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Free eBook: 5 Habits of Innovative Educators


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Habits are unconscious patterns of behavior that are acquired with frequent repetition. This eBook will look at what habits exist among innovative educators. While the conditions in education are not ideal for our disruptive educators, there are individuals working hard from within the system to create change. Whether you are looking to join them, better understand them, or you are one of them, this eBook is for you.

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Free eBook: 5 Habits of Innovative Educators

  1. 1. @courtoconnell 5 Habitsof innovative educators
  2. 2. ContentsIDEABLENDING • HABIT #1: THEY ARE IDEABLENDERS • THE INNOVATIVE EDUCATOR’S BOOKSHELF FEEDBACK • HABIT #2: THEY ARE CONSTANTLY SEEKING FEEDBACK • THE IDEA A-TEAM • THE ‘YES-AND’ PRINCIPLE FAILURE • HABIT #3: THEY FAIL FAST AND FAIL FORWARD • RAPID PROTOTYPING • INNOVATION IS WORK RATHER THAN GENIUS CURIOSITY • HABIT #4: THEY ARE PASSIONATELY CURIOUS • INNOVATIVE EDUCATORS TAKE VACATION DAYS • SERENDIPITY STUDENTS • HABIT #5: THEY BELIEVE IN THEIR STUDENTS • GIVING THEM A SEAT AT THE TABLE CONCLUSION MEET THE AUTHOR Habits are unconscious patterns of behavior that are acquired with frequent repetition. This eBook will look at what habits exist among innovative educators. While the conditions in education are not ideal for our disruptive educators, there are individuals working hard from within the system to create change. Whether you are looking to join them, better understand them, or you are one of them, this eBook is for you.
  3. 3. Idea Blending is The art of blending one’s personal expertise with expertise in various disciplines to create big ideas. #5Habits #EDchat UCLICKHERETO TWEETTHIS 1. They are idea blenders. Innovative educators are like Warhol and Picasso -- they steal ideas and concepts from outside of their domain and find ways to infuse those ideas into their work. When faced with a problem, they don't just look at what another teacher does or how another school solved the problem. Disruptive educators look to Fast Company or the latest blog post from Seth Godin to forage for solutions. Idea blenders are using their expertise in education and blending it with the expertise outside our industry to create solutions that challenge the status quo. Join them: This Pinterest board has a collection of brands, blogs, books and more for the idea blending educator.
  4. 4. A cheap alternative form of professional development is getting lost in a book outside your discipline. During one winter break I read Drive by Dan Pink, and I came back to work with more ideas than I ever would have gotten from a conference! Above are just a few great books to add to your book shelf. Most of them I have also used when teaching students about innovative leadership. These books offer a wide range of stories, case studies, research and perspectives. If you have one you would add to the list, send me a tweet and let me know! IdeaBlending:Innovative EducatorBookshelf A few from my bookshelf...
  5. 5. Change agents in education are surrounded by a supportive group of people that can and will give them honest feedback. No one feels scared or defensive in the exchange of feedback, because the educator has been intentional in creating a trusting environment where constructive criticism is welcome. They know that ideas go from good to great when shared with others. These individuals are annoyed with "yes people," and much prefer thought provoking constructive criticism. Feedback is solicited from several facets of the educator's life. They look to their students, spouse, boss, colleagues, the twitterverse, and just about anyone with an opinion willing to help improve their idea. Join them: Here is a great blog post with more of a discussion on and explanation of this habit. This is my idea, how can I make it better? 2. They aRE CONSTANTLY SEEKING FEEDBACK.
  6. 6. THE IDEA A-TEAM Every innovative educator has their Idea A-Team. Perhaps they call them “their soundboard,” maybe “their peeps,” it doesn’t matter. What matters, is that this is the team of people that help them process and flush out their ideas. They give constructive, helpful and honest feedback. Most ideas are introduced to the world half-baked, and that’s why their Idea A-Team is so important. Here is a little bit on the art and science behind creating your own... The Science: Your A-Team should kinda look like the picture above. Stack the deck with people that each possess a unique superpower. They should come from different functional areas and don’t forget to include students! The Art: It is an art form to be able to engage these folks. You will need to have an open mind, have good listening skills and ask good clarifying questions. If they think you don’t care what they say, they will stop helping you. Also, people often forget about the part where you update the A-Team with how you implemented their feedback. Finish the cycle by sharing your success with them and letting them know how they contributed to that success.
  7. 7. QuickTip the ‘yes-and’ principle Some of the best ideas get killed before they even have room to breathe and grow. While feedback is important, it is also important that nay-saying early in the brainstorming stages does not happen. That kind of feedback is not helping anyone! One thing I have used with my team, is using the “yes-and” principle from our friends in improv theater in the early stages of brainstorming. Instead of killing an idea on the table, the team has to find a way to add to it. This is how it might go... Person 1: What if we had a band come in and we did a charity concert? Person 2: Yes and, we could try to see if someone could do a brief presentation on the charity before the concert. This way, we are adding to ideas and not killing them with things like, “that’ll never work here.” It also forces us to be more creative because we are trying to figure out a way to add on to the idea on the table.
