Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Session Notes from #iPDX15

This year, I had the chance to attend IntegratED in Portland. It was my first time attending the interactive, collaborative learning experience.

Most of my time there looked something like this:
IntegratED | Portland 2015
Awesome Flickr Shot from Rachel Wente-Chaney
There was a ton of learning, sharing, and thinking that happened over the three days. Mostly, I was impressed by the session facilitators and participants. People engaged in both dialogue and action to take their instruction to the next level. And, let's be clear-- it's no accident that the sessions are so interactive. Darren Hudgins puts a lot of work into making sure that folks aren't being "talked at" during the conference. He sets high expectations for excellence that I haven't seen elsewhere. Good stuff.

I was honored to facilitate and share with everyone in Portland. Below are the "collaborative guidebooks" from my sessions that include resources, activities, and other things you might need if you're planning to implement these ideas in your schools. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

SCRUM: A One Month Reflection

Over the winter holidays, I read SCRUM: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time. To be honest, I hadn't committed to using/trying the process before reading the text. Mostly, I was curious. The book came recommended from someone I deeply respect and I'm also juggling a few different projects right now that would benefit from a systematic process.

However, after reading the book, I decided to try the process. I recruited my faithful partner at work, and we built a SCRUM board.

Our first board looked like this:

As you can see, there are four main areas:
1) Backlog - these are "moonshot thinking" items that we desire but can't tackle immediately.

2) To Do - these are items that must be done in the immediate.

3) Doing - these are items that are currently in process for the week at hand.

4) Done - items that are 100% complete.

Each day, my colleague and I would meet for 10 minutes to discuss what we were working on and any blockers we were facing. The goal of the meeting was for us to collaboratively unblock each other. (For example, she may have been waiting for edits from me before moving forward with creative to publish a curriculum, etc. etc. etc.)

At the end of each week, we'd note how many things we moved from "doing" to "done" that week. We'd also move things from "to do" to "doing" for the next week. We both agreed on how much work we could accomplish in a single week. 

Overall, the process was pretty simple to implement. After sticking with it for a month, I think we'll continue with this method. Here's why.

1) This process helped us to prioritize finishing a task COMPLETELY before moving onto another task. Not only was this motivating to us, but it also sped up our workflow. (Five half-finished projects are not nearly as good as 2 projects that are completely finished and usable!) 

2) Conferring briefly each day helped prevent a feedback bottleneck. We were constantly giving each other feedback about what we needed to complete our tasks. This helped build trust between us, and it also helped us both to understand the complexities involved with the other's work.

3) We are able to stay focused when new tasks pop up. If something big came up, we could easily tell people that we needed to roll it into next week's set of tasks. As I'm practically allergic to the word "no," this was a really helpful strategy to make sure my time was used where it was needed most. 

4) We became more efficient at repeated tasks. When we saw patterns on the board, we made checklists and scalable timelines. For example, we sped up our process for organizing an offsite event by 2 weeks by defining what it looks like and how it gets done. 

Those successes were fantastic for our little team! However, there are a few pieces of the process we're still refining, too.

1) We need to ensure we allot sufficient time for "doing the work" each week. My schedule has made my level of completion inconsistent. I want to regulate this over the next few months.

2) We need to extend this process to other areas of our work. To start, we really focused on one domain: The Research Institute. Now, we need to expand this to other areas.

3) We need to make sure we spend time prioritizing the "moonshot ideas" that will move out of the backlog. We also need to involve a few stakeholders from other teams in this process.

Did we get double the work done in half the time? Well... maybe not quite yet... but there's always next month!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

#Edcamp Events Do Not Have Keynotes

Edu-awesome Logo from Edcamp Baltimore

I chat with Edcamp organizers all the time. Edcamp organizers are some of the most brilliant, dedicated, innovative people on earth. They see problems as opportunities and are able to create genuine excitement around learning and professional growth. It amazes me every day.

With that, I wanted to bring you the answer to one of the most common Edcamp organizer questions:
Can Edcamp events have a keynote?

Quite simply... the answer is NO. 
An Edcamp with a keynote, well, isn't an Edcamp.


Here's the rationale:
Edcamp events are based on the tenets of unconferences and Open Space Technology. Fundamentally, this is a way to organize people and ideas in a democratic way that tackles complex problems.  For this type of learning to work, everyone needs their voice to be heard as equal. That's why ALL the sessions are determined on the morning of the event. It busts the playing field wide open.

If everything is determined on the morning of the event, then it's impossible to have a pre-planned keynote.

Now, I love a good keynote as much as the next person. However, the presence of an engaging keynote is the hallmark of a good conference (as compared to a good unconference). Note that this doesn't mean you can't have a 10 minute kickoff to explain the Edcamp model, thank everyone, and generate excitement before the sessions start.

But a 10 minute kickoff from the event organizers is much different than a keynote. Make sense?

