As a junior high principal 5 years ago I worked with some great teachers who took it upon themselves to make sure their students understood Bloom’s Taxonomy and how it applies to the activities each day in the classroom. Students were asked to hold the teacher accountable for making sure that homework and assessment activities applied to the top 3 layers of the taxonomy. Action phrases and verbs for each layer created a huge wall display of the taxonomy in classrooms, and conversations about why each activity in the classroom was planned for took place in the regular ebb and flow of routine. Did you hear that?!! I can honestly say that students understood the why!! You know… the “why are we doing this???” question that frustrates many-a-teacher? A commitment to being able to answer that question for every pedagogical decision we make – a true commitment to being disciplined in thought and action – is an authentic commitment to being a true professional… A real Professional Learning Community.
As we step up our push in @ISD191 to integrate more technology in our classrooms and organizational work, we are certain to experience push back from those who are overwhelmed by the language of technology. For those who don’t speak or understand the language, learning to use new tools and ways of doing our work demands a great deal of effort. The struggle of managing the constant flow of information and ongoing dialogues while also trying to be tightly focused on my core work – not to mention trying to be a good husband and father of two young kids – is a very real wrestling match for me. Some days I feel like our new reality is a lot like the what is portrayed in the humorous video commercial below from Xerox shared in a slide share presentation by TDOttowa on 21st century leadership. Read more
Knowledge Works has published an updated version of the 2020 Forecast! This brief PDF document is packed with 21st century vision and sends my mind spinning into panic mode when I start thinking about the changes certain to impact how public schools do business today (and have for the past 100 years…). A few deep breaths later (to re-grip and gather some perspective) leads to excitement and a sense of empowerment. Not even our most seasoned elders leading districts today have witnessed a time with so many drivers of change aligned to create the perfect storm that is present today. Indeed it is both a blessing and a curse. Leading through difficult times of transition requires… well… the heroic leadership that creates stories of heroism. If you don’t think this is such a time, take a spin through the 2020 Forecast, subtract 2011 from 2020, and reflect on what how the changes described will play out in the number of years you came up with. That’s no day on the beach for a leader of public education… Read more
I frequently have conversations with people who are unaware or unwilling to recognize the earth shattering power of web 2.0. 150 years of industrial era living has led many people to believe that the rhythms of this time period will simply continue on forever and deep, fundamental changes in how people think, act, and behave is simply unrealistic. If this describes you, turn on your television or look up your favorite news site today.
This Ted Talks video caught my attention today as I was preparing for a presentation to our local Rotary organization. I ran acrossed it on the Future of Education blog in a post called “Collective Impact.” The premise of the presentation lines up with the concepts outlined in the 2020 Forcast and the development of networked learning grids that provide students with many learning opportunities within the greater community. It’s a fascinating take on how public education may be on the move out of brick and mortar buildings and into the communities we serve… Read more
Just thinking out loud in this post… MN compulsory attendance statute requires students to be in school. Statute also aligns with the archaic practice of seat time for academic credit – unless your a fancy dancy online provider of education. Wrestling with these realities, I’m intrigued by the concept of a “learning grid” that I first ran across in the 2020 Forecast published by the Knowledge Works Foundation (under “platforms for resilience”). The forecast calls for each learner to work with a “personal education advisor” who helps him/her access multiple venues for content and learning activities. Learners learn to navigate a learning grid of resources, weaving together experiences, opportunities, and meaningful work that ultimately requires the demonstration of mastery of the articulated district standards. Read more
Today I was honored to learn that this blog was included in a list of the Top 100 School Administrator Blogs posted by Alexis Brett of OnlineDegrees.org. This list of bloggers is impressive, and I am truly humbled by the level of courageous discourse modeled by these leaders. Most of the blogs identified are part of my reader file and like most of the other writers would argue, I have learned far more from the ongoing professional dialogue than from any course or book. I hope 2011 allows me the opportunity to bless others with a few thoughts as much as I have been blessed by reading the thoughts of other leaders!
"Principal Thoughts" is listed near the bottom under the "Superintendents" section.
