Archive for category school reform

Can You Influence Change?

I joined Scott Mcleod’s Summer Book Club and we are currently reading Influencer: the Power to Change Anything.  I haven’t blogged about it yet, but some things in Chapter 6 really hit home with me so had to comment.  Scott prefaced the book club by saying, this is one of the best leadership books he has read in awhile, and its perfect for change agents (paraphrasing).  I want to be a change agent.

I’ve been trying to frame this blog all day and my original thought was to call it Being Change without Being in Charge, but that isn’t quite right. Besides, the only thought I could come up with under that title was……..

Back to the book.  Here are some important things I learned about being a leader and being able to influence change, with a little commentary.

1.  The Power of One

Remember learning about Stanley Milgram?  The social scientist who had ‘teachers’ shock ‘learners’ when they didn’t get answers right, and even though learners kept messing up, 65% of the teachers kept shocking them, to near fatal levels.  The final limit was 450 volts where most were presumed dead or passed out as a result. However, if scientists added one person to the teacher’s room that said things like “keep going, its okay” that number went up to 90% of the teachers shocking to a deadly level.  But, if that same 1 person said “I’m not going to do this anymore” then the shocker stopped shocking.  The idea is that the power of one is all it takes.  One other person can influence us to do great or horrible things.

2.  Opinion Leaders, not Innovators bring about change
Innovators are often thought of as the misfits who are disconnected from the rest of their environment.  They aren’t respected because they are on a different plane.  However, early adopters / opinion leaders are connected to and respected by their peers and others in their community.  If you want real change, you have to be (or have to find) an early adopter.  You have to be connected to your peers.  You have to be respected by them.  Then, when the innovators come in with their cool new tools, you decide whether they are worthy and promote them.

This one takes some self-evaluation.  I have one other person at my school that would be considered the innovator.  He got me excited about Web 2.0 and the possibility of engaging students on a whole new level.  He has introduced some amazing ideas to our staff.  However, most haven’t taken to changing their style of teaching to meet the demands of today’s students. He is an amazing learner.  That being said, I don’t what I AM?   I don’t think I’m an opinion leader because I’m not vocal enough about the emerging technologies that I’m using or the impact they are having on the select kids using them.  In some instances I’m helping kids get excited about school again. That is a good thing.  I need to be more vocal about it, but it’s hard, especially when you don’t respect so many people in your organization.  That has to change.

3.  Influence agents have to engage the chain of command
“Smart influencers spend a disproportionate amount of time with formal leaders to ensure that the leaders are their social influence to encourage vital behaviors.”

Basically, if you want change then align yourself with the people who can make it happen in your community.  For most of us, that is our bosses who are automatically given the title of leaders when they take the job.  For those of us that have bosses that are ineffective at bringing about change, we need to pick people in our organization that can (people who are the head of cliques), and try to show them what we are doing.  If they like our ideas then they will take it to their small groups and change will spread.

4. To become an opinon leader/ early adopter:

  • You must be knowledgable about the issue you are trying to change
  • You must be trustworthy, people have to respect your opinion
  • You must be generous with your time

This hits home really hard.  We have a knowledgable administration.  However, not all are trustworthy.  Most of our faculty does not believe our administration will handle situations appropriately.  They don’t trust them to do the right thing.  Some of our administration is very generous with their time.  Others can never be found.  Do your leaders fit these three criterion?

5.  Make the undiscussable, discussable
There has to be a public discourse over the issues that are hurting your organization the most.  The elephants in the room.

Power to change comes from the ability to force undiscussable topics into the public discourse.  Long settled beliefs are suddenly opened to question and discussed at every corner, workstation, and shop- and eventually reshaped

We can’t sit in our classrooms, complain on our PLN’s, and just talk to our spouses about what is wrong, what needs to change. We have to get our ideas moving, make them kinetic, make them a fabric of our community.

In an ideal workplace, you have an “environment where formal and informal leaders relentlessly encourage vital behaviors and skillfully confront negative behaviors.  When this happens, people make personal transformations that are hard to believe”

What are you doing to influence your environment?

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Designing Global Classrooms -Alan November – Necc08

Live blogging:
Questions by Alan November
NECC 2008
November Learning

novemberlearning.com has resources for researching on the web
His new book is called Web Literacy for Educators

Opening story about 17 year old son- only people who are not connected are his teachers.  Schools have become the learning police.  We are so worried about children safety that we block learning possibilities.  In an effort to protect children are making them unemployable.

Alan is asking questions and ideas below are based on group poll:
Right now government regulations own the learning but students should own the learning.  Lack of leadership, type of curriculum, and lack of vision are the biggest barriers.  District filters big barrier to students working globally with other students because block IM, Skype, and blogs.

We are not doing a good job of teaching students how to facilitate their own learning.  Example, teachers do not allow tests where students can research answers using the Internet. Not utilizing “open source” ideas.

Step 1 in teaching kids to be globally competitive is to understand how Internet works and learn specific syntax and grammar. Examples below:

site: countrycode
= for Google results from specific country
view: timeline = organizes Google research by dates
link: url = to find out how many links are going to a site

Recommends creating own customized search engine in Google with own reviewed sites.  Kids should do this, build it in class.  Schools can design and share with community.

