Tag: Planning



Earlier this week, I was speaking at What Great Educators Do Differently in Houston. It was a fantastic event with a great lineup of inspiring education leaders.



My topic was Great Educators are Risk-Takers and Difference-Makers! When I have the opportunity to work with school districts or speak at conferences, I want to remind educators that we’re educating kids for the world they’ll live in and not the world we grew up in.



It’s an central message in my book, Future Driven



The world is changing faster than ever and schools need to be changing too. I always ask, “Is your school a time capsule (static) or a time machine (dynamic)?” We can’t afford to teach to a test or simply prepare kids for the next grade level, or even college or career. We’re preparing them for life and anything they might face.



We can’t continue to prize student achievement while ignoring the critical importance of student agency. Kids need more opportunities to make decisions and take initiative. We need to develop future leaders and passionate learners, not just proficient test takers.



And the only way that will happen is by allowing teachers to have the needed professional autonomy to be risk-takers and difference-makers. Educators must have the freedom to take initiative and make decisions. They need the flexibility to use their strengths and bring their passions into their classrooms.



But I also want to challenge educators. What are you doing with the autonomy you have? Are you pushing limits? Are you challenging the status quo? Are you creating extraordinary learning opportunities that prepare students for a complex, unpredictable world? If we’re going to crush student apathy, we have to start with addressing teacher apathy. We have to show up strong!



Here are 5 Future Driven questions to think about with your team…



1. What will students need to thrive in a complex, unpredictable world? (addressing rapid change)



2. How can our school better meet the unique needs of today’s kids? (kids are dealing with new issues/pressures)



3. How can we create a place where kids who resist school are empowered to love learning? (compliance vs. empowered learning)



4. Do teachers have the autonomy they need to create deeper learning? (teacher agency)



5. Do students have opportunities to pursue and explore their own questions? (inquiry)



6. Are students expected to create and innovate in your classroom? (critical thinking, problem-solving)



7. How are students helping others through what they’re learning? (empathy, service)



What other future driven questions do you think are relevant for educators to discuss? It’s amazing how questions can help us make the best decisions. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More 7 Future Driven Questions to Discuss With Your Team

Retrieved: http://www.chicagonow.com/quilting-sewing-creating/files/2014/04/say-yes.png



The idea: What if we had all the kids take a handful of confetti and throw it into the air?



The resistance: What if it makes a big mess? 



Well, it will.



The resistance: What if it makes some people uncomfortable? 



Well, it might.



The resistance: What if a kid gets confetti in his eyes? 



Well, I hadn’t thought of that.



The resistance: What about the janitors? Doesn’t this make their job tougher? 



I’ll help clean it up. My family will help too.



The resistance: You know this isn’t how we normally do things?



But is that such a bad thing?



You might be familiar with the idea of a children’s message during a church service. I’m sure at some point that was an innovation. But for all of my years attending services, I remember it being a thinga really good thing. 



All of the little kids are invited down to the front for a short message/story that is intended just for them. It’s usually an object lesson or story that conveys a Biblical truth in an interactive way. As much as it’s intended for the kids, I think the adults often get a lot out of it too. 



Well, on Christmas Eve, our whole family went to church together, all six of us. And during the service, all of the little kids were invited to the front. I teased our youngest daughter Emma who is 15 and told her she should head down front. She gave me the “Really dad?” look. There may have been a little eye-rolling too.



There was a huge crowd at church for the Christmas Eve service, and the entire stage was filled with little kids brimming with energy. I mean, it’s Christmas Eve! Kids have a lot on their minds this time of year.



Our children’s minister planned a lesson about how joy comes from God, and we should share that joy with others around us. Of course, it included the story of how the shepherds, in particular, shared the news of the birth of Jesus with great enthusiasm. When you have true joy, you can’t help but share it.



A good message for sure. And then the truly unexpected part of the message was about to happen. The children’s minister explained how when we are excited and celebrating something great, sometimes there is confetti.



“Let’s all get some confetti and celebrate the birth of Jesus. And then together we are all going to throw it into the air. Let’s share our joy for everyone to see.”





It was a beautiful thing. And memorable. And a perfect illustration.



There was joy in the congregation. There was certainly joy in the kids. And I’m pretty sure the joy went home with the kids and probably went with them wherever they went. After all, several were stuffing confetti in their pockets. It was a beautiful thing.



But it was risky. 



And to be sure, our children’s minister had asked our pastor ahead of time for permission. 



And he said, “YES!”



And I’m pretty sure he didn’t ask all of those questions that might come from the resistance



He just said, “YES!”



What kind of culture are you creating in your classroom or school? Are you missing something truly memorable and remarkable because you aren’t willing to take a risk?








Read More Creating a Culture of YES!

Retrieved: http://www.chicagonow.com/quilting-sewing-creating/files/2014/04/say-yes.png



The idea: What if we had all the kids take a handful of confetti and throw it into the air?



The resistance: What if it makes a big mess? 



Well, it will.



The resistance: What if it makes some people uncomfortable? 



Well, it might.



The resistance: What if a kid gets confetti in his eyes? 



Well, I hadn’t thought of that.



The resistance: What about the janitors? Doesn’t this make their job tougher? 



I’ll help clean it up. My family will help too.



The resistance: You know this isn’t how we normally do things?



But is that such a bad thing?



You might be familiar with the idea of a children’s message during a church service. I’m sure at some point that was an innovation. But for all of my years attending services, I remember it being a thinga really good thing. 



All of the little kids are invited down to the front for a short message/story that is intended just for them. It’s usually an object lesson or story that conveys a Biblical truth in an interactive way. As much as it’s intended for the kids, I think the adults often get a lot out of it too. 



Well, on Christmas Eve, our whole family went to church together, all six of us. And during the service, all of the little kids were invited to the front. I teased our youngest daughter Emma who is 15 and told her she should head down front. She gave me the “Really dad?” look. There may have been a little eye-rolling too.



There was a huge crowd at church for the Christmas Eve service, and the entire stage was filled with little kids brimming with energy. I mean, it’s Christmas Eve! Kids have a lot on their minds this time of year.



Our children’s minister planned a lesson about how joy comes from God, and we should share that joy with others around us. Of course, it included the story of how the shepherds, in particular, shared the news of the birth of Jesus with great enthusiasm. When you have true joy, you can’t help but share it.



A good message for sure. And then the truly unexpected part of the message was about to happen. The children’s minister explained how when we are excited and celebrating something great, sometimes there is confetti.



“Let’s all get some confetti and celebrate the birth of Jesus. And then together we are all going to throw it into the air. Let’s share our joy for everyone to see.”





It was a beautiful thing. And memorable. And a perfect illustration.



There was joy in the congregation. There was certainly joy in the kids. And I’m pretty sure the joy went home with the kids and probably went with them wherever they went. After all, several were stuffing confetti in their pockets. It was a beautiful thing.



But it was risky. 



And to be sure, our children’s minister had asked our pastor ahead of time for permission. 



And he said, “YES!”



And I’m pretty sure he didn’t ask all of those questions that might come from the resistance



He just said, “YES!”



What kind of culture are you creating in your classroom or school? Are you missing something truly memorable and remarkable because you aren’t willing to take a risk?








Read More Creating a Culture of YES!




Educators should be futurists. Now you’re probably thinking, “What the heck, one more thing I have to be. It always feels like teachers are being asked to do more and more, with less and less. One more thing!” But hang on, I’m not asking you to do more. I’m asking you to shift your perspective.



Futurists are scientists or social scientists who look ahead to the future of what might be possible. They don’t necessarily try to predict the future. No one can do that. But they do explore the possibilities of how current realities might lead to future developments in any and all areas of life.



Futurists believe in progress. They believe there is more to be done, that we can expand our capacity, that we can solve some of the most pressing problems of today. Of course, they also warn of what might happen if we don’t address some of the potential problems of the future.



Years ago, Harvard Professor Edward Banfield described a study in his book Unheavenly Cities related to factors that best predicted individual’s upward social mobility and economic prosperity. He expected factors like family background, intelligence, connections, race, or some other fixed characteristic to be most influential.



But what he found surprised him. The greatest factor related to future productivity and success was what he termed “long-term perspective.” Writer Brian Tracy describes Banfield’s findings:

He said that men and women who were the most successful in life and the most likely to move up economically were those who took the future into consideration with every decision they made in the present. He found that the longer the period of time a person took into consideration while planning and acting, the more likely it was that he would achieve greatly during his career.

The importance of long-term thinking makes sense to me. We are faced on a daily basis with decisions to do what is easiest in the short-term or do what’s best in the long-term. Wisdom is knowing the right thing to do and having the courage to do it.



But it’s more than delayed gratification and self-discipline. It is also having a vision for what the future will demand. It’s thinking like a futurist. It’s being forward-thinking and reflecting on how a changing world will impact my world, the way I live, and work, and interact.


It’s also important for educators and schools to have a long-term perspective. In my upcoming book, Future Driven: Will Your Students Thrive In An Unpredictable World? I challenge educators to reflect on their own perspective. 


Schools should be less like time capsules and more like time machines. The time capsule approach only protects the status quo. It assumes the way we have taught in the past is good enough for today’s students too. The time capsule teacher wants to remind us of everything in the past and wants to filter everything in the future through that. To be blunt, the time capsule teacher is stuck in the past.


But the time machine teacher wants to transcend the current reality. When you think about stories involving time machines, they typically involve using time travel to solve a problem or impact a destiny. They involve a hero’s journey. 


In this case, I am suggesting that time machine teachers want to create a better future. They have a long term perspective. Even though they can’t literally visit the future, they are future driven. They are pushing forward and living in the emerging future.


We are living in a rapidly changing, complex world. Our students will need a future driven education to be ready for the challenges they will face.


Educators make the biggest impact in a place where the future and the present collide. A future focus, combined with action today, has the greatest potential to produce positive change. We need to have a long-term perspective and so do our students. We have to model that for them and cause them to think in those terms. 


The place where today meets tomorrow is where you can make the greatest difference as an educator. Your impact will depend on your perspective and your actions.


I expect Future Driven to be released in a matter of weeks. It will challenge your perspective. It will help you increase your capacity for positive change. It describes how to become a time machine teacher and how to create a future driven school.


I don’t want to jump through hoops. I don’t want to go through the motions. I never want to waste precious time. I want to do my part to create a brighter future. I believe most educators want the same. You are building futures every day. 


Question: What are ways our schools are time capsules, stuck in the past? What are you doing to move forward and have a long-term perspective? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. 


Read More Schools Should Be Places Where the Present and Future Collide




Educators should be futurists. Now you’re probably thinking, “What the heck, one more thing I have to be. It always feels like teachers are being asked to do more and more, with less and less. One more thing!” But hang on, I’m not asking you to do more. I’m asking you to shift your perspective.



Futurists are scientists or social scientists who look ahead to the future of what might be possible. They don’t necessarily try to predict the future. No one can do that. But they do explore the possibilities of how current realities might lead to future developments in any and all areas of life.



Futurists believe in progress. They believe there is more to be done, that we can expand our capacity, that we can solve some of the most pressing problems of today. Of course, they also warn of what might happen if we don’t address some of the potential problems of the future.



