Innovative or Innovative Things

I’m always amazed by the creative and innovative ideas that translate into practice throughout education. It is what I enjoy most about networking whether face to face or digitally because I get a chance to hear all about these.

But like the old man on the front porch yelling at kids to stay off the lawn, I often feel like the mood killer. That is because I’m reminded when I hear about these ideas brought to life that too often they are just another thing.

Don’t get me wrong; we need innovative things! However, innovative things in a non-innovative organization can often be viewed with a skeptical eye and seen as “just another thing we have to do”.  Unfair? Yes.

As leaders, I would caution you to not look for innovative things to bring to your organization. Instead, I challenge you to start asking how do we become an innovative organization that fosters and brings to life your own unique ideas.

Because that is where the real magic lives. When the organization is creating and remixing instead of imitating and redoing.


No magic formula exist that I know. Perhaps someone has that and can offer it up (I’d love it!). However, here is what I believe is true knowing full well it is a long, messy process.

First, mindsets and conditions are the bedrock to an innovative organization. Second, it is a matter of analyzing current practices to decide whether it is a roadblock or an amplifier. Third, it is the confidence and will to replace roadblocks with new practices that better align with the desired mindset and conditions. Fourth, it is protecting with all you have those practices that amplify the desired organizational mindsets and conditions.

So my less than magical formula is something like this:

Mindset > Conditions > Inhibitors | Amplifiers > New Practice | Maintain/Enhance Practice

A simple example is this:

  1. ANALYSIS: Agency/Ownership (mindset) > Rapid Release Professional Development (condition) > Delayed Release for Google, 10 hours of PD prior to tool access, cohort release model, mandatory tool use, one tool per use mandate, etc (Inhibiting Practices) | choice-based PD, unconference model institute
  2. ACTION: The new practices to emerge that remove those that inhibit are a) shift to rapid release for Google apps b) immediate access to tools with no mandatory PD, cohort model option with ability to start without it, recommended tool with freedom to choose something better for particular needs, identified commonalities with flexibility in achieving those pieces (everyone has a digital space but…)
  3. ACTION: The practices to be protected that amplify are a) choice-based PD but with the greater openness to technologies there should be a cross-pollination of ideas. Thus, we need more opportunities for discussions of what is/isn’t working b) unconference model now will create even greater benefits because the freedom of time is coupled with the flexibility in technologies. Can we expand it to more than one day a year?

Again, this isn’t as “cool” as just adding new ideas that are no doubt innovative. Yet, I can promise you the reflection and action on current practices will lead to greater innovation than only adding the cool idea heard on social media, at a conference, or in a magazine. That is, unless you already are an Innovative Organization. If that is the case, you probably never reached this point in the post ;-)

Keep Shooting for the Moon!




Measuring for Success

At the Midwest Google Summit this past week, I featured a presentation on Measuring for Success with this as the focus: In this session, we will explore a possible pathway for measuring success using an ethnographic and engagement lens. Together, we will review the functionality of various tools for capturing data and using this to drive your movement forward. Leaving this session, you’ll have a framework for advancement in learning and teaching while never losing sight that happiness, joy, and passions trump policies, procedures, and standardization.

As a qualitative researcher, I’m often looked at oddly when I speak about this being one of my favorite presentations. The word “measuring” is packed with baggage. But the key message is that anything can be measured but we must trust the measurement if we are going to use it. And that is key, right? If we are measuring, we better be using it as one piece to guide us in the creation of our story.

Here is the slidedeck to read more about some of the options for measurement keeping this in mind:

  1. the story needs to be told within any data
  2. there are three unique focuses: the learner experience, instruction, and engagement (your three could be different or maybe it is just one, but what are those items you wish to measure)
  3. each focus is triangulated
  4. field notes trump all (my inherent bias)

Keep shooting for the moon!


