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Making measuring matter to more people. 

DRAFT

How do you measure? How do you make measuring more effective? How doe we use what we measure guide our adjustments?  
 These are a great questions we need to be asking more. We talk a lot about data but it seams like that’s it. We talk about it. What do we do with it?  More importantly– what are we measuring? How are we measuring? Why are we measuring? After we measure, what happens with this information?  
After listening to a number of back-to-school events and seeing charts about how the school scores, how the different ethnicities score, how special need student score, and how language learners score on their standardized tests, not one talked with us about where exactly are the problem areas. What were the areas they found success?  What were the patterns in the data?  It was only a delivery if information. Why can’t this be a 2 way conversation?  After the data is shared, what that mean to all of us and how can we help? 
I was hoping to hear something like this:
These are the numbers. These are the numbers compared to….  These are the patterns that show the areas where they scored well and these are the areas where they didn’t. From these patterns, we are making the following adjustments. I wish there was a challenge for all of the other content area teachers to think through 1-3 strategies they can contribute to support a growth plan for those problem areas. It would be great for them to share those ideas to the other teachers and even the families. Maybe we can look at the strength areas and see how they can be used to support the areas in need for improvement. 
What can this look like?
For parents, schools can make recommendations on what can be done at home to supplement the adjustment strategies. 
What can this look like?
This is a challenge for us to think through a process to take results, reflect on them, identify patterns, identify strategies to make necessary adjustments. This way, I believe, we can make measuring matter more for everyone and make the journey more inclusive. 
Your thoughts. 
M

Curiosity. Make it matter!

Lesson learned: curiosity is our best friend, storytellers! 
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
– Albert Einstein

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What I love about quotes is knowing the back story. It adds so much more to the impact. So, why would one of the smartest minds say something like this. 
Context for me:

A few years back, the chief education scientist for CERN AND the ATLAS Hadron Collider project in Switzerland, told me in an interview that American schools should focus on making kids love science and help them see beyond the obvious. When I asked how, he responded that science fiction is key to get kids to ask WHAT IF questions. Once the WHAT IF is clear– the process to use imagination, inquiry, and experimentation means more. More science isn’t The option. Getting children to love science is. 
Curiosity + Love + Connection + Possibilities = the WHY to dream! 
Back to Einstein’s quote. The power of a fairy tale is rooted, grounded on curiosity, on making possible the impossible, on love, on imagination, and on hope. WHAT IF is the fuel to the place that lives in ONCE UPON A TIME…. We got to space because of dreaming. We were driven to fight for our civil rights because of a dream. We need dreams to move us, inspire us, push us, provoke us, get us new ideas– create new dreams. A Black matter scientist told me this!!!
Make it matter. Make curiosity win for you. The stories will remind you why you do this. If you can sit with Albert Einstein today and have a coffee, tea, or even beer with him, I bet he’d tell you that fairy tales are not about the RIGHT ANSWER, but about new questions, new possibilities. 
Challenge: Make it matter more!
M

What does efficient and effective mean to you?

