Transform: to change in composition or structure; to change the outward form or appearance of; to change in character or condition : convert – Merriam-Webster
If you hear anything positive about public school systems these days, it probably includes the term “innovation” or a derivative thereof – districts of innovation, innovation labs, innovative schools, innovative practices, etc. Are innovative practices best practice? Once a practice has been deemed innovative, how long should that practice be identified as innovative?
After reading Kristin Anthony and Tim Klapdor’s posts this morning, I wonder if it’s innovation that’s taking place or is it replication of the innovative acts of others. Does it matter? If kids are making the necessary gains, do we care whether or not it’s innovation or replication?
Real innovation requires change… That’s where the complexity lies – it’s not about coming up with something new, it’s about convincing people to change. To let go of traditions and to trade in status, comfort and power from the old model to embrace something new and different. It’s for this reason that true innovation is exceedingly rare. – Tim Klaptor
Klapdor proposes that innovation requires change therefore time and retrospection is necessary to determine whether or not an act was innovative. In other words, you can’t just say you’re going to innovate; that determination is made later when the results are evident.
Innovations are therefore the most demanding works because they require all the conditions in the hierarchy. Innovations implicitly require defensibility through a unique “operating model”. Put another way, they remain unique because few others can copy them. – Horace Dediu
If uniqueness, change and reflection are necessary components of innovation, is your district or school actually innovating practices and transforming the system? Can novel, inventive or creative actions within a traditional education model lead to deeper learning?
If you read Dediu’s post and some of the accompanying comments (so many I couldn’t read them all!), you’ll see that several folks disagree with his take on innovation. Whether you agree or not, perhaps the focus should be on answering questions like these.
- Why does innovation matter in public schools?
- How will defining innovation lead to better school systems?
- What steps can schools take to design actions that have the potential to be innovative – new, unique and a way to sustain necessary change?
- How can we keep the focus on creating intentional, well-designed learning experiences instead of feeding a societal desire for something NEW?
What do these ideas on innovation mean for P-12 educators? I was almost convinced that this discussion/debate was not relevant until I read Dr. Max McKeown’s post on innovation and determined that some key elements he mentions will support guidance on this subject.
Based on my knowledge and experience as an educator coupled with the information outlined in this post, I believe the following might be useful during planning and implementation phases. Of course, I haven’t created a comprehensive guide to planning for innovation by any stretch of the imagination here, but this process might help start (or continue) a conversation and dialogue with your colleagues about innovation and system transformation.
- Define Innovation: What is innovation in P-12 education?
- Establish Need: Why do we need to innovate?
- Create a Vision: How will we innovate?
- Choose an Innovative Focus: Which area(s) do we need to focus on based on the evaluation of our need?
- Process Innovation – new ways of doing something in the areas of instructional practices, professional learning, etc.
- Organizational Innovation – new ways of people working together in the areas of teacher and leader collaboration within and across districts, professional development, etc.
- Measure Progress: How effective is the innovation?
- Adjust: When will we make adjustments and changes if we see that our actions aren’t producing the results we anticipated at the rate we need?
- Iterate: How often will we measure progress and make adjustments throughout the school year? How often will we cycle back to step 1?
After examining these ideas for some time today, I believe that the semantics of the term “innovation” matters little to the work of systems change for P-12 public schools. It doesn’t matter whether or not your school’s innovation efforts are categorically innovative as long as academic outcomes are improving at the right pace and kids are happy, socially successful and safe. Whether your efforts are innovative, inventive, creative or merely novel doesn’t really matter as much as designing a system that engages your kids in a meaningful, productive, thought-provoking and empathy-centered curriculum.
While most Americans celebrated Independence Day today, I spent the day finishing Cole Knaflic’s book Storytelling with Data. I’m sure that spending my day like this today makes me the queen of all nerds.
I’ve never been a numbers person, but I got involved with strategic planning several years ago at work and added data analysis to my professional growth plan, which has taken up residence there. Do you ever really get to a point of taking data analysis off of your growth plan? Maybe for some, but I’m sure it will always be an area of growth for me. Both professionally and personally, data analysis will always be one of my growth areas that will require focus and dedicated time spent learning how to better collect, analyze and share data in a narrative that invokes action.
What drew me to Knaflic’s book was this video. In the video clip, she speaks to the need for creative and artistic data visuals that help you tell the story you’ve discovered in your data.
Leverage design to indicate to your audience how to use and interact with your visualizations.
As I read the book, the importance of pretty and functional visuals was not lost on me. I’ve seen some graphs and visuals that did nothing to help me understand the purpose for which they were intended; a lot of bars, lines and dots colorfully displayed but devoid of a conclusion that I should reach.
If there’s a conclusion you want your audience to reach, state it in words.
