Category Archives: john spencer

“Did you fail school or did school fail you?”

compliance does not foster innovation

Have you ever heard, or even said, “The bell doesn’t dismiss you. I dismiss you.”  I know I have early on in my career.

That line is not about empowerment, let alone engagement. It is strictly about compliance.  More on this in a bit.

This snippet of an interview from Gary Vaynerchuk and Larry King, is a very short, and powerful watch about the compliance we ask from our students:

The quote that struck me is, “Did you fail school or did school fail you?”

Some thoughts on this video:

John Spencer made the following comment:

I get so tired of hearing about all the ways that “school is failing.” How about we celebrate the innovation that’s already happening in our schools? How about we highlight the creative ways teachers are raising up the next generation of entrepreneurs?

I agree with a lot of what he says.  Most of our focus needs to be on an abundance mentality, yet I think some times these “jolts” are needed.  These things  and thinking might be happening in many classrooms, but do you is it the majority?

When Gary talks about his concern for the entrepreneurs he is look to hire being too good at school, I have had the same concern when hiring teachers. If they mastered “school” as students, will they be more reluctant to changing it to something better? It is hard to challenge what worked for some, to create something better for all.  I have really tried to catch myself from saying things like, “our smartest students”, and replacing that with “our smartest academic students”.  They don’t necessarily mean the same thing, and we have to be able to find those gifts in each of our students.

The other thing that really pushed my thinking is when Gary talks about people not being able to take that “punch in the mouth” from a market. Do we create opportunities for students to take their ideas beyond school? I have happened across to many students who have done amazing things in spite of school, not because of it. Their “free time” is where they become entrepreneurs, developers, innovators, and inventors.  This is not necessarily promoted unless there is a specific course for this within your school.

Back to the “bell doesn’t dismiss you” comment.  Do you think if learners were truly engrossed in what they are doing, would the bell even matter?

By the way, why do we have bells in schools still?

This would be a great video to discuss with your staff and how we encourage kids to push outside those lines, because the world might not necessarily be asking for it, but it definitely needs it.

 

11 Books To Further an #InnovatorsMindset

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Innovation is more about mindset, than skill set.  This is something that I truly believe and focus on in my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset” (Which I think would also be a good part of this list as well!).

In schools though, “innovation” is not only about individuals, but something that is required at all levels.  Working with so many different organizations around the world, you can see little things in how they operate which lend to how innovative they are.  Policies that are there because they have always been there, often inhibit innovation in many organizations, as they create so many hurdles to jump over, pushing people to either give up on the notion of innovation, or leave entirely.  This is why both leadership and management are crucial. Management is about the “stuff”, while leadership is about people.  If the “stuff” inhibits people instead of empowering them, you have a leadership problem.

Below are some books that have really pushed my thinking in the area of leadership and innovation. It is not comprehensive, but just a mix of some that you may have heard of, and some you haven’t, with a mix of business and education books.  I enjoyed all of them though and they have helped either shape or reaffirm my thinking and they will challenge the way you look at leadership, innovation, and education.

HumanizeHumanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World – Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant

A Favourite Quote: “The challenge here is not to do social media better. The challenge is to do our organizations better. The challenge is to make our organizations more human.”

At the centre of innovation is people, and this book is a great reminder of that.  Where technology is seemingly at the forefront of many conversations in education, this book gets you to focus on tapping into people using technology.  It is one of my favourite reads.

Bringing Innovation
A Favourite Quote: “The first step in teaching students to innovate is making sure that educators have opportunities to be innovators themselves.”
What I loved about this book was that it tempered powerful ideas with actual examples of people doing this work as well.

LaunchLAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student – A.J. Juliani and John Spencer

A Favourite Quote: “You cannot empower students to be self-directed, responsible, critical-thinking people if they can’t ask their own questions. At that point, you’re teaching compliance rather than responsibility.”

Full disclosure…I wrote a review for this awesome book.  Here is what I shared:

“‘Spencer and Juliani do an amazing job of bringing this concept to life using both powerful and practical examples, as well as narratives that make this book both inspiring and attainable at the same time. All kids walk into school curious and creative. This book will help weave a path to ensure that these traits are not only maintained, but accentuated when those same students leave.”

