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The entrepreneurial mindset

RiskThis past weekend I participated in an event called The Entrepreneurial Mindset. The two days of learning were co-sponsored by the School of Education and Human Development and the School of Business at CU Denver. A number of SEHD faculty and staff learned about entrepreneurial practices and thinking alongside local school superintendents and other school district administrators. We heard from the Chairman of the Board of Semester at Sea, learned about the importance of emotional intelligence, did a deep dive on branding and marketing, and talked with entrepreneurs in both higher education and medicine.

Several key ideas resonated with me from our discussions. One was the idea that entrepreneurship is a mindset. It’s a willingness to take action, try things, and be resourceful. It’s a willingness to lean into the fear and welcome change. It’s a willingness to make mistakes and learn from them without being paralyzed. And it’s a willingness to focus relentlessly on the needs of the ‘consumer’ in order to improve their experience. In education, we’re not very good at many of these things. We also need to recognize as educators that entrepreneurship isn’t available to anyone who thinks of themselves as a victim. Passive, helpless mindsets don’t align very well with active, efficacious, change-oriented action.

Another key idea for me was that we have to be good problem seekers before we can be problem solvers. In education, we need more robust problem-seeking structures and behaviors that move beyond simple diagnoses of complex challenges. Otherwise we jump to ‘solutions’ that don’t address what’s really needed.

I also appreciated the reminder that value always lies in the perceptions of others. Just because we think we’re offering a good experience for others doesn’t mean that we actually are. But if we care to listen to the people we serve, they can help us improve what we do. This can be a bit challenging because educators are in it for the long haul and current ‘stakeholders’ may not see the value of some of what we’re providing until later in their lives. It’s possible, however, for us to care about both lifelong impacts and our children’s and families’ immediate experiences. I believe that is a goal worth striving for, even when we simultaneously serve multiple and sometimes conflicting stakeholder groups.

Business people use different language than we do as educators. They talk about ‘adjacent possibilities’ and ‘competitive offerings’ and ‘perceived stakeholder value.’ But at the heart of it all, their conceptions of mission-driven work and aligning that work to the needs of children, families, and communities are not that different. Yes, our children aren’t widgets and we should always critically examine the ethics and practices of any field. But it would be silly for us to pretend that the world of business has nothing to lend the world of education. If we choose not to hide in our P-12 and higher education bubbles, many of us could benefit from framing some of our work in different ways in order to accomplish our ‘job to be done,’ the critically-important job of helping the people that we serve.

In your professional life, are you entrepreneurial? What might be the benefits of such an approach?

Image credit: Risk, Sean Davis

Leadership for School Innovation graduate certificate 001: The launch

I received permission from my faculty colleagues and Dean this summer to launch a new Leadership for School Innovation (LSI) graduate certificate. I’ve done this twice before. In 2002 Joan Hughes (now at the University of Texas-Austin) and I received a large federal grant to create the first graduate program in the country designed to prepare technology-savvy school leaders. The $2.5 million School Technology Leadership Initiative at the University of Minnesota created 15 credits of new coursework that was given away – with accompanying pedagogical supports – to ten other university educational leadership programs across the country. Four cohorts of students went through the U. Minnesota program and numerous other students gained new school technology leadership experiences at partner universities. The U. Minnesota academic program is now defunct but my University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) program center, the Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), was created that continues the research and service/outreach work. CASTLE is now co-hosted by the University of Kentucky and the University of Colorado Denver. In 2011 my CASTLE co-directors at U. Kentucky and I created the nation’s second graduate program focused on school technology leadership. That program ran for several years and is now an embedded certificate within a teacher leadership program.

This new LSI graduate certificate at CU Denver will be a little different. It will be wholly online like the U. Kentucky program but its focus will be broader than just technology leadership. I also have a design team from across the country that will be helping me outline and frame up the program. More on them in my next post, and more details on the program in the weeks to come…

Our Design Sprint is tomorrow. I’m excited!

Podcast – Talking with Richard Byrne on the Practical Ed Tech Podcast!

Last week my conversation with Richard Byrne went live on the Practical Ed Tech Podcast. Many of you know Richard from his primary site, Free Technology for Teachers, one of the most widely-read education blogs in the world. Richard and I have known each other for a long time. Maybe he’ll come see me in Colorado sometime. He’s an outdoorsy type – he’d love it out here!

