Monday, June 20, 2016

A Teacher-Powered Approach to Professional Development

It’s a normal Friday morning at Holy Family Academy, a two-year-old independent Catholic high school in Pittsburgh with 125 students. While students engage in projects at our partner sites off campus, faculty gather in our innovation lab for weekly professional development time.
Our director of innovation kicks off the morning with a round of Rose, Thorn, Bud, a design-thinking method that faculty use to describe the details of their week. Pairs of co-teachers huddle around tables filled with laptops, Post-its, and design templates to prepare “teach and lead” sessions. In this mini edcamp, faculty take turns leading inspiration sessions. For faculty, this time is not only about planning their professional growth but also about learning together as a community.
We know that for innovation to flourish in school, the idea of “learning is for everyone” needs to be an attitude as well as an activity. Building this learning culture starts with providing opportunities for support, reflection, and growth among faculty. Tactically, it means creating space and time for faculty to collaborate, co-teach, and learn from each other.
Teacher-centered professional development can be a practical way to create an active learning community. After all, how many times have teachers made jokes about professional development or rolled their eyes at the “sage on the stage” leading some one-off session during an in-service day? Imagine if professional development focused on meaningful, challenging, feasible goals and was woven into each faculty member’s regular schedule?
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Faculty members participate in a "teach and lead" professional development session. Credit: Holy Family Academy.

We Start with a Wish

Meaningful professional development is exactly what we’ve started at Holy Family Academy. This year, we implemented the WOOP (wish, outcome, obstacle, plan) goal-setting framework from the Character Lab at the University of Pennsylvania. In this framework, faculty members design personalized professional development plans and gain power through “teach and lead” sessions. We begin by helping faculty members identify meaningful wishes, ones that are challenging but possible. Recent wishes include learning how to infuse mindfulness into the classroom, planning new field-based learning opportunities for students, and incorporating new technologies into courses.
“The solution isn’t to do away with dreaming and positive thinking,” says Gabriele Oettingen, whose research guided the WOOP goal framework. “Rather, it’s making the most of our fantasies by brushing them up against the very thing most of us are taught to ignore or diminish: the obstacles that stand in our way.”
WOOP is just one example of a teacher-powered approach to professional development, which shifts control away from school administration and enables faculty members to own their learning. In this method, faculty members learn their strengths, work to identify common interests and partnership opportunities with other faculty members, and commit to at least four hours of professional development each week. Dedicated instructional innovation coaches move beyond the roles of traditional curriculum or ed tech coordinators to roles of co-teachers, peer mentors, and planners. These teacher-leaders take a reduced teaching load and catalyze changes in teaching and learning.
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Teachers engage in weekly professional development. Credit: Holy Family Academy.

Weekly Professional Development: How We Do It

In Holy Family Academy’s effort to reimagine teaching and learning for both students and teachers, every Friday the entire faculty works on WOOP goals on campus, and students learn in the field as part of our Network Campus program. About 18 to 20 faculty and some staff meet for about three hours to engage in peer mentoring, design thinking, and prototyping. Sometimes they meet as a large team; other times, they gather in small teams of three to five teachers from different disciplines. In this process, they form personal learning networks with their peers, and note barriers to growth and innovation.
Faculty also receive support from our director of innovation, our principal, and even me from time to time. As head of school, I believe it’s important to participate regularly to stay connected to the pulse of our learning community as we build our culture. I meet with our academic administration team weekly to plan a strategic and meaningful professional development plan for the school. Our principal and director of innovation execute that plan and provide me feedback on how it’s working. We stay nimble and make adjustments as needed.
As school leaders, we try to accommodate faculty members’ wishes if budget and space permit. For example, if a teacher says using more technology in the classroom is a barrier because of a lack of equipment, he or she makes a request to school leadership and typically receives permission to purchase the needed equipment.
In addition to the WOOP goal-setting framework, we regularly use different design-thinking methods to guide and shape our work as a community. We innovate at the macro levels of school decision-making, such as parent-teacher conferences, as well as the micro levels, including the lunch line. Our design-thinking methods include:
Rose, Thorn, Bud
How it works: Participants seek positive outcomes, outcomes that require iteration, and opportunities for growth.
When to use: To reflect on how a program, event, or lesson went.
Creative Matrix
How it works: Participants generate new ideas for multiple problem statements or stakeholders.
When to use: To foster a collaborative voice with large strategic initiatives, such as designing a new schedule or reimagining an advisory program.
Difficulty Impact Matrix
How it works: Participants identify which ideas will have the most impact and are least difficult to execute. This visual approach helps people see whether an idea is realistic. 
When to use: To generate ideas after the creative matrix or some other method.
Faculty members also all learn and leverage their top five strengths from the Gallup StrengthsFinder tool. It’s useful in building teams and finding complementary partners. We share our strengths and promote partnership and co-teaching with those who have diverse skills.
At a recent faculty professional development session, we designed three prototypes for one of our programs for all students called the Learning Hub Advisory. The program meets three days a week and focuses on supporting students’ social and emotional wellness and growth. This fall, we will move our advisory program to the end of the day three days a week. The new three 80-minute blocks will also allow for flexibility. Assemblies, clubs, and advisory will have a dedicated space. Students will stay with their advisors for three years. We also plan to use Classcraft, a role-playing game, to manage, motivate, and engage students.

