Next learning steps…what do I want to do with that learning?

I have a sickness and it’s called an addiction to graduate school. For whatever reason, I can’t just be okay learning on my own…I find the allure of big bills and credit hours too much to resist. After building experience as a formal K-12 leader, my next thought goes to, what do I need so I can realistically purse any position that I find interesting? What do I want to do?

I’ve spent a good deal of time talking to folks in doctoral programs across the county that cater to mid-career professionals who can’t stop their lives for a residency. I’ve learned a good deal about some quality programs both inside and outside the Midwest. There are no lack of opportunities, or good folks that I trust to say good things about the program. What it comes down to is what I want…and I’m looking at three areas to vet – leadership, ed tech or teaching & learning.

Thus far, I’ve taken A LOT of leadership classes, your garden variety of ed tech classes are less helpful than a good blog and a teaching & learning path would help me fill a big void in my skill set. I think it really boils down to leadership and technology for learning. If it’s at all ed tech like, it needs to focus on how the brain learns and how those needs can be met with technology.

I’m still on the fence, but I think I’ve been able to effectively look at myself and decide what I really want to do with my career. Maybe that will include a doctoral program, or maybe in involves connections, the web and some books…

Who knows, but I look forward to the learning and growing!!!

How am I using my time?

I’ve been my own worst enemy when it comes to time management. Way back when, it was procrastinating on papers for my undergraduate work, to more recently staying up to late to aimlessly consume light media until all hours of the morning. Looking back at it, even with two growing boys to enjoy and a career that needs more of my personal resources, time management has been my enemy. Via LinkedIn I stumbled upon the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, which has been like Manna from Heaven for me. We don’t need more, we need to do less better. One major personal downfall is thinking that I can do it all, until I’m ready to emotionally pop…the idea that I’m somehow a superhuman who can do and achieve vastly more than anyone else is flawed to a wise person, but wasn’t so to me.

In the coming weeks and months I’ll be more deliberate to be careful about what I’m doing with my time and how I’m committing myself to tasks. More doesn’t make us happy, it only makes me try to do even more. I need to do less better…

Student Ownership of Learning – what goes into a tech plan these days

Our Department of Public Instruction will be announcing this winter that Technology Plans will be required again in order to be able to apply for certain grant money. Rumor has it, that it will be based off of North Carolina Digital Learning Plan from the Friday Institute at North Carolina State. I highly encourage reading the summary – good, comprehensive stuff!

We have moved toward building one with this plan in mind. We in Wisconsin were used to technology plans that touted computer replacement schedules and PD plans for the future (few of which were ever followed through on in any district I worked for). Actually I wrote two and then left the next year, so when the author takes off, fidelity can’t really be reasonably expected.

The initial meeting we used a truncated version of The World Cafe to get feedback on the three different areas of our Future Plan – Personalizing Learning, Transforming Teaching and Evolving Structures. After all three teams shared idea we voted on what themes do we want to focus on.

I was so excited to see what took top building – Ownership of Student Learning. Wow! What power does that have coming from your staff, unsolicited!

——The 61-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Rodgers interrupted my writing——

There have been times when I’ve questioned if that’s an appropriate target for a tech plan, but every time I ask for an opinion on it from someone I respect, it has been reinforced 100% of the time. It’s amazing to me, how far we’ve come in 10 years. First it was about replacing labs, then it was about the latest, greatest app…now folks in the right frame of mind know its about moving toward empowerment and ownership of student learning. It should have always been there, but now we have the tools that can do it.

It’s a great time to be in education!!!

Looking back on my first career plateau #TheDip

Over the last few weeks I’ve been going over Seth Godin’s The Dip ad nauseam. Every time I listen, I pick up something new. Today it was about plateauing in an organization and it hit home for me in my career history. I started working in Sheboygan in 2004 and it was great. The city felt like home and so did my school, North High. I was instantly interested in what the Instructional Technology Coordinator George Warriner was doing and made it my goal to become a district technology leader someday. I spent 4 years at North and 3 years at the Central Office in Sheboygan. It was a great time, great experience and I made life-long friends there. I wanted to stay. I remember our superintendent telling us on the first day of new teacher in-service that something crazy like 90% of hires end up staying in the district for life.

For me, that wasn’t in the cards. Looking back at it, that’s okay. I wanted to make the big move from 25 year old LMS, up to a coordinator position, but in Sheboygan it was likely that they’d always see me as who I was, not who I could be. In 2012 I had the opportunity to take on a more formal district leadership role and I took the plunge. That was a great move based on the people I worked with in Germantown that year and the personal growth I went through learning to live outside of my comfortable walled garden in Sheboygan.

When the coordinator of instructional technology opened in Sheboygan, I applied, excited to return. At one point in time I was their only remaining candidate. From their point of view, they couldn’t move forward with one person in the running and I was miffed that they wouldn’t move ahead with someone who wanted to be there. Looking back on it, perhaps they still saw me as the 25-year old with no experience and not someone who was ready to be a leader. And that’s okay…we all need to do what’s best for our organization, and they certainly found someone capable about a month after I committed to a new district. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had plateaued there. They were happy to keep me on as a tech coach or library media specialist, but they didn’t see leadership. I’m just happy the right opportunities came along so I could follow the path I wanted to go on.

Be mindful of this in your own roles…does your organization see you as someone who can do more, take on more, lead them to the next level? Or have you been type-cast?

What’s in a Professional Association that is Valuable to you?

Some professional organizations help you cover your rear if something – legally gets sideways for you as an administrator. Others crank out high-quality publications that feature content from major authors. As fall beings to unwind, that means its time for me to re-up my memberships or reflect on what I’ve gotten out of this member/organization relationship. Is the glossy cover with a 7-page article from that assessment guru that pretty much regurgitated a summary of his 315 page book worth it?

