My Digital Footprint Stinks!

I was lucky enough to be in Mumbai a few weeks ago for ASB Unplugged, which is a conference held at the American School of Bombay.  It was truly eye-opening.  I had to keep reminding myself that this isn’t everyday school life; it’s a showcase of the many really cool things that happen at this school.

Anyway, my point is not going to be about what their teachers are doing or what their kids are learning, I’ll save that for another time- this is going to be all about me!

What have I been doing the last 13 years?  Clearly I have not been thinking of my digital contribution to the world.  Considering I have practically mastered a Samsung S-III, an iPhone 5, and my shiny new Mac Air- all in the last year, I thought I was pretty tech-savvy.  Oh, and let me brag even more about my 500+ Facebook friends.  They “like” me, “share” with me, and comment on my family photos.  Then there’s Pinterest.  It took me some time before I drank that Kool-Aid, but now I have “boards” that will one day help me cook better, lose weight, and inspire me.

Although all of this sounds pretty amazing, let me be the first to say, my digital footprint is broken.  It needs work.  Who knows what could be next for my family?  When my name is “googled,” there should be tweets, websites, blogs, articles, and images of this girl!

Starting now, let’s see how I can improve my digital footprint.  I am already @ginnyinsaudi and now I’m LinkedIn.  I’ve also started a family website: – be kind, it’s a work in progress.

All of these are still pretty new to me.  I will accept any advice on how to use them more effectively.

If you have any other suggestions, bring them on.

Ok, that’s enough about me… for now.

Courageous or Troublemaker?

It takes courage to stand up to absurdity when all around you people remain comfortably seated. But if we need one more reason to do the right thing, consider this: The kids are watching us, deciding how to live their lives in part by how we’ve chosen to live ours. – Alfie Kohn

One of the best parts of my job is talking with teachers.  I am a sucker for professional conversation- especially when it includes discussion of big, bold ideas.

However, I sometimes have teachers come to me feeling defeated.  They have lost their spark, their passion.  On occasion they tell me that it’s not worth the fight.  They’re just going to do what they were hired for… not go out of their way to try to make a difference or be heard… it just gets them in trouble.  They see other teachers who show up, teach kids, and go home.  They aren’t interested in equity or impacting change.  They just do their job and don’t complain.  – Of course I’m summarizing their words with as little exaggeration as possible, I hope.

In Alfie Kohn’s commentary from Education Week, Encouraging Educator Courage, he concludes with the previous introductory quote.  Within the article, he applauds the teachers who bucked the system- not because they were trying to cause problems, but because they were standing up for what they believed in.  He also tells of the courage of a teacher who insisted that her students “think for themselves, the teacher may be wrong.”

When I think back over my years, I can remember instances of courage and capitulation.  I hope that my students remember me as a person who stood up for them, stood up for myself, and owned the many mistakes I made.

The article is worth your time and thoughts.

Be Courageous!

It’s Not Just about the Laptops


I am currently enrolled in my first MOOC, through NC State, called Digital Learning Transition.  If you don’t know what a MOOC is… I won’t tell you.  Look it up, learn about it, sign up for one.

Each of the 8 weeks, we are given units of study.  These units include videos to watch, articles to read, goals to pursue.  The link above was one such article.  I was excited by what the Mooresville, NC School District has taken on.

Now, instead of summarizing the article, I am going to paste the key statements (in my opinion).  Although, I highly suggest going to the link, reading the article, and perusing the comments- which are very interesting.

Points of Interest:

“This is not about the technology,” Mark Edwards, superintendent of Mooresville Graded School District, would tell the visitors later over lunch. “It’s not about the box. It’s about changing the culture of instruction — preparing students for their future, not our past.”

Sixty-five jobs were eliminated, including 37 teachers, which resulted in larger class sizes — in middle schools, it is 30 instead of 18 — but district officials say they can be more efficiently managed because of the technology. Some costly items had become obsolete (like computer labs), though getting rid of others tested the willingness of teachers to embrace the new day: who needs globes in the age of Google Earth?

Mooresville’s laptops perform the same tasks as those in hundreds of other districts: they correct worksheets, assemble progress data for teachers, allow for compelling multimedia lessons, and let students work at their own pace or in groups, rather than all listening to one teacher. The difference, teachers and administrators here said, is that they value computers not for the newest content they can deliver, but for how they tap into the oldest of student emotions — curiosity, boredom, embarrassment, angst — and help educators deliver what only people can.

