Letter to My Representatives on AHCA and Medicaid #2

In the neurodiversity and disability communities, we are sharing stories of how the ACA and Medicaid have helped us and saved us. We’re sharing stories of the dark days before the ACA. The AHCA will return us to those dark days. The ACA, though flawed, works. Medicaid works. Lives depend on them. Improve them. Give them more funding.

Note that there are no stories of how the ACA has hurt people. Sure, premiums could be lower and choice could be greater, especially in states that refused the Medicaid expansion. So fix that. Make a good faith effort to improve policy that has helped so many. Listen to the disability communities. They know our healthcare systems better than anyone. We are full time case workers for ourselves and our families. We know these systems.

The AHCA is theft. It is a transfer of wealth from the most vulnerable to the least. It is cronyism and kleptocracy drafted in a secretive manner defiant of all norms. That the GOP is going forth with it despite its massive unpopularity suggests confidence in the voter suppression that has disenfranchised so many.

What is the future for my neurodivergent, disabled kids in a structurally ableist society that has been stripped of resources by kleptocrats and dominionists, by oligarchs, autocrats and wild notions of providentialism? This dread alliance has declared war on public education. It has declared war on healthcare. It has declared war on IDEA and the ADA. It is intent on dismantling education and our safety nets. And then what?

I don’t feel safe in this post-fact country led by crooks and haters who have seized the levers of power through racialized social control and voter suppression. No marginalized person feels safe right now. The GOP has aspirations of one party rule, and that party is actively intolerant of diversity, inclusion, and a secular society that works for the benefit of all.

My family keeps a copy of historian Timothy Snyder’s book “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century” at hand. These lessons are important civics that we should learn for ourselves and teach our kids. They are necessary literacy all too applicable to these times of cultish compliance and burgeoning autocracy and one party rule. I suggest thumbing through this slim, accessible volume and facing the lessons therein.

Letter to My Representatives on AHCA and Medicaid #1

Please do not cut Medicaid. Medicaid is a lifeline for neurodivergent and disabled families. Mediciad funds community-based supports that keep us in our homes and out of abusive institutions that fail the “midnight burrito test” (if you can’t get up at midnight to microwave a burrito, you are not free).

Medicaid also supports special education. Special education in Texas has many problems, as documented by the Houston Chronicle in their “Denied” series. My neurodivergent kids with developmental disabilities have IEPs. Their education relies, in part, on Medicaid funding. It relies also on respect for IDEA and the ADA, which are being threatened along with Medicaid. Is neurodivergence a pre-existing condition that precludes an education?

Life is hard enough for families with disabilities. The AHCA and the President’s budget are life threatening and future limiting. My family is bracing for the possibility of a society without any support or safety net for our most vulnerable kids. We’re standing at the edge of a cliff, and the Republican Party seems eager to push us over.

Neurodiversity and disability communities oppose the AHCA. Every special education family in our peer groups oppose it. These policies were conceived and iterated behind closed doors without our input or representation. They seem eugenicist in intent. They will certainly be eugenicist in outcome.

Selected Tweets, May 2017: Diversity, Inclusion, Neurodiversity, Disability, Evangelicalism, Tech Ethics, Education, Voter Suppression, Addiction, Drug War, Bodily Autonomy

I’m experimenting with using moments to curate favorite tweets in several categories. I review them at the end of the month to reflect and suss the zeitgeist.

Diversity, Inclusion, and the Social Model for Minds and Bodies

Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism, and Christofascism

Humane Tech and Tech Ethics

Education and Ed-Tech

Voter Suppression

Addiction, Dependence, Rehab, and Harm Reduction

Drug War

Bodily Autonomy

#BodilyAutonomy

Inclusion and the upcoming DSISD school board election

Three candidates are vying for two seats in the election for the Dripping Springs ISD school board on May 6th. DSISD has been the center of a lot of attention around bathroom bills and transgender exclusion. Many DSISD families rallied in support of inclusion, as did incumbent board members Barbara Stroud and Ron Jones. They received a lot of pressure from Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and the anti-inclusion group Texas Values, including harassing phone calls.

Both Stroud and Jones are up for re-election. In a recent candidate forum, challenger Trey Powers came out as anti-inclusion, invoking the zero-sum talking point that accommodation is “at the expense of other [children].” His solution is segregation.

Segregation is always wrong. Inclusion is the new normal. I will not vote for anyone who sides with segregation. As such, Barbara Stroud and Ron Jones will be getting my vote. They sided with inclusion.

Schools with transphobic bathroom policies break the codes of collaboration. They don’t meet the standards for hosting WordCamps, WordPress Meetups, or Automattic sponsored events. They eliminate themselves from hosting meetups for many open source communities, something schools should be doing more of, not less. Phobic policies distance public education from the creative commons and the engines of modernity.

In an era of massive software driven change, the culture of public education should be compatible with the norms of agile teams and distributed collaboration. Self-organizing teams working in open by default, inclusive by default cultures build great things. This is the present and future of work. What we’ve learned over decades of iterating development culture for adult creatives applies also to students.

Our market is the world. Our audience is the world. Designing for the lived experiences of the full spectrum of human diversity requires working inclusively. Together, we will iterate our way through massive software-driven change. We will navigate disruption with compassion, finding opportunity and inspiration in the diversity of our shared humanity. We are humans making things for and with other humans, helping each other cope with sentience and senescence on our pale blue dot. Communicate, collaborate, iterate, launch. With these tools we’ll make it through.

Inclusion is the new normal. Inclusion is the way to our boldly better future. Diversity is a fact of the modern world that is good for society and good for business.

Source: Inclusion is the new normal

Passion-based maker learning, social model inclusion, and indie ed tech are the way forward. Segregation and exclusion are retreats into fear and ignorance.

Instead of connecting neurodivergent kids with an identitytribe, and voice, we segregate and marginalize them. We medicalize and assess them. We demand their compliance and rarely ask for consent. We define their identities through the deficit and medical models and then tell them to get some grit and growth mindset. We reduce emancipatory tech to remedial chains.

Let’s embrace instead the voice and choice of project-based, passion-based maker learning and inform it with neurodiversity and the social model of disability. Create a future of education and work where neurodiverse teams of project-based learners use technology and design thinking to communicate, collaborate, iterate, and launch to authentic audiences of fellow humans.

End the segregation of special.

Source: Education, Neurodiversity, the Social Model of Disability, and Real Life

My oldest, a baseball fan, coined the term “stallbatting”. Stallbatting is interfering with someone going to the bathroom of their choosing. Bathrooms can be anxious experiences for neurodivergent and disabled people who need assistance. Bathroom bills ratchet that anxiety by emboldening fear and hate. Unisex and family bathrooms are wonderful, and often scarce. We are left with assisting our opposite sex family, friends, and clients in binary gendered bathrooms, hoping nobody makes a fuss, hoping we can relieve ourselves in peace. Bathroom bills steal that peace. Bathroom bills hurt the disabled. Bathroom bills hurt the neurodivergent. Bathroom bills hurt my family and hurt my transgender friends and coworkers. Bathroom bills are incompatible with neurodiversity, the social model of disability, and the norms of work and collaboration.

Source: Bathroom Bills, Neurodiversity, and Disability

Early voting starts on April 24th. Here is an application for a mail-in ballot. Candidate applications and bios, which still contain very little information or transparency, are available here.

Communication is oxygen. Build a district wide collaboration infrastructure and an open by default culture.

Change the technology culture of school. The voice & choice of inclusive education needs an open by default infrastructure for communication and collaboration. Technology will not find its place in the classroom until we move away from the remediation of the deficit model and embrace open and accessible collaboration.

All of us, professionals as well as laymen, must consciously break the habits we bring to thinking about the computer. Computation is in its infancy. It is hard to think about computers of the future without projecting onto them the properties and the limitations of those we think we know today. And nowhere is this more true than in imagining how computers can enter the world of education. It is not true to say that the image of a child’s relationship with a computer I shall develop here goes far beyond what is common in today’s schools. My image does not go beyond: It goes in the opposite direction.

In many schools today, the phrase “computer-aided instruction” means making the computer teach the child. One might say the computer is being used to program the child. In my vision, the child programs the computer and, in doing so, both acquires a sense of mastery over a piece of the most modern and powerful technology and establishes an intimate contact with some of the deepest ideas from science, from mathematics, and from the art of intellectual model building.

Source: Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas

‘Don’t underestimate the power of giving people a common platform and operating language.’

Source: What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team – The New York Times

Don’t mistake that common platform for a locked-down, top-down LMS. Don’t mistake it for shrinkwrap, cargo cult culture bought from a corporation whose business model is the deficit model. We’re not talking ed-tech, we’re talking indie ed-tech–the real, promethean stuff.

Indie Ed-tech is infrastructure that supports scholarly agency and autonomy.

Source: A Journey to discover what is Indie Ed-tech | Heart | Soul | Machine

For his part, in that Stanford talk, Jim Groom pointed to 80s indie punk as a source of inspiration for indie ed-tech. “Why 1980s indie punk?” Groom explains,

First and foremost because I dig it. But secondly it provides an interesting parallel for what we might consider Indie Edtech. Indie punk represents a staunchly independent, iconoclastic, and DIY approach to music which encompasses many of the principles we aspired to when creating open, accessible networks for teaching and learning at [the University of Mary Washington]. Make it open source, cheap, and true alternatives [sic] to the pre-packaged learning management systems that had hijacked innovation.

The LMS is our major record label. Prepackaged software. A prepackaged sound.

Pre-packaged sound. Pre-packaged courses. Pre-packaged students.

If we don’t like ‘the system’ of ed-tech, we should create one of our own.

Source: ‘I Love My Label’: Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound in Ed-Tech

Yes, let’s create a system of our own. Let’s create a system in touch with the social model for minds and bodies and inclusive, passion-based, student-directed learning that uses the real-world tools of rank and file tech workers and STEAM collaborators. Our operating language is the social model, and our common platform is the collaborative commons.

“Indie ed-tech” – what we’re gathered here to talk about over the next few days – is inherently ideological as it seeks to challenge much of how we’ve come to see (and perhaps even acquiesce to) a certain vision for the future of education technology. An industry vision. An institutionalized vision. Indie ed-tech invokes some of the potential that was seen in the earliest Web technologies, before things were carved up into corporate properties and well-known Internet brands: that is, the ability to share information globally, not just among researchers, scientists, and scholars within academic institutions or its disciplines, but among all of us – those working inside and outside of powerful institutions, working across disciplines, working from the margins, recognizing the contributions of those who have not necessarily been certified – by school, by society – as experts. Distributed knowledge networks, rather than centralized information repositories. “Small pieces, loosely joined.”

“Indie ed-tech” offers a model whereby students, faculty, staff, and independent scholars alike can use the “real-world” tools of the Web — not simply those built for and sanctioned by and then siloed off by schools or departments — through initiatives like Davidson Domains, enabling them to be part of online communities of scholars, artists, scientists, citizens.

Source: ‘I Love My Label’: Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound in Ed-Tech

Resist the monsters of ed-tech. Fight back against surveillance, endless assessment, and deficit model capitalism.

There are monsters because there is a lack of care and an absence of justice in the work we do in education and education technology.

Source: The Curse of the Monsters of Education Technology

We have internalized the pre-packaged sound. We have internalized LMS thinking and deficit model capitalism. We are the monsters.

Go indie. Go indie in mind, deed, and software. Surrender the safety of your internal LMS, and enter the margins.

We roil at the limitations and oppressive qualities of the LMS. But the problem here is not the LMS—it is that, despite our best efforts at creating other platforms, we still think through our own internal LMS. The problem is that whether we are using Blackboard or teaching in Canvas or building a Domains project, we are most likely not doing thinking that is liberative enough.

The point is not just about platform. The point is about praxis.

the LMS is an outlook, a standpoint, a conviction. Like it or not, it is in our blood as a product of our privilege and our educations. It is not a cage we put students in as much as it is an artificial playground over which we can be masters. It is, in fact, a learning space, but not for the content we put there; rather it is a space of enculturation into an oppressive educative model which each of us has born the weight of, and into which we each believe, to varying degrees, students should be baptized. The same is true of the classroom, the academy, the professional conference. These are spaces we understand, where we are not marginal, but where we can invite the marginal to participate, to become not-marginal. And this invitation to the middle is an act we say is elevating, is doing good.

There are multitudes of voices that we won’t hear because we do not feel safe in their spaces, on the margins. And safe, for educators, usually means expert, superior, capable, competent. When we enter the margins from our roosts in academe, we suffer the surrender of our confidence. In the face of what might be being created in the spaces we don’t occupy, our knees wobble.

By offering a room, we make ourselves the lessors. By making space, we claim space. “These are your walls,” we say. “These are your walls that I’ve given you. These are your walls to hang upon them what you would like. I have made them of plaster and drywall. I have painted them. I have put in the studs and I have raised high the roofbeams. But truly, this is yours. I have made you a space where you can be who you want to be.”

We need to design learning where there is no option for oppression.

Source: If bell hooks Made an LMS: a Praxis of Liberation and Domain of One’s Own

The Basics of Open Technology

Albemarle County SchoolsSeven Pathways uses open technology informed by toolbelt theory and universal design for learning. Their Basics of Open Technology is a good primer on how to do tech in the classroom right. This is compatible with neurodiversity, the social model of disability, and structural ideology.

The promise of contemporary technology lives in what these tools can do that previous learning and educational technologies could not — they are open, connected, individualizable, and flexible. But if your school adopts these new technologies without adopting the policies and practices that take advantage of these differences, you have likely defeated your students before you’ve even begun.

  • Student Control
  • An Abundance of Tools
  • Accessibility
  • Access Everywhere
  • BYOD and an Open Network
  • Talk to Parents
  • Worry About Behavior, Not Technology
  • Spend Wisely
  • Trust in Children and Childhood

Their philosophy emphasizes assistive tech and helping kids find their voice through technology.

No student will have mechanical limitations in access to either information or communication — whether through disability, inability at this moment, or even just discomfort. Learning is our goal, and we make it accessible.

Source: The Basics of Open Technology | Edutopia

No child within the Albemarle County Public Schools should need a label or prescription in order to access the tools of learning or environments they need. Within the constraints of other laws (in particular, copyright) we will offer alternative representations of information, multiple tools, and a variety of instructional strategies to provide access for all learners to acquire lifelong learning competencies and the knowledge and skills specified in curricular standards. We will create classroom cultures that fully embrace differentiation of instruction, student work, and assessment based upon individual learners’ needs and capabilities. We will apply contemporary learning science to create accessible entry points for all students in our learning environments; and which support students in learning how to make technology choices to overcome disabilities and inabilities, and to leverage preferences and capabilities.

Source: Seven Pathways

This open tech philosophy is especially powerful in the culture of passion-based maker learning and student-created context that Albemarle is building.

Follow superintendent Pam Moran and technology innovation director Ira Socol on Twitter, and read their blogs.

And check out their educational technology plan.

The Open Schoolhouse

Charlie Reisinger (@charlie3) is a good resource on the open schoolhouse, open learning, service learning, 1:1 laptop programs, student help desks, and WordPress in education. In his school district, Penn Manor, student IT apprentices write code, write documentation, image laptops, and provide helpdesk support. Their code and docs are open source and available on GitHub.

