Inspiring Action

Leadership expert, and author of “Start with Why”,  Simon Sinek, conceptualises the strategy of communicating from the “Why” within a simple, but powerful illustration he calls “The Golden Circle”. The Golden Circle codifies the Why, How and What of communication.

  • What you do:  everyone knows thisGolden Circle
  • How you do it:  some know this
  • Why you do what you do:  “very few people or organisations know why they do what they do or why they even exist!”

Sinek claims inspired leaders and organisations all “think, act and communicate” from their purpose – or the inner circle “of why”.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Sinek aptly exemplifies his point through great leadership examples from Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright Brothers; all leaders who clearly understood and could articulate their purpose to inspire action.

Sinek sees innovators as those who are clear on what they believe and take action early on. He moves us beyond the marketing strategies of features and benefits to the conceptualisation of why they would want your product or service.

In my current profession as an educational technology leader, I draw on my initial career in business to gain strategies and insights into how to more effectively lead by influence rather than authority.  Although not speaking directly to educational leaders, Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” provides a conceptual view of communicating from the why to inspire and motivate with purpose. Although communicating from the “why” isn’t exactly a new idea, Sinek’s illustrations make it crystal clear why this method works.

What does this mean for education?

From a learners perspective, we need to keep learning purposeful and from a conceptual level so we tap into personal motivation and relevancy. Motivation, according to Daniel Pink’sDrive” tells us that intrinsic motivation is based on purpose. It is this purpose that is tied closely to our beliefs. Pink believes to maintain our “drive” we need three components of mastery, autonomy and purpose. Mastery comes from practice and refinements guided by reflection, autonomy from choice and empowerment and purpose that is tied to intrinsic motivation. To develop life-long, self-directed learners we need to enable learners who can manage, monitor and motivate their own learning.

From a school perspective,  leaders need to be clear on their purposes and apply strategies that can be conceptualised and carried out to steer the organisation.  This purpose needs to emanate through all parent communication, marketing strategies and policies. The purpose needs to be understood, believed and practiced. The same is true for educational bodies on a grander scale.

In my years in education, I have seen many programs, plans and strategies come and go. True purpose is unshakeable.  As individuals, we must tap into something deep inside us that aligns us to the organisations we choose to serve, particularly in education where the motivation for exceptional educators is much more than monetary.

As Sinek says:

 “Those who lead inspire us. We follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to”.

What motivates you to follow the leaders you are following? What makes your heart sing?

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Connected Learning – BOOK REVIEW

"Open your classroom to the world"

Connected from the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades would have to be the most practical book

Kathy Cassidy’s guide for developing a connected classroom.

I’ve come across in the past year. A year 1 teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator, from remote Moose Jaw, SK, Canada, Kathy Cassidy inspires teachers to step outside their comfort zones and become global learners with their students. Targeted to teachers in the primary years (junior primary to Australians), Cassidy’s book is full of interactive resources and stories of her journey developing a connected classroom. With her “If I can do it , so can you” attitude, Cassidy shares with us why she uses Twitter, Skype, Blogs, Videos and Digital Portfolios to connect young students with the world. Connected from the Start generously shares the stories and practicalities of implementing technology from a classroom teachers perspective. This is not a technology manual, but a guide for teachers wanting to expand the boundaries of their classrooms, build resources, relationships and global perspectives. Full of practical advice for parent nights, privacy, moderation and set-up, this eBook provides practical tips for teachers that only a classroom practitioner could offer.

Connected from the Start is a guide, can be read, clicked, linked and annotated cover to cover, or used as a reference for teachers wanting to dive straight into a particular aspect of global connection.

Although Cassidy has crafted her book with teachers of very young students in mind, her stories and encouragement will help teachers of student of all ages and stages along their journey using technology to expand horizons. The eBook is available as a PDF with hyperlinks and embedded video from the PLPNetwork.

The book isn’t just something to sit on your eReader, rather it opens up a professional relationship and dialogue with a real teacher. I initially met Kathy Cassidy on Twitter (@KathyCassidy), and so can you! In fact she encourages you to interact, share your ideas and provide feedback. Cassidy readily shared her own blog Mrs Cassidy’s Classroom Blog as well as Edubloggers’ Class Blog List with me after a brief 140 character at a time dialogue across the world. She exemplifies connected education in both her book and her practice as a connected educator.

Connected from the Start doesn’t stop at why teachers should create connected classrooms, but examines in depth the journey of teacher and her class of 6 and 7 year olds with blogs, digital portfolios, Google Docs, Twitter, Skype and other technologies sharing the why, what and how of connecting around the globe. These real stories are backed by links to people, sites and resources to get started, encouraging teachers to “open your classroom to the world” and have a flexible mindset toward new opportunities while modelling yourself as a learner.

Who should read this book?

