Holt Think: Ed, Creativity, Tech, Administration

Jul 7

Five Characteristics of Innovative Organizations

I enjoy reading the thoughts of George Couros. If you are not reading his blog you need to, especially if you are a campus administrator. In this article (click on the title to go to his article), he lists the five characteristics he thinks define an “Innovative Organization:”

They include:

  • Promotion and modeling of risk-taking
  • Competitive-Collaboration.
  • Proud of where we are, but know we have a way to go
  • The focus on sharing
  • Relationships, relationships, relationships

While this is a good starting list, I think that there are a few he might have missed. For instance, I think that innovative organizations have the ability to look at trends and adjust or modify their organization to match the trends. Perhaps this could be called “Forward Thinking.”

I think innovative organizations, as he says take risks, but I also think that they “fail with a purpose" where organizations learn form failure. I also think that most non innovative organizations quickly dismiss or forget failures. Innovative ones will remember what they used, and perhaps revisit the failure. Sometimes, failure happens because the idea was ahead of its time. Holding on the idea of being able to try something again even after it failed the first time is powerful.

Innovative organizations steal. I don’t mean they literally steal, but they can see what others do and adapt those things to meet their needs. The book “Steal Like an Artist" by Austin Kleon is all about that.

What are some things that you think innovate schools or organizations do?

Add to the list!

How Not to Attract Women to Coding

Seems to me that these folks should be required to read Daniel Pink’s “Drive” before they try to of any type of gender outreach. What drives girls is different than what drives boys.

From the article:
Wheat had discovered what Elizabeth Losh, a digital culture scholar at UC San Diego, calls “ridiculous, pink, sparkly techno-princess land.”

Pink websites and polka-dotted flyers are what happens when an entire field overcorrects, Losh says.

Women are grossly underrepresented in engineering and computer science careers, a fact that is attracting an increasing amount of attention. Since May, a number of tech companies, among them Google and Facebook, have released their lagging diversity figures, accompanied by pledges to bridge the gender divide.

The lack of female technical talent is an issue that most tech companies have owned up to. Now, people everywhere, from Google to college admissions offices, are looking for ways the change that. And often, it seems, the proposed solution is simply to turn tech pink.

But as Wheat sees it, the problem with techno-princess land is that it attempts to combat the stereotype that technology is a guy thing with stereotypes of what women want.

The overflow of pink in her inbox moved the Virginia teen to pen an opinion piece, which was recently a runner-up in a New York Times teen editorial contest.

"It says that the only way you can be interested in technology is if it is girly," said Wheat. "I’m very girly. My room is purple. I have floral bedding. I think I’ll probably be a very feminine engineer. I just don’t like the idea of being pigeonholed."

Click on title to go to article.

Five Reasons to Flip your Leadership

I think that in about a year, the term flipped will morph into something else because it is becoming overused. In the meantime, we have to put up with the phrase in almost any content, in this case, flipping leadership. I think the ideas here are good, but it seems to me that this is all about good staff development, good communications and good leadership. Are the five things he mentions here exclusive to being a flipped leader? I don’t know. The five things he lists are:

  • Maximizes Faculty/Staff Meetings
  • Sets the mindset before a district meeting
  • Improves Parent engagement
  • Saves Time
  • Puts the focus on learning
Click on the title to go to the article.

Schools at the Crossroads


John Hagel, from his “A 21st Century Global Declaration of Independence:”

We find ourselves now at a crossroads in history. The institutions – commercial, educational, political and civic - that we created in an earlier era in an effort to expand our potential have now become increasingly…
Jul 5

The 2014 Honor Roll: EdTech’s Must-Read K–12 IT Blogs

I am honored to have been named to this list for the second year running. Thank you for reading my blog, and thank you for placing me on the list EDtech Magazine! This list has some of the finest ed tech thinkers around. (I have no idea how I got there!) You need to check out the writers.

Must-read K–12 IT Blog
EdTech’s Must-Read K–12 IT Blogs

Click on the title to go to the list.

Jul 3

Lessons From the Los Angeles School District iPad Fiasco - The Mac Observer

What happens when you try to do the same old thing with new technology? Ask LAUSD. Here is a good article that looks at the whole iPad fiasco in Los Angeles:

From the article

Throughout my career, in education and government, I’ve seen these effects. Purchase authority is exercised by those who have the least technical expertise. Those who have the expertise have no say in the process. Piecemeal test projects fail to generate the desired political clout and glory and are bypassed, and those at the bottom are burdened beyond belief by projects they had little say in, no control over nor adequate preparation and training.

