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 Schools as an institution are in need of a makeover and are still mired in outdated practices and systems.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.


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
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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

The Uber of Education Is a Horrible Idea

Recently I read about MealSurfers. Essentially it’s a service where you can order meals from anyone, not just restaurants but people in their home who want to dabble in the food industry. Currently, the start up is working out legal issues around selling food created in non-commercial kitchens but they feel they will be able to overcome this barrier.

Like Uber, AirBnb, every industry is looking to find the next big thing that will transform and disrupt the status quo. The idea that the world’s biggest taxi company and accommodation company own no cars or real estate is something that 10 years ago would have seemed absurd. At its core, Uber, AirBnB, and others have capitalised on the idea of surplus and digitised it for huge profit. Anyone with a car or spare room can replace traditional services often for less money and perhaps even a better experience.

It’s been a few years since I read Disrupting Class. The essence of the book talked about how technology was primely positioned to disrupt education. The book is now 8 years old and I’m not sure how much of the predictions or possibilities shared in the book are actually … Read the rest