Monday, June 28, 2010

Great Manager

When I think of great manager there are three that I think about and all of them share some of the same characteristics:
1. Courage and self-confidence: they had enough confidence in themselves and in some cases those around them to risk trying someith new. To try things outside the box.
2. Listening and questioning skills: Their doors were always open to discuss new ideas or brainstorm solutions to problems. They weren't afraid to ask the hard questions and were willing to truly listen to others input.
3. When they needed, they were willing to take the lead and do what needed to be done for the benefit of all even if unpopular or unwelcome. They lead by example.

Example: I worked at a school site where the adminstrator decided it was time to really address the students taht had the ability to succeed but weren't being successful. At three different staff meetings she brought this up for discussion asking for input. Once she had received input, she formed a committee to come up with a plan to address the needs of these students. The plan was to create four small self-contained 8th grade classes (20 per class maximum) where not only academics were focused on but citizenship and personal reflection. The teachers of these classes were given the freedom to deliver the curriculum in ways that engaged the students. So the teachers go together and developed a merit system that resulted in weekly rewards (free movie friday for those that completed all their work with pizza, sundaes etc) and monthly rewards (overnight camping trips, trips to movies etc). When the plan was originally presented there were many nay sayers and road blocks put in place. The adminstrator was able to come up with solutions to the roadblocks and asked the nay sayers to give the program a chance. The program was a success. The nay sayers in the first month of school went from bad mouthing the program to rejoicing about the fact that they were able to teach as the discipline issues had decreased dramatically within their classrooms. But more importantly the students participating in the program enjoyed academic and personal success. They learned not only academics but also self-motivation, control and self-discipline. In fact, they came to the teachers after meeting together to ask to have lunch in the classroom or outside the classroom on the grass because they realized that when they ate lunch with the rest of the school they got into trouble. They recognized the problem and came up with a solution. Even though the program was a success and benefitted all the superintendent of the district transferred the adminstrator to another site because they had dared to try something new and overcome all hurdles put in their way!! When asked if they would move forward with the program if they knew the outcome, they indicated they would because the end result was worth the fight for change!!

For me it tells me I need to be strong and keep my eye on the end goal. There will always be those opposed to change or doing things differently, and I need to be willing to move forward with the plan for change. I need to listen to the concerns, address them to the best of my ability, and modify the plan if needed, but always keeping my eye on the end goal. I need to be willing to take risks, stand up for what I believe is right, and examine continously what I do and how it affects the ulitmate outcome. Only by doing this can I become an affective leader.

Motivation, Technology Design and Success

Motivation is key in technology design and success. When you look at Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, George Lucas or those that started Google, the motivation for change is what lead them to design and create the technology they started. They were tired of the status quo and wanted to make things better, hence the motivation for change in technology. Look at George Lucas, he went to Hollywood was part of the mainstream production when he decided what was being done was stagnant and getting boring. This lead him to explore new ways to produce animation and films. He looked beyond the box to acheive the success he shares today with his dreamworks studio. Without the motivation for change the technologies of today would not exist! Motivation for change goes hand and hand with technology design and success.

Change and Who it Impacts

All stakeholders in a given area are impacted by change. In a school for instance when a new administrator takes over, all staff and students are impacted. New relationships will need to be established between adminstration and staff and students. It will take time for a bond of trust to begin to be developed and lines of true communication opened. When change is implemented it happesn in two ways: (1) consensus and mutual input & (2) "do it my way" attitude. With the consensus-mutual input way of change, those leading the way for change must be able to take control of the group while allowing them their voice and input. When others feel like their voice has been listened to they are more willing to work on bringing about the desired change. In the second scenario, when the person instituting the change doesn't take time to establish trust or positive relationships but just bulldozes the change through rebellion occurs. Those that feel change is being thrust upon them will dig in their heels and find ways to slow or stop the change from occurring. In this situation the leader must be strong and confident enough to follow through with their plan. While there are times where this approach is necessary, most of the time it builds resentment. Those looking to bring about change need to examine closely what method would be most effective based on what the goal of the change is and how immediately it needs to occur.

(written 5/24/10 transcribed 6/28/10)

Learning and Change

When someone looks to bring about change they need to examine the goal of that change and to look into the history of what has been tried before to bring about the desired change. They need to learn about the subject being changed as well as the people and politics involved in the change. Once this occurs a picture of what steps are necessary in order for the change to take place will begin to emerge. As that picture emerges, it is up to the individual to examine what role they play or want to play in brining about the change. When the role is determined the individual will know what further knowledge is needed to be gathered to help implement the change for all involved. They will need to learn as much about the subject of the change and all involved.

