Systematic Change: Part 1

(What follows is the thinking of many people that I have the pleasure to work with every day. It is my hope that I can put into words, for myself, how we are trying to bring systematic change to our school in hopes that you might be able to use a piece of it to bring change within your organization as well) Systematic change does not come easy. There are many factors, people, and a history to overcome. Yet educational organizations find themselves struggling with the changes needed to stay relevant in a connected, digital world. There are many ways to approach systematic change, yet systematic change begins and ends with a vision. A vision of what your organization hopes to aspire to some day. A vision is never really meant to be accomplished, but is instead a guiding light for an organization. A statement that allows the organization and it’s employees to focus on the task at hand. In the past we felt the need to have different visions. A school vision, a technology vision, a vision for learning. We have different visions to drive us forward in different areas. When we get right down to it, there really only is one vision. One guiding light that hopefully everyone within the organization can hang their hat on. So how do we make sure our visions are relevant in today’s fast pace, digital world? I’ve spend the last couple of days looking over different school visions. It’s not that school visions are bad, but instead what we need to do is expand our thinking on what they mean in today’s world. There are many school visions that were created at just the wrong time. Right when the world was changing, schools were revisiting their school vision. Many school visions I found were created/crafted in the late 1990s or Early 2000s. What we know has changed in the past eight years. We’re not talking little change, we’re talking significant change in what we know about learning, the brain, knowledge, etc. What we need to do is many cases is re-exam our visions and understand them in a new context. Examples from vision statements (takin from schools I have worked at or will be working with): The gift of cross-cultural understanding In 2003 having an understanding of other cultures meant, in many cases, studying it in a book, maybe watching a...

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Change is hard

This morning before leaving for work I was enjoying a cup of coffee with The Thinking Chick (the new nickname for my wife by my colleagues). We were discussion a video created by one of Chad Bates‘ students in class. Me: “It’s a great video! And think how much more she’s going to remember about Excel. Way more then she would if someone just told her how to do it.” Thinking Chick: “Yeah, but it’s not really about Excel right? I mean you’re always preaching about the skill is more important than the content. That the process she went through to teach herself Excel and how to create a graph is where the real learning took place.” Me: “Yeah, but she now has the skill of creating a graph in Excel.” Thinking Chick: “But that is actually just content right? Excel is going to change, creating graphs are going to change. Don’t get me wrong I’m glad she knows how to create a graph, but the larger picture here is that she learned how to learn. When Excel changes, when created a graph changes she will be able to learn to do it again. She knows, or is learning, how to learn. Isn’t that what you are always saying?” ———— Yes, that is what I’m always saying that the content is great, and we need the content for the here and now, but the bigger picture is this girl was working on a life long skill of researching, learning, and then sharing her knew found knowledge with the world by created a video. That is what I’m always saying! Even I find change difficult. I was so excited about the content that I took my eye off the real learning. That’s what I love about the Thinking Chick. She keeps me focused, keeps me real, and when I do get excited about the technology piece she brings me back to the learning. To what we are here to do….teach students how to learn. I too constantly battle with this change thing. I was taught the same way everyone else was. I was talk to learn….and, well that’s it…just learn. I do seek change. In my job (6 different positions in 7 years) in my life (3 different countries in 7 years) and in my thinking (constantly reorganizing my rss reader). But it’s a mental shift that even I from...

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Putting the I in change

To often I hear educators make remarks about change. Either about that it’s too much, too fast, too often, or the more famous one, “Here we go again.” For some reason, some educators do not see the I in change. The school can change, teaching can change, students can change, as long as I don’t have to change. How do we put the I in change? Should we even be trying? Change is difficult, change is uncomfortable and honestly we, as humans, don’t like change! But we are in the change business. We change minds, we change knowledge, we change attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. If we are in the change business why are we as a profession so unwilling to change? Change our teaching, change our thinking, change our outlook. Why as a profession (not all but still the majority) of educators do we have a hard time putting I in change? Do we need more PD time? Do we need to make reflection a priority? How do we put the I in change? The issue I’m having with this of course is that we say students need to have the skill of learn, unlearn and relearn. Are we teaching our teachers to do the same? Do our teacher know how to learn? I know we hope they do…but remember when we were in school we were never taught to unlearn and relearn. We were taught to learn…..period! We’re good at learning, we’re not so good at unlearning and relearning. We grew up in a era when you just learned how to do something and that was it….you went off and did it your whole life. No need to change, everything stays the same. Case in point…how many of you have only ever worked in education? Professionally I mean, not that summer job you did in high school. I mean a real professional job that you lived off of. (I never have. I only know education…but someday I hope I can be a professional in another field) I’ve been thinking about this after talking to some teachers who wanted to know when the next release of Mac’s OSX was coming out. “I don’t want to waste my time to learn something that I just have to relearn anyway.” The problem is you still have to learn it, and some of those skills will be transferable. But yes, you will...

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Gapingvoid's Three C's Remixed

I’m going to remix some ideas from Gapingvoid. I do encourage you to read the entire post with an eye on education. It seems to me that in any school, large or small, you can divide the people into three broad categories. 1. The “Changers”. These are the educators who use their work as a platform to “Change The World”. They go into a school and try to change it, in order to create something better, both for themselves and for the students at large. They can be the Principal or janitor. Theirs is not a social position, it’s a psychological condition. 2. The “Contributors”. These are educators who want to do their jobs, do it well, and get handsomely rewarded for it. They don’t necessarily see the need for “change” per se, they just want to see what works, and get it done. They want to find out who’s on the winning team, and get themselves a place on it. 3. The “Coasters”. They just want to turn up and get paid. Their lives and identities are outside their work- families, friends, hobbies etc- their job is just a means to an end; a way to pay for their “real lives” elsewhere. He finishes with this…. My friend and I are sitting there, enjoying the evening, talking about the good old days, back when we both attended university in Austin. Suddenly in the back of mind, I’m thinking about the “Changers” inside Dell. These, I decide, are the people I need to speak to. All roads ANYWHERE worthwhile begin with these good folk. The rest can look after themselves. The rest won’t quite understand me, and there’s simply no point pretending that they will. Who are the “Changers” at your...

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Another Sputnik?

A recent conversation with my wife about NECC, my frustrations with schools and education in general led to this. Me: I don’t know….I just don’t think it’s going to change. Wife: Of course it’s not going to change. People don’t change unless they have to or are forced to Me: I know…and we (the educational community) can’t do either Wife: It’s gonna take another Sputnik. Me: Ouch! Wife: Yeah…but think of it, when was the last time real change was made in education? I mean deep lasting change that affected the way schools were ran and what we taught and how we taught it. Me. True! Wife: It’s gonna take another event like that. It’s going to take some other country to do something and make America react before we see changes. Me: So what do we do in the mean time? Wife: Wait. Ouch! Have I mentioned how smart my wife is…and a school counselor which is another reason she knows about...

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