One final note:
I realize that you may be facing a variety of pressures and challenges in your current system. These realities may require that you deviate from the Edcamp model and produce some sort of hybrid event. That is a-ok! Just remember, this whole movement is about changing how people see themselves as agents of their own learning. If you can't go "whole hog" the first time around, do not fear! There are plenty of pathways to learner agency. This community is supportive and we all want to help each other!

There is no WRONG when intentions are pure and rooted in a desire to help others learn.

One final, final note:
Edcamps are one part of a healthy professional learning diet. They're best enjoyed when combined with healthy doses of many other PD methods (book clubs, Twitter chats, conferences, PLCs, etc). You can read more about that here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New Whitepaper - Reimagine Learning through Making and Play

As many of you know, I'm gently guiding the work of the Research Institute at BrightBytes. This work has given me the opportunity to learn and connect with dozens of brilliant educators and school leaders across the country.

The Research Institute at BrightBytes is a vendor agnostic group of educational leaders that explore cutting edge topics in education.

At one of our events last year, we had the great opportunity to explore making and creating within the K-12 curriculum. After all of our classroom observations, discussions, and ethnographic analysis, we determined something critical:
"Building and making can't be a 'special event' in schools. It has to be a natural part of every learning experience."
We explore this idea and many others in our collaborative whitepaper on making and play. You can check out the entire whitepaper here.

If you'd like to get involved in the Research Institute, let us know here. We are looking for the best, brightest, and most collaborative minds to help us hone our practice. That's you!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

School Leadership Briefing Covers #Edcamp

A few weeks ago, School Leadership Briefing took some time to get to know Edcamp a little bit better.

They asked a lot of great questions and provided a lot of context for school leaders about the value of Edcamp for building leaders.

Click the image below to hear the entire interview about Edcamp!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Edu-Amazing Sketch Notes from @jgough

This past weekend, I had the tremendous opportunity to learn alongside 50 fabulous learners and David Jakes in my session at Educon about reimagining professional learning.

Presenting with David was a real treat. We have complimentary styles, and he's masterful at framing and sequencing provocative discussion questions. Given that we had some of the most talented educators in the nation at the session, it was a recipe for deep learning.

We began by asking the educators to describe the current state of professional development in their schools. From there, we entered a 5 question sequence to craft a new vision for professional learning.

1. Student achievement is most influenced by classroom practice, and classroom practice is most influenced by teacher learning. Do you agree with this? Do you have evidence to support your belief?

2. Are teachers learners? Are teachers encouraged to be learners?

3. Does the typical model of PD support learning?

4. What if the only PD ever offered by a school was "How to Learn Something When You Want to Know Something?"

5. What do well designed learning experiences for adults look like?

The discussion around these questions sparked many new visions and next steps for changing the way that learning looks for everyone in a school community.

Some of the biggest takeaways were:
Learning how to learn is more important than learning "things."
Schools should focus on creating healthy conditions for learning instead of the instruction itself. Let the adult learners drive the instruction.

White space fosters creativity and curiosity.
Providing a defined, empty space allows people to rediscover their creativity and curiosity. Mentors can guide and support this process as well.

Ask more than you tell.
The questions you ask often communicate more than the mandates you dictate. So, ask a lot of questions.

As always, thank you to the entire #Educon team for a fantastic experience!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Inaugural #Edcamp Express

#Edcamp Express?

Photo Courtesy of Rachel's Awesome Fiance
What in the world is that?

An #Edcamp Express is a short (2 hours or so) Edcamp event on a weeknight or morning. It brings small groups of people together to dialogue on best practice. It's a great way to keep the connection going between Edcamp events.

After brainstorming this idea with Karl Lindgren Streicher and Bill Selak a few months ago, we decided to try it. Clara and Rachel from Remind proved to be incredibly gracious hosts for the event, making the planning a breeze.

Last week, we hosted the very first #Edcamp Express event with great success. It was wonderful to have a wonderful burst of professional learning in the middle of the week. When it comes to logistics, here's what we did:

  • No significant planning or swag
  • Only 2 hours long with 2 sessions and a short final share
  • On a weeknight or early morning
And here's what we found:

Having a weeknight event was actually pretty convenient - Getting everyone together on a Thursday night allowed us to socialize and learn without giving up an entire Saturday. It was the perfect event to sandwich between our regular, annual Edcamp events.

Keeping the planning minimal allowed us to focus on the conversation -  We did very minimal planning for this event. We simply updated our existing website and sent out a few emails. Since we weren't focused on "running the event." Instead, we got to fully participate in the learning and sharing as organizers.

A smaller attendance rate was more intimate -  We only had about 25 folks at the event, and it was great to connect with people in smaller groups for longer periods of time.

I definitely recommend trying to fit in an #Edcamp Express event between your regular Edcamp events. If nothing else, it's great to see amazing colleagues who have become friends.



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