Archives For November 2013

I just stumbled across President Obama’s 2006 Senatorial Commencement address at Northwestern University.  Wow! At a time when the United States takes pause to give thanks, I give thanks for leaders who recognize that empathy might be the best commodity that the world can trade.

Northwestern University Commencement Address

Friday, June 16, 2006

Click here to the NorthWestern University site for the full speech.

The world doesn’t just revolve around you. There’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit – the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us – the child who’s hungry, the laid-off steelworker, the immigrant woman cleaning your dorm room.

As you go on in life, cultivating this quality of empathy will become harder, not easier. There’s no community service requirement in the real world; no one forcing you to care. You’ll be free to live in neighborhoods with people who are exactly like yourself, and send your kids to the same schools, and narrow your concerns to what’s going in your own little circle.

Not only that – we live in a culture that discourages empathy. A culture that too often tells us our principle goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained. A culture where those in power too often encourage these selfish impulses.

They will tell you that the Americans who sleep in the streets and beg for food got there because they’re all lazy or weak of spirit. That the inner-city children who are trapped in dilapidated schools can’t learn and won’t learn and so we should just give up on them entirely. That the innocent people being slaughtered and expelled from their homes half a world away are somebody else’s problem to take care of.

I hope you don’t listen to this. I hope you choose to broaden, and not contract, your ambit of concern. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all of those who helped you get to where you are, although you do have that debt.

It’s because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. And because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential – and become full-grown.


Wow! I feel like an explorer who has just rounded a corner and unexpectedly stumbled into paradise. I have just discovered an almost perfect blend of technological innovation and pedagogical motivation. It’s a path that leads us past the outdated bubble-filling regurgitation of memorized facts and catapults us into the future of testing kids on the higher-order thinking skills that the 21st century demands.

Welcome to the beta testing pilot of  SimCityEdu:Pollution Challenge!

If you are like me, you may remember the SimCity games from the days when PC’s were the size of a desk and CD-rom games seemed too complicated for the average adult user to figure out.  I remember sharing this cutting edge technology with my middle school students in the early ’90’s. But I never dreamed that someone, namely a multidisciplinary team known as Glasslab, would turn this game on it’s head and create a sustainability game that helps teachers and students track how well they think.

This game has taken my mission right out of my mouth and served it up as meaningful play. (Maybe Erick Erickson is also clapping from the sidelines). But right now I can’t imagine a better tool to help our future leaders create the emphatic problem solving skills than a device that notices every mouse hover and analyzes your understanding of cause and effect.

SimCityEdu:Pollution Challenge seems like the perfect way to help students learn how to balance their individual needs versus a community’s needs versus the need to protect the earth now and for the future.

I can’t wait to use this thought provoking tool with my own daughter and all the other future global leaders.

So check out this ground-breaking advent of Blooms Taxonomy meets Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs meets standardized testing meets engaging play all of which adds up to a world of more thoughtful citizens.

Not a bad start don’t you think?

179841-festive-season-across-the-world-halloween-in-the-u-s-and-diwali-2011-fThe daylong days of daylight are dipping into darkness and the harvest season is coming to a close, so it was fitting that last week people all around the world celebrated the festival of lights. I started to write about this important Hindu New Year’s celebration last Monday. However, I spent so much time trying to find books to share with kids that I never finished.

I have always made a display of Diwali books but have never tried to look for a read-aloud. This year, Diwali, observed on the darkest, moonless night in the month of Kartik, fell on Sunday November 3rd. So I thought it would be fitting to share a read aloud with my first graders whom I see on Mondays.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find one title that wasn’t non-fiction. Now don’t get me wrong; I wanted my students to learn the truth about how the traditions differ from region to region, both within India, and around the world. I wanted them to know that “deep“ means light and “avali” means a “continuous line,” and that the lighting of diyas (tiny clay pots with wicks of oil or ghee) symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and the banishing of darkness through knowledge.

Yet I know humans are hard-wired for stories, and so a story is what I wanted to share. I wanted to offer many in my community a window into this lovely celebration, while providing a mirror for those students who celebrate Diwali.

But alas, I couldn’t find such a story. I even recruited a Southern Indian friend of mine, who, whenever she returns to her homeland, brings back panchatantra tales to add to my library collection.

She didn’t have any luck either. She did find one book to have inaccurate information about the gods. A good reminder for us all to authenticate our information. I was disappointed to come up empty. But then I thought, if knowledge banishes the darkness, and stories originated around the tribal fire, what better way to celebrate Diwali than to create a new Diwali read aloud to share.

So if you have narrative story to weave about Diwali, the children’s market is wide open. Get writing. That’s what I’m off to do. Research then write. We’d love to hear what you have to share here first.