I often struggle with writing. I type, I edit, I edit, I type, I edit. I read and reread posts and have as many drafts unpublished as I do published posts. This is my first step to break that routine. It is the first step in my deliberate practice routine. Deliberate practice is a phrase coined by Anders Ericsson from his research into expert performance. Ericsson determined that expert performance was less about ability and talent and more about the dedication to a strict and specific practice routine. His work has been made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his bestselling book Outliers where Gladwell highlighted the 10,000 hour rule as a key to mastery. Practice for 10,000 hours and you will be an expert. Ericsson disagreed with this interpretation. It isn’t about the volume of practice but the quality of practice. Feedback is key and this is where you kind folk come into play. My deliberate practice routine is called Read, Think, Write. Twenty minutes of reading, twenty minutes of thinking and twenty minutes of writing. The practice routine will take place five times a week and I will post once a week. My rationale for this routine? To develop as a thinker by standing on the shoulders of giants. The source of my inspiration for this week is the amazing book, Ten Types of Innovation by Larry Keeley, Brian Quinn, Ryan Pikkel and Helen Waters.
What are the right conditions for innovation to take place? In a previous post I defined innovation as “significant positive growth” so with this in mind what are the right conditions for significant positive growth to take place? As usual for me the questions start popping up. What is our metric for growth? What are the conditions that lets ideas thrive? What is our measure of success? Pulling this all together,
How Might We create the conditions for innovation in schools?
As a question it is incredibly nuanced and complex. If we were to throw this question to a group to discuss, many would start with the road blocks, the items preventing innovation from happening. While discussing these might railroad the conversation, it can also provide opportunities for greater insight and innovation. Our roadblocks or constraints can actually allow us to think clearer, to adapt and to respond. The use of constraints as a springboard for innovation was used for this exact purpose at a recent CoLearn Meetup. A group of passionate educators and I tackled this design challenge.
How Might We create the conditions for innovation within the current constraints of school?
Our first step was to collectively define innovation. To prevent groupthink, this was done using a technique from the Google Ventures Sprint process called Working Alone Together. For those who read my blog, you know my feelings on contribution from everyone when it comes to collaborative activities so individual contribution was a non negotiable. In the end, we defined innovation as the following:
New, exciting and uncharted improvement as a response to need, blocks or crisis.
How does that definition sit with you? I personally think it is a good start but has a few areas that you could press on. Does innovation need to be exciting? Is disruption what we are striving for? Not sure on that one. Improvement and response to need, blocks or crisis sits well with me though. After we collaboratively defined innovation, we spent time listing the current constraints that schools face. The interesting element about our group was that there were are a few non educators in the group and it was really refreshing hearing their insights. Sometimes the edu echo chamber can spin the same thinking around and around and so it was great to see how those in industry perceived the problems and questions education faces. Here is the list of constraint themes that our group came up with:
Constraints for innovation
- Religious beliefs
Now these constraints were loose themed titles for the individual thoughts of the group and can be seen as obligatory, cultural and personal. The list is by no means exhaustive or indeed correct but it was where we landed. From here our group then discussed what were the environmental conditions required for innovation to thrive. How would we create the conditions for “new, exciting and uncharted improvement?” The following list was put forward:
Conditions for innovation
- Growth mindset
- Shared vision
- Perceived problem
What do you think of this list? It is a mixed bag of personal and cultural conditions with process being another key feature. Did we get it right? Have we left anything out? This isn’t where we finished for the night. We delved into developing innovation plays and there was some interesting learning turned up there. But I’ll leave that for my next post. As always thanks for reading.
It’s been a big week, both emotionally and professionally. I write this after delivering the closing keynote to the #DigiCon16 conference which also happened to coincide with the ten year anniversary of my brother’s death. I have written about Kev previously here and how his story as sad as it is has continued to inspire me daily. I wasn’t really sure how I was going to go sharing it as it is still a raw wound. Being honest, I collapsed in a heap after the conference as the magnitude of the situation hit home. Presenting in any shape of form is always nerve wracking as you are exposed and vulnerable as you share your thinking, ideas and practice but this was much, much more. I had always planned on sharing Kev’s story publicly because it is a beautiful and empowering story and so when I was blessed with the honour of being the closing keynote for this year’s DigiCon Festival of Learning, it felt right. This feeling was confirmed when Bec told me the date I would be speaking was July 20, the date Kev passed away ten years ago.
