How to Best Support Yahoos

This post is part of a series for school leaders working on implementing large-scale, learning-focused school change. Your success depends not just on your technical knowledge about the initiative, but also how well you understand the three kinds of staff in your school (Yahoos, Yes Buts, and NFWs) and how their support needs differ.

The Yahoos are those folks who are always excited about new and interesting practices, programs and resources and are anxious to try them out in their own classroom.

This post focuses on how to best support Yahoos.

Yahoos are easy to support.  They are largely self-sufficient, having lots of good ideas of their own and facility with identifying and tracking down resources.

When they do come to school leaders, it is generally for permission, for resources they can’t find on their own, or to authorize funding for resources.

The best way to support Yahoos is to find ways to say yes to their requests, or to help problem solve their needs.  Once they have those, they are quick to return to working on their own.

You should be spending about 10-20% of your time supporting your Yahoos.

 

Next in the series: How we misunderstand Yes Buts

What We Misunderstand about Yahoos

This post is part of a series for school leaders working on implementing large-scale, learning-focused school change. Your success depends not just on your technical knowledge about the initiative, but also how well you understand the three kinds of staff in your school (Yahoos, Yes Buts, and NFWs) and how their support needs differ.

The Yahoos are those folks who are always excited about new and interesting practices, programs and resources and are anxious to try them out in their own classroom.

This post focuses on how we misunderstand Yahoos.

 

Yahoos seem a dream to work with.  We all wish we had more of them on our staff. Not only are they quick to implement any quality learning-focused school change initiative that school leadership brings forward, they are often already working on many of their own.  They are quick to learn new strategies and approaches, invent and design a few of their own, and implement at a high level.

Therefore, we often hold them and their work up to their colleagues as examples of where we’d like to go with the initiative and the kind of work we’d like from each staff member.

The problem is that the Yahoos don’t really have the right kind of “cred” with their colleagues for moving the initiative forward. Their colleagues certainly recognize that Yahoos work hard and do good work and generally respect that work. The problem is that the rest of the staff don’t consider Yahoos to be like them. They think, “Thats just what Yahoos do.” When school leaders hold up the work of the Yahoos, the rest of the staff don’t say, “Oh, I can do that!” They say, “Well, I’d do that, too, if I were a Yahoo.  …but I’m not.”

Frankly, just as we should not judge the “success” of a school by the successes of their high performing students (we really must look at the successes of their hard-to-teach kids!), we should not judge the success or progress of an initiative by the success of our Yahoos. We only have truly moved the needle when there is wide scale, proficient implementation of the initiative by the Yes Buts.

 

Next in the series: How to best support Yahoos.

Working With A Diverse Staff: The 3 Types of Colleagues in a Change Initiative

Creating educational programs and systems that work for all kids has been my work for a long time. I have grown to understand that asking educators to change how they work produces a range of very human responses:

  • Let’s go!
  • Sounds good, but how?
  • Maybe… Can you show me that it works?
  • Yes, but what about this?
  • No Way!

Student Aspirations guru Dr. Russ Quaglia (Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations) was one of my graduate professors and served on my dissertation committee. He used to talk about three kinds of educators, when it comes to school change:

  • Yahoos
  • Yes Buts
  • NFWs

The Yahoos are those folks who are always excited about new and interesting practices, programs, and resources and were anxious to try them out in their own classroom.

The Yes Buts seem hesitant and skeptical of the initiatives with their questions of “but what about this and what about that?”

The NFWs are the folks who look a little like Yes Buts with their questions of “but what about this and what about that?” but who are really saying to themselves and their fellow NFWs, “No freaking way am I doing this!”

Each present their own challenge to school change and each needs a different kind of attention and support.

This is the beginning of a series of posts exploring what we misunderstand about Yahoos, Yes Buts and NFWs, and how to best support each. Frankly, the advice is counterintuitive in places, but is based on practical experience successfully implementing large-scale, learning-focused school change.

 

Next in the series: How we misunderstand Yahoos.

12 Professional Learning Curriculum Buckets for Teaching and Learning with Tech

As we think about our teachers becoming highly skilled at using technology in the classroom, we could certainly generate a very long list of abilities, approaches, tools, apps, strategies, and other competences we’d like them to get good at.

But there are certain behaviors/professional learning that have been linked to fostering a quality, learning-focused 1to1 technology initiative. These become our 12 buckets that would make up a professional learning curriculum for teachers.

Four of those buckets focus on teachers’ being able to use the technology themselves and create the conditions in the classroom for students to use the technology for learning.

  1. Personal Use: Can teachers use the device themselves as their own productivity and learning tool?12 Professional Learning Buckets for Learning Through Technology
  2. Classroom Management for Tech: How can teachers insure that students are focused and on-task when using technology in the classroom (especially when every student has a device in front of them!)?
  3. Student Motivation & Engagement: How do teachers ensure that students are mentally and physically engaged? How can teachers create the conditions for student self-motivation?
  4. Teaching Digital Citizenship: How do (all) teachers help students learn how to use technology safely and appropriately? (This isn’t just the responsibility of the computer teacher!)

And 8 of those buckets are the pedagogical approaches that make up “Powerful Uses of Technology” (notice that they focus on educational goals, not technology tools):

  1. Tech for Foundational Knowledge: How can we help students learn the basics?
  2. Tech for Practice and Deepening Understanding: What tools and resources help students develop some fluency with those basics?
  3. Tech for Using Knowledge: How can we contextualize learning and make learning engaging and meaningful? How can students use their knowledge? What is the role for creating and creativity, and for project-based learning.
  4. Tech for Learning Progress Management: How do we keep track of student learning? Promote a transparent curriculum? Make learning progressions clear? Help students navigate their learning? Maintain evidence of mastery?
  5. Tech for Personalizing Learning: How does technology help us tailor the learning to the student?
  6. Tech for Supporting Independent Learning: How can technology help the student do more on their own and need the teacher less?
  7. Tech for Assessment and Evidence of Learning: How can technology help us capture what students know and can do?
  8. Tech for Home/School Connection: How can technology help us stay better connected to parents?
Remember, we’d like to promote and encourage these buckets because they focus on creating quality learning experiences for students, not simply focusing on tools, skills, and devices. This keeps learning first, ensures we are talking about learning, not the tech, and promotes the idea of “More Verbs, Fewer Nouns.”
 
How might the 12 Buckets serve your school?

All About Micro-credentials

What are they?

  • A verified indicator of skills, competencies, interests, and accomplishments.
  • They are stored and managed online.

Why do we like them?

  • They value multiple pathways for learning
  • They are transportable and shareable
  • They represent professional learning on educators’ own terms
  • They are transferable from multiple sources
  • They are evidence based
  • They are stackable
  • They hold the potential to transform when and where learning is valued.

How can you use them?

  • Earn them
  • Share them on the web and through social media
  • Use them with employers and perspective employers

Learn More about Micro-credentials

 

And Even More about Micro-credentials

Introduction to MLTI

If you are a new Tech Director or Principal, or if you are new to Maine, or are “from away” but working on your own local learning through technology initiative, you might have questions about MLTI.
 
MLTI is the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, which started in 2002, providing 1to1 laptops to all 7th and 8th grade students and teachers in the state. From the beginning, we made the point of this being a learning initiative, not simply a tech buy. The program has expanded over the years. Schools can opt in, at district expense, for elementary schools and high schools. The state still provides funding support for 7th and 8th grade students and teachers, as well as for high school teachers, if the district opts in for all their high school students. MLTI is the only statewide 1to1 learning through technology initiative, and (depending on who you ask!) is currently the largest 1to1 program in the country.
 
Here are some places to get you started to learn more about MLTI…
 
You could browse the MLTI website:
 
Be sure to check out the overview of MLTI page:
 
Also, you might try these three articles:
They will provide an enormous amount of context for you.
 

Not All At Once: Breaking Your Initiative Into Phases

Leading large-scale school change is a challenge. These kinds of initiatives are often complex and include numerous parts and components. Further, the initiative often includes practices educators, the folks responsible for implementing the initiative, have never experienced themselves as learners. Such initiatives often seem overwhelming to teachers!

While I was with Auburn schools, one lesson we learned from working with other districts further along implementing Customized Learning (proficiency-based learning) than we were was “not all at once!” Although there are many components to this school reform effort, following a certain sequence seemed to lead to successful implementation more often than other processes or approaches.

We teased out those lessons about sequence into phases for implementing Customized Learning and started applying them to plans for training and supporting teachers, as well as plans for implementing a statewide requirement for a proficiency-based diploma.

Seeing the practical benefits of breaking our proficiency-based learning work into phases led us to also consider our work around learning through technology within a 1to1 environment, and we created phases for implementing technology for learning, as well.

Although there is flexibility in how districts implement each phase, or even in how they might break an implementation into phases, there seems to be real, practical advantages to thinking of a complex initiative in phases. Each phase focuses on building the capacity of teachers to implement the key components of a complex initiative, but by making the transition manageable by breaking it down into doable steps.

The Power of Breaking an Initiative into Phases (as viewed from the example of Proficiency-Based Learning)

The Phases – Customized Learning

The Phases – Technology for Learning