Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Learning Never Ends

Embrace the moments of inspiration that bloom this summer. There will be moments, when watching the sunrise or listening to music, when a fresh energy for teaching and learning will emerge. It will seem oddly refreshing, and it will be easy to let it pass. Work to be present in these moments and embrace the wisdom that comes in these moments of clarity. Teaching is an exhausting profession, but the space of the summer brings new ideas, resources, and perspective. Our role as lifelong learners means that even when we depart our normal spaces of learning that we continue to use our sense to construct fresh meaning of our world, so that we can share with soul to our students when our paths cross again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Are You Ripe for Change?

This was originally posted on May 20 on Free Technology for Teachers. Thanks to Richard Byrne for allow me to share his space. 

Watching vegetables grow until the moment that they are perfectly ripe for harvest can be an exercise in patience. Each day it means carefully inspecting a variety of facets of the vegetable with the eventual question being, “will it be even better tomorrow?” Waiting one more day holds the potential for vegetable nirvana, but it also gives the squirrels another day to destroy all the patience and waiting that led up to the day of perfection in one tiny squirrel bite. 

Too many schools around the country are waiting for perfection to begin the transformative changes needed in our spaces of learning. They are waiting for a better infrastructure or few more people to retire. They are waiting for the completion of the right amount of professional development or the semester change when things will settle down. They are waiting. They are waiting. They are waiting. Waiting is often an effort to ignore doing the really hard stuff. Waiting is a strategy to avoid failure and not lean into the uncomfortable. Waiting is hurting kids. Waiting also allows others outside of education to fill the void. 

Over the last 18 months, the Affton School District in Saint Louis, Missouri has broken through the inertia of waiting and into a fresh mindset of fire, ready, aim. This shift in mental model (by a growing number of learners throughout the ecosystem) has unleashed fresh energy for innovation throughout the district. Two factors have been the primary catalysts for allowing this to occur. 

The first was building a culture of service. When things are broken, in need of update, or outdated, the innovative spirit is crushed. When instruction is inhibited because there is no support, risk taking becomes non-existent. As the lead innovator in the district, it was important for me and my team to take visual, concrete steps that showcased that fresh culture of service and rallied every human resource available, both technical and instructional, into action to solve the backlog of problems. The result has been a new trust and the opportunity for new conversations around our future as a learning community. 

The second was a dedicated effort to saying YES. The most powerful change agent in education is the word YES. It unleashes ideas. It grows confidence. It builds momentum. It releases trapped wisdom into the system. It really is that powerful. Affton said yes to an app development pilot. Affton said yes to a Bosnian Studies program. Affton said yes to traveling to other schools to see innovation in practice. Affton said yes to a library redesign. When NO is your default setting at any level of your organization, bits and chunks of the system are wilting. 

Affton School District hasn’t arrived. It is on a journey, a long journey, but no one is waiting. Instead there is a growing acceptance that failing forward fast and being in beta by design are the new way forward. Transformational change, the kind that comes from when we are working with the goal of being different as opposed to getting better, is exactly what all of the kids should expect each day from the adults that are in charge of making our schools ripe for learning. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Power of Story

The power of story is important this time of the year. It helps us to reflect, recover and refine our work for the future. Story allows us to slow the pace in these final weeks. Story allows us time to remember the good moments and company to comfort us as we relive the tough moments. As the pace of the year winds its way to a crescendo, make sure that you remember to capture story with your senses, and then find time while we are all still together to share the best of these stories. There is healing, harmony, and happiness to be found as we live in the power of story.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Ink Spot Strategy and Innovation

If you choose the role of innovation leader, then it requires you to incubate those fragments of ideas that bubble out of teachers and kids every day. It is paramount that we recognize them, amplify them, and allow the wisdom of the crowd to nurture them. Outside of education this has been called ink spot strategy. Ink spots when allowed to ooze create a mess, and in education, these are often positive messes. The question for us is then, how do we support the ink spots in our schools by protecting their space, removing barriers, and allowing their "ink" to spread.