Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Daniel Pink DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

I've just finished reading a very interesting book by an author I enjoy reading a great deal: Daniel Pink (author of A Whole New Mind).  Just as I was finishing the book, I had the good fortune to attend a webinar interview of Dan Pink.  I thought I'd try something new tonight, and share the executive summary of my notes from the webinar for anyone who might be interested.

Dan Pink-DRIVE
Elluminate Webinar, February 18, 2010

A Whole New Mind - Describes what people do at work
DRIVE - Explains why people do what they do at work

The DRIVE Cocktail Party Summary (from danpink.com)
When it comes to motivation, there's a gap between what science knows and what business does.  Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn't work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: 1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Watch this Summary of Drive: Two Questions That Can Change Your Life (excellent!):  http://www.danpink.com/archives/2010/01/2questionsvideo

Science suggests that Creative/Conceptual/Knowledge work (i.e. teaching) does not typically experience success with "IF-THEN" motivators

Similar work completed/published by Alfie Kohn in "Published by Rewards"

There is a dichotomy between what business does and what science knows!  Premise of  DRIVE: Carrot/stick approach (standards, etc.) does not work. We need to build our systems to foster Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose in our employees!

Part of the problem for us in education....very few legislators with an education background...they don't understand the nature of the work!

Is rigor a bad term? If you don't hate it, then is it not rigorous? NO!  Rigor is about chasing your passion!!!

Rigor, relevance, relationships are crucial in education....always....

MY TAKEAWAY of the DAY #1: The world changes ONE conversation at a time, therefore administrators have to commit the time to engage with staff in those conversations!

Comfort with ambiguity means you will struggle in a world of tight standards....if you are not comfortable with ambiguity, you'll struggle in modern world....

AUTONOMY - desire for self-direction. Old systems that seek compliance are outdated. Mgmt is an old technology for getting people to comply, and is NOT good at getting people to engage.

MASTERY - The HIGHEST satisfaction at work comes on days when people feel they are making progress. Not solving problems, nec., just making progress!

PURPOSE - We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We want to know what it is all about.

Are we too focused on data?

BRUNER: "students should experience their success and failure not as reward and punishment but as information"

Teaching kids to self-assess changes the role of the teacher to one of coach....see Wooden's assessment of coaching philosophy: http://www.joebower.org/2010/01/information-vs-reward-and-punishment.html -- Red Deer teacher sharing reflections on using grades as motivation, etc.

John Wooden's Coaching Style Studied:  He gave 7% praise, 7% disapproval, and 86% STATEMENTS of information.  Offered 0bservations, asked questions, etc. Gave very very few speeches. Used Assessment FOR learning, all the time!!!

Grades are NOT EQUAL to feedback.  They are summative.  When your child gets a grade, look at it, ask the kid what they feel about their performance. Did you do your best? Why is your mark what it is? etc.

Have the discussion and establish the difference between grades and MASTERY with your children

In Summary, Pink wants the Two Questions (see video linked at start of presentation) to help drive us:

1 - What is my sentence?

2 - Am I better today than I was yesterday?

TAKEAWAY #2: As an administrator, what can I do to build 20% time into my school's master schedule to foster teacher autonomy, creativity, and passion? What would be the rules of it, and how can we do it for TEACHERS and STUDENTS?


Monday, February 22, 2010


Within my district there has been a great deal of work done over the past 2 years on reviewing and revising the process used to evaluate school-based administrators.  Significant input has been given to the administrators and a committee has worked through many drafts to put together both a rubric to be used to help guide our actions as well as to help assess our growth and behavior as administrators.
I'm mostly pleased with the final product, as I feel the use of a professional growth portfolio will give us the opportunity to provide an authentic representation of our performance.  There will always be an external voice involved with any evaluations, but offering us the opportunity to help create the process and to demonstrate our own growth is a huge opportunity.
I recently read a report originating from Denver Colorado re: perceptions of the Denver Public Schools teacher evaluation process.  Recent research in Denver suggests a high level of dissatisfaction among teachers and administrators with their teacher evaluation process.  Reading this started me thinking about our own process....
I wonder what the satisfaction level is in my district, among teachers and administrators, of the quality of teaching?  This level speaks to our potential to improve instruction, I think. 
I also wonder what the result might be if we invited teachers to participate in the process of reviewing our current model?  Hmmmm....I bet that would be a very powerful experience! 

