Recently, I was asked by my friend Patrick Larkin to discuss my new book, “Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity”, in an interview originally posted with EdWeek. Check out the interview below.
Recently, I was asked by my friend Patrick Larkin to discuss my new book, “Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity”, in an interview originally posted with EdWeek. Check out the interview below.
I am excited to share that my first book, “The Innovator’s Mindset; Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity“, is now available.
If you would have asked me years ago, if I would ever write a book, I would have never imagined it. Yet, diving into my own learning through this blog, has really helped me to try to think and go deeper into what we can do for schools and our kids.
I am truly grateful for so many people that helped and inspired me (and have shared many of them in this book), and for Dave and Shelley Burgess in helping me write a book that I am really excited for others to read. They have been remarkably supportive and I appreciate that they reached out to me. If it weren”t for the people that I have connected with through Twitter and this blog, as well as so many educators around the world, not only would I have not had ideas to share, I wouldn’t have had the the courage to share them. I am grateful to so many that have pushed my learning and helped me create something to share.
I just wanted to say thank you.
Below is a summary of the book:
Kids walk into schools full of wonder and questions. How you, as an educator, respond to students’ natural curiosity can help further their own exploration and shape the way they learn today and in the future. The traditional system of education requires students to hold their questions and compliantly stick to the scheduled curriculum. But our job as educators is to provide new and better opportunities for our students. It’s time to recognize that compliance doesn’t foster innovation, encourage critical thinking, or inspire creativity–and those are the skills our students need to succeed.
In The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros encourages teachers and administrators to empower their learners to wonder, to explore–and to become forward-thinking leaders. If we want innovative students, we need innovative educators. In other words, innovation begins with you. Ultimately, innovation is not about a skill set: it’s about a mindset. The Innovator’s Mindset is for you if: You are a superintendent, district administrator, or principal who wants to empower your staff to create a culture of innovation You are a school leader – at any level – and want to help students and educators become their personal best. You are a teacher who wants to create relevant learning experiences and help students develop the skills they need to be successful. You’ll be inspired to: Connect with other innovative educators Support teachers and leaders as learners Tap into the strength of your learning community Create ongoing opportunities for innovation Seek more effective methods for measuring progress And, most importantly, embrace change and use it to do something amazing.
If you want to continue to learn with me, I have created a Facebook Page where I will continue to share news about the book, as well as articles that will continue to push learning. You can also connect through the hashtag #innovatorsmindset (on Twitter) and as well, use the guide for the book on this blog, that will hopefully further the conversation. This will allow me to learn alongside of readers. I am hoping this is the beginning of the learning, not the end, not only for the reader, but myself as well.
Thank you for all of the kind words that have been shared my way. It is greatly appreciated!
P.S. If you are interested in purchasing bulk orders (over 10) for your school or district, please do not hesitate to contact Shelley Burgess directly.
Grant Wiggins, a visionary education reformer who has made a tremendous impact now and will continue to do so even after his recent passing, and was one of the developers of “Understanding by Design” (with Jay McTighe), shared a powerful “guest” blog post of a learning coach mirroring two students for a day each in her school (it was later acknowledged to be written by Alexis Wiggins). Here was the initial plan for the process from Alexis:
As part of getting my feet wet, my principal suggested I “be” a student for two days: I was to shadow and complete all the work of a 10th grade student on one day and to do the same for a 12th grade student on another day. My task was to do everything the student was supposed to do: if there was lecture or notes on the board, I copied them as fast I could into my notebook. If there was a Chemistry lab, I did it with my host student. If there was a test, I took it (I passed the Spanish one, but I am certain I failed the business one).
The post was telling as it shared how much Alexis struggled through the process of “being a student”, and it led her to the following three key takeaways:
Now the point of sharing this is not to challenge the ideas that she shared (as this is from the perspective of her school at the time), but to think about the process. This is not the norm for many students in schools around the world, but as leaders, how do we know this? Do we often make assumptions in what is happening in our school, or do we actually experience something different? One of the toughest groups to teach in the world is other teachers, and to go from that viewpoint, some of the expectations we have on our students, is not something we could handle for an hour, let alone, a full day. The one quote from the blog post that really resonated for me, was when the student was asked about her perspective in class:
I asked my tenth-grade host, Cindy, if she felt like she made important contributions to class or if, when she was absent, the class missed out on the benefit of her knowledge or contributions, and she laughed and said no.
