Category Archives: Embodying Visionary Leadership

3 Questions to Drive Passion Based Learning

What will I learn?

What will I solve?

What will I create?

These three questions are ones that could create some amazing passion based learning opportunities for our students, and help shape them as learners as much or more than any curriculum could in the year.  They are not something that you only necessarily have to do answer only once in a year, but they will help to shape some of the learning that your students will create for themselves throughout the year.  I will go further into detail on each one.

1. What will I learn? 

Years ago, watching John Medina speak, the writer of “Brain Rules“, he shared the idea of the importance of content in learning.  He shared the analogy of learning to play the guitar and how basically not knowing how to play the chords would actually lead to simply mimicking playing the air guitar.  Our learning of knowledge is important for us to create from it.  You may know how to play the chords, but eventually creating music could be the goal.  What is important in this process is having the opportunity to learn something that you are interested in.

In Josh Kaufman’s talk on “The First 20 Hours to Learn Anything“, he talks about how we can learn basically how to do anything within 20 hours.  You might not be at the top of your field as shared in the notion of “10,000 hours”, (although if you google “10,000 hours” you will find that this might be a myth), but you will have a good understanding of this.  a “20 hour project”, could be something where students have the opportunity to learn something that they are interested in, without the pressure of solving the world’s problems.  Content is much more engaging to explore when we are actually interested in the topic.

Things that students will need to consider in this opportunity is not only where they will find information but who will teach them? This could give students the opportunity to learn to network and connect with others to help share ideas that they want to learn about.  This could create some very powerful learning opportunities for our students.

 

2. What will I solve?

Ewan McIntosh’s thoughts on “Problem Finders” has long been pushing my thinking not only for education, but innovation.  In his post, he shares the following idea on the topic:

Currently, the world’s education systems are crazy about problem-based learning, but they’re obsessed with the wrong bit of it. While everyone looks at how we could help young people become better problem-solvers, we’re not thinking how we could create a generation of problem finders.

Thinking about this, students could look at problems that they can find within the school, local, or even global community, and share how they have solved it.  Sharing ideas such as “capstone projects”, where students pose a problem that they are trying to solve and then share how they learned it, could be a powerful way to really influence not only innovation and entrepreneurship in our students, but also help them to develop empathy for others.  Whey they have the chance to try and see problems from the perspective of others, that does not help them develop as learners, but also as better people.

3. What will I create?

Will Richardson shared a quote from Gary Stager regarding “making across the curriculum“:

“When school leaders tell me “our school is building a $25 million Makerspace,” I am concerned that Makerspaces may exacerbate educational iniquity. While there are expensive pieces of hardware that may need to be secured, I want the bulk of making to permeate every corner of a school building and every minute of the school day. Teachers whose Makerspace is in a few cardboard boxes are doing brilliant work. Making across the curriculum means students as novelists, mathematicians, historians, composers, artists, engineers–rather than being the recipient of instruction.” Gary Stager

With this in mind, students should have the opportunity to create something of interest to them, and share that process.  This could be in any field, whether it is inventing a process or product, composing music, developing a health initiative, or writing a novel.  This is an opportunity for a student to develop the “Innovator’s Mindset“, and go much deeper than learning, but going to where the magic happens in creation.

If we embraced and worked with our students on these three questions, it would be amazing to watch them develop as learners.  What would be crucial in all three of these questions is the opportunity to constantly reflect on each one throughout the year and have opportunities to create documentation which would not only create evidence of learning, but show growth over time. This could be done through audio, video, written, or whatever the student felt comfortable with, but there would definitely be a benefit in the reflections being accessible to more than simply the teacher.

There would be lots of logistics in creating opportunities for these three opportunities to come to life, and as educators, that it is why it is imperative to be innovators ourselves. We will have to take what we work with, and create opportunities for our students where learning is truly meaningful and powerful for them; great teachers find a way.

Three Questions To Drive Passion Based Learning

Sometimes We Just Need To Ask

What’s your dream job? Have you ever been asked?

As a principal and vice principal, nearing the end of every year, when when our leadership team would look at staffing, we would send out an email to all staff and ask them, “As we are currently undergoing staffing, we were wondering if you could describe your dream position next year, what would it be?”  Obviously, there was only so much we could do if you said astronaut or reality tv personality, but in the context of the school, we wondered what opportunities could we create.

