Transforming Teaching and Learning: Logic Doesn’t Apply

School reformers are trying to shift the deeply rooted school culture that has been in place for a century. We are attempting to shift the beliefs and values of a school community that are deeply entrenched. In my experience, when seeking to change the beliefs, values, and culture of others, logic does not apply.

If we need proof of this, reflect on our own good intentions. Most of us would like to shed a few pounds. We know we are over our best weight and that having the extra pounds is not healthy. We have a desire to change. We know it’s the right thing to do. The problem is that we drive past the gym on the way to and from work and don’t stop. We continue to eat between meals or eat meals that we know are not healthy. As a culture we continue to “Supersize” our waistlines. Why aren’t we all at our target weights? It takes more than logic to shift a lifetime of eating habits, deeply held, and sometimes, invisible attitudes about eating. Similarly, it is just as difficult for classroom teachers and school cultures to change their habits of practice, attitudes, and behaviors.

Most of us live in the hope that a good logical presentation of facts will do the trick. If only it were that easy. Wouldn’t it be great if all we had to do were show Karl Fisch’s “Do You Know” video, have everyone read “The World Is Flat”, and invite a celebrity keynote to inspire us? Wouldn’t it be great if we could blog our way to transformation? Think about the example of losing weight or quitting smoking…reading books and listening to speakers may help; but there is much, much more involved in “real” change.

I hear it argued that teachers’ fear technology and that is holding us back from transforming education. While there is some fear, I don’t believe that is the key obstacle to change. Some argue that teachers are deliberately fighting change and imply that it is a lack of professionalism. Once again, I don’t believe our primary obstacle is a lack of professionalism, or an “ostrich head in the sand” scenario.

The fact is that human beings like to operate in their “comfort zones”. Let’s say a teacher wants to try teaching with the inquiry method. Instead of giving answers, at which she is very adept, she decides to ask questions and let students find the answers. She prepares an inquiry-based lesson. As she delivers it she feels clumsy and lacks confidence. The kids don’t respond the way she had hoped. She may say to herself, “This is way too difficult. You need to be a special kind of person to teach this way.” She may try another inquiry lesson…or not. It’s so easy to go back to the way that has always worked for her rather than continuing the frustrating path of these inquiry lessons.

When I coached basketball, I remember kids shooting and making baskets with two hand set shots. At a basic level, this outmoded way of shooting worked for them. They could make their shots. I knew that it also would hold them back from progressing any further in the sport. There was no way that they could succeed and continue to shoot with two hands. I would show them the proper way to shoot with one hand. It felt odd for them. As they were learning this new way of doing things they would miss more than they would make. In fact, they made fewer shots with the proper one handed method than they did with the old two-handed shot. Many of these kids couldn’t deal with the uncomfortable side of change. They would only shoot properly when I was around. When I wasn’t…back to two hands. Was this fear? Was this a lack of professionalism? Or just human beings demonstrating that habits of practice are hard to change?

I invite us to include serious personal (affective) and organizational culture, change plans in every technology plan.

I also believe that it would be helpful if we would reflect on our own personal resistance to change. We’re human beings so it’s going to be there in some part of our lives. If we’re courageously self-honest about our own experience with the discomfort of change, we’ll be better able to help others deal with theirs.

The question we should be asking is, “How can I make disruptive and uncomfortable personal and professional change easier for those in my classrooms and schools?

The wonderful paradox is that in order to fully utilize technology to transform teaching and learning; we need to focus on the people, not simply the technology…

…and people are much more complex than technology!

pete

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Inside Quest with Keith Ferrazzi

I just had to post this interview with Keith Ferrazzi that aired on Inside Quest. He believes, as I do, that changing our behavior is a matter of a commitment to small, what he calls, “high return practices.” If we want to be better leaders, or better teachers, it’s not a matter of what we know intellectually but a matter of practice.

