Podcasts, podcasts, podcasts!

I have a slight obsession with podcasts. Since I first discovered them back in the good ole iPod days, I have been a regular listener. The EdTech Crew was the first education podcast to grab my attention and I would often extend my drive (the measure of a podcast in my mind) to finish an episode. I caught up with Tony Richards (@itmadesimple) recently and was hounding him to get the band back together so here’s hoping! Since then my listening tastes have shifted. I still enjoy education podcasts but find my interests lie now in more diverse areas.

For education, I personally can’t go past the TIDE (Today in Digital Education) podcast by Doug Belshaw (@dajbelshaw) and Dai Barnes (@daibarnes) or The Education Review (TER) podcast by Corinne Campbell (@corisel) and Cameron Malcher (Capitan_Typo). Both provide tremendous perspective and depth to all things education.

Podcasts that align with my values in life have been growing in popularity on my podcast list. This all started with the Minimalists podcast, a podcast about two guys who gave up six figure jobs and a live of gathering wealth and possessions to live a life of value, joy and fulfillment. The reason I love this podcast is that it makes you question where your values lie and then challenges you to do something about it. This podcast led me to 10% Happier by Dan Harris and Waking up with Sam Harris. Dan Harris is an ABC news anchor that had a panic attack on national television, which led him to take up meditation. Dan claims that meditation makes him about 10% happier, hence the name and he regularly talks to inspiring people about their meditation habits on his show. Being a Weezer fan, I especially loved the Rivers Cuomo episode. Sam Harris (not related) is unbelievably intelligent and his podcast challenges contentious issues in the world as well as discussing the most interesting of topics.

My latest favs are the Unmistakable Creative by Srinivas Rao and The Tim Ferris Show by Tim Ferris. Both Srinivas and Tim look at business, learning, creativity and innovation through interesting perspectives and by interviewing amazing guests. Local representatives on my list are the Huddle Show by Huddle, a human centred design firm based in Melbourne and Future2 by Steve Glaveski (@steveglaveski). I have had the pleasure of getting to know Steve through his coworking space Collective Campus over the past year and his knowledge as well as the calibre of the guests on his show are second to none when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship expertise. Although this one was a once off podcast series, Seth Godin’s Startup school was also a great listen. I find Seth to be an amazing thinker who can take complex topics and make them accessible through clear narrative and anecdotes. He always blows my mind.

Other great podcasts to check out are Finding Mastery with Michael Gervais, IDEO Futures by IDEO, Office Hours by Dan Pink, Stanford Entrepreneurship videos, Stanford Innovation Lab and Freakonomics radio.

What’s on your podcast list?

Sensory deprivation and reflection


Image source: https://goo.gl/images/w83OfR

For Father’s day, I was given a gift voucher to a floatation tank venue. I had never heard of this before but as usual it was my wife’s keen interest in exploring it and her preference for me to be the guinea pig to test it out. I walked in with no idea about what was to go down but I went in with an open mind. A floatation tank is a sensory deprivation pod filled with salts that enable you to float. The experience is designed to block out the stimuli of the world and to allow you to be alone with your thoughts. The session begins with music to help you transition but after ten minutes you are on your own. Silent, floating, thinking, still…for 60 minutes. There are no screens, no emails, no noise and it is so incredibly peaceful. The mind still tries to move at the pace its used to but it soon runs out of steam and you’re left still, distilling and reflecting. In our world, there is not enough time for reflection. Taking stock of the journey travelled is as important as travelling the journey itself but reflection is often beaten by the bell or by the conveyer belt of the school day. At the end of the 60 minutes, I left recalibrated. It was the strangest feeling. It felt kind of like a rebirth.

The sensory deprivation/floatation tanks are popping up all over Melbourne at the moment and I think it is reflective of the times we live in. People are seeking escape from the noise, from the abundance of decisions, information and challenges. I get it. On my drive home, I was left with a clarity of thought that I hadn’t had in ages. I kept thinking about the world we live in and the world our students/children live in. There is a reason mindfulness is growing in popularity in schools and across the world, people need it. Being still, being present is becoming more and more challenging for people. There is so much competing for our attention and it is so easy to give in to it.

