Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Educational Entrepreneur

Have you seen this TED Talk by Cameron Herold on how schools should be doing much more to support students who are entrepreneurial?

It's worth the full 22 minutes. At about 2:22 Herold says:

If we can teach our kids to become we teach the ones who have science gifts to go on in science, what if we saw the ones who had entrepreneurial traits and taught them to be entrepreneurs? We could actually have all these kids spreading businesses instead of waiting for government handouts. What we do is we sit and teach our kids all the things they shouldn't do: Don't hit; don't bite; don't swear.

So here is something I came across recently:

In a middle school that implemented a 1-1 student to device program this year, there are clear restrictions placed on apps and various kinds of access. The district's IT department has made sure all the iPads are appropriately password protected for certain levels of access, that students couldn't download apps without going through proper channels, etc., etc. You know the drill.

Now let's play "You Be the Administrator": 

You see a student playing Angry Birds on his iPad. This app is forbidden. You lean on the student pretty hard to find out how he was able to download the game. Under the bright light of your interrogation, the student gives up one of his classmates who--for a tidy sum of $1--will change profile settings for any student who seeks his services.  What do you do? Your answer may depend on whether you spent the 22 minutes on Herold's video or not, but post your answers in the comments section.  The story continues next week!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Learning Agility

Five posts ago I referenced a Thomas Friedman article from the New York Times about how to get hired at Google. I recently came across this post by Gary Burnison that says Mr. Friedman didn't mention that those same 5 traits can get you a job anywhere! In particular Mr. Burnison's article talks about the importance of Learning Agility.

First can I just say I love the term. "Learning Agility" captures so much so succinctly. According the Korn/Ferry Institute's paper, learning agility is "the willingness and ability to learn from experience and then apply those lessons to succeed in new situations." Factors that contribute to being an agile learner include:
  1. Mental Agility — ability to examine problems in unique and unusual ways
  2. Self-awareness — extent to which an individual knows his or her true strengths and weaknesses
  3. People Agility — skilled communicator who can work with diverse types of people
  4. Change Agility — likes to experiment and comfortable with change
  5. Results Agility — delivers results in challenging first-time situations
No doubt the traditional disciplines lend themselves to developing mental agility. But to develop the other four, the learning environment must be rich in the 8 Conditions. Belonging and Heroes are necessary for people agility and self-awareness. Sense of Accomplishment also makes an important contribution to self-awareness as a student's effort and perseverance are noted and celebrated. Curiosity & Creativity supports change agility and Spirit of Adventure fosters both change and results agility in so far as they benefit from experimentation and the courage to act in first time situations. And Leadership & Responsibility and Confidence to Take Action are all about delivering results.

Notice, too, the importance to learning agility of the ability to "learn from experience" and to "apply".  These are not things that can done reading textbooks or even, perhaps, in a classroom.  If we are to develop the skills necessary to be life-long, hireable-by-anyone learners, then the traditional approaches must give way to much more flexible ones rooted in student voice and our students' real world experiences.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Principal Concern

I really don't know how they do it. Four schools this week in two different states. Four principals. Two high schools, two middle schools. I don't know how these people are standing up. I am not saying that to flatter them or fawn over the role or further their esteem in others' eyes. This is a genuine, honest to goodness intellectual curiosity: I have no idea how principals are doing the job anymore. In my humble estimation, the principalship has become an undoable job. It's a wonder any one lasts a year in the job, never mind the national average of 3-4 years.

In each school I was in, the combination of planned meetings requiring energy and attention (which included attendance at Aspirations Team meetings), and the unscheduled or scheduled at the last minute meetings, which also needed the principal's energy and attention, would have overwhelmed all but the most competent of jugglers. And yet these incredibly busy people found time to sit with student teams and listen to their ideas about how to improve school and worked alongside staff as they sought to improve the 8 Conditions in their buildings. As undoubtedly they considered the email inbox they were going to return to, the bus duties they had yet to find coverage for, the after school meeting at central office about making up for school closings due to weather, the impending testing season, and the parent meeting they had that evening, they sat and listened and participated and gave every indication to every one present that this was every bit as important as everything else.

John, Margaret, Steven, and Judy, you were my Heroes this week. Your energy propels me. I have just one question: When do you sleep????

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Learning Facilitators

I am blogging from the SXSWEdu conference. Wow! Such a wonderful gathering of creative, committed, and passionate educators in one place. I have been hearing many amazing things--mostly being plugged into the conversation happening around student voice. On twitter check out #StuVoice and #studentvoice to catch up.

Highlights include:

  • The Pearson Foundation's announcement of Project MASH: a social network that brings students, educators, and research together in a place that leverages the best of what we know about new pedagogies. Be the source!
  • Being part of a webinar on Student Voice with Zak Malamed, student voice champion, and Adam Ray, of the Pearson Foundation. It was a privilege to be part of an ongoing dialogue dedicated to the expanding movement that is student voice.
  • Learning about Next Lessons from CEO Dion Lim--a website filled with best practices aligned to common core for all grade levels in all subjects.
  • Brainstorming with educators from Eanes ISD in Austin who, knowing they already have a very successful school system, want to take things to yet another, higher level. I was inspired by their willingness to continue to learn and grow despite their 98% college enrollment rate.
  • Meeting Adora Svitlak and Nikhil Goyal, whose videos and insights we share in the field as outstanding examples of the thoughtfulness of young people calling for change. They are not the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today!
  • Attending a panel discussion with Zak, Nikhil, Adora and four other students. They led an interactive session that drove towards solutions for several of the challenges in education today--including having more young people at SXSWEdu in the future!
At this last session, I met Tom Rooney, Superintendent of the Lindsay Unified School District in California. He didn't sugar coat it or pretend that they weren't still a work in progress at five years into their change efforts, but from the little I heard about LUSD, they get my vote for being on a short, yet growing list of schools that are getting it most right. Visit the website and judge for yourself.

I want to make note of one thing they do that is subtle, but extremely significant and easily adoptable: They have turned away from the term "teachers" and refer instead to "learning facilitators." As someone who loves language and words, I love this shift. I also know it is not mere semantics, but a reflection of an approach to education I believe we all need to accept if schools are going to be engaging and relevant to today's learners. 

In other words, the truth of the matter must become that the only thing that distinguishes the adult learners in a school from the young learners is that the former bear a responsibility for organizing, encouraging, supporting, and resourcing educational experiences. This simple change in words implies that LUSD is not teacher-centered or content-centered, or even student-centered, but learning-centered. It communicates that learning is life-long, that even the most educated among the adults are not finished learning, and that together young people and adults can be partners and co-creators of educational experiences.

Thank you to all whom I encountered at SXSWEdu this week for facilitating my learning!