The Power of “I Don’t Know”

My idea of a leader or an administrator when I was starting early on in my career, was that they were “all knowing”, like some type of “Wizard of Oz” figure.  What I realized was that not only was this not possible, but something is actually lost when we do not feel comfortable to say “I don’t know”.  I have noticed some administrators, when told of a new idea, feel the need to say, “I thought of that a long time ago”, are playing a game where they feel the need to always assert their status as “leader”, when in fact, it actually disconnects.

Think of the difference between saying, “I had already thought of that idea”, as opposed to, “I never thought of that…that is a really great idea”.  Essentially you are not only giving power over (which some are afraid of losing), but you are showing value in the ideas of others.

With a lot of things that I have found myself thinking about, I am not as much “black or white”, as I am somewhere in the middle of grey.  Lately, I have more questions than answers, but the point is that I am trying to understand new and complicated ideas. “Not knowing” is part of this journey.

This post was inspired by Dean Shareski’s latest blog posts on having conversations, where he keeps using the word “trust”, which is needed to really go deeper into our own learning.  This tweet nicely summarizes some of my thoughts on the topic:

Think of that student that is in your class, that tells you something, to which you respond, “I did not know that! Thanks for sharing that with me.” Once they realize they were able to teach something new to the person of “authority” in the room, it creates a much more powerful dynamic in the relationship.  Adults are no different, especially when they feel they can teach the “expert” something that they didn’t know.  To gain trust, we have to give up power.

Empathy is crucial in developing the innovator’s mindset, and that takes listening, and trying to understand someone else’s viewpoint, while being able and open to learn from them as well.  It is not about who can shout the loudest, but often who can listen best. Being open to learning from others, is crucial to our own development.

Image created by @SylviaDuckworth

Image created by @SylviaDuckworth

Being able to say, “I don’t know” and being willing to be able to go find out, is much more conducive to building relationships than “I already knew that”.  Great leaders often show vulnerability, which in turn, helps develop teams that feel their contributions are not only valued, but necessary. Learning organizations value learning together over learning from one. Saying “I don’t know”, is crucial to not only our own curiosity, but shows an authenticity that helps to build relationships with those that we serve.

 

Are you willing to take the hit?

I was recently listening to a Seth Godin podcasts regarding “Startups“, and it reminded me of something earlier in my life. Having grown up playing any sport I could try at a young age, I at one time played baseball. It was not my favorite sport nor was I particularly any good, but it was something to do in the summer. Like most young kids, it started with TeeBall, and then a coach throwing, followed by kids allowing to pitch.

As I got older, I remember one pitcher who threw so fast, yet so wild. Nights before the game against his team, I would stay up all night worried about getting hit hard by a pitch, like I saw so many others going through. I remember thinking, “I really don’t like this sport that much to get hit in the head”, and at the end of the season, I quit.

Godin used the analogy about his own childhood in Buffalo playing hockey, and he described three ideas that stick out to him if you are going to be successful.

It helps if you know what to do.
Are you able to do it?
Do you care enough to get hit?

To be successful, we know that it takes hard work and to develop skill in any area, but we rarely mention and focus on the “hits” that we could take. Every time I write a blog post, I’m vulnerable to criticism and pushback, but I want to develop in what I do because I am passionate about my work.

I watch young Vine celebrities with millions of followers, get criticized often simply because they make videos. Brandon Bowen talked about some of the taunts he received about his weight, and he simply said “I just block out the haters”, and continued to do what he loves.  I am sure that it is something that sticks with him, but not to the point where he would quit.

Anything worth doing is going to be risky and open to criticism. Sometimes justified and sometimes simply because of  schadenfreude. But I love the following saying:

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 8.27.51 AM

That’s why I have never really focused on celebrating “failure”, but on grit and resiliency, as on any journey you will take a couple of hits, and fall a few times, but as the movie character Rocky famously said,

“But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits…”

Sometimes we have to realize that some of the hits we have taken are not worth it, not because we are weak, but maybe it’s just not something we love. Sometimes quitting shows more bravery than continuing to do something you don’t love. But if you truly are passionate about something, don’t let falling down keep you from getting back up to do what you love.

Learning is Relational

Sitting in a session with Tracy Clark, about “A Posture of Experimentation“, she asked us to fill in the blanks on the following statement:

Trying something new is like ___________  because _________.

This was a great exercise in having the group think about, and embrace the opportunities for our own growth.