Conditions for 10x Thinking

At the Midwest Google Summit this past week, I had the pleasure of presenting “Reimagining Leadership for 10x Thinking” with this as the focus: with many decisions facing schools, one thing should remain at the core: a future minded focus on learning and the learner experience. Growing that future minded environment requires us to reimagine leadership as co-designers of a organization that thinks big, never lands, and empowers. Come explore shifts that create conditions for agility and agency which foster 10x thinking.

The key message is that there are many paths one could take to foster 10x thinking organizationally but it is the development of organizational mindsets and conditions that will best lead to 10x Thinking. For example, you can “do” 20% time. However, if there isn’t a belief in freedom and time plus a climate that fosters risk-taking, then this is just another thing people must do. It doesn’t become a part of the fabric that leads to 10x thinking and acting.

Here is the slidedeck to read more about the conditions I feel help reimagine leadership for 10x Thinking and key practices that grow those conditions.

Keep shooting for the moon!



Breadcrumbs for My Children

As the darkness gives way to light, I find myself reflecting upon who I am as a father but also what I want to share with my children as they grow.

Unknowingly, I started tweeting once a morning that wisdom  or at least what I feel is a life lived. But I soon realized that I was leaving breadcrumbs for my children should something happen to me.

Morbid? Maybe.

But this digital footprint has more value to me than anything I’ve done online. It stares at me. It reminds me. My greatest mission in life is my children.


Mortality is cruel so these vignettes and what they help instill are my only way to combat it if only slightly.

Early Experience with Android Apps on Chromebooks

Early Experience with Android Apps on Chromebooks

Google made good on their I/O promise to begin sending Android apps over to the Chromebooks. From a school perspective, this is an important move for the Google Ecosystem especially with the outstanding potential with Google Play for Edu. And for schools that anticipated this and went with Chromebooks that have touch and tablet-lite experience like the Lenovo 11e Yoga, the energy is off the charts.

What is the experience?

Even with just four apps available now, Evernote jumps off the page given the great educational value. So let’s take a peak at just that one.

1. Install

Installing the app is quite simple. Whether in the Chrome Web Store or in Google Play for Edu, it is like installing any other app. One click and the install begins. The app is a bit over 100mb and comes across quickly. The web app for Evernote doesn’t go away so this can be a bit perplexing for students if they have two Evernote apps.

2. Launch of the App

The app resides within the app launcher. Given it is an Android app, it works entirely offline. This is important to note due the outdated criticism of Chromebooks requiring wifi to have any functionality.

3. App Experience

The app is exactly what you would find on your Android device. It is actually quite impressive to see and lives up to what you would expect from Evernote, Android, and Chromebook <– how cool is that? I was moving back and forth between the web and Evernote but also within various Yoga modes. In other words, I was getting uber excited by the cognitive and physical flow potential.

And then my excitement plummeted. For whatever reason, the handwriting piece does not function. This dropped the entire potential of the work flow that brought together these great worlds. If and when this is resolved, wow!



4. Screen Size of App 

I’ve read some criticism on the app not launching the full size of the screen. I get that and was also a bit perplexed by it. After a colleague gave me the “Wow Factor” of us getting the best of both worlds we wanted (Nexus 7 and Chromebooks), I wondered if the size was in any way similar to the Nexus 7.

The reality is that the Evernote app and the Nexus 7 screen are almost identical.




I’m excited. This is what we expected to see occur from Google and it is quite promising given we are 48 hours into it. Time will tell if this lives up to the expectation we have for it.

As the featured image of this post has in it from our pilot over two years ago, the Nexus 7 and the Chromebook brought with them many opportunities. It was hard to choose and hours of discussions went into it. All of us wished we could have the two in one. Google and Lenovo are making that possible!




The Value of Superintendents

Superintendents have little value when it comes to student achievement. This is, of course, if you value the the study done by Brown Center on Education Policy at Brooklings. For me, I have many questions and thoughts regarding the findings. Above anything else, I don’t see the value of the superintendent accurately measured and thus reflected in this study unless you are one that see state assessment results as the ultimate driver.

The Starting Point

It ultimately starts with two key questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the superintendent?
  2. How do we measure said purpose?

