50 points and it has  50 opportunities to do so.  If  it  averages a point per possession (or score one basket every second time up and  down the court), its’ offensive efficiency =100 which is pretty good.   As I write this article, the Portland Trail Blazers  lead the NBA with an 111 efficiency. With younger  players with less polished  skills and high turnovers rates, probably anything above an 80 is pretty good.  But efficiency changes from game to game, because players are inconsistent and can experience bouts of  extreme heat and coldness (especially young players).   The other night, for instance,  Creighton destroyed Villanova by a forty point margin because they shot the lights out and hit 21 3’s. On an off night two thirds of those makes would miss. Coaches have little control over a team’s is hot and cold streaks.

What coaches do have control over is the tempo a team plays at and the number of possessions they will get.  Let’s say my team is averaging about 1 point per possession.  As a coach, I can pretty much predict the score I will achieve by thinking about how many times up and down the court we will go.   All things being equal, If I have 50 offensive posessions I will probably score about 50 points , and if I double those trips up and down the floor, the score will also double.    (Obviously this is within reason. If I push my players to play at a pace well byond their skill level and ask for 200 offensive possessions in a 32 minute game, or I only have 5 players and they have to play the whole game and by half time they are gassed, their efficiency will drop dramatically)

In other words, reaching 100 points says more about the tempo you are playing at then your efficiency (take a look at Grinell College).  My current junior team routinely score in the 70s  (and gets scored on pretty frequently as well) regardless of if we shoot the ball really well because of our fast pace.  We press the whole game, and we run a dumb down Vance Wahlberg  type system that emphasizes driving and quick offensive looks.   I like this developmental system because I coach at a school that has 500 grade nine and ten males and only one junior basketball team. Runing a fast pace requires more subbing and we have more depth than standout talent.  Conversely, I used to coach a team with 8 quality players and our offense worked hard on swinging the ball from side to side and controlling the possession to conserve energy. Our scores were routinely in the high 40’s and low 50’s. The great NCAA coaches  of the 1960’s and 1970’s like Dean Smith understood the importance of  points per possession and tempo, particularly in an age without the 3 pointer, and used the speed of the game to their  team’s advantage. Common understanding was that to win with “less talent”, the best strategy was lengththen possession times as much as possible.   The best teams dictate pace, and force opponents to play at an uncomfortable pace; the most versatile teams can play at enough speeds that it is hard to throw them off their game.

My point? Scoring 100 points is therefore only a helpful indicator for a coach who is trying to establish a high tempo as a team’s style. The indicator  that would be even more relevant to track would actually be trips up and down the floor, but the high score is a solid indicator of tempo.  Given this reality, I could see how hitting a 100 points against a lesser opponent could be a worthwhile pursuit for a coach if:

1)   Early in the season when your team has yet to adopt the style you want and when many players are used to different systems.  If you plan on pressing every possession of every game, it’s a must to practice at a tempo.  Let’s say the game is 70-60 at the end of three.   Finnishing with a strong fourth quarter and pushing players  to keep their pace is a worthwhile cause

2)   You are trying to get a run in for your players and want to use the game as a substituted for sprints.

3) I don’t think there is a three.

Because playing fast against teams that have no depth or talent usually just looks like a series of uncontested layups, which doesn’t really teach anybody anything anyways.   Coaching is a form of teaching, and if there is no learning going on, you need to find some way of establishing some.

On the ethical side, it is pretty clear that when forced to play a game where the two teams are talent levels apart, it is probably in everyone’s best interest  to make the game as competitive as possible.  Any coach who says that they hit 100 points and it wasn’t deliberate is either a) lying b) lacking experience or c) has little integrity and a warped  sense of competition.

For those lacking experience, here are a few very simple strategies to maximize  productivity   against team that is terrible

a)    Talk to the opposing coach about things you would like to work on before the game. Early in my teaching career a coach approached me before a game when we were inevitably going to be obliterated.   He told me frankly that he wasn’t going to run up the score, but would we mind running some man to man defense instead of sitting in a zone, so his team could work on something.  The final was 73-22, and Maurice Walker (now playing for the Minnesota Gophers) sat much of the game.

b)   Play your bench. A lot.   It’s a great opportunity for guys who don’t play a lot to work on things that keep them out of the starting lineup, especially for groups who have a hard time thinking up to speed. Demand they execute schemes that require some IQ.