As I thought about it, it is easy to promote the ideas of others embracing their own personal growth, but as educators, both with our colleagues, and our students, do we create environments that are safe for this type of “experimentation”? For example, I walked into a classroom recently and saw the sign that stated, “Do it right the first time.”  This does not promote the mindset.  Although it is easy to criticize this quote, I honestly would have had the same mindset in my classroom as a teacher when I started in 1999. You often create, what you experience.  But the reality is that it is easy to say, “try something new”, without the work of creating an environment that is safe for this type of experimentation.  In education, this is not simply on one person or group, but about us as a whole.

Even this past week, I watched a Twitter account have their grammar corrected by someone (who was thankfully not an educator) online in a very blunt manner.  Was their grammar incorrect? Yes. Did it really matter? No.

Although I saw the tweet and the response and thought it was not the best way to use the medium, I did not know the person behind the account, until they showed up to my session.  They just happened to be a high school student who was actually crushed by the public correction.  Did this interaction, as small and little for one person, help create a mindset in another individual that was open to “taking risks”?  (I did end up tweeting everyone to follow that account and hopefully made them feel a little bit better!)

This happens online though, but I have seen the same interactions in classrooms and meetings as well.  Instead of seeking first to understand, we can often be quick to correct or squash the ideas and thoughts of others, instead of asking questions or seeking first to understand.  This is not about being “fluffy” and not challenging the ideas of others, or even our students, but it is about creating an environment where this feels safe, and is about helping others, not tearing them down.

Learning is relational. It is not simply a transfer of knowledge between two people or parties, so the connections and moments we have with each other are also crucial to growth. This safe environment is necessary if we want people to truly take risks.

3 Long Term Opportunities For Schools Today

After a conference, there is the thought that many need something they can do right away with students.  The demands of being a teacher, while also keep opportunities “fresh”, is something that lends to this way of thinking.  If you go to any conference, there will be a ton of “apps” shared of cool things you can do, but often times, the learning with this is more novelty than depth. Learning that empowers and makes an impact takes thoughtful leadership at all levels, as well as vision.  It also sometimes not only takes a “village”, but the vision of the village to come together.

With that being said, I have been focusing on some initiatives that are new(ish) in some schools, that will need communities to come together. Obviously, ideas like leadership and sharing mutual respect for others, as well as appreciating and celebrating both our similarities and differences, are crucial to our school environments.  Powerful learning does not happen in schools without a focus on relationships and community.

Here are three initiatives that will take time, effort, and community to make happen at the systemic level.

1. A focus on digital citizenship/leadership.  

Slide_WellGoogled

This above image created by Bill Ferriter, quoting Will Richardson, is one that has made a significant impact on my thinking.  I have often asked educators, if a fight broke out, which subject area teacher would deal with it? They look at me as if I am crazy, and then I mention that is much how we treat the notion of digital citizenship. This is on all of us.

I recently shared the idea of “3 Things Students Should Have Before They Leave High School“, but often remind educators that this is not something that starts in high school, but should be part of the fabric of our schools at all levels.  This is either in modelling or helping students create.  This is not to say that students all have to be using social media, but at least the option is there to ensure that the understand the implications of a positive, negative, or neutral footprint.

Stephen Downes commented on this idea, and I loved his thoughts:

I get the general idea, and support it, but I think the description is way too narrow. I’d rather see people have much more than an about.me page and personal portfolio – I think they should have a wider online presence with credentials, tools, artifacts, and whatever else they need. The same with a social network – but not just a ‘social network’ but wide-ranging interactions with people inside and outside their own field.

I couldn’t agree with him more, but definitely believe there needs to be a starting point and emphasis on teaching this in schools.  The shift from “digital citizenship” to simply “citizenship” (since technology is just part of our world) probably won’t happen without putting an emphasis and placing some of these ideas at the forefront.  This is not the work of “specialty” educators, but something we all have a responsibility towards.

2. Digital Portfolios

Building upon the first idea, I think there is a huge power in “Digital Portfolios” to not only help build a footprint, but transform practices in learning and assessment. We have often seen learning in “chunks” in school practice (grade two to grade three, etc.), but is something that is continuous and messy.

