I’m not an Expert, But Neither are You Part 2

Yesterday’s post was intended to challenge teachers for the most not to be swayed by those who have either been given or taken the title of an expert. Anyone who spends any time working with children and helping them learn brings with them a reasonable level of expertise to be able to contribute to the conversation and question authority.

While my context was largely about online spaces I think it’s important to examine and apply this more locally. In particular, how do schools and districts work to either include teachers as experts or suggest teachers need to see those higher up on the org chart as having more expertise?

For as long as I’ve been in education, there were always those in leadership positions who were not respected and when they made suggestions or mandated policies they were met with eye rolls, furrowed brows, and heavy sighs usually behind their backs. Sometimes principals or Superintendents were the least knowledgeable people about teaching and learning. They may have had administration and management skills but didn’t couldn’t discuss pedagogy, let alone pronounce it.

In our best schools and districts, this isn’t the case. Leaders, specifically principals are asked to be instructional leaders. … Read the rest

Maintaining Innovation

“Innovation” might be the most used word to frame the current narrative of change in education. It’s been used to drive the use of technology but also as my friend George done, used to change mindsets. It’s difficult to argue against the idea that education was, or is still in need of change.

For those who continue to suggest that education has not changed in the last 50 years or so, I don’t think you get out much. The schools and classrooms I visit are making great strides in shifting the locus of control from teachers to students. They aren’t there yet but in the vast majority of districts, this is a driving focus.

As someone who has taught pre-service teachers, I often have them reflect on this chart.


Almost all of them acknowledge a shift from teacher to student focus. Some of the other areas are a blend of the left and right columns but they almost all agree their recentK-12 education was not completely on the left side of this chart.

Ok, so some will debate my perspective and that’s fair enough. My observations are just that. But for those using blanket statements about how school … Read the rest

“Why Can’t Our Business Be More Like Schools?”

“I’ll take  “Things You Never Hear” for $1000 Alex.”

The Internet is full of “Make Schools More like a Starbucks” Or “What if Schools Were More like Google” or like Minecraft.


For years, schools have been looking everywhere for models of what to do differently. I get it. Schools as an institution are in need of a makeover and are still mired in outdated practices and systems.

But I’m also fully aware of many schools that are creating wonderful learning opportunities and spaces that take full advantage of limited resources. The aren’t really like a Starbucks or like Google but are uniquely like themselves. Schools like SAIL in Surrey, BC, Caufeild Elementary in West Vancouver and H. B. Beal in London, ON. These aren’t perfect and they aren’t much alike in some respects but like hundreds of schools around the world, they don’t need to be envious of any business culture because they’re too busy creating their own unique space.

This is not to say we can’t learn from others or other organizations but my argument is that schools aren’t like businesses or video games in most respects. The danger is leaning too heavily on metaphors which … Read the rest

The Unique Leadership Challenges in Education

Last Thursday I had the privilege of participating in a live twitter chat. Hosted by #MBEDchat in Winnipeg, about 30 folks gathered live and others joined online to discuss the topic of Leading Learning. Rex Ferguson-Baird and I led the conversation around 4 big questions.

The first question we posed was: “What is unique about leading learning as opposed to other forms of leadership?”  As educators, I think it’s important for us to look outside ourselves and our institutions for lessons and ideas on how to make learning and our schools better. There are oodles of books and resources on leadership in particular from business, sports, religions and more. But there are some things that perhaps others can’t really help us with. Things that are unique to education.

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This question fostered great discussion in the room and online. As I listened, I was able to identify three specific areas that require leadership that I think is indeed unique to learning.

  1. Success is hard to measure. Whether it’s student learning or school improvement, assessment and evaluation remain one of the most challenging things we do. In business and sports and most organizations, the metrics of success are typically very straight
Read the rest

Calling BS

Bandwagons are full of people who either love everything or just like being in the majority. In education. of course, bandwagons come and go. I’m sure I’ve been on a few. Some might argue advocating for change is a bandwagon itself. I likely wouldn’t argue that. Bandwagons get boring very quickly and the more folks that jump on them, the more diluted the ideas often get.

I’m a love when people have the courage to question bandwagons and even call BS on them. I teach a course at Wilkes University called “Sustaining Digital Literacy” a major component of the course is to examine trends in education and try to view them with multiple perspectives and even skepticism.

The Skeptical Chihuahua

Today I came across a couple of blog posts where a couple of ideas or bandwagons get challenged. Karl Fisch, a long time blogger, thought leader and genuinely smart person, challenges the long time notion that deadlines are part of the “real world” and that students need to learn how to meet them. In principle, this makes sense but when teachers or schools create hard lines, they ignore the fact that they themselves, might be the poorest examples of meeting … Read the rest