Teachers shouldn’t be allowed new technology (pd) unless they bring 2 kids with them.  Kids will spread what they learned quickly.  For some children it might be easier to learn from kids rather than teacher.

We need more voices delivering content!
Kids need to own the learning, change the job description of children.

Collaborative web tools in class. Kids can all produce one presentation together (google docs), so all students have access to all the content all the time.

Wikipedia isn’t just an encyclopedia, its a publishing center.  Use it as a tool to get kids publishing.

Kiva.org, place where kids can make a contribution to online information.  Loan money to entrepreneurs.  Get money back later.

6 Jobs to Restore Ownership of Learning to Students

1.  Every classroom should have a student researcher, at least one.
2.  Every teacher should have a student led curriculum tutorial design team.  These tutorials should be available for Ipods and Dvds.  Ex.  Students create screencasts (jing) on how to solve different problems or teach how to do something in class.
3.  Can create podcasts that help teach class.
4.  Google Docs – Kids help edit writing or presentations together, official scribe team.
5.  Teach kids to add value to the world.  ex.  go to Wikipedia and add content.  Can have kids work collaboratively on an entry for an assignment, then can monitor the changes through an RSS feed of the history.
6. Teach kids mathematics of investment into global groups and link it to curriculum.  Have kids raise money for this.

There was a 7th job but ran out of time, so need to go to sites for complete notes on session.

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Designing the 21st Century “School” – EBC08

Live Blogging at EBC 08.

What would your 21st century school look like?  There were two main ideas behind this session.  Describe ideal school in the future, and to put that information on a wiki so others can access it to reference an ideal.  It can also be used for writing grants if you are interested in that.

I worked in small group talking about ‘what a 21st century school should not look like.’  We created a list.

This is the final session for the day at ebc08, was one of the best conferences I’ve attended but really wished that some of the sessions that were rolling wouldn’t of stopped in midstream.  Is that a mixed metaphor?

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How Does it Feel to be the Worst?

According to Education Week’s study of P-16 Council effectiveness called Diplomas Count 2008, Nevada has the worst graduation rate in the country. In 2005, only 45% of students graduated, that was 25% below the national average. In the four years prior, Nevada had actually decreased its grad rate by over 9% while the national average saw an increase of nearly 3%.

Diplomas Count 2008 State Chart

My first thought after reading this was, does knowing this change anything about how I approach teaching these kids?

I work at an online charter school which attracts a wide variety of students, many though, and possibly the top tier of kids who choose to attend our school, have failed out of their zoned school and are hanging on by a thread. These are at-risk kids in the purest form, they are almost ready to quit the system and have found us as a last alternative. I knew that already, but what I didn’t know before this report was that we had one of the worst districts in the country so our students have been failed by the system at the highest levels.

So, does it change how I approach teaching these kids?

This report confirms that our school does not have it easy. It validates some of the reasons our staff has quit on these kids. It proves that our task of educating is as difficult as any in the country. What it doesn’t do though, is change how I teach these kids. I’m not bowing out of this fight now that I found out its even harder than I imagined.

I’m not trying to come off as some sort of higher-than-thou evangelist, I hope it doesn’t sound that way. It’s just that so many of the people I work with quit. So many of them have lost faith in these kids, and it’s a lot easier to do that than to fight for them.

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Reflecting on My Goals and This School Year

At the beginning of my 4th year of teaching online, I posted the 3 Goals that were most important for me to accomplish this (last) school year. The goals were based on me improving from the prior year, but ended up being very shortsighted. Let’s put it this way, I fell short on the 3 goals but ended up being successful in other areas that I hadn’t thought of when I made these. So, I sort of reached my objectives, in a wishy washy kind of way.

First, I wanted to be more persistent. I meant that I needed to try and call or visit my kids on campus more. At an online school this is difficult, but I did a really good job of this the first semester logging over 300 phone calls in 18 weeks, but came up nearly empty in the second semester. The main reason why is because I decided to build 2 new courses for next school year. That took all my free work time.

When I think about persistence as a goal for next year, I want it to mean more than communication with students. I want it to be about persisting change and progress amongst students, peers, and authority.

My second goal was to be more resourceful, to learn more and teach students more creatively. I learned more than I ever have in my life this school year; it did not improve my failure rate though. I did get kids being more creative. I did get kids to try things they had never done before. I did get kids to take risks. I just failed at getting more kids to do that. Next year that has to be the focus.

My third goal was to be more positive. More positive about my views of administration. More positive about my views of our staff, and especially more positive in my belief that our students could succeed at an online school. I did great with the kids, never gave up for a second this year. Our staff I’m still very skeptical of, and they are continually allowed to fail these kids. That’s on admin, and until that changes or the culture of our school changes, admin is accountable.

I haven’t thought about my goals for next year, but I obviously have to continue working on a couple of these.

As with every school year, if you aren’t reflecting and trying to better yourself for your students, then you are doing them a disservice.

I think the ADDIE Instructional Design model can be applied to “performance design” as well. I will Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate my educational performance constantly. I will continue to make changes. I will improve. And hopefully, just hopefully, my kids will be the evidence of that.

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