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 Schools as an institution are in need of a makeover and are still mired in outdated practices and systems.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

Surprisingly Awesome

In a world where information and ideas are everywhere, I’m fascinated when people have a healthy obsession with something and go into great detail to analyze and deconstruct a topic or idea.

Sometimes it’s the topic itself but more often than not, it’s the person’s enthusiasm for the most minute details that keeps me interested.

As a sports fan, you may be familiar¬†with the term “inside baseball” a broad term now used to refer to any behind the scenes insights or knowledge. Speaking of baseball, love him or hate him, I love listening to someone like Pete Rose talk about hitting. As arguably the greatest hitter in baseball, his breakdown of his craft is fascinating.

Sports analysts can often be annoying and yet can add new insights into their game. Here’s an example of two “experts” debating one of the most over analyzed topics in golf: Tiger Woods’ golf swing.


Unless you’re a golf fan, you didn’t watch that but what fascinates me is the detail and the passion they display as they argue this very unimportant topic. It reminds me of some of most¬†memorable moments as a kid when we used to argue over the … Read the rest

This is High School

CBC has released an excellent series called This is High School. The 6 part series follows a couple of vice-principals and at a high school in Kamloops, British Columbia. Each episode features 2 students who have various challenges.

While there are many documentaries out there about schools and education what makes this one worthwhile is the fair way it portrays high school, the students and teachers. This is not a series attempting to blame or point out any flaws with education. It simply provides an inside look at just how complex and challenging high school can be for both students and teachers. As you watch, you completely empathize with teachers’ decisions and at the same time appreciate that school does not always work for every student. While you might not agree with every approach and you might wish the students would choose differently, it’s clear the intent of the school is to do right by children. My experience in schools would suggest this is by far the dominant approach most teachers take.

What I think would be valuable would be to watch an episode as a staff and ask these questions:

“What is the purpose of school?”
“Is school Read the rest

Parent Teacher Interviews: Time for a Make-Over?

By my calculations, I’ve attended about 104 parent teacher interviews which ended Thursday as my youngest of 4 children graduates from high school this year. While I’m sure I missed the odd one, my wife and I attended all of these meetings. I wondered if this is still a valued experience or if things need to change.

I will admit that we may not be the typical parents. First of all, our kids were generally very good students and never struggled in school or caused any problems. Secondly, as teachers, we had a better understanding of the classroom than many parents. Along with that, we trusted teachers and while we didn’t agree with all of their practices, we didn’t feel the need to check up on them or question their practices. A fifteen-minute interview isn’t the time or place to discuss lecture versus project based learning. Finally, we had good relationships with our kids and they let us know when they were excited, bored or frustrated with school. We attended these interviews mostly to avoid being seen as disinterested parents.

As I said, I’m not suggesting this is the typical parent profile. Yet in the same way we work … Read the rest

The Least Talked About Problem in EdTech

Having been involved with educational technology for almost 20 years, I’ve had more than my share of conversations around the issues of ¬†implementation, integration, transformation, use of technology in the classrooms. People are usually quick to point out the barriers which are mostly around leadership and pedagogy and more recently the word is mindset.

But no amount of change in mindset addresses the least talked about problem with edtech. Bandwidth.

Maslow Wifi

 

My journeys have led me to work with some wonderful educators who indeed have a resiliency and passion for innovation. They are the ones who create work arounds when a site is down or blocked, they tether their phones to create wifi for their students. They spent hours editing video and installing apps on their student devices. While they are great champions and sometimes are highlighted, they are a problem in that leaders assume all teachers can and should act in this way.

Imagine teaching English using books with half the pages ripped out. That’s essentially what it’s like for teachers trying to use devices with no bandwidth.

Bandwidth issues aren’t talked about largely because we aren’t quite sure what the issue is. Is it a small pipe? Is … Read the rest