Archive for the ‘Leadership Books’ Category

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World – by Tony Wagner

Monday, December 5th, 2016
Creating Inovators

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner (© 2012, Scribner: New York, NY) explores what parents, teachers, and employers must do to develop the capacities of young people to become innovators. Tony profiles innovators to identify patterns in their childhood that made them what they are. He shows how to apply his findings to education and tells parents how to compensate for poor schools. Keys include collaboration, interdisciplinary problem-solving, and intrinsic motivation. Sixty original videos are included that you can access via a smartphone. Go to Creating Innovators for a trailer.

A Primer on Innovation

  • Innovation is about the process by which new things take place. It involves using novel and creative ways to create value via new products, services, business models, or processes. It involves valuable original ideas or insights that you somehow implement. It’s creative problem solving applied to the real world. Incremental innovation significantly improves products, processes, or services. Disruptive innovations create a new or fundamentally different product or service that disrupts markets and displaces dominant technologies.
  • Innovations can be technical like Apple’s iPod, iPhone, and iPad. They can also be social like the nonviolent strategies of Gandhi and M. L. King.

Skills of Innovators/Nature of Creativity

  • Tony offers the following as the main skills needed: 1) critical thinking and problem solving 2) collaboration across networks and leading by influence 3) agility and adaptability 4) initiative and entrepreneurship 5) accessing and analyzing information 6) effective oral and written communication 7) curiosity and imagination. It is also necessary to imagine the world from multiple perspectives, see all aspects of a problem, be optimistic, experiment to explore problems with a bias towards action, work with others as the day of the lone genius seems to be over. For places like Google and Apple, intellectual curiosity is more important than smarts. They also want people who will take control of a situation rather than waiting to be lead.

What Is Needed

  • Creativity is a habit and like any habit, it can be either encouraged or discouraged. Teachers that value the right answer more than provocative questions tend to drum the curiosity out of students early on. Creativity can be encouraged or discouraged.
  • Tony cites work of Teresa Amibile’s who says that creativity or innovation has three components. They are expertise, creative thinking skills, and motivation. She believes that motivation is the most important and that intrinsic motivation has more impact than extrinsic motivation. Tony adds that childhood play should lead to adolescent passion and adult purpose. They are the three interrelated elements of intrinsic motivation. He notes that a disproportionate number of innovative people attended Montessori schools where play is an important part of the curriculum.

What Is Needed

  • Knowing how to find those things you are interested in and that motivate you is way more important than specific things you study. This implies that you should put a buffet of opportunities in front of children and let them engage in unstructured play. If a child finds an interest, it should be encouraged.
  • Tony tells of a course at Stanford where students work in teams to solve open-ended problems. Most high school and college courses that feature individual competition, specific content, and extrinsic incentives like grades and GPA. What is needed are courses that feature teamwork, multidisciplinary approaches, and the intrinsic incentives of exploration, empowerment, and play.
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Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica ©2015 offers advice for educators and policy makers that can bring rigorous, personalized, and engaged education to everyone. As a leading voice in education, it’s vital that anyone interested hear what Sir Ken has to say. If you haven’t seen his number one TED Talk check that out too. Click at the bottom on any page to purchase this necessary book.

Sir Ken Robinson, PhD and Lou Aronica

  • Sir Ken is an English author, speaker, and international advisor on education in the arts to governments, non-profits, education, and arts bodies. He was Director of The Arts in Schools Project (1985–89), Professor of Arts Education at the University of Warwick (1989–2001), and was knighted in 2003 for services to education. He is the author of The Element, Finding Your Element, and Out of Ours Minds. His 2006 TED Talk How Schools Kill Creativity is the most watched in history with over 33 million views. Originally from a working-class Liverpool family, Robinson now lives in Los Angeles with his wife Marie-Therese and children James and Kate.
  • Lou Aronica is the author of three novels and the coauthor of several works of nonfiction, including the national best sellers The Culture Code, The Element, and Finding Your Element.

