Monday, July 24, 2023

Thinking About Creativity - Book Reflection on The Greatest Song by Kevin Griffin


Thinking About Creativity:

The Greatest Song: Spark Creativity,  Ignite Your Career, and Transform Your Life
By Kevin Griffin

This summer I decided to learn more about a few topics, with creativity being a primary one. My work using Adobe Express (#AdobeEDUCreative) over the past year has inspired me to investigate the topic and learn how I might be more creative--and how I can support "Creative Confidence" with my student and colleagues.

I learned about the book, The Greatest Song, by Kevin Griffin while listening to The Highway on SeriusXM's Country Music channel and heard an interview with Kevin Griffin a successful country music songwriter who lives in Franklin, TN near Nashville. He also wrote this book which addresses the question of how to increase creativity personally, as well as in your career and life. The book is written in a narrative style, following the life of protagonis, Jake Stark, a fictional Nashville-based, Country music. The book is a quick and fun read, but has some juicy steps on how to be more creative. The following video provides a glimpse, but if you are interested I recommend getting your own copy of Griffin's book!

Here are his basic steps of "The Method" which are addressed in the book as well as video above:

1.  Practice One: Creative Collaboration: The key with this step is listening more than talking and not rushing to make your point, but being open to others creative ideas and input. In his rules for creative collaboration, the fourth one is: "Check your ego at the door. Remember in a collaboration, 'My ego is not my amigo'" (Griffin 61).

2.  Practice Two: Filling the Well: This practice calls for doing things that refill rather than deplete you so that when creative expression is needed, you have something to offer. In the rules for filling the well, the fifth one states: " The more you learn, the bigger the return" (Griffin 77).

3.  Practice Three: Leaving Your Comfort Zone: Griffin's first rule for leaving your comfort zone is, "When life is in flux, when we are off balance, that;s often when we are the most creative. In fact, we flourish when exposed to randomness, disorder, and stressons: (99).

4.  Practice Four: Change your Attitude: Griffin's fourth rule for changing your attitude recommends, "Reverse engineering  is a great creative tool to see how a son, an idea or a successsful bubsiness started originally. Break it down to its essential elements, and it will often kicktart a new idea" (117).

5. Practice Five: Dare to Be Stupid: Griffin encourages risk-taking to develop new ideas in his Rules for Daring to Be Stupide: "Create an environment where big, out-of-the-box thinking is encouraged, and failure is not stigmatized" (149). 

These practices, steps in "The Method" provide an process for building creativity. Further, I really like the following Venn Diagram, which shows Creativity at the center of the four C's, where Critical Thinking, Collaboration, and Collaboration converge.

Overlapping the Venn Diagram with the five elements of Griffin's "The Method" inspires me to make Creativity a central focus and avail students to the process of Griffin's Method. This will be a very exciting school year!

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Rethinking Student Learning - English and Beyond.

4 Essential Studies Book Cover
What's Different?

My summer work as a teacher marks a making, dreaming, and reworking of my learning plans for students in the upcoming school year. Last year was by far my most challenging--and in ways most successful--as far as student growth is concerned. Still, as a teacher in a Title 1 middle school,  I left the year pondering how it could have been better...and most importantly how I can reach the reluctant students who did not grow. While the topic of "student learning loss" and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been very real to me--as I lived through this over the past three years with my students, I know something has to change in the way I teach, so that all students benefit.

The difference this summer it thinking about inspiring students to write about identity through personal narratives and essays, as recommended in Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher's book, 4 Essential Studies. My ELA7 team was already working with Book Clubs and Digital Compositions. Next year we want to expand our work to include more Poetry and Personal Essays.

I am also being inspired by Ghouldy Mohammad's work which Kittle and Gallagher reference. I am reading her book, Cultivating Genius and working to develop lessons and learning activities for my students that allow them to explore their identities and share with each other via digital publishing, audio recordings and more.

This exploration and path has been prompted by many things, including my participation in the #Merit22 program through the Krause Center for Innovation last year in the #KCISTEAM Leadership program this year. I want to help create and sustain a learning program where all students succeed and thrive beyond their and my greatest dreams. That has always been the case for me as a teacher. I am hoping this year will continue to build on this goal for my students


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Why Go For #GoogleEI? My answer is #StrengthBasedEDU

Applying for the #SYD17 Cohort

My application to become a Google Innovator began with the dream of supporting all students in developing a strength-based approach to education. My dream was to support student, like my own adopted son, who struggled and were frustrated in school. I wondered, what if school where all students discovered their own innate talents, then built those talents into lifelong strengths. See my Google Innovator video application below for a before picture of my innovation project!

