Making “Joy” our School Culture #BCSLearns

You may have heard about the Ann Arbor, MI company Menlo Innovations and the attention they give to culture.  The company is said to have “a workplace that generates joy both for those doing the work (workers) and for those for whom the work is being done (clients).”  What I gathered from both the Forbes article by Steve Denning called The Joy of Work: Menlo Innovations and the video I include below of Menlo CEO Rich Sheridan, we can create a culture in schools, like Menlo does in their workplace, where we:

  • make mistakes faster so we can correct them when they are small
  • allow freedom – not micromanagement
  • pair programming – teamwork is not optional
  • nurture maintainable code – in school terms, quality teaching and learning that is clear and understandable and maintainable by all teachers
  • team continuity and scaling – shared expertise
  • build human relationships
  • scale down, which is as important as scaling up
  • drive out fear – “pump fear out of the room like a cold air return [HVAC system]”
  • are anthropologists – learn about the people we serve
  • experience the joy of what we do, not the stress
  • avoid “sunk cost thinking” – a fear of change
  • give accountability, not expect it
  • smile
  • trust our team and run experiments
  • get our customers (parents) to participate in our culture
  • we shrug our shoulders and run the experiment

By the way, my next read is going to have to be Joy, Inc. authored by none other than Rich Sheridan. Check out his message in the below video.  Watch it till the end and his concluding story is absolutely heartening…

Let’s not just survive, Let’s Thrive #BCSLearns

One of those educators I follow in the land of Twitter posted an article from Heather Beasley Doyle of the Harvard Graduate School of Education that caught my eye: How to Thrive in the 21st Century.  As we look forward to our theme of Empathy that will be the focus of our 2017-18 school year, I made particular note of where Doyle Writes, “Empathy is a cornerstone 21st-century global competency. We’re all familiar with empathy between individuals: someone’s hurt, and another person deeply understands the pain. But [Fernando] Reimers and [Connie] Chung envision the concept on a global scale. Empathy resides in the ability to consider the complexity of issues, Chung says — in an interconnected worldview that recognizes that ‘what we do impacts someone else.'”  At the center of the article is a framework for “21st Century” skills under three key competencies:  cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.  In reflecting on my post about gamers from last week, these skills do matter in the digital world and, perhaps most importantly, in the global world.

Cognitive Competencies:

  • Communicate effectively and listen actively
  • Use evidence and assess information
  • Speak at least one language beyond one’s native tongue
  • Think critically and analyze local and global issues, challenges, and opportunities
  • Reason logically and interpret clearly
  • Become and remain digitally literate, including the ability to “weigh and judge the validity of the content that’s in front of you,” Chung says.

Interpersonal Competencies:

  • Collaboration
  • Teamwork and cooperation
  • Trust
  • Leadership and responsibility
  • Assertive communication
  • Social influence

Intrapersonal Competencies:

  • ethical orientation
  • strong work and mind habits (self-regulation and intellectual openness) “We need to make sure that we can get along, and that we can see our differences as an opportunity, as a source of strength,” Reimers says.
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • be creators and inventors
  • take the initiative and persevere
  • think beyond the short term

Check out this video related to “21st century learning” and last week’s blog on gamers, “On Demand Learning in the 21st Century Classroom” with high school teacher, Kayla Scheer.

Can Gamers Make the World a Better Place? #BCSLearns

The benefits and disadvantages of gaming has been a longtime debate.  There are clear benefits to learning from gaming, though the amount of screen time among children is continually questioned.  I have posted about the spirit of gaming in schools in a past post highlighting its benefits, but nobody has argued it better than Jane McGonigal in both her book and her TedTalk (included below) where she asks, “Does gaming help us feel like we are the best versions of ourselves?”  Perhaps, yes, she contends, because gaming can have the following positive outcomes:

  • gaming provides epic wins
  • we achieve more in “game world”
  • it motivates us to do something that matters
  • gaming inspires us to collaborate and cooperate
  • it motivates us to stick with a problem as long as it takes
  • gaming helps us deal with and move beyond failure
  • it provides immediate feedback
  • gaming is often times better than reality
  • it provides repetition (10,000 hour theory of success- Outliers)

McGonigal shares four “Superpowers” of Gaming:

  • creates urgent optimism – desire to act immediately with a reasonable home for success
  • weaves a tight social fabric – relationship building (bonds, trust, cooperation)
  • creates blissful productivity (given the right work)
  • creates epic meaning

How gaming falls short according to McGonigal  – gamers are “super-empowered, hopeful individuals who feel they are individually capable of changing the world.”  The problem is, only in the virtual world, not in the real world.  That’s what she is trying to figure out.  How do we make the real world more like a game?  At BCS, could we get our students, in a project based learning / service learning manner, to create games that can change the world – or at least make BCS an even greater place to be?

Want more? Check out her video below where she ends with the story of Herodotus – ancient epic gaming, and 3 games she has developed on how to solve real world problems through gaming.  Anyone want to try them?

Also, check out the Resource Roundup from Edutopia with a bevy of gaming resources.

Want even more?  Read McGonigal’s book, SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully.


Finish Strong! Should We Go Slow to Go Fast? #BCSLearns

Spring is here and with it, so is the final quarter of the 2016-2017 school year.  At this time of year, we all like to invoke the mantra “Finish Strong.” To help us think about this phrase for ourselves and the students we serve, let us use some animal metaphors.  Below are a few videos of animals we can use as metaphors as we consider this post’s title as we ramp up the fast-paced environment that spring brings to our schools. Might there be caution to heed as the pace quickens with the end of the year in site (less than 50 days).  Perhaps slowing down will allow us to “run faster than a cheetah.” What do you think?

