The Obstacle is the Way – a mindset for modern school leaders

81slyrdcbal  I stumbled upon Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumphs via a sports blog – another testament to the notion that you can find inspiration in a variety of venues.

Holiday’s book builds on the teachings of the stoics.  An overview of the stoics can be found here.   Holiday roles these teachings into everyday life for everyday people…all people.  For me it boils down to this simple fact – the only thing preventing us from conquering our objectives is ourselves.  Overcoming obstacles , or getting ‘unstuck’ is really about mindset.

How you ask?!?

Perspective – every obstacle is actually an opportunity to learn and/or build skills. It’s all about your perception.

The work of a Dutch teenager is a great example of perspective.  Using the vastness and power of the ocean as an advantage instead of an obstacle gives me hope that effectively managing the ever evolving mobile technology in a school is doable. We keep trying – it’ll happen.

Action – Holiday states that often the only wrong course of action is to do nothing. Unless doing nothing is a chosen course of action. Essentially while you wait, others are acting and learning from their successes and failures – passing you by. The old adage ‘Fortune favours the bold’ comes to mind.

For me the pursuit of a modern learning environment that amplifies student voice is a great example of how a school can collectively take action.  We saw an intersection of policy, pedagogy and engagement and began down a path.  We are still a work in progress (as I think by definition every truly modern learning environment should be) but we are certainly further down the path than we would have been had we chosen to wait. The capacity within the school regarding the nuts and bolts of modern learning and how to effectively integrate edtech within a program have grown dramatically. Persistence will continue to drive us toward future successes.

Will – You have to stick with it. Seems simple but again Holiday asks us to come at this from another angle. To not only love everything about what goes right but also about what goes wrong. And be ready – because things will go wrong. It’s a lot more inspiring in the book.

I heard an interview with Gord Downie in which he stated that it wasn’t about your successes but how much fun you have failing. Seems to perfectly sum up what Holiday is hoping for us to embrace. If you want to do see this in action within a school head to a maker space, InquiryStudio, shop class or anywhere students have choice and ownership. You’ll see them plugging away at the same task again and again because they are enjoying what they do – will comes easy when you’re having fun.

Holiday’s book is a great read for anyone looking for a way to break through an obstacle big or small.

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GAFE…a converts story

gafe

I have to admit, I am a recent convert to the world of Google docs, sheets and forms. In my mind, Google has done a good job at maintaining the perception that they are the hometown business simply out to make the world a better place.   I have found this in sharp contrast to the multi-billion dollar valuation; privacy concerns and ultimately a company that is beholden to its stockholders – not the schools using its Google Applications for Education Suite (GAFES).

But then it happened…I tired the applications. Huge mistake.  Like most things Google does the applications are exceptional.  The apps are intuitive; functional for school use; supportive of 21C teaching and learning & ‘free’.

Ease of Use

If you have used Word in the past 10 years you are ready to use the Google ‘office’ suite – Docs; Sheets and Slides.  Much of the functionality is accessed in the same manner on this open source software as with MS Word.  The say imitation is the sincerest  form of flattery…I’m sure Microsoft’s executives are thrilled.

Functional for Educators

If you were to compare the deep functionality of Microsoft’s Word vs. Google’s Sheets – there would be a clear winner.  However, as a school administrator I find the functionality of all three Google offerings meets my needs.  I would guess this would hold true for most students and staff in the education system. Although some of the editing and formatting options can be glitchy depending on the platform used to access the software, the ability to store, edit and access your documents anywhere you have internet access for ‘free’, is a nice trade-off.

Supports 21C T&L

The ability to share documents online, and in real-time, make the Google suite a game changer for me.  The ability store, access and share files with ease via the cloud is a major plus of the Google suite whether it’s a team of educators sharing and responding to the programming progress of a student in real-time; dumping the contents of a Google Form into a Google Sheet to support school management or an impromptu brainstorming session on a Google Doc with colleagues scattered throughout the board.   Now, I know Office365 can perform these same tasks, but the software needs to be purchased and available to all collaborators.  With Google, the apps are ‘free’ and readily available…making the  6Cs of 21 Century Teaching & Learning easier to tackle with a pool of collaborators from around the world.

‘Free’

GAFE is free for educators and with unlimited cloud storage.  The equity of access in and of itself is amazing.  But how is it possible that what Microsoft charges $100 a year for, Google can provide to everyone for free?  The reality is that there is no such thing as a free lunch.  The catch with Google will be, and will always be, the tracking derived from each user.  This tracking and accompanying data is used to sell advertising – Google’s core revenue generator.

As individuals we agree to the tracking when we – after reading the entire agreement, of course – ‘accept’ the terms of service.  But where does this leave us as educators?  How do we ensure that the integrity of the content placed on google servers by our students and staff is not jeopardized by the future earnings goals and decisions of Google shareholders or public policy makers.  The reality is that we can’t.  Data is a new and growing economy and consumers, including boards and schools, need to be aware and critical of the corporations that gather, sell and profit from their habits.  As future consumers, students need to be taught the importance of being a critical and analytical digital citizens and about how to cultivate and manage their digital footprint.

In short, using the ‘free’ Google apps, or any online app/platform, provides educators with an opportunity to build true 21C century citizens that collaborate, communicate, create and care…with an opportunity to foster student understanding that we pay for things in a variety of ways in the digital world.

 

 

1021 Days…

This blog has been 1021 days in the making.  Originally I had wanted to blog about my entry into the Principalship.  I had envisioned a reflective blog that would trace my experiences, learnings and reflections.  To honour those plans let me review my first 1021 days in pictures.  After all a picture is worth a thousand words and sometimes a thousand words is simply not enough to accurately convey the day.   So I give you 6 emoticons – I am a true 21st century learner.

😀😐😦😬😏😀.. repeat

You smile the most because you get to learn, laugh and enjoy the day with brilliant and inspiring little minds.  Most days are more 😀 than 😦. But I wouldn’t trade one 😐 day, as those  are the best opportunities to learn and improve your craft.  It’s these  😦 that make these 😃 possible. 

Now with those 1021 days reflected upon,  I can move on to solving my next leadership obstacle.  For example, devising the name of this blog. It would seem that naming your blog is akin to naming a band…it needs to be that perfect balance of introspective-catchy-cool. These are the type of decisions that could result in another 1021 days passing so I did what any effective leader does…distributed leadership…to the internet.  I turned to bandnamemaker.com for assistance.  I gave it ‘Principal’ as my key word and after a couple of re-generations, settled on Electronic Principal…sufficiently cool-catchy and reflective of my interest in 21st Century T&L.  Thank you distributed leadership!

And this isn’t the first time distributed leadership has helped me to move forward with ideas that are undoubtedly better than I would have devised on my own.  The answer to many questions, problems and situations often sit idle in the collective knowledge of the professionals in the building; colleagues throughout the board; the professional learning network that is twitter and the broader internet (Exhibit A: catchy blog title).  All you have to do is ask!