c)    Communicate your intention to work on half court execution on offense and defense to your players  No matter how much you press, much of the game takes place in the half court.   Demand that the execution be precise.  Reset  the offense several times.

d) The best coaches in the world have imaginative point systems for practice scrimmages to influence and achieve the outcomes they want.   I’ve heard Dave Smart at Carleton say  he makes up point systems from play to play at practice to work on specific schemes or individualized habits (i.e. -2 points every time a post player puts the ball on the floor).   This can also be done in games as well,-on good teams it always is, since the process is more important than the score. Demand that the ball goes into the post and comes out three times to shoot.  Get twenty passes or twenty paint touches.  Since the parameters of the game are not challenging your players, create some that will.

For those who feel like players need to “compete” at 100% and argue  one should never ease up because we are trying to develop winners w….

a) In my opinion, the question is not whether or not you are teaching some life lesson about competition or  killer instinct-neither can be taught except against a worthy competitor.   Even the least mentally tough player has a killer instinct when their own team is destroying competition-it’s a herd mentality,  and classic teenaged (human!) behaviour.

b) A knockout punch in basketball is always achieved in the first quarter.  Send out the starters to play 8 minutes of intense ball, dictate the outcome according to your game plan and style and build that 32-0 lead.  Everybody who walks in the gym will know what is going on.   Once the message has been sent and the  KO has been delivered, it’s time to ease up and something constructive.

You get the point. Coaches in large part control scores depending on the choices they make which affect tempo.  When faced with a game where you have the the upper hand, for your own team’s sake,  create a challenge for them.  Since I began coached in the TDCAA, I have played league power houses  every year.  Our best teams on our best day could  give  them a game , and our worst definitely could not.    Regardless of the disparity in talent,  each game alway ended as  a 20-30 point loss.  To me, that shows more coaching skill than reaching a 100 point milestone, even if it isn’t tweet worthy in the eyes of most players.

The New Adolescent Literacy Guide: A great example of 21C continuity and change

There is much debate in education circles about 21C competencies; particularly about the extent to which this “new pedagogy” is a significant break from the past or simply a continuation or prioritization of well-established practices.   The new Adolescent Literacy Guide is an excellent example of a document that attempts to account for 21st century realities in its approach to both adolescence and the role of literacy in his/her life.   The four C’s of collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity are implicit in every page, and there is a refreshingly holistic attempt to account for the particular cognitive, emotional and social needs of the modern, connected, adolescent. I would argue that the impact of this document on the classroom, like the debate about 21c learning itself, is significant, and should be seen as extension of many good pedagogical practices from the past combined with a more nuanced consideration of a) the connected world adolescents work and play in b) the potential this connectedness has to transform the classroom. Rather than look for examples and patterns throughout, I will focus my discussion the document’s “Critical Literacy” component.

Structure of the Document

One of the helpful features of the document is that it focuses on the “why” and takes the time to justify its foundational principles and premises. After an overview of the five interconnected components (critical literacy, meta cognition, questioning, strategy and voice and identity) and three major skills (thinking, expressing and reflecting) each of the components is thoroughly outlined, it’s importance explained, and shown how to put into practice.   The end of the document practices the meta-cognition it preaches, and considers how this guide can be put to use for literacy teams, collaborative inquiries, coaches and school improvement. It also includes helpful appendices which contextualizes it in relation to other significant and current educational focuses; school effectiveness, curriculum connections, learning skills and related ministry resources.

Introduction-Establishing the 21C Focus

In the introductory pages, the guide acknowledges that adolescent education is unique and the importance of identity, autonomy, and the skills of self-directedness are much more pronounced during this time of life (p.9). It also acknowledges “the connection between literacy learning and the engagement and motivation” (p.5), a crucial and complex challenge in an age, and, I would guess, an acknowledgment/focus that might not have been explicitly addressed in past literacy guides. Furthermore the guide makes it clear that a caring environment is crucial for adolescents to learn, yet another indication of a more holistic rather than technical approach to literacy. Other indications in the introduction of 21 century focus is the need for adolescents to learn how to learn and develop “growth mindsets” as well as the need for “meta-cognitive” considerations of how they are learning (p.9) The guide also touches on the need for collaboration, both as a motivational tool and as skill to develop for work experience.   Finally, connecting literacy to real world questions with a practical and that answer’s the adolescent eternal cry “what is the point of this?” become ever more important.   The guide’s vision of literacy sums this up pretty well:  “All student are equipped with the literacy skills to be critical and creative thinkers, effective meaning makers and communicators, collaborative co-learners, and innovative problem solvers in order to achieve person, career and societal goals.” (p.12) Nicely put.

