Filed under: Change Agent, Modeler | Tags: Adventure, Risk taking, Risks, sharpening the saw, Skydiving, Team building
A couple of years ago I presented, School Leaders Set the Tone by Playing, Experimenting and Taking Risks at the 2011 K12 Online Conference and I talked about the importance of taking risks. Even so, when I turned 50 in August my wife had to really shame me into agreeing to an exciting birthday adventure. In the morning we went hot air ballooning and in the afternoon we went skydiving. Even though Wikipedia states, “Despite the perception of danger, fatalities are rare. However, each year a number of people are hurt or killed parachuting worldwide. (Skydiving fatalities and dropzone.com) About 21 skydivers are killed each year in the US, roughly one death for every 150,000 jumps (about 0.0007%).”, it still felt risky to me. It was certainly an adrenaline rush and I highly recommend the experience. Afterwards, my 15 year old son proclaimed that he was going for his 16th birthday next year. Guess who will be joining him.
My colleague, Ocki Fernandes also joined my wife and I on the adventure. My next challenge is to talk the members of our leadership team into going as a group. Oh, BTW, a few weeks later our business manager jumped to celebrate her 50th birthday. I’m thinking that we’ll have a critical mass when it comes to convincing the rest of the team.
We were at dinner the other night and my friend’s 4 year old son was running back and forth from our table to the play area. My friend noticed it and he said, “When do we stop running from place to place?” I had to stop and think a bit. Who really thinks much about our pace slowing down as we get older? Come to think of it, it’s always the elementary and middle school students who I have to tell to slow down in the hallway. The high school students and adults seem to know the rules and norms of the school. Or, maybe they’re not as excited about getting to where they are going as the younger kids.
So, I immediately got up from the table and ran to the bathroom. I felt silly and I can only imagine how I looked to the restaurant customers and staff.
Maybe we need to run and show our unbridled enthusiasm a bit more. By even faking it at first we may change our disposition and the way that people view us. Of course there are some who will find it silly, but who knows, others may join in.
Filed under: Change Agent, Modeler | Tags: Design, Design Thinking, Educational Leadership, Fail, Failure, Prototype, prototyping, Risk taking, Risks
The design thinking work on our annual trips for next year continues as we work to “Redesign the experiences to make them indispensable and unforgettable so that the mission and core values come to to life.” There are three things that I think that I’ve learned in the past couple of weeks. I’m not exactly sure if I’m on the right track but, as the facilitator, I’m moving forward.
We started our last meeting by watching this trailer for the documentary, Design & Thinking.
Get to work prototyping and plan to fail often
It’s short and clip and one of the take-aways for me was that the teams should work quickly to create a prototype. I’ve found that in education we typically spend too much time on planning. We’re probably cautious and conservative when it comes to making changes. Grant Lichtman is his post Your School and Google’s Nine Principles of Innovation states, “Adults want proof that something new will work; we want a 20-year longitudinal study to show that something different is better than what we have done in the past.” We want to cover all our bases and think through every angle so that we plan it right the first time. In this process the idea is to create something quickly, based on the information that you have and then you test it out. So, we decided to break into teams and start prototyping our trips for next year. At the same time we are talking to teachers and students to learn more about what it would take to make the trips “indispensable and unforgettable” I think that all of us have been also thinking that it’s November (almost December) and we don’t have our plan for the trips set in stone yet. Well, maybe we’re behind schedule but…
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Chinese Proverb
The second learning from the trailer is that we should plan to fail. When I initially considered this I thought, “No way! This can’t happen because we are the high school leadership team and we’re supposed to come up with the perfect solutions. What will people think if we fail?” Then I realized that it actually may be a good thing for us to fail. Maybe we need to learn how to learn from failure and to model this for our community. Hey, one of our core values is Risk-taking.
The process changes from defining and removing barriers to developing solutions
As I mentioned in my last post, my past experience has been with the quality process and the focus is on defining the problem and barriers and then taking steps to remove the barriers. My last piece of learning deals with a shift from removing barriers to developing solutions. As we speak to students and teachers I find that I’m energized by thinking about possibilities and solutions. We also looked at what other schools and organizations are doing with trips and that was inspirational. It forced us to think differently about what we currently do. While we have defined parameters, we seem to not be spending time coming up with reasons why we can’t make changes. Instead we envisioning what can be and how we can create that amazing experience for students and teachers.
We have another prototyping session next week and each team is responsible for coming up with a plan. We’ve invited two travel companies that we work with to provide us with ideas and options. I’ve also got one more focus group session with 11th grade students. Oh, did I mention that the two groups have are just a bit competitive? It just adds to the fun.
