Thursday, December 29, 2011

"The only standard is impermanence"

In this blog post, "It's always been this way", Seth Godin offers some chewy thoughts about change and our attitudes toward it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Another example of Shaping the Path

The last few weeks, I have been talking about "sw!tch," a book that outlines strategies for changes that actually work.  These changes fall into one of three categories:  Direct the rider (the rational side of people); motivate the elephant (the emotional side), or shape the path.
Here's another education example that uses the concept of Shaping the Path.

Natalie Elder took on the job of improving student achievement in an elementary school that had the worst test scores in the state of Tennessee.  After taking some of the usual steps to address behavior issues that impeded learning--suspending students, involving pollice when egregious rule breaking occurred--she realized that these actions were not going to get the results she wanted.

She focused on changing the way the day started.  She and her staff became valets, greeting every student as they arrived; saying hello to parents who were dropping off their children, escorting all children to the cafeteria.  This simple change meant the day was starting at a better place for the students.  In the process, she created an environment that allowed children to be good.  Students who were previously seen as "bad" suddenly started acting like "good" kids.

Small, simple changes that can make a difference.  Sometimes we are so focused on the end game that we cannot see how small steps can make a big difference.  How can you address the needs of the riders and elephants in your organization?  How can you shape the path so that you have a better chance of actually getting the change you seek.

Good stuff from TEDxMadtown

Got this in my email this morning!  What a terrific gift.  Shannon, thanks for sharing.

Hello Tedxmadtowners,

I hope this email finds you doing well and enjoying the start of the holidays with family and friends! I have been meaning to send this email for sometime now but have been busy with a very busy crew of 3rd graders.

I wanted to share something that happened to my students and I this year, as a direct result of the tedxmadtown event last spring.

Over the summer the school board in Oregon (where I teach) got ahold of my Tedtalk and asked me to attend a school board meeting to have a question and answer session about the event. They were very impressed and had nothing but positive feedback from my Tedtalk. At one point in my talk I had stated that my ideal classroom would be one where every child had an iPad in their hands. The school board president told me that "they were going to do all that they could to make that happen." At the time I really thought nothing of it.

Fast forward to September at a Wednesday staff meeting at my school...My principal started off the meeting by introducing our school's superintendent, technology coordinator and 2 board members. They were there to surprise me with my wish! But instead of iPads they purchased 24 google chromebooks for my classroom to pilot. You can imagine my surprise!

My students have been using the chromebooks now for almost two months and are loving it. It has changed the way I have been teaching and has been such a positive and engaging tool for the kids.

I owe a huge thank you to Deb and Adam and all involved for organizing and hosting tedxmadtown and for inviting me to speak! The goal of tedtalks, to motivate and inspire, definitely did so in my case. Twenty two eight year olds (and their teacher) can't thank you enough!

I hope you have a great holiday season!

Shannon Luehmann
Prairie View Elementary
Oregon, WI

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shaping the path

Last week, I talked about "sw!tch" a book that outlines strategies for change that actually work.  These changes fall into one of three categories:  Direct the rider (the rational side of people); motivate the elephant (the emotional side), or shape the path

High school teacher, Bart Millar, had a problem.  Two students showing up late for class, disrupting the lesson.  He tried the usual--refusing to let them in to class if they were late, send them to the principal's office.  Nothing worked.  Finally, Millar tweaked the environment (a shape the path strategy).  He bought a used couch and put it in front of the classroom.  It soon became the cool place to sit and the two students who had been tardy and disruptive, now showed up early to get a good seat. This strategy also probably appealed to the students' elephants.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How to change the little things

I've just finished reading a fascinating new book about change, "sw!tch: when change is hard."  Rather than focusing on the difficulties of change, the book outlines strategies for small changes that can make a big difference.  The authors, Chip and Dan Heath, outline three main concepts to consider when working on change: The rider (the rational side of people); the elephant (the emotional side) and the path (the environment in which the change will take place).  The Heaths ask us to consider that the change has less to do with plans and more to do with people.  Like Bridges, "Transitions," "sw!tch" focuses on the behavior of the individuals who need to implement the change.  In "Transitions," Bridges talks about how you need to give people space to make sense of the change before they can embrace it.  The Heath brothers drill down a bit further, outlining strategies to use when considering big changes.