By keeping it simple, highlighting what the audience needs to see and framing the data in a story that the audience can emotionally connect to, you help the audience understand the importance of what you’ve discovered in your data analysis.
In conclusion, if you bother to take the time to collect and analyze your data don’t lose sight of the most important part – design visually appealing data communications that pinpoint a call to action for your audience.
If you know any data visualization experts who might have time to mentor or coach me as I practice what I’ve learned, leave me a comment or send a private message via email. email@example.com
Photo Credit: flickr, turkeychick
For years, I’ve been interested in video production not only for the enjoyment of the process and the resulting content but for the implications it has on the learning process. As a teacher, I used video production with my students to parallel the writing process as well as to motivate and engage students in the development of a writing piece for their portfolios.
A related topic to video production is video use within the classroom and today I read an interesting article that outlines 40 strategies for viewing comprehension. An accompanying link within this article takes you to a post on “how to YouTube your classroom” which has many awesome ideas on how to design your curriculum and instruction the way YouTube would if they ran your classroom.
Each article explains how to move teaching and learning from disconnected activities in which students are passive consumers to engaging interactions that are designed to
…promote self-awareness, meaningful collaboration, and cognitive growth. — How to YouTube Your Classroom
Whenever I think about or talk about the subject of video and learning, my mind always goes to the use of video to enhance professional learning for educators. What better way to coach yourself or be coached than by using video you’ve captured of yourself teaching and then to critically analyze what you see (or don’t see).
For so long, it was impossible to use video then it was too labor intensive and too expensive for everyday purposes like observations and coaching. Now, multimedia and video are everywhere so educators at every level need to be thinking about how they can utilize and benefit from video to enhance learning for both students and teachers.
As you ponder this post and the accompanying links to information about video and learning possibilities, what will you do next? Now that you know how to strategically view video and use video for teaching and learning with students as well as for professional learning with educators, take a moment to outline how you can use video as a part of teaching and learning in your situation?
How might you implement one strategy for viewing comprehension in your classroom or in the instructional design of an online learning experience this year?
How might you use video footage (of yourself or others) for professional learning purposes to plan and monitor your professional growth this year?
I’ve been tweaking some minor things on this online portfolio today, and while viewing resources from other blogs, I ran across this post in The Rapid E-Learning Blog: Here’s How an E-Learning Portfolio Builds Your Skills. Not only does a portfolio highlight your skills, but it can drive you to improve skills and stretch your professional limitations as you document new projects and use a blog to reflect on practices and your own learning.
Keep it simple and focus on just yourself. Don’t worry about getting likes or views. – Tom Kuhlmann
Now that I have my portfolio built, I need to outline my next cycle of professional growth goals and focus on specific projects that I want to design and document for the portfolio. I can make that determination by reviewing the qualifications and skills that employers want to see.
On one side, I listed all desired qualifications and on the other, my corresponding experience. Needless to say, there was a big gap between what companies wanted and the skills I had. So I went out and acquired the skills by volunteering or participating in projects. Then I created a portfolio to document what I was learning and the types of projects on which I worked. -Tom Kuhlmann
This blog post gave me confirmation that I’m on the right track in creating a portfolio and reflective blog to record not only my work experiences and skills but my thinking and learning about the work.
How has a portfolio and/or blog improved your professional skills?
Photo Credit: Ann Davis 773, flikr
I’ve had a super time the past couple of days scouring the internet for free online classes or courses and have been pleasantly surprised. I’ve found everything from professional to personal offerings as well as mini courses, more in-depth courses, and even pathways to certification. Of course you pay for some of the more popular and in-depth offerings but many of the fees are reasonable.
I discovered that there are many self-paced options as well as facilitator- or instructor-led courses which take place at specific times throughout the year. I spent time this morning engaging in a few of the short, introductory, self-paced materials and not only have I learned about some things of interest, but the experience has sparked some ideas and creativity to put toward other projects.
For years, I’ve used YouTube as a resource for learning about new things or how to do things I’m interested in or need help with so I can finish a household chore or task at work. Needless to say, I’ve been on board with anytime, anywhere, any pace learning for my professional (and personal) learning needs for a while so this search for more free learning opportunities is a natural progression for me.
These days, my search goes beyond YouTube because I’m trying to determine whether or not to pursue formal learning by working on another degree. And, I need to make sure it’s the right field to pursue not only for the short term but also for any long-term plans after retirement. I have a BS, Master’s certificate and Master’s degree so, to be honest, I keep wondering whether or not I want to spend time and money for another formal education experience. I hope that by utilizing all of the free resources available through the web I can determine which route to take — formal education with a degree or informal learning with certification and badging options.
