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Woo Hoo Day 3!: #NST13 Teacher Reflection

Posts from NewTech - Thu, 2013-06-27 06:12
Project based learning teacher blogs his journey through New Tech Network New Schools Training.

Woo hoo day three! On Monday I was a bit selfish and reflected only on my personal feelings. Tuesday I shelfed my ego a bit and focused on team spirit and the beauty of collaboration. Tonight I want to go a little more big picture and focus on the value of being part of a nationwide network.

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Day Two of #NST13: A Teacher's Reflections

Posts from NewTech - Wed, 2013-06-26 06:36
Follow along with Josh on his journey through New Schools Training with New Tech Network

Day two of New Schools Training is officially in the books! Looking back on my twelve hour work day it has been difficult to narrow down my experiences to just a few highlights that anyone would want to read. Hopefully if you read day one and came back to read day two I haven’t bored you to death yet.

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Follow Josh on his #NST13 Journey: New Schools Training, Day One

Posts from NewTech - Tue, 2013-06-25 05:43
A "new to the network" teacher blogs about day one of his journey at New Tech Network's New School's Training.

Waking up for the first day of New Schools Training was like waking up for the first day of my senior year of high school. When my alarm sounded this morning I sprang into action thinking of all the opportunities awaiting me. I packed my laptop, laced up a new pair of shoes then dragged myself to Starbucks. Meeting my Cougar New Tech team in the hotel lobby for breakfast was like reuniting with classmates after a busy summer. Our energy levels were unusually high for seven o’clock on a June morning.

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Failing Forward

Posts from Strive - Mon, 2013-06-24 12:41

When we are young, we are often encouraged to learn from our mistakes.  As parents, we are certainly continuing this traditional mantra on a regular basis.  And I would venture to say that for most, the value of this counsel eventually does sink in.  What is ironic is that learning from our mistakes actually gets harder and harder to do as one gets older….especially in a person’s professional life….and even more so if that person happens to work in the social sector.

Why?  Because in the social sector there either is or is perceived to be a very short leash.  If a program or service is found not to have the desired impact and if a leader is actually transparent about that, it often means funding streams dry up quickly.  In some cases this is clearly merited as no one wants to waste money, especially when the money could lead to better results for something as important as children.

But the unfortunate byproduct is that it encourages everyone to put a positive spin on whatever they are doing.  Even more directly, it prohibits people from learning transparently from their mistakes so others can learn with them.  We call this practice, as have others before us, “failing forward.”

We would assert there has never been a more important time for all of us working in the social sector to embrace this practice of failing forward.  In this economy, or the “New Normal” as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called it, we simply have to think about new ways of using limited resources. We have to be willing and able to apply learning in real-time to use limited resources more efficiently and effectively.

We have seen that the members of the Cradle to Career Network are willing to embody this ethic.  They are only able to do this because key cross-sector leaders in their community are taking the long-term view.  They see the importance of using data to improve.  And they are willing to make some mistakes along the way as they figure out how to do so.

One very concrete example from our early work in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky was how we selected our community level outcomes.  We initially had a very small and insular group of leaders pick the core student outcomes we wanted to focus on as a community.  When these were “revealed” to all there was immediate backlash.  We had to backtrack and go through a much more transparent process that helped build broad community ownership.

This could have tanked the effort.  But instead, cross-sector leaders were willing to acknowledge the mistake and stick with the process.  And as a result, a baseline report card on outcomes that community partners agreed were important was completed.  The fifth annual report card was recently released and the importance of this document continues to grow.  Perhaps even more importantly, by sharing this “failure” openly, we are now working with other communities to avoid similar mistakes and get to better results faster.

There are numerous examples of efforts to celebrate this culture of “failing forward”, such as Fail Faires and Failure Reports.  We want to model this behavior in our Network by having our own Fail Forward Fest at the National Convening in Dallas on September 25th to 27th .  We hope you will consider submitting your own story of how you have learned and applied lessons from mistakes.  If we all give each other the space to do this, we may just make it a bit easier as we get older to practice what our parents preached.

