Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It's MINE! (Navigating a World of Shared Ownership)

Stella & Bella by katieb50, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  katieb50 

Growing up, my sister and I used to argue a lot. In almost every case, we were arguing about ownership and control.

Who owned the toy....
Who got to go first...
Who won...
And the list goes on...

In many ways, traditional mindsets only see binary outcomes: winners and losers.
But in fact, that's not the way the world works at all. In most cases, when someone succeeds, it's GOOD for many other people.

Someone who "wins" by starting a successful business creates helpful products and lots of jobs.

Someone who "goes first" by trying or inventing an innovation provides insight and research to the entire community.

And, most importantly, someone who collaborates effectively on a team tends to feel greater personal satisfaction and overall success regarding their work. Tom Rath's new book, Are You Fully Charged? addresses this issue head on.

Tom writes:
Almost anything you do in your work creates more value than you are likely to extract from competitors or rivals. As a result, work teams and organizations that focus the most attention on catching up or beating the competition are the least likely to succeed.

The world doesn't have to be filled with winners and losers. It can certainly be filled with all different types of winners. We just have to look for the opportunities to find solutions that lie beyond the most obvious outcomes or choices.

Our schools are often structured as "zero sum" games. Some win, others lose. Let's change that - the world doesn't work that way.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Changing Definition of Success for ESAs: A New Whitepaper

In February 2015, I had the privilege of working with Susan Leddick and service agency leaders from across the nation. During our time together at the Research Institute at BrightBytes, we grappled with the changing definition of success for service agencies.

Through an extensive data collection project, we learned the strengths and opportunities faced by service agencies big and small.

You can read the entire whitepaper here - it has some really interesting data findings in it!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Digital Leadership Day: The Roadmap to Classroom Transformation

Hello Region 10 Leadership Teams!

I cannot wait to spend the day learning, sharing, and planning with you. We'll be co-conspirators in the construction of a plan that encourages relevant, personalized learning across your district. As I collaborated with the EDU-amazing staff at Region 10 to plan this day for you, we wanted to emphasize a few points:

1) Kids have to be a part of the conversation. We'll be drawing on the experience of learners from across the region to both inspire and guide us.

2) Your interests matter. We'll be building breakout sessions based on the interests, ideas, and skills of the group. If we're going to personalize learning for students, we need to personalize learning for ourselves too!

3)  Quality leadership handles change strategically. Helping people through the change process is a sign of great leadership. We'll be identifying specific things you can do to create an environment that embraces change instead of fearing it.

With that in mind, here are some resources to support you throughout the day:

Part 1: Setting the Stage and Student Panel (9-10)

During this time, we'll be hearing from students. Add your questions to the list HERE, or vote up the questions of others. Student voices will influence our visions and plans.

Part 2: Horizon Brainstorming (10-11:30)
Now we'll translate our inspirations and visions into actions. This will be through a horizon brainstorming exercise. This helps you to think widely and broadly, considering all the ways to make your vision a reality.

Part 3: Personalized Breakout Sessions (12:15-1:45)

Let's get personal. Based on the ideas you heard and brainstormed during the morning, what do you want to explore and learn with your colleagues from across the region? We'll build the schedule together and take collaborative notes HERE.

Part 4: FED-EX Idea Building (1:45-3)

FedEx idea building allows team members to select a project of their choice which they can “ship” in a very short period of time. The only requirement is that the project or idea must benefit the company. The idea for the event comes from the book Drive by Daniel Pink, which looks at what truly motivates us. Read more here.

Part 5: Pitches, Prizes, and Pingbacks (3-3:30)
We'll end the day with celebrations, sharing, and pitches that will invigorate us for the journey ahead!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Questions, Not Answers

Were you raised on an "instant answer" curriculum? In your academic career, did having the right answer at the right time lead to success?

Yup, me too.

In years past, we've organized curriculum much like a stamp collection. We gather as many different unique ideas as we can, showing off all of our knowledge like a badge of honor.

However, in today's connected world, learning needs to be a vehicle for learning. David Perkins, in his amazing book Futurewise, says, "Knowledge is like a bicycle. That is, knowledge is for going somewhere."

The best way to set information afoot in your classroom is to teach kids to ask really meaty questions. This requires us to go beyond superficial and low level inquiries. And, since breaking old habits can be hard, here are two quick strategies to help you deepen your level of questioning.

Strategy 1: The 5 Ways to Why
Start with a question (preferably one generated by your kids).
Then ask WHY?
Then ask WHY again?
Ask WHY? five times.

Take the question that results after all five "WHY?" statements and dig into that statement.