How You Can Do It

Through these weekly professional development sessions, we expect to continue to redesign and improve the school experience. You can do the same. Here are six ideas to consider.
  1. Create a director of innovation and learning position, an interdisciplinary role that spearheads the organization and supports personalized professional development.
  2. Create creative space for collaboration, co-planning, and co-teaching for faculty reminiscent of a coffee shop.
  3. Design incentive programs that offer faculty innovation grants and fellowships with release time to partner with peers on WOOP goals.
  4. Design in-house edcamps for faculty. Spend a half-day at one of your in-service meetings with the faculty in charge of the learning.
  5. Use design-thinking methods to build empathy, be inclusive, and co-design your school with your faculty or solve problems in your community.
  6. Invite student voices into your professional development efforts — ask students to lead sessions about using social media, such as Twitter, or the latest and greatest apps that might aid in their learning.
If your school is not yet able to dedicate the collaborative planning time or release time for professional development, technology and blended learning approaches can be a good place to start. For example, on a recent in-service day we permitted and encouraged faculty to work remotely from any location. Using Google Apps for Education and online resources in our Learning Management System (Canvas), faculty had the day to complete a virtual scavenger hunt and share personalized findings and interests with the entire faculty. Our faculty members can also share key activities and learning in an ongoing, real-time basis by using our school hashtag, #HFAInnovates, on Twitter and Facebook.

We’re Stronger than Ever

We’re finding that giving faculty members ownership of their learning has created buy-in, excitement, and momentum for school initiatives. By focusing on self-empowerment, using methods such as WOOP goals, and lifting barriers to growth, the faculty can become nimble and entrepreneurial. Never before have these mindsets been as important to cultivate in our faculty and students as they are today.
I have seen firsthand how personalized professional development is transforming our culture. At an in-service day not long ago, some faculty members participated in tai chi in our Mandarin classroom. And recently after school, other faculty members were using the laser cutter for the first time to build custom-designed pieces for a maker showcase event at the end of the year. These wishes — part of their WOOP goals — have come true. It’s thrilling to see our teachers making such progress.

Cross-posted on the The Independent School Magazine Blog

Sunday, May 15, 2016

EdCampPGH at Pittsburgh Public Schools

This weekend was EdCampPGH, the last event I attended as part of Remake Learning Days in Pittsburgh. This was an inspiring and busy week catching up with friends across the learning ecosystem in Pittsburgh. Most importantly, this week reminded me that Pittsburgh is doing amazing things in the educational community and amazing educational leaders are passionate about the future of learning and education. After representing the Teachers Guild and Holy Family Academy at the Remake Learning Rally, I prepared for EdCampPGH. As one of the founders of EdCampPGH, almost four years ago, it was an honor and fulfilled our vision to be able to incude the event in Remake Learning Days. 

When we talked about where to host our next EdCampPGH, we wanted to have a focus on equity. We were glad that PPS (Pittsburgh Public Schools) SciTech agreed to host the event. EdCampPGH is part of a national movement lead by the EdCamp Foundation. EdCamp is a form of unconference designed specifically for teachers and their needs. What makes EdCamp an unconference you might ask? Unlike traditional conferences which have schedules set months in advance by the people running the conference,EdCamp has an agenda that's created by the participants at the start of the event. 