Many classrooms have moved from lecture to lattice, where students collaborate in small groups with the teacher swooping in for consultation. Rather than tell her 11th-grade English students the definition of transcendentalism one recent day, Katheryn Higgins had them crowd-source their own — quite Thoreauly, it turned out — using Google Docs. Back in September, Ms. Higgins had the more outgoing students make presentations on the Declaration of Independence, while shy ones discussed it in an online chat room, which she monitored.

In math, students used individualized software modules, with teachers stopping by occasionally to answer questions. (“It’s like having a personal tutor,” said Ethan Jones, the fifth grader zooming toward sixth-grade material.) Teachers apportion their time based on the need of students, without the weaker ones having to struggle at the blackboard in front of the class; this dynamic has helped children with learning disabilities to participate and succeed in mainstream classes.

Many students adapted to the overhaul more easily than their teachers, some of whom resented having beloved tools — scripted lectures, printed textbooks and a predictable flow through the curriculum — vanish. The layoffs in 2009 and 2010, of about 10 percent of the district’s teachers, helped weed out the most reluctant, Mr. Edwards said; others he was able to convince that the technology would actually allow for more personal and enjoyable interaction with students.

“You have to trust kids more than you’ve ever trusted them,” he said. “Your teachers have to be willing to give up control.”

“There’s a tendency in teaching to try to control things, like a parent,” said Scott Allen, a high school chemistry teacher in South Granville, N.C. “But I learn best at my own pace, and you have to realize that students learn best at their own pace, too.”

Of course, not everything is running smoothly in Mooresville, which you can read in the article.  I, however, am focusing on what is going well.

What do you think?  Let’s talk about it.


Standards-based Reporting- Parents Just Don’t Understand

It seems like a no-brainer to me… students should be graded on achievement, not effort.  However, every time I read about schools introducing Standards-based Grading to their parent community, the backlash is loud and clear… and very negative.

Take a look at this article out of Milwaukee, then read all of the comments.

First of all, I would like Arrty to speak with our teacher/parent community- he is so passionate (and refreshingly blunt).

Parents need to understand this necessary shift in education.  The only way to get their understanding and support is through communication.  This communication must not begin once the school, or district, has made up its mind- Parents need to be part of the process.

Oh, wait, I’m jumping the gun… the teachers also need to understand this shift in order to support it.  They must understand how to assess learning, as well as behaviors – but separately.  They must be able to support their grading practices.  They must use meaningful feedback on formative assessments so students learn more (and better)- and then use the data from the formative assessments to direct their teaching.  Therefore, teachers need to be part of the process.

Without the understanding and support of teachers and parents, this will be an unfortunate failure.  Then we will be back to teaching for yesterday instead of tomorrow.

This is more than a shift, this is 21st Century Learning.

Who’s on the bus?

Not Your Grandma’s Day at School

It is fascinating to think of where education, or schooling, will go next. We certainly can’t keep doing what we’re doing now- that would be a disservice to the children and the world. Our focus must be on learning for the future, instead of teaching for today.

Our Senior Administrators watched this video last week and I have gone back to it almost daily since then.

Here are a few of my questions:

1. How can a village of non-English speaking children learn higher level science written in English from one computer in 3 months, but my children are still struggling with those darn times tables?

2. If we could make some big changes, to help our students become better learners for the future, what would they be?

3. Or, better yet, are there any small changes that teachers can make tomorrow to help students be better learners?

Watch the video- it’s definitely worth the 20 minutes.

Please comment, I’m getting lonely talking to myself 🙂

Ripe for Disruption

No Child Left Untableted

Have you read the article above from the NY Times? If not, click and read the blue title above(the comments are also interesting). Then let me know what you think.

We are in the beginning stages of positive disruption, at least I hope we are.  As our administrators begin to work toward a plan to jump into the 21st (or 22nd) Century, these are the issues I believe we need to think about:
1. All teachers are not tech wizards and learn at different rates and abilities (just like our students). However, they must be willing to learn.
2. We cannot always control what students are doing with their tablets/laptops during school hours or study time.
3. Parents may need just as much professional development as the teachers.
4. We must not overvalue technology and undervalue people.
5. This will take time, consideration, and collaboration.

