Thinking about What if we used the Big Shifts to evolve? 60-60-60 #56 and reflecting…

Pat Bassett’s Schools of the Future TEDxStGeorgesSchool Talk is interesting in that he shares schools and programs that are pushing the innovation envelope and almost always pairs his examples with some sort of assessment data to show that these shifted models are making an impact.

I’m remembering an excellent post by Seth Godin and wondering a bit about the fifth bullet in his presentation:

Schools and Networks

Godin advocates for a people strategy in his post:

“Figure out the people part and the technology gets a whole lot simpler.”

Figure out the people part and the big shifts thing gets a whole lot simpler too, I think.

What if Bassett had highlighted the school’s people strategy as well as their program strategy?

One of the more valuable exercises we engaged in at Klingenstein were the leadership case studies. After reading the case study — and before we did anything related to the issues, problems, or solutions — we identified all of the people involved. Formally and informally. Insiders and outsiders. Sometimes people who were consciously or even subconsciously involved.

What if we did more of this in schools?

Instead of jumping right into the issues, what if we spent time thinking strategically about the people at play? What if schools embraced a people strategy?



Thinking about What if we invited, even prayed for, disturbance? 60-60-60 #55 and reflecting…

Interesting to read both of these posts today:

First, Steve Blank’s Why Innovation Dies.

And then Grant Lichtman’s Keeping K-12 Innovation Alive (which is a riff on Blank’s post).

Life and death of innovation…an ongoing cycle in organizations. I wonder, if we have more administrators and teachers and parents “advocat[ing] for children and schools to be innovative” (as Pat Basset supports in his TEDx St. George School talk), what will this look, sound, and feel like? In the absence of a greenfield schooling approach, Lichtman explains that the following pieces will be present in a school where there is more innovative life present.

  • new, faster, messier pilots (possibly without either full consensus or an assessment report)
  • people who have demonstrated ability to work in a new paradigm, rather than those used to traditional teaching (content delivery) roles
  • increasingly distributed system of responsibility
  • freedom to test and adapt, without necessarily requiring that each substantive innovation become an all-school decision
  • leadership which is comfortable with the new paradigm and shifting processes, and facile at knowing when, and when not, to reign in rapidly changing responses to evolving markets

**the above bullets are taken almost directly from the final paragraph in Lichtman’s post


Thinking about What if we used reading and Google Earth as springboards for interdisciplinary, global empathy? 60-60-60 #54 and reflecting…

I just “overheard” a conversation between two people who I don’t think know one another. I doubt they are reading each other’s blogs.  Kate (a Trinity Fifth Grader and blogger) and Mr. Adams (Westminster’s JH Principal and blogger) just engaged in a fascinating conversation that I feel like I overheard — but the truth is that I actually imagined and created a dialogue based on their two most recent blog posts.


Lately I have been reading lots of books.  It’s mostly because of my kindle, but not completely.

Mr. Adams:

Some believe that technology is separating us, disconnecting us, making us less empathetic. I don’t think it’s about the technology. I believe it’s about the people behind the technology and the ways that we commit to using the technology.


The problem with kindles and nooks is you can’t shop like you can in a real book store.  You don’t know what you want and what the latest and hottest book is.

Mr. Adams:

I believe technology can actually make us more connected, more together, more empathic. Tools can be used to build up or to tear down…to joyfully create or to tragically damage and destroy.


Recently my friend from camp sent me an email about this great site called She told me about it and it turns out you recommend at least 20 books and the computer gives you recommendations about books that you might be interested in.  You can also write messages back and forth between your friends and rate books from 1 to 5.  When you rate a book it sends a note to all your friends saying that you read that book and you rated it a certain amount of stars.  This website has changed my book reading.  Finally there are no more spending hours to find the perfect book.  Finally a solution.

Mr. Adams:

But it depends on the user, not the tool. I am thankful that I have many teachers who are showing me these lessons.

