Tag Archives: innovation

18 things that leaders of innovative schools do differently

TIES 2017 Shelly Terrell

I had a wonderful time this past week at the TIES conference in Minneapolis. Having worked at the University of Minnesota for six years, it was super fun to connect with old educator friends and new (including a lot of goofiness with Shelly Terrell while at Flipgrid headquarters).

I served as the lunch keynote for TIES on Sunday and then facilitated a lesson redesign workshop that afternoon using our trudacot discussion protocol (thanks, Julie Graber, for joining us!). I always love redesigning instructional activities with teachers and school leaders. Two random comments from that Sunday workshop that gave my heart a warm glow:

  • “We’re not having these kinds of conversations using the Danielson framework
  • “I skipped the Vikings game for this workshop and am glad that I did” 

Both of those were high praise indeed!

On Monday I was in charge of TIES’ annual all-day Leadership Seminar. There are a few things that I would do differently next time, but all in all it went very well and we had some superb conversations. In the afternoon we looked at a variety of innovative schools from around the world and tried to answer the twin questions of ‘What is going on in these schools that’s different?’ and ‘What do we think the leaders of these schools are doing differently?’ [compared to those in more traditional schools]. Here is the list that my group came up with…

Leaders in innovative schools…

  1. give permission for innovation AND ALSO provide support. Teachers know that they can take risks and will be supported by their administrators.
  2. take risks themselves and have the understanding that things will not always go as planned. They are brave and courageous enough to put their school and themselves ‘out there.’
  3. are able to change existing schedule, transportation, staffing, budgeting, and other structures in concrete, tangible, productive, and strategic ways to support new forms of learning.
  4. empower student choice. They and their staff are able to open up spaces to find out what students are passionate about and interested in and then leverage those opportunities to create cultures of intrinsic motivation.
  5. create academic pathways that help learners be successful based on their unique interests, skills, and talents. Both vocational and professional partnerships, internships, and mentorships are created.
  6. reduce, distill, and connect disparate initiatives in order to reduce the number of things on educators’ plates.
  7. facilitate clarity of organizational purpose and establish instructional coherence in partnership with their teachers and other staff.
  8. provide lots of time for staff to collaborate in rich, substantive, and meaningful ways.
  9. engage their community in the instructional and organizational redesign processes and provide opportunities for community members to be part of the work. Redesign work is less individually-dependent and more community-driven.
  10. understand that every person brings their own beliefs, ideas, assumptions, and values to the table. They see those differences as assets, not problems to be managed, and are able to harness the power of distributed leadership to facilitate ownership and contribution across various stakeholder groups.
  11. help educators, students, parents, and community members see new possibilities and the power of instructional transformations.
  12. facilitate shared agreement and commitments toward core values and day-to-day expectations. Protocols are put into place for discussion, dissent, and revisiting previous decisions. 
  13. create climates of open communication and safety in which everyone is sharing information, successes, challenges, and questions.
  14. take a holistic approach toward identifying and addressing student needs.
  15. have a vision of what success – the end goal – looks like. Celebrations are connected to both the process and the progress. Explicit structures are created to share and celebrate those successes.
  16. are able to plant seeds of innovation and grow them successfully while anticipating the problems that may come up during the transformation process. They create proactive – not reactive – response structures that automatically kick in when anticipated issues inevitably arise.
  17. find ways to ensure that ‘the change people’ win instead of the resisters. They buffer and protect innovative educators rather than allowing ‘crab bucket’ or ‘tall poppy’ environments to flourish.
  18. are able to help teachers translate big ideas from mission and vision statements into day-to-day instructional practice. [emphasis added]
I don’t know if this covers everything but it’s an excellent start as we think about innovative leadership. This obviously is complex work, which is why most schools and administrators aren’t doing it…
 
Which of these do you think are most important? How are your school leaders doing with these: which are they doing well and which could use some more attention? What would you add to this list?

