“You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat!”


Three able men are shoveling chum out into the water to attract the menace terrorizing their beaches. Suddenly an image begins to take form beneath the water, circling the small fishing vessel. They assess they are looking at a 25-foot, three ton tiger shark. Police Chief Martin Brody exclaims, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!” A patently obvious observation? Granted…remember the theater breaking out in nervous laughter when Schneider blurted it out in 1975? But with Shark Week behind us, it’s also an apt allegory for personal capacity building.

Capacity building typically refers to an organization’s ability to offer new services that add value for those it serves. You have to have the capacity before you attempt to take your services to a higher level. For example, it doesn’t make sense to increase your student body by 300% if you don’t have the staff and room to accommodate three times as many learners. Sure you’d have more revenue from increased enrollments, but you wouldn’t be able to meet everyone’s needs and expectations. You have to have the capacity to handle your goals once you realize them.

The concept of capacity building holds true for each of us individually. It makes no sense to pursue goals that you aren’t personally ready to handle…because once you arrive at your desired destination, the reality will hit hard that you can’t handle what you thought you wanted. Be careful what you wish for, but more importantly, when you know what you want to go after in life, be sure you have built your inner capacity so you can fully engage and enjoy it! When your ship comes in…do you want to meet it at the docks with a station wagon or an eighteen wheel moving van?

Educators, think of it like instructional scaffolding. We don’t expect students to sink or swim as they work to master new skills and concepts. We provide support for them to build on their strengths and successes as they take risks, make mistakes and learn. The same holds true for us as adults, whether on the job or at home. To build personal capacity we need to be able to push ourselves to take risks, learn and grow. Sounds simple, but what is required?

  1. Push yourself beyond where you are – if you’re too comfortable where you currently live or work, you’re not going to grow
  2. Identify new small challenges – nothing earth-shattering; something you can attain using your current skills
  3. Commit your personal strengths to meet your challenge – you’re making it a priority to take risks to grow
  4. Invest your time and energy to make it happen – stretch yourself to meet and surpass the challenge you’ve set
  5. Monitor your progress – be self-aware, learn as you go and make adjustments as needed
  6. Be persistent – push yourself and refuse to give up to develop resilience and tenacity
  7. Be flexible – consider multiple ways to meet your challenge from different perspectives
  8. Hit your target – give yourself credit for progress and know when you meet your challenge
  9. Appreciate your new capacity – recognize how meeting your challenge helped you grow
  10. Build on little victories – identify new challenges that will push you to grow and build more capacity so that you will eventually realize your goals

If Quint’s boat had the proper capacity to deal with his nemesis, “Jaws” could have ended much differently. No one wants to find themselves sitting in a vessel too small when facing challenges or opportunities!

So how about you? You have a say in how your story will read. Start today, purposefully developing your personal capacity, no matter what vessel you are navigating!


Prove Them Wrong [VIDEO 3:46]

“The most powerful motivation speeches that I have ever heard came from people who told me I couldn’t do something…” Forget fear. Forget failure. This powerful motivational video from Absolute Motivation combines On the Shortness of Life quotes by Seneca, James Alan’s As A Man Thinketh, narration by Les Brown and Tony Robbins and music by Luke Howard and Overwerk, to capture the essence of growth mindset. A must-see for educators recharging and rejuvenating this summer!


10 Ways to Improve Your Social Media Brand [INFOGRAPHIC]

Social Media ResolutionsWhile there are all kinds of strategies for maximizing your social media brand, this Infographic from Tailwind offers ten targeted ways to optimize your virtual presence. How many of these are you using?

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Educate? Innovate!


In this election year we continue to hear about “twenty-first century” skills. But what we should be talking about, IMHO, is what’s after the twenty-first century threshold. At the outset, the challenge seemed to be to simply be able to manage the data with which we are inundated. But as the tools to manage data have become more and more user-friendly, the next challenge is to find contexts for the pertinent information we encounter … context provided by the experience and expertise we bring to understanding information. When we have meaningful understanding of information, insight is created, the kind of insight that identifies opportunities for innovation. There is a shift from mere information management to insight.