I don’t claim that the LAUSD had all these problems. However, reading about their experience reminded me of the kinds of difficulties I’ve seen in my own career. Perhaps the driving issue on all this is that in modern day American technology, those who most seek enduring power are those people least able to exercise deep technical judgment, whether it’s an iPad in the classroom or a billion dollar weapons program.

It’s a malady without end in sight.

Click on the title to go to the article.

Jul 2


Verizon Foundation, in partnership with the International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) and the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Technology in Education, is launching the Verizon Mobile Learning Academy, a virtual, moderated professional development course offered to teams of educators for free.

The course, based on promising results produced by the professional development model delivered in the Verizon Innovate Learning Schools, includes five modules developed around ISTE standards. Course modules are designed to help teachers, administrators and tech coaches implement effective mobile learning initiatives in their schools and classrooms. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from Johns Hopkins University will be offered to teachers completing the Verizon Mobile Learning Academy courses.

Registration for the Verizon Mobile Learning Academy will open in Fall 2014. If you would like to receive more information, enter your name and email address here:

The five courses are:

Course 1: Evaluating and planning for the mobile learning landscape
Delve into the classroom implications of mobile learning with activities to help you gauge your institution’s readiness.

Course 2: Developing digital fluency
Enrich your digital awareness by investigating the key characteristics and compatibilities of available devices, operating systems and programs.

Course 3: Seamless mobile technology integration
Explore a framework for technology integration that steers teachers through the process of creating a mobile learning lesson plan.

Course 4: Implementing effective mobile practices
Teachers will learn how to apply the ISTE Standards to mobile learning, while technology coaches and administrators will gain strategies for providing visionary leadership and support.

Course 5: Digital age students
Discover how to teach and model safe online practices for students as they use their mobile devices to create and share content.

Jul 1

Nearly one-third of Americans aren't ready for the next generation of technology

How are we as educators making this easier for people? From the article:

A new survey suggests that the digital divide has been replaced by a gap in digital readiness. It found that nearly 30% of Americans either aren’t digitally literate or don’t trust the Internet. That subgroup tended to be less educated, poorer, and older than the average American.

In contrast, says Eszter Hargittai, a sociologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who was not involved in the study, those with essential Web skills “tend to be the more privileged. And so the overall story … is that it’s the people who are already privileged who are reaping the benefits here.”

The study was conducted by John Horrigan, an independent researcher, and released 17 June at an event sponsored by the Washington, D.C.–based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Funded by the Joyce Foundation, the study of 1600 adults measured their grasp of terms like “cookie” and “Wi-Fi.” It asked them to rate how confident they were about using a desktop or laptop or a smart phone to find information, as well as how comfortable they felt about using a computer. Of those who scored low in these areas, about half were not Internet users.

E.O. Wilson’s “Life on Earth” complete is now free

A couple of days ago, Apple announced it was upgrading iTunes U so that teachers could create entire courses inside their iPads. It looks like they are kicking it up a notch as they have just released E.O.Wilson’s entire work Life on Earth for free in the iTunes Bookstore. If you are not familiar with this work, it continues to be one of the most interactive AWESOME ibooks ever created. Even if you are not teaching biology, this is a great set of books to have on your iPad.

Along with the books come the free course as well on the iTunes U

“’Life on Earth’ comes alive on iPad, providing a stunning perspective on life. The interactive experience will ignite in students an appreciation for what they have inherited—this beautiful planet and every living thing on it—and an understanding of the role and responsibility we all have to preserve the biodiversity around us,” said Wilson. “I am immensely proud of the iBooks textbook series that the Foundation is providing at no cost to students and the public, allowing us to bring the meaning and importance of biodiversity to life for a global audience.”

“We are very proud of the enormous effort by all involved in making E.O. Wilson’s ‘Life on Earth’ a reality. We have created a state-of-the-art teaching tool that brings a new dimension to our understanding of nature and biodiversity, and how it should be presented in classrooms,” said Dr. Paula Ehrlich, President and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. “We aim to inspire a new generation of explorers and informed citizens who are prepared to take responsibility for conserving and protecting the biological richness of nature as a treasure to be passed on.”