My talk was about living a life of passion and ‘walking on’ to new opportunities and challenges. Kev had always dreamed of playing college basketball at the highest level and he never baulked from any opportunity to chase that dream. To make the Georgia Bulldogs squad, he had to earn a ‘walk on’ spot by giving up the safe road of a Division II scholarship for one shot at a Division I spot. ‘Walk on’ was the real message for delegates. In education, we need more educators to ‘walk on’ and take on new challenges, to rethink pedagogy, reimagine school and to grow our collective voice. We all battle our inner self when it comes to new opportunities. Talk ourselves out of going for something, self defeat with our own negative self-talk but why? Why do we do that to ourselves? Your value is needed, your voice counts and we need all educators to #WalkOn. To step out of your comfort zone, to not settle for the way we have always done things but to seek as Seymour Papert dreamt, ‘radical new opportunities to develop school-as-it-can-be’.
For those who are looking to do that, come and join us at CoLearn MeetUp at Collective Campus (1/20 Queen street, Melb) on August 11 at 6.30pm. For more details, visit http://www.colearnmeetup.com
There are many constraints within classrooms and schools and often we view these as blockers but constraints can actually allow us to be more creative. This MeetUp will allow us to use these constraints to unlock new possibilities. We will be tackling the following design challenge
How Might We create the conditions for innovation within the current constraints of school?
This Meetup will collectively develop ideas and propose solutions to allow teachers at any school to create the right conditions for innovation in their classroom or school. Help us develop an innovation playbook for educators to drive change within their classrooms and schools.
In my last post, “Are these the greatest challenges teachers face?” I shared a curated collection of challenges ranked in their priority order by a mix of educators. The greatest challenge as listed by the 40 participants was Quality teaching time with students.
The more time I spent looking at the data, the more questions I had. What does quality teaching time with students mean? What is the meaning of quality? Now the wording of the questions on the Google form most definitely influenced the responses so contextual colour is required. It is always required. While we may have similar problems in our schools, it is different in each context. The environment, the culture, the cohort, the policies, the community, these all play a role. A lack of quality teaching time with students for one teacher may be as a result of a school’s expectations to perform well on NAPLAN or it might be as a result of too many competing extra-curricular activities. It might be as a result of the range of capacities within the class itself. It might be parental expectations. Whatever the case may be, a problem is an opportunity or as Taiichi Ohno calls it “a kaizen (continuous improvement) opportunity in disguise”. Taiichi Ohno is the Former Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Corporation and is the pioneer of the Toyota Production System, a system that allowed a small time Japanese car company to compete on a global scale with the big American car manufacturers. The 5 Whys technique was developed by Taiichi Ohno as a systematic problem solving tool and it was (and still is) an incredibly effective tool.
Spending time in this post trying to decipher the why for the number one listed challenge would be time spent speculating. What I want to spend this post talking about is how we bring colour and context to these challenges so that we can kaizen or continually improve. Solving the big (and small) challenges in education is a passion area of mine. I am interested in the subtlety, the details and the possibility to influence positive change through innovation. At the bottom of the form I sent out, I put the call out to see if there were educators out there who would be interested in working together to try and develop solutions for some of these problems. The rationale behind the survey was the development of the CoLearn MeetUp.
The CoLearn MeetUp is a meeting of educators and innovators to collectively problem solve the challenges teachers face in their classroom and schools through local action research and innovation. The CoLearn MeetUp is a meeting of educators and innovators to look at the challenges that you face in your classroom and to help you to design solutions to solve them CoLearners will share their insights and observations with other educators and be open to the collective feedback, insight and ideas you receive when you do. The CoLearn MeetUp is free, designed by educators and for you
The CoLearn MeetUp is not me selling a product or pushing professional development. It is built of the same ilk of a TeachMeet. It is reciprocity, teachers giving to other teachers and colearning together. Look at the CoLearn MeetUp as a gym buddy for innovation and change at your school. It is a set of friendly eyes asking how your innovation experiment is traveling. It is a sounding board for ideas and feedback. It is collaboration of the truest nature and professional learning of the highest degree. The more you put in, the more you get out of it.