Richard and I talked about a wide range of things, including Tik Tok, building leaders’ capacity to foster school innovation, keeping up with changing technologies, redesigning lessons with the 4 Shifts Protocol, filtering and blocking students, and so on…

Hope you enjoy the discussion. Happy listening!

10 signs that you may be missing opportunities with your school’s technology integration

Left turnHere are some signs that you may be missing opportunities with your school’s technology integration efforts:

  1. Your LMS is primarily used as a document management system
  2. Lots of Kahoots but not much student creation
  3. Many conversations about responsible and appropriate use, not many conversations about empowered use
  4. Teachers are the primary users of technology
  5. Digital worksheets greatly outnumber student multimedia products
  6. Teachers are gravitating toward technologies that allow them to tightly control the student learning experience (e.g., NearPod, GoGuardian)
  7. Silent work alone on ‘personalized,’ adaptive learning software modules is a dominant modality for students
  8. A greater emphasis on filtering and blocking than on equitable access and usage
  9. Technology professional development sessions are sparsely (or reluctantly) attended
  10. The ‘yes buts’ outweigh your visions for technology-infused student learning possibilities

These are just a few. What else might you add?

See also The unholy trinities of classroom technology usage

Image credit: Left turn, Clyde, Alan Levine

Podcast – Harnessing technology for deeper learning

Last week my interview with Tom Vander Ark went live on the Getting Smart podcast. Tom grilled me about my law degree(!) and then we got to the core of the interview.

Tom and I talked about school transformation and instructional redesign, during which I uttered this immortal line:

GettingSmartpodcast

Hope you enjoy the discussion. Happy listening!

2 books for 2 different needs

It’s always gratifying when something you write resonates with others. That’s particularly true when it’s something as big as a book (even a small book). I have had the wonderful opportunity over the past year and a half – thanks to series editor Bill Ferriter and the amazing folks at Solution Tree – to publish two very different books, both of which are intended to meet very specific needs of school leaders and classroom educators and both of which have been well-received.

DifferentSchoolsForADifferentWorld CoverMy first book, Different Schools for a Different World, was a collaborative effort with my joyful friend, Dean Shareski. The book is meant to be a very accessible on-ramp into the idea of why we need different schools these days. Obviously this is not the first book on this topic and there are some other excellent reads that I have in a prominent place on my bookshelves. But I appreciated the chance to approach the argument with my own unique voice and to frame the conversation around the school-society ‘relevance gaps’ that seem to resonate well with the school leaders with whom I work. In the book, Dean and I highlight six key relevance gaps and also discuss the four big shifts of deeper learning, greater student agency, more authentic work, and rich technology infusion that many schools are implementing to address those gaps. We also provide some action ideas for each of the relevance gaps, profile a few schools around the world that are doing some interesting things as they work to prepare future-ready graduates, and close with some big ideas and important questions for us as educators and communities. The book has gotten good reviews so far. Because it’s only 53 pages long, it’s a quick read for educators, parents, or community members and hopefully an easy book club choice for any school or district that is still struggling with creating and enacting a future-ready vision for its students.

Harnessing Technology for Deeper LearningDifferent Schools for a Different World is the WHY book. My other recent book, Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning, is the HOW book. Co-authored with my very smart instructional coach friend, Julie Graber, this book takes the four big shifts of deeper learning, greater student agency, more authentic work, and rich technology infusion that were outlined in the previous book and illustrates how to (re)design lessons, units, and instructional activities to accomplish those goals. Although the word ‘technology’ is in the title, at its heart this book is mostly about future-ready pedagogy and instructional design. If we want these pedagogical shifts to happen in our schools and classrooms, we have to explicitly redesign our day-to-instruction to make them happen. The book introduces the 4 Shifts Protocol and shows how it can be an excellent complement to SAMR, TPACK, IPI, the 4 Cs, and other models and frameworks. More importantly, the book includes eight examples of lesson (re)design so that readers can see how to use the protocol to reorient instructional activities. The book is meant to be intensely practical and contains dozens of concrete, specific ‘look fors’ and think abouts.’ The book ends with an entire chapter of tips, suggestions, and strategies for how to implement the 4 Shifts Protocol in schools. At only 57 pages, it’s also a quick read and numerous districts are now using the book and the protocol with teacher cohorts, instructional coaches, technology integrationists, and principals to drive their instructional redesign work.

