Category Archives: yong zhao

11 Books To Further an #InnovatorsMindset

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 10.26.22 PM

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.

How do you see “literacy”?

I have showed this awesome video from Karen Mensing’s class last year, with her students sharing their own “Twitter Tutorial”. Check it out below:

If you think that this might be a little bit above your ability, it is fine since they have a tutorial for beginners as well :)

Now some people would say, “Why would you need to teach young elementary students how to use Twitter?”

But do you see this as simply “Twitter”, or do you see this as teaching literacy?  I see it as part of the latter.

In a post that I wrote in 2015,  this is what I had found on the concept of “literacy”:

So what is literacy? The “traditional definition” is the ability to read and write, but you will see that definition is a little different according to some sources.  The definition of literacy has changed over time, and there are many different perspectives on the topic.  In this article on the “Definitions of Literacy”, the author shares some differing perspectives that go beyond simply “reading and writing:

“…we acknowledge that the word literacy itself has come to mean competence, knowledge and skills (Dubin). Take, for example, common expressions such as ‘computer literacy,’ “civic literacy,’ ‘health literacy,’ and a score of other usages in which literacy stands for know-how and awareness of the first word in the expression.” Dubin and Kuhlman (1992)

Or this thinking from Langer in 1991:

“It is the culturally appropriate way of thinking, not the act of reading or writing, that is most important in the development of literacy. Literacy thinking manifests itself in different ways in oral and written language in different societies, and educators need to understand these ways of thinking if they are to build bridges and facilitate transitions among ways of thinking.”

(Read the entire article…there is lot to think about in what is shared on the “definitions” of literacy.)

If you think literacy is only about “reading and writing”, then Twitter might seem insignificant.  But if we see Twitter, and the ability to not only read and write, but to communicate and leverage this medium as literacy, it might seem more important.  What I am not saying is that you need to go teach Twitter to your students right now.  Not at all. What I am saying is that if you simply dismiss things as creating with different types of media, or using social media to connect with others as “tech” or “insignificant”, you might be holding your students back in sharing their wisdom from the world with a simpler view of what literacy can truly be.

floor

Learning Before You Innovate

The emphasis on “creation” in schools is crucial, yet it does not mean that consumption is not crucial in the process.  Several years ago, I saw John Medina speak (the author of “Brain Rules“), and he said something that resonated with me (paraphrased):

Creation without consumption is similar to playing the air guitar.  You might be able to go through the motions, but you do not really know what you are doing.

That is why the ability to learn is so crucial to innovation.  It is not about just learning information, but what you do with it that is mattering more in our world today, but if we are not willing to learn in the first place, the innovation will not happen.

A beautiful song that you compose on the piano, could not be composed if you don’t learn to play the piano first.

This thinking is beautifully illustrated in an older visual from Alberta Education, called the “Alberta Competency Wheel”.

Alberta Education Competency Wheel

In the middle is the learner, but without the crucial foundation of literacy and numeracy, we lose a lot moving outward from the centre.

That being said, we still need to move from the centre. Of course we want every student to be able to read and write, but it is essential they go further.  Yong Zhao sums this up nicely.

floor

The “basics” and “innovation” are connected; it is not one or the other.

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Learners Are the Driver

The following image was created by Alberta Education several years ago:

Alberta Education Competency Wheel

Although it is no longer used, I still find the image to be a very powerful visual for what learning can look like in schools.  The ideas are not necessarily separated from one another, and are all intertwined in some way, which is what learning really looks like. The “3 E’s” (Ethical Citizen, Entrepreneurial Spirit, and Engaged Thinker) are the bigger goals, but they also show what is important to get to those bigger ideas.

I am sure that people can look at this and pick it apart, and create something better (which I actually think is a good thing since we shouldn’t just accept it without the component of critical thinking), but there are two things that are very compelling to me when I look at the above image.

The first thing is that the learner is in the centre of the circle. This is really crucial and it actually intertwines the importance of both innovation and best practice.  The reason I say that is sometimes what we know and have adopted as “best practice” works for many of our students, but sometimes it doesn’t. If the learner is truly in the centre of learning, we will have to sometimes go with what we know, or else create something different for that student (why I advocate for the importance of having “The Innovator’s Mindset“). There has been no time in history where any one thing has worked for all of our students. If it did, we would all be doing it.  In the book, I adapt the well known quote from Michael Fullan, “Learning is the driver, technology is the accelerator”, to “Learners are the driver, and technology is the accelerator.” Learners should be at the centre of what we do.

The second thing that I really love about this graphic is that it focuses on the “basics” of literacy and numeracy as core skills, but goes beyond them as well.  This constant struggle between “the basics” and “innovation” is not realistic, and this graphic sums that up nicely. You need both.  One of my favourite quotes that I have heard from Dr. Yong Zhao was “reading and writing should be the floor, not the ceiling”.  This image focuses on going beyond the basics (while still saying they are extremely crucial), which is what we should want for our students.