I was struck by this takeaway in particular because it made me realize how little autonomy students have, and how little of their learning they are directing or choosing.
Can you imagine going to a place every day where you felt your voice didn’t matter? That part shook me.
The power of this post was not only in what was written by the author, but also the comments (there were 285 as of the time that I referenced this article and probably they will continue to receive more), that came from a variety of people, including students and educators. The comments had a range of stories shared from personal experiences as a student, and struggles to accommodate something different as a teacher. The reality of the learning environments that happen in our classrooms, are that they are not only created by the teacher, but the entire school. If this is what school looks like for our students, what are we doing as leaders to help support to create something new?
The Impact of Our Decisions
One of my own thoughts as a central office administrator, was to be in our schools as much as often, to support our educators. If you really love education, this can never happen enough, but I saw this as crucial to the work I was doing. If my decisions had an impact on classrooms, then I better experience and see the impact of those decisions.
What I would often do is take my laptop and sit in a classroom in a school for anywhere between three to six hours, where I would get to the point that the teachers and students did not even notice I was there. That way I could really see what their experiences looked like. What I struggle with in our mobile world, is how reluctant we are to take our computers as leaders and do some of the administrative work in our classrooms? I could answer my email a lot faster in my quiet office, but there are so many reasons why I would rather do it in the classroom.
What needs to be clear in this process is that I was not there to evaluate the teachers. In fact, it was more to evaluate the environment that was created by the school district. What I had noticed is how much “other stuff” teachers had to do, to make things work. Whether it was going through an arduous logon process with students, or constant issues with WiFi, they looked less like teachers, and more like magicians. From an IT department perspective, Internet is often “fast” and the logon process is quick, but times that by 20-30 students in a classroom (if you are lucky), and you have many frustrated educators that go above and beyond to create powerful learning opportunities for our students.
If we want “innovation” to happen in our schools, we have to be willing to sit in the environments where it is going to happen, and be able to not only discuss teaching and learning, but also do everything in our power to remove barriers from those that we serve. One of the things that I have noticed in education is that we do not need “managers”, but we need “leaders”.
The truth is we need both.
We need leaders to have a vision of where we can go in our schools, but the “management” part is about making sure we have what we need to get there. Stephen Covey (paraphrased) said that we manage things, but we lead people. The educators that we serve, need the “things” to work if we truly want to create a “culture of innovation”, and support in creating an environment that we would truly want to be in as a learner ourselves.
Just something I am thinking about and trying to process through writing…
One of the hardest things I have embarked on in the last little while is trying to write a book. I have been working on it (I know this is going to sound horrible) for the last couple of years, yet have not been able to just finish it. The amount of content I have written on this blog in the past five years (nearly 1000 posts) has been huge, but writing a book is not only a different process, but also a different product. If you disagree or want to challenge something in this blog post, your shared point of view might change mine, and the next blog post might be a reflection of that. What I think now, might be different than what I think in five years. A book though, has a certain amount of permanence to it. I think it is totally understandable on challenging a book and having the author rethink their position, yet you might feel something totally different after publishing, but your old viewpoint is still seemingly engraved on those pages. It is almost the modern day equivalent of being written in stone. A blog seems like a formative assessment, and a book seems summative; there seems to be a certain finality to it.
That is one thing that I am struggling with.
The other is the effort and time you would need to put into it, and the mere moments it would take to criticize it online. Going through the process has changed the way I read Amazon reviews. I cringe at a bad review and think, if something I would publish would actually be on that site, would I even look? It is something that would haunt your dreams, just like the one negative comment out of a 100 on a session will be the one you focus on? I think of this not only in writing a book, but any type of music or art that one pours their soul into, and it can be ripped apart in moments. It is daunting. I am not saying that we shouldn’t challenge the thoughts in a book (I have done this myself), but just thinking about how we do it.
So here is what I like about the process….actually going through the struggle that I have described above.