My co-organizer, Justin Aion summed up the day best: "My prime takeaway from morning sessions at #edcampPGH: humanity trumps content 10 times out of 10." Setting the tone for the day was Lori Delale-O'Connor from University of Pittsburgh, School of Education's Center for Urban Education. Lori asked us to think about whose voices are absent from our conversation and to be mindful of that when we plan for change, innovation and growth in schools. She also said: "Looking for gaps is only a way to be sure to perpetuate them— let’s look for building on assets not dwelling on deficits." With an amazing group of close to 100 teachers, administrators and learning partners in attendance, I believe they are focused on rethinking the deficient model and beginning with the positive qualities of the schools!

A series of robust sessions rounded on the day from topics that are typical such as EdTech to new topics such as LBGTQ issues in schools and parent engagement. It was also our first EdCampPGH that we had parents join. The team at Pittsburgh SciTech did a wonderful job getting the word out and leading the event. 

Check out some of the images from the day:

Join us this fall at Fox Chapel Area School District for our fall version of EdCampPGH and meet educators who are passionate about Remaking Learning in the Pittsburgh region. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Matter of Mindset

Image Source: In Search of Growth Leaders, WSJ 
The "growth mindset" has received increased attention in the last few years especially related to how schools can build this mindset in students. While this is important topic, most administrators and faculty may be unclear with how to get started. Shifting learning from teacher-centered to student-centered is one step in the right direction but much more is needed to shift student and faculty minds to the growth cycle. Administrators should help their school demonstrate the virtuous cycle of belief's and behaviors vs the vicious cycle that discourages growth thinking.

The vicious cycle in a classroom or school develops an environment where students and/or teachers view "life as a test" mixed with fear, avoidance and narrow thinking. With so much focus on testing in schools, its not hard to imagine why so many students are graduating high school with a fixed mindset. The ASCD (2010) said that students with a fixed mindset tend to not handle setbacks well because these setbacks call their intelligence into question and they become defensive. I know we have all taught that student. There is such joy in helping students move from this defensiveness and fear to a place where students can respond to obstacles, try new strategies to succeed and use all the resources at their disposal for learning. 

So why aren't more schools training teachers and focused on this very important element to student success? Furthermore, time and time again research and workforce development reporting shows us that plenty of jobs in the future will require workers with an "innovators DNA" which includes a growth mindset as a key ingredient. Schools and classrooms that succeed at building the growth mindset as part of school culture focus on learning being a journey, lifeline and put plans in place to support, seek and embrace change. Growth-focused schools and classrooms broaden students' thinking by creating opportunities for voice and choice in learning where building empathy is at the center of learning. Students are not simply memorizing facts and taking standardized tests. Students that are taught to have a fixed mindset may not be provided or overlook growth opportunities. Furthermore, faculty in fixed-mindset schools are slow to adopt changes that are needed to transform teaching and learning in the 21st century. So where does one start to break the pattern of the vicious cycle? Building culture. Building culture that embraces ambiguity, inquiry and diversity. 

Administrators have a responsibility to build a school culture that is focused on the virtuous cycle where both students are faculty have the skills to detect new growth opportunities, have a bias for action around change, learn to make "bets" and "fail fast." Administrators that support this type of culture building create schools where students and faculty often succeed more often in new situations. Building growth mindset into the culture of your school requires intentional strategy. Carol Dweck's research shows us that this vicious cycle stems from a static definition of self. Many students, particularly students of poverty and trauma may enter our classrooms with this static definition of self. 

A recent post on the popular blog Getting Smarter suggests tactics like flexible student groupings, passion-based project based learning (I like to use design thinking as the framework for this type of PBL), student-led conferences and opportunities for personalization. I would add building a strong advisory program with well-trained and staffed coaches. In my school we call this role a "learning coach." Students meet with their learning coach three days a week in an advisory where they learn their strengths, build trust and have the opportunity to loop with their learning coach for three years. In advisory sessions we call "learning hub" coaches support development of a student's personalized passion pathway as well as access to resources to support their social emotional needs and other social services challenges like mental health, drugs/alcohol and food scarcity. Innovative classroom teaching and curriculum isn't enough to build a culture of growth thinking in your school. Find out what your version of the learning hub is in your school. 