GREAT PD FOR FREE? Sign me up!

Being on sabbatical and working from home this year has been amazing for the Professional Development opportunities I have had access to.  My PD budget has been dramatically impacted (read: eliminated) by not working in a school this year, but it has also been the fullest year of PD experiences to date for me!

The Ed.D. courses I am enrolled in have been excellent learning opportunities, of course.  I am very pleased on the whole with the program offered by the University of Phoenix and find it very relevant to my current position.  Additionally, the classes I've taught/facilitated in the UOP master's program have provided me with significant learning opportunities too!  It is nice to be able to put Knowles' theory of adult learning, andragogy, to practice and get real-time feedback from the students as I do.

Those formal opportunities however make up only the tip of the iceberg that is my professional learning and personal growth this year.  Just like an iceberg however, the BULK of my opportunities have been under the surface.  The amount of FREE QUALITY learning available on the internet is amazing, if you know where to look.  It is a completely unexpected bonus to have the time to learn my way around the online learning opportunities and to access as many of them as I want this year.

I'll start with GOOGLE READER.  If you don't use Google Reader to keep track of blogs and websites you visit regularly, YOU MUST START!  Simply put, there is no better way that I know of to keep on top of a number of sites.  I am currently following over two hundred blogs and other websites and it is completely manageable, for lots of reasons.  If you want to know more, please ask. 

Next on my list would be the communities I've joined such Classroom2.0 and The Educator's PLN.  Great conversations take place in these networks, and I'm sure there is a topic of interest for anyone in education.  I'm currently in a discussion on the Educator's PLN regarding the issue of who is to blame for school failure, following the announcement last week an entire HS staff in Rhode Island is being let go due to recurring poor results.

In the past several months I have also attended several webinars using Elluminate where I've had the opportunity to interact and speak directly with authors such as Yong Zhao, Daniel Pink, Seth Godin, Alfie Kohn, and Ian Jukes and to engage in discussions on all sorts of topics related to education.  I've got March 30th circled, as Sir Ken Robinson (Do Schools Kill Creativity - if you haven't seen this yet, commit 20 minutes to watch it.  It is inspiring!) will be doing an Elluminate session that day!  See you there, I hope.  That one I do not want to miss!

In fact, if you want to look at the list of presenters lined up by Steve Hargadon over the next little while, check out The Future of Education ning network where he has the list of speakers posted to the end of March.  The best thing about these opportunities? They are archived, for review later or in case you miss the original presentation.  And, they are free!
I am also currently attending a free online conference right now, the CRSTE Cyber Conference 2010.  Sessions run from February 21st to March 5th and they are all in the afternoon/evening and on weekends, as well as 6 sessions running asynchronously throughout the entire conference.  The list of presenters is astounding, and you can check it out HERE.  Thanks to my ass't sup't LT for hooking me up with this opportunity.

Twitter, as I've written about earlier, has been an amazing discovery for me this year as well too.  I won't go into it in detail again, other than to say the learning potential of this networking tool is staggering.  if you want to learn more about this opportunity, just ask.  I'd love to help anyone get started using it!

Finally, this morning I stumbled across another opportunity, the more substantial free online course.  This is a very interesting PD model.  It looks like the courses are relatively substantial, spanning 2-3 weeks in time.  As an example, here is a link to a free course on copyright for teachers (which I consider a relatively large topic):
http://p2pu.org/copyright-educators-cycle-2-mar-2010     Here is the list of all of the current course offerings at this site:  http://p2pu.org/course/list

Now, I don't know about the quality of the learning in these courses, but I would bet they are interesting and engaging.  So much of what is available online is valuable simply because it is so relevant and interactive!  I find online courses are typically far more interactive than most one-day workshops where we sit  back and absorb without meaningfully interacting and engaging in coversations with other participants. 