Introduction: One Minute to Midnight

  • The current reforms are being driven by political and commercial interests that misunderstand how real people learn, and how great schools work. As a result they are damaging the prospects of countless young people. The standards culture is harming students. In response, Sir Ken continues to push for a more balanced, individualized, and creative approach to education. Instead, schools take children with voracious appetites for learning and see to it that their appetites are dulled as they go through school. Current efforts focused on raising standards through competition and accountability do not work, and compound the problems they claim to solve. If you design a system based on standardization and conformity, you suppress individuality, imagination, and creativity. Schools that were designed to produce factory workers resemble factories with their assembly line approach. Current reforms stick with this approach only to be less in tune with the circumstances of the 21st century. Sir Ken thinks that schools need to be transformed not reformed, and that we know how to do it even though we aren’t.
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David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

David and Goliath
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants is Malcolm Gladwell’s fourth best-selling book to be summarized here. I’ve been a big fan ever since I summarized The Tipping Point. If you like to give books as gifts, please click below and get copies for yourself and your favorite bookworms.

Why Goliath was the Underdog

  • In the story of David and Goliath, it turned out that it was Goliath’s size that made him a better target for David’s sling. Warfare of the time featured cavalry, infantry, and a third group that fired projectiles like arrows and rocks. The infantry represented sitting ducks as they were relatively stationary compared to the cavalry. The humble infantryman, however, had better odds taking on a charging horse with a spear to the belly. Calvary could take on the projectile boys as they were moving targets that were much harder to hit. This is like a game of rock, paper, scissors were the odds depend on the matchup. For Goliath, facing a slinger like David was like facing a modern rival with a handgun.

Use Your Assets, Hide Your Weaknesses

  • Gladwell uses the David and Goliath story as a metaphor for how we should not always assume that the people who seem to have the upper hand really do. He tells a number of stories of how people who didn’t seem to have a chance won the day. One features a man from India who decided to coach his daughter’s basketball team. His girls were not especially tall or skilled, but he changed the odds by changing how the game was played. He realized that the other teams didn’t defend over half the court. When he put in a full-court press that lasted the entire game, he found that there were enough turnovers which lead to easy baskets to allow his team to triumph over superior talent.
  • There is also the story of Lawrence of Arabia whose troops were successful because they took advantage of their main asset, which was speed. This showed that material resources are not always an advantage. Rather than trying to improve on your weaknesses, sometimes it is better just to hide them.
  • Even wealth can be a disadvantage when it comes to raising kids. Malcolm tells the story of a successful businessman who worked in his father’s scrap metal yard. It was hard, dirty work and it made him realize that he needed to work hard to make sure he would enjoy a better future. It was his family’s very lack of wealth that gave him the qualities that allowed him to be wealthy today. Ironically, he now has a problem as his kids want for nothing. He fears they won’t develop the qualities that made him successful. While poverty can be stressful and debilitating, it seems that just enough wealth can make you relatively happy while still letting you develop desirable qualities. The same also seems to work for class size as classes that are too big or too small have their own downsides.
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Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, Heath Bros.

Thursday, March 28th, 2013


Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip & Dan Heath shares research and cool stories that show how our decisions are disrupted by an array of biases and irrationalities. They go on to introduce a four-step process designed to counteract these problems. Their fresh strategies and practical tools will enable you to make better choices at work and beyond. If you want to increase your chances of making the right decision at the right moment, this book is for you. Click the icon at the bottom of any page to buy this important book for yourself and your key colleagues.

The Heath Brothers

  • Chip Heath is a professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. Dan Heath is a senior fellow at Duke University’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE). They are the authors of the bestsellers Switch and Made to Stick.
  • While working on this book, the authors asked that I forego my usually summary approach and do a more traditional book review highlighting a few useful concepts and to use my educational expertise to show readers how to apply them to their life. I have tried to honor this request and thank them for their input.


  • Chip and Dan start with the key core difficulties that negatively impact our decision making. We think we know everything there is to know prior to making a decision. We also tend to be overconfident in our knowledge of the future and seek only data that confirms what we believe. We let our emotions get in the way, and often present choices in either/or terms.
  • Doug: In education, I’ve seen each of these whenever decisions were made whether by myself as principal or by a collaborative process. It is important to challenge your own thinking and say things like “you may have a point” when a colleague disagrees. Everyone knows that they aren’t always right, but it’s hard for many people to investigate the possibility that they are wrong prior to committing to a decision. They are more likely to dig in and defend their position.

Ask: What Else We Could Do/Buy?