Another major change we are experiencing is movement from the simple realization that we live in a global economy to actively contributing to a communal marketplace of ideas. The first decade of the twenty-first century kicked off with a celebration of the fact that we now have the capability to interact globally, and we have been doing that through various electronic communications. But with this capability now demonstrated daily, the next challenge is to use these tools to truly build communities across traditional geographic and political boundaries. It is slowly taking place as we bridge the challenges of time zones, language differences, and cultural differences. There is a shift from simple global awareness to collaborating communities world-wide.

There is a progression of four different stages in this thinking:

The Ideate Paradigm: Generating ideas based on global information. This is where the twenty-first century started. It is the result of norm-referenced standardized testing and the push to compare ourselves not only with local students, but students elsewhere. The institutional reaction to how students compare to others around the world generates entirely new initiatives to close gaps and document student achievement improvement. This approach is linear and sequential and focused on deficits. It is Zeno’s “racetrack paradox,” which states that if you keep advancing half the distance to the finish line, mathematically you never actually reach it. (Aristotle, Physics 239b11-13). This is the rut in which education sits today, and because it is statistically impossible to ever reach the finish line, public education has become politicized and polarized. No one wins.

The Automate Paradigm: Utilizing digital technology to complete a number of traditional tasks faster, more accurately and with greater ease than we used to be able to accomplish the same tasks in the industrial age. This has been a huge breakthrough in productivity and efficiency. Unfortunately it has also made technology a primary focus in-and-of itself. Automating our schools does not transform education; it simply builds on the ways we already teach with new tools used to complete traditional goals. Of particular concern is the role vendors are now playing in education decision-making; the lines have blurred and we are not necessarily making educational decisions based solely on the needs of the learner. There is now an insidious commercial influence that has the potential to move public education into the domain of private enterprise.

The Informate Paradigm: Using digital communications and learning tools, we can create new ways to empower every family to support their children as learners. Instead of focusing on the technology, transform education by building capacity for all family members, students and parents, to be ctive life-long learners. This paradigm transcends automating, looking past immediate task-focused instructional goals and focusing on a global destination for public education: the more school-aged families become acclimated to using information portals, electronic communications and online learning communities, the more we will realize our mission in public education to provide a free, appropriate education for everyone. In this paradigm we elevate the impact of education by engaging all stakeholders using the tools we have at our disposal.

The Innovate Paradigm: Beyond generating ideas, automating tasks and informating electronically, innovating is the ultimate goal: generating original knowledge, new products and novel solutions to problems that are valued across learning communities. To innovate is to push the envelope, take risks, gain insight and eventually break new ground that contributes to the greater good. Risks that do not produce innovation are not considered failures, but opportunities to gain insight for future risk-taking, as well. This is the growth mindset in action. Find a point on the horizon where you know you and your students must be and then use the insight you possess to figure out how to get there. As a result of reaching that point on the horizon, the worldwide economy is infused with energy and ideas and new possibilities. This is the future today’s children will inherit, and we must prepare them for it.

So, rather than fixating on twenty-first century skills, identify where you are now in this 4-stage progression on the grid below and then figure out your next steps to help your students and school and community move forward toward innovating. Do you have to go through each of the four stages listed above to reach innovation? No. The matrix is simply a high-level snapshot of where we are and where we are headed. Instead of trying to match the matrix step-for-step, practice true innovating by finding the point on the horizon where you know you need to be…a model innovator…and then work to gain insight on how you will get there. Take risks based on your insight, and learn from your journey.

innovategirdHow do we summarize the journey to innovating? From an education perspective, we need to transform the ways we work, the ways we teach, and the ways we learn. We cannot simply reform the old model. We must transform public education into a new, global, innovating enterprise that becomes the engine for a revitalized economy.

Technology is integral in both converting raw data (information) into understanding (insight) and bridging the gap between comparing ourselves to other cultures (global awareness) to participating in new societies (collaborating communities). Although the focus can’t be on the technology itself, we as educators must be looking for the ways the technology can open possibilities for our students to learn.

Of course, the focus always comes back to student learning. Melding our understanding of how the world is changing, how technology is providing opportunity, and a sound understanding of intelligence is a roadmap that can lead our educational system not only deep into the twenty-first century, but well beyond.


