Byron's Babbles

Teaching Like Angry Birds

I am not a big game player on my phone, but I love Angry Birds. I have blogged about this game twice before in The Angry Birds Effect and Angry Birds University. Just in case you aren’t familiar with Angry Birds, it’s simple: the pigs have stolen the birds’ eggs. This has made the birds angry. Therefore, they allow you to slingshot and catapult them into the pigs’ fortresses. The birds love every minute of it.

The thing that still amazes me about Angry Birds is that a person can download the game and be playing in 10 seconds. You are given small pieces at a time in a way that makes it possible to master a level in 30 seconds. In education we call this chunking. I always wonder why we can’t create learning management systems (LMS) in education the same way. Instead the first thing that has to happen with a new LMS is to take a training on how to use. With Angry Birds this is done real-time as you go.

In Angry Birds the learning is paced and is scaffolded just like in a great classroom. Once you develop foundational skills you are given new birds with different abilities. At the same time different scenarios are introduced. This is a very engaging and developmental path to mastery.

The game also has a very well structured star ⭐️ system. And remember you are able to play over and over making improvements to reach mastery. We need to operate more like this in education. Players are also able to earn badges. I love the way schools are adding badging to their e-portfolios.

Another very cool addition is that of tools that can be used. These tools include an earthquake, a scope, extra power sling shot, bombs, and more. These really teach creativity and problem solving because you only get so many. Therefore, the player must decide the right time and how best to use these limited resources.

As you can see, Angry Birds supports many learning principles and best practices. Rovio just continues to make improvements. I last blogged about Angry Birds in 2014 and this game continues to improve and be a relevant example of how to lead learning.

Advertisements

A Focus on What Is Working

The following is an excerpt from Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry by Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

A Focus on What Is Working

By Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

In a problem-based world, it is very challenging to keep a leadership focus on what is working. We believe that focusing on what is working matters as a practice that builds appreciative resilience. Leaders are bombarded by problems every day. A focus on what is working pulls them out of that mindset of problem- and deficit-based thinking to begin to see what is right and what is good inside a team or an organization. Joan worked for a president who made this a practiced part of her leadership. She started every meeting with the question “What do we have to celebrate?” As Joan and other leaders in the room shifted their mind-set to uplift the stories worth celebrating, the entire feeling in the room shifted. The thinking shifted from “We have problems” to “Yes, we have problems needing to be solved, but we also are doing some things right.” 

This particular leader had several catastrophic events occur within the organization in a short period of time. Joan always noted that she started every conversation during those very difficult times with some version of celebrating the skills of the people handling those events.

Focusing on what is working inside a team or organization builds resilience for the individuals and the group by constantly reinforcing a drive to be excellent, not because of fear, but because their successes are celebrated. Celebrating what is working is like depositing resilience into an emotional bank account for later use. This bank account helps leaders deal with uncertainty, fear, and stress. In a crisis, a leader can tell others, verbally or through action, that their jobs, livelihood, and reputation are on the line, or they can share what is working well and uplift the drive of people to repair and rebuild.

It takes a conscious and mindful effort to focus on what is working. It takes the practice of pausing and thinking through the situation from multiple perspectives and asking powerful questions. This practice is easier in hopeful times, and we suggest that these are the times to begin the practice. If leaders practice a focus on what is working in hopeful times, they will find it much easier to do when a crisis arises. It is difficult to focus on what is working in times of despair, yet it is possible if one has practiced in times of hope. As leaders move through the element or state of despair, it is very difficult not to assign blame, seek justice, dole out retribution, or withdraw. In forgiveness, one must hold what is working close to one’s leadership heart, because a focus on what is working and forgiveness are linked together. Without leaders focusing on what is working or on what is possible, forgiveness cannot happen. 

Focusing on what is working well is a practice that trains leaders to seek out the appreciative stance and, in doing so, discover what can be built on and taken into the future.

***********************************

About the authors 

Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of leadership consulting firm Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors of Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they’ll inevitably encounter and be resilient.

School Is For The Student

I am reading an incredible book right now by Roger Daltrey, the frontman of The Who. As you know, I love rock music and am so intrigued by those who have artistic talent and took the risk to make it big. And, make it big The Who did…The Who is arguably one of the most influential formative influences during the development of rock and roll 🎸. I’m only half way through the book and now I want to meet Roger Daltrey. Oh…the places he has been and the things he has done!