Here are some videos on Penn Manor’s approach to the open schoolhouse.

Mr. Reisinger poses the vitally important question, “Which side of the command line should our kids be on?”

His book  The Open Schoolhouse is out now. Here are some excerpts.

Locked-down technology is a symptom of an education system designed for student compliance and defined by the incessant measurement of learning. A factory-like school system values what a student has purportedly learned on a linear path, as demonstrated by a standardized test score. Technology device restraints and restrictions lock students on the assessment assembly line, at the cost of a child’s curiosity and intellectual freedom.

Source: How leveraging open source solutions helps give students in-demand skills | Opensource.com

Given unfettered permission to revise, remix, and redistribute curriculum material, teachers are trusted to become active agents in the creation of high-quality learning materials.

At Penn Manor School District in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Linux and open source software are the foundations for more than 4000 student laptops, classroom computers, and district servers. We’ve saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by going open source in both the server room and the classroom.

To #GoOpenSource means more than simple cost savings for underfunded schools. Like openly-licensed education material, open source values invite collaborative and participatory learning. When a school culture honors learning by doing, students become active agents in their education, and they contribute to the school community in innovative new ways.

Source:  Schools that #GoOpen should #GoOpenSource

I think of Moodle and WordPress as fraternal twins. Passionate and ingenious founders with ardent beliefs in free and open source software created both software platforms. Global communities of programmers, designers, and end users drive the development of both platforms. They use similar web technologies (LAMP), and subscribe to principles of simplicity and ease of use. They are credited with creating, and disrupting, entire industries. And they made dramatic impacts on our students, teachers, and staff.

There is also a deeper ethical problem: reliance on closed source proprietary software teaches students a lesson of dependence on secret technology they are powerless to examine, study, share, and improve upon. If the social mission of schools is to amplify student potential, disseminate knowledge, and prepare students to have an impact on the world, then schools have a duty to help kids be free thinkers and self-reliant architects of their futures.

We believe this act of human collaboration across an open platform is essential to individual growth and our collective future.

The destructive confluence of decimated school budgets, neurotically locked-down technology, and lockstep assessment mandates is taking a toll on progressive educators—and disempowering students.

Without a course rubric, curriculum, or end-of-unit test, they created software destined to impact 1,725 of their peers, and eliminate hundreds of staff hours typically wasted on manually sorting and scheduling students into sessions.

What if our classrooms pushed aside lecture and standard curriculum, and reorganized as a community of practitioners working toward a common goal? What if every high school junior worked just like a journalist or technologist?

The flat-world technology revolution asks us to rethink our notion of what it means to be educated and literate in the 21st Century. However, one traditional skill remains unchanged: the ability to artfully and effectively self-express through writing. Blogs, reports, essays, and Tweets; writing across multiple modalities is learning made visual–and a full keyboard is still the most efficient tool to hone this skill.

Schools, it seems, are holding computer policies upside down. They shackle incredible, open-ended learning technology in digital chains. An air of distrust hangs over the device and the student. The practice cripples learning and students’ autonomy. Repressive computer device management policies crush learner agency and intellectual freedom.

What I love so much about open source philosophy, and what I strive to replicate on the help desk, is the participatory, inclusive environment where traditional power structures dissolve and students are empowered to act, contribute, express, learn, and think. Together as a team, students and staff shape the world around them. Once we stop treating students like data banks waiting for downloads, once we trust students as equal partners in their education, and once we empower students to contribute to their school community, the open schoolhouse emerges.

 

Source: Reisinger, Charlie (2016-09-29). The Open Schoolhouse: Building a Technology Program to Transform Learning and Empower Students. Kindle Edition.

For more selections from the book, see here.

Hacker Ethos

It’s a software-eaten world; get hip to STEAM and the hacker ethos.

The credentialist social order has been waning since peak centralization in the 1970s. Work and the world are shifting from credentialist to hacker modes of social organization. Agile teams, distributed collaboration, and the hacker ethos of flexible improvisation and rapid iteration are useful cultural literacy. The ed-tech cronyism of the past 15 years–driven by greed, assessment, bad metrics, and algorithmic cruelty–is a culture ill-suited to collaboration. Software eats industries and networks eat geography, bringing collaborative hacker culture along with them. Education’s turn is now. If you’re going to get eaten by software, choose indie ed-tech over corporatist ed-tech and deficit model greed. Engage with the digital commons, and educate for massive software-driven change. When navigating the society transforming tidal wave of automation, fluency in the hacker ethos, distributed collaboration, and loosely coupled, tightly aligned teams is very helpful.

In fact, a core element of the hacker ethos is the belief that being open to possibilities and embracing uncertainty is necessary for the actual future to unfold in positive ways. Or as computing pioneer Alan Kay put it, inventing the future is easier than predicting it.

Source: Towards a Mass Flourishing

In our Tale of Two Computers, the parent is a four-century-old computer whose basic architecture was laid down in the zero-sum mercantile age. It runs on paperware, credentialism, and exhaustive territorial claims that completely carve up the world with strongly regulated boundaries. Its structure is based on hierarchically arranged container-like organizations, ranging from families to nations. In this order of things, there is no natural place for a free frontier. Ideally, there is a place for everything, and everything is in its place. It is a computer designed for stability, within which innovation is a bug rather than a feature.

We’ll call this planet-scale computer the geographic world.

The child is a young, half-century old computer whose basic architecture was laid down during the Cold War. It runs on software, the hacker ethos, and soft networks that wire up the planet in ever-richer, non-exclusive, non-zero-sum ways. Its structure is based on streams like Twitter: open, non-hierarchical flows of real-time information from multiple overlapping networks. In this order of things, everything from banal household gadgets to space probes becomes part of a frontier for ceaseless innovation through bricolage. It is a computer designed for rapid, disorderly and serendipitous evolution, within which innovation, far from being a bug, is the primary feature.

We’ll call this planet-scale computer the networked world.

The networked world is not new. It is at least as old as the oldest trade routes, which have been spreading subversive ideas alongside valuable commodities throughout history. What is new is its growing ability to dominate the geographic world. The story of software eating the world is the also the story of networks eating geography.

There are two major subplots to this story. The first subplot is about bits dominating atoms. The second subplot is about the rise of a new culture of problem-solving.

Source: A Tale of Two Computers

Teams

In Silicon Valley, software engineers are encouraged to work together, in part because studies show that groups tend to innovate faster, see mistakes more quickly and find better solutions to problems. Studies also show that people working in teams tend to achieve better results and report higher job satisfaction. In a 2015 study, executives said that profitability increases when workers are persuaded to collaborate more. Within companies and conglomerates, as well as in government agencies and schools, teams are now the fundamental unit of organization. If a company wants to outstrip its competitors, it needs to influence not only how people work but also how they work together.

As the researchers studied the groups, however, they noticed two behaviors that all the good teams generally shared. First, on the good teams, members spoke in roughly the same proportion, a phenomenon the researchers referred to as ‘‘equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.’’ On some teams, everyone spoke during each task; on others, leadership shifted among teammates from assignment to assignment. But in each case, by the end of the day, everyone had spoken roughly the same amount. ‘‘As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well,’’ Woolley said. ‘‘But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined.’’

Second, the good teams all had high ‘‘average social sensitivity’’ — a fancy way of saying they were skilled at intuiting how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues. One of the easiest ways to gauge social sensitivity is to show someone photos of people’s eyes and ask him or her to describe what the people are thinking or feeling — an exam known as the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test. People on the more successful teams in Woolley’s experiment scored above average on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test. They seemed to know when someone was feeling upset or left out. People on the ineffective teams, in contrast, scored below average. They seemed, as a group, to have less sensitivity toward their colleagues.

In the best teams, members listen to one another and show sensitivity to feelings and needs.