Several education examples are included and I will summarize them over the next few posts.  The first involves a third grade teacher whose first classroom is made up struggling first graders.  This teacher, Crystal Jones, wanted her students to see themselves as successes, so she announced that by the end of the year they would be third graders, not in the literal sense, but in the sense that their reading ability would improve such that they would possess third grade reading skills.  She started calling her students "scholars."  By the end of the school year, 90 percent of the students were reading at a third grade level.  Jones had used one of the strategies that addresses the rider:  she made the goal clear and humongous.  She created a giant destination postcard:  reading at a third grade level by the end of the year, a goal that was irresistible to her students.  By engaging their riders, Crystal was able to change the future of the students in her classroom.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Coaching Beyond the Conference

Last Thursday, the Governance and Leadership Development (GoLD) team held a follow-up webinar for board members who had attended the Presidents/Leadership conference in July.  At that conference, communication tools that could help boards' meeting practices were introduced.  The webinar provided an opportunity to provide a quick review of the tools.   Participants shared their experiences.  The GoLD consultants, Deb Gurke and A.B. Orlik, facilitated the conversation, answered questions, and introduced a new tool that builds on the conference learning.

Resources shared on the webinar can be found on the GoLD website, under Better Meeting Practices.

The GoLD team hopes that board members will use this space to share their experiences using the tools. Use the following questions to continue the conversation.  Post your responses here.  Return to this page to see how others are using the tools.

  • What about the Ladder of Inference is useful to your board?  
  • Has you board created a group agreement?  
  • How do you keep the agreements front and center?  
  • How do you honor your group agreements?  
  • Have you tried using the Focused Conversation questions?  
  • How has this process helped you board have richer dialogue that leads to better decision making?  
  • How has using these tools shifted the relationships among your board?

Finally, let us know how we can support you as you work to lead your board and district in meaningful conversations about your district's opportunities.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's the people!!!!

Leaders can get excited about the prospect of introducing a new program into their organizations.  And, often are sorely disappointed when implementation fails to go as planned.  How many times are new initiatives abandoned, leaders and staff frustrated by the amount of energy and effort expended for very little result? And then, things go back to old way of doing things.

Well, part of the reason is that we tend to focus almost exclusively on the plan and very little on the people.  In his book, "Managing Transitions," William Bridges talks about this phenomenon, describing how we fail to recognize that people need to deal with the loss of the established system before they can take on the new system.  Bridges says that transition starts with an ending and finishes with a beginning.

How often have you recognized the emotional upheaval created by your decisions to implement new ideas in your school district?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Accentuate the positive

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
(Lyrics from a song made popular by Bing Crosby in the 1940s)

Positive? In today's competitive, supercharge environment, where there is no room for mistakes; no
time for do overs?

Well, it turns out that people are more productive when they focus on their strengths.  
Twenty-two percent of respondents indicated that they were likely to be disengaged when their 
manager primarily focused on their weaknesses. When their manager focused on their 
strengths, just one percent were like to be disengaged. (From Strengths Finders 2.0 by Tom

If we expect our stakeholders to engage with us to solve the complex challenges we face, we need
to find ways to support, rather than criticize their efforts.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

If you plan it, they will come!!

One of my passions is community engagement.  I believe that if we create a genuine space, people will come and share their ideas and passions--and commitment to public education.  When I talk about this, I often get pushback from the people who work and lead our school districts.  No one comes.  People don't have time.  We don't have time, or money, to plan it.  Only the cranky people come.

I understand that perspective as it is based on experience.  One that often comes out of what we encounter in public hearings.

Here is an example of what a community can do when visionary leadership calls for  genuine community engagement.  In Bibb County, Georgia, 4,000 people are participating in the district's strategic planning process.  Read more about The Macon Miracle here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

65 percent

That is the percent of children who are entering school today who will end up doing work that hasn't been invented yet.  How can we open up public education to innovation and creativity so that we can prepare our children for this future?  Most of our classrooms still resemble the 19th century model that was created to address the needs of that time.  We need to adapt so that we can prepare our children for the 65 percent.  Education needs a digital age update provides some food for thought on this subject.

Friday, July 1, 2011

People who make predictions must have tons of confidence

I don't think I understand what is going to happen next week, let alone in the next ten years.

Still, it is fun and important to think about how the world is changing.  One thing IS certain:  the pace of change continues accelerate.   Are you ready for what may come your way?

