Category Time

On being a cyborg: Self Control Technology …*

Willpower is an important thing to have…*

Willpower and self control are important skills. In Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow experiment, he put hundred of 4-year olds in a room alone with a marshmallow, and promised them two marshmallows if they could just wait until he came back.


Children varied on their self-control, and when Mischel’s team followed up with the children through high school, he found that children who delayed gratification or exhibited greater willpower got along better with peers and had higher SAT scores. Those who eat their marshmallow immediately had behavioral problems and did poorly in school.

While the results of this study are controversial (perhaps a post for another week), their are definitive links between wellbeing and willpower. Moreover, it is a skill you can cultivate, and there are a variety of strategies one can use to increase self-control. In the marshmallow study, the most successful participants used ways to remove the temptation such as turning around, covering their eyes, or putting the marshmallow on the far corner of the table, out of reach.

Technology for Self-Control…*

Which brings me to this week’s installment of On being a cyborg. There exist a variety of great technological tools that can help us with self-control. Some of these directly concern our safety such as 1) GPS systems that refuse to let you enter an address when the car is moving, 2) in-car breathalyzers to curb drunk driving, or 3) Apps that utilize GPS and Airplane mode to prevent you from texting while driving (when your phone is moving at greater than 10mph).

Others simply prevent us from making decisions we might regret later. College students might use Don’t Dial! – an iphone app to temporarily block phone numbers from your contacts.  If you are one of those people who just can’t help but go back for seconds (and thirds, and fourths) of a batch of freshly baked cookies, a new technology tool Kitchen Safe can lock various items inside itself for a specified time. It can also be used to lock up phones during dinnertime or video game controllers when you should be getting your homework done.

Perhaps the most relevant apps are ones that can facilitate focus for studying or learning, boosting productivity. SelfControl is an app that blocks distracting websites for a set period of time. If you have a paper to write, block Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the next 5 hours to prevent yourself from falling down a Facebook rabbit hole for an hour and a half. Other apps such as FocusWriter, Anti-Social, and StayFocused have similar functions – helping eliminate distractions so that you can work productively. For those of us who glue ourselves to a task for hours on end until we lose perspective on the big picture – Time Out allows you to set intervals where to break for 5-10 minutes to relax and take a step back from your work.

THE PROS AND CONs of “willpower tech”…*

While I love the idea of offloading some of the stress of maintaining willpower, I do worry that relying on technology for self-control can backfire if that technology is not readily available. Can the use of these help us to develop habits that will transfer to other contexts? For the example of placing phones in a Kitchen Safe during dinner, I could see the potential to get used to not having a phone at dinner and therefore developing a habit of not looking at one’s phone at the table. I have not yet seen studies on whether or not these types of technology help us to develop long-lasting habits, or if our willpower simply is gone when the tech is removed.

Additionally, to cultivate willpower, we should ensure that we are teaching children to use these apps themselves, rather than enforcing them. A 13 year old self-regulating her study time with the aid of an app is very different from a 13 year old who’s study time is regulated by her parents’ enforcement of an app.

Do you use any sorts of technology to aid you with self-control?


Frame Your Day Using This Little Rethink to Increase Gratitude & Mindfulness …*

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A new Indian restaurant recently opened near where I live and while I am thrilled with all the added delicious vegetarian options available in my neighborhood, I find my favorite part of ordering from them to be my encounters with their deliveryman. Each time he comes, he beams with a giant smile and shares tidbits of wisdom handed down from his mother. This weekend he told me about his mother’s 25-hour day and I thought it was a brilliant way to shape one’s frame of mind to increase gratitude and mindfulness in one’s life.

His mother would tell him, “I have twenty-five hours in my day.” When he asked how that was possible when everyone else only had twenty-four, she replied that she saved an extra hour, because no one ever knows about tomorrow.