Years ago, I wrote a comprehensive plan on the “blogs as digital portfolios“, and really explored the impact it could have on helping connecting learning throughout the school and amongst different subject areas.  This should not be limited to any specific class or grade level, but something that actually becomes an opportunity to not only reflect, create, and connect, but also helps to provide authentic examples of student owned learning.  That being said, if we are to be successful with this type of opportunity, it would make a huge impact if educators had their own versions of digital portfolios, to really understand the impact this could have learning.  This is a “barrier” that could easily become an opportunity.

3. Embracing the Innovator’s Mindset

For any of these things to happen, or other opportunities, we need to embrace a mindset that is open to conducive learning, while also helping to develop it in our students. The “innovator’s mindset” is defined by the following:

Innovator's Mindset

 

With ideas such as genius hour, maker spaces, innovation day/week, and a whole myriad of other ideas for powerful creation to connect learning, it is important that we think differently about learning, and help develop that mindset with our students.

I love this idea from the Center for Accelerated Learning on learning as “creation”:

Learning is Creation, Not Consumption. Knowledge is not something a learner absorbs, but something a learner creates. Learning happens when a learner integrates new knowledge and skill into his or her existing structure of self. Learning is literally a matter of creating new meanings, new neural networks, and new patterns of electro/chemical interactions within one’s total brain/body system.

Krissy Venosdale also shared a powerful image on what “learning” looks like.

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 9.04.23 PM

This mindset should not be limited to our students, but to all of those involved in education.

 

To achieve these goals in a meaningful way, we have to realize that it will take a whole community approach, and cannot be left to the few to achieve.  This takes a change in mindset while also creating the need for leadership to remove barriers to unleash talent which leads to innovative opportunities.  What I believe is the real power of these initiatives, is that these ideas I have shared are not an endpoint, but only a beginning. When we create a culture of sharing, innovative flourishes. Embracing the idea that everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learnerand that these roles will change multiple times daily, is the only way that any initiative will truly succeed in our schools today.

Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.

I have had the privilege to speak in Indiana for their “Summer of eLearning” events over the past three years and I have been able to see snapshots of the state, that have given me some perspective.  The growth not only in the conversations, but the opportunities has been significant as a whole.  Years ago there were educators that were pushing the boundaries in the state, but there seem to be a lot more and I know that it is because of the persistence of many levels (top down and bottom up) that have made this possible.

What I have been thinking about how we have to realize that it is not only learning that is differentiated, but at the rate that we are accepting of change.  For some, change is happening too slow, but for others it is happening too fast.  It is the Goldilock’s conundrum that we are facing; how do we make it happen so the pace of change is just right?

Short answer? We can’t.

We have to realize that in educators are not simply educators. They are mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters.  There are so many other things that are happening around them that many of us can’t fathom.  I have good friends that are doing amazing things in spite of the things that they are dealing with at home.  In fact, sometimes they do these amazing things because it helps take away from some of those things they have to deal with.  I know that sometimes when I struggle personally, it is easy to bury my head and drive forward professionally. Sometimes when I struggle personally, professionally I also struggle.  It is dependent upon many factors.

This is a profession where humans are dealing with humans.  The amount of variables that we deal with daily are infinite as a profession.  

So do we give a pass to those that aren’t open to change? Not a chance.  Change will happen with or without people, but it is up to ourselves to evolve, adapt, and thrive.  What is important that we need to recognize when people are moving forward, not necessarily their endpoint.  One of the ideas that I have embraced in my role is that we help move people from their point ‘a’ to their point ‘b’. Movement forward is necessary.

Sometimes it is easy to think education has not changed in the past few years, but if we sat back and took snapshots, I know I have personally seen growth in the profession.  The conversations on assessment, learning-centred classrooms, innovation, and mindfulness are things that were not the norm when I started teaching.  This doesn’t mean that we can’t be frustrated with many of the barriers that are still in the way to help us move forward.  I encourage you to continuously challenge them.  What is important though is that we sometimes take a step back and appreciate some change that has happened.  I know personally that we move a lot further forward when we focus on strengths and show appreciation for one another, than we do when we criticize.

And just so you know, if education is truly learning focused, we will never get there (wherever “there” is).  Growth and change is part of the process of learning, and as organizations and individuals, we will need to embrace that.

Thinking of my dad on this Fathers’ Day, I looked at his actions, and the one thing he always reminded me of through his actions is that change is an opportunity to do something amazing. The more we embrace that notion, the better we will all be.

