Tuesday, February 23, 2010

March Madness

OK, so my title is a little misleading. It's not even March and I don't find myself in a state of madness. However, I'm hoping those two key words at this time of year will drive a little more Google traffic to my blog!

1:1 Computer Initiatives

Thank you to the administrators, staff, and students in Sigourney Community School District, Sigourney, Iowa as well as the educational reps from Apple Computers for the tour of your school and the discussion of your 1:1 laptop initiative. As we toured the 7-12 facility today it was evident that engagement of student learning was a top priority.

Administrators, teachers, technology directors, curriculum directors, and students will be further developing this conversation across the state of Iowa at the 1:1 Iowa: 2010 Institute on April 7 in Des Moines. For the 30 or so districts already moving in that direction across our state, I applaud your effort. Van Meter is one of the few setting the pace in Iowa.

Most important learning from today:

1. This is not an initiative about computers. This is about changing learning.

2. The paradigm shift is from classroom to community.

3. Our students need to become autonomous learners. My definition of autonomy is the ability to allow teachers/students/administrators the discretion to choose a path that leads to a common goal.

4. Teachers' roles have changed. Students no longer need information. They can find that in .023 seconds in a Google search. Teach them how to make sense of information, synthesize, and collaborate.

5. Tools of today's workforce are
  • Digital
  • Virtual
  • Personal
  • Mobile

But, districts continue to ban these types of tools in schools.

Not our district. Today, we started moving in the right direction.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How Full is Your Glass?

I have a note on my desk that describes a "realistic optimist". The definition states that "this person has a glass half full and finds ways to add water to the glass." Unfortunately, not all of us in education have this perception. I know a lot of people with a glass that is half empty. Unfortunately, I know a select few people that have so many holes in their glass that no amount of water can fill.

So when I received this email, I couldn't help but think how this mentality could benefit education. Often, schools are compared to businesses with students being the goods we produce and student achievement driving the bottom line. When you read this, think about how full your glass is (or should be). What can we do to soar like eagles?

No one can make you serve customers well... that's because great service is a choice. Harvey Mackay tells a wonderful story about a cab driver that proved this point.

He was waiting in line for a ride at the airport. When a cab pulled up, the first thing Harvey noticed was that the taxi was polished to a bright shine. Smartly dressed in a white shirt, black tie, and freshly pressed black slacks, the cab driver jumped out and rounded the car to open the back passenger door for Harvey.

He handed my friend a laminated card and said, “I'm Wally, your driver. While I'm loading your bags in the trunk I'd like you to read my mission statement.”

Taken aback, Harvey read the card. It said, Wally's Mission Statement: To get my customers to their destination in the quickest, safest and cheapest way possible in a friendly environment... This blew Harvey away. Especially when he noticed that the inside of the cab matched the outside. Spotlessly clean!

As he slid behind the wheel, Wally said, “Would you like a cup of coffee? I have a thermos of regular and one of decaf.” My friend said jokingly, “No, I'd prefer a soft drink.” Wally smiled and said, “No problem. I have a cooler up front with regular and Diet Coke, water and orange juice.” Almost stuttering, Harvey said, “I'll take a Diet Coke.”

Handing him his drink, Wally said, “If you'd like something to read, I have The Wall Street Journal, Time, Sports Illustrated and USA Today.”

As they were pulling away, Wally handed my friend another laminated card: These are the stations I get and the music they play, if you'd like to listen to the radio.

And, as if that weren't enough, Wally told Harvey that he had the air conditioning on and asked if the temperature was comfortable for him. Then he advised Harvey of the best route to his destination for that time of day. He also let him know that he'd be happy to chat and tell him about some of the sights or, if Harvey preferred, to leave him with his own thoughts.

“Tell me, Wally,” my amazed friend asked the driver, “Have you always served customers like this?”

Wally smiled into the rear view mirror. “No, not always… In fact, it's only been in the last two years. My first five years of driving, I spent most of my time complaining like all the rest of the cabbies do. Then I heard the personal growth guru, Wayne Dyer, on the radio one day. He had just written a book called, You'll See It When You Believe It. Dyer said that if you get up in the morning expecting to have a bad day, you'll rarely disappoint yourself. He also said to stop complaining and differentiate yourself from your competition.
Don't be a duck. Be an eagle. Ducks quack and complain. Eagles soar above the crowd.

“That hit me right between the eyes,” said Wally. “Dyer was really talking about me. I was always quacking and complaining, so I decided to change my attitude and become an eagle. I looked around at the other cabs and their drivers. The cabs were dirty, the drivers were unfriendly, and the customers were unhappy. So, I decided to make some changes. I put in a few at a time. When my customers responded well, I did more.”

“I take it that has paid off for you?” Harvey asked.

“It sure has,” Wally replied. “My first year as an eagle, I doubled my income from the previous year. This year I'll probably quadruple it. You were lucky to get me today. I don't sit at cabstands anymore. My customers call me for appointments on my cell phone or leave a message on my answering machine. If I can't pick them up myself, I get a reliable cabbie friend to do it, and I take a piece of the action.”

Wally was phenomenal. He was running a limo service out of a Yellow Cab. I've probably told that story to more than fifty cab drivers over the years, and only two took the idea and ran with it. Whenever I go to their cities, I give them a call. The rest of the drivers quacked like ducks and told me all the reasons they couldn't do any of what I was suggesting.

Wally, the Cab Driver, made a different choice. He decided to stop quacking like ducks and start soaring like eagles.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Can we redo the "Race to the Top" Draft?

The Federal Department of Education has released a little information about the Race to the Top Judges. For you sports fans, I'm sure Mel Kiper Jr. would have a field day trying to analyze this! I say we throw the names back in a hat and draft the players again.

The Race to the Top Program is the Obama administration's solution for overhauling the education system. While their purpose is to "ensure maximum integrity and transparency" in education across the country, I can't grasp how protecting the names of the judges is being transparent. Clear as mud? Check out these stats

  • 15 are former principals, 30 are former K-12 teachers

  • 4 are attorneys

  • 35 have doctoral degrees

  • 12 have served on state or local boards of education

  • 15 are former state or district superintendents

  • 25 are from the Northeast, 13 from the West, 13 from the South, and seven from the Midwest

  • 32 are women, and 26 are men
As my friend Linda Hahner pointed out on Twitter, there are no current teachers listed in the group. Linda also points to the fact that we don't know anything about the diversity of the group. While I agree that true reform can only take place when school leaders can make local decisions, I am troubled by the fact that no current teachers are included in the list.

Finally, for those of us in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin, see you in the next round of applications because the Midwest doesn't have a chance.