MyNotes - Leading for Learning (Chapter 1) #iPads

Wow, it's been forever since I had the opportunity to read and take notes on a book or article. Let's hope it won't be so long for the next one.

The next two books I'm taking notes on are Philip C. Schlechty books, Working on the Work and Leading for Learning. The latter comes to me from my supervisor in my new workplace, and as soon as I started reading it, I realized I'd want to take notes on my take-aways concepts.

Reading the first chapter, The Case for Transformation, made me think of Chad Segersten's and John T. Spencer's blog Education Rethink and the chart Chad created that distinguishes between culture and climate. He describes it using this table:

Developed by the minute, hour, day
Develops over several days/months/years
Based on feelings, perceptions
Based on beliefs and values
Outsiders can feel it when they walk on campus
Staff members cannot feel it just by walking through
Short Term
Long Term
Easy to Change
Harder to change
A component of academic, social and emotional growth
Integral to academic, social and emotional growth

In the comments, an administrator leaves this further elaboration:
Culture means the way we act as a school community. School culture can be defined as the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that characterize a school in terms of how people treat and feel about each other; the extent to which people feel included and appreciated; and the rituals and traditions reflecting collaboration and collegiality. 
School Climate refers to the quality and character of school life. Climate reflects the way people are engaged and respected. The healthier the climate, the more educators model and nurture attitudes that emphasize the benefits and satisfaction gained from learning. One of the fundamentally important dimensions of school climate is relational and how “connected” people feel to one another in school.
All of this is another way of saying what the Crucial Conversations/Confrontations authors point out--you have to "make it safe." The conditions of safety include considering the following two key points:
  1. Mutual Purpose -
    1. Do others believe I care about their goals in this conversation?
    2. Do they trust my motives?
  2. Mutual Respect - 
    1. Do others believe I respect them?
    2. What are ways in which we are similar?
Without these two conditions of safety, you might as well forget about trying to build climate/culture. Since I really like the Crucial Conversations/Confrontations books, I'm going to follow through on the ways you can rebuild mutual purpose or mutual respect using the 3 skills the authors propose:
  1. Apologize - offer a sincere apology.
  2. Contrast - Contrasting is a don't/do statement that
    1. addresses others' concerns that you don't respect them or that you have a malicious purpose.
    2. Confirms your respect or clarifies your real purpose. 
    3. Example:  "Let me put this in perspective. I don't want you to think I'm not satisfied with the quality of your work. I really do think you're doing a good job. This punctuality issue is important to me, and I'd just like you to work on that. If you will be more attentive to that, there are no other issues."
  3. Create a mutual purpose - 
    1. use the following 4 skills in creating mutual purpose:
      1. Commit to seek mutual purpose
      2. Recognize purpose behind strategy
      3. Invent a mutual purpose
      4. Brainstorm new strategies.
    2. background on mutual purpose:
      1. Make a unilateral public commitment to stay in the conversation until you come up with something that serves everyone.
      2. Ask people why they want what they're pushing for.
      3. If after clarifying everyone's purpose you are still at odds, see if you can't invent a higher or longer-term purpose that is more motivating than the ones that keep you you in conflict.
      4. With a clear mutual purpose, you can join forces in searching for a solution that serves everyone.
Well, making that connection took longer than I expected but we so often speak/write about the importance of building a climate of trust but seldom address HOW to do it. That's why I like the CC books because they provide the hands-on, how-to rather than just speak to the importance of building a climate of trust based on our human relations skills, all of which often vary from person to person.

For me, Leading for Learning has to address these human relation skills in the context of a larger purpose--transformation--rather than just focusing on the need, data justifying change. Let's see how the author does in that regard....

  1. Reform usually means changing procedures, processes and technologies with the intent of improving the performance of existing operating systems. The aim is to make existing systems more effective at doing what they have always been intended to do. It means only installing innovations that will work within the context of the existing structure and culture of schools.
  2. Transformation is intended to make it possible to do things that have never been done by the organization undergoing the transformation. It involves repositioning and reorienting action by putting the organization into a new business or adopting a radically different means of doing the work it has traditionally done....altering the beliefs, values, and meanings--the culture--in which programs are embedded.
  3. The relationships between the young and the institutions that have traditionally been charged with their education--the family, religious institutions, and schools--are being altered in ways that are immutable. It is these changes, more than the needs of the economy, that...are the driving forces behind the need to transform our schools, assert that reform is not enough.
  4. The type of instruction that is adequate to ensure that students can write on a standardized form a brief descriptive paragraph about a not the type that will teach young people how to learn in an increasingly digitized environment, or function as effective citizens in a democracy where men and women are overwhelmed with information and purported facts.
  5. Sir Ken Robinson is quoted..."The rationalist tradition"--which discounts the work academics do--"has driven a wedge between intellect and emotion in human psychology; between the arts and sciences in society at large. It has distorted the idea of creativity in education and unbalanced the development of millions of people." Sir Ken Robinson goes on to be quoted that children's abilities are overlooked or marginalized.
  6. Excellence in schools is still seen as the property of the relative few who are academically inclined, and inclined as well to share the values that academics hold most dear.
  7. Because schools fasten attention on only one of the many abilities possessed by humankind, schools have become as much about identifying failure as about promoting success.
  8. Our system of schooling assumes that the success of some children is dependent on the failure of others.
  9. Transformation of our schools will require leaders who are prepared to repurpose and reimagine schools rather than simply reform them.
A quick aside here from my reading of the book - is it possible to compare bringing netbooks as more efficient avenues of reforming schools' access to technology, and iPads as a way of repurposing and reimagining schools where computers are not central to our vision of schooling? I'm not sure, but it might be worth exploring, don't you think? Ok, back to the My Notes:

