Mar 162014



Before the age of Google, influencing others was predicated upon information asymmetry. In those days, the influencer had the advantage. They knew more and could decide if, when, and how to release information to their audience in order to drive behavior. This approach to influence was put to rest in short order with the mobile revolution. Fact checking has never been easier. Information parity has forever changed the game of influence according to Dan Pink.

Pink opened his session with a question – “What percent of your work involves convincing or persuading people to give up something they value in exchange for something you can offer?”. The answer, according to research he cited, is 41% on average. Think about that. Nearly half of all working hours are dedicated to convincing, cajoling, and moving people into actions rather than creating, making, or doing. It’s wildly inefficient and has become all the more difficult because one can now so easily call bull$#!%.

In order to move others effectively in this new environment, Pink identifies three important qualities in influencers:

  1. Attuned
  2. Buoyancy
  3. Clarity

Being attuned is the ability of the influencer to see the point of view of others and assimilate multiple points of view into a discussion. The attuned influencer understands the needs of his audience. Buoyancy is one’s ability to persevere in the face of rejection while remaining positive at the same time. Clarity is defined as one’s ability to synthesize disparate information into something meaningful not just for themselves but, for others. Influence, in this context, is now a service. The influencer understands your needs, is not offended by your behavior, and provides you with new insights upon which you can make a decision.

Pink then went on to cite a number of studies that led him to 6 takeaways about influence.

  1. Feeling powerful narrows one’s perspective and point of view. When one is more focused upon their own perspective, attunement is diminished, lessening the ability to understand and attend to the needs of those around the influencer. Reducing the feelings of power, not necessarily power itself, makes one a more effective influencer

  2. Ambiverts are the most influential – Ambiverts bring the qualities of both extroverts and introverts to the table and this diverse skill set allows them to both consider a situation quietly and communicate effectively with the audience. In other words, ambiverts are more attuned to others. Pink stresses that most people fall somewhere in the middle of the introvert / extrovert continuum. Rather than try to be more ambiverted, he stresses that people should just try to be the best versions of themselves.

  3. Interrogative self talk – “Can I do this?” – is more effective than positive, declarative self talk – “I can do this!” at preparing a person to influence others. The interrogative approach drives a one’s self toward an action. There is a need to address the question and in doing so, one is better prepared to address the audience. Being better prepared makes one more buoyant.

  4. Build buoyancy in others by asking 2 irrational questions (motivational interview)

    • On a scale of 1 to 10 – how ready are you?
    • Follow up with – why didn’t you pick a lower number?

In asking these questions, the audience is guided towards listing their strengths which serves as motivation for action. It affirms their abilities and helps them answer the question “Can I do this?” in a positive manner.


  1. Provide clarity by addressing the specific context of an action and then make it easy for people to act. Removing barriers is significantly more effective than assuming / changing perspectives.

  2. Explaining WHY one should do something is more clarifying than explaining HOW one should do something in trying to persuade people to action.

Pink’s presentation raised a number of questions for me. How should school re-organize in a world of information parity? How should leadership structures change? Does institutional authority actually stunt a school’s ability to move forward?

Gears turning, more to come…



 Posted by at 6:43 pm
Mar 162014

Flipped Definition

Searching for “Flipped Classroom” online will render dozens of differing definitions and interpretations. Some teachers and schools are embracing it with great success while others are using the flip in controversial ways. The method is being touted as a panacea for schools where limited time and resources is always a challenge. Most discussions around the flipped classroom focus heavily on tools like Khan Academy, TED-ed, and teacher made videos but, after having lunch with Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams, the originators of the flipped classroom, I realized that all of these discussions miss the point.

Jon and Aaron clarified that the flipped model is more philosophy than “thing”. Traditionally, during classroom time, the focus is upon low level thinking – the acquisition of new information, the mimicking of the teacher’s performance, following the recipe – while the higher order learning is relegated to be completed at home, often with little support. Jon and Aaron explained that “the flip” is really an inversion of learning demands. The teachers create resources for acquisitional learning to be delivered online, video or otherwise, which then creates time for more meaning making and transfer to occur in the classroom with the teacher serving as a guide for the students. The underlying purpose of the flip is not delivery of content but, rather to create opportunity for the teacher to better know his/her students and tailor classroom time to meet individual needs. It is the improved ability to form relationships with students that makes the flip effective.

When I asked Jon and Aaron about the explosion of online resources around flips, they acknowledged the quality of the videos and assessment tools being delivered. The superior resource, though, is one devised by the teacher for his/her specific community of learners. Jon pointed me to the four pillars of F-L-I-P: Flexible environment, Learning culture, Intentional content, and Professional Educator. He pointed out that the content, the videos, are just one of the pillars. While the content pillar gets the most attention, the flip does falls short without the three.

