Some of our true thought leaders and teaching colleagues are coming to Memphis in June to facilitate workshops at the Martin Institute Summer Conference, June 10-11. Last year’s conference had 800 attendees from 21 states. Join these Martin Institute Fellows for affordable, accessible practices that you can immediately use to help transform your students’ learning experience:

  • Jill Gough, Director of Teaching and Learning, Trinity School, Atlanta will “help teachers find a path for formative assessment that leads learners to level up. Learners will be able to say ‘I can…’ and ‘Can you help me…’ based on the assessment, thus empowering the learner to have control over the path to success.”
  •  Dr. Robert Dillon, Director of Innovation, Afton School District, Richmond Heights, MO will “build capacity in the attendees through discussion, conversation and action planning on strategies to maximize student engagement by creating permeable classrooms, using social media to engage experts, learning in the community, and connecting students with authentic audiences.”
  •  Glenn Whitman, Director of the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Potomac, MD will “provide teachers and school leaders foundational knowledge in the principles and strategies of neuro-education: using modern research in how the brain actually works to enhance learning.”
  •  Alice Parker, teacher, Presbyterian Day School, Memphis, TN will “use design thinking to create classrooms of understanding. We will share hands-on learning experiences that are living parts of our curriculum, not simply ADD ON lessons.”
  •  Philip Cummings, teacher, Presbyterian Day School, Memphis, TN will “move beyond simply teaching content to helping our students develop the critical and creative thinking skills they will need to thrive in the modern world. We will explore the value of critical and creative thinking and examine how to develop student thinkers by using visible thinking routines and creative thinking techniques.”



imgres-1I am honored and excited to have been asked to guest moderate the #isedchat Twitter chat this week as school leaders gather virtually on Thursday at 9 PM ET/6PM PT. Yes, the name implies this is an indy school chat, but we all know those artificial boundaries that separate public and private school educators are just anther silo we need to bust! If you are not a Twitter user yet (yes, there are 1-2 of you out there; you know who you are!) this would be a great chance to lurk, dip hour toe in the pool, and see the simplicity and power of the medium and the connections you can make without lifting more than a finger.

My subject is “Busting Silos”; we will use the traditional 6-Question format, and some of the questions I might tee up include…

  • Share a “How might we…?” question that would lead to fewer silos and more nimbleness and comfort with change at your school.
  • Share a “What if…?” question that would lead to more network connections with colleagues, ideas, knowledge sources.
  • What are the toughest silos to bust at your school?
  • Who is responsible for busting silos at your school? If A=”everyone”, what are you doing about it?
  • How do you and your school colleagues bust silos between subject departments and divisions?
  • How do teachers and administrators work across silo boundaries at your school…or do they??
  • Does your school operate largely as a silo apart from other schools? If not, how have you busted that silo?

….and more.

So join in for a few minutes or an hour; learn, share and meet some new colleagues who can help you with your work!  See you Thursday online.


Martin Institute Logo Final GlossyIf I had to choose a single big lesson from my work of the last two years it is this: to transform our schools we need to do two things for our teachers: paint the picture of a truly student-centered learning experience, and then give them the resources to re-tool.  Unlike most major professional learning opportunities still dominated by “sit-and-get” presentations, The Martin Institute two-day Summer Conference has blossomed into a remarkable mash-up of active learning workshops facilitated by some of the most innovative educators in the country.  Last year the Conference attracted nearly 800 attendees from 21 states.

This year, the Martin Institute will offer an impressive array of almost 40 unique workshops, along with a line-up of general session thought leaders that includes Ron Berger, founder of Expeditionary Learning, Donald Hense, founder of Friendship Public Charter Schools, and teacher-author Rafe Esquith.

Due to significant philanthropic support, the Martin Summer Conference is one of the most affordable learning events in America. Hope to see you all again in Memphis in June!

Painting a picture of future success is always a critical step in creating an innovation pathway.  In working with one of my client schools I suggested we outline some “signals of success” for August, 2015.  In re-reading them, I find that they likely apply to almost any school that is developing a more nimble, connected, dynamic learning environment. Can we put hard measurements on these to know if we are making true progress or just checking off a box?  Of course.  Are there more that might apply to your school?  Of course.  These struck me as important because they will signal a significant increase in the capacity and comfort with innovation, and were probably NOT included in the last strategic plan.

  1. Faculty, administrative staff, and trustees are able to communicate a brief summary of the school vision and how what they do each day contributes to that vision.
  2. Faculty and administrative staff connect frequently with PLC’s that include both the school community and external colleagues.
  3. Faculty and administrative staff are increasingly viewed as educational thought leaders within the school community, the local region, and with a national educational audience.
  4. Professional growth resources are closely aligned to specific elements of the vision.
  5. Ongoing professional growth is a core element of faculty and administrative staff assessment.
  6. Most adults are eager to come to work most days; they would rather work at your school than at other schools; they are happy and have some fun!
  7. Adults increasingly feel comfortable with taking risks in their work and know that school leadership supports them. The board and leadership team have developed a transparent risk profile that sets out broad boundaries for others to follow.
  8. Faculty and administrative staff embrace the role of “leader” in their respective jobs; are able to articulate what that means and how they lead.  Authentic leadership is available and expected throughout the organization.

 What signals might foretell increased capacity and comfort for change at your school?