Based on this new information, I’m leaning toward developing my own learning plan and acquiring or developing skills that will help me to do work that I love and give me more options professionally. The trick is to have not only the motivation but the commitment to complete the learning plan and demonstrate proficiency. This leads me to wonder whether or not I could create a plan using the professional growth format I’ve used in this portfolio. Of course, it would need to be expanded, but the great thing about doing this would be the connection to and improvement of my portfolio pieces and blog. All of these components could work toward showcasing my learning and abilities. Hmmm…. something to keep pondering. 🙂
I am anxious to participate in some of the live courses too so I can build relationships with instructors and fellow participants, but I plan to use the self-paced resources first. I’ll return to this subject in a future post(s) to update you on my decisions about which learning route I will take to expand my skills as well as my thoughts on my online learning experiences with these new resources I’ve found. I’ll also expand the list of course providers as I discover more options.
If you are looking for informal ways to learn and like self-paced and on-demand learning opportunities, take a look at the following sites.*
*I’m also looking at possible courses and learning paths on Lynda.com which is a fee-based service, but you can gain free access through some public libraries. Check with your local public library, or surrounding county libraries that collaborate with your library, to see if they have a subscription that you can access.
Please leave your comments and tell me what you think about online learning, self-paced modules, free internet courses or designing your own learning plan. Thanks!
Sometimes teachers feel like this car looks – burned up, broken down and falling apart. I recently had a conversation with a teacher who is experiencing occupational burnout and this person pointed to unnecessary and/or ineffective professional development (PD) as a contributing factor. This teacher’s dissatisfaction and fatigue is spilling over into every area of life causing a strain on relationships at home as well as work. This person, whose greatest ambition was to be an educator, is now contemplating quitting the profession. The unhappiness on the face of this seasoned and distinguished teacher haunted me to the point that I was driven to find some sort of direction or guidance to share that might help teachers feeling burned out by the endless demands being placed on them. So, yesterday I began researching and pondering how districts might better support teachers in the area of professional learning (PL).
Since the basis for my investigation was simply the feelings of this one teacher, I was curious to see what the TELL KY survey 2015 results revealed in the area of PD and here’s what I found.
- One of the bottom three ratings in the area of Teacher Leadership is the role teachers play in determining the content of PD programs. Results indicate that 41% of teachers have only a small role or no role at all in PD decision-making.
- Among the lowest three ratings in the area of Professional Development was differentiated PD showing that 29% of teachers believe that PD is not differentiated to meet the needs of individual teachers.
As I examined the entire list of survey questions and results in the PD section of the TELL, I wondered if this is a true reflection of Kentucky’s state professional learning system. Have that many districts and schools really made the shift from traditional one-size-fits-all professional development to professional learning experiences that are largely driven by teacher reflection aligned to district improvement needs? If the TELL survey included questions related to professional learning and flexible scheduling that encourages teachers to exhibit exemplary level performance in the area of growing professionally, would that give us more insight in to the status of district PD programs?
After I reread the Kentucky Professional Learning Guidance and Professional Growth Plan resources, I wonder if self-directed professional learning that helps to meet the 24-hour requirement could alleviate some of the burden on teachers. I learned of this from reading Washington Co’s PD schedule, which contained the guidance and tools for teachers to collect and document their self-directed learning experiences. I wonder whether or not more districts would utilize self-directed learning designs if learning activity could be more easily quantified for use in the credit hours framework? How might this be done so we don’t undermine the idea that professional learning is a continuous and ongoing process that is focused on outcomes?
I also discovered possible options like competency-based PD with micro-credentialing, but it seems like the task of getting that type of system up and running would take a lot of man hours and financial resources. I’m curious as to whether or not it might be well received and worth the effort? Would it require state- and district-level policy changes? Are teachers ready for that type of learning opportunity?
I know this post only skimmed the top of the issue of teacher burnout as it relates to professional growth activities so hopefully my musings will stimulate more in-depth discussions on these problems and support positive resolutions. But, I wonder if solving problems with PD will have enough effect to make a noticeable difference toward relieving over-burdened teachers. I speculate that it can if teachers are given back that extra time being taken for sit-and-get PD hours and encouraged to apply that time to activities that aren’t so easily measured like book studies, mentoring, coaching, etc. Teachers who engage in these types of activities outside of the school day should be allowed to count that time toward the 24-hour PD credit requirement. What can we do so it happens in every district in Kentucky?
Questions to stimulate further thought, discussion and problem solving in the area of professional learning planning.
- If districts design and implement flexible professional learning plans that promote teacher autonomy, will teacher satisfaction and performance improve? Will student learning outcomes increase?
- How can Principals and district leaders honor different ways of learning to address the learning needs of their teachers?
- What are some ways teachers can advocate for themselves when pressured to participate in unnecessary PD or PD that doesn’t align to their professional growth goals?
- How can leaders create situations in which decision-making, in the area of PD, is wielded by teachers who are proven to be trustworthy experts in their field?
- How can teachers who are so passionate about the profession they love live a balanced life and prevent burnout?