While putting supports in place to help students enter the virtuous cycle of thinking, we can't ignore faculty. Teachers must be on board with building culture if your school will be successful at building a positive culture. Some strategies for building growth-mindset in teachers are co-teaching, personalized PD and ability to take risks and be backed-up by administration. You might offer development programs that provide release time - like Google's 20% plan. Innovation fellows, grants, professional development and action research teams that use design thinking to identify and solve problems in your school. Something as simple of scheduling and classroom spaces can support developing a growth-focused culture. For example, at my school teachers have 4-6 hours a week for professional development and collaborative planning. This time is necessary because of our very project-based and interdisciplinary curricular program. Additionally, with exception of a few courses, all classes in my school are co-taught by teams of educators focused on thematic-based learning. Faculty as well as students write WOOP goals using the framework provided by the Character Lab

What ideas do you have to build a growth-focused culture in your school?

If you are at SXSWEdu - find me (@Learn21Tech). I would love to hear what you are doing in your school. If this topic interests you come see me and my colleagues for our panel, Culture by Design. 

Not at SXSWEdu? Read this excellent article from ASCD on Growth Mindset.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Culture By Design

Culture by Design at SXSWEdu - 3.7.16 

Design thinking has almost become a buzzword in progressive education, but what does ‘design’ as a manifesto actually benefit the culture and practice of educators? How does people-centered problem solving work out in the professional development of a staff? What role does design thinking play in brand strategy and strategic planning for schools? 

At SXSWEdu I'll be presenting with two of my #dtk12chat friends on a panel about using design to build school culture. Over the last seven years I've been a part of schools that have embraced people-centered problem solving and specifically design thinking practices to identify and solve school problems, innovate and grow new ideas and engage learners in ways that create student agency. At my current school, Holy Family Academy, where I am Head of School and Chief Learning Officer we have developed the best school schedule to support a culture of design. Students take 80 minute to 2.5 hours core classes such as "Integrated Design Lab," where they identify and solve community social justice problems and have opportunities to do learning walks and field observation/interviews weekly. We have a game design start-up company where students meet 6 hours every Tuesday and use design methods to build their company! Design is also woven into Cultural Literacy class (our joint humanities block) where students recently created persona profiles and stakeholder maps of WPA workers as they read literature and learned about the great depression. Design not only is practiced by students in my school but with the lead learners, the faculty. Our Director of Innovation leads our faculty every Friday morning, every week! Yes, I said every week. Our teachers get 75% percent more time for professional development than the average teacher. While students are off-campus weekly at partner organizations as part of our network campus program, faculty collaborate using design methods within their "teach and lead" sessions. Methods like Rose/Thorn/Bud, creative matrix, walk-a-mile and visualize the vote helps our faculty be a lean, mean and collaborative team! 

As we embark on developing a new strategic plan, design thinking will be the vehicle that drives our approach. Engaging in a series of design planning sessions with students, parents, the Board and our faculty/staff, we plan to create our next three year strategic plan. We envision using this approach of methods from the LUMA Institute System of Innovating for People: 
  1. Whats On Your Radar
  2. Stakeholder Mapping
  3. Persona Profiles (designed in advance to be used at design sessions)
  4. Creative Matrix
  5. Interviews/Learning Walks/Storyboarding 
  6. Visualize the Vote
  7. Bulls-Eye Diagram
  8. Concept Posters
We envision these methods will be used over the course of three months in a very collaborative process where we continue to build the culture of the school. 

Come learn more about how to use design thinking to build culture in schools next week at SXSWEdu. A link to our slides will be posted here as we refine them! We will have a live "tweetup" (#dtSXSWedu) for folks that can't attend in person as well as live prototyping of ideas you might bring back to your school. 

Monday, March 7
5:00PM - 6:00PM
Hilton Austin Downtown Salon G - See more at:

Monday, February 15, 2016

Transforming Your School: 8 Critical Steps

Guiding change may be the ultimate test of a leader. It's an exciting time to be an educator with the amount of change coming our way. No organization, even schools, can survive if they don't consider how to re-invent themselves.

As a gift from a manager in one of my first leadership roles, I received John Kotter's 1996 book  "Leading Change." This book has traveled to every new role as a staple on my book shelf. Kotter discusses eight critical success factors that leaders need to utilize if change and growth is to occur in your organization. This book wasn't written for educational leaders yet many of the strategies and all of the eight success factors can support change in schools. Kotter suggests that skipping any of these eight success factors creates an illusion of speed and never produces a satisfying result.