I have shared this image with others and I think it is a great conversation piece for staff.  Some things to think about:

  1. How are we focusing on the learner at the centre of our decisions?
  2. How are we going “beyond” the basics while still ensuring that we are meeting the expectations that we are required to do in our work?
  3. What would we change? What would we add? What would we subtract? Why?

Hopefully this can help further some conversations.  What would your questions be?

 

A Narrow View?

Yesterday, I tweeted the following article:

The response was interesting, with many suggesting that it was a great idea (with the irony that they saw and are sharing those thoughts Twitter).

Now before I even talk about the article, I do have to say that I totally respect a parent’s rights to choose whatever type of education they want for their child.  The best school system in the world doesn’t necessarily work for all students, and it is not my place to challenge that idea.  That being said, there are a few things that I found interesting in the piece.

First of all, anyone that seems to be anti-technology in education has referenced the OECD report from last month, and this article does not steer from that:

Earlier this month, a global study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that investing heavily in computers and new technology in the classroom did not improve pupils’ performance, with frequent use of computers associated with lower results.

If “results” mean test scores, then technology probably could get in the way. But if we are rethinking what school could look like, the way we measure probably should change as well.  Dean Shareski wrote eloquently about this point recently:

First, we have to understand that technology changes the way we learn. Going back to Seymour Papert, smart people have seen how computers afford new learning opportunities. In the past decade, most everyone with access has experienced what it’s like to learn from anyone, anywhere at any time. In everyday life, this is no longer an event to behold but the way we learn. Any policy maker or leader who doesn’t understand and live this needs to find other employment. I can’t imagine people not being exposed to these ideas and shifts by now. Recently I listened to a podcast about a person living in the US and had never seen the Internet. The episode was called Unicorn. Sadly, it seems many of our leaders have also missed out on the learning revolution that is taking place all around them. The second thing that has to change is our definition of “doing better”. We should be asking how technology is changing teaching and learning. Questions like “What can this technolgy do that couldn’t be done without it? Thes questions lead to fundamentally different ideas about what classrooms can and should look like. This means new measures of success. Whether it’s how well students communicate and tell stories using a variety of media, building and creating art, solving and finding real and current problems, collaborating effectively with people around the world or writing code, there are infinite examples of doing better than are never going to fit inside a spreadsheet cell.

Frankly, I’m tired of reading about districts who view learning and technology in such narrow terms. Fortunately, there are many district and district leaders who are working to address these 2 things. Did the leadership at LAUSD not look around or are they so big they couldn’t imagine learning from others? At any rate, equating “doing better” with “increased test scores” is a tiresome and outdated perspective even without bringing technology into the conversation. When districts invest dollars into technology they have a right and responsibility to see results and change. It begins by seeing changes in the classroom and ends with students demonstrating their learning in ways that go way beyond a test score.

Here is the second point that I struggle with. One of the students was quoted by saying the following:

“I get annoyed sometimes that I can’t watch television. It’s being able to chat about it and stuff. But I like the fact I’ve got an imagination that lots of kids have not.”

This is a conversation I have been having with many regarding the notion of “meaningful screen time(by the way, many pediatricians have changed there recommendations on screen time). If the only way we use technology is for “free time”, then we might not necessarily see the value for stoking creativity and imagination.  Does teaching students to code give them not the ability to create, but to make ideas come to life? Do things like connecting to networks actually stoke creativity and imagination?  As Steven Johnson says and argues often, is that “chance favours the connected mind.”  We need to look at ways to stoke ideas, but sometimes it’s being around a ton of ideas where this can happen. Technology can provide that.

The last thing I want to challenge, is not from this article, but another one that was shared with me regarding the “Waldorf School”, that seems to have a similar viewpoint in the use of technology.  This quote stuck with me:

“Technology is a distraction when we need literacy, numeracy and critical thinking.”

If we take the word literacy as simply as meaning to “read and write”, then technology might take away from that (although David Crystal would argue that as well).  But if we look at something like literacy as ever-evolving, the ability to write this blog, embed tweets, link articles (after finding them easily through my own curation techniques) is also part of literacy.  Do things like coding and design promote numeracy? And with the largest library in the world in our pockets, critical thinking is needed more now than ever to be able to “create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts“, as discussed by the National Council of Teachers of English.  Literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking are something that all schools are focusing on, but what these things look like change over time, and saying that technology distracts us from learning them is kind of a narrow view.