(written 5/20/10 transcribed 6/28/10)

When is Change Needed?

Change occurs for two primary reasons. The first is that someone recognizes that what is currently being done isn't working to accomplish the goal. The second reason is that someone sees something that deeply affects them that they feel needs to be changed. The first is usually seen in business and educational settings while the second is more personal in nature. People become very passionate about change when there is a deep personal connection to the ultimate purpose of the change, on the positive side. When someone sees something that they connect with emotionally they become very passionate and motivate to become involved in bringing about change. On the negative side, people are passionate about change when it interferes with what they see as not needing change. When people are forced into a change without seeing a reason or having input they become very passionate about not changing. Change whether voluntary or involuntary often brings out deep emotions and passion.
(written 5/10/10 transcribed 6/28/10)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

EDC 665: Success in the Classroom

One of the things I am looking at in my AR is motivating my students to be actively involved in their learning process. The one area that most students dread are tests so I began looking at other ways of assessing their knowledge and stumbled upon one of the most exciting experiences of my teaching career: A classroom with 100% engagment. I decided to let the students choose their own partners for this activity. The students had no idea what the activity would be but they set about selecting their partners. Once the class was settled they were given two options to work on: 1. Create a game or 2. Create a movie/video. We discussed as a whole group what type of games they played and watched a few videos to get ideas rolling. The game or video had to be on the atomic structure. They needed to cover three areas: 1. structure (protons, neutrons, electrons) 2. valance electrons and 3. relationship of atomic structure to the periodic table. We reviewed this information and then the students were set lose. I expected chaos and instead I got a class of discussions and thoughtfulness. The students had five days to complete this assignment. The first day most groups had an idea of where they were headed and what they wanted to do. Every day for the next four days, they came in and got to work. Success was within their grasp and they knew it. Out of 10 groups, only one group elected to do the video the others all created/developed games. The input from me was minimal, I served as a sounding board for their ideas or as someone to come to for clarification. For five days, every student was involved and engaged. On the sixth day, it was time to share what they had created. On that day, each group split up and played another groups game. There was wonderful feedback given to the students and all were successful. The students created games based on standard games they were familiar with like Monoploy, Sorry, Chutes and Ladders, Uno, and Marbles. The creativity expressed was delightful. What a wonderful success this activity was and the knowledge of the atomic structure was cemented in for the long haul.

I truly feel that the success of this activity was brough about by the student buy in. They all had prior knowledge of some form of games and were able to build on that knowledge to create an atomic structure game. The ability to work with each other and build on each others knowledge allowed everyone to offer something to the group and feel successful within their own right. My role was minimal within the classroom on this assignment. I served as a facilitor and an encourager. By being willing to turn the reins of learning over the students, I began to build an open classroom where everyone had an active and important role to play. The success experienced not only encouraged the students to begin to explore on their own, but it also opened my eyes to the importance of letting go and letting them learn in their own way.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Learning Theory Put into Practice

I have reached the end of the semester of classes and created a final project about learning theories. It wasn't until I began thinking about this projec that the learning theories we had been discussing in class began to move from abstract to concrete. I took a little different look at the learning theories. I decided to take the theory put forth by Jerome Bruner and put it into practice. Bruner talks alot about how culture, interest and social activity are keys in the learning of children. When I looked back over this semester, I decided to delve deeper into a community or culture that I know nothing about; skateboarding. I decided to ask a few of my students to teach me to skateboard. The goal was to understand their learning process, develop a deeper understanding of the skateboarding culture and to engage the students in an area of interest. I can say that this project was one of the most enjoyable adventures undertaken with my students. (My hip didn't think so but the rest of me did!!) Anyway, I created a video detailing the experience of learning to skateboard. The most awesome outcome of this project was the active engagement of the students in the classroom material. The participation within the class of the students that are a part of the skateboarding community has increased and they are always checking on my progress. The students that served as my teachers meet with me daily and are always trying to find a way to weave the skateboard into our lessons. When I told them we could use it during our Forces and Motions exploration, they went out and researched those topics coming back with ideas on how to use the skateboard. The positive outcome of this project has cemented the importance of making the material interesting to the students, knowing what their interests are, and allowing them to build on their own knowledge. This final project fits right into my action research project and has given me much food for thought. The video portion is attached, so get some popcorn, sit back and enjoy as you watch learning theory put into practice.