Leadership

Networked Innovation Pathway

 

I am writing this to share my process with the world. I am truly interested in the network effects that spur growth and creativity. So if you like the theme of change and innovation in education, I would love to connect with you. I am also writing in order to “process my process.” Writing for an authentic audience is very challenging and very productive. It pushes you to articulate your ideas as best as you can. Before I go on, let me give you some background information on who I am and the work I do.

I’m a Brazilian 42-year-old mom and educator who lives in Brasília, the capital city of our country. I have been in English Language Teaching for 22 years. After ten years working as a full-time teacher, I worked as an academic administrator in my school, Casa Thomas Jefferson, as course supervisor, a middle-management position of leadership. I have my English language and teaching credentials, but my academic background is in Anthropology. It was not until about a year ago that I reached a solid awareness that my social sciences background has had a tremendous influence on the way I view leadership. More about that in another post. =]

I have just resumed my work after a year-long medical leave. I am blessed. Having been through the health challenges that I have over these past 18 months has changed me completely. Somehow I managed to make the most of my time away from my very demanding job as an academic admin, and in the meantime I became Google Certified Trainer and more recently Google Certified Innovator in the BRZ17 cohort.

As I said, I am blessed. My innovation project is to design an innovation ecosystem to enable teachers to develop the skills and awareness needed to design meaningful 21st-century learning. (Here are links to my vision deck and my vision video.) I have recently had the go-ahead from the high leadership of my school to develop this transformation program with our teachers. The program is called Vision 2020, and I am also calling it a networked innovation pathway.   I am literally standing in the shoulders of giants in this innovation pathway. Their ideas and their experiences as educators and as innovators are inspiring me and helping me shape this program to suit the needs of my particular context. I am going to mention three people I consider my mentors. I follow them on Twitter and I read their blogs. I have to start with George Couros (@gcouros), because reading his book “The Innovator’s Mindset” was (has been, it keeps giving, it’s amazing) a turning point in my innovator trajectory. So I consider him my go-to mentor for inspiration and for connection. He is a major connecting node in my personal learning network. With this tweet, George introduced me to my second mentor, Mandy Froehlich (@forehlichm) and BAM!

Mandy’s series of posts on her Hierarchy of Needs for Innovation and Divergent Thinking provided me with a no-nonsense framework for developing this transformation program. I am planning the stages and actions of the program based on the ideas she proposes. 2018 will be the Climate/Culture and Effective Leadership development/consolidation stage of our program. In 2019, we will focus on Mindset and Professional Development, and in 2020 we hope to achieve our vision of Innovation and Divergent Thinking in our school. Although I’ve just described a timeline here, the real deal will not be that clean-cut, of course. It will be rather cyclical and messy, but Mandy’s framework gives Vision 2020 direction. Mandy Froehlich is my go-to mentor for direction and structure. She has made sense of what this path to innovation entails, and her hierarchy of needs is a valuable compass.

Time came for me to meet my third mentor, Katie Martin (@KatieMartinEdu). And (again) it was via George Couros on Twitter:

Now THAT post! Oh my. Treasure trove doesn’t begin to describe it. Katie Martin has this clarity of ideas, she just says it as it is. It’s powerful. 5 Reasons Professional Development is NOT Transforming Learning explains what NOT to do if you want to orchestrate productive professional development opportunities. Katie Martin is my go-to mentor for keeping me grounded and preventing me from spinning out of control with all the inspiration I get. She has been the sensible voice of experience and clarity in my head. I went on to watch Katie Martin’s TEDx on her website and was blown away by the simplicity and clarity of her words:

“If we understand that every system is perfectly designed to create the results it gets, then think about these two questions: are you creating systems for teachers to comply and implement your ideas and your programs? Or are you creating systems to bring people together, to learn and create better opportunities for the kids in their classrooms?” Katie Martin

Yes, Katie, I hope to be able to co-design Vision 2020 so that it grows to become a system in which WE create new and better opportunities for our kids in our classrooms. Thank you for this. And there are many more posts by her that have constantly brought me back to the reality of change in education. I had been meaning to write about my creative process throughout Vision 2020 for the sake of openness and learning together with the global educators community, and I decided it could no longer wait nudged by this tweet:

Katie Martin tweeting Mandy Froehlich. Yep. It does feel like George Couros quoting Steven Johnson on this blog post: 

“Chance favours the connected mind.” Steven Johnson

That quote actually sums it all up, I guess, the very spirit of what I’m trying to say in this post. I’ll be sure to stay connected with these three amazing mentors and the many, many more I have the privilege of following on Twitter. I’ll be writing about Vision 2020 here, and I welcome everyone to take part in this networked innovation pathway with us.

Claim your own growth

Photo: Grow by David Joyce on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I learn a lot in conversation with others. I learn so much blogging. There are some insightful people who take their time to read me and respond to what I say. This post was initiated in one such exchange with my friend Scott Johnson. Reminiscing on my learning a few months ago when attending the Edtech Team Brazil GAFE Summit, I poured out what resonated with me regarding the use of portfolios and how they fascinate me. Scott chimed in with the following words:

Clarissa, I’m interested in the portfolio idea as a form of claiming our efforts as authentically won plus as a tool of being a conscious learner. Sometimes we need to remind others that we are serious about our growth.

There’s so much packed in those two sentences.

