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
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a round table discussion with George Couros, the Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning for Parkland School Division, at the Marin County Office of Education (@MCOEPD). George has been inspirational to me. He’s challenged me to take risks in my own professional learning and provided gentle nudges to stick with the process. I was delighted to be able to meet him in person and talk about his ideas about how to grow a culture of innovation.
With his personable style and passion, George focused our attention on a key question for educational leaders: How do we move from pockets of innovation to a culture of innovation? He provide much food for thought that is summarized very well by Eric Saibel, Assistant Principal at Sir Francis Drake High School, in his post, Stepping Beyond the Cage of the Unknown. George has also outlined these ideas in the Leading Innovative Change series on his blog, The Principal of Change.
While I came away from the discussion and presentation with my head spinning — lots to think about — I’d like to focus on a few of the key ideas that resonate with my work. Continue reading
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.
I am excited about the opportunity to participate in an innovative program launched by George Couros (@gcouros), The School Administrators Virtual Mentorship Program (#SAVMP). The idea behind the program is “to help develop administrators to lead innovative school environments that meet the needs of students today.” Leading innovation begins with our own learning.
As a starting point for thinking about our own practices, George has asked us to reflect on our “why” — why we lead. I have to admit that when I began my career as an educator, I never envisioned myself as a leader. Early on, I saw myself as a learner and a teacher, guiding and facilitating the learning of my students. Inspired by my own teachers who saw me — as a person and a learner — I wanted to follow in their footsteps and give back the life-changing gift that they gave me.
As a teacher, the connections I made with students — getting to know their strengths, their passions, their challenges and their dreams — gave me a genuine sense of purpose and meaning. Seeing the spark in a student as they discovered new skills, talents and capabilities inspired me to continue to learn and grow to be a better teacher. Empowering students to step boldly onto their own path, in turn, inspired me to seek out and pursue my own learning.
At that time, I associated “leadership” with “administration” — as something embodied by a single individual, separate from the essential connection between learning and teaching. As my path has meandered, however, my understanding of leadership has profoundly changed. Continue reading
I recently came across Tom Whitby’s insightful blog post, “Educator Fear and Discomfort.” His post provided me with some important perspective on how we approach integrating technology and learning.
Whitby highlights two counterproductive beliefs that stand in the way of fully integrating digital tools into the classroom: 1) that all kids are digital natives who know everything about technology and 2) that teachers cannot make mistakes in front of students. These beliefs coupled by a misguided notion that before a teachers can use technology with students they must know everything about the technology and all applications. Whitby correctly points out that this is simply impossible given the incredible pace of change.
The constant in education should be the learning and not the status quo. If society is moving to change at a rapid pace, then we need to develop in our children the skills and abilities to change as well, and that requires the same abilities in the educators who are charged with teaching our children.
Integrating digital tools into the learning process shifts “the learning dynamic for teachers and for students.” As he notes,”It requires a commitment to life long learning which goes beyond just the words.” In short, we must practice what preach.
He concludes by emphasizing that: “…we can better educate our students if we better educate their educators. We should never hold up our past as our children’s model for their future.”
Whitby’s post serves as an excellent reminder to educators who are focused on preparing children for their future, not our past. Our work toward this goal needs to be focused on the learning first, not the devices. And, more importantly, bringing new digital tools into the classroom must be guided by a commitment to creating the conditions that make it possible through training, support, collaboration and encouragement for educators.
What are some ways that we can create the conditions that make this kind of transformation in teaching and learning a reality for students and educators?
Lately, I have been thinking through the question of how meaningful change happens. The gap between the kinds of schools our kids need and the kinds of schools we currently inhabit seems vast and daunting.
I have always felt uncomfortable with the image of the heroic figure who single-handedly “makes things happen.” It seems that the changes that we need to make — to shift our paradigm and create truly innovative learning for our students — are both larger and deeper than one person.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one’s fear.” — Ambrose Redmoon
In my work, I frequently hear profound trepidation about the big, wide world of social media. The chorus of voices bemoans the ubiquity of Facebook and issues cautionary tales of how social sites are diminishing our personal connections to others. And on and on…
Underneath this reluctance, I hear a genuine sense of fear — fear of our world spinning out of control. In an effort to regain some semblance of control, there is a tendency to react by wanting to “shut it down.” Instead, I’d like to urge us to be courageous in our leadership and move forward in the face of fear.
As Redmoon’s quote suggests, being courageous does not mean “the absence of fear.” Rather, it is “the judgment that something else is more important that one’s fear.” As educators, I would also add that our ability to prepare our students for their future and to engage with our communities to accomplish that goal, in a world that is growing ever more complex and fast-paced, is more important that our own fear.
I recently revisited Open Leadership, by Charlene Li (@charleneli). Li’s book provided me with a bit of a road map to begin grappling with my own uncertainty. While the book is not geared specifically for those of us toiling in the field of education, I think educational leaders will find plenty of resources here to get started.
At the outset, Li assesses the new terrain which has been characterized by the “fundamental shift in power” from institutions (like schools) to customers (such as our students, parents, and community members). With new social technologies, more people are online, using of social sites and sharing digital resources like never before. Li points out that conversations that used to take place in more private realms of offices, phone calls, and even the parking lot, are now taking place online. While these developments may make us squirm, we are powerless to stop them.
The question, then, is how do we manage our fears as we navigate forward in digital spaces to connect more meaningfully with our communities? Li offers four key take aways for educators. Continue reading