  • When dealing with budget issues, you should always ask “what else could we buy” if we didn’t buy the item(s) we are considering? A good example today is what could we buy with all the money we are spending on textbooks and standardized testing?
  • The vanishing options test would also allow you to consider what to do with an administrative position when someone leaves. Always ask “how else you could accomplish the person’s function, and is there some part of what they are doing that doesn’t need to be done.” I have found that for administrators, the job will expand to fill the day with tasks that aren’t mission critical.
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Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
Designing Life

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans offers time-tested advice for becoming the best version of yourself possible. The advice here can help even if you are already fairly happy with your life. Their website also contains useful resources and supplements to the book.

Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

  • Bill is the executive director of the Stanford Design Program and co-founder of the Life Design Lab. He is also a former leader of Apple’s PowerBook product line and CEO of a design consultancy. Dave is co-founder of the Life Design Lab, a lecturer in the Stanford Design Program, a management consultant, and formerly a co-founder of Electronic Arts.


  • Since only 27% of college grads end up in a career related to their jobs, it’s clear that most end up designing their careers and all need to design their non-career life. While this book is for all of us, it’s the two-thirds of workers unhappy with their jobs and the 15% who hate their work that need it the most. Life is full of problems, and solving them is what design is all about. A well-designed life is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving, and there is always the possibility of surprise. Life then is about designing something that has never existed before. Keep in mind that passion is something you develop after you try something and get good at it. A key point is to never measure yourself against anyone. The five necessary mindsets covered are 1. Be Curious 2. Try Stuff 3. Reframe Problems 4. Know it’s a process and 5. Ask for help.

1. Start Where You Are

  • You need to know where you are and what design problems you are trying to solve. In design thinking, the authors put as much emphasis on problem finding as problem solving. Deciding which problems to work on may be the most important decisions you make. The authors define a class of problems known as gravity problems. These are problems like trying to overcome gravity in that they are not actionable and therefore can’t be solved. The key is to not get stuck on something you have no chance of succeeding at.
  • At the heart of this chapter is an activity that lets you take stock of your current status. You are asked to rate from 0 to 100 how you feel about the criteria of 1) Your Health, 2) Your Work, 3) Your Play, and 4) Your Love. As far as love is concerned you should consider all the different types of love you experience, not just love from a spouse or significant other. When you complete this task you will have a framework and some data about yourself. Nex,t you are asked to answer these questions. 1) Write a few sentences about how it’s going in each area. 2) Ask yourself if there’s a design problem you’d like to tackle in any area. 3) Ask if your problem(s) is a gravity problem.
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Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times by Eric Sheninger

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019
Digital Leadership

Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times by Eric Sheninger explains how digital leadership is a strategic mindset and set of behaviors that leverage modern technology resources to improve a school’s culture. It will help educational leaders use social media and Web 2.0 tools to engage students, communicate with the community, and improve professional development at no marginal cost.

The Evolving Landscape

  • Eric starts with a warning that if schools don’t adapt to take advantage of the technology students are growing up with, they run the risk of becoming meaningless and irrelevant. He provides a description of what each of these technologies are along with how they can be used to promote learning. He also notes today’s digital learners have many preferences that are at odds with those of the more traditional teachers many still face. They expect to access information quickly, work on several things at once, network and collaborate frequently, they often prefer other media to text, and they want learning to be relevant, active, useful, and fun. Eric also notes that technologies have been overhyped in the past and often look like solutions in search of problems. He challenges the readers to work with him to find the best ways to use the new technologies that our students live with outside of the classroom.

Why Change?

  • Everything has changed except schools. Most schools still operate the way they did when they were invented to produce factory workers. Teachers do most of the talking and expect students to memorize what they see as important, and draw on material from a set-in-stone curriculum. Recent reforms are driven by the public and political sectors that feature one-size-fits-all testing just makes things worse. Even the addition of technology has not produced the needed change in pedagogy.
  • What is needed are more lessons that require critical thinking, problem-solving, and the demonstration of learning through the creation and analysis of media. This will allow students to put their work on a blog for others to see. This change process can be messy and requires that teachers give up some control. Feedback from students is important here. Schools should add online courses, online field trips, independent study, credit for learning experiences outside of school, and internships. Leaders need to model technology use, support risk-takers, and make sure the staff has access. You can start the change process by having the staff read the free report Expanding Approaches for Learning in a Digital World.