Change is an opportunity to do something

Ask Questions and Listen

Carol Dweck’s work on “mindsets”, has been one that (justifiably so) educators have gravitated towards. The idea of “fixed” and “growth” mindsets are ones that are crucial to our development as learners.

Innovators - Fixed vs growth

Yet here’s a trend that I have noticed though in some conversations.  We talk about one way of learning and the power it may have, then someone doesn’t agree with our point of view, and sometimes label others with a lack of a “growth” mindset.  Not agreeing with a person doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have a “growth” mindset. All that it means is that they don’t agree with you. When I speak to educators, I explicitly state that I don’t expect them to agree with me, but that they are open to my point of view as I will be to theirs.  Our best answers are sometimes not on the far edges of a spectrum, but sometimes closer to the middle.

To help others embrace this type of mindset, it is important we model it.  When someone doesn’t agree with our point of view, it is crucial not to label, but to listen.  Covey’s idea of “seek first to understand” is crucial in learning from others.

Ask questions and listen.

That displays and models the “growth mindset” since we sometimes can learn a lot more from those that disagree with us, than those that do.  If we truly want others to grow in their learning, it is important that they feel valued and that their perspective matters as well. This relational piece to learning is as important, if not more so, than any ideas that we could share.

Personalize, Not Standardize

I received the following question in one of my sessions today:

How do you engage the teachers and students who think it is “easier” to just do it (learning) on paper?

My response? Let them do it on paper.

The thing that is powerful about technology is the opportunity to personalize, not standardize. There are some really amazing things that you can do with a computer or mobile device, but the power is often more about the “choice” than the medium.  We have the opportunity to reach more students now than ever, not because of “technology”, but because of the options that we are now provided.

Below is one of the tweets from a session at the conference I was just recently at:

I talked to Jenny after, and she was obviously very comfortable using technology, but she chose to personalize a lot of her learning through paper and pen. That is what worked for her and that is what is important.  What is also necessary is that in her classroom, she creates the same opportunities for choice as well.

People like Sylvia Duckworth amaze me with their ability to draw and connect their learning in a way that is so appealing to many.  Her collection of SketchNotes that she creates and shares openly are absolutely amazing and not only appeal to her, but to so many others. She actually helped my learning by sharing a Sketchnote she created on the “8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset”.

Image created by @SylviaDuckworth

Image created by @SylviaDuckworth

The idea that all learners need to use “tech” is not necessarily a step in the right direction. The opportunity to create learning experiences for yourself that are personally driven, as opposed to created for you by someone else, is one of the benefits that we need to really recognize in schools today.

I promise you that I will not take away your pen and paper to learn, if you let me use my computer to do the same. Deal?

5 Thoughts to Push Learning

I have been trying to reflect on my learning a lot lately and process my thoughts. I use this space not only as a place to share my learning, but to learn.  Writing helps me process my thoughts in a way that I could have never imagined.  The reflection and connection are crucial to my growth, and I appreciate people sharing their thoughts or reading along.  I recently read this quote from C.S. Lewis and was deeply impacted by it:

unlearned

From: http://austinkleon.com/2015/06/14/to-be-a-teacher-and-remain-a-student/

 

I don’t think I will ever be “there” as an expert, but am more comfortable in the role as a learner.  That is why I love using this space to reflect.

Below are some statements that I have thought a lot about in the last year, and I’ll share why they drive my thinking.

1. Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of a great teacher can be transformational.

Technology is abundant and everywhere, and talked about all of the time.  That being said, it will never replace great teachers.  The best teachers do however use almost anything they can to create opportunities for all the students they serve.  This still focuses on great teaching and learning, but the opportunities teachers are afforded now are truly transformational for our learners.

2. To inspire meaningful change, you must make a connection to the heart before you can make a connection to the mind.

Recently evaluating sessions for a conference, the most common session that was suggested was on “revamping” professional learning.  Although the opportunities are great and the learning abundant, I still believe there is a power when we feel a human connection to learning.  Can we truly change our minds, if we don’t connect our hearts?  This is something that I always think about.

3. Would you want to spend the whole day learning in your own classroom?

I think some of the hardest people to teach in the world, are other educators, If the learning is not for them, they tend to check out because their expectations are so high.  With that being said, I think it is to our advantage if we focus on ourselves as educators in the role of learners, not teacher.  This empathetic approach is key to creating powerful learning environments.

