Where’s the hype?

CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user guccio@文房具社

Just a few hours ago, many of us lurked the Internets, like a bunch of goons, drooling over the prospects of Apple’s “big announcement” regarding the iPhone-5-release-but-actually-it’s-the-iPhone4S-instead-ha-we-fooled-you!-now-get-back-to-work!


What is the source of that widespread anticipation? A phone? Nah. How does Apple manage to leverage the loyalty of so many customers and fans in order to create such a buzz around a new product? A new idea?

And, more importantly: How can we create that hype in our classrooms?

I’m not talking about hype without justification, I’m talking about genuine enthusiasm about the “big reveal.” Hype surrounding what is yet to be learned… about what is yet to come… about what I have yet to discover I can understand and do.

How do our teachers help students develop a legitimate desire to learn more, do more, say more, be more? How do we encourage our teachers to design learning opportunities that leave students wanting more at the end of the school day? When parents ask, “What did you do in school today?”, don’t we want students belting out accolades about the day’s projects, debates, research, and collaborative interactions?

Yes. We want that. Right now, many of our students leave our schools empty-headed at the end of the day. They’re not pushed in their thinking. They’re not busting at the seams thinking about the next big reveal, or how they can get ahead of their learning to be the one who shouts, “Spoiler Alert!” before moving ahead with an idea before the “pacing guide” calls for it. (Did you ever witness that? When a teacher halts the class discussion because tomorrow’s concept is covered too soon? Painful.)

I don’t really have any answers for how we accomplish this, and I’m sure it’s different for every classroom and every school. I think engaging kids is #1. I think knowing how to design learning opportunities that embrace students’ passions and interests and allowing them to interact with peers within their own schools and with others around the world is key. We must allow them to use technology in order to facilitate learning experiences, and our teachers must partner with students to help support them, to challenge their assumptions, and to show them that they’re capable of greatness.

Apple disappointed many today, and while I’m not here to criticize their strategies (I love my iPhone and all things Apple), we need to instill in our organizations an intense need to bring on the hype. Get kids excited. Get teachers excited. Get parents and community members and board members excited and wanting more.

Then deliver.

19 Replies to “Where’s the hype?”

  1. Lyn,
    Thanks for a great piece and truthfully I was hanging on your every word.
    What I wouldn’t give to be able to walk into a classroom and see students so engaged they wouldn’t think to look up and notice that I was there. To hear them talk excitedly before and after school about their learning. We need to create that hype each and every day.

    1. JoAnn, thanks for reading! I was honestly watching the Apple-related tweets today… then started wondering why?! Why is this so engaging? I will be able to read about this later! And I don’t really care, I’m not even in the market for a new iPhone right now! There’s nothing more gratifying than hearing the buzz of student voices discussing their learning with enthusiasm! I think as we all work to share the great things happening in our schools, we’ll see this enthusiasm spread quickly!

  2. I love the idea – there is a dire need for innovation in daily practice. My bigger concern beyond the big reveal is how do we build the hype day after day, period after period?. Apple only has to do this every couple of months, which is part of the reason you can build anticipation like this. We need to build hype and passion then sustain it. There’s the sticking point for me.

    As an aside, I’ve never had so many students waiting on an apple keynote…

    1. Exactly- how do we ensure they want to keep learning more? For many of them, our standardized curriculum is a huge disappointment. Boredom is the least of our concerns. What practices can we put in place to ensure we’re always moving all students along that continual path of enlightenment? It’s such a huge undertaking.

  3. Almost everything I do as a teacher involves generating the kind of hype you speak of. I find students respond to it when they feel that the learning in the classroom transcends mere ‘schooling’.

    1. I imagine your classroom is a place that is enlightening for everyone! I agree what we need to offer students in terms of ideas and learning is FOR them, WITH them, not something that’s done TO them. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  4. Great post, I ask my kids that very question every evening, what did you do/learn in school today. I want to their experiences at school to excite me as a parent and make me want to learn along with them. Hype with meaningful and relevant experiences behind it is important to creating engaged learners.

    1. It must be easier to forge home-school connections with learning when children openly and eagerly share with their families what’s happening in school! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. Great post Lyn! You have me thinking more about relevance, novelty, and the need for differentiation. When our students see the relevance of what “we” are learning, they can get more excited! I see hype as sort of a combined combustion between our igniting a spark and them taking off and making learning their own. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for your comments, Joan! I think teacher enthusiasm is the key to it all! We definitely need to ignite the spark!

  6. Hey Pal,

    Just wanted to let you know that I LOVE this piece—and love your writing. Thanks for being so transparent in social spaces. I learn a ton from you—and I don’t say thank you nearly enough.

    Rock on,

    PS: One of the things I’ve emphasized with parents this year is instead of asking “what did you learn in school today” at the dinner table, they should start sharing what THEY’VE learned at the dinner table.

    Think about it: If we show kids what we are intellectually hyped about time and again, the message sent is “We respect learning. We get excited about learning. We’re still learning. And you should too.”

    I don’t know if kids get that message enough from the important adults in their lives.

    But I know it works: I’m CONSTANTLY talking to the kids about the ideas that leave me jazzed—whether it is connected to the content in our classroom or not.

