Friday, June 05, 2009

Fulfilling on vision for PDC effectiveness

The Eagle Rock Professional Development Center is working on behalf of Big Picture to support improvement, reflecting and ongoing learning. We will also be supporting the professional development and support of principals in the network. One of our first events was preceded by visits to the Bronx Guild, Mapleton Early College and Highline. Folks at the three sites agreed that it would be worthwhile to do some focused work on the academic quality of LTI projects. Collectively we designed an event that eventually attracted participants from Liberty and East Bay. Staff from the five schools met at Eagle Rock from Sun, May 31 to Tue, Jun 2 to conduct an assets-based study of various LTI projects that had yielded positive academic results. We used protocols throughout the 2 days to study our most successful work, develop action plans to implement at our home sites and envision a future where these plans were successfully implemented. The sequence of work will culminate with on-site follow up from the Professional Development Center.

This experience has also inspired some possible plans to conduct similar events on a regional basis. Participants left with the following to say...

"As a first year advisor, it was great to talk to other people who were doing the same work especially in a context that was so focused and well thought out." Ed Kessler, advisor, Highline

"This has been the most productive professional development day I have experienced in my time at the Met" David Cass, 11th gr. advisor, Liberty

"The conference energized me, taught me about best practices at other schools, and gave me time to develop a plan to implrement change at my school." Ben Schneider, advisor, Mapleton Early College

"I have a renewed focus on project depth, creative new ideas about how to bring it about, and an awakened memory of what I know works. The asset-based approach was a great paradigm shift for me." Arthur Baraf, Principal, Liberty

Thursday, April 02, 2009

League of Democratic Schools

For the next two days, I will be hosting about 15 folks for the annual regional meeting of the League of Democratic Schools. I'll describe this group in a later post. For now, I want to outline my ideas for creating a work oriented meeting for various schools. Later, I will reflect on how well these plans worked.

Here's the agenda
Theme: Making the Invisible, Visible
"...there is only one thing I would want schools to guarantee, it would be to help all young people acquire the skills and self-confidence they need to feel visible in the world." ~ Sam Chaltain from Degrees of Freedom

8:30 am - Eagle Rock gathering: witness an Eagle Rock ritual for supporting youth voice
9:00 am - Framing of meeting: intro to Eagle Rock, emphasis on theme (we're all hear to get better at incorporating youth voice), and emphasis on process of work, sharing and producing content.
10:00 am - Restorative Justice training: folks from Boulder Valley & New Vista High School sharing their practices
1:00 pm - Dilemmas in Democratic Governance: Eagle Rock students will present dilemmas and challenges regarding youth voice and governance. Participants will provide feedback using a consultancy protocol.
2:45 pm - Sharing resources from member schools: Run as a World or Knowledge Cafe. Each school has a home base and participants rotate to different tables. Throughout, we are looking into the question of what makes us a network? Who are we as a region? Who are we to each other?
4:45 pm - Closure

8:30 am Eagle Rock gathering: witness an Eagle Rock ritual for supporting youth voice
9:00 am Featured Speaker: Sam Chaltain: Sam will highlight some principles of democratic principles in schools. Schools will then work on their own projects with Sam providing coaching based on his presentation.
1:00 pm Creating content on online community: Somehow (not sure how yet) help participants think in terms of creating a product based on our work together and posting that online.

We'll see how it goes.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Using Twitter for PD Conversations

I was minding my own business last night, surfing the web and checking my twitter feeds when I saw a tweet that read:

hrmason: Heather Mason, 8th Language Arts, Merritt Island, FL, USA #educhat

I wondered why this person I was following just randomly identified herself in this way. I noticed the tag #educhat at the end and did a Twitter search for that term to find....

thorprichard: Yeah, #educhat is an informal live intl. discussion about education using Twitter.

At the search window, hundreds of education related tweets began scrolling. Some folks enjoyed finding new people...

@ScottElias: Best thing about #educhat - finding new ppl to follow!!

Others launched polls...

wgraziadei: What criteria do you use to follow (for that matter unfollow) a user? Poll #educhat

And many shared resources....

clinds: Just heard about LearnCentral in Live Classroom 2.0 Ning archive - looks like an amazing tool to collaborate w teachers-anyone try? #educhat

To review the content of this evening's chat or to share it with colleagues, use the hashtag at #educhat

And, about 1000 tweets later, we signed off with...
Educhat: Thank you for joining us. Please take the time to join us at our next meeting on April 6, 2009. Goodnight! #educhat

In addition to using Twitter to engage in backchannel conversations at conferences, this was my favorite use of Twitter.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

PDC Work - part 2

A few ideas I want to weave into the strategic stance I drafted in the last post.

