Disaster? I don’t know, but if you want to see what I’m putting into my PhD paper, you can get a preview through my Delicious account. If you want to see what I’ve tagged so far – take a look.
Sam Wineburg & Jack Schneider make an interesting case for inverting Bloom’s Taxonomy in their Education Week article. They show quite handily how being able to analyze before doing anything else in a history class might be the way to see if students really understand the material. And it would seem that they are indeed correct, to a point. I would suggest that the question that was asked in the history example is one that could only be asked of students who had already reached the top of the classic pyramid.
The worksheets that the teachers classically start units off with are useful for (there are also updated “digital” versions), if nothing else, the development of a vocabulary about “X”. That vocabulary can then be understood, applied, analyzed, synthesized and finally evaluated within a restricted field. Once questions are asked that cross these individual fields, the pyramid must be flipped in order to tease the information apart and get to the facts of the case. This way we know that the students know what we think they should as they are able to return to the “facts” that they were presented originally.
We might indeed be better off describing the concept as a torus (hat tip to D’Arcy) that goes around feeding itself, but that conversation could go on forever… so we won’t start it 😉
First, we are told that there is a bit of research out there that says surfing at work helps people do better, taking that one step further, if we futz about with something while working toward a goal… that should help productivity even more, especially if we let our minds wander and start daydreaming. Well this is all fine and good, but you still have to get so many widgets done in just such a manner before this time today and if you get them done before lunch, there will be a bonus for you. So even though research suggests that we should ease up on the structure within a work day, there isn’t anything to suggest that the structure should be tossed as well. Until now.
Dan Pink gave a TED lecture on this topic and he suggest that autonomy is the best way to get the most out of those who work for you. Drop the incentives and the structure and people will bloom because there is nothing holding them back. Another interesting look at this is at internet.com (Mike Elgan).
Ok, so I just got out of a meeting with internship co-ordinators where I brought up the idea of using podcasts and blogs as a way to allow students to collaborate and reflect on their experiences. This would not only allow students to create an archive of their experiences, it would allow students to collaborate within their cohort, for alumni of the program to offer support and to allow new students to become interested in having similar experiences. Sounds great right? Well not according to some leaders.
They are afraid of change… but disguising it by saying that they are not sure if the students are even going to use it… worried that it is not cutting edge enough… worried about what employers are going to say… worried about… if the technology is going to be around in 2-3 years. OMFG!
These are almost ancient ‘net technologies people! Students are looking for these as differentiators when applying to professional schools! You are putting students through a pass/fail program that often has them submit limp, “closed” assignments that are there for some level of academic content. If they don’t get that paper in, they fail and they don’t move forward… and they are worried about students not jumping through this kind of hoop? Are they worried that other people might come along online and offer help to these students who are not related to the U or the company?
It is only when technologies become “old and boring” that they become really interesting – I’m sure I’ve posted on that idea once already – and this is the stage where ‘casting and blogging is now. It’s way too late to be on the leading edge – forget the bleeding edge – rolling these services now, it almost feels like we are just about to be bumped off the tailgate of the adoption curve, not a great place to be as you are just as likely to be catapulted forward to greatness as you are to be dropped off into the abyss.
Leadership of people or process often runs the leaders into the shallow waters of resistance. This morning, I took part in a Verbal Judo session. The program is created by George Thompson and revolves around a few basic premises that can be applied to a leadership situation.
The first premise is that in any situation, when trying to bring people around to your point of view, be sure to remove your ego from the situation. The ego will get in the way and often start to work against your cause as you will start to perceive the resistance that you encounter is to what you are saying personally. The other part of the equation here is your audience. Because this is often a change issue, they may feel defensive as well, causing more friction.
Verbal Judo a second premise that you (as the change agent – my term) be empathetic to the needs of those who you are talking to, but not sympathy. Sympathy connects you to the side that you are trying to motivate to change. Empathy allows for some level of “professional sympathy” (my words) that is between completely being sympathetic and totally apathetic toward the needs or concerns of the other. Empathy can also help to refocus venting that may happen from the other side to get the conversation back on track.