Google, in other words, in its race to build the perfect team, has perhaps unintentionally demonstrated the usefulness of imperfection and done what Silicon Valley does best: figure out how to create psychological safety faster, better and in more productive ways.

Source: What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team – The New York Times

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

Source: Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

To build 21st Century learning from the ground up, we look to see how companies like Google, Spotify, and GE build their innovative cultures. Their secret to innovation? Agile. Where focused teams unleash creativity, adapt through fast learning cycles, and iterate towards success.

Agile Classrooms self-organizes its own learning, uses visual accountability structures, and are immersed in reflective feedback. It is a structured learning environment that restores the freedom to teach and learn. Where students reclaim responsibility for their own learning and teachers shift into facilitators and coaches.

Source: Agile Classrooms

For more on teams, see my posts on Agile and Scrum in Education and Projects, Teams, and Psychological Safety.

Team Communication

My company uses Slack & hundreds of WordPress blogs running P2 to communicate & collaborate. Our three level communication stack is sympathetic to anxiety and imposter syndrome and informed by neurodiversity. We’ve been iterating on this for over a decade, and I think we get some things right. You can take an idea from small audiences to global audiences with feedback and encouragement along the way.

See P2 in action on the sites at make.wordpress.org.

For an example of using Slack for team chat, join the WordPress Slack. It’s open to anyone in the world. Come look around and lurk as the software running 27% of the web is built.

An open source alternative to Slack used by some districts is Mattermost. Penn Manor moved to Mattermost in 2016. Mattermost derives is name from the importance of communication. Communication is oxygen.

WordPress for School Districts

Newark is a large school district using WordPress for internal and external communication. @camworld of SchoolPresser  built and manages the 70+ WP sites at the Newark district. This podcast talks to him about moving Newark over to WordPress. He gets into nuts and bolts and case study, including cost model.

See his talk on WordPress for Schools at WordCamp Raleigh (slides).

There are thousands of so-called widgets, plugins and themes that are just as important for a one-person blogger than the world’s largest publishers. Gartner’s recent pace-layered application strategy shows that organisations can accelerate their innovation by choosing an array of systems that support business requirements on long-, medium- and short-term timescales.

Systems that maximise connectivity between the pace layers offer organisations competitive advantage. WordPress’ ubiquity has driven it to enjoy a rich ecosystem of connectivity and integration, something that the baked-in WordPress REST API now extends that connectivity infinitely. This is why things will accelerate in 2017.

Source: How WordPress Ate The Internet in 2016… And The World in 2017

High school, college, and sometimes even middle school students help make WordPress. Shipping to an authentic audience is powerful and life changing.

wordpress-download-counter
WordPress 4.7 has been downloaded 28,901,206 times

Backchannels

Ditch That Textbook provides examples of how to use blogs and team chat in the classroom. Chapter 3, Use Technology to Defeat Insecurity, offers good insight into the neurodiversity friendliness of backchannels, something familiar to tech workers.

A backchannel is a separate, often text-based, discussion students engage in while they’re receiving information via a lecture, a movie, a television show, or a PowerPoint presentation. Students use a digital device to participate in a behind-the-scenes chat so as not to disturb others trying to listen.

Backchannels provide the perfect outlet for students who have something to say but refuse to open up in class discussions. When everyone participates in the conversation, no one feels singled out. As a result, inhibitions about sharing decrease and the courage to speak up increases. Plus, when everyone types at once, the teacher spends less time calling on students one by one.

Source: Ditch That Textbook

 I personally believe that the backchannel is the greatest unharnessed resource that we as educators have available to us. It does not threaten me nor bother me that you learned as much if not more from the backchannel the other night — in fact, it makes me feel great that I facilitated the connection.

Source: Cool Cat Teacher Blog: Backchannels and Microblogging Streams

And that’s not even touching on the ways this kind of technology supports the shy user, the user with speech issues, the user having trouble with the English Language, the user who’d rather be able to think through and even edit a statement or question before asking it.

Source: SpeEdChange: Bringing the “Back Channel” Forward

Written communication is the great social equalizer.

Remember this if you start to fear your Autistic child is spending too much time interacting with others online and not enough time interacting with others face-to-face.  Online communication is a valid accommodation for the social disability that comes with being Autistic.  We need online interaction and this meta-study demonstrates exactly why that is the case.

I couldn’t help wondering, since the study showed the durability of first impressions and the positive response to the written words of Autistics, with all visual and auditory cues removed, could we mitigate childhood bullying in any way by having a class of students meet first online, in text, and form their first impressions of one another in that format before ever meeting face-to-face?

Getting online was revolutionary and may have saved my life.

The difference between offline and online communication could not have been more dramatic.

Source: THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM: Autism and the Burden of Social Reciprocity

IT Culture

To accommodate continuous communication, collaboration and iteration, change the culture of IT acquisition & digital services. Consult the 18F & USDS playbooks.

The goal was simple: burst the stereotypical beltway bubble and expose government employees and bureaucratic workflows to mainstream technology thinking.

Source: The difference between 18F and USDS – Ben Balter

Members of Congress of all stripes and party affiliations are embracing the game-changing promise of better government technology shipped by the modern approach employed by hundreds of hardworking people serving their country at 18F and USDS. Same goes for the career bureaucracy, to varying degrees. And it appears that, at least under oath and the klieg lights, the private-sector vendor community grudgingly does too.

The culture change 18F and USDS embody is starting to take hold, challenging the mindset of entrenched for-profit IT vendors, attacking the billions wasted each year on busted IT, and putting the status quo on notice.

Source: Doing IT Right: Congressional Oversight of President Obama’s Signature Tech Teams – Medium

I was in a meeting once where someone said, “How long will it take to fix that?” One person, who’d been at the company for years, said, “Three months.” A new person, who’d just come from a world of rapidly provisioned cloud microservices, said, “Three minutes.” They were both correct. That’s how change enters into this world. Slowly at first, then on the front page of Hacker News.

Source: What is code? Code has been my life, and it has been your life, too. It is time to understand how it all works.

Adopting the USDS and 18F playbooks will inoculate against ed-tech cronyism.

Schools do continue to turn away from the iPad as the tablet hasn’t proven to be quite as revolutionary as some predicted. Surprise, surprise. But the rationale for choosing a certain type of computing device is almost always about testing, not about any other benefit the device might offer teaching and learning.

But this notion of an “OS War” shouldn’t be too quickly dismissed. “Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google Are Fighting a War for the Classroom,” Edutechnica wrote in June, with a look at how many colleges have adopted their competing “pseudo-LMSes.” The “war” extends beyond the productivity suite of tech tools and it extends beyond operating system in the classroom. It’s about building brand allegiance with students and/as workers, and it’s about building data profiles to sell ads and other products.

The LMS, of course, needn’t be a permanent line item in schools’ budgets. And its supposed primacy might actually overlook that there’s a great deal of “shadow” technology utilized by instructors who eschew the official LMS for something they find better suited to their classroom needs and goals.

The learning management system is a piece of “enterprise” software after all. That is, it’s built and bought to satisfy the needs of the institution rather than the needs of individual. Purchasing an LMS – or more correctly, signing a contract to license an LMS – requires its own enterprise-level bureaucracy.

I’ve argued elsewhere that education technology serves as a “Trojan horse” of sorts, carrying with it into public institutions the practices, politics, and a culture of private business and the ideology of Silicon Valley.

Of course, what drives the programming on Sesame Street now isn’t education research; it’s market research. It isn’t “equity” as in social justice; it’s “equity” as in the financial stake a VC takes in a company.

And that’s what “the business of education technology” gets us.

