As a new calendar year begins, we are often focused on our future plans, breathing vision in life and scheduling events and activities from now into the future.

Without getting too far into the realms of science fiction and quantum physics, it may be that viewing your leadership backwards from a future perspective may provide some material for present-day reflection.

What will define your period as a school leader?

Imagine visiting your current school in some undefined period in the future and asking questions of staff, students and parents:

– about your leadership style

– about what happened to make the school better.

– about what it was you fundamentally stood for or believed in

– about what you tried and succeeded to achieve

– about what improvements ‘stuck’ and what had not.

– about how you were perceived as a person, a leader and a learner

– about how you set your predecessor up for success

– about how you built capacity and grew leadership.


You could take this idea of the past as a strategic leadership asset by considering the legacy of leadership you have inherited right now.

How well do you know the lived experiences if the leaders whose desk you now occupy?

What valuable assets from the past could help you become a more contextually intelligent current leader?


By looking backward and looking forward we can better create our own present within the context of the history of our school.


What will your story be?

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6 Myths About Innovation That Hold You Back

6 Myths About Innovation That Hold You Back

Retrieved from

From large companies to startups, innovative ideas are well within anyone’s grasp if we let go of these preconceived notions.

If you think innovation is only for genius inventors like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, you’re short-selling yourself. Anyone is capable of being innovative, and the concept is much broader than invention, says George E. L. Barbee, author of 63 Innovation Nuggets For Aspiring Innovators.

“The truth is that with increased confidence and direction, each one of us can excel innovatively well beyond what we give ourselves credit for,” he says. “It’s well within anyone’s grasp.”

From large companies to entrepreneurial startups, Barbee says many of us believe several myths about innovation. Here are six misconceptions that might be holding your company back from having the next great idea:

Myth No. 1: Innovation Can’t Exist In A Large Established Company

Large companies can be staid and complacent as a whole or within certain departments, but it doesn’t have to be that way, says Barbee. Anyone can change the culture to one of innovation by banding together the company’s forward thinkers.

“Realize that top executives have to have internal innovation; they can no longer depend on acquisition to grow a company,” he says. “Find a way to link to that by looking for two or three people in the middle of the organization who want to break through and do something customer facing.”

Meet informally and begin to share and create new ideas. Then approach the CEO, suggests Barbee.

Myth No. 2: True Innovation Comes From R&D

People often believe the only way to innovate is to have breakthrough product ideas, but innovation is much broader, says Barbee. “You can innovate the services or experience around your existing products and differentiate your company,” he says.

Innovative thinking is teachable, says Barbee, who suggests that leaders challenge employees to look at situations in other industries and find ways to transfer good ideas.

“Many of us are at a pace where we don’t take time out to observe things around us,” he says. “When you see something that works well in another business, ask yourself, ‘Can it be transferred?’ Innovative thinking is like a muscle: once you exercise it, it becomes stronger.”


Myth No. 3: Innovation Is Driven From The Top Down

In large companies, the perception is that an earnings requirement is the top-down driving force for innovation, but most of innovation comes from the bottom up.

“It’s the customer-facing leaders who have the most to share,” says Barbee. “They’re the people who are finding out where customers are going and what their real needs are. Innovation is meeting the emerging and future needs of customers, not a push to increase revenue by 20%.”

Myth No. 4: Innovation Requires Perfection

Innovative companies release things into the market that are substantially less than perfect, says Barbee, and companies that wait until they get out the bugs will miss the boat.

“To push innovation, you need real users in real environments,” he says. “Most every product or service changes in its early stages. The best thinking in the lab is usually not enough to perfect it. Release things that have acceptable quality and minimal downsides, and learn from your customers.”

Myth No. 5: It Can Be Impossible To Overcome “Thinker’s Cramp”

Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The best ideas often come from brainstorming groups that focus on customer needs.

“Innovative companies create a safe environment where you can yourself go and come up with crazy ideas,” says Barbee. “Come up with things that could be good, and things that seem absurd. You will start to see a continuum of ideas, and you’ll start to have success.”

In fact, once brainstorming groups get going, they can become an attractive part of an organization, says Barbee. “Before you know it, they will transform the culture of your company,” he says.


Myth No. 6: Innovation Only Happens In Entrepreneurial Organizations

Entrepreneurs are often innovators, but not all innovators are entrepreneurs, says Barbee.