He also talks about being “porous” or open to the people and opportunities around us, cites research from the Gallup organization that shows relationships, friendship, connectivity, and support are the lynch pins of high performing employees and teams, advocates for self-awareness via soliciting the assessments of others (What should I do more of? What should I do less of?) and looks at committing to practices to build our strengths and discard our weaknesses as fundamental elements of leadership.

There’s more…much more, and most of it correlates with the work I’m doing with educators. When I run into someone of Keith’s caliber who endorses (indirectly) the approach that has helped me grow, and is the approach I use with others, it’s very exciting. This is a guy I’d love to work for.

Pete

Be patient and hang in there until the end. It’s a great interview.

SMLXL

An Interview with Amy Perry DelCorvo

Amy Perry DelCorvo

Execscreen-shot-2016-06-10-at-12-40-17-pmutive Director, NYSCATE

Completing her fourth year as the Chief Executive Officer of the New York State Association of Computers and Technology in Education (NYSCATE), Amy has over 15 years of Educational Service Agency experience as the Assistant Superintendent of Monroe 1 BOCES and previously as the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Wayne-FInger Lakes BOCES. Amy is the recipient
of the prestigious “Forty Under 40” award from the Rochester Business Alliance and is one of the founding members of the USNY Technology Policy and Practice Councel, led by the Board of Regents in New York State.

Amy recently completed her second term as a Board Member for COSN, the Consortium for School Networks and previously completed her fifth year on the Board of Directors for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) where she served on the Organizational Affiliate Executive Committee. Amy continues her role as Conference Chairperson of the NYSCATE. She has served on the leadership of the Technology Standards for School Administrators (TSSA) collaborative and has worked with many educational institutions across the country on best practices and projects regarding effective and efficient uses of technology in schools. Amy was the recipient of the the 2001 ISTE Technology Leader of the Year Award. Amy recently completed her doctoral program in Executive Leadership at St. John Fisher College.

 

 

 

The Full Interview with Amy

Reflections on Your Leadership Identity

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 4.11.25 PMEach of us has an image of ourselves that is firmly rooted in our mind’s-eye, Most often we see ourselves through the light of our inner thoughts and intentions. We want to do good in the world. We want others to recognize us for who we are. The problem is that those around us can’t read our minds or intuit our intentions. They judge us by our words and our actions. While most of the assessments others have of us are arrived at consciously there is also a personal chemistry at work that is mostly sub-conscious . So, no matter what we may think of ourselves, others have their own opinion, Have you ever wondered what those assessment might be?

Here are a few examples of the identities of people that tend to populate our professional lives:

He’s super busy and unreliable. He may, or may not, get back to you depending on how he’s feeling. It doesn’t matter how important his response is to you.

 She’s inconsistent.  She has good stretches where she does what she says,  and then she hits weeks where she falls back to her old ways. Her good stretches usually follow a serious conversation where someone has called her out for not doing something she promised she would.

He’s a cowboy. When problems arise he tries to solve them all by himself. He doesn’t let anyone know that he’s struggling. He’ll work by himself up to the final deadline trying to get the problem solved, them let you know at the last minute that he couldn’t get it done. Since he never gives you an early head’s up that something is a problem, he doesn’t leave you with many options.

 She’s a martyr. She works long hours, sacrifices her home life, yet she never catches up or gets ahead in her work. She’s burning out quick.

He’s scatterbrained. He jokes around a lot when he’s nervous or uncomfortable. When he jokes like this he makes himself look a lot less smart than he really is.

She never follows up. She talks a good game but then quickly forgets what she promised to do.

He’s a victim. Pile it on. It just drives him deeper into despair. He definitely won’t speak up for himself and he complains a lot.

She’s a whirling dervish. She’s always on her way somewhere else. When she talks to you you’ll feel like you’re interrupting something. This makes you feel like you aren’t important.

He’s a self-promoter. You’ll never get an authentic response from him. He always insists on putting on a good front. He’ll promote the latest thing he’s doing as if he’s the only one in the world that’s doing it. He wants to be viewed as special.

