Category Archives: Providing Instructional Leadership

#AGreatTeacherIs…

I saw a post on Twitter talking about removing the word “teaching” and simply replacing it with “learning”. I have to admit, I cringed at the thought.  That being said, I do believe a great teacher starts from the view point of a learner, not the teacher.  This is something that is a needed shift in the traditional norm of education. Starting from the needs of the learner, not the teacher.

That being said, with all of the change that is being thrust upon us so quickly in the world, great teachers are needed more than ever.  I asked the following question on Twitter:

Here are my thoughts:

A Great Teacher Is…

 

Someone who is a relationships builder.

Someone who shapes minds.

Someone who empowers learners.

Someone who cares about their learners.

Someone who inspires.

Someone who is a leader AND a follower, and knows when to go into each role.

Someone who knows when to stand in front and then knows when to gets out of the way.

Someone who is wise and shares their wisdom with others.

Someone who listens.

Someone who is continuously learning and growing.

Someone who shares what was, but inspires dreams of what could be.

Someone who both embraces and creates change.

Someone who is a constant innovator.

Someone who impacts people long after their time with them.

A great teacher is often all of these things and so much more.

P.S. Nothing here about test scores…

As I said earlier, teachers are needed more now than ever.  Change will be the only constant that we will deal with in our world, and it is happening at a rate faster than ever.  Educators should not only empower the next generation to embrace change, but will develop those who create it, making the world a better place.

Share your blog posts or tweets to share what you think #AGreatTeacherIs.

Fifty years ago

 

3 Obvious Ways Twitter Promotes Literacy

What today's young people know is that knowing who you're writing for and why you're writing might be the most crucial factor of all.

It was an interesting day for me.  I spoke in the same district that I did my first keynote in by myself, and it was an amazing experience to reconnect and think about my journey over the last few years.  The person that asked me to speak over six years ago was still there, and we reminisced about our experiences over this time.

One of the conversations was going back to the idea of Twitter and does it actually promote literacy.  Thinking about, jumping onto Twitter years ago has led to many amazing opportunities for me, but I also think that it has led to tremendous growth in my own learning over time.  Since I first started connecting with others through the medium, I have written over 88,000 tweets, written over 1,100 blog posts, and one book.  I am a firm believer that if you want to become better at writing, the best way to do it is to write more.

Without connecting on Twitter, I truly believe that I would not have written in the other mediums.  I have started blogs before, but never made it past a few posts.  As for a book?  I doubt that was something I would have ever done without Twitter.  I am not the only one; so many educators that have connected through the medium have written and published their own books.  I have seen people criticize that so many educators are writing books now, and I think, “Wow! So many educators are writing books now!”  Educators sharing their wisdom with different audiences all over the world is a pretty powerful thing.

Yet how does Twitter actually promote literacy?  As I thought about it, here are three obvious ways that really stand out to me.

  1. You read more. Many educators start off with the idea that they are “lurkers” on Twitter.  They have access to learning and ideas that they might not get within their own schools or usual circles.  I am a big believer in “created serendipity“; the more connected you are, the more ideas seem to find you, not the other way around.  The amount of blog posts and articles that I have read in the last few years is seemingly more than I ever read in my time as a student.  It should be also noted that none of these articles were pushed upon me but it was an opportunity to read things that I was interested in, not articles that were pushed upon me by someone else.
  2. You write more. I googled, “How many characters are in your average book?”, and according to this site, it is approximately 500,000.  So let’s say that the average tweet has 100 characters, well then 5000 tweets would equate to the length of a book.  Now writing 500,000 characters of tweets versus writing in a book are not equally weighted, but simply put, you are writing more.  Getting on Twitter is not about writing a book though, but how often do students write this much on their own?

    Clive Thompson has an interesting take on this:

    “The first thing she found is that young people today write far more than any generation before them. That’s because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom—life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.

    It’s almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.

