IMMOOC: Technology and Relationships in the 21st Century

relationships and caring

I recently read a blog post by Rachel Burkett called: Connected Yet Disconnected. In her post she talked about how easy it is to avoid connecting with those who you are serving. How easy it is to only appear in their classrooms and spaces when you have a great idea you want to share. How easy it is to only be around when something needs fixed, there is a problem, or you want to trying something new. In between the times that you show up communication is accomplished by email, text message, maybe social media. Where, in all of that, is there space for relationships to be formed? A space for trust to be developed? As Rachel says in her post:

I am failing my staff by not taking the time to get to know them or learn about what goes on in their classrooms. How can I help them as the technology specialist if I don’t know their specific needs?

In my position as the Instructional Technology Specialist for the local intermediate unit, it is incredibly easy to fall into this trap. 4000 square miles separate the programs I serve. This does not even count all of the itinerant teachers that work 1 to 1 with students and are always on the move. In short, it takes a lot of effort to connect with those I am serving.

Because of this, the 21st century relationship is both a boon and a curse. Because of the technology we have, I am able to video chat with those who are far away. I can email them notes and they can send me pictures and videos of what they need assistance to. I am no longer restricted to the random phone call. Meeting in person would have taken a conscious effort on our parts. But also, because of the technology we have, it is very easy to fall into the pattern of only communicating using that technology. Of only video conferencing, emailing, and chatting. When this happens, what suffers is our relationship. The way we interact quickly breaks down into words on a page or our view through the web camera. Both the passion and the real struggles happening in the classroom disappear from view.

Because of this, I firmly believe there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings. Technology works for communicating thoughts and ideas. Meeting in person shows that I care. And caring about those I serve is the first step in enabling them to do amazing things. As Simon Sinek says, “We need to build more organizations that prioritize the care of human beings.”

IMMOOC: The 8 Characteristics and Me

characteristics of innovator's mindset

The above image by Sylvia Duckworth is a great illustration of what it looks like to be deep into the Innovator’s Mindset. Chapter 3 of George Couros’s book is attempting to identify how an innovator views the world. As an exercise for myself, I wanted to rate myself in each of the 9 characteristics and then revisit this post at the end of our IMMOOC.

Empathetic 4/5

This characteristic is defined by the question of, “Would you want to be a learner in your own classroom?” One of my stronger qualities (confirmed by my wife) is that I am great at listening and making people feel safe. This translates over to my classroom where my students feel they can take risks and not worry about me being punitive.

Problem Finders/Solvers 3/5

I am good when it comes to solving problems and coming up with awesome solutions. But being able to seek out and find the problems in the first place…that I am not as good at. If i were to break to down, I would give myself a 4/5 on solving and a 2/5 on finding. I like the addition of the problem finding to the characteristic.

Risk Takers 2/5 (4/5)

I put two answers because my willingness to take risks is tied to the atmosphere of the place that I am taking the risks. If there is the understanding that it is ok to take risks…then I am much more willing. If I feel that my risk taking will get me in trouble or be scorned, I am much less likely to think in this manner. Actually, I tend to still think about the risks and the opportunities I could take, but I wont act on them. I am hoping to bring this out more over the next few weeks.

Networked 3/5

Before beginning this IMMOOC, I would have had to rate myself as a 1/5. The improvements from this alone have been great and I am hoping to continue to grown my network even after the IMMOOC is over.

Observant 5/5

My personality is such that I love to sit back and take stuff in. Take in the interaction of those around me. Take in the new content at conferences. This allows me to notice when things need to change and when things are going well. If I had to name my strongest characteristic, being observant is it.

Creators 2/5

I find myself stalling out on creating new material. I begin to create something…and then I get stuck and it falls by the wayside. This falls closely with the characteristic of being resilient. I know that I can create…I have had some breakthrough moments with this, but many times I have not been resilient enough to carry through.

Resilient 4/5

In many ways, I am very resilient. Because of this, I do not allow what people think of me to effect me much. If one of my ideas fails, I try another. Thinking back to the risk raking, my hesitancy to take risks does not come from a lack of resilience. When I get hammered for taking risks, I am even more determined to succeed the next time.

Reflective 3/5

This is one of the most important characteristics and it is one that I have always been lukewarm at doing. Sometime I go on big reflective kicks and get a lot out of it and sometimes I go for weeks and months without stopping to think on what I have been doing. My goal here is to become more consistent with my reflections.