She says “Yes” to everything. She may not have the capacity to do what she commits to; but she doesn’t know how to say “No”. If you accept her “Yes” do so at your own risk. Be prepared for last minute drama and crisis.

He’s a bully. No one likes working with him because in order to get things done he generally runs over those around him. He’ll blind cc the boss on memos if it helps him get what he needs. He has a wicked temper and he doesn’t like to look foolish.

She’s not trustworthy. She says what you want to hear at a meeting or keeps her mouth shut and says nothing. When the meeting is over she gives her real opinion outside the room. She always begin these conversations with “This is confidential…” She talks behind people’s backs. She can undermine any initiative by having a few informal conversations with the “right” people. 

He’s not accountable. “It’s not my job”. “You’re the boss.” “That’s why they pay you the big bucks”….are just a few of his sayings. He doesn’t even take accountability for his own decisions. He always says “I had to do this or I had to do that…” He never says “I chose to do this or that…”

She’s committed to ‘nothing changing’. She’s the person who is totally resigned to the status quo. She’s seen leaders with great ideas come and go; and things never change. She believes things will never change no matter who comes in and no matter what they try to do. She’s the person who is the first to tell you that “We’ve already been there and tried that”.

He’s afraid to make hard decisions. He has people on his staff who aren’t competent. He knows he needs to do something about them; but that might get messy and its easier to just live with things. Because he doesn’t like difficult conversations all his staff gets good evaluations whether they deserve them or not.

She has little integrity. She will say anything to sell a product or service or get what she wants. She may say she cares about her colleagues or her students but her actions don’t match her rhetoric.

 He loves to get lost in the details. Generally, he’s always busy, but little gets done.

She has to be perfect. She’s afraid to make mistakes. She takes so long to do things that no one asks her to do anything important anymore.

He’s totally disorganized. Take a look at his office, it’s a reflection of the clutter that’s filling his mind. Is it any wonder that he’s constantly forgetting, juxtaposing, and messing up?

She’s a complainer. If things aren’t running the way she’d like them to she’s not happy. She has a hard time saying “Thank you” or acknowledging the effort of others.

He’s a “first on the block-er”. His identity is built on knowing things first. It gives him a feeling of being out in front. It makes people think he’s a visionary. 

She’s a gatekeeper. She filters all the information that people have access to. She won’t let people know about some things like conferences or workshops she doesn’t like. She doesn’t like her bosses going anywhere without her. She doesn’t want them coming back with ideas she didn’t give them.

He has bad judgment. He makes the worst decisions. He always sees your point afterwards and feels bad about what he did. Don’t put him in situations where he has to think for himself.

She’s a politician. He’ll say what you want to hear. He rarely takes a stand and will switch positions based on where he’s getting the most pressure.

No one’s perfect and there are probably elements of these identities in each of us. But two good questions for us to reflect on are:  “What identity would I like to have?” and …. “What do I need to do to go about creating it?”

Pete

Relationships

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 11.10.53 AMIt was my junior year of high school, and Mrs. Keehan called me to her desk after English class.
“Peter,” she said, smiling, “I’ve noticed that you love to read.”
“Yes, I do,” I replied.

“I want to give you something; but before I do, you have to promise me you’ll keep it a secret.”

Her voice was soft and intimate, quite different than the voice she used during class.

“Yes, I promise.” I responded.

She opened the drawer of her desk, removed a paperback book, and handed it to me. “I picked this book especially for you. I think you’ll really enjoy it.”

I looked at the title: The Lord of the Rings.

“Remember your promise, Peter.”

“Yes…and thank you!” I mumbled as I turned and left.

I had never heard of J. R. R. Tolkien, and the first chance I got I began reading the worn paperback. I was mesmerized and fell in love with the book. It was as if Mrs. Keehan knew me and knew what I’d like. I felt special. I worked harder for her than any other teacher that year. There was no way that I wanted to let her down. After all, we shared a secret: a special relationship.