I keep thinking that we might be able to offer our own virtual PD in our district using techniques like this when we get our moodle up and running.  There would be some huge challenges, of course, but it has me thinking, what kind of custom district training might we want to offer our staff?  New staff orientations could be done asynchronously, with district-specific content conveniently delivered when the staff have the time, minimizing the need for as many scheduled face to face sessions.  This would not replace the face to face meetings, but it would certainly give them a different focus if the learning was done outside the sessions and the f2f time was more active participation and/or working sessions. 

I can think of lots of great uses of this sort of learning, but I'm wondering how we can effectively harness this opportunity for our district staff?  How do we change the culture of PD and/or move away from the workshop mentality?  Any ideas?  I'd love to hear what other districts have done to embrace new learning opportunityes on a larger scale.

One strategy I have thought of is using sub time to allow teachers to attend online workshops.  Perhaps staff can be given a half-day sub (or I can cover their classes for them) to attend the workshop.  Then they could write up a summary of the opportunity and share it on our staff PD Ning (an interesting concept, no?) with a link to the archived session.  I'd love to actually see a year-long archive of the professional learning out teachers engage in, and this would be an easy way to do it.  Take a workshop or attend a conference?  Write up a summary and share it with the rest of the staff on the ning!  What a powerful testament to the power of the school's vision this would be at the end of a year!  We rarely see the totality of our collective efforts as a staff to learn...

Any other ideas?


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Are We Driving Towards Change, or Hiding Behind Barriers to Keep From It?

Sherlock Holmes might say "Watson, the change is afoot!"

I've only been in the field of education since 1991, but it seems to me change is a permanent fixture on our radar.  The first few years of my career, as with most of teachers, the change was due to me trying to stay afloat and learn how to teach.  After that, I remember many different 'initiatives' from my schools and districts.  

The veterans in those early days used to make skeptical comments about 'waiting out the change', but I am not so sure that is possible now.  I'm seeing some very sticky change occuring at the higher levels, and I am seeing some very worthy change initiatives being introduced that I think will change our practice forever.  Systemic change takes great planning though!

Managing Change Means Making Sure You Have
Vision, Skills, Incentive, Resources AND an Action Plan!

In general, it seems to me that the external pressures for change are increasing, for a variety of reasons which I won't go into here.  This is not the time for a Fraser Institute/Standardized Test/Standards-Based System discussion.  Reasons why change is proposed aside, I don't think waiting out change is an option for us now.  I'd like to see us take our destiny more into our own hands, and I think the way to do that is to be proactive, get everyone on board, and start to make the changes we know will help us improve the learning that occurs in our schools.

The thing is, change in times of cuts and diminishing resources can be demoralizing!  Who wants to change, when change causes uncertainty, when it has the potential for hurt, and when we are not sure of what the results of change will be?

Tonight, as I was replying to some posts made by my students in the online Master's class I facilitate,  I was struck by that thought about the demoralizing effect the prospect of change has.  I've not really stopped and reflected on it in these terms in the past.  When thinking about the uncertainty of change, it is easy to see why an uncoordinated and uninspiring attempt at seeking educational change might be difficult to implement successfully.

In my response to my students, I was sharing the value of perspective when looking at change.  We need to honor and strengthen our relationships, but we must also look at the forces that will influence any change efforts.  We need to consider the driving and restraining forces, as described by Kurt Lewin's Force Field Analysis strategy.  I first learned this technique approximately 10 years ago, and I think it is a powerful tool. 

Simply put, Lewin's strategy is used to analyze problems in an organizational setting as a precursor to identifying a solution.  With his strategy, you analyze the forces that act as barriers to implementing your change (restraining forces) and the forces that support the change initiative (driving forces). By understanding all the forces in effect, you can direct your future actions to create an unbalanced system.  When the sum of the driving forces are stronger than the sum of the restraining forces, change will be successful.

It is not too complicated of a strategy, but for me it does two things.  One, it provides what I consider to be needed structure to the change process.  Change must be planned if it is to be supported. The second thing I like about it is that it forces us to look at driving forces, not just the restraining forces.  All too often I feel we focus on the negatives, and the reasons why we can not embrace a change we think may be good for kids.  Focusing on the negative, and battling to overcome those barriers, can be especially tiring.  By looking at all the forces in play, sometimes our new perspective will allow us to focus our efforts on the positives. 
At times, expending our efforts to FURTHER enhance the positives can help us to tip the balance in the favor of change and our new practice will eventually further whittle away at those restraining forces as well.  I find this approach a much more energizing way to approach change, and in general I try to force myself out of my box to look at the forces on both sides of a problem now.

Change is inevitable.  So are cuts and recessions and criticisms, and ...  What we need to have, to support our work towards our vision, is HOPE and OPTIMISM.  We need to play to our strengths, focus on those forces we can influence, and strategically make the changes we know our system, and our students, need.  Now, the last line caveat is this:  Of course, there is so much more involved to systemic reform than I have addressed here, so if you read only this last line please remember that hope and optimism will sustain us in so many ways!


Monday, February 8, 2010

Sample Prezi - Created By My Favorite Test Subject

I've seen some amazing PREZI's online, but I have yet to create my own. I'd played around with it and made a couple of short presentations, but nothing substantial.

Last week my son, in grade 6, mentioned that he was starting a presentation for Social Studies. I emailed him a link to the site, in case he wanted to give something new a shot for his presentation.

He took the bait, and with no instruction from me, he and two friends learned how to use the program and all 3 completed their presentations using Prezi.

Here is Alex's...leave him a comment in the comments section here, or visit him at his blog HERE to let him know what you thought.

Poor kid....he gets stuck having his dad egg him on to try all the new things.....


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Testing an Embedded Quiz Using Google Docs

Thanks in advance for taking the following quiz to help me test how to use an embedded Google form as a quiz!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Positively Influencing Change Through Perspective

I read a statement similar to this today, or heard something similar somewhere today, and it has been sitting on the top of my head ever since.  I want to make darn sure I remember it for the next personal planning I do, or the next planning meetings I attend, so I'm posting it here to keep it at hand.
Instead of looking to save money by chipping away pieces of what we already have, why don't we instead approach the problem by assuming we have nothing and add in everything we truly need.  The leftovers will be our savings and the process will affirm our core values.
I love the PERSPECTIVE this approach offers me.  It is a transferable and scaleable approach to looking at situations requiring a critical analysis or a cut of some sort.  I could use this to assess the efficiency of how I use my time at work.  I could use this to review our personal budget at home.  I could use this to review my classroom instructional practices.
What I like best about taking this perspective is that it is POSITIVE (building from scratch to support our core values) for dealing with often negative (budget cuts) situations!  It seems like such a positive way to proceed...

The AMAZING Potential of Social Networking

I've sat back and been fascinated by the social networking revolution!  I watched Myspace take off, I've seen good friends get immersed in Facebook, and I've had to deal with teeanage conflict arising out of Nexopia.  I never participated in any of those networks however, because I didn't have time (I thought) and I just thought it did not look like much fun.  I had lots of reasons, I suppose, but at the heart of it I think I was just too busy working and trying to be a good husband/father to my family. 
I have always been an advocate of online discussion forums though, as I find them amazingly useful sources of information on a wide variety of topics.  When I was a rabid Palm user, I wrote reviews of software and hardware for a while, sharing them in different forums.  When I built my mountain bike, I received great support from people in a couple of different forums.  When I needed to fix my treadmill, I found the answer in a DIY group.  On the whole though, I didn't see the utility of groups like those as anything more than a handy resource.  It made sense to me why they would not have widespread appeal, as they were too focused for most people and only the diehards want to talk PDSs all day every day anyway.
Approximately a month ago though, I read an article on the power of Twitter for teachers, and I thought I should check it out and see what value there was in it.  WOW!  Twitter has helped me identify the true value in social networking.  Twitter is networking, but is not narrowly focused.  It is real time, and flexible, and can meet the many different needs that many different people may have.  Flexibility is a key word re: future learning, and Twitter is flexible.  Now, the concept of a Personal Learning Network is at the heart of Twitter's utility to me. 
Now, I don't really care to know what my friends had for lunch, unless they are buying me lunch, but I do care when one of them posts a link to some great new research on how to teach math more effectively.  Or when one of them invites me to discuss the importance of 1:1 computing with members of their state's government (thanks #vanmeter gurus, that was fun!).  Twitter can do that for me, and the people I follow, and interact with daily, are in my PLN.  They are great sources of inspiration, and information, and supplement the learning I engage in with colleagues in my district nicely! 
If you have not taken a look at Twitter yet, give it a shot.  Get an account, go to this site  and find some people to follow, get a desktop client (I like Tweetdeck) on your computer and sit back and watch and learn from your group.  I bet you will soon find yourself wanting to share as well!
Taking the concept of social networking in a completely new direction, today I watched a video that dropped my jaw to the floor.  In a video available on TED, Jamie Heywood discusses his website Patients Like Me, that uses the principles of social networking for patients receiving medical care.  As patients share their data, a staggering amount of information is collected and freely available for others to use.  I believe Heywood shared that there are over 45,000 patients sharing data on their diseases, which is a staggering amount of collaboration on such an important topic.  I can't do it justice, the information contained in the site is a bit overwhelming, so please watch Jamie's video, I think it will AMAZE you too.  I'm still processing what I saw, but I wanted to share it now while it was fresh in my mind.  I'll come back later and edit it after processsing for a while.
The essence of my amazement is how we can work together, as members from a disparate society, to fight illnesses that in years past would have been solitary battles.  If we can do that, and make a positive difference, what can we do for issues like poverty and homelessness if some amazing entrepreneur comes up with a way for us to work together in some new innovative social network?
When I think of the problems I face in my normal day to day life, they pale in comparison to some of the issues I was writing about above.  My takeaway learning for the day is that I need to change MY perspective to solve my issues.  I need to imagine starting from scratch and trying to build support systems to help meet my/our goals, instead of trying to apply micro-levels of change to my current situation.  Einstein's words about solving the problems of the future with different thinking that what caused today's problems never rang more true!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I've recently had a change in perspective related to a belief I have had for a long time, and I wanted to share the process by which I ended up thinking of things differently.  It has to do with my perceptions and perspectives about the way I see the world, and what I need to do to make improvements in the system!

I watched an interesting video over the weekend, in which Clay Shirky spoke on the topic of privacy, information overload, and how we design systemic solutions for issues we face.  Shirky is an author, consultant, and adjunct professor at New York University who focuses on how the internet influences our social and economic realities.  I've listened to him speak several times and he is an entertaining speaker, who is astute and has an interesting perspective on issues we are all familiar with.

Since I have begun to read about the influence of the technology on society, I've read quite a bit about the amount that our collection of available information has grown.  It is a fact, and until recently I've thought it was an imposing barrier for peope to have to navigate in order to find important information.

Shirky however, proposes it is not necessarily information overload that is the challenge.  He makes the point in his video that people have always had access to more books than they could ever read.  Information overload is relative, and Shirky proposes it has always been this way since the invention of the printing press.  While the topic of his presentation is not on critical thinking skills, I was struck by this different perspective.

Shirky argues that it is our filter, through which we analyze information for validity and reliability, that we need to focus on.  Instead of publishers filtering for quality and only publishing good books as in the past, it is us current content users who must filter the information we read for value. 

Looking at the issue from this perspective, I think it might give us a different look at what we need to do for our students.  We must help our students develop their ability to analyze information and apply their critical thinking skills.  Instead of focusing on how much information there is available, we should be designing an approach that attends to the filter issue as opposed to the information overload issue.  It is a slightly different perspective that may be reflected in our curriculum and lesson design.

Shirky spends a fair bit of time talking about spam email, which is a filter problem of a different sort, privacy, and other issues but his presentation made an impact on the way I thought about this issue as well as how I hope to look at future issues I study. 

I don't know if there is a substantial difference between filter issues or information overload when it comes to teaching students critical thinking skills.  That debate is for elsewhere.  What I took away from his presentation is the importance of making sure I look at situations from multiple perspectives.  I have to push myself to look at situations from a perspective outside my traditional belief system.  I need to know my own biases about education, so that as we discuss building learning systems to meet the needs of adults and 21st Century learners, I can identify my beliefs and biases towards any issue and then look objectively at the situation from outside of my perspective.