Innovator’s Mindset Chapters 5 and 6 What If…

In the spirit of the educational disruption, after gaining class time with flipped learning, I decided to give the Google 20% project a try in my physics and Scientific Research and Design classes. I was intrigued by the idea that students would embrace the idea of learning for the sake of learning, not grades, not compliance, but their choice of learning. Over the course of five years, 95% of the students embraced the idea and ran with it. Only a few accomplished nothing. Those that took advantage did some amazing things. (Classroom Benefits of the 20% Project)

Now I am an instructional coach and help teachers design lessons, analyze data, reflect, create interventions, and integrate technology. I occurred to me that a similar, but scaled down idea could be amazing for teachers. How wonderful would it be to have teachers re-discover value in the learning process again. Experiencing for themselves modeling research, questioning, recording results and ideas, and communicating with others.  Having a reminder of what it is like to purposefully learn something could give insight on some of the struggles and opportunities students face today. It can also show that learning goes beyond the defined objectives.

It would be unreasonable to ask already overwhelmed teachers to set everything aside every Friday, or for one hour each day and learn what they wish to learn. But, it could be energizing to have the opportunity to do so once or twice each month. While many would choose something that would apply to the classroom, would it be a problem if a physics teacher decided to learn to play the trombone?

Innovator’s Mindset Chapter 4 Lifting Others By Letting Them Fall

Educators can not escape the idea that relationships are key to our success. Student learning is improved when teachers take the time to build relationships. Change and innovation are facilitated when administrators and teachers have taken the time to build trust. Creating a relationship with parents and the community allow teachers to share and communicate what is happening within the classroom. It is really all about relationships

So we arrive one of the hard parts of a caring relationship, stepping back and letting someone grow. Growth requires taking risks, and taking risks requires facing failure. It takes time and intention to prove to colleagues and students they will have support when they take risks. I have been fortunate to have administrators who allowed me to take some big risks in the classroom to improve student learning. It started with flipped classroom and progressed to a project-based class where students spent the year planning and building solar charging stations for the school. I had no if we could actually build the stations. But we made it, and it was an amazing year.

To chronicle the year and share with the public, students maintained blogs. So, I am sharing to help answer how to support risk, and how important it is to do so.


Innovator’s Mindset Chapter 3- Do the Pillars of Flipped Learning Support the Innovator’s Mindset?

This week I decided to see if the pillars of Flipped Learning could be linked to the characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset as described in Chapter 3 of The Innovator’s Mindset. I started by choosing something that struck me for each characteristic and then matched that idea with as many of the pillars I could. I had grand plans to show my learning with sketch notes, but in the spirit of Flipping 1.0, I ran into the problem of needing it sooner than later and went with a table.

There was at least one pillar for each characteristic. Some characteristics like being empathetic could be found in all of the pillars. I am sure the matches are based on my experiences and others might find different or even more ways to match the two sets of ideas. If you give it a try, please share your thoughts.

Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset Pillars of Flipped Learning
Empathetic – Teachers evaluate the classroom experience from the point of view of the student. Flexible Environment – Teachers provide different ways to learn and demonstrate mastery.
Learning Culture and Intentional Content – Teachers scaffold activities to make them accessible to all students.
Professional Educator – Teachers provide meaningful real-time feedback to all students.
Problem Finder/Solver – Teachers help students effectively learn how to learn by helping them become good problem solvers and providing opportunities to develop their ability to define the problem. Learning Culture – