Over at the Connected Principals blog, George Couros discussed what he saw as the biggest ‘game changer’ in education: “being open to new learning opportunities, doing something with them, and making that human connection to our learners.”
I would say that the biggest ‘game changer’ in education is the shift from educator control to student empowerment. When we enable greater student agency and put our children and youth in environments where they have much greater autonomy, ownership, and self-direction, completely different paradigms of learning, teaching, and schooling begin to emerge. Digital technologies and the Internet can be vital facilitators of these kinds of learning experiences but, as you note, George, they are but a means to a larger end. As long as we view schools as places where adults do things to kids, the game of school will never change. As Gary Stager says, “Less us, more them.”
Read George’s post and share your thoughts on what you see as the biggest ‘game changer’ in education!
We’re just getting started, but we’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks talking about who we we want to be, what we’re going to be about, and how we’re going to do our business. Here’s our thinking behind our new name (and our work)…
- rethink. A willingness to envision something different. The critical move from ‘yes, but’ to ‘how can we?’ and ‘why not?’. #dreambigger
- redesign. Start building something better. Instead of traditional poorly-planned and poorly-implemented change efforts, be intentional and purposeful. If we want a better tomorrow, design thinking, systems thinking, and other structured processes help ensure desired results. All organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they are now getting. #designforit
- (go!). Take action. Do it now. Don’t take two years to plan and another three years to roll it out. Try something. Tomorrow. Include a rapid feedback loop and learn from it. Fail and fail again, but fail smarter (and quicker). #perpetualbeta
#dreambigger. #designforit. #perpetualbeta. That pretty much sums up the work of my team and what we’ll be discussing on our blog. We hope that many of you will join us.
Diane Ravitch says:
the best way to remember Martin Luther King [is] not to think of him as a statue or an icon, but to take to heart his example. He did not bow his head in the face of injustice. He did not comply. He said no. He said it in a spirit of love and non-violence. But he resisted. He said no. He resisted. He said, we will not acquiesce to what we know is wrong. We will not acquiesce. We will not comply. We will not obey unjust laws. How does that apply to the situation of public education today? Public schools are drowning in nonsensical mandates. They are whipsawed by failed ideas coming from D.C. and state capitols that are following D.C.’s lead. They are subject to regulations and programs that no one understands. These mandates are ruining schooling, not making it better. The incessant testing is not making kids smarter, it is making kids bored and turned off by school. Schools are trapped in bureaucratic mazes that make no sense. What would Martin Luther King, Jr., do? Would he passively submit? No. He would resist. He would organize and join with others. He would build coalitions of parents, students, teachers, administrators, school board members, and members of the community who support their public schools. He would demand true education for all children. He would demand equality of educational opportunity, not a Race to some mythical Top or ever higher scores on bubble tests. He would not be silent as our public schools are worn down and torn down by mindless mandates. He would recognize that the victims of this political and bureaucratic malfeasance are our children. He would build a political movement so united and clear in its purpose that it would be heard in every state Capitol and even in Washington, D.C. And that is how we should commemorate his life.
24 principals in a big room on Tuesday…
Do we know what ‘the right work’ is? Can we identify it and label it? Can we tell the difference between ends and means? Between desired outcomes and strategies? PLCs, Common Core, RTI, concept-based instruction, PBIS, 1:1, and Daily 5 are NOT the end goal, they’re just strategies and mechanisms to get us from here to there. Engaged learners, quality facilitating, and rigorous curriculum get us closer…
Can we create time and structures that allow us to do the right work? Do, plan, delegate, eliminate. What do we do that falls into each of these boxes? More importantly, what can/should we move into ‘delegate’ and ‘eliminate?’ WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR US? As Jeff Herzberg notes, we’re awfully expensive cafeteria monitors (and substitute teacher finders and class schedulers and bus duty monitors and …).
And then it gets really hard. What are our own immunities to change? What is stopping us from changing what we KNOW we need to change about our own work? And by the time we’re done, we’re stating some big (testable) assumptions:
- I assume that if I do have honest conversations, then my teachers won’t “like” me and then they’ll lose faith in my leadership ability.
- I assume that if I do delegate the way I need to in order to be a strong educational leader, then building morale will spiral on a downward path because of the notion that I am being lazy and not doing my job.