Great by Choice- My Notes

Great by Choice- Notes

1. Thriving in Uncertainty
a. Here is the question- Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?
b. The companies who were studies were referred to 10Xers- they thrived, rather than just got by.
c. The research shattered these deeply entrenched myths:
i. Successful leaders in a turbulent world are bold, risk-seeking visionaries
ii. Innovation distinguished 10Xers in a fast-moving, uncertain and chaotic world
iii. A threat-filled world favors the speedy; be quick or be dead
iv. Radical change on the outside requires radical change on the inside
v. 10Xers have a lot more good luck

2. 10Xers

a. They accept full responsibility for their own fate
b. They share the following traits:
i. Fanatic discipline (to stay on track)
ii. Empirical creativity (to keep them vibrant)
iii. Productive paranoia (to keep them alive)
iv. Level 5 ambition (for inspired motivation)

c. Fanatic Discipline is consistency of action- consistency with values, long-term goals, performance standards, methods, and consistency over time
d. Empirical Creativity is relying upon direct observation, conducting practical experiments and/or engaging with evidence rather than relying on opinion, whim, conventional wisdom, authority or untested ideas.
e. Productive Paranoia means staying hyper-vigilant in good times and bad and staying prepared.
f. Level 5 Ambition means ambitious for a purpose beyond yourself.

3. 20 Mile March
a. A good 20 Mile March has seven characteristics:
i. Clear performance markers
ii. Self-imposed constraints
iii. Appropriate to the specific enterprise
iv. Largely within the company’s control to achieve
v. A proper timeframe- long enough to manage, yet short enough to have teeth
vi. Imposed by the company upon itself
vii. Achieved with high consistency

4. Fire Bullets, then Cannonballs
a. A bullet is a low-cost, low-risk, and low-distraction test or experiment.
b. 10Xers use bullets to empirically validate what will actually work.
c. Based on that data, they then concentrate their resources to fire a cannonball, for larger returns from concentrated bets.

5. Leading Above the Death Line
a. I got the Everest analogy, but my aha moment in this chapter was on page 110- the table entitled Speed and Outcomes. This made sense to me.
b. Rapid change does not call for abandoning disciplined thought and disciplined action. It calls for upping the intensity to zoom out for fast yet rigorous decision-making and zoom in for fast yet superb execution.
c. Found that 10Xers took less risk than the comparison cases yet produced vastly superior results.
d. Found that 10Xers obsessed about what could go wrong- worst case scenario.

6. SMaC
a. Specific, Methodical, and Consistent.
b. A SMaC recipe is a set of durable operating practices that create a replicable and consistent success formula; it is clear and concrete, gives clear guidelines of what to do and not to do.
c. Page 126-127- great example of SMaC recipe by Southwest Airlines
d. Far more difficult than implementing change is figuring out what works, understanding why it works, grasping when to change, and knowing when not to.

7. Return on Luck
a. Found that 10Xers were no more lucky or unlucky than the comparison cases.
b. The critical question is not “Are you lucky? but “Do you get a high return on luck (good and bad)?”

*Who Luck- the luck of finding the right mentor, partner, teammate, leader, friend- is one of the most important types of luck. The best way to find a current of good luck is to swim with great people, and to build deep and enduring relationships with people for whom you’d risk your life and who’d risk their lives for you.

Good to Great- A Synopsis

1.Level 5 Leaders
a. An individual who is very humble on a personal level, but who possesses a great deal of drive and desire to succeed, where “success’ is not personal, but defined by creating something great that will outlast their time at the helm.

2.First Who… Then What
a. First and foremost, do we have the right people “on the bus”?
b. “Great” companies have a very solid foundation, and don’t depend on the brilliance of any one person.
c. “Great” companies are “tough” places to work because of the general high-quality and hard-working mindset.
d. Quotes from the book…
i. Don’t hire someone unless you’re 100% sure that they are the right person. It’s better to wait and get someone that you know is a good fit.
ii. Once you realize you need to fire someone, don’t put it off. Do it quickly and fairly, but do it and be done with it, rather than put it off.
iii. Give good people good opportunities, rather than the biggest problems. Fixing problems makes you good, but taking advantage of the right opportunities can make you great.
e. Good to great teams had a good sense of balance with the rest of their lives- family, church, and so on.