Great book that is for those educators looking to implement design thinking in meaningful ways into their classroom.

Why SchoolWhy School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere – Will Richardson

A Favourite Quote: “What doesn’t work any longer is our education system’s stubborn focus on delivering a curriculum that’s growing increasingly irrelevant to today’s kids, the outmoded standardized assessments we use in an attempt to measure our success, and the command-and-control thinking that is wielded over the entire process. All of that must be rethought.”

This book is a great and easy read, that will surely push your thinking of what school is compared to what school could be. Will Richardson also does this continuously and consistently in his blog as well.

originalsOriginals: How Non-Conformists Move the World – Adam Grant

A Favourite Quote: “We live in an Internet Explorer world. Just as almost two thirds of the customer service reps used the default browser on their computers, many of us accept the defaults in our own lives.”

This book has some really surprising ideas…Such as procrastination is often seen in many innovators, and that innovation doesn’t just have to be new, but “different and better”.  Really great read.

power of why

The Power Of Why: Simple Questions That Lead to Success – Amanda Lang

A Favourite Quote: “Curiosity is, therefore, strongly correlated with intelligence. For instance, one longitudinal study of 1,795 kids measured intelligence and curiosity when they were three years old, and then again eight years later. Researchers found that kids who had been equally intelligent at age three were, at eleven, no longer equal. The ones who’d been more curious at three were now also more intelligent, which isn’t terribly surprising when you consider how curiosity drives the acquisition of knowledge. The more interested and alert and engaged you are, the more you’re likely to learn and retain. In fact, highly curious kids scored a full twelve points higher on IQ tests than less curious kids did.”

Although this is a business book, the author brings lots of examples on the importance of what we do in education, and the long term impacts it can have on us as individuals.

school

Building School 2.0: How to Create the Schools We Need – Chris Lehmann and Zac Chase

A Favourite Quote: “One of the most important questions any school or teacher can ask is simple: “How can we be more thoughtful about what we do?” Unfortunately, it’s not the question we ask most frequently. The question schools and teachers have fallen in love with—“What more should we be doing?”—is much more dangerous and leads to the creation of unsustainable systems.”

This book was an awesome read, with short chapters that have a beautiful mix of common sense while also pushing your thinking.  I read it in one sitting and really appreciated the thinking of the authors on this in the possibilities for education today.

mindset

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – Carol Dweck

A Favourite Quote: “What did they know? They knew that human qualities, such as intellectual skills, could be cultivated through effort. And that’s what they were doing—getting smarter. Not only weren’t they discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing. They thought they were learning.”

If you haven’t read this book, you should.  It is a powerful read about motivation and learning, and has sparked many ideas for me in this blog, as well as countless other educators.

I live in the future

I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work & Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted – Nick Bilton

A Favourite Quote: “You can lament the changes that are happening today—tomorrow’s history—convincing yourselves of the negatives and refusing to be a part of a constantly changing culture. Or you can shake off your technochondria and embrace and accept that the positive metamorphosis will continue to happen, as it has so many times before. Young people today are building a new language, not demolishing an old one. And as you will soon see, developments like these new words are helping create significant and meaningful new communities and new relationships that are an essential part of our changing culture and our wireless future.”

Books like this bring an awareness to what the world is now, as opposed to what we see it could be.  It also will challenge the traditional notion of “literacy” in a world where creation is becoming more and more important.

world class

World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students – Yong Zhao

A Favourite Quote: “The new survival skills—effective communication, curiosity, and critical-thinking skills—“are no longer skills that only the elites in a society must muster; they are essential survival skills for all of us.”

If you have ever seen Zhao speak, this book emulates that.  It is thought provoking, going beyond the usual things you may read about education, but written in an engaging and compelling way.

smarter

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better – Clive Thompson

A Favourite Quote: “Literacy in North America has historically been focused on reading, not writing; consumption, not production.”

I just loved this book…It is great for so many of the arguments that people make that technology makes us less intelligent, but is written in a compelling way, full of great stories.

In no way is this meant to be a “best of” list; just books that have influenced my thinking.  This is also a list of books on “Innovation”, with none being in my list.  I would love to know what you think some of the best books are so please feel free to share them in the comments.