    And while sometimes I worry that I’m wasting time, I find that my kids will often start signing out books, finding articles, and asking questions about the things that I’ve mentioned in class.

    It’s the “If Mr. Ferriter is SO jazzed about this, maybe I should check it out, too” approach to engagement.

  7. It sounds like such a simple thing, but what a powerful turn in the conversation… when parents share with their children “what they’ve learned today…” Love that. Thank you for sharing. I have no doubt your zest for learning spreads like wildfire in your classroom. I recently had the chance to share with some grade 5 students #whyiwrite and walk them through the steps of my writing process leading to publishing on my blog. Going to share that experience on my blog soon.

    P.S. I always appreciate when you stop by my blog and say hello 🙂

  8. You asked….”When parents ask, “What did you do in school today?”, don’t we want students belting out accolades about the day’s projects, debates, research, and collaborative interactions?” and maybe my response to this is because I am a mom who has looked at my 3 children many a night at the dinner table. I always teased them that I wasn’t sending them back unless they had something to report because if they learned nothing, it wasn’t worth their time.

    Remembering that….I always play the role of being a little proactive. When we learn something amazing…I try to bring it to their attention. Most of the time I think they are so “in the moment” they don’t even realize they’ve learned something worth noting or reporting. For example, this week students learn how the sun and the earth’s rotation work together to form wind and that the uneven heating by the sun generates these up and down currents that starts the weather at work. Since it took us 5 days to stair-step up to that understanding, I don’t think the kids truly appreciate all they knew.

    So we had a Friday 3minute huddle chat. That’s where we remember back to where we started and marvel at where we are. Pretty soon every kid in the class were calling out words they’d learn…big ones like stratosphere and convection….and I always play it up that they should just ever so strategically slip it into the dinner conversation and blow their parents out of their chairs. That appeals to the middle school sense of humor. And they do it.

    I’ve had so many parents tell me over the years how innocently they were set up…and then how they had to go and get the encyclopedia and now the iPad to look up something that the student started as one of our stealth mentions!!!

    So this is my long-winded way of saying….you have to help students have a space to think about what they learned, appeal to whatever’s appropriate for that age group (and my middle schoolers love to shock and laugh), and help them imagine how that might happen. Once the cycle starts, then I end up having all sorts of parents email me that they work in the field and would love to come in and tell the kids about their work…..or they have something they found and would love to share it with us (fossils, rocks, drilling cores, black and white photography of weathering/erosion sites to name just a few).

    1. It’s so important to create the conditions for reflection and awareness as you describe above. That’s one of the things I appreciate about having students post on a class space such as a blog or even in a newsletter to share daily/weekly happenings. From the students’ point of view, what ideas and concepts did the class explore this week? What would they like to explore further? What connections have they made to pre-existing knowledge and/or to their personal lives? Thank you for your contribution to this post!

  9. Yes! Students want to learn, and how we present material has enormous impact on their motivation. If we sequence learning with a touch of drama or even suspense, if we make learning fun, if we see our curriculum through the eyes of students, we can make exciting decisions that result in motivated, excited learners.
    Why would anyone not do this?
    Have fun and zap the apathy!
    Tech can play a role. That’s one strategy.
    Games are also good. Stories are excellent for making learning “sticky.” Helping students realize the direct, personal relevance of what we’re teaching is probably the best way to get them excited.
    Thanks for another thoughtful post.

    1. Thanks again for your comments! I always wonder why some teachers deliberately choose to zap the fun out of learning. To me, that would make coming to work each day a rather dull experience. I suppose it’s because “fun” is something potentially out of their control, and for many, that is threatening. I believe as soon as we instill trust in our students (which comes from purposeful relationship-building), students will thrive in this exploratory, fun learning environment, and they will do their best to impress us (and themselves). Thanks, Gary!

  10. crowdsourcing.

    a great read for this … Cathy Davidson’s Now You See It.
    i’m thinking crowd sourcing happens from listening without an agenda. and that’s a tough one.
    publicly prescribed curriculum… certainly an agenda standing in the way. not that it’s all bad. but that it’s compulsory. nothing is for everyone.
    more subtle agenda’s… teacher design…classroom, periods of time, gatherings per organizational needs rather than per choice.
    love the push for adults modeling learning. mentoring alongside. another tough one…deliberately not teaching. Erica McWilliams…being usefully ignorant.

    crowd sourcing at it’s best.. let’s unleash and offer up spaces of permission and resources to find their own ways.

    1. Hi, Monika,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate your thoughts. I’m currently reading Davidson’s Now You See It. It’s really fascinating. I feel quite constrained by curricula, schedules, required minutes for interventions, etc. I know my teachers do as well. Our most successful teams are finding ways to create spaces where questioning and experimenting and freedom are encouraged, but it’s becoming more and more difficult. We will keep trying to be inventive within the parameters we are given. And maybe push them a bit. 🙂

      1. So true! It is imperative for parents to model a great thrill of learning daily to their children. Students imitate what they see and hear adults do. The hype starts with the teacher and the parents. When we are excited about learning, the students become curious and want to know more.
        From a technological perspective, I think students, teachers and administrators are on a mental overload. Too much is coming their way. Let’s practice “Less is more with positive results in the end.”

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