Transform, not reform

Greg Whitby said:

more businesses are moving away from improving old models to responding to the changing needs of consumers (and employees) within the context of a rapidly changing world. In addition, real time data has helped to create a whole new paradigm for doing things differently, thinking creatively and responding immediately.

On the flip side, education is still wedded to the improvement model; looking for enhanced solutions to old problems. We operate on the assumption that we can control the variables, link performance to accountability measures and tighten up processes. Where are the innovative solutions?

Improvement is no longer the challenge so let’s use educational conferences and colloquiums to focus on how we change the system not how we fix it. As Sir Ken Robinson says the challenge is not to reform but to transform.

via https://bluyonder.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/improvement-is-no-longer-the-challenge

Schools, baseball teams, and casinos

Baseball

Ramona Shelburne said:

[Baseball] franchises that remain static will eventually regress and deteriorate. People, too. So the antidote is to be proactive. Change before you’re forced to. Keep putting yourself in the best positions to succeed. When things break the wrong way, break new ground.

“The mindset in everything we do is to be the casino,” Friedman said. “We want to be the house. We’re going to make a lot of decisions. It’s a high-volume business. We can’t be afraid of making mistakes. The key is to be right more than we’re wrong and … trust that it will work out well.”

via http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/12630518/the-los-angeles-dodgers-forward-thinking-front-office-force-reckoned-with

True for schools too, not just baseball teams and casinos…

Image credit: Baseball, Peter Miller

Should our first goal really be to preserve the structure?

Justin Schwamm said:

Two decades ago, before the great push for higher standards and more accountability, there was a tacit agreement in most factory-model schools: “Just close my door,” said Ms. X, “and let me teach, and don’t bother me because I’m busy.” “Just keep them busy and quiet,” responded her Powers That Be, “and show up for the Special Training and the Scheduled Meeting, and make sure the Relevant Paperwork is in the file.” Within that tacit agreement lay a great deal of freedom and opportunity … for innovation or for more of the Same Old Same Old. As the Relevant Paperwork was complete and the busy, quiet students weren’t roaming the hallways, teachers and students could be as innovative and creative as they wanted.

But then came higher standards and more accountability … and in themselves, those aren’t bad things. But if you operate from a hierarchical individual point of view about leadership and learning, the only logical pathway to higher standards is to command and control them into existence … and the only way to achieve accountability is to ramp up the inspection and testing. I was intrigued to see an article from EdSurge about how and why Rocketship Education moved away from an experiment they’d tried this year … an experiment that seemed to produce positive results of various kinds. The problem? “The lack of a formal structure made it difficult for Rocketship to replicate and control quality,” especially with younger teachers who “rely on pre-determined schedules and procedures, with clearly defined expectations about their work, in order to focus on building basic teaching skills.”

In other words, the promising innovation didn’t fit the existing institutional structure. If you’ve ever worked in a hierarchical structure, you know how important it is to preserve the structure. It takes a great deal of work by Relevant Powers to make anything else as important as preserving the structure.

via https://joyfullatinlearning.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/where-and-how

Pushing ourselves into the rotting institutions we want to reinvent

David Brooks said:

Some monads withdraw back into the purity of their own subcultures. But others push themselves into the rotting institutions they want to reinvent. If you are looking for people who are going to be creative in the current climate, I’d look for people who are disillusioned with politics even as they go into it; who are disenchanted with contemporary worship, even as they join the church; who are disgusted by finance even as they work in finance. These people believe in the goals of their systems but detest how they function. They contain the anxious contradictions between disillusionment and hope.

in every dialectic, there is a search for creative synthesis. Or, as Albert Einstein put it, “You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.”

via http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/08/opinion/david-brooks-the-creative-climate.html

Change agents and the hiring dilemma

For hire

Here’s a working hypothesis:

The organizations that most need change agents probably are the least likely to hire them because change agents typically make people with non-change orientations scared or nervous. If the people within were already oriented toward change and innovation, their organizations wouldn’t be the ones in the most need of change agents.

So a change- and innovation-oriented job candidate has a steep uphill battle to get considered and hired. The challenge is how to get people on hiring committees in non-change-oriented institutions to recognize the value of hiring for innovation, not replication…

Got any thoughts on this?