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Storytelling as a Conference Opener: Reflections from our students

Posts from NewTech - Mon, 2013-06-24 09:44
This week, New Tech is holding their annual New School Training in Grand Rapids, MI. Three students from the New Tech School in Grand Rapids, Kent Innovation, were able to attend the conference, The students were Anna Reynolds (@AnnaMae7784), Emmy Ryder (@EmmyRyd2016), and Colson Korpak (@C4K5). We listened to three of the most talented story weavers with hundreds of others in Devos Conference Hall. Two were NTN coaches: Starla Collins (@SweetStarla) and Matt Thompson (@thompson_teach) , and Lydia Dobyns (@lydiadobyns), the President of NTN.

This week,the New Tech Network is holding their annual New Schools Training in Grand Rapids, MI. Three students from the New Tech School in Grand Rapids, Kent Innovation, were able to attend the conference, The students were Anna Reynolds (@AnnaMae7784), Emmy Ryder (@EmmyRyd2016), and Colson Korpak (@C4K5).

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Reflections on "Time for Deeper Learning: Lessons from Five High Schools" report

Posts from NewTech - Mon, 2013-06-17 12:50
I am struck by the alignment of these five principles to the rich research base on socio-cultural and situated learning. From Vygotsky, Lave & Wenger, & Wertsch we know that people learn through social interactions, especially those situated in real-world contexts where a positive learning environment in fostered, assessments are authentic, and both master and apprentice engage in deep learning. The priorities for time-design identified in this study align strongly with this research and result in remarkable outcomes for kids. These schools structure learning time to increase opportu

The National Center for Time and Learning released a report last week, Time for Deeper Learning: Lessons from Five High Schools (http://www.timeandlearning.org/DeeperLearning), about the use of time in five high-performing deeper learning schools. While increasing the amount of learning time for students across the nation may be an important policy initiative, this study draws attention to time-design practices which foster deeper learning, or the use of allocated time. Through their study, researchers identify key principles that shape learning time in exemplary schools.

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Learning How to Learn

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-06-07 19:40
"When things make sense -- the New Tech way -- the students understand it, too -- and that's what changes the culture the most,"

Deciding to make fundamental changes to the way students learn, and, therefore, the way teachers teach, has huge implications for a district. Teachers and administrators often spend significant time researching effective strategies before adopting local innovation plans.

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Learning How to Learn

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-06-07 19:40
"When things make sense -- the New Tech way -- the students understand it, too -- and that's what changes the culture the most,"

Deciding to make fundamental changes to the way students learn, and, therefore, the way teachers teach, has huge implications for a district. Teachers and administrators often spend significant time researching effective strategies before adopting local innovation plans.

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End of Year Reflection: Failing Forward

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-06-07 03:00
I volunteer at a local church. The pastor there has a phrase he uses often: “Proper planning prevents poor performance.” I was in a leadership meeting with him when he said it for the [insert your own euphemism for ‘a lot of times’] when I had a “ facilitator” revelation.

I volunteer at a local church. The pastor there has a phrase he uses often: “Proper planning prevents poor performance.” I was in a leadership meeting with him when he said it for the [insert your own euphemism for ‘a lot of times’] when I had a “ facilitator” revelation.

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What Makes a “Teacher of the Year”?

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-05-31 16:19
Teresa Fuller was named Arkansas Teacher of the Year for 2012-2013. "I think its relationships with students and the faith you place in them. As this school year drew to a close a colleague shared a comment a student made to her about me after witnessing a conversation between a young man and myself about his grades and plans for next year. She said he had told her, “She inspires me to work harder because she believes in me” "

What makes a “teacher of the year”? I think its relationships with students and the faith you place in them. As this school year drew to a close a colleague shared a comment a student made to her about me after witnessing a conversation between a young man and myself about his grades and plans for next year.

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Servant Leadership: A Core Competency to Achieve Collective Impact

Posts from Strive - Tue, 2013-05-28 11:19

I recently had the privilege of serving on a panel at the annual United Way Worldwide Staff Leadership Conference.  Melody Barnes of Aspen Forum for Community Solutions – among a hundred other key roles she plays so wonderfully to support our democracy – facilitated beautifully.  She helped us dig into a host of questions about really taking on Collective Impact and engaged the audience in a great dialogue.

One of the follow-up items I was approached about by numerous folks afterwards were a couple references I made to “servant leadership” as core to the work of collective impact, namely the backbone organization staffing cross sector partnerships.  I read Robert Greenleaf’s book The Servant as Leader years ago, but given the level of interest it sparked me to go back and take another look.  I was fortunate to find a pamphlet that served as cliff notes that The Robert K. Greenleaf Center published not too long ago, and I was literally floored.

Having lived the life of a “cat herder” supporting a cradle to career partnership for many years in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, his words from 1970 provided a level of clarity I had not expected regarding the roles – maybe I should say “the way” (Steve Patrick, also of Aspen, noted that Lao Tzu might be the most obvious example of this way of being) – those who take on this work must adopt.

Here are a few quotes that really stuck with me:

“ …the great leader is seen as servant first and that simple fact is key to his/her greatness.”

“But if one is servant, either leader or follower, one is always searching, listening, expecting that a better wheel for these times is in the making.”

“A fresh critical look is being taken at the issues of power and authority, and people are beginning to learn, however haltingly, to relate to one another in a less coercive and more creatively supporting ways.”

It would have been easy to pick out 100 others and I could have picked out even more of the core tenets he describes, but here are my top ten based on my latest read:

  • Set goals and be clear about direction – find creative ways to stay on course
  • Listen first…..really listening first
  • Careful use of language – goal is to trigger the “imaginative leap” on the part of others to see new way
  • Requires acceptance and empathy – respect for different perspectives
  • Means pacing oneself to allow for reflection/”withdrawal”
  • Knows the right role to play at the right time
  • Understanding institutions must move from people-using to people-building
  • Requires getting people favored by rules to think differently
  • The opposite of servant leadership is critic and expert – this work requires humility
  • Requires foresight – ability to help solve current AND unknown problems

There are wonderful stories to go with each of these insights that make this worth your time to read.  I would encourage everyone to take a look and I would love to hear what you think.

 

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The Envelope(s) Please

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-05-24 13:13
I don’t like to admit how much I love watching the Academy Awards; I am a sucker for public acknowledgement of great work. We couldn’t be more proud of the many accolades falling on New Tech schools, teachers and students. It’s like the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys combined, with New Tech collecting trophies in every category! I also know that we’re aware of only some of the honors bestowed to members of the New Tech family — please let us know if we don’t acknowledge awards you’ve received.

I don’t like to admit how much I love watching the Academy Awards; I am a sucker for public acknowledgement of great work. We couldn’t be more proud of the many accolades falling on New Tech schools, teachers and students. It’s like the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys combined, with New Tech collecting trophies in every category!

I also know that we’re aware of only some of the honors bestowed to members of the New Tech family — please let us know if we don’t acknowledge awards you’ve received.

STUDENT SCHOLARSHIPS

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School Success-the New Tech Network Rubric

Posts from NewTech - Thu, 2013-05-23 18:54
How should we measure the success of a school system?

How should we measure the success of a school system? For the last few decades, the states have wanted to see high achievement on standardized tests. Parents want a safe school and a successful student ready for college and career. The local newspapers like it when the sports teams are winning. We could measure the success of a school in literally dozens of ways, from cost per pupil to dropout and attendance rates. But what would happen if we chose to focus on student success as the sole measure of a school’s success?

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Reflecting on my Freshman Year in College: Thanks Zebra New Tech!

Posts from NewTech - Mon, 2013-05-20 07:03
It has almost been exactly one year to the day since I walked across a stage to receive my diploma at Rochester Zebra New Tech High School. Now a year later, I’ve successfully completed my freshman year at Indiana Wesleyan University. At IWU in Marion, Indiana, I am a double major in Church Music and Christian Worship. My studies focus both in Music and in Theology.

It has almost been exactly one year to the day since I walked across a stage to receive my diploma at Rochester Zebra New Tech High School. Now a year later, I’ve successfully completed my freshman year at Indiana Wesleyan University. At IWU in Marion, Indiana, I am a double major in Church Music and Christian Worship. My studies focus both in Music and in Theology.

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The Difference between Backbones and Conveners in Collective Impact

Posts from Strive - Fri, 2013-05-17 12:03

We have the honor of working with sites all over the country looking embrace the concept of collective impact and establish cradle to career civic infrastructure to achieve better outcomes for children.  Unfortunately, the energy around this work has led to a new political challenge in many communities:  jockeying among partners to become the “backbone”[1].  In one community that reached out to us they noted they had NINE backbone organizations in the education space!  As we all know, a body that has nine backbones is really going to struggle to move forward effectively.   The same is the case for a community working to improve outcomes in a specific issue area like education.  We fully embrace that a community may likely need multiple backbones for multiple issues – health, public safety, housing, education, etc. – but we strongly advise against having multiple backbones in just one issue area.

So how might we think about the different roles organizations looking to take up a leadership can play in order to capitalize on all of this interest?  We have developed one way to think about this that has helped numerous communities find a way through this challenge.  The visual below captures the concept at a high level, but the key is to differentiate between the role of backbone organizations and conveners.   The primary difference is that a single backbone entity is needed to help support the overall development of civic infrastructure to have collective impact.  Conveners, on the other hand, are focused on working with the relevant partners – practitioners and other interested stakeholders – to build comprehensive and data driven outcomes around a single outcome along the continuum.  See a summary of the roles in the visual below:

Picture2

The Role of the Backbone

The key roles of a backbone organization are outlined in detail below.  Before going into the roles, it is important to note that while the backbone is often perceived as a position with the most power in a collective impact effort, it is most effectively played by an entity that embraces the principles of servant leadership.  In essence, the backbone needs to play a very quiet and behind the scenes role, lifting up others who are doing the work so they get the well deserved credit for the data-driven work they are doing on the ground to support children.   In the end, an entity willing to take this servant oriented stance – instead of being more visible – will be able to play the following roles much more effectively as partners across all sectors and at all levels will feel respected for the contributions to the partnership vision:

  • Connect and Support Leaders:  The core function of the backbone is to ensure leaders at all levels playing a variety of roles within the community keep the vision, mission, and outcomes of the partnership front and center when making major decisions.  This takes regular meetings with any and all key stakeholders that contribute to the vision so they feel supported by the work of the partnership instead of threatened.  This also means addressing political fires that that regularly emerge when partners are struggling to communicate or unexpected drama emerges in the press.
  • Establish the Data Management Infrastructure:  At an early meeting in a community we have partnered with to take on this work, one of the funders in the core group of leaders was almost in a state of shock at the end of the civic infrastructure overview.  It turned out she was worried that she and her peers were going to be asked to pay for data experts and systems to work in each and every individual non-profit and related partner in town.  But she quickly realized the backbone enables you to avoid such an expense by centralizing the development of the data management system and supporting partners to help collect, manage, and report data effectively.
  • Advocate for Technical Support:  As practitioners work together to build action plans, invariable challenges emerge related to items such as engaging key partners, getting access to data and other key resources, and challenges communicating the work.  The backbone can help advocate with leaders to help address the issues or offer technical supports like facilitation or experts from the business community to help overcome what can seem like small, yet show stopping hurdles.
  • Marshal Investments:  When The Strive Partnership was started in Cincinnati, we heard from directors of non-profits that many spent over 90 percent of their time fundraising.  Over time, as action plans emerge from practitioners to improve specific outcomes, the backbone can help reduce this burden on individual providers by advocating with public and private investors to support comprehensive and cohesive action plans where each partner plays a clearly defined role.