What was important in asking this question, was simply, asking the question.  We could not guarantee that we could create the job that you wanted, but if we encouraged people to share what they had dreamed of doing, maybe we could?  As an elementary principal, I remember one teacher saying that although they loved working with grade five students, they would really like to work with kindergarten or grade one students.  The crazy thing was we had a grade one teacher, that wanted to work with our older students.  A simple swap was made, and both did amazing at their jobs, and unbelievably grateful for the opportunity.

Another teacher shared how much he loved teaching one subject and wasn’t too passionate about the other.  They loved working with students but really wanted to be passionate about the subjects they taught.  A couple of adjustments and it was done!

I also remember our grade two teacher at the time saying, “My dream job is teaching grade two and I get to live it every single day, but I just want to tell you how much I appreciate you asking in the first place.”

Giving people the opportunities to try something new or pursue something they love is not something we should only value for our students, but also our staff.  Sometimes people are afraid to share what they want because they didn’t even know it was a possibility in the first place. The way we saw it, was that if we can move people into positions where they feel most passionate about what they are doing, they are more likely to be successful as individuals, elevating the organization as a whole.  What was surprising was how many times we could actually accommodate the requests.

I wouldn’t have known that in the first place, and that is why we asked.

Resilience and Innovation in Education

“The person who says it cannot be done, should not interrupt the person doing it.” Chinese Proverb

Oh if it were that easy!

The reality of the work of someone with the “innovator’s mindset” is that the work is going to be questioned because it is something new and can often make those around them uncomfortable. Comments like “let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater” are often disguises of a fear of moving forward. If you really think about change, many people are comfortable with a known average, than the possibility of an unknown great.  With that in mind, to be innovative, we will have to focus on moving forward even when there is risk of failure and being criticized involved.

Trying something new is always going to be up for a challenge, and I have watched so many struggle when that challenge becomes public.  It is not about ignoring the naysayer (sometimes you should really listen to them), but about having the conviction to push forward and do something that you believe will make a difference.  As I listened to the first episode of the podcast “Startup”, one of the things they talked about is the importance of passion and conviction to become successful.

If you don’t believe in your idea, why would anyone else?

One thing that I have learned from my experience as an educator is to always focus on the question “what is best for kids” when thinking about creating new ideas to further your work in schools.  If you are trying something new in the context of learning, and this question is at the forefront of how you make your decisions, you are doing the right thing.

The other pushback you may face from trying something different is actually from the students.  As stated earlier, many of our students are so used to “school” that something outside the lines of what they know terrifies them just as much as any adult.  If school has become a “checklist” for our students (through doing rubrics, graduation requirements, etc.), learning that focuses on creation and powerful connections to learning, not only take more effort, but more time, which sometimes frustrates many students.  Yet if we do not challenge our students in the learning they do in school, what are we preparing them for? What mindset will we actually create in our students?  It is important, if not crucial, to really listen and act upon student voice, but it is also just as important to help our students become resilient and face adversity in the school environment.

Being a huge basketball fan, I remember watching Phil Jackson coach the Lakers, and when the other team had some success against them and most coaches would have called a timeout, Phil Jackson made them struggle to learn to work their way out of it; they could not be dependent upon someone coming in to save them (Phil Jackson has the most championships of any coach in NBA history). Do we create spaces for our own students that pushes them out of their comfort zone and they have to work themselves out of it, or do we provide the solutions for them?  It is important to understand when to help a student back up, but it is also important to help them sometimes figure it out on their own.

Resilience is not only needed to be developed as an “innovator”, but just as a human. Life is full of ups and downs, but how you recover and move forward is not just important to how we learn, but how we live.

IN TO THE

The Importance of Taking Risks

Innovative teaching and learning will involve risks. If we are to create new opportunities for the learners we serve, things will not always work.  Yet why would we take risks in the classroom, especially when it deals with the future of our students?  The answer is in the question.  Many of our known “best practices” don’t serve a large number of our students.  If we used “grades” as the measure, then we would have figured it out a long time ago.  Part of the risk is necessary to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our students.  Some will respond to one way of learning, while others won’t.  Not taking the risk might be less daunting to you now, but the result later may have dire consequences for our students.