The Promise of Learning Analytics [INFOGRAPHIC]

Learning Analytics

More and more students are working with digital learning material. The data that’s being generated by student interaction with this material is the fuel for the Learning Analytics engine. Analyses of this data can help to create a clearer picture of the progress a student is making, the level he or she is working on, and the way students prefer to learn. Kennisnet’s The Promise of Learning Analytics Infographic you will review the road to more differentiated and personalized education. Want more? Check out 5 Reasons Why Learning Analytics are Important for eLearning, that highlights some of the most significant arguments for why Learning analytics have the power to improve eLearning in education and training.


ASCD, CoSN, AASA & ASBO Join Forces to Certify School Data Systems


Reposted from CoSN:

The Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) Seal initiative will allow school system leaders to communicate their privacy efforts to parents, communities and other stakeholders and assure the school system is adhering to best practices and taking steps in the right direction.

“When looking at the evolving digital tools and ongoing related activities in classroom settings, we agree with parents: They need assurances that student data are protected,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “That is why school system technology leaders and our diverse education leadership partners are putting forth this national program that builds a culture of trusted learning in all K-12 school systems.”

Over the next six months, the four national education organizations will collaborate with 28 U.S. school systems to create the seal and establish criteria for schools nationwide to follow. When formed, the TLE Seal will be available for adoption to all K-12 school systems, irrespective of size, location, socio-economic profile or governance form (i.e., public, private or charter).

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Reality Check, Please!

How do you know if your worldview is based in reality…if your expectations are well-grounded? You need reliable perspective. And how do you get solid perspective? You step outside of your comfort zone to see how others live.

In my fourteenth year of teaching, I was also leading a number of professional development offerings for Spotsylvania County Schools. And like so many of us in ed tech, I was being pushed more and more to train colleagues on technology. It was at this point in my career that the husband of one of my workshop attendees approached me. “I hear you’re really good. Why not do what you do well for more money?”  He worked for a consulting firm that contracted with government agencies and corporate firms. They needed a technology trainer.

wcompWith a young family, more money caught my attention…that and the offered title of Senior Technology Trainer made it tempting. After all, there weren’t many options for upward mobility within K-12 other than building and district administration. If I accepted the offer, I would be working at the Department of Housing and Urban Development right in downtown DC. My kids weren’t even in Kindergarten yet…so I asked for an assurance that I wouldn’t be doing a lot of traveling. It was June, the end of the school year…the perfect time to make the move. And I did.

What a different world! Starting on day one I hit the ground running, meeting with HUD staff, learning every application used within the agency, developing documentation and delivering training. I was also on call for technology user questions, and happy clients sent “atta boy” letters of commendation that my consulting firm valued and would use to pay bonuses and raises. What a different model from public education!

I was in the fast lane and on the fast track. Everything moved quickly. I would login on any given morning at my desk and a message would pop up saying “Joe So-and-So no longer works here. Please send all requests for assistance concerning his projects to Kathy Such-and-Such.” I quickly learned that no one was indispensable and you’re only as good as your last success. I also learned that once you’re in, you’re in for whatever the client needs. So even though I had been given an assurance from my consulting firm I wouldn’t be traveling much, within a few months I was being asked by the client to travel to HUD field offices around the country: Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle. No time for hesitation. No room for questions. So I started spending time on the road.

At the same time I was taking a course in instructional design with a brilliant professor who worked for the Arlington, Virginia Public Schools. The course gave me a lot of tools for my work at HUD, but it also reminded me of everything I loved about working in education. Over the course of the semester it was a source of substance and sustenance. I needed to keep learning and growing, even as I met the rigorous demands of government contracting. We got through the Y2K scare, spending New Years Eve into the next morning manning phones in the event any of our systems went down as a result of the number 2000. Then came the change of administration in the White House, which meant changes for every federal agency from the top down.

hud2Talks of shake-ups and turn-over started in January, and my more veteran consulting colleagues had been talking me through everything coming into play as the change in the air was palpable. I kept my head down and my eyes on my work. Rumors circulated and the pressure ratcheted up as workers worried what the change would mean for them. We had huge meetings in packed rooms where HUD administrators spoke cryptically about what lay ahead, offering equal doses of caution and reassurance as nervousness turned to anxiety.

