Category Archives: #innovatorsmindset

Spoon-Fed Learning

Speaking about the opportunities there are for learning in our world today through technology, I asked educators in the room to do a “Twitter Video Reflection” and share their learning back to the hashtag.  Since many of them were new to Twitter, they didn’t know how to do it, so I decided to not help them.

Not a type…I decided to not help them.

Here’s the thing…they all figured it out. Some took longer than others, and some figured it out after they saw that someone else could.  I actually think it went faster than if I would have shown them step-by-step.

Too often we talk about how we want to develop learners as students, but we still set up too much of our professional development where we will walk people through every element of any type of learning.

The balance of supporting and pressuring needs to be place; we can not spoon-feed learning to the adults in the room, or we model the exact opposite of what we say we want from our kids.

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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).

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The #InnovatorsMindsetMOOC (Coming September 2016)

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 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.


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.

Figure It Out Yourself

It is such a pleasure to work with educators, and not only try to share things they can do in the classroom, but to help them understand the opportunities for learning that exist in our world today.  I always try to have a mix of practical and theoretical in my workshops; it should not be only one or the other.

With one group in particular that I had worked with several times, their growth was amazing over time. Not just in their abilities, but in their thinking.  On what was our third day together, we were talking about something to do with google apps for education, and one person in the group asked if I could go “step-by-step” through the process.  As the one leading the workshop, my response was, “No…figure it out yourself.”

It was not said in a condescending way, but in a way to challenge.  If I am not there to lead the workshop, would the learning stop?  If it does, then I didn’t do a very good job.

So what happened?  She and others, connected, learned, and found exactly what they wanted to know, plus figured out how to find it.  The satisfaction on their faces, and in their demeanour, was amazing to watch.  So much more than if I would have just answered what they asked.  This is the shift from engagement to empowerment.  I asked them to figure it out on their own because I knew they could.  They needed to take ownership over their learning.

This is one of my favourite quotes from Will Richardson:

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It doesn’t have to be all of the time, as collaboration with one another is crucial, but let’s find those opportunities to encourage other educators to find, figure out, and create the information themselves.  We do not want people to just learn stuff, but to become learners.  It is not only more empowering, but much more satisfying.

The Teacher Platter

We often hear about having “too much on our plate”. but I once heard an educator say that teachers don’t have “plates”, but they have “platters”.

Think about it…how often do we add more initiatives to what we do in education compared to how many times do we purposefully pull things off of the plate?

If you want to really do something well, you don’t try to do EVERYTHING. Something has got to give.

Apple, one of the most profitable businesses in the world, doesn’t focus on making a plethora of items, but a select few that are of high quality. Steve Jobs, in an interview with Fortune in 2008, said the following:

“Apple is a $30 billion company, yet we’ve got less than 30 major products. I don’t know if that’s ever been done before. Certainly the great consumer electronics companies of the past had thousands of products. We tend to focus much more. People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.”

It is important to think about not only why we do things or how we do things, but what things we do. If we do too much, what impact could we truly have?



What is innovative leadership?

In 2014, I wrote about the “8 Characteristics of an Innovative Leader“, and listed those characteristics as the following:

  1. Visionary
  2. Empathetic
  3. Models Learning
  4. Open-Risk Taker
  5. Networked
  6. Observant
  7. Team Builder
  8. Relationship-Focused

Although these characteristics are obviously a part of the equation, could the idea of an “innovative leader” be simplified?

In the book, “The Innovator’s Mindset; Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity“, I define “innovation” as the following:

innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” (a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of “new and better,” it is not innovative.

So what does “leadership” mean? Many people have different definitions of the word (this is a great article on “30 Ways to Define Leadership“), but for the sake of this post, I would say leadership is the ability to influence others to move towards positive results.  What is crucial about this idea is that leadership can happen from any position, in many aspects of what any organization does.

So what does combining these two ideas look like?  Here is a first definition:

Innovative leadership is the ability to both think and influence others to create “new and better” ideas to move towards positive results.

Here are the elements that are essential in this definition:

  • The ability to think differently.
  • The ability to create something from thinking differently (“Vision without execution is hallucination.” Thomas Edison)
  • The ability to model this in your own leadership practice.
  • The ability to also influence others to do the same.
  • That these actions lead to “new and better”, not just new.
  • “Results” should not simply read “test scores”; it can be providing opportunities for students to find and solve meaningful problems, finding positive ways to develop community, developing more effective assessments that serve student learning, developing positive inclusive practices in school, or a myriad of other positive ideas.