I am really trying to focus and finish a first copy sooner than later, and hammer through it to have it ready to go by a certain timeline. I need to have that timeline in my head, or I will continue to push it off. But the above things that I struggle with, put me back into a place of discomfort, and lead me to become more empathetic to understanding that others struggle with the things that I now feel are second nature.
I remember working with a teacher who was so reluctant about using Twitter, and then they finally had the courage to join and try, and it was daunting to them. On their very first tweet, they asked for help, and other than my resharing of it, the first response was a sarcastic comment on the quality of the question. I really believe the person had no intent of criticizing the person and it was just their humour, but I saw the worst case scenario in her mind come to life and that was the end of the process for her. She had no idea who the person was so it was hard for her to understand the comment. I am not sure if they continued on with Twitter, but sometimes when that first “jump” becomes as scary in reality as it was in your head, it is tough to go again.
At the beginning of the year, I decided that my “word” to define my year was going to be empathetic, and it has stuck with me every single day. I think about the person with their first tweet as well as the person with the thousandth. On any day, a response without that approach could be the one that pushes a person to lose confidence in their voice. The recent #semicolonEDU reminded me of not only how many people go through things that I never know, but how courageous so many people are to put themselves out there, whether it is online, or even showing up to work every day.
This is not only with social media, but even things like a staff meeting. I have seen people finally get the courage to speak, but then watch a room that has no one listening. It is sometimes not even in what we say, but in what we do or not do, that can make an impact. Will they feel the confidence to share again, or will that be the last time for a long time? I am guilty of this myself as I know that I can easily become distracted or lost in something, so I am trying to get better at being in the moment. And don’t blame mobile devices…I was easily distracted LONG before they became the norm in our society. I am trying to get better.
I think that putting yourself in spaces where you struggle not only helps you to grow your mind, but sometimes grow your heart. Remembering what it is like to struggle, I mean really struggle, is something that will remind you how hard it is for you and others to put themselves in place of vulnerability. This is not to say that we shouldn’t challenge, but thinking about when we challenge, and how we do it. I have said it over and over again, that learning is relational. An effective coach is not one that treats every player the same, but treats every player as an individual, and knows when to push and when to pull, and builds upon the unique strengths of each to bring a team together. How one is treated when they struggle and lack confidence, is often remembered on the path to success.
If we followed the advice “do one thing everyday that scares you”, we would not only grow, but we would also remember how hard it is for others to do the exact same.
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.
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.
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?
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.
This article talks about the few people that can often dominate a brainstorming session, and this little
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.
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.
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.
For example, it is not the iPhone that is innovative, it was the thinking that created it in the first place. Innovation is about mindset more than anything. In fact, if you made an iPhone that looked more like the first version than the current one, it would no longer be innovative, but simply replication. There is no new thinking, nor is it better than what we have now.
Yet often, innovation is often used as a synonym for technology (which it is not), or to describe something that is simply “new”. Innovation can happen in all areas of our world today, both inside and education. There are many people that are designing assessment practices that extremely innovative, because they are both new and better in the way they improve learning. The ideas behind these innovative assessment practices also start from the viewpoint of the learner, not the teacher. In fact, sometimes the newer assessment practices, although better for students, are often more work for the teacher. It is simple to throw a subjective grade on a report card comparatively to the rich type of assessment teachers are helping to develop students to drive powerful learning.
Think about the idea of the “flipped classroom”. Many would say this is an “innovation” in the world of teaching and learning, but if this new practice truly is, what makes it “better” (for the students)? To understand that, what “better” means (is it test scores, student engagement, deeper learning) has to be articulated as well. If it is just a new way of teaching, without the “better”, it is not innovative.
Here is an example of a new practice that is happening in health that may not be innovative, at all. Many schools are wanting students to eat healthier, so they are taking their current vending machines, and replacing “junk” food with healthier options. The hope in this case in many places is that the lack of the option of the unhealthy food in a vending machine, will give students no choice but to eat healthy. What this has done in many cases is actually not led students to eating healthier food, but actually sometimes leaving school and choose unhealthier options at things such as convenience stores, that actually have larger portions of the unhealthier food.
