I have an idea…
"It will never work."
"We don’t have the budget to do it."
"It will take to much time and we just don’t have any to waste."
"The district won’t like it."
"Teachers won’t want to do that."
"That isn’t the way we do things at this school."
"What does that have to do with test scores?"
These are just a sample of the typical answers we in education hear when we have an idea. Don’t scoff to easily, think about it a second. After a few perfunctory, “That’s great” or “Sounds interesting” we generally work our way to some of those responses.
What we need is some principals, directors, managers, and superintendents who encourage and support innovation. If change or improvement is what we seek, then changing what we do or how we do it should be encouraged not discouraged.“Most managers, unfortunately, perceive new ideas as problems -- especially if the ideas are not their own. Bottom line, they don't pay enough attention to the ideas of the people around them. They say they want to innovate. They say they want "their people" to do something different. But they do precious little to support their subordinates in their efforts to do so. They foist their ideas on others and can't figure out why things aren't happening faster.
Coaches empower others to reach within themselves and pull out their best, their best ideas and innovations. We need managers who will coach their people to pull out their best ideas and support them in the endeavor of finding, creating, and developing these ideas into innovative practices that impact their schools and their students. We need school administrators who can become Innovation Coaches.“If you want to empower people, honor their ideas. Give them room to challenge the status quo. Give them room to move -- and, by extension, move mountains. Why? Because people identify most with their ideas. "I think therefore, I am" is their motto. People feel good when they're encouraged to originate and develop ideas. It gives their work meaning, makes it their own, and intrinsically motivates.
Nothing is more powerful and unstoppable than empowered and excited teachers. Those are the teachers who can change the world. So we need to be open to and encourage our teachers to bring ideas to us.
“You, as a manager, want to increase the number of new ideas being pitched to you. It's that simple. You want to create an environment where new ideas are popping all the time. If you do, old problems and ineffective ways of doing things will begin dissolving. This is the hallmark of an empowered organization -- a place where everyone is encouraged and empowered to think creatively. Within this kind of environment managers become coaches, not gatekeepers.”
Innovation and change doesn’t happen because you have some catchy vision statement printed on a poster and posted in all the classrooms. That is leadership through lamination. What is needed is leadership through co-creation and co-innovation.
“Creativity cannot be legislated. It cannot be sustained by mission statements and pep talks. What needs to happen is you, as a manager, need to change the way you relate to people. Each encounter you have with another in the workplace needs to quicken the likelihood that their unexpressed ideas will get a fair hearing -- enabling a far greater percentage of them to eventually take root.”
So the next time one of your people comes to you with an idea, be a Innovation Coach and help them develop the idea into something truly innovative.
* "That sounds interesting. Can you tell me more?"
* "What excites you the most about this idea?"
* "What is the essence of your idea - the core principle?"
* "How do you imagine your idea will benefit others?"
* "In what ways does your idea fit with our strategic vision?"
* "What information do you still need?"
* "Who are your likely collaborators?"
* "Is there anything similar to your idea on the market?
* "What support do you need from me?"
* "What is your next step?"
What follows is a quote from Peter Drucker, but with an Education Innovation twist. I have removed words like business, company, executive, and economics; and replaced them with school(s), education, and principal.
“Schools prefer not to abandon the old, the obsolescent, the no-longer-productive; they’d rather hang on to it and keep on pouring money into it. Worse still, they then assign their most capable people ‘defending’ the outworn in a massive misallocation of the scarcest and most valuable resource—the human resource that needs to be allocated to making tomorrow, if the school is to have a tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow always arrives…It is always different. And then even the mightiest school is in trouble if it has not worked on the future. It will have lost distinction and leadership—all that will remain is big-education overhead…Not having dared to take of making the new happen, it perforce took the much greater risk of being surprised by what did happen…And this is a risk that even the largest and richest school cannot afford and that even the smallest school need not run.”
“The principal has to accept responsibility for making the future happen…It is the willingness to tackle purposefully this, the last of the educational tasks in education that distinguishes the great schools from the merely competent one, and education builder from school principal’s office occupant.”
“Each step on the ladder represents a group of consumers more involved in the groundswell than the previous steps. To join the group on a step, a consumer need only participate in one of the listed activities at least monthly.”
I believe that each rung of the Social Technographic ladder presents a unique literacy challenge for our students.