How long have I used the terms “vision” and “division” in schools and not seen both the linguistic and practical dissonance between the two?

Schools craft vision statements that are often short, full of pithy words, and meant to coalesce a unique sense of the community’s priorities and direction.  In my experience with many schools, few members of the school community know the key elements of the school vision, and few therefore consider it when thinking about what they do each day to support that vision.

Alternately, those schools where many adults know, understand, and feel an allegiance to the school’s vision are the schools that stand out as leaders in innovation…they have developed a system where more people are pulling on a common oar.

Part of the problem is with vision statements themselves.  Someone, sometime, convinced schools that vision statements need to be really short; they end up cramming a bunch of hopefully meaningful words in a few sentences, which end up all sounding the same and meaning little.  I argue that a vision statement that clearly articulates the unique ethnography, hopes, dreams, and aspirations of a school might take a couple of pages…and provide the school real direction around which to coalesce bold actions.

In a discussion with a school head this week, it hit me (duh) the obvious dissonance between the simple words we use at schools.  “Vision” is a tool to align the resources of the organization towards a single purpose that builds value…it is a tool to get us all pulling on the same oar.  “Divisions” in schools, those quanta of grade levels by which we have organized and silo-ized ourselves, are, by the very form of the word divisive and dividing… “di-visioning”. 

Here are the questions for school leaders to ask: how much do your faculty and staff feel allegiance to an overall school vision, and how much allegiance do they feel to their division? Do the provincial interests of your divisions (use of time and space, for example) collectively support or often hamper your vision of “school” in the future?  Are division leaders generally supportive of, or dampeners on, innovation and change?

From the vision statement of Miami Valley School:

Perhaps most importantly, the collegial connections that make our school happy, productive, and forward-looking, will break down what separates us…across grade level, division, subject, student, teacher, parent, community…and build up what unites us: implementation of our collective vision.



From my International Desk, which this afternoon is my window seat at home:

I know, the time difference makes it really hard…but our kids are learning 24/7 anyway, so why not do this?  Here are some girls at a school in Kandahar, Afghanistan, learning English via Skype to the U.S. It is not an exaggeration that many girls like this are risking their lives to come to school each day. What richer experience than for American kids to just talk with them?  Every American school should be BEGGING for this chance to be a real time partner with history, heroes, and new friends. Talk about changing lives on both ends. Thanks, Jamie Novogrod of NBC News for sharing.




imgresAnd I just did a quick review of the website of Hobsonville Point Schools in Auckland, N.Z.  It was like gazing into a parallel universe after working today on implementing the goals and guiding principles of Design 39 Campus here in Southern California.  Hobsonville has both elementary and secondary schools  structured “To create a stimulating, inclusive learning environment which empowers learners to contribute confidently and responsibly in our changing world. Each student will have their own individual learning plan that identifies their specific interests, goals, strengths and areas for improvement.”

I found them because one of their leaders, Steve Mouldey, quoted a passage from my book, The Falconer, and some of his colleagues picked up on it.  I poked around their blogs, and on Steve’s he outlines  articulations of  time and space usage, and adaptive and differentiated learning that would lead the way at most of the K-12 PD conferences I have attended either in person or virtually the past year.  I won’t try to tell their story; check them out.  I am seriously hoping they want me to come visit them! Follow Steve and his colleagues on Twitter: Claire Amos, Diane Cavallo, Lea Vallenoweth.

So, another great brushfire of innovation like so many I have seen and we all know of. Now, how do we turn the brushfires into a conflagration? What is the moonshot? How do we take this to scale? That is what keeps me up at night and thinking and poking around all day.

I was honored to attend the Deeper Learning conference last week at High Tech High in San Diego as sort of a visiting reporter.  If you did not lurk via Twitter, you can go back and call up #deeperlearning to gather connections, links, and perspectives from a number of people who share a foundational journey to shift education off of the Industrial Age assembly line.

Rather than writing long posts on the conference workshops, here are some reflections and takeaways from 2.5 days with 400 education innovators:

  • “Deeper learning” is as good a name for the learning we are trying to create/re-create.  But I hesitate to capitalize the term, as if there were a brand name that works better than other brand names.
  • At the first set of breakout sessions, High Tech High students were standing politely on the side in case anyone needed help. I was sorry I had to ask if they could join us in our work.  Why don’t we default to having student voice in our learning?
  • These 400 educators passionately want to create highly engaged student learning environments.  Most of them say that it is lonely quest back home.  The understanding and support for deeper learning is intense but still shallow, broad but not deep.
  • Modifying our use of physical space to amplify deeper learning may be the easiest and cheapest “first step” for many schools.  Clear out the junk, write on the walls, and open the windows and doors to the rest of the world.
  • There were really only about a dozen active Twitter “reporters” at the conference.  Hmmm. We know this is a key connector with thought colleagues and a simple, efficient way to expand our PLC’s and real-time learning.  Is this a baseline “badge” for the deeper learning educator?
  • All educational PD should model deeper learning best practices: out of our seats and working together. The report from university attendees that at their own conferences they all still gather to listen to each other present “papers” is really disturbing.
  • As I found on my #EdJourney, the answers to most of the questions I heard already exist. The questions that public and private school educators ask are vastly more similar than they are different. It is a matter of connecting what we each want to do with solutions that others have already created.

What if a million educators could share “deeper learning” with colleagues for thirty minutes every week?


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