1 - Sustained contact time on a single focus spread over time Consistent with a recent report titled "Professional Learning in the Learning Profession," our professional development center would emphasize choosing a focus, working together with a school for at least 50 hours and spread out over 6-12 months.

2 - People on the ground have the capacity to invent their own solutions This falls under our assets based approach. However, I think there are so many specific elements to the assets based approach that it warrants listing them out. The last post listed the concept of "positive deviance" and now we have the belief in the capacity of people to invent their own solutions. More can also be written on the "strengths based" movement, positive psychology, growth mindset, appreciative inquiry and learned optimism.

3 - Building teams in this work is a high leverage point More brains are better than one and only different perspectives can really produce new knowledge.

4 - Whatever theory or concept we are working on, it must be grounded in the work produced at the site Studying student work together or videotaping teacher practice provides the reality test when we are discussing more abstract concepts of differentiation, scaffolding, or project based learning. It takes far more disciplined energy to keep returning to our work than it does to have abstract debates on what works best for students. Our approach is more empirical.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Professional Development Center work

I'm drafting some ideas for how to best describe the strategy for The Professional Development Center at Eagle Rock School. Here's what I've got so far.

Guiding principles: Assets based and actionable. We begin from a place of working with schools and organizations from the stance that they already have all they need to move closer to their vision. They may need someone like us to unearth their assets and identify signs of positive deviance. Further, we are strict about turning any insights into actions. We provide clear descriptions of what the folks in an organization must do rather than just describe outcomes.

Given these principles, we engage in the following strategies.

1 – We choose to work with strategic partners. These are organizations that have a highly developed infrastructure for working (a) with small public schools and (b) directly addressing issues of high school drop out rate and secondary school experience for the kinds of students we work with at Eagle Rock School. Amongst our current partners are The Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), Alternative High School Initiative (AHSI) and the League of Democratic Schools (LoDS).

3- We partner strategically with technical assistance providers like PEBC and Buck Institute. They offer to either train us in their professional development or have us cofacilitate their work. That enables us to deliver our work having had the benefit of their high quality approach -- builds our capacity as trainers, adds value to ERS and adds values to the schools we work with. We are low to no-cost help to them as needed facilitators and we, in turn, learn from their work which is in high demand due to their quality and reputation.

3 – We are using our capacity to host visitors at our school site more effectively by working with fewer schools with whom we can conduct follow up visits. We combine the retreat nature created here while remaining embedded in a school environment. Our follow up visits to their school sites supports the needed contextualizing.

I will continue to flesh out these thoughts and develop a fuller strategy document.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Oprah Winfrey Final Remarks at NAIS 09

"I believe in what you do" ~Oprah

She has sponsored young women to attend independent schools all over the country. Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa inspired by independent schools. Sharing her experiences - ups and downs - of having a school.

Benefited from nuns bringing Christmas gifts to her when she was a child on welfare. Wanted to do the same - spread the love, bring unexpected joy to children - in South Africa. During the 3 week effort, Nelson Mandela invited her to stay over his house for ten days. What to say? What to do? Stedman told Oprah, "Why don't you just listen for a change?"

When you educate a girl, you educate a community. Teen pregnancy, AIDS and other social ills go down. Battled the government and architects in an effort to make the Leadership Academy beautiful. Art can inspire. "Why do the girls need closets? They don't have anything to put in them." Why? Oprah: "Because I want to send the girls a message that they are valued."

Oprah was looking for an "IT factor" amongst the girls. Wanted young women who had something to fit in Leadership Academy. Do we, should we do that for Eagle Rock? These young ladies have lost their parents to AIDS, suffer sexual assault, live in poverty. Is it so wrong to be selective within that group of youth in need? I think we dance around that question in student admissions.

First biggest challenge: finding the right staff. Selected students first because she thought it would be harder to find the right kids. Then surprised by how difficult it was to find the right teachers. "I thought because the vision was so clear to me, it was clear to everyone." Not so. Looking for a head of school, dean of academics, counselor.... Issues with staff exist everywhere.

Second learning: "Projected budgets are made by people with a great sense of humor." Spent 2 1/2 times more than planned on everything. Oprah's school pays for everything: appendectomies, coats, braces, transportation. I thought Eagle Rock provided a lot (we do, but this is more).

Now, she's talking about the alleged sex abuse scandal at the Leadership Academy. The case has still not been resolved. The only way to deal with a crisis is to "stay in the moment." Don't get consumed by worst case scenarios. Stay in the moment, tell the truth. "If you tell the truth, you can be criticized but you can never be hurt."

Sidney Poitier's expectations of these girls: To be seated at every table where the decisions of the world are made for the future.

Final scene from Goodbye Mr. Chips. "I think I heard you say it was a pity that I never had any children. But, you're wrong. I had thousands of them. All boys." Oprah feels the same.

Great ending! So acknowledging of educators and saying, "I'm trying to do it too."