While discussing the situation, it goes without saying, that you should always use professional language. Negative language or speaking down or at people is only going to arm them with ammunition to throw against your case. Often negative language is a sign that ego is starting to creep in. The language is not always verbal, it is also all about the non verbal cues that are also sent off, so it pays to mind not only what is literally said, but how it is said (or sometimes not said).
When listening to the other side, be sure to listen rather than wait for an opportunity to interrupt. Be open to the literal meaning of their words and try to paraphrase back to them their concerns to ensure that both sides are understanding the situation in the same manner, more importantly in your manner as you have reframed the thoughts/emotions of the other side.
The final premise is to move others through an “up down up” or “+-+” pathway to have your position appear as a positive option for them. Start with a positive motivator to take your position, then offer a logical consequence of not taking your position and then follow that up with another positive. For my part, I would think that this last positive would be where you insert a partial solution to their paraphrased concerns.
All these are more or less common sense, but as is often the case, these are not common unless you know them, and it is often not common to know them. They are also very similar to many of the other communication/mediation programs out there.
If you are interested, the “official” Verbal Judo Institute is online, but hopefully they are better masters of their art than they are of their site.
While looking into some information on leadership styles and policies, I found some work by Heifetz that talked about adaptive and technical leadership. Adaptive leadership looks to make small changes within an organization or process, but focussing on what you want to keep. This look at preservation is something that many people with the opportunity to lead forget, thinking that leading is more about the change that they want to bring in. Technical leadership on the other hand looks toward “fixing the problems”, rather than encouraging change. This is like a surgeon – can remove the tumour with relative ease, but getting the patient to stop the lifestyle that contributed to condition, something a bit harder to do. The former is a technical leadership example and the former an adaptive. The former is likely what will receive some amount of resistance.
It seems that I need to take a look at some of the things that I do. I have been trying to use an adaptive style… and getting resistance. So I think what might help is rather than trying to focus on the change, I should focus more on what is working and making my suggestions more technical, hoping that this will help change things as needed. This seems far more obfuscated than it needs to be, but if it works, I should be able to change enough of the small things to start making some movement on some bigger things.
Bill MacKenty posted a couple of times a few weeks ago taking a look at what the cost/value relationship of technology in education might be. It’s always comforting to know that you are not alone in your thoughts as this was almost exactly what I was telling people yesterday at the inaugural Festival of Teaching and Learning. The technology is not something that will solve the problems, look at it as a way to bring new focus or fuel to a conversation, because the conversation is, after all, what (I hope) an instructor would want to start with or in their students. A conversation between the student and the content, their peers and others who are in the field.
Granted, not every student is going to care enough to take part in the conversation, but technology offer more than one way to get involved. If this still fails at the end of the day, at least it’s not for lack of trying on the part of the instructor.
So rather than trying to pump more toys into classrooms, we should really be looking at what the tools in the class are allowing students and teachers to access as they sit and then as needed (or predicted) increase in a more customized manner the technology that gets sunk into a space. Of course, this is the ideal and as often as not, a general tool is what is going to be used – fixed vs mobile labs and the like – but in the end, it’s still going to all come back to how that conversation is started, not how many computers can be made to fit into a room.
Cutting through much of what I’ve seen in the course that I’m taking, I’ve reduced it down to these few points:
- Goals – Keep them clear, simple and communicated. Try to have one more always on the horizon as you track progress on the ones that you have completed. Involve your entire team in tracking the goals of the team and possible of others in addition to their own
- Motivate – Reward the small victories as well as the small ones, understand what energizes your team and guide feedback and rewards along those lines. Set milestones that people will grow into and set them just farther than they think that they can reach. Make achieving milestones a point of pride.
