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EdTech Update





Are you a change agent or a stabilizer?

Our district hosted a Google/Best Buy event last week which showcased our new high school, our 1:1 program, and career-tracked organization of courses. Thanks to the leadership, innovation, and courage of a number of administrators, coordinators, teachers (and students!), the district could proudly display a host of amazing facilities, programs, and initiatives that will be of great benefit to our graduates and to our community. I was very proud to be a One91 employee.

But I found myself in a somewhat unfamiliar role - that of stabilizer rather than of change agent.

I once encountered a theory/observation, that the best organizational hierarchies sandwich stabilizers between the change agents*. Stabilizers help preserve the positive aspects of the organization's culture, create processes, manage resources, and provide the infrastructure on which innovation can be built. In other words, stabilizers are the managers who keep the electricity running and the paychecks accurate. A role which I have that has long gone unrecognized in our adoration of leadership.

For much of my career, I worked for superintendents who were stabilizers. So I took the role of change agent and my techs and coordinators got to stabilize. In my current position, both my superintendent and my instructional tech coordinator are strong advocates and visionaries for change. So you know what my role has become - the plodding sort who writes technology plans, supervises the budget, worries about network reliability, insists on written curricula and teacher evaluation standards etc. Rather than celebrating the pockets-of-wow, I worry about the staff who just don't seem to be getting it with technology. It doesn't make me much fun or, I suppose, much fun to be around.

I must say though that I am happy to be making a contribution to improving the lives of small people and quite a few large people as well. If my being able to balance the ship so that the ship can move forward, so much the better. That is without being considered ballast.

* My undying gratitude to anyone who can point me to where this was published!


Shouldn't they have learned that in elementary school?

In response to a recent blog post on media literacy, a faithful reader commented:

I have come to see that digital literacy has become a skill that many educators assume students have once they get into high school, and that there is really no additional requirements of students to prove they have those skills.

This comment made me wonder about how many skills we were supposed to "master" in elementary school or high school or college, but spend a lifetime actually learning. I would certainly put digital literacy and critical thinking at the top of the list.

During this strange election season, I have become increasingly aware of my own deficiencies in evaluating the validity of "the news" coming to terms with the reality that facts may not always have, as Stephen Colbert puts it, a liberal bias.

I expect practicing my crap detection skills will need to be life-long, not one course and you're done sort of a deal.

What are the other skills one needs to practice, sharpen, grow, and revise throughout one's life? I find myself needing to continue learning:

  • how to use mathematics, especially the ability to make accurate meaning from data
  • how to write both informatively and persuasively
  • how to work with other people using the skills of collaboration, persuasion, empathy, empowerment
  • about other cultures, their values, beliefs, and realities
  • how history has shaped today
  • and of course, new technologies (although I still miss my Apple IIe)

Do we as educators too often assume that students have mastered certain skills when indeed such skills can never be truly mastered? And what is on your "never truly mastered" list?


BFTP: Myths of creativity

Each weekend I take a look backward to what I was writing about 5 years ago. Was it really only 5 years ago I gave my first workshop on creativity. That workshop has been given a lot of times and has been expanded into a book. I am doing a workshop on creativity for the local TIES conference in a couple weeks as well. How quickly time flies when you have deadlines.


Nothing focuses the mind like a hanging.
Samuel Johnson

... as does giving a public presentation.

Having had a long time interest in creativity as a motivating factor in good school projects, I decided in a weak moment that creativity might deserve a short presentation all of its own. So I wrote up a description and the librarians of the British Columbia Teacher-Librarian Association actually asked me to give the talk at their conference last week. So I needed to focus the mind..

Here was the outline:

  • Why is it imperative we take developing creativity seriously? (Daniel Pink, Richard Florida, Ken Robinson, job trends, Bloom, "21st entry skills, Net Gen attributes, etc.)
  • Concerns and myths about creativity. (Totally supported by research my own opinion.)
  • 10 ways to encourage creativity in every assignment.
  • Four practice lessons to modify for creativity. (We ran out of time to do these.) 


Concern 1: Creativity isn't always about art. Kids can be creative in lots of areas, ala Gardner's multiple intelligences.

Johnson’s Multiple Creative Abilities 

  • Writing/Presenting/Storytelling
  • Numeric problem-solving
  • Graphic artistic (drawing, painting, sculpting, photography, designing)
  • Athletic/movement (Sports, dance)
  • Musically artistic
  • Humor
  • Team-building
  • Problem-solving
  • Inventing
  • Leading
  • Organizing
  • Motivating/inspiring

Concern 2: Creativity must be accompanied 
by craft and 
discipline. Being creative doesn't mean rules or guidelines aren't present - even necessary.

Concern 3: The world is not really interested in your creativity, but that's OK. Even we don't "see" a child's vision, we need to encourage it and remember creativity can be its own reward.

Concern 4: If we ask students to demonstrate creativity or innovation, we need some tools to determine whether they have done so. Some great ideas from participants in the workshop on this, especially regarding asking kids to articulate the creative process.

Concern 5: Creativity is the antithesis of good test scores. While most tests look for "one right answer," creativity can and should be an important part of school. Is test taking or formulating new ideas the better whole life skill?

Myths of creativity (from Harvard Business School research - Breen, Bill. “The 6 Myths of Creativity,”, Dec. 1, 2004)

  1. Creativity Comes From Creative Types
  2. Money Is a Creativity Motivator
  3. Time Pressure Fuels Creativity
  4. Fear Forces Breakthroughs
  5. Competition Beats Collaboration
  6. A Streamlined Organization Is a Creative Organization

Myths of creativity (Johnson)

  1. Only academically “gifted” children are creative.
  2. Creativity does not belong in core courses like math, science, social studies, English.
  3. Creativity is fluff.
  4. Creativity does not require learning or discipline.
  5. Technology automatically develops creativity.
  6. Teachers themselves do not need to display creativity.

10 ways to encourage creativity in every assignment

  1. Ban clip art.
  2. Ask for information to be shown in multiple formats/media.
  3. Encourage the narrative voice when writing and when giving oral presentations.
  4. Ask for multiple possible answers to questions or multiple possible solutions to problems.
  5. Give points for "design” on all
 assignments - more than just
 "neatness counts." (The Non-Designers 
Design Book , Robin Williams)
  6. Instead of simply marking a response "wrong," ask for a reason why the answer was given
  7. Take advantage of free online
 tools. See the change your image workshop.
  8. Ask students to design classroom rules, modify procedures and solve issues.
  9. Honor students’ personal
 interests and unique talents.
  10. Seek out the creative ideas of other educators.

The presentation has some rough edges, needs some trimming, and will benefit from comments from participants. But hey, I had fun with it!

Original post October 25, 2011.