Communication

Great Conversations – Great Achievements

“The quality of our conversations matter. Great achievements only come after great conversations.”

—John O’Leary, communications advocate 

Someone I respect and admire sent me a TEDx talk and told me it was worth my time to watch it.  She wasn’t wrong.  John O’Leary’s talk is a great reminder of the power our words can have, either spoken or not. His talk outlines the massive connection between conversations and the success (or failure) of your endeavours.

According to John, the quality of conversations influences the quality of our decisions which dictates the quality of our outcomes.

While this is not entirely new information to anyone, he shares examples of very high profile incidents in which conversations lacked the quality they needed to ensure good decisions were made.  So why are we not constantly engaged in quality conversations in which people speak their mind?

John speaks about three myths that keep people silent when they are asked to ‘share their thoughts’ to new ideas in meetings:

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Saying “I really want to know what you think” is not enough to overcome the barriers that many people have when it comes to sharing their thoughts in a conversation so John offers up these techniques to change the context of a conversation:

Independent deliberation. (Asking people to come prepared with their ideas written down and a rationale for them). Result: Either a natural consensus which builds confidence that the direction to be taken is a good one, or people will bring very different ideas to the table – offering exciting opportunities for exploration and change.

Devils Advocate/Red Team. The leader assigns a group to poke holes in an idea.  The task is to see all the failings and lay them out. O’Leary says that by giving people permission to do the things we wouldn’t typically expect from a group discussion, you are testing the strength of the idea before launching it ‘live’. (Think “putting on the black hat” aka Edward DeBono’s Thinking Hats).

“Conversation is used to draw out the pitfalls but conversation can also be used to inspire, and to engage and to bring people into an ambitious endeavour.”  As I watched John’s video I thought how effective it would be to “assign” this TED talk to a group or team before a meeting in which big decisions needed to be made.  How empowering it would be for a team to know their leader valued and appreciated their voice and how the only thing that was important was everyone’s ability to engage in the conversation.

While we are not launching rockets or starting wars as teachers, we are dealing with educating children which is certainly worth having a conversation about. What is the quality of your meeting conversations? Are you setting  up yourselves, your school, and most importantly, your students, for quality outcomes?  What do you need to change in the way you facilitate meetings in order to be the best team of teachers you can be?

If I could add anything to John’s talk, it would be to conclude with this image from Hugh MacLeod of Gapingvoid:

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Inspiration

Be Kinder Than Necessary

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

— Albert Schweitzer,

French philosopher and physician

I am a firm believer in kindness. And being kinder than necessary. To me, kindness is when you see a person, a thing, a situation that needs something and you help fill that need.  To serve others is truly the way to make a positive impact on the world.

In my role as Learning Technology Teacher in the Junior School, one thing I see across all classes is students who are motivated to help other students when using technology.  Someone will ask me to show them something.  I will show them and then their neighbour will want to know too. Before I can show them, the first student I helped will lean over: “I will show him!” and the two of them will chatter away, leaving me out of a job.  It is the best kind of unemployment I could hope for!

I explicitly build this into my teaching, asking “Who thinks they could teach someone how to….(do whatever we are doing)?”. “Who thinks they could help someone else?”. It is not always a zen-like state of bliss but I am hopeful that kids will see the value in learning from each other.  And that these behaviours will spill over to other facets of their life outside of technology.

New perspectives.  Sharing understanding. Building on ideas.  These are reasons I choose to be connected as an educator and I believe these are ways students can make a positive impact through the use of technology.  Technology allows us to go places we may never go in ‘real life’. This exposure to ideas that were previously beyond our reach must make us more empathetic, more inquisitive, more inclined to think, question, and wonder. Some examples that come to mind:

  • Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and the incredible way in which he has shared his understandings of planet earth with us from his reflections in outer space.
  • Humans of New York genius, Brandon Stanton and the way he captures humanity from behind his camera lens in NYC and, a few months ago, around the world when he partnered with the UN to bring us snippets of humans in Iraq, Jordan, Uganda, Keyna and six other countries in the Middle East and Africa.
  • Peter Menzel’s Global Family Portrait: Material World and his Hungry Planet: What the World Eats both give amazing insights into what people have/have not in this world. This is one thing that is so hard to explain without experiencing it first-hand (especially poverty) but this goes some of the way to allowing students to connect globally to the ideas of others.

So, how can students use technology to make a positive impact on the world? I think Hugh Macleod has some great advice:

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He doesn’t stop there.  Here is a Hugh-inspired, play-by-play for you and your students:

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  1. Inspire and Be Inspired: Look, explore, inspire
  2. Become “Intoxicated by Possibility” – so much to do!  So little time!
  3. Dream big! – Nothing is out of your reach!
  4. Make a dent in the universe – The time is now, the person is you! Make A Dent!

I think in some ways, the key question here is misleading – or at the least, tends to lead us in a direction that we may not need to go in.  The use of technology is not the key point.  The ability to make a difference in our world is the key part.  Technology can help that process, it can accelerate that process, it can inspire that process.  The desire to connect with others, the opportunity to make a difference, that is what should be driving this process.