- Delegate – As leader, your job is the big picture, take care of that, give responsibility for smaller tasks or projects to others on your team. You are effectively cultivating your replacement. Be sure that people on your team can speak up to fulfill their responsibilities and work to their strenghts
- Be authentic – Walk the walk, talk the talk. Leaders model for their teams. If someone isn’t on the ball, see if you haven’t dropped it first. Be honest with your team as to what you can do and what you need them for.
- Don’t stop – When looking at the big picture, don’t stop looking for challenges for yourself or your team. Try to stay current with what got you to where you are.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously, remember to have fun, make this part of your team culture.
- Create process – If there are paths to follow, the team can follow them much easier, helping everyone.
- Understand change – It’s double sided – good and bad, but inevitable. Don’t be afraid to take risks, and remember that a small shakeup now and again is good for everyone
- Understand failure – Not hitting a target might allow us to try again, if you understand this, you and your team can take more chances, understand risks and grow.
- Fight the good fight – Fight for your team when it comes for resources and recognition – they are the giants on which leaders stand and are rewarded, remember that. Pick your battles wisely and be sure they align with the points above.
Remember, leaders can lead groups from one to one million. Teacher, parents, friends are all leaders in some manner. Leaders stand in front, take the slings and arrows and choose the direction for others to follow. Not everyone can lead, not everyone can follow and at any given time, everyone is leading and following someone.
Today seemed to be the sensitivity training day as we looked at what type (according to the inventories) we were and what our opposite would be and what would motivate them. As I went through the exercises, I was struck by just how similar must of this was to my B.Ed. training and how that degree has certainly proved to be incredibly useful for me.
Many of the other students don’t have the education background, and while many of them are likely great leaders and might be able to teach, I wish there was an exercise (while looking at learning styles) that looked at the background of an individual and how that informed/informs their actions – fully getting into the whole constructivism idea.
In the mean time, what many have noticed is that at the level that those in the class are – we have all become pretty good at adopting personas of types that we might not actually be, but need to be to get through. As this wouldn’t have really helped us get anywhere in discussions, it came up to the idea of play and what is your inventory when you are relaxed – perhaps a nod to Plato’s thought that you can learn more about a person through play than through conversation.
So how does this all come around? Well, play is (perhaps has to be) an authentic activity, and as such, it is what motivates an individual to play. If you can make the tasks that you set forward for your staff or your students fit a version of their play, then you are able to get to more of their potential than if you merely tried for the middle of some arbitrary road. Now if I can only get profs and instructors to think like that about integration…
It’s no secret to those who know me that I don’t like business double talk, and so far the SLP has been pretty much free of it. But this morning, there was a slight run, but through it, I caught a word (constructivism in action!) that got me thinking.
Authentic assessment is something that teachers have been going after for quite some time, but this was the first time I had heard about it in the terms of a leadership role. Yes, there are loads of examples of people being fake, and others of being real, but I just hadn’t heard authentic being used as a descriptor. Following that twigging, we did an exercise and had some reflection time and it was then I had a bit of an epiphany.
An authentic leader is valued because they are predictable in their actions and those actions are predictable because they come from some core values of what the individual sees as being right, wrong and grey. This is all fine and dandy, but we all know of leaders who are not like that – who waffle and are in the position of leadership for often nothing more than their charisma. Charisma is also a desirable trait in a leader, as it makes the individual more palatable, but it seems that often that charisma is anchored to pleasing others and “working from a pulse” making their decisions shift in direction on a whim.
This got me thinking that both these characteristics of leaders are beacons to which people are drawn, but how are we to know the difference? Can they co exist? I think they can, there are charismatic leaders who lead from the heart and motivate great change in their world – Ghandi, King, Trudeau and Kennedy. But there are others who beat around the Bush (not too obvious) or Harp (er… did I do it again?) and lead based more on a populous notions and base what they do on the lowest common denominator (some motivation theory there… keep people down and they don’t have time to notice that things are falling down around them). So how do we tell the difference? When do we need to? I don’t know. But I hope I’ll get some insight through the course.