“To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.”

The title of this post is a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, and I have combined it in my mind with a quote from my Grandmother: “Nobody’s Perfect.” So, it seems I have found a conundrum. Who is correct? Churchill, who arguably saved the Free World, or my Grandmother? Does change inevitably lead to the path of perfection–or merely lead us in the direction of a never attainable entity?

I have decided (with all deference to the brilliance of Sir Winston) that my Grandmother has the edge here. And it came into focus when I considered the Innovator’s Mindset “5 Ways to lay the foundation for Innovation”. Innovation necessarily requires change, and frequent innovation will  therefore lead us down the path that Churchill challenged us to.  But can you ever reach perfection? To believe that you can  is a trap that there is no recovery from. George mentioned in his last blog post “…I have always believed that you could have been a great teacher ten years ago, changed nothing, and now be irrelevant.” (GCouros, “Intent vs. Impact”)My Grandmother would have agreed with George. The moment you feel “perfect” is the moment you stop innovating–and eventually become irrelevant.

How can we make sure that we never feel ourselves as having become “perfect”? Simple. Open Cultures that embrace change and innovation. Share your success, Share your stumbles. Share your questions, share your answers. Share your concerns, share your affirmations. Share your fears, share your bravery. All in all–SHARE. #IMMOOC has been a gold mine of affirmation and revelation to me in the past month. Can you replicate this environment in your own school setting? Create an open culture where day to day fears don’t exist? At our school–inspired by this community of learning through George–we have started a group of teachers who will meet on Friday mornings to share. To promote an open culture that is a community of learning–and talking about teaching. The norms are strict. We speak of innovation, learning, teaching, and reflection. Day to day complaints and “issues”have no forum here. We post our thoughts on quotes, post our reflections, post our ideas, and post any innovative thought we have on our online notebook. When you need inspiration, it is there for you to dig in. Our own, local #IMMOOC is being born. I couldn’t be more excited.

You simply need to understand that the world is changing.” (Dan Brown) Embrace this change TOGETHER in an Open Culture at your school. Walk the path that Churchill challenged us to, but remember that Grandma says you can’t get there, but you better keep walking. And THAT is the formula for growth in your profession and therefore in our students– if you do it with others.

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“Adapt, or die.” ~Moneyball

“LEARNING is about challenging perceived norms” ~George Couros

It is a SNOW DAY here in Upstate NY, and I ended up scrolling through the Apple TV for an inspirational movie—and found one of my favorites in the library: Moneyball.

I am a huge baseball fan, have always been and will always be. In the past 20 years this game has changed dramatically and I found within this change a metaphor for education.

Baseball thinks the way I do, and will be glad to throw you and Google Boy under the bus.” was a common theme among  MLB scouts in the early 21st century. Today, all teams employ analytic experts to study SaberMetrics and LEARN from the performances on the diamond. The bus in question was in fact heading backward, and “Google Boy” is now the norm.

Can we continue to break down these very same walls in our classroom and our schools? The perceived norms of education rely upon teacher centered classrooms, standardized testing, and banning of phones, Twitter, YouTube, and all forms of SM. It is MLB in the year 2000. Perceived “threats” to our “status quo” in education. The problem is, the “status quo” is not working for our students–only the educators.

There is another way. ADAPT to the worlds that our students live in. Grab a foothold there. Ask THEM for help to get started, and find a way to tailor it to your classroom and your objectives. Collaboration, Digital Citizenship, Relevance, Rigor, and perhaps if you play your cards right—EMPOWERMENT will be the result. Daily assessments through Twitter? Do it. Collaboration with other students and experts through Skype? Do it. Find your norm that suits today’s child. Not the norm that suited the graduating class of 1985. Challenge those perceived norms. The students will win.

The clip in question from the movie Moneyball: “Adapt or Die”

~Rich V

PS–go Jays. #ComeTogether

What if we promoted Risk Taking to our staff and students?