Forty years later, at my high school reunion, as a group of old friends and I sat around a table reminiscing, I broke the promise I had made to Mrs. Keehan and told the story of the secret book. My friends looked shocked. One after another, each of them who had taken her class told their own story of being called up after class, sworn to secrecy, and given a book chosen especially for them.

Mrs. Keehan had built a special bond with each of us. I don’t think the different books she hand-picked to give us were what made us feel special. No, it was the intimate, heartfelt tone in her voice, the shared secret, and the feeling I had of being special.

I don’t remember much about my junior year. Most of my teachers’ names and what they taught me has faded; but Mrs. Keehan, and the special relationship, the connection I had with her, is with me still, as it surely is with every student she taught that year—and possibly throughout her career.

Mrs. Keehan’s “secret” connection with her students reminds us that much of what inspires children to learn happens in the personal space (the “heart space”) between us and our students. Relationships are at the very heart of successful teaching; and it’s our hearts that prepare the soil and provide the nutrients for trusting relationships to grow.

An Interview with Berj Akian – CEO ClassLink Inc.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 1.16.28 PM

Join me for an interview with Berj Akian, CEO and founder of ClassLink Inc.. Berj set out to improve education by creating world class technology tools for students and teachers. What started out as an effort to help one local school integrate a cutting edge technology environment became a stepping stone that led to the establishment of ClassLink, Inc. Prior to paving a new foundation for technology in the educational realm, Berj was with Technology Crossover Ventures, a leading venture capital firm. Previous to TCV he specialized in restructuring and attest services for large technology and educational publishing clients with Arthur Andersen. Berj graduated cum laude from Baruch College in New York

See The Entire Interview at A Path With Heart

Berj discusses a wide range of topics including:

The Key Elements of Effective Leaders

 

The Teacher’s Burden

 

Standards

 

See The Entire Interview at A Path With Heart

 

What is ClassLink?  ClassLink solves the problem of too many passwords, and too many files scScreen Shot 2016-03-04 at 1.16.40 PMattered about. It’s a one click single sign-on solution that gives students access to everything they need to learn, anywhere, with just one password. Accessible from any device, ClassLink is the perfect tool for ensuring the success of a 1:1 or BYOD initiative.

 

A Daydream: One to One Computing

I closed the cover of my Chromebook, tucked it into my backpack and headed off to English class. I skipped lunch today so I had time to see the MIT lecture on Mitosis and Miosis because we were going to be covering Mitosis and Miosis in Science class this afternoon. Never hurts to get a head start.

Lucky for me, Mrs. Woodruff’s English class was just around the corner from the cafeteria where lunch was just finishing up. Anyway, I wanted to get there early to ‘text’ Jamie Milledge who was helping me build out my “Fahrenheit 451” wiki.

farneheit_451.jpgJamie would be up by now. I live on the East coast and she goes to school in Torrence, California. She’s a major Ray Bradbury fan. We met up about a month ago when I found some of her science fiction writing on the Fan Fiction web page. Turns out she’s the same age and studying “451” in her English class the same as me. We FB each other all the time now.

I get to class and whip out my computer.

Jamie wassup?
Getting dressed.
Did you find the movie?
Yeah. Not easy to get.
Great.
What part do we want to use?
I love the RR tracks scene.
Where they all become their favorite books?
Yeah. So cool!
OK. I’ll upload it at lunch today.
You’re the best.

We chat until the class is ready to start.

Mrs. Woodruff is already leaning over a student helping them with whatever project they’re working on.

Last night I searched out some blogs that deal with “451″ and have added them to the RSS feeds in my aggregator. They may come in handy as we go through the book.

“Okay class, you can get into your teams now.”

Mrs. Woodruff speaks over the discussions that have already begun. I don’t know why she feels she has to say this every day because we never wait for her. We’re already in our groups.