Leading Sustainable Change

  • Dr. Spike Cook, an elementary principal, modeled the use of technology for learning and communication for his staff. He rewarded teachers who took risks to follow his lead. As time went by he noticed increased technology use during his observations as many teachers joined him in the social media world.
  • Eric summarizes Michael Fullan’s Six Secrets of Change. They include loving your employees, connecting peers, building capacity, and making learning central to all work and interactions. He then warns about the many roadblocks to sustaining transformative change. They include change is hard, lack of time, Lack of collaboration, too much top-down direction, lack of support, negative attitudes, fear, and poor professional development.

How New Milford High Changed

  • Here Eric tells the story of how his high school went from ordinary to award-winning. The first change was his own philosophical enlightenment regarding the difference Web 2.0 tools and social media could make. He proceeded to educate himself and his staff. Encouragement, support, flexibility, and modeling were his key efforts. Next, he turned his students loose to help transform the culture. They were granted access to the school’s wireless network with their own devices. Such BYOD programs require a sense of trust that they will use their devices as learning tools. Finally, as innovative practices increased, he felt it was important to share what was taking place within and beyond the walls.
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Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Teacher – by Julia Thompson

Thursday, August 25th, 2011
Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Teacher, 2nd Ed, (©2011, Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA) Julia Thompson takes on what may be the most unpleasant part of the profession and a top reason why teachers leave. She draws on up-to-date research and theory that can help students become more self-disciplined, goal-oriented, and successful learners as teachers enhance leadership skills. She focuses on student motivation, classroom management, relationships, instructional techniques, safety, and high expectations. This 350-page effort is easy to read and can be used as a desktop reference. My summary contains key ideas, but there is a lot more I left out. Every student teacher, beginning teacher, and veteran teacher with discipline problems should have this at their side. Lots of advice for parents too. As a former secondary teacher and elementary principal, I can assure you most of this applies to students of all ages.

Successful Discipline Rests With You

  • It is important to take responsibility for what happens in class and to not dwell on who to blame for bad behavior. Outdated practices won’t work with modern students. Class activities should allow students to be active and involved, and let students help each other. Vary the action during a class. Ideally, you will challenge students with things they can attain. Work with students to set goals, watch for signs of trouble before it starts, and work with parents. Use questionnaires to gather interests and opinions and bring in popular culture and real-world connections when possible. Don’t hesitate to allow students to discuss their concerns and adjust your attitude to see them as joyful and vigorous rather than annoying. Be positive rather than cranky and critical. Overreacting only makes things worse. Be respectful rather than confrontational. Be sure to listen. Avoid sarcasm and present yourself as a confident leader. Give positive attention before students seek negative attention. A positive caring attitude is essential.

Take a Comprehensive Approach

  • You need to take a broad view and use a variety of methods as the job of discipline is very complex. Do what you can to make the room inviting and use the walls for student work. Work hard on getting to know each student and let them know what you expect. Prepare innovative lessons and have everything ready. Lessons should allow students to be active and usually talk more than the teacher. Focus students on being responsible for their own learning and avoid threats. A class should be a functioning community. You must manage your own stress. If students are agitated take a moment to think and stay cool. Thompson includes a list of common mistakes and ways to avoid them, a teacher self-assessment, a worksheet to develop your plan, and a section on how to put your expectations to work.
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Ditch That Textbook by Matt Miller

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016
Ditch Shirt
  • The genesis of Matt’s DITCH model of teaching starts in 2007 when he was lecturing and teaching from a textbook. He knew the kids were bored and so was he. He was stuck in the old paradigm of using the textbook as the curriculum along with worksheets and multiple choice tests. While I’m always leery of words as acronyms as their authors usually have to stretch things a bit to make them work, the DITCH acronym really works. It stands for Different, Innovative, Tech-Laden, Creative, and Hands-On. These are the hallmarks of Matt’s model that he rolls out in this book. In addition to ditching your textbook, this model also requires you to ditch your curriculum and, perhaps more importantly, ditch your mindset.
  • Before and After

    • Imagine it’s 1904 and you want to have a conversation with the legendary John Dewey who lives in Chicago? Unless you lived nearby, this would be essentially impossible. Today, however, it is possible to have conversations or at least listen to famous educators from all over the world thanks to the Internet.
    • If you started teaching when I did, you were probably were much less efficient that connected teachers today who have electronic filing cabinets and many other time saving applications. Today you can take your students on electronic field trips at little or no cost. Things you write don’t rely on good penmanship. Finding information seldom take more than a few seconds. In short, going digital makes your life and your students’ lives much easier.
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    Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink – Updated Summary

    Friday, June 12th, 2020


    Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink is a must-read for educators and parents alike. Dan summarizes current research and does a great job turning it into interesting and understandable prose that educators can apply to their practice. Every school should have this on the shelf.

