Friday’s Revolutionary ASCD PD Pilot: Four Takeaways

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On Friday, March 27th, five ASCD affiliates simultaneously held a blended learning professional development event, bringing in Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey of FIT teaching fame from San Diego, California, right into their states for educators eager to learn more. But this wasn’t just about the delivery of Fisher & Frey’s high quality content. It was also about providing a context for like-minded educators to learn from one another. The combinations of content and collaboration, virtually and face-to-face, is a powerful new model that ASCD and its affiliates partnered together to pilot…and the results are powerful.

Maine educators collaborating in between sessions with Fisher & Frey

Maine educators collaborating in between sessions with Fisher & Frey

First of all, not only were there event sites on the ground in Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont; Rhode Island hosted two sites and New York filled three. And all that was in play before two campuses of Instituto San Roberto in Mexico contacted Rhode Island ASCD to attend remotely from their facilities. First takeaway: blended learning can reach multiple groups of educators in different locations at the same time.

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Then there was Fisher and Frey’s ability to share their work virtually live from their school during a normal school day. They spoke casually and confidently about their program, openly fielding questions and interacting with all ten locations, genuinely sharing their vision and its practical applications with students. “It was like they were right in the room with us….it didn’t feel any different than when I was in Houston last week sitting in the third row enjoying exchanges with big name presenters at ASCD’s annual conference,” one Massachusetts attendee shared. Second takeaway: blended learning works best with subject matter experts who come across authentically online.

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And then there was the ASCD EdSpace unconferencing format. Each opportunity for work with colleagues throughout the day provided for collaboration across common needs and interests working with the FIT teaching framework. Attendees self-selected pairings and groupings to learn from one another and build understandings, strategies and processes that can be immediately implementable in classrooms and offices first thing this coming Monday morning. No down time. No sit and get. No seat hours. Just pure what’s-in-it-for-me professional development. Third takeaway: unconferencing couched in rich, purposeful content provides powerful learning and networking that far surpasses traditional PD formats.

Massachusetts educators discussing purpose and culture in the FIT teaching framework.

Massachusetts educators discussing purpose and culture in the FIT teaching framework.

Finally, there was the virtual cross-pollination of ideas. At the end of a full day, affiliates all came back together online to showcase their takeaways from the day, after two solid hours of localized unconferencing that allowed each affiliate to work within their unique state context. This virtual sharing was a powerful wrap up to a powerful day. State after state offered attendees coming up to the camera to share the meaningful learning they had experienced. Fourth takeaway: collaboration can happen in multiple dimensions within a single professional development experience.

New York educators welcoming everyone to the big event virtually Friday morning.

New York educators welcoming everyone to the big event virtually Friday morning.

What is most rewarding is that given the success of this weekend’s pilot, each of these affiliates has expressed interest and enthusiasm for delivering more blended learning PD. The seed has been planted, from which many more possibilities can blossom. How about you and your corner of the world? Are you ready to open up professional development to whole new dimensions and possibilities? Are you willing to bring what you have to offer to interested educators remotely around the world? Are you receptive to meeting the needs of different and diverse cadres of educators who will make their own meaning from what you provide? If your answers are “Yes!” then join ASCD and its affiliates in continuing to push the boundaries on what effective PD can be for educators everywhere.

Taking charge of their professional development locally and across the northeast and Mexico.

Taking charge of their professional development locally and across the northeast and Mexico.

Leadership: Delighting in the Possible

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Reposted from McKinsey Insights & Publications:

We relish stories of unexpected possibilities—little bets that created huge and unforeseen benefits. Twitter, for instance, was born when its creators noticed how alive and engaged they felt when communicating with each other in real time over SMS. The concept was brilliant, and the platform has reshaped the way the world communicates. But the initiative arose from brainstorming rather than an elaborate business plan. Tweeting caught on, in large part, because it grants its users freedom. In fact, Twitter cofounder Evan Williams has explained that, in general, his rule is to do less. We can’t foresee how uncertain conditions will unfold or how complex systems will evolve, but we can conduct thoughtful experiments to explore the possibilities.

This way of approaching situations involves a whole suite of routines grounded in a mind-set of clarity if not outright certainty. To that end, they are characterized by sharp-edged questions intended to narrow our focus: What is the expected return on this investment? What is the three-year plan for this venture? At what cost are they willing to settle? But asking these kinds of questions, very often legitimate in business-as-usual settings, may constrain management teams in atypical, complex situations, such as responding to a quickly changing market or revitalizing a privatized utility’s culture. Our tendency to place one perspective above all others—the proverbial “fact-based view” or “maximizing key stakeholders’ alignment”—can be dangerous. All too often, we operate with an excessively simple model in enormously messy circumstances. We fail to perceive how different pieces of reality interact and how to foster better outcomes.

Moving from “managing the probable” to “leading the possible” requires us to address challenges in a fundamentally different way. Rather than simply disaggregating complexities into pieces we find more tractable, we should also broaden our range of interventions by breaking out of familiar patterns and using a whole new approach that allows us to expand our options, experiment in low-risk ways, and realize potentially outsized payoffs. But be warned: leading the possible involves coping with our own anxieties about an unknowable and uncontrollable world. A few simple habits of mind presented here can prod us toward thinking and acting differently. These should not be considered a checklist of to-dos; indeed, the very point is to move beyond a check-the-box mentality.