DRAFT: dictated
While at a public house with a few of my education friends, we talked about ideas on how to make the 2015/2016 year more effective and more efficient.  Initially, the conversation focused on defining what does it mean to be efficient and effective. Does that just mean we get to scores that are favorable in a shorter period of time? Does that mean that we just get the increase percentages set out by the district after each benchmark exam?  It wasn’t clear if student achievement mean more that an associated score.  
Is it effective and efficient for students? How? Or, is it effective for the adults? How? They believed they didn’t consider what’s best for the kids and their families in the long run. Or, if they did, it wasn’t very clear on the immediate and the long-term benefits for a more effective and efficient learning experience.
I shared with them the reflection from a teacher in vista California who told me that the part of the brain that reduces the fear, increase his confidence, is the same part of the brain that has empathy and relationship building.  I shared with them a Facebook article I posted a few weeks back that talks about how directly connected the feeling of safety, the feeling of comfort, and the feeling of confidence are directly linked to successful pathways. One of my friends said she wasn’t very clear with that argument considering she knows a lot of shy people who are very good at school.  One of our other friends, responded that that’s a different type of confidence. That is the social confidence type. You can still develop confidence in subject area knowledge. The challenge is that having that type of confidence is not as valuable anymore as it once was– this alone isn’t enough. The reason is that knowledge, the knowing of stuff, can be looked up much easier.  Even if the answer isn’t available on your Apple Watch, I’m sure you can find someone in your network who can begin to point you in the direction of the answer. So, I regrouped and asked the question again: how can we be more efficient and effective this coming year?
To bring additional context into that very loaded question, I shared with them the conversation I had with my boss last month.  We agreed that creating successful moments is way more valuable than putting all of the energy in test preparation. Learning strategies and skill building with content area goal as prompts can be super effective. The main reason is that success and victories can be seen and experienced immediately.  If we smart reflect, we can smart adjust to create more victories. Soon, A student and or a teacher can’t stop, turn around, look at the path they had covered and realize how far they’ve come and, most importantly, why.  How can we create more successful  moments? How can we capture the stories along the way, how do we showcase and share?
After a pause and a wonder look around the room, a good idea we shared.  Why don’t we take our main learning goal for the unit or the week and asked the students to collect as much evidence as possible on how and why this matters beyond my classroom?  I added, they can use a variety of media tools to collect evidence. They could interview their parents, other family members, and even neighbors. 
For example, I took some teachers on a photo learning tour in Philadelphia and we talked about the science and the math behind the art of photography.  
Right there, on the spot, I read an email to my friends from a teacher in North Carolina who shared that she will be asking additional questions at the start and at the end of each unit to see how students can make the content area and skill set connections more obvious for her and for themselves. For example, 

how do you plan with this information?

how does this help you produce new information?

how and why is it important to present, reflect, and adjust other things in your life with this unit’s goal(s), where do you see those connections?

how do you get other people to know what you did and how you thought it through?

SsWe agreed this is difficult, but one of my colleagues said that this sounds like fun. Fun + hard (challenging) is key to greatness, too!  
Immediately, someone else shared a cool idea from the relational comment made earlier.  What if students and teachers, after knowing the content area goals for that unit or week, they can generate new questions based on left brain and right brain themes.  She referred to Dan pink’s book on the need to focus on right brain thinking, A Whole New Mind. After being asked to elaborate, she threw out some ideas. Since most of the questions already are focused on logical, knowledge-based, sequential, and mathematical– what do questions look like if you asked students to generate ones around empathy (connect), symphonic or big picture (Why), creative (what if), relational (patterns)– what would some of those look like? The mind is in just a computational tool, it’s an emotional machine as well. Stories are a bridge between the two, she shared that Dan Pink makes this clear in the book, too. 
Our table was silenced after that idea. I could just feel everyone’s energy thinking through series of questions they would ask about, I guess, anything.  I thought this was a brilliant idea. Instead of just assessing one tiny part of the learning journey: do you know what or not? We leverage deeper reflective questions that we can collect evidence on/ for. 
Could this create the necessary successes and victories to help the school ultimately achieve their reality of scores and testing?  What if we strategically merged a social and emotional, right brain approach to weekly learning goals? What if there was a concerted effort to connect the content area calls with what it looks like outside of the classroom? What if this was our standard? Can this cast a wider net for us, increase our chances to make more victories?
Efficient and effective is an interesting term because after this conversation, I realized that ,for me, to be efficient and effective means to use the right and the left brain regularly and to showcase that we are doing it on an ongoing basis. The key is to make measuring this relationship CLEAR, relevant, meaningful, and applicable to everyone.
I really appreciated this conversation. I felt like I called time out, went back to the review station, looked at the video tape of our last game, fast forward it to the concerns, and begin to identify patterns.  Afterwards, I paused, looked at these patterns, and began to write down ideas on how to dot connect new ideas and ask new questions, see new possibilities for our upcoming school year.  
Is it scary? Yes. Is it exciting? Yes. Does that sound like fun? Yes!
Thanks, friends!
Cheers! 
(Tink….)