  8. 8. 3. They fail fast and fail forward. "Failing" is normally a dirty word in education, but not for disruptive educators. They know that failure is an imperative part of the creative process. Innovative educators are brave enough to try new ideas in and outside of the classroom. They will spend plenty of time standing up to critics and pushing through the red tape just to try out their ideas. This being said, it would be a travesty for them to just quit when it doesn't work perfectly. Disruptive educators are good at acknowledging failure (see: honest feedback), and know when it's time to pivot. Join them: Here is some great advice, inspired by toddlers on an ice rink, about failing fast and failing forward.
  9. 9. Being right keeps you in place. Being wrong forces you to explore. #5Habits #Education UCLICKHERETO TWEETTHIS big idea try it out L I l s Rapid prototyping is often used by our friends outside of education. The tech and start-up communities are rockstars when it comes to this process. However, this approach to launching new ideas and initiatives could be really helpful in the education space. A lot of the issues we face when it comes to launching new ideas are related to the fear of failure. When you change your language to reflect concepts like “beta-testing” or “rapid- prototyping” it makes the launch seem less intimidating. The diagram to the left illustrates just how simple this process is. “ RapidPrototyping
  10. 10. Innovation is work rather than genius. Thomas Edison famously said, “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Innovative educators are always producing. Being a change agent requires you to actually produce initiatives, programs and services for students that create change in the educational experience. When we haven’t launched something new in a while it is very possible that we are stuck in “analysis paralysis.” When that happens you need to find a way to either shrink your expectations or change your perspective to find the courage to launch. If you have to launch a smaller prototype first to feel better, then do it! Just remember, true innovation is all in the outputs. *Resource One of my FAVORITE blogs/websites is They always have awesome articles, videos, and other highly visual content about making ideas happen. It is geared more towards the creative field, but put on your idea blending hat and check out all their great advice! reminder
  11. 11. “ Bet big on creative people, give them enormous leeway and support, and provide them with an environment where they can get honest feedback from all. 4. They are passionately curious. If you observe innovative educators in a conversation with a student or a colleague, you'll see how they become hyper-focused and they ask lots of questions. They are constantly learning. This is also why they are idea blenders, because their curiosity leads them into a new web-design class or a subscription to an entrepreneurship online magazine. When faced with a problem, they don't fumble, they investigate. They ask lots of questions... really thoughtful questions. This goes beyond a commitment to lifelong learning, it is a habit of always asking why, and then taking the initiative to answer that question. Often, this is why they also love technology. It is because technology presents them with a new puzzle to figure out. Join them: Here is a great listing of MOOCs to check out. Also, visit Eventbrite and look for classes or conferences in your area. Remember to look for classes that are outside the EDU box.
  12. 12. QuickTip Innovative Educators take Vacation DAYS! We can’t rely on coming up with game changing ideas on the fringe of our work day. The mind needs a break in order for it to do the work of connecting concepts and ideas we gather over time. Innovative educators struggle most with this, but know that it’s so important to take vacation days. If you manage people in your work, it is imperative that you encourage them to take time off. In small doses, it is also important to leave the office/classroom and go for a brief walk every once in a while. If you want your people to be game changers, then you need to give them time away from the office/classroom/email inbox. The brain must shut off and wander in order to come up with great ideas. Another great strategy that we can borrow from our friends at Google, is the 20% rule. At Google, employees are given 20% of their time to work on any project they want. Some of Google’s greatest apps and ideas came out of 20% time. Find a way to give your employees some percentage of their work week to work on any project they want. Obviously these projects should improve the experience of students, or another shareholder like parents, colleagues, etc. Build the bare bones parameters and then let your people FREE! Your return on investment will be bigger than you ever imagined. 46% of American workers said they don’t check email while on vacation.
  13. 13. Serendipity happens when someone sets out in good faith down one path and then that path leads astray to a big idea or a “happy accident.” Innovative educators rely on serendipity as a way to come up with big ideas. Looking back on many of the great innovators in history, they all had one thing in common, they had a lot of hobbies. As our curiosity leads us into new experiences and new learning, and serendipity allows for all those new ideas to connect. It is important we give our mind a break to be able to connect the various different concepts to create big ideas. Serendipity
  14. 14. 5. They believe in their students. Being a change agent in education is probably one of the most difficult, thankless and frustrating jobs out there. Our disruptive educators are square pegs that constantly feel like they are being jammed into a round hole. When you study the commitment they have for their work among all of the challenges they face, it is very similar to the commitment that an entrepreneur has for their start-up. They are willing to pour their blood, sweat and tears into each disruptive initiative because they know that it will ultimately improve the educational experience for their students. It is so much easier to be a complacent educator. Being innovative takes a kind of persistence and passion for their students that is inextinguishable. Some people will mistake their persistence for naive optimism, but they know that if they just keep pushing boundaries they will make a difference. This is why they get up in the morning. Join them: We all love our students, but sometimes a reminder of our impact on their potential is helpful. Check out these TEDx youth speakers to be reminded of just how important our job is.