The rhetoric of most educational technology ‘solutions’ is vastly overblown

Clicker

Justin Reich says:

if you are building things that are familiar, how are they going to substantially change education?

If our problems are mere inefficiencies – if we need students doing basically exactly what they’ve been doing before but faster – then the gambit of building apps that mirror typical classroom practices will work out great.

If you think that the problems in classrooms are not just about kids doing things a little faster, but doing different things than is current practice, then you need to build things that will be unfamiliar. If your technology is unfamiliar, you need to patiently build a network of educators experimenting with your ideas, reshaping systems – bells, exams, furniture, devices – to accomodate your new technology into a new vision. Initially, these people won’t buy your weirdness; you will practically have to pay them to implement your new ideas.

You, hungry entrepreneur, … you are going to take some familiar feature of classroom experience – the textbook, the flashcard, the lecture, the worksheet, the sticker, the behavior chart – and you will digitize that feature.

Wrapped in a language of transformation and disruption, the ed-tech start-up scene is profoundly conservative.

Our problems in schools go far beyond mere inefficiencies. Are inefficiencies rampant? Absolutely. Can various learning and management technologies help address these inefficiencies? Absolutely. Does merely addressing inefficiencies result in educational ‘transformation?’ Of course not. The rhetoric of most educational technology ‘solutions’ is vastly overblown…

Image credit: Clicker, Tom Magliery

Thank you

Thank you

Dear Prairie Lakes principals and superintendents,

Over the past six weeks, you’ve been getting to know our new tech integration team. We’ve made it a top priority to try and get into your buildings, meet you and your teachers on your turf, and start to build meaningful connections and relationships.

By now you’re probably starting to realize that… well, we’re a little bit different!  🙂  Not different just to be different, but different to be better. We’re passionate about what we do, we’re willing to think as far outside the box as necessary, and, yes, when it comes to ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it,’ we confess that sometimes we’re a bit irreverent.

Commitments

  1. We are deeply committed to the idea that professional work and professional learning both should be fun. And meaningful. And challenging. And so should our classrooms.
  2. We are deeply committed to quality. We’re building around principles of effective adult learning and we’re using the Influencer design framework to maximize possibility of actual implementation. No more sit-and-get. No more yawn-inducing, one-size-fits-all ‘training.’ And as little drive-by, short-term work as possible.
  3. We are deeply committed to trust and transparency. We will publicly post every single one of our evaluations. We will actively solicit and act upon your feedback. If you’ve got ideas for us, we will listen and adapt. We promise.
  4. We are deeply committed to service. It’s about you and your needs, not ours. We’ve got lots of ideas – and beliefs about powerful learning – but ultimately we’re here to serve you. No dictates. No mandates. Wherever you are, wherever you want to go, we’ll do our best to be of help.

We’re on a mission. A mission to #dreambigger, #designforit, and #makeitbetter. We hope that you’ll join us.

Thank you for the warm welcome, and thank you for giving us the opportunity to be of service to your amazing educators and students. Please stay in touch, and be sure to connect with us online. We are looking forward to our continued work together.

All our best.

SCOTT

Image credit: for Flickr friends 2011, mengjie jo

[cross-posted at rethink. redesign.]

How about a FedEx Day?

FedEx Day: a 24-hour hackathon in which individuals or teams work on new ideas and new projects. Participants must work on something that’s not part of their daily work and, most importantly, they have to deliver something in 24 hours (in the words of Seth Godin, “they need to ship“).

Here are some resources on FedEx Days generally and for schools specifically. Happy innovating!

General resources and information

For schools

Inspiration doesn’t favor those who sit still [SLIDE]

I don’t usually post commercial ad slogans, but I liked this quote…

Daring

Inspiration doesn’t favor those who sit still, it dances with the daring.
 – Toyota

Download this file: png pptx

See also my other slides and the Great Quotes About Learning and Change Flickr pool.

Image credit: Oregon Jack