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).
Filed under: Change Agent, Instructional Leader, Leadership, Modeler | Tags: blogging, change, Communication, Community, Growth, Learning, Professional Development, Professional Learning, school leadership
The 2012 – 13 school year has been a fantastic one for me professionally. You wouldn’t know if from looking at my blog. The main reason that Creative Tension has been dormant is that I have been focused on curating the Graded High School Blog this entire year. I’m pleased to announce that we had 103 posts and over 11,500 hits. While our primary audience is the Graded community, the Graded stories reached a worldwide audience. The concept is that the HS Blog is “where the Graded high school community shares information and ideas on education.” This has been an excellent first step to creating a venue for members of the community to share stories about learning at Graded. With the school year over it’s an excellent archive for school community members to look back on the year.
While we also have the traditional weekly newsletter that is sent out to parents each week this blog has received more viewers, given community members the chance to comment and develop a dialogue, provided the community with timely information, and opened up our school to a more global community. We have tried to limit the number of posts that are just informational in terms of upcoming events and instead tried to focus on student and teacher learning. I look forward to building on what has been done this year and improving in the following ways.
- Increase the number of authors. Aside from my posts, there were a handful of others who contributed during the year. I hope that we can create a culture where teachers, students and parents will contribute whenever something happens. By reminding community members that the posts don’t have to be lengthy and that they can include photos, text, audio and videos I hope that we can increase authorship. While I’ve spent a considerable amount of time curating this blog, I look forward to it becoming a place where the community shares stories.
- Increase the number of comments that readers contribute. Aside from a somewhat controversial post on the changes to our grade weighting policy (6) and a post asking students to comment on a draft of our self-study Executive Summary (14), there were very few comments submitted. Hopefully we’ll continue encouraging people to comment and it may require more provocative topics.
- Increase viewership – I’ve been promoting the blog through e-mails to the community, links in our weekly newsletter, announcements at meetings, and Facebook and Twitter announcements. Hopefully it will help to increase the number of subscribers so that they get announcements whenever new posts are made. We have a ways to go to catch our the Talonline Blog that is student focused. They have had over 78,000 views.
It’s now time for me to get back to blogging and sharing the learning that I’ve been doing throughout the year. It’s certainly been a productive one for me.
Filed under: Instructional Leader, Leadership, Modeler | Tags: blogging, Communication, Learning, Teaching and Learning
This year I’ve embarked on a project to promote the work of our teachers and students through the Graded High School Blog. The blog was inspired by Patrick Larkin’s Learning in Burlington and George Couros’s work with the 184 Days of Learning in Parkland Schools. The blog is designed for the Graded high school community to share information and ideas on education. To date, the blog has 5,717 hits which is more than the total number of hits that the high school articles in our weekly Gazette have gotten. It’s an excellent start to sharing learning with our community. It has not been a place where members of our community have engaged in dialogue. Aside from the What’s our stance on weighted grades? (a total of 6 comments) post there have been very few comments. The challenge now is to increase engagement so that teachers, students, and parents use the tool for online communication.
Anyone have examples of school blogs where the community is actively participating in the discussion? If so, I’d love to see them. Also, what ideas do you have for increasing community participation?
Filed under: Change Agent, Leadership, Visionary | Tags: #leadershipday12, 1:1 Laptop Programs, 21st Century Schools, Creative Tension, Leadership
This post is in celebration of Scott Mcleod’s Leadership Day 2012 (even though it’s several months late)
This post is all about Peter Senge’s concept of creative tension. The concept that I chose to base this blog on.
“The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.”
In February 2008, I attended the Unplugged Conference at the American School of Bombay. I remember it well since it was a life changing experience for me. After watching the ASB teachers and students seamlessly use technology for teaching and learning I knew that I had to be working in a 1 to 1 laptop environment. At the time I was the middle/high school principal at Mont’Kiara International School in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. By the 2009 school year, when I realized that we weren’t going to transition to a 1:1 environment, I decided to quit my job. My desire to lead in that setting was that strong. By 2010 I signed on as the high school principal at Graded in Sao Paulo, Brazil and the middle school was in the process of going 1:1. This was exactly the type of opportunity that I was looking for.
