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Stork

Moving is never easy…unless you’re going to a totally epic new website!  That’s right!!  The Adjusting Course blog has officially moved and you’re invited to come with us.

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4 Surprises from Writing Renegade Leadership

Book Cover

In a few short weeks my new book, Renegade Leadership, will be out.  The book is about creating innovative schools for today’s students.  The process of writing a book still fascinates me.  The manuscript for this book was no exception, and I wanted to share a few surprises that emerged along the way.

  • As I was writing Renegade Leadership, many stories from my childhood, college, and early years in education surfaced.  I can be somewhat guarded at times, so I’m surprised at how natural it felt to share some of those stories.  Earlier versions of the manuscript featured stories from renegade artists, engineers, athletes, and business people.  However, the final manuscript includes so much more.  It is injected with personal passions, renegade examples from other sectors, and the voices of dozens of highly respected educational leaders.
  • I’m not sure how it happened, but when all was said and done over 30 amazing educators lent their voice and vision to the book.  Their stories inspired me more than I anticipated, and I find myself reading (and rereading) the book just to take-in the incredible insights they offer.
  • Feedback from preliminary reviewers surprised me.  I think I underestimated the impact that sharing some of my “epic failures” might have had on readers.  It seems like people really appreciated reading about the “real stuff” in education (including my many mistakes made along the way).  There is a vulnerability in the book that makes me a tad bit nervous to offer it up to others.
  • One of the last things I added to the book’s companion website turned out to be one of my FAVORITE memories from writing Renegade Leadership.  This may sound like a shameless plug at first blush, but I assure you it is not.  If you go to the companion website HERE you will find something I refer to as “Audio Outtakes” for each chapter.  The Audio Outtakes include short audio clips of text from the book followed by a brief conversation between me and my 3rd grade daughter.  I’ve already been told she has a future in broadcasting…but I think her secret is a genuine passion for life!

Obviously, I’m very excited to cross the “finish line” and have the book move to publication.  At the same time, I hope this is just the beginning of our conversations.  Our students have too much at stake for us to ignore the possibilities that meaningful change could provoke.

Renegade Leadership is available on Amazon or from Corwin Press by clicking HERE.  I am very eager to hear your thoughts.  Be sure to connect via the #RenLead hashtag on Twitter!

#RenLead PLN Builder

What’s Your One?

 

Have you ever returned from a conference and been asked to name a “take-away” or something you learned?

I recently had the chance to collaborate on a special podcasting project with Theresa Stager (co-host of the PrincipalPLN podcast).  We were both at the NAESP national conference in Maryland and presented a session on podcasting together in the Innovation Lab. Click HERE to view the live NAESP podcast.

Podcast Pic

During the session and live-podcast, we asked school leaders their “one” takeaway.  In addition to hearing what conference attendees were learning, we also wanted to model just how easy starting a podcast can be.  (Clearly, we needed to spend a tad more time setting up the green-screen lights, but getting over the need for perfection is a big step to actually starting a podcast!)

I’ve always maintained that one of the best ways for principals to provide relevant instructional leadership is to model using relevant communication platforms like face-to-face conversation, social media, and podcasting.  A podcast is also a great way to shine the light on the incredible work students and staff do on a daily basis, so there are many reasons to start.

We hope you enjoyed hearing from the inspiring (and brave) school leaders as they shared their “one” conference takeaway.  We also hope that you consider trying podcasting as a school or classroom communication tool.

I’d love to hear what your “one” was from NAESP16 in the comments section below, as well as other reasons you’ve used podcasting in your classroom or school.

**Be sure to hop over to this blog’s new home at www.BradGustafson.com for more Adjusting Course goodness.  In less than seven seconds you can subscribe and have the blog delivered right to your virtual doorstep.

Where Ideas Go to Die

funeralImage Credit: Pixabay.com

Good idea. Bad idea. Things are not always black and white.  Even the best ideas (or intentions) can lead to bad things if the culture of a school is not conducive to innovation.

 

It’s easy to say that we will do what’s best for kids, but more difficult to discern what is actually best when considering the potential impact on different stakeholders.  Is research-based best practice the gold standard that we should never deviate from?  Or is there room for new and untested ideas in education?

 

I tend to believe that kids deserve both, and so it pains me to know that there have been times that I’ve been a barrier to innovation.  I know that I have made decisions that stifled progress.  For example, this past school year one of our teachers approached me with an idea.  He wanted to have our entire school (approximately 860 students) meet outside for an all-school photograph to commemorate our 50th anniversary…and he wanted the photo to be taken from a few hundred feet in the air.

 

I thought the idea of an aerial shot taken from one of our school’s drones sounded cool, but my visceral response was one of hesitancy.  I tried to dissuade him because I thought that getting nearly 1,000 people (students and staff) outside at the same time would be too intrusive on teachers’ busy schedules.  If I’m being completely honest, I probably also wanted to avoid undue criticism from anyone who was not super excited about the idea.