“If anyone had ever once sat me down and explained that school was for me, not the teachers or the system, and there were reasons why I should stick at it, it would have been totally different. But no one ever did.” ~ Roger Daltrey, frontman for The Who in his book Thanks A Lot Mr. Kibblewhite: My Story/Roger Daltrey.

This post is about a statement in the book and the reason for the title. Mr. Kibblewhite was Roger Daltrey’s Principal who kicked him out of school. So…he’s thanking him? That really made me think. But then Daltrey wrote this statement: “If anyone had ever once sat me down and explained that school was for me, not the teachers or the system, and there were reasons why I should stick at it, it would have been totally different. But no one ever did” (Daltrey, 2018, p. 21). I haven’t been able to get this statement out of my mind ever sense.

Did you catch what he said? That someone should have explained that school was for HIM, not the teachers or the system. Part of the reason no one ever sat him down and told him this, is because we forget it, or never believed it to start with. School exists for the students. Period. Not for the teachers or the system.

Schools are such complex and contested institutions in my country 🇺🇸 and globally. While every member of our society is promised a good education, there are ongoing inequalities that are fueled by race, class, and gender. Somehow, I believe education failed Roger Daltrey. Now I get that he did things that caused the expulsion – he divulged those in the book. But, again, I go back to the statement I can’t get out of my mind, “If anyone had ever once sat me down and explained that school was for me, not the teachers or the system, and there were reasons why I should stick at it, it would have been totally different. But no one ever did.” Daltrey needed to know the “why” and no one ever took the time to tell him.

Now you can argue that had he not been kicked out of school that any number of the 100 different paths that Daltrey would have taken wouldn’t have led to The Who. You are probably right, but how many other students are lost that don’t have the grit of a Roger Daltrey? For some, then, schools are seen as a means for learning and mobility; for others they are “sorting machines” that maintain social inequality. I believe we need to make sure that schools are student centered and not school system centered.

I have said it many times that many of the things we have done around holding schools accountable have forced us [schools] to make decisions in order to make the school look good without any regard to what the students need. We have it backward. If our students are successful and achieving the outcomes necessary for postsecondary success, then certainly, the school has done its job. It’s really about considering questions of relevant academic content, methods of teaching, ways of learning, and overall educational aims.

Another statement Daltrey made in the book was, “There was the maths teacher who hated me because I hated maths. I just couldn’t get it to go into my brain. I don’t know why they don’t work out which kids are good at maths and let them get on with it and which ones aren’t and give them a break. We still haven’t worked that one out today. It’s mad.” (Daltrey, 2018, p. 15). What he is really saying is why didn’t anyone ever make math real for him? Why was school work not made to be like real work. Daltrey went on to say, “Obviously it helps in life if you can add up a few numbers but I could do that. How else do you think I managed to work out how much we were being ripped off when The Who started making proper money in the 1970s?” (p. 15). Think about if math would have been taught in the context of managing a band. We must make education relevant for our students. Otherwise, we will lose them.

Our schools are effective only when we refocus on meeting the individual needs of students rather than the needs of the education system or the broader society. We must have our students ready to be a part of and function in a global economy and society. Remember, school is for the student.

Reference

Daltrey, R., 2018. Thanks a lot Mr. Kibblewhite: my story / Roger Daltrey. New York, NY. Henry Holt and Company.

That’s A Little Too Far Out There!

This past weekend, at our Carolinas 3D Leadership gathering, I was recording comments during a planning discussion for a project they were working one. It struck me that at one point they went from talking transformation to the comment, “That’s a little too far out there.” I’m thinking to myself, “Uhm…if it’s going to be transformational, it probably needs to be out there.” I’ve always believed, and I we often see this; the idea that seems crazy at first turns out to be the idea that propels the organization forward or enables the desired transformation.

As I see it, passion, purpose, and capacity are the only requirements for coming up with and participation in “way out there” ideas. And, once the freedom to try out new ideas becomes ingrained in employees’ behavior, it can spread and transform the entire culture of your organization to be nimbler and more creative.

We need to create environments where we can challenge the status quo as if no one’s judging you. If being open and willing to try out new ways of working isn’t practiced and encouraged in the culture at the top of the organization, how anyone ever have the courage to voice their ideas?

The secret to truly agile and innovative organizations is this: they encourage and invite new ideas from all levels and see leaders at every level. So, next time you have that idea that might just go too far, voice that “crazy” idea regardless of your title or level; lead from where you are!

Puzzling Leadership

As you know, the first step in putting a puzzle together is to look at the picture on the box to see what the completed puzzle will look like. As a leader, we need to have a vision (picture) of the final product, and what it is you are trying to accomplish. But, what happens when the puzzle pieces are blank and there is no picture on a box?