I absolutely love this. Nothing is promised; tomorrow is not given to us. That’s something that we all know but most of us fail to fully appreciate. Most mornings I wake up to the jarring sound of my alarm, or the insistent meows and head-butts of my hungry needy cat and I get out of bed annoyed and groggy. I’m not a “morning person”, I generally wake up on the wrong side of the bed and anyone who has shared a roof with me has quickly learned not to speak to me until I’m done with my first cup of coffee (earning me the nickname of “bear” from my mother). But in the past few days, since hearing the 25-hour day anecdote, I’ve made a conscious effort to wake up and be grateful. When I open my eyes, I really take a moment to appreciate how lucky I am to be waking up to a new day. It may sound a bit cliché but really, it’s anything but. Life is unpredictable, circumstances change overnight and without notice. In claiming and savoring that moment, I feel I have added an hour to my day, it makes me less grumpy, more energized, happy, even.

The other aspect of this story that I really enjoyed was that the motivation behind adding another hour to each day had nothing to do with trying to be more productive or cram more things into a single day. It was about being present; about enjoying as much as possible what one is given. In the age of chronic busyness, stress and not-enough time, I found this focus on presence and gratitude greatly refreshing and inspiring.

Try it out and let me know how the 25-hour day works out for you …* 

Rethinking “Someday” – On Courage & Letting Go …*

Rethinking "Someday" & Making Room For Flow ...* |

“About six months ago, I sat down and wrote some really audacious lists: one was Dream Mentors; another was People with Awesome Mystical Powers; another was Stuff I’d Like to Do Before I Die; and the last was Stuff I’d Like to Do Someday. On my dream mentor list, I had a mutual connection to one of the people, so I emailed her. For the mystical powers people, I wrote a cold email to four of them to ask if they’d like to do a weekly call with me for accountability and support. On the things I’d like to do before I die list, I created a plan. I literally backed my way into how to make those things happen. I put the things I’d like to do someday into a pile and threw them away, because who has time for someday? The very next day I heard from my dream mentor and we went out to lunch a week later. I don’t think people realize how close at hand their dream mentors can be.” – Elle Luna

Over the course of this past week, for National Simplify Your Life Week, I have been using the quote above by Elle Luna as a sort of compass for simplifying my time and my things. I went through my closets and let go of all those “just in case” items that I never use but feel an irrational need to hold on to because someday, in some improbable situation, I may need them. In the great, wise words of Elle, who has time for someday? So off they go to the Salvation Army where hopefully someone will be able to make use of them now, today. Conversely, I looked at some of the things I’ve been wanting to do but have felt “not enough” to begin–not enough time, ability, resources, knowledge, courage–all those things I’ve been dreaming about and saving for someday when I’d feel enough to start. I let go of most of the items on my “someday” list, but there were a couple dreams and projects on there, which when I considered abandoning, made me feel heartbroken. I took this as a cue for action and transferred them to the ‘things I’d like to do before I die” list. I am now in the process of backing my way into making these things happen. Step one, I decided, was to eliminate the many ways in which I mindlessly spend my time, those default activities utterly devoid of intent, flow or growth. 

I’ve decided to go a month with no TV watching. I don’t own a TV but between iTunes, Amazon Instant, Hulu and Netflix, I spend an ungodly amount of time watching bad TV shows. I’ve canceled my Hulu and Netflix memberships (did I ever really need both?!). 

I’ve gotten rid of email on my phone. Instead of having a constant stream of interruptions throughout the day popping up on my screen I’m going to allot two chunks of time for email, one in the morning, one in the evening. 

I’m also going to try going a month without using Internet at home. Given that some days I work from home, I think this one might be the toughest, but it will be a good excuse to get out of the house. I’d like for home to feel more like a sanctuary, a space and time to focus on passion projects with calm and intent.

I’ll see after a month if these are habits I want to shed for good. I think it is likely that I will, but after years of running experiments on myself, I have learned that I need to break down change into small, achievable steps if I want to follow through.

What have you been doing to simplify your life? Any good tips? Let me know …* 

Kicking Off National Simplify Your Life Week by Embracing Essentialism …*

“In the end, in the final analysis, anything less than the disciplined pursuit of the essential, will lead to the undisciplined pursuit of the non-essential. And that’s a price I don’t think many of us would deliberately choose.” – Greg McKeown

Today, August 1, marks the beginning of National Simplify Your Life Week. Obviously, ‘simplify’ can mean a lot of different things to different people. Are we talking about time, relationships, objects, all of the above? Ultimately, that’s for each one of us to decide. One avenue into simplifying–which is primarily focused on time, but applies equally well to relationships and objects–that I found particularly interesting is the idea of Essentialism, or the disciplined pursuit of less, coined by Greg McKeown.