As I said earlier, parents should focus on making the best choice for their own children, and what works for one, might not work for another.  But to think that technology is detrimental to learning, is not accurate.  It just might mean that learning can look different with it, and sometimes, more powerful.  One of my favourite quotes is from Dr. Yong Zhao, who stated, “reading and writing should be the floor, not the ceiling”, and with the access to not only consume, but to create information in our pockets, how are we moving above that floor?

 

 

 

A Narrow View?

Yesterday, I tweeted the following article:

The response was interesting, with many suggesting that it was a great idea (with the irony that they saw and are sharing those thoughts Twitter).

Now before I even talk about the article, I do have to say that I totally respect a parent’s rights to choose whatever type of education they want for their child.  The best school system in the world doesn’t necessarily work for all students, and it is not my place to challenge that idea.  That being said, there are a few things that I found interesting in the piece.

First of all, anyone that seems to be anti-technology in education has referenced the OECD report from last month, and this article does not steer from that:

Earlier this month, a global study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that investing heavily in computers and new technology in the classroom did not improve pupils’ performance, with frequent use of computers associated with lower results.

If “results” mean test scores, then technology probably could get in the way. But if we are rethinking what school could look like, the way we measure probably should change as well.  Dean Shareski wrote eloquently about this point recently:

First, we have to understand that technology changes the way we learn. Going back to Seymour Papert, smart people have seen how computers afford new learning opportunities. In the past decade, most everyone with access has experienced what it’s like to learn from anyone, anywhere at any time. In everyday life, this is no longer an event to behold but the way we learn. Any policy maker or leader who doesn’t understand and live this needs to find other employment. I can’t imagine people not being exposed to these ideas and shifts by now. Recently I listened to a podcast about a person living in the US and had never seen the Internet. The episode was called Unicorn. Sadly, it seems many of our leaders have also missed out on the learning revolution that is taking place all around them. The second thing that has to change is our definition of “doing better”. We should be asking how technology is changing teaching and learning. Questions like “What can this technolgy do that couldn’t be done without it? Thes questions lead to fundamentally different ideas about what classrooms can and should look like. This means new measures of success. Whether it’s how well students communicate and tell stories using a variety of media, building and creating art, solving and finding real and current problems, collaborating effectively with people around the world or writing code, there are infinite examples of doing better than are never going to fit inside a spreadsheet cell.

Frankly, I’m tired of reading about districts who view learning and technology in such narrow terms. Fortunately, there are many district and district leaders who are working to address these 2 things. Did the leadership at LAUSD not look around or are they so big they couldn’t imagine learning from others? At any rate, equating “doing better” with “increased test scores” is a tiresome and outdated perspective even without bringing technology into the conversation. When districts invest dollars into technology they have a right and responsibility to see results and change. It begins by seeing changes in the classroom and ends with students demonstrating their learning in ways that go way beyond a test score.

Here is the second point that I struggle with. One of the students was quoted by saying the following:

“I get annoyed sometimes that I can’t watch television. It’s being able to chat about it and stuff. But I like the fact I’ve got an imagination that lots of kids have not.”

This is a conversation I have been having with many regarding the notion of “meaningful screen time(by the way, many pediatricians have changed there recommendations on screen time). If the only way we use technology is for “free time”, then we might not necessarily see the value for stoking creativity and imagination.  Does teaching students to code give them not the ability to create, but to make ideas come to life? Do things like connecting to networks actually stoke creativity and imagination?  As Steven Johnson says and argues often, is that “chance favours the connected mind.”  We need to look at ways to stoke ideas, but sometimes it’s being around a ton of ideas where this can happen. Technology can provide that.

The last thing I want to challenge, is not from this article, but another one that was shared with me regarding the “Waldorf School”, that seems to have a similar viewpoint in the use of technology.  This quote stuck with me:

“Technology is a distraction when we need literacy, numeracy and critical thinking.”

If we take the word literacy as simply as meaning to “read and write”, then technology might take away from that (although David Crystal would argue that as well).  But if we look at something like literacy as ever-evolving, the ability to write this blog, embed tweets, link articles (after finding them easily through my own curation techniques) is also part of literacy.  Do things like coding and design promote numeracy? And with the largest library in the world in our pockets, critical thinking is needed more now than ever to be able to “create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts“, as discussed by the National Council of Teachers of English.  Literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking are something that all schools are focusing on, but what these things look like change over time, and saying that technology distracts us from learning them is kind of a narrow view.

As I said earlier, parents should focus on making the best choice for their own children, and what works for one, might not work for another.  But to think that technology is detrimental to learning, is not accurate.  It just might mean that learning can look different with it, and sometimes, more powerful.  One of my favourite quotes is from Dr. Yong Zhao, who stated, “reading and writing should be the floor, not the ceiling”, and with the access to not only consume, but to create information in our pockets, how are we moving above that floor?