Idea Hospitality

“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.”
Sue Grafton

That talk was part of the 2016 Learning2 Conference, hosted in Saigon. Because the #learning2 community is so remarkably warm, I’ve received a lot of follow-up communication.  A few people have asked whether or not I have an actual audit form, and my answer was..not yet.  So for those of you interested in auditing your school’s ability to host ideas–to be welcoming to the nuance of innovation and change, this post is for you. The survey is designed to be used with your faculty.  My recommendation would be to poll educators confidentially, then host small group conversations to investigate trends, surprises, and formulate new questions which you think will continue this line of inquiry. If you conduct an audit, please let us know how it went as a comment below.  

If you would prefer a Google Form version of the audit, here you go.

1.  How will ideas feel upon their approach?


A) On a scale of 1-10 (10 being Martha Stewart level hospitality, and 1 being barking scary dog hospitality) how comfortable does a new idea feel during the first stage of meeting administration, staff, parents, and students?

B) What would it take for your score to move up one point?

C) How do we know when a new idea is being considered? Who is likely to be discussing this?

2. Who helps ideas hatch?


A) On a scale of 1-10 (10 being Lebron James VIP access, 1 being total pleb) how much access are you given to rough, seedlings of ideas which are likely to be significant within your community in the next 1-2 years?

B) When is the last time someone asked you for feedback on a rough draft idea?

C) Would you say the majority of your colleagues feel valued when providing feedback?


3. Who helps ideas shift?


A) When is the last time you asked someone for advice in regards to your role at school?

B) How many times in a month do you feel you have time and energy to discuss a relevant idea with someone outside of your department/office?

C) What would encourage you to share ideas with your colleagues?

4. Can an idea sense the tone around the table?


A) True or False: The majority have a say in terms of which new ideas remain ‘at the table.’

B) Can you provide an anecdote to support your response to A?

C) On a scale of 1-10 (10 being a fleece blanket, and 1 being sand paper), how comfortable would you feel disagreeing with the majority opinion?

5. Do ideas at your school have healthy diets?


A) How much feedback did your last, best idea receive?

1-heaps 2-some feedback 3-none

B) When you need critical feedback on an idea, how quickly do you think you’d be able to get it?

1-within the day 2-within the week 3-within the month

C) How do you think the average teacher at your school goes about finding feedback for their ideas?

6. Does your idea have a good toolkit?


A) When was the last time someone suggested a new tool RELEVANT to an idea specific to you?

B) When was the last time someone asked you for advice about a tool?

C) When is the last time you and a colleague decided to sandbox different tools in regards to the same idea/project?

7. Do ideas know when they can retire?


A) On a scale of 1-10 (10 being Beyonce dance move fast, 1 being dead turtle speed) how quickly is your school able to get rid of ideas/practice that are no longer effective?

B) When is the last time your school retired an old idea?

C) What is a current idea you think needs retiring?

I hope these questions spark better questions and inspiring conversations.  

Thanks to Flickr for providing the featured image in this post:

Harald Groven


44 Ways to a Connected Classroom

Interested in connecting with another school this year? Hoping to build a bridge between classes at your school? Looking for an opportunity to let your students lead? Do you want to facilitate an authentic audience for your students?

Is ‘diversity of thought’ an objective you want to unpack this year?

The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving. Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations. Even simply being exposed to diversity can change the way you think. This is not just wishful thinking: it is the conclusion I draw from decades of research from organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers.

Read the full article from Scientific American here

Don McCullough Connection Via Flickr
Don McCullough
Via Flickr


Here are 44 ways to spark Creative Agency in a Connected Classroom:

  1. This I Believe: performed essays. Could your class submit to the website–or would you host your own variation? What would you change? How could students use this to connect with current studies?
  2. Global Youth Debates: Would you join this debate with your students? Or do you want to craft your own debate across campuses/continents? Connect with Flat Connections founder, Julie Lindsay. (Intelligence Squared is a great resource if you want to build your own debate).
  3. Global Day of Design Select any of the challenges, or come up with your own.  Would you join this in 2017, or rather host one in your region?
  4. The World of 7 Billion Student Video Challenge: would your students jump at this opportunity, or would you propose an entirely different topic?
  5. Blog Action Day: join in or reconfigure for your needs?
  6. Host a Global Book club, like Tracy Blaire did for her COETAIL project.
  7. Join JR’s Inside Out Project (see his TED talk here)…or design your very own JR-esque challenge.
  8. Register your school/community for 2017’s Earth Hour.  Follow them on Twitter here.
  9. Be like Malala and host a social media campaign like #yesallgirls.  Read all about it here.  Or, be like teacher Michelle Lampinen and host a live Twitter debate, read all about that here.
  10. (Re)imagine school, co-author the book across continents or classrooms.  See Sonya terBorg’s example e-text here.
  11. Join in any of the International Mother Language Day events here. Or invite others to join your design for the day. Follow in the footsteps of Zoe Page and document your mother tongue mystery readers, see here for more on that.
  12. Organize a run for World Toilet Day, see UrgentRun.
  13. Check out any of the Stop Hunger Now options here. Consider gamifying any of the UN’s ‘Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World.’
  14. Produce and exchange any video problems with other schools. Consider curating a Youtube Channel meant to store them all. See the Collaborative Mathematics site for a premade maths journey, or consider hosting a local geometry exchange.
  15. Create a shared bank of music made by students for students.
  16. Cross-campus movie project: one class writes the screenplay–another acts it out–a third edits and soundscapes. Or–put something out there with a greenscreen and await the remixes (see here for an example).
  17. Exchange 5-Card-Flickr stories with other classrooms, or co-author them in real time. Alan Levine is ready to get you started here.
  18. Hour of Code: host an event for students, parents, teachers. Follow the #hourofcode hashtag and connect with others.
  19. Join in the International Dot Day movement.  Connect with the author Peter Reynolds on Twitter.
  20. Join in, or create your own #BannedBookWeek event, check out this menu.
  21. What if schools all across the world followed Elizabeth Lesser’s lead and  ‘took the other’ to lunch for a day?
  22. Join the Global Garden movement and participate with students around the world. Follow #globalgarden on Twitter for more.
  23. Get involved in the Global Cardboard Challenge. See what students around the world are doing by following the tag: #globalcardboardchallenge.
  24. Get buddy blogs going.  Use this list of 50 blog challenges to build your blogging community. Here is a quick look at how blogging can help foster collaboration and creativity for students and teachers alike.
  25. Reenact a historical event through Twitter.  Check out this example here.
  26. Share your Snapchat ‘Booksnaps’ as a cross-school PD, or story share.  See the examples here.
  27. Take a topic and explore it as a ‘slow chat’ via Twitter and host a week long conversation.
  28. Follow the lead of The Refugee Project and make the narrative and data visual and accessible. Chris Jordan is another example of taking data and turning it into art, see his TED talk here.
  29. Join in with The Big Draw, or modify the event for your students and region. Check out #thebigdraw via Twitter.
  30. Reboot The 4am Project, take a look at the a few of the stunning photos here.
  31. #BunceeBuddies: explore The Buncee Blog (DM @cesca_buncee for more): connecting classes in order to better understand the U.N.’s Day of Peace. Read @shannonmiller’s blogpost about it here.
  32. Join a Design Squad Club and share your process with clubs around the world.
  33. Connect classrooms through any one of the Global Oneness Projects (here’s one example looking at issues of sustainability).
  34. Explore resources and thoughts on microfinance. Pick one area/sector to represent and team up to offer loans in line with your learning via Kiva.  Learn more here.
  35. Follow in the remarkable footsteps of Jane McGonigal and design a ‘live event game,’ like one of these.
  36. Use Skype as a way to practice a language and provide a service, see this example here.
  37. Allow parents, teachers, or other students to join you on your field trip by live streaming ala Periscope. Take a look at examples of ways to use the application in your school here. (You can save your live stream for those who miss it, click here for more).
  38. Join up with other classes/schools to co-host your very own Podcast channel.  Practice being journalists, delivering commentary, commenting on key global events, debating, or develop a narrative together.  Here’s an example of what one teacher did with podcasting. The Moth (storytelling), Periodic Table (a podcast for each of the elements), Point of Inquiry (social sciences), CodeNewbie (computer science/coding), How I Built This  (entrepreneurs) or More or Less (statistics and politics) could be an interesting model for a variety of subject areas.
  39. A History Class ‘Live’ Dinner Party, read Rebekah Madrid’s process here and contact her here to join up with her.
  40. #ExploringByTheSeat or #ebtsoyp allows your students to ‘hangout’ with scientists around the world, or get involved in a variety of conservation projects. Learn more here. Connect directly via skype: ExploringByTheSeat @EBTSOYP 
  41. Look at the variety of virtual field trips lined up via Skype for this year, click here for more.
  42. Track and connect with Markus Pukonen @routesofchange as he travels the world without using any motors.  Click here to learn more about that sustainable journey.
  43. Connect with the Galactic Unite community online. Learn about Galactic Unite in this video here.  “Galactic Unite is the brainchild of our amazing international community of Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts. As pioneers of the second space age, they are helping to make an important new industry a reality. Through Galactic Unite they are combining their resources and the excitement surrounding their upcoming spaceflights as a force for good and as an inspiration to young people from all over the world.” – Richard Branson
  44. Could we organize a Learning2 with students for students?