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to put a puzzle together if you do not know what the picture looks like. It is also difficult to be a good leader if you do not know what you are trying to accomplish. But, if there is a vision and plan the leaders can create the picture and paint the picture one puzzle piece at a time.

I witnessed this yesterday at our Carolinas gathering of our Noble Education Initiative 3D Leadership Program. Our theme for the day was “Setting The Leadership Table.” The main activity of the day involved telling the story. The only catch was that participants had to tell the story by planning and doing a luncheon telling the story of the North and South Carolina schools with the decorum, appetizers, salad, main course, and dessert. There was a budget provided and the participants had two hours to plan, go get supplies, prepare the food, decorate the room, and have their story ready for stakeholder guests to arrive for the luncheon. Here was the agenda for the day:

I loved the planning discussion that ensued. Here are phrases and things that were said that jumped out at me during the discussion:

Now, back to the puzzle metaphor. The participants decided to use a puzzle through line for the luncheon. Genius! Here’s the cool part; the same rules of making a puzzle applied to leadership and successful completion of the project. Here are the steps:

Step #1-Have a vision, know what you want to accomplish

Step #2-Get to know your group members. Interestingly, we talked about this in our “what did you learn” time afterward. It was discussed that the event would not have been near as successful back in January when the group came together for the first time.

Step #3-Identify leadership qualities you will need to be an effective leader

Step #4-Follow the guidelines

Step #5-Understand your importance, where you fit, and what you have to offer. This was a topic many reflected on following the luncheon.

So, here’s the deal: everyone had responsibilities and had to complete a puzzle piece and write the story for their school’s part of “Team Carolina.” I also was asked to complete a piece of the puzzle representing Noble Education Initiative’s (NEI) role in the puzzle of support for the Carolinas.

What we found was that creating the puzzle pieces for our puzzle used the same leadership principles needed for forming an effective team. When forming a group of individuals into a team, you must first figure out the following:

  • Strengths, What are the individual strengths of each one? How can the strength of one, build up the weakness of another?
  • Shape, What does each individual bring to the table as far as expertise and knowledge? Just like a puzzle piece each one will have something to share to the greater picture or vision your trying to create.
  • Edges, Which individuals define the shape and scope of your vision? There will be some that will have definitive edges that will build the foundation of your team, therefore making the picture clearer to all who view it.
  • Odd shapes, Which individuals appear, at first , not to fit into the picture? There will be those that don’t look like they are going to fit or add value to our vision or picture. Sometimes, these are the very pieces that end up truly fitting in and adding a lot of value to the team, making the overall picture clearer.

As I watched the participants put their pieces together and tell their school’s story, they did a great job of keeping the overall picture in view. So many times we lose focus on the overall picture and what do we do? We start to panic and cram pieces together. This is when we are no longer leading but are dictating and mission creep begins to take over. Or even worse, we begin to lose puzzle pieces, and we all know what’s it’s like to put a puzzle together with missing pieces.

The beautiful thing is, that when we do get all the pieces together we have created a beautiful picture, a real team (not just a bunch of individuals), and a true network of schools. How is your organization’s puzzle coming together?

“Big Boy” Leadership

This week I went to Nashville, Tennessee with a group of great colleagues from Noble Education Initiative to put on a day of professional development for Trevecca Nazarene University. The day was amazing, and there was some great learning that went on. Really it comes down to being student centric – whether that student is a college pre-service teacher or a pk-k-12 student in our schools. We must deliver our best each and every day.

Our professional development covered the topics of “A Day In The Life Of Our Indy Schools,” Social Emotional Learning, Restorative Justice, and our Eight Step Process for Continuous Academic Improvement. Plus, we started the day with Mr.& Mrs. Potato Heads and participants making their Potato Heads answering the question: what does education look like on you? At the end of the day, participants had the opportunity to reflect and change their potato head answering the statement: now I look like this. Here is the agenda we used for the day:

On the way down to Nashville we saw signs for Frisch’s Big Boy. Since all six of us seemed to have some affinity or fond memories of going to Frisch’s Big Boy, it was decided that is where we would eat on the way home. Needless to say, I was excited because there is just no better hamburger than the Super Big Boy.

On the way home it became quite fun searching for our Big Boy location. Of course, I became “Big Boy” because I am a “Big Boy.” And…I couldn’t wait to get my picture taken with the iconic Frisch’s Big Boy. In fact, the group was so kind to buy me one of the “Big Boy” banks. It is now a treasured item on my desk.