    But is this explosion of prose good, on a technical level? Yes. Lunsford’s team found that the students were remarkably adept at what rhetoricians call kairos—assessing their audience and adapting their tone and technique to best get their point across. The modern world of online writing, particularly in chat and on discussion threads, is conversational and public, which makes it closer to the Greek tradition of argument than the asynchronous letter and essay writing of 50 years ago.”

    Which leads us into the next point…

  3. You can find your voice.  If you go onto Twitter, there are many educators that are passionate about so many different things, both in and out of the realm of education.  If literacy is about how we communicate our ideas, we have to understand how we connect and share, and how an audience will interpret we are sharing.  This is crucial as it is not only about the message, but how it is delivered.  As I am a big believer in moving from engagement to empowerment, someone that feels empowered to share will most likely tend to share more.

I have long held the belief that we are slowly becoming illiterate if we do not keep up with these modern mediums, but my focus is not about how to keep up, but how to embrace the opportunities these mediums provide us.  If there is something that could get our students not only reading more, but writing more as well, wouldn’t we be crazy not to embrace it?

 

7 Important Questions Before Implementing Digital Portfolios

Image from Bill Ferriter at: http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical/2012/12/what-are-you-doing-to-make-sure-your-students-are-well-googled-1.html

Image from Bill Ferriter (@plugusin)

Digital portfolios are something that are really starting to take off in schools.  There are different software programs that will make “portfolios” easy to share, yet do we truly embrace the power that a digital portfolio can bring into our schools?  Since it is “digital”, we need to go beyond a portfolio that only represents one year of learning, but can show the progression over time.

Here are some questions for you to consider as you look into the process.

  1. Is this a learning portfolio, showcase portfolio, or combination of both? – Does this show the student’s progression over time (learning), or just the best stuff (showcase).  There are huge benefits to both for learning and opportunities over time.  A combination of both in my opinion is best.
  2. Who owns the learning? – Is this a portfolio that only shows “school” work, or does the student have the opportunity to display what they are passionate about, or is it simply for items to be displayed based on what the teacher wants?  Is it a combination of both?  If the student feels no ownership over the process and product, the results will not be as powerful as if they do.
  3. How will it be exported after the process? – For starters, see the question above.  Secondly, if there is no plan to ensure that students have the opportunity to put all of this learning into their own space eventually, you are missing another opportunity that digital provides.
  4. How will you make the audience eventually go global? – A lot of parents and educators are worried about the work of a student getting “out there” (for various reasons), but if the portfolio is only available upon request, we are taking a very “paper” mentality, to a “digital” platform.  This does not meant the whole world has to see everything from the beginning, or the student needs to share it with the world if they do not want to, but the progression plan to share it with the world should be there.  Will the audience  be limited long term?
  5. What brings people to the portfolio? – Is there any mechanism that brings people to the portfolio other than telling people to come? Simple things like email help to build an audience.  Is the portfolio more likely to be seen and more valuable to the learning if it goes to people, other than people coming to the portfolio?
  6. What impact will this have on the learner’s digital footprint?Will Richardson suggests that by the time kids graduate grade 12, you should be able to google them and find good stuff about them (see image at the top of the post). Does the portfolio help in this endeavour when every student we work with now will be googled for jobs, university, or a myriad of other things.
  7. What about next year and other classes? – This is a HUGE question.  If the portfolio only lasts for one year, then you are missing a great opportunity. What professional learning is in place for teachers to support a connection of learning over time for the students?  What will the students work look like over time and how will they be able to google or search for their own learning?  If the plan is not in place to grow this over time, we lose so much from the process.

If these questions aren’t considered, I am wondering if we are just doing a digital version of “school”, or rethinking the opportunities digital now provides for learning in school?  This is more than just thinking about the software, but thinking about the potential of what this process can bring to our students and ourselves.

Grades Do Not Tell the Story of a Child

One of the amazing things about my job, is the ability to learn from so many amazing individuals. Donna DeSiato is one of those leaders.  The vision for education, as well as the moves they are making to make that a reality, show the importance of leadership and bringing people together.  The “system” is always made up of individuals, and those individuals coming together can make a significant difference.

Some of the nuggets that I gleaned from her that day (paraphrased):

“If we(educators) only focus on standards and tests, why would our parents focus on anything else?”

“We have to give permission to go beyond the test.”

“We must provide permission, support, and protection.  Permission is the opportunity to try new things that we aren’t sure work yet. Support is ensuring the professional learning is in place to help educators get to the next level. Protection is ensuring that if things don’t work out the way things were planned, that are teachers know they are safe.”

As I did not get these quotes exactly the way Donna said them, hopefully I got the general meaning behind what she was saying.  Inspiring words from a superintendent.

Yet one thing Donna shared REALLY stuck with me.  It was regarding something that she says to parents during any showcase within her district’s work:

“We know that we have state standards and requirements that we are supposed to meet, but that is just one of the ways we show our learning.  Tonight, we show another aspect of our learning and I hope you can see the impact it has had on the learning of the students. Please enjoy.”

What I found fascinating about this approach, is that Donna is making the explicit connection with her community on the importance of learning in a many different forms and mediums.  She understands that there is a “box”, but that innovation is happening within these constraints, and it is important to highlight them.  As I have said before, grades do not tell the story of a child. Grades do not tell the story of a child.Are we explicit with those ways that we share these stories with our communities, as well as why they are so important?

 

 

10 Reasons to Try Genius Hour This School Year

My good friend AJ Juliani is about to start a Genius Hour Master Course.  His passion for this topic and his ability to share his enthusiasm has made a significant difference with so many educators.

As this is a paid course, you can sign up here, and he is also offering a 20% discount if you use the following code to sign up:

20GEORGE

Below is a blog that is reposted from his blog and is great for those schools already using Genius Hour, or those looking to dive in.  Check out his post below and you will see just a sample of what will be shared.


Originally posted at ajjuliani.com.

If you haven’t heard of Genius Hour or 20% time in the classroom, the premise is simple: Give your students 20% of their class time (or an hour each week) to learn what they want. These projects allow students to choose the content and still acquire/master skills and hit academic starts.

I’ve written extensively about Genius Hour and 20% Time, but wanted to share a list of the 10 reasons you should consider Genius Hour in your classroom (for those of you on the fence) and why you will not regret making that choice!

Getting Started With Genius Hour via @ajjuliani

1. You will join a great community of learners

When I first did the Genius Hour project with my students I didn’t have a community of teachers or learners. Within months that changed as a number of great teachers before and after me started to share their stories online. The largest active group is the Genius Hour teachers (inspired by Daniel Pink) who have #geniushour chats, a big resource at GeniusHour.com, and a great Genius Hour wiki. Get involved and see what others have done!

2. You will allow students to go into depth with a topic that inspires them

One of the major issues we face in schools today is covering a wide breadth of information, instead of allowing students to get a real depth of knowledge. Students using Genius Hour and 20% time are able to delve into subject matter that means something to them, often times taking their free time at home to learn more. Isn’t this something we should be promoting at all levels?

3. There is so much positive peer pressure

When students in my school have their Shark Tank pitch day, they get to share with the entire class what they are working on. Publicly announcing what they are trying to accomplish makes the goal real. Students get to see what their peers are working on and want to make sure their project stands up to the rest of the class. Regardless of a grade being attached to the project, this makes for students going the extra mile.

4. It relieves students of the “game of school”

Too often our students complete assignments for the grade. They go through the motions to receive an external pat on the back (or bump on their transcript).  Genius Hour and 20% time take away the “game of school” and brings back the love of learning for learning’s sake.

5. It’s fun!

Randy Pausch famously said, “If you think you can’t learn and have fun at the same time. Then I don’t think you have a good understanding of either.”Without a doubt it is the best time of the week. Student feedback is not only positive, but also transparent. This work often carries back to their homes where parents/guardians share their passion for learning beyond the school walls.

Note: I am hosting a FREE Webinar next week, ¨Getting Started With Genius Hour: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Structuring Genius Hour (and my 5 Best Strategies for Engagement)¨Sign up here. 