Fortunately I work with some amazing educators who were open to the idea of moving in this direction. We created a high school task force that included teachers, administrators, students and parents and the group was charged with leading the learning and planning for the August 2012 roll out. We were fortunate to be able to work closely with Shabbi Luthra from ASB and Scott Mcleod even joined us virtually for one of our meetings. There were certainly times when we questioned what we were doing but we were committed to changing our learning culture.
Over time we developed actions plans that included developing our capacity by embedding professional development into our normal work and learning, attending conferences and networking with other educators. The plans also led to a responsible use policy, identifying our digital toolkit, adding additional power outlets and making sure that there was sufficient power and increased bandwidth. On August 2nd, almost 4 years after my visit to ASB, I can finally state that I am the principal of a 1:1 high school. For some reason August 2nd was anti-climatic. It certainly was not what I had expected it to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really happy that teachers and students have 24/7 access to technology and that the classroom learning environment is evolving. Our new focus is integrating our ICT standards into current units. It’s now about working with students to use technology to develop these skills and knowledge.
As you can imagine, there have been ups and downs this first semester and we’re all doing our best to to become “master” 21st century educators. For some reason we’re just not satisfied. While we may not realize it, changes are happening in the classroom and that this is all part of our journey. We also have to use this healthy tension as a source of energy to move toward our vision. After all, it’s all about creative tension.
Filed under: Instructional Leader, Leadership, Modeler, Visionary | Tags: 21st Century Schools, change, Collaboration, Learning, MOOC, Personal Learning Networks, project based learning, Teams
Fairly early on in this MOOC we had to form teams. I’m very interested in how this process works because it seems quite different than how we typically assign groups in the classroom. Note that I used the term “assign”.
Below is detailed information on the assignment, team formation and suggestions for teams. Are you using any of these during your team or group work? Do you provide the groups/teams with detailed information? Can the kids self -select? Are the students coached on selecting teams based on interest and complementary skills and knowledge?
The Following information was taken from the Designing a New Learning Environment, Professor Paul Kim, Stanford University
- There is no deadline to form a Team, but it is an important step to complete so that you can begin meeting, working, and innovating together!
- Anyone may create a team. When you create a team you are the Team Leader.
- The Team Leader can add new members by contacting classmates and asking them for their registered email addresses.
- When creating a Team, use detailed descriptions and information so that others will be able to thoughtfully consider whether your Project idea and interests may be a good match.
- If you have started a Team and are looking for members, you should use the Students menu (under Community) to find recruit your classmates.
- If you are looking for a Team to join, you should use Teams menu (under Community) to search for different teams. Use the contact button on the team page to contact all Team Members the Team Leader to join the team. Every time somebody invites you to their Team, you will receive a new invitation under your Conversations, Team notifications tab. That message contains links to accept or reject an invitation.
- Team formation has a very open dynamic, at any point you can decide to leave a Team and join a new one, without penality. The Team Leader can decide to remove inactive or uncooperative members from the Team. (In that case the member will receive a team notification about this decision, and if you think that the Team Leader has made a mistake, you can appeal Team Leader’s decision. If half of Team Members agree with you; you will be added back as a member of the Team. If a Team Leader chooses to leave his/her Team, he/she can assign Team Leadership to another user. Continuity among Team Members will be important to successful execution of the Team Project, however all users have the option to switch a Team that is not a good fit for them.
- The recommended Team size is 4-7 people.
- You may only be a member of one Team at a time.
- One of most important variables in Team composition is shared passion about the project idea / topic area. We suggest that Teams be made up of people with a range of backgrounds and technical skills, but ultimately a shared interest in the idea is what will support project momentum and involvement. It is useful to think about geographical considerations in a variety of ways: if you are considering an educational innovation for primary education in Tanzania, for example, it would be very useful to have a team member from, or knowledgeable Tanzania, to help inform analysis of needs, barriers, implementation, and sustainability. However, geographical considerations, such as time difference, may also come to play when collaborating or scheduling Team Member tasks. We encourage you to think and be transparent about these in terms of what is important for your project and for your working style, while also demonstrating the flexibility and generosity of spirit that will help us grow from each other’s perspectives and experiences.
