Thursday, October 20, 2016

Vision, Culture, & Conversations - #IMMOOC Week 3

I’ve had an amazing few weeks of learning that caused me to put a lot of thought into what school can be. In addition to reading Part II of The Innovator’s Mindset and viewing Episode 3 of the #IMMOOC YouTube Live Sessions, I also attended the Iowa Technology and Education Connection (ITEC) Conference last week. I always enjoy the opportunity to learn from presenters and participants at conferences. I found this year’s conference very inspiring as I attended many different sessions that made me think about how we can innovate to better meet the needs of our students. Presenters like George Couros (@gcouros), Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp), Chad Kafka (@chadkafka), Robert Dillon (@ideaguy42), and more pushed my thinking and helped me dream about the possibilities of education. I was impressed as I learned more about Iowa BIG, a project-based high school built around the ideas of student passion, authentic projects, and connections to the community.
George Couros signed my copy of The Innovator's Mindset at ITEC
Throughout all of these learning opportunities, I kept coming back to the themes of vision and culture. I truly believe that vision and culture go hand in hand. A staff that has a shared vision in which they truly believe, will establish a culture of learning (for educators and students). This reinforces the importance of involving all stakeholders in establishing a vision. Everyone affected by the vision needs to have a say in its creation and should be able to explain how it translates into the classroom and learning.

This simple step of allowing voice (whether in creating a school-wide vision or one for your own classroom) can have a profound effect on the buy-in of all stakeholders. This can be one of the first steps in establishing a collaborative culture of learning. Inclusion of all stakeholders in this process helps to build trust and is the first step toward empowerment of learners. This allows for the development of a culture where learners (whether teachers or students) feel supported in taking risks and feel that their voice matters. Leaders must then continue to develop relationships and allow learners to meet their own needs through the procedures that are in place.

This week's #IMMOOC challenge was to make a meme related to this week's learning
As I read The Innovator’s Mindset, I was struck by the power of conversations. This theme was also prevalent in my sessions at ITEC and as I listened to Kaleb Rashad on the YouTube Live session.  I realize this may seem like common sense, but I kept coming back to the importance of meaningful conversations that involve teachers, students, parents, and community members about what all of us see as the purpose of school. George’s comparison of school vs. learning got me thinking that few people would disagree with his assessment of learning and that many would also not argue about the realities of  school. However, I think many people have not put a lot of thought into the disparity between the characteristics of school and those of learning. This leaves us to discuss how we can narrow the gap between the two. Educational leaders must promote these meaningful discussions that can be impactful for the educational process. Resources such as the characteristics of school vs. learning, the “what if” questions from chapter 7 of The Innovator's Mindset, and documentaries such as Most Likely to Succeed can provide excellent conversation starters to help us push the envelope of innovative educational practices.

Duckworth, Sylvia. "School vs Learning" 10 March 2015. Online Image. Flickr. 18 January 2015. <https://flic.kr/p/qRgiYR>
Beginning these conversations promotes a move toward a more unified vision of action that goes beyond a written vision statement. As more voices feel empowered to contribute to this discussion, culture will begin to shift and the focus will truly become about what is best for learners.  I certainly do not believe that discussions alone will create idyllic learning environments, however, I feel that a process that involves everyone in a discussion about schools will help establish a culture that puts learners first. This is essential for innovation in education, as I believe culture is the biggest determinant of success in schools.



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