Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Be the change . . .

Be the change you wish to see in the world. Or, change the be.

It is not whether you succeed or fail but whether you try.

So, if you cannot be the change you wish to see in the world, then change the be and focus on something else that does excite you enough to take action.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Stop aiming for the Moon

Aim for the moon. If you miss you will land among the stars.

Alpha Centauri A, our nearest neighbor, is 4.37 light years from Earth.

So, if you aim for the moon and miss, you will be light years away from the stars.

Instead, determine which star you want to aim for and go after it.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Questions from readers on TNVA, Manifesto, and even Agora Cyber

From time to time I enjoy sharing some questions I receive from readers of my blog here. As always, I wish to begin by saying how much I appreciate all who take moments from their day to read what I have to say. I do not take it lightly, and I am honored that the readership continues to grow.

Now, on to some questions.

Q: Agora Cyber severed their contract with K12 on the management side late 2014 with their charter up for renewal. Do you think TNVA should have done the same thing in light of what has transpired the past few days?

A: I actually offered up a solution for the TNVA issue that included keeping the school open if they found a new provider of services. I am not sure if that was ever on the table nor can I be certain it would have prevented it from being closed as it appears it will be. Contractual arrangements between K12 and Union County (TNVA home school district) might have prevented this option as well.

Opening the door to that possibility could have turned the debate from a Yes-No argument over closing TNVA to finding ways to serve the 1300 students moving forward.

Q: As a teacher at Agora Cyber I am troubled with the transition currently taking place and have trust issues with the new leadership team and concerns about their ability to lead the school. Any advice here in PA for a concerned teacher and are there any cyber/virtual schools that are "doing it the right way" as you say?

A: Transitions are tough so I feel for you. While I am not aware of the specifics of what is going on with Agora one of the first steps new leadership should take does not involve processes or organization charts. Instead, it involves developing trust. Change inherently brings with it trepidation and too often leadership forgets the emotional side of the change while focusing on the part that can be measured. Again, not sure this is what is going on with Agora but yours is not the first email expressing these types of feelings.

My hope is it all works out properly because there are 10,000+ students that are being impacted with this transition.

And yes, there are virtual schools (even in PA) that are working hard to serve students properly. Typically they fly under the radar because they are focused on the task at hand. In a future post I will try to highlight some that are doing virtual right.

Q: In your Manifesto you talk about a "culture of retention," can you explain that more?

A: Virtual schools, like other public schools, are funded based on count dates throughout the year. Some have single count dates while other states have basically rolling count dates. This means that schools are funded for the number of students they are serving based on those counts.

Too many virtual schools are focused on these count dates as the barometer for their recruiting success. In my opinion, they should instead focus on the number of students they are serving on the last day of the school year -- how many students stayed with them after enrolling. Schools that have a culture of retention start here.

Second, schools with this type of culture understand retention and enrollment are synonymous. Retention begins when a family first says "Yes" not in the spring when it is time for families to begin making decisions about the next school year.

Third, schools with a retention culture are more concerned about proper fit than overall numbers. While it is up to the family to ultimately decide if the public virtual school is right for them, the schools carry the burden of communicating properly to the family to help them with this decision. Virtual schools talk about educational choice yet treat it like a sales approach. Instead, a school with a retention culture must view this as a decision process to determine appropriate fit. This means communicating what it takes from the student and the family to succeed in this environment.

As a virtual school, would you rather enroll 500 students and keep 90% of them, or enroll 1,000 students and lose 50% of them? One is a retention approach and the other a sales approach.

Q: Do you think blended learning is the answer?

A: I actually do not believe there is one, single answer. And, I wonder if we are even asking the right questions when it comes to educating our kids. We work so hard to standardize education yet we celebrate diversity in life. We look for ways to scale when data continually demonstrates the effectiveness of more personalized approaches. We look to programs, processes and technology to solve our problems when perhaps we should be looking at the relationships more.

Blended learning can be and should be part of the solution, just as virtual and traditional brick-and-mortar schools should be. My hope is we take an "And" approach instead of an "Either/Or" approach. Let's look for ways to include instead of deny.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tennessee Virtual Academy could cause a ripple effect

Last week a Tennessee judge refused an injunction request to keep the Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA) open, and just today the State Legislature appeared to close the door on TNVA when a last-ditch effort to keep it open was refuted.

I have written about this ongoing issue extensively here in my blog so I will not repeat all of it here. However, what will be interesting to watch over the next few years is, if TNVA is actually forced to close, will it be the beginning of a ripple effect across the country for virtual schools, particularly those operated by K12?

