Monday, January 3, 2011

Why?

A new year arrives and many of us are contemplating what the future will bring our way.  Some people make resolutions, often broken soon after.  Although I’m not into new years resolutions, I think it is good to think, plan, and engage in the future… today.

“Some people make things happen, some watch things happen, while others wonder what has happened”

Who do you want to become, what do you want to be different, better, and what are you going to do about it?  I encourage you to read this guest post over at George Couros’s blog The Principal of Change.  The author, Lesley Cameron, talks about trying new things, taking risks, with technology in her classroom.  She references a short clip “Two questions that can change your life” from Daniel Pink.  “What is your sentence?” is a powerful question to ask oneself.  Drive talks a lot about what motivates us and suggests that intrinsic (internal) motivation is a powerful force.  For me I think two sentences would be needed, one for my personal and a second for my professional life.  I need to think about this some more but perhaps this could fit for the second one…

“Through technology, he enabled new and better ways of working and learning.”

A second question is posed in the video, “Was I better today than yesterday?”  Imagine asking yourself the second question at the end of each day and being able to answer it “yes”.  That would be a powerful statement.

I have been thinking about what I need to do in 2011 to make a positive difference for the people I work with and for.  Like most of you I have a lot of projects, meetings, tasks, planning, presenting to take care of.  But, I would like to better focus how I use my time and do all I can to make it purposeful, to help my sentence come true, to answer “yes” to “Was I better today than yesterday?”  I need to ask “why” more often.  Why invest my time in “X”, why invest money in “Y”, or why introduce or support new technology “Z”.

Dave Truss’ latest post Question Everything poses a list of interesting questions those in the education space could ask themselves.  iStock_000004311434XSmallIn general I think it is right to question, everything, especially given the scarcity of our resources of both time, materials, and money.  I know that in my work I need to be more consistent in doing this.  In leading a technology portfolio, it’s easy to be seduced into “upgrading”, “adding new”, etc., just because or because people want the latest thing, etc.  But, I think we, I, need to get better at asking “why?” and people need to be more willing to provide the answer.  We need to be able to attach a value statement to what we invest in.  For each proposed “new” I think a value statement could be developed for the current model and proposed alternates.  Also, what is being undone by introducing the new – what will be given up?  What increased benefit is expected from the current state relative to the proposed new?

For me, there are three significant and I believe, high value, initiatives this year that do rise to the top.  Number one is improving our School District’s network that connects our schools and District together and to the Internet.  It is in serious need of investment and improvement.  The Tri-City News reported on the presentations I provided to our Board last fall:

If this initiative is of interest, you can read the business proposal here and view the final presentation to the Board here.  The value statement is fairly straightforward: either we invest and improve the network or we put the brakes on and begin to scale back our use of technology used for learning, teaching, and work.  We do value technology already for these purposes – perhaps we will have to question those values if we are unable to improve our network…

Secondly, it is time to upgrade and expand the capabilities of our my43 learning and work platform.  I wrote about one aspect of this in Student Spaces (I would love your input there).  my43, beginning in 2007, has evolved into a core digital platform for our District where it is “a virtual environment designed to transform the learning and work in our District” (our value statement).  You may wonder “why not just use Google Docs, a Ning, a Moodle site, WikiSpaces, or a Wordpress site?”  Excellent question.  I argue the value of a both-and approach in my post about Student Spaces and again would love others to weigh in with their thoughts there.  Furthermore, the challenge is to figure out how to best weave the excellent free external learning spaces together with secure and safe spaces in my43 to create a seamless experience for students, teachers, principals, and parents.

And thirdly, we are embarking on a Print Strategy initiative where “printing is not meant to be convenient”.  This short presentation, given to our senior executive last year, outlines the idea.  This will involve replacing 100’s of aging printers, copiers, scanners, and fax machines with multi-function machines placed strategically within schools and District buildings.  It could involve significant reduction of the existing number of machines used to print (less convenient printing and copying) in favor of scanning (more convenient and capable).  It will involve restricting the purchase or “donation” of high cost (to operate) printers or copiers.  Our intentions are, our value proposal is, to reduce paper and electricity consumption and reduce our contribution to the carbon problem.

I intend to be increasingly thoughtful about and intentional with the value our work adds for students, teachers, principals, staff, and parents this year.  I hope that I can say at the end of each day “I was better today than yesterday”…  I hope you can too.