“Startups work on a thin margin, and have to work fast because they can only fail so many times,” he says. “A medium- to large-sized company has an advantage when it comes to innovation, because it often has the dollar resources, the clout, and the ability to sustain experiments.”

Why Do Intelligent People Fail?

From: Why do intelligent people fail? (Sternberg, 1986) As you will see from this array many of these overlap into social and emotional intelligence, or have to do with the failure to find balance between Sternberg’s components of his Successful Intelligence – analytical, creative, and practical components.

1. Lack of Motivation: A talent is irrelevant if a person is not motivated to use it.  Motivation may be external (for example, social approval) or internal (satisfaction from a job well done).  External sources tend to be transient, while internal sources tend to produce more consistent performance.

2. Lack of Impulse Control: Habitual impulsiveness gets in the way of optimal performance. Some people do not bring their full intellectual resources to bear on a problem, but go with the first solution that pops into their heads.

3. Lack of perseverance and too much perseveration: Some people give up to easily, while others are unable to stop even when the quest will be fruitless.

4. Using the wrong abilities: People may not be using the right abilities for the tasks in which they are engaged.

5. Inability to translate thought into action: Some people seem buried in thought.  They have good ideas but rarely seem able to do anything about them.

6. Lack of product orientation: some people seem more concerned about the process rather than the result of the activity.

7. Inability to complete tasks:  For some people nothing ever draws to a close.  Perhaps it’s a fear of what they would do next or fear of becoming hopelessly enmeshed in detail.

8. Failure to initiate: Still others are unwilling or unable to initiate a project.  It may be indecision or fear of commitment.

9. Fear of Failure:  People may not reach their intellectual performance because they avoid the really important challenges in life.

10. Procrastination.  Some people are unable to act without pressure.  They may also look for little things to do in order to put off the big ones.

11.  Misattribution of blame.  Some people always blame themselves for even the slightest mishap.  Some always blame others.

12.  Excessive self-pity: Some people spend more time feeling sorry for themselves than expending the effort necessary to overcome the problem.

13. Excessive dependency: Some people expect others to do for them what they ought to be doing for themselves.

14. Wallowing in personal difficulties:  Some people let their personal difficulties interfere grossly with their work. During the course of life, one can expect some real joys and some real sorrows.  Maintaining a proper perspective is difficult.

15.  Distractibility and lack of concentration: Even some intelligent people have very short attention spans.

16.  Spreading oneself too thin or too thick:  Undertaking too many activities may result in none being completed on time.  Undertaking too few can also result in missed opportunities and reduced levels of accomplishment.

17.  Inability to delay gratification: Some people reward themselves and are rewarded by others for finishing small tasks, while avoiding bigger tasks that would earn them larger rewards.

18.  Inability to see the forest through the trees: some people become obsessed with details and are either unwilling or unable to see or deal with the larger picture in the projects they undertake.

19. Lack of balance between critical/analytic thinking and creative/synthetic thinking:  It is important for people to learn what kind of thinking is expected of them in each situation.

20.  Too little or too much self-confidence:  Lack of self- confidence can gnaw away at a person’s ability to get things done and may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Conversely, individuals with too much self-confidence may not know when to admit they are wrong or in need of self-improvement.


Retrieved from

21st Century Professional Conversation Guide


A OneNote Notebook with resources to help drive deep learning conversations and built for instructional leadership in schools.


Microsoft has released a new resource for school leadership which bridges the gap between the work of teachers as learning designers and the work instructional leaders.

Mark Sparvell, Senior Manager, WW Education specializes in school leadership and noted that across many Microsoft Showcase Schools globally there are common themes and common challenges.

Many of the teachers in the schools are redesigning learning to focus on adaptive capabilities or 21st Century Skills and the common resource used is the 21CLD Learning Activity Rubrics.



The 21st Century Learning Designs materials (21CLD), sponsored by Microsoft and designed by SRI International, include workshops and rubrics. These materials reflect the findings of the Innovative Teaching and Learning research published in 2011 ( . The ITL Research provides a correlation between innovative learning design and the acquisition of 21st century skills. The 21CLD materials continue to be extensively used in schools globally.



Mark notes ‘We know that professional conversations between educators provide the context for professional reflection and growth.’ The Deep Leading project team with support from Microsoft in Education and OneNote collaborated with Dr. Maria Langworthy to engage Showcase School leaders to develop, field test and refine a resource that would provide school leaders with the research, the resources and, importantly, the semi-structured interview questions which could be used to facilitate reflection.