Make no mistake, the legal battle in Tennessee is only now just beginning so this is far from over. But, the signs are pointing to TNVA having to close at the end of this school year, and if that is the case, what other states are watching?

Massachusetts? California? Pennsylvania? Ohio? Colorado?

It's a shame really. Virtual schooling can be a revolutionary concept, if done properly. And, situations like this give it a black eye.


What is Aspirationgraphics? (from my Virtual School Manifesto)

A while ago I published Virtual School Manifesto: Nine Essential Ingredients to lay out my vision that would allow virtual schools to fulfill their promise. One of those ingredients included a term I coined called Aspirationgraphics -- an idea I covered in depth at a recent conference.

Our friend Webster defines aspiration as a "hope or ambition of achieving something." For me the key word there is ambition.

Virtual schools market themselves as tuition-free yet fail to mention the investment required by the students and the parents.

Virtual schools focus too much on where the students come from instead of their willingness to put in the effort required to get where they want to go. This is where Aspirationgraphics comes in.

Aspirationgraphics focuses on the ambition of the student and the parent and requires virtual schools to be more authentic and transparent.

It works when virtual schools are more concerned about how many students are with them at the end of the school year instead of the count date at the beginning.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

3 Free Ways to Improve Customer Service

1. Smile.

Don't just grin but smile.

2. Give the customer your full attention when you utter the words, "Can I help you?"

Stop writing. Stop putting paper away. Stop whatever it is you are doing that takes your attention away from the customer standing in front of you.

3. Convey excitement in your voice.

"Can I help you?" can take on so many different connotations depending upon how you say it. Say it with enthusiasm and you can set the tone for the customer interaction.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Just do it, differently.

Things don't have to be done the way they have always been done.

Status quo can sometimes be your worst enemy.

"The way we used to do it . . ." can impede innovation.

Little goals produce little results.

If it is not uncomfortable then real change may not occur.

Risk is not a four-letter word to be avoided.

"Yes, if . . ." is better than "No, because . . ." when it comes to innovation.

Don't be the change you wish to see in the world, be the difference maker.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Duke wins - did controversial call at the end of the game help?

At the end of the NCAA Championship game last night Duke was up by five when underneath the Wisconsin basket there was a loose ball that went out of bounds. The officials first called it Duke's ball but went to the reply to confirm.

CBS showed multiple angles of it and, according to the announcers, it clearly showed that the ball actually went off of a Duke player (unless you live in Durham probably) -- I saw it the same way. So it came as quite a shock when the officials refused to overturn the call even though they saw the same replay angles.

And their explanation is what most intrigues me. Whether or not it played a hand in Duke's victory is not a concern to me though Duke did go down and hit a 3-pt shot to extend the lead on the next play. 

Anyway, evidently the referees told CBS that it was not reversed because "they just couldn't see anything."

That amazes me. What exactly could they not see? It was so obvious from several angles that it went off of the Duke player and should have been Wisconsin's ball. How could they not see it? It was so clear, so easy to see.

As I pondered it this morning and how it relates to this blog I write, it caused me to wonder how much I miss, or we miss, that is right in front of us, and so easy to see? When we are presented with the data, or the facts, are there areas where we fail to reverse course because "we just couldn't see anything?" -- where we avoid the obvious because it means we have to admit we are wrong?


Friday, April 3, 2015

The organic chaos of life

Are you doing today what you dreamed of doing when you were a child?

Do you find yourself where you believed you would be at this point in your life?

Has your life moved in linearity from one point to another as you had planned?

The answer to each question, for most of us, is no.

Life is much more organic than it is planned. Unexpected doors open up for us and we pursue them. Opportunities present themselves and we follow them as they lead us down paths unknown. Events occur that cause us to reconsider and move in another direction. Emerging technology alters the very course of our lives by creating new while making the old obsolete, and we must adapt.

Life is more of an organic chaos than it is neat and tidy. The struggle for most of us comes when we try to take life and make it linear or structured instead of embracing the chaos.

Perhaps life is not meant to be controlled or managed. Perhaps it is simply meant to be lived.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Are you afraid?

For most of us our perceptions frame our reality. We then seek out those who agree with our reality so we can reassure ourselves.

Too few of us take the time to consider opposing views. Adopt some of them -- hardly. We find that problematic, even dangerous. Wait though, before we travel that road laced with fear, what if we simply read some views that were contrary to our own? Consider simply means to think carefully about. What if we gave careful thought to an opposing view?

Could a workweek be condensed to 4 hours? Could marketing be based on permission instead of interruptions? Could we be measuring creativity and intelligence the wrong way?

The challenge is to find a book or video that provides a viewpoint opposite to our own and then read or watch it without condemning it. Simply consider it.