Beliefs and Change

I used to believe that I had all the answers and that the people around me who weren’t on board with my view of the world were subversive. They “Didn’t Get It” and I believed that they needed to be ‘fixed’ or ‘banished’. Not a great formula for building trust with others; and a great example of a belief that got in the way of being a successful leader.

I used to believe that older teachers were too set in their ways to embrace new technologies. Because of that belief I skewed technology deployments to younger teachers. What a great example of a self-reinforcing belief.

I used to believe that there was no way that the community would support large technology initiatives. A wonderful example of a belief that was limiting my vision and horizons.

Where did these beliefs come from? That’s an exploration for another post. What is important to note is that none of these beliefs were contributing to my success. In fact, they were undermining all my good intentions.

Beliefs are not ‘real’, they are not facts. They’re nothing more than constructs of our minds.

I like the example of two couples walking in the park at night. One couple believes that walking in the park at night is romantic. The other couple believes it is dangerous. Suddenly the wind blows. The bushes shake, the leaves scuttle along the sidewalk. The couple that feels walking in the park at night is dangerous experience fear. The couple that thinks the park is romantic at night experience the beauty of nature.

What we believe shapes our experiences. Our beliefs are like a pair of glasses that influence the way we see the world. Some beliefs are supportive and helpful. Others are limiting and not helpful.

As leaders we need to reflect on our beliefs. This isn’t as easy as it sounds because many of our beliefs our invisible to us. For many years I had no conscious awareness that I believed that logic and sound arguments were the way to get teachers to change their old habits and embrace the new ones I wanted them to adopt. I kept making logical arguments. It didn’t seem to matter whether they were successful in producing the outcome I wanted. I was simply acting the way I believed was ‘proper’.

It took many years for me to become aware of this invisible belief of mine. In fact, it was a leadership coach who helped me identify my belief and then to examine whether it was a useful belief or not. Through this process I developed a new belief, that it takes the heart, the mind, and the body; not logical arguments alone, to shift the behavior of others.

There are beliefs that we hang on to even if they do not serve us because we feel we have evidence that makes them ‘real and factual. For all of human history it was commonly believed that man could not fly. There were thousands of years of evidence for this. If Orville and Wilbur Wright had adopted this view of reality, this belief, they would never have experienced flight.

Unless we believe something is possible, the odds of it happening are slim.

Do you believe that one computer per child is possible? Do you think that teachers will shift their pedagogy to engage and empower students in constructivist learning? Do you believe that all teachers, regardless of age, will adopt technology if it helps them improve teaching and learning. Do you believe that you have the ability to inspire people to adopt difficult changes?

When you believe it, you will see it!

Top Tech Trends for 2009

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Most of you know that I don’t often spend time on the technology itself. I try to focus on how the technology can be used effectively to empower our students and transform teaching and learning.

I am taking a detour today. Why?

Because I am convinced that we are so busy with maintaining the technology status quo in our buildings and districts that we are missing some rather large paradigm shifts taking place in business networking. Shifts that can have major benefits to our students, as well as our financial bottom lines.

Let’s survey some of the trends..

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What does Gartner predict for 2009?

“Strategic technologies affect, run, grow and transform the business initiatives of an organization,” said David Cearley, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Companies should look at these 10 opportunities and evaluate where these technologies can add value to their business services and solutions, as well as develop a process for detecting and evaluating the business value of new technologies as they enter the market.”

The top 10 strategic technologies for 2009 include:

Virtualization. Much of the current buzz is focused on server virtualization,…Hosted virtual images deliver a near-identical result to blade-based PCs. But, instead of the motherboard function being located in the data center as hardware, it is located there as a virtual machine bubble.

Cloud Computing. Cloud computing is a style of computing that characterizes a model in which providers deliver a variety of IT-enabled capabilities to consumers. Although cost is a potential benefit for small companies, the biggest benefits are the built-in elasticity and scalability, which not only reduce barriers to entry, but also enable these companies to grow quickly.

How about CNN’s predictions for 2009?

Spiraling netbooks

The computer industry now ships more portable computers such as laptops than desktops, and an increasingly important part of the mix will be mini-notebook computers, known as netbooks. Industry sources say computer makers will sell more than 11 million netbooks worldwide in 2008, up from just around a million in 2007, and netbook sales could easily double in the new year

Hey, you, get onto my cloud

Evangelists such as Salesforce.com (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff have been predicting for years a revolution in so-called cloud services and computing, in which software and other applications are delivered to end-users over networks, or “the cloud.” This may be the year Benioff and the cloud crowd are proven right.