The Role of the Convener

The convener, on the other hand,plays a much more specific and frequently more visible role in building action plans.  Because practitioners are looking to bring attention to their work, the convener can be out front with the work they do to help develop comprehensive action plans because it will invariably raise awareness both for the importance of the work and the contributions of the partners.  So entities looking to be more visible and play a leadership role may very well be better positioned to become a convener to do the following:

  • EngagePractitioners – Practitioners have more than enough work to do on a daily basis that adding the work of a network initially can be burdensomeThe convener can focus more on the specific needs of practitioners to actively engage in this work, while ensuring they are willing and able to use data to shape their individual and collective action plans.  In the end, the convener is focused on making it as easy as possible for partners to actively engage, helping them to overcome specific obstacles, and ensuring the necessary incentives are in place to make this worth their while.
  • Facilitate Multi-Sector Networks – Once Networks are formed with practitioners and other relevant stakeholders to focus on a specific outcome, expert facilitation is needed to ensure the partners use data to build an action plan that is focused on scaling what works.  Conveners help to ensure this support is in place, often in the form of expert facilitation, so the Network stays focused and develops an action plan the full partnership can advocate for among a host of critical local and national stakeholders.
  • Update Action Plans – Once the action plan is completed, it can’t just sit on a shelf.  It is critical to update the plan every time new data becomes available to inform decisions around what is working to improve the outcomes the partnership has embraced.  It is this continuous improvement of action plans that leads to the long-term, disciplined use of data that is at the heart of making civic infrastructure valuable. 

It is important to note that in each of these roles, the backbone and the convener, the entities in question must be a) un-biased toward specific partners or strategies, b) willing to use data to drive decisions and navigate the many challenges that come with such a role, and c) have resources to fund the basic staffing roles needed to do the work.  This can often narrow the pool of potential players to fill these roles.  But if partners can meet these criteria, they can find a way to lead.  Not everyone has to be the backbone.  In the end, given the state of the outcomes most communities hope to move, there are plenty of leadership roles to play to realize the improvements we all so desire.

[1] See definition in “Collective Impact” by Kania and Kramer at http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/collective_impact/

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Our Name, New Tech, Implies Technology, "Tech" Actually Means "Techniques."

Posts from NewTech - Wed, 2013-05-15 10:17
More testing! Give them IPads! More teacher accountability! Vouchers! Did I mention IPads and testing? If you’ve paid any attention to the rhetoric of education, you have surely heard these plans. But what you haven’t heard is how we are going to address the needs of children. Sure, technology must enter the equation, but rushing to be the first school with IPads isn’t the answer, especially when there isn’t a plan to integrate them in a meaningful way. More testing simply takes time away from actual instruction, and in no way helps prepare kids for future endeavors. Vouchers simply direct attention, and students, away from underperforming schools, and offer no solutions to help schools in need.

More testing! Give them IPads! More teacher accountability! Vouchers! Did I mention IPads and testing? If you’ve paid any attention to the rhetoric of education, you have surely heard these plans. But what you haven’t heard is how we are going to address the needs of children. Sure, technology must enter the equation, but rushing to be the first school with IPads isn’t the answer, especially when there isn’t a plan to integrate them in a meaningful way. More testing simply takes time away from actual instruction, and in no way helps prepare kids for future endeavors.

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President Obama & New Tech Network: A Wrap Up

Posts from NewTech - Mon, 2013-05-13 15:40
President Obama visits New Tech Network School Manor Technology High School to talk about #STEM.

President Obama visited Manor New Technology High School

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Can President Obama's Visit to New Tech School Pave the Way for Education Innovation?

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-05-10 14:29
No one loves a happy ending more than me. Today was a personal once-in-a-lifetime movie moment: I welcomed President Obama to Manor New Technology High School.

No one loves a happy ending more than me. Today was a personal once-in-a-lifetime movie moment: I welcomed President Obama to Manor New Technology High School. Before the president spent 45 minutes with students showing off Project Based Learning, I got to engage in a conversation with him about the kind of innovation taking place in 100+ public school districts across New Tech Network.

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Our Favorite Tweets of the Week

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-05-10 08:58
This week we will be grabbing many of our favorite tweets of the week!

 

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A Lifelong Yearning Answered

Posts from NewTech - Thu, 2013-05-09 02:19
Barack Obama visits a project-based learning innovative PUBLIC high schools.

I shrieked and was glad that I was not driving. My husband’s eardrums have nearly recovered. You know how the visualization suggestion goes: Dream big dreams and watch what happens. The phone call that caused me to scream confirmed that the president---THE President—was going to visit one of our schools. That was a shriek-worthy moment in itself. But then the real miracle happened the voice on the phone said “and we want you to be there. “

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