Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fascination with the past....

It appears to me that the leadership of our country and to a degree our profession (education) has a fascination with the past. We still believe that there is a specific batch of core knowledge that every child must "learn." Why is that? Who determines what that core knowledge is? Does it include data other than that of white euro-centric history, or does it include multicultural awareness? Does it include memorization, or is it OK for students to use hard drives, calculators, computers and other tools to solve problems? I guess I can say those are rhetorical questions since we all know the answers.
I just read a recent study that suggested that up to 20% of our high school drop-outs could be identified as 'gifted' students. These students say school is so boring they don't want to stay. Human motivation theory says that when a human is truly engaged in learning they get what into might be called a "flow" - not aware of time or distractions. Where is the real learning and engagement happening then, if not in schools?
The bigger question for me is why is this OK? Few students truly engaged in learning, huge numbers of drop-outs, obvious lack of competitive academic performance with much of the rest of the industrialized world. It isn't the competition that concerns me - it is the lack of true global understanding in an increasingly global community.
We have a very difficult time looking past our immediate personal and family needs - but if we don't address this soon, our grandchildren will be paying a very heavy price for our denial.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Future.....

I think part of the problem within education is our fear of the future. As long as we were able to "teach" the past, things were fine. Now that it is becoming very obvious that we need to prepare our students for their future, it is not so easy. Nonetheless, change we must. The world is not what it used to be and most businesses and industries are coming to grips with the difference. Education must also deal with this rapid change in the reality of the world. No longer can we teach about the past. We must prepare our students for their future.
It will be an interesting journey for us - to identify what we can use from the past to help us in the future. There are lessons, functions, and processes to be learned. Yet we must look into the future to help us identify what we need from the past to be successful in assisting our students to be capable in their future. These are difficult times, these are difficult decisions, yet our ability to address these issues is fundamental to our future success. Our children will inherit our world - will they be ready for the world they find?

Thursday, November 1, 2007


We are in the throws of a remarkable time.... leadership in education today is about vision. How do we prepare the students of today for the world that they will face? We MUST attempt to consider their world, we MUST attempt to wonder what they need. Leadership today is about the future - what will the students NEED to be successful in their world? This should be the conversation all educators have - looking at the world our children will inherit and providing the education for them to be successful in that world.


I'm taken aback....leadership is a very specific set of skills. I guess that leadership, currently, is seen as a condition of position - 'I am the principal or the superintendent'.... but it is NOT. Leadership is the ability to inspire and influence the movement toward student improvement. Position does not automatically make that happen. From the faculty/teachers, "I will ONLY listen to you if it makes sense to ME'. Student improvement is about making a difference. Does what I (as the leader) do help students make a difference or not? We are in a trying time, we must make a difference. This is a good thing. Can I get students to the next level? As so we should.....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Power of Reframing

"How do you match the right idea to the right problem, at the right time, and in the right way" is an opening line in the book by Lee Bolman and Terry Deal on the art of "Reframing Organizations." In our quest to consider the possibilities of the future in education through the lens of technology, we can use their concept of "reframing" to help us. Bolman and Deal go on to say, "An artist reframes the world to help us see new possibilities. Modern organizations rely too much on engineering and too little on art.... Art is not a replacement for engineering, but an enhancement. Artistic leaders are essential in helping us see beyond today's organizational forms that will release untapped individual energies and improve collective performance. The leader as artist will rely on images as well as memos, poetry as well as policy, reflection as well as command, and reframing as well as refitting." Within this text, the authors point out Burns' (1978) work, or the concept of transformational leaders that bring out the best in their followers, moving the organization to pursue more universal needs and higher purpose. Transforming leaders are visionary leaders and visionary leadership is invariably symbolic. More specifically, they state, "Transforming leaders use symbols to capture attention; Symbolic leaders frame experience; Symbolic leaders discover and communicate a vision; Symbolic leaders tell stories." How will we become transformational leaders in education, how will we develop the artistic ability to reframe, to see new possibilities, to create new opportunities, and to provide a new vision for the the future of our students?
We deal with people, not machines; we deal with opportunity not control; and, we deal with the future, not the past. How will we paint this canvas? How will we provide a future that truly makes a difference for our students, our society and our world?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Preparing for the Future

I am convinced that it is critically important for educational leadership at all levels, P-20, to lead the dialogue about institutional growth, instructional development, and the use of technology to help. I'm also convinced that the concept of "change" can be released as the issue. We should no longer call for institutional change. If you wake up every morning, the world has already changed, just read the New York Times or LA Times to try to keep up with innovation, global warming, or other scientific and technological advances taking place daily. At the same time we all must acknowledge this daily development. Education cannot stay static at any level. Every day, in every way, we must rethink, re-invent, or re-envision our roles to make a difference for our students. The students' world is changing daily, we must take professsional responsibility for their success. We must be the leaders in the dialogue.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Business folks use the term "reinvention" a lot. As we see the reinvention of autos (hybrids, etc) and energy (solar, wind, etc) and other areas, I think maybe it is time for us to reinvent education. Business is a competitive world - either compete for what people need or you close your doors. Service businesses are the same, either provide an appropriate service for the cost or you won't be in business very long. We should be much more like quality services in education. So what is it that stops us.....? I don't think we see ourselves as quality service providers, nor do we connect much to the outcome we get. That is why I think accountability is a good thing - we need to take responsibilty for the service we provide. Unfortunately, the policy being written for education is more about compliance to method than accountability to outcome.
There are a lot of teachers being very successful with student performance and outcome. Unfortunately, there are a whole lot more that are not. We need to provide the very best service to our students and when the servce provider is not succesful, there are only two choices - personal improvement or discontinuance of service.
Leadership is the key to looking at what we do as high quality services. We can, and must be held accountable for the services we provide (there are no excuses and it is not the students fault.) When we take responsibility for the outcomes and learn new ways to improve our skillsets, we will be successful!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Intelligent Leadership