Source: The Business of Education Technology

There is a gap developing between the business users of enterprise applications and the IT professionals charged with providing these applications. The business leaders are looking for modern, easy-to-use applications that can be quickly deployed to solve a specific problem or respond to a market opportunity. Meanwhile, the IT organization is typically working toward a strategic goal of standardizing on a limited set of comprehensive application suites in order to minimize integration issues, maximize security and reduce IT costs. These competing goals often lead to strategic misalignment.

Business users often complain that, no matter what they ask for, IT tells them either that they have to use the functionality in the existing application portfolio or that they have to wait until the current multiyear rollout is finished before the problem can be addressed. In today’s dynamic business climate, with constantly changing business models and users who are fully aware of the power of technology, this is simply an unacceptable answer.

Organizations must establish a new strategy for business applications that responds to the desire of the business to use technology to establish sustainable differentiation and drive innovative new processes, while providing a secure and cost-effective environment to support core business processes.

Source: Accelerating Innovation by Adopting a Pace-Layered Application Strategy

Writing in the Age of Distributed Collaboration

As a hacker and writer, I spend a lot of time in text editors. Almost everything I write starts in my favorite text editor. A text editor is my thinking space. It is a place for moving around blocks and tinkering with parts. It is a place to explore my mind and write it the way I want it to read. Iteration and ideation happen in my editor. My notes are not just a record of my thinking process, they are my thinking process. Text editors are extensions of mind that facilitate thinking.

At my company, we say “communication is oxygen”. Most of that oxygen is writing. So far this week, we’ve written 99,786 Slack messages, 1,749 P2 posts, and 5,070 P2 comments using our three level communication flow.

iterate-communicate-make-happy.png
We Iterate, We Communicate, We Make People Happy
Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 8.06.01 AM.png
793 Slack channels, 441 P2 blogs, 4,628 Zoom video chats

Source: Writing in Education and Plain Text Flow

Literacy in North America has historically been focused on reading, not writing; consumption, not production.

while many parents worked hard to ensure their children were regular readers, they rarely pushed them to become regular writers.

We are now a global culture of avid writers.

As Brandt notes, reading and writing have become blended: “People read in order to generate writing; we read from the posture of the writer; we write to other people who write.” Or as Francesca Coppa, a professor who studies the enormous fan fiction community, explains to me, “It’s like the Bloomsbury Group in the early twentieth century, where everybody is a writer and everybody is an audience. They were all writers who were reading each other’s stuff, and then writing about that, too.”

So how is all this writing changing our cognitive behavior?

• • • For one, it can help clarify our thinking. Professional writers have long described the way that the act of writing forces them to distill their vague notions into clear ideas. By putting half-formed thoughts on the page, we externalize them and are able to evaluate them much more objectively. This is why writers often find that it’s only when they start writing that they figure out what they want to say.

Poets famously report this sensation. “I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind,” Cecil Day-Lewis wrote of his poetic compositions. “If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it. . . . We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.”

Culturally, we revere the Rodin ideal— the belief that genius breakthroughs come from our gray matter alone. The physicist Richard Feynman once got into an argument about this with the historian Charles Weiner. Feynman understood the extended mind; he knew that writing his equations and ideas on paper was crucial to his thought. But when Weiner looked over a pile of Feynman’s notebooks, he called them a wonderful “record of his day-to-day work.” No, no, Feynman replied testily. They weren’t a record of his thinking process. They were his thinking process.

Before the Internet came along, most people rarely wrote anything at all for pleasure or intellectual satisfaction after graduating from high school or college.

The explosion of online writing has a second aspect that is even more important than the first, though: it’s almost always done for an audience.

When you write something online— whether it’s a one-sentence status update, a comment on someone’s photo, or a thousand-word post— you’re doing it with the expectation that someone might read it, even if you’re doing it anonymously. Audiences clarify the mind even more.

Blogging forces you to write down your arguments and assumptions. This is the single biggest reason to do it, and I think it alone makes it worth it. You have a lot of opinions. I’m sure some of them you hold strongly.

When you move from your head to “paper,” a lot of the hand-waveyness goes away and you are left to really defend your position to yourself.

But studies have found that particularly when it comes to analytic or critical thought, the effort of communicating to someone else forces you to think more precisely, make deeper connections, and learn more.

When asked to write for a real audience of students in another country, students write essays that are substantially longer and have better organization and content than when they’re writing for their teacher. When asked to contribute to a wiki— a space that’s highly public and where the audience can respond by deleting or changing your words— college students snap to attention, writing more formally and including more sources to back up their work.

“Often they’re handing in these short essays without any citations, but with Wikipedia they suddenly were staying up to two a.m. honing and rewriting the entries and carefully sourcing everything,” she tells me. The reason, the students explained to her, was that their audience— the Wikipedia community— was quite gimlet eyed and critical.

Once thinking is public, connections take over.

Source: Thompson, Clive (2013-09-12). Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better (p. 50). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Iterate Together; do_action

do_action events bring non-profits and open source communities together to build and improve websites. Let’s do the same for school districts. Students, teachers, and tech workers iterating and learning together as they build the infrastructure for oxygen.

http://doaction.org/

Privacy

For practical advice without the FUD, consult the Smart Girl’s Guide to Online Privacy by @violetblue and this overview on privacy and passwords.

Neurodiversity, The Social Model of Disability, and Structural Ideology

All of this must be informed by neurodiversitythe social model of disabilitystructural ideology, and restorative practices. We are responsible for humanizing flow in the systems we inhabit. Apply these rules of thumb.

With software eating the world, we must make it humane.

Marc Andreessen famously said that “software is eating the world”, but it’s far more accurate to say that the neoliberal values of software tycoons are eating the world.

Source: There is no “technology industry” – Humane Tech – Medium

The inequalities that I’ve chronicled above – income inequality, wealth inequality, information inequality – have been part of our education system for generations, and these are now being hard-coded into our education technologies. This is apparent in every topic in every article I’ve written in this years’ year-end series: for-profit higher education, surveillance in the classroom, and so on.

These inequalities are apparent in the longstanding biases that are found in standardized testing, for example, often proxies for “are you rich?” and “are you white?” and “are you male?”

My own concerns about the direction of education technology cannot be separated from my concerns with digital technologies more broadly. I’ve written repeatedly about the ideologies of Silicon Valley: neoliberalism, libertarianism, imperialism, late stage capitalism. These ideologies permeate education technology too, as often the same investors and same entrepreneurs and the same engineers are involved.

Source: Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2016: Education Technology and Inequality

Future Digital Humanitarians

Given agency and a default to open culture, students can become the digital humanitarians society needs.

Students can design, create, and engineer effective solutions to problems. Powerful new technologies are allowing students to create and disseminate solutions to real life problems like never before. Interestingly, it is the power of the human experience – empathy, relationships, opportunities to improve, and a sense that what they do has meaning and matters – that is the key to true and purposeful changemaking for kids. How exciting to think about where these young digital humanitarians might take these skills, understandings, and mindsets in the future!

Source: Empathy: The Surprising Secret Sauce For Authentic STEM Project Design

Video Playlists

Open education playlist:

Neurodiversity playlist:

GenderMag and Cognitive Walkthroughs

GenderMag focuses on five facets of gender differences that have been extensively investigated in the literature pertaining to problem solving. It encapsulates them into a set of faceted personas to bring them to life, and embeds their use into a systematic process based on a gender specialization of the Cognitive Walkthrough (CW) [59, 63]. The five facets are:

Motivation: Research spanning over a decade has found that females tend (statistically) to be motivated to use technology for what they can accomplish with it, whereas males are often motivated by their enjoyment of technology per se [12, 13, 19, 31, 33, 37, 43, 57]. This difference can affect which software features users choose to use.