Finally in April the announcement came down immediately and all at once. A large number of workers were being let go and the new Secretary would be looking at major reorganization within the agency. My supervisor and all my tech-training consultant colleagues were let go. Inexplicably, I was the only tech trainer left standing. I was stunned. How was this possible? Why was I spared the axe? What do I say to all these people I had been working with closely who were coming in that day to clean out their desks and be escorted out by security? It was a very tough, very real-world lesson, rattling so many of the assumptions I brought with me from public education. Job security, seniority, loyalty…nothing is guaranteed. I was so grateful to still have a job but so shaken by the reality of the shake-up.

Later that year, after much soul-searching, my instructional design professor suggested I apply for a job as an Instructional Technology Coordinator with the Arlington, Virginia Public Schools. I missed education, and even though the job and the money as a consultant were good, when Arlington made an offer I accepted. I knew I was an educator at heart and I needed to come back where my instructional background and technology expertise would make a difference for children.

walter2006Over the years, I moved on to become a technology director and ultimately an assistant superintendent for administrative and instructional technology. And I owed it all to the perspective I gained working outside of education for that one segment of my career. It was a reality check. It changed me. I no longer feel entitled to anything. I am grateful to have meaningful work helping teachers and students. And I understand that giving my all in that work is the true definition of being a professional…even as I have moved from K-12 to working for the world’s leading professional education association. Everything else is secondary, and in some cases, a distraction. We can lose our way…our sense of what’s important…important to us personally and professionally.

As you rest and rejuvenate this summer and prepare to move forward in the fall, I encourage you to gain new perspective. Even if it’s volunteer work, summer work, or a sabbatical…whatever options you might have…get out there and experience the world outside of education. Get new perspective. It will change how you see your work and how you view yourself as a professional.


Coaching Teachers [INFOGRAPHIC]

coaching teachers

“Am I a good coach or am I an effective coach?” One area Kristin Houser going to work on is the quality of my feedback. In this infographic she identifies 4 ways to focus on improving your coaching game in 4 weeks’ time. What area do you struggle with or would like to improve in your own coaching practice? These ideas can help.

View the original post here.

Change Agent Champions


So I figured out what was bothering me about the grandstanding in my newsfeed this past week. It’s easy to jump on the latest cause celebre being saturated with media coverage. It requires no effort. People celebrate whatever they like on social media and feel good about themselves. And this past week I was inundated with images of stars-and-bars and rainbows.

dogood1But here’s the rub for me: if I want to make a difference, I can’t just sit on social media jumping on bandwagons that make me feel good about my opinions and biases. I need to get out there in the community and make a difference by DOING something that makes a real difference in people’s lives.

dogood3I know, I know, it takes risk and hard work to help disenfranchised children, the poor, the sick, the unpopular people in my community upon whom everyone looks down….but going out of my way to be champions for them actually will make a difference, as opposed to spouting off on social issues online and changing my profile pic accordingly.

dogood2In reading this, please don’t make any presumptions about my stance on any of the huge issues that received media (and social media) over-attention this past week; because I was sincerely happy with each decision. My point is, it’s not a good use of my time and potential to make a difference safely jumping on bandwagons or settling for attention-grabbing grandstanding.

What have you done to make this world a better place? Do the people who know you right where you live recognize you as a change agent champion for others? If not, may I suggest a little less time online and a little more time doing good…not just feeling good about what others have done to make the landmark accomplishments of the last week a reality.


Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America


Reposted from Psychology Today:

America is killing itself through its embrace and exaltation of ignorance, and the evidence is all around us. Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter who used race as a basis for hate and mass murder, is just the latest horrific example. Many will correctly blame Roof’s actions on America’s culture of racism and gun violence, but it’s time to realize that such phenomena are directly tied to the nation’s culture of ignorance.

In a country where a sitting congressman told a crowd that evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of hell,” where the chairman of a Senate environmental panel brought a snowball into the chamber as evidence that climate change is a hoax, where almost one in three citizens can’t name the vice president, it is beyond dispute that critical thinking has been abandoned as a cultural value. Our failure as a society to connect the dots, to see that such anti-intellectualism comes with a huge price, could eventually be our downfall.

In considering the senseless loss of nine lives in Charleston, of course racism jumps out as the main issue. But isn’t ignorance at the root of racism? And it’s true that the bloodshed is a reflection of America’s violent, gun-crazed culture, but it is only our aversion to reason as a society that has allowed violence to define the culture. Rational public policy, including policies that allow reasonable restraints on gun access, simply isn’t possible without an informed, engaged, and rationally thinking public.

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