So, how can school leaders navigating the waters of change using Kotter's model? Let's look at each of the eight steps below:

  1. Establishing a sense of urgency: Schools should do "competitive analysis," paying attention to what's happening around them and the reality of how key stakeholders feel about the school. What do parents think, the board, the faculty themselves? This is especially important for independent schools where micro-schools like AltSchool and innovative programs like Acton Academy are developing. Schools should also regularly conduct community-driven meetings where SWOT Analysis and design charrettes can provide insight. School leaders may need to pierce through the denial that change may be needed and develop a sense of urgency among faculty and staff. This is a delicate process that needs to be handled with empathy, support and resources.
  2. Forming a powerful guiding coalition. Schools are great at forming committees, however they are often made up of the same people. Consider the diversity of your committee and include all stakeholders. I suggest designing committees after a small core team utilizes the design method from the LUMA Institute, "Stakeholder Mapping."  At my last school I formed a "Council on Innovation," made up of current and former parents, leading higher education researchers and educators and current faculty and staff at the school. This high-power group provided specific and actionable guiding steps for the school. 
  3. Creating a vision. Don't be one of 'those schools' that has a mission/vision statement that is only in a book or on a website. Design it together. Form community along the way. Hold participatory design sessions with students and faculty alike. Visioning is a regular activity, not a one time activity. Change initiatives should have a vision and actionable tasks attached to them. Without this critical step, faculty and staff will feel like they are on a perpetual treadmill where they have been talking for years about the same change initiatives. 
  4. Communicating the vision. It's important to share vision across the school network through multiple channels. From vinyl signs across campus, to social media marketing and even a twitter hash tag, building shared language and understanding is key.Perhaps starting every faculty meeting with an update of progress or status update or even better yet, create a flipped learning video to send to multiple constituents. For example, let's say your vision is "equipping students with the right stuff to make it," how do you plan to do that? What does it look like? What words, signs and symbols support the vision. Being sure everyone is on the same page with the vision develops shared understanding and likelihood of success. 
  5. Empowering others to act on the vision. This one is so critical. How many initiatives in schools fail because barriers were not removed or resources were not in place? If you want to create a more student-centered school, what systems are in place that will block the vision? Change them, remove the barrier and the idea will have a higher likelihood to succeed. Encourage taking calculated risks among faculty by offering peer mentoring, co-teaching, or innovation grants. Another idea developed at my last school is the Innovation Fellows model. After applying and joining a two-year commitment, innovation fellows were key peer mentors that helped to spread and support the vision to shift learning in grades 5-12 to be more active and constructionist. The school community began to flourish and adopt the vision with this support in place. Schools can also form PLNs - personal learning networks, where teachers get release time to meet and plan with the PLN. Last but not least, how are you empowering students to act on the vision? At my last school we formed the student "geek squad" to help others learn to use technology in innovative ways. This student run genius bar allowed students to develop leadership skills and student agency to come alive.
  6. Planning for and creating short-term wins. Celebrate small wins and seek out "low hanging fruit" that support your vision. Develop logic models and metrics. This will be key to gaining renewed support from the board, foundations or other major donors. Communicate results to parents, the board and even to students.Developing community around these wins is the perfect opportunity to get slower adopters and wary parents on-board with the vision. Let faculty share their wins at faculty meetings, parent coffees, get and give them recognition for their hard work. 
  7. Consolidating improvements and producing even still more change. Consider conducting research studies both internally and with university partners to show the success of a pilot program. Many innovative teaching and learning methods, for example, show minor content gains - yet the gains in "soft skills" are often profound. A standardized assessment will not show key stakeholders these gains. Gather a team of teachers and administrators that are high-performers and give them the task of conducting action research as a professional growth opportunity. Send them to conferences to share what they learned, let them hold Google Hangouts as a form of outreach and ask them how to spread the pilot programs in bigger and deeper ways at your school. Learning walks, school visits and instructional rounds can also support the development of your transformation initiatives. Act on their suggestions and enter into the growth spiral that changes culture. 
  8. Institutionalizing new approaches. Benchmark your success against metrics and present dashboards regularly to key stakeholders that can spread your program or change initiative. Seek funding with your newly acquired data set or expand a program across the domains. If you launched an initiative around using human-centered design at your school, for example, spread it from being used in one class to being used across the entire school for decision-making. Make the shared language behind design everyday language at your school. Put funding, team structure and resources behind the approach to help it grow beyond a pilot program to a part of your everyday culture. Administrators that don't back these approaches in real and sustainable ways will doom the initiative and potential for long-term transformation at your school. Evaluate and constantly be looking to iterate programs and processes to continue to grow.
Setting the stage to transform your school requires a willingness to "roll up your sleeve and get messy." Some of us enjoy this process and like to get down to work. Administrators must know how to build empathy for multiple stakeholders when identifying and creating action around areas for change. Careful listening and being humble with self-reflection will serve school leaders well. In addition to paying attention to John Kotter's eight critical success factors, we must also be open to new ideas, have a growth-mindset and sell the need for change. Empowering others to be the architects behind school transformation will separate schools of the future from the schools who will be left behind.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Skills and Dispositions of Accomplished Administrators