Critical Literacy

Critical literacy is hardly new. The need for students to be able to identify bias, assumptions, contextualize their reading, and identify target audiences is not new. Traditionally, this focus was probably most visible in media units and considerations of consumption and television. With the rise of the world-wide web, however, and the vast misinformation now available to all of us, critical literacy becomes a more important component.   The guide’s “why teach it” section justifies the importance in the following manner: “With the constant stream of information and the changing realities of contemporary culture, technology and society, by being critically literate, adolescents are able to determine what information is reliable… They learn to use the information gathered to form a personal stance and to take creative risks and become participants in bringing about change” (p.19) There are five guiding questions that the guide attempts to answer. Two of them are traditional (What relevant texts are used in the subject that could be analyzed for bias, fairness, and validity? What types of actions and or responses are appropriate to the subject) A third is also traditional but takes on a new meaning in the 21century (what kind so issues of equity, power and social justice are relevant to the subject?) I would argue that the new focus on real world learning shifts an emphasis on “taking a stance and engage in a response in the interest of equity, fairness and justice.” (Aside: This goal remains nebulous in my mind-as educators we are often encouraged to promote tepid versions of social justice, like “me to we” but educators who actually delve into the power structures at play and encourage radical real world action like protesting are usually told to relax and often are rebuked by their superiors). While questions of equity and justice might have been studied theoretically in the past, the fourth guiding question (What opportunities allow students to use technology to seek and share perspectives?) really transforms practice.   A classroom now has the option of using Skype or other forms of technology to contact in real time a village in Haiti from Toronto or contact a local politician via Twitter for their thoughts on certain contentious issues. A literary narrative may still be the primary focus, but increasingly, teachers are asked to extend learning and making connection to issues at play in authentic real world situations as a means of engaging students. Likewise, the fifth guiding question (What skills do student need to be critical users and creators of information?) shifts the focus from interpretation to producing artifacts that can then be targeted to specific audiences. This shift, perhaps the most important in the 21C movement, is a shift in emphasis to developing students to whom delineating projects and creating produces is second nature, presumably so that students can thrive in a world that is constantly creating meaning.

Works Cited

Ontario. Ministry of Education. Adolescent Literacy Guide. Ministry of Education, 2012.

Edugains.ca. Web. 19 May 2014.

#Haiku: Real World Challenge for the City

Earlier this week Matt Galloway, how of CBC’s  “Metro Morning” got pretty excited about a NY time contest that challenged readers to create Haiku’s about several themes specific to that city. Galloway, the host of the most popular morning show in the GTA, challenged Torontonians to come up with their own. This happened to coincide with the end of a poetry unit-what a perfect way to provide students with an audience for their craft.  Check out the lesson plan

Freedom and Necessity: What Does Student Engagement Really Mean in the 21st Century?

A recent New Yorker article entitled “If a time traveller saw a smartphone” asks the question  whether our  latest devices are making us more or less intelligent.  It reminded me of a plethora of  education articles that I have come across that either celebrate or condemn the BYOD movement in education. These are usually  framed from the standpoint of one of  two polarized camps;  advocates who see  the use of devices  in terms of  their potential to  “engage not escape’  the real world,  and  critics who  bemoan the bundling of an  infinite  number of distractions  that fit in the palm of a young person’s hand, a veritable pandora’s box of diversion.    For the first group, devices are both a saving grace when teaching digitally oriented millennials and a reality of 21rst century living that the education system in good conscience should mediate for its students in the name of good citizenship.  For the latter,  BYOD is the latest  educational trend that, while well  intentioned,  encourages (almost demands!)  a range of  impulsive and addictive behaviors  that provide a  complete distraction from what goes on in  the classroom.  Whether BYOD is the school system’s poison or its cure, the end which both parties seek is heightened student engagement, the first  by completely incorporating devices into classroom practices and the second by getting rid of them from the landscape altogether.

