Archive forJanuary, 2009

Leadership project proposal

I would like everyone to write a few sentence project proposal statement by Thursday, February 12.  You can either post your proposal as a comment on this posting or as a posting on your blog.

The things to include are:

– a problem statement of what issue you are interested in working on

– what you will look to do

– how you will share with the world what you’ve done

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Disruptive innovations

QQC from Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn, and Curtis Johnson, on page 47:

“But from time to time, things get shaken up when a different type of innovation emerges in an industry — a disruptive innovation.  A disruptive innovation is not a breakthrough improvement.  Instead of sustaining the traditional improvement in the established plane of competition, it disrupts that trajectory by bringing to the market a product or service that actually is not as good as what companies historically had been selling.  Because it is not as good, the existing customers .. cannot use it.  But by making the product affordable and simple to use, the disruptive innovation benefits people who had been unable to consume [the old] product — people we call “nonconsumers.”

This is the point of the book that most rocked my worldview.  I thought, “Oh my god!  The world is passing us by and we’re busily making really good five and quarter inch disk drives!”  I see that most current examples of online learning, adaptive technologies, computer games, etc. are not as good as what we are doing in our schools.  Therefore, I have been ignoring them.  And yet I see increasing examples of how online learning could really make sense for more and more people.  

I’m wanting to learn about finance, so I’m looking into taking an MIT open source finance course.  The textbook arrived last week.  I’m motivated to learn, I have a reason to learn it, I know how to learn on my own, and if i can watch some lectures online, get some guidance in reading a book, and look at some study questions, that could really help me.  If there were some kind of social networking site where I could post questions and get and give answers, that would be even better.  I just heard that Jeff Robin is taking an online calculus class.  This is because he is doing an art/calculus project and he wants to learn more calculus.  He doesn’t have time to go take calculus on M/W/F from 9:30 – 10:30.  But he does want to learn calculus.  I totally see how he could learn in an online setting.

My question is, what about 14 year olds or 11 year olds?  Are they motivated to learn?  Arguably yes in many cases.  Are they able to learn on their own?  I’m less sure on this point.  But in any event, I see increasing evidence that we should be figuring out where the conditions are right for online learning and take advantage of those opportunities.  And then look to grow the conditions so that it works for more people in more situations.

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Tony Wagner, High Tech High, and a few shed tears

Tony Wagner, a professor at Harvard, has published a book titled “The Global Achievement Gap: Why even our best schools don’t teach the new survival skills our children need — and what we can do about it.”  I had heard that we were mentioned in the book, but I figured it was just a passing reference, and I hadn’t gotten around to looking at it.  Then in the last couple weeks, we have had a bunch of people wanting to visit our school because they read Tony Wagner’s book.  It’s actually been more enthusiasm than I’ve ever really noticed before.  So I thought I’d check out the book.  I read the passage about High Tech High this morning.

First of all, if our school is half as good as Tony describes, then we’re really doing well.  I think in some ways he exagerates to make a point, because no school could be as good as what he says.  What is cool though, is that he describes us as I think we wish we were, as we aspire to be, and as we are in our best moments.  He really captures the vision of where we are trying to get, and that is nice to read.

My only regret about the passage is that when he described some great teacher projects, he did not name Cortney Golub, Jeff Robin, and the other teachers by name.

More to come on his idea of the “Seven Survival Skills for Teens Today” (Critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration across networks and leading by influence, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurialism, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, and curiosity and imagination).

Finally, this quote from Ruth Garcia, an alum who was a senior in 2007.

“I’m a lot more confident now,” she continues.  “I know I can take a college course [Ruth leaves school three mornings a week to take a college French class] and have a career. . . .  Neither of my parents went to college.  I make them proud.  We rent a really small house.  Some day, I’d like to buy them one of their own.”

That’s the part about the tears shed this morning.

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Group dynamics activity

I’m also interested in what people thought about the group dynamics activity during the bonanza.  I agree with Melissa that just because someone doesn’t hog the floor doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be someone we should hire.  I also would tend to get really quiet in that kind of setting, and I don’t like competing for airtime.  As I mentioned in the meeting, as a middle class white male with formal leadership status, I tend to want to be the last person to take over a conversation like that and avoid “playing to my sterotype.”  I was thinking that Jamie’s suggestion that folks get a chance to share out their meta-thoughts about the conversation would be an interesting chance to learn more about what they were thinking.  Certainly someone who could speak eloquently about why they didn’t speak that much would give us a different impression than someone who couldn’t (for example).

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Reaction to hiring bonanza

You could reply to this post with your reactions to the hiring bonanza.  Or you can post on your own blog.  I’m still a little unclear about when we do each of those things.  I’m especially interested in any reaction you had to the director meeting portion of the bonanza.  It was atypical in that there were only a handful of directors, plus all of us, so it felt a little funny to me.  I think it is interesting how directors negotiate whether to hire someone or not.  In particular, it is tricky to strike the balance between “the director hires whomever they want” and “we’re all in this together and collectively hire the best folks for the organization.”  This is particularly challenging because one director might hire someone and then things change and we want them to teach at another school, and yet the other director might not have thought we should have hired that person!

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Class next week

Remember that we will not be meeting next week.  I pushed back 1 week reading Other People’s Children.  I would suggest getting started sooner than later on that book, as it is an interesting read but not necessarily a quick one.  When we meet next we will (finally) discuss Disrupting Class, which Brian described as “the best book we’ve read so far.”  I, for one, want to know why Brian thinks this.

I think it would be good if you could post what your first BOC (book of choice) will be and why you picked it.

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My choose your own reading

I’m reading a book called “Finance for Non-Financial Managers.”  It is at least as exciting as the title.  So far I am learning about balance sheets and the like.  I already knew something, but it actually is helpful to see this stuff pulled together instead of just learning it ‘on the job.’  My friend Daniel McLaughlin, the former CEO of Envision Schools, said that maybe I should take a course on Finance.  So I got this book.  I’m also looking into taking an online course in Finance through MIT’s Open Educational Resources website.  I ordered the textbook online (used!) and it arrived yesterday.  I thought maybe learning about finance through an OER format would kills two birds with one rock, given that we are thinking about opening an online high school.

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So how does this “internets” thing work?

Ok, so I don’t think I totally understand how we use blogs to post reflections?  I guess everyone should post something about Disrupting Class and follow a QQC format?

I was thinking it would be cool if people would post something about their thoughts about the School Leadership project.  What are you thinking about doing?

Would it make sense to post something about what you are thinking for your first “choose your own book?”

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Welcome to the HTH GSE School Leadership Blog.  Students will be posting their reflections on readings and conversations we’ve had.  Enjoy!

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