Years ago, Harvard Professor Edward Banfield described a study in his book Unheavenly Cities related to factors that best predicted individual’s upward social mobility and economic prosperity. He expected factors like family background, intelligence, connections, race, or some other fixed characteristic to be most influential.



But what he found surprised him. The greatest factor related to future productivity and success was what he termed “long-term perspective.” Writer Brian Tracy describes Banfield’s findings:

He said that men and women who were the most successful in life and the most likely to move up economically were those who took the future into consideration with every decision they made in the present. He found that the longer the period of time a person took into consideration while planning and acting, the more likely it was that he would achieve greatly during his career.

The importance of long-term thinking makes sense to me. We are faced on a daily basis with decisions to do what is easiest in the short-term or do what’s best in the long-term. Wisdom is knowing the right thing to do and having the courage to do it.



But it’s more than delayed gratification and self-discipline. It is also having a vision for what the future will demand. It’s thinking like a futurist. It’s being forward-thinking and reflecting on how a changing world will impact my world, the way I live, and work, and interact.


It’s also important for educators and schools to have a long-term perspective. In my upcoming book, Future Driven: Will Your Students Thrive In An Unpredictable World? I challenge educators to reflect on their own perspective. 


Schools should be less like time capsules and more like time machines. The time capsule approach only protects the status quo. It assumes the way we have taught in the past is good enough for today’s students too. The time capsule teacher wants to remind us of everything in the past and wants to filter everything in the future through that. To be blunt, the time capsule teacher is stuck in the past.


But the time machine teacher wants to transcend the current reality. When you think about stories involving time machines, they typically involve using time travel to solve a problem or impact a destiny. They involve a hero’s journey. 


In this case, I am suggesting that time machine teachers want to create a better future. They have a long term perspective. Even though they can’t literally visit the future, they are future driven. They are pushing forward and living in the emerging future.


We are living in a rapidly changing, complex world. Our students will need a future driven education to be ready for the challenges they will face.


Educators make the biggest impact in a place where the future and the present collide. A future focus, combined with action today, has the greatest potential to produce positive change. We need to have a long-term perspective and so do our students. We have to model that for them and cause them to think in those terms. 


The place where today meets tomorrow is where you can make the greatest difference as an educator. Your impact will depend on your perspective and your actions.


I expect Future Driven to be released in a matter of weeks. It will challenge your perspective. It will help you increase your capacity for positive change. It describes how to become a time machine teacher and how to create a future driven school.


I don’t want to jump through hoops. I don’t want to go through the motions. I never want to waste precious time. I want to do my part to create a brighter future. I believe most educators want the same. You are building futures every day. 


Question: What are ways our schools are time capsules, stuck in the past? What are you doing to move forward and have a long-term perspective? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. 


Read More Schools Should Be Places Where the Present and Future Collide





I recently read Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni. This book is a must read for any leader who wants to improve the quality of meetings in his or her organization. Every team could benefit from the insights shared in this leadership fable. 



The problem with meetings is that they are often boring, and they don’t usually get the desired results. There are a couple of reasons this happens. I’d like to share some of what I learned from Lencioni’s book and encourage you to read it if you would like to have killer meetings instead of death by meetings.



Two Problems With Meetings

Major Problem #1 is Lack of Conflict. But not the bad kind of conflict. NOT personal conflict. It’s the kind we have in the plot of a movie or novel. There is a problem to be solved. It drives the meeting forward in a narrative fashion. There is a story. There will be conflict between the ‘characters’ in the meeting, but we want it to be constructive conflict around important issues directly related to the problem. Conflict will result in better decisions. There will be ideological differences. Leaders have to help to create some of the urgency needed for a plot to be interesting. If meetings lack conflict, they are boring. And they basically result in people ‘hanging out’ together instead of solving problems together. Lencioni suggests three ideas leaders can use to help get meaningful dialogue started.

Hook Example“We have a real problem with apathy. 50% of our students failed at least one class last year. We are all dealing with bored, disengaged students. We don’t want to see students coast through school and pay the price later. We aim for excellence here, and we aren’t getting excellence out of all our students.”

Mining for Conflict – Confront issues that need to be addressed. Don’t avoid them.

Real-time Permission – Let others know the conflict is good. “I’m glad we are having this discussion, even though it may be a little uncomfortable and force us to rethink our work.”

Major Problem #2 is Lack of Contextual Structure. When different types/purposes for the meeting are all lumped together in “meeting stew” with no distinction, the meeting goes all over the place. People talk to fill up the time but not toward a goal or purpose. The dialogue isn’t leading to a decision.

Lencioni presents several types of meetings, but I found two of these to be particularly useful in our school setting.



Type #1 Tactical Meetings – Issues of immediate concern. Most routine meetings should be tactical. They are very structured and includes the following elements:

Lightning Round – A quick, around-the-table reporting session in which everyone indicates two or three priorities for the week. It should take each team member no more than one minute to quickly describe what is on their respective plates. It sets the tone for the meeting.

Progress Review – Reporting of critical information or metrics. What are the key areas of progress either ongoing or established at the previous meeting? Limit metrics to just 2 or 3. Limit discussion of underlying issues here.

Real-time agenda – Once the lightning round and progress review are complete, the agenda is set by what everyone is working on and how the group is performing against its goals, not based on the leader’s best guess 48 hours before the meeting. There must be disciplined spontaneity here. What are the next steps? “Should we develop a more effective question for the common assessment?” “What are we going to do this week about the increasing Ds and Fs in our classes?” Stay focused on tactical issues that must be addressed to ensure short-term objectives are not jeopardized. Any obstacles to tactical issues must be removed.

Possible Obstacles: 1. Temptation to set an agenda. 2. Spending too much time on the lightning round. 3. Discussion about long-term strategic issues. Team member will raise strategic issues that will take the focus off the short-term topics (aka – doing real work together). There is a different meeting for the strategic issues. Any strategic issues brought up are added to the list of topics for the next type of meeting.
Type #2 The Monthly Strategic – The most important and most fun type of meeting. The team debates, analyzes, and decides critical issues that will affect the school/team in fundamental ways. The hardest thing will be having enough time. Issues will have to be limited to only the most important. In this type of meeting, members need to know in advance what will be discussed. Members must come prepared. Decisions must be made with good information, data, research, etc. Decisions are not made on anecdotal information alone. This meeting decides the team’s larger strategic plan and where the team is headed next. Again, fear of conflict can cause these meetings to be ineffective.

Closing

Meetings don’t have to be a waste of time. They can actually save time, because our results are better when our meetings are better. We can be proactive. Alignment saves time because we pull together instead of pulling in a multitude of directions.

A few other notes…

The meeting should always focus on the people in the room. What are we (these people) going to do about the problem? If there is a need to partner with others in addressing the problem, invite them to the next meeting.

Meetings generate energy when…

1. Teams brag about wins

2. Relationships are strengthened

3. The path forward is clear

4. Accountability focuses on the people around the table



Question: What other ideas would you share to have killer meetings? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More How To Have Killer Meetings That Get Results





I recently read Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni. This book is a must read for any leader who wants to improve the quality of meetings in his or her organization. Every team could benefit from the insights shared in this leadership fable. 



The problem with meetings is that they are often boring, and they don’t usually get the desired results. There are a couple of reasons this happens. I’d like to share some of what I learned from Lencioni’s book and encourage you to read it if you would like to have killer meetings instead of death by meetings.



Two Problems With Meetings

Major Problem #1 is Lack of Conflict. But not the bad kind of conflict. NOT personal conflict. It’s the kind we have in the plot of a movie or novel. There is a problem to be solved. It drives the meeting forward in a narrative fashion. There is a story. There will be conflict between the ‘characters’ in the meeting, but we want it to be constructive conflict around important issues directly related to the problem. Conflict will result in better decisions. There will be ideological differences. Leaders have to help to create some of the urgency needed for a plot to be interesting. If meetings lack conflict, they are boring. And they basically result in people ‘hanging out’ together instead of solving problems together. Lencioni suggests three ideas leaders can use to help get meaningful dialogue started.

Hook Example“We have a real problem with apathy. 50% of our students failed at least one class last year. We are all dealing with bored, disengaged students. We don’t want to see students coast through school and pay the price later. We aim for excellence here, and we aren’t getting excellence out of all our students.”

Mining for Conflict – Confront issues that need to be addressed. Don’t avoid them.

Real-time Permission – Let others know the conflict is good. “I’m glad we are having this discussion, even though it may be a little uncomfortable and force us to rethink our work.”

Major Problem #2 is Lack of Contextual Structure. When different types/purposes for the meeting are all lumped together in “meeting stew” with no distinction, the meeting goes all over the place. People talk to fill up the time but not toward a goal or purpose. The dialogue isn’t leading to a decision.

Lencioni presents several types of meetings, but I found two of these to be particularly useful in our school setting.



Type #1 Tactical Meetings – Issues of immediate concern. Most routine meetings should be tactical. They are very structured and includes the following elements:

Lightning Round – A quick, around-the-table reporting session in which everyone indicates two or three priorities for the week. It should take each team member no more than one minute to quickly describe what is on their respective plates. It sets the tone for the meeting.

Progress Review – Reporting of critical information or metrics. What are the key areas of progress either ongoing or established at the previous meeting? Limit metrics to just 2 or 3. Limit discussion of underlying issues here.

Real-time agenda – Once the lightning round and progress review are complete, the agenda is set by what everyone is working on and how the group is performing against its goals, not based on the leader’s best guess 48 hours before the meeting. There must be disciplined spontaneity here. What are the next steps? “Should we develop a more effective question for the common assessment?” “What are we going to do this week about the increasing Ds and Fs in our classes?” Stay focused on tactical issues that must be addressed to ensure short-term objectives are not jeopardized. Any obstacles to tactical issues must be removed.

Possible Obstacles: 1. Temptation to set an agenda. 2. Spending too much time on the lightning round. 3. Discussion about long-term strategic issues. Team member will raise strategic issues that will take the focus off the short-term topics (aka – doing real work together). There is a different meeting for the strategic issues. Any strategic issues brought up are added to the list of topics for the next type of meeting.
Type #2 The Monthly Strategic – The most important and most fun type of meeting. The team debates, analyzes, and decides critical issues that will affect the school/team in fundamental ways. The hardest thing will be having enough time. Issues will have to be limited to only the most important. In this type of meeting, members need to know in advance what will be discussed. Members must come prepared. Decisions must be made with good information, data, research, etc. Decisions are not made on anecdotal information alone. This meeting decides the team’s larger strategic plan and where the team is headed next. Again, fear of conflict can cause these meetings to be ineffective.

Closing

Meetings don’t have to be a waste of time. They can actually save time, because our results are better when our meetings are better. We can be proactive. Alignment saves time because we pull together instead of pulling in a multitude of directions.

A few other notes…

The meeting should always focus on the people in the room. What are we (these people) going to do about the problem? If there is a need to partner with others in addressing the problem, invite them to the next meeting.

