Saturday, November 22, 2014

Having Parental Privilege

Recently I noticed how much parental privilege that I experience at my daughters' schools. I'm able to go into every parent teacher conference knowing that it will be a happy, caring twenty minutes where the teachers will say wonderful things about my daughter. I enjoy being in classrooms, and I don't have any bad memories about school that haunt me. I have an open line of communication with the teachers, and they enjoy talking education with me. I show an empathy for their work, and they respond with compliments about my parenting. I know how to call my daughters in sick without being questioned, and I understand the rhythm of a school day. It is easy to forget that this privilege exists, and it is even easier to forgot how many families never get even a taste of this privilege. How can we remind ourselves that we have a responsibility to build the capacity of all of our parents, so the school and home can truly wrap around our students.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What Are Dos and Don'ts of a Successful One-to-One Computing Program?

The urgency to implement 1:1 programs in schools has reached a fever pitch. Schools are putting more and more devices in the hands of students for the purpose of leveraging the potential of a technology rich environment. All of these programs are well intentioned, some of them are well planned and organized, and the best are effective in bringing greater engagement to learning and empowering students to grow in deeper ways.

As these implementations take place, many schools are avoiding the same mistakes as those that have blazed the trail, while others have struggled to avoid the pitfalls of implementing a 1:1 program. At the top of the list of these pitfalls are not having the necessary infrastructure to allow for success and poorly executed professional development to support the teachers, support staff, and students as the learning environment evolves through the addition of devices.

Exceptional education, and exceptional 1:1 opportunities for kids are only possible with a well organized program, dedicated leadership, and an attention to the details that help to maximize successes during the initial launch of the program, but digging deeper, we find the true special sauce for excellent 1:1 programming. It lies outside of the actual program; instead, it is found in the culture of the learning organization that is built before, during, and after the 1:1 program is conceived, developed, and implemented. There are three key components.

The first is building a culture of YES. So much energy is sucked out of education by colleagues, leaders, and shadow rules and procedures that prevent new ideas and fresh ways of doing things from being brought to the table for cultivation. This culture of NO happens when a leader is presented with a new idea, and the response is something similar to “let me check with my boss to see if it is OK” or giving the innovator a pile of bureaucracy to complete before moving forward with the idea. In other moments, it is a subtle non-verbal that shows little support for the idea through a lack of listening or failing to give credit where credit is due as new ideas emerge. The culture of YES provides energy, support, and an intensity around removing the barriers to success.

The second is acting swiftly to remove the low hanging fruit that is clogging the system. At the beginning of many 1:1 programs, there are legacy issues surrounding the systems that inhibit technology integration from reaching its potential. Sometimes this is old hardware or leftover work orders. In other scenarios, it is old computers and printers that need repair or wiring that remains a mess. No matter what the issue, before starting a fresh initiative around technology integration, it is essential to build good will and trust through visually removing old issues. This can’t just be handling things from an office or items that can’t be seen as good will and momentum is built through those actions that can be seen and that impact the daily user experience. The future of the next project lies on the back of the last project, and this is the low hanging fruit that builds a culture of excitement surrounding an excellent program.

The third is having a responsive culture to the real needs of end user. Deep empathy as part of a technology department is a rarity, but with a culture of service, technology professionals judge their success only the basis of the success of the teachers and students. In order to make this mindset a reality, technology support personnel must put themselves in the shoes of others and begin to think about how to support as though they were the user of the new tools. Having technology that works is no longer an acceptable threshold because technology integration is only successful when users understand the potential and begin to use technology as a tool for engaging, empowering, and energizing their classrooms. When it comes to finding the right way to nudge a 1:1 program forward insist that a culture of service lies at the foundation of the work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Right Cause, Wrong Symbol

This is the short version of something that I'm not ready to totally articulate, but I feel a need to begin the process of processing a group of feeling and emotions that have swelled lately. Message, image, and branding matter deeply for a cause. A cause can quickly plateau without the right shape to the cause. This can come from complexity of message or a message that can't be absorbed emotionally by individuals beyond the core of the movement. This can come from the images that surround the cause. Are they images that spark feelings of support or confusion? Are they images that elicit a desire to be vocal with support or only provide tepid support if any at all? I support the causes in which I believe. I support causes that make it hard for people to believe in me. I support causes that have bad messages, images, and branding, but it is a lot harder to support a messy cause, a cause that matters, but a cause that I can see the mistakes from which it will never recover. Rosa Parks is an image that remains in all of us, but would it have been the same for two seventeen year olds. The picture of children being attacked by a water cannon spurred action and disgust, but would it have been the same with grown men in this picture. Disruption will happen, and people and stuff will be damaged, but does this movement have the right stuff to make a difference, to make the changes that our society needs, to lift our conversations and bring solutions. Things are going to get messy, and all of this is messy. I want to have the right symbols for the right cause, but for now, I've left with the wrong symbols for the right cause. I'm leaning in, but it isn't easy.

