Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Edscape Journey

I had the honor and privilege to attend my second Edscape conference this weekend.  This conference is the homegrown creation of Eric Sheninger which he puts on at his very own New Milford High School.   The conference offered over 60 breakout sessions featuring many people that I read, follow, and look up to in the field of education.  #Satchat kicked off the morning with a hybrid chat session discussing global leadership that began a full hour and a half before the official conference start. 

It is always a surreal experience to meet, listen to, and learn from someone who you have been reading or following for a longtime.  This was certainly the case with this year’s keynote speaker.  Vicki Davis opened the event with a riveting keynote about the one thing we have control over in education (our own actions).  It was a timely reminder as we often get bogged down with everything that is going wrong and everyone that is doing wrong.  We have the unbelievable power each and every day to change our attitude, actions, and outcomes.  My favorite quote of many from Vicki’s keynote was:

“In education we are not working on making copies…. We are creating originals.”

Following the keynote I had the opportunity to present about leading and learning from connections.  I know that I would not have the opportunities that I have if it was not for being a connected educator.  The opportunity to learn and discuss key issues with people across the globe has certainly pushed me to be a better educator.  I always weave the importance of being connected in presentations but this was the first one designated entirely to the topic.  The smartest person in any room is typically the room itself.  This was certainly the case as the group engaged in a variety of topics and discussed how they were working over, around, and through resistance.

My Edscape journey continued through lunch which was in itself an impromptu breakout session as everyone at the table discussed their work, challenges, and recent successes.  These conversations always leave you feeling like you need to step your game up and do even more.  I attended two additional sessions in the afternoon learning more about the home/school connection from Joe Mazza and about creativity and innovation from ErinPaynter.  Both these sessions were full of ideas and questions to push your thinking.

Edscape proved to be an outstanding day of learning and networking for me.  You have to put Edscape on your calendar for next year.  It will be held on October 19, 2013 at New Milford High School.  I guarantee that you will leave energized with the tools necessary to make a difference and the connections needed to push you to the next level.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Compliance is NOT the Same as Engagement

"First I got their ear and then I had their heart." 
Jay Z

Have you ever heard someone go on and on about how engaging a lesson was?  Invariably, they will talk about how everyone was on task and completed the assignment.  I would argue that often times people are confusing compliance with engagement.

Students for the most part sit where they are supposed to sit and do the work they are assigned to do.  I don't worry as much about a student who acts out in class.  I worry far more about the student who sits passively and complies even though the work lacks any type of relevance.

There is a fairly easy way to not use the terms compliance and engagement interchangeably. You simply ban both words from your vocabulary when providing feedback on a lesson or in reflecting on your own lesson.  Feedback should be both descriptive and nonjudgmental.  Simply saying that everyone is engaged falls short of that criteria for effective feedback.

Your challenge...if you choose to accept it... is to remove the word engagement from your vocabulary when describing what you are seeing in a classroom.  Focus on being descriptive and asking questions that foster growth.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Are You Playing Buzzword Bingo?

Today is Leadership Day 2012.  Amazing leaders from all over the world are contributing to a powerful, dizzying array of posts that you can find here.  For my #LeadershipDay12 I have been thinking a lot about a game that many leaders do not even know they are playing.  The video below best exemplifies the leadership game of "buzzword bingo".

Listen carefully when people speak about the work that they are doing.

  • Are they speaking in a series of code words that ultimately mean very little?  
  • Are they playing buzzword bingo without even knowing it? 

It is easy to fall into this trap since there is always a new word, term, acronym that describes the next greatest thing.   Many leaders are focused on "preparing students for the 21st century" even though we are almost 13 years into the decade.  You will undoubtedly read posts about  #BYOD, #BYOT, or even #BYOB.  You may start the new year with a focus on flipping, a multitude of mobile missions, or even an eye on iPads, iPods, and iTunes U.

The buzzwords mean very little by themselves.  That's why so many reform initiatives or revolutionary ideas fail.  We often never move past the words into the real actions that make a difference.  Leaders must move beyond buzzwords and into the work that really matters.  This work starts by framing the WHY behind your initiatives. 

For Example:
  • Why are we going mobile?  How are we going to do the work?  What do we expect to accomplish?