So if you’re still trying to get people ‘on board’ with a future-ready vision for schools and classrooms, consider Different Schools for a Different World as a possible read. And if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and do the day-to-day instructional (re)design work necessary to accomplish that vision, check out the open source 4 Shifts Protocol and the accompanying book, Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning. And, as always, please stay in touch as I can be of support to you.

Happy reading!

New book chapter in Multimedia Learning Theory!

Multimedia Learning Theory: Preparing for the New Generation of Students (edited book)I am pleased to announce that my book chapter in Multimedia Learning Theory: Preparing for the New Generation of Students is now available!

My chapter is titled Multimedia Learning and the Educational Leader. Here’s an excerpt from the Systemic Improvement section of the chapter:

One important role of principals and superintendents is ensuring that employee position announcements, job descriptions, hiring processes, mentoring systems, training, and evaluation criteria all enforce school organizations’ need for robust multimedia learning and teaching. Few school systems currently have powerful technology integration as a core competency for classroom teaching staff. Educational organizations’ omission of digital teaching proficiency and the ability to facilitate students’ higher-order thinking as essential, required skill sets for teachers and administrators sends clear signals to current faculty, job candidates, and educator preparation programs about institutional values. Until this changes, meaningful and authentic uses of multimedia technologies in P-12 classrooms will continue to be isolated aberrations rather than routine observances.

Over the past several decades, school systems have slowly instituted a variety of technical systems to facilitate the management of lower-level cognitive work. Student information systems, online gradebooks, electronic formative assessment tools, and data warehouses are all examples of technologies that help educators input, manage, analyze, and present student learning data (Wayman, Stringfield, & Yakimowski, 2004). Most of the data in these institutional systems focus on student demographic information, letter grades, test scores, and daily assignment tracking.

As educational organizations transition to student learning environments that place greater emphasis on higher-order thinking skills, they will need more robust technology tools that allow them to facilitate, collect, and evaluate more complex, abstract, open-ended student learning. Most of these tools do not yet exist, so it is difficult to envision at this time what they might look like. They are likely to include evolving features such as sophisticated document and portfolio management (including archiving and tagging of multimedia student and teacher work products); deep cross-artifact text, image, audio, and video analysis; infographic-like presentation of underlying patterns and meaning; and the ability to easily but selectively share through a variety of information and social media channels.

Other tools to facilitate effective learning and teaching will include system-provided technologies such as open access content repositories, streaming multimedia servers, online adaptive learning systems, and robust, social media-driven collaboration channels for students, classroom teachers, and administrators. Strategic partnerships with state and federal governments, corporations, foundations, nonprofits, and others will become more prevalent as school systems face inevitable gaps in funding and resources. Growth in these and other technology systems must be accompanied by concurrent growth in organizational thinking as well as administrative and societal permission and encouragement to utilize these tools.

Hope the book is useful to some of you. Happy reading!

Citation

McLeod, S. (2019). Multimedia learning and the educational leader. In P. M. Jenlink & B. D. Knight (Eds.), Multimedia learning theory: Preparing for the new generation of students, pp. 129-143. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

25 professional learning conversation stations

This past Thursday I created 25 professional learning ‘conversation stations’ for my principal licensure students. I printed them all out and spread them around our classroom (which is a school library). Each printed station contained a link or two – or a short reading (and a source) – and some questions to consider. The idea was to expose our preservice administrators at the University of Colorado Denver to a variety of ways to foster and facilitate adult learning beyond schools’ traditional, moribund professional development sessions.

My students traveled around the room in pairs or trios, visiting whichever stations they wanted (they had a shared notes document that listed all of the stations). Each group stayed at a station for as long or short a time as desired. Most averaged about 7 to 10 minutes per station, but some talked for nearly 30 minutes at a single station. At several points during our two hours on this activity, they got together with another group and shared what was resonating from their station visits. We learned a lot and had some awesome conversations together! At the end of the evening I gave them a link to all of the stations, so that they could later peruse whatever they hadn’t visited yet.

