Summer Reading: TICAL Cadre recommendations

Posted by Michael Simkins on July 1, 2018

Book open on beach with stones holding down pagesIt’s not easy for school administrators to find time to read a book, but if it’s ever going to happen, it’s during July. Here are fourteen recommendations from members of the TICAL Cadre!

Leading Minds: An anatomy of leadership by Howard Gardner

This book dissects the leadership approaches and skill sets of 11 amazing leaders such as Martin Luther King, Margaret Mead, Eleanor Roosevelt, and J. Robert Oppenheimer. I have not finished the book yet but so far so good as I jump around, focusing on the leaders who interest me the most. The minds of leaders and the people who follow them…a great read for outstanding leadership!

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner

From a prominent educator, author, and founder of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group comes a provocative look at why innovation is today’s most essential real-world skill and what young people need from parents, teachers, and employers to become the innovators of America’s future.

Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems by Michael Fullan and Joanne Quinn

Coherence is a book that demands action – it moves from the narrative of fixing one teacher at a time, to asking about the coherence of the system (be it school, national, or world issues). Fullan and Quinn create an important narrative about direction, working together, deepening learning, and securing accountability. The book sparkles with examples of coherence in action, it makes no excuses for employing the wrong levers of change.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink

Drawing on a rich trove of research from psychology, biology, and economics, Pink reveals how best to live, work, and succeed. How can we use the hidden patterns of the day to build the ideal schedule? Why do certain breaks dramatically improve student test scores? Pink distills cutting-edge research and data on timing and synthesizes them into a fascinating, readable narrative packed with irresistible stories and practical takeaways.

Learner-Centered Innovation: Spark Curiosity, Ignite Passion, and Unleash Genius by Katie Martin

A mix of research and personal anecdotes that is compelling and actionable. Appropriate for any educator, but particularly relevant for innovative leaders. “When we tell kids to complete an assignment, we get compliance. When we empower kids to explore and learn how to make an impact on the world, we inspire problem solvers and innovators.”

Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart by James Doty, M.D.

This book is a fast easy read. The author makes the connection between the physiological body and the practice of meditation. The author also had a very traumatic childhood and his story reminds us of the power of the mind to overcome obstacles.

Notice & Note: Strategies for close reading by Kylene Beers and Robert E Probst

Need to nuture your inner teacher this summer? Notice and Note introduces 6 “signposts” that alert readers to significant moments in a work of literature and encourages them to read closely. This helps create attentive readers who look closely at a text, interpret it responsibly and rigorously, and reflect on what it means to them.

Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being by Shawn Achor

This book covers the recent research about how relationships and social connections are more important and influential to achieve happiness and well-being for you and those around you.

The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World by Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen

Do you ever worry about they myriad ways we use technology without really thinking about what we’re doing and why—particularly when we’re using mobile devices? That’s what this book is about: thoughtful use.

Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman

Friedman exposes the tectonic movements that are reshaping the world today and explains how to get the most out of them and cushion their worst impacts. You will never look at the world the same way again after you read this book: how you understand the news, the work you do, the education your kids need, the investments your employer has to make, and the moral and geopolitical choices our country has to navigate will all be refashioned by Friedman’s original analysis.

Greater Than Yourself: The ultimate lesson of true leadership by Steven Farber

Greater Than Yourself is a powerful and inspiring story that shows how the goal of a leader is to lift others higher than themselves. A great leader will encourage teammates, employees, and colleagues to become more capable, confident and accomplished than they are themselves.

Bobby Kennedy: A raging spirit by Chris Matthews

A revealing new portrait of Robert F. Kennedy that gets closer to the man than any book before. “A good read for folks about a time when courage, compassion and ideas is what we looked for in our leaders.”

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney

This is a great read to help focus a team on common goals toward a common vision. What I like best is the simplistic recommendations about how to keep the important work at the forefront. I started using it this year to help hone work in large department meetings. This is our common read for next year.

Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else) by Ken Auletta

“The Mad Men days are gone forever, replaced in large part by “quants” and algorithms. The challenge is how to sell products on mobile devices without harassing consumers, how to reach a younger generation accustomed to dodging ads, how to capture consumer attention in an age where choices proliferate and a mass audience is rare.” See any parallels to the challenges we have in education?”

Thank you to the following cadre members for sharing their personal recommendations:

Aaron Palm
Butch Owens
Devin Vodicka
Jack Jarvis
Janice Delagrammatikas
Jason Borgen
Lisa Marie Gonzales
Stephen Vaughn
Susan Brooks Young
Susan Gilley
Tim Landeck

View this TICAL Summer Reading List on Amazon.

 

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Genius hour: We all need a little time!

Posted by Susan Brooks-Young on March 29, 2015

Man studying computer screen.Ask any educator to name two or more impediments to innovation and creativity at their workplace. Almost without exception time and money will top the list. We may not have a great deal of influence over outside funding sources, but we do have some control over how we allocate the time we have.