Information processing styles: To solve problems, people often need to process new information. Females are more likely (statistically) to process new information comprehensively-gathering fairly complete information before proceeding-but males are more likely to use selective styles-following the first promising information, then backtracking if needed [17, 22, 45, 46, 52]. Each style has advantages, but either is at a disadvantage when not supported by the software.

Computer self-efficacy: Self-efficacy is a person’s confidence about succeeding at a specific task, and influences their use of cognitive strategies, persistence, and strategies for coping with obstacles [3]. Empirical data have shown that females often have lower computer selfefficacy than males, and this can affect their behavior with technology [5, 6, 12, 13, 24, 32, 34, 43, 49, 50, 58].

Risk aversion: Research shows that females tend statistically to be more risk-averse than males [23], surveyed in [62], and meta-analyzed in [21]. These results span numerous decision-making domains, such as in ethical decisions, investment decisions, gambling decisions, health/safety decisions, career decisions, and others. Risk aversion with software usage can impact users’ decisions as to which feature sets to use.

Tinkering: Research across age groups and professions reports females being statistically less likely to playfully experiment (“tinker”) with software features new to them, compared to males. However, when females do tinker, they tend to be more likely to reflect during the process and thereby sometimes profit from it more than males do [6, 13, 18, 20, 33, 54].

Source: Finding Gender-Inclusiveness Software Issues with GenderMag: A Field Investigation

Cognitive Walkthroughs focus on just one attribute of usability, ease of learning.

Cognitive walkthroughs evaluate each step necessary to perform a task, attempting to uncover design errors that would interfere with learning by exploration. The method finds mismatches between users’ and designers’ conceptualization of a task.

The procedure uncovers explicit and implicit assumptions made by developers about users’ knowledge of the task and interface conventions. The evaluation procedure takes the form of a series of questions asked about each step in a task that are derived from a theory of learning by exploration.

Source: The Cognitive Walkthrough Method: A Practitioner’s Guide

Per the researchers, the five facets of the GenderMag method are backed by extensive empirical and theoretical work. Facets backed by at least 5 independent empirical studies were chosen, with some having 10 or 15. The majority of studies favor US populations and all are based on adults. Children are excluded from claims.

They realized that, really, it’s all about the facets. It’s not really about gender. It’s all about the facet values and being inclusive across the range of facet values.

I’m channeling Abby, and I do not like this software.

Source: Finding Gender-Inclusiveness Software Issues with GenderMag: A Field Investigation – YouTube

Projects, Teams, and Psychological Safety

Collaborative, project-based teams make great things. Teams that offer psychological safety are more productive and creative. This is true for adults and children—especially children. “Every child deserves an education that guarantees the safety to learn in the comfort of one’s own skin.” What we have learned in industry through continuous iteration works also for students. Give them psychologically safe teams where they can collaborate on shared passions. Give them a home of opportunity.

Students and teachers are in the anxiety zone.

Screen Shot 2017-01-14 at 12.15.09 PM.png
Comfort Zone, Apathy Zone, Anxiety Zone

Source: Building a psychologically safe workplace: Amy Edmondson at TEDxHGSE – YouTube

In Silicon Valley, software engineers are encouraged to work together, in part because studies show that groups tend to innovate faster, see mistakes more quickly and find better solutions to problems. Studies also show that people working in teams tend to achieve better results and report higher job satisfaction. In a 2015 study, executives said that profitability increases when workers are persuaded to collaborate more. Within companies and conglomerates, as well as in government agencies and schools, teams are now the fundamental unit of organization. If a company wants to outstrip its competitors, it needs to influence not only how people work but also how they work together.

Google’s People Operations department has scrutinized everything from how frequently particular people eat together (the most productive employees tend to build larger networks by rotating dining companions) to which traits the best managers share (unsurprisingly, good communication and avoiding micromanaging is critical; more shocking, this was news to many Google managers).

Norms are the traditions, behavioral standards and unwritten rules that govern how we function when we gather: One team may come to a consensus that avoiding disagreement is more valuable than debate; another team might develop a culture that encourages vigorous arguments and spurns groupthink. Norms can be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence is often profound. Team members may behave in certain ways as individuals — they may chafe against authority or prefer working independently — but when they gather, the group’s norms typically override individual proclivities and encourage deference to the team.

As the researchers studied the groups, however, they noticed two behaviors that all the good teams generally shared. First, on the good teams, members spoke in roughly the same proportion, a phenomenon the researchers referred to as ‘‘equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.’’ On some teams, everyone spoke during each task; on others, leadership shifted among teammates from assignment to assignment. But in each case, by the end of the day, everyone had spoken roughly the same amount. ‘‘As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well,’’ Woolley said. ‘‘But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined.’’

Within psychology, researchers sometimes colloquially refer to traits like ‘‘conversational turn-taking’’ and ‘‘average social sensitivity’’ as aspects of what’s known as psychological safety — a group culture that the Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines as a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’

Psychological safety is ‘‘a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up,’’ Edmondson wrote in a study published in 1999. ‘‘It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.’’

What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘‘work face’’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘‘psychologically safe,’’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy. We can’t be focused just on efficiency. Rather, when we start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers and then send emails to our marketing colleagues and then jump on a conference call, we want to know that those people really hear us. We want to know that work is more than just labor.

Google, in other words, in its race to build the perfect team, has perhaps unintentionally demonstrated the usefulness of imperfection and done what Silicon Valley does best: figure out how to create psychological safety faster, better and in more productive ways.

‘Don’t underestimate the power of giving people a common platform and operating language.’

Source: What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team – The New York Times

Google researchers undertook a massive multi-year research project to understand the effectiveness of teams. They wanted to know why certain teams at Google performed highly and others did not. Was it the size of the team? The blend of personality types? Or even their physical environments? Over time it became clear that who was on the team didn’t matter so much as how the team operated. More specifically, the social norms that determined whether or not everyone got a voice, and whether or not the team members felt that if they made a mistake, they knew it could be openly discussed without fear of embarrassment. Incredibly, group traits like “conversational turn-taking” and “sensitivity to nonverbal cues” matters more than the intelligence or experience of the team members.

That’s encouraging news for those of us who don’t get to perform with John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley.

There’s a term for this: psychological safety. The researcher Amy Edmondson demonstrated that teams can appear to be strong on the surface: people like and respect each other, and they get along well. Despite that, they may have an environment where everyone sits silently while the boss talks at them, or where people feel ashamed to be vulnerable and open up about their fears. They might all love hanging out together after work, but nobody can bring themselves to tell someone when they’ve got toilet paper stuck to their shoes. If we want a climate where people can accomplish groundbreaking things, we need to know our voice will be heard and where we’re not afraid to take risks.

The best jazz bands, like the best Google teams, provide the space to take risks. We already know jazz artists have hyperaware senses and can pick up on nonverbal clues. But everyone also gets a voice. In jazz, it’s assumed that unexpected contributions can come from anyone. Getting a “voice” also means every band member takes a turn soloing. Each player spends time as both leader and follower. Miles was always attune to the contributions of everyone. If he realized someone hadn’t had a solo in a while, he’d lean over to them and whisper in his gravelly voice that they should take the lead.

Followership in jazz is worthy of the highest respect—it’s known as comping. Comping is listening and responding without overshadowing. Followership needs to be active, not passive. It’s not about sitting back and letting someone else do all the work. You take an indispensable role in giving space, riffing, experimenting, and supporting. And yet leading and talking are more valued than following and listening in our work culture.

Source: Please Make Yourself Uncomfortable – What product managers can learn from jazz musicians – Ken Norton

“We call it ‘psychological safety,’  ” she said. Psychological safety is a “shared belief, held by members of a team, that the group is a safe place for taking risks.” It is “a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up,” Edmondson wrote in a 1999 paper. “It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.”