In schools today the pace of change and shifting sands are quick. Skilled administrators need to wear many hats and be strategic yet operational at the same time. They must build empathy, be inclusive and build a learning culture where shared decision-making allows teachers and students to thrive. 

Core skills to being an accomplished administrator include:
  • Being a strong listener. Use human-centered design to gain and build empathy for faculty and students. Listen deeply and sometimes passively, like a fly on the wall. Turn ideas and thoughts into action. While taking the time to listen is important, it's equally important to have a bias for action. When the same thing emerges from multiple interviews, conversations and observations, strong administrators take action. Great leaders can embrace conflict for the good of the organization and do not constantly seek harmony. Building relationships and the trust of the team around you is core to building community. 
  • Empowering others. Strong administrators aren't afraid to include others in decision-making. They are comfortable with taking calculated risks and living in some degree of ambiguity. They support their faculty when trying new approaches to teaching and learning. Teacher-powered schools are filled with positive energy. Provide incentives and support to empower teachers like innovation grants, fellowships or co-teaching opportunities. Create spaces for teachers to collaborate, plan and share. 
  • Knowing how to use technology to enhance teaching and learning. The best advice I ever got with regard to using technology is to not just use it to "sharpen the pencil," in other words, don't use technology as a digital workbook. Strong administrators have the skills to model, leverage and share how technology augments the teaching and learning process. While technology will never replace a teacher, approaches like blended learning, the flipped classroom and even technology supported competency based learning free the teacher to focus on active learning, facilitation of project-based learning and personalization. A strong integrated technology system allows for scheduling, grades, blended learning and parent communications to easily connect and share information seamlessly. 
  • Strong public speaking and outreach. Share what is happening that is amazing in your classrooms, with your students lives outside of school and the impact learning is having at your school. Meet with parents, community stakeholders and funders to let them know about the good things happening at your school. Use data and other qualitative evidence to communicate, open source ideas and teach others about your successes. Present at conferences and hold local professional development events at your school. Host student programs like FIRST Lego League competitions that bring others into your school. 
Core dispositions to being an accomplished administrator include:

  • Being a servant leader. Put others before yourself. Treat people equally and be aware of implicit bias, be an agent of social justice and good. Model for faculty and students that we are stronger when we care about each other. Be careful not to judge people too quickly or hold grudges. Be authentic in your pursuit to serve others and think about their wellbeing. Letting folks go a bit early on an in-service day, offering yoga after school or provide other incentives to your team so they feel appreciated. I believe you give an inch and can get a mile back in return. 
  • Having a growth mindset. As an accomplished leader, having a growth-mindset is extremely important. You can't expect faculty and students to learn and grow in authentic ways if you are not modeling this mindset as an administrator. Don't be afraid to take risks, fail fast and bounce back. Be honest about where you need help and develop evaluation systems that focus on growth. Use emotional intelligence when communicating hard news or bounce ideas off of a trusted advisor who may have more emotional intelligence than you before communicating more broadly. Be publicly optimistic and show gratitude. 
  • Be a designer and dreamer. Accomplished administrators have vision, get others excited and want to help design new ideas, programs and possibilities. Focus on the concept of "yes, and" vs "no, but" when staff comes to you with ideas for changes, new programs and student challenges. Model iteration within program design, promote the design of pilot programs that include both faculty and student voice. Hold school-wide design-challenges and involve parents in shaping the future of the school. Being mindful of the extreme task of preparing students for new roles and careers that don't even exist yet. Don't be afraid to be the first school in your area to try something new - share what you learn with others. 
  • Be connected. Being on social media, keeping a blog, being digitally connected. Host and participate in twitter chats (I'm a moderator for #dtk12chat and #isedchat), create a school hash-tag to share success, keep a back-channel conversation and build a network of like-minded peers locally, nationally and even globally. Regularly visit schools, universities, work places to build partnerships and connected learning opportunities for students.  Create space in the schedule to get students off-campus and into the field where "content" comes alive through work study, project-based learning and service learning. Encourage faculty to also visit other schools and conduct "learning walks" and come back to campus to share what they learn. Some of the best professional development can be done via social media. Show peers and faculty the benefits and model this type of professional growth. 
While there are certainly more skills and dispositions accomplished administrators must hold, these eight build the foundation for success. Whether it be motivating others, solving or analyzing problems or developing innovative programming, accomplished administrators display high integrity and honesty. Education as an industry is facing an amazing time of change. Amidst all the calls to innovation, administrators must continue to clearly communicate, create and collaborate while they thrive within ambiguity and develop new models of teaching and learning. 