Although this is a new idea, if kids are actually eating less at school and still making unhealthy choices, is it better? The voice that has often been missing in these health initiatives is that of the students. To help people change, it is important to understand what drives their habits in the first place. Simply replacing “A” with “B” is sometimes not only NOT innovation, it could actually lead to something worse then what we had before. Designing solutions with the end in mind (the person/people you are serving), is crucial for any innovation to be successful.
Innovation is about a way of thinking, and if we do not design something that is both new and better, we are not thinking with an innovator’s mindset, but simply different. The idea that Apple is famously known for of “Think Different” was a start, but not enough. Different for the sake of different is not only something that could eventually be a waste of time, but could sometimes even leave us worse off from where we started.
(This is the second of two parts on professional learning. You can read the first part here. It is based on the visual below that was created by Sylvia Duckworth and adapted from “8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom“.)
Rationale: The opportunities for learning in our world today are immense and we need to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to us. We not only have access to all of the information in our world today, but we have access to one another. This has a major impact in our learning today. What I have started to notice is that you can see some major benefits of being connected in the classroom for the learning environment of our students. Access to one another can accelerate and amplify powerful learning opportunities.
Alec Couros, shared the following image on the idea of “The Networked Teacher”;
Although the technologies in the visual can change and how we use them can always be altered, the most important part of this visual, in my opinion, are the arrows that go back and forth. More and more, educators are becoming both consumers and creators of information, which is accelerating the opportunities for our students.
Idea: The idea for this is simple. If we see connected learning as something that is having an impact on the learning of our students, we must embed time into our work day and professional learning opportunities to help educators develop professional learning networks (PLN’s) and leading them to resources such as the “Edublogs Teacher Challenges” might help them get started, but face-to-face support is also crucial. To be honest, the technology to connect is simple once you get the hang of it, but it is developing the habits to think about connecting in the first place that truly make the difference. Differing between the time when you “google” something versus asking the same question on Twitter can not only help you get better results, but in the long run, save time (which no one has enough of). To be successful in helping people develop professional learning networks is to narrow the focus on the tools that are being shared with staff. It is not to limit staff on what they can use, but spending professional learning go deep into the process. We need to do less, better. Taking the time to connect can make a major difference in the learning of your staff, and ultimately, your students.
Other elements that could be incorporated: Reflection, Voice, Choice, Opportunities for Innovation
Opportunities for Innovation
Rationale: If we want innovative students, we need to focus on becoming innovative educators. It is not that “innovation” is new in education, but the opportunities that exist in our world today make innovation more possible. To help develop the “innovator’s mindset”, schools and organizations have to embody certain characteristics that create an environment where innovation will flourish. Again, as in all elements shared for professional learning, it is essential that time is provided to help develop this mindset.
Idea: My good friend Jesse McLean has promoted the idea of “Innovation Week” for his students, but knew to really have this to be successful, educators would have to partake in this type of process. He developed the idea of “Educator Innovation Day”, to give educators the time to tinker and develop innovative ideas both inside and outside of education. This goes to the idea of developing “intrapreneurs”, and as Jake Swearingen has stated, these intrapreneurs are essential to driving change within an organization.
Chris Wejr also shared his ideas on how to actually embed time through “Fed-Ex Prep” for teachers to encourage time is taken to create innovative ideas within education. There is also the opportunity to adapt Google’s famous “20% Time” into learning at our schools, for both students and staff. None of these ideas have to be taken “as is”, but can be adapted to tie into the communities we serve. What is (again) essential to the success of developing educators as innovators is both the priority and time being put into the process. In a world where developing innovators and entrepreneurs is essential to the forward movement of our schools, we need to create professional learning opportunities that see “innovation” as a necessity, not a luxury.
“If something is missing, we need to create it. In this case, if there are no entrepreneurs, we need to make some. And to make some is to instill the entrepreneurship spirit into our children from the outside through education.” Yong Zhao
Other elements that could be incorporated: Critical Thinking, Choice, Connected Learning, Problem Finders/Solvers
Rationale: School has been set up in a way that we have become dependent upon someone else telling us how we are doing in our learning. It is not only in our report card system, but also our evaluation process of educators. Students will encounter bad teachers, teachers will encounter bad principals, and principals will encounter weak superintendents. If we create a system that becomes dependent upon someone above else to tell us “how we are doing”, this quickly falls apart when that someone is not strong. Having your own understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, is hugely beneficial not only in education, but in all elements of life, whether it is personal or professional.