As an educator you know the standards, the curriculum, and the methods to bring about literacy. If technology is not part of that you are missing a major component of what our students will need in the coming years. Our students need to be able to climb the "ladder" and it is your job to make sure they get those opportunities.
Top Rung: Creators
These are the people who, at least once a month, publish a blog, put an article online, maintain a website, or upload music or videos. In the United States, about 18% of us on are the top rung or creators.
The percentage is only going to go up. So, what are you doing to prepare your students to be creators? How are you preparing your students to occupy the “top rung” of the Social Technographics ladder?
write narratives, that(1) establish and develop plot and setting, and choose a point of view that is appropriate to stories
(2) include sensory details and concrete language to develop plot and character
(3) use a range of narrative strategies (e.g., dialogue, suspense)
Write expository compositions (e.g., description, explanation, comparison and contrast, and/or problem/solution) that
(1) state the thesis or purpose
(2) explain the situation
(3) follow an organizational pattern appropriate to the type of composition (e.g., if problem/solution, then paired)
(4) offer persuasive evidence for the validity of the description, proposed solutions, etc.
Write research reports that
(1) pose relevant questions narrow enough to be thoroughly covered
(2) support the main idea(s) with facts, details, examples, and explanations from multiple authoritative sources (e.g., speakers, periodicals, on-line information searches)
(3) use a bibliography
2.5. write persuasive compositions (or letters for grade 5) that
(1) state a clear position in support of a proposition or proposal
(2) support the position with organized and relevant evidence; and (3) anticipate and address reader concerns and counter-arguments
The standards seem to say that we want students to be creators. The question I have is; are we preparing our students to occupy the top rung in the groundswell. Remember, the groundswell is: “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.”
In other words, the groundswell is what is taking place in this new ecosystem called the web where any person, in any place, can be a producer of media. Or, as Clay Shirky says, every person is a one-man media outlet.
So why only 18% participation? Obviously this is an optional activity. Nobody has to be a creator. In our classrooms we require that our students be creators. We want all of our students on the top rung. We ask that our students create stories, research reports, projects, and narratives. We are teaching the next generation to succeed in this new online ecosystem. The standards seem to suggest we have the right intentions, but do those standards prepare our students for life in the groundswell? I think it depends on the teacher. The greater the teacher's understanding of the power of the groundswell in the online ecosystem, the better the assignments will utilize technology as part of learning and mastering the standards.
The next rung down: Critics
Critics react to what has been created. This is similar to the responding to literature standard.
Response to Literature
Write responses to literature that
(1) develop an interpretation which exhibits careful reading, understanding and insight
(2) organize the interpretation around several clear ideas, premises, or images
(3) develop and justify the interpretation through sustained use of examples and textual evidence
Again, the question becomes, are we properly preparing our students for being a critic in the groundswell?
When I was a student, I was never allowed to comment on what other students wrote. Even in college, my job was to create. The only opportunities I had to be a critic was in writing a book report. Most of us are simply not used to commenting on blogs. We were not trained to do it as students and we had so few opportunities in our academic lives to practice it. But, our students are growing up in the online ecosystem that allows them to comment and critique nearly everything. They can comment on a song, a picture, a video, place a comment on a blog, put a book review on Amazon, or review a product on CNET.
Their world is the world of the critic. Are we as educators equipping them to succeed in this world? Are we preparing them for life on the second rung? What opportunities do your students have to critique what others have created?
The next rung down: Collectors
Collector collect RSS feeds, save website to Del.icio.us, vote for sites on Digg, and accumulate all forms of created digital media from the online world.
So, what standards address that? How are we preparing our students to be effective collectors of information? What opportunities do our students get to practice the art of selective information collection? How do our students learn to filter information for their select needs? How are we preparing our students to be literate collectors?
The next rung down: Joiners
Members of Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Orcut, etc. are all joiners. These are the people who maintain profiles on social networking sites. My guess is that most of our students are far ahead of most of their teachers in this aspect. But, how can we teach our students the skills necessary to properly maintain these sites for optimal effect and leverage their power to further themselves via networking?
Our students are natural collaborators and net-workers, but how are we making them literate in the power of networks?
