During a beautiful run at elevation in Colorado, I was listening to a podcast that mentioned Brad Gustafson's efforts create a Digital Leadership Challenge for the principal in Minnesota and beyond. It was built on a set of activities that principals and teacher leaders could take to build their capacity to be digital leaders. It remains a great way for leaders to grow into connected leaders, and I encourage you to visit the link.
This idea propelled me to begin building a similar challenge for leaders looking to grow in the area of innovation. To make this a reality, I partnered with allies at An Estuary. They are an organization providing innovative ways to blend, connect, and deepen professional learning. I encourage you to explore their site, build a profile, and explore the many ways that they offer great learning. A bit more about their work can be viewed on this video.
My contribution to the site so far is the Innovative Leadership Challenge. It is a set of four challenge created for school, district, and classroom leaders that are looking to push into fresh innovative spaces. When you log into the site, you are eligible for a beautiful badge for your learning accomplishment after you have accumulated 16 points out of the 24 points available in the challenge. The four categories for the innovative leadership challenge are: engage, empower, excite; 'making' a difference; growing connected; and core courage.
I encourage you to try some of these activities, share them with friends, and begin a fresh road to innovative leadership in your schools.
Engage, Empower, Excite
Permeable Classrooms- 3 Points
One of the strongest ways to engage, empower, and excite learners comes from using a plethora of "classrooms". Innovative leaders are supporting learning outside, outside in the community, and outside of the community. These efforts begin to close the experience and opportunity gaps for students. To earn three points, support students learning beyond the classroom through resources, materials, and partnerships.
Passion Based Learning- 2 Points
Student learners have increased engagement when they have an opportunity to spend time working on projects in which they have passion. Innovative leaders are finding ways to adjust the schedules, routines, and bells to allow students space to engage deeply in their learning. To earn two points, gather a group to study and implement fresh time in the learning day to maximize student engagement through passion-based learning.
Student Voice- 1 Point
Innovative leaders know the power of student voice. Too often, school is done to students without their input as a part of the system. Student voice empowers students and brings new perspective to leaders. To earn one point, scheduling a listening session with a student group to bring their voice to the forefront.
"Making" a Difference
Rethinking Space- 3 Points
Making requires fresh instructional thinking which is often hard to achieve in the traditional classroom. Community makerspaces are open creative places that provide the tools, energy, and collaboration for new ideas to flourish. To earn three points, select a pilot space that will serve as a place of making. Begin plans to: communicate about the space, purchase resources for the space, and involve students in the planning.
Design Thinking in Schools- 2 Points
Making in schools is often linked to design thinking, a system of thinking, that brings ideas and solutions to life through making. Innovative leaders are finding ways to integrate design thinking into a variety of subjects and curriculum. To earn two points, watch the dSchool Crash Course with a colleague and brainstorm how this process can add to your classroom, school or district.
Create Something- 1 Point
The Maker Movement is bringing new life to creativity, design, and innovation. Making brings choice to learning and summative assessment. To earn one point, find a space of making (art, shop, music studio, television studio), relearn the space, and create something for yourself.
Learning Beyond The Comfort Zone- 3 Points
Inertia, momentum, and habits drive our daily work as leaders. Breaking this commands ongoing attention and thinking about your thinking. Use this realization to reach out for new connections in learning. "Lateral Capacity Building" allows us to reshape our mental models. Earn three points for making fresh connections outside of education that can support the mission of your work.
Exploring a New Communication Media- 2 Points
Telling the story of your classroom, school or district is an essential part of communicating the excellent learning taking place. Many innovative leaders are using a variety of communication tools to make this a reality. To earn two points, choose a fresh tool and begin to use it for telling your story because if you aren't telling the story, someone else is.
Listing Your Allies- 1 Point
Leadership can be lonely, and the marketplace of ideas nurtures the work of all leaders. One important question for all innovative leaders is, "Who are the ten people doing your job better than you are learning with?" Earn one point for listing ten people that fit in this category that you are currently learning with or that you would like to learn with?
Starting the Big Shift- 3 Points
Most leaders have an idea that they believe could truly be a game changer in their learning space. It sits there waiting for the perfect moment, a moment that will never arrive. The courageous leader is able to craft the culture, resources, and momentum to begin making this possible. What is your game changer? Earn three points for taking the first vibrant actions to make it possible.
Failing Forward- 2 Points
All leaders have projects and ideas that fall flat. The courageous leader is nimble, recognizes that a change is necessary and pivots. What project or idea has fallen flat and need to be abandoned or recrafted? Earn two points for publicly recognizing the need to pivot and start down a fresh path (failing forward).
Conversation and Reflection- 1 Point
Making decisions is a daily part of the lives of leaders at all levels. Growing as a courageous leader often comes from going back to a situation after the decision to discuss it with the person or people that didn't like the decision. To earn one point, return to these people or person and review and reflect on the tough decision that was made.