Strong administrators recognize the value of connection and networks. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

30 Careers for 2030: Where Do We Go From Here?

Are you preparing students for the jobs of 2030? If you read my blog you know I blog about innovation in education, the future of learning and community partnerships quite a bit. At my school, Holy Family Academy, students work in externships starting freshman year, I've been spending a lot of time exploring how schools prepare students for college and careers. While I believe having a school that focuses on active learning, building motivation/character strengths and using educational technology sets up students for success, I feel strongly career exploration and building pathways and experiential leanring opportunities is a missing piece in many high schools. Career exploration can't happen soon enough and needs to be infused at the middle school level. At our school, students explore careers right off the bat! Can you imagine working at K&L Gates law firm as a 14 year old, working for the Pittsburgh Steelers or in the Accounting Department at Eaton Corporation? This type of experiential learning, where students bridge the education to employment gap, is something we are making a priority at our school. These experiences are also coupled with mentoring, every student has both a career coach and a learning hub coach. These advisors help them build a personalized pathway to explore college and careers. 

See the Image Larger
Why the focus on careers AND college - we want to set students up for success and help them "get there" more smoothly, quicker and tie learning in the classroom to the real-world. Looking at industry gaps in our region, HFA is also part of workforce development, bridging the Education to Employment Gap that School That Can describes so well. We realize that the traditional way to get to college might not be for every student. Why not consider a gap year, an alternative path like taking a job and the employer helping pay for college or doing college part-time? Also, what about being an entrepreneur? How might we best prepare kids for jobs of the future that don't even exist yet?

I recently read a report and found this interesting graphic that explores 30 careers for 2030. One of the easiest ways to begin thinking about future careers is to focus on what may be a problem in the future and invent a job that will solve it. According to Sodexo Insights, "Many functions will be more automated in the future, including professional services, but people will still find creative ways of using their skills and talents to make a living."  Here are three basic approaches: 1. Retrofitting: Adding new skills to existing jobs. 2. Blending: Combining skills and functions from different jobs or industries to create new specialties. 3. Problem solving: Necessity is still the mother of invention, and the supply of future problems for people to solve seems limitless.

How can we best prepare youth for these new types of careers? Exposure, exploration, experiences and empowerment. Let's equip students with the right skills to succeed and learn about possibilities. To make that happen - we must fundamentally re-imagine schools an learning. Schedules, time-tables and experiences would look much different. As roles like "Director of Innovation" are beginning to pop-up at many schools to support innovation in teaching and learning, I am hopeful "career coaches" are the new guidance counselors. The pathway may or may not be the traditional 4-year college-route. Career coaches need to know about the hiring and employment trends/gaps in your city and nationally when advising youth. 

Some interesting ideas to ponder... 

  1. What about developing mico-credentials through employers students can earn while they are in high school? 
  2. Expanding school models like P-TECH or ours at HFA?
  3. How do flexible start and end times in high school and shifts in the school-year calendar change things?
  4. How do we get parents and college counselors on the same page?
I've been thinking about these questions a lot as I have the honor of being part of a group of educational leaders in Pittsburgh submitting an XQ America Super School application. As we refine our submission I can't wait to share what this power-house group is coming up with. We are lucky to have the support of the Heinz Endowments and their insight as we explore these questions. 

Read more on this topic here:
101 Endangered Jobs for 2030
Bill Gates on how the World Will Change by 2030