Is the purpose of the superintendent to raise student achievement? Perhaps I’ll be chastised for this but I would argue “no” at least in terms of directly. The purpose of the superintendent as I would argue for all central office administration is to create the conditions for the schools to be successful.

Thus, I would like a study to be conducted on the known conditions that need to be in place in order for schools to have the opportunity to be successful and whether superintendents are creating those conditions. What are those conditions? There are things such as financial stability, school agency and empowerment, policies and procedures, technology infrastructure and tools, vision and direction, and resource procurement.

And I would add Umbrella Management. The Superintendent and his or her cabinet work to place an umbrella over the schools so that they can focus on learning and teaching. This umbrella protects from the federal and state bureaucratic aspects that often distract from the real mission. By placing an umbrella over the schools and shielding them from this meaningless management work, the schools are able to focus on a meaningful climate and experience for students.

This is the study that makes sense to me. First, defined the purpose of the superintendent. Second, identify the research on successful schools such as Dr. Lezotte’s Effective Schools research. Third, measure the impact of the superintendent on those conditions.

The Student Achievement Problem

More than anything, I’ve grown tired of studies like these that emerge and become fodder for the media to use (see NPR) using the tired old “student achievement” framework. First, student achievement as measured my standardized test is a poor methodology fraught with problems. We know this. Yet, here we sit with a study framed around state assessment data.

If that is how we measure student achievement, we are all doomed in education because I fail to see much causation behind many of the correlations attempted to be made. Again, I’d love to see us really challenge ourselves to define student achievement differently. Can state assessments be one mechanism? Sure. It being the foundational bedrock though? Problematic to say the least.




Top Down vs Bottom Up

I find this idea of “How Google Changed when Larry Page Became CEO Again” a worthwhile topic of focus for schools.

Let’s start here.

  1. Is your school/district top-down or bottom-up?
  2. How do you know?
  3. To what degree is it one of those?
  4. And perhaps most importantly, what is and isn’t working with which ever one is operating in your school/district?

Chances are, you aren’t having a difficult time answering those questions. And there is a good chance, your answer to number 4 is directly aligned with your answer to number 2 (i.e. my knowledge of which one we are is associated with mostly positives or negatives and then influences my tone for whether it is working or not).

And I would also speculate that the results are intensely to one side or the other in terms of top-down vs. bottom-up.

Teachers: “We are heavy bottom up and kind of floating along though we are at least left alone” or “We are heavy top-down and left stifled, scared, and tired but have what appears to be a direction”.
Admin: “We are heavy bottom up and empower teachers”. You’ll rarely hear an admin state they are top-down even when they are clearly, “top-down”.

So what does the article about Page tell us?

Page finds top-down and bottom-up to be symbiotic not diametrically opposed.  One Google employee stated that before Page’s return, Google empowered everyone but empowered them without a feeling of direction. In other words, heavy bottom-up and kind of floating along albeit with an amazing level of success.

One employee put it best: “People were running around working on whatever projects they wanted. It was a bottom-up approach to figuring out the company’s focus.” That idea of “figuring out the company’s focus” is what resonates so much with me.

And so now, Page has according to the article a much more deliberate take on what Google needs to be working on now. However, he empowers them to explore, discover, and create as widely as possible within those questions.

I wonder which the employees preferred? Which approach created the agency and agility needed for sustainable innovation? What works and doesn’t work with the current approach vs the old approach?

But more importantly to me, what can we learn here because this delicate balance between top-down and bottom-up is a struggle for many school organizations in my opinion.

Perhaps the speculation at the end of the article is our best piece of advice to consider as school leaders:Google realized that if it really wants to solve some interesting problems, it needs to decide where to focus its attention” while empowering those that can solve those problems to the greatest degree possible!

Bullying and Play

While society spends much time blaming social media for increased quantity and intensity of bullying, I can’t help but feel this is classic correlation without causation. In fact, I wonder how much bullying today is connected to the over dependence on formalized/organized play leaving kids unable to negotiate peers.

