Category Archives: leadership

Happy Birthday, Wendell Berry

I just finished reading Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder, which I bought, along with Farming: A Handbook, on a recent pilgrimage to City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. I followed up with A World Lost, one of Berry’s Port William books. If I had to name one person who most inspires me, I believe it would be Berry. I have only been farming for a few years but I understand his love of the land and how it has informed both his politics and his philosophy. Berry turned 80 today.

In this paragraph from his 2012 Jefferson Lecture, Berry gives homage to others who have shaped his ideas:

As many hunters, farmers, ecologists, and poets have understood, Nature (and here we capitalize her name) is the impartial mother of all creatures, unpredictable, never entirely revealed, not my mother or your mother, but nonetheless our mother. If we are observant and respectful of her, she gives good instruction. As Albert Howard, Wes Jackson, and others have carefully understood, she can give us the right patterns and standards for agriculture. If we ignore or offend her, she enforces her will with punishment. She is always trying to tell us that we are not so superior or independent or alone or autonomous as we may think. She tells us in the voice of Edmund Spenser that she is of all creatures “the equall mother, / And knittest each to each, as brother unto brother.”7 Nearly three and a half centuries later, we hear her saying about the same thing in the voice of Aldo Leopold: “In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.”

I’ve been curating web resources related to Berry. Some great videos of him speaking and the terrific interview by Bill Moyers last fall.

Lessons in Leadership

My leadership mentor is Warren Bennis. One of my most highlighted and tagged books is On Becoming a Leader. I was excited to read his memoir, Still Surprised: A Memoir of Life and Leadership. He tells his story honestly, including both his triumphs and his mistakes, both personal and professional. As with any memoir, there seems to be a lot of name dropping but this is a man who was a pivotal figure in many important movements in the mid-20th century so it was interesting to see who he knew.

Bennis encourages leaders to cultivate emotional wisdom that includes empathy, respect and insight in dealing with others. Listening is an important practice.

I feel that I am less a creative thinker than a creative listener. Listening is an art, a demanding one that requires you to damp down your own ego and make yourself fully available to someone else. As listener, you must stop performing and only attend and process. If you listen closely enough, you can hear what the speaker really means, whatever the words. And paying undivided, respectful attention inevitably makes you more empathic, one of the most important and most undervalued leadership skills.

The story that resonated with me, however, was of moving to SUNY-Buffalo as provost. He had been brought in to change the university. However, like many change agents, he failed to get to know the culture and community that he had been asked to change. His work there was essentially a failure. At one point, he describes driving with his colleagues in an expensive sports car, realizing only in hindsight: “The three of us might just as well have carried signs that read CLUELESS, ELITIST OUT-OF-TOWNER.” He goes on to provide the lesson he learned: “Every leader, to be effective, must simultaneously adhere to the symbols of change and revision and the symbols of tradition and stability.”

I have somehow gotten embroiled in a local battle where my outsider status is something of a hindrance. The community has some real divisions and without realizing what I was doing, I got involved with the wrong side. They are good people who have done good work but, it seems, they have done so without involving the surrounding the community so they are often viewed with suspicion by others and accused of only working with a select few. But they showed up with kids at the farm and I saw a way to work with young people again so I dove in.

The questions I ponder now are about the next steps. I have reached out to the other side but been mostly rebuffed. Have I lost the opportunity to be either a peacemaker or a change agent? How can I respect the traditions while also pushing to bring unity to this divided community? For now, I am pondering before acting any further. What would Warren do?

College Readiness = Adaptive Capacity

Tim Stahmer’s post about schools’ dependence on the Office software package hit a nerve with me. In the past month, I’ve heard at least a few educators refer to being able to use Office as a “college readiness” issue. As a college professor, I found that perspective very surprising. There are lots of ways that kids are not ready for college, but using Word and PowerPoint were certainly not on my list, especially when they mean diverting scarce funds for expensive licenses.

For me, college readiness means being able to pick the right tool for the job. Do you have to do a presentation? You have a range of choices: certainly Powerpoint, but what about Google Presentation, Prezi or Keynote or Animoto? My preference is always towards tools that make it easy to publish and share on the web. Do you have to write a paper? Unless it’s your dissertation with all that special formatting, I would be happy if you just did it in Google and shared it with me so I can access it from anywhere and any device. That way, when I find myself with free time before a meeting or riding the ferry, I can read your work.  I would probably be even happier if you told me you had a blog and wanted to publish it there so you can share your writing with more than just me.

But, I hear the educators asking, how can we teach our students how to use all those tools? To that, I say, don’t teach them specific programs: instead, teach them how to learn. Most people can pick up Prezi in a few minutes using the video tutorials. Google Apps provides extensive help and a quick search yields videos and written tutorials on every possible aspect of these tools.

What should we be teaching our students when it comes to digital tools and technology use? If there is one thing we do know about the future, it will be more of the same: change, change, change. New tools and new devices. The best way to prepare our kids for college and for life is to provide them with lots of opportunities to be self-directed learners. Help them develop their adaptive capacity, the ability to change and learn throughout their lives.

