change

Inspired by Passionate Students

Presenting with Two Young Visionaries

Me with Two Young Visionaries

For the past two weeks I have had the pleasure of working with Gabi Campos and Nik Hildebrandt, two Graded students who are passionate about what the future of education can look like. So passionate that they took the initiative yesterday to present at the 2014 School Leadership Summit.

Gabi and Nik are currently 11th graders who have developed bold ideas on education that are based on their experiences and research.  Several weeks ago they presented these ideas to their IB English teacher with a proposal to present at the AASSA Conference that Graded hosted. While it was too late to present at AASSA they were determined to share their message with a wider audience. The School Leadership Summit now provides them with a global audience.

Gabi and Nik shared a story about “Caroline” a high school student who is very good at “doing school”. Their ideas for the perfect school include:

  • Promoting Creativity and Real-life Projects
  • Abolishing Grades
  • Providing Opportunities for Failure
  • Focus on the Future
  • Developing Life Skills

They have even bought into Tony Wagner’s model of learning environments that cultivate innovators that include Play, Passion and Purpose. Gabi and Nik were so excited after the presentation that the first words out of the mouths were, “What’s next?” I encourage you to spend 45 minutes listening to their presentation. The recording is available here.

Whether you agree with their ideas or not you have to admire their enthusiasm and desire to make a difference. I know that I have truly enjoyed partnering with them and I look forward to supporting their work in the coming months. There may be a new club on campus for student innovators that needs an advisor.

 

Organizational Inertia -Does it make you uncomfortable?

As we deeply think about innovation and what it takes to create an innovative culture we’re seeing the real challenges and barriers that organizations face. In February 2013 Graded hosted the Innovate 2013 Conference and Fabio Gandour, IBM Brasil Chief Scientist, was one of our panelists. He presented a wonderful metaphor for what inertia looks like. He says that this metaphor can make people feel a bit uncomfortable.

Organizational inertia is the tendency of a mature organization to continue on its current trajectory. This inertia can be described as being made up of two elements – resource rigidity and routine rigidity. Resource rigidity stems from an unwillingness to invest, while routine rigidity stems from an inability to change the patterns and logic that underlie those investments. Resource rigidity relates to the motivation to respond, routine rigidity to the structure of that response.

In the face of rapid or discontinuous external change, it is the organizational inertia that must be overcome if a firm is to survive. In a competitive situation where new players are entering the industry, it is the incumbents that are particularly susceptible to the downside of this inertia. In this case it is often referred to as incumbent inertia.

Overcoming organizational inertia –
Threat perception in organizations experiencing discontinuous change is often thought to be the impetus necessary to prompt organizational change, a change in inertia, by decreasing the current inertia through changes in resources and routines. While threat perception is a response catalyst, it has been found to decrease inertia in some cases, a good thing, but increase inertia in other cases.

Source: http://www.createadvantage.com/glossary/organizational-inertia

What is your organization doing to overcome inertia?

Jumping on the Innovation in Education Bandwagon

Our school’s leadership team is reading Tony Wagner’s book “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World” as we grapple with what innovation looks like in schools. (You can follow our discussion on Twitter – #gradedllt) I highly recommend Wagner’s book along with Suzie Boss’s book “Bringing Innovation to School: Empowering Students to Thrive in a Changing World”. It’s extremely easy to find definitions on innovation that we can all agree on. The really difficult step is to change practices to become innovative. I recently attended a conference where the word, “Innovation” was overused and mis-used. I went to one presentation where the presenter was convinced that his school had been innovative by adopting a program that has been around for 40 years. The new program changed their culture but it certainly wasn’t something that was innovative to the world of education.

“Innovation may then be defined as the process of having original ideas and insights that have value, and then implementing them so that they are accepted and used by significant numbers of people. By this definition, a major innovation is one that is so successful that soon after its introduction few people can even remember what life was like before the innovation was introduced.” Rick Miller, President Olin College

“creative problem solving.” She said, “Problem solving without the creative element is not truly innovative.” And creativity that is not applied to real world problems cannot be considered innovation either. Innovation is our lifeblood at P&G—but not just innovation for its own sake. It’s about taking real needs and creating a bridge to a solution.” Ellen Bowman

Our question is, “What is innovation at Graded?”  My thinking has gone in two different directions lately.

  1. What are we doing at Graded that is innovative?
  2. How are we cultivating innovators?

Since our Core Values state, “Learners at Graded strive to be Innovative: They engage in creative and imaginative thinking that enables them to extend their learning in original and insightful ways.”  I’ve been focusing on #2.

Montessori schools have been cultivating innovators for over 100 years.

When you ask someone to list the schools that they consider innovative, how often do Montessori schools make the list?

What do you suppose the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin; Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos; Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales; Julia Child; and rapper Sean “P. Diddy” Combs all have in common? Gregersen’s research, cited earlier, uncovered an extraordinary commonality among some of the most innovative individuals: they all went to Montessori schools, where they learned through play. (Wagner, pp27-28)

If you consider Wagner’s characteristics of a learning culture that cultivates innovators, you can see why Montessori schools most definitely should be on your list.