For a teacher who has planned a unit of work to develop the student’s ability to collaboratively construct knowledge within the context of a Math topic, the instructional leader now has some appreciative questions to drive reflection to support continued improvement.


We are looking

The 21st Century Professional Conversation Guide  is underpinned by an Appreciative Inquiry approach which intentionally seeks to uncover the strengths and successes within a teachers practice within the framework of the ITL Research description of Innovative Teaching and Learning ie profoundly personalized, extended and amplified by appropriate use of technology.

The resource contains

  • Semi Structured conversations built around the 21CLD dimensions of problem solving, knowledge construction, collaboration, skilled us of ICT and communication
  • The 21CLD rubrics, ITL Research and the ITL Diagnostic tool (PILSR)
  • Inspiration Library of examples of ‘best’ and ‘next practice’ in leveraging digital
  • Organised space for leaders to created media rich pages for conversation notes and evidence of impact.

Importantly, , the OneNote is designed to be ADAPTED and ENHANCED by the end user to suit their requirements.

Deep Leading supports the comprehensive professional learning materials located at

Download the resource from

Read my blog for Microsoft HERE

Find all the 21CLD Rubrics and curated global resources at


Mark Sparvell


 personalised learning (full report)

This is just one picture of personalized learning — an approach to education that ties learning to an individual student’s strengths, weaknesses and interests; that often lets the student work at his or her own pace, and, where possible, allows students to direct their own lessons

In the 2013 survey commissioned for this Special Report, out of 120 K-20 education officials, 63 percent said creating a personalized learning environment was a top priority for their education institution.

For the purposes of this special report, the definition of personalized learning is: the tailoring of pedagogy, curriculum and learning environments to meet the needs and aspirations of individual learners, typically with the support of technology.

Rank the benefits of personalized learning, increased student engagement was by far the top benefit, chosen by 69 percent of respondents. Other advantages include greater student retention (39 percent), improved test scores (28 percent), higher grades (22 percent) and better attendance (22 percent).

TOP technologies fostering the shift to personalized instruction

  • Mobile devices
  • Digital contents including Adaptive software

Educational software is being transformed by the advent of adaptive learning technologies — programs that capture everything a student does, including scores, speed and accuracy, delays, lags, drop-offs and keystrokes. These formative assessments are collected by the program and then used to customize learning on the fly, giving students new tasks based on results, interests and learning style

  • Video Conferencing, Lecture Capture and Screencasts
    • Projectors, Interactive Whiteboards and Smart Tables
      • Students explaining Something to other Students is very powerful; they Prefer to hear it from a Peer versus an adult and learn at a much deeper level When asked to present.” joanna antoniou, technology coordinator, lincoln middle School, n.J.
      • Facebook pages for their Students to communicate .and txt messages
  • Feedback Systems …
  • Modules to Manage Student Data
    • New forms of data analytics can help break down data silos, integrating social welfare data, health information and test scores, for instance. Contacts can be made on a selected, filtered basis, with email, snail mail or texts sent to just the affected students and their families.
  • Campus Management Systems (LMS)
    • At the post-secondary level, most institutions use LMSs that have built-in analytics to show how students are progressing. If assessments are included in the LMS, the instructor can gauge where students are and use this data in the classroom to group students together and detect patterns
  • Data Analytics and Dashboard
    • New Media Consortium’s 2013 Horizon Report on trends in higher education warns: “The biggest barrier to personalized learning is that scientific, data-driven approaches to effectively facilitate personalization have only recently begun to emerge; learning analytics, for example, is still in the very nascent stage of implementation and adoption within higher education.”27
    • Indeed, data analytics software is critical to the implementation of personalized learning — providing instructors know how to use it. “The software piece gives us a little more hard data, so immediately you can see what the students are doing,” says Cleveland Elementary’s Cynthia White. “You can see how long the students are spending on the program and if they are engaged. You can tell when they signed in and out and what they did.” For busy teachers in a classroom, this is important information, since they can’t watch each child during an entire class session.
    • It’s also key for teachers to know if a student is only staying in a favorite online corner of a program, completing activities he or she is comfortable with, says White. If this happens, teachers can set up restrictions so students are required to choose a variety of program activities.
    • A user-friendly dashboard helps instructors interpret and act on the data they are receiving. One dashboard on the market today lets them see everything students are doing remotely across all applications, along with their data, which helps in student consultations and lesson planning. “Data is one of the biggest benefits of technology because you can instantly look and see where the gaps are. In the past it took a bit of work for the teacher to see what students were missing,” says John Logan, vice president of curriculum product innovation for Florida Virtual School. “Now you can see that on this benchmark, they haven’t quite got the mastery they need. I think data is going to be a huge part of learning in the future, both in brick-and mortar classrooms and virtual classroom


Why is there a light plane in the school yard and Where is it going?                                  @sparvell

downey1 downey2

Downey High School is one of two senior high schools located in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey, California, and within the Downey Unified School District. It is located at 11040 Brookshire Ave.