 

My perspective was skewed towards protecting the “routine” so we could keep moving forward.  After all, what is best for kids is protecting the learning environment and their routine…right?!

 

Fortunately, the teacher who wanted to add this neat drone video perspective was pretty passionate about the idea.  I quickly realized that a school’s 50th anniversary may actually be grounds for disrupting the routine.  Long story short, we all met outside and it turned out to be some of the most amazing video footage I’ve ever seen.  The best part is that our students are still raving about it.

50Image Credit: Twitter via @GWtechWPS

 

When I stare at the picture above it’s hard for me to distinguish their faces, but I do remember their reactions.  They loved it.  After watching the drone video they even started to think differently about things.  I think we all did.  This served as a reminder that there is an opportunity cost to what we say no to.  Even if it is under the guise of “what’s best for kids.”

 

Most people do not wake up in the morning wanting to dash another person’s dreams…oftentimes we do it unknowingly.   I pray that “What’s Best for Kids” is not where ideas go to die.  I pray that I am not the person who kills them.

**Yes! The Adjusting Course blog is moving to a new home. Hop over to www.BradGustafson.com to subscribe to my new “ad free” blog. It will literally only take six seconds…unless your internet is slow…or you type slow…

I’ll keep cross-posting here for another month or so to give everyone a chance to switch over to the new site.  (I’d love your feedback on the design too.)

Stop-Motion Virtual Tour

 

This school year, several students worked on a series of creative videos with our technology teacher, Mr. Hinnenkamp.  They learned different video production skills and tinkered with stop-motion, drone photography, GoPros, and more.

Their work was part of an after-school club that provided additional time/support for students to take their learning deeper.  Click HERE to view one of the videos the kids created.  It’s an innovative twist on the classic virtual tour.  We hope you enjoy the stop-motion tour of our school.

Be sure to check out our school’s website for more virtual tours…including one of my ALL-TIME favorites….the link is to a classic tour of our Media Center filmed from the perspective of “The Mouse on the Motorcycle!”  You can see from the video that the GoPro held up under some rough conditions!

 

Go Pro

Image Credit: Pixabay

We’d love to hear your ideas for future virtual tours and special effects our students could try out.  Please leave a comment or share a link to work your students and staff have created.

 

Digital Time Capsule (video)

Birthday

Image Credit: Pixabay.com

Greenwood Elementary School is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, so we are planning a birthday bash! In addition to making some more memories at a community cookout (with a DJ playing favorites from the 1960’s as well as today’s hit songs) we wanted to share some of our favorite memories.

Click HERE for our “Digital Time Capsule.”  The time capsule is our attempt to honor the past while connecting our school’s rich history to students in a meaningful manner. The 11 minute video will tug at your heart strings, but it will also leave you smiling. Thank you to all the dedicated professionals, families, and volunteers who have invested so much into our students’ lives. Your legacy will always live on.

Our Digital Time Capsule video (above) features the voices of many incredible educators (past and present), but we thought you might like to see more of what our students are currently learning. Check out the four minute video below. I’m excited to see what our students will accomplish the next 50 years!

This Time it’s Personal

Dad Childhood

Yesterday a package arrived in the mail. It was from my aunt who sent me some old photographs of my dad…along with a heartfelt note. My dad passed away almost eight years ago without warning, so receiving the pictures was like an instant connection to him.

In the note my aunt mentioned that, “The memory of her brother (my dad) would forever live on in her heart,” and she thought I would appreciate having the pictures of him.  She was right. I don’t have many pictures of my dad, so seeing him again yesterday was both beautiful and jarring.  The package included pictures of my dad as a young boy, his wedding, my wedding, and more. I must have looked through the stack of pictures a dozen times yesterday. 

I was chatting with my wife about the pictures as we were driving to get a sandwich for dinner.  I asked her if we had any printed pictures of our family (and ourselves) to give our children one day. She responded in partial jest, “This is the digital world…we have passwords to digital pictures and video for our kids.”  This got me thinking more about the digital world and the purpose of technology in schools. 

As educators, we need to be really careful about the purpose we implore.  We need to talk about pedagogy more often. (Not in short sound-bytes and 140 character bursts, but deeper dialogue.) I’m not naïve enough to think that my stated purpose for using technology should be your stated purpose. But we better be clear on our why each time we pass out paper and pencils, or digital devices.  “Why” matters.

The transformative potential of technology does not rest solely in its ability to convert images and experiences to digital media. The power of technology is in how it can bring us together if we are intentional about it.  Technology can support and amplify that which makes us uniquely human.