Our group project is to build out a vocabulary blog for “451” . We each take a few chapters, find the more difficult words, and look them up online. Usually, when we do this we create a team blog where we post the sentence from the book that contains the word, as well as the definitions of the words. We organize it all by chapter. Here’s the vocabulary blog we did on our last book, “The Outsiders”.

This time, in addition to what we usually do, we decide to add some online photos from Flickr, drag them into Comic Life, and write the words used in funny contexts. Michael, our team leader is really good at coming up with the funny stuff.

(This example courtesy of Jim Coe and Tom Woodward of Bionic Teaching)

After a bit, Mrs. Woodruff asks us to close our computers and report out on how we are doing. One group has done research on all the books that have been banned over the years. Marcy plugs into the projector and shows the Censorship website they’ve created. They’ve worked with the school library media specialist, and a number of outside organizations who are very anti-censorship. I’m surprised at some of the titles on the list. I copy the URL. I want to check it out when I get to study hall later today.

Another group shows the product they are creating in response to the “451″ WebQuest they were working on. (Courtesy of Mr. Dan Thompson)

The other groups plug in to show their particular projects; but Terry’s group gets into trouble because they havn’t done much since the last time they presented. Terry says that they have been doing a lot of the work after school; but they havn’t had an online work session this week because a few of them had late sports practices. Terry’s team always has an excuse. The truth is they put in no effort. They do what they can during free time in school, but they almost never hold group work sessions at night. They’ve got to get themselves a better leader or they’re gonna get creamed at the end of the marking period.

I can’t wait to show the vocabulary site we created. Everyone laughs at Michael’s funny comments that are in the Comic Life bubbles. I also take a moment to show the “451” wiki site that Jamie from California and I have been working on. Believe it or not, Jamie has already uploaded the last scene from the 1966 movie. I click on it and play a minute or so.

Mrs. Woodruff claps her hands, “Great job! guys. Now, let’s get to our writing projects.”

We all pull our desks back a few feet from the groups we were in so we can work on our own for awhile. I pull up the draft of the paper I have been writing from my virtual locker storage space. I’m working on an essay topic from an old Regents exam. I figure it’s good practice. We write in silence, saving frequently as we have been taught to do. Mrs. Woodruff walks around giving some individual advice to different folks. I run my paper through the online Writing Evaluator. I like this because it picks up most of the simple mistakes I tend to make when I write. It saves Mrs. Woodruff some time, too.

“Class!” She says. We all look up. She walks to the SmartBoard in the front of the room and taps on it a few times. Up come the notes from last week. She enlarges the words THEME and PLOT.

“I see a number of you are getting theme and plot confused. What’s the difference between the theme and plot?”

A few brave souls raise their hands.

“You know what? Rather than doing this verbally, I want you to create a Screencast that describes the difference. Include the basic theme of “451” . I don’t need you to rehash the plot.”

Man, more homework.

Mrs. Woodruff continued, “We’re getting close to the bell, so just a reminder that I will be online for extra help on Thursday from 8:00pm till 9:00pm. Terry, I expect that at least one member of your team should be there. Your team needs lot’s of help.”

The bell rings. I sling my Chromebook into my backpack and dash out of the room. My science class is at the other end of the building; I’ve gotta hustle.

pete

Note:
This is a daydream. I’m sure there are many more creative ideas out there. What’s important is that…

The learning is active:
Engaged and empowered students AND teachers, learning both in school and outside of school, formally and informally, collaboratively and individually.
Learning partners that extend outside the classroom.

The technology is transparent: 
The Chromebook is one of a number of sub-$500, mobile, wireless computers.
There is wireless access from everywhere in the school.
There are Virtualized desktops with access to all school applications and files from anywhere, including the home.
The students and teachers have access to appropriate software.

*The Chromebook and other products used in this post are for illustrative purposes only and not an endorsement.

*Special thanks to Tom Woodward and Jim Coe, two groundbreaking educators who are making the daydream reality.