To learn more about Essentialism and get some tips on how to become “absurdly selective” in how you use your time, head over to the Harvard Business Review and check out the 15 minute podcast where McKeown discusses more strategies to do things better by doing less.

In the meantime, here are two exercises, mentioned in the podcast, that McKeown suggests doing as you embark on your Essentialist journey:

  1. The Rule of 3 – Every three months, we should take three hours to identify what the three most important objectives are for us for the next three months. There’s lots of threes in there. But to me, it’s a very helpful rule of thumb. Because if we don’t do this, we are just buried now in the day-to-day.
  2.  OK. If I had just a week left to live, what would I do? If I had a month left to live, what would I do? If I had a year left to live, what would I do? And then finally, if I have a full rest of my life left to live, what will I do? And that exercise, which can easily be done with one hour, might be the most important hour of our life. Because it’s helping to address this error of judgment we make about short term versus long term. It’s helping us to see really what is essential to us. And when you go through the exercise, what happens, I think, is that the fog of our day-to-day life starts to lift. Because in a normal life, every day we tend to think everything’s important, and it’s almost as if it’s all equivalently important. But actually, it’s not. We’re just tricked by the urgency. We’re tricked by the latest email, the latest tweet, the latest text, to make us think that this thing should garner our primary attention. But when you go through this exercise, it’s very obvious that that isn’t the case. And so it helps us to make sure our day-to-day tactics are aligned with what we want our intended lifelong strategy to be.

simplify & rethink …*

{ How might we } develop Ed Tech that teachers and students will actually use? Include them in the conversation!

While the title of this post may seem like a no-brainer, it is shocking how wide the chasm is between research and practice. On one side, we have researchers and ed tech companies developing new curriculum, apps, and tools for the classroom. On the other side, we have teachers and students who are often not included in the conversation until the Beta version roles out and they are asked for feedback.

Classrooms are castles that teachers spend a ton of thought and effort in carefully constructing. Therefore, many teachers are resistant to change, especially new ideas that they haven’t had any say in. On the other side, researchers often have a warped or idealized image of how a piece of technology will play out in practice, and there are many classroom factors that could make their plans obsolete. Additionally, there is a huge issue of ensuring teachers have adequate professional development and training in how to use new tools in the classroom.

A huge focus of the Instructional Technology and Design course I took this past Spring was to include users EARLY in the process and – if possible – make them part of the project teams. Teachers and students should be included in every aspect of the process when designing technology that they are going to use.

When I first heard about he Design Thinking for Educators (DT4E) handbook, I knew this was an important step towards changing how we view the role of the teacher in developing new practices and tools for the classroom. However, realistically some projects are too huge for full-time teachers or schools to take on on their own. This is why integrating them into the work that researchers and companies do is so imperative.

It looks like one state has finally gotten the message with this. Hawaii has brought the teachers’ voices into tech ed integration. In this article from Ed Surge,  the author explains that Hawaiian educators are integrally involved in the decision making process as Hawaii transitions to a 1:1 “device in every hand” state. Additionally, the teachers have been allotted TIME to play with new technology and time to construct their own integration strategies. In fact, they found that teachers ideally need a whole school year of professional development before releasing devices to students.


In my own research project (I am developing a computer based coach for Invention activities), we have teacher consultants who we are working with, and the PI has many years of classroom experience. We will be pilotting in real classrooms by the end of the study, working with teachers and students to assess how they use and enjoy the learning experience

However, I think there is definitely more room for more teacher and student voice in the development of new products. How Might We better integrate technology in K-12 education? Let me know what you think!

Study skills and time management: soft skills for success

As finals week begins and I try to juggle my jobs and workload along with many other responsibilities that I’ve managed to take on this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about study skills and time management. As a PhD student taking a full workload, TAing a course, conducting research in afterschool programs, and working at rethinkED, I’ve had to develop pretty great time management and general organizational skills (if I do say so myself). While there is definitely some genetic component to self-regulation and organization, many of these skills can be learned. In fact, I took a class devoted to “Study Skills” in my private middle school as a child. I was actually shocked when I realized that other students did not get this sort of course in their education.

In fact, as outlined in this short video below (don’t you love whiteboard animation?), studies have indicated that in the job world, soft “study” skills, including things such as critical thinking, problem solving, and organization, are more important for career success than technical skills. Yet the majority of schools do not teach study skills, even though these have been shown to both improve student achievement and ultimate job success.


I’ve been training to become a mentor to a student from a low-income, low-performing high school through iMentor this past month. A major aim of this three-year mentoring match is college readiness and easing the transition for these students into college. During training, one of the things I learned is that time management and study skills are often one of the biggest challenges for these students when entering into college.

I’d go as far as to suggest that this finding would likely extend to students from many different backgrounds. After K-12, there is simply far less monitoring and micro-managing. Students are expected to know how to organize their schedules, set timelines to complete assignments, develop a system for note-taking and storing class readings, and develop their own study habits.

Some of my favorite organizational habits and tools include:

1. Using google Calendar for ALL of my appointments, meetings, and major deadlines. I have individual calendars for classes, meetings, research, work, exercise, and personal. My calendar syncs with my phone and is available anywhere, so it’s useful when I need to know where to be or what I have coming up. Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 2.59.09 PM

2. Highlighting, taking notes and using post-its while reading. I highlight EVERYTHING I read for school, and I always use a dark highlighter that is legible because I also take notes. I star important ideas, I write in the margins, and I also use post-its to note if there’s a piece of this reading that could be relevant, say, for a rethinkED post. People have told me that they love borrowing my readings for my commentary, and there is tons of research to support the use of elaboration and integration to  promote deep learning and transfer.

3. Lists, lists, lists. I make lists all the time. To me, there is nothing more satisfying than crossing something off of my “to do” list, and I usually throw in a bunch of stuff that is easy to do just to give myself some positive reinforcement (i.e., “Make breakfast” or “Print Statistics Lab Assignment”). I find that starting each week by making a list where I plan what I’m going to accomplish each day makes me feel a lot more in control of an often absurd amount of work to be done.

I’m curious, what sorts of study habits have you developed? What advice would you give to a student starting his or her freshman year of college? And how can we promote the development of these skills early on?

{ Celebrating Art’s Birthday } Question, Experiment, Observe, Create & Imagine …*

Robert Filliou lighting the cake at Art’s 1,000,010th Birthday Celebration, Aachen 1973. Photo: Neue Galerie, Stadt im alten Kurhaus, Aachen (scanned from – Robert Filliou: From Political to Poetical Economy, Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery, Vancouver, 1995, ISBN 0-88865-308-5).

Today, January 17th, is Art’s birthday! No, not your great uncle Arthur, but ART–that unquenchable human need to create, question, experiment, reframe, imagine and dive in all colors of feeling tones.

“It all started the 17th of January, one million years ago. A man took a dry sponge and dropped it into a bucket full of water. Who that man was is not important. He’s dead but Art is alive. I mean, let’s keep names out of this.” 

Art’s birthday was first proposed by French Fluxus artist, Robert Filliou in 1963. Filliou suggested that 1,000,000 years ago, there was no Art. But one day, on the 17th of January (which is also Filliou’s birthday), Art was born. According to Filliou, it happened when someone dropped a dry sponge into a bucket of water.

So gather your friends, grab some pencils, napkins, the wire and cork off a champagne bottle, make something and listen to a recording of Filliou reciting his 1963 poem/lecture, Whispered History of Art. You can also head over to for more background information on the holiday and to peruse a list of global network events taking place between January 15 and 19, 2014 to celebrate Art’s birthday.

How will you celebrate? What will you create? Send us some pictures!

party & rethink …*

“The 17th of December, one year ago, a man took a dry sponge and dropped it into a bucket full of water. Who that man was is not important. He will die soon but Art is alive. I mean, let’s keep names out of this. As I was saying, a 17th of December, one year ago, a man took a dry sponge and dropped it into a bucket full of water. He waited 5 seconds, then he took the sponge out, he pressed it, he saw–nevermind what he saw. I’m not trying to conclude, not trying to conclude alone is important.” Whispered History of Art, Robert Filliou (1963)

rethinkED moving forward



We are not just any dispatched squad. We are a team committed to affirming permission to fail, harnessing creativity, and building character. We work with teachers by coming to them, building solutions out of their ideas and our shared brainstorming. We draw on philosophy, design science, engineering, technology, and–oh yes–the elusive imagination.