Here are links to both the conversation stations and the shared notes document, as well as the slide I used to introduce the activity:

Both of the main documents are editable. Feel free to modify them and make them better for others. If you use this activity in your principal licensure program or school district, let me know how it went!

We also had 3 pre-class readings and 5 beginning-of-activity provocations just to get us in the right mindset:

Pre-readings

Beginning-of-activity provocations

If you have any thoughts or questions about all of this, please get in touch. Otherwise, hope this is useful to you!

How are you introducing school leaders and teachers to alternative (better) forms of professional learning?

Is the purpose of school really low-level content and procedures?

MisfitIn The Genius Myth, Michael Meade said:

If each person has natural gifts and innate talents, then the true nature of education must involve the awakening, inviting, and blessing of the inner genius and unique life spirit of each young person. [Kindle location 371]

In You, Your Child, and School, Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica said:

We all create our own lives. Helping your children develop what is inside them is the best guarantee of them creating a rewarding life in the world around them. (p. 41)

In World Class Learners, Yong Zhao said:

[T]he traditional paradigm, by forcing children to master the same curriculum, essentially discriminates against talents that are not consistent with the prescribed knowledge and skills. Students who are otherwise talented but do not do well in the prescribed subjects are often sent to spend more time on the core subjects, retained for another grade, or deprived of the opportunity to develop their talents in other ways. (p. 45)

In The Game of School, Robert Fried said:

We have opted not to create schools as places where children’s curiosity, sensory awareness, power, and communication can flourish, but rather to erect temples of knowledge where we sit them down, tell them a lot of stuff we think is important, try to control their restless curiosity, and test them to see how well they’ve listened to us. (p. 59)

Our actions exemplify our beliefs. We can change our ‘forced homogeneity’ models of schooling. Or we can just keep pretending that children are interchangeable life products into which we should shove low-level standardized content and procedures from age 5 through 18. And keep penalizing them when their diversity doesn’t fit our one-size-fits-all model (because, you know, it’s them, not us). And keep paying the price as a society for our incredible waste of human talent.

Which will your school choose?

Image credit: Misfit, Josh

Book review – Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today

SheningerMurrayThis post is a review of Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today by Eric Sheninger and Tom Murray. Disclaimer: both are friends of mine so keep that in mind as you read below. My short recommendation? There is lots of value in this book and a great deal of information that validates what we know about good leadership and strong school organizations.

What I liked about the book

Eric and Tom list eight ‘keys’ to intentionally designing tomorrow’s schools. They are:

  1. Leadership and school culture lay the foundation
  2. The learning experience must be redesigned and made personal
  3. Decisions must be grounded in evidence and driven by a Return on Instruction (ROI)
  4. Learning spaces must become learner-centered
  5. Professional learning must be relevant, engaging, ongoing, and made personal
  6. Technology must be leveraged and used as an accelerant for student learning
  7. Community collaboration and engagement must be woven into the fabric of a school’s culture
  8. Schools that transform learning are built to last as financial, political, and pedagogical sustainability ensure long-term success

It’s hard to argue with any of these. All are critically-important components of robust, future-ready schools and each gets substantial coverage in their respective book chapters. Tom and Eric back these up with a variety of research studies to support the importance of each one. And they write in an engaging way that keeps readers rolling along. All of this is good.

There are strong emphases throughout the book on building trust, fostering relationships, empowering others, the intentionality of the work, the importance of communication, and recognizing our power as change agents. This is all good too!

I thought Chapters 4 (learning spaces) and 5 (professional learning) were especially strong. Chapter 4 gave me a lot to think about and there are numerous ideas in Chapter 5 for taking educators’ learning in some new directions, particularly pages 152-155 where Eric and Tom describe some ways to move from hours- to outcomes-based ‘accountability’ for educator learning.

Finally, Tom and Eric have chosen to profile some great leaders and organizations throughout the book and also have selected some resonant quotes. My favorite is probably the quote from Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis: ‘In the absence of knowledge, people make up their own.’