- I assume that if I’m not in the flow of information, then I will lose my sense of power and be just another person going through the motions.
- I assume that if I ask people to make meeting appointments [instead of just popping into my office], then they will think I am stuck up and will think that I don’t think they matter. Ending in they won’t like me.
- I assume that if my staff knew that I didn’t know everything about our initiatives, then they would lose respect for me. It would change how they view me as their leader.
- I assume that if I do not [personally] take on all of those duties that could be delegated, then certain parts of the school day will be chaotic and this will be a reflection of me as a leader.
- I assume that if I do force change and push the envelope, then I will lose credibility with our staff.
- I assume that if I force too much change, alienate staff, or go against prevailing culture, then I will be seen as a liability and my position will be eliminated.
A powerful day of reflection, conversation, and internal interrogation. Thank you, Troyce Fisher.
Graham Brown-Martin says:
why [has] technology, to date, had very little impact on improved learning outcomes? This could be because we continue to use technology to reinforce 19th century teaching practice to meet out-dated assessment models. Most of the world’s curriculum and assessment systems are based around fact recall rather than actually demonstrating that you have learned something and can deploy it within a problem-solving situation.
Audrey Watters says:
Theres a line in a 2011 Wired Magazine article about Khan Academy where Bill Gates calls constructionism “bullshit.” It’s a line that’s stuck with me because it makes me so damn angry, no doubt, but also because it highlights Gates’ dismissal of established learning theories, his ego, his ignorance.
And it highlights too, I think, the huge gulf between those like Gates who have a vision of computers as simply efficient content delivery and assessment systems and those like Seymour [Papert] who have a vision of computers as powerful and discovery learning machines. The former does things to children; the latter empowers them to do things — to do things in the world, not just within a pre-defined curriculum.
If I had the chance to build a new school organization (or redesign an existing one), I would start by attending to the educational movements listed below. Every year we see these initiatives gain further ground in traditional educational systems. I see these as basic building blocks for the future of schooling and think that leaders and policymakers should be working toward greater implementation of all of these, both individually and in concert…
- Competency-based education and standards-based grading efforts that shift the focus from seat time to learning mastery.
- Project- and inquiry-based learning environments that emphasize greater student agency and active application of more cognitively-complex thinking, communication, and collaboration skills.
- 1:1 computing initiatives (and concurrent Internet bandwidth upgrades) that give students powerful digital learning devices and access to the world’s information, individuals, and organizations.
- The expansion of digital and online (and often open access) information resources that increase the availability of higher and deeper learning opportunities.
- Online communities of interest that supplement and augment more-traditional learning communities that are limited by geography and time.
- Adaptive software and data systems (and accompanying organizational models) that can facilitate greater individualization of learning content and pace.
- Alternative credentialing mechanisms that enable individuals to quickly reskill for and adapt to rapidly-evolving workforce needs and economic demands.
- ADDED: Simulations and problem-based learning experiences that foster students’ ability to engage in authentic, real-world work. (hat tip: Trent Grundmeyer)
What did I miss here? What would you revise or add to this list? Most importantly, how well is your school organization doing at paying attention to these 7 key components of future learning environments?
August 15 is the 7th anniversary of my blog. So, once again, I’m inviting everyone who’s interested to help me celebrate by participating in Leadership Day 2013!
Over the past 6 years, we’ve had over 400 Leadership Day posts. That’s awesome because, to paraphrase what I said six years ago,
many of our school leaders (principals, superintendents, central office administrators) need help when it comes to digital technologies. A lot of help, to be honest. As I’ve noted again and again on this blog, most school administrators don’t know
- what it means to prepare students for the digital, global world in which we now live;
- how to recognize, evaluate, and facilitate effective technology usage by students and teachers;
- what appropriate technology support structures (e.g., budget, staffing, infrastructure, training) look like or how to implement them;
- how to utilize modern technologies to facilitate communication with internal and external stakeholders;
- the ways in which learning technologies can improve student learning outcomes;
- how to utilize technology systems to make their organizations more efficient and effective;
- and so on…
Administrators’ lack of knowledge is not entirely their fault. Many of them didn’t grow up with computers. Other than basic management or data analysis technologies, many are not using digital tools or online systems on a regular basis. Few have received training from their employers or their university preparation programs on how to use, think about, or be a leader regarding digital technologies.
So let’s help.