A  helpful starting point for sorting through this debate is the work of  the great Canadian professor Marshall Mcluhan’s.  Here in the TCDSB  where I teach, we have a school named after him, and  I often use his theory as an entry point for middle and senior level students into a media/technological critique (the full lesson is located in my Lesson Plans Posts for  those interested).  Marshall’s often quoted  “the medium is the message” suggests that  a shift to device aided learning is an issue of utmost importance; since our uses of technology over time determine our forms of cognition, and  the mediums we choose to engage in are far more important in our formation than any of the particular messages that these mediums mediate.   Adherents to constructivist and inquiry based learning would certainly agree! Less famously,  but more relevant to our purposes, Marshall used a simple tetrad of questions to consider the implications of adopting any  new technology :

He asks

1) What does any artefact enlarge, enhance, or  prioritize?  The radio, for instance, shifted our collective consciousness away from the printed word to an auditory one.

2) What does it erode or make obsolete?  This asks  what is diminished or becomes less  important to us collectively because of this shift.  In terms of news, radio made newspapers less important for up to the minute concerns.    In term of entertainment, it created a common consciousness of pop culture for sounds.

3) What does it retrieve?  The radio retrieved a sense of centralized information and public consciousness that groups coud all tap into at the same time and experience communally (unlike reading which creates public consciousness without the communal joys of collective experience)

4) What does it reverse and flip? Centralized perspectives that are short of editorial  diversity

These four, relatively simple questions can be applied to any technological development.  Pedagogically, they can be used both as an analytical tool of the past to examine technological developments historically, or they can be used as a speculative tool to imagine the consequences of  mind blowing futuristic inventions.

What I like about Mcluhan’s tetrad analysis is that it acknowledges the myth of linear technological progress;  if something is gained by a new form of technology, than something else is replaced and lost, simultaneously.   What is enlarged will always do so at the expense of something else.  Does the development of the car to replace the horse make the world a better place?   Depends on your vision of a better place.

The interesting thing about smart phones and tablets is that their essential feature is nebulous, because of their multi- utility.   As an extension of ourselves, the cell phone is part physical tool (flashlight) part memory (notes) part resource (google maps) part communication device, etc.    But essentially,  I would argue, especially for teenagers, the smart phone extends our social connectivity.  Applying Mcluhan’s tetradic analysis of the smartphone:

1) What does it enlarge?  a) The smart phone allows for continual connectivity to our established social ties and the potential connection to form new social ties despite constraints of locale or time.  We now have the freedom to satisfy related social desires by being reachable at all moments of the day. b)  One could also argue the smartphone enlarges individual choice, tribal dependancy, deliberate communication and narrows personal spheres of engagement, as even in public spaces, people can choose to be connected to the familiar and the narrow .

2) What does it erode?  a) I would argue it erodes an era of clear demarcations for work/play social/professional /consumption that used to depend on geographical necessity.   It also might be said to further erode traditional public space as a meeting point for a broad and communal purpose.   While it has the potential to broaden one’s world and expand horizons, the world at large can also be tuned out in favour of  one’ particular interests.

3) What does it retrieve? Community life of a simpler time when humans travelled in tribes and were continually surrounded by blo0d ties and lived in smaller groups. The smartphone allows individuals to always be connected to a support system that makes them feel secure, whether that be mother-child or a group of friends.

4)What does it reverse? When taken too far,  the phone provides an anarchic freedom that confounds the human brain and overwhelms it with anxiety.  For current generations, social formation that leads to anti social behaviour, a lack of positive risk taking, and breaks down public discourse into silos of focused interests.

The integration of  smartphones technologies  in are lives implicitly  means that  “distraction” is part of the new status quo.    The phone as an extension of our mind means less clear demarcations of the personal and the professional.    Yes,  self-regulation is possible, but, I would argue, the phone transforms our own notion of what self regulation means.   As a  teacher, if I  am running an educational app in my class  and three pictures of my newborn son pop up on my screen, I am probably going to want to look at them. Whether I do or not has a lot to do with the situation-am I in mid sentence?  Is there a possibility that this notification is a real emergency?  Is this really a distraction or simply a nice pause in the day that I should share something personal with my students before continuing…my  decision will be calculated according to my conscientiousness as a teacher,  and the real world circumstances that are affecting me at that moment.  Likewise, my students make similar judgements throughout the lesson: “should I take the  eight seconds to watch a SNAP CHAT or should I watch it later?   Do I fee morally culpable to be off task?  Will anyone even know if I am off task?  IS THERE EVEN A TASK WORTH COMPLETING  that I’m supposed to be doing or are we killing time?  I.