Some minor quibbles

There are some things that I wish were framed a little differently in the book. For instance, in Chapter 1, Eric and Tom say that ‘great leaders help others see the value of change by clearly articulating a compelling why and working to build support throughout consensus’ (p. 34). I wish they spent more time here talking about a visioning process that was less leader-centric and focused more on educators, students, and parents figuring out together what their why is instead of simply being sold their why by the leader. If we want shared understandings and commitments within organizations, I believe that process needs to be more communal rather than leader-driven. I’ve seen too many schools where the leader has a robust vision but never can ‘build support’ with the staff because she’s the only one that really owns it and is trying to then sell it to everyone else. Tom and Eric do talk a bit more about shared visioning on page 36 when they quote Kouzes & Posner, but that section doesn’t articulate what a ground-up process could look like.

In Chapter 2, Eric and Tom do a nice job of articulating ways that technology can enhance student learning. But the chapter sometimes feels a little technology-centric. There are numerous ways to give students access to deeper learning, greater student agency, and more authentic work opportunities that don’t involve learning technologies. Even though I’m an educational technology advocate, I would have liked some more discussion of project- and inquiry-based learning, performance assessments, community-based service learning, Harkness circles, and the wide variety of other non-technological possibilities that still result in robust learning. There is mention of a few of these things but I think in general these could have been fleshed out more. I did greatly appreciate the emphasis on equity in this chapter. Chapter 3 is similar. Tom and Eric discuss the concept of return on instruction but the chapter is framed dominantly within a lens of technology infusion. We need classrooms to move beyond factual recall and procedural regurgitation, and I know that Eric and Tom agree with that notion. But I think that non-technological learning and pedagogy could get some more attention in this chapter too. Although Tom and Eric state directly in Chapter 5 that ‘professional learning must focus on student outcomes through improved pedagogy – not on tools’ (p. 146), I think that idea gets lost in Chapter 3 amidst all of the technology discussions. 

The book closes on the idea of sustainable change. That’s an incredibly important topic and also is incredibly difficult to accomplish. There is a great deal of discussion in the chapter about what needs to be done, and I think Eric and Tom rightly identify numerous issues and tasks. They also do a nice job in this chapter of staying positive and encouraging people to recognize that great leadership is within their grasp. However, there is barely a mention in this chapter of one of the biggest barriers to organizational sustainability of change initiatives, which is leadership turnover. When superintendents, principals, and/or school boards turn over fairly frequently, teachers and communities get whipsawed by new innovations and new directions because those new leaders rarely continue the innovation pathways of their predecessors. Some discussion in this chapter of how to actually navigate that concern would have been helpful beyond the couple of sentences on political sustainability that merely acknowledge the issue.

Finally, there are large chunks of several chapters that feel like long lists of leadership ideas that have been thrown together (see, e.g., Chapters 1 and 7). It’s not that the ideas or items are wrong or incorrect, it’s just hard to see how they all fit together. Tom and Eric do a great job of citing research in their book, but it would be helpful to have some research-based frameworks and mental models that tie the list items together. For instance, if there’s a three-page list of ten leadership ideas, why these specific ten and not others and how do they interact together to create a coherent whole? If there are two solid pages of bullet points, maybe those could be tied together into some kind of model that illustrates the connectivity of the disparate parts. Otherwise, we’re left to question where all of these ideas came from and how they’re supposed to work together.

All of these are minor quibbles and choices have to be made in any book about what to focus on and what to leave out. It’s Eric and Tom’s book, not mine, and they’ve done a nice job of presenting their arguments, their reasoning, a variety of resources, and numerous action steps that can be taken.

Questions I have after reading this book

  • How do we flesh out in more concrete detail – and with specific action steps – some of the ideas articulated in this book?
  • How do we navigate the twin challenges of leadership turnover and initiative fatigue due to successive leaders wanting to ‘put their stamp on’ the organization?
  • Much of the book is based on the research about good leadership. We’ve known for a long time much of what’s in the book, but those research-based leadership practices aren’t showing up in administrators’ actual practices. How can we as educational leadership researchers do a better job of translating our scholarship into actionable ideas and behaviors in the field?
  • How can schools do a better job of treating parents as authentic partners and co-designers in the learning of their children, not just passive recipients of whatever narrow boxes we educators try to put them into?
  • How can we foster the creation of ground-up visions for student learning and educational experiences rather than individual or oligarchic visions that then get sold to the rest of the community? And how can we involve students as substantive partners in that work?

Rating

I liked this book a lot, and I’m glad I have friends who make me smarter. I marked it up all over the place. I give it 5 highlighters (out of 5).

Highlighter5