Continue to think about developing your connection with this Listly:

Set the bar.

When I was in my early 20’s (nothing makes you feel older than a phrase like that), I paid my bills by bartending.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had so much to learn about teaching from mixing martinis and recommending bottles of wines. I suppose it could be said that any line of work dealing with people will teach you something about helping them learn.

StylishLensT AT The Bar.
AT The Bar.


Get the tone right

A night out, like a lesson in, needs to have an intentional tone.  Don’t leave it to chance.  Take care of your classroom the way you would a dinner party.  Guests want to know that you’ve thought of them in advance.  The more we can do to make students feel welcome, the better.

give space, but be attentive

Know when to step in, and when to back off.  A great bartender anticipates when customers are ready for another round, and a great teacher anticipates when students need a moment of support.  Hovering in front of a customer is about as effective as hovering above a student: not at all.

Here’s the thing that you need to get comfortable with…the idea of getting kids to fail as part of the learning process…

From This TED:

While it is nice to recommend the occasional beverage, people like to try new things.  Students need to feel like they have control in the classroom as well.  Having a menu is the first step: giving the student ownership over that menu is another.

As an English teacher, I cannot underscore the importance of choice for my readers enough.  Parents often ask me to recommend texts for students.  Students need to choose their own books.  We all need to practice the fine art of making decisions for ourselves.

one room, many moods

You cannot make everyone happy all the time.  One lesson might be a huge win with one student, and a giant fail with another.  People have different preferences, and that is fine.  When it comes to building relationships, always think in Seth Godin’s ‘long run’ terms.

provide a unique service

You can’t do this if you are trying to mirror the teacher next door, or the bartender across the street.  While we can learn from one another, it is important too, to remember that variety is the spice of life.  Success does not have a single face.  When I first started bartending, I worried about not being quite as good as other bartenders on the team.  Whether or not you are ‘as good as’ someone else is irrelevant.  What does matter is whether or not your service is unique.  Are you offering a unique perspective?  Worry more about finding your voice, your approach, and your style, and less about mirroring someone else.

Feel the room

A busy bar means you and your fellow bartenders need to trust one another.  A school in October feels much the same.  Hold one another accountable, and trust that you are in this together.  A part of this means that yes, you do need to offer support, and be mindful of what is happening with your team.  Bartenders are great at knowing when and how to switch gears.  So much of that is steeped in nonverbal communication.  We have the same opportunities to pay attention to the things our colleagues are trying to say Monday to Friday.  Whether or not you choose to do something about it is key.  In Paula Guinto’s phenomenal Learning2 talk, she really brings this home:

Which experiences have taught you to be a better educator?


Thanks Flickr for:


AT The Bar.