The next rung down: Spectators
Spectators consume what the rest produce. This is the largest part of the groundswell. This is about making choices. What they choose to consume can enhance our students’ education. So, our students need to make choices that will enhance them as people, as students, as informed citizens, etc. Of course kids will always choose the strange and offbeat, but we can equip them to understand what sorts of media are important for them to consume. What opportunities are your students getting to be selective literate spectators?
The bottom rung: Inactives
These are the people who are not impacted by the groundswell at all. For our students, it might those students who have no access to technology and the web. I still meet students and parents who have no web access. If the school isn’t providing it, and they have no access at home, when are these students given chances to move from inactive to spectator, to joiner, to collector, to critic, or to creator? We need to think about how we can provide opportunities and resources for them to climb the Social Technographic ladder. It is a literacy issue for life in the 21st century.
In what way is your leadership preparing your school and your students for the literacy of technology?
Is your personal leadership and catalyst or hurdle in the implementation of technologies that will provide opportunities for technology literacy?
In what ways do our current literacy standards meet or fall short of the issues and challenges faced by our students at each rung of the Social Technographic ladder?
In what way can we better prepare our students to be literate creators of information?
How might this look in a classroom?
In what ways can we provide opportunities for our students to be literate critics of created information?
In what ways can we prepare our students to be literate collectors of information?
What might this look like in the classroom?
How might we prepare our students to leverage the power of networks?
In what ways could we prepare our students to make literate choices about the networks they join and the information they place on those networks?
In what was are we preparing our students to be literate spectators of information?
How might we better equip our students to make excellent choices in the information they consume each day?
In what ways can we provide resources or tools to move the non-participating Inactive up the Social Technographic ladder?
The Anthropologist is one of the three learning personas from the Tom Kelley's The Ten Faces Of Innovation. See the full post here (The Anthropologist- Observing Your Professional Learning Communities)According to Kelley, the Anthropologist practices 6 principles
Six Steps to Coaching
The “Anthropologist” and the “Coach” are two effective personas and mindsets that can help you make your Professional Learning Communities more effective. David Kelley and Steve Roesler both provide great insight into how we can all make our Professional Learning Communities powerful sources of learning and increasing student achievement."Probably my best quality as a coach is that I ask a lot of challenging questions and let the person come up with the answer." Phil Dixon
"Educating oneself is the foundation of our learning systems, and it’s obviously a worthwhile pursuit. But is there any chance it’s time to add the next element? Have you ever taken a course in friendship? Could a second-grade student, a high school student, a college freshman, your boss, or even you benefit from time dedicated to this pursuit. If we have already spent significant time on self-development, is it possible that most of the magic- our room for rapid personal and professional growth- lies in developing our friendships?”
Rath defines Vital Friends as
“Someone who measurably improves your life.” and “ A person at work or in your personal life whom you can’t afford to live without.”
Imagine a staff development training session dedicated to helping you make better friends with the people you work with. Imagine a staff development session that focuses on helping you a few of your colleagues develop deep meaningful friendships. Is it important? You bet!
I think back to the tragic suicide of an teacher colleague with whom I worked for several years, who felt that life had no meaning because of a lack of true deep friend relationships. They didn't want to go on living without friends. Could it have been prevented with just one vital friend at work?
Some of the findings in Vital Friends include…
The evidence is from the research conducted by Tom Rath is clear. We are better when we work with people we can call friend.
Principals, how would this knowledge impact your grade level placement of teachers?
Would this change the kinds of things you talk about with your teachers in goal setting or evaluation meetings?
What kinds of things could you do to help teachers develop relationships with each other and what could you do to improve your relationships with them as individuals?
Teachers, when you consider the number of hours, days, and weeks spent at school, are you thinking about how much you need a friend or friends at school?
What would the impact of vital friends be to Professional Learning Communities?
If your superintendent or director communicates that teamwork is way, then he or she better well display him or herself.“When leaders give a sermon about the value of teamwork to the troops, and then ignore it themselves, they are not promoting collaboration.” Hypocritical leadership is bad enough, but preaching teamwork and being a non team player is going to kill collaboration across the district, among principals, and among other departments.
1. “Creates more positive relationships where people feel that you deal fairly with them and acknowledge the whole story and not just the part that emphasizes what they did or did not do.”2. “Helps you learn from your experiences when things go wrong because you no longer attribute the reasons for failure solely to someone else.”