As I learn while doing I need to think about how we can test out the prototypes. Maybe we can present these to students and teachers for comments or for a vote. Based on our expectation of failure it makes sense to not immediately decide to use one of the models for the real thing. Probably better to test it out with our audiences before spending an enormous amount of money on the trips. Anyone have advice for our next step? I welcome any and all suggestions.
Filed under: Change Agent, Instructional Leader, Modeler | Tags: change, Collaboration, Creativity, Design, Design Thinking, Learning, Planning, Process, Processes
I have always been someone who likes using defined processes groups. Probably the most useful workshop that I ever attended was David Langford’s Quality Learning seminar. I have used his tools for problem solving as an individually and with groups for years. For several years now I have been wanting to learn more about design thinking because the concept seems sensible and interesting. Instead of solving problems this focuses on finding solutions by learning about the stakeholders. So, instead of taking the time to attend a workshop I decided to jump right in and learn by doing. Thankfully, IDEO has a free online toolkit to guide me through the process and my colleagues are game for trying something new.
For several years we have struggled with our annual week long trips in the high school. For one week in September the entire high school travels to four different locations in Brazil. The groups are organized by grade level and there have been two objectives.
To gain a deeper appreciation and knowledge of Brazil – The trips provide students with real life experiences within Brazil. Trips may focus on…
- exploring various cultural aspects of the respective community.
- environmental issues in the community.
- sustainable development and the economic environment in the community.
- fun activities that are representative of the community.
To develop relationships within our community – The trips are an excellent opportunity for students and teachers to start the year off by learning about each other in a non-classroom setting. In doing so, students and teachers can build an appreciation for others and a respect for differences. Relationship building may occur in the following ways:
- team building activities
- discussion groups focused on objective #1
- group projects
- informal dialogue throughout the trip
We have also been working, with mixed success, to link the trips to course curricula. Each year we get mixed reviews from students and teachers and we feel like we just haven’t gotten them right yet. The factor that tipped the scale is that for two years in a row we had a large number of seniors decide to not travel with their classmates. So, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to give the design thinking process a chance.
After reviewing the trips from this year and that past we have defined our challenge, set a timeline and gathered the information that we have on hand.
“Redesign the experiences to make them indispensable and unforgettable so that the mission and core values come to to life.”
We’re now in the research phase where we define exactly what we need to learn from our students and teachers and look for inspiration from various sources. With that information we’ll work in teams to develop prototypes of trips for review. There is still much work to do but we all seem to feel that there are plenty of possibilities for making the trips “indispensable and unforgettable”
I’d love to hear ideas and suggestions from design thinking experts that are out there. We’re definitely going to need support throughout the process.
Filed under: Change Agent, Visionary | Tags: 21st Century Schools, Gaming, Global Collaboration, Global Education, Innovation, TIG, Video Gaming, Virtual Reality
In the matter of 3 hours I was supercharged about three things that happened on our campus. Just imagine if your students were had access to the following learning experiences.
Lorin Baumgarten was in to speak to our students about the narrative of video games. Lorin is a video game journalist and you can find his work on EpicBattleAxe. He was speaking to our IB Language and Literature students. I have to give props to the IBO for designing a course that is relevant for today’s students. They were not learning about the great works from the past, but they were learning about the stories behind video games. The IB Language and Literature in the language and mass communication unit looks at the following:
- ”Examine different forms of communication within the media.”
- “Show an awareness of the potential for educational, political or ideological influence of the media.”
- “Show the way mass media use language and image to inform, persuade or entertain.”
Our students learned how the development of a video game is similar to that of a movie. For me, the real difference is around Narrative and Ludonarritive. Ludology is the study of gaming and the ludonarrative is the story that arises out of the actual playing of the game. Sometimes the developers have planned for this, sometimes it’s totally created by the user. The emotional story that the user experiences from the game was not necessarily created by the creators. How cool is that? He talked about gamers from Grand Theft Auto who hoisted cars on top of a building and had a demolition derby on top of the building. Is it possible that the designers thought that this would happen? Lorin talked about how gamers are fighting for legitimacy in terms of their craft.
From there I went to visit our IB Physics students who were participating in TakingITGlobal’s COP19 Virtual Town Hall Video Conference. The conference was held in conjunction with the UN Climate Change Conference. The discussion fit with their current unit and it was a fantastic opportunity to join with students from around the world in the climate change debate. Our students were giddy when their tweets were acknowledged by the moderator. While the overall experience could have been better, it was an fantastic opportunity for them to experience a global town hall on an important topic. You can find the Storify version of the conference here.
