To rethink and redesign learning for students, we as educators need to practice new ways of thinking and approaching challenges. A few weeks ago, I participated in a Design Thinking Bootcamp facilitated by Greg Bamford (@gregbamford), Carla Silver (@carla_r_silver) and Alyssa Gallagher (@am_gallagher) from Leadership and Design. Powerful learning stretches us beyond our boundaries, pushes us out of comfort zone, and leads us to new insights. This is exactly what I experienced. Here are my top five take-aways from the Design Thinking Bootcamp: Continue reading
Photo credit: IQoncept
As I move into the new year, I want to focus my energies on what’s important. Yet, I often find myself pulled in many directions and sometimes feel like maintaining my focus is a challenge. I recently came across Peter Bregman’s book, 18 Minutes: Finding Your Focus, Mastering Your Distractions and Getting the Right Things Done, that I think may hold some insights for me in my quest.
18 Minutes offers “a comprehensive approach to managing a year, a day, and a moment so that our lives move forward in a way that keeps us focused on, and doing, the things we decide are most important” (Kindle Location: 53). At its essence, this approach to organizing our time and focusing our energies is based on making conscious choices on what’s most important and aligning our daily activities with our priorities.
4 Ways to “Get the Right Things Done”: Continue reading
Photo credit: Egidijus Mika
As 2013 winds down, I want to take some time to look back and reflect on my journey over the past year. A year ago, I made a commitment to myself to take time to stop, reflect, and share my learning and thinking with others through my blog. I decided to shift from being primarily a consumer of the insights of other educators to being an active contributor to the conversation. Along the way, I struggled with the usual doubts — What would I have to say? Would anyone really care? Where do I find the time? And, I stuck with it. I wondered how I could apply what I learned in the process to other areas in my personal and professional life.
Anyone who has ever made a New Year’s resolution knows that sticking with it is the hardest the part. Yesterday, a timely e-mail newsletter arrived in my inbox from Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the book Switch. The subject line read simply: “4 Research-Backed Tips for Sticking to Your New Years Resolution.” I could not resist.
The Heath brothers started by pointing out our dismal record for keeping resolutions: “The research on resolutions is damning: A study of 3,000 people led by Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, found that 88% broke their resolutions. (Even people who resolved merely to “enjoy life more” failed 68% of the time.).”
So, how can we improve our odds of actually keeping our resolutions? One of their tips really stood out for me. They suggest shifting our focus from what is not working (“what is the problem and how do I fix it?”) to looking at our “bright spots” — “What’s working and how can I do more of it?” Continue reading
Sometimes inspiration comes at just the right moment. Lately, I have been moving at warp speed. At times, I get so caught up in the “doing” that it is difficult to slow down and reflect.
Earlier this school year, I signed up to participate in an innovative program launched by George Couros (@gcouros), the School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program (#SAVMP). I have been fortunate to connect and learn with committed educators who are sorting through how to lead the way forward to innovative learning in our schools and communities. And, I have had a tough time juggling the competing demands of doing the work and reflecting on the work. I tend to lean more in the direction of the “doing” part (the slowing down part, not so much).
So, this week when George provided a “gentle nudge” to program participants to take time to stop and reflect and share our learning through blogging and tweeting, I was inspired to take stock. In his blog post, You can Close the Door (Sometimes), George offers a timely reminder that it is “high priority work” for educational leaders to stop and reflect and share as a key component of creating an open culture of learning among educators.
At first his post struck me as an interesting counterpoint to my recent post on the power of connections by “opening our doors” by sharing our professional practices. The juxtaposition of open and closed doors made me think — both are necessary to our continued growth and learning.
It is only by closing our door (sometimes) that we are able to truly reflect on not only what we’re doing, but why it is important to our larger purpose. Running on empty does not really promote deep thinking or learning. Without our best thinking, it is virtually impossible to focus our energy on taking the next right steps to move forward. Taking the time to reflect enhances our ability to engage more meaningfully with others. It seems to me that both are essential to building a collaborative culture that promotes deeper learning and purposeful action toward our common goal.
What are your thoughts on how to slow down and take time for deeper reflection?
Many educators see Twitter, in particular, and social media, in general, as frivolous wastes of time. I mean, who really cares what Honey Boo Boo is up to? Who cares what J.T. had for breakfast? Or any other celebrity gossip, really? But, being connected isn’t about Justin, or Kim, or any of the residents of the Jersey Shore. It is about investing in our own learning to make meaningful change for our students.
This week I had the opportunity to talk with educational leaders in Sonoma County about how we can use Twitter to connect and learn and lead in the 21st Century (#scoe21c). During the session, we explored why being connected is important and how it can help us invest in our learning and growth. I shared my own journey from my initial trepidation, to piqued curiosity, to active seeking, to a deeper understanding of the significance of sharing with other educators. It was my hope to provide a little nudge and inspiration for other educators to “get connected” and pursue their own passions and learning.
“Podcasting, tweeting, and blogging opens your doors!” — Adam Welcome, Principal, John Swett Elementary School
I spent a great day at the North Bay CUE Marin (@NorthBayCue) Conference. It has been energizing to connect and learn with truly amazing educators who are opening their doors and sharing their learning with others.
The day started with the Twitter Rocks Fiesta hosted by Amy Fadeji (@mrsfadeji), Principal at Penngrove Elementary School. Why would educators want to use Twitter? As Amy made clear, opening the doors to our schools through social media gives us an incredibly powerful way for us to tell our stories — of the learning happening in our schools — and to create our own networks for energizing ourselves by actively engaging with other educators.
At my next session — Trevor Mattea (@tsmattea), a third grade teacher from Mountain View, facilitated an inspiring session on using digital portfolios in elementary classrooms. I was truly impressed with the many ways that he has opened his classroom door and shared his students’ learning through photography, writing and developing digital citizenship. I plan to pass on the plentiful resources he shared to my colleagues and staff.
At the final stop on my #NBCueMarin tour, Adam Welcome (@awelcome), Principal at John Swett Elementary School, facilitated an edu-awesome session on blogging in our schools and classrooms and so much more. He started with jamming beats care of incrediblebox.com, then spun a versatile playlist of digital tools for connecting, learning and communicating with our staff, parents and community. From Audioboo for podcasting, to tweeting events from the school day, and blogging to share with the big, wide world — I came away with new ways of thinking about connecting and learning.
Each of these educators is setting a powerful example of what it means to be connected. By opening our doors, we also open ourselves to endless possibilities, not only for our own growth and learning, but to being the change we wish to see in the world — to make a real difference for the children we serve.
What are some ways you open your doors?
I’ve been developing a personal learning network (PLN) through Twitter and online forums for the past few years. I found my initial forays into social media to be a bit disorienting. The flow of information was overwhelming. It was difficult to get my bearings. But, I stuck with it — dipping in, then stepping away, and then returning. I found it to be a process — at first I mainly “lurked”, viewing the contributions of others, then gradually I began to share and engage with others.
Through this process, I have discovered what Lyn Hilt (@L_Hilt) has referred to as “Effort In = Reward Out.” Along the way, I have benefited in real ways from the ideas, practices and insights shared by the amazing and thoughtful educators who are part of my PLN. Engaging with the work of others has nudged me to take risks, pushed me to think more deeply, and opened up new ideas for empowering students in their learning.
In the (tongue-in-cheek) words of George Siemens, these powerful learning experiences led me to conclude that “My Personal Learning Network is the most awesomest thing ever!” Siemens’s piece challenged my thinking about PLN’s, in general, and helped me to think differently about the importance of my network and my place within it. Continue reading