  1. No single development has done as much to break down the protective boundaries that have traditionally maintained around the young as has the advent of electronic information transmittal, storage, retrieval, and processing technologies, commonly referred to as information technology. In schools, IT usually means instructional technology rather than information technology. This is so because schools are organized to support and control instruction, and instruction is the defining characteristic of the work of teachers. Therefore, new technologies are almost always examined in terms of their potential for supporting and improving the work of teachers rather than in terms of their capacity to support the work of students.
  2. Without transformation, about all that can be expected from school applications of new developments in the IT world is the digitzation of past practices...schools will play a less and less vital role in what the young learn and will be less and less important in shaping the worldviews the young develop. [Miguel's Note: I would argue that fundamentalist groups in the U.S. are already hard at work shaping worldviews beyond the capacity of schools to influence, worldviews that see higher order thinking and project-based learning as undermining the work of religious and parents. That's not just my opinion, though. In fact, it's part of the 2012 Texas Republican platform as evidenced here].
  3. Critical thinking skills, skills in collaboration, and skills for working in groups are not only work skills; they are, as they have always been, essential citizenship skills as well.
  4. Democracy is based on the belief that ordinary citizens can be trusted to make civic and political decisions that will affect their own lives and the lives of others. In nondemocratic states, these rights are reserved for the elite.
  5. Many Americans fear that an inadequate system of education will compromise America's ability to compete in the global economy. In fact, they have more to fear from the possibility that young people who graduate will lack the skills and understandings needed to function well as citizens in a democracy.
  6. As numerous scholars have shown, authoritarian leaders and charlatans thrive in a world where ordinary citizens are overwhelmed with facts and competing opinions and lack the ideas and tools to discipline their thinking without appealing to some authority figure for direction and support. 
    1. OnlineIn The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt argued that . . . the source of the mass appeal of totalitarian regimes is their ideology, which provides a comforting, single answer to the mysteries of the past, present, and future. 
  7. Digital technologies must be viewed as learning aids rather than the tools that instructors use to do only slightly better what instructors have done for the past two hundred years.
  8. Educators must learn to take into account and exploit for positive ends the social networking available on the Internet. Educators must not allow fear of the harm that can be done by these developments to divert attention from their efforts to invent ways to exploit the good.
  9. ...most of what students learn will be outside the direction of the school (and even outside the direction of parents) and will be increasingly under the control of per groups and commercially oriented marketers. 
  10. Young people have more control of their own learning today than in the past.
  11. Parents, teachers, and religious leaders no longer control young people's access to information and knowledge
  12. School boards spend countless hours figuring out how to formulate policies limiting the use of cell phones, iPods, and Internet access in school buildings...they must stop seeing these changes as threats and instead identify the opportunities they present.
  13. Not only do students now often have access to information before their teachers or their parents do, but they are often the first to learn the newest techniques for gaining access to information and of creating content and processing information.
  14. Peer groups supported by new technologies present a serious challenge to traditional authority relationships in school. . .educators need to learn how to turn the power of peer group loyalty into a mechanism for fastening student attention on useful educational ends. Rather than fight electronic networking, educators need to learn how to exploit these innovations for positive educational ends.
  15. Game designers...understand that the ability to fail without punishment is an important part of the appeal of games, as are the clarity of standards and the access to multiple ways of meeting those standards.
  16. Educational systems that can draw on the new capacities provided by random access are more likely to thrive than are educational systems that can use them only if they are domesticated and adapted to existing linear the digital world, print-and person-dependent learning is NOT the rule.
  17. If schools both pulbic and private cannot become more adept than they now are at absorbing and supporting disruptive technologies--and it is clear that digital technologies, properly exploited, will be disruptive in bureaucratically organized schools--then customized, commercially provided education is likely to replace both public and private schools, at least for most students.
  18. The problems with America's public schools do not reside in the quality of teachers or school leaders.
You know, I did not honestly expect such a thorough embrace of technology or the challenges opposing technology in schools presents for leveraging peer group and tech for positive ends. The most telling point for me is the disintermediation of's been true for years, and becomes more widespread every year as students are introduced to technology. When launching BYOT initiatives in schools, are we honestly prepared for the complete disintermediation that is possible if we embrace BYOT without transforming our own teaching and leading practices?

Another point that is particularly striking for me is the idea that game designers allow children to "fail forward," a John Maxwell term. He defines failing forward in this way:
Failing forward tells you how to look at life’s setbacks and learn from your mistakes. If you haven’t  failed at anything, it means you haven’t really taken a risk at anything. Failures are only as bad as you perceive them to be. Life is much better when you live, and try, and fail. Living requires failing every now and then.
I explore this a bit in Walk Facing the Sun, and quote the article that shows that students most successful in college are the ones who were able to recover from failure, from setbacks. 

Tomorrow, I'll share my take-aways from Chapter 2 and some reflections on it.

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Unknown said…
cant wait to hear some more

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