6. Your class will be covering all types of common core standards

It doesn’t matter if you teach elementary, middle, or high school. The Genius hour and 20% time projects cover multiple common cores standards. We’ve had teachers propose this type of learning to their administration backed by awesome research. Remember, the community will help if you are fighting a battle to get Genius Hour or 20% time started at your school.

7. It’s differentiation at its best

Students are working at their level, and as teachers we should be helping to challenge each one of our learners at their best pace and ability. Because each project differs, students are not bogged down by following the same steps as their classmates. The entire class is learning, but it is truly differentiated.

8. You learn by what you do, not by what you hear

Experiential and challenge based learning puts the mastery back into the student’s hands. We provide guidance and pushes along the way, but they are the ones “doing” and “making”. Confucius put it perfectly: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Let your students make and they will understand and thank you for the opportunity.

9. It is a perfect way to model life-long learning

I did Genius Hour with my students and took it upon myself to learn how to code and make an app from scratch. I failed to make that app. But my experience learning how to program left me with a whole new perspective, and was a teachable moment about what we call failure. There is no real way to fail a project in which “learning” is the end-goal.

10. Your students will never forget what it felt like to create

Have you seen Caine’s arcade? It started out as a little idea and now Caine has inspired hundreds of other kids his age to create something unique. When you create a product, it becomes part of who you are, and there is a “care” involved that we just never see with multiple-choice tests. What would you want for your child?

This is the most important time to be in education. It is the most important time to care about education. It is the most important time to impact a different type of education.

Now, more than any other time in the past 100 years, education seems on the verge of a paradigm shift. You see, for the past century, most of the educational change has been doing old things in new ways. Today, we are beginning to see educators, educational institutions and educational companies do new things in new ways.

My challenge to you as a teacher is to allow your students the choice to learn what they want. That’s what Genius Hour and 20% time is all about, and that is why it is so successful.


Again, if you’re interested in this great opportunity, you can sign up for AJ’s course here.

 

4 Great Ted Talks That Will Challenge Your Thinking

Rita

Getting a message from a friend on Facebook, she had mentioned Daniel Pink’s book “Drive”, and it reminded me of how much his Ted Talk really made an impact on my learning and thinking.  There are some really good Ted Talks (or TedX Talks), but to be honest, there are only a few that really changed my thinking.  Dan Pink led me to really rethink the notion of awards in school, and I wrote about it extensively.

Below, I am going to share some of the ones that have made the biggest impact on me, and why, starting with Dan Pink:

1. Dan Pink – The Puzzle of Motivation

What I loved about this talk, was not only the content, but the “lawyerly” approach to it. Pink’s final thoughts resonate:

There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. Here is what science knows. One: Those 20th century rewards, those motivators we think are a natural part of business, do work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances. Two: Those if-then rewards often destroy creativity. Three: The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive– the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things cause they matter.

And here’s the best part. We already know this. The science confirms what we know in our hearts. So, if we repair this mismatch between science and business, if we bring our motivation, notions of motivation into the 21st century, if we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses, we can solve a lot of those candle problems, and maybe, maybe — we can change the world.

Talk to any administrators in a school, and they will talk about the importance of collaboration.  Walk into their schools though, and the walls are often focus on external drivers to acknowledge the “best” (sports awards, honour rolls, etc.).  This is a great talk to push your thinking, but also to discuss with staff, if you are looking to challenge the traditional notion of awards, and the revamped model of “badges”.

2.  Rita F. Pierson – Every Kids Needs a Champion

Rita F. Pierson passed away shortly after this talk, yet her legacy will live on forever because of this talk that is captured, that is simply perfection. She is funny, heartwarming, while challenging thinking in less than 8 minutes. As a speaker, this is a talk that I aspire to.

Her words are a great reminder to every teacher on why they are teachers.

Can we stand to have more relationships? Absolutely. Will you like all your children? Of course not.

And you know your toughest kids are never absent.