For #LeadershipDay12 I am challenging all leaders to stop playing buzzword bingo.  Drop the acronyms, forget the new catchphrase and focus on the work that needs to be done.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

What Does Your Room Look Like?

"If you ever find that you're the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room" 
- Austin Kleon

I spent a great deal of my childhood in my room (mostly because I was sent there as a punishment and a few times by choice).  I never really got any smarter in my own room because I was by myself and I also spent most of the time plotting an escape or how to take over the world.  By default I was the smartest, most talented person in the room.  

Now I have the opportunity to work and learn in many different rooms both virtually and face to face.  This opportunity is actually free to all yet still only a small minority choose to take advantage of it.  One of the beautiful things about technology is you are now able to leverage the world as your room.  You can connect, engage, and learn from experts in all fields of study.  You can move from room to room dependent on the topic.  

Right now on  I am intensely learning in rooms focused on #edreform, #leadership, #literacy, and #mlearning.  I am fortunate to learn from and with some of the most talented people in the world who are practitioners and experts in their respective fields.  I am always looking for ways to expand my room and learn from the wisdom of the crowd.  

As soon as you feel you have arrived and you know everything you need to know....It's probably time to go!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gaslight Leadership

This morning on my way in to work I noticed that my gaslight was illuminated.  I typically pay little attention to the gas in my car on a day to day basis.  I realized that I had gotten into the dangerous habit of waiting for the gaslight to tell me I needed gas.  

I guess this isn't the worst practice if you are driving in a populated area with gas stations all around.  It is fairly easy to stop once the light comes on and fill up.  

What would happen if you weren't paying attention and the light comes on with no gas stations in sight?  In essence, you would be stranded.  I believe that this waiting for the light to come on phenomenon extends past the gas in your car and into the leadership practices of many.

Many leaders have become heavily reliant on the data that is fed to them while ignoring the critical daily data points along the way.  I receive data reports that are delivered on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis.  This data is important but it has also lead to a gas light approach to leadership. The problem with waiting for data is that it often comes in too late to correct the course, change actions, and make a difference.  

As a leader don't wait for your organization's gaslight to come on before you decide to alter your course.  Focus on your daily practices, conversations, and observations.  Pair this qualitative data with your data reports and you will be far more likely to yield positive results.  It definitely beats being stranded on the side of the road with no gas station in sight.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Leadership Flatline

What would you want a doctor to do if this is what was showing on your monitor at the hospital?
Would you want the doctor to keep continuing what they were doing despite the results?

Would you want the doctors to spend their time diagnosing how the flatline was really the patient's fault?

Would you want the doctor to put together a long range plan to begin to get a pulse?


Would you want the doctors to change their current method because of the data on the monitor?

Would you want the doctors to hold themselves personally accountable for changing the results on the monitor?

These questions may sound absurd considering that we are talking about a life or death situation.  You would never want the doctor to behave according to the first set of questions.  

The most effective leaders would not exhibit these behaviors either.  Replace doctor(s) with leader(s) in each of the questions above.   The data would be around the goals of the organization that the leader is in charge of.  How many leaders have you seen behaving according to the first set of questions?  Many organizations are exhibiting flat lines and yet the leader continues to act in the same manner that brought on the failure.

Leaders must lead differently to spike a flat line in data.  How can you as a leader begin to bring your organization back to life?

You may need to grab the paddles...countdown and CLEAR your leadership practices.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Asking the Right Questions

I am a proponent of a leadership style that involves a great deal of teaching or coaching versus a style that requires telling or directing work.  I have even written about this belief of Teach Don't Tell before.  One of the most effective ways to coach or lead is through the use of questions.

People generally try to provide a response to the questions that you ask.  The validity and reliability of the responses may be subject to question though.  How do you as a leader move people and the organization forward?  It will not be done on

There are many different questioning strategies that leaders can employ.   The easiest strategy is to change the first word in your question.  Most people by nature ask "What" questions.  These questions elicit responses that do not require much critical thinking.  The best shift in questioning will occur when you stop asking "What" and begin asking "Why".  The answers to "Why" questions are often more complex and get to the root of the issue.

Try asking three consecutive "Why" questions to seek a better understanding of a decision or a situation. By the end of the third "Why" you typically reach the core belief or root cause.

"Why" not try it and see if you get different results.