#IMMOOC Live Episode 3 and Blog Prompts – The Innovator’s Mindset MOOC.  Which “what if” question challenges your thinking in the Innovator’s Mindset? What would you add to the list of what ifs?

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“Only those who play win. Only those who risk win. History favors risk-takers. Forgets the timid. Everything else is commentary.”
Iveta Cherneva
In order to start this short-blog, I googled “risk taking”. (I know, so daring of me). This young lady and her quote appeared before me, and I wanted to learn more about her. What a fantastic individual I discovered today, taking on the world and making it better for our children at the U.N. She lives the words she speaks, and is not sitting by offering “commentary”. A great way to start a Monday, being inspired by someone I knew not of yesterday. Find these people, allow them to motivate you and stir up your “risk taking” genes.
I asked the question last night on #IMMOOC, “what methods do you use to motivate those who fear taking risks? ” (@ICSMrV34) and I received a wonderful piece of feedback from @AlexLCarterEDU suggesting that I find our their fears and support them through modeling risk in my classroom.
I am setting up Open Chat Stations this week in class as a means of review. Students will collaborate over OneNote to help complete very open ended points to reflect upon in our current unit. I am terrified of not “GIVING” them the material to know, but letting them discover what they do already know–and build the assessment from there. I am terrified of the technology not working, I am terrified of a student question I can’t answer. I am asking my neighbor to watch me in this attempt. To watch me try, to watch me screw up, to watch me ask the students for help with the collaboration, to watch me recover, and then watch the result–empowered students in an environment of learning.This will hopefully break down the walls of fear and allow for communication and collaboration about innovation with this colleague.
Fingers crossed, fears being faced, in full view of colleagues. Let’s do this.
~Rich V

“Once you stop learning, you start dying.” #IMMOOC

Fantastic beginning to what I am sure will be an enlightening and motivating book, “The Innovator’s Mindset” by George Couros.

I am jumping into the#IMMOOC Live with great anticipation, how can I continue to adapt as an instructor to help serve the needs of our contemporary learners? We live and work in a culture that fears–but craves change. It is a difficult relationship to understand. We all have colleagues who race out to buy new phones, watches and tablets while posting on Facebook and Instagram–but refuse to allow this world into the most important tool it can offer: Our classrooms. Why the paradox? Why the fear that neutralizes our ability to help our students acquire 21st century skills?

Want to teach collaboration? How about setting up groups with representation from 4 continents to study particular current events and their impact around the globe using social media. Or how to solve a math problem, or an engineering challenge.

Want to teach critical thinking? How about attempting to find solutions to real world issues like refugees while having students be in contact with people who have actually existed in that world.

Want to teach Source Analysis? How about having students dig through thousands of hashtags regarding a particular subject, then ask them to not only evaluate content–but assess the source from which they came for perspective, point of view, bias and reliability.

Instead, we gather students in straight rows to listen to a single individual pontificate about what the “facts” are, and to “write this down”. Instead, we teach collaboration through the occasional grouping of students without much premeditated thought, to work through some basic tasks that can best be described as clerical. Instead, we teach source analysis by droning through sources which can best be described by the students as “boring” and “irrelevant”.

Why the disconnect? Why the fear to change? I find myself constantly looking about my profession hoping that a change to more relevant instruction will take place. But, I am always left wondering “How do I do it? How can I make others change with me?” Well, it is with great excitement that I placed multiple stars and notes on page 8 of George’s introduction to “The Innovator’s Mindset”. He notes: “…The question I am most frequently asked in my talks and workshops is, “How do we get others the change?” In reality, you can’t make anyone change; people can only change themselves. What you can do is create the conditions where change is more likely to happen...” This page brought me great peace and answered that question that always comes to my mind while standing at the crossroads. I can help change by being the change.

I come to #IMMOOC in hopes of collaborating with like minded individuals who want to learn to “do something amazing” through change. How ironic that on this very day, today in class, a young lady was complaining to me about the handwritten agenda that our school provides for students to record assignments and calendars. She hopes for an app or phone based agenda someday. As she spoke, my first response to her was a quote from Gandhi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” and I told her to offer a better idea to the administrative team. I was quick to offer advice to her that I am often hesitant to take myself.