Meetings generate energy when…

1. Teams brag about wins

2. Relationships are strengthened

3. The path forward is clear

4. Accountability focuses on the people around the table



Question: What other ideas would you share to have killer meetings? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More How To Have Killer Meetings That Get Results



I gave an assignment to one of the graduate classes I teach to consider a technology purchase a school has made recently. Was there a good return on the investment? Was the total cost of ownership considered? Was there a clear purpose for obtaining the technology in the first place? Students then explore these questions by talking with a principal or other decision-maker about the process of acquiring the new technology in their school.



One of my students shared about how their school had purchased a software program to help with a broad array of learning objectives. I am paraphrasing below the response she shared from the school leader she interviewed.  

We don’t really spend much on technology. We purchased the software to help with mastery of content, but our data didn’t show it was effective. We bought it to increase student achievement across the curriculum. It was fun, engaging, and relevant for students, but we make our spending choices based on how it impacts our data. We are data-driven.

Now I certainly realize there are limited resources in every school, and honestly this software sounds like test-prep to me, and there are far more valuable, authentic ways to use technology in my view. But I was also puzzled by the idea that a method or strategy could increase engagement, be fun and relevant, and yet if it doesn’t show an measurable impact in data, it’s not valuable or worthwhile. That seems to be the line of thinking.



We’ve spent a significant amount of money in our district on Chromebooks as part of our digital learning initiative. And I’m thankful for the support of our district to provide this learning tool for students. But there have been questions raised about how we know this digital transformation is resulting in learning gains. What data proves that this is working?



And I can understand when a school is spending a lot of money, we want to see evidence that it’s money well-spent. But that evidence may not be quantifiable. I believe providing a Chromebook for students to use for learning is a necessary part of preparing students as learners for life in a world that is increasingly digital. But I don’t think it’s possible with any degree of validity or reliability to show direct links between this tool and a learning outcome.



What if we applied the same type of thinking to other aspects of school?



Can you show me that your school library has a measurable impact on student achievement?



Could you please show us that your textbook has a measurable impact on student achievement? 



What data can you present to demonstrate that music, art, career education, or athletics has a measurable impact on student achievement? 



We spend significantly on all of these in our district because we think they are incredibly important (the importance of the textbook might be up for debate). And we know they are important not because we have data measures that tell us so. But we do have plenty of evidence that demonstrates their impact. We know they are good for kids and good for learning.



When I hear the term data-driven, I admit it makes me cringe just a little. I always try to view learning through the lens of being a dad. I never want the complexity of my child’s learning reduced to a number. It is dehumanizing. Is it inevitable in the current system? Yes, it probably is. College entrance emphasizes the ACT score for instance. But I know there are many brilliant students who are not accurately represented as learners based on an ACT score.



Instead of data-driven, shouldn’t we first be student-driven. George Couros has written about this idea and shared it in his presentations. People are always more important than any metric or number. When we reduce a person’s abilities to a number we risk putting limits on their potential and capabilities. NBA superstar Stephen Curry didn’t allow the numbers to keep him from greatness. Coming out of college he was considered by scouts to be undersized with athleticism far below the NBA standard. He couldn’t run as fast or jump as high as the typical elite athletes in the league. From a data-driven perspective, at best he would be a marginal contributor on an NBA team. He would be a role player.



But what the NBA scouts didn’t account for was his commitment to excellence, his incredible work ethic, his passion and instincts for the game. He turned the numbers upside down. He used creativity and risk-taking to gain the upper hand on superior athletes. His success reminds me of this Jon Gordon quote:

The world will try to measure you by scores and numbers, but they’ll never be able to measure the power of your desire and size of your heart. 

When we are student-driven, we make decisions that recognize a student has potential far beyond what the numbers might indicate. We don’t make our decisions based on numbers alone. We make decisions based on good thinking that includes what we know about human potential and what students need to succeed in a complex, uncertain world.



So even if we can’t quantify the impact of a digital device, that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable to learning. Our world is increasingly digital and being an effective learner means being an effective digital learner too. Being student-driven also means being future-driven, especially in today’s rapidly changing world. We are doing the right thing for our students when we do what’s best for them in the long run, not just to raise a score in the short term.



Later this summer, I’m releasing my new book, Future Driven: Will Your Students Thrive In An Unpredictable World? It will empower you to crush the status quo, create authentic learning, and unleash your passion to help students succeed in a time of unprecedented change. In hockey, the puck is traveling at speeds up to 100 mph. And that’s why players say you don’t skate where the puck is, you skate where it is going. The same is true for our students and schools. We must be student-driven and future-driven to create learning that will serve students well in our modern world. The puck is moving fast, and we have to help our students keep up.



In the coming weeks, I’ll share more details about my book release and give my blog readers an in-depth preview. I’ve poured all my energy, effort, and enthusiasm into this project, and I’m excited to share it with you. It truly is a passion-project. And I think you’ll love the message and want to add it to your professional library.



You might also want to check out this post from George Couros and this one from Lisa Westman both with strong ideas regarding being student-driven.



Question: What are your thoughts on being student-driven and future-driven? What role does data play? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Not Data-Driven But Student-Driven And Future-Driven



I gave an assignment to one of the graduate classes I teach to consider a technology purchase a school has made recently. Was there a good return on the investment? Was the total cost of ownership considered? Was there a clear purpose for obtaining the technology in the first place? Students then explore these questions by talking with a principal or other decision-maker about the process of acquiring the new technology in their school.



One of my students shared about how their school had purchased a software program to help with a broad array of learning objectives. I am paraphrasing below the response she shared from the school leader she interviewed.  

We don’t really spend much on technology. We purchased the software to help with mastery of content, but our data didn’t show it was effective. We bought it to increase student achievement across the curriculum. It was fun, engaging, and relevant for students, but we make our spending choices based on how it impacts our data. We are data-driven.

Now I certainly realize there are limited resources in every school, and honestly this software sounds like test-prep to me, and there are far more valuable, authentic ways to use technology in my view. But I was also puzzled by the idea that a method or strategy could increase engagement, be fun and relevant, and yet if it doesn’t show an measurable impact in data, it’s not valuable or worthwhile. That seems to be the line of thinking.



We’ve spent a significant amount of money in our district on Chromebooks as part of our digital learning initiative. And I’m thankful for the support of our district to provide this learning tool for students. But there have been questions raised about how we know this digital transformation is resulting in learning gains. What data proves that this is working?



And I can understand when a school is spending a lot of money, we want to see evidence that it’s money well-spent. But that evidence may not be quantifiable. I believe providing a Chromebook for students to use for learning is a necessary part of preparing students as learners for life in a world that is increasingly digital. But I don’t think it’s possible with any degree of validity or reliability to show direct links between this tool and a learning outcome.



What if we applied the same type of thinking to other aspects of school?



Can you show me that your school library has a measurable impact on student achievement?



Could you please show us that your textbook has a measurable impact on student achievement? 



What data can you present to demonstrate that music, art, career education, or athletics has a measurable impact on student achievement? 



We spend significantly on all of these in our district because we think they are incredibly important (the importance of the textbook might be up for debate). And we know they are important not because we have data measures that tell us so. But we do have plenty of evidence that demonstrates their impact. We know they are good for kids and good for learning.



When I hear the term data-driven, I admit it makes me cringe just a little. I always try to view learning through the lens of being a dad. I never want the complexity of my child’s learning reduced to a number. It is dehumanizing. Is it inevitable in the current system? Yes, it probably is. College entrance emphasizes the ACT score for instance. But I know there are many brilliant students who are not accurately represented as learners based on an ACT score.



Instead of data-driven, shouldn’t we first be student-driven. George Couros has written about this idea and shared it in his presentations. People are always more important than any metric or number. When we reduce a person’s abilities to a number we risk putting limits on their potential and capabilities. NBA superstar Stephen Curry didn’t allow the numbers to keep him from greatness. Coming out of college he was considered by scouts to be undersized with athleticism far below the NBA standard. He couldn’t run as fast or jump as high as the typical elite athletes in the league. From a data-driven perspective, at best he would be a marginal contributor on an NBA team. He would be a role player.



But what the NBA scouts didn’t account for was his commitment to excellence, his incredible work ethic, his passion and instincts for the game. He turned the numbers upside down. He used creativity and risk-taking to gain the upper hand on superior athletes. His success reminds me of this Jon Gordon quote:

The world will try to measure you by scores and numbers, but they’ll never be able to measure the power of your desire and size of your heart. 

When we are student-driven, we make decisions that recognize a student has potential far beyond what the numbers might indicate. We don’t make our decisions based on numbers alone. We make decisions based on good thinking that includes what we know about human potential and what students need to succeed in a complex, uncertain world.



So even if we can’t quantify the impact of a digital device, that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable to learning. Our world is increasingly digital and being an effective learner means being an effective digital learner too. Being student-driven also means being future-driven, especially in today’s rapidly changing world. We are doing the right thing for our students when we do what’s best for them in the long run, not just to raise a score in the short term.



Later this summer, I’m releasing my new book, Future Driven: Will Your Students Thrive In An Unpredictable World? It will empower you to crush the status quo, create authentic learning, and unleash your passion to help students succeed in a time of unprecedented change. In hockey, the puck is traveling at speeds up to 100 mph. And that’s why players say you don’t skate where the puck is, you skate where it is going. The same is true for our students and schools. We must be student-driven and future-driven to create learning that will serve students well in our modern world. The puck is moving fast, and we have to help our students keep up.



In the coming weeks, I’ll share more details about my book release and give my blog readers an in-depth preview. I’ve poured all my energy, effort, and enthusiasm into this project, and I’m excited to share it with you. It truly is a passion-project. And I think you’ll love the message and want to add it to your professional library.



You might also want to check out this post from George Couros and this one from Lisa Westman both with strong ideas regarding being student-driven.



Question: What are your thoughts on being student-driven and future-driven? What role does data play? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Not Data-Driven But Student-Driven And Future-Driven





Are you beating the state average? The teacher down the hall? The school down the road? How about the Fins or the Singaporeans? How do your scores measure up? Is your school keeping up with the Joneses?



Lately, I’ve seen lots of comparisons of achievement data. Including the PISA international benchmark results that were just released. Once again, U.S. scores were not stellar in comparison to some of the best test takers in the world.



While reading Linchpin by Seth Godin, I was challenged to think about how we define success. And where we spend our energy to develop world class schools. Godin illustrates how difficult it is to be the best by any statistical comparison.

❝Donald Bradman was an Australian cricket player. He was also the best athlete who ever lived. By any statistical measure, he was comparatively the best at what he did. He was far better at cricket than Michael Jordan was at basketball or Jack Nicklaus was at golf.

It’s very difficult to be as good as Donald Bradman. In fact, it’s impossible. Here’s a chart of Bradman’s batting average compared with the other all-time cricket leaders. 

Bradman’s Test batting average was 99.94. In cricket, a player’s batting average is the

total number of runs scored by the number of times they have been out.



Everyone else is quite grouped near sixty. Bradman was in a league of his own, not even close to the others. 

The challenge of becoming a linchpin solely based on your skill at plying a craft or doing a task or playing a sport is that the market can find other people with the skill with surprising ease. Plenty of people can play the flute as well as you can, clean a house as well as you can, program in Python as well as you can. If all you can do is the task and you’re not in a league of your own at doing the task, you’re not indispensable. 

Statistics are a dangerous deal, because statistics make it strikingly clear that you’re only a little better than the other guy. Or perhaps not better at all.