 

I look forward to revisiting this post in a couple months and see how I have grown. I want to end with a quote from the Innovator’s Mindset:

“If we do not model these characteristics and the willingness to innovate inside of the box, why would our students do anything different? They Won’t.”

Finally, the first step in creating change and moving my organization towards innovation and the characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset is to model them myself.

IMMOOC: The Tools of Technology

Technology Tools
Credit: Bill Ferriter

I was recently hired to be the instructional technology specialist for my organization. One of the things that I am running into is that everyone just wants technology. Even without a clear idea of what they want to do with that technology. Of course I am guilty of this as well. The list I give my wife for Christmas is usually littered with new technology gadgets.

People like ‘new.’

New cars, new computers, new foods, new ways to do an old thing. The list goes on and on. And this is generally a good thing. Without a drive to find and try new things, innovation would not happen. We would still be walking from here to there while eating cold food and living in caves.

In education it seems that new usually refers to the newest technology. This quote from The Innovator’s Mindset says it well:

“So although many organizations approach innovation as if the word is synonymous with technology, it isn’t. Technology can be crucial in the development of innovative organizations, but innovation is less about tools like computers, tablets, social media, and the Internet, and more about how we use those things.”

Sometimes that means my job is to convince people that the tools they have in the classroom will enable their students just was well as the latests hardware.  What they need is not new technology, but a new way of looking at what they are doing. A new mindset. And this requires me to hold onto that mindset myself when I enter a classroom.

Because of this, when I can look at a class through the lens of how rather than the lens of what, true transformation will occur. This changes my question from ‘What technology do you need?’ to ‘how can you engage your students more?’ How can you create a better learning experience? How can you let your students take risks? Own their education? Sometime the answer to these how questions will be the same as the answer to the what. Many times it will be different. Almost all the time, answering the how will provide the clearest path forward.

In conclusion to pull a quote off of the image above:

“Technology is a tool, not a learning outcome.”

 

 

IMMOOC: Fostering Curiosity Among Teachers and Students

teacher curiosity

One of my favorite quotes from The Innovator’s Mindset is:

“If students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.”

We do not have to teach students how to be curious. They already are. But somewhere between when they start school and graduate, school goes from a place to explore and discover to another day doing worksheets or listening to a lecture.

Couldn’t this hold true for teachers? Lets change the wording slightly and go from there:

“If students teachers leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.”

Yes, teachers are curious too. Teachers love to do fun and exciting things in the classroom. We ask our teachers to innovate, differentiate, and create awesome learning experiences for our students. But do we provide our teachers with awesome learning experiences? Can they take risks? Exercise curiosity? For a lot of teachers, they can’t. Instead, we see experienced teachers not willing to try new things. Not interested in innovating. Reinforced by boring, non-relavant professional development experiences that have been reduced to listening to someone talk for hours on end. Perhaps this lack of curiosity is because, just like our students, we have squeezed it right out of them. And those that have not lost their curiosity are usually on islands by themselves. Another quote from The Innovator’s Mindset says:

“Instead, [the focus on compliance] forces inspired educators to color outside the lines, and even break the rules, to create relevant opportunities for their students.”

Innovation in our schools must come from the top down. All teachers need the opportunity to be curious and to ‘break the rules.’  This comes from a culture shift. A shift that is invested in by all of the stakeholders. A shift that allows everyone the freedom to innovate and be curious. And once culture shifts, change can happen.

What if the quote at the beginning were re-written to read:

“If students, teachers, administrators, parents, board members, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, counselors, janitors, and staff leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.”

 

Innovation and the Innovator’s Mindset #IMMOOC

book innovator's mindset innovation
The Innovator’s Mindset

The #IMMOOC begins officially this weekend. It revolves around a book called The Innovator’s Mindset and provides me the opportunity practice an important parts of innovation: personal reflection. That is where this blog comes in. Beginning a blog sounds like a huge task. Once started will it become one of the many unfinished projects that litter the internet? My hope is that, at the end of the #IMMOOC, this one will not join those. Instead, this will become my small piece of the internet to share my thoughts and reflections.

Initial Thought on Innovation

My first thought is this: the world we live in is ever changing. As educators, the content and the methods we use are also ever changing. To continue and try to use the same methods or teach the same content without integrating the new defeats the term ‘education.’ How could any of our students be considered educated if what they have learned leaves a huge gap of the new, of the things that have changed since we as teachers went to school?

Do I want to be a teacher who teaches the same thing the same way for 40 years? Or do I want to be an innovative educator is always exploring and learning the best way to teach?