Life is not easy, and professional development is most definitely an effortful endeavor. It requires commitment, a vision, and a purpose. We learn so much on the way but so many of us end up not keeping track of our development by engaging in some kind of self-reflection. To me that’s the true purpose of a portfolio. It’s a way to track your progress, to take stock of what you’ve learned. But it is only when we engage in reflection, when we actually examine the curves and the paths we chose to take along the way that we are able to attain a more concrete sense of achievement, of development. It is your reflecting on your own development that makes you aware of your own learning. And I guess that openly engaging in that reflection and declaring yourself to the world impacts your self-image and your self-worth more deeply than we might perceive if we go about our lives in auto pilot, just reacting to whatever experiences happen to us along the way. Being aware of your own achievements makes you care about achieving anything to begin with.

It is all about reminding yourself and the world that you are serious about your own growth. That you care. And that you purposefully work for it.

This blog is my portfolio. Here I have shared so many reflections on what has happened to me along my way of professional and in so many levels my personal development. This is my way of claiming my little bit of space in the world. As my friend Scott put it:

Clarissa, in art class we did portfolios to demonstrate that we had some claim to a place in the world. Not just dreamy and lost in ourselves but tangible actors with presence. This was very hard for some I think they had never been asked for THEIR thoughts and as students we were used to only being asked for what others thought.

Tangible actors with presence. Engaging in self-reflection and declaring our learning and our worth to the world is powerful. Forming our own opinions about ourselves is powerful. Asking ourselves the questions that enable us to dig deeper and find our hidden talents, our voices.

How do we come to feel worthy to put ourselves out there? To show what we can do? Some are confident and just blast ahead but that leaves a lot of students behind. And even confident people can hesitate when they feel less than competent. How to remove the barrier of not being “good-enough-yet” might be possible with a portfolio where a student can see their path and understand it as growth from effort?

I believe that we come to feel worthy to put ourselves out there by leaning on people who care, who believe that we all have something unique to contribute to the world. I believe that we all need to go through the “not-good-enough-yet” feeling and conquer it – not be paralyzed by it. Going through that process is an important part of your growth. We need a support system, a group of people who are willing to start the reflection process. We need other people to read us and talk to us about our reflections. That’s how we grow.

How can we start a culture of self-reflection on one’s own professional development? I guess we need to value our own answers to questions like What have you achieved so far? What are your goals? What is your vision? If we want to create a portfolio culture among our students, we first need to inspire and support teachers along the way. We need to create a sandbox for teachers to feel as learners and engage in building their own portfolios. Teachers need to experience first-hand the empowerment that comes from claiming their own growth.

Thank you, @scottx5 , for taking the time to talk to me here.

Looking forward to hearing from you, and from whoever feels they have something to say on all this! That’s how we grow.

Google Hangouts: Not Your Regular Test Validation Meeting

An important component of the assessment design cycle is validating the instruments, and to that effect we count on the group of teachers working with that particular level/course. This collective validation process used to take place in the form of a traditional meeting which took place in our school’s Main Branch, usually in a room big enough to accommodate a group of around thirty teachers (sometimes more).

I’d already been adopting some group work dynamics in order to optimize the use of time, hopefully enabling teachers to make the best of the experience of collectively analyzing the test. In a nutshell, I wanted a productive, pleasant atmosphere where not only the outspoken individuals had a go at critiquing and sharing their views. I wanted all of them to feel comfortable enough to voice their concerns and suggestions to tweak the assessment instrument at hand. Teachers worked in small groups of five to six people, appointing a spokesperson who would be in charge of communicating the group’s opinions/suggestions regarding the test.

That had been working quite well. So, it occurred to me: they worked so well within their small groups, usually sitting with fellow teachers from the same branch, who have been sharing their experiences on a regular basis. I couldn’t help but wonder if we could make the validation process even more practical. That was when I had the idea to try out Google Hangouts for Test Validation Meetings. This is how we did it.

Let’s Hangout

Teachers were asked to attend the Validation Hangout at their branches; therefore, they worked with small groups of fellow teachers with whom they connect/exchange every day. They appointed their Hangout representative/spokesperson and went about their business of analyzing the test.

Adjustments along the way

The three Hangouts we had this semester were two-hour-long events. In the first Hangout, I took the groups through the test exercise by exercise, asking them to look at one part of the test at a time. That ended up being as time consuming and noisy as a regular meeting.

After getting some feedback from them, which they gave via a Google Form Survey, we decided it would be best if I gave them about 40 minutes to work on their own first, and only then start gathering their feedback. That worked better. (That and using the mute button to lessen the noise, of course!)

However, the third time around was the best, indeed. We decided groups should be given even more time to look over the entire test before the feedback-giving stage. I gave them an entire hour, and it really paid off. The feedback stage ran more smoothly and rather fast.

Project Success

  • Convenience: teachers were free to attend the Hangout at a branch of their convenience, which most of the times meant the branch closest to their homes;
  • Capacity for collaborative self-management: teachers had to organize the analysis process themselves, preparing to report their impressions and suggestions to the Course Supervisor (yours truly) and the other branch groups in a clear and concise manner;
  • Agency and accountability: they worked hard to convey their opinions and provide pertinent suggestions, relying on the expertise of their own groups;
  • Voice: working with smaller groups of familiar faces made the more reserved people comfortable to speak their minds, something which tended not to happen with the large face-to-face traditional (very loud and somewhat messy) meetings;

And, last but not least,

  • Modeling innovation: teachers had the chance of trying out a new tool which they might find useful for other professional development opportunities.

This is an experience I would certainly like to replicate in the future, and which I would recommend other admins try out with their teaching staff.

What’s next?

Hangouts for Professional Development and innovating the adjacent possible.