Friday, March 18, 2011

A 21st Century Learning Space

What does that look like and what does it "do"?  I believe our 5th grade students at GSIS benefit from a 21st century learning space.  Although a late add-on to our existing building, it facilitates the learning we desire in students.  We have walls that can open to create more open space and combine the 2 classrooms.  The setup is very flexible for collaboration and interaction between the 5th grade sections.

Within the classroom, students can collaborate, produce, create, present, etc. We have a cart of Macbooks that are accessible to students to create a 1:1 opportunity. We have interactive whiteboards. We have teachers planning and collaborating together.  The physical space facilitates many different learning activities and options for students.

It's exciting to have such an excellent learning space where students are engaged daily.  The space supports the curricular goals and the engages students authentically in an inquiry-based learning experience.  As a whole, I wish we had more spaces like this in our schools...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Daniel Pink was also a keynote speaker at the recent Apple Leadership Summit. His focus is on business and he said people do 2 things at work: pitches and projects. In relation to this statement, he made two further comments. First, very few things are 100% right or wrong in the real world outside of standardized tests. Secondly, not everyone agrees on solutions.

In his most recent book entitled Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink challenges some assumptions of what motivates people. He says money is a motivator. He also notes that greater rewards improve performance on routine, automatic tasks. However, even when “rudimentary cognitive skills are required,” performance drops with greater external rewards. His argument rests on science that says we aren’t motivated as much as we would like to think by the carrot and stick approach.

Pay people enough so money isn’t an issue. Pink says the important aspects of motivation are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy gives people choices on how they engage a project or problem. People want autonomy over their time, task, team and technique. Although Google is perhaps the most famous example of what they call 20% time where employees can work on anything they want during 1 day a week, it has been in existence well before Google. Pink argues that mastery comes with progress and people need feedback to progress. Annual performance reviews don’t cut it. Lastly, Pink talks about purpose and the need to understand why we are doing certain work. (By the way, Pink gives many more examples of the research in his presentations and book.)

Pink argues that we need to incorporate autonomy, mastery and purpose into our workplaces as well as our schools. We need to help students understand why they are learning certain topics and doing particular tasks. They need feedback so they can progress towards and attain mastery in certain skills. They need more time spent on the why instead of the how.

Did you catch it? If you are regular reader of my blog, you might of noticed that we just went full circle over the course of the weekend conference. We started with Simon Sinek talking about the why. We progressed over the weekend and Pink ended the weekend talking about motivation. And a vital component of motivation is the purpose...or the why.

We need to have a clear why. We need to communicate it over and over again. It needs to be repeated frequently and intertwined with the culture of our institutions. On an individual level, we need why in our lives to give us direction and purpose. The why helps us know what we want to master and how to make the most of our autonomy. The why helps us know who we are and what we are about. Do you know what motivates you? Do you know your why?

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Future of the Publishing Industry

I mentioned in my last post how Apple is changing the publishing industry. Dr. Bill Rankin has blogged about the future of the publishing industry and also spoke at the recent Apple Leadership Summit. He compares the current information revolution to the advent of the printing press. If current trends continue, the information on the internet will double every 15 minutes by 2020. It is critical that students be literate on how to filter and find relevant and accurate information when they need it.

Rankin goes on to talk about the future of books on mobile devices. He says that books will be social, customized for the reader, augmented (know where I am with location-based info), and collaborative works that are interactive and media rich. He goes on to describe them as mobile in our pockets and portable between multiple devices that remembers what you have read, even on different devices. It is a transformation of reading and literacy as we know it. Some people disagree or just don’t like it. Many of these things are already in development. I’m not sure it is much of a choice at this point. Ready or not, here it comes.  All that said, I'm not sure it is a zero sum game, meaning that just because reading may transform, the current traditional book will disappear.  I see it more as additive at this point.

I like this video from IDEO on the Future of Books as it describes what could be in the future. What do you think? Is this something that excites you or scares you?

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.
Meet Nelson, Coupland, and Alice — the faces of tomorrow’s book. Watch global design and innovation consultancy IDEO’s vision for the future of the book. What new experiences might be created by linking diverse discussions, what additional value could be created by connected readers to one another, and what innovative ways we might use to tell our favorite stories and build community around books?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

So why Apple?

As I reflected on Simon Sinek's talk about the why in my last post, I want to carry that on to discuss the why in relation to Apple for our schools. Sinek uses Apple and Steve Jobs as an example of communicating the why so effectively. Apple has extremely high brand loyalty.

That is all well and good but why did TCIS and GSIS choose Apple for teachers and students? It comes down to 2 core reasons: 1) we want the best learning tools possible for students; 2) Apple is transforming classrooms (and much more) with its innovations.

Apple is a company that works ahead of the curve and its impacts are felt far more than many realize. They have transformed the music industry by moving digital content to a digital medium. iTunes is the largest distributor of music in the world. The iPad has sold over 15 million units in approximately 9 months.  The overall growth of mobile devices is astounding and the iPad is the standard that others follow. The delivery of content to the iPad is changing the digital landscape, particularly the publishing industry. Products like these will alter the use of not only textbooks, but all books. It will not just substitute paper for digital reading, it will create an interactive environment for learning that changes fundamentally how we read. It is not substituting digital for is transforming the nature of how we read and interact with text.

We want transformed classrooms that ooze learning. We want students to be the center of the learning and want to come to school everyday. We want them to understand the why and “love their job.” (You can substitute learning for job in that last statement if you want.) We want them to be prepared for the expectations placed on them in a rapidly changing marketplace regardless of what profession they choose to pursue. Apple provides the tools and support to create a transformed classroom that is student-centered to meet these goals.

We want the best tools for students. We want transformed 21st century classrooms that advantage our students in powerful ways. Of course, we are going to partner with the best company to accomplish our goal. Why not Apple?

(If you want to view some related posts, check out a series of posts I wrote in May & June 2009.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Why

Do you know the why of your organization?

I had the privilege of attending the Apple Leadership Summit in Singapore this past weekend.  The first keynote was from Simon Sinek.  He described the ordinary process of pitching ideas or products as starting with the what, progressing to the how, and the why last.  In his study of exceptional people and organizations, he found that they approach it backwards.  They start with the why.  The why inspires people to follow.  The why creates followers that might never engage with the what or the how.
For this inspiration to happen, Sinek says we must have clarity in the why.  It must be clear to us and communicated clearly.  We have to be consistent in the how, and lastly, we have to be authentic in the what.  Vision and communication must accompany each other with the why or else it won’t be conveyed to others effectively.  Do you have people in your organization that get the vision and communicate it well?  Identify them and give them opportunities to convey the why to your parents, faculty and students.  It doesn't matter what official "position" they have.  It is about tapping into the right people, regardless of the position.
When people share the why, a community develops and within the community, we have trust.  As we trust, we can collaborate.  The power of the community can be actualized.  When new faculty come to your school, do they know the why of your organization? Perhaps we should be more personal.  Is your presence transactional in that it just fills a spot in a job?  Do you know the why of your organization and does it motivate you to be a part of something bigger than yourself? 

Sinek says statistically, approximately 80% of people do not “love” their jobs.  He envisions a world where 80% of people “love” their job.  What would that do to your organization if people loved their jobs?  Tell them why.