Adaptive capacity is a key leadership trait, according to Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas. I’ve put their book on my reading list but this article will get you started.



Each year I am invited to spend a Saturday with the principalship class at William and Mary. We talk about the big picture issues related to technology in schools and spend time figuring our the role of the administrator in encouraging teachers to use technology as part of their instruction. The agenda is online if you’re interested.

I change the workshop every year based on new ideas. When I first started doing it some 7 or 8 years ago, we talked a lot about technology itself and I spent a good part of the day demonstrating emerging technologies like student response systems and Alphasmarts. Almost no one in those days knew anything about Inspiration and wikis were really just for geeks. But now, those technologies are well known and most schools are deploying all of them to some extent. So we turn our attention to the larger discussions about what kinds of skills students will need to move forward in our ever-changing world.

Many of you have heard my riff on all the 21st century skills…I like to pile them all together and call them leadership skills. And I also like to suggest that Benjamin Franklin had those kinds of skills within his own century (18th century skills, as it were). But those skills seem more pressing now, maybe because in Ben’s day they were reserved for only a few and now it seems like everyone needs them.

As part of the workshop, we do a dotting activity. After all, it’s not real professional development if you don’t put a dot on something. I use Tony Wagner’s Seven Survival Skills and give the participants four dots (green, red, yellow, and blue). They are told to evaluate their own classroom or school in light of how well they are integrating these skills. The green dot is the one they are doing the best. The red dot, the worst. The yellow dot is the one they would work on after solving the red dot. That leaves blue: I used to give it to them as a gift. But now, I ask them to put it on the skill that they aren’t sure can be taught. And that’s usually where the good discussion comes in.

The dots often play out very similarly: most educators feel as though they are doing a good job with communication skills as well as helping students access and analyze information. They are not doing so well with initiative and entrepreneurship. And, the one that gets the blue dots, the one we can’t teach? Creativity and imagination. We had a lively discussion this past Saturday about what teachers can do to pique student creativity or foster their imagination.

And as they talked, I thought about the video clip I had edited earlier that morning. It features John Rinn who runs The Rinn Lab for Research on Large Interngenic Non-coding RNAs, part of Harvard Medical School. He’s a young guy with lots of enthusiasm for his work who likes to snowboard on the side. He is definitely creative and has some good advice for teachers who are trying to foster such in their students. The clip was a perfect ending to our conversation and the fact that I had just uploaded it at 5 AM that morning made me giddy with serendipity.

I haven’t put the clip on YouTube yet but you can view it, as well as other related clips, at the STEM Education Alliance website.

ITRT Mini Conference Keynote: Fred Scott

Here are my notes from Fred’s excellent keynote.  (Now, I’m sitting in his breakout session.)

ITRT Mini Conference
Keynote Speaker: Fred Scott, Manager, Instructional Technology, Chesterfield County Public Schools

Hardware? Software?  No…Let’s Connect With HUMANware

Humanware refers to people.  We have been investing in hardware, software and webware, but what about the people?  We need to invest in the people in order to improve instruction with technology.  We need to connect humanware to school goals, student goals, etc?  When our kids leave the school system there is a whole world out there.  They may not stay in their community…we have no idea where they will be and what they will be doing.  Fred’s framework asks how we connect IRTRs with the humanware: teaching, coaching, training, and learning.

Where does humanware fit in?  Alignment for success:  are you aware of your technology master plan in your district? professional development; curriculum blue prints; if teachers are only going to teach the SOLs, then we are still behind.  The last piece is school improvement so you should be aware of the school improvement plan.  How do we get connected with those people?

Data Wise from Harvard University includes 8 steps that begins with organizing for collaborative work and ends with acting and assessing.   He has a matrix of tools that will help the team be effective.  He aligned the school improvement process with technology tools.  The ITRTs need to understand the school data such as the report card.

Training:  Rich Allen, Train Smart, 2001  Five Pillars of Training:  Engage, Frame, Explore, Debrief, Reflect
Engage: Prepare the mind, you have 5 minutes to establish the connection with an adult; teach people NOT content; teach WITH people to understand the content
Frame: establish relevance, you have one minute to establish relevance, what are you going to help them learn, why is choice good?  Because then people can make connections, now you have the next 30 minutes to involve the key concepts
Explore: Learning + Enjoyment = Concepts; people remember the good and the ugly
Debrief: Consolidating learning: how are they going to apply it to the real world?
Reflect: Embed Learning: give them stories.

Quotes Confucious: I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.

Teaching:  connect the goals and objectives, what are we doing and trying to get across
The ABCD method of writing objectives
Condition: how should they be able to do it?
Degree: how much should they be able to do it?

Time Dependancy

Discusses Marzano’s strategies:  we don’t see it as much as we should
The nine strategies are very powerful: the top three are reinforcing effort and providing recognition, summarizing and notetaking, similarities and differences

New book: Using Technology With Classroom Instruction the Works

He outlines planning question and instructional strategies.