Julia and her Google colleagues found Edmondson’s papers as they were researching norms. The idea of psychological safety, they felt, captured everything their data indicated was important to Google’s teams. The norms that Google’s surveys said were most effective— allowing others to fail without repercussions, respecting divergent opinions, feeling free to question others’ choices but also trusting that people aren’t trying to undermine you— were all aspects of feeling psychologically safe at work. “It was clear to us that this idea of psychological safety was pointing to which norms were most important,” said Julia. “But it wasn’t clear how to teach those inside Google. People here are really busy. We needed clear guidelines for creating psychological safety without losing the capacity for dissent and debate that’s critical to how Google functions.” In other words, how do you convince people to feel safe while also encouraging them to be willing to disagree?

“For a long time, that was the million-dollar question,” Edmondson told me. “We knew it was important for teammates to be open with each other. We knew it was important for people to feel like they can speak up if something’s wrong. But those are also the behaviors that can set people at odds. We didn’t know why some groups could clash and still have psychological safety while others would hit a period of conflict and everything would fall apart.”

Duhigg, Charles (2016-03-08). Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business (Kindle Locations 793-808). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

“Comedy writers carry a lot of anger,” said Schiller. “We were vicious to each other. If you thought something was funny and no one else did, it could be brutal.”

So why, given all the tensions and infighting, did the Saturday Night Live creators become such an effective, productive team? The answer isn’t that they spent so much time together, or that the show’s norms put the needs of the group above individual egos.

Rather, the SNL team clicked because, surprisingly, they all felt safe enough around one another to keep pitching new jokes and ideas. The writers and actors worked amid norms that made everyone feel like they could take risks and be honest with one another, even as they were shooting down ideas, undermining one another, and competing for airtime.

“You know that saying, ‘There’s no I in TEAM’?” Michaels told me. “My goal was the opposite of that. All I wanted were a bunch of I’s. I wanted everyone to hear each other, but no one to disappear into the group.”

That’s how psychological safety emerged.

Duhigg, Charles (2016-03-08). Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business (Kindle Locations 889-898). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

After looking at over a hundred groups for more than a year, Julia and the Project Aristotle team concluded it was something unexpected (group norms) were the key to better teams.

In particular, one factor stood out more than others: creating “psychologically safe environments.” Teams that encourage safe discussions and different viewpoints succeed more.

On the good teams, members spoke in roughly the same proportion, what researchers referred to as ”equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.” On some teams, everyone spoke during each task; on others, leadership shifted among teammates from assignment to assignment.

The good teams had high social sensitivity, they had team members that could sense how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues.

Young people are headed for a project-based world, and project based learning is the best preparation. Larmer said, “Do whatever you can to make the PBL environment more like a real-world workplace. If a team is not working well together, what would adults on the job do? If a co-worker gets sick, how might a team handle the situation? If deadlines are being missed and the project is falling behind schedule, how does a project manager adjust?”

“We constantly talk about collaboration and working in teams with students,” said Randy Hollenkamp. Teachers at the New Tech Network affiliate encourage students to create team norms and build contracts with each other prior to every project. “Teachers scaffold this with our students from day one,” said Hollenkamp, who added:

“We also talk with students about how trust is crucial in team work. It is as important to students doing the lion’s share of the work as it is to the students not doing the lion’s share. If someone in the group is doing more work, then there is a group trust issue that needs to be discussed. This idea is carried into our “culture of critique” as well. The norm here is to be “kind, specific, and helpful” when giving critique. In doing this our students build trust and seek and expect critique with each other and adults.”

In school, and in the workplace, successful projects start with a safe environment where diverse views are welcomed, differences are respected and quality contributions are expected.

Source: Building Better Teams for Project-Based Work

Performance terror. We’ve all known a classroom, meeting room or stage where we didn’t feel safe doing something we were quite capable of doing.

“As a college professor I encourage students to read their work aloud, but I never insist on it,” said Carey. “Sometimes those who are uncomfortable doing it will volunteer on their own because it’s their decision rather than mine.”

“I centered my instruction on the lives, histories and identities of my students. And I did all of this because I wanted my students to know that everyone around them was supporting them to be their best self,” said Simmons.

A supportive culture, sustained advisory relationships, and teaching strategies that create positive learning all promote psychological safety.

“Every child deserves an education that guarantees the safety to learn in the comfort of one’s own skin,” said Simmons.

Source: Psychological Safety: Key to Success at School and Work | Tom Vander Ark | Pulse | LinkedIn

If we want to create resilient, capable, problem-solving students, we need to allow them to make mistakes that encourage them to learn and grow. Students learn best when their affective filter is low. When mistake-making is perceived as bad, it is detrimental to learning.

The same holds for teachers.

We must allow teachers to model learning through trial and error.

When we create professional learning experiences that reward teacher risk-taking, we’re creating an environment of trust, which means encouraging teachers to continually re-new their practice through experimentation, failure and iteration.

Source: Model Mistakes and Creating Trust in the Classroom

Schools that fail have adults who talk relentlessly about how at risk their kids are. They have all the statistics at their fingertips. They focus on the perceived limitations… on vocabulary shortfalls, on lack of pre-school and parent involvement, on issues of attendance and language.

Schools that succeed have adults who talk about what their kids can do. They talk about the stories kids tell, the things kids make, the problems they solve, the way the collaborate, communicate, connect to the world. And when they’re really good you never hear the words “at risk,” or “title,” or “deficit,” when they plan.

A home of opportunity.

A school struggling with the ravages of American poverty has to first be a home — the kind of home the children may not have at home. A place that is relentlessly safe, that is both calming and exciting, that offers unconditional love, and that offers boundless opportunity.

That ‘home’ must be supportive and accepting, loving and encouraging, and it must provide the biggest possible window on to the world, on to the universe.

A home of opportunity.

What does opportunity look like? First, it looks like trust. It looks like freedom. And it looks like choice.

What does opportunity look like? It looks like understanding that relationships and social and emotional support mean more than traditional academics. It means that adults don’t fuel bullying through hierarchies — whether with honor rolls, ability grouping, or sports worship.

It looks like Universal Design for Learning, with kids learning to use the tools of a lifetime. It looks like a place where kids can hide when they need to and jump when they want to. It looks like a place where play is considered a high level learning path.

It looks like a place that respects kids’ needs and treats their lives as legitimately complex and difficult.

Source: You must see your school as a home of opportunity – Medium

In today’s business environment, much work in organizations is accomplished collaboratively. Narrow expertise and complex work require people to work together across disciplinary and other boundaries to accomplish organizational goals. Product design, patient care, strategy development, pharmaceutical research, and rescue operations are just a few examples of activities that call for collaborative work. Organizational research has identified psychological safety as an important factor in understanding how people collaborate to achieve a shared outcome (Edmondson 1999, 2004), thus making it a critical concept for further research.

Psychological safety describes perceptions of the consequences of taking interpersonal risks in a particular context such as a workplace (e.g., Edmondson 1999). A central theme in research on psychological safety—across decades and levels of analysis—is that it facilitates the willing contribution of ideas and actions to a shared enterprise. For example, psychological safety helps to explain why employees share information and knowledge (Collins & Smith 2006, Siemsen et al. 2009), speak up with suggestions for organizational improvements (Detert & Burris 2007, Liang et al. 2012), and take initiative to develop new products and services (Baer & Frese 2003). As we describe below, extensive research suggests that psychological safety enables teams and organizations to learn (Bunderson & Boumgarden 2010, Carmeli 2007, Carmeli & Gittell 2009, Edmondson 1999, Tucker et al. 2007) and perform (Carmeli et al. 2012, Collins & Smith 2006, Schaubroeck et al. 2011).

