7 Devices of transformation in education

The 7 Devices of Transformation in Education

I’m in the airport heading home from Miami Device as I draft this post. I learned so much; I’m exhausted. But some of the biggest things I appreciate are the people. Back in May, I purchased a Mac to use at home, and there are tons of tricks I still don’t know. When I plugged my computer into the projector, I saw something I didn't know how to fix. Tony Vincent jumped up and showed me about four tricks to help me!

Now, one thing on my “Big 3” list is to study up on Keynote. Adam Bellow and George Couros convinced me of that. So, Richard Wells spent about 10 minutes with me one on one. He showed me some shortcuts, tips, and pointers on both Mac and Keynote. Wow.

Perhaps biggest and best of all, I spent some one on one time with Angela Maiers, Rodney Turner, and many others. Those quiet conversations were fascinating and transformative.

But as I reflect on change, here are some principles of change that I gleaned from the many conversations, experiences, and sessions I attended.

Device of Change #1: Innovation is Done by Innovative People.

In the end, I’m reminded of one big thing:

The most transformative, innovative things in education wear flesh and walk around with skin on top.

When students, teachers and administrators become innovative – we innovate. The most innovative tool on the planet is an innovative teacher. (Perhaps only topped by the empowered, innovative student, but without the first, we cannot, sadly, have the second.)

Device of Change #2: Never Accept Wasted Time.

I’m struck by just how fast time goes.

Kid-ship comes with an expiration date that seems to be ending earlier and earlier.  Time is short, and we can’t waste kids.

When you waste time in school, you waste opportunities. Time is precious because children are precious.

I get a rare opportunity — I’m teaching my child. I am teaching my classes like I want my own son to be educated because I AM teaching him.


Device of Change #3: Empowered People Have the Power to Make Change Happen.

And we need teachers now, more than ever. No buzzwords, just people buzzing around excited about learning.

When school boards stop buying STUFF and start empowering PEOPLE, change will happen.

When they put as much energy into picking principals as they do designing school buildings or picking jerseys for the football team, we’ll see change.

Device of Change #4: Invest in technology and people.

I love what George Couros said in a leadership session,

“The question when you’re spending money is: is this an expenditure or is this an investment?”

And, my friends, this is a world of difference.

When you buy a laptop for every child and do not invest in training for teachers, you’ve created an expense:The lack of training will increase the expenses because of breakage. There's also an opportunity cost that happens when kids don’t get to use the excellent technology that dims and dulls with age.

  • The lack of training will increase the expenses because of breakage.
  • There's also an opportunity cost that happens when kids don’t get to use the excellent technology that dims and dulls with age.

Technology depreciates even faster when it is not appreciated with good use.

When you expense a 1:1 iPad program without a vision for how they will be used – you're depreciated. If you don't make an investment in the teachers, students, and programs to make them work, you’ve got an expenditure.

“Without vision, the people perish,” says Proverbs.

And that is most true.

Device of Change #5: Invest in Relationships

I’m a teacher. I work each and every day in investments. I don’t sell and buy stocks and bonds; I invest heavily in futures: the futures of children. I don’t waste time because that wastes lives. I don’t waste energy because that is an expenditure I can’t make. But investments — investments always pay back.

Once my son was struggling with a teacher. I was in agony to build a bridge. I said, “son, what do you wish your teacher knew about you.” His answer upset me greatly,

“I wish she knew my name.”

He felt like that the teacher never knew his name because she never said it.

There is no excuse — learn their names. Learning the names and calling the names of kids is an investment. We invest in relationships.

When you champion a child, you invest in the child. When you whine and complain, you expend your energy on wasted activities and diminish your ability to invest in kids.

Device of Change #6: Invest in Yourself

But here’s the thing about investments: you have to have something to invest. You have to have something of worth. You have to have energy, strength, and stamina to be able to invest. Sometimes you even need patience, forgiveness, and love.

An investment in yourself, is an investment in the kids you serve.

When you work day in and day out and never take time for a walk or to eat healthy food – you are spending your life, you're not investing in it.

Investing always multiplies itself to give you more to invest. Expenditures are a bottomless pit.

In the End: Technology Change is About People

So, as I’m pondering the learning at Miami Device – the sessions were epic – they really were. But the biggest, deepest, fastest changes happened one on one when people invested their time in me. When I as student tuned all I had into what Tony and Richard as a teacher had to teach me — we had a powerful learning experience.

And that is often how the greatest changes have happened: one on one. Teacher and student. Investor and Investee.

[callout]It is all about relationships.[/callout]

Device of Change #7: Decide to Be the Device

Technology is great, but technology is not the answer. We are. You and me. Together we move ahead and learn. Alone we struggle. We need each other. Our kids need us. They need us to be the transformational technology in the classroom.

For, my dear friends — THE one single best classroom innovation is the teacher who decides to learn, grow, and help her students do the same. Is it too much to ask to invest? How many more wasted expenses does it take before we realize that we are spoon chucking more money out the back door than we can bring in the front door with a wheelbarrow. (As my grandfather used to say.)

For that kind of change is unstoppable. That kind of change is what we need.

Flip your switch if you want to be the change. Make the investment and change your career and the course of the lives in your classroom.

Let’s be the innovation. Let’s be the change.

Let’s be the device.

[callout]Dear friends, sometimes it takes a little while for blog posts to make it live. Miami Device is an awesome event that happens each November. Thanks Felix Jacomino for inviting me in 2015. It took me a while to process all I learned. Sometimes the profound observations happen when you get lots of innovative people together and realize that lots of people HAVE technology but few have innovation. The people are the difference.[/callout]

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Pablo January 22, 2016 - 10:46 pm

Those device are really important! Lets invest in our teachers!

Rob Monk January 23, 2016 - 1:51 am

Many of the points you have made here resonate with our experience of going 1:1.
Investment in people is clearly the key.

Lori January 25, 2016 - 9:55 pm

A tool …any tool is not worthwhile unless you know how to use it!

Gord Holden January 26, 2016 - 11:37 am

Love it.

Harvey Almarode January 27, 2016 - 12:46 pm

Thanks for sharing the 7 devices. Those have been thoughts of mine off and on for many years and I was elated to see this put into words and to hear someone else echo my thoughts. Now how do we convince school boards and IT personnel whose first inclination in budget reduction is staff training?

Vicki Davis January 27, 2016 - 6:20 pm

We keep saying it and saying it and saying it. Somehow, some way. Not sure how we get their attention except to improve training. I think a big issue with staff training is that as it is being done in many places, it isn’t effective. So, teachers are being taught poorly and don’t want it or see it as helpful. So if we can level up training, then we’ll see the results and help keep it in the budget.

Lisa Durff January 29, 2016 - 7:58 pm

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

C. Fortenberry February 5, 2016 - 12:33 am

Great article! Our elementary school is currently working on our strategic plan for the next five years. One topic that currently arises is “WE NEED MORE TECHNOLOGY!” As the tech lead at our site, I want to yell back, “Do you know what to do with it?” It’s refreshing to read your article because it confirms my thoughts that innovation starts with the individual. Teachers often assume that 21st century skills are only tied with technology; in reality, it’s creativity, collaboration, critical thinking skills, and communication that make the difference.


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