At the present time the school has an enrollment of about 4150 students, the majority identify as being Hispanic and the majority of students are on free or reduced lunch programs.

Whilst the student population has changed significantly over the last couple of decades, it is interesting to note that the sense of ‘We are still Downey’ not only persists but has been strengthened.

Downey High School is a big, bright and impressive place. I couldn’t believe there was over 4000 students hidden somewhere on this campus. The original school was built in the early 1900’s and the newest facility opened in September 2014.

The more I listened to District IT Lead Joshua and Assistant Principal, Allan Tyner, the more I started to understand what seemed to make such a large and diverse campus work….a sense of connectedness through community.


This is a school with deep respectful connections between the school, its community and its district and these are long standing ties. People tend to stay and invest deeply. Members of the school board are re-voted in over decades, ex-graduates return as new teachers, school leaders are grown within the schools and a culture of unconditional mutual respect is articulated between all stakeholders.

This culture, is the culture which allows for innovation to find traction.


Let’s not kid ourselves here, for any school to dare to ‘do different’ and to ‘lever digital’, it takes money or strong partnerships. Downey has approached innovation, like it seems to approach all major decisions, conservatively, cautiously but with an eye to sustainable improvement…they are betting on long term sustainable growth not short term splashes.

I visited the Food Tech learning space and what a great flexible learning areas. Features were:

  • Abundance of natural light.
  • Public touch screens with wireless display
  • Image scanners for display eg food labels
  • 360 video cameras to record lectures or for teacher feedback/ lesson reflection
  • Kitchen spaces intentionally designed to reflect home settings not commercial kitchens
  • Flexible furniture- tables could be folded up, height adjusted and moved quickly
  • Chairs could move and adjust

The school provides strong programs to ensure career and college readiness including sports, academic, music and engineering. The robotics and engineering lab featured commercial 3D printers, robot ‘battle zones’ and awards aplenty!

There is an authenticity to the ‘college ready, career ready’ mantra, from the light plane located onsite for the aeronautics students through to the remarkable auto-shop .

The District is working toward rolling out high speed, reliable wireless to schools in the district and this will enable the school to fully exploit O365, OneNote and other solutions. The District is looking for its next device purchase as it moves towards greater school provided device density for students. Presently Chromebooks are running Microsoft O365 but the leadership were very impressed with the benefits of digital inking at the recent Microsoft OneNote supported RedefineLearn Conference held at St Thomas School, Medina, Washington.

Google apps were initially quick to deploy and provided solutions for collaboration but over time the school has found it ‘needing more’ and with O365 collaboration now intuitive with OneDrive, this is proving a strong case for moving forward. Staff have been loving Microsoft SWAY and especially Office Mix with its Powerpoint heart and new analytic backend to track usage.

A big win for Surface 3 in the area has been the ability to wirelessly project to the many public screens without the bandwidth consumption sometimes experienced with Apple TV. The schools has many touch enabled public screens throughout learning areas.


Downey High School is a school with a community that is clearly ‘bought-in’ for the direction it has set and has the support of the district.

So, where is this plane going?

Anywhere it wants to!

Downey High School

Distance from home 1,129 miles

School website:

#msftedu #showcaseschools



Supporting Curriculum Leaders Online

While working at PAI as Associate Director Professional Learning, I was involved in the content design for this resource.

Are you looking for research to inform your curriculum leadership?

Do you want materials and tools that are practical and applicable to your context?
At Principals Australia Institute we understand that there is no single way to lead the implementation of the Australian Curriculum.
Our resource, Supporting Curriculum Leaders Online (SCLO) provides a rich collection of practical information and tools to assist principals and school leaders with the implementation of the Australian Curriculum within their school.
The SCLO website provides ideas for professional learning that you can use with your school staff. The ideas are organised under three headings: Develop, Inspire and Embrace. The range of resources include: web resources; videos; activities; data and images.