Letting my frame of reference get in the way

Second experiment in live blogging. Waiting for Oprah to take the stage and hear her words of wisdom for the independent educators of the world. Meanwhile, a word on Guy Kawasaki's presentation. After discussing the presentation with a colleague, I realized I assessed Guy's presentation using a pretty limited rubric. I heard him say he was presenting on steps to change. Given that's an area of interest for me, I listened for "steps" and did not hear any. First of all, I may have misheard. He may have said principles or qualities of change. In that case, he would have fared much better in my evaluation. Second, after reflecting with a colleague, I see that there was a lot of useful and practical stuff in the presentation. For example, the whole idea of jumping the curve is a way we can frame what we do at Eagle Rock School. Lot of opportunity there. My limited framework for evaluation limited what value I drew from the talk. How often do I do that? How often do any of us do that?

Guy Kawasaki Keynote NAIS 09 Entry #2

Guy Kawasaki
10 Steps to Change continued

6 - Polarize People

Okay - love that he's bragging about loving low brow TV. Makes me feel good. Loves 24 and The Unit. I love TV. He has three Tivos....that's what I want!

The point is some people love Tivo and some hate it. Any good idea polarizes people. That's good. Anything good generates strong emotions: Tivo, Harley Davidsons, Montessori schools

7 - Let 100 Flowers Blossom

Quote from Chairman Mao. I like this quote for the right situation but I've heard it applied at Eagle Rock for not working deliberately on any process or system. I've also heard it to justify taking in hundreds of students and watching hundreds fall away. I think 100 Flowers is a good approach to things and prototype thinking. Not so great when we're working with human beings and we want to serve them as best we can.

8 - Churn, Baby, Churn
Move through versions 1.0, 1.2, 1.3.... Ignore the bozos who say this revolutionary idea is not possible. Ignore them. But once the product is released, now switch to listening because the users will tell you how to fix the bugs. I can relate this to our current curriculum revision project.

9 - Niche thyself
2x2 matrix Uniqueness and Value
  • High uniqueness, low value: Bozo
  • Low uniqueness, low value: Pet Store food being shipped. Shipping costs too high and inconvenience. Most dot.coms are this way.
  • High uniqueness, high value: Fandango, Clear Card, Smart Car, Trek Line bike

10 - Follow 10-20-30 Rule
This is about pitching using power point. (Claims someone try to sell him on the idea that Israel be purchased and turned into an amusement park.)

10 slides - no more...
20 minutes - present in no more than...
30 points - use font no smaller than...

11 - Don't Let the Bozos Grind You Down (Guess he added an extra step)

That's it. What Guy calls the 10 steps of change. I have to disagree. It was an entertaining presentation with some clever tips. I'm glad I saw him. But, these are not steps. It's a collection of anecdotes.

Guy Kawasaki Keynote NAIS 09

Guy Kawasaki
10 Steps to Change
This is my first attempt at live blogging. I'm taking notes on this talk as it's happening. I'm putting first five steps here and will continue with second entry.

1- Make Meaning (i.e., make a difference, change the world)

With 2 pieces of cotton, leather, rubber construct a shoe under controversial sweatshop conditions - not compelling. But that's what Nike does and they market it with meaning.

2 - Make Mantra

Put's up Wendy's [bad] mission statement about leadership and innovation. "When I order a cheeseburger it doesn't occur to me that I'm involved in leadership and innovation."

FedEx: Peace of Mind or EBay: Democratize Commerce. All better than a mission statement.

3 - Jump to the Next Curve

Don't be satisfied working it out on the same curve. "The telephone was not a slightly better telegraph. It was a whole new curve."

4 - Roll the DICEE
D: Depth: Reef sandal has beer bottle opener in its sole.
I: Intelligence: BF-104 Flashlight...someone was really thinking here. Flashlight takes three different battery sizes.
C: Complete: Totality of experience. i.e., Lexus
E: Elegance: How beautiful is your laptop, your school?
E: Emotive. You love it or hate it, you are not indifferent.

5 - Don't Worry, Be Crappy
When you have some revolutionary idea and you wait for that perfect bug-free world, you will NEVER ship your product.

So, favorite principle. It supports "Don't let the perfect, be the enemy of the good." Also, promotes the prototype mindset we all need to get things done.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Making Change Stick: Steps

My newest version of presenting steps to change. I'll annotate each step at another time. This is what I've come up with after combining my experience with work by John Kotter, David Allen and the Vital Smarts folks who wrote Influencer. Wisdom of Teams also has a minor influence.

Making Change Stick Steps
Precondition: Establish champion, leadership
1 – Identify the dilemma
2- Focus on the desired behavior
3 – Create a project built around bringing that desired behavior into practice.
4 – Involve others (establish a team and invite community feedback)
5 – Establish boundaries