Never. You won’t like them all, and the tough ones show up for a reason. It’s the connection. It’s the relationships. So teachers become great actors and great actresses, and we come to work when we don’t feel like it, and we’re listening to policy that doesn’t make sense, and we teach anyway. We teach anyway, because that’s what we do.

Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.

Can you remember starting off your career and someone giving you the advice of “don’t smile ’til Christmas”?  I will take Rita’s approach any day.

An absolutely perfect talk for education.

3. Barry Schwartz – The Paradox of Choice

Ever go to those sessions at a tech conference with “100 Tools in 30 minutes”. This made me rethink their value and how they deeply hamper organizations moving forward. Too much choice can be debilitating:

All of this choice has two effects, two negative effects on people. One effect, paradoxically, is that it produces paralysis, rather than liberation. With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all.

I’ll give you one very dramatic example of this: a study that was done of investments in voluntary retirement plans. A colleague of mine got access to investment records from Vanguard, the gigantic mutual-fund company of about a million employees and about 2,000 different workplaces. And what she found is that for every 10 mutual funds the employer offered, rate of participation went down two percent. You offer 50 funds — 10 percent fewer employees participate than if you only offer five. Why? Because with 50 funds to choose from, it’s so damn hard to decide which fund to choose, that you’ll just put it off until tomorrow. And then tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and of course tomorrow never comes.

Understand that not only does this mean that people are going to have to eat dog food when they retire because they don’t have enough money put away, it also means that making the decision is so hard that they pass up significant matching money from the employer. By not participating, they are passing up as much as 5,000 dollars a year from the employer, who would happily match their contribution.

So paralysis is a consequence of having too many choices.

Simply put…do less, better.

A mantra many schools need to embrace.

4. Kate Simonds – I’m 17

Simply put, this is probably my favourite Ted Talk in education, and the only one listed that is a “TedX”. I truly believe it is a must watch for every educator, and what is most powerful, is that these are the words from a student in school at the time.

In it, Kate really challenges what we are saying we want in education, and what we actually do:

Look at our education system; as students, we have no say on what we learn or how we learn it, yet we’re expected to absorb it all, take it all in, and be able to run the world someday. We’re expected to raise our hands to use the restroom, then three months later be ready to go to college or have a full time job, support ourselves, and live on our own. It’s not logical.

Compliance does not foster innovation. Kate challenges this idea in a thought provoking, and truly eloquent way.

When you think of your favourite talks, which ones have really challenged and pushed you? Which ones made you do something different?  Would love if you would share your favourites in the comments or a blog post of your own.

4 Great Ted Talks That Will Challenge Your Thinking

Rita

Getting a message from a friend on Facebook, she had mentioned Daniel Pink’s book “Drive”, and it reminded me of how much his Ted Talk really made an impact on my learning and thinking.  There are some really good Ted Talks (or TedX Talks), but to be honest, there are only a few that really changed my thinking.  Dan Pink led me to really rethink the notion of awards in school, and I wrote about it extensively.

Below, I am going to share some of the ones that have made the biggest impact on me, and why, starting with Dan Pink:

1. Dan Pink – The Puzzle of Motivation

What I loved about this talk, was not only the content, but the “lawyerly” approach to it. Pink’s final thoughts resonate:

There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. Here is what science knows. One: Those 20th century rewards, those motivators we think are a natural part of business, do work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances. Two: Those if-then rewards often destroy creativity. Three: The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive– the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things cause they matter.

And here’s the best part. We already know this. The science confirms what we know in our hearts. So, if we repair this mismatch between science and business, if we bring our motivation, notions of motivation into the 21st century, if we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses, we can solve a lot of those candle problems, and maybe, maybe — we can change the world.

Talk to any administrators in a school, and they will talk about the importance of collaboration.  Walk into their schools though, and the walls are often focus on external drivers to acknowledge the “best” (sports awards, honour rolls, etc.).  This is a great talk to push your thinking, but also to discuss with staff, if you are looking to challenge the traditional notion of awards, and the revamped model of “badges”.

