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….)

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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.

Draft: storytelling tips on how to conduct a cool interview!

Documentaries are more about what people say then what is seen. what is seen supports what is being said. I know it sounds simplistic, however, there’s an art and a science to getting the right interviews.

Here are a few tips on how to collect, curate, cultivate, and create a good interview:

1. Don’t call it an interview! Make it more about a conversation. Be curious. The authentic with your questions. Most people I have met like to talk about things they are passionate about. so, have a conversation with them about it. I genuinely am curious about the people I am interviewing. I really want to learn from them. I don’t look at my notes. I look at them. I listen. I ask clarifying questions. Because of the genuine questioning, your learning comes across in the story.

2. Make them comfortable. before shutting the camera in their face, get to know them. tell them you’re excited to learn from them, to talk to them about the topic or big idea you’re exploring. Coordinate with your camera person prior to the interview to check audio levels during this “get to know them” period. The camera person/audio person can check the light, audio levels while you get to know them. This also allows you to focus on the person you’re interviewing and not on equipment. If you’re doing this by yourself, know the locations ahead of time. if you’re doing sound, monitor the sound with one year bud, making sure you’re getting good levels while still being attentive to the person you’re talking to. The key tip here is have the interviewee think about how to prepare for the question as oppose to thinking about the right answer. Don’t provide your questions ahead of time. You can, however, share with them the big idea, general points, goals, ideas. This way their not thinking about the answer ahead of time. I, personally, like it when I see them thinking. I love the pauses and the looking up to think about the question a bit more. Plan ahead.

3. Encourage the person you’re interviewing to include the question in their answer. This will help facilitate during the editing process. this way, you don’t have to add the question in the final edit. for example, if you ask, what’s Your favorite part of the guitar? The interviewee should respond, “My favorite part of the guitar is……” The more comfortable the interviewee is with you, the more you can coach them, model for them the appropriate way.

4. Listen. Listen carefully to the answers. If something needs to be clarified, ask a clarifying question. The good thing about interviewing someone where you are genuinely curious, you will ask the right clarifying questions if needed. if they say something profound or something that triggers ideas, you can stop and make a note. Tell the person you’re talking with that you must write a note down because of something important they said. Don’t take too much time, however, just make a quick note to remind you right after the interview. Listening is a critical tool for all storytellers.

5. Invest in a good Microphone. There are many microphone adapters you can buy for your iPhone/mobile device. I like the Rode lav mic. You can quickly attach it to someone and use the associated app to record the interview. Sometimes audio only is enough. You can listen to it later, take notes of what was said, and go out and shoot or collect coverage (footage) to support the interview later. If you don’t have a mic, storytellers today are lucky today because the iPhone, iPad, and many android devices have great microphones. Just place it by the person you’re interviewing, and hit record. Make sure you use an app that allows you to see audio levels. There are a few options for you to record using a microphone and monitor the audio. I’ll have to add a link to this later.

6. Do your homework. Before interviewing someone, you should have an idea of what you need for that interview. Invest in a cool small notebook like a Moleskin or livescribe notebook. Review your notes prior to the interview. write down notes after the interview. Try to create a system of notetaking that others can understand if they look at it. This way, you can scan, take a picture of it with your iPhone, send it over to another producer, director, camera person, or editor for notes or instructions. For example, I have a common language and common symbols. I write things like coverage, I have letters like W (for wide), M (for medium), C (for close up). I use B (for B roll), I also use A (for A roll). I draw a lot in my notebooks.

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Draft: Mobile Storytelling Tip: How to add a created song from GarageBand to your iMovie project.

Music making, to this day, is one of the forgotten parts of storytelling in the classroom. A lot of people just add a popular song to that video. The problem with this is copyright music cannot be used without the express written permission from the creators of the music. In another words, the music cannot be legally used.

The solutions are as follows:

  1. Don’t use any music.
  2. Find royalty-free music online. Download it, and use it on your project.
  3. Use a music app to make loop based music. Another words, use the loops that are already included with the application.
  4. Use a music making apps like GarageBand to make your own music. Whether you’re a professional or just a beginner, GarageBand can help you create music that is perfectly legal and perfectly yours.

What I like about option number four is that it creates an opportunity for another student to participate in the storytelling process. Music, is an emotional communicator and, in many cases, it’s the key component to the actual bigger story.

The cool news about iPads is that it comes with iMovie and a garage pad. So, if you’re editing your movie and iMovie, you can open up GarageBand, make a song, or a music bed and use it under your movie.

I’m going to walk you through how to move a created song in GarageBand and open it and iMovie.

On your iOS device, open up garage band. Locate the song you created for your movie. if you select and hold the song you want, it will wiggle. This means that it is awaiting a command from you. In the upper left-hand corner, you will see some actions available. You will choose the send to option which is the box with an arrow pointing up to it. See the image below.

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Once it’s selected and the “send to/export” icon is selected– you’ll choose the “open in application” icon on the bottom

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(Choose share)

When you choose this icon, you get the option to open it and iMovie.

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Once you select iMovie, you will be prompt to choose the movie you want scored.

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(Choose the movie you’re scoring: Rio Rides)

Locate it, select it, and you will see that the music will automatically be placed underneath the video. Now, all you have to do is adjust the length of the song/music and you’re done.

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(Make length adjustments)

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(That’s a rap).