With technology, we invite many more teachers into our lives. And we have many more conversations than we ever thought possible. Here’s a link to Kate’s post to read the full thing (


Thinking about What if schools IGNITEd more Leonardo da Vincis? 60-60-60 #53 and reflecting…

Two can play this game, Mr. Bo Adams…I see your IGNITE presentation posted on #53 and raise you this PechaKucha presentation by father-son combo, Adam and Ian Cole.

I didn’t even know it existed until today, but since IGNITE and  PechaKucha are close relatives, I figured I’d explore the PK website a bit and see if anything connected for today’s CHANGEd post. Fortunately I stumbled upon “Making Our Community” and gladly jumped down the rabbit-hole into a world of what I now understand to be called the maker movement. The video (a must-watch) is an excellent example about how passions, interests, and learning experiences can be amplified and shared (which connects to yesterday’s CHANGEd #52 post). Talk about making more Leonardo da Vincis…today’s rabbit-hole adventure showed me that the “what if” is certainly possible. Could this DIY learning be happening in spite of the day-to-day school experiences? Is this Mr. Cole trying to create a culture of learning in spite of the

If a father-son team can take outside-of-school learning adventures and make it something which has enough momentum for a website, a Twitter profile, and a number of mentions in mainstream media, what are we educators waiting for? If the Mr. Cole did this with just his two boys, imagine what we could do with a schoolful of our eager, engaged learners and future tinkerers and makers…

The “Maker Movement” page on the Cole’s site asserts that events like MakerFaire and Hackerspaces (certainly connected to the Makerbot community) are on the rise for a number of reasons. Why shouldn’t they be on the rise?

Makers have been on the “margins” for a long time – but what caused this move from the “margins to the mainstream?” Many factors have contributed, from technological progress, cost reductions in electronics manufacturing on a small scale, even an economic recession which refocused many people on repairing and re-purposing items. The largest impact however comes from the resurgence of the community itself. This is a community that celebrates learning, and freely shares ideas. This community formed in many pockets however (computer groups, electronics groups, robotics groups, craft groups, sewing groups, etc.) – and needed something to bring them all together. 
~ The Maker Movement on RaisingGeeks.Com

Why aren’t our schools those places? We already have the tribes (computer groups, electronics groups, robotics groups, craft groups, sewing groups, etc.) and as schools, we certainly should be celebrating learning.

So, what’s getting in the way of us educators cultivating a maker community? We have the role models in the form of a dad and his two sons, as the “learn and make things together.”


Thinking about What if we connected students with city design projects? 60-60-60 #52 and reflecting…

Today’s CHANGEd riff brings in Diana Laufenberg’s words from her November 2010 TEDxMidAtlantic talk:

The main point is that, if we continue to look at education as if it’s about coming to school to get the information and not about experiential learning, empowering student voice and embracing failure, we’re missing the mark. And everything that everybody is talking about today isn’t possible if we keep having an educational system that does not value these qualities, because we won’t get there with a standardized test, and we won’t get there with a culture of one right answer. We know how to do this better, and it’s time to do better.

The reality is that there are so many students, teachers, and schools that are already “doing better” and blurring the boundaries between school and real-life in ways that are life-giving — in ways that are empowering both children and adults. Identifying bright-spots and strengths-chasing are certainly two ways, but what about our collective voice? How do we make it even louder? What struck me today as I read Diana’s most recent post about her talk is that we must amplify those stories. She writes,

The message of an individual has never had such an opportunity to amplify as it does in our socially networked world, where the voice of an ordinary person can find agency and audience. Everything can be different if we have the will to connect and build a version of the world that reflects the full measure of our potential.

As I think about things like Synergy 8, Re-Imagine Ed, QUEST/Capstone, the edu180atl project, and classes like Diana Laufenberg’s, I wonder how we can best share and amplify the stories of experiential learning, empowering student voice, and embracing failure in ways that make a difference. Sure twitter and blogging and sharing through all of the other social media channels are all great things, but how can we consolidate all of these examples in order to both share and amplify powerful student experiences and effective school programs and curricula?