Thanks to Virginia superintendent and fellow blogger Pam Moran, I ran across this thoughtful post regarding 21st century economics and just how different it is from the 20th century. I have reflected on this topic in earlier posts referencing Alvin Toffler and his theories outlined in The Third Wave. This recent post from Digital Tonto raises several challenging questions for leaders in education…
Tim O’Reilly, long a fixture in Silicon Valley, likes to talk about perpetual beta. The idea is that products should be constantly updated. As an example, Google’s Gmail was in “beta” until 2009, five years after it was launched. In other words, it had already become the most popular service on the planet and still wasn’t considered finished!
Have we embraced functioning in "perpetual beta" in the classrooms of America? It seems embracing this paradigm would require more teacher time spent analyzing the quality of instruction and working collaboratively to update and improve pedagogy, content, and connections with individual students. While we may want our teachers to do this, are we creating enough time for this kind of work in the assembly line framework of current job assignments? Just when is this kind of collaborative reflection supposed to happen?
In the information age, the only knowledge that is truly hard to come by is tacit knowledge. That comes with direct experience and is acquired more frequently by employees than managers. Therefore, senior executives often need to be comfortable being the dumbest guy in the room, not the smartest… Being smart requires refinement. Having the courage to be dumb takes passion.
Do we have the passion and the structures in place necessary to tap the tacit knowledge of our educators? In other words, are we comfortable being the dumbest guy in the room? The reality of serving as an education leader is much like conducting an orchestra… the conductor doesn't make a sound. What matters is how the musicians are playing their instruments and in education, what matters is the quality of the magic – the learning - created by each individual teacher. Pretty forms, glitzy power points, and rousing speeches matter not at the end of the year when students have not learned what they should have. Only through planned collaboration within a structure that pushes that wisdom up towards district policies and practices can we indeed tap the incredible wisdom that lies within our own ranks.
As I wrote before, great progress is made not by discovering new facts, but by reordering existing ones. The iPhone wasn’t a triumph of technology, but of usability and design… Work in the industrial age was largely made up of repeating the same tasks over and over again and managers strived to enforce standard procedures and ensure efficiency. The new economy is much more focused on how ideas interact. Value is created when people are inspired to do things differently (repetitive tasks are increasingly done by robots).
How much energy are we wasting trying to discover new magical methods for teaching and learning? This dynamic has played out all too often in public education as "new silver bullet" after staff development idea has passed through the rank and file resulting in resistance to change and apathy for growing collaboratively as a true learning community. Indeed there have been significant changes in our culture over the past 25 years, however at the end of the day, great teachers have and always will be great teachers. The core principles of differentiating instruction, working as a learning community, and pursuing Greatness have been around since the one-room school house. Science and technology have certainly advanced our ability to execute on the principles of great teaching, but truly great teachers are leading that charge. Greatness in education is not about discovering a new theory or concept – it's about looking at the current research and applying it with fidelity in every school and classroom. That's it. No bells and whistles.
I don’t mean to imply that nobody was passionate about their work before, or that efficiency has become completely irrelevant. However, a difference in degree eventually becomes a difference in kind. The basic elements for what makes a company successful today have changed considerably.
Creating and disseminating ideas through bits, constantly and continually improving products and getting people with diverse skills to work effectively toward a common goal requires inspiring and focusing passion more than anything else. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that new principles are emerging for how businesses need to be run.
Finally, are we investing appropriate resources on getting the passions of educators and our greater communities focused on the common goal of making sure every student is post-secondary ready? The question is no longer about how to efficiently move students in groups of 30 down the assembly line of teachers waiting to spew their wisdom. It is now about how to channel the talents and skill sets of every individual on the "education team" to best help each individual student achieve his/her goals. Repetitive, unaligned 49 minute classes are most certainly not the best option for accomplishing this… So then what? How should school look?
If starting with a blank canvas, how would school look if it reflected a clear focus on ensuring every student reached his/her goals by tapping the diverse talents and skill sets in our schools and communities??
Thanks to fellow blogger Nick Sauers I was introduced to Sugata Mitra's TED Talks presentation explaining his experiments that address the question of whether or not students can learn on their own if given access to web 2.0 technologies. Nick's post highlights some points from the video…
These are tough questions/issues/realities for an educator to swallow. How much of what we are doing can be done by the computer? What about good schools and good instruction cannot be done by a computer? Are we doing those things well – and measuring them?
Here's the video: