Sunday, April 23, 2017

My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (April 23, 2017)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Is Your School Like United Airlines?

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A sub-headline from the Wall Street Journal's article about the recent viral incident aboard a United Airlines plane immediately had me thinking about some of the things we do in schools. The headline about the situation where a United passenger was forcibly removed from his seat for refusing to give it up was the following: 
"Airline’s rules-based culture in spotlight after man was dragged off flight by law enforcement."
As I read through the article a few other lines had me thinking about what we sometimes do in schools. Feel free to substitute school for airlines and students for passengers wherever appropriate:
"Like most Airlines, United Continental Holdings Inc. follows strict rules on every aspect of handling its passengers... "
"Deviating from the rules is frowned upon..."
Employees followed the policy,” said a person familiar with United’s executive suite.
On Wednesday morning, in an interview with ABC, United CEO Oscar Munoz called the event a “system failure” and said United hasn’t provided its front-line managers and supervisors with “the proper tools, policies, procedures that allow them to use their common sense.”
These quotes and the entire sad situation that played out on the United Airlines flight reminded me of the theme of chapter 4 of The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros. Chapter 4 is titled Relationships, Relationships, Relationships and the main point that George makes is the need to establish a culture of trusting relationships where employees feel empowered to make decisions that are in the best interest of the customer (students). 
He goes on to explain the fact that this is not the individual employee's fault, but it is more of a leadership issue due to the establishment of a culture that does not trust employees to make common sense decisions.

Let's face it, we see a number of embarrassing stories from schools each year that are caused due to rigid compliance to an outdated set of rules. If we are truly interested in having learning environments where staff and students are comfortable taking risks and thinking outside the box then we need to revise these ridiculous sets of rituals. The following quote from George in Chapter 4 sums up the rationale for this shift perfectly.

"As leaders in education, our job is not to control those whom we serve but to unleash their talent. If innovation is going to be a priority in education, we need to create a culture where trust is the norm. This must be modeled at the highest level of the organization if we expect teachers to create the same culture in their classrooms."

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Later Start Times Are A Good Idea For Teen Sleep - But It's Not The Only Good Idea

We are involved in a discussion about a later school start time for high school in Burlington as we look at a possible change for the start time at BHS in the fall of 2018.  I first wrote about the positive research on school start time in a post back in 2010 and referenced research from Minnesota from the late 1990's which referenced a change in the start time at Edina High School.  The folks in Edina, at the urging of the Minnesota Medical Association, moved their start time from 7:30-8:30.

The result of this change led to the following (source University of Minnesota Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement):

  • Students in Edina reported statistically significant less depression compared with two similar districts.
  • School counselors and nurses reported fewer students seeking help for emotional problems and somatic physical complaints.
  • 92% of parents in Edina said their teenagers were “easier to live with”
Over the last 20-plus years, there have been a number of additional studies noting the positive impact that later school start times can have for teenagers.  A number of these can be found here at

While a later school start times is one accommodation that schools have made to support the health of their students, there are additional ways we can support our students in getting a full night's sleep. One of the other big issues for our students according to recent studies is the impact of extended exposure to blue light from electronic devices, especially exposure right before bed.  The video below explains this phenomenon.

My issues on the topic of teen sleep are with those that want to throw out the research due to their perception that we are coddling students or that the blue light issue alone is the main culprit.  We should continue to look at all of the research available to us and modify our practice based on this information. Maybe decreasing exposure to blue light and changing the school start time would be helpful? While we are at it, we should discuss the influence of sugary treats and caffeine-infused drinks on teen sleep patterns. There are a number of things we can do to support the physical and emotional health of our students. Why can't our solution be All of the Above?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Must-Reads - April 17, 2017

As a means to try to get myself writing in this space a bit more, I am starting each week by sharing three posts that I came across during the previous week that struck a chord with me. While my intentions are mainly self-serving, I am also hoping that a few folks might catch a post that they missed. 

Let's see how many weeks I can keep this up...Three weeks and counting...

1. Climb Aboard: School Buses Reimagined - Emelina Minero

In this post from Edutopia, Emelina Minero looks at some school districts that have found a creative way to solve their space problems. By repurposing old school buses, the districts have created mobile learning spaces that can be moved around within a district so that all students have access. 

"By repurposing available space and capitalizing on mobility, these traveling art studios, cafeterias, and science labs are reducing barriers to access and meeting students where they are."

2. On Assigned Summer Reading - Pernille Ripp

As we hit the homestretch in the school year, Pernille Ripp gives her perspective on mandatory summer reading. 

"...we forget that not all children have time to read over the summer?  That not all children will be able to read the book assigned?  That not all children have access to a safe place where they can work on homework during their time away from us."
Ripp goes on with some practical ways that we can deal with this dilemma and still encourage students to read over the summer.  

3. The one question school leaders and parents aren’t talking about…  Randy Ziegenfuss

This post from Randy Ziegenfuss looks at the elephant in the room for educational leaders. Are we really doing things in our schools and classrooms that will prepare our students for the rapidly changing world that they will be entering? In the post Ziegenfuss references background reading on this topic ( Nancy Duarte's Illuminate and Alec Ross's The Industries of the Future).  I agree with Ziegenfuss's on the fact that we should be continually asking the following:

"What other resources can school leaders and parents access to learn more about tomorrow’s economy? What do our learners need now to compete, succeed and thrive in the future?"

Sunday, April 16, 2017

My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (April 16, 2017)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday Must-Reads - April 10, 2017

As a means to try to get myself writing in this space a bit more, I am starting each week by sharing three posts that I came across during the previous week that struck a chord with me. While my intentions are mainly self-serving, I am also hoping that a few folks might catch a post that they missed. 

Let's see how many weeks I can keep this up...Two weeks and counting...

1. Getting Past the Attention-Span Myth (Thoughts on Creative Focus) - John Spencer

In this post, John Spencer touches upon the misconception that it is impossible to get the attention of students today due to the negative impacts of screen-time:
"The issue isn’t attention span. It’s engagement. No, it’s not just engagement. It’s empowerment — the kind of empowerment that happens when you are fully immersed in creative play."
Spencer shares six strategies to help get students in a focused state. 

2. Neurodiversity: The Future of Special Education? - Thomas Armstrong

In this article from ASCD's Educational Leadership, Armstrong shares a new model for Special Education that gets away from looking at student deficits and instead focuses on strengths:
"At some point, the field of special education needs to rid itself of its negative baggage and embrace a more progressive way of educating students who learn differently. The concept of neurodiversity provides thecatalyst for such a change."


This post by Grant Lichtman focuses on the need for schools to look at how they measure their level of innovation as an organization. While this can be a difficult task for many schools, Lichtman notes that it is a necessity to ensure relevance:
"Real change over a five-year window represents light speed for many schools. Schools that have started to adopt some of this language and thinking, if not formal metrics like these, are pulling away from schools for which this thinking continues to be alien or absent. Standing pat, or even slow movement, is the same as moving backward."

Sunday, April 9, 2017

My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (April 9, 2017)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.