Thinking about What if we crafted a ten commandments of modern schooling? 60-60-60 #51 and reflecting…

Shouldn’t we have some level of agreement about the ten most fundamental expectations for schooling in our modern era?

I now have three versions of my educational philosophy. All three fit onto one page and there are certainly some common threads, especially between the last two — the first was written as a piece of my Teach for America application in 2002, the next was written in 2008 during  my Klingenstein year, and the most recent was written in early January of this year.

As I think about all three, I envision myself metaphorically siting in the ophthalmologist’s chair over the years, with the doctor switching the lenses in front of my eyes and asking, “Is that better…or worse…or just the same?”

The blurry lens through which I handwrote (and later typed) my first educational philosophy was a result of teaching experience that was more like volunteer tutoring experience. Projections, estimations, and instinctual feelings were what directed my writing. After a few years teaching in both an inner-city school and back at the elementary school I attended as a child in north Buckhead, I was able to see through a bit of a sharper lens. Things weren’t as out-of-focus concerning my beliefs about teaching, but that which was not intimately connected to my personal experiences was hard to make out. There were things too far in the distance for me to even imagine. And now the most recent educational philosophy, one which is merely based on two additional years of administrative experience, is sharper in places and still out-of-focus in others. And there are things still in the distance, unknown. I’m pretty sure that when it comes to my educational philosophy, there will always be the opportunity for more refined examination under new kinds of lenses — based on time, my experiences, and my role(s) in schools.

So that brings me to this “what if” about educational commandments. I’m sure it’s the Moses-and-Mount-Sinai thing, but commandments feel a bit stiff…stagnant…set in stone. Doesn’t there need to be room for growth and change when it comes to our individual or collective beliefs about education? Can these dynamic beliefs be characterized in commandments?

If I take the three responses to Bo’s post, they allow me to see that there can be great value in formulating educational commandments:

Thou shalt see oneself principally as the architect and choreographer of student learning experiences. ~Peter Cobb

Modern schooling MUST make a real difference to the life chances of the individual learner. ~hnaylor62

All learners must be encouraged to use what they have learned to make a significant difference to the world in which they live. ~hnaylor62

But, I hope we will reserve the right to throw a few out every so often and re-etch new ones based on the needs of our school, our schools, and modern schooling in general. Maybe the sweet spot is found somewhere between our philosophies and our commandments…


Thinking about What if I were designing one more faculty meeting? 60-60-60 #50 and reflecting…

Bo writes about designing faculty meetings in his 50th CHANGEd post. In a FastCo Magazine article from last April David Kelley reflects on designing curious employees. I see these two posts as intimately connected…because both are about empathy and of course, the design process. There’s also a connection with the idea of developing creative confidence…and that’s something that I hope to continue to develop in myself and in others through my work with lower school students and faculty next year.

For the past ten years, I have been mostly a participant in divisional meetings. And now, as Bo closes the door on faculty meta-planning, I am just beginning to open that door as I start to envision and chart the path for the 2012-13 school year and my first as lower school principal.

At this point, there are only a few things I know for sure about my approach to faculty meta-planning:

  1. I’ll use empathy, the design process, and creative confidence in my thinking and planning. I’m not sure what exactly that will look like, but I do know that those concepts will guide my approach. After all, this is an image which many educators know all too well.
  2. I’ll fail, many times, in my attempts. But if I am to create a culture of risk-taking and prototyping, failure is necessary and an important part of the process. How I model overcoming failure (and truthfully, how I process failing with my perfectionist self) will be important as I seek to develop a rich and dynamic culture of learning and growth.
  3. I’ll lean on others and use their wisdom and experience as a trusted resource. Already, I see how I could tweak Bo’s #1-#5 ideas to fit my own purposes. The fact that I have his experience to draw from in addition to friends and colleagues here in Atlanta and all over the world (thanks to social media!) is an incredible gift.
  4. I’ll grow as a student, teacher, administrator, and design thinker. And it will be messy. And difficult. And rewarding. And every emotion under the sun. But it will be worth it.