There’s no question about it, I enjoy talking. For those of you who know me personally, this comes as no surprise. I enjoy presenting at conferences and schools and I like to share with educators, students, and parents. But even through that, I still value listening and, I recognize that when I’m talking, I have to listen to others actively. When I saw a post by Dan Rockwell (who blogs at Leadership Freak) entitled “Those Who Talk the Most, Learn the Most“, I was intrigued but it clarified one of those tenants that teachers live by, “you don’t really know the content until you teach it”.
Over the last few years, I’ve intentionally tried to submit proposals to conferences for new presentations on topics that I want to explore further. This is one of my ways to keep current and keep pushing myself to learn new things. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t just propose to talk about random topics of which I have no knowledge. Instead, I take a new track on a topic that I’m familiar with and make the effort to expand my own thinking. I find that because I have put time and research into my talk, it helps me to clarify my own thinking and keep trying new things. Additionally, I encourage those I work with to share their thinking and, thereby, help them to gain greater clarity on whatever topics are covered.
If you’re not familiar with Leadership Freak, it’s become one of my favorite reads on leadership in recent months.
While perusing Twitter this morning, I came across a link to a post by George Couros entitled, “It’s Possible“. As I read his post, it made me think about the perceived barriers in our schools and the message George brings. Much of my work as an Innovation Coordinator is to strategically break down those very barriers. What I’m finding is that, even though I can question our practices and structures, many of the barriers I’m finding have more to do with mindset and simply not knowing what’s possible. It’s not a matter of teachers being lazy or not wanting to do the work. Far from it. By and large educators are more than willing to do the work, they may just need guidance or a thinking partner because, regardless of their initiative, doing it alone (or even in a team) is a daunting task when you are working with kids in a classroom every day. However, it’s not impossible when you find those strategic partners.
So what is possible and how do you find those ideas? Who can help me and what is it we want to accomplish? As I think about the way that I support teachers and librarians, my first inclination is to always try to connect them with others that have similar goals or expertise in the area. I encourage them to take their ideas and tweak them based on what they learned or based on the partnerships they’ve formed with their connections. Sometimes that means providing funding for opportunities for teachers to attend PD. More often, it means bringing awareness to the free or low cost opportunities that already exist. Sometimes these opportunities change lives. I distinctly remember one of my teachers attending EdCampStL and coming away with such a fire for teaching that she put retirement off because she was too excited about the possibilities.
More than anything, as a leader, I have to remember what my capacity is for assisting them in their endeavor. I must build capacity with those I’m helping and assist them as I can but not necessarily be one of the main players. When I’m honest with myself, this is challenging for me. I’m an educator. I want to help and be a part of great things for kids. I want to foster curiosity in adults to make those thing happen but I can’t and won’t be everywhere. My work has changed dramatically over the last 3 years and I have to recognize my capacity to do the work.
Everyone of us has a role and we all need each other to make it, whatever it may be, possible.
George closes his piece with the statement:
The thing that is often holding us back is ourselves. Once we realize that we can create something better, we often do better.
So what’s holding us back. How can we, as educators realize that we may be the ones holding ourselves back and move beyond that to do great things? This work is hard, it’s rewarding, and most importantly, it’s vital. The next opportunity that you have, help someone realize the possibilities. It’s worth it for everyone.
Since my very first day of teaching over 20 years ago, I’ve always wanted to try to provide opportunities for my students (and now my own kids) to be creative. What I love about the digital age is the number of options and tools that are now available for kids. I distinctly remember helping my students edit videos using a dual VCR bay. It was a tedious process that included many hours of looking at video frame by frame resulting in mostly mediocre results. It was good. We were learning and we told stories that we were proud of. Today, I have more power in my cell phone than those video bays could have given me and my students.
Last night I had another reminder of the power of technology in the lives of today’s youth. My son, Max, is 11 years old and has always been interested in music. From the time he struggled to get out of his stroller to dance at a music festival, to his guitar lessons a few years ago, and now as he has started to play the trumpet in the middle school band, music has always been a part of him. His twin sister, Molly, has also been interested in music and is now a flutist and practices far more than I ever did as a kid learning saxophone. As they were practicing their instruments, they decided to get together and write some music. They put together a song (with different parts for trumpet and flute) and immediately wanted to document it. Getting online they found a staff and wrote out the notes to their new song and played through it together a few times. Not only were they excited about their creation, they felt that they could do more but that the tedious nature of writing and rewriting the notes on the scale “just wasn’t efficient.” The next thing I knew Max is calling me from the front room asking if he can download the trial of Finale software to his computer so he could compose. He did and shortly thereafter, a song was created.
What strikes me about this is that, while these creations may have occurred without the technology, they took it a giant step further because of it. They were able to express themselves creatively and without my guiding them, step by step, through a process. They were empowered, excited, and made something that was meaningful to them and they were proud of.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve been regularly asked why I want to serve on the ISTE Board of Directors. Watching my kids last night only serves as reinforcement as to why I find this work so important. Looking at the ISTE Standards for students, the work that they did last night represents every one of the criteria and standards in some way. ISTE is leading the way in this work and helping to give kids like mine the opportunity to think critically and be creators of their own destiny. This work is vital to the educational environment and ISTE must continue to lead through professional development, advocacy, and innovation so that kids are natural creators.
If you’re interested in learning more about the work of the ISTE Board of Directors and the upcoming election, visit http://www.iste.org/about/board-of-directors/elections to meet the candidates. Voting starts November 9th for all ISTE members.