Here is a list of changes that could affect public education:
10 Things That Will Be Obsolete In Education by 2020

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Transformation and technology

This week I spent two evenings talking with school boards about their work, particularly as it relates to vision.  One board engaged in conversation that specifically focused on technology.  How could we use it better?  How do we know what kinds of questions to ask about it?  Are we qualified to make technology questions. What does the term "cloud" mean?

The other board talked about vision and the need to include the community in conversations about the future of the district. One of the board members said, "It is clear technology has to be a central component of those conversations.  And, again, board members expressed dismay that they don't know enough to make these kinds of decisions.

Well, school board members are not alone.  In his blog, dangerously irrelevant, Scott McLeod talks about how educational leadership programs are not addressing this issue either.  We need to prepare our school leaders, not so that they will have the answers, but that they will be able to ask the right kinds of questions, spot trends, and bring people together to figure it out.

And, technology is not the issue.  The issue is educational relevance and the role technology plays in achieving that.  Other questions:  how will technology change our culture and are we ready for that?  How big of a change are we ready for?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Human Capital and Technology

I frequently hear conversations where people talk about the role technology could play in bringing schools into the 21st century.  It is easy to focus on the gadgets--laptops, iPads, Smart Boards.  But getting the gadgets into the schools is only one challenge.  If teachers are to successfully use these new technologies, they need training.

This blog post provides food for thought about how we might more effectively introduce new technologies into our schools.  And, the proposed changes to collective bargaining may provide opportunities for important staffing reconfigurations that can help support staff learning about new ways to deliver curriculum using technology.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

We need to think differently about the delivery of public education

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.
                                                                                                        Albert Einstein

So, how do we do that when we are surrounded by chaos:  drastic budget cuts; political instability at the state; parents who demand (rightly) that we serve their children; community members who are unwilling to pony up more dollars.  

In the face of these pressures it is understandable that you might want to double down and do what you are doing, only harder, faster, better.  But, as Einstein posits, this will not solve the problem.

There are places where we are starting to see how a 21st century education can be delivered.  Read here to get a glimpse:

What is 21st Century Education?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Understanding the changing context

Some of you may have heard me talk about how the world, Wisconsin, and the expectations of public education have changed.  Seth Godin's blog post does a good job of explaining some of the challenges of the changing context.

Leaders in public education need to understand these changes.  If we continue to improve the current system, we will have failed.  It is not reform, but reinvention, that we need to pursue.

This means that leaders need to have strong communication skills. Today, leadership is not about technical skill.  It is not about being good at issuing orders.  It is about creating contexts for groups to come together to solve problems.  Problems which do not have one clear answer.

In this more complex era, leaders need to be able to develop good relationships.  They need to create a context of trust.  The context is chaotic.  Leaders who learn how to create a context to let order emerge from the chaos, will succeed in leading the public education reinvention our students need.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Everything is Amazing and Nobody's Happy

This youtube video serves as a companion to Barry Schwarz's TED Talk.  Sometimes comedians can say things in a way that connects with us where a more academic presentation fails. Louis CK talks about some of the amazing inventions we live with today, and our inability to be happy, in spite of all of the amazing inventions in our lives.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"The secret to happiness is low expectations."

In this TED Talk, psychologist Barry Schwartz, explains how too much choice is making us miserable. What are the implications of this idea for the policy world, particularly in education?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Think about it!

"Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time."

Chinese Proverb

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Leadership and the New Sciences

Margaret Wheatley wrote a book that explained why the way we think about organizations (as mechanical structures) no longer works. And, that by looking to the new sciences, like quantum physics, we can create new organizations that are better suited to solve our current challenges.  This short video summarizes the book in an engaging way.

PFYT: Margaret Wheatley from FreedomLab on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An interesting book

Policy makers, especially those in education, need to read this book:  The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, written by David Brooks.

Here are two links that will give you a taste of the book: 

Brook's Tuesday, March 29th column in the New York Times: Tools for Thinking

Brooks's talk at TED 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

If only we had more money....

I hear this all the time from school board members.  Yes, times are tight and I can honestly say I can never remember a time when times weren't tight in public education.

Scarce financial resources can provide opportunity for innovation.  Rather than grousing about the lack of money, look for the possibilities.  This article, The Number One Key to Innovation, from the Harvard Business Review, talks about scarcity, and the fact that among all of the innovation methodologies researchers have identified, scarcity is the only common denominator.