We will be running the first CoLearn MeetUp on Wednesday July 13 at Collective Campus (1/20 Queen St, Melbourne) at 6.30pm. To continue the conversation, we have a Slack group set up that will allow educators a real-time communication platform to discuss the experiments or projects they devise. The CoLearn MeetUp is free. Please also connect with CoLearn MeetUp on Twitter (@colearnmeetup). We hope to see you there. Please RSVP on the CoLearn website and we look forward to colearning together.
I am incredibly interested in the commonality of challenge faced by teachers. Regardless of context we face many of the same problems. Sure, there are the context specific elements that make your problem unique but largely they can be qualified together. As part of a curiosity experiment I threw out a tweet on Twitter a while back asking for educators to list the greatest challenge that teachers faced in the classroom.
I then compiled the tweets in a Google form and sent out the following tweet.
40 fantastic people completed the quiz and so thank you to those people. While the total number of people who completed the quiz isn’t large, it does paint a really interesting picture. A total of nineteen challenges was listed and below is an ordered list from the largest perceived priority to the smallest. The number one listed challenge was quality teaching time with students.
Now each of these challenges does require unpacking as there can only be so much that can be relayed in 140 characters and so I’m spending time trying to articulate the real problem. I have many questions. Is it time in total that places pressure on teachers? Is it curriculum pressures? The word quality needs unpacking as it is fairly ambiguous. All those questions aside, the lowest score it rated was a three so there is something to this challenge. As for second place, reaching all students and differentiating was listed as the next greatest challenge for teachers.
The interesting element about this challenge was that it was definitely a high priority but not the highest for many people. I wonder why. In third place we had time for curriculum development.
Time is a common thread between the top three challenges. I have spent a fair amount of time working with staff at my school to unpack time as a challenge for educators. My question is whether or not the real challenge is value and not time. If we value something enough, we give it time. If we feel that our time, which is valuable is being utilised in poor ways through the direction of others, we make a choice to pull back our investment. While I can’t speak to any of the contexts above, I am intrigued by the challenge of time for teachers. The following challenges are listed in their order.
I have attached a link below to a compilation of the challenges and I have created another survey link that I would love your feedback on. It is the same survey but a different collector and I have added another box so that people can add their own other challenge.
Click here to access the ordered challenge list.
Click here to access a survey link to have your say or fill out the form directly below.
As always comments and thoughts welcome.
We all lead busy lives. We bounce from meeting to meeting, from class to class, from activity to activity. We are chased by email and hounded by notifications. We are constantly on. It has worn me down over the past little while. I work to create more room but then struggle with focus. I want to devote energy to the important things in my life but I find that my energy is sapped by trivial matters. This is a battle many of us face. A battle many of our students face. I have found two messages that help to clear the clutter, reduce the noise and help provide focus. One is from a fantastic podcast called the Minimalists and the other is from a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
The first message is called “Sitting in the chair”. Joshua Fields Milburn and his friend Ryan Nicodemus are the Minimalists. Their podcast, essays and books share stories about living a meaningful life by stripping life back to the bare essentials. Joshua was an aspiring writer but was forever aspiring. Four words changed his life…
“Sit in the chair.”
What does this mean? It means to stop aspiring and start doing. Sit in the chair and write. I aspire to be a lot of things but I create mental conditions for this to happen. I need to be in the right mood, have the right environment, have a cup of coffee, etc… These are little excuses. Little excuses that I dream up. Remove aspire and just sit in the chair. Just do it. You then stop being an aspiring writer and become a writer. These four simple words have helped create greater focus in my life.
The second message refers to energy and our constant strive to do it all. I am guilty of this on so many counts. I want to do it all and I think I can do it all but I can’t achieve a depth which I am happy with. Then Essentialism landed on my desk (Thanks Mike Reading!). Greg McKeown lives by the mantra:
“Do less but better.”
We have only so much energy. We can make only so many decisions. This is best depicted by the below image from Greg’s book, Essentialism.
What do you want to achieve in your day, your life? What is most important to you? How are you best utilised? Focusing on less allows your energy to be spent on going deeper. Remove the superfluous. Say no to more. You are in control of your choices. You are in charge of your energy supply. So sit in the chair and do less but better.
Thanks as always for reading. Comments welcome.