Mick’s Mixed up Observations

This week’s blog is going to be a mixed bag of observations from the last week:

1) I have recently found myself spending an inordinate amount of time trying to be engaged in my digital community – I feel I owe it to the group to be involved, to share, to trust, but mostly to contribute…but how does this work? What is my responsibility?

Can I simply take from the group…the last two #eci831 classes I have been keenly interested in the recurring theme of community with Dr. Richard Schwier and Shelly Terrell.  I want to believe that any group of people that share ideas and knowledge (not to mention common interest and passion) essentially become a community – digital or otherwise. While the class readily shares ideas and knowledge through their blogs I wonder what I contribute to the group if I don’t blog as much as I would like or respond to more blogs in comments. Is this being a bad digital citizen? Perhaps, like the real word people give to the group when they can and take from the group as they need. Socialism in a digital world – I think I like it.

2) The second point I would like to examine is a reflection on a short but poignant blog written by Seth Godin examining the idea of self motivation:

“The rear view mirror is one of the most effective motivational tools ever created.

(This photo is my dog Bisou in my rearview mirror)

There’s no doubt that many people speed up in the face of competition. We ask, “how’d the rest of the class do?” We listen for someone breathing down our necks. And we discover that competition sometimes brings out our best…

If you’re going to count on the competition to bring out your best work, you’ve surrendered control over your most important asset. Real achievement comes from racing ahead when no one else sees a path–and holding back when the rush isn’t going where you want to go.

If you’re dependent on competition then you’re counting on the quality of those that show up to determine how well you’ll do. Worse, you’ve signed up for a career of faux death matches as the only way to do your best work.

Self motivation is and always will be the most important form of motivation. Driving with your eyes on the rear view mirror is exhausting. It’s easier than ever to measure your performance against others, but if it’s not helping you with your mission, stop.”

I guess this ties into observation #1 whereby I must determine what my meaningful contributions can be. I need to own my learning and drive myself to figure out what is important for me. I do know that I continue to work at finding balance in my personal and professional lives but I am motivated to figure this out – whatever that looks like.

If you don’t read Seth’s blog I would suggest you follow it – I don’t read it everyday but I know that when I go there I will likely find something meaningful and thought provoking. I am uncertain who in the class suggested Godin’s blog in one of there posts – but I am certainly thankful for the reference.

3) I have found myself wondering about the connection between this class and my own professional practice. As a new administrator, I am trying to be reflective and figure out what it is that I can do to make the situation I am in better for students, teachers, and myself (on top of trying to figure out what exactly my job is). One of the issues that I feel myself coming back to – is the idea of creating situations where creativity is key in problem solving. After all, I do believe that individually I have thoughts but together we have answers.

Last week on Connected Principals George Aungst contributed a blog entry that was centered around the idea of helping teachers and students become more creative. His six key points were:

  • Plant the seed. Instead of a vague “be creative,” tell someone, “give me an idea that only you could come up with.” According to Marc Runco of the University of Georgia, this simple switch in directions can double the student’s creative output.
  • Make it messy. Creativity is squashed when people feel like they are looking for one right answer. For students, give them problems that have multiple solutions. Even better, give them problems with no clear solution. Mucking around in the problem solving process can free up creative thinking. With teachers, avoid predefining too many of the boundaries, and create situations where problems are left hanging instead of always coming to a conclusion.
  • Never accept the first answer. Even if (or especially if) someone gives you the response you were expecting, say “Can anyone think of another answer?” or “Is there another way to do that?” It sets an expectation that one answer, even if it works, isn’t the end of the process but just the beginning.
  • Teach creativity techniques. We often think of creativity as some sort of ethereal aura that some people have and some people don’t. In fact creativity is a skill and a process. It takes work and it can be taught. Techniques like SCAMPER can give people a concrete handle on something that can seem abstract and complicated.
  • Reverse the roles. Instead of giving an assignment to students, ask them to tell you what they would do if they were the teacher. “What would you ask the class to do to show they understood this unit?” Share the best ideas with the class and let them pick their assignment. This can work for adults as well: “If you were in my place, what would be your priorities?”
  • Get out. Changing the perspective can change students’ thinking. Hold a class, an inservice program, or a faculty meeting in the cafeteria, or the auditorium, or the football stadium. Or in a living room, on the sidewalk, or in an amusement park. Rearrange your classroom, your schedule, or your agenda.

