Tag Archives: vision

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

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

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!

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

If you want deeper learning…

Deep eye… you must have deeper teaching.

You can’t get to deeper learning with worksheets and end-of-chapter review questions.

You can’t get to deeper learning with self-paced adaptive learning modules that emphasize facts and procedures.

You can’t get to deeper learning with multiple-choice software and apps.

You can’t get to deeper learning without actually changing day-to-day lessons and units.

You can’t get to deeper learning without shifting toward critical thinking, problem-solving, student agency, and authentic work.

You can’t get to deeper learning without changing your teacher observation and evaluation rubrics.

You can’t get to deeper learning without changing your classroom walkthrough templates.

You can’t get to deeper learning without changing your hiring criteria and interview protocols.

You can’t get to deeper learning without changing what you ask PLCs to focus on.

You can’t get to deeper learning without changing your professional learning structures.

You can’t get to deeper learning without changing your budget.

You can’t get to deeper learning without changing the types of concrete ‘look fors’ and ‘think abouts’ that you prioritize as a school leadership team.

You can’t get to deeper learning with replicative, shallow instruction and status quo leadership behaviors.

You can’t get to deeper learning without taking risks.

Your new 21st century learning framework is awesome. How are you going to ensure it’s more than just lip service?

Image credit: deep eye, carlosdiazwa

Be proud of your pockets of innovation. AND…

PocketsEvery school system has pockets of innovation. Those three forward-thinking teachers in the elementary school, that one grade-level team in the middle school, the department that’s really trying to do something different at the high school, that amazing principal over there, and so on. As school leaders we’re proud of – and point to – that cutting-edge work and rightfully so.

But we also have to recognize that pockets of innovation mean that inequities exist. What if you’re a student that doesn’t have one of those forward-thinking elementary teachers, who isn’t on that middle school team, who has nominal exposure to that innovative high school department, or who doesn’t attend that principal’s building? You’re out of luck.

We always will have educators who are ahead of others. That’s inevitable. What’s not inevitable is our lack of a plan to scale desired innovations. What’s not inevitable is our lack of a guaranteed viable curriculum that strives for every student to accomplish more than mastery of factual recall and procedural regurgitation. If we want our pockets of innovation to ever be more than just pockets, we have to intentionally and purposefully scaffold and design and support to move the entire system to something greater. We also have to be smart about the design choices that we make. For instance, that intervention / remediation / extension time block that you created in your school schedule? During that time, who suffers through low-level thinking work in order to ‘catch up’ and who’s building robots or rockets? The very mechanisms that we create to close achievement gaps often intensify life success gaps.

Who in your schools gets to become future-ready and who doesn’t? Are you remedying traditional inequities or exacerbating them? What’s your plan to scale your innovations so that every student has opportunities to be prepared for life success, not just a few?

Image credit: Pockets, Astera Schneeweisz

Most educators do not have ‘change fatigue’

Will Richardson said:

As schools and classrooms, why do we exist today? What do we believe? What are our values? What are our deepest commitments to the children we serve? And do we live all of that?

Without coherent, clearly communicated answers to those questions, no serious change will survive. And, importantly, there will be nothing to judge the next “new thing” against.

I know “change fatigue” is real. But that’s not what most people are tired of. What they’re tired of is incoherence, of flailing away at change that isn’t driven by a belief system everyone is committed to living.

via https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6473548129395318784

Nicely said, Will…

It’s 2018, not 1918. Basic skills are not enough.

NYC Schools Opening (U.S. Library of Congress)Here is a quote from Kentucky Education Commissioner, Dr. Wayne Lewis (who is a friend of mine). The context is a statewide conversation about higher education standards for Kentucky high school graduates.

On Tuesday, Lewis said the current system already penalizes students by not actually preparing them for success.

“When we give them a diploma without ensuring that they have basic skills and they go to post-secondary education and they hit a brick wall – when they get into those English and math gateway courses, when they don’t have the necessary basic skills or preparation to get a job and take care of themselves,” he said. “Those kids are held accountable right now.”