We in public education need to cultivate a culture that embraces scarcity and turns it on its head.  We are not going to get more money, therefore we have to innovate.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Madison situation is not an either/or

I'd like to thank Ron Jetty for his facebook post on the Madison controversy.

In his article, Reinvent unions: don't gut them, Sam Chaltain suggests that we in Wisconsin have a giant opportunity sitting in our laps.

It is not productive to frame the issue as one of maintaining the status quo, or eliminating the unions.  The issue is more complex than that.  We can see that unions don't work in our current context.  AND, workers still need to have their rights protected.  Looking at the issue as a both/and rather than an either/or can set us up for more productive conversation.  There is the possibility of creating something new.

The playwright and former Czeh president, Vaclav Havel, in a speech he gave in Philadelphia in 1994 said, "I think there are good reasons for suggesting that the modern age has ended.  Today, many things indicate that we are going through a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born.  It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself--while something else, still indistinct, were rising from the rubble."

It is time for Wisconsin's leaders to come together, identify common ground, and create a union system that works for the 21st century.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Marlboro Man is so last century

And not just because we learned so much about the dangers of smoking.

Turns out that to be successful in today's world, you need to know how to collaborate.  Seth Goden talks about this in this blog post, Autarky is dead

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Getting a handle on that Vision Thing

One of the most important responsibilities for school district leaders is to establish a clear vision for the future of the school district.  The challenge for many of us is that the world is changing very quickly and we may not be aware of or understand what all of this change means, particularly when we talk about technological changes.  This blog post, 8 Guiding Questions for Conversations about Becoming a School of the Future, can help.  Included is a list of questions to start some conversations in your district.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

LOL--Texting Leads to Better Spelling

Another example of how our preconceived notions about cause and effect may miss the mark.  Read about Texting and Spelling to learn how spelling can actually improve as a result of tex messaging.

ttyl   ;0)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

You Tube can be Useful

In November, I was preparing for a conference presentation.  I wanted the people in the audience to make paper airplanes (believe me, this was important).  I am embarrassed to admit that I could not remember how to make a paper airplane.  So I went to You Tube, where there are thousands of videos about how to make all kinds of paper airplanes.

Tufts University is now accepting You Tube videos as part of a student's college application.

In this blog post, we see how young people use You Tube in meaningful ways: How many educators / parents / policymakers see the implications of this?

Chris Anderson, curator at TED, talks about video in this TEDTalk and in this Wired article.

What are your school district's policies?  Do you allow teachers and students to use You Tube and other social networking tools in the classroom?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Continuous Improvement

One key component in the NSBA Key Work framework is continuous improvement.  Regular evaluation is part and parcel of a continuous improvement model.  I recently wrote a piece for the eboard solutions blog.

Check it out.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kindles in the classroom get students excited to read

Kindles and other hand-held computer devices are making their way into classrooms in Wisconsin.  Click here to see how Altoona is using them.

Monday, January 3, 2011

This was good enough for me, it oughta be good enough for these kids

 I cannot tell you how often board members tell me about community members who hold this belief.  Even more distressing, how many board members believe it themselves.

School boards have been largely ignored in the educational reforms of the past thirty years.  Local control as we have understood it no longer exists.  Yet there is an opportunity for school boards to play a central role in transforming their schools, if they work on vision and engaging with both internal and external stakeholders.

School board members must scan the environment to understand how the world is changing. You cannot create a vision for the future if you do not have some familiarity with how the world is changing.

One way to quickly keep up is to subscribe to blogs and websites that are thinking and talking about change and education.  You can easily use google reader to keep up on what's happening.   It is time to get started.

Create a gmail account (if you don't already have one).   A gmail account is rapidly becoming the equivalent of  a social security number.  You will not be able to participate in the new world without one. 

Then, set up google reader.  You are now ready to subscribe to blogs and websites whose author's are thinking and talking about change in the world and education.  To add sites to your google reader:

Find a site you are interested in following.
Click on the RSS icon  found on the web page. 
Subscribe to feed using google
Click on google reader.

If you have an ipad, download the app flipboard, which formats your feeds in a magazine-style format, making it very easy and enjoyable to read.

 Here are a few websites to get you started.

TEDTalks-  Each year,  the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference hosts some of the world's most fascinating people: Trusted voices and convention-breaking mavericks, icons and geniuses. These podcasts (also available in audio format) capture the most extraordinary presentations delivered from the TED stage.

Yong Zhao
 - Keynote speaker at the 2011 WASB convention