Monday, June 23, 2014

Negative Attitudes screw up Progress (Slide)

Well, I got a flat tire, and it really messed up my day, so I couldn't pass up an opportunity to share this analogy. Negative attitudes screw up all of us. Whether they be negative attitudes coming from our coworkers or attitudes coming from within, we must never forget that negative attitudes screw up everyone's progress down the path of success. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

From Engagement to Empowerment

Bill Ferriter wrote this bit about student empowerment versus student engagement (Check out his blog). The crux of his post centered on the fact that if we want to empower students in their learning, we have to construct content in such a way that challenges students to take ownership. He went on to say that engagement is good, but the problem is that students can't be empowered to learn content that is owned by the teacher. They can only be engaged in the content.

So how does this apply to principals and teachers? 

Well, the first thing that principals need to understand is that engaging their followers is not the ultimate goal but the first step.   Leaders guide followers in committing to a mission that clearly defines why they're all there.  I mean if you can't engage followers in directing their moral compass, there's no way you're ever going to empower them to realize their true purpose. Engagement is about connecting people to what must be accomplished and that's an important first step to empowering followers. 

Engagement also requires promotion. 

Here are a few questions to see if you are engaging your staff.

  • Are you promoting the things that your school is trying to do for all kids?  
  • Are you creating a sense of excitement about the future of your school?
  • Are you celebrating the behaviors that are helping your school move forward?
  • Are you showing evidence that what you are doing is working?

When you are doing these types of things as a leader, people are interested in becoming engaged because they are attracted to what you are trying to create. Everyone wants to be a part of an organization that is focused on making progress because deep down inside everyone wants to be a part of an improvement movement. 

From engagement to empowerment. 

Once people are engaged, they are primed to be empowered. Empowerment is hard for leaders because it requires leaders to give up control. As people become actively involved, they naturally need the opportunity to take actions and make them their own.  Control must be shared with those that get it and more importantly want it, so they can help engage and then empower others who are impacted. If people are not given control of how to improve the school, you can't say they are empowered. To move from engagement to empowerment, the leader needs to focus on these questions. 

  • Are people asking for permission to do things differently than you described?
  • Are people not changing and adapting to the needs of kids because they feel like they're not allowed to?
  • Do people feel like they need to do their work in the same way as everyone on their team?

If you answered yes to any if these questions, your staff is not quite ready to be called empowered. 

The Essence of Empowerment is Control

Who's in control in an empowered culture?  It is pretty difficult to be empowered when you feel like you have no authority to select the path of your own personal progress. Empowering leaders facilitate shared control in an environment where risk-taking is rich and responsibility is shared.  In an empowered culture, people don't need permission because they have a purpose.  Once leaders realize that they must replace their chore of constant control with inspirational motivation, idealized influence, and intellectual stimulation, they will begin to move their organization from engagement to empowerment. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Are Kids Tech Savvy or Tech Trendy?

Tech-savvy (adj.) overly-used term to describe kids who possess technology.  

This term, tech-savvy, represents a hasty generalization about the tech skills of millions of milliniels. Because every kid has a phone and uses it frequently, many naively assume they are tech geniuses, but here's the deal.  Just because kids know how to use Instagram or are glued to a screen, it doesn't automatically mean they are tech savvy. It just means they're tech-trendy. 

Sure, most kids know how to create social media accounts, and they know how to interact socially, but that's not savvy anymore. It's just a trend. Every kid in my generation had an Atari, but that didn't make us all wiz-kids. It meant that we were keeping up with the times.

So What is Tech-Savvy???

Learning in this decade is way past putting devices in kids' hands and asking them to interact. They know how to do that already because being social with technology is commonplace. What kids do with technology beyond socializing is what makes them savvy. 

Being savvy means being making an impact on others.  Social is trendy. Collaboration is savvy. Collaboration requires creativity, conversation, and problem-solving about ways to positively affect our glocal world. If kids don't learn these 21st century skills in school, their chances of being competitive in a global market are the equivalent of a horse-drawn carriage winning in the Daytona 500. 


My kids have a phone. They have accounts, but I want them to learn how to use that phone for something more important than finding out who's going out with who. Parents want their children to know more than how to post content on a social space. Our world needs them to deepen their knowledge and broaden their horizons with that technology.  This can only happen when instruction moves beyond trendy tech toleration and actually emulates the integrated world that they will inherit.  If we want kids to move beyond the comforts of today's technological trends, we must create learning spaces that encourage and actually empower kids to truly aspire attaining the truest definition of tech-savvy. 

So the question shouldn't be, "Are kids tech savvy or tech trendy?"  It should be this.  Are we creating learning spaces that transform superficial tech trends into meaningful learning that empowers kids to change the world today and tomorrow?

Does this make any sense?