Getting Started with Your Team:
- Start communicating about your Team Project idea. Complete and maintain your Team Profile with an up-to-date (brief) Project Description (these may start simply as general interests, and may change or evolve over time).
- Every Team has a Team Journal. You should feel free to write on it about your Team activities, post pictures of your meetings or collaboration strategies, and write about your new ideas or progress for the Team Project. The Journal can also be used as a discussion tool. Your classmates will be able to follow your team blog and receive updates.
- Teams will design a new educational technology or learning environment catering to 21st century environments and learners. Designs should include interaction activities and learning support features in ways that are effective and appropriate for today’s computing and communication devices, and that consider the classroom, school, and community ecosystem in which it will operate.
- Presentation of your design should include details about the users, environment, and educational objectives of your design (the “who? what? when? where? why? and how?” questions).
- Your presentation should also address how your designed innovation would implemented and sustained, including considerations about idiosyncrasies with various learning devices (e.g., web, iOS, mobile devices, and Mac/PC) and infrastructure requirements (e.g., cellular network, wi-fi, Bluetooth).
- Your team should create and defend a business model (non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid) for the launch and scale up their solution.
- You will not need to conduct an actual needs analysis or develop an actually functioning technology or solution. You may describe a hypothetical solution in detail through text, visual mock-ups, and prototypes.
- Additional consideration will be given to teams that come up with system feature ideas presenting meaningful learning interaction and performance analytics.
- The Final Team Project will undergo the official Peer Review process.
- The Final Team Project is due at 11:59pm (Pacific Standards Time) on Sunday, December 16.
- The broad criteria for Final Team Project Evaluation (these will be addressed further later in the course):
1) Creativity and originality of the system design (Is the design substantially distinguishable from existing and conventional solutions?);
2) Educationally sound (Does the design promote higher order learning or generate learnable moments?);
3) Engagement and interactivity (Is the design engaging and interactive for the learner?);
4) Accessibility (Is the design accessible for people with disabilities or for people living in underserved communities?)
5) Scalability and sustainability (How sound is the implementation plan and business model?)
- At the end of the course, you will also be evaluated by your other Team Members on your contribution to the Team efforts and Team Project. In addition to your Assignments, this peer evaluation will affect your Rank in the course.
Intellectual Property and Confidentiality Considerations:
- Some of the major goals of this course are to instill the mindset for thinking about innovations aimed at improving education, and to create a space for developing those ideas into thoughtful designs. We would like you to continue to develop your work and Projects beyond this course into the real world. The Intellectual Property rights relating to your Individual Assignments, Team Assignments, Journal entries, and other materials created by you remain with you (and with the Co-Creators for Team Assignments and Jointly Authored Works)–they are not Stanford’s, not Venture Lab’s, and not Dr. Paul Kim’s.
- At the same time, this space is public to others in the course–all Journal and Forum posts, as well as all Assignments will be visible to all others enrolled in the course. Viewing and learning from each other’s discussions and work products will expose us to new ways of approaching different problems and will help us develop a more critical eye for the benefits and limitations of technology solutions. Because all projects are shared with other DNLE-ers (strictly for educational purposes), an idea or product requiring strict confidentiality or formal business agreements would not be a good candidate for a Final Team Project. Please consider this when creating or joining a team.
Filed under: Leadership | Tags: 21st Century Schools, change, Graded, Leadership, Planning, Professional Development
On Sunday, September 16th eighty six members of the Graded community participated in the 20ª Maratona Pão de Açúcar. It was a phenomenal community event despite the temperature reaching 33 degrees Celsius. The relay format meant that teams of either 8, 4 or 2 completed a full marathon. I’m happy to report that all fourteen teams finished the race. One of our teachers, single handedly recruited teachers, students, parents, staff members and administrators to participate in the race. With so much happening at Graded this year the timing for the event was perfect. All 86 of us were able to go out successfully complete a physically challenging task and then celebrate our accomplishment.
During my portion of the race I started thinking about how this event compares to the year that we are having at school. At Graded, like all other schools, we work extremely hard every year, but for some reason this year seems to be supercharged. Our continuous improvement efforts on curriculum development and implementation, assessment practices, implementing a 1 to 1 laptop program in the high school, completing our AdvancED self study and the IB Diploma Program 5-year review, plus hosting the Global Issues Network Conference of the Americas, Innovate 2013, and all of the other normal day to day stuff is wearing us out (OK, just looking at the list is enough to make anyone hyperventilate).