Compare this with the following quote from Dr. Marc Tucker, outgoing CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy:

The jobs that were lost to globalization are not coming back. They are being automated. American manufacturing is actually doing very well, but much of the manufacturing work that was done by people a few years ago is now being done by machines. The same thing is true of mining and steel making. The jobs of gas station attendants were automated years ago. The jobs of retail clerks are ebbing fast. Even the jobs in Amazon’s warehouses are being automated. AI-powered systems are doing legal research, diagnosing cancer, writing music, serving as network newscasters, and doing surgery.

The thing that unites the “left behind,” whether they are rural whites in communities with boarded-up storefronts and peeling paint on their homes or urban African-Americans without jobs or any prospect of getting them, is lack of the kind of education and skills that employers are willing to pay decent wages for. . . . The difference between the young people that Facebook is hiring at $140,000 per year for their first jobs and the UBER drivers in the same cities for $10 an hour is their education and skill levels.

With due respect to Wayne, I think Tucker is right. Basic skills aren’t enough these days for many/most American high school graduates to succeed in postsecondary and/or ‘get a job and take care of themselves.’ Basic skills are necessary but insufficient. If we don’t frame future readiness and life success as more than basic skills, we’re doing our students and graduates a grave disservice. As Tucker notes,

What unites the first phase of globalization with the second phase of globalization is the fact that, whether the work is manufacturing or services, whether it is highly skilled or low-skill work, the employer can look for people with the requisite skills anywhere. Whatever your skill level, you are now in competition with people all over the world who have similar skills and who are willing to work for less.

That is bad news for Americans because we charge a lot for our labor. That is especially true for our low-skill and semi-skilled people – people who have basic literacy, but little more. Many nations that were largely illiterate in the 1970s have now built education systems that are capable of producing levels of basic literacy equal to those in the United States, and those newly literate people are now competing directly with the workers in the United States who have only basic literacy, which is roughly half of our workforce. The cruel fact is that our low- and semi-skilled workers – roughly half of our workforce – are very high priced in the global market for labor. That is why their real wages have not gone up in decades. They are a commodity, and the price they charge at the minimum wage level for that commodity is more than they are worth on the global market.

Neither state nor federal policymakers can change that fact. And it is that fact, not unfair trade practices, that is leading ultimately to the kind of anger and despair that is corroding our politics. I refer here not only to the anger and despair of rural and urban working-class whites, but also to the despair of inner-city African-Americans and many Latinos who are also trapped by the dynamics I have just described.

We must have a bigger vision for our graduates than basic skills. And we need to stop using this term as if it were enough.

SIDE NOTE: While we’re at it, we also know that 3rd grade retention is one of the dumbest things we can do in school. As a researcher and former university educational leadership faculty member, Wayne should know better than this.

Image credit: N.Y. schools opening, Library of Congress

Inspiring… or not

Stop stealing dreams, by Seth GodinLearning math by building bridges or designing aircraft wings is inspiring. Chugging through the odd-numbered practice problems at the end of the chapter is not.

Improving our community by collecting data and investigating the causes of local environmental challenges is inspiring. Participating in artificial, recipe-like science ‘experiments’ from a publishing company is not.

Wrestling with controversial but important political issues is inspiring. Regurgitating decontextualized historical names, dates, and places is not.

Writing for and advocating to authentic audiences around societal issues that we’re passionate about is inspiring. Writing 5-paragraph essays about books that we don’t care about is not.

Investigating our own questions about the world and how it works is inspiring. Spitting back the ‘right answer’ to someone else’s low-level questions is not.

Finding areas of interest and passion is inspiring. Slogging through a lifeless textbook is not.

Active, energetic, enthusiastic, maybe messy, and probably noisy collaboration is inspiring. Working in isolation and sitting quietly in rows and columns are not.

Using technology to learn with and from students in other parts of the world is inspiring. Using technology to complete digital worksheets is not.

Interdisciplinary learning that is seen by students as meaningful, authentic, and connected to the real world is inspiring. Subject-siloed, isolated, disconnected learning is not.

Internships and community partnerships and impactful service learning opportunities are inspiring. Pretend word problems and scenarios are not.

Learning spaces that honor children’s dignity and value their worth are inspiring. Learning spaces that are overwhelmingly focused on compliance are not.

And so on…

Inspiring… or not. What vision are we selling to our students, parents, and communities?

And, no, we don’t have to do the uninspiring before we can get to the inspiring, particularly if we rarely get beyond the former…

Image credit: Stop Stealing Dreams, Seth Godin