When you start down the path of beating the competition based on something that can be easily measured, you’re betting that with practice and determination, you can do better than Len Hutton or Jack Hobbs did at cricket. Not a little better, but Don Bradman better.

And you can’t. 



And this demonstrates the problem with measuring school performance based on standardized tests. To clarify…



1. Someone is always statistically better. 



You cannot be the best just on your effort or the effort of the students in your classroom or school. You cannot measure up. Even your best will not be enough. There will always be a Don Bradman. So when we accept this measure as judge and jury of our effectiveness, we are setting ourselves up for frustration and inadequacy.



2. More achievement is not always better.



A recent article about the learning culture in Singapore shows just how unhealthy a culture of over-achievement can be. Even in our own schools, we should not celebrate unhealthy attitudes toward achievement. How many ulcers, headaches, and mental health issues are a result of students, and educators, who are placing too much emphasis on achievement results? Being an effective human being involves a healthy attitude toward achievement, not high achievement no matter what it takes.



3. What can be measured doesn’t always count the most.



And what counts the most can’t always be measured. There are so many things about being an effective learner, a well-educated person beyond test scores. In fact, there are many people in our communities who are incredibly successful and lifelong learners, but who did not excel as test takers. Their success is attributable to many intangibles that cannot be easily measured. As Godin points out, “The easier it is to quantify the less it’s worth.” The most valuable things are often hard to measure.








4. High test scores are not a vision for learning.



When raising test scores becomes a chief aim of a school or district, it can easily become the vision of the school. And raising test scores is not a vision for learning. This approach marginalizes the individual and their learning needs in favor of data objectives that may not even be meaningful to the individual. In a sense, it dehumanizes learning. A vision for learning should always focus on the individual learner and create a culture that helps each student reach his or her goals. 



5. A school’s identity should not be contingent on achievement.



The identity of a school, or individual, should not be contingent on achievement. It should be comprised of the way the school seeks to fulfill its mission. We should seek to have a high level of commitment, collaboration, and care. We should strive to help our students achieve, but also to fully engage, to be more excited about learning, to gain hope, to learn more about who they are, and to fulfill their potential in the broadest sense. We control our identity, but we can’t always control our scores. Any teacher knows this, but sometimes we do our best work with students who DO NOT demonstrate achievement on tests.



So what’s the alternative to playing the test score game? Godin suggests using emotional labor to make yourself indispensable. I think this principle can be applied to schools, too. The idea is to focus energy on connecting, supporting, reaching out, lifting up, and offering hope better than anyone else. It is always teaching students first, then curriculum.



Even though many educators realize how important emotional labor is, it is rarely included in strategic plans, teacher evaluations, or educator standards. It is not considered a strategic advantage. In my review of my state’s principal standards, the word data was found 15 times. By contrast, the word relationships was not to be found. The era of accountability has created an assembly line approach to schooling. It seems to almost eliminate the human element. 



But the truth is the human element is everything in education and in most every profession. Once you have achieved a measure of expertise in polishing your craft, you become a game-changer only through your interaction with each child. Your emotional labor is what makes you able to do your job unlike anyone else on the planet. And if your school collectively does it’s emotional labor better than anyone else, it will indeed be world class. And I’m betting your test scores will improve as an added bonus.



Question: How do you view the role of emotional labor in your classroom and school? Is it a measure of success? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Reasons to Look Beyond Test Scores as the Measure of School Success





Are you beating the state average? The teacher down the hall? The school down the road? How about the Fins or the Singaporeans? How do your scores measure up? Is your school keeping up with the Joneses?



Lately, I’ve seen lots of comparisons of achievement data. Including the PISA international benchmark results that were just released. Once again, U.S. scores were not stellar in comparison to some of the best test takers in the world.



While reading Linchpin by Seth Godin, I was challenged to think about how we define success. And where we spend our energy to develop world class schools. Godin illustrates how difficult it is to be the best by any statistical comparison.

❝Donald Bradman was an Australian cricket player. He was also the best athlete who ever lived. By any statistical measure, he was comparatively the best at what he did. He was far better at cricket than Michael Jordan was at basketball or Jack Nicklaus was at golf.

It’s very difficult to be as good as Donald Bradman. In fact, it’s impossible. Here’s a chart of Bradman’s batting average compared with the other all-time cricket leaders. 

Bradman’s Test batting average was 99.94. In cricket, a player’s batting average is the

total number of runs scored by the number of times they have been out.



Everyone else is quite grouped near sixty. Bradman was in a league of his own, not even close to the others. 

The challenge of becoming a linchpin solely based on your skill at plying a craft or doing a task or playing a sport is that the market can find other people with the skill with surprising ease. Plenty of people can play the flute as well as you can, clean a house as well as you can, program in Python as well as you can. If all you can do is the task and you’re not in a league of your own at doing the task, you’re not indispensable. 

Statistics are a dangerous deal, because statistics make it strikingly clear that you’re only a little better than the other guy. Or perhaps not better at all.

When you start down the path of beating the competition based on something that can be easily measured, you’re betting that with practice and determination, you can do better than Len Hutton or Jack Hobbs did at cricket. Not a little better, but Don Bradman better.

And you can’t. 



And this demonstrates the problem with measuring school performance based on standardized tests. To clarify…



1. Someone is always statistically better. 



You cannot be the best just on your effort or the effort of the students in your classroom or school. You cannot measure up. Even your best will not be enough. There will always be a Don Bradman. So when we accept this measure as judge and jury of our effectiveness, we are setting ourselves up for frustration and inadequacy.



2. More achievement is not always better.



A recent article about the learning culture in Singapore shows just how unhealthy a culture of over-achievement can be. Even in our own schools, we should not celebrate unhealthy attitudes toward achievement. How many ulcers, headaches, and mental health issues are a result of students, and educators, who are placing too much emphasis on achievement results? Being an effective human being involves a healthy attitude toward achievement, not high achievement no matter what it takes.



3. What can be measured doesn’t always count the most.



And what counts the most can’t always be measured. There are so many things about being an effective learner, a well-educated person beyond test scores. In fact, there are many people in our communities who are incredibly successful and lifelong learners, but who did not excel as test takers. Their success is attributable to many intangibles that cannot be easily measured. As Godin points out, “The easier it is to quantify the less it’s worth.” The most valuable things are often hard to measure.








4. High test scores are not a vision for learning.



When raising test scores becomes a chief aim of a school or district, it can easily become the vision of the school. And raising test scores is not a vision for learning. This approach marginalizes the individual and their learning needs in favor of data objectives that may not even be meaningful to the individual. In a sense, it dehumanizes learning. A vision for learning should always focus on the individual learner and create a culture that helps each student reach his or her goals. 



5. A school’s identity should not be contingent on achievement.



The identity of a school, or individual, should not be contingent on achievement. It should be comprised of the way the school seeks to fulfill its mission. We should seek to have a high level of commitment, collaboration, and care. We should strive to help our students achieve, but also to fully engage, to be more excited about learning, to gain hope, to learn more about who they are, and to fulfill their potential in the broadest sense. We control our identity, but we can’t always control our scores. Any teacher knows this, but sometimes we do our best work with students who DO NOT demonstrate achievement on tests.



So what’s the alternative to playing the test score game? Godin suggests using emotional labor to make yourself indispensable. I think this principle can be applied to schools, too. The idea is to focus energy on connecting, supporting, reaching out, lifting up, and offering hope better than anyone else. It is always teaching students first, then curriculum.



Even though many educators realize how important emotional labor is, it is rarely included in strategic plans, teacher evaluations, or educator standards. It is not considered a strategic advantage. In my review of my state’s principal standards, the word data was found 15 times. By contrast, the word relationships was not to be found. The era of accountability has created an assembly line approach to schooling. It seems to almost eliminate the human element. 



But the truth is the human element is everything in education and in most every profession. Once you have achieved a measure of expertise in polishing your craft, you become a game-changer only through your interaction with each child. Your emotional labor is what makes you able to do your job unlike anyone else on the planet. And if your school collectively does it’s emotional labor better than anyone else, it will indeed be world class. And I’m betting your test scores will improve as an added bonus.



Question: How do you view the role of emotional labor in your classroom and school? Is it a measure of success? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Reasons to Look Beyond Test Scores as the Measure of School Success



One of the most important parts of leadership is communication. And no matter how much you try to communicate, it seems there is always room for improvement. But why is it that so many new ideas flame out before they really get established?



In Adam Grant’s book Originals: How Non-Comformists Move the World, he writes about the exposure effect. People tend to gravitate to ideas or methods that are more familiar, while they tend to avoid things that are less familiar.

The mere exposure effect has been replicated many times—the more familiar a face, letter, number, sound, flavor, brand, or Chinese character becomes, the more we like it. It’s true across different cultures and species; even baby chickens prefer the familiar. My favorite test was when people looked at photographs of themselves and their friends that were either regular or inverted, as if seen in a mirror. We prefer the regular photos of our friends, because that’s how we’re used to seeing them, but we like the inverted photos of ourselves, because that’s how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror. “Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt,” says serial entrepreneur Howard Tullman. “It breeds comfort.”

The exposure effect might explain why teachers tend to teach as they were taught. And why parents can get a little anxious when their child’s schooling deviates from what they experienced as a student. It might also explain why new ideas may not gain traction right away, even if they are great ideas that might be game-changers for student learning. People need time to warm-up to a new idea, and the research seems to prove it.



So if you want to move your vision forward, you have to help people become more comfortable with the vision. You have to overcommunicate the vision. But usually the opposite happens. Leaders often communicate far too little and too infrequently. Grant writes that leaders tend to assume everyone else is familiar with their ideas. They spend hours thinking about the vision from just about every angle. It seems easy to the person most familiar with it.

You know the lyrics and the melody of your idea by heart. By that point, it’s no longer possible to imagine what it sounds like to an audience that’s listening to it for the first time.

It’s easy to forget the perspective of the audience. But perhaps they aren’t on Twitter all the time discussing the topic. They might not be constantly engaged in conversations with other forward-thinking educators. They may not have the opportunity to go to as many conferences or attend as many workshops. To them, the message seems foreign and difficult to understand. It’s hard to take the message and fit it with their current thoughts and ideas. You possess a clarity they do not.

As I read this part of the book, I was reflecting on my own communication as a leader. I can actually think of lots of ways I’ve failed to consistently communicate our vision. It’s easy to add just one more thing and make our goals too complex. Then the communication is just a muddled mess of one new idea after another. There isn’t opportunity for people to really adopt an idea, get behind it, and see how it works in their world. The next new thing is just around the corner.



Just last year, our district admin team was reading Finding Your Leadership Focus by Doug Reeves. But in spite of the study of priorities, I don’t think we eliminated a single initiative. We just continued spinning plates. You work on spinning a few over here, and then give attention to some others before they come crashing down. Because nearly everything seems to be a priority, in reality it means that nothing is a priority. We are killing any chance at a transforming vision by initiative fatigue.




Retrieved: https://workingmomadventures.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/man-spinning-plates.jpg



But I actually thought of one example that was a success. So let’s focus on the positive, right? 