Yet when we think of risk, we shouldn’t just challenge what doesn’t work, but sometimes we will also have to challenge what does work for some of our learners.  We can give a student a worksheet and that specific student may still knock it out of the park in all of their assessments, yet this is not necessarily because of the teaching, but often because of the capabilities of that specific student.  A rubrics may be helpful to a student so that they can understand and meet expectations, but does it ever actually hold a student back from going beyond what they are actually truly capable of doing?  If grades are the way things are measured, and an “A” is the highest mark you can get, why would I go beyond that?

The risk that we face here is actually of conditioning kids to “schooling”.

Many students have become so accustomed to what school has looked like, that they do not want their education to look any other way. But just think of our kindergarten students, and how curious they are before they come to school.  Before school, they ask a ton of questions and are naturally curious, but the one questions I would guarantee that they never ask is, “Am I able to get a worksheet?” Many students would have never seen one before their time in school, yet I have heard many educators say they have tried new ways of learning with students that really push for deeper learning and creation, that their students sometimes respond with, “Can you just give us a worksheet??!?!”  Education has sometimes conditioned them to that.

There has to be a balance of going with what you know, yet still have the willingness to try something new.  Apple still makes a great computer and that is a major part of their business and they could have stopped there, but they went out on a limb creating the iPhone, which has become their most successful product.  Yet taking the  “risk” and trying to create something better, led to other successful endeavours for the company (app store, iPad, and perhaps the Apple Watch).  They could have rested on what they knew, but the mantra of “innovate or die”, that exists for so many companies, includes taking the risk of challenging not only what doesn’t work, but what does.

What is important is that we continue ask the question, “What is best for kids?”, and not try to answer that for our learners, but work from an empathetic viewpoint of our students.  If we are really wanting to serve our students and help them to develop to become the leaders and learners of today and the future, taking risks in our practice is not only encouraged, but necessary.

Add If we are really wanting to serve

Does “Brainstorming” Lead To Innovation?

MORE DAYS

I have a confession to make.  I hate meetings.

Maybe that is not entirely true. I hate bad meetings.

You know the ones where you spend a lot of time going round and round in circles, yet seem to accomplish little at the end of the day.  One of those main staples of these meetings has been “brainstorming”.  This process is one that has been heralded in not only meetings, but also for “Design Thinking” (here is a document on the techniques os brainstorming in design thinking from Stanford University, Institute of Design).

So out of sheer curiosity, I googled “brainstorming is bad” to see what I found (not biased at all I know).  Here are a few of the articles that I read with little snippets from each.

 

Why Brainstorming is Overrated; A New Approach to Creativity

This is a great article and talks about how sometimes “extroverts” can easily jade this process. It also talks about other opportunities to become creative through “not meeting”.

I love this quote from the article:

My brainstorming basics are simple.  Meet less.  Think more.   Draw inspiration from your day’s little moments.

Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Spark Innovation

This article is an interesting read because it focuses more on the science of “brainstorming”, and actually compares it to “leeches”. Here is a little tidbit:

The theory of brainstorming is that you turn off your analytical left brain, turn on your intuitive right brain, and creative ideas pop out. But neuroscience now tells us that there is no right or left side of the brain when it comes to thinking. Creative ideas actually happen in the mind, as the whole brain takes in past elements, then selects and combines them — and that’s how creative strategy works.

This article, actually linked to the following discussing innovation, entitled, “From Intuition to Creation“, and how some of the ideas aren’t necessarily “innovation”, but simply rehashing “best practice”.

Brainstorming works fine when you don’t need an innovation. People brainstorm mostly to solve problems they already know how to solve with their current expertise, at least as a group. When you brainstorm, you really throw out ideas from your personal experience — these come to mind fastest and strongest. If you have a problem that the total personal expertise of six people can solve, then brainstorming is very efficient. But if the solution actually lies outside their personal expertise, brainstorming is a trap — you toss out ideas and get conventional wisdom, not an innovation.

This really makes me think about the differences between “solving a problem” and “creating a solution”. Are the two phrases always the same?