Engagment, put simply, is going to look radically different in a BYOD classroom.  Philip Schlecty  discusses five  levels of engagement.  While this is a helpful  framework,  the social connectivity of devices  seem to demand an articulation of what engagement looks like practically.  Can  I simultaneously be  both engaged in the activity and in the many notifications my phone is signalling?  The answer is yes, if I can prioritize my time and attention.    This is not to suggest that we can  multi task effectively- but rather, prioritizing engagement is the skill to re-focus on the primary task at hand and produce effectively within the parameters of allotted time.

Going back to our original BYOD debate,  I would argue both positions from critics and advocates have a place in curriculum delivery   Any activity that is based on mindfulness, collective consciousness, and a sharing of human spirit will probably not be ameliorated by  devices.   This includes a good old fashioned story circle or listening to a lecture by an expert from a field, or a restorative session about bullying.   In each case, it is the power of presence and collective purpose that needs to be heightened  As a basketball coach, I certainly don’t want my players to be dividing their attention on a device when we are trying to contribute our collective positive energies towards winning a game. Mindfulness matters, and it needs to be modelled.   On the other hands, it is clear that BYOD enthusiasts are pushing for the evolution of factory model classrooms into more interactive, collaborative, inquisitive and real world based teaching practices.    Devices provide an affordable and powerful way of both  mediating  world that students are already navigating outside the class room, and extending their awareness of worlds they have never imagined.  The question is whether both mindfulness and connectedness can be promoted simultaneously and whether  our students  who are conditioned in BYOD environments can then effectively apply mindful practices to specific parts of the day

Ultimately, Mcluhan prophesied that  all technologies are transformative, and therefore there will be a price to pay for adopting them.    Engagement in the BYOD classroom must be re-defined, as it will no longer exist in the form of  all eyes peeled in the same direction, or a quiet focused classroom solving the teacher’s lone equation on the board.    Teachers will have to let loose of their control and understand that time management will be a struggle for many, and that that struggle, like the development of many skills,  will require certain forms of scaffolding to be perfected.    Does the BYOD movement make for a better world?  This much is less clear.  In his article, Tim Wu concludes  by saying “But make no mistake: we are now different creatures than we once were, evolving technologically rather than biologically, in directions we must hope are for the best.” It is ironic that  in a post-modern era commonly promoted as the era of  ultimate self determination, the  virtue of hope propels us forward into the unknown future.

The Listicle: A Form Worthy of the Classroom?

One of the first thing that struck me when I began immersing myself in Twitter’s EdTech/21C /Flipped Classroom discussion is the abundance of listicles that fly around every day.  At first it was hard to take this phenomenon seriously.  As a colleague of mine wryly noted, “I thought I had exhausted the listicle when I stopped reading Cosmo in grade 11″. Personally, I have long associated the form with late night television and Letterman’s ‘top ten” which Dave used as a thematic and time sensitive vehicle to focus his humour on one subject without beating it to death (imagine  he had  prepared a top 30?). Yet a form of writing once reserved for catching our attention at grocery store check outs now seems to be the go to  web form for all sorts of content.  Question: Does that make  it worth teaching?

Answer:  I think it can be used in the classroom  in a few helpful ways:

(Caveat:  One of the frustrating parts about the  modern edtech dialogue is the bashing of the traditional essay, while simultaneously embracing the idea that students int the 21 century really need to be making connections  by analyzing and synthesizing information to solve authentic “real-world” problems.   To suggest the essay form is not complimentary to this type of content is ludicrous.   Students struggle with essay writing  precisely because it is the form  of connection making par excellence.   Originally the essay was a creative argument that was anything but  formulaic, achieved by making logical and creative connections between universals and particulars that remains quite difficult for most of us.   The five paragraph essay is simply a scaffolded version of this, which good teachers find ways to pump some life into.   So what if  students will never have to write essays in real life?  They will have to structure letters to employers, make toasts at weddings and eulogies at funerals.  They will have to organize their thoughts and think about their roles in a complex world.  In short, they will have to do a lot of thinking, and the act of struggling with words to articulate coherent and meaningful thoughts  that are beautiful or sensible or relevant to someone else  is a worthy endeavour. It’s not everything and it’s not  for everyone, but essay writing is great form of self expression. Now that that’s off my chest…)

Four  Super Simple Ways to Use the Listicle in Intermediate/Senior English Classes

1.  A listicle democratizes ideas before creating hierarchy. It is by nature non intimidating.   It can be effectively used to scaffold the writing process, much like brainstorming, as a pre-cursor to structuring ideas based on a more critical framework.