Why the need for the team?

In an age of standardized testing, the burgeoning sense of failure, and the need to control teachers instead of enabling them and the creative insight of their work, we are a cross boundary relief squad, parachuted in to unify, stabilize, and re-invigorate.


The pace of change today is momentous. Between Wolfram Alpha and Aurasma, NoTosh and Nueva School, the models and possibilities are limitless–from high-touch to high-tech, from start-ups in high school to robotics in kindergarten. Building long-term memory, using iPads for world languages, incorporating e-portfolios, metacognition through self-evaluation, seeing character as the foundation for education reform, implementing visual thinking strategies–we draw on design thinking, integrative thinking, mindset research, and character development, to name just a few of the tool kits we pull from. The landscape is changing, the mountain of discovery looms vast and high, and yet we show the footholds are the same. We need to trust ourselves, breathe deep, and embrace the multiplicity.

Why the journey terms?

Education is a journey of discovery. And our compasses as educators guide us as we find new tools to instruct and teach our students. The rethinkED team is part-explorer, pioneering the edges of the abyss, part-Bernese Mountain Dog, helping others along with us. We are boundary crossers, a mountain rescue team on a mission to find, reinvigorate and sustain human learning in its most robust forms. Along the way we draw on tools, unearth the research to back them, the ability to manipulate them, and the time to play and lead the way.


The rethinkED team is a pilot, a first year model, i.e. we’re getting down, dirty, messy, testing the waters, experimenting. Coupled with that, we hold ourselves to a high level of accountability to the teachers we work with to finish a job, make it a job well done, and present all promised deliverables into re-usable finished products. Why? The rethinkED team is in the build-out phase of a public-private model that brings together top-tier education research institutions with surrounding public and private schools through a mobile team. For the long term: create reusable case studies, road maps, resource sites, dialogue platforms, and spaces for experimentation that cross disciplines and boundaries to catalyze educators into the future.

Who are we?

We are graduate students in one of the top-ranked schools of education in the world. We are people going deep, very deep, into a field of study, who have experience teaching and advising students as well as teaching teachers. We work across languages, and our backgrounds cross international waters. We are, as Tim Brown termed it, T people: we go deep into specialties and wide across disciplines. We are not engineers, scientists, designers, business executives, or economists. We are educators. But our expertise and understanding runs far and wide and we are able to access the knowledge bases of these many sectors, and leverage, as educators, the knowledge to create. something. great.


rethinked, rethought.

join us.

Using Technology to Further Dialogue

With my day nearly complete, I stepped off the 242nd street platform and onto the awaiting 1 train. But two questions continued to swirl around in my head. During my daylong visit, I enjoyed connecting with members of the math and technology integration departments at RCS. I was thankful for the opportunity to observe experienced and capable educators performing their craft.

Yet I was most grateful for those two circling questions. The first question is how might students show themselves and their teachers what they know and don’t know? The second question is how might teachers converse amongst themselves about pedagogy given their packed and varied schedules? The former focuses on developing metacognitive awareness, which provides students with the ability to drive their own learning and maximize the resources provided by their teachers. The later focuses on the important task of making time for substantive and thoughtful collaboration with colleagues during busy schools days filled with teaching demands and the inevitable daily emergencies that routinely steal away a teacher’s attention.

I do not believe that computer-based technologies need to be the only quiver from which to pull solutions for these problems, but my conversations today brought the following solutions to light. Explain Everything, Show Me, and Educreation are three iPad apps that allow students to record their written and verbal work. These apps create opportunities for students and their teachers to retroactively see and reflect on what students were thinking. These accurate documentations of reasoning  can be completed for a homework assignment done at the kitchen table, or coursework completed in class.

VoiceThread provides a platform for asynchronous communications. By agreeing on a an acceptable window of time for responses, users of the software can submit their comments at their leisure. Teachers can use this tool to write, speak, or video record their responses or their thoughts on a professional development topic. Participants can return and review new post or the virtual conversation can be the basis of subsequent in-person meetings. The pre-work completed in the initial virtual meetings could increase the productivity of live meetings.