    Three Types of Motivation

    • 1.0 – The basic motivations we need for survival
    • 2.0 – Motivations based on direct rewards and punishments. Such carrots and sticks are typically financial in this context. They work for jobs that are routine, which are often the jobs that can be sent offshore or done by a computer.
    • 3.0 – Intrinsic motivation, which is conducive to creativity. This allows you to do things for the satisfaction of doing them rather than any monetary reward. Examples include open source software, Wikipedia, learning to play a musical instrument, or doing a puzzle. It is important for nonroutine (heuristic) jobs. In these jobs rules are loosely defined, which requires creativity.

    Carrots and Sticks Don’t Always Work

    • Pink sites 128 studies that lead to the conclusion that tangible rewards tend to have a substantially negative effect on intrinsic motivation. This is one of the most robust findings in social science and one of the most ignored. (Doug: Educators should check out Alfie Khon’s 1993 book, Punished by Rewards.)
    • Studies show that rewards and punishments can extinguish motivation and diminish performance. They focus behavior, which can crush creativity and they can crowd out good behavior. In some cases, they can lead to cheating, shortcuts, unethical behavior and lead to addiction. They can foster short-term thinking at the cost of long-term results.

    Carrots and Sticks Aren’t All Bad

    • Rewards do not undermine people’s intrinsic motivation for dull tasks where there isn’t any motivation to be undermined. To increase chances for success you need to: 1) Offer a rationale for why the task is important 2) Acknowledge that the task is boring 3) Allow people to complete the task their own way. Another way to offer extrinsic rewards for creative work is to give the reward after the job is finished. Care must be taken so that such rewards don’t become expected. In general, praise and specific positive feedback are less corrosive than cash and trophies (Doug: That means stickers for you elementary teachers)
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    Driven by Data: A Practical Guide to Improve Instruction by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

    Thursday, August 21st, 2014

    Driven by Data: A Practical Guide to Improve Instruction by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo offers a step by step approach to preparing your students for high-stakes tests while students work to master standards. While you may be hoping for the current testing madness to end, Paul offers a practical way for your school to out perform other schools with similar demographics while the current tests are still with us. Part two includes specific workshop activities for data leaders.

    Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

    • Paul is managing director of Uncommon Schools, leading six schools in the North Star Academy network that have achieved some of the highest results in the country. He has trained over 2,000 school leaders nationwide, and is the Data-Driven Instruction faculty member for New Leaders for New Schools, an urban school leadership training program.

    Physicals or Autopsies?

    • Paul likens the analysis of end-of-year and high-stakes state testing to an autopsy where the purpose is to find out why the patient died. He prefers that educators spend their time looking at the results of interim tests and use them to inform instruction. This is similar to how a physician would use the results of a physical to determine treatment and recommend lifestyle changes. Paul also warns that data-driven instruction is not an elaborate stratagem for promoting “test prep.” While he sees many faults in the NCLB testing culture, he is happy to see educators focusing more on accountability for student achievement, and interim assessments hold them accountable throughout the year.

    Excellent Interim Assessments

    • In order to be effective, interim assessments must be of high quality, which is seldom what you get when individual teachers slap something together at the end of a unit. The tests need to be in place prior to the start of the school year and be available to the teachers. Every teacher at the same grade level or subject should be using the same tests at the same time. This allows teachers to analyze the results together. Paul recommends assessments every six to eight weeks. Too seldom allows weaknesses to go unrecognized. Too often and teachers may not have time for satisfactory analysis. It is also important that teachers be involved in test creation or selection. Paul is ok with purchased tests as long a teachers get to see them. Some vendors don’t allow this in order to maintain test validity.
    • The tests are not seen as an end, but as a beginning. This is because they let the teachers know what needs to be taught and the desired level of rigor. When they are given, the results need to be available soon. (Doug: When I taught I always graded assessments the day they were given, and the students got the results as part of the next class. With some kinds of computerized testing, students can see their results immediately.)
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