In the years leading up to our 1:1 initiative, we didn’t have the budget to make it happen. We just didn’t have the money. That provided plenty of time for staff to warm-up to the idea. They heard me tell stories of other schools who were going 1:1. I constantly was dreaming about how awesome it would be when all of our students had consistent access. I talked about it a lot. And other people talked about it too. I think all those years helped most everyone embrace the idea. Our budget woes may have been a blessing in disguise. The delay was probably helpful in setting the stage for the success of 1:1 at BHS.



In the fall of 2015, when 1:1 became a reality, we totally hit the ground running. I’m not saying it was perfect. But the buy-in was at a high level, and our digital transformation was off to a great start. For several years, our team was getting ready for this future reality. There was plenty of time to become familiar with the concept of 1:1, why it was important, and how it could be helpful in each classroom. We communicated the ‘why’ of 1:1 over and over again. 



As Grant suggested, “If we want people to accept our original ideas, we need to speak up about them, and then rinse and repeat.”



So as your leadership team plans to move your vision forward, consider the importance of the exposure effect. Really listen to the feedback from your team to understand how the ideas are being received. And make sure you don’t underestimate how much exposure your audience needs to understand your vision and embrace it.

When Harvard professor John Kotter studied change agents years ago, he found that they typically undercommunicated their visions by a factor of ten. On average, they spoke about the direction of change ten times less often than their stakeholders needed to hear it. In one three-month period, employees might be exposed to 2.3 million words and numbers. On average during that period, the vision for change was expressed in only 13,400 words and numbers: a 30-minute speech, an hour-long meeting, a briefing, and a memo. Since more than 99 percent of the communication that employees encounter during those three months does not concern the vision, how can they be expected to understand it, let along internalize it? The change agents don’t realize this, because they’re up to their ears in information about their vision. 

So as a result of Grant’s ideas, I’m considering ways I can be more consistent, focused, and systematic in my communication. I need to refine the message and then use the “slow-drip method” to keep it in front our staff. And I want to listen to feedback and revise the vision as needed. Ultimately, the vision should belong to the team. It’s really about giving an idea time to “percolate” so there is opportunity to process, evaluate, and ultimately act upon it.

An unfamiliar idea requires more effort to understand. The more we see, hear, and touch it, the more comfortable we become with it, and the less threatening it is.

Question: What are ways you are communicating a focused message to your team? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More One Simple Strategy to Overcome Resistance to Your Vision



One of the most important parts of leadership is communication. And no matter how much you try to communicate, it seems there is always room for improvement. But why is it that so many new ideas flame out before they really get established?



In Adam Grant’s book Originals: How Non-Comformists Move the World, he writes about the exposure effect. People tend to gravitate to ideas or methods that are more familiar, while they tend to avoid things that are less familiar.

The mere exposure effect has been replicated many times—the more familiar a face, letter, number, sound, flavor, brand, or Chinese character becomes, the more we like it. It’s true across different cultures and species; even baby chickens prefer the familiar. My favorite test was when people looked at photographs of themselves and their friends that were either regular or inverted, as if seen in a mirror. We prefer the regular photos of our friends, because that’s how we’re used to seeing them, but we like the inverted photos of ourselves, because that’s how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror. “Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt,” says serial entrepreneur Howard Tullman. “It breeds comfort.”

The exposure effect might explain why teachers tend to teach as they were taught. And why parents can get a little anxious when their child’s schooling deviates from what they experienced as a student. It might also explain why new ideas may not gain traction right away, even if they are great ideas that might be game-changers for student learning. People need time to warm-up to a new idea, and the research seems to prove it.



So if you want to move your vision forward, you have to help people become more comfortable with the vision. You have to overcommunicate the vision. But usually the opposite happens. Leaders often communicate far too little and too infrequently. Grant writes that leaders tend to assume everyone else is familiar with their ideas. They spend hours thinking about the vision from just about every angle. It seems easy to the person most familiar with it.

You know the lyrics and the melody of your idea by heart. By that point, it’s no longer possible to imagine what it sounds like to an audience that’s listening to it for the first time.

It’s easy to forget the perspective of the audience. But perhaps they aren’t on Twitter all the time discussing the topic. They might not be constantly engaged in conversations with other forward-thinking educators. They may not have the opportunity to go to as many conferences or attend as many workshops. To them, the message seems foreign and difficult to understand. It’s hard to take the message and fit it with their current thoughts and ideas. You possess a clarity they do not.

As I read this part of the book, I was reflecting on my own communication as a leader. I can actually think of lots of ways I’ve failed to consistently communicate our vision. It’s easy to add just one more thing and make our goals too complex. Then the communication is just a muddled mess of one new idea after another. There isn’t opportunity for people to really adopt an idea, get behind it, and see how it works in their world. The next new thing is just around the corner.



Just last year, our district admin team was reading Finding Your Leadership Focus by Doug Reeves. But in spite of the study of priorities, I don’t think we eliminated a single initiative. We just continued spinning plates. You work on spinning a few over here, and then give attention to some others before they come crashing down. Because nearly everything seems to be a priority, in reality it means that nothing is a priority. We are killing any chance at a transforming vision by initiative fatigue.




Retrieved: https://workingmomadventures.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/man-spinning-plates.jpg



But I actually thought of one example that was a success. So let’s focus on the positive, right? 



In the years leading up to our 1:1 initiative, we didn’t have the budget to make it happen. We just didn’t have the money. That provided plenty of time for staff to warm-up to the idea. They heard me tell stories of other schools who were going 1:1. I constantly was dreaming about how awesome it would be when all of our students had consistent access. I talked about it a lot. And other people talked about it too. I think all those years helped most everyone embrace the idea. Our budget woes may have been a blessing in disguise. The delay was probably helpful in setting the stage for the success of 1:1 at BHS.



In the fall of 2015, when 1:1 became a reality, we totally hit the ground running. I’m not saying it was perfect. But the buy-in was at a high level, and our digital transformation was off to a great start. For several years, our team was getting ready for this future reality. There was plenty of time to become familiar with the concept of 1:1, why it was important, and how it could be helpful in each classroom. We communicated the ‘why’ of 1:1 over and over again. 



As Grant suggested, “If we want people to accept our original ideas, we need to speak up about them, and then rinse and repeat.”



So as your leadership team plans to move your vision forward, consider the importance of the exposure effect. Really listen to the feedback from your team to understand how the ideas are being received. And make sure you don’t underestimate how much exposure your audience needs to understand your vision and embrace it.

When Harvard professor John Kotter studied change agents years ago, he found that they typically undercommunicated their visions by a factor of ten. On average, they spoke about the direction of change ten times less often than their stakeholders needed to hear it. In one three-month period, employees might be exposed to 2.3 million words and numbers. On average during that period, the vision for change was expressed in only 13,400 words and numbers: a 30-minute speech, an hour-long meeting, a briefing, and a memo. Since more than 99 percent of the communication that employees encounter during those three months does not concern the vision, how can they be expected to understand it, let along internalize it? The change agents don’t realize this, because they’re up to their ears in information about their vision. 

So as a result of Grant’s ideas, I’m considering ways I can be more consistent, focused, and systematic in my communication. I need to refine the message and then use the “slow-drip method” to keep it in front our staff. And I want to listen to feedback and revise the vision as needed. Ultimately, the vision should belong to the team. It’s really about giving an idea time to “percolate” so there is opportunity to process, evaluate, and ultimately act upon it.

An unfamiliar idea requires more effort to understand. The more we see, hear, and touch it, the more comfortable we become with it, and the less threatening it is.

Question: What are ways you are communicating a focused message to your team? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More One Simple Strategy to Overcome Resistance to Your Vision



Yesterday, I had a conversation with one of our teachers about some new ideas she wanted to share with me about her plans for the coming school year. She shared ways she wanted to create more relevance for her students, give them more ownership, and create a more engaging learning experience in her classroom. Wow! Those are awesome goals.



She had several specific ideas for achieving these aims. So we chatted about them. She was seeking feedback so I made some comments and asked some clarifying questions. I also handed her a book I thought might be helpful as she’s thinking more about where her ideas will lead.



After the conversation, I was reflecting on it. I thought to myself, I wonder if she is more excited or less excited about her ideas after our meeting. Of course, my intention is to generate excitement around new ideas and create a culture of risk-taking and innovation in our school.



But trying to be a good coach, I shared some cautious comments too. While I loved the direction of her ideas, I wanted to interject some wisdom from my experience. I’m not sure how helpful that was. It’s difficult for me not to launch into my own ideas about how I would do such and such. For the most part, I think I avoided that. But the last thing I want is to be a dream killer.



I remember a conversation I had with someone who was a leader in my life. I was sharing some ideas that I was very excited about. My passion was in this area and my energy flowed when talking about the changes I was planning. 



My leader didn’t completely reject the ideas I shared, but every comment seemed laced with caution and barriers. I can remember two words distinctly from that conversation my leader used over and over.



Yeah, but…



Those two little words cut my enthusiasm in half. I didn’t feel energized by our discussion. I felt deflated. Instead of throwing gasoline on my dream, they poured water all over it.



I believe successful organizations are dream building organizations. They tap into people’s passions and create a sense of excitement and enthusiasm in the culture. I guess there are successful organizations that aren’t great at this, but I would venture there are no incredibly, extraordinarily successful organizations that don’t have a dream building culture.




Image source: http://goo.gl/jSxnpQ

And I think this post is challenging for all of us in schools, not just principals or others in formal leadership positions. If you’re a teacher, how does your classroom support students’ own goals and dreams, not just your goals for teaching a subject well? Does your classroom allow students enough freedom and flexibility to pursue things that are important to them?



And when your students share their dreams with you, do you pour gasoline on their dreams or douse them with water?



We’ve all had students share dreams with us that seemed impossible. Or, we felt they didn’t really understand what it takes to achieve the dream. Their actions weren’t lining up behind the words of their dreams. I think we must be very careful about how we show up in these conversations. We have a delicate balance to help build dreams and guide actions. 



Unless someone in our life is about to go off a cliff, I think we should do everything possible to lift them up and speak support and encouragement into their lives.



Jim Carrey was once a struggling young comic from a poor family trying to make it big. He didn’t have much, but he had a dream. And he wouldn’t give up on it. When he was 10-years-old, he even mailed his resume to Carol Burnett. He was bold and audacious believing he would someday entertain millions and make them laugh.



In 1990, he wrote himself a check for $10 million dated Thanksgiving 1995. He placed it in his wallet. At the time, he was broke and struggling to find work as a comic. In the notation on the check, he scribbled ‘for acting services rendered.’ He carried that check with him as a powerful reminder. It was the tangible representation of his dream.



By 1995, he had starred in multiple films, Ace Ventura, Pet Detective and Liar, Liar. He was earning nearly $20 million per movie!



I wonder how many people in Jim Carrey’s life thought his dreams of being a comedian were misguided? I bet there were lots of people who thought he’d never make it. Those people probably doused him with water. But there were probably others who saw something special in him, who threw gasoline on his dreams of being an actor and comedian.




Image source: http://goo.gl/kKYxWA



When we see students or teachers who struggle with apathy, I think it’s often because they’ve given up on their dreams. Everyone must have something to aspire to, something that makes you want to get up in the morning and push forward in life. We need dreams to chase. As educators, we should be that spark of inspiration for both our students and our colleagues. 