  15. 15. A fundamental belief in students is more important than anything else. This fundamental belief is not a sentimental matter: It is a very demanding matter of realistically conceiving the student where he or she is, and at the same time never losing sight of where he or she can be.
  16. 16. Innovative educators are awesome about making sure our students have a seat at the table. If there is a committee to discuss important issues, events or programs that affect students, they make sure that students are on the committee. Sometimes we see this attempted but not given much thought. If you build a committee with all high level administrators, deans, and faculty and throw two students on the committee with no intentionality, you are not giving them a seat. In that case, they are being used and their time is just being wasted. Give students a seat at the table, and encourage them to share their feedback and ideas on the issue. Educate them on the issue and coach them on how to best communicate their thoughts and ideas throughout the process. It is an excellent learning opportunity for them, and will ensure student buy in on the issue at hand. A true win-win! Don’t tell me, show me how you care about students. Give them a seat at the table It was intentional to use the word "habit" when framing this eBook. We may all have an example of times when we engaged in some of the behaviors listed above. I would challenge everyone, including myself, to think about the definition of a habit (stated in the very beginning of this eBook). How frequent are you engaging in these behaviors? Is it habitual in nature? Meaning, are you doing these without even thinking about it? Would love to hear your thoughts on the following as well: Would you add any habits? What stories do you have about being a disruptive educator? What other resources would you share? Send me an email or tweet and let me know! inconclusion
  17. 17. coming soon Starting in May 2014, the Five Habits of Innovative Educators will be an online course. Loaded with great content, incredible guest speakers, and lots more! I want in!Receive an email when registration is live.
  18. 18. Courtney O’Connell is a rising leader on the topic of disruptive innovation. Her TEDx talk “Go All In on Education,” and blogs on The Huffington Post have provoked a national conversation about innovation in education. She has extensive experience building the digital capabilities of organizations in the education and non-profit space. Courtney envisioned and served as the project manager for the Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference, and is one of co- founders of the New Jersey state association for Higher Education administrators. She was acknowledged for her entrepreneurial approaches in education as an inductee into the American College Personnel Association’s prestigious Annuit Coeptis honor society in 2011. This is quite an accomplishment given that she was only 27 at the time of being inducted. Courtney was also selected as a 99u conference fellow in 2013. Currently, she is working alongside best-selling author Erik Qualman as Director of Business Design. She spearheaded Erik’s Kickstarter campaign that garnered donations three times the original fundraising goal. She recently helped develop & publish the student focused book What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube. Courtney is determined to disrupt the current education system in hopes of making education a more engaging and meaningful experience for all students. Speaking Topics: Here are just a few of the questions Courtney is answering for her audiences when she delivers the following presentations. Habits of Innovative Educators: How will habits of innovation help me to be 3x more innovative in my work with students? What are the habits of innovative educators? How can I start utilizing these habits in my work? Go All In on Education: Why is it so difficult to innovate the education system, and what are the disruptive solutions that can create change and take us “all in” on education? Digital Reputation/Personal Branding: How can I maximize digital tools to produce and protect my digital reputation? What is my personal brand and how can I ensure my digital footprint reflects that brand? Making Big Ideas Happen: What do the best change agents do to see their big ideas come to fruition, and what can I start doing to make my big idea a reality? Stop Apologizing (Women’s Leadership): What are the superpowers that women possess, and how are those traits sometimes our kryptonite as well as a our superpowers? What can I do to leverage my strengths as a woman in the workplace and in life? Bullets to Beautiful (Slide Design/Creating Engaging Trainings): How can a non-graphic designer create beautiful and engaging presentations? How do people learn, and how can I use that information to better engage my audience? Diving in to Discomfort: Why do we struggle with pushing boundaries? What do we experience when we dare to dive in to discomfort? How can we better position ourselves to take risks and maximize the new learning that occurs when we push boundaries? Using Twitter (Social Media) to Start a Movement: How can social media help you to influence change and disrupt an industry? How can you take social media from a marketing tool to your organization’s secret weapon? Courtney O’Connell Disruptive Educator LinkedIn Profile Keynote Speaking Reel Huffington Post Blogs Socialnomics Blogs Courtney’s Twitter TEDx Talk (All in on EDU) TEDx Talk (Motivation) Courtney’s Website Digital Footprint About the author...