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Learning Needs a Context

http://authenticlearning.info/AuthenticLearning/Matrix.html

Reposted from User Generated Education:

How often have students (ourselves included) been asked to memorize mass amounts of facts – historical dates, vocabulary words, science facts, get tested on them, just to forget almost all those memorized facts a week or two later? Why do educators insist on continuing this archaic and ineffective instructional practice? Memorizing facts often means a waste of students’ time and energy. In some cases, too many cases, learners lose their passion and excitement for a subject or topic that, if taught in another way, may have not been the case.

Authentic learning can be the driving force for increasing context and relevancy. Jan Herrington describes authentic learning along two axes – the authenticity of the task is on one axis (from authentic to decontextualised), and the setting is on the other (the classroom/university to the real setting). The goal of educators should be to increase authenticity which leads to more contextual learning (and vice versa).

The visual image I use to describe context is all of these unconnected facts floating around in the learner’s brain. Since they have nothing to connect to, they end up flying away. This is especially true for abstract concepts. The following are some suggestions for establishing context…

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An Email from Mexico Changed Our Entire PD Orientation

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As I landed in Houston last Thursday, I received the following email inquiry forwarded from our Rhode Island affiliate:

“I am a RI teacher currently living and working in Mexico.  As an ASCD member, I received notice about the upcoming Fisher & Frey conference and am so disappointed that I will not be in RI to attend!!  As an Instructional Coach in my current job, I work with teachers on the Fisher & Frey Gradual Release of Responsibility model and lesson planning.

Is the virtual aspect of the conference (with Fisher & Frey) just for the participants that will be in attendance in RI, or is the entire conference going to be offered virtually?  If the conference is available virtually to any participant, I have a few questions…”

By the time we finished exchanging ideas, Rhode Island ASCD received an institutional registration for Friday’s ASCD EdSpace blended learning event from a cadre of teachers in Monterrey, Mexico! They will be joining in on the virtual components (about two-thirds of the day) and will work remotely on the offline collaboration pieces, rejoining our Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont affiliates for the resumption of the online work.

I am amazed that a group of dedicated educators in Mexico asked a question that immediately pushed the boundaries on our thinking about delivering the event. I mean, this was an effort of five northeast states. Who was thinking it would appeal to a group of highly interested teachers in a neighboring country? But as I went over the logistics in my mind, it became readily evident there was no reason they couldn’t participate with some accommodations, since they wouldn’t actually be in one of the five states sponsoring the day.

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This afternoon I sent them all the documentation and materials they will need to participate remotely, and tomorrow morning I will get online to run a tech test so we know everyone is ready to participate on Friday. It’s a very exciting development in what has already been an exhilarating project breaking new ground! I wonder how many other educators around the country…and around the world…would participate if they knew they could do so from the comfort of their office, classroom or home?

There’s still time to register, and you don’t need to be a resident of any of the five sponsoring states to do so. No matter where you live on the globe, simply go to any of the five affiliate sites and register online:

Maine ASCD | Massachusetts ASCD | New York ASCD
Rhode Island ASCD | Vermont ASCD

Then shoot me an email at wmckenzie@ascd.org so I can set you up with everything you need to participate in your favorite chair in your favorite slippers!

Want to know more? For further reading about the event:

NE ASCD Infographic

Dan Rockell: 10 Ways to Expand Power to Get Things Done

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Reposted from Leadership Freak:

The more power you have, the more things you get done. Here are 10 ways to expand your power:

1. Make others feel powerful. Expand power by giving authority to people who get things done.
– Hoarded power shrinks, but shared authority expands your ability to get things done.

2. Expose frailties; never whine. The battle makes you beautiful.
– Ugly leaders pretend they have it all together.
– We connect with people who work through frailties.
– The operative expression is “work through.”
– Vulnerability isn’t an excuse for weakness.

3. Bring up awkward issues with optimism.
– Weak leaders dance around elephants. Powerful leaders invite them to dance.

4. Assume you talk too much, if you have position and authority.
– People with power believe they have the right to talk more than others.
– Listen at least 60% of the time.

5. Take action after listening. Listening isn’t leading. Quiet, by itself, isn’t strength.
– Leaders take action. The more you get done, the more powerful you become.
– Wrestle big problems into submission.

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Do You Really Need a Unicorn?

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Reposted from Data Science Central:

The world of data science is splitting into two distinct camps, the start-up app world and the commercial world.  The good news is that almost all the opportunity lies in commercial predictive analytics where you can broadly specialize and still play with all the latest innovations.

In case you’re the only person who hasn’t heard this phrase, data scientists have increasingly been referred to as ‘unicorns’ as in ‘as rare as a unicorn’.  As a data scientist I have taken exception to this since it seems to set an unrealistically high bar and simply isn’t true of the many data scientists I know personally.  (See my earlier article “How to Become a Data Scientist”). 

In February I spent several days at the Strata Conference catching up on all things analytic and big data, and yes there was still a fairly strong theme around the difficulty in finding these unicorns.  One very persuasive speaker actually spoke about how to affect the capture, which in his version was to take fresh Ph.Ds. in math, statistics, OR, or computer science and train them up himself.  Well, I thought, 1.) If the future is limited to data scientists with fresh Ph.Ds. then the supply is indeed vanishingly small, and 2.) What are the rest of us supposed to do for talent? Three things became apparent…

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The Unfollow Algorithm

unfollowWhy Do People Unfollow Brands On The Top Social Networks? Dr. William J. Ward, a.k.a DR4WARD is Director of Education Strategy at Hootsuite and the Professor of Social Media at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. He is ranked one of the “Top Marketing Professors on Twitter” in the world by Social Media Marketing Magazine for providing useful content and consistently engaging with followers and  truly “getting it” when it comes to the best ways to use Twitter and  other forms of Social Media.

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