Pivoting my Project

Image of Judy Blakeney, Gareth, Monika Limmer, Adam Brooks, and Becky Shorey
#SYD17 Crew on A Day Trip, August 2017
In the Google Innovators teacher academy, I reconsidered how to support all students. My initial solution was for students to create digital portolios showcasing their talents and passions. Through the Design Thinking process led by @LesMcBeth from Future Design School @fdesignschool, I began to understand that the users of StrengthBasedEDU were not students at this time, but was in fact educators. As such, my design to launch changed. I understood that this challenge called for me to develop an educational process and resources to support educators, rather than students directly.

During the 2018-2019 school year, my partner in this work, Dr. Tricia Hyun, @drtriciahyun, and I presented our approach at a variety of conferences, from regional and National CUE conferences, to an EdtechTeam Summit in Orange County, as well as at California Teachers Association training events. Tricia and I began this work several years ago, working with the Institute for Teaching (IFT), where we both volunteer for the South Orange County Think Tank. As we presented, we refined our own understanding of Strength Based Education, and how we might best promote and develop this movement.  
Photo of Dr. Tricia Hyun and Judy Blakeney
Dr. Tricia Hyun and Judy Blakeney at SGVCUE Conference

Currently, we are writing a book on strength based education with members of the Southern California IFT think tanks. Additionally, we are developing a podcast that would share examples of IFT's work, particularly through grants to teachers . In fact, I am the recipient of a $5,000 grant, titled Exploring Coding and Career Focused Education for use in the 2018-2019 school year. I am returning to teaching in the classroom this year at Aliso Viejo Middel School where I will teach several Career and Technical Education courses. I plan to use this opportunity to expand and center my exploration of strength based education with children. I am excited for this adventure to begin, and to expand upon starting small and thinking big which was our goal at #GoogleEI #SYD17. 

We were recently featured in the TLC Ninja podcast, Nancy Minicozzi's (@coffeeNancy) Google Innovator project,  so if you want more information, listen to our explanation of Strength Based Eduction.

Future Opportunities
The training that Tricia and I have offered will continue to evolve. Take a look at our current website, Follow us on our Twitter handle: @strengthbaseEDU and watch the hashtag #StrengthbasedEDU to share this journey with us on this long and winding, ever-expanding road. Let us know if you would be interested in having us present our story, whether in person or digitally.

Monday, July 3, 2017

What's Hot at #ISTE17 - @FlipGrid

I've caught #FlipgridFever. Flipgrid is a web-based tool for sharing a quick video. Grids hold the topics that can be responded to with a link and a browser, or the app on a phone. Follow the link to my ISTE17 Grid is below if you want to respond, or just lurk to look at others' responses. What's great for teachers is that the smart minds at Flipgrid have a free version for teachers, Flipgrid One with one grid, which is available to teachers.

So how could you use Flipgrid in a classroom? Here are some ideas:
  • Welcome message to students and responses with their introductions
  • Answering a question about a text, experiment, or math problem
  • Stating a claim with evidence, for other classmates to respond to
  • Getting teachers to respond to a concern within a school
There are plenty more ideas, I'm sure. What do you think? 

Respond to this link to a Flipgrid topic to share your ideas:

Maybe you will catch #FlipGridFever too! If so, you might want to become a Flipgrid Certified Educator. Check out this Flipgrid Blog Post for more information.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Gone #sketch50 Wild!

Have you heard about #sketch50 (website ), where educators are creating sketches using either digital or analog means to build skills at representing ideas. Check out the description of this challenge on the website or Twitter handle @sketch_50 and hashtag #sketch50.

In case you have missed it, #sketchnotes are all the rage. Sylvia Duckworth keeps creating them, demonstrating how to represent understanding visually. Now the rest of us can give the opportunity to stretch our growth mindsets and let go of the “I can’t draw” fixed mindset.   I have started and have a challenge for you: I’m adding my visual representations, day by day, to a Google Slides, which I am posting to a Padlet created by the #sketch50 team. Here’s the link! Can you join me on the journey? I am excited to document my growth over the 50 days. I may even redo some of my sketches, after I gain more skill and confidence. 