Ultimately, Jon and Aaron stressed that flipping the classroom has little to do with tools. It is about building relationships and creating a supportive environment, something for which all educators strive, flipped or not.

Flipped book

 Posted by at 1:17 pm
Mar 232012

 Cross-posted at

Traditional, distributed, flat, top-down, bottom-up, organic, grassroots, PLC’s, classroom-based – leadership in the modern age takes many forms. Being a school leader is no longer exclusive to the person at the top of the organization chart, but rather takes the form of the innovator, the instigator, the connector, or networker, regardless of official title. The ability to recognize and leverage these new types of leadership is what will help our schools be successful institutions capable of meeting the needs of the communities they serve.

Edcamp Leadership is planned as a day of conversations around leadership in schools – what does leadership look like in the 21st century, what skills are necessary for success, how does a schools empower its members to lead, and how do leaders navigate the modern educational landscape? Attendees of Edcamp Leadership will have the opportunity to share their projects and ideas in ways not afforded at the traditional conference. The learning is intense. The engagement is deep. The inspiration is limitless.

As with all edcamps, Edcamp Leadership is open to all who wish to attend, from administrators and teachers to parents and students. Save the date and come prepared to share.

See you on July 26th!

 Posted by at 8:00 am
Mar 172012

School Schedules by Justin Vail

ISP Lite Conversation on Google Plus

Things That Suck by Bill Selak

 Posted by at 10:56 am
Mar 112012

Edcamp Philly will be celebrating its 2nd anniversary on May 19th at the University of Pennsylvania. Please join us for a great day of sharing and learning.


 Posted by at 9:57 pm
Oct 232011

New evaluation methods are being tested that could have a significant impact upon tenure, pay, and seniority rights here in New Jersey where I teach. The pilot program embraces many of the ideas in vogue right now. Up to half of the evaluation would be based on “student performance” aka proficiency on standardized testing. Merit payis also a possibility.The new methods are well rooted in the Waiting for Superman school of thought; that an effective teacher is the most important factor, maybe the only factor that matters, in a child’s success in school.

“When you see a great teacher, you are seeing a work of art “ – Geoffrey Canada

The Superman mindset is a seductive one. Who doesn’t want superhuman beings to just walk in and be able to fix any situation because they are, well, just super? It places all of the burden for a child’s success squarely in the lap of the classroom teachers while absolving all decision makers of responsibility. This mentality makes it possible to slash school budgets, to remove resources, to cause class sizes to balloon while at the same time allowing schools to stagnate
without any repercussions. For those expected to be super, it is all accountability with little autonomy. Why should we change anything? You’re super, deal with it.

Never mind that Superman is from another planet. I guess none of us are qualified to teach under this paradigm.

As a model for education, maybe we should look to a superhero that could actually exist – Ironman. Where Superman’s abilities are innate, Ironman’s are cultivated through a combination of creativity, imagination, and resources. The Ironman mindset is one where challenges are identified and solutions are engineered. If parental involvement is a problem, adopt systems that actually make them part of the learning process rather than simple recipients of information. If collaboration and consistency are issues, rethink how students are rostered to teachers. If attendance is a problem, find ways to make common time and place less important.Where the Superman mindset places blame, the Ironman mindset requires work. It places responsibility upon the keepers of the system. It requires initiative and a will to change.  It requires significant investments in time and effort from all stakeholders. It is a commitment to ongoing improvement, of identifying challenges and building systems to overcome them, and taking personal responsibility. Ultimately, however, it is a mindset that will reap rewards because anybody can be an Ironman.

Getting back to the new evaluation pilots, there is little to do with the organization’s responsibility to build capacity. It focuses almost completely upon teaching “better, faster, more”. The only systems that are being revamped serve as sticks to punish poor performance. It tells teachers to play it safe lest they risk loosing their jobs. It is a BE super mindset. There is little to build that capacity to improve.
Superman is an alien who was super. Ironman created the capacity to be super. Who are we really waiting for?
Mar 312011

After just 10 months, 24 offspring events, and going international, the edcamp movement returns to where it all began. Edcamp Philly celebrates its first birthday on May 21. Hope to see you there.

 Posted by at 7:09 pm
Feb 172011

In 2009, everything changed. I flipped school upside down by creating the Integrated Studies Program: an asynchronous learning environment, consisting of face to face and online components, designed with the needs of each individual learner in mind. I was a co-founder of the Edcamp movement and helped to launch Edcamp Philly in 2010. I opened a shared folder in google docs to fellow science teachers; over 100 colleagues (and counting) piled in, sharing nearly 1000 (and counting) lessons. This shared folder has grown into the community that we now call the SciDo Collaborative.

I often wonder how I got here. I am feeling the need to share in more than 140 characters. It is why I created this blog. I hope that you come along for the ride.

 Posted by at 3:00 am