That Kindling Moment

In my Learning2 Talk this April, one idea I wanted to share was the notion of seeing the school year as a campfire. In keeping with this vision, I wanted teachers to see themselves as kindling bearers rather than feeling perpetually pressured to be torch bearers.  Often schools have ideas needing just a bit more fuel, sometimes our fire needs a touch more tinder.

webhamster Campfire

It is easy to get lost in our own goals year after year.  It is important for the culture of our schools to look out for dimming flames. We should seek opportunities to be the spark that other ideas need.  I recently found the phenomenal blog of Katie Martin. In her post “Culture is Everything,” she drives this idea home. If you’ve been lucky to have worked at a school where the culture is a motivating force, you’ll quickly agree with what Martin has to say about the efforts we need to take in grooming the culture of our shared campus.

We know that kids (and adults) learn better when learning has an authentic purpose, subjects are integrated, and the learner has agency and choice in the process.  Because of this, project-based learning is BIG right now and rightly so.  You might wonder–Is there professional learning to support PBL? Are there programs that provide resources? Are there models that teachers can see and use? The answer to all of these questions is yes. Yes, you can provide all of these things and support teachers in the process to develop great projects, and you should, but it’s not enough.

I have seen some amazing examples of how project-based learning changes how kids learn in school when educators embrace integrated, authentic ways of learning in school but I have also seen these ideal methods added on to traditional schooling that rarely changes how kids learn. If the culture doesn’t foster creativity, risk-taking and innovation, project-based learning (or any transformative initiative) can easily become another thing added on a teacher’s plate. In education we tend to focus on the programs, procedures and policies. When, in reality, the culture is what will truly empower teachers to make a meaningful impact on student outcomes.

What if you saw every week as yet another opportunity to shape the culture at your school?

What would you do? With whom would you want to sculpt?

Whether you see it that way or not, the reality is, week after week we are all doing something to define the culture we work and live in.

Last week, one of my colleagues, Valerie, took action.  Today, I am so incredibly thrilled to be hosting a second chat via #TeacherBookClub.  Our esteemed guest, George Couros, is going to join us on Twitter to share some of the wisdom behind his incredible book. Valerie (a budding innovator herself), really took to what Couros has to say in his text.  So much so, that she created a beautiful visual notes poster capturing some of her favorite key ideas:

At our Friday staff meeting, Valerie stood up, referenced her poster and advocated for attending the Twitter chat.  But that’s not the most amazing thing she did.  The action she took which was a ‘cultural shift’ a-ha moment happened next.  Valerie said, “If you want to learn about Twitter you can ask…” and she pointed to a lovely sampling of colleagues around the room.  She advocated for advocates.

“Leaders don’t create more followers, they create more leaders.” – Tom Peters

When we take the time to connect educators with other educators, when we show that a shared vision is coming into focus through our collective lenses, we are making our culture palpable.

Juan Salmoral Feeling
Juan Salmoral


What Valerie did in that #kindling moment was rev the engine Seth Godin describes in his post: The possibility of optimism (the optimism of possibility)

As soon as we realize that there is a difference between right now and what might happen next, we can move ourselves to the posture of possibility, to the self-fulfilling engine of optimism.

Which #kindling moment made the culture at your school palpable this month?

Learning2 Listen

Al Ibrahim Listen
Al Ibrahim


I recently watched CeleSTE Headlee’s phenomenal TED talk on better ways to talk to people:

I’m hoping you took the twelve minutes to enjoy it as well.  In a world that gets busier and busier, I find we constantly need to relearn the fine art of tuning in. Schools are noisy.  They should be, we should be teaching our students how to make a splash, create a ripple, and have passionate discussions.  But we also need to take the time to engage with one another, to champion learning cohorts within our faculty.

As cathedrals of learning go, they can’t do very much without discourse.

How many conversations have you had with colleagues this week? How many times did you go past pleasantries, and really dig into a dialogue with any fraction of provocation?

brighter than sunshine conversation
brighter than sunshine


What does your school do to promote conversation? Do your meetings look and feel like a checklist, or do they engage with a variety of perspectives?

Two weeks ago, while attending Europe’s first ever #Learning2 conference in Milan as a Learning2 Leader I was reminded of the power of cultivating conversations.

Today, according to amazing lead learners like Carrie Zimmer, I’m well aware that this idea resonates with others from the L2 crew:

What we do with our time signifies who we are as a learning community. 

