I truly loved this post from Ira Socol, “Your School’s UX. What is it? And where to start“. In it, Ira challenges us to think about the messages our schools send to our students:
What do kids see? What do they feel? What do they smell? What do they hear? What is their experience as they move through your school?
One of the things that is clear is that every single thing kids see, hear, feel, smell, taste, sends a message about your school. Every single thing. And many of the messages schools send are as awful as they are unintentional.
As someone who walks into schools often, I notice things right away and they do send messages about the environment. We often become numb to them so we have to be intentional about how we as educators ensure that we are always paying attention to the words on the walls. I even suggested on Twitter that a great professional learning opportunity would be to read Ira’s article as a staff, and then walk around the school and discuss what you see.
But what if you are a teacher and not an administrator? Is this opportunity for you to suggest to the entire staff?
Short answer? Yes.
Every child in your school, whether you teach them or not, are our kids. If we look at our students this way, then we need all people in the building to challenge, suggest, and lead. It is essential to the growth of schools as true “learning organizations”.
In my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset“, I outline five areas that schools should focus on to help others move forward. They are listed below:
The reason I left the last column open was to encourage people to come up with their own solutions, and revisit this space. It is not very “innovative” if I can prescribe exactly how to make “innovation” happen. Yet this “chart” is not meant for the admin to answer the last column, but it should be a discussion within your community. How do you bring these questions to reality? (Please feel free to print off the image above and use for discussion.)
I really appreciated this post from Jeremy Midford, who is part of the ITLL (Innovative Teaching and Learning Leads) project:
I have to remind myself often that you can’t do ten things at once. We all need that reminder sometimes. Designing, planning, and carrying out innovative learning opportunities
for with students is the best and most rewarding part of our jobs as teachers. But it’s not the only part. When it starts to feel overwhelming with work on reporting, documenting, communicating, committee planning, etc, I remind myself to focus on one thing that puts students first. One lesson or activity that is innovative, and changes my practice for the better. Then build on it. That is the only way to accomplish the first part of our goal as ITLL leaders in this Winnipeg School Division initiative in innovation. In order to move from the idea of “pockets of innovation” to a “culture of innovation”, you have to put one foot in front of the other, and change one thing at a time.
Despite that fact, I can’t help looking and thinking big picture, and wondering how I can impact the teaching and learning of others in my school. I never really see myself as an “expert”, who might be able to offer insight to another teacher to improve their practice. But then I had that type of light bulb moment when you stop, put your fist to your head and make the sound effect as you simulate the explosion with your hand. My task as an ITLL leader is not necessarily to impart my own pedagogy, technology, or content on other teachers, my job is to bring people together! Connect our school, and the teachers and students in it to the outside world of innovation. It might involve a few Twitter tutorials, or maybe a learning lunch with Google Docs, but mostly my job will be to allow my colleagues to benefit from the same process that I was so lucky to be apart of. Give them a chance to be inspired by new technology. Demonstrate the power of a professional social network. Be a part of the positive change in my school that hopefully results in an environment that reflects a culture of innovation.
It may sound like a tall order. But on the bright side I know exactly how we need to do it. Together, and one step at a time.
Jeremy looks at how he can lead from the position he is in, not one that he is allocated. He has no admin time allocated nor does he have a formal title; he is just trying to find a way to not only help his students, but more importantly, his school.
The crucial part of his post is that he sees the importance of doing this “together”. If we expect the “principal” or the “superintendent” to be the only one responsible for moving our organizations forward, meaningful change will either be excruciatingly slow, or not happen at all.