2.  Rita F. Pierson – Every Kids Needs a Champion

Rita F. Pierson passed away shortly after this talk, yet her legacy will live on forever because of this talk that is captured, that is simply perfection. She is funny, heartwarming, while challenging thinking in less than 8 minutes. As a speaker, this is a talk that I aspire to.

Her words are a great reminder to every teacher on why they are teachers.

Can we stand to have more relationships? Absolutely. Will you like all your children? Of course not.

And you know your toughest kids are never absent.

Never. You won’t like them all, and the tough ones show up for a reason. It’s the connection. It’s the relationships. So teachers become great actors and great actresses, and we come to work when we don’t feel like it, and we’re listening to policy that doesn’t make sense, and we teach anyway. We teach anyway, because that’s what we do.

Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.

Can you remember starting off your career and someone giving you the advice of “don’t smile ’til Christmas”?  I will take Rita’s approach any day.

An absolutely perfect talk for education.

3. Barry Schwartz – The Paradox of Choice

Ever go to those sessions at a tech conference with “100 Tools in 30 minutes”. This made me rethink their value and how they deeply hamper organizations moving forward. Too much choice can be debilitating:

All of this choice has two effects, two negative effects on people. One effect, paradoxically, is that it produces paralysis, rather than liberation. With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all.

I’ll give you one very dramatic example of this: a study that was done of investments in voluntary retirement plans. A colleague of mine got access to investment records from Vanguard, the gigantic mutual-fund company of about a million employees and about 2,000 different workplaces. And what she found is that for every 10 mutual funds the employer offered, rate of participation went down two percent. You offer 50 funds — 10 percent fewer employees participate than if you only offer five. Why? Because with 50 funds to choose from, it’s so damn hard to decide which fund to choose, that you’ll just put it off until tomorrow. And then tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and of course tomorrow never comes.

Understand that not only does this mean that people are going to have to eat dog food when they retire because they don’t have enough money put away, it also means that making the decision is so hard that they pass up significant matching money from the employer. By not participating, they are passing up as much as 5,000 dollars a year from the employer, who would happily match their contribution.

So paralysis is a consequence of having too many choices.

Simply put…do less, better.

A mantra many schools need to embrace.

4. Kate Simonds – I’m 17

Simply put, this is probably my favourite Ted Talk in education, and the only one listed that is a “TedX”. I truly believe it is a must watch for every educator, and what is most powerful, is that these are the words from a student in school at the time.

In it, Kate really challenges what we are saying we want in education, and what we actually do:

Look at our education system; as students, we have no say on what we learn or how we learn it, yet we’re expected to absorb it all, take it all in, and be able to run the world someday. We’re expected to raise our hands to use the restroom, then three months later be ready to go to college or have a full time job, support ourselves, and live on our own. It’s not logical.

Compliance does not foster innovation. Kate challenges this idea in a thought provoking, and truly eloquent way.

When you think of your favourite talks, which ones have really challenged and pushed you? Which ones made you do something different?  Would love if you would share your favourites in the comments or a blog post of your own.

Curious about…?

In Amanda Lang’s book, “The Power Of Why: Simple Questions That Lead to Success”, she talks about the importance of curiosity and it’s connection to intelligence:

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.

As I was reading this book, here were two things that came to my mind:

And then…

Ian Hecht shared this tweet with me:

This is getting kids to be “curious about history”, which will definitely help students to flourish in other areas.

You will hear lots of people push the thinking (paraphrased), “Our students shouldn’t ‘do’ math, but try to think like mathematicians.”  I can’t remember where I saw it, but I do remember someone challenging this notion suggesting that a “mathematician”  is not something you become simply because you are trying to think that way.  It takes years of dedication and work to become a “mathematician”, “scientist”, or “writer”.  That made sense to me.  But what if we promoted the notion that we want to encourage kids to become “curious” about these disciplines?  Is this not a step towards that path, while also encouraging students to find their own ways?