From the iTunes release notes:

Inspired and led by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and naturalists Edward O. Wilson – and created with a team of world-renowned educators and artists – this comprehensive and original standards-based curriculum tells the story of life on Earth, giving students a deep understanding of introductory biology.

Presented as a seven-unit collection, E. O. Wilson’s Life on Earth is a free iBooks Textbook that uses rich, Multi-Touch experience to engage students in lessons about everything from molecules to ecosystems.

And accompanying iTune U course – Biology: Life on Earth – extends students’ learning in and out of the classroom with reading and writing assignments and extension activities like field observations and moviemaking.

Designed to prepare tomorrow’s biochemists, explorers, environmental policymakers, and engaged citizens for their work, this captivating curriculum inspires students to take responsibility for conserving and protecting nature’s biological treasures.

Another nail into the publisher’s of textbooks coffin.

Go get it.

Where would you want to work?

Imagine you are looking for a job as an elementary principal and you see this as the job description:

The position of Elementary School Principal requires a Master’s Degree; valid Administrative, or Principal’s Certificate; leadership ability in working with teachers and students in instructional and managerial administration; working knowledge of curriculum and instruction; the ability to evaluate instructional program and teaching effectiveness; the ability to manage budget and personnel and coordinate campus functions; the ability to explain policy, procedures and data; strong communications, public relations, and interpersonal skills; three years of related administrative experience in education to include at least two years assistant principal experience (for a person who has not previously served as a principal); three years experience as a classroom teacher.

Pretty standard huh? A list of what you are expected to do as an elementary school principal. Nothing in that description MAKES me want to apply for that job. Pretty standard.

Now, imagine of you came across this job description for an elementary school principal in another school district that read like this:

Our district is doing some really exciting things and we want you to be part of it. This position is for an elementary school that is in a well established neighborhood with about 800 kids. (Hey, want to know the demographics of the school? Click here. Check out the campus test data here.) We think that a good leader can make this campus go from good to great and beyond. Are you that person? As you can tell from the demographics, there are some challenges to be met, but this school, with these teachers and these kids, deserve a great leader. Maybe you are that person. We are looking for someone that has the following qualifications: The usual stuff like an administrator’s or management certification and experience as a teacher and maybe as a campus administrator. But we want more than that.

Of course anyone can get a certification. What we really are looking for this: Someone that has the ability to lead teachers and students and be a real instructional leader, not someone that just says they are a leader. Someone that knows what kids need to learn and what teachers need to teach and how best to match the two. Someone who is also a learner and can share that learning with their staff. Of course, you will have some money, so you will have to know how to wisely spend it. What will be your budget priorities? We want to know before we hire you. Can you communicate well? Great! Because you are going to have to explain what you are doing not only to your staff, but to parents and the community. We also like to hire people that can get along with others, because hey, our district is a big family, and we need to all keep in touch. Tell us that you have some innovative ideas, because if you don’t we really don’t need to talk. We like people that will take chances (to a point of course) and will back you up with professional development opportunities for you and your staff.

Like we said, we are doing some awesome things in our district, and want to surround ourselves with the most awesome educators we can. Are you awesome? Then you need to apply.

I wonder if a school district put out an ad for that, what kind of response they would get? Imagine of every singe job posting that district posted exclaimed how editing it would be to work in that district?

Which place would you want to work for?

The goal isn’t to live forever. The goal is to create something that will.

The goal isn’t to live forever. The goal is to create something that will.

Apple Announces update to ITunes U

Why more people are not using this incredible resource is beyond me.
Anyway, the best just got better.

Apple Announces Updates to iTunes U
Brings Course Creation, Management for Teachers & Student Discussions To iPad

CUPERTINO, California—June 30, 2014—Apple® today announced updates to iTunes U®, bringing educators and students great new tools to build and experience educational content on iPad®. Beginning July 8, teachers using the free iTunes U app can create, edit and manage entire courses directly on iPad for the first time, and students will discover new ways to collaborate including the ability to start class discussions and ask questions right from their iPad.

“Education is at the core of Apple’s DNA and iTunes U is an incredibly valuable resource for teachers and students,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “iTunes U features an amazing selection of academic materials for everyone around the world. Now, with the ability to better manage and discuss educational content, learning becomes even more personalized on iPad.”

