#IMAMUSTANG – Highlights from My New School

So excited to be a Mustang at MVPS

So excited to be a Mustang at MVPS

As many of you know I joined the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School community this year serving as the Head of the Upper School. Mount Vernon is a school of “inquiry, innovation and impact” and we are redesigning the school experience for our students. So far, the experiences and challenges seem to be just what I was seeking.

Take a look at what I’ve been experiencing these past few weeks. This laundry list will provide you with a taste of what life is like at Mount Vernon.

On September 22 and October 6 Trung Le, Christian Long and the rest of their team from Wonder by Design held Curiosity Conversations around the current prototype of the proposed Upper School building with members of our community.

The current model is nothing like your traditional school building. “Flexibility” was the number one word used by those who participated in the conversation. There are “Inquiry Zones”, “Inquiry Accelerators”, “The Plex”, “The Mobile Action Lab”, and STEM areas. This building represents the school that we want to be and our efforts to create a program that fits the space are continuous.

Our students are working on their iProjects and those students who are seeking to find the topic that hooks them have had access to mini-field trips around town (The Beltline, CNN, College Football Hall of Fame, Historical Sweet Auburn Market), entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs like Corbin Klett (you have to see his 3 min speech at the Georgia Tech Commencement Ceremony), Ted Wright, from Fizz, Chantel Adams from Forever We and designer Jenn Graham of Atlanta Streets Alive.

I, along with colleagues and students attended the Creative Mornings – Atlanta meeting where Aarron Walter spoke about Empathy and designing for emotion at MailChimp. Our students then visited the Museum of Design Atlanta and had lunch at Atlanta Tech Village.

While the MVAllstars provided our community with a powerful drama around Armenian immigrants to the US, our World History students were conducting interviews of local Armenians to learn more about the their knowledge of the genocide that occurred 100 years ago. Our photography students prepared an exhibit that set the tone as viewers entered the theater and one of our teachers shared his family’s immigration story. This was an excellent example of teams working together to craft the entire experience for theater goers.

Oh, and it’s been so long ago that I almost forgot about having the honor to attend Plywood Presents where we heard from many inspirational problem solvers.

To provide our students with opportunities to travel abroad and within the US we kicked off sign up for our interim trips. Students can chose from trips to Australia, London, Greece, Costa Rica, Seattle, New Orleans, Crystal River, FL, local internships and other local experiences. Plus, our Innovation Diploma students will be visiting the Stanford d.School to work with graduate students on a Future of Food challenge.

More later on our work on improving assessment practices and designing a MVPS Upper School Humanities program.

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?

2012 in review – Creative Tension Report

Just recently I posted my thoughts on blogging and how it has helped me with my learning.  I then received the 2012 annual report on Creative Tension from WordPress. It’s amazing how easy it is for them to track data on each blog. I have been celebrating that I’ve generated 80 total posts, last year there were only 16. This gives me a good benchmark to strive to improve on for 2013. I’m confident that I can go beyond that. Of those 16 posts there were over 9,900 views, which equates to an average of 618 views per post. Not too shabby if I do say so myself.

My big question – What does it take to generate comments which lead to discussions on the individual posts?

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 9,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 17 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Never quite satisfied…

Photo from Affordable Housing Institute: US, http://affordablehousinginstitute.org/blogs/us/

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.

How relevant is education today?

I know that Scott McLeod has cornered the market on the Irrelevancy of education today, but here is what Dilbert had to say this week.

Related to the theme of relevancy. Take a look at some of the top supplemental videos that students included in their application to Tufts University. Are we preparing our students for this type of presentation? It won’t be long before other schools follow suit.

Learning from Pioneer School Leaders

I’m currently reading Pamela Livingston’s 1-to-1 Learning: Laptop Programs that Work, which I think is excellent. I have to admit that I was skeptical because it seems almost impossible to write a book on such a complex and ever changing initiative. In the section of leadership Gary Stager wrote a piece on his experiences working with Australia’s Methodist Ladies College (MLC) in Melbourne during the 90s. He mentions that the Principal, David Loader, purposefully disrupted the status quo when promoting a move to a 1-to-1 laptop initiative by sending the message to parents that, “We love your children and the tuition that you send us, but frankly our school isn’t good enough.”

You have to hand it to him for his conviction and straightforward approach. I’m definitely going to use this quote in the future. You may want to keep it on file to use just at the right moment.

My Top 5 Songs for Change

As change agents we are always looking for ways to build on the emotions of our constituents to make change happen. Nowadays there is the continual search for videos on change (can find a few at Principals of Future). I’m a big supporter of showing high quality videos to teachers, students and parents since the visuals really help people see what may be possible. I really like the 8 steps that Kotter and Cohen’s define in Heart of Change and I believe that the use of multi-media help with “creating urgency” and “building the guiding team”. Instead of plugging videos, I”d like to promote my current top 5  change songs (with YouTube videos).  They’re on my iPod and get played frequently when I’m looking for inspiration.

#5 Talkin’ Bout a Revolution by Tracy Chapman


#4 Changes by David Bowie

#3 Waiting on the World to Change by John Mayer

#2 A Change is Going to Come by Sam Cooke (Jumped out at me last night on American Idol)

#1 If You’re Out There by John Legend

What are your favorites?