Thursday, June 30, 2016

Redefining Education, Redefining Ourselves

Change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. it is not those events, but rather the inner reorientation or self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life. Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, the change won't work, because it doesn't "take".
-- William Bridges, Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes 
This quote hangs in my office as a daily reminder that we must honor the transition process if we truly desire authentic change.

it is hard to imagine a change in education that does not directly impact kids and teachers. Whether it's a new resource, structural or environmental shifts, or a different teaching method, both kids and teachers have to process the transition that the change brings, even when it is a desired change. Moreover, it may require that kids and teachers redefine themselves and their relationships with each other -- not necessarily an easy thing to do.

An example might be if teachers decided to solicit and use student feedback in an action research cycle over the course of a school year to improve student engagement. Assume that both teachers and kids were excited about the project -- there is still a process through which both groups have to transition to new roles, and perhaps even redefine identities that break free of the traditional teacher-student hierarchy. If the status quo paradigm is not shifted, it is likely the innovation will not "take".

Another example might be buying flexible or more "interactive" furniture for your classroom or learning environment. If teacher internal reorientation about he or she might now teach, and student internal reorientation about he or she might now learn, doesn't take place, it is likely that the furniture will end up being used in more traditional settings instead of expanding potential.

As we look to redefine the components of education, we need to pay attention to how we will also internally redefine ourselves. And, we need to make sure that we take the time to allow, support, and nurture that transition.

Join the conversation...
How have you processed the transition for change in your life, either personally or professionally?

Thanks for reading,

P.S. For more on identity and change, click here

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Chicken or the Egg?

We've all heard the riddle -- which came first, the chicken or the egg? It originates at least back to Aristotle, and was used as a philosophical paradox to evidence actuality and potentiality. Of course, Aristotle wound up saying neither came first, since the two were intertwined (as an aside, biologists now believe that the egg definitely came first).

In the field of education, which comes first -- the innovator or the innovation?

Let's take a look at the Harkness Table. Originating at Phillips Exeter Academy in 1930, this teaching innovation continues to be used at many schools:

Certainly, for this teacher, the innovation came first, but prompted her to become an innovator in using it:

Of course, there is also the position that being an innovator comes first; in other words, there is not a solution looking for a problem to solve. An Edutopia article suggests that teachers who are innovators tend to have some commonalities. Many of these teachers assess priorities, such as what all students must learn. They also are willing to take a risk, and more importantly, willing to fail. With those and other mindsets, teacher-innovators are then more ready to create and try a new methodology, process, or product to meet their students' needs.

Change leaders such as George Couros suggest that the two do blend together, albeit with a bit of innovator first:

So, I'm thinking Aristotle may have been right, with a twist -- it's both and neither. It's organic. 

Join the conversation....
What do you think? Do we need to cultivate innovators in order to get innovations?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Student Voice

In the early 2000s, Verizon launched its "Can You Hear Me Now?" campaign:

We all laughed as the "test man" went from location to location, sometimes bordering on the absurd, to make sure all voices could be heard clearly. Verizon had innovative coverage technology, and wanted to boast about it.

How might we use that same concept to innovate around student voice in the K-12 world? How do we make sure that not only all voices are heard, but that students achieve democratic agency to make decisions and take action around their learning?

Why is this so crucial? Check out this recent tweet:

Along with other three colleagues from the EdD program at Michigan State, we are conducting our 2016-17 capstone project around student voice. We are currently in the lit review stage, but moving toward shaping our research question. Right now, my thinking is circling around John Hattie's visible learning work --

-- coupled with the work of Roger Hart and Sherry Arnstein:

If we developed a formal system in one of our high schools through which students offered feedback to teachers to shape teaching and learning, how high up the ladder might student voice go? In other words, would it elevate students up the ladder, or would it merely reside in tokenism?

Of course, there are a lot of identity issues with this innovation. If democratic agency is the goal, there likely will be both students and teachers who are uncomfortable with such change. We have been institutionalized into, and continue to institutionalize, specific roles for each stakeholder group in education. If a student achieves equity with a teacher, what impact might that have on how each group views themselves? Is that even appealing to students? To teachers?

Join the conversation...
What do you think? Let your voice be heard.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Help Wanted!

A while back, I wrote a blog post about putting the "I" in innovation. The intent was to show that change had to begin with each person taking action. That still rings true, but eventually, each of us needs someone else to join in or the idea will not be executed.

Take a look at this video:

I was reminded of this concept again today during some learning with Sudhakar Lahade from Steelcase (you can view Sudhakar's TEDx Talk on creativity here).

First follower, co-conspirator, partner in crime, matter what you call them, we all need them. Without them, our ideas go nowhere. How do we get them?

Like the shirtless leader in the video, we must be willing to lead from the front at first and be our own "help wanted" posting. We must keep modeling the dance until someone decides they want to dance, too. It can be lonely, but oh so worthwhile when our help wanted ad is answered. And the best part is that there is no interview or reference check. We immediately have someone with whom we can share the experience.

Beyond sharing the experience, our partner joins us in the thinking process and adds to the idea in ways we could not by ourselves. Now, our jointly-created second iteration is a new help wanted posting that may eventually attract even more volunteers. We continue to move forward, and use each person's contributions to improve the idea and the action we take to execute it.

Join the conversation....
What idea are you willing to lead on, and be a "help wanted" ad?