2.  A listicle creates structure through number and therefore can include more content that is less relevant.  For students who are learning to write, the focus might be on trimming the number down and hierarchically determining the most important points.

3.  Listicles can be studied to show how writers often use them to include points that aren’t all that logically strong, but add some novelty or some humour to entertain us somewhere in the middle; in other words, they are great for quick fix internet viewership.   If students are learning to target particular audiences with different online tools, the listicle  will probably play a pivotal role…

4.As a pedagogical tool, the listicle can be used as a collaborative form.  Groups can be assigned to create a listicle and everyone take responsibility for 2-3 points.  Members can then collectively take a look at all contributions and give them some sort of classified form.

I would love to hear how other educators are using listicles in their classes!

 

 

21C Critical Thinking Lessons: Marshall McLuhan’s Tetrad

Critical Thinking For the Twenty First Century:  Marshall McLuhan

I read  a great journal article recently that discussed the importance of critique in the twenty first century; in a world of ever expanding information, it becomes increasingly  important (and difficult!) to develop a critical stance.  In order to  develop the skill, students  need to be introduced to critical thinking frameworks so that they can first understand them and  equally importantly, apply them to their own experiences.  I like frameworks because they also emphasize an idea that is sometimes lost on students: that ideas come from  a specific time and place, and can be traced historically much like genealogy.    Obviously, frameworks must be scaffolded in digestable forms for different age groups and learners.  A great place to start when looking for Media/Technology critiques  is with Marshall Mcluhan’s thought, who provides us with a tool to begin to think about  the ways our uses of technology are transformative.    Here in the TCDSB where I teach, we have a school named after him- why not  bring  his legacy to life  for our students?  I often use his theory as an entry point for middle and senior level students into a media/technological unit.  The beauty of Mcluhan’s Tetrads are  they can be used

1)   as a historical analysis of technology to give students insight into  imagining how things were in the past

2)   as a critical thinking tool to encourage reflection on current day technologies that student use and the positive/negative affects on their daily lives.

3)    as an imaginative tool to consider how future technological developments might change the world.

What I like best about Mcluhan’s critique is it gives students’ insight into the progressive myth of technology-that the 2.0 is always better than the original.  It acknowledges if something is gained, than something else is often lost,  sometimes simultaneously.    It really brings home the message  that  our uses of technology are transformative and that  humans owe it to our selves to self determine how we use them.

The Mcluhan Tetrad  lesson plan includes learning goals, a minds on activity, a worksheet for Mcluhan’s tetrad and some ideas for assessment and extensions.

The Court is My Classroom: Basketball Assessment Using Learning Skills

There has been much talk in recent  boards sessions about the importance of learning skills; they need to be taught, emphasized, and evaluated diligently because they are telling indicators of future success.    Some educators have gone as far as declaring that curriculum content really should be treated as a vehicle for developing learning skills.  While I might not go that far (i.e. I  am a firm believer that secondary education, particularly in the academic stream, should introduce students to disciplinary skills that are subject specific because such skills  are interesting, challenging  and draw students towards disciplines that suit their skills), I do think that the learning skills lens is helpful, particularly to articulate the connection  between  classroom and co-curricular life.   We all know that student learning takes place in many forms-why not use this explicit language to connect experiences inside and outside of the class?   As a coach, I have told many classroom teachers that are musing about one of my athlete’s classroom failings that these same failings tend to manifest themselves in the gym and on the court.   With these considerations in mind, I set out this year to create a player evaluation that makes an explicit connection between Learning Skills and basketball.      Attached is the 2014 Learning Skill Basketball Evaluation Individual Rating Form that I gave my players at the end of the season.  You will notice that I added or combined a couple of categories (resilience) and left out others (self regulation).  This is not because I don’t think they are important- I think I could just have easily included others, but I was looking for a relatively manageable number of evaluation categories for my players to digest.  My criteria points could also use some work and I would be interested to see what other basketball coaches might come up with.     Instituting a common assessment like this in an athletic, music, drama or robotics department might seem like overkill to some, but students need feedback to improve, so why not use the common language of the classroom to support them?