Friday, October 31, 2014

What is the Your User Experience?

There has been a lot of buzz this week about the educator that spent two days as a students, and how it totally reshaped their perspective on miserable the life of a student can be in many of our classrooms. For me, it was validation that we aren't beginning all of our work with empathy at the heart of the process. Design thinking requires us to deeply understand the user experience and to truly solve for their needs. How could we reshape the minutes of instruction in our learning spaces if the user experience was truly at the core of our planning? How can we flip our work as instructional designers to not start with the stuff, but start with user experience. It seems like this needs to be at the core of all of our conversations. When we forget about those that we are supporting, this VIDEO becomes the outcome of our efforts to give folks new things and supports without their central needs at the core of the solution.

Lesson Planet- Building a Culture of YES

One of the most important changes that has come to my work as the Director of Innovation is the opportunity to say yes more often. As I principal, I was always excited about new ideas, and I was quick to support and promote them, but there were times when I had to pause and ask others for approval knowing that they were much more cautious with moving forward with new ideas to support kids. In my current role, saying yes has become a natural extension of leading the incredible educators dedicated to supporting kids at new levels. Saying yes has had a major impact on the positive energy throughout the district as ideas become valued and new opportunities become reality for teachers and students. Look around the walls of your school or district. If the word no is found on posters and other documentation, are you truly maximizing the culture of yes in your learning space? Consider saying yes with more frequency this winter and see what emerges from these simple three letters.

 Below is a video that I did with the great folks at Lesson Planet about building a Culture of Yes. Check out the video and their resources.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Future Ready Means Focusing on a Connection to People, Planet and Place

Connected Learning may some day devolve into a buzz word, but the need for connection in learning will never diminish. It has been with us since the earliest learning, and it will remain a part of the learning in whatever form it takes in the future. Connection takes on different forms in our learning ecosystem including connection to people, planet, and place. Connection allows us to find our tribe and grow our tribe in diverse ways. This connection to people, both near and far, tempers the loneliness that can come from the vastness of our global society. This personal connection is also a key to the sustainability of the learning that is taking place inside the classroom and beyond. Another piece of connection is adhering our souls to the planet. As a global citizens, it is impossible not to have your life impacted by the events around the planet on a daily basis. This is happening to us whether we know it or not, but realizing it and embracing this connection to our global brethren creates order and comfort as we notice the world that surrounds us. In classrooms that are providing opportunities to connect beyond borders, there is heightened engagement and a fresh energy for learning as well as a sense of deep soulful learning. Connection to place is the final piece of the triad. Connected learning, at its core, is both incredibly expansive while also being incredibly intimate. Connection means knowing your neighbor, serving your community, and feeling the power of the place that surrounds the air that you breath. This connection to place allows kids in both rural communities and urban centers to think, dream, sell, market, and solve globally while living locally in a place where connection to family, land, faith, and lifestyle are deep. Kids in community, connected to their sense of place, have an even greater chance to solve the biggest problems of the day because they are grounded as they dream the impossible. Schools and places of learning with true physical connectivity and strong digital infrastructures have a chance to make this connection triad possible in meaningful ways. Schools designing learning with this mindset to think not only about connected learning, but also, connection to people, planet, and place, are the schools that will truly be #futureready for the students, families, and communities that need it the most. For more on #futureready schools, check out this LINK


Change: Learn to Love It. Learn to Lead it by Richard Gerver has been a part of my weekend reading, and I just can't get one sentence out of my head. "It is no accident that, as times become more uncertain and susceptible to change, so our desire grows for the past, for a time of familiarity and security." There has been a tremendous amount of change in education and throughout Affton over the last decade, and it has caused a huge amount of excitement coupled with anxiety. There are many days when I long for the past as well. There was comfort, understanding, and stability in that space. Gerver's book pushed me to remember that even if we could return to the past, it isn't there. That truth is really hard for me, but it reminds me that I need the strength, support, and superpowers in each of you to make the road forward less bumpy and worth it for kids.