Asking questions, not regurgitating answers, is the first step towards innovation and creativity.  Promoting curiosity, and having students thirst for knowledge, no matter the discipline, is a much more powerful path than simply learning the “stuff”.  It ensures that spark is lit long after their time in any single classroom or school.

What if our goal in school was to inspire curiosity, especially, since in many cases, we actually negate it. I believe the learning that could happen would be something that we create tremendous growth both in schools and society.

Innovation starts not by providing answers, but by asking questions.

The #InnovatorsMindsetMOOC (September 2016)

This is an idea that I have been passing around in my head…One of my goals is to develop “The Innovator’s Mindset” as the norm in our schools, but that can mean different things to different people.  By bringing people together, pushing our thinking, and creating something with what we learn, I hope that this is a chance for people to go “beyond the book”.  Check out the initial draft below (or this google document).

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 1.26.50 PM

The #InnovatorsMindsetMOOC (Coming September 2016)

bit.do/InnovatorsMindsetMOOC

This is a rough draft of a project that I want to run starting in the middle of September.  This would be centred around the book, “The Innovator’s Mindset”, but would go beyond simply a book study.  The hope of this project is the following:

  • Help to further innovation and the notion of “The Innovator’s Mindset” in schools across the world.
  • Build a global community that can support the pursuit of innovation in education.
  • Encourage participants to go beyond reading the book, and creating something because of it.
  • Develop communities within your own school

Initial Plan

The initial plan is to have a weekly Google Hangout that will be available both live and after the fact, with different guests to discuss “innovation in education”, while also taking participant questions.  During each week, participants would be encouraged to blog their own reflection either using prompts that are provided, or going into their own spaces.  This creates a great opportunity for people to share their own reflections in different formats.  Always wanted to create a blog? This is the time.  Want to start a YouTube channel or podcast?  Here is a great opportunity to not only create it, but share it with a global audience.

At the end of the time of the project, participants will be encouraged to share some type of final “project” or “reflection” based on something that they have done because of the book.  These will be collected and shared with others as well.

Spaces Used

A Facebook group, Twitter hashtag (used for a slow chat), will be spaces that will be led by the moderators.  Other spaces can be developed and shared by participants (Voxer groups, Google Plus Communities, etc.) to use that are most beneficial to their own learning, but we still want to develop the initial spaces.

Dates:

Dates Topic
September 17-24 Introduction
September 24-October 1 Part 1: Innovation in Education
October 1 -8 Part 2:  Laying the Groundwork
October 8-15 Part 3: Unleashing Talent
October 15-22 Part 4: Concluding Thoughts
October 22-29 Project Presentation

What you will need to participate:

  1. A copy of the book.
  2. A blog or space to share longer thoughts.  This could be, but not limited to, a YouTube Channel, collection of Google Docs, Medium Page.
  3. Suggested that you can connect on both Facebook or Twitter, although one is sufficient if it becomes overwhelming.

Sign-Up

As this idea is still in “beta”, I am interested in how many people would be interested in signing up, and where you are from.  The hope is to make this a truly global opportunity.  

If interested, please sign up here, and we will send an email notification when the group is officially about to begin.

Moving Forward

Participants are encouraged to share with administrators and colleagues in order to aid in creating innovative environments within their own schools.  This can help in creating a space both online and offline to further discussions within your own context.

The more of the opportunity that participants get to connect both globally and locally, the more beneficial it is for our students.

Thanks for your interest! The document is open to comments so please feel free to add any suggestions to make this a great experience for yourself and others.

6 Ways to Use Twitter To Enhance In-School Professional Learning

globally

Here is a tweet I received from Jamie Sweeney on using Twitter to “enhance professional development”:

Connecting globally is really powerful, but how do we use this medium in a way to enhance professional learning and empower the voice of teachers in our own building.  Sometimes seeing the impact of using Twitter on a global level brings ideas back into our classrooms, but perhaps using Twitter locally could push people to connect others globally.

Just remember that “Twitter” isn’t just for days that you are discussing technology.  It can amplify and accelerate learning in any topic, whether it is on health initiatives, assessment practices, or deep understanding of any topic. It is easy to do, yet can share several mediums, which allows for different types of processing and understanding.