  • Primary/Elementary Teachers to get practical tips for developing a connected classroom. You can do it!
  • ICT Coaches and Integrators to see clearly through the eyes of a classroom teacher. Ask yourself: How can you enable teachers like Kathy Cassidy who aren’t sure how to take the next step using technology purposefully?
  • Principals and School Leaders to better understand what it means to be a global citizen in today’s classroom. Ask yourself: “Am I a connected educational leader? How can I leverage these same tools on a broader scale”?
  • Education Authorities to ask: “What policies, systems and strategies are need to enable our students to operate as fully functional global citizens?”

As an ICT Coordinator, I empathise with many of the challenges Cassidy faced and strive in my role to think through and avoid some of the possible barriers through developing whole school approaches that make things easier for teachers. Student account management and interfaces, policy development, infrastructure enablement, parent communication methods and tool selection can be time consuming jobs. In my opinion, technology needs to enable education and educational needs must drive technology requirements. Encouraging teachers isn’t enough if the site is blocked, the internet too slow or the technology doesn’t work. An agile, coordinated approach to technology is required at school level.

New privacy laws introduced in Australia also bring about a few more hoops to jump through. It is concerning that some Australian jurisdictions are placing restrictions on “cloud computing” at the same time our increased access to technology holds more potential than ever. Students need access to tools, and to people around the globe with varying expertise and cultural perspectives.

Connecting with the world can no longer be an optional part of a teachers’ role if we want authentic global resources, relationships and experiences for our students. Global projects like Flat Connections, Global Classroom’s Edmodo Pen Pal and the annual Global Education Conference offer online opportunities to “learn about the world with the world” (Flat Connections Project motto) and give teachers the freedom to pursue their passions. So as Cassidy asks:

What’s  your next step?”

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“Challenge Based Learning in Indonesia” a BOOK REVIEW

Could you buy ingredients and create a healthy meal for four people for under $1.50 USD?

Jane Ross’ students can. This is just one of the provocations Jane Ross shares in her book  “Challenge Based Learning in Indonesia”.

Challenge Based Learning in Indonesia, Jane Ross, available on iBooks

Challenge Based Learning in Indonesia, Jane Ross, available on iBooks

As a year 5 homeroom teacher, and Apple Distinguished Educator, Jane describes the process she and her collaborators undertook to outwork one Challenge Based Learning (CBL) project with a class of 5th graders from Sinarmas World Academy in Jakarta. The book is free from the iBookstore as an interactive, visually rich illustration of exemplary teaching and learning. Educators will appreciate the depiction of this student-led, inquiry-based approach providing meaningful, relevant and engaging learning opportunities.  Full of photographs, slideshows and video, this media-rich book takes you on the student’s learning journey and shares with you their investigations, reflections and deliberate actions  to solve community problems.

 

The teachers posed the challenging problem:

“It is our shared responsibility to ensure resources are more evenly distributed” 

and guided students through an inquiry process where students took the lead posing and investigating their own questions. They were given the opportunity to think deeply about meaningful world problems and respond locally by taking action in a nearby community.  To better understand the resource needs, students collaboratively investigated:

  • life on a limited budget
  • life in a local “Landfill Community”

Visiting a local community with so many resource needs led students to identify real issues facing this neighbouring community and further inquire into new challenges, problems and opportunities to solve problems with lighting, safe shelter and clean water; all problems that are difficult for governments to solve let alone school children!

Students became problem-solvers, inventors and advocates posing real solutions. More importantly, they gained cultural understanding and empathy within their extended community. Their reflections indicate that they see themselves as global citizens who are able work in teams and with help from around the world, to tackle the world’s problems.

I recommend this book for teachers interested in fostering student-inquiry, empowering students to take meaningful action, or publishing for purpose.

What I loved about this book was:

  • the clear illustration through example of transdiciplinary learning where many “subjects” were explored in-depth “just in time”,
  • the clarity of the role of teacher as activator,  facilitator and learner with students clearly in the driver seat of meaningful learning they won’t soon forget; and
  • that it is freely shared with the world and encourages global perspective!

I agree with Ross on the power of student-led inquiry and applaud her for sharing her experience in this accessible way. However, I expect teachers in Australia and other developed nations will face a few of their own challenges implementing learning in this way:

  • Do privacy policies limit us from sharing work in this way?
  • Would risk assessment plans prevent us from accessing communities in these conditions?
  • Would our subject-based national curriculum veer us toward set achievement standards and sacrifice depth of learning for breadth?
  • Do we have the agility in our learning spaces, timetables and pedagogies to take learning in new directions based on learners’ wonderings?
  • Are our communities too insulated to look at the needs of our neighbours near and far?
  • Will we step out of our comfort zones and model ourselves as learners to extend learning in unfamiliar contexts?
  • Will students score as well on national tests and impact school ratings negatively?
  • Does a national curriculum designate a ceiling for student learning and cap it or does it have the same potential Ross outlines to create a launchpad for learning?

There are many implications for school leaders related to culture, however the greater challenge may lie in imposed national curricula. In Australia, the 2014 Australian Curriculum Review final report poses some of these concerns at a national level, particularly around fragmenting and overcrowding the curriculum and giving preference to discipline-based pedagogies.  My hope is that we can find ways to empower rather than overwhelm innovative practitioners who wish to follow Ross’ lead.

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