I think for me it comes down to the connections the organization helps make and the quality of information that they share with members. No surprise I’m a big CoSN fan for both those reasons. The whitepapers, reports and vision they share with members is VERY meaningful to me personally and professionally. Being invited to participate in the CETL Summit last spring was a kind gesture on their part and an extremely meaningful opportunity for me. CoSN will likely have me as a member until I die. ISTE was a little bit of a tough sell for me this year, but I feel obligated as an ed tech professional. Plus their new entersekt publication caught my eye last year with some good content. Thankfully I feel like they’re moving away from being the flipped learning/it’s all about apps professional group…and that’s a good thing.

One of my thoughts has been to take some of the money I have spend on organizations (the ones I’m on the fence about) and put it into Harvard Business Review or MIT Sloan Sloan Management Review. Lately I’m getting a lot out of publications like those as I focus more on management and organizational development. I diversity of thoughts to reflect on has never hurt anyone!

The Innovator’s DNA – Observation – It all comes back to #designthinking

A few months back I grabbed Innovator’s DNA on Audible. At the time, for whatever reason, it wasn’t speaking to me so stopped (because there is no shame in not reading something all the way through if it’s not making an impact on you). This week I felt like picking it back up…I mean re-downloading it. Today while Lola was getting a good run in at the dog park in Grafton, I listened to the chapter on Skill 3 – Observing. The authors focus on the power of seeing your clients, students, ultimate users, whatever you want to call them using your product or experiencing your the services you provide in order to gain insights on what might be able to be improved. This only reinforces for me the power of Design Thinking, because it all comes back to your end user’s experience. In addition, this reminds me I need to, and our other IT staffers need to get into classrooms to see what our students and teachers are doing with the products and services we provide.

This week we kicked off a new season of technology planning and I’m committed to making it meaningful. I’ve written all sort of tech plans with all sorts of good stuff in it…but little was ever accomplished. I’ve enjoyed our conversations with staff and look forward to gaining insights from more folks. My biggest problem is to not give out leading questions…I need to remember the value comes from letting your stakeholders the plan direction and meaning.

Joe Maddon and Leadership

Joe Maddon does a lot of quirky things. For a person in a macho industry he’s not afraid to show he’s a smart and thoughtful person. He wears dark rum glasses and blasts the theme from “Rocky” after his team goes down 2-0 in the NLCS.

His quirkiness is cool – in my opinions – but that’s not what makes him a leader people want to follow.

From his old boss Terry Collins to his new(er) boss Theo Epstein, this guy is all about relationships. Epstein during the playoffs talked about how 20 year olds want to be around this guy who could be their dad. Collins in his post game interview spoke about how players asking specifically if Maddon would be hired back to be on his staff with the Angels. 

At the end of the day, it’s all about the relationships we build with the people around us. Whether we’re formal or informal leaders, it’s our ability to build trust and move opinions that make the difference between a managing and LEADING.

Leadership Reflection

Some days being a boss or decision maker can be down right rough. But then you have those days where things come together – and you can do something good for someone you work with. It seems rare, but feels good when you can make it happens We can never say thank you enough to our colleagues, but when we have a chance to truly prove how thankful we are for the work they do, you have to make sure you knock that opportunity out if the park. When it happens, it’s great because you’re doing good thing for good people. As bosses there is nothing more important that making those around us feel appreciated and valued. 

Celebrating the process out of our struggles…thank you @CoSN @BlueSkunkBlog @mguhlin and others!

Our failures, and how we move past them don’t get celebrated often enough. I know I prefer to pretend to wax philosophical or celebrate the great things that have happened in my professional lives without the context of what happened first to get there. Last year around this time was the worst birthday in recent memory because of what a struggle my professional life had become. After years of toil to build a career between work and graduate school, I had finally taken on the role of a director. That year ended poorly and I had wondered if I had risen to my level of incompetence? I thought about going back to library media or technology coaching. Maybe I should be a business manager? Or a small school principal? Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this work?

It was always smooth sailing before this…like a AA baseball player getting blown away on three straight pitches by Mariano Rivera on my first stint in the big leagues. I needed to be reflective toward my own work at a level I had never needed to be before.  What kind of leadership was I providing? How am I managing projects? What kind of boss was I to real people? What are things that I really believe in and will fight for? Who was a good boss to me and how do I stack up to them? What are the things I need to get better at? They aren’t fun questions, but ones you have to make.

What I can tell you is great people – my family, friends and colleagues were there to listen to me and help me get past it all and grow from what I learned. I can’t say enough about some of the folks who I work with who have become friends over the last few years. They’ve helped me stay sane and work through it all.

The next group of people that have helped me were connections I’ve made near and far. Reading and corresponding with folks like Miguel Guhlin and Doug Johnson have helped me gain perspective as they’ve lent their wisdom and experiences to me. In 2014 at the WiscNet’s Future Technologies Conferences I was chatting with Doug Johnson over a muffin kind of dumping my bucket about what was going on in my career. One thing I’ll always remember him saying is “I bet you’re making for a difference than you think.” I couldn’t see it then, but he was right. I was making a difference and I just needed to build experience in order to be able to do my job well. Kind words from our network connections, sometimes make all the difference. We’re all in this together after all!

Locally in Wisconsin, many technology directors have done the same for me. I can’t say enough about what CoSN and WETL have done for me, connecting me with so many talented people. After regaining my own professional confidence, both organizations have been great places to help me grow with other, much more talented people. CoSN’s CETL process helped me build my knowledge and help prove to myself that I do in fact belong doing what I’m doing.

I am forever grateful to all these people and organizations!

I still am, as we all are, a work in progress. I looking forward to more growth in this season of projects and serving students and teachers during the 2015-2016 school year.