My plan in the coming weeks is to try and use a few of these as I interact with staff and students and work with them to solve problems…

Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept by lumaxart, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  lumaxart 
4) In a George Siemens tweet this week I was linked to a Tech Therapy discussion where George discussed MOOCs and the future of education. George discussed many ideas that we have touched on in this class and that I am becoming more open too. The hosts however, were very critical of many of these ideas and it made me think once again about how hard it is to affect change in the world of education. Again, change is hard in a world run by people who have been successful in a traditional form of education. Often begging the question, aloud or otherwise, why fix something that is not seen as broken?
What have I done!? by miguelavg, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  miguelavg 
5) At the risk of seeming sappy, I was moved by a couple of things last week. First, “the other brother” George Couros posted on his blog “The Prinicpal of Change” about a presentation he and Alec did in Calgary and the need to give students the space to inspire us. His reference to the class project in “Pay it Forward,”
although fictional, also reminds me of the power of student creativity (see idea #3) and how important it is to provide opportunities for students to “wow” us and their classmates.
The second thing that moved me happened in my job. One of my co-workers shared a TED talk with us entitled “You Matter” that reminded me of how important the little things that we do matter to those around us. She also put up a large mirror with the words “You Matter” on the top – in a spot where many students and staff alike stop to look in the mirror and see the message that they do indeed MATTER.
You matter too – make a difference to someone today! 🙂
RIP Steve Jobs – a creative genius…

About mickpanko

New HS vice-principal...trying to figure it all out. I would like to wax poetic but it is more like leg waxing - I think.
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20 Responses to Mick’s Mixed up Observations

  1. Blognasium says:

    Hey buddy. You are right! Reading your post is much better than the Rider game. I will say one thing about posting. I am of the belief that you shouldn’t feel that you need to post. By commenting and reading others posts, you are contributing big time to the learning. I think there are too many posts and blogs that are ‘reaching’. Loved the video on You Matter. I also can relate to ‘Make it Messy’. Sometimes we are content with just going through the motions. Thanks for helping me think Mick.


  2. mickpanko says:

    Many thanks for the feedback and being a part of my digital “community”
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Really enjoyed this post and I think this is a great way to push your own blogging and openly share your learning. I think that it took me awhile before I started blogging, but that did not mean I wasn’t contributing, I was just doing it in a different way. I think that before I started becoming comfortable with blogging, I had to continuously read what others said and learn from them. I think Alec even has a blog 😛

    I think if I could say anything it would be, “learn and share”. The learning is important and you know that, but the sharing is just as important as an instructional leader. When you ask teachers to get better in their roles, it is much easier when you doing the same thing is visible. You will also find that the practice of sharing will come back to you tenfold, no matter how much you do it. It really is amazing.

    Thanks for the mention!

    • mickpanko says:

      Thanks for your time and words George…I am finding it difficult to find new and experienced school based admin to follow so I really appreciate your blog and Connected Principal as well as the #cpchat you tagged in your retweet. Keep up your good work it is appreciated by many – myself included.

  4. mcfarla says:

    Great observations Mick! I have found myself making a number of these observations lately as well. I especially like the quote:
    “If you’re going to count on the competition to bring out your best work, you’ve surrendered control over your most important asset. Real achievement comes from racing ahead when no one else sees a path–and holding back when the rush isn’t going where you want to go.”

    We often find ourselves competing and comparing with others when instead of competing we should be sharing and collaborating to help foster our own growth and the growth of those that we share and collaborate with.

    Thanks for this great post!

    • mickpanko says:

      “We often find ourselves competing and comparing with others when instead of competing we should be sharing and collaborating to help foster our own growth and the growth of those that we share and collaborate with.”
      Part of being a great TEAM is understanding that Together Everyone Achieves More.