Here is what I came up with.
1. Each one of us wants to do our best to support the team effort – The marathon format is interesting because you are running for yourself and for you team. This means that you want to do your best so that the team can succeed. While a few people considered pulling out before the race due to injuries, lack of training, other conflicts, in doing so, the team would have been let down. On the flip side, others trained extensively so that they would contribute to the team’s success. In true team spirit, everyone followed through to ensure that the team would be succeed. Each person took the responsibility seriously and was committed to the team.
The same holds true for our day to day work at Graded. As professionals we understand our responsibilities to the team of teachers, students, parents, and administrators. We know that it’s not just about what we do as individuals. It’s about our work with the entire community. There is pressure on us, as educators, to provide students with the best learning experiences possible. This means not only doing so in the classroom but also in the many extracurricular, athletic, and community service activities. Unlike the race, our work just isn’t one Sunday out of the year, which means that we’re striving to be on top of our games from August through June.
2. Every individual’s level of preparation varied – First, when people signed up for the race in August, everyone was at a different level of readiness. The training approaches and the amount of time that individuals devoted to preparation varied greatly. Many of the students who are on athletic teams relied on the practices with their teams. I think that these students found that the practices and training were sufficient for the 5k race, but not enough for the 10k distance. Some individuals dedicated a significant amount of time preparing for the race, while others did very little and then gutted it out to the finish. As far as I know, group training did not happen due to our busy schedules. This meant that the overall majority of the training happened individually. Those who set goals for individual or team times had to tailor their training accordingly.
With the work that we, as educators are doing this year the same holds true for preparation. We’re all at different levels of expertise in our knowledge of the curriculum, assessment practices, and the integration of technology to enhance learning and there are a variety of plans in play. As a school, we have tried to embed as much professional development related to these areas into our work. But, just as the athletes learned, we’re learning that there is a need for some of us to seek additional learning opportunities to take us to another level. We also struggle with finding time to get groups together for collaborative planning and learning. This is where technology can really help us through the connections that we can make with our Graded colleagues and educators from around the world. We’re all working diligently to grow as educators and we’ve set our goals with steps that we are planning to take throughout the year.
3. During the race, people took different approaches – It was fun to watch different personalities come out during the race. Some runners were vocal about cheering the teams on while others were quiet and focused. Many were quiet because they were nervous. I remember seeing one colleagues twice on the course and he was in his own world with his headphones and music on. There were others who were loud and vocal whenever a Graded runner passed by. It didn’t really matter which type of person you were, we all knew that we were in this together. We certainly did not take silence to mean that you weren’t being supportive of the other members in the group. It’s just the state of mind that the individual was in at the time.
The same holds true for our work this year. Personalities come out naturally when working together and with over a 140 faculty members, we find that each person handles things differently. We have our cheerleaders, our work horses, our shy types and the middle of the road ones. The key is making sure that we all are respectful of our differences and to find ways to let each other know that we support each others work.
4. The race was tough – It’s safe to say that just about everyone was challenged by the event. Even the fittest runners had to deal with the heat, the crowd and the desire to run a fast pace. The work was hard and there were some who weren’t sure that they would finish. All of us had to cut back on our pace and some had to walk. Even our best runner had a slower than normal time and was wiped out by the end of his leg.
This is true with our work this year as well. The work is certainly difficult for all of us. We are working to grow and change our practices which is never easy. Recently I referred to this EDS commercial where the airplane builders are building the plane while flying. We’re trying to keep up with the normal day to day things while planning ahead for the future. We all feel stretched to thin and we’re not doing our job well. Some of us even question why we are trying to do so much in a short amount of time. Just about all of us have to walk occasionally to catch our breath and even those who are at the top of their profession realize that the work is not easy.
5. The post race celebration was important – After the race we met for brunch at a nearby restaurant. Forget the fact that we were really hungry, the importance of this was that we were able to celebrate our accomplishments. The medals were proudly worn and the stories were flowing. Everyone was smiling, laughing and enjoying that post race high. It was a wonderful way to end the event.