All this, after our classes spent a day last week brainstorming ways to “change” education for the youth of today based upon our school’s very recent adoption of a new Vision Statement. Our class fictitiously decided to build a new model school where our mascot would be the Proton. (As we would put a positive charge into our learning) and that we would seek to change all Electrons (those with a negative charge). Kids spoke openly and freely about what they wanted in their school, and how they would learn. It was among the best days in my career with open, free flowing discussion with students. I honestly went home thinking all night about a new model school that would encompass all of the vision of the truly honest young men and women.

When I read George’s introduction, it pointed out to me that I can tell my students to “Be the change” as Gandhi did—but, I also need to follow his advice in my own passion for teaching. Yes, change is difficult. Yes, change seems slow. Yes, change seems at times to be impossible, but the reward: “…an opportunity to do something amazing…”.

So for me, I intend on living in this profession for many years. I will work to find the “adjacent possible” and hope to “unleash the talent” in my school. I’m in, let’s do this. Thanks for the inspiration George.

gandhi

“I touch the future, I teach.”

There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and an historian later said, “He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.” Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

-Ronald Reagan,

January 28th, 1986. A day I can pinpoint as the day I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I had spent a contemplative day as a 10th grader wondering how something like this could have happened. A beautiful blue sky, a sun splashed background, and those brave astronauts heading off to further the exploration of the great frontier. All destroyed as two rockets spiraled off into different directions in the Florida sky.

Aboard that mission was Sharon Christa McAuliffe, a teacher who had hoped to inspire her students and other teachers around the world. Well, you did Christa. You reached the eyes, ears, and heart of a young boy in Cheektowaga, NY who knew that day that my youthful dream of becoming an astronaut had now morphed into a goal of one day “teaching” in the way that Christa seemed to.

As I became older and did realize that goal 8 years later, the first thing I placed on my desk was a framed print of that most famous quote which is often attributed to her: “I touch the future, I teach.” Alongside this, I always kept handy another of her quotes–perhaps even more prophetic: “I have a vision of the world as a global village, a world without boundaries”

Twenty three years have passed in my career. And in these times I think about Christa and my inspiration a lot. Do I in fact still touch the future? It is indisputable on a day to day basis I interact with students in a positive manner, and will have an impact upon their future lives–but do I touch the future anymore? Education, life, social interaction, and our global community have changed so much in the past decade and has changed exponentially since that January morning in Florida so long ago. Have I adapted as a teacher in a way to keep up with that change? Or, am I preparing students for a future that I envisioned in 1986, or 1994?

What tools do I give my students to give them a chance in their futures? Do I give them collaborative skills? Or do I teach them that they will succeed based on their own individual skill. Do I give them the ability to find solutions to problems? Or do I give them the solution. Do I give them the ability to locate information and learn while distinguishing among multiple sources? Or do I give them the facts they “Have to know”.

Am I still preparing them for the “Future” I had always hoped to “touch”.

I hope so.

Books like “The Innovator’s Mindset” by George Couros, (http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/5715)  resources such as http://www.Edutopia.com and the Buck Institute, and countless educators I can follow on Twitter point me in the direction of the future. In our profession, it is so easy to bury ourselves in a protective layer of habit and self-preservation. We forget our passion. We forget why we did this in the first place, and trade it for a myriad of variables we never once considered when we decided we wanted to teach.

If we are afraid of the future, how can we prepare students for it? How can we “touch” it? Embrace change. Embrace technology. Embrace the passion these young students have–and don’t sell them short. They know, and can do, so much more than many give them credit for.

I have signed up for The #InnovatorsMindset MOOC Starting February 27, 2017 (#IMMOOC) and I am hoping to be inspired, and find like minded individuals who believe what Christa believed 31 years ago. We can touch the future—IF we teach.

~Rich V (@ICSMrV34 )

Teacher in Space, 1986

Innovator’s Mindest