Tag Archives: leadership

Oblivious to organizations, systems, and high quality leadership

Leslie Wilson said:

On one hand, [school administrators] have entered this century keen on improving non-performing schools, knowing the moral imperative of students’ using technologies, personalizing learning, and seeking to comply with state and federal mandates. What amazes me is that at the same time they ‘lead’ as though they are oblivious to current research and best practices regarding organizations, systems, and high quality leadership. How to help them? That’s what my colleagues and I are grappling with.

via http://www.k12blueprint.com/content/peel-back-onion-organize-success

Join our School Visibility Initiative

Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency logo

 

[This is open to everyone, not just schools in our region!]

Every day AWESOME things happen in your schools. Are you telling the world?

Is your school using social media to best effect?

Are you learning from other school leaders about how to amplify your message and share your stories?

Are your communication platforms enhancing your institutional branding, educating policymakers, and building community enthusiasm for future initiatives?

Maybe it’s time to join Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency’s SCHOOL VISIBILITY INITIATIVE!

Participants will receive

  • coaching on selection of communication platforms and social media channels,
  • exposure to best practices and innovative communication ideas from around the world,
  • advice on how to set up a student media team to help with institutional storytelling,
  • weekly challenges that will push your communication to new heights,
  • and much, much more!

If you’re ready to sign up, complete the online form to receive weekly challenges and helpful resources. Challenges begin immediately and you can see the archive of past challenges.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch as you have questions!

It’s about opening a door to someone I never knew I could be

Open door

Javier Guzman said:

For my students and the thousands like them, the options they are given are inadequate. The bar is set low and little is expected of them. Mostly they are taught to regurgitate information at breakneck speeds under the guise of equity and the achievement gap. We need to move away from that and build schools that consider the whole person, that understand that our students have passions and interests, and that give them the tools to transcend their environments.

It’s about being given the tools to truly reach one’s full potential. . . . as one of my students stated, “It’s about opening a door to someone I never knew I could be.”

via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lH1gxIT4nSE

Image credit: Open door, Martin Müller

The challenges of digital leadership

National Association of Independent Schools logo

I wrote an article for the National Association of Independent Schools on the challenges of digital leadership. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite!

Schools often purchase software, computer devices, and technology-based learning systems because they are effective marketing tools for recruitment, or because they want to keep pace with the digital investments of rival institutions, or simply because they fear appearing outdated. None of these have to do with learning, of course, and inevitably are insufficient to smooth over the challenges that arise as digital tools enter classroom spaces. 

AND

Too often, when navigating faculty or parental resistance, school leaders and technology staff make reassurances that things will not have to change much in the classroom or that slow baby steps are OK. Unfortunately, this results in a different problem, which is that schools have now invested significant money, time, and energy into digital technologies but are using them sparingly and seeing little impact. In such schools, replicative uses of technology are quite common, but transformative uses that leverage the unique affordances of technology are quite rare.

AND

As school leaders, in order to achieve the types of successes that we hope for with technology, we will have to overbalance for our staff and parents the side of the scale that contains fears and concerns with countervailing, emotionally resonant stories, images, visions, and examples of empowered students and teachers doing amazing things. That’s fairly hard to do if we’re technology-hesitant or unknowledgeable about the educative value of technology ourselves, which is why so many successful digital leaders preach over and over again the necessity of personal engagement and modeling.

Happy reading!

The best way to complain

 

A photo posted by Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious) onJan 3, 2015 at 5:47am PST

The best way to complain is to make things – James Murphy

Photo from Paul Octavious

#makeitbetter

Avoiding worst-case technology scenarios through mindfulness

Mike Crowley said:

There can be no question but that technology can provide the potential for isolation, for synthetic relationships, for a sedentary lifestyle, an anxiety-ridden social existence, a failure to focus, concentrate, and engage. But surely this is a worst-case scenario conception of technology without balance, without thoughtful schools, informed, engaged parents? An education system that emphasises the need to be cultured as well as educated, well-read as well as literate, articulate as well as able to skim, physically healthy as well as mentally engaged … surely an individual in this context will only benefit from the interactive tools of contemporary technology to allow them to create, design, persuade and engage? Yes, perhaps our brains will be rewired in the process, but isn’t that what the brain has always done throughout history? 

via http://crowleym.com/2014/11/03/rewired-brains-unbalanced-lives

The opportunity is freedom

What to do when it's your turn [BOOK], Seth Godin

Seth Godin said:

The opportunity is freedom.

The freedom to connect, to reach out to just about anyone in the world.

The freedom to create, to sing and write and invent and share widely.

The freedom to lead, to stand up and say, “follow me.”

The freedom to learn, to take almost any course on any topic and to put that learning to work.

The freedom to choose your next project, the information you consume, and the people you associate with.

Now, more than ever, more of us have the freedom to care, the freedom to connect, the freedom to choose, the freedom to initiate, the freedom to do what matters.

If we choose.

What To Do When It’s Your Turn, p. 14

Is your school helping students learn how to exercise these freedoms?