In the belief that independent inquiry encourages students to engage in activities that support deep thinking and increased engagement, many K-12 educators regularly voice concern about the lack of available time for their students to pursue personal interests during the school day. One strategy that has gained traction among educators is called “20% time.” This approach comes from the technology sector where innovation and creativity are the industry’s bread and butter. I’d like to suggest that educators also need time to think, to explore new ideas, and work on projects in areas that are of interest to them; that we need to consider ways to restructure what time is available to make it possible for the adults to take advantage of some form of 20% time when needed. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What is 20% time and how does it work?

The practice dates back to at least 1948

Twenty percent time is a practice where personnel, usually knowledge workers, may opt to spend one-fifth of their regular work time tinkering with their own pet projects. Although Google often gets credit for originating the idea, this practice has actually been embraced for years in various formats by an assortment of innovative companies. For example, 3M has encouraged employees to use a percentage of their paid time to pursue new work-related ideas since 1948. Of course it’s difficult to imagine an educator being able to carve out 20% of the work week for creative pursuits, but there are ways the idea can be modified to meet the constraints of educational institutions. This lack of time for additional research and making real world connections worries many K-12 educators, leading them to seek ways to provide time during the school day for students to engage

It’s important to understand that 20% time is not usually a formal program in the business world. Participation is entirely optional and many employees never take advantage of this time. The specific design of 20% time for self-directed exploration isn’t rigid, either. The percentage of time allocated varies from one company to another. In addition to percentages of the work week, some firms offer year-long research grants (we used to call them sabbaticals) while others sponsor occasional events lasting anywhere from one day to a week (something like self-directed professional development).

Translating 20% time to education

How does this translate to education? For students, teachers are making opportunities for them to work on individual or small group projects during the school day. Often called Genius Hour, this program typically provides roughly 60 minutes per week for all students in the class to work on individual projects of their own choosing that have been approved by their teacher. Due to time constraints, the time for student Genius Hour is usually set and flexible scheduling for self-directed learning is not normally an option.

Sixty minutes, you ask? Would it be possible for the adults on campus to dedicate one hour per week for self-directed inquiry? I think so, particularly if it’s something a person can opt into, rather than being mandatory. Imagine inviting staff members who are interested to pitch an idea for an individual project that they could work on during the work day, say during PLN time or in lieu of a committee assignment. Of course, guidelines will need to be established to make this work.

Structure the program to meet the specific needs of your staff. Remember that business model schedules vary greatly. Offering sabbaticals may not be possible, but aside from that, the time frame can range from 60 minutes per week to one or more days per year. What options are available to you? Brainstorm some possibilities with staff or fellow administrators.

Some things to keep in mind

Once you have an idea of the schedule you can offer, consider the following as you develop a plan.

  • Self-directed projects are not time off. Establish guidelines that set clear expectations. For example, require that volunteers outline a project that you approve before they begin. You may even say that projects need to be related to school or district goals, or require that all projects include a tangible product and/or some type of presentation.
  • Individual projects may serve unique needs, but small group projects can allow participants to accomplish more together than they can on their own. Do insure that part of the procedure-planning process includes setting expectations for group members’ responsibilities.
  • Remember to be flexible. Even the best plans can be sidetracked by unanticipated challenges.

Part of the beauty of self-directed projects is that there is no right answer. Participants may find their inquiries lead to outcomes they had not anticipated. Encourage them to go with the flow.

Even given the scheduling constraints we live with, there are ways to support individuals who are interested in expanding and enhancing their professional skills through dedicated time for working on projects of their own design. Encouraging this level of autonomy will result in greater job satisfaction for educators and may lead to innovations you might not have thought possible.

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Country mice visit Big Apple cousins

Posted by Phoebe Bailey on January 27, 2015

Cartoon mouse staring at computer screenYou know the story. The city mouse goes to visit his country cousin. When the country mouse offers him a meal of simple country food, he sneers at it and invites his cousin to the city for a taste of the good life. But their feast in the city goes wrong when a couple of hungry cats move in and they barely escape with their lives. The country mouse returns home, preferring a life of simplicity to a life of risk and its rewards.

According to Wikipedia, the story can be traced back to Classical Greece literature. Many of the assumptions of country life such as the simplicity and lack of opportunities can still be found in 2015. In October, I had the opportunity to travel with a group of Arkansas educators to visit four schools in New York City. What we observed blurs the lines of country and city education.

We visited four schools including an elementary, middle school, high school and a technical high school. In each setting we saw great things happening but also observed a common theme. As we asked what technology they used in their daily instructions, each principal pointed out the interactive white boards recently installed in all rooms. Each principal also acknowledged that they were working on teacher training to make the technology more student centered and not so teacher centered. That is a problem we in Arkansas could relate to, but that was an issue for the majority of our state educators five to ten years ago. Our NYC counterparts were surprised when we mentioned we have schools moving from the boards to large flat screen TVs that mirror the devices the students have in their hands.

