I’m probably a lone weirdo here, but I have a major problem with conferences like iPadpalooza. A good problem. I get over-inspired. I meet amazing educators who are doing things I literally have dreamed of in my sleep and can’t figure out how to make time to do. I get over-zealous and want to use every app ever made. I want to do it all. Every day. I look at all the “experts” and “keynotes” and groups of people standing around talking and networking and second-guess myself as a professional. I see pictures on twitter and instagram and think ohmygosh, so THAT’S what the “cool-kids” are doing… how do I be a “cool” teacher. And then I get home, and I breathe. And I remember it’s not about the keynotes, it’s not about the networking. It’s not about instagram, or what I can live tweet during someone’s presentation. It’s about students. It’s about becoming a better educator so that THEY can become better students.
So, as teachers, how do we take a great speech, like Guy Kawasaki’s from today’s keynote, from iPadpalooza ’15, and internalize it to make lasting and meaningful changes and impacts in our classroom? Here’s what I learned from Guy…
1. Guy says “innovators ignore naysayers”
Show your students any number of the “famous failures” videos on youtube and they will have the exact feeling that Mr. Kawasaki delivered to his audience today. But take the lense off of your students for a moment and evaluate things that you have tried that have failed. Did you give up? Did you re-approach? Don’t let a lack of funds or technology support stop you from doing amazing things with your students. So you don’t have a class set of iPads. Your district is a Title I district. Your administration says that your students parents would probably pawn any technology they were given. Don’t let the naysayers block innovation from your classroom.
2. Guys says “customers cannot tell you what they need”
The students are our customers. Are your students buying what you are selling? Probably not. Because they don’t think they need it. Maybe it’s the way it is being presented. Maybe they’re genuinely not interested. Maybe it’s over their head. Whatever it s, I doubt that they will vocalize it to you in a rational way.
3. Guy says “innovation happens when you jump the curve”
Mr. Kawasaki discussed how companies define themselves by what they offer and how those companies get marketing value from that. However, “… to be truly innovative, you don’t change what you’re doing, you create the next curve,” Kawasaki says. I would like to challenge each teacher reading this to create the next curve. Sure, that may mean changing our marketing strategy to our most difficult clients, but it does not mean settling. Raise the bar. Set high standards. Don’t back down. Dream big. Think outside the standardized educational box. Whatever you do…. rise above.
Ice 1.0 to Ice 3.0
4. Guy says “the biggest challenges beget the best work”
Think of the most challenging student you’ve ever had. The struggles, the tutoring, the meetings, the paper-work, the conferences, the emails, the grading, the crying, the late night worries, the dreading, the progress, the smiles, the setbacks, the reteaching, the curves, the extra-tutoring, the test prep, the dreading, the building-up, the extra-extra tutoring, the 4th emails, the standardized-test day, the waiting, the celebrations. And after all of that work, that extra-hard-long-bone-grueling work, that most challenging student somehow found a worm-hole into your heart forever. And our hope as teachers is that we found a way into his heart too. And when that happens, THAT is OUR best work.
5. Guy says “Design counts”
One of my biggest pet peeves is having presenters read powerpoint slides to me. We will soon be teaching an entire school generation (K-12) of students who have not experienced life on planet Earth without a smart phone. Not a CELL phone, but a smart phone. Most of these students consume media like we consume potato chips – not stopping at one. Their eyes have been trained to dismiss or accept information on visual value, and in a world of digital overload…. simplicity matters. Intentional choices, meaningful lessons, and technology that will empower our students and make them feel like they have a voice will go farther than you standing in front and reading a PowerPoint.
6. Guy says “less is more”
The concept of less being more is quiet an oxymoron for teachers who’ve got 5,459,398 objectives to hammer through in 56 minutes. The point here, is that when you have something important to say – just say it and say it quickly, simply, and effectively. Save yourself some time trying to cutesy up your newsletters that will end up in the garbage. I’m not saying don’t do them – just make them as simple and short as possible. Same goes for lessons. If you are absolutely wearing yourself trying to make fancy presentations for your students, odds are not in your favor.
7. Guy says “changing your mind is a sign of brilliance”
Then we must all be geniuses, because every teacher I have ever known who is worth his/her weight in gold is not afraid of changing their mind about something. It is impossible to move forward in today’s ever changing technological society without change. iPad app technology evolves so quickly that we forget to update our apps, and we fall into a trap of cementing our mind that one (or a group) of apps will not work with your students because it didn’t work the first time. We also need to remember that just because we can’t use an app well or just because we don’t like a particular app or website doesn’t mean that our students will feel the same.
8. Guys says “value is not the same as price”
He spoke of how most people were willing and glad to pay ridiculous amounts of money for Apple products, not because they were necessarily worth that amount in dollar value, but because of the demand created from the experience users had with the devices. How are you teaching your students the value of their education? Do they know what price they have to pay in order to achieve success? Are they willing to pay that price? When we start focusing on providing value to our students, I’d be willing to bet they’d be willing to justify the price that it costs to make it happen.
9. Guys says “A players hire A+ players”
If I had questions about space, and I was sitting in front of a science teacher or an astronaut… I’d ask the astronaut. What areas within your content can you hire an A+ player to come in and deliver meaningful content to your students? Videos, interviews, articles, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask someone who is better at ________ than you! And don’t be afraid to admit that they are better than you!
10. Guys says “marketing comes from the value you provide”
What makes your classroom unique? What makes you as a teacher valuable in the lives of your students? Why would your students WANT to walk into your door each and every week day for an average of nine months? You may not have a unique “product” that you are delivering to your students, but do you have a unique experience? Is what you are providing valuable, not in terms of price but
11. BONUS! Guy says “some things need to be believed to be seen”
Your students need to know that you believe in them. They need to know that you believe that what they are doing is valuable and meaningful.
You are the captain of your ship. The school year that lies ahead is your voyage. Your students will have faith in you. They will trust you. They will follow you and do amazing things when they know that you believe they can. So go forth into uncharted territory. Stand up against the negativity, jump curves, face big challenges, focus on value, and above all else…. teach.