He suggests applying the Madeleine Hunter model: from purpose to closer
Hal Portner, Workshops that Really Work

Showed the A Vision of K-12 Students Today

Coaching: NSDC says that effective coaching means you are with a person one on one.    In the coaching model, there is some risk.  There are three major levels of risk; are you going to be conservative, moderate or aggressive?

Kimberly Ketterer, “Coach, Nurture or Nudge?”  L&L

Coach:  there is a paradigm shift from a traditional classroom to one who integrates technology.  The adult is now a risk taker who trusts the coach.  They are willing to embrace the information and collaborate.

Nurture: The adult is not confident and are still learning skills and applications.  But they are willing to try.  this adult lacks the confidence and they want to watch you do it.  They will say that time is a major problem.  They like small achievements.

Nudge: This is the person that is satisfied with the way things are.  These people are uncertain and anxious.

Learning:  How do ITRTs connect to the learning process to get adults to learn?
Showed a graphic of the basic neuron types:  what does it take to help teachers understand the make up of the brain and what’s happening inside.  He talked about Howard Gardner and multiple intelligence theory.  You can assess your learning style here.

Marcia Tate: Sit & Get Won’t Grow Dendrites:  she talks about adult learning and strategies and activities for how to work with adults.

How do we connect Humanware to Web 2.0 for professional development and learning?  He pointed to
•    Center for Learning & Performance Technologies

Here’s what ITRTs need to do:
•    We have to know the goals and objectives of the school.
•    We have to develop collegial relationships.
•    We have to recognize that the adults have the expertise.
•    We have to align activities with the curriculum.
•    We have to help them understand that technology can help improve instruction and delivery.

We must provide our children the best possible learning environments to foster critical thinking, innovations and problem solving to better our society.  Fred Scott

ITRTs Lead Out Loud:

To get results with technology integration, we need to invest in people…nurture, cultivate and develop them to ensure that tools make a difference in learning.

Remember, FRED:
Educate and

They did a share fair at his school division for the school board so they could understand the ITRT position.  for downloading the presentation

A Microcosmic View of the Macrocosmic Debate

Since I blogged about 21st century skills myself yesterday, I was interested in Scott McLeod’s post on the same topic.  Scott’s post is, of course, interesting in itself as he quotes a variety of reports that show a lack of student-centered instruction in today’s classrooms.  But, for me, the more interesting part of the post are the comments, which show the wide ranging nature of the debate about school reform and the appropriate use of technology in school.  I would encourage you to head over there and get involved yourself.  Here are a few of the topics that lead to the big questions about schooling in the 21st century:

  • Are 21st century skills and tools incompatible with the current system of schooling including the focus on content-based standards and the organization of students in stand-alone classrooms?
  • Do we need to teach kids technology skills at all?
  • How does school need to change to take advantage of the new social networking types of tools such as Twitter or blogs?
  • And then the big question, and I’ll borrow from Neil Postman here: What is the “end” of education?

I’m not going to suggest that I have the answers, and I would be wary of anyone who claims they do.  I am going to use these as a guide for my own thinking and writing in the next few weeks.  But, for now, it’s Sunday morning and my garden is calling.

Aren’t These Really Leadership Skills?

Tim over at Assorted Stuff pointed me to Google’s blog post that recommends that students major in learning.  Here’s the short list of skills for which they look in new employees:

  • analytical reasoning
  • communication skills
  • a willingness to experiment
  • team players
  • passion and leadership

As I read the post, I thought about the keynote I’m doing next week in Franklin County.  I’m including a section about 21st century skills.  For awhile now, I’ve been doing a crosswalk between Tom Friedman’s list of skills and the 21st century skills:


It’s easy to see where Google fits right in and I’ll certainly be adding them to my presentation. (Thanks, Tim, for your very timely post.)  By the way, for those who haven’t read Friedman, CQ + PQ > IQ stands for Curiosity Quotient and Passion Quotient which are greater than Intelligence Quotient.

But, I’ve also been taking this a step further.  Google includes “leadership” as one of its skills and I would suggest that all the skills are leadership skills.   Reading the lists reminds me of my favorite leadership writer, Warren Bennis.  I use Bennis for my email signature:  “People who cannot invent and reinvent themselves must be content with borrowed postures, secondhand ideas, fitting in instead of standing out.”  When I started playing with Tumblr again this week, I started by posting more Bennis quotes.

On Becoming a Leader is his classic work. He lists the following characteristics of leaders:

  • Passion
  • Daring
  • Distinctive Voice
  • Integrity
  • Curiosity
  • Adaptive Capacity (essentially the ability to learn)

Note the similarities, and this from someone writing in the 20th century.  Maybe the skills needed to survive in the 21st century are not so different from those needed in the past. I think the major difference now is that we are beginning to understand that these skills are needed by everyone, not just those who are heading to CEO land.  As Tim writes, “That list of factors would pretty much prepare students to work almost anywhere.”

All this thinking about leadership was reinforced for me as I sat at a stop light the other day. I happened to glance at the landscaping truck next to me.  It was advertising employment opportunities and underneath the phone number was the following statement: “We want leader not laborers.”