Limitations are important

And sometimes necessary.

Chipotle, In-N-Out, and Chick-fil-A are popular, and one of the reasons for their success is a simple menu. The customer visits these restaurants with a clear idea about what he or she wants, and the establishments deliver.

I’ve used this philosophy in my classroom for years now: Teach the students important concepts and teach them well. I’m interested in depth of knowledge, not wide and shallow learning. That means I have to curate very carefully when deciding to include material and new lesson plans within my units.

Steve Jobs was a huge proponent of simplicity. He said he was more important about what Apple didn’t do than what they did do. He also said this:

That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

“Simplicity,” “focus,” and even “curating” are not copouts for avoiding hard work. On the contrary, they demand even more emotional and physical effort. Education would benefit a lot by incorporating Steve Jobs’s philosophy into best practice methods. Teachers need to sort out the bad and focus on the good. and in no realm is this more important than incorporation of technology in the classroom.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

There are so many great technological resources to use as an educator, but when I google “education” and “technology,” I am blasted by a fire hydrant of information when what I want is a sip of water. Teachers can’t use everything they think is “neat” with their students and 1:1 devices. This will result in a rudderless pursuit for mastery of standards. Laptops and tablets should definitely be used in student learning, but the students need a framework with which to navigate the internet, learn, and produce work. I’m working on finding the best way to do this right now. 

The job of the teacher has just expanded. Now we are curators who do a lot of work making things simple. It’s what the best companies do, and there’s no excuse to act differently.