How to participate
- On Thursday, August 15, 2013, blog about whatever you like related to effective school technology leadership: successes, challenges, reflections, needs, wants, resources, ideas, etc. Write a letter to the administrators in your area. Post a top ten list. Make a podcast or a video or a voice-narrated presentation. Highlight a local success or challenge. Recommend some readings. Create an app, game, or simulation. Draw a cartoon. Do an interview of a successful technology leader. Respond to some of the questions below or make up your own. If you participated in years past, post a follow-up reflection. Whatever strikes you.
- The official hashtag is #leadershipday13
- TO ENSURE THAT WE CAN FIND YOUR POST, please complete the online submission form AFTER you post, including a short teaser that will drive traffic to your post. Everyone then will be able to see your post in the complete list of submissions. If you want to link back to this post or leave a link to yours in the comment area, that’s okay too!
Some prompts to spark your thinking
- What do effective P-12 technology leaders do? What actions and behaviors can you point to that make them effective leaders in the area of technology?
- Do administrators have to be technology-savvy themselves in order to be effective technology leaders in their organizations?
- What are some tangible, concrete, realistic steps that administrators can take to move their school organizations forward?
- What are some tangible, concrete, realistic steps that can be taken to move administrators themselves forward? Given the unrelenting pressures that they face and their ever-increasing time demands, what are some things that administrators can do to become more knowledgeable and skilled in the area of technology leadership?
- Perhaps using the National Educational Technology Standards for Administrators (NETS-A) as a starting point, what are the absolutely critical skills or abilities that administrators need to be effective technology leaders?
- What strengths and deficiencies are present in the NETS-A?
- What are some of the biggest challenges and barriers to administrators being better technology leaders (and how do we address them)?
- What is a technology tool that would be extremely useful for a busy administrator (i.e., one he or she probably isn’t using now)?
- What should busy administrators be reading (or watching) that would help them be better technology leaders? What are some other resources that would help them be better technology leaders?
- How can administrators best structure necessary conversations with internal or external stakeholders regarding technology?
- How should administrators balance enablement with safety, risk with reward, fear with empowerment?
- When it comes to P-12 technology leadership, where do we need new knowledge, understanding, training, or research?
- What are (or might be) some successful models of technology leadership training for school administrators?
- How might preservice preparation programs for administrators better incorporate elements of technology leadership?
- When you think of (in)effective P-12 technology leadership, what comes to mind?
Here are the 405 ABSOLUTELY EXCELLENT posts from the past six years (405!)
- Leadership Day 2007 – Summary (22 posts)
- Leadership Day 2008 – Summary (30 posts)
- Leadership Day 2009 - Summary spreadsheet (104 posts)
- Leadership Day 2010 – Final list, some highlights, summary spreadsheet (114 posts)
- Leadership Day 2011 – Summary spreadsheet (83 posts)
- Leadership Day 2012 – Summary spreadsheet (72 posts)
A badge for your blog or web site
I hope you will join us for this important day because, I promise you, if the leaders don’t get it, it’s not going to happen.
As my colleague, John Nash, regularly reminds me, design thinking facilitators know that whenever any sort of change or innovation is discussed, the yes, but objections are inevitable. However, instead of allowing those resistance points to dominate and defeat promising ideas, design thinkers work hard to try and reframe opposition into possibility by asking the question how can we?
I absolutely love the idea of spending our time talking about how can we? instead of yes, but. The former focuses on adaptation, forward progress, and collective effort and efficacy. The latter doesn’t do anything except keep us stuck. That’s not to say that concerns shouldn’t be aired. Challenges, barriers, and other issues absolutely need to be put on the table and addressed. But too often we get mired in negativity and defeatism instead of recognizing that, both individually and collectively, we usually have the ability to do and be so much more than our current reality reflects.
As much as I love the how can we? reframe, I think there’s another question that needs to be asked as well. Read the following excerpt from Chris Lehmann’s graduation speech to his high school seniors this year:
You have completed nearly 10,000 benchmark projects over the last four years. And at least three or four of them were completed before the night before they were due.
You have been Student Assistant Teachers in over forty 9th and 10th grade classes, helping students in class, in our halls, on Facebook and anywhere you were needed – guaranteeing that our younger students know what it means to go to SLA.
You created SLAMedia.org — setting a standard for on-line student journalism for high schools all over the world.