Check out the “How do you outrun a cheetah?” video below and consider the following:

  • What comes with the price of going too fast?
  • How can you keep a “cool head” even at a fast pace?
  • What does success come down too? How about a head start?
  • Bottom line, we need be smart about our pace and stay away from “strong jaws and sharp teeth.”

Let’s now consider the Gazelle.  Does this time of year ramp up your speed and make you fast like a gazelle?  Speed can cause problems as evidenced by the below video.  Seemingly running beautifully and at high speed to get where it wants to go, what happens to the Gazelle?  What will be its eventual outcome?

Could slow and steady win the race? Yes indeed!  With the right tools and support around you! Note the example in the below video…

And now, getting back to our human relationships.  Finishing strong is not about winning or beating the competition or leaving people behind.  It’s about our 3E’s (education, environment, each other) and helping each other in a collaborative way in our efforts to finish strong.  Check out the video below of this fast-paced race from last summer’s 2016 Rio Olympic Games.  Let us finish strong together, helping each other…

The Strength of Difference! #BCSLearns

“Maybe there’s more that brings us together than we think,” is the closing phrase of the below video. Its title, “All that We Share” is rather appropriate in that there is, for sure, more that brings us together than separates us. I wonder if too frequently, we don’t spend the time to get to know people in our lives on a personal level, simply surface.  But then, when we take the time to hear one’s story, it is then we find empathy.  Each of our stories is so personal, so unique, so interesting, why not take the time to hear another’s story, and even share our own.  Roberto Chene, a cultural anthropologist, I heard speak some years ago stated so powerfully, “You cannot hate someone’s story you know.”  Perhaps that is the problem in our world today with the hatred.  Are we not taking the time to get to know each other and hear each other’s story?  Wouldn’t this give us the opportunity to build empathy in each of us and toward others?  As we look forward to our Spring Vacation, finishing the school year strong, and plan for next year at BCS, let our work around empathy be the torch we carry as we continue to build on the caring community we have! I hope you find this short video as powerful as I do.

Give These Collaborative Team Roles a Try! #BCSLearns

Knowing of our continued effort to infuse student collaboration throughout our learning with students, I received an email a few weeks ago from our BCS founding principal, Dale Truding, who shared this Harvard Business Review article with me called The New Science of Team Chemistry.  If organizations are not getting the performance they need from their teams, what about our classrooms?  Could these Business Chemistry roles, directly quoted below from the article, help us achieve the shared goals of the students in your classrooms?

  • Pioneers – “value possibilities, and they spark energy and imagination on their teams. They believe risks are worth taking and that it’s fine to go with your gut. Their focus is big-picture. They’re drawn to bold new ideas and creative approaches.”
  • Guardians – “value stability, and they bring order and rigor. They’re pragmatic, and they hesitate to embrace risk. Data and facts are baseline requirements for them, and details matter. Guardians think it makes sense to learn from the past.”
  • Drivers – “value challenge and generate momentum. Getting results and winning count most. Drivers tend to view issues as black-and-white and tackle problems head on, armed with logic and data.”
  • Integrators – “value connection and draw teams together. Relationships and responsibility to the group are paramount. Integrators tend to believe that most things are relative. They’re diplomatic and focused on gaining consensus.”

In a post from last fall related to Getting to Deep Learning, I shared Michael Fullan’s work on New Pedagogies for Deep Learning and outlined his 6 C’s: Creativity, Communication, Citizenship, Critical Thinking, Character, and Collaboration.  How do the roles listed above (pioneers, guardians, drivers, and integrators) align with Fullan’s notion of collaboration?  The brief, 3-minute video below highlights critical skills, related to collaboration, that students will need for success in this modern, connected world.  Why is collaboration important? The equation for collaboration – “join forces + pool resources = achievement of common goal/solution.” Check it out!

An Effective Teacher: A Self Reflection #BCSLearns

A post from Edutopia by Carrie Lam lists 11 Habits of an Effective Teacher.  As I read the post and reflected upon the habits and details within them, I began to think, as an educator, which of these habits are my strengths.  Which would be my goal areas?  Which ones would students say are my strengths?  My weaknesses?  What shall I keep doing?  Start doing? Stop doing?  Where does more of my attention need to go?  Review the “11 Habits” listed below and go on a self reflective journey with the aforementioned questions in mind to see where you end up. An effective teacher…

  1. Enjoys Teaching
  2. Makes a Difference
  3. Spreads Positivity
  4. Gets Personal
  5. Gives 100%
  6. Stays Organized
  7. Is Open-Minded
  8. Has Standards
  9. Finds Inspiration
  10. Embraces Change
  11. Creates Reflections

Our BCS teachers know my mantra:  “Presume Positive Intent.”  Check out the last sentence in Lam article: “There is always something positive to be found in every situation but it is up to you to find it. Keep your head up and teach happily for the love of education!”

Getting at the heart of teaching: Lisa Lee at TEDxCrestmoorParkED where she “gives an emotional talk about making a difference in children’s lives as teachers and teaches us that if we reach the inner core first, the common core is more easily taught.” 

How can the 11 habits of an effective teacher listed help us reach that inner core of our students where, as Lee suggests great teachers do, we help each student we serve see value in him/herself?