A Silly - and not so silly - Lesson

100619_142252_0.pngA silly, and not so silly, lesson -

There's no way that this post will appear less than a "sour grapes" post, but it really isn't.  It's really about learning, and a lesson.

Everyone who knows me well, knows that I "spin" on a stationary bike.  I have for years and years and years.  It's the place where I do lots of other work as well - reading, writing, telephoning.  I've made the habit of spinning something that I work into many days precisely because it is a time to focus - a kind of "zen of spinning."

I also started keeping track of the miles, and have for years and years and years.  On paper calendars, and in digital calendars, I write down every time I spin ten miles.  Then I total them - why not?  

Earlier this year, my totals indicated that I had accumulated enough miles to have gone twice around the globe - twice around the equator - a distance of 49, 802 miles.  I thought that was rather special, never having met anyone who had completed such a task.  

So, I wrote to Guinness World Records - and why not?

Recently, I received the following very nice reply from the folks at Guinness.


Thank you for sending us the details of your proposed record attempt for 'Most miles biked on a stationary bike.'

Unfortunately, after thoroughly reviewing your application with members of our research team, we are afraid to say that we cannot accept your proposal as a Guinness World Records title.

We do monitor distance by static cycling, but we require that the distance is completed within a set timeframe, or as an endurance marathon (for example, 'Longest marathon static cycling').

Whilst we appreciate this is not the decision you hoped for, we trust that you will understand our decision. You may want to consider these record titles as alternatives:

Farthest distance static cycling in 24 hours
        Farthest distance static cycling in 12 hours - male

Once again thank you for contacting Guinness World Records.
Many thanks
Records Management Team


So, I am not and can not become a Guinness World Records holder.  There are many more important things in life, believe me.

But, there is a lesson in their letter.  

There is a lesson about testing and assessment. The folks at Guinness have set the parameters for world records around the quantity of "time" taken to complete any given activity.

In the world of education, we speak about "speed" testing and "power" testing.  Speed testing is just what the name implies - students are given a certain amount of time to complete a certain number of tasks - or not.  The SAT tests and the AP tests are essentially speed tests as student success is measured by the degree of successful completion within a time frame.  Many tests in school are speed tests and we often judge student achievement based on speed.  It's not surprising then at all when the best readers are also the best test takers - after all - they can process the information more quickly.  And well, we like speed.

On the other hand, there are also power tests.  Power tests give students the time they need to complete a given task and they are expected to do the very best job possible.  Writing an essay in one class period is an example of a speed test; writing an essay over a week is an example of a power test.  Deadlines exist in power tests, but they are managed deadlines as opposed to limited and finite deadlines.

Clearly my endeavors to spin twice the distance of the equator represent a power test.  And, it did take years.  Though the folks at Guinness World Records are interested in speed tests, they are not about to receive a record request from me as I approach retirement.  And interestingly enough - as we age, power tests are perhaps more important and more attainable.  We like speed because we like the speedy approaches of youth - and we should.

Nonetheless, as educators, we need to recognize and validate those who take more time to do a task; completing the task is often more important than timing the task.

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