My wife and I are now those parents. We shuffle our kids from one organized event to another. There are always adults setting the rules, setting the agenda, setting the movements, and setting the atmosphere. Adults handle any problem occurring during these organized events or the child runs off the field to their parent who then jumps in to handle it.

Gone is the right field is out. Gone is the army rules. Gone is the pitcher hand out. Gone is 50 yard field. Gone is the curb is out of bounce.

If you know these pieces, you know these are the rules established by kids. These are starting points for kids to learn how to navigate teams, peers, and society. Today, this is all done for them.

I sound like my grandfather and his tales of walking 5 miles up a snow-covered hill just to reach the top where he had 5 more miles to go in open fields just to reach school. But I see this the lack of empowerment of children at a young age to solve their own problems  and wonder what is it doing to them. Honestly, adults are right there solving all problems before these even become a problem. Two kids disagree on something. Adult jumps in and says “this is how it goes”. One kid calls another a name. Adult jumps in and says “we aren’t going to do this”. One kid isn’t getting the ball enough and adult jumps in to make sure s/he gets one grandiose experience. One kid cuts in line and kids tell an adult who jumps in… The list goes on and on.

There is little growth in navigating with peers, communicating with peers, expressing concerns/frustrations with peers, and negotiating with peers. All of this is done through an adult intermediary.

Maybe this has little correlation let alone causation. However, I simply can’t help wonder if the supposed increase in quantity and intensity of bullying is connected to the over dependence on formalized/organized play leaving kids unable to negotiate peers.



PD and Fitness

PD and Fitness

I’ve been involved in fitness since the age of 12 when I snuck my way into a gym.

Since that time, I’ve read, observed, studied, and connected with anyone and everything that could grow my understanding of how to alter my body.

– Nutrition
– Biomechanics
– Anatomy and Physiology
– Biorhythms
– Sports Psychology
– and the list goes on

One month ago, I discovered through a ten minute conversation that my positioning while training calves has been less than ideal.

Taking this ten minute conversation, I’ve modified my approach and have experienced an explosion in performance.

The Connection to Professional Development

There is so much talk these days about PD with various arguments. Most are overly complicated.

PD is about engagement of the heart, mind, and body. The best pathway to it is empowerment, choice, flexibility, and time.

When this done, conventional methods do not apply and PD is just happening at every moment. It also means that educators take responsibility to grow instead of waiting for another adult to dictate time, location, topic, and approach.

Organizations with roles dedicated to PD need to rethink the traditional “we own it and all PD comes through us” to a more sustainable, engaging model of “we create constructs throughout the organization where everyone is providing and participating in learning”.

In ten minutes, I learned something that will fuel me for years. I didn’t wait for someone to offer a session. I didn’t go to a person designated for training. Because of the constructs of a community of fitness minded athletes, learning is always happening.

When schools become this, think of how much we will grow.

Keys to One-to-One Learning Movements

When people visit to discuss our one-to-one movement, one question we always receive is about keys to success. I say you’ve probably heard all about first level changes that we know are important: infrastructure, policies, planning, support, etc.

Of course, everyone wants to know about professional development and this also part of the equation but not so much in the way you imagine. However, I am sure to point out that one-to-one within the Google Ecosystem is about all the professional learning that goes into that world prior to the devices even being there. In other words, your school should believe in the Google Ecosystem and should be deeply vested prior to bringing on devices especially Chromebooks or Google Play tablets. Once that is in place and the three keys I’m about to mention, being professionally develop fades to continuous connecting, learning, and sharing.

The real keys are second level changes. Failure to embrace these at the core of thinking and acting ultimately will lead to a poor movement or even ultimate failure.

  1. Lack of Agency
  2. Lack of Agility
  3. Lack of Self-Driven Adult Learning

How are you fostering these mindsets and dispositions? How are you thinking beyond the known aspects into what matters? How are you focusing on the heart, mind, and body? How are you pushing beyond “professionally developed” to “professionally encouraged”?