For me, the float was amazing. I got to really spend an hour with myself. I was present. I experienced a new sensation and I saw the world from a new perspective. It has led me to try to find new fresh perspectives to explore. I try to do these daily as a way of getting off the conveyer belt of the day and to stop and smell the roses. So much of our day can be on autopilot and so we need to explore ways to grab back the steering wheel and be present.

How do we disrupt our thinking?

Innovation is a constant theme throughout my blog. It is a constant theme throughout the books I choose to read, the blog posts I choose to read, share and comment on, the podcasts I listen to. I am enthralled by the process, the mindset and by those who do it well. The more I read, the less mystical it becomes and in the same breath the more difficult it can seem. Largely my reading leads me to business innovation as there is so much to learn from looking outside education, especially when it comes to how large corporations (insert schools here) adjust their path (quickly) and innovate. Innovation is the reason behind the CoLearn MeetUp. I wanted to move past interest and more into action and the themes of our MeetUps are based around developing innovation cultures, mindsets and tool sets. Education needs innovation now more than ever but innovation is not a person or a thing. Innovation is a way of thinking, a way of questioning and as I wrote in a previous post, a process. Maybe my obsession stems from my love of punk rock. I like seeing the world through alternative lenses, challenging the status quo. The challenge is moving away from the way we have always done things, to disrupt the current status. Disruptive innovation, a term made popular by innovation guru Clayton Christensen is defined by Wikipedia as

an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances.

Now that’s all well and good in business but how does that translate to education. What is the education version of Uber or AirBnB? I’m not sure on that one but once again it is the thinking that jumps out at me.  How do you disrupt your thinking? According to Luke Williams, author of DISRUPT: Think the unthinkable to spark transformation in your business, there are three steps. A key part to these three steps is being comfortable with the uncomfortable. Silly ideas, crazy ideas, whatever ideas, the key is to defer judgement. Let them swill around in your brain and let them be possible. As the famous cliche goes, you need to think outside the box.

Step 1. What do you want to disrupt? 

The area of focus needs to be high level. Think big.  Let’s say for example I want to disrupt the shape of the day for schools. Time is always listed as a constraint for schools, for learning. I want to disrupt the shape of the day so that we can discover better examples for our use of time.

Step 2. What are the cliches?

Williams describes cliches as “the assumptions that influence the way insiders think about the situation”. The assumption about the structure of the day is that it works for all learners, for all ages. Another assumption is that everyone learns best between 8.30 and 3.30pm.  Whatever suggestion, let the idea swill and defer judgement. Wear it for a while.

Step 3. What are your disruptive hypotheses? 

Start provoking the status quo. What lies in the adjacent possible? What can you invert? What can you deny? We need to defer judgement on our hypotheses and let them swill around in our brain. These are what ifs, fresh perspectives. Let’s say we start the day at 11am. Studies show that a later start would work for the developing teenage brain. What about if school followed the Spanish lifestyle and we had a siesta in the afternoon, followed by our creative subjects. It works for Don Draper! We would have to minus the scotch though. Whatever you land on, the thinking is the hero. From here you need to test and validate that your assumption works.

Now I know what you’re thinking. This is exactly the definition of innovation that parents think of when they hear teachers and schools talk of innovation. Experimenting on their children. It isn’t. It is seeing the beauty in new possibilities and finding out (quickly) whether or not this works. A great framework for how school’s can use this thinking can be found within Richard Olsen’s Inquiry Oriented Innovation process.  The strategic component of the framework has four categories.

1. Educational goals 

This is largely the purpose of school. The why. It can differ from school to school, school segment to school segment but it is the overarching vision for the school.

2. Stakeholder expectations/beliefs

What does the school community expect and believe? A strong correlation and connection between the educational goals and the stakeholder expectations is extremely important. Many families chose schools based on the school’s beliefs, goals and values. Many families Ieave schools because of the same thing. The strength of this relationship is paramount. The same goes for teachers. Teachers need to feel that they are valued and that the school that they work at aligns with their values (well at least they should!).