Corporate cloud computing is getting a big boost from consumers who already get a fair number of services via the Net. Photo-sharing sites are great examples of cloud services, as is just about any service that lets consumers store data or information anywhere but their computer or mobile phone. “In the consumer space it isn’t hype,” said HP’s Robison. “It’s actually quite far along.

Virtualization becomes reality

Like cloud computing, “virtualization” helps companies reduce the cost of operating machines such as servers. The technology basically allows a single piece of hardware to run systems or applications that previously had run on multiple machines – essentially allowing companies to squeeze more out of existing hardware and even defer new purchases.

Virtualization has only been around in earnest for about three years, says Dell senior vice president Paul Bell, but he thinks corporate customers are starting to embrace it.

Obviously, I had to abridge the predictions; but over and over Cloud Computing, Virtualization, and Netbooks were in the tech trends lists I researched. I also found a move to Open Source software, and continued adoption of Web 2.0 in most of the lists.

The benefits of these three technology trends to businesses are clear and there are even greater benefits for education. Both Cloud Computing and Virtualization involve moving the applications away from the PC itself.

“There’s a clear direction … away from people thinking, ‘This is my PC, this is my hard drive,’ to ‘This is how I interact with information, this is how I interact with the web,'” – Dave Armstrong, Google Enterprise

Putting applications on servers that deliver them when needed allows a consistent and ubiquitous experience. I don’t have to be sitting at a specific machine that has the application I want on it. I can be at any machine and my applications are delivered to me.

BTW it doesn’t need to be a computer in my school. I can access my applications at home. Want to finish a Photoshop project but don’t have it on your home computer? Access the Cloud or the Virtualized application servers and you’ve got it. The school network just got extended into the home, or the library.

Want another reason to take these trends seriously for k-12?

Make your network “device independent!”

Buy netbooks, thin clients, or PDA’s and virtualize them.

Take a $300 thin client or a $450 netbook and instead of loading its hard rive with tons of application software, put that software in the Cloud or on VIrtualized application servers and they no longer are ‘toys’. They run every application that a big $900 computer can run.

Does purchasing two netbooks for every one desktop sound like a good idea in these tough fiscal times?

More computers, more access, from more places…

Maybe, someday we’ll allow kids to bring their laptops or mobile devices from home. They’ll be able to log into the app servers or Cloud and get their school software. Maybe instead of having to buy every kid in our school a device for our ‘one to one’ initiatives, we’ll just have to fill in the gaps for those who don’t have computers.

One more area that may appeal to cash strapped ed tech budgets is a longer replacement cycle. We’ve been on the replacement merry-go -ound for a years. No doubt, computers get old and have to be replaced; but what if we could double their useful life? Wouldn’t that help the bottom line? Wouldn’t that allow us to spend a little more on increasing the number of computers available to kids?

We need to pay attention to these trends that are being widely endorsed and implemented throughout the business community. We’ve been pretty quick to point out educators and administrators who are slow to change the way they teach and lead. We’ve complained about their unwillingness to adopt technology and new ways of doing things.

Now, here we are confronted with some emerging technology trends that require us to shift our own paradigms. Just like educators who resist the potential that technology can bring to their classrooms, it’s easy for us to throw up arguments and pick apart a thing or two with each of these technologies… and miss the big picture.

Maybe the paradigm shift seems too big for us to absorb at one time. Then perhaps a small pilot will suffice. It gets us started down the road of learning without the fear of upsetting the entire applecart.

It’s time to begin implementing new ways of delivering educational content. It will take these new approaches, a clear vision, and as always, courageous leadership, to break the stranglehold of past practice.

We can’t afford to ignore technology trends that can greatly improve teaching and learning. Our kids are too important.

pete

Dysfunction

Definition: ” a consequence of a social practice or behavior pattern that undermines the stability of a social system.”

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Dysfunction?

  • When it’s normal to attend meetings and pretend to go along with the flow and then leave the meeting and complain about it… and undermine the decisions that were made…it’s dysfunction.
  • When it becomes commonplace to pretend to trust each other and at the same time secretly solicit information and opinions from others because of a lack of trust… dysfunction.
  • When people who work for us, or around us, are not competent but we ignore it because they are ‘nice’ people…dysfunction.
  • When the administration and staff are okay with stapling new cover pages on old technology plans to meet compliance deadlines…dysfunction.
  • When we have standards and norms and they are routinely ignored…dysfunction.
  • When we write a beautiful mission statement and we all know, collectively, that there is a ‘snowballs chance in Hell’ that it will ever be achieved and most likely will be forgotten after being written …dysfunction.
  • When it is part of the culture to expect people to talk about each other critically and secretly…dysfunction.
  • When it is normal for the school culture to be cynical, critical, and dismissive of new ideas, vision, and change…dysfunction.
  • When people commit to things and then don’t keep their commitments and it’s okay with everyone…dysfunction.
  • When the staff feels they’re just mushrooms growing in the dark! Dysfunction.
  • When we can’t talk about our team and our possibilities because in our school culture we look at the world ‘us and them’…dysfunction.
  • When it’s common in our school to turn our backs and say, “Not my job!” Dysfunction.