  5. Besides the content piece that you have here, I really want to say that you’re really starting to ‘get’ blogging – your tone, you visual aspects, the weaving together of multiple sources & thoughts, and the hyperlinked aspect. It’s great to see these aspects improve as I hope that you find blogging something important for you and your students/staff as you move along through the course and beyond.

    • mickpanko says:

      Wow – comments from both of the brother Couros – lucky…I am finding the blogging a great way to gather my thoughts and reflections in one place. I need to figure out, how in my new role, I can use blogging to benefit all.

  6. sjphipps says:

    Also loved the post. The line that struck me the most was :Real achievement comes from racing ahead when no one else sees a path–and holding back when the rush isn’t going where you want to go. I have a very competitive group of young people with whom I work and they are constantly worried about what everyone else is doing. I struggle with how to instill the values of hard work, personal success, and achievement as a PERSONAL value. Doing the best you can for you and no one else. Especially when there are so many pressures from outside sources. This type of intrinsic motivation is really hard to teach. I think I even struggle with it more so with my own children! If only there was an instruction manual for best practice!

    • mickpanko says:

      The debate of intrinsic motivators versus extrinsic is an interesting one…obviously we all need motivators and each one works in different circumstances.

      I also love the idea of competition because, like it or not, our world works around competition – we compete for many things in life and denying that is a dangerous thing for our students…they need to understand competition and how it impacts, or can anyway, the many things that they do everyday!

  7. I really enjoy the open and honest nature of your blogs as well as the technical aspects. You can really see the connections that you are making to other readings/blogs/tweets to our speakers as well as to your own personal and professional life. You have certainly done a fantastic job of inviting the rest of us in to your journey and that, I believe, is integral to creating an online community.

  8. Thanks for sharing all of these thoughts, Mick. I’ll limit my comment to your question about how much to contribute. I think the concept of community we’ve been exploring in class is an important one. In the physical world, it is important for people to contribute as much as they can. For some, for whatever reason, it might be huge — tons of volunteer work, giving it all in their job, etc. For others, for their own reasons, they might have less to give sometimes. And that should be OK. Maybe they start out smiling at a neighbour, or, in the digital world, posting a brief comment on a blog that just says “I liked your post”. Maybe later they’ll be more comfortable offering more. Or not. It takes all kinds of folks to build a community, and easing off the pressure might help people get involved, even just a little bit more. The requirements might be a little different here because we are getting graded, but in the outside world at least, I think we should go easy on the “lurkers” and let them know we’re glad they’re here and hope they will one day feel comfortable to post a comment and say “hi”.

  9. proch20j says:

    Great post. I know where you are coming from with the whole “what do I contribute to the group” and the idea of being a “bad digital citizen.” I can’t help but look at other’s blogs and tweets and think at times if what I contribute is significant at all, especially as a beginner blogger/contributor. The part taken from Seth Godin’s blog fit perfect with where I think a lot of educators are at times, including me. Just like our tweets the other day, teachers are constantly planning and it takes a while to find that motivation to keep going. I love that after reading a piece about self motivation I get another chunk of it in video form! The You matters video was a great way to end the post. I grabbed at a little bit of everything because I wanted to comment on the things I learned! One of my favourite things to do is read something and really take something from it.

  10. Pingback: Needed some motivation- It came at the right time | Proch20j's Blog

  11. tmemann says:

    Mick, thank you for this post! I really appreciate the 6 key points for creativity. I have already put them in Evernote so I have them to share with others. I see such value in these points being incorporated into how staff meetings and PD Days are structured with teachers. I often find we get messy and creative when working with our students but as adults we often don’t have the same opportunities. I think it ties nicely with the AMAZING “You Matter” video (I will be sharing that with many people-thank you!)) as I think when we are asked to give ideas, input, reverse the roles we fell like we matter, our ideas matter and our role in the process matters. Thank you for sharing such positive messages and reminders! You matter 🙂

  12. kreuj says:

    I am definitely going to start to read Seth Godin, as I’ve heard that name a couple of times.
    I echo Alec’s comments about your “getting” blogging. Although I don’t think I’m there yet, I recognize it when I see it! Great job!

  13. Pingback: I share therefore I am… | isitalladream

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