You have furthered the partnership with The Franklin Institute, creating Project SPACE, teaching 9th graders, presenting at the National Science Teachers Association conference and setting a new standard for how our students interface with the people of this institution.
You have furthered Rough Cut Productions, creating original documentaries, short films and filming 100s of hours of SLA functions.
You have created a permanent art gallery in the third floor ballroom, created a mosaic that will hang for years to come, and have pushed us to consider what happens when students treat the very halls and walls of their school as a gallery of their ideas.
You created an incredible robotics team that exceeded everyone’s expectations in its first year in existence. But that should come as no surprise, as it seemed like no matter where the bar was set, you all always exceeded it.
You have met Michael Dell, and, by the way, we were told that your questions were among the best he has ever had.
You have run thousands of miles with Students Run Philly Style, running the Philly Marathon, the Broad Street Run, and so many Saturday morning training runs that I am tired just thinking about it.
You have played — and won — on the fields and courts of Philadelphia, never letting the lack of a gym or a home field stand in the way of your desire and ability to compete, always wearing SLA’s colors with pride and representing us with dignity.
You have spoken truth to power – rallying in the streets, speaking at SRC meetings, and going to City Council to ensure that your voice was heard when it came time to support public education in your city.
You have hosted thousands of educators from all over the world who came to see how you learn. They often came skeptical that high school students could do what you do, speak the way you speak, learn the way you learn, but to a person, they left convinced, recommitted to the idea that schools should be places where students — and learning — matter greatly.
And last week, you presented the culminating work of your time at Science Leadership Academy – your capstones. The projects were as varied as you all are. You created businesses, you wrote original plays, you created engineering projects, you put on events, you did profound scientific research, you curated galleries of your artwork. In all, you took our core values – inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection – and applied them to your own ideas, your own passions, and in doing so, created incredible artifacts of your learning. You stood in front of your community and said, “This is the scholar I have become. This is what I can do.” And in doing so, you reminded all of us of what young people can do when given the freedom and the support to dream big.
Incredible stuff, right? Now read Jesse McLean’s thoughts on fostering students’ entrepreneurial spirit:
Why couldn’t our students utilize a site like [Kickstarter]? Why couldn’t we embrace this interesting phenomenon and use it to get kids excited and engaged in active learning and exploration of the “Entrepreneurial Spirit” in a completely authentic manner? Why couldn’t this be the new roadside lemonade stand?
One of the new ways I decide if an idea is within reason is by a simple test – Could students already be doing this independently without us? Of course the answer is yes, so why not find ways to get this in our high school classes, or maybe even in our middle school classrooms?
Kickstarter offers members a page called “Kickstarter School” where it defines 8 steps to making the site work for their projects.
- Defining Your Project
- Creating Rewards
- Setting Your Goal
- Making Your Video
- Building Your Project
- Promoting Your Project
- Project Updates
- Reward Fulfillment
Just think of all the places students could take their learning in these 8 steps. Now if a project doesn’t get the funding necessary, NO money goes to the project. So if a student wanted to build a rocket powered skateboard (probably not the safest project) and had a goal of $10,000 to develop it, but only had supporters pledge $200 by the time limit, then the project gets declined and the backers don’t contribute at all.
Now maybe you don’t want to get into the money side of things, we all know things can get messy when money is involved, so maybe you take the idea and put your own spin on it. Maybe you run the same system where students have to make proposals for their projects but they present to you, or maybe a panel of local business owners. Maybe they are vying for seed money, and maybe you find people willing to donate that seed money. Maybe they have to present to their classmates and win their approval rather than financial support. There are a lot of ways this could go, but I would show students the actual site, because there is always that chance that you have a budding entrepreneur sitting in your classroom just looking for a way to get started.
Cool idea, huh? There are some interesting possibilities worth unpacking there…
Note that instead of yes, but both of these school leaders adopt the perspective of why not? What a wonderful question with which to approach any proposed change or innovation: Why couldn’t OUR schools and classrooms do these sorts of things too? As Chris says, instead of teaching our students a bunch of stuff so that they can do amazing things and make a difference later, why not have them do amazing things and make a difference RIGHT NOW?
We give too much attention to yes, but and rarely, if ever, embrace the more powerful questions of why not? and how can we?
Image credit: Ask your own Why Not? question