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
One of the great things about the buffet table is that it offers so many tasty choices. We all have our own approach when wandering through the line. Some folks graze and nibble. Others fill their plates, sampling everything. If you’re like me, you go through the line once, then head back for seconds or even grab dessert.
Recently, I attended my first Google Apps for Education 1:1 Summit in Napa with a team of educators from my district. The event offered a cornucopia of delicious offerings for every palette. We came away with a lot of resources and tools to use in our classrooms. Shout outs to the edu-awesome EdTechTeam (@edtechteam), especially Mark Wagner (@markwagner) and Michael Wacker (@mwacker) as well as North Bay CUE Rockstar Extraordinaire, Sergio Villegas (@awesomecoachv) from Napa Learns for setting such an impressive table. 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
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
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?
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?