The new in-app updates to iTunes U give teachers full course creation capabilities on iPad, with the ability to directly add rich content and learning materials from iWork®, iBooks® Author or any of the over 75,000 educational apps available for iPad. Taking advantage of the built-in camera on iPad, teachers can also capture photos and videos to incorporate real-world subject matter into any course, making relevant content available to all students in an instant.

“iTunes U is the most powerful destination for bringing the entire educational experience to life on iPad,” said Fraser Speirs, head of computing and IT at Cedars School of Excellence in Scotland. “By freeing teachers to create and organize courses right on iPad, educators can be better focused on enabling student participation both with the content and one another.”

Students using iPad and enrolled in private iTunes U courses will now have everything they need to fully collaborate with their classmates and teachers. With Discussions in the iTunes U app, students can automatically follow classroom discussions and join conversations on new topics, or set up push notifications for when new topics are started or replies are added to active exchanges. Teachers can participate in forums too, and have the ability to moderate discussions by removing any off-topic messages or replies.

“Discussions in iTunes U puts the potential for thoughtful exploration and collaboration into the hands of every one of our students,” said Larry Reiff, a teacher from Roslyn High School in New York. “iPad and iTunes U continue to provide students with the tools they need to build knowledge and demonstrate their learning.”

iTunes U helps educators create courses including lectures, assignments, books, quizzes and more for millions of iOS users around the world. With over 750,000 individual learning materials available on the iTunes U app, iTunes U is the world’s largest online catalog of free educational content from top schools and prominent organizations. Today, thousands of educational institutions are hosting over 7,500 public and thousands of private courses encompassing the arts, sciences, health and medicine, education, business and more.

Educators can create iTunes U courses in 69 countries and make their courses and educational content accessible via the iTunes U app in 155 countries. In addition to the thousands of individual iTunes U learning materials found on the iTunes Store®, over 500,000 apps designed specifically for iPad are now available on the App Store℠. Additionally, with the free iBooks Author app on the Mac App Store℠, nearly 30,000 Multi-Touch™ books have been created by independent teachers and publishers worldwide.

Why Toddlers can Figure Out Your TV Remote and You Cannot

A recent study suggests that the reason young children are not intimidated by technology, and can figure it out mud more rapidly than adults, is that they are better wired for figuring out cause and relation effects and are not intimidated by pre determined ideas.

From the study "When children are better (or at least more open-minded) learners than adults: developmental differences in learning the forms of causal relationships."

Children learn causal relationships quickly and make far-reaching causal inferences from what they observe. Acquiring abstract causal principles that allow generalization across different causal relationships could support these abilities. We examine children’s ability to acquire abstract knowledge about the forms of causal relationships and show that in some cases they learn better than adults. Adults and 4- and 5-year-old children saw events suggesting that a causal relationship took one of two different forms, and their generalization to a new set of objects was then tested. One form was a more typical disjunctive relationship; the other was a more unusual conjunctive relationship. Participants were asked to both judge the causal efficacy of the objects and to design actions to generate or prevent an effect. Our results show that children can learn the abstract properties of causal relationships using only a handful of events. Moreover, children were more likely than adults to generalize the unusual conjunctive relationship, suggesting that they are less biased by prior assumptions and pay more attention to current evidence. These results are consistent with the predictions of a hierarchical Bayesian model.

Here is a story from NPR on the study

Here is an audio recording of the story

Design Thinking: Synthesis 1 | Hexagonal Thinking

Hexagonal Thinking is where either student or teacher writes key concepts on hexagonal cards, at the end of a period of learning, where the content behind each ‘headline’ is relatively clear to a team of learners. The students then place the cards together in the way that makes most sense to them - some ideas will connect to up to five others, others will lie at the end of a long sequential order, others still will appear in small outlying positions, on their own.

The technique was first pioneered in the oil and gas industry, and is highlighted in The Living Company, by the creator of “the learning organisation” concept and Royal Dutch Shell, Arie de Geus. De Geus had found that when he and executives were trying to help insurance people better understand their complex products, the expensive computer simulations they had developed were not doing the job: staff were too busy trying to “win” the simulation that the more significant, and complex, information about the products was lost. With the introduction of hexagonal thinking those complex connections were made swiftly and deeply. It has since been used in business as a means of tackling perennial ‘wicked problems’.

Click on the Title to go to the main article

Grafitti and Phil Goddard

Phil met my daughter in New Orleans  They got married a couple of years later, still live in NOLA and we think very highly of him!