3. Student needs

According to Olsen, these are the pressing, changing or unique social and emotional needs, content, skills and traits that learners possess or require developing.  The needs of the students needs to drive all innovation in my opinion. Contributing to the development of young people is our core business and so should drive all quests for improvement.

4. Compelling opportunities

What are the great opportunities at our feet? What local, community, technological, global opportunities present new pathways? Identifying these can help develop innovative opportunities in your school. We can start to bring in the disruptive thinking process here. Most innovation is from recyled or repurposed ideas and so we can start to let the great, crazy and zany ideas swill around in our heads. Remixing ideas or smashing two or three ideas together. Using the ten types of innovation to see new possibilities. Be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

From here we develop our innovation thesis, our hypothesis. I’ll touch on this more in my next post.

If you are keen to know more about this process, come and join us at Collective Campus on Wednesday September 28 at 6.30pm. This MeetUp is for Melbourne based educators at the moment but the next MeetUp will be online. More to come shortly.

As always, comments welcome. Thanks for reading.

How do your innovations stack up?

In my last post, I talked about disciplined innovation and the Ten Types of Innovation.  In this post I want to spend a little time unpacking the ten types.  The work that Larry Keeley and his team have done is tremendous and I implore people to spend some time engaging with it.  Keeley and his team defined innovation as a “viable new offering” and through extensive research over the past thirty years have determined ten types of innovation.  These are broken up in to three categories, Configuration (what’s under the hood of your school, business or enterprise), Offering (core product/s or service/s) and Experience (how you deal with your students/parents/clients).  Below are the ten types of innovation and a brief explanation.

Configuration

  1. Profit Model – How do you sustain your organisation and create value for individuals (or make money)
  2. Network – How you connect with others to create
  3. Structure – How you organise and align your talent and assets
  4. Process – How you use signature or superior methods to do your work

Offering

  1. Product Performance – How do you develop distinguishing features and functionality
  2. Product System – How you create complementary services or products

Experience

  1. Service – How you support and amplify the value of your offerings
  2. Channel – How you deliver your offerings to customers and users
  3. Brand – How you represent your offerings and business
  4. Customer Engagement – How you foster compelling interactions

Definitions taken from Ten Types of Innovation book

The language is very business centric but the categories can be reworded to suit education.  The key to using the categories is to not see innovation as solely living in one.  In fact, Keeley and his team say that real innovation should be innovative in a combination of categories.  It is this approach that is exciting.  You can use the ten types to assess your innovation and as a guide to adding value to it.  A remix of categories can lead to the “adjacent possible”, bringing to light new ways of looking at a problem.

The best way I found to engage with the ten types of innovation was to take an existing innovative project (what I believed to be anyway) and assess it against each category.  Was is it innovative in any category?  Was it innovative in more than one category?  Looking at the project through the lens of each category also opened up new possibilities, had me raising new questions.  How could I improve the delivery to students?  Could I connect with others to create more value?  Was there any other complementary services that could plug in and amplify the project?  Using this approach was a really simple way to continually improve the project.  The great people at Doblin have also got a Ten Types iPad app which provides great explanations and innovation tactics for each category to help spark ideas.  It is free but you have to pay to get all the features.  Nevertheless it is still worth checking out.

As always comments welcome.

Learning space design inspiration

This is a collation of inspiration I collected for learning space development at Ivanhoe. I hope it inspires conversations at your school.
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Minimal and Essential

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.

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.

“SCRUM-tious” collaboration

I stumbled across a quote a few years ago and apologies to the original owner because I can’t for the life of me remember where I read it or saw it but it goes as follows.

“Without contribution, you don’t have true collaboration”

Originally the quote resonated with me due to my dealings regarding staff apathy during professional learning sessions with my focus initially being on what THEY (the staff) weren’t doing. Recently the quote has led me to reflect on the other half of that equation and I’m now questioning whether or not I have been designing learning opportunities that enable true collaboration. In my Year 7 Multimedia class, my team and I spent time mapping out the learner development we were working towards and then developed a learning model that we thought would help us enable true collaboration.