Supportive, apathetic, or obstructive?

stop go sign

When it comes to employment, I think that organizations fall into 3 general categories: supportive, apathetic, or obstructive.

Supportive organizations have structures in place that work. They are intentionally designed to empower employees to be successful. They often go out of their way to find mechanisms that make employees’ lives easier and better. There are constant internal messages of encouragement, risk-taking, and celebration. They invest heavily in employee efficacy and talent development, recruitment and retention.

Apathetic organizations kind of stumble along. They get some stuff done but they’re not exciting or invigorating places to work. They don’t invest much in employee success mechanisms (although they might say they do because they have similar positions or structures as peer institutions). If you do good work, great; they will kind of leave you alone to do your thing. If you’re not doing good work, it will take them a long time to find out and they may or may not do anything about it. They are thankful if poor workers leave but if good workers leave they don’t do much to try to keep them because ‘others will just come along to replace them.’ It feels like everyone is just kind of going through the motions. There’s no spark of energy or enthusiasm.

Obstructive organizations get in your way. They have layers of bureaucracy and policy in place that actively work against employee success. There often are multiple layers of ‘no’ that you have to navigate for even simple requests. No one is minding the ship so individual bosses have the ability to be as terrible as they wish. Vision and mission statements are meaningless because implementation is shoddy or nonexistent. Employee dissatisfaction and turnover are high, as is internal dysfunction.

I’ve worked in all three types. Supportive organizations are wonderful places to be. If you’re lucky enough to work in one of those, think hard before moving. Apathetic organizations are okay. They don’t actively support you but neither do they actively block you. The only psychic benefits that you’ll get from being there are the ones that you create yourself but you usually can carve out a space for your work. Obstructive organizations are truly awful, soul-sucking places. If you find that you’re in one of those, immediately begin making a plan for departure. They’re not worth the psychic costs of stress and loss of quality of life.

Climates and cultures are incredibly important to organizational productivity and success. As leaders, would your employees describe your organization as supportive, apathetic, or obstructive? Maybe you have elements of each? How could you find out?

Image credit: stop go sign, Joel Kramer

Higher-level thinkers don’t just magically emerge from low-level thinking spaces [SLIDE]

Higher-level thinkers don’t just magically emerge from low-level thinking spaces

Higher-level thinkers don’t just magically emerge from low-level thinking spaces

Download this file: png pptx key

Image credit: When did you last see Bobo?, Matt

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

Project-based learning: We can do better than sugar cube pyramids

Shoebox float

What do student projects look like in your school? In most classrooms, so-called student ‘projects’ look like sugar cube pyramids, styrofoam ball solar systems, coat hanger mobiles, and dioramas. Or maybe posters, brochures, or PowerPoint presentations. Or 3-dimensional structures made out of construction paper, cardboard, paper mâché, and other materials. The common factor across these ‘projects’ typically is the presentation of low-level facts found from a textbook or the Internet. But none of these rise to the level of ‘gold standard’ project-based learning (PBL), opportunities for students in which they are doing deep, complex thinking work over many days or weeks, usually in collaboration with others and enhanced by relevant, meaningful uses of digital technologies.

As leaders, why should we care about project-based learning? Because if we want graduates who are critical thinkers and problem solvers, we have to create learning environments in which students get to practice those skills in meaningful, authentic ways. Higher-level thinkers don’t just magically emerge from low-level thinking spaces. And that means we have to expect more from what we have traditionally called a learning ‘project.’

The Buck Institute for Education has outlined 8 essential elements of PBL, including significant content, a driving question, opportunities for inquiry and innovation, and high levels of student voice and choice. Typical classroom ‘projects’ lack these essential elements and thus are mostly busy work. The content isn’t significant because it’s just recall and regurgitation. There is no big question driving students’ efforts. And every student work product looks the same, which, as Chris Lehmann notes, means that it isn’t a project, it’s a recipe (e.g., 20 identical student posters of a cow’s digestive system!). We can do better…

There are many different models for creating high-quality PBL experiences for students. For example, here in Iowa the Iowa BIG School in Cedar Rapids has organized its entire school day around rich inquiry and problem solving. The Spirit Lake, Okoboji, Newell-Fonda, and North Union school districts all have two-week PBL sessions in January or May in which students spend 50 or more hours immersed in deeper projects. Some Iowa teachers are experimenting with genius hour, 20% time, and other structures to facilitate student passion projects. And across the country and planet a bevy of other models are emerging as well.

John Dewey famously reminded us that we learn what we do. If students spend 90% of their time making a poster / mobile / shoe box float and 10% of their time writing down facts that they quickly look up and rarely retain, we can’t really say that significant learning is occurring. The products look nice but there’s little substance behind them. As leaders, I encourage you to walk around your schools and look at the ‘projects’ that your students are doing. Ask yourself if the creation of those student work products requires deep, complex thinking and problem solving. And, if not, get some conversations started about how to make student projects richer and better…

What do student projects look like in your school?

Image credit: Russ M

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