Why Brainstorming is Bad For Creativity

I thought this was a great article, for two reasons.  First of all, how much do we really listen to others ideas when we are trying to share our own great ideas.

Remembering what you were going to say is not easy when you’re listening to others sharing their ideas. Chances are you’ll have forgotten your brilliant idea by the time you finally get to speak. Even worse, the entire time you’re trying to listen while remembering your own idea, you won’t be able to generate new ideas. The classical brainstorm session limits the amount of ideas that can be generated in a set amount of time. The more people you add to a brainstorm-group, the fewer ideas will be generated per participant per hour.

The second part is about the process of quiet reflection when we are trying to move forward.

Of course there is an obvious solution to these problems: quiet thinking sessions. First people write down their ideas (as much of them as possible) individually or in duos. Then every participant shares their ideas in the group. This doesn’t mean the ideas will be discussed of course, for the ideation phase is no place for criticism. Ideas can be built upon however and might be improved or reshaped into a new idea.

Anytime I have done workshops, I have ensured that there was time for quiet, yet open reflection.  Often, I don’t only ask people to share their thoughts, but also their questions, because you never know the spark that it might create in someone else, hearing about a problem they never thought existed.

Brainstorming Doesn’t Work; Try This Technique Instead

This article talks about the few people that can often dominate a brainstorming session, and this little


Thompson – Brainwriting

I like the shift from “brainstorming” to “brainwriting”. This process allows a focus on the ideas, as opposed to the people, which ultimately is the most important aspect of this process. You do not want to eliminate a great idea because the person behind doesn’t “sell” you enough on it.

 

With just these few articles, I know that I am going to challenge the next time I am asked to “brainstorm” in the way that I have mostly seen come to play in schools.  What I really noticed from this piece is just how important it is to find ways to share ideas that are not biased or affected by individuals, and give time for people to have some of their own processing.  The opportunity to reflect is not done enough in schools or professional learning, and it seems that my best ideas tend to come while I am exercising or listening to music, as opposed to shouting ideas in a room with my peers.  We need to think about how we can honour more voices and create better ideas through this process.

UPDATE:

John Spencer wrote a great post titled, “Seven Ways to Fix Brainstorming“, in response to what I wrote above.  The process he shares is much different, than what I have experienced.

Don’t Forget About Local Either #ISTE2015

“I have found my tribe.”

Little comments like this about people connecting around the world are something that really has the potential to make an impact on education around the world. I have often said, that the real power of technology now is not that we have access to all of the information in the world, but we have access to one another.

At #ISTE2015 this year, I asked the room I presented in, “how many of you are NOT on Twitter?”, and one hand rose. It was the person running the audio for the session. For the first time was I in a room where every single teacher was on Twitter. Whether they saw the value of it or utilized it in ways to make an impact on teaching and learning is another story, but I have seen a tremendous shift in the past few years.  The world is at our fingertips and people are willing to embrace it.

There is a huge power in bringing experts into our classrooms, but what about sharing our expertise to the rest of the world? Or even sharing it within our own schools?  The walls in our own schools need to be taken down, as we can utilize these technologies to learn from one another.  The idea of “crowd accelerated innovation”, is powerful, and something we need to embrace by opening our classrooms to the world, and to each other.  I shared this idea recently, and asked a simple question:

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 11.50.26 AM

Many people have started global, but we need to think how we can also make an impact locally in our schools.  Transparency to each other can make a big difference in learning and culture.

It is easy to focus on all of the awesome ideas that are shared on Twitter and put educators from around the world on pedestals, but how many times do you see worksheets shared on Twitter? Do we really believe that this never happens in any classrooms?  We often are inclined to share our “best stuff” as opposed to a random sampling of the day-to-day workings of a classroom. Sometimes by focusing solely on the greatness outside of your school, we can sometimes belittle the efforts of those that we work with everyday.

So as conferences like ISTE come to a close, it is great to be inspired by those that we meet at these events, but let’s remember that we can be inspired by those we see every single day. The idea of “you can’t be a prophet in your own land” is something that we as individuals are guilty of because we often choose to applaud the people we see daily the least. We often find greatness in the places that we choose to see it.  The world is at our fingertips, but so are the people in our own organizations. Let’s make sure we look and acknowledge the valuable work that they are doing daily.

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

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?