Idea: Blogs as Digital Portfolios are an opportunity to not only showcase learning, but an opportunity to take time to reflect and grow from the process. Having my own digital portfolio for the last five years (this blog), has helped me grow more than most professional learning opportunities that have been given to me. I have collected and developed resources on both “how” to create a digital portfolio, and the power of learning through this type of self-assessment. I feel that there is more growth in this type of process because I own my learning; it is not graded by someone else, but also documents my learning process over time so that I can easily see my own growth.
Although there may be “guidelines” that must be done for teacher evaluation (three visits into the classroom, etc.), having educators their own ongoing portfolio is a great opportunity to shift the conversation from the “evaluator” to the “learner”. For example, the traditional conversation that has happened in evaluations is that observations are shared from the viewpoint of the administrator, to a teacher. Conversations can be started from these types of evaluations, but from my experience, the focus is far too great on the evaluator than it is on the teacher. By using a digital portfolio process as part of the (self) evaluation, the conversation can simply be started by asking the questions, “Where are you strong and where do you need to grow?” The shift in this process is to the learner, and as Dean Shareski has stated, blogging is a great way to develop better educators. Putting an emphasis on this type of self-assessment is not only beneficial to the individual learner, but when shared openly, can help drive change. The more we are able to see and understand the learning of other educators both inside and outside our organizations, the more we can tap into one another to drive positive change.
Other elements that could be incorporated: Reflection, Voice, Critical Thinking, Connected Learning
Rationale: In this video on “Critical Thinking”, this visual is shared to help us better understand elements of the process:
In a world where information is in abundance, it is important for our students to be able to take information, understand their own thoughts and biases, as well as develop criteria to evaluate information, while developing questions to challenge conventional wisdom. The image below shares what developing “critical thinkers” moves us towards;
Although this is something that we are looking for in our students, do we promote this in meaningful ways with our own professional learning? Not just by learning about “critical thinking”, but pushing our own organizations by encouraging this within our organizations. If we are ever to move forward as schools, we need to have leadership open to people asking questions and developing what we already see. A flattened organization is the only place that this type of thinking will thrive.
Idea: There has been a lot of information shared throughout this document, and I think that this gives us an opportunity to challenge our conventional wisdom of professional learning. As I stated earlier, these are not “prescriptive ideas”, but my own thoughts on how we can revamp professional learning. This is not “black and white” but grey. Is it possible with staff to develop criteria on what successful professional learning looks like, and then develop new ideas on how it could be implemented.
What I would love to see in our schools is this process being implemented on an individual basis where staff share what they believe to be successful personal learning, and provide a plan on how this could be implemented at a personal level. Is it possible to develop individual learning plans for ourselves to really take ownership of our learning? Can we take what we know, and apply it to better professional learning for ourselves?
Other elements that could be incorporated: Opportunities for innovation, Voice, Choice, Problem-Solvers Finders
Professional learning in many places, needs an overhaul. I see educators go to places like EdCamp and share how excited they are about the opportunities for learning that happens at those types of events, yet it is rare that I see people sharing how excited they are to attend their own PD days. We need to change that mindset by tapping into the different types of learning opportunities that are present today.
It is not about doing everything that I have suggested, or to be honest, any of it. Really, it’s about contemplating why we do what we do, and then thinking about how we do it. If we do not change the way we do our professional learning, nothing will change in the classroom.
(If you want to read both part 1 and 2 as one piece, here it is on a Google Document.)
|Voice||#EDUin30 type activityTweeting one thing a day of the learning that is happening in your school||What is #EDUin30?|
|Choice||#EDCAMP professional learning day||What is EdCamp?|
|Reflection||Embedding blogging time into learning or even something as simple as giving people time to reflect on what they have learned throughout the day||Create a survey using Google Forms|
|Problem Solvers-Finders||Inquiry Based Learning Professional Development||Inquiry Based Professional Learning|
|Connected Learning||Using Social Media to develop their own learning networks (The networked learner||Edublogs Teacher Challenges|
|Self-Assessment||Blogs as Digital Portfolios||Resources for Digital Portfolios|
|Critical Thinkers||Developing Criteria for what powerful professional learning looks like and helping to create the day.||What is critical thinking?|
|Opportunities for Innovation||Innovation Day or Genius Hour embedded into professional learning time||Educators Innovation Day
Fed-Ex Prep Time
Recently in a workshop, I asked the group how many people thought Twitter was “stupid”, to which had seen several hands raised. I followed up with the question, “How many of you think it is beneficial to learn from other teachers?” This has 100% of hands up in the air. So, if we think that learning from other teachers is beneficial, and we can use Twitter to do that, it seems like a no-brainer.
