Category Archives: Will Richardson

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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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.

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.

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.

Passion or Passive?

Sometimes in education, there are shifts in what we have done and what we need to do, to support our students.  There are a lot of things that will never go away in education (like the importance of relationships in learning), but there are shifts in our world that mean education will have to a) be a part of the shift, b) lead the shift, or c) be left behind.

Will Richardson talks about the “narratives” that are important to understand where we are headed in our schools:

I know the future has always been uncertain, but I also know that because of the speed at which change is occurring, it’s more important than ever to figure out “where we are going.” And I think our focus now has to be grounded in what new potentials and opportunities the modern world of networks and connections allow us to imagine. To echo David Warlick from many years back, what is that new story that we want to tell, not just about education in general, but about our individual schools as well? What is it that we aspire to become? What are the opportunities do our learners now have that didn’t exist before that must guide our conversations moving forward?

These conversations are crucial but they also can make people feel uncomfortable.  As most educators have spent the majority of their lives in schools (as either students or teachers), it is hard to shift mindsets to what we know to what can be. Change can be hard when are experiences are so set.

Recently having a conversation with someone on these shifts, I could feel how uncomfortable they were with what I was saying.  My feeling was that they felt that I was implying was that what they were doing now wasn’t working for their students (which was never my intent).  The passion from this person was evident, although they did not necessarily agree with what I was saying.

As I was talking to a leader that I have a tremendous amount of respect for, she had said, “It is better that this person had passion and got worked up thinking about their teaching, then simply being someone who nods their head and agrees, to then go on and do nothing different.”  My gut feeling about this educator that wore their heart on their sleeve is that they thought a lot about the conversation, in a deep manner.  It might have kept them up at night.  But if it did, that says they were thinking about it and were wrapping their head around those ideas.

A quote that I have been sharing often is the following:

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am inspired by those educators that are passionate about what they do and why they do it, even when we don’t agree. If we both share a love and passion for those we serve, we will always find a better way together.