N is for…

Oh hey there blogland, remember me?

I have been stuck on N for oh so very long. Like…. it’s absurd. I’ve also started and deleted N ideas close to a billion times (that’s my high estimate, natch). The lovely Pam and Shelli have given me so many ideas on so many occasions, but I just have had a hard time committing to anything.

For awhile it was going to be “Not now,” so I could just skip it and get on to other things. I think that was Jamie’s idea?

I even considered just posting,


Over the summer we learned we were getting a new principal, so a letter to my new principal was another idea.

N was always (well, not always, but you know what I mean) supposed to be for NCSM/NCTM. But here’s the thing… it was kind of a rough week and I suck at conference blogging anyway. I had settled on this and even (sort of) given it a start. It never happened and then pre-TMC I considered a letter to newcomers. But I couldn’t even pull that together. During TMC I had thoughts. A lot of them. I was going to summarize little “nuggets.” But ya… NOPE.

Last week, Sarah shared a thought about an analogy about Google Drive.


Lucky for me, Sarah happened to be in town last week and we were able to grab dinner with our other friend Carole. Over dinner she elaborated on the analogy. Genius. Since she doesn’t have her own blog (yet!), I begged her to write it up and post it here. It’s gotten a little dusty.

So, I present to you, N is for…. Nailed it! Because her analogy is perfection!


One of my favorite quotes to share with educators comes from Sandy Bartle Finocchi.  Sandy frequently shares the idea that “our students are not blank slates but rather messy boards.” As I prepared to talk to a group of math educators about this very idea, it hit me.  Student understanding, that messy board that we educators struggle to help students make sense of, is exactly like a Google Drive.

Now I don’t know about you, but while I am comfortable using Google Drive, I also struggle with it. My Drive is great! These are all of the files that I own. My Drive is organized in a way that makes sense to me and I can easily find anything that I want or need rather efficiently.  Then you have shared with me, which is a complete disaster.  You have files from anybody that ever thought “let me share something.”  You want to talk about a messy board, this it it! There is no organization at all. At first, I found what I wanted by scrolling through all of the files that had been shared with me.  It took forever!!  Eventually, I learned tools to help me more efficiently search for what I want to access. The challenge, I still need to remember at least part of the file name…which can take a while. It is not until I finally decide the file is important enough to take some ownership and add it to my drive that I can most efficiently find and access the file.

The thing that we need to remember, is that student understanding works exactly the same way.  If we are constantly sharing information with students, it just gets added to their shared with me folder and gets lost in the vast world of shared stuff.  We can help students acquire tools that will help them access that knowledge, or even provide enough repetition that the knowledge appears in their Quick Access view. Still, that is only an illusion and that knowledge will fall back into the abyss once something new is shared.

We need to take full advantage of their My Drive and start by giving students the opportunity to take ownership of their knowledge and understanding. We need to allow them to organize their knowledge in a way that makes sense to them. In turn, students can access their understandings when they need it and that knowledge sticks with them much longer.

Sure, it would be more “time efficient” for me to just share files. I can get through way more stuff by doing that and it takes less time because students aren’t recreating the files.  But if I don’t make the intentional choice to invest in that time for students to see the building blocks and create, not recreate, the knowledge for themselves they will never be invested enough to take ownership of ideas that I do share with them.

The question is, when we walk into class which choice are we going to make? I really hope we choose to invest in the time students need to build up their My Drive.  It may not feel like what is right for us, but it is definitely what is right for our students.


Thank you so much for sharing this, Sarah! As you know, I COMPLETELY related to the conversation when you shared this idea 🙂