Then I got to thinking about the principles and core values that guided Dave Frisch, the founder of Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants. He founded on the idea of great food, a great work environment that was fun for employees, and a place of integrity. Who could argue with this?

As I did a little Big Boy studying. I found that Frisch’s Restaurants, Inc. use the value of being “Guest Centric.” Being in the field of education this was interesting to me because we use the term “Student Centered” a lot. I like the “guest centric” terminology better, however, because it refers to internal and external guests. The internal guests are employees. Frisch’s wants to provide its best service and support to its employees. I’ve always said in education we need put teachers first so we can put students first. I love that Frisch’s says, “We will be our best every time by delivering our best and being guest centric to our internal and external customers.” I believe this speaks to empowerment, engagement, and professional growth and development of staff, regardless of the industry we are in.

Frisch’s also has a core value of treating everyone as family (employees and customers), too. Their restaurants have a very diverse workforce and customer base. Frisch’s supports each team member through teamwork, coaching and development, fair treatment, and mutual respect.

Do you practice “Big Boy” leadership?

Leading With Clarity

Clarity First: How Smart Leaders and Organizations Achieve Outstanding PerformanceClarity First: How Smart Leaders and Organizations Achieve Outstanding Performance by Karen Martin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Clarity is so important in today’s world where we need to be constantly changing, resisting the status quo, and having agility for meeting our stakeholders’ needs. This book teaches us that clarity requires a highly focused effort for a person to give clarity to others in the form of clear communication. This clarity must also be seen in the living of the vision, mission, and core values of the organization. Clarity is also explained In this book as something you receive from others when they communicate clearly with you. I have said many times that, as leaders, we can’t always give certainty, but we must always provide clarity. This great book shows us the way to providing this clarity.

View all my reviews

Teacher Leadership

IMG_3896This week I had the chance to do a couple of sessions on Teacher Leadership at the Impact CSUSA 2020 Conference that Noble Education Initiative put on. In the session we discussed creating a shared leadership model and engagement pipeline. I even did a plate spinning show to represent how hard it is to spin all the plates we need to as leaders. If we empower teacher leaders, we can spread out the load and keep all the plates spinning. We must create a supportive community where everyone helps to spin the plates. By the way, I can only keep three going at once, but brought others up and we were able to have all six plates that I have going at once. Another one of my metaphors!

IMG_3891First, let’s start by answering the question, “What is teacher leadership?”Here’s the definition I have always liked: “Teacher leadership is the process by which teachers, individually or collectively; influence their colleagues, principals, and other members of the school community to improve teaching and learning practices with the aim of increased student learning and achievement.” (York-Barr & Duke, 2004, p. 287) During the workshop, participants came up with a list of teacher leadership roles. Here is there list:IMG_3884I also laid out a seven step process for growing teacher leaders:

  1. Realize teacher leadership is essential
  2. Recognize teacher leadership as a teachable skill
  3. Recruit teachers to become teacher leaders
  4. Build leadership capabilities among teachers
  5. Nurture leadership qualities in teachers
  6. Empower teacher leaders
  7. Provide ongoing professional growth opportunities for teacher leaders

Of course it wouldn’t be a session by me without there being model making, innovation, creativity, and creations. First, I asked the question, “Why is building a great teacher leadership pipeline more like chess than checkers?” We had a great discussion in both sessions about this. We discussed how in checkers there are very limited moves and you can’t the checkers cannot be promoted until they reach the other side of the board – we believe everyone should lead from where they are. We discussed how chess is about strategy and a longer term overall play. I’m sure you get the idea.

I broke the participants into groups of four or five, gave them a chess board, pipe cleaners of all sizes, colors, and even with glitter, glue sticks, masking tape, little eyes, fuzzy balls of all sizes, and straws. I then told them that there objective was to replace the traditional chess pieces with ones that represented the ideal chess game for building an amazing pipeline of teacher leaders. I’ve got to tell you, it was amazing to watch them. Even more amazing were the descriptions of the chess pieces and and the discussion. Following are pictures of some of the games created:IMG_3892

IMG_3894

IMG_3895

Finally, we created a list of attributes for effectively developing teacher leaders. Here’s our list:

  • Results-driven
  • Standards-based
  • Job-embedded
  • Differentiated
  • Linked to learning needs (student and teacher)
  • Collaborative in nature
  • Sustained over time
  • Discipline-focused/Content rich
  • Reflective
  • Evaluated

How are you doing at developing your teacher leaders?