At their core I believe these two sets of tools could enhance academic dialogue both in the virtual and in-person setting. They provide accurate documentation of thoughts and an opportunity for multiple individuals to digest the documented material at their own pace. I am excited to start playing around with these different applications and would love to hear your feedback if you have any experience with these tools.

DT4E: Design Thinking for Educators

This post was originally published on the Carney, Sandoe & Associates blog. Click here to read the blog.

Joy Hurd is a student at the Klingenstein Center at Columbia University Teachers College and a member of the rethinkED team at Riverdale Country School.  The Carney, Sandoe & Associates Placement Team was fortunate to hear a presentation on Design Thinking by Joy.  What follows is his explanation of Design Thinking and some real-life ways he and his team have applied this model in independent education.

Good design is an easy thing to miss. It’s easy to recognize the beauty of an Apple product, but only rarely do I stop and think about the clever old design of my whistling tea kettle. Bad design is almost impossible to overlook–just think about your last trip through airport security. Everything we use was designed by someone and designed–we hope–with us in mind.

Design Thinking (DT) is a way of creating possibility through innovation and collaboration. It’s been developed by educators at Stanford and by the Palo Alto-based design firm IDEO to design products and services with users in mind. Think of objects like the computer mouse and services like Bank of America’s Keep the Change program: these are allIDEO’s work, made possible through DT’s five phases of Discovery, Interpretation, Ideation, Experimentation, and Evolution.

The collaborative, problem-solving nature of DT has led a growing number of educators to incorporate this philosophy into K-12 and higher education. Stanford’s has helped other Stanford schools implement DT in their curricula, and other universities, such as Harvard, have followed suit. It’s a versatile approach to innovation and problem-solving that requires students to be empathetic, optimistic, collaborative designers. Perhaps most importantly, it forces them to be resilient, to see early failures not as defeats but as steps necessary for success.

Design Thinking is catching on in K-12 education as well. Some schools, such as The School at Columbia, have built curricula around DT so that students can design and create to learn more deeply. Others, such as Riverdale Country School, have sought to help teachers think like designers, which, of course, they are by nature. Teachers design every day, planning their lessons, designing courses, and constructing their classroom spaces.

But do teachers recognize themselves as designers, and do they feel empowered to innovate? Do schools offer a “culture of permission,” in which teachers feel that they can run with their ideas? Do teachers take time to consider their students’ everyday learning experiences, instead of just how much material they have to cover by June? Do schools offer teachers and students the permission to fail that breeds resilience and grit?

These are some of the questions that Dominic Randolph, headmaster of Riverdale Country School, sought to answer as he learned more about DT. He partnered with IDEO to create the Design Thinking for Educators (DT4E) toolkit, which has been downloaded nearly 20,000 times.  With funding support from the E.E. Ford Foundation, DT4E offered a two-day workshop at Riverdale last June and a free online course developed in partnership with Edutopia.

DT4E has also created a team to help teachers rethink their practice and try new ideas. This rethinkED team is like a SWAT team, swooping in and working on projects generated by teachers. The team is made up of educators who know that it’s not easy to imagine and implement new ideas when there are emails to answer, phone calls to return, teams to coach, and papers to grade. At Riverdale, the rethinkED team is working with teachers to foster innovation.

So far this year, the team has worked with the Riverdale Chinese teachers to give students more opportunities to use their language skills outside the classroom. On October 5th we hosted an event at Teachers College, Columbia University, for Riverdale Chinese students to chat over lunch with native Chinese speakers studying at TC. To encourage the students to seek out and record personal interactions in Chinese, the team developed collaborative Google maps for each class, where students can mark their interactions geographically and record the experiences through journal entries, photos, or videos.

We’re also working with a teacher on the implementation of ePortfolios, which can allow students to reflect on their own work without relying solely on teacher and parent approval. Over the course of the year we’ll be working with math teachers who would like to enhance student engagement. As the year goes on, we look forward to working with more teachers who have ideas but want support to develop and implement them.

We believe that this model is replicable, that other schools can create “cultures of permission” in which teachers have the encouragement and resources to innovate and take risks. All teachers are designers, and we seek to support them as they design their students’ educational experiences.



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