Here's a link to my Google Slide deck. Share yours on the Padlet and let's get #bettertogether! Thanks to +Cate Tolnai +Ann Kozma and +Lindsey Blass for their work on this great idea!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

New Ways to Learn with a Book Club

Learning is Social

Thanks to the brilliant Ann Kozma (@annkozma723), I am participating in the #MLmindset book club. Bri Buck @bbucktech is co-moderating the book club. I really appreciate how they set it up. It got me thinking about what the elements help support adult learning, particularly in shared and open learning environments. This is a book club that is taking place on Twitter, using visual images!

Voice and Choice

The sign-up took place using a Google Form survey, inquiring how the participants wanted to connect and share learning. Options included Twitter chats, a Voxer group, and posting learning using visual tools. The group chose using visual learning tools. Sample results can be viewed at the Twitter hashtag #MLmindset. My own creation was done on Canva, a free online design tool that also has an app for mobile use. Allowing for a creative way to respond to the book club was motivating and fun. Using a visual tool allows readers to translate the learning into a visual expression. Here's a link to Ann Kozma Adobe Spark creation on Chapter 1 of Mobile Learning Mindset: The Coach's Guide to Implementation by Carl Hooker. Very impressive, Ann!

How to Bottle It?
Thursday, March 16th at 3:30 p.m. #CUE17

Just as legend has it that the way the creator of  Coca Cola was told how to make money on the fountain drink was to bottle it,  I wonder how to replicate this book club plan with teachers in my district. Not all teachers use Twitter, but we are a Google Apps for Education district, so creating  Google+ Communities is a way to create a safe and closed community. Would that work? I'm going to explore it more. Lindsey Blass and Amanda Haughes will present at the CUE National Conference on Mobile Professional Development with Voxer Book Clubs. There are many ways to creatively provide opportunities to connect and learn together. One of my favorite ways is to connect with others on educational Twitter chats, like #TOSAchat on Monday nights at 8 p.m. PST. I'll be moderating on 2-27-17, discussing blogging with the TOSAchat crew. I hope to see you there. Let me know if you have more ideas on how to creatively "bottle it"-- professional learning, that is!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Recipe for a Growth Mindset

I have been spending some time with Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. and Jo Boaler (both Stanford University Professors) lately, reading each author's book on mindset and its effect on learning. Dweck, a Courtesy Professor in Stanford University's Graduate School of Education, has done extensive research on learning within a fixed versus a growth mindset. 
A person with a fixed mindset believes that talent and innate ability drive success. A student with this belief will not try if he is convinced that math is his weakness, because working will not make a significant difference. However, a person with a growth mindset believes that expending effor makes all the difference. So if a student has a growth mindset, hard work on difficult math problems make math achievement more than possible, it is  likely.

Why is this important?

For students, teachers, and parents, the insights about a fixed- versus a growth-mindset have implications for our success in school and beyond. In one of Dweck's studies, with two groups of students working on math problems, one was praised for intelligence (fixed-mindset group), whereas the other was praised for effort (growth-mindset group). In this study, when the fixed-mindset group that had been praised for intelligence attempted more difficult problems, students gave up. In fact, members of the group were not able to complete the same level of problems as before receiving praise. However, students in the growth-mindset group, were willing to attempt challenging problems, not viewing the difficulty of the problems indicative of their intelligence (Dweck, p. 71-72).

Here is the significant point: Praising students for intelligence inhibits their willingness to risk failure, which would prove their lack of intelligence. The risks and failure needed to build intelligence are avoided by those with a fixed mindset. However, those with a growth mindset are willing to risk failure and learn in the process.

WIFM: What's in it for me? (and those around me...)

As an instructional coach, I can find a way to share this with administrators and teachers at the sites where I work, supporting students in the process. As a parent, I can recognize efforts of my children, rather than praising their intelligence. As a spouse, I can laugh at my failings, working harder to be a better partner, even after 30 years of practice. As a person, I can take risks and laugh at failure, knowing that it is simply the indication that I am attempting the difficult, which helps me grow as a person.

What is nice for me is that this focus on a growth mindset extends beyond my own locus of control to encompass work that is taking place at the school district where I work. I'm excited to see how this change in culture of leaders, teachers, and yes students will affect student learning in the near future. For more information, read their books! Also, Boaler has an active public Facebook Group: Jo Boaler's How to Learn Math which is worth exploring.


Boaler, J. (2016). Mathematical mindsets: Unleashing students' potential through creative math, inspiring messages, and innovative teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; a Wiley Brand. 

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Random House.