3.Confront the Brutal Facts-
a. If people aren’t telling it like it is, those at the top may not realize the truth until too late. Here are some tips:
i. It’s often better to ask questions rather than dispense “answers.”
ii. Encourage healthy debate. It has to be real debate, not a show put on to make people feel included. It should also not just be an argument for the sake of argument- reach a conclusion and move on.
iii. When things go wrong, investigate to avoid repeating the mistake, instead of assigning blame. If people are too worried about protecting themselves, it becomes difficult to honestly analyze and learn from failures.
iv. Create mechanisms, “red flags” that allow people to communicate problems instantly and without repercussions, and in a way that cannot be ignored.

4.The Hedgehog Concept-
a. Refers to the parable of a hedgehog and a fox. The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. Good to great companies were built by hedgehogs.
b. They were able to focus on one big important thing that made their companies great.
c. The “three circles” idea is how you find your hedgehog concept; these three interlocking circles represent:
i. What you are passionate about,
ii. What you can make money at, and
iii. What you can be the best at.
d. Avoid the things you will never be best at! (I know, horrible grammar)
e. Passion does not come from executive rah-rah sessions with employees, but by doing things that make people passionate on their own.

5.Culture of Discipline-
a. Great companies have both the entrepreneurial spirit and a sense of discipline.
b. Without the drive to try new things, and some degree of independence, a company becomes a rigid, stifling hierarchy.
c. Stop doing things that are just clutter, even if they seem important, if they are not in your three circles.

a. “Great companies adapt and endure” – technology is not a differentiator in and of itself, but rather something that enhances great companies.
b. They don’t rush to embrace it for the sake of its newness.
c. Judicious use of technology can help accelerate momentum- but won’t light a fire where there is none.
d. Technology as a reaction- to the latest fashion, to the competition- was not found at great companies.
e. These companies possess a drive all their own that pushes them to be the best in their field, and picking the right technology is a natural part of that.

7.The Flywheel and Doom Loop-
a. These 2 concepts represent positive and negative momentum.
b. The Flywheel is a steady momentum, not quick acceleration, that uses its stored energy to keep it moving in the right direction.
c. The Doom Loop is a vicious circle that moves quickly in one direction, then quickly in another, in the hope of creating a sudden, sharp break with the past that will propel them to success.
d. The differences between the 2 approaches is characterized by the slow, steady, methodical preparation inherent in the flywheel, as compared to the abrupt, radical, and often revolutionary, rather than evolutionary changes within a company.

*Because it’s not really that much harder to be great than good, and if you’re not motivated to greatness, perhaps you should consider doing something else where you are.

Agree? Disagree? Who would like to start the discussion?

Hopefully Helpful Notes – Death by Meeting

Death by Meeting – notes

1. Meetings are what leaders do, and the solution to bad meetings is not the elimination of them, but rather the transformation of them into meaningful, engaging, and relevant activities.

2. The key to improving meetings has nothing to do with better preparation, agendas, or minutes.
a.Meetings need drama
b.Meetings need context and purpose

3. Leaders need to put the right issues on the table at the beginning of their meetings. (these are often the most controversial ones)

4. Leaders need to make it clear to team members why the meeting is taking place and what is expected of them.

5. Keep it simple; less is more- mentality.

6. Four distinct meetings on a regular basis:
a.The Daily Check-in- no more than 5-10 minutes. Keeps team members aligned and to provide a daily forum for activity updates and scheduling.
b.The Weekly Tactical- (like a staff meeting) about an hour long and should focus on the discussion and resolution of issues which effect near term objectives. Best with no pre-set agenda. Instead, the team reviews priorities and decide what to discuss. The key is having the discipline to identify and postpone the discussion of more strategic topics.
c. The Monthly Strategic- appropriate place for big topics, those that have long-term impact. Participants can brainstorm, debate, present ideas and wrestle with one another in pursuit of the optimal long-term solution. Each meeting should include no more than 1-2 topics with roughly 2 hours for each topic.
d.The Quarterly Off-Site Review- a reassessment of a variety of issues: the interpersonal performance of the team, the company’s strategy, the performance of the top-tier and bottom-tier employees, morale, competitive threats, and industry trends.

Death by Meeting part 2

The final part of The Fable includes the genius ideas of Will and how he introduced them to Casey’s executives. To summarize, he came up with 4 meeting types:
Daily Check-in
Weekly Tactical
Monthly Strategic
Quarterly Off-Site Review

Personally, I like the idea of the daily check-in. It would keep me focused as well as help me know what others are working on.

The next part of the book is The Model… which means the storytelling is over 😦

My mother-in-law arrives tomorrow, I will try to update when possible.

Have a great week,