If we don’t have time for story sharing, questioning, and idea exchanges, we need to pivot with our time management. James Dalziel shared a fantastic post on just this idea, in his review of Teacher Self-Supervision: Why Teacher Evaluation Has Failed and What We Can Do about It 
by William PowellOchan Kasuma Powell

The authors argue that there needs to be a dramatic shift away from the traditional view that teaching is an isolated and individual activity toward a new culture where teachers have the need to meaningfully interact regarding their pedagogical practices and student learning. Having another professional presence in my learning environment should not be the cause of stress, tension, and anxiety but instead must become the natural interactive and collegial default by which we share our practice, express our vulnerabilities, and ultimately develop our professionalism.


The #Learning2 conference is designed to spark conversations.  This happens not only in the cohort gatherings and extended sessions, but it also happens in the days leading up to the conference.  As a L2 Leader I had the honor of getting time with fellow L2 Leaders: Warren, Sheldon, Carrie, Steven, Paula, Jeff, Simon, and Marcello.

We talked.

And talked.

And talked.

It was a buffet of ideation and so much more.  #Learning2 creates that space: an arena for meditative musing.

How do you create a culture where dialogue dominates?

Andy Matthews Wires
Andy Matthews


Step one:  Roll out the dough

Sure, every group has at least one person with a little more power than the rest–but when that conversation kicks off, the power dynamic needs to flatten out.  Jeff Utecht is one of the founders of Learning 2, and he has a good 15,000 more followers than the rest of his L2 Leaders, but he let the conversation lead–he didn’t see the dialogue as an opportunity to gain status.  There’s a big lesson there: real leadership is comfortable in the backseat as well as at the steering wheel. When you value the community, when you truly treasure the connections within the community, that level of leveled leadership is easy to do.

Step Two: Invite dissenting opinions

When the L2 Leaders sat down to pitch ideas and practice their Learning 2 talks (see them all here) the aim wasn’t to pat ourselves on the back.  The aim was to make our ideas better.  Ideas only improve by taking on criticism.  Criticism works best when we welcome it.  Be more vulnerable.  This is easy to do when you see your mentors taking it on.  Sheldon Bradshaw has been my mentor since I had the luxury of working with him in Indonesia.  Sheldon was my IT Director.  He took (and continues to take) risks.  When you see leadership modeling vulnerability, it puts the welcome mat down for others. Sheldon frequently asked for my opinion.  When a leader asks you to throw your two cents in, it matters.  When a star guitarist shares their amplifier with you, you feel like a rock star.  If you haven’t seen Sheldon’s talk, stop reading and enjoy:

Step Three: show public displays of affection

Maria Ly redpointing The King, V7 in Yosemite
Maria Ly
redpointing The King, V7 in Yosemite

Put your passion out there.  Learn in the great wide open.  When you know what your colleagues care about, you have a foothold to push forward from.


Some schools are better than others about purposefully linking passions.  Shekou International School seems to be quite good at it, check out their AMPed program:

Don’t wait for passion to push through the chaos on its own.  Intentionally create an environment for it to flourish.  Learning2 is an extremely connected conference.  The conference lives on through social media.  The passion inherent in that learning experience is documented and curated.

Step 3.5: Be beyond the learning

Many mission statements target learning, and reference developing academic excellence. Push past that.  Schools aren’t just about developing students, they should be about developing societies. Learning2 isn’t about technology.  It isn’t about curriculum.  Learning2 is about facilitating a better realm of education not just for teachers and students, but for human beings everywhere.

The thing is, we can only hold schools accountable at that societal level when we are holding ourselves responsible for our own well being first.  The healthiest schools don’t teach well-being, they model and prioritize it above all else.

So, working my way backwards, to recap:

If we authentically care about ourselves, we can truly care for others.  When we care for others we share our passions.  Where our passions meet, diversified opinions are championed. In those exchanges, we are led by our conversations and values, and not by the simple authority of one.

Thank you to the entire #Learning2 team, you’ve taught me to level up on my listening game, and to trust that the conversations you’ve curated will inspire me as I continue on my journey as an educator.

Shout out to Flickr for providing bloggers with stunning Creative Commons images

Al Ibrahim  Listen
brighter than sunshine conversation

Andy Matthews Wires

Maria Ly redpointing The King, V7 in Yosemite