4. We need to help our students not only be ready for opportunities, but to create them for themselves.

When I was a child, there was an importance placed on being ready for when opportunity knocked on your door.  Have a good resume, good cover letter, and even in some cases, a portfolio, and when a job is available, you will have your shot.  With job markets not only becoming more competitive combined with the opportunity of ease to share your voice, it is essential that we teach our students how to not only be ready for opportunities, but learn to create them for themselves.  This is not only about creating jobs, but driving change. A great example of this is Hannah Alper’s blog, who is a young person using her online space to help others.  How do we create schools where this is the norm, not the exception?

5. This is not about technology; it’s about relationships and learning.

Although the talk is often about “new and cutting edge” technology, our focus needs to keep relationships and learning at the forefront of our practice. To some, this is a no-brainer statement, but I still believe that it needs to be said repeatedly. If technology does not accelerate or amplify learning and relationships in schools, then why would we use it?  I love this graphic from Bill Ferriter showing the power of technology for this focus.

Technology is a Tool

What’s driving your learning?

5 Questions To Drive Personal-Professional Learning

Image created by @GregPearsonEDU using Canva.

Image created by @GPearsonEDU using Canva.

In a world where more and more people realize their voice matters, simply engaging people is not enough.  People need to feel empowered in the process of work and learning.  The shift from compliance to empowerment is essential in organizations today.  With that in mind, how do we help people grow? The question is not, how do we motivate them, which is an entirely different idea.  Motivating others is possible,  but it is not long lasting.  We can only truly motivate ourselves for any sustainable amount of time, this is not something that can be done for us.  Leaders need to look at how we create environments that remove barriers, and support the development of the innovator’s mindset in individuals.  Leadership’s job is not to control people, but to unleash talent.  The environment and processes we create are important in helping people find their own way and strengths.

Yet we too often focus on external “motivators” to be the driver for change or even learning.  One of the biggest shifts in my own thinking in the past few years is how learning is such a personal endeavour, yet we try to package it up and decide the paths and passions for others.  Stephen Downes summarizes this sentiment nicely:

“We have to stop thinking of an education as something that is delivered to us and instead see it as something we create for ourselves.”

With that being said, there is a lot of professional development that is working to “incentivize” learning with the use of external motivators.  Immediately doing this, in many ways says that it is not something that is important to learn without the incentive, or else we haven’t take the time to focus on the “why” of the learning.  If people don’t understand why we are learning something, it will not stick.  They need to make their own internal connection.  I understand though that in some areas, I don’t need to really explain “why”, before we move forward.  For example, if there is a safety plan in school, I would have the expectation that people knew how to do it and spend their time learning any procedures that we have in school.  That being said, I have seen states require “credit hours” for professional learning and have watched people show up so they can check off that they were there.  This is not going to create powerful and deep learning, but is simply a checklist in the “game of school“.  If there is no ownership over our own learning, how deep will we really go?

So what would I do differently?

Daniel Pink talks about the important of autonomy, mastery, purpose in motivation, and with that in mind, we should think about developing long term professional learning with that in mind.  Although growth plans are something that have been prevalent in schools for as long as I have been teaching, I think it is important to ask questions that focus on those three elements, while also helping leadership remove barriers to help learners achieve their goals.  As we develop our own professional growth plans for any period of time, here are some questions that I think are important to include.

1.  What would you like to learn? (Autonomy)

Although this question has driven my own professional learning for years, it is still necessary to set the stage for deep learning.  Ownership over the learning is crucial in this process.

2. What questions will be the driver for your learning? (Autonomy)

Inquiry-based professional learning is a powerful process, which helps you to view yourself not only as a problem solver, but also as a problem finder.  It also helps the learner articulate why this learning is important to them and gives them ownership over the process. Here is an example of how these questions can drive growth.

3.  Why is this important to your? How will it help the school? (Purpose)

This is a crucial element to not only a person’s learning, but also to help them use their strengths to improve learning, while helping leadership understand those strengths to tap into.  The best teams in the world build upon individual strengths to bring people together toward’s a common goal; they do not try to mould people to something that they are not.

4.  How will you know (measures) that you have achieved your goals at the end of this time? (Mastery and Autonomy)

Accountability is crucial in this process but helping the person define their own measures not only helps them to define what “mastery” could look like, but also have autonomy understanding their own point “a” to point “b”.