We realize that we need to find more time to celebrate our successes through stories. This should be done even though the race isn’t over yet. I envision us celebrating after the visiting team comes for our self-study accreditation visit in April. It may not feel like it now, but we will certainly have much to celebrate at that time. We may not be wearing medals but there will be special stories to share and laughs to be had.
Filed under: Change Agent, Leadership, Visionary | Tags: 21st Century Schools, change, Leadership, Vision
We returned to school today and two brothers both said to me, “My dad shared this video with me that I think that you will really likeThanks to Brian and Kevin
The video is exclusively on Vimeo so you will find it here.
Filed under: Instructional Leader, Leadership, Modeler | Tags: change, Collaboration, Modeler, Risk taking, Technology
A couple of weeks ago our lower school academic technology coordinator, Jennifer Peterson, and a 4th grade teacher, Maranda Schwartz, were grappling with whether or not to use Google SketchUp on the medieval unit on castles. Maranda had heard that 4th graders at another international school were using it so Jennifer decided to test it out. In the process, Jennifer learned that Google SketchUp is an extremely powerful tool that takes time to master and understand. She consulted online tutorials and used trial and error to create her own castle. Maranda and Jennifer were not sure that their idea was even realistic. There was little time for them to prepare and students only had a few sessions to create their castles. At one point the two of them were going to scrap the project in favor of traditional castle building. At the last minute they decided to test it out and see how it would go. Jennifer presented the tool to the students but made sure that they knew that she was not going to be the expert with the tool and that they would all need to seek online resources and help each other out. What happened then, surprised everyone. Many of the kids picked up the tool much quicker than Jennifer and Maranda had expected. The students helped each other out and they sought out resources for their learning. In the end, the project turned out to be a success.
Imagine if Jennifer and Maranda had decided to not take a risk to introduce this to students. It would have been a lost learning opportunity for the everyone. This story got me thinking about how often we decide to not do something because we think that the students can’t handle it or that we don’t have enough time to become the experts. One of the most powerful learning experiences from this example came from the teachers not being the experts. They were just learners alongside other learners. Kudos to the both of them for taking a risk that benefited the students.
Check out the final projects to see for yourself.
Filed under: Change Agent, Instructional Leader, Leadership | Tags: 1:1 Laptop Programs, 21st Century Schools, Action Plans, change, Learning, Risk taking, Technology Plans
In December 2009, I used this photo in my Leadership and 1:1 Bus post and last year I used it with the Graded faculty to describe our journey to provide students with a relevant education for today and the future. This journey includes going 1:1 in August 2012. For me the photo conjures up excitement and fear. And while some people are adventurous enough to sit on top or hang on the side, others feel more comfortable inside. It doesn’t matter where one sits, the important thing is that we’re all together on the journey.
When is it exciting and often magical? When our students are using technology for learning, creative and original thinking, communication and collaboration, research and information literacy and critical thinking and problem solving.
When is it a bit scary? When we are uncertain of what is coming next or when we have to step outside our comfort zone to try something new.
We have so much to be proud because we have traveled so far in such a short amount of time. This year we have done the following to prepare for a full 1:1 rollout in August.
- Support professional development at conferences by providing faculty with the opportunity to attend the Laptop Institute at Lausanne Collegiate and Unplugged at the American School of Bombay.
- Provided all of our teachers and administrators with laptops so that we all get used to working anytime, anywhere.
- Using digital tools to help us with our work and our learning. The idea is that we will experiment and figure out what works as we do the same in our classrooms.
- Created PLCs around assessment in today’s digital environment.
- Reviewed and redesigned our curriculum in science and English with a 21st century lens.
- Encouraged students to bring in laptops to ease the transition for August.
- Defined our Information Communication and Technology standards that will be integrated schoolwide next year.
- Provided teachers with a full-time academic technology coordinator to support them with integrating technology and professional development.
- Developed our acceptable use policy and LARK guidelines so that our community members can be responsible digital citizens.
- Developed a digital toolkit that will provide us with some software standardization in our bring your own laptop environment.
- Upgraded facilities so that we have electrical power throughout the campus.
We realize that the journey is not over yet. In reality, we’ve really only traveled a short distance. The key is that we are well on our way to transforming the learning experiences for our students.