True educational leadership has the leader focused on moving the organization, whether it be a classroom, school, district, university department or program toward improvement. True leaders can not accept the condition of stasis for their organization(s). Intelligent leadership then is the ability of the leader to understand their organizational resources - people, time, money, facilities and equipment and consider what improvement might make a difference. The intelligent leader's task is to develop the organizational culture that will support this improvement. Therefore, the key question is, "How does an intelligent leader develop the culture for continuous improvement? There are a number of books and other publications available that outline the continual improvement process for business and you might want to check them out. However, in education we know that all organizational culture is determined by the dialogue and process the leader in place uses to do his/her job. How does the leader talk about improvement? Is it in a Command ("Do what I say"), Collaborate ("How will we do this together), Consensus ("How can we all support this process?) or Convenience ("Do as you like") process? The leadership process determines the organizational culture - What leadership process will you use?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

What will educational technology do in the future?

It is fascinating to me that we can't live without technology (it is ubiquitous in new cars, appliances, electronics, etc) yet we are still talking about its value in education. Why is that? What is the problem? Why is this a conversation at all... if technology can make things easier, help motivate students, imrove student learning, and add value to what we are doing, why are we even considering this issue as a problem? I think it is more a social/cultural problem within education more than a technology problem. The Horizon Report talks about the technology that will affect the next 5 years and yet most of what they are talking about is already here and having an effect in education, because of the effect on our students (The Sun is up - not over the horizon!).

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Future

I am not certain, any more than the next person, what the future holds for us (that would make life not fun at all!). Nonetheless, I am confident that technology will continue its march into the fiber of our lives and that includes education. I've been fascinated with the desire of educators to outlaw student owned (phones, et. al.) technology in the classroom. What makes that fascinating is that if teachers would use the mobile phone technology as a part of the learning process, students wouldn't use them to be a distraction, but a tool. Texting becomes another way for students to build meaning as they "chat" with each other. Sending text, pictures, etc. back and forth only adds to the learning process, not distracts. Think of it in terms of "passing notes." The only time students pass notes in class is when the class is boring or lacks meaning. When students are engaged in the learning process, all communication is about building meaning aand thus learning. Technology adds value to this process. And, like it or not, we are going there!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Changing the paradigm...

We talk a lot about "changing the paradigm." From the American Standard dictionary, there are a couple of the meanings that fit here:
par·a·digm (pār'ə-dīm', -dĭm') Pronunciation Key n.
1. One that serves as a pattern or model.
2. A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.
It is in this second definition that we must confront the issue of paradigm within education. "Assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes ~ a way of viewing reality ~" There we are, stuck with our "view of reality", and, if our view of reality doesn't currently include cutting edge technology, or at least the comfort level of new technology, the we are "stuck." And, in education, the students' view of current reality is typically quite different than the view of the teachers or professors.
So, to change the paradigm we need to consider definition #1, we need to build new patterns by buiding new models of teaching and learning using technology.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The role of technology in the 21st Century

Technology, per se, is not the point of education, heck, a pencil is a type of technology. Ideally we want to utilize and maximize the use of technological tools to enhance student learning. Since our students are typically quite comfortable in the use of technology we want them to have that access in our classrooms. The big push for technology is really in the paradigm surrounding the "changing of the guard" from 20th Century teachers who are, by in large, digital "aliens" (tech is from another world to them) or digital "immigrants" (tech is a second language - at whatever level). Like students, teachers trained in the 21st Century are clearly digital "natives" - this is their natural state. As we travel deeper into the 21st Century and replace our digital aliens and immigrants with digital natives as teachers, the issue of technology use in instruction and the classroom will become ubiquitous.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

It's time!

It's time for us to come to grips with the fact that the issues of compliance to method and content is not ever going to truly make our educational system the best in the world. Technology provides us our hard drives for memory, we don't need to memorize. Our focus must be on helping our students learn how to access appropriate information, how to use that information, typically within groups for problem-solving.
Our patterns are stuck in 19th Century methods and structures (why do we still only have +/- 180 days of school?). Classrooms still look the same as when my mother was in school, except the boards are more likely white than black. Classrooms are still homogenous to age, when most children learn better from cross-age groupings. That might have been one thing that we used to do better - multi-age (one room schools) classrooms of students.
And, certainly, here in the early 21st Century, technology can provide amazingly powerful learning tools. Notice I didn't say "teaching" tools. Schools must become a whole lot more about student learning. And, teaching has no automatic connection to what childRen learn. 21st Century teaching must focus on using both the tools and methods that provide for student learning. Which brings me back to the need for us to stop the insane attempt at forcing teacher compliance to method and content - all students DON'T LEARN THE SAME WAY AT THE SAME TIME OR UNDER THE SAME CONDITIONS.