This made me think about how so many people often focus on the technology (Twitter), not the aspect of learning from others, which is so much more important. The fact of the matter is, that many educators/administrators that are labeled as being “great with technology”, are maybe not as savvy as it may seem.
I asked a colleague if they thought they were really good with technology (they knew it was a trick question), so she didn’t know how to answer. What I said is that many educators/administrators that are deemed as very tech savvy, are really not as good with the technology as we think. Personally, I have a minimal amount of knowledge on coding (very minimum), and if I was to take apart a computer, I would have no idea how to put it back together. I would however know that I could look it up on YouTube, but I am not sure when I would be in that situation. I know how to Tweet, use Google Apps, blog, and do some other things, but so does a large portion of the population. I know it is cliche to say, “it is not about the tool”, but it isn’t; It is about something much more.
The way I look at it, is that it is more about using some of these simple technologies, to do powerful things.
Serendipitously, as I tried to put these thoughts into my head, someone shared this graphic from Bill Ferriter on, “What do you want kids to do with technology?. I then thought, what is it that we want leaders to do with technology, and based on Bill’s original idea, I put down my own thoughts:
— George Couros (@gcouros) February 28, 2015
This post is not about measuring one’s ability with technology if they are able to use Twitter or write a blog post. It is about something much deeper. If the purposeful use of technology can enhance or accelerate those ideas above, shouldn’t more leaders look at how these tools can be used in their own practice?
In my work with a school in Ontario, I met a teacher who had a story that really resonated with me. As we were talking about the changes in school, she had shared with me and publicly with the group, how after three years on a maternity leave, she came back to a totally different place (school) from what she had remembered. If you think about all of the times that we see “school isn’t changing”, in many places, three years might seem like 30. It is a long time to be away.
The really powerful part of what she shared with everyone really took me back.
She told me that she was teaching “Mitosis” to her students with an overhead projector using transparencies, and Lisa told me, “It sucked so bad that I was bored”. It bothered her. You could see it in the way she told her story. She wanted to do better, but she wasn’t sure how to get there. I spent some time showing her and others some of the learning that can be done by connecting with experts (other teachers) through social media, and I explicitly told her that I was the last person to give her tips on teaching science, but I could help her connect with other science educators. She was amazed by everything that was out there. You could see her wheels turning and her eyes becoming wide open.
The best part of this story, is that this was only about three weeks ago. Then last week, she sent me the following tweet:
— Lisa Jones (@lisat_jones) October 30, 2014
How awesome is that? I showed her the “Twitter in 60 Seconds” video and in a very short time, she had her students create “Mitosis in 60 Seconds” videos.
In an extremely short time, she was shifting the focus from her teaching to their learning. I was so proud of what I had saw that I teared up when I saw it. Can you imagine when a teacher gets really excited about their learning, the difference that makes on their students? Lisa, in short, is awesome.
This just was a reminder that with so many educators the “want” is there, but sometimes they just need help to find the “way”.
Talking with Doug Peterson, he shared a story about how no educator gets up in the morning wanting to do a terrible job. The vast majority of teachers want to do great stuff for their kids, and we need to help each other to show the opportunities that exist now for ourselves and our students to really embrace better learning opportunities. I really believe that this single step for Lisa, is the first of many leading to some really great learning. When we want to get to greater heights, every step leads to building confidence and competence, and for many, that first step is the toughest. Watching Lisa, and feeling her enthusiasm for what she is doing, reminded me why I do what I do, and that change doesn’t need to take forever. That excitement from her is contagious.
Sometimes, that first step is all you need to go on to do something great.