Strategy 2: Who Decides?
Start with a question (again, kid-generated questions are best).
Instead of answering the question itself, challenge kids to determine who makes the decision surrounding the question. This may require a bit more digging, but it will help kids to understand the complex and sometimes arbitrary ways that questions are answered and decisions are made.

Questions, not answers.....

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How Space Shapes Learning- A Peek Into Kindergarten

"My point is don't control them, don't protect them too much, and they need to tumble sometimes. And that makes them learn how to live in this world." ~Architect Takaharu Tezuka

Do the learning spaces we create impact the kinds of experiences that grow from them? Absolutely. Lately, I've been watching many of my amazing colleagues, including Tom Murray and Erin Klein, help people to rethink classroom spaces.

The ways in which we shape our environment will ultimately shape our behavior.

Architect Takahru Tezuka firmly agrees with this statement, and a kindergarten complex he recently built in Asia was designed to increase activity, play, and learning. When I first saw it, it took my breath away. It's such an elegant way of generating informal learning.

Check it out here- it's well worth the 10 minutes:

I'm left to wonder how many of our spaces today would be more productive if they looked like this...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Learning Personalized - A Practical Path Forward

Personalized learning is a progressively, student-driven model in which students deeply engage in meaningful, authentic, rigorous challenges to demonstrate desired outcomes. ~Zmuda, Curtis, & Ullman

This is the type of learning we strive for in our classrooms, schools, and districts. While I would venture to guess that almost all of us agree on this, a larger question looms:

How do we actually enact personalized learning at scale?

That is the exact question posed by Zmuda, Curtis, and Ullman in their text Learning Personalized: The Evolution of the Contemporary Classroom.  And, unlike many who have come before them, the actually lay out a very practical framework for achieving personalized learning at scale.

The authors begin by asserting two fundamental hypotheses that drive the text's framework:

1) Personalized learning is a better way to attain current learning outcomes.

2) Personalized learning is a better way to grow children.

After providing a clear definition of personalized learning and dispelling many common myths about the subject, they explore a series of tenets to move from theory to practice. Their recommendations are supported both by experts in the field and examples from real schools.

Here are the 12 elements they explore:

1) Disciplinary Outcomes
2) Cross-Disciplinary Outcomes
3) Mindsets
4) Task
5) Audience
6) Feedback
7) Evaluation
8) Process
9) Environment
10) Demonstration of Learning
11) Time
12) Advancement

Importantly, they do not provide an "all or nothing" philosophy regarding these elements. They show ranges of empowerment, allowing for choice and flexibility throughout the process. There's a rubric for each element that describes the ranges of personalization available.

If you're working with staff this summer to rethink learning to attain greater student voice and agency in your district, read this book. It's the closest thing I've found to a comprehensive, accurate, practical tomb on the subject. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Productivity v. Distraction - The Dichotomy of Mobile Devices

You're sitting in a team meeting with your favorite colleagues. It's a good meeting, there's lots of chocolate, and you are genuinely excited about the work. However, amidst the collaboration and good vibes, you hear an infamous chime. It's your cell phone.

The chime causes your mind to race. Is it your significant other, reminding you of an appointment? Is it your child who mentioned he was feeling ill today before he boarded the bus?

Seconds, then minutes, pass. You finally gaze at your phone, notice the unimportant message, respond, and sigh a bit of contented relief.

This dichotomy between productivity and distraction isn't an isolated incident - it's a confirmed pattern of behavior reported in a recent issue of TIME.

Over 57% of smartphone owners report that their phones make them feel distracted, and 79% of those same smartphone owners state that their phones make them feel productive.

As we manage the distractions our phones provide, it can make us feel incredibly productive. Often, this productivity can be addictive with a withdraw as uncomfortable as skipping your morning cup of joe.

If we're feeling this as adults, just imagine how our students are feeling. Especially if we ask them to power down in our classrooms. However, this research allows us to create guidance for our classrooms around managing mobile devices.

1. Provide students with brief, structured times to "check in." 
Mobile device addiction is real, and it's something that grips many of our students. Giving them 1-2 minutes to "check in" on their mobile devices can reduce stress and anxiety for students in the classroom.

2. Teach students to monitor their mindfulness when using mobile devices.
Often, students (and adults!) stare into the screens of their mobile devices without a true purpose. They swipe listlessly from app to app. By teaching students to name the desired task/activity aloud before activating the mobile device, it helps students maintain focus and reduce distraction.

3. Honor socialization through mobile devices as a valid form of interaction.
It's common for adults to criticize or devalue socialization through mobile devices. Statements like "You're always texting!" can serve to alienate or confuse youth. It's best to honor the ways their interacting and strive for moderation.

Our mobile devices aren't going away. However, it's more important than ever to help our kids (and colleagues) navigate these ferocious waters.


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