Use technology to connect, to inspire, to dream, and to act.  That is how we will change the world.

If you are still looking for some support to help you in this quest, one of my favorite, favorite websites is Inspire My Kids.  The name says it all and it does just that with a wealth of amazing resources designed to connect kids that want to make a difference.

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21st Century, Tech

Change the Conversation

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This is today’s gem from Hugh at GapingVoid.  Of this image he says:

“If your company isn’t innovating, it’s likely because no one is facilitating the right conversations.”

So what are the right conversations?

Well, one conversation I would like to be having is with practical innovator, Marc Prensky.  Marc has been an advocate for innovation in education for some time.  His latest conversation embraces the idea of Future Oriented Education. He challenges us to ask ourselves the question: “Is this future-oriented education or is it ‘past-ucation’:

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There is nothing Marc would rather do than change the conversation about the way we educate in schools. His writing on technology, innovation, 21st century learning, digital natives, and the changing teaching paradigm are all priceless – and so worth reading. I started highlighting the points that really resonated with me from the following four articles and was soon swimming in a sea of neon.  It is all worth reading. Check out his Global Future Education Advisory Archive.

His thinking about technology really resonates with me.  Read this excerpt from his third GFEA:

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It’s not about stuff.  It’s not about different ways to do what we do now. Technology is an extension of our brains.  It is a new way of thinking. And it is a conversation worth having if you hope to lead an innovative school.  In the same way that no teacher who dismissed writing or reading or math as “unimportant” or something to be scheduled once a week, would ever get hired, should someone who is not willing to embrace the use of technology as an extension of thinking be given a job as an educator? Is it ok for teachers to say, “That’s not for me”.  “I am not comfortable with that” and continue with their past-ucation ways?

Today in a problem-solving math class I asked the students if they should be allowed to use laptops and calculators when solving the problems.  There was a resounding “No!” and cries of “Cheating!”. Really?  Further discussion led to some children conceding that perhaps it would be ok….sometimes….but only for really hard problems.  I suggested that in using technology to help solve the problem, they would still be required to think like mathematicians and evaluate the reasonableness of their answer before submitting it. Does it look right?  Does it seem possible?  A few more converted.

In thinking about the future of education and where we need to be heading, it is pretty clear that what we do need to keep doing is having conversations that push us closer to innovation. If a one-woman schoolhouse that is actually a boat equipped with solar panels to juice up the internet floating from house to house to pick up students and bobble around teaching them all day on water can move ahead from ‘how things were done’, why can’t we?

For your reading pleasure: Carl Hooker on How Technology Trends Have Influenced the Classroom.

 

 

 

Inspiration

Inspired to Inspire

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Who inspires you?

What inspires you?

When I think of all the people, places, books, articles, blog posts, websites that inspire me, I wonder: where would my ideas come from if not from the sparks of inspiration provided to me by my ‘tribe’ of fellow thinkers, like-minded souls, inspirers?

One of these sources of inspiration for me, is GapingVoid.  Hugh’s cartoons are brilliant in their simplicity to convey a message and to inspire.  One of his latest cartoons reminds me of one his older cartoons that is a favorite of mine.  It is simple, clean, clear, and for me, very true:

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This simple cartoon speaks volumes to me. The more you collaborate, the more you will be inspired to create, which will lead you to further collaborative conversations, and so the cycle continues.

Whilst browsing Wonderopolis this morning, I came across this video and pulled some of the key points that stood out to me from it:

If you take away inspiration, you naturally fall back to that voice that says, “you’re not going to make it.”

I want to raise my bar because I have been inspired….to increase my skills and abilities.

If I can inspire somebody to do something bigger and better than what they have done on their own, then ultimately I have done my job.

Again, who inspires you?  What inspires you? I watched the following video and I am inspired by this man’s courage and determination to succeed against the odds:

 

As I begin a new year in a new school, I am inspired by my colleagues.  I am inspired by the friends and colleagues I have recently left behind to continue to look for new ways of doing while keeping some of the ‘old tricks’ I learned with them. I am inspired by the kids who I am yet to meet and their parents and am looking forward to an exciting, challenging year ahead.

Innovation

Starting small…

This morning I was up early(ish) and saw this cartoon from GapingVoid:

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I haven’t posted here in quite a while.  In my defense, I have been a little busy having a baby, moving countries, and preparing to start a new job.  All a little time consuming to say the least. 

When I read Hugh’s cartoon, I was reminded that we all have to start somewhere and often, instead of trying to re-write the book, we just need to find one little thing to start with – one thing that can make a big impact.  For me, that means just getting started and brushing the cobwebs off this blog.  But it is also a philosophy I want to employ in the coming school year. 

What can we do as teachers to make the biggest impact?  Where is our time best spent in the classroom?  What tools can I use that will save me time but also help me know my kids better and meet their needs in a more timely fashion?

In terms of math: Khan Academy

In terms of reading: The Book Whisperer

In terms of everything else, it is a matter of two things: finding the way to connect a student to their passion and finding a way to always choose to be kinder than necessary.  In the interest of “starting with the end in mind”, read the following graduation speech (thanks Marty!) to inspire you as you begin a new school year in which you will make a difference.