5.  What barriers will you need removed, or what support will you need to be successful? (Unleash Talent)

This question is crucial and necessary to leadership.  A lot of reasons things don’t happen in schools is because of dumb policies and guidelines that make “innovation” extremely hard and simply “hoop jumping”.  One thing that I used to say to my staff all of the time was, “I cannot solve problems that I don’t know about.” That is true, but perhaps I needed to ask them a lot more what the problems were that I could help with.

 

To have a “culture of innovation”, developing educators as leaners is crucial.  Helping them understand their own passions and interests, and giving them opportunities to use them to further the vision of the school is paramount.  But if we see learning as a truly “personal” endeavour, focusing on the ideas of “autonomy, mastery, and purpose” in developing our professional learning plans is crucial into the development of both individuals as well as our organizations.

4 Ways We Can Share Our Stories to Drive Innovation

There is no more human profession in the world than education.

In fact, as content has become abundant, education has become more human.  Fifty years ago, and fifty years from now, relationships will be the most important thing we do in schools.  In fact, with information becoming plentiful, I would actually argue that relationships will become more important than ever.  If I do not feel valued to the place that I come every day, why would I continue to show up?

Yet in some cases, we take this human profession, and reduce our most precious resource, our students, to letters and numbers.  We have done this to teachers as well.  Instead of hearing their stories, we rank and sort so many involved in education, and lose the faces and humanity in our practice.  So many people, whether in government or administrator positions, say that standardized tests are not valued, yet so much is still measured by these numbers, both students and teachers.  The emphasis should be on the people, not numbers.

letter and numbers

This is not to say that accountability isn’t important in education.  Nobody wants bad teachers in the profession, including teachers, yet there is so much more to a story to a person than a letter or grade.  We have to think of different ways that our stories can be shared though and put more of an emphasis on the qualitative data, not the quantitative.  Both have a place in education, but the stories and observations that are shared need to be put in the forefront.

Here are some ways that we can really start to share these stories in a continuous and ongoing basis.

1. Tapping into the power of visuals. – The most powerful camera in the world, is the one that you have with you. Fortunately, most of us have one with us all of the time.  People like Tim Lauer, sharing pictures of his school on Instagram, or Tony Sinanis using YouTube to highlight his students in school newsletters, actually elicits emotional responses when I see what they share.  The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, is totally true.  So then what is a video worth?  These accounts are something that not only tell a lot about the happenings in the school, but they also encourage growth in their own school communities, as well as others around the world.  I know many have started Instagram accounts based on Tim’s work, while others have started school YouTube newsletters based on seeing Tony’s account.  I am not even sure where they got the idea, but I know that their sharing has probably made am impact both locally and globally, while sharing their story.

2.  A Year in Photos/Videos – As many schools in North America are either done or winding down their school year, I love the “montage” idea of sharing what has happened in school.  I have seen this happen at end of the year assemblies, but they are not often shared publicly.  Dean Shareski does a “year in review” video every year, that shows so much of what has happened in his year and tells a powerful story. I would love to see more schools doing this.

3.  Telling Your Own Story Through Digital Portfolios –  I am a big believer in the power of digital portfolios.  Not only do they give students the opportunity to reflect, but they give them an opportunity to share their voice and story in a plethora of unique ways. Many schools have focused on “engagement”, yet I believe that we need to empower those that we serve by not only asking them to share assignments, but tell their unique stories through these platforms.  In a world where anyone can have a voice, are we working with our students to help them share their voice with people around the world, or just contain them within the walls of our school, either physically or digitally.  One of my favourite quotes is from Shelley Wright, when she stated, “Kids often defy expectations when you give them the opportunity.” Do we encourage them to share their stories with the world in meaningful ways, or are we simply focusing on “doing school”. (Here are some resources on blogs as digital portfolios.)

4. The Simplicity and Power of a Hashtag – Simply having a hashtag for your school or class, not only taps into the power of sharing, but also helps drive innovation.  A hashtag is not just about communication, but it can be about culture.  You may not have your community all on Twitter, so we have used things like Storify to curate and share our learning and ideas with our community.  Having a Twitter account for your school empowers one voice, but having a hashtag, can empower all.  There is a lot you can tell to a community in 140 characters.

The human side of education is something that is extremely important to me.  Sharing those powerful stories not only paints a different narrative, but it can actually drive innovation. Seeing faces, and hearing voices, elicits a human connection to the work that we are doing.  In a profession that is extremely human, we have to remember the power we have to tap into one another, when we share these stories that tell more than any letter or number ever could.