People are people and from time to time we might behave poorly, it’s part of being human. We aren’t proud of our slip up; and we make up our minds to do better next time; and most of us do

What is most troubling is when we allow these things to become so common they seem normal. They become part of the culture. We don’t expect better. It’s just the way things are. We accept it. We live with it.

It may be that some of these behaviors have become normal in our situation; but they come at a price: lot’s of drama, lot’s of distrust, anger, and frustration.

We know better. We can do better.

It takes courage to confront the dysfunctions of a school culture. It starts with stepping forward to say that we can do better, that we should hold ourselves to higher standards. It takes a commitment to create those standards as a team, and monitor how well we live up to them.

In order to transform teaching and learning, we need to deal with the cultures which exist in our schools, otherwise, change will be a long time coming.

pete

Gandhi Story

No one is required to change more than those of us who present ourselves as leaders of educational reform and transformation. Why? Because we are required to model the behaviors we want other to adapt.

There is a story of a woman in India who was upset that her son was eating too much sugar. No matter how much she chided him, he continued to satisfy his sweet tooth. Totally frustrated, she decided to take her son to see his great hero Mahatma Gandhi.

She approached the great leader respectfully and said,

Sir, my son eats too much sugar. It is not good for his health. Would you please advise him to stop eating it?”

Gandhi listened to the woman carefully, turned and spoke to her son,

Go home and come back in two weeks.”

The woman looked perplexed and wondered why he had not asked the boy to stop eating sugar. She took the boy by the hand and went home.

Two weeks later she returned, boy in hand. Gandhi motioned for them to come forward. He looked directly at the boy and said,

Boy, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health.”

The boy nodded and promised he would not continue this habit any longer.

The boy’s mother turned to Gandhi and asked,

Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?”

Gandhi smiled,

Mother, two weeks ago I was still eating sugar myself.”

Gandhi lived in such integrity that he would not allow himself to give advice unless he was living by it himself.

This is a worthy summer reflection for those of us who give advice to others in the name of educational change.

pete

Note: I will be away for the next week camping at the beach. No electricity. No cell coverage. My best wishes to all for a peaceful and restful week.

The Three ‘R’s

I recently listened to WIllard Daggett, Ph.D., founder and President of the International Center for Leadership in Education talk about the three ‘R”s.

What are the three ‘R’s’?

According to Daggett: Relationships, Relevance, and Rigor.

Daggett was referring to teachers working with students in the classroom; but I think there is something useful that we can take from this as educational leaders.

Daggett’s point about relationships was that learning is personal. When teachers have strong, trusting relationships with their students, they work harder and achieve more. The same is true with leaders. We may have lot’s of ideas about what needs to be done; but without trusting relationships with those we wish to lead, we will find ourselves charging up San Juan Hill alone. It’s so common and so human to get excited about the Rigor (this could be technology, new classroom pedagogy, etc.) that we forget to build strong foundational relationships before setting off on our journey.

Once there is trust we can move to Relevance. The more students understand how what they are learning is relevant to them, to their community, or to the world at large; the more motivated they will be to learn.

As leaders it is important to create change narratives that address Relevance. The most powerful narratives address Relevance in two ways: 1) How is this new action or way of doing things going to affect YOU, as an individual? and 2) How is this new action or way of doing things going to affect the world outside yourself?

Leaders who can create narratives that express the ways change will take care of the stakeholder’s personal concerns, and at the same time explain how the change will be making the classroom, school, or world a better place; have set the scene for great things to happen

I’ve known people with great ideas (rigor) that never get implemented because they have lousy relationships or have overlooked relationships with people that are important to their success. I’ve known people who can’t articulate their vision in a way that makes it seem relevant to those they wish to lead. I’ve seen people who focus on nothing but relationships. They are glib, backslapping, political types who want to be liked. They have the relationships but don’t use them to accomplish a larger goal.

Like most things in life it comes down to balance.

Relationships and relevance make rigor possible.

pete