Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Questions inspired from Steve Jobs

I just recently finished the Steve Jobs autobiography.  The book was amazing and fun and irreverent, much like I'm sure Steve Jobs was.  There were many take aways and highlights that influenced my thinking about leadership and education.  It also inspired more questions than answers.

I'm going to use this post to pull out those highlights, connect them to education, and offer up questions to ponder, reflect on and give you space to determine if you value these same ideals.

"The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." - Apple commercial 1997

  • How can we "think differently" about our education system?
  • How can we think diferently about (insert idea: RTI, student discipline, teaching, instruction, testing etc.)

Moore's law, founded in 1965, states that technology will exponentially grow in capacity but cost will steadily decline.

  • With technology more than proving Moore's law, how is education reacting or capitalizing on the capacity?
  • Are we charging too much for what we are getting?
  • When will we reach capacity for technology?

Steve Jobs hated school: "I knew school was at fault for trying to make me memorize stupid stuff rather than stimulate me."

  • How has school changed since Job's was a student?
  • Are we still asking the brightest students to memorize stuff?
  • When will "standards" seek to focus on processing skills vs content knowledge?

"If it hadn't been for the blue boxes, there wouldn't be an Apple."

  • Where, in school, do we let kids tinker and play?
  • Where, in school, do we inspire new ideas from students?
  • Where, in school, do students get to take charge of their own learning?
"I learned the truth of the Zen saying that if you are willing to travel around the world to meet a teacher, one will appear next door."
  • Can we learn from this that readiness for learning is crucial?
  • What if students drove the learning?  Student interest will bring the curriculum to them when they are ready.
  • When we are hung, we eat.  Not vice-versa.  How does this relate to teaching and learning?

"The sixties produced an anarchic-mind that is great for imagining a world not yet in existence."
  • When will our educators of today live through their "sixties"?
  • Will our undergraduate programs that are creating the next generation of teachers create this same environment?
Woz started a computer club who's theme was 'Give help to others.'
  • This was the ethos of hackers and open source, what in education are you allowing to be open source?
  • How are you contributing from the open source environment?
  • How are student contributing?
Apple Marketing Philosophy:  Empathy, Focus, and Impute
  • Are we empathetic in what we do?
  • Do students have a "voice" in our classroom?
  • Are we responsive to student needs?
  • Are we surrounded by standards and goals, can we live without some of them?
  • Does our facility, our classroom, our environment influence behavior and aspirations?

"You did the impossible, because you didn't realize it was impossible."
  • How often do we say "Well, that's too difficult for a _____ grader?"
  • Do we give kids the ability to dream?  Can we give kids the space to create their own "possible?"
"By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things."
  • Are our expectations of students, colleagues and supervisors too low?
"Mac retreat highlights: Don't compromise, The journey is the reward, people don't know what they want until we've shown them."
  • How often do we settle for good enough?
  • Why do we focus on grades and outcomes when we could be celebrating the process and the learning?
  • When we share new and exciting experiences with students, when we can bring in or take students to meet passionate and successful adults we can open up doors to possibilities.  Are you?
"In the first 30 years of your life, you make habits.  For the last 30 years your habits make you."
  • What habits are we teaching our students?
  • Are we teaching students habits that will make them successful later in life?
  • What are the most important habits?
Jobs said: "Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind.  You are really etching chemical patterns.  In most cases, people get stuck in those patterns, just like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them."

  • What grooves are you in?
  • How are our students "stuck"?
  • How do our habits shape our thinking?

What prepared him for the great success Jobs would have in Act III was not his ouster from his Act I at Apple but his brilliant failures in Act II.
  • When can we allow students to fail, while with us, so they don't fail away from us?
  • When can we give students and colleagues the opportunities to try something new and take risks while support is still there to help?
  • How can we be Act II so student's post secondary career is their Act III?

Alice: Through the Looking Glass, "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

  • When do we let kids dream?
  • Do we inspire dreaming?  Or punish it?
  • Do we ask kids to strive for their dreams or reach for what is right in front of them (the what's possible)?

Jobs: "I think you still have to think differently to buy and Apple computer.  The people who buy them do think different.  They are the creative spirits in this world, and they're out to change the world.  WE make tools for those kinds of people."

  • What kind of students does our school produce?
  • What kind of students do we want to produce?
  • Are we creating the right environment and hiring the right people to help us achieve that goal?
Job learned that "a properly run company could spawn innovation far more than any single creative individual. 'I discovered that the best innovation is sometimes the way you organize a company'"
  • Is your building or district arranged for innovation?
  • Most schools I see are set up to handle stimulus, not many are set up to create stimulus.
  • How would you change the way your building or district is organized to be forward inspiring instead of reacting?
Apple uses "Deep collaboration" or "concurrent engineering."  Jobs realized 'A' people want to work with 'A' people.  

  • Does our hiring process reflect our values?
  • Do we have 'A' players?  How can we pair them with other 'A' players?
Once a year Jobs took his most valuable employees on a retreat, which he called the "Top 100."
  • How do you recognize the outliers in your organization?
  • How do we get the top students/teachers/administrators together?
  • Does your district collaborate with other districts to bring together the best to inspire new ideas and next practices?
Jobs on presenting: "if you need slides, it shows you don't know what you're talking about."
  • enough said...

  • How have you utilized technology to improve your organization or classroom?
  • Can you see past your current reality to the next innovation?
In order to institutionalize the lessons Jobs was learning, Jobs started an in-house center called Apple University.
  • How do we share the lessons we learn?
  • How do we create learning opportunities for every person?
  • Do we have a culture of learning and sharing at our institution?
  • How are kids sharing what they are learning?

When our tools don't work, we tend to blame ourselves, for being too stupid, or not reading the manual or having too-fat fingers...when our tools are broken, we feel broken.
  • How are we ensuring students and staff experiences are quality and don't allow for people to feel broken?
  • Have we thought through possible scenarios that happen in our day to ensure we are providing experiences for people that empower them instead on marginalize them?
In the closed versus opened, integrated vs fragmented
  • Why do we continue to purchase resources and textbooks we often go with the lowest bidder.  If we really want a seamless environment, we should create or curate the resources ourselves.
  • Isn't our school date fragmented and closed, isn't that the worst possible scenario?
"We're doing the best we can, we're learning as fast as we can-but we thought this rule makes sense."
  • When do we apologize?
  • How do we apologize?
  • When do we take on our policies and practices to ensure we're learning and they are growing?
  • Do we have a procedure to call our rules into question?  Does that involve students and our community?
The whole world is the same now.
  • The kid in Turkey has access to the same tools as the kids in Canada, has your classroom changed?
  • When kids are allowed access to devices, they learn what they are interested in and what is available to them. SOLE project

"Teachers should be treated as professionals, he said, not as industrial assembly-line workers.  Principals should be able to hire and fire them based on how good they were.  Schools should be staying open until 6PM and be in session eleven months of the year.  It was absurd, he added, that American classrooms were still based on a teacher standing at a board and using textbooks.  All books, learning materials and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time."

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