Saturday, February 8, 2014

Scarce Resources? Information Isn't One of Them (NASSP Ignite14 Day 1)
I would be lying if I said that finding a topic to speak about from day 1 of the NASSP Ignite14 Conference was easy. At many conferences I have found one session or one statement that stands out - that's not the case here in Dallas. Instead, I find myself full of inspiration and motivation after the first day of the conference. From dynamic speakers to my PLN there is so much that leaves me inspired to return to my school and make a positive impact.

Information was once scarce
Thursday saw the opening Thought Leader Session with renowned psychologist Carol Dweck (Author of Mindset) and Educator/Speaker Daniel Wong (Author of The Happy Student). During the panel discussion Mr. Wong was asked about the state of public education; his response was extremely profound and is sure to be a topic for many Twitter chats in the near future. His response was simple: "the problem with public education is that is built on a foundational idea that information is scarce...that idea is no longer true." BAM! There is the underlying theme of every discussion about educational change in the digital age. When I went to school (not that long ago) my sources of information were found only at school and the public library. The access limitations of these two mediums meant that learning was largely driven by the information made available to me in school. I had things I wanted to learn but the only way to gain that knowledge was to ask an educator for the resources and hope they didn't filter my knowledge source. How far we have come from this!

Information is no longer scarce for the learner
Today, our students have the ability to not only find any piece of information at the tap of a finger on a screen, but individuals also have access to the collective knowledge base and learning tools of the world at the click of a mouse. MOOCs and OpenCourseware programs allow an individual to take courses from our highest institutes of learning anytime, anywhere, for FREE! Connectivity allows us to find information quickly and in varied forms. Need an answer? Google it and explore. No longer does someone have to find an educator as the conduit for personal learning; technology has made us our own conduits of learning. 

Information is no longer scarce for educators
Students are not alone in this shift - educators (students in their own right) are also at an informational buffet. Let's look at Twitter. Twitter has changed not only my professional life but also my school. I firmly believe that connected educators are at a distinct advantage in enacting positive change within their schools and communities. Years ago an educator's access to colleagues and information was limited to those individuals directly around them. Today, social media allows educators from across the country to connect and learn together anytime, anywhere, for FREE! (Sound familiar) When I come to an NASSP Conference I arrive knowing I am going to connect with friends from across the country. However, 20 years ago this was my one opportunity to truly connect; today, these colleagues feel like educators down the hall from my classroom/office.

A quick look at the collective knowledge of my PLN in Dallas makes it clear that information is no longer scarce. The picture to the left is from dinner Thursday night. In that group are three renowned speakers and authors, five Digital Principals of the Year, a National Principal of the Year, a state AP of the Year, and two state Principals of the Year. How did these people form a bond? Twitter. We met, connected, and now grow together daily. That bond formed is centered on the principle that we can make our schools better. As educators we can make a difference. As educators we can collaborate and break down the walls of informational barricades.

Conference Connections
So how is this connected to Ignite14? Simple - MINDSET! The educators I have had the privilege to connect with are growth mindset individuals. They do not see challenge as the barrier to making our schools better. Instead they see challenges and seek creative ways to solve them. Some examples? Dwight Carter identified an issue with space and mindset in his school and collaboratively he was able to launch Clark Hall, an interactive and collaborative space for students to come together and learn. Jason Markey identified an issue with launching a large-scale 1:1 initiative and worked to develop a student-run technology support program that not only solves the basic issue but also empowers students. Eric Sheninger identified a desire for change but a limited resource pool and worked to develop partnerships so that his students have access to cutting edge technology at no cost to the school.

Concluding Thought
Information is no longer scarce and it is time that we start admitting that and working to open the informational doors for our students. At the conference I have heard several questions that were focused on why an idea won't work in their district, mostly out of their control. In the spirit of the growth mindset I would challenge those people to stop looking at these issues as barriers and start seeing them as opportunities to connect and grow. Reach out and find a colleague who has made it work. Reach out and ask questions to build your knowledge base. After all, information is not all that scarce.