When someone shares their dreams with you, how will you respond? Will you be the ‘Yeah, but…’ voice in their life? I would suggest a different response. How about these two little words, instead? 



Yes, and…



1. Yes! You can do it.



2. Yes! I believe in you.



3. Yes! Tell me more about that.



4. Yes! Why is that important to you?



5. Yes! How can I help you?



6. Yes! You are on the right track.



7. Yes! Your dreams matter to me.



If you are going to inspire others in your life to dream big, you can’t get stuck in the where, when, who, and how. Dreams are about what you want and especially why you want it. I feel so guilty about this in parenting my own children. I feel like sometimes my expectations have placed limits on their dreams. Our adult minds are so practical and boring.



But today I am reminded to help those around me dream big, audacious dreams. I don’t want to crush dreams. I want people to be excited about their dreams and not the dreams I have for them.



How will you encourage the dreams of those in your circle of influence? Reflect on who the dream builders were in your life. I want to hear from you. Share a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Does Your School Build Dreams or Crush Them?



Yesterday, I had a conversation with one of our teachers about some new ideas she wanted to share with me about her plans for the coming school year. She shared ways she wanted to create more relevance for her students, give them more ownership, and create a more engaging learning experience in her classroom. Wow! Those are awesome goals.



She had several specific ideas for achieving these aims. So we chatted about them. She was seeking feedback so I made some comments and asked some clarifying questions. I also handed her a book I thought might be helpful as she’s thinking more about where her ideas will lead.



After the conversation, I was reflecting on it. I thought to myself, I wonder if she is more excited or less excited about her ideas after our meeting. Of course, my intention is to generate excitement around new ideas and create a culture of risk-taking and innovation in our school.



But trying to be a good coach, I shared some cautious comments too. While I loved the direction of her ideas, I wanted to interject some wisdom from my experience. I’m not sure how helpful that was. It’s difficult for me not to launch into my own ideas about how I would do such and such. For the most part, I think I avoided that. But the last thing I want is to be a dream killer.



I remember a conversation I had with someone who was a leader in my life. I was sharing some ideas that I was very excited about. My passion was in this area and my energy flowed when talking about the changes I was planning. 



My leader didn’t completely reject the ideas I shared, but every comment seemed laced with caution and barriers. I can remember two words distinctly from that conversation my leader used over and over.



Yeah, but…



Those two little words cut my enthusiasm in half. I didn’t feel energized by our discussion. I felt deflated. Instead of throwing gasoline on my dream, they poured water all over it.



I believe successful organizations are dream building organizations. They tap into people’s passions and create a sense of excitement and enthusiasm in the culture. I guess there are successful organizations that aren’t great at this, but I would venture there are no incredibly, extraordinarily successful organizations that don’t have a dream building culture.




Image source: http://goo.gl/jSxnpQ

And I think this post is challenging for all of us in schools, not just principals or others in formal leadership positions. If you’re a teacher, how does your classroom support students’ own goals and dreams, not just your goals for teaching a subject well? Does your classroom allow students enough freedom and flexibility to pursue things that are important to them?



And when your students share their dreams with you, do you pour gasoline on their dreams or douse them with water?



We’ve all had students share dreams with us that seemed impossible. Or, we felt they didn’t really understand what it takes to achieve the dream. Their actions weren’t lining up behind the words of their dreams. I think we must be very careful about how we show up in these conversations. We have a delicate balance to help build dreams and guide actions. 



Unless someone in our life is about to go off a cliff, I think we should do everything possible to lift them up and speak support and encouragement into their lives.



Jim Carrey was once a struggling young comic from a poor family trying to make it big. He didn’t have much, but he had a dream. And he wouldn’t give up on it. When he was 10-years-old, he even mailed his resume to Carol Burnett. He was bold and audacious believing he would someday entertain millions and make them laugh.



In 1990, he wrote himself a check for $10 million dated Thanksgiving 1995. He placed it in his wallet. At the time, he was broke and struggling to find work as a comic. In the notation on the check, he scribbled ‘for acting services rendered.’ He carried that check with him as a powerful reminder. It was the tangible representation of his dream.



By 1995, he had starred in multiple films, Ace Ventura, Pet Detective and Liar, Liar. He was earning nearly $20 million per movie!



I wonder how many people in Jim Carrey’s life thought his dreams of being a comedian were misguided? I bet there were lots of people who thought he’d never make it. Those people probably doused him with water. But there were probably others who saw something special in him, who threw gasoline on his dreams of being an actor and comedian.




Image source: http://goo.gl/kKYxWA



When we see students or teachers who struggle with apathy, I think it’s often because they’ve given up on their dreams. Everyone must have something to aspire to, something that makes you want to get up in the morning and push forward in life. We need dreams to chase. As educators, we should be that spark of inspiration for both our students and our colleagues. 



When someone shares their dreams with you, how will you respond? Will you be the ‘Yeah, but…’ voice in their life? I would suggest a different response. How about these two little words, instead? 



Yes, and…



1. Yes! You can do it.



2. Yes! I believe in you.



3. Yes! Tell me more about that.



4. Yes! Why is that important to you?



5. Yes! How can I help you?



6. Yes! You are on the right track.



7. Yes! Your dreams matter to me.



If you are going to inspire others in your life to dream big, you can’t get stuck in the where, when, who, and how. Dreams are about what you want and especially why you want it. I feel so guilty about this in parenting my own children. I feel like sometimes my expectations have placed limits on their dreams. Our adult minds are so practical and boring.



But today I am reminded to help those around me dream big, audacious dreams. I don’t want to crush dreams. I want people to be excited about their dreams and not the dreams I have for them.



How will you encourage the dreams of those in your circle of influence? Reflect on who the dream builders were in your life. I want to hear from you. Share a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Does Your School Build Dreams or Crush Them?





For the past couple of years, our school has worked to create a way of supporting professional learning that is more personally meaningful. We were inspired by the idea of Genius Hour and how that might be relevant for teachers too. What if teachers were able to learn in a way that respected their individuality? What if they pursued their passions? What would that look like? How might that empower teaching and learning in our school?



We are trying to create the most powerful professional learning possible. We realize the importance of learning and growth for each individual. If we want sustainable, meaningful change in our schools, it will only happen when teachers are learning and leading.



From this thinking, we developed a plan for teachers to have greater ownership of their professional development. The idea was for teachers to pursue any learning they wanted so long as they believed it had the potential to improve our bottom line. And for schools, our bottom line is never about profits or shareholders. Our bottom line is about creating powerful learning for students. 



So our message was clear. If it might make learning better for students, then pursue it. If you are passionate about it, then pursue it. That was the challenge. We asked every teacher to write a Personal Learning Plan, to express a general direction for where they were headed. 




The first year I met with every teacher and signed off on the plans. I quickly realized that the meetings were standing in the way of teachers pursuing their goals. In meeting after meeting, I heard questions like “Does this sound okay?” or “Is this what you were looking for?” We were seeking to empower teachers, but the requirement of a meeting and a signature seemed to take away empowerment. 



So last year we didn’t have the meetings or the signatures. We had several activities during our regular staff meetings to brainstorm ideas and share possibilities, and then teachers simply shared their plans through Google Classroom. We wanted to remove the barriers and get to the real work.



So much of the PD of the past felt like jumping through hoops. It wasn’t always relevant to every teacher. It might be exactly what one person needed, but it might not be helpful at all for another. In a sense, it created a culture where professional learning became lifeless. It was just something that was expected and sometimes dreaded. I think some teachers began to view professional development as something that was being done to them instead of something they felt invested in. 



We needed a professional development reboot, one that actually honors how people learn best. These principles work for students, and of course they work for teacher learners too. 



Greater Ownership



The success or failure of each teacher’s plan belongs to the individual. The responsibility for growing personally and professionally ultimately rests with the individual and not the organization. We will provide support and encouragement, but you will get out of your professional learning what you put into it.



If you are taking risks and pushing the envelope, you may experience failure in the short term, but that is okay. Sometimes we learn the most from what doesn’t work. The important thing is to be invested in your own learning. We want it to be authentic and feel personal to you.








Increased Choice



Two years ago we required teachers to write goals that were aligned with certain building goals. We were emphasizing literacy since that is so important across all content areas. And we were about to launch our 1:1 program so we felt it was important to make digital tools a priority. We asked each teacher to line up their goals with the direction we were moving as a building. 



But last year, we removed that requirement too. Most teachers still had goals that were very relevant to literacy or digital tools, but they had the freedom to pursue things that might only be relevant to the learning in their classroom. We trusted our teachers to choose the priorities for their learning plan. What is important to you? What will benefit your students? The choice is yours.



Providing Time



We have built-in time for teachers to collaborate and learn. Every Wednesday morning, school starts at 9:00 a.m. The late start provides time to do this work. But we still have to be very careful it doesn’t fill up with other stuff that leaves little time for personal learning. It’s essential to try to carve out some time to allow teachers to be self-directed learners. However, time should also never be used as an excuse to not be a learner. Everyone has the same number of hours in the day, and learning is not optional for educators. We have to model the ongoing growth and lifelong learning we should seek to inspire in students.








Opportunities for Sharing



We tried to build in some opportunities for sharing Personal Learning Plans throughout the process. However, that is an area we need to continue to develop. It is so important to reflect and share in an ongoing way. Creating the structures for that is one way the school organization can support this process.



While most teachers developed and executed their plans on their own, some teachers elected to work together to create a learning team. We think it’s great to allow the flexibility for teachers to choose to work independently or with others. But either way, sharing with others is essential and not optional.



Near the end of the school year, we facilitated a closing event for the Personal Learning Plans. We randomly assigned teachers to small groups for a time of sharing. Teachers were asked to bring an artifact or product from their work to share. It was a time of celebrating all the good work that was done.



What’s next?



This year as we develop new learning plans, we are going to facilitate several opportunities for teachers to brainstorm and share possibilities. We want to develop more opportunities to support this work and allow staff to encourage one another and build off of each other’s ideas. One activity will be a First Turn/Last Turn structured dialogue. Here’s how it works:



1. Groups of 6 are ideal.

2. The facilitator will ask one group member to share a possibility for their learning plan.

3. In round-robin fashion, each of the other group members will comment on the idea with no cross-talk.

4. The person who initially shared the idea will then close the round by processing his or her thinking about the comments offered by the other group members.



Emphasizing the rule that there be no cross-talk will help keep the discussion focused and on-topic. Follow-up conversations can occur after everyone has a turn in the structured dialogue.



Transformational Ideas



As I mentioned before, the criteria for the learning plan was that it had potential to improve student learning. But maybe we can aim even higher? We want to think bigger and strive to do things that don’t just improve student learning, but that can actually transform student learning. 



It might be helpful for a teacher to learn how to use Powtoon, Twitter, or Glogster, but it could be transformational if the teacher learns how to use these tools to cause students to take more ownership of their learning or to create work for authentic audiences. We want to focus our energy on ideas and learning that has the potential to transform student learning. We want our work to be a game-changer for our students.