Draft: Leaders? Who are they at school? 

Let’s talk about perception. In edutalk, leaders for leadership usually refers tohigher level position people like superintendents, schoolboard members, directors, managers, principles, assistant principals, program coordinators, etc. teachers are teachers and students are students. At the surface level, these are the titles.  When you walk into a school and ask who’s the leader? Usually the answer is principal. I get it. However, how do we do a better job redefining leadership according to what people do as opposed to what their role is.

DRAFT: How to be a smart conference goer!

Here are a few tips for you I’m preparing for a conference. Let’s be strategic. 

First, let’s break down the conference.  

1. The sessions/ presenters. The sessions are usually focused around someone sharing something that works for them, how to use  a product/tool, or, explaining a trend. There maybe more, however, these are the main ones. 

2. The  Exhibit hall. Here is where developers and companies share their products with the conference goers and give away free crap. 

3. The social networking before, between, during, and after the conference events. Here is where people meet, share reflections, making new friends, and have a good time with their peers and new ones from other places. 

The challenge:

So let’s think about how to maximize each part. I know many of you struggle communicating those many special moments. I know it’s tough to Convey the environment  the conference provided you. I know it’s a struggle to go back to your school colleagues, who were not blessed enough to go with you, The many wonderful opportunities you experienced. Therefore, you’re probably starting off on the wrong foot delivering what worked for you.

The problem is storytelling. The story experience at the conference, the conference posting city, and the environment of the event doesn’t translate very well if you just come back with a bag of fliers and links to website. So much of the story happens in real time and, if you think about it, you have resources on you and I can help you be more effective and efficient at storytelling the experience back to your colleagues.

Effective conference going Tip 1. 

Think about how to select people to go and think about how you’re going to use those people at the conference.  For example, send teachers who are willing to share and report back what they experienced in cool and creative ways. Ask teachers to share how they would storytell the event. Make this a priority for your whole staff to be this audience for this conference goer and their report!  Popcorn please. This adds a bit more accountability to who gets to go. It should be a school priority to provide the necessary stage and audience to discuss what was seen and what was learned from the experience.

If you have the luxury of sending more than one teacher, create a plan ahead of time. Identify someone who can help story tell the event. Let’s call them the team mentor. Also, Select people who can be the mentees. They’re the ones that are going for the first time or may be new to that conference’s themes. They will work as a team to share the experience of the conference from someone who has gone through the experience and someone who is new to the experience.

Choosing the right team and making the goals clear, and, agreeing on common language on how to report back is fundamental.

The more creative. Use a variety of ways to report back.   Don’t wait until the airplane ride back to write your full reflection. Collect along the way like a photojournalist would Cover an event live.  Leverage your mobile device to help capture moments that matter. As a kid, I loved my moms slideshows. Everybody would sit down and listen to her talk about the picture and what happened around it. I love the question and answers that happened afterwards too.

With this new team, write down some goals you have for the conference. What are concepts you need clarified. What are resources you need to look into more. Who are people you feel you need to meet and listen to. What are companies and or products you feel you need to understand  more. Planet out. Identify sessions, presenters, and exhibits that can and will help you answer your key essential question, for example, how do I improve and increase learning opportunities at my school? Create a process to collect questions from your colleagues as well. Although they are not going, what would they like to learn from this event. Take their list and keep an eye out for solutions or resources that can help answer their questions. This will create more buy-in from them as well.

Four the sessions, write down your reflections. What were some victories that you experienced because of the session or presenter? What were some key lessons learned from the experience? What word needs and concerns for you after the session or after hearing the presenter? Agreeing on this reflective format can help you with your writing, podcast, or video making prompt. Try to do it immediately after the session and or at night before going to bed. If you quick reflective lines can go along way. Use the dictation tool. I do all the time!

For the exhibit, create a top 10 or top five list. Find the top or best of. Again, talk about why you like it. What question does it answer, how will people benefit from this, and why do you think it’s cool. Create a quick 2 to 3 question prompts that will help you create a template for you and your team to create this list. Pictures of the exhibit item or both, interviews with the booth representative, and or video will help you convey the story more effectively.

For the social time, I have two key tips. 1. Connect informally with your team. Go out! Take advantage of this new place to get to know each other better outside of  school  distractions. It’s key to build relationships with people who are going to help you make the world a better place.  2. Connect with new people. Exchange business cards, twitter links, Facebook links, etc.   really follow up with them! I cannot tell you the benefits I have experienced because of my new relationships with my new colleagues. Because of the connected world we live in, they can be your true colleagues. Follow up with them! Work on projects together! Make conductivity and collaboration real and not just words schools like to throw around.

Don’t blog, share! Strategies to evolving your writing. 

Im a fan of many bloggers. I mean many.  When their blogs or stories move me, I let them know. I let them know why. One of my favorites told me that he doesn’t think of him self as a blogger, but someone who shares ideas like a photographer shares her/ his images. Blogging is the vehicle not the journey Nor the goal. He added, “It moves my ideas out and I value that because it helps me reach out.” Reaching out is the challenge, the goal. 

What is it you want to share? Why? Who are you writing to? As a photographer, I love to share a variety of things. The subject, object, the light, textures, the drama, the moment, the emotion, the story. Sometimes the goal of the image is product based. Sometimes it’s process based.  Ultimately, it’s not about the camera.  The goal is in your head. The camera is your tool to help communicate that idea.  This is important to note because we make the tool the goal and the focus sometimes.  This can be challenging when trying to connect with an audience around ideas.  A great writer/ storyteller engages an audience and makes them want to interact with the conent. They make people more curious, more interactive. As an educator, I always fought with the kids on writing.  It was such a distant skillset for them since they didn’t write a lot outside of school (now, it’s different due to texting, emailing).  Their audience was the teacher and the teacher would usually thrash their contribution with a barrage of red corrections.  The process of writing was the goal. The ideas were just prompts.  This created an artificial context.  In my education, we wrote 2 business letters that never went anywhere.  It was graded, red lined, and returned back to me where I studied it for .5 seconds (after seeing the grade), then, straight to my file cabinet– the trash can.  

DRAFT: ESPN The Storyteller (they have to be).

ESPN a is a sports channel. It’s 24 hours, too. They started out small. They had a similar business loan that CNN had– all sports, all day. They were out there first. It worked, however, to survive, they need to evolve. They did. They evolved from a fact delivering institution to a storytelling one, as well.

They had to take a page from the NFL films team and find the narrative of the match. The facts alone would not fit the time slot nor did it fit the emotional gaps people experienced while watching the game. The essential question became: How can ESPN transfer the emotion experienced before, during, after, and around the game? How do they move from fact reporting to emotional storytelling? The documentaries produced by ESPN are some of the best stories out there. The stories are incredible. They are keyed in to the following key ingredients to demonstrate empathy by including:

Resilience
Hope
Challenges/ struggles
Emotions

They connect. They make our heroes vulnerable. They make the unsung hero a hero. The stories of winning from losing and losing from winning are moving. They make you care. This helps ESPN keep on going.

Dot connection.
How do we leverage story from a fact reporting culture in our schools? How can we create a greater advocacy to enable and empower our schools to storytell their stories (resilience, hope, challenge, and emotions) with their world. Schools are more than facts and data. We now need to fill in the emotional and intellectual “time slot”to connect/ relate, survive and thrive, to matter.

Thanks ESPN for making me rethink the data and story conversation.