  • collaboration
  • multidisciplinary learning
  • thoughtful risk-taking, trial and error
  • creating
  • intrinsic motivation: play, passion, and purpose (Wagner p. 200)

I’m currently a participant in the Deeper Learning MOOC (#DLMOOC) which is organized by High Tech High and supported by a number of organizations. One of which is Expeditionary Learning Schools. I don’t know much about EL Schools other than I have worked with several educators who once were involved in the organization. I’ve frequently heard from them that, “The EL schools organization, and their schools, aren’t what I would call innovative.” If you look at their website you find no mention of innovation in the “Our Approach”section,  yet, it’s easy to argue that EL schools provide students with the type of environment that Wagner has defined.

Maybe a truly innovative school focuses on answering both questions.

“What are we doing that is innovative and how are we cultivating innovators?

Jumping Right into Design Thinking – Part 1

Jumping in Pool

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.

This photo, “8579 S jumps into pool” By WoofBC under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, modified slightly from original

What is the pace of work like in your school?

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).

Just say yes and …

I am so fortunate to work at a school where we have access to resources and allowed to take risks. While Graded has always worked to be on the cutting edge, the entire community was jump started after Innovate 2013. I still remember watching the flea video just after the conference and saying to myself that I have to keep the lid off as much as possible. While the school has been 1:1 for the past three years, we’ve recently started branching out by giving students learning experiences around other technologies. I have to admit that it’s been fun saying yes to new ideas from teachers and students and then working to support their efforts. My fear of failing had diminished and my attitude is that we will all learn and benefit from the opportunity.  The results have been extremely positive and I love the culture that we’re working in.

In February, Keren Soriano organized the Graded Developers Association. She realized that we had a group of middle and high school students who wanted to learn programming and she brought in Luciano Ramalho to work with our students. She was right because the e-mail advertising the 10 week course was sent out on Friday evening at the beginning of our Carnival vacation and by the next morning the course was full. Several of our high school students worked with Luciano to teach the course and he helped them improve their programming skills. Today the high school students were in my office and we were working on a strategy for Luciano to offer Python courses after school this semester. The middle school course will continue and I imagine that our numbers will only grow in the coming years. Keren was right, there were Graded students who wanted this experience.

Not long after this we were presented with the opportunity for our students to collect data using Arduino technology that was connected to satellites in space. We didn’t even really understand how it worked but it sounded like an opportunity that we could not pass up.  Amy Flindt and Adam Cross volunteered to work with students on this project and it’s been a mix of after school and in class work with the majority of the work being done outside of class. We partnered with Manoel Belem who is a space junkie and Nanosatisfi. Belem is the man behind SpaceTrip4Us. It was challenging for the students to come up with a phenomena to study since they had little knowledge of astronomy. After hours of discussion and research they decided to study solar flares. They’re in the process of programming the Arduino board and the board will be using sensors to collect data for one week. The work has been challenging and the students are learning what it is like to work Nanosatisfi which is a start-up company, project delays that are totally out of their control and a very new subject for them. They look forward to sharing the results and the process that they went through with the world in the coming months.

Finally, Luciano connected us with the guys at Metamaquina, a start-up company that makes 3D printers and we are about to open up Graded’s Maker Space.  Instead of taking a wait and see attitude, Mike Dunlop and his team decided to remodel the space and purchase toys knowing that students and teachers would use them. We’re not exactly sure how people will use the room but we’re confident that Graded teachers and students will figure it out over time. What I love is that the students and adults will all be learners and they’ll be learning from each other.  We’re planning to host events and I’m sure that there will be many times when the students will be teaching the teachers.

Who knows what will be next but I know that it sure feels great to say yes and then figure out how we can make things happen. Anyone have ideas on what our next project should be?

I’m alive and well professionally but my blog has been dormant

Graded High School Blog

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Image from Flickr by martin.canchola

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.

How do groups work in your learning environment?

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.

Team Project:

    • 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.

Evaluation:

    • The Final Team Project will undergo the official Peer Review process.
    • 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.

What I learned during the 20ª Maratona Pão de Açúcar Relay

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.

1:1 Laptops = Head Fake

  • We have been planning for our 1:1 rollout for the past year and a half and the event finally took place last week. Graded is fully 1:1 in the middle and high schools. During this time it has become clear to all of us that all of our talk about 1:1 was just a head fake. Randy Pausch described the “head fake” in ,  “Last Lecture: Achieving your Childhood Dreams”. Dr. Pausch talks about the indirect learning that happens when you’re involved in an activity. One example that he offers is from parents wanting their children to play football.

“We actually don’t want our kids to learn football. … we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, et cetera, et cetera.”

Transcript of Lecture

For all of our talk about becoming a 1:1 school, we didn’t just want teachers and students walking around campus with machines. We learned quickly that what we wanted was so much more. This is where the commonly heard expression “it’s not about the technology” fits. Sure, we planned for electricity, software, bandwidth, polices and procedures, but the real learning came with those bigger questions that we are still tackling.

Finding the answers to these questions is where the real learning occurs and this is why our journey will continue.

  • What skills and knowledge do our students need to learn for now? Future?
  • Is the culture of learning different today?
  • “How do I help teachers bring authentic assessment and real world problem solving to the classrooms?”
  • With the technology in hand, what new resources will help with learning?
  • “How can we balance the teaching-learning process both on-line and face to face mode in a 1:1 program?”
  • “The relationship between new learning and old learning – is it a paradigm shift or a continuum?”
  • “How do we manage student learning as we encourage more outside/digital interaction/play?”
  • “What is the best way to change structures at Graded to support learning outside of traditional classes…and should we?”

We know that we have just begun the journey and that it’s going to be an exciting one for our entire community. If was really just about moving to a 1:1 environment we’d be done and we could check that task off our list.