Here are a few examples of topics our teachers chose last year for the Personal Learning Plans:

  • The impact of goals and journaling on student motivation
  • Project Based Learning
  • Nonfiction reading with IEP students
  • Genius Hour with emphasis on human rights
  • Formative Assessment strategies
  • Increased choice in demonstrating mastery
  • Using CAD to create designs for 3D printing
  • Developing math tutorials for student to use for review and reinforcement
  • Using technology in choral rehearsals (video, music theory techniques, etc.)
  • Creating “flipped classroom” lessons
  • Increasing student choice in reading to develop passionate readers
I am very proud of the work our teachers have done as part of their Personal Learning Plans. We have already seen new ideas become game-changers for our school. As we continue to practice and refine this process, I believe we will see even more positive results. Ultimately, our efforts to honor teachers as learners and empower individual and collective genius has been meaningful for our school.



How is your school honoring teachers as learners? Do you believe this type of professional development would be helpful in your school? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.



Read More Does Your Professional Development Honor Teachers as Learners?





For the past couple of years, our school has worked to create a way of supporting professional learning that is more personally meaningful. We were inspired by the idea of Genius Hour and how that might be relevant for teachers too. What if teachers were able to learn in a way that respected their individuality? What if they pursued their passions? What would that look like? How might that empower teaching and learning in our school?



We are trying to create the most powerful professional learning possible. We realize the importance of learning and growth for each individual. If we want sustainable, meaningful change in our schools, it will only happen when teachers are learning and leading.



From this thinking, we developed a plan for teachers to have greater ownership of their professional development. The idea was for teachers to pursue any learning they wanted so long as they believed it had the potential to improve our bottom line. And for schools, our bottom line is never about profits or shareholders. Our bottom line is about creating powerful learning for students. 



So our message was clear. If it might make learning better for students, then pursue it. If you are passionate about it, then pursue it. That was the challenge. We asked every teacher to write a Personal Learning Plan, to express a general direction for where they were headed. 




The first year I met with every teacher and signed off on the plans. I quickly realized that the meetings were standing in the way of teachers pursuing their goals. In meeting after meeting, I heard questions like “Does this sound okay?” or “Is this what you were looking for?” We were seeking to empower teachers, but the requirement of a meeting and a signature seemed to take away empowerment. 



So last year we didn’t have the meetings or the signatures. We had several activities during our regular staff meetings to brainstorm ideas and share possibilities, and then teachers simply shared their plans through Google Classroom. We wanted to remove the barriers and get to the real work.



So much of the PD of the past felt like jumping through hoops. It wasn’t always relevant to every teacher. It might be exactly what one person needed, but it might not be helpful at all for another. In a sense, it created a culture where professional learning became lifeless. It was just something that was expected and sometimes dreaded. I think some teachers began to view professional development as something that was being done to them instead of something they felt invested in. 



We needed a professional development reboot, one that actually honors how people learn best. These principles work for students, and of course they work for teacher learners too. 



Greater Ownership



The success or failure of each teacher’s plan belongs to the individual. The responsibility for growing personally and professionally ultimately rests with the individual and not the organization. We will provide support and encouragement, but you will get out of your professional learning what you put into it.



If you are taking risks and pushing the envelope, you may experience failure in the short term, but that is okay. Sometimes we learn the most from what doesn’t work. The important thing is to be invested in your own learning. We want it to be authentic and feel personal to you.








Increased Choice



Two years ago we required teachers to write goals that were aligned with certain building goals. We were emphasizing literacy since that is so important across all content areas. And we were about to launch our 1:1 program so we felt it was important to make digital tools a priority. We asked each teacher to line up their goals with the direction we were moving as a building. 



But last year, we removed that requirement too. Most teachers still had goals that were very relevant to literacy or digital tools, but they had the freedom to pursue things that might only be relevant to the learning in their classroom. We trusted our teachers to choose the priorities for their learning plan. What is important to you? What will benefit your students? The choice is yours.



Providing Time



We have built-in time for teachers to collaborate and learn. Every Wednesday morning, school starts at 9:00 a.m. The late start provides time to do this work. But we still have to be very careful it doesn’t fill up with other stuff that leaves little time for personal learning. It’s essential to try to carve out some time to allow teachers to be self-directed learners. However, time should also never be used as an excuse to not be a learner. Everyone has the same number of hours in the day, and learning is not optional for educators. We have to model the ongoing growth and lifelong learning we should seek to inspire in students.








Opportunities for Sharing



We tried to build in some opportunities for sharing Personal Learning Plans throughout the process. However, that is an area we need to continue to develop. It is so important to reflect and share in an ongoing way. Creating the structures for that is one way the school organization can support this process.



While most teachers developed and executed their plans on their own, some teachers elected to work together to create a learning team. We think it’s great to allow the flexibility for teachers to choose to work independently or with others. But either way, sharing with others is essential and not optional.



Near the end of the school year, we facilitated a closing event for the Personal Learning Plans. We randomly assigned teachers to small groups for a time of sharing. Teachers were asked to bring an artifact or product from their work to share. It was a time of celebrating all the good work that was done.



What’s next?



This year as we develop new learning plans, we are going to facilitate several opportunities for teachers to brainstorm and share possibilities. We want to develop more opportunities to support this work and allow staff to encourage one another and build off of each other’s ideas. One activity will be a First Turn/Last Turn structured dialogue. Here’s how it works:



1. Groups of 6 are ideal.

2. The facilitator will ask one group member to share a possibility for their learning plan.

3. In round-robin fashion, each of the other group members will comment on the idea with no cross-talk.

4. The person who initially shared the idea will then close the round by processing his or her thinking about the comments offered by the other group members.



Emphasizing the rule that there be no cross-talk will help keep the discussion focused and on-topic. Follow-up conversations can occur after everyone has a turn in the structured dialogue.



Transformational Ideas



As I mentioned before, the criteria for the learning plan was that it had potential to improve student learning. But maybe we can aim even higher? We want to think bigger and strive to do things that don’t just improve student learning, but that can actually transform student learning. 



It might be helpful for a teacher to learn how to use Powtoon, Twitter, or Glogster, but it could be transformational if the teacher learns how to use these tools to cause students to take more ownership of their learning or to create work for authentic audiences. We want to focus our energy on ideas and learning that has the potential to transform student learning. We want our work to be a game-changer for our students.



Here are a few examples of topics our teachers chose last year for the Personal Learning Plans:

  • The impact of goals and journaling on student motivation
  • Project Based Learning
  • Nonfiction reading with IEP students
  • Genius Hour with emphasis on human rights
  • Formative Assessment strategies
  • Increased choice in demonstrating mastery
  • Using CAD to create designs for 3D printing
  • Developing math tutorials for student to use for review and reinforcement
  • Using technology in choral rehearsals (video, music theory techniques, etc.)
  • Creating “flipped classroom” lessons
  • Increasing student choice in reading to develop passionate readers
I am very proud of the work our teachers have done as part of their Personal Learning Plans. We have already seen new ideas become game-changers for our school. As we continue to practice and refine this process, I believe we will see even more positive results. Ultimately, our efforts to honor teachers as learners and empower individual and collective genius has been meaningful for our school.



How is your school honoring teachers as learners? Do you believe this type of professional development would be helpful in your school? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.



Read More Does Your Professional Development Honor Teachers as Learners?



A few years ago our school went through a very difficult time with technology. Nothing worked. Nothing. At least that’s how everyone felt. I knew it was bad when students were hammering on stone tablets in classrooms!?!



There were several factors that created the problems we experienced, and even though I’m sort of a techie principal, I felt helpless to address all of the issues we faced. Our network was a mess. Computer labs didn’t work properly. It was impossible to print anything. Our limited tech support staff was overwhelmed.




Image retrieved: http://leadkrabi.com/services/computer-consulting/

Thankfully, we are far past those days now. Just this past school year, we made a significant digital conversion by placing Chromebooks in the hands of each of our 800+ students. Although there were a few issues, overall our network is strong and most of the time the Chromebooks worked great. Teachers were singing the Hallelujah Chorus.


And for good reason. 



Technology failure can be one of the most frustrating things a teacher can face in the classroom. It can leave you feeling helpless and embarrassed. In fact, the fear of a technology fail is one of the main reasons teachers are hesitant to try new things with technology. What if it doesn’t work? What if something goes wrong? What then?


It doesn’t help that in far too many schools, technology is not adequately supported. Computers are old. Networks are slow. Students don’t have much access to a device except when a teacher schedules a trip to a computer lab. And just showing a video or having students comment on a blog post can be almost impossible as a result of the blocks and filters that are in place. It seems there can be so many barriers to using tech in the classroom. 


Another reason some teachers don’t use technology is they are afraid they will do something wrong. Technology can seem impossible and scary. Some aren’t sure if they have the skills to succeed. Or they believe they will mess it up. And when your confidence is wavering and you don’t feel successful, it’s really hard to take risks and learn more. By the way, educators should always remember some students probably feel this way about learning reading, math, or grammar. But that’s a topic for a different blog post.


Instead of seeing technology failure as failing, what if we embraced technology failure as an opportunity to learn? It’s great when students see teachers modeling perseverance, flexibility, and problem-solving. All of these qualities can be on full display when something goes wrong with technology in the classroom. It’s a great opportunity for the teacher to take on the role of learner. I believe we need more examples of teachers learning right alongside their students.


I mentioned earlier that our Chromebook launch this year was successful. It was definitely not a tech fail. However, I promise you there were more technology failures than ever before in our building, because students and teachers were using technology more than ever before. But what a great opportunity to teach problem-solving and perseverance. I often write about how important it is to be adaptable as a future-ready skill. Being adaptable with technology is extremely valuable in a world where technology is changing so fast and is such an essential part of how things get done.


So how do we handle the inevitable technology failures we are bound to experience? Should we just play it safe and only use technology in ways we feel most confident? Or just copy another stack worksheets instead? Absolutely not. Embrace failure. Expect it. Nothing works right all the time. Don’t let problems with tech keep you from using it in your classroom.






If you get frustrated every time you have a problem with technology, you’re either going to be frustrated all the time, or you’ll just give up. It would be a shame if you didn’t use technology because of your personal fears or preferences. It’s so important for our students to have experiences using technology as a learning tool. So make up your mind before you start that technology failure is possible and prepare for how you will respond when it doesn’t work right. Even though technology itself won’t make your class great, it can contribute to a more relevant and effective learning environment. Ultimately, technology is awesome in the classroom where there is also an awesome teacher, like you!


Using Tech Failure as an Opportunity to Learn
Here are 11 tips for dealing with tech failure in your classroom.


1. Plan for it. Don’t be surprised when tech fails. Expect it.


2. Think in advance about what could go wrong. This can help prevent some problems in the first place. It’s great to test the technology in advance if possible to make sure it works. 


3. Talk with your students up front about how technology sometimes fails. Explain what will happen in your class when something doesn’t work. Teach students in advance the mindset you want them to have. Let them know we will find a workaround and press on. It doesn’t mean the lesson is over or learning stops.


4. Enlist students to help solve the problem. The smartest person in the room is the room. Alone we may be smart, but together we are brilliant. Your students can be a great resource to help correct a tech fail.


5. Build your own technology skills so you have more knowledge to draw on. Try to overcome your fear of technology. No one really taught me how to use tech. I just click on stuff to figure out what happens. You can do this too.