Here are a few ideas below.

  1. Hashtag for professional learning days (and beyond).  This one sets the stage for the other suggestions, as it makes it easy to “pre-filter” information towards a hashtag.  Check for a hashtag before you start using it, and ensure that it is not being used by another group. This gives an opportunity for the “room” to tap into one another, not just learn from any one person.  If you are interested in doing this, I would suggest finding a hashtag that goes beyond any single day; you want to start a movement, not share a moment. (For the purpose of this post, I am going to use #InnovatorSchool as the hashtag.)Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 5.37.08 PM
  2. 20 Minute Summary. Little ideas like this can help further deeper learning.  Stopping every 20 minutes and asking participants to share a 140 character reflection (minus the hashtag), and encourage them to limit it to only one tweet.  Having to summarize and be succinct in a tweet, provides a bit of a challenge, but it is also encouraging “mini-reflection”. It is also a nice assessment of where learners are at during that moment.
  3. Image Sharing. The beautiful thing about Twitter is the opportunity to capture different mediums.  Groups may have to draw some type of summary of learning, but share it to this group.  Here was one suggestion from Bethany Ligon in a book study she was doing with a group on “The Innovator’s Mindset“:

    Using Play Doh, pipe cleaners, and multi-colors of Post It papers, create models to represent a fixed mindset, a growth mindset, and an innovator’s mindset. Take a picture(s) of your structures and insert them into a single Google Drawings. Also insert a text box and write a brief blurb describing your thinking…if any. :)

    This is a great way to capture the visible learning that happens in these days, but also gives people a reference long after the fact.

  4. Group Hashtag Modification. Sometimes I will ask for groups to share a “big idea” together in some type of reflection. I have seen things such as 140 character tweets, captured images of writing, videos, etc., which provides lots of opportunities for learning.  The problem is finding this information the more any hashtag is used.  To do this in a simple way, I always suggest making slight modifications to hashtags for different questions.  So if the original hashtag is #InnovationSchool, then for the first question, I would simply change it to #InnovationSchoolQ1, and so on.  This way, again, you are pre-filtering to find information from any particular question in a simple and succint way.
  5. 30 Second Video Reflections. Twitter has an awesome video function (only on phones that I know of at this point), that allows you to take 30 seconds of video.  What I love about this is the unedited, raw learning that can be shared.  As people are finishing off the day, I think encouraging them to share a 30 second video reflection is a great way for them to process their thinking and can literally be done on a walk out of the building.  If someone does not feel comfortable taking a “video selfie” (#Velfies), I have seen some people turn their camera on an object or screen and discuss what they have learned.  This promotes the importance of “open reflection”, which is beneficial to not only the person doing the reflecting, but the community, as we can learn from one another.
  6. Collect Ideas in a Storify. Storify is one of my favourite sites as it makes it simple to not only capture tweets, but put them into context.  Random tweets might not make much sense to someone outside of the process, but using this site to give further explanation and share media (it is not limited to tweets, but has a wide range of social media services you can pull from), encourages people to share professional learning days from a wide-range of views, not just from what one person said.

Here are some of the benefits from this process.

  1. Assessment of professional learning days. What do the tweets tell you about the takeaways from the day?
  2. Sharing your learning with your community.  Shouldn’t parents know what educators are learning on professional learning days and doesn’t this help dispel the myth that many have about professional learning days that they are just a “day off”?
  3. Positive development of school and personal digital footprint. We can’t teach something we have never learned.
  4. Modelling things that you are able to do in the classroom. Asking at the end of the day how we would use these things in classrooms (because it will differ through K-12) helps create the connection between what was just experienced, and how it applies to learning in the classroom.

As I write this, I think how simple these ideas could be, yet how much of an impact they could have to make great learning go viral.  We have tons of experts in our own buildings, so we need to create these opportunities to shine a light on them and their thinking, for the benefit of each other, as well as our communities, both local and global.