Screenshot 2016-04-30 13.25.02
We are hoping to develop learners with a desire to contribute. Our learning model lists working collaboratively as one of the roles the learner will play throughout the learning but our sequence doesn’t really highlight any opportunities for students to collaborate or list any strategies they could employ. So as a result I highlighted collaboration as the area of focus for the next task. The Inquiry Oriented Innovation framework by Richard Olsen (@richardolsen) allows you to pose problems and test solutions. Below is a screenshot of what I proposed.

Screenshot 2016-04-30 13.41.36

 

I am a little obsessed at the moment with Lean Start Up and Agile methodology and Richard has based the action research element of the IOI framework on lean methodology so it is a perfect match. I have a problem. I pose a hypothesis, create an experiment and find out quickly whether or not it worked. I then use this information to shape the next experiment. My experiment was going to test my hypothesis that a visual collaboration process called SCRUM could be used as a way to assist students with organisation, focus and personal productivity?

One of the books that I read and reread is SCRUM by Dr. Jeff Sutherland. SCRUM is a methodology, that like its rugby namesake is where a group of people unite collectively to achieve one goal through equal contribution.

Image source: http://bit.ly/1Y0MGYx
Image source: http://bit.ly/1Y0MGYx

SCRUM is used all over the world and has proven to be tremendously effective in industry. A SCRUM board is used to organize a project into it’s component pieces and visually display where tasks are in their development.

Visual Collaboration using SCRUM (5)

The start of the SCRUM journey is a User story.

Visual Collaboration using SCRUM

In software development, this might be a feature request for a particular user. It is designed to capture the human elements of the process. This feature request is then broken up into individual tasks and these are placed on post-it notes in the Backlog.

Visual Collaboration using SCRUM (2)

This is a list of all the work that needs to be completed. The next two columns are for work in progress. A person is required to take one task from the backlog and place it in the Doing column. They have responsibility for this one task. Once they have completed the task, they place the task in the For Review section where this task is verified for completion. Once the task has been verified that it is complete, it is moved to the Done column. The student would then take another task from the backlog and place it in the Doing column.

Visual Collaboration using SCRUM (3)

In SCRUM, there are only three roles, a SCRUM Master, a Product Owner and the Delivery Team. The SCRUM Master is responsible for the vision of the whole project. The Product Owner is responsible for the Product Backlog and managing the order of work and the Delivery Team completes the work.

Visual Collaboration using SCRUM (4)

There are many variations and nuances to the approach but in a nutshell that is the whole thing. When reading Dr. Sutherland’s book, I was originally drawn to using this approach as a way of improving the project work I complete across the school but then I stumbled upon EduSCRUM. Inspired by SCRUM, Willy Wijnands, a High School Chemistry teacher from the Netherlands developed EduSCRUM as a way to teach his students to manage their own learning. At the start of the unit, Willy works with his students to map out the learning required and to break it into individual components. These are then listed in the All Items (or Backlog) column. Students then work through the content in teams and when they hit a review, they are assessed. Content that is determined as mastered is then put in the Done column. This content can still be assessed at any time as determined by the SCRUM Master. Check out EduSCRUM for more great ideas on how to use it in your classroom.

Visual Collaboration using SCRUM (6)

To test the collaborative effectiveness of SCRUM, I have set up an A/B test with another teacher’s class. To keep the experiment as valid as possible, the teacher is unaware of the experiment. As a teaching team we have highlighted collaboration as a focus for this task but he is unaware of the use of SCRUM in my class. The students in his class have split up into pairs (as we did on our last learning task) and are working on completing individual projects. A group’s success is a finished product. In my class, the group is completing all the projects and so success is not obtained until the completion of ALL projects. I will be spending time in his class assisting with 3D design throughout the term but will also be using this time to make observations of the collaboration between students. The true measure of success however will be the final product. I believe that my students will produce work of a better quality as a result of this process. More hands working at a higher level in a targeted fashion with peer reviewers should produce better quality work or so I assume. Comparatively our classes have nearly the same bell curve when it comes to learning performance so it will be really interesting to see how this pans out. To truly test this, we will use an independent assessor to assess the quality of the work. Both classes will be mixed up with no student names available and the independent assessor will assess as we would normally. I’m really keen to see the results but I must also be ready to invalidate my assumptions.

As always, thanks for reading.  Comments and conversation welcome!!

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