6. Send for support. You may have a technology coach or technician in your building who can offer a helping hand.


7. Use Google, or YouTube, to search for answers. When I’m faced with a technology problem, I can almost always find a solution online. 



8. Don’t allow the limitations of technology in your school keep you from doing what you can. I mentioned how bad technology was for a while in our school. Many of our teachers still found ways to use technology as best they could. We have to do our very best to create an up-to-date classroom even if our tech isn’t up-to-date.



9. Model risk-taking and problem-solving for your students. “We’re going to try this to see if it works. If that doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. We’re going to figure this out!”



10. Always have a Plan B for your lesson. If the tech doesn’t work and troubleshooting doesn’t result in a quick fix, it may be time to move forward with the lesson in a different way. Be adaptable. Thank anyone who tried to help fix the problem and then give clear directions about what will happen next.



11. Don’t apologize. Usually tech failures just happen and aren’t anyone’s fault. It’s Murphy’s Law, right? If it’s not your fault, don’t apologize to your students for the problem. If you feel you must apologize when you see those sad eyes staring at you, only do it once. And then move forward.






One thing we are doing in our school to help address tech failures is empowering students. We created a student tech team to support all things related to digital learning in our school. They call themselves the SWAT Team (Students Working to Advance Technology). The group was organized last school year, and they’ve already provided PD to teachers on Chrome apps/extensions, held a tech night for parents to showcase how digital tools are being used in the classroom, and visited our middle school to share about our high school 1:1 program. Our goal is for this group to take on a greater role in sharing Chromebook knowledge and responding to tech failures when they occur.  



Question: What’s your worst technology fail? How do you respond when technology fails in your classroom or school? Are you open to taking risks and trying new technology? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook

Read More Seeing Tech Failure as an Opportunity to Learn



A few years ago our school went through a very difficult time with technology. Nothing worked. Nothing. At least that’s how everyone felt. I knew it was bad when students were hammering on stone tablets in classrooms!?!



There were several factors that created the problems we experienced, and even though I’m sort of a techie principal, I felt helpless to address all of the issues we faced. Our network was a mess. Computer labs didn’t work properly. It was impossible to print anything. Our limited tech support staff was overwhelmed.




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Thankfully, we are far past those days now. Just this past school year, we made a significant digital conversion by placing Chromebooks in the hands of each of our 800+ students. Although there were a few issues, overall our network is strong and most of the time the Chromebooks worked great. Teachers were singing the Hallelujah Chorus.


And for good reason. 



Technology failure can be one of the most frustrating things a teacher can face in the classroom. It can leave you feeling helpless and embarrassed. In fact, the fear of a technology fail is one of the main reasons teachers are hesitant to try new things with technology. What if it doesn’t work? What if something goes wrong? What then?


It doesn’t help that in far too many schools, technology is not adequately supported. Computers are old. Networks are slow. Students don’t have much access to a device except when a teacher schedules a trip to a computer lab. And just showing a video or having students comment on a blog post can be almost impossible as a result of the blocks and filters that are in place. It seems there can be so many barriers to using tech in the classroom. 


Another reason some teachers don’t use technology is they are afraid they will do something wrong. Technology can seem impossible and scary. Some aren’t sure if they have the skills to succeed. Or they believe they will mess it up. And when your confidence is wavering and you don’t feel successful, it’s really hard to take risks and learn more. By the way, educators should always remember some students probably feel this way about learning reading, math, or grammar. But that’s a topic for a different blog post.


Instead of seeing technology failure as failing, what if we embraced technology failure as an opportunity to learn? It’s great when students see teachers modeling perseverance, flexibility, and problem-solving. All of these qualities can be on full display when something goes wrong with technology in the classroom. It’s a great opportunity for the teacher to take on the role of learner. I believe we need more examples of teachers learning right alongside their students.


I mentioned earlier that our Chromebook launch this year was successful. It was definitely not a tech fail. However, I promise you there were more technology failures than ever before in our building, because students and teachers were using technology more than ever before. But what a great opportunity to teach problem-solving and perseverance. I often write about how important it is to be adaptable as a future-ready skill. Being adaptable with technology is extremely valuable in a world where technology is changing so fast and is such an essential part of how things get done.


So how do we handle the inevitable technology failures we are bound to experience? Should we just play it safe and only use technology in ways we feel most confident? Or just copy another stack worksheets instead? Absolutely not. Embrace failure. Expect it. Nothing works right all the time. Don’t let problems with tech keep you from using it in your classroom.






If you get frustrated every time you have a problem with technology, you’re either going to be frustrated all the time, or you’ll just give up. It would be a shame if you didn’t use technology because of your personal fears or preferences. It’s so important for our students to have experiences using technology as a learning tool. So make up your mind before you start that technology failure is possible and prepare for how you will respond when it doesn’t work right. Even though technology itself won’t make your class great, it can contribute to a more relevant and effective learning environment. Ultimately, technology is awesome in the classroom where there is also an awesome teacher, like you!


Using Tech Failure as an Opportunity to Learn
Here are 11 tips for dealing with tech failure in your classroom.


1. Plan for it. Don’t be surprised when tech fails. Expect it.


2. Think in advance about what could go wrong. This can help prevent some problems in the first place. It’s great to test the technology in advance if possible to make sure it works. 


3. Talk with your students up front about how technology sometimes fails. Explain what will happen in your class when something doesn’t work. Teach students in advance the mindset you want them to have. Let them know we will find a workaround and press on. It doesn’t mean the lesson is over or learning stops.


4. Enlist students to help solve the problem. The smartest person in the room is the room. Alone we may be smart, but together we are brilliant. Your students can be a great resource to help correct a tech fail.


5. Build your own technology skills so you have more knowledge to draw on. Try to overcome your fear of technology. No one really taught me how to use tech. I just click on stuff to figure out what happens. You can do this too.


6. Send for support. You may have a technology coach or technician in your building who can offer a helping hand.


7. Use Google, or YouTube, to search for answers. When I’m faced with a technology problem, I can almost always find a solution online. 



8. Don’t allow the limitations of technology in your school keep you from doing what you can. I mentioned how bad technology was for a while in our school. Many of our teachers still found ways to use technology as best they could. We have to do our very best to create an up-to-date classroom even if our tech isn’t up-to-date.



9. Model risk-taking and problem-solving for your students. “We’re going to try this to see if it works. If that doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. We’re going to figure this out!”



10. Always have a Plan B for your lesson. If the tech doesn’t work and troubleshooting doesn’t result in a quick fix, it may be time to move forward with the lesson in a different way. Be adaptable. Thank anyone who tried to help fix the problem and then give clear directions about what will happen next.



11. Don’t apologize. Usually tech failures just happen and aren’t anyone’s fault. It’s Murphy’s Law, right? If it’s not your fault, don’t apologize to your students for the problem. If you feel you must apologize when you see those sad eyes staring at you, only do it once. And then move forward.






One thing we are doing in our school to help address tech failures is empowering students. We created a student tech team to support all things related to digital learning in our school. They call themselves the SWAT Team (Students Working to Advance Technology). The group was organized last school year, and they’ve already provided PD to teachers on Chrome apps/extensions, held a tech night for parents to showcase how digital tools are being used in the classroom, and visited our middle school to share about our high school 1:1 program. Our goal is for this group to take on a greater role in sharing Chromebook knowledge and responding to tech failures when they occur.  



Question: What’s your worst technology fail? How do you respond when technology fails in your classroom or school? Are you open to taking risks and trying new technology? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook

Read More Seeing Tech Failure as an Opportunity to Learn





“Is there really a difference in student performance with technology compared to without technology? My students seem to be doing just fine without it.”



I guess that depends on how you define student performance and success. If success is measured only by a test score or by mastery of content, then perhaps students are successful without technology.



“My classes are always engaged and seem to do just fine without technology.”



I guess that depends on how you define engaged. I think it’s important for students to do things that reflect the world we live in, not the world we grew up in.



“I want to see the proof that technology improves learning before we purchase any new tech.”



Whether technology improves learning or not isn’t about the technology itself, but how teachers and students use the technology to improve learning. 



I hear many stories about failed technology initiatives in schools. The technology was not used to the fullest, or worse it was not used at all. The narrative is all too familiar. Little was done to gather input or get buy-in from stakeholders up front, and little was done to support the implementation after the fact. How many smartboards in this country are being used as glorified projector screens? Almost always, these types of failures are avoidable with proper planning and ongoing support. 



But is it really worth it to invest thousands for technology in schools. Is it reasonable to provide a connected device to every student? For years, I’ve asked my graduate students to think about technology purchases in their own schools. Did it really pay off to buy the technology? Did the technology allow something to be done that couldn’t be done before? Was the total cost of ownership considered? 



After all, most studies I’ve encountered don’t really support the idea that technology raises student achievement. Of course, student achievement in these studies is usually narrowly defined by test scores. One study I read concluded that technology even widens the achievement gap. It found that more privileged students tend to use the devices more often for learning, while less privileged students tend to use the devices for entertainment. 



In spite of these discouraging reports, I believe we need to look further before concluding that technology isn’t worth it. As schools consider spending for new technology, there needs to be a clear vision of what success will look like. We need to really explore why we are doing what we’re doing. In addition to the questions mentioned before, I would also suggest the following as food for thought.



1. Can we afford NOT to place up-to-date technology in the hands of our students?



Technology is how things get done in our modern world. We aren’t preparing students for the world we grew up in. We aren’t even preparing students to be successful in the world they grew up in. Our world is changing so fast, our students are going to have to be prepared for anything. That requires adaptability. And it will certainly also include adaptability with the use of technology. Those skills aren’t measured on standardized tests. They are measured in authentic situations where real work is being done. 



2. Is technology being used in ways that give students greater ownership of learning? Does technology result in a shift in agency to the learner?





It’s wise to think of technology in terms of value added. How does technology allow us to do something better than before? And, how is it allowing us to do something we couldn’t do before? There are many ways tech improves things we do or allows for new things. But some uses of technology take learning to the next level. These uses are game-changers.



I would like to see technology being used to create big shifts in learning. One of the biggest shifts is to create more authentic, student-driven learning experiences. Technology is a game changer when it is used to shift agency to the learner. It’s a game-changer when students take greater ownership of their learning.



So let’s consider interactive white boards. They have some possibilities for student agency I guess, but they are probably used more often for direct instruction, led by the teacher. That doesn’t mean we should stop using these tools altogether, but I do think we should strive for technology to be used in more authentic ways, where students are given voice and choice and are creating and solving problems.



The most powerful potential for a shift in agency is for students to have access to a connected device in a BYOD or 1:1 scenario. But access is not enough. Just like there are lots of interactive white boards being used as glorified projector screens, there are also lots of laptops being used as overpriced word processors.



To use technology to the fullest, we need leaders in our classrooms and schools who can facilitate a pedagogy that creates greater student ownership of learning. How we use the technology is the critical issue that determines whether the investment pays off or not. So whether you invest in iPads or Chromebooks or some other device, the key question to remember is how will this technology improve student learning?



Question: How do you know technology use is successful in your school? Is it worth the cost? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More Making Technology Pay