We did not see buildings that had any one-to-one classrooms (or 2-to-1, not even 5-to-1). The schools did have labs, but in most classrooms there was a teacher computer and the interactive whiteboard.

In the high school we visited, we saw a program that is similar to the EAST Initiative we have in Arkansas. It was VEI (Virtual Enterprise International.) VEI replicates all the functions of real businesses in both structure and practice. Under the guidance of a teacher-facilitator and business mentors, students create and manage their virtual businesses from product development, production and distribution to marketing, sales, human resources, accounting/finance and web design. VEI firms offer diverse products and services—from banking, insurance, and technology to publishing, advertising, app creation, tourism, and fashion. The specific program we visited was TSquared, which has only been in existence for a couple of years but is already award winning.

Classroom technology in Arkansas is far from perfect but it has shown growth and development over the past two decades. When lawmakers and educators discuss technology in the classroom today, computers are only one element of the equation. SMART boards, compressed video, Internet access, and a wide array of software tools are just a few examples of the educational technologies currently at our disposal.

In the November 2014 election, New York Bonds for School Technology passed. The investment of the two billion dollar bonds will focus on school technology upgrades including purchasing educational technology equipment and facilities, such as interactive whiteboards, computer servers, desktop and laptop computers, tablets and high-speed broadband or wireless internet.

The same tools should be able to drive networks of innovation in cities as well as in our rural areas. And it is happening. It is happening in the country, it is happening in the city, and it will hopefully continue throughout this decade. We share many of the same issues; dealing with students in poverty, single family homes, long transportation routes (ours are on a school bus and not a subway), all while implementing new programs and educating students. When the country mouse and the city mouse get together in 2020, they will find they have more in common than they expect.

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Moonshot Thinking

Posted by Sheila Grady on October 20, 2013

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the Moon near the leg of the Lunar ModuleAt our TICAL cadre meeting last week, we watched the “Moonshot Thinking” video from the Google Solve for X project. Visually and mentally engaging, this video will spawn deep conversations among your colleagues. In celebrating creativity that is the hallmark of great leaps of progress in the human race, it challenges educators to face the question of why the creativity of children decreases as they move through our school system.

Resisting my teacher habit of giving a list of questions to start discussions, I invite you to watch the video for yourself, then check the links below. As you do, picture a child you love and imagine how different their life would be if the creativity and motivation to learn of his/her kindergarten self could still be intact when he/she graduates from high school. I am sure you will know how to present this to your colleagues for discussion.

 

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Same Song, Second Verse

Posted by Susan Brooks-Young on April 29, 2013

Image of The Prune Song sheet music 1928Do you remember The Prune Song? A camp classic, this silly ditty reviews the travails of life as a prune. The pleasure in singing the song comes from repeating over and over its first verse —“a little bit louder and a little bit worse!” A fun way for nine-year-olds to wile away the time perhaps, but not so amusing when adults persist in this same behavior.

Two decades ago Apple Inc. hired independent researchers to evaluate the impact of the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) project. One important outcome of this report was the recognition that when technology use is limited to supporting traditional instruction or increasing student productivity, any improvements in student performance cannot be attributed to the technology. Subsequent studies and models (e.g., the Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) model) draw similar conclusions.

What kinds of technology-supported activities actually make a difference? The research is clear on this as well. When students engage in project-based learning experiences or solve authentic problems using technology as one of several available tools, increases in achievement can be attributed—at least in part—to technology use. How does this information impact classrooms today?

In their eagerness to incorporate use of mobile tablet devices into classrooms, some educators are taking the same-song-second-verse approach instead of taking time to think through how this technology could be used to significantly change classroom instruction. As has been the pattern with earlier technologies, it’s not uncommon to hear about schools and districts that have purchased equipment with minimal planning for actual classroom use. Or to run across teachers who envision primary use of tablets consisting of apps that cover discrete Common Core performance indicators. The upshot of this is teachers spending their time searching for and deploying stand-alone apps that have a limited shelf-life and use minimally effective instructional strategies to teach or review very basic concepts.

What can school leaders do to reverse this trend? Here are a few simple suggestions:

  1. Resist the temptation to deploy mobile tablet devices to ‘see what will happen.’ Take time to plan thoroughly. The College of William & Mary School of Education Learning Activity Types wiki offers a variety of technology-supported activities based on the TPACK model.
  2. Work with staff to revisit Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy. Several talented educators have posted work online designed to help teachers rethink classroom use of touch technology. Check out Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy and Bloomin’ Apps for ideas.
  3. Think beyond drill and practice or task automation. The most effective use of tablets is for content creation, not content consumption. Encourage teachers to explore ways students can use tablets for project-based learning and to solve authentic problems.

 

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