if you got a problem…yo, I’ll solve it.

Ice, Ice, Baby

This is a great article, and one worth considering as applicable to students and to the adults in the room. I just returned from a conference with other Division Heads during which Dr. Rob Evans, educational psychologist and author, spoke in the closing session about the “tough conversation” between schools and families. One major connection to this article Kate shared and his talk occurred when he stated,
“We live in a time when opportunities for our children continue to increase exponentially, while predictability of future options has been decreasing just as quickly.” 
It sounds like the coping mechanism for anxiety is often medically prescribed, when, in truth, what we all need is more time; however, I don’t think any remedy outside of a magic wand can provide us more hours in our day. Yet we crave a time to think and reflect on our daily lives, our school schedule, etc. From the very youngest to the CEO, time to think would do us all a world of good and lead to better choices. Dr. Evans goes a bit further to discuss a very poignant fact:

Problems can be fixed; dilemmas can be managed. 

Often times, looking at the way we handle issues in our lives can determine how much anxiety we bring upon ourselves. We cannot control everything, yet our instant life via mobile devices makes us think we can. But true problems are in need of solutions that disrupt the issue and provide a new road to travel. A dilemma is more on the level of inconvenience; perhaps, dilemmas can be serviced better with a bit of white-out rather than trashing the blueprints altogether.
The summer provides me an incredible opportunity, even in the midst of shuttling my boys to and from activities to keep them occupied while I’m at work, to reflect on my practice. I can slow down, think about priorities and (for instance) write about my thoughts in a venue such as this blog. I can think about how I do school; my expectations and reasonings behind various events and actions throughout the year. Most of all, I need to consider what problems I can cut out, and what dilemmas I am capable of fixing.
I hope and pray that your anxiety levels drop with the coming of a slower, or perhaps an alternative schedule this summer. I invite you to view the future weeks with hope and possibility.

It’s about making things better!

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As I think back on tonight’s first session for #IMMOOC and consider the many, many salient points presented, I realize one prevalent theme: I am so thrilled to learn from the disruptive talents leading and following this course. And tonight, in that we are to utilize a writing prompt to reflect on the first lesson, I (as most who know me would expect) will choose the final prompt, which is basically a “free write.”

No one can tell me what to do.

But that is exactly what innovation is about, right? Diving off the cliff, eating the 64 oz steak to get a free meal, building a lesson involving a fulcrum and using humans for weights (an awesome request from our 5th grade science teacher last week) – these are all disruptive behaviors that most people would tell you 25,000 reasons why you shouldn’t  do them…yet you persist. You are paving the way. You are being innovative. So let’s reflect:

“I could think of things I’ve never thunk before…”

Scarecrow is looking for a brain and sings about hope that comes from gaining a tool that would elevate his ability to thrive in the world. He wouldn’t remain a “straw man” in the real world, but he would become something more. Now, the Wizard does grant our flame-sensitive friend his wish; however, I’d argue that he never needed it to be the man, er…scarecrow, he always was. For he was not simply Dorothy’s follower or lackey. The Scarecrow is an encourager, and courageous friend, and a devoted teammate to Dorothy as they make their way to the Emerald Palace. So he had an enormous value, even without his flashy new tool. One could argue that the gift of a brain only confirms what Scarecrow already knows: the smarts he wanted were there all along; he just needed the key to unlock the magic.

Thinking of the example above and looking at the image pasted at the top of this post, perhaps you see where I’m going with this idea. There are devices and tools that already exist in our every day repertoire. Our learning spaces are chalk full of things that are waiting for a reboot. “We don’t integrate pencils” refers to the idea that pencils don’t need a special program or system to be innovative; it’s our own creative thinking that makes the pencil the most powerful tool it can be. The image shows a stack of pencils being used in a very unique way. Quite frankly, I don’t know what they are being used for in the image. But I’m intrigued, and it makes me realize that teachers and students may have bold new designs for the objects that already exist in their learning spaces. It’s up to you and me to give them the keys that unlock the magic. They will trail and fail; failure is the first step on the way to success. So it isn’t tool-centric, but mind-centric thinking that builds innovation.

Older Could Be (but maybe isn’t really) Better

John Spencer (spencerideas.org) takes some time during the course this evening to talk about the reason behind some schools reintroducing traditional methods, such as cursive writing, into the curriculum. He asks a very good question: what is the reason for going back or hold onto this methodology? If an old-school tool is coming back to the limelight, or a traditional method is holding strong in a classroom, then before we think to ourselves, “oh, that teacher or student just isn’t being innovative,” we need to make sure we understand fully the reason behind the decision to use it. Let me be clear: I’m not saying cursive is necessary…but it may be for that teacher.

Every classroom must find a way to innovate and empower students. George Couros said it very clearly: what is innovative in one learning space may be totally unnecessary in another! First, we have to try new things (thanks, AJ Juliani). Next, we have to analyze and reflect on the value or success of the new endeavor. Perhaps there is a tool that would enhance an idea…but never let the magpie conspiracy (think: nests of flashy new things) guide your innovation.

I’m loving this conversation…it’s so real in a time of “the next best thing.” Thanks to all participating.