In working through the 5+1 key innovative behaviors as outlined in Paddy Miller and Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg’s book, “Innovation as Usual“, the third behavior, Tweak, is one of my favorites. As educators, when we tweak an idea with others, we redefine, reform and recreate that idea into something that, hopefully, will better accomplish our goals. The chapter even starts with the quote:
First ideas are flawed. Leaders must make people test, challenge, and reframe their ideas repeatedly.
This makes me think about how we develop successful innovations. I think it’s a matter of taking that innovative idea and pouring over it with others and going back to the last innovative behavior of “connect”. When we connect and tweak together, we can come up with better solutions and ideas that matter.
But what about kids? Shouldn’t we teach this type of collaboration and approach to ideating through the work we do in our classes? I know that the kids I work with, they typically fall in love with their first idea and usually don’t want to consider changing it up regardless of the feedback. What if we could bring them to reframe the problem they’re trying to solve? What if we made testing prototyping a regular part of the process of projects and lessons rather than exception? Won’t teaching our kids to change their view and approach to their ideas help to foster their capacity for collaboration and creativity? Might this help to build a society of innovators that will “Tweak” our world? I hope so.
How do you encourage your kids to “Tweak”?
Cross posted to the ISTE Innovative Learning Community
A friend and mentor of mine once told me that,
“In education you can get pulled in a lot of different ways. What you really have to do is focus on the work that you want to do and the work that’s important to you. If it’s not important to you, let it go. It will be important to someone else.”
These words have stuck with me over the years as opportunities have come along. There are always committees to serve on, tasks to complete, and ways to contribute to the collective good of education. Each time an opportunity comes along, I think about that conversation and I think about what’s important to me as an educator.
- Where do my interests lie?
- Where is the work that I want find fulfilling and want to do?
- Will doing this work make a difference?
Those are the questions I ask myself as I think about my role in education and my role as a leader in the world of education.
Earlier this fall when the call for applications for the ISTE Board of Directors came out, I asked myself these very questions, filled out the application and am now on the slate of candidates for this year’s elections. I can’t express how excited and humbled I am to be considered for this work. For years ISTE has helped shape my thinking and my approach to education. It’s connected me with others around the world and given me opportunities to lead (as president of the Innovative Learning PLN), write (as author of an ISTE book), and share my ideas and thinking (as a ISTE conference presenter) with other educators. I would be proud to serve on the ISTE Board and encourage all ISTE members to make your voice heard and vote in the upcoming election. Voting begins on November 9th and will end on December 7th.
To learn more about the election and all of the candidates who are on the slate, visit the ISTE Elections page and remember to vote.
For the next few weeks, many of my posts focus on my thinking about the work of the ISTE Board of Directors and the election.
In Paddy Miller and Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg’s book, “Innovation as Usual“, the first behavior that they discuss is that of focus suggesting that, when you’re an innovator, many things can and do come up to distract your from your main business, but it’s the innovator that must set all of that aside and focus on what matters. What is it that is important to you and your business? For educators, what’s our business? What must we focus on? Typically, what I say is that our primary business is what’s good for kids. If it’s good for kids, I’m usually willing to entertain the idea. However, “what’s good for kids” can be pretty arbitrary leading to innovation fatigue and trying things just to try them.
So, the question is, in schools, how do we focus? What do we focus on? Does it vary based on the classroom/building/district or are there some universal things that we can agree upon when it comes to focusing on what matters?
Cross posted to the ISTE Innovative Learning Community
As part of the ongoing series around innovative behaviors (found in the book Innovation As Usual), this time I want to focus on connecting. I remember the first conference I ever went to as an educator. That experience opened my eyes to the bigger world of education. Even though it was a small local conference, I had the opportunity to connect with others around education and got a glimpse into what was going on in other schools. It was fascinating, invigorating, and, at the same time, extremely frustrating. This was before the internet was really a thing; before I knew about ISTE and before I had really spent much time in the classroom. Going back to my school, I missed the hallway conversations and the big thinking about what I could do for students. In the book, the authors day that “insight comes from the outside”. Ideas are pieced together by what we already know and combining those things in new ways. That’s where the connection comes in. The more people that we have, the more common knowledge we share and the more we connect, the more we can incubate those ideas into something great.
In my work, this is where ISTE comes in. Through the annual conference, the PLN’s and through the ISTE communities, I can connect my ideas with others and have that greater collective knowledge. There are so many places available to connect with people online. Be that Twitter, Facebook, a Google+ Community or just a listserv that you subscribe to. Connecting is one of the many things that makes us strong as educators and allows us to incubate new ideas and gain more of that common knowledge.
Where do you connect? What are your go to places where you can learn about and identify new practices and tools?
Cross posted to the ISTE Innovative Learning Community
The Digital Citizenship community created by Common Sense Media and housed in EdWeb is a great place for educators to connect and share. The webinars that are archived there are fantastic and each one has an opportunity for teachers to receive continuing education credits. This video shows how to access those webinars and the certificates as well as how to manage the email notification for an account. http://ift.tt/1J0zKuz
In continuing with my experiments with 3D printing, I’ve found and printed a variety of Google icons including the Chrome and Drive logos as well as the icons for Docs, Presentations, Forms, Classroom, and Spreadsheets. It’s been great fun and I appreciate those who have come before me and designed these items.