First explored by pioneering organizational scholars in the 1960s, psychological safety research languished for years but experienced renewed interest starting in the 1990s and continuing to the present. We propose that psychological safety has become a theoretically and practically significant phenomenon in recent years in part because of the enhanced importance of learning and innovation in today’s organizations. Psychological safety is fundamentally about reducing interpersonal risk, which necessarily accompanies uncertainty and change (Schein & Bennis 1965). Reflecting this premise, a rapidly growing body of conceptual and empirical research has focused on understanding the nature of psychological safety, identifying factors that contribute to this interpersonal construct, and examining its implications for employees, teams, and organizations. The aim of this article is first to review this literature and then to outline the implications of the findings, including controversies and unanswered questions, as well as directions for future research.

From a practical perspective, psychological safety is a timely topic given the growth of knowledge economies and the rise of teamwork. Both of these trends have given rise to new work relationships in which employees are expected to integrate perspectives, share information and ideas, and collaborate to achieve shared goals.

In an influential paper, William Kahn (1990) rejuvenated research on psychological safety with thoughtful qualitative studies of summer camp counselors and members of an architecture firm that showed how psychological safety enables personal engagement at work. He proposed that psychological safety affects individuals’ willingness to “employ or express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances,” rather than disengage or “withdraw and defend their personal selves” (p. 694). Further, Kahn argued that people are more likely to believe they will be given the benefit of the doubt—a defining characteristic of psychological safety—when relationships within a given group are characterized by trust and respect. Using descriptive statistics from summer camp counselors and members of an architecture firm, he also showed a quantitative relationship between personal engagement and psychological safety in both contexts.

Whereas the studies discussed above focused on employee performance in expected behaviors for their roles, a growing stream of research examines psychological safety’s relationship to extra-role behaviors such as speaking up. Speaking up, or voice, is defined as upward-directed, promotive verbal communication (Premeaux & Bedeian 2003, Van Dyne & LePine 1998). Challenging the status quo and offering ideas to improve process can be a vital force in helping organizations learn. However, considerable research has shown that individuals often do not work in environments where they feel safe to speak up (Detert & Edmondson 2011, Milliken et al. 2003, Ryan & Oestreich 1998). A number of studies therefore examine proactive behavior, especially that related to challenging the status quo or improving organizational functioning (see Grant & Ashford 2008 for a review). Several studies, spanning multiple industries, have found that psychological safety mediates between antecedent variables and employee voice behavior (e.g., Ashford et al. 1998, Miceli & Near 1992). For example, Detert & Burris (2007) investigated two types of changeoriented leadership—transformational leadership and managerial openness—as antecedents of improvement-oriented voice. Analyzing data from 3,149 employees and 223 managers in a restaurant chain in the United States, they found that subordinate perceptions of psychological safety mediated the leadership–voice relationship. Similarly, Walumbwa & Schaubroeck (2009) used a multilevel model in a study of 894 employees and their 222 immediate supervisors in a major US financial institution and found that ethical leadership influenced follower voice behavior, a relationship that was partially mediated by followers’ perceptions of psychological safety.

Source: Psychological Safety: The History, Renaissance, and Future of an Interpersonal Construct

Every child deserves an education that guarantees the safety to learn in the comfort of one’s own skin.

I centered my instruction on the lives, histories and identities of my students. And I did all of this because I wanted my students to know that everyone around them was supporting them to be their best self.

So while I could not control the instability of their homes, the uncertainty of their next meal, or the loud neighbors that kept them from sleep, I provided them with a loving classroom that made them feel proud of who they are, that made them know that they mattered.

There is a better way, one that doesn’t force kids of color into a double bind; a way for them to preserve their ties to their families, homes and communities; a way that teaches them to trust their instincts and to have faith in their own creative genius.

Source: Dena Simmons How students of color confront impostor syndrome – Ted Talk 2016   Ted com – YouTube

Further, some research has pointed to the role of leadership in shaping conditions that are conducive for enhancing employee creativity. For example, George and Zhou (2007) conducted a study that evaluated the process by which leader support leads to creativity and innovation. Specifically, they evaluated three behavioral mechanisms by which supervisors can provide a supportive context – developmental feedback, displaying interactional justice, and being trustworthy. The results of their study suggested that all three types of behavioral support lead to increased creativity. Mumford et al. (2002) noted that leaders who provide support for creativity (idea, work and social supports) are more effective in facilitating creativity because they are able to shape and maintain work contexts which are vital for motivating individuals to display creative behaviors. Lee, Edmondson, Thomke and Worline (2004) have also noted that leader supportive coaching enables interpersonal risk taking (Edmondson 1999, 2002), while close evaluation processes intended to unravel failures inhibit creativity (Amabile et al., 2004) and make new tasks more difficult (Zajonc 1965). Lee et al. (2004) underscored the importance of joint supportive conditions that make people psychologically safe, thus facilitating their willingness to engage in experimentation, a behavior integral to creative and innovative endeavor.

In addition, consistent with previous research we reason that psychological safety is developed through relational leadership and serves as a key social-psychological mechanism by which people are able to display creativity without experiencing interpersonal threats and developing defensive orientation (Carmeli et al., 2009; Edmondson, 2004). Along with this line of research (see also, De Dreu & West, 2001), we posit that the relationship between leader inclusiveness and creativity will be mediated through psychological safety. Inclusive leaders who are open, available and accessible to employees who come up with new ideas, cultivate a context in which people feel psychologically safe to voice and express new ideas that often defy the norms. Psychological safety, in turn, is likely to result in a higher level of employee involvement in creative work.

Source: Inclusive Leadership and Employee Involvement in Creative Tasks in the Workplace: The Mediating Role of Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.

Source: Building a psychologically safe workplace: Amy Edmondson at TEDxHGSE – YouTube

For example, a study of 133 factory teams found that higher levels of interpersonal sensitivity, curiosity, and emotional stability resulted in more-cohesive teams and increased prosocial behavior among team members. More-effective teams were composed of a higher number of cool-headed, inquisitive, and altruistic people. Along the same lines, a large meta-analysis showed that team members’ personalities influence cooperation, shared cognition, information sharing, and overall team performance. In other words, who you are affects how you behave and how you interact with other people, so team members’ personalities operate like the different functions of a single organism.

A useful way to think about teams with the right mix of skills and personalities is to consider the two roles every person plays in a working group: a functional role, based on their formal position and technical skill, and a psychological role, based on the kind of person they are. Too often, organizations focus merely on the functional role and hope that good team performance somehow follows. This is why even the most expensive professional sports teams often fail to perform according to the individual talents of each player: There is no psychological synergy. A more effective approach (like the mission to Mars example) focuses as much on people’s personalities as on their skills.

In our own work we found that psychological team roles are largely a product of people’s personalities. For example, consider team members who are:

  • Results-oriented. Team members who naturally organize work and take charge tend to be socially self-confident, competitive, and energetic.
  • Relationship-focused. Team members who naturally focus on relationships, are attuned to others’ feelings, and are good at building cohesion tend to be warm, diplomatic, and approachable.
  • Process and rule followers. Team members who pay attention to details, processes, and rules tend to be reliable, organized, and conscientious.
  • Innovative and disruptive thinkers. Team members who naturally focus on innovation, anticipate problems, and recognize when the team needs to change tend to be imaginative, curious, and open to new experiences.
  • Pragmatic. Team members who are practical, hard-headed challengers of ideas and theories tend to be prudent, emotionally stable, and level-headed.

Observing the balance of roles in a team offers an extraordinary insight into its dynamics.

Thus, evaluating the whole person can offer pivotal insights into how people are likely to work together, and can help flag areas of conflict and affinity. Anything of value happens as the result of team effort, where people set aside their selfish interests to achieve something collectively that they could not achieve by themselves. The most successful teams get this mix of personalities right.

Source: Great Teams Are About Personalities, Not Just Skills