Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Three Great Summer Reads

I know that many of us are about to embark on a brief respite before school resumes again. For me, this is a time to explore new ideas and lots of great books!

If you're looking for great summer reads, here are my top 3 recommendations to get you ready for next year. (Leave your suggestions for me in the comments or tweet me!)

1) Are You Fully Charged? by Rath

This book helps you determine if you're actually maximizing your health and productivity. It covers topics such as the need for quick wins, mission-driven work, and social experiences in our work. While many of the topics are related to other books I've read, it was a nice soup to nuts summary.

2) Think Like A Freak by Levitt and Dubner

This book, from the authors of Freakonomics, helps us identify and hone thinking strategies to unleash our inner creativity. From topics such as "the value of quitting" to "persuading people who don't want to be persuaded." Not only are there engaging stories, but there are also practical tips that can certainly inform your instruction next year.

3) Rework by Fried and Hansson

This book from 37 Signals helps you reframe which work makes you most impactful. I like this book because it features brief stories or manifestos that you can easily reuse or post for quick reference. It questions traditional thinking about how we spend our working lives and also reminds us that our own expectations can one of the strongest forces holding us back. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why Connections Matter: #Edcamp Idaho

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Edcamp Idaho. The organizing team was incredible, the room was filled with experienced and novice participants alike, and the sessions were really diverse.

As I went through the day, learning and sharing, I realized one thing:
As educators, we are more alike than we are different.

Although the people in Idaho deal with much different circumstances than I faced in my teaching career, it was clear to me that many common threads remained. We were all driving similar rocks up similar hills.

However, the Edcamp protocol and all the discussions helped us to realize that we had each other. We weren't alone in this journey for kids. We had each other.

And for me, that's the value of being connected. Being connected to educators in Idaho not only makes me stronger, but it also helps me understand the ways that we can use our shared experiences to tackle the same issues. That's powerful.

Thank you Edcamp Idaho!

And... as you can see below... Dave Guymon is STILL taller than me. Sigh.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Putting People First- Human Centered Service Design

I love my work. (I'm pretty sure most of you already knew that!)

There is one facet of my work rises to the top as my favorite: Human Centered Service Design


Human centered service design is a term I use when creating valuable learning experiences that truly put a person's needs at the center. Most service problems actually result from poorly constructed experiences, and thoughtful changes can often improve or significantly amend a situation. Many months ago, I was inspired by David Bill to think about this work. His expertise lies in spatial design, and I applied his methodology to services.

Here's a visual I use to show all the touch points that one should consider when thinking about a service for humans:

When people are at the center, you should consider the ways that place, partners, process, and props all interact with them. It's likely that you can think of even more touch points. That's great. This is just an organizer to start the conversation.

So, let's try an example. Let's say that we're designing a professional learning service.

Instead of jumping right into the content and pedagogies of the workshop, what if you stopped to ask the following questions about the service?

Props - What tangible items or images could make this experience better?
Place - What is the best place for this learning? F2F? Virtual? A hybrid?
Process - What process should people go through from registration to completion? Why?
Partners - What partners can make our work better?

As you can see, you'd likely end up with a pretty detailed plan that ensures the entire experience is linked back to the humans that will engage with it. That's critical.

Putting people at the center of the experience takes more time, but it is an investment worth making. I hope this helps!


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Does cynicism = laziness? Musings from #EdcampUSA

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to Edcamp at the United States Department of Education. The incredible team at the Department of Education welcomed us with open arms and collaborated alongside us for the entire day.

As I participated in the conversations, I felt the room collectively steering us towards solutions. The people in the room are some of the most optimistic, forward-thinking people I have ever met.

It led me to wonder.... why aren't all conversations about education so OPTIMISTIC?

Ruthann Buck, a senior advisor, recommended pairing every concern you have for a policy-maker with a solution. After all, practitioners are the best people to invent and innovate the best ways to solve the problems in education. Without solutions, policy-makers have less direction and clarity about how to advocate for policy alterations.

Because, of course, there will always be problems. The key is to just make sure that the problems continue to evolve as we pursue and find solutions.

Perhaps cynicism is actually a form of laziness. When we dismiss solutions and innovations, perhaps it's because of all the work that often accompanies ambiguity. Let me be clear. I don't think that every idea is a good one, and I do think that we must carefully question every aspect of our work.

However, if you feel like every idea  is a bad one, it might be time to reevaluate your motivations.

Excessive cynicism is a enemy of change. Let's work to ripple our optimism through all the schools we touch.

Thanks Department of Education! This year's event was fantastic!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

To My Teacher

Dear Grant,

You were a great man with big ideas and even bigger dreams. It was a privilege and honor to study under you and do your work for the last few years. I will never forget what you taught me, and I will carry forth your legacy.

Thank you for teaching me that the best learning comes from conversations with brilliant colleagues.

Thank you for teaching me how to rock the stage when it comes to helping people think differently.

Thank you for teaching me that you must play as hard as you work.

Thank you for bringing together people of like minds and like hearts. We all miss you.

I thought we had so many more years of learning together. My heart aches.

Your forever student,

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!


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