Through technology, our hurts and aspirations can become another person’s cause. The struggles that others share can activate our own empathy. Our ability to create, connect, reflect, wonder, imagine, innovate, express love, learn, share, and grow can be enhanced through technology.

If technology hinders any of these things we need to pause and reflect on the intended purpose. We’re hearing a lot about 1:1 initiatives as districts are striving to put a device in every student’s hand.  I get why this can be a good thing, but I believe the ratio is wrong.  The goal of any iPad or tablet initiative should be “1 to World” (or 1 to 7.4 billion people) because connecting kids to one another really does matter.

In addition to developing deeper connections and an understanding of others, technology can help us better connect to ourselves. I suppose this blog is a small example of reflection. Regardless, we need to better articulate the purpose and pedagogy for the technology we’re deploying. This brings me back to my dad.

There is nothing like holding a picture and touching the image of your dad.  Every fold, fade, and discoloration of the paper can transport a person to a different time.  There is a connection, for me, when I physically hold a photograph, book, or loved one.  It is distinctly human. We need to be giving our kids this same perspective and opportunity when they are holding their devices.

Technology mustn’t replace connecting with others; the power of technology is its ability to extend and enhance how we connect to other human beings. How is your school leveraging technology as a tool that enhances relationships and learning? What is your why?

Dad My Wedding

Can MakerSpaces Invent the Future? (Video)

YouTube SpheroExoIt is incredible what kids can do when we believe in them, coach them, and get out of their way! Our students recently participated in a robotics competition that was invented from the ground up by staff and students.  We designed and printed 3D “exoskeletons” that fit over our Sphero robotic droids…and SpheroExo was born.  The rest is history.

Check out the 5 minute video below and prepare to be amazed at what kids can do.

http://tinyurl.com/SpheroExo

We are so proud of our students and all they are creating, engineering, and achieving.  Watch for our students next week as they present SpheroExo to teachers at EdCamp Eau Claire!  Students will be sharing their design process and how they’re inventing the future at #EdCampEC.

I’m not sure that MakerSpaces can actually invent the future, but I’m very confident that cutting-edge tools and a culture conducive to innovation helps.  A relevant and connected pedagogy empowers all kids to create, connect, and dream bigger.

 

Buzzword or Lifeblood?

IMG_5058

Image Credit: Jason Jenkins

I’ve heard some say that “student voice” is becoming a buzzword in education.  I’m hopeful this is not true.  We can’t let it be true.

Student voice should be the lifeblood of our schools.  Our kids’ needs, aspirations, and voices should be predominant in education; from the boardroom to the classroom.  (The same should be true of professional development!)

EdCampEC will be cranking up the volume and amplifying student voice on April 9th.  Greenwood Elementary (MN) students will be teaching teachers through a hands-on and student-led MakerSpace challenge.

Recently, some of our 3rd graders participated in a BattleDome experience using 3D printed exo-skeletons. The exo-skeletons fit around Sphero robotic droids that teams navigated during the competition.  Engineering and collaboration were interwoven throughout the experience, as students added different offensive and defensive capabilities to their exo-skeletons.  Kids were “making” with a purpose and the entire experience was nothing short of spectacular.

You can read more about the experience HERE…OR you can make the trek to Eau Claire, Wisconsin on April 9th to hear directly from the students involved!  They can tell you about their design process, and how different tools from our school’s Mobile MakerSpace fleet were used to unleash creativity and learning.

Student voice is alive and well!  We couldn’t be prouder of our kids, and we look forward to seeing their leadership and communication skills shine at EdCampEC.

If you have questions before April 9th (or can’t make the trip) don’t hesitate to reach out to the teachers who organized the Sphero-Exo event.

And the Winner Is…

The results of the World Book Talk Championship are in! We started with 16 educators who each created a 30 second book talk.  After thousands and thousands of votes only one book talk remains. 

Who will be victorious? Will it be the Lead Learners or Literacy Legends?  Watch the short (3 minute) episode of the #30SecondTake podcast below to see who won the Super Bowl of book talks.  In the podcast, guest-host Jennifer LaGarde (a.k.a. Library Girl) helps announce the winner of the highly coveted “Vince Lombooki” trophy and reveals the best book talk in the world.

 

#30SecondTake Brackets 2016

 

Click on the bracket above to view the final results video!  (To see how the Super Bowl of book talks began you can click HERE or HERE.)  If you’re looking for resources to support students in creating their own 30 second book talks you can connect directly with Jen LaGarde.  She’s compiled rubrics, bracket templates, and more.  When kids read, create, and communicate their learning is amplified!!  

Jen and I would like to thank Oliver Schinkten for sharing his time and talents throughout the entire project.  After all, it would not have been the book talk Super Bowl without some fun literacy-themed commercials.  Thank you, Oliver! 

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