Leadership is not about “self”, but others, yet what one models to others is essential in leadership.  We cannot expect others to think differently without embracing this ourselves.

Just some thoughts on the idea of “innovative leadership” and how “The Innovator’s Mindset” below is embraced at all levels of our organizations.

Image created by @SylviaDuckworth

Image created by @SylviaDuckworth

You Never Know Where Your Idea Will Go


I spent a great deal of the holidays listening to music, whether it was on Vinyl at home, or exploring Apple Music with my newly acquired subscription to the service.  Once I realized that basically all my devices didn’t just have access to the vast library through Apple Music, but also all of the music I have downloaded since 1999 on my computer, I was blown away. Growing up with two older brothers, I spent more time listening to the Police when I was 5 years old, then I did the Muppets with John Denver on 8track.  If I am working, working out, or just chilling at home, music is on, whether loudly blaring or in the background.

But in 1999, I remember buying a computer that was almost $3000 and calling my brother at the time asking if he thought that buying such an expensive computer was a good idea at the time.  When I told him that the hard drive had 20gb of space, I remember him saying that I would NEVER use that amount of space.  Even though it seemed a bit much, I decided to go with it.

A little bit after that, I fell upon Napster (started in 1999) and was blown away at the service.  Basically any song that I had wanted, now at my fingertips.  When I think about that service then, and look where we are today in terms of how we access music (legally) and how listening to music has become so much easier.  I wonder if when Napster was formed, they wondered if it would change everything in the music industry?

What may seem like a small idea to someone, could be the thing that turns everything upside down.  For example, I have heard people say things like “Genius Hour” should be more than an hour, and I would agree, but I would also say that an hour is better than none.  Do kids experience something like this and does it change their view of learning and possibilities?  Do teachers experience this and does it change their philosophy of education and get them to really rethink the purpose of school and the true power of learning? Without the willingness to try in the first place, we have no idea what could possibly change.

Whether you disrupt an institution, someone else, or even yourself, we have no clue how far an idea can truly go, unless we are willing to try something different.

Keep innovating.  An idea can make a bigger impact than you might think.


The Culture You Create

“Culture is often not something you can measure. Rather, it’s somethingyou can feel.”

I have always believed that relationships are the foundation of a great school. It is unlikely that people will really push their learning and be innovative if they do not like the people they are around all day. This is both educators and students. Relationships aren’t everything, but they are the most important thing. Most educators would agree with this point.

Yet really good relationships are reciprocal as is trust, not a one way street. So look at this sign that I still see in schools and classrooms today (not everywhere but in many of places).

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Think about this picture. This goes beyond having a mobile device. This says before you walk in the room, “I don’t trust you”. That is a powerful statement to make in a school where many believe relationships are so crucial.

Will some students use devices inappropriately? Yup. I am not naive to this fact. But will every single student or even the majority? This is not about absolutes but just about thinking what this sign says to people.

I challenge you take a look at the signs around your school. They often say a lot more than what we notice at first glance.

“Good Enough” Is Not Good Enough

Consider your students’ learning experience from their point of view. Do the learning experiences you create mimic the type of learning you expect to engage in-

Just something I have been thinking about…

In a conversation with a principal the other day, she was sharing how they are moving away from the traditional desks in her school, to more of a “Starbucks” type of environment (differentiated seating, wifi that works well, spaces for both collaboration and individual time, etc.) in her school.

What I said to her (and she agreed with), is that you will probably send out an email saying that you are getting rid of those desks and another school will take them right away.  The appeal will not be in doing something better, but having a “newer” version of the old.

Although there are assumptions being made here, in some cases the reason they would take the desks is because the school still sees the “old way” as the best way.  And in some cases, the old is the best way, but this is not a case of the old versus the new, but ultimately about the question, “Would you want to be a learner in your own classroom?”  I didn’t like sitting in those desks as a kid, and I certainly would not want that as an adult.  Why is it good enough for our students?

What this highlights is that this is never about the “stuff” (again), but is often about our way of thinking.

(“Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom?”, is  a question featured in this post as well as the book, “The Innovator’s Mindset”.)

Never Stop Learning

If you think a picture is worth a thousand words, check out the picture below:

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Via Imgur

A few of those words this picture says to me:

  1. There is no age limit to learning and growing.
  2. That each one of the events listed on that poster are about learning, not just the one about getting a degree.
  3. As I have said before, the biggest barrier to innovation is often our own way of thinking. No matter what is in front of us, we have a lot of power over creating the solutions and the way forward.

What does this image say to you?