Finally, after school Lorin brought his Oculus Rift to our MakerSpace for students to experience virtual reality gaming. About 40 students showed up to try out the demos. While they only experienced 3 – 4 minute demos they left very impressed. If anything, the left thinking about the future of virtual reality and how it can be used in gaming and other experiences.
Aside from the Oculus Rift, the focus was not on the technology but on stories and an important global issue. Technology was definitely involved but not the focus.
For me, it is so exciting to see our students having these experiences. This is exactly what they need for the future. Thanks to Josh Berg, Silvana Meneghini, Adam Cross and Lorin Baumgarten for providing them with these opportunities.
Filed under: Instructional Leader, Modeler | Tags: Creativity, Digital Tattoo, digitalstorytelling
On our recent 10th grade trip to Salvador, Bahia we had students create 6-Word Reflections. In one of our meetings one of the teachers showed examples for the kids to learn from. Imagine my surprise when one of the examples was a 6-word story that I created years ago. It was even before I started working at Graded. It’s was one of those moment, “hey, that’s my photo!” The teacher just happened to find it in her search for examples and she noticed that it was mine. This just goes to show you that you never know when your online work will show up.
Filed under: Change Agent, Leadership | Tags: Challenge Success, change, Haile Gebrselassie, Stress
We’re having quite a few conversations about the rapid pace of life at Graded. It’s been a longstanding discussion at the school for teachers, students and parents and we have enlisted the support of Challenge Success to help us improve the quality of our lives at school and at home. We’re hopeful that change will lead to a healthier learning environment for everyone. I’m also training for my fourth marathon which may be the reason why I keep using using the treadmill metaphor to describe the pace at Graded. I’m on my third iteration of this metaphor and I’m still not sure that I have it right. I initially brought it up at the end of last year when we were all running full speed and feeling like we couldn’t quite keep up with everything that we had going on at school. I likened what was happening to what this gentleman was facing on the treadmill.
Many of you can probably relate to life like this. At the same time I shared this video of Haile Gebrselassie running a 4 minute mile pace. My point was that we work hard and keep a fast pace but we’re in control. While even though he’s sweating, he certainly makes this look easy.
Then, at our opening assembly where we introduced the student survey data from Challenge Success I showed the first video and then ended with this one. My comment was that we want life at Graded to be more like this guy’s workout on the treadmill.
I’m reconsidering my statement and thinking that while we need to relax and dance frequently, we’re best to focus on Haile’s workouts that lead to the world record pace. (On a side note, if you don’t know much about Haile Gebrselassie I highly recommend that you learn more about this amazing man.) While we strive to be world class, let’s consider the pace that he kept for years during his training and races. OK, let’s forget the term World Class because it’s overused and often times meaningless. Everyone at Graded works hard and we do want to be the best that we can be so why shouldn’t we emulate a world champion? I don’t mean that we need to constantly be running 4 minute miles everyday. That’s certainly not what his daily training regime was like. This sample schedule shows that he mixed up his training with different distances and paces each day. While during this particular week he ran 120 miles training nearly twice a day for seven days, he tailored his training to fit his goals. While all of these days look impossible to most of us, for him each day was different in terms of difficulty and stress.
So, I think that we need to consider the following as we try to translate Haile’s work into what we do on a daily basis.
- He had expert trainers developing his schedule and he was purposeful about how he spent his time everyday. While we don’t have expert trainers to guide us, we need to continue thinking about purpose when we plan our daily schedules and to consider what we do. Julie Graber in her post, Portion Contol: Stop Adding & Start Reducing, discusses the importance of considering what we put on our plate and to make sure that we take off those “things” that aren’t benefiting students. We do have the support of our colleagues who can help us become more purposeful.
- I’m speculating that he took great care of his body by eating right, getting the right amount of sleep and making sure that he had downtime. The Challenge Success survey showed that our students are sleeping, on average, 6 hours per night. This is far less than the recommended 9.5 hours for teenagers. I imagine that if we conducted the same survey with faculty we’d find that we are all shortchanging ourselves on sleep nightly.
- I’m also speculating that he and his trainers took time to analyze the workouts and reflect on his performance. They would then use this information to adjust for the next day or the coming weeks. Most of us all wish that we took more time to reflect and use what we learn to improve our practice.
In closing, it is really important for us to all get on the treadmill and dance as often as possible. This dance represents the times when we let down our hair, have some fun, and do something a bit silly. But the majority of our time is spent working at Haile Gebrselassie’s pace. In this type of environment teachers and students will flourish as human beings and learners. Maybe then we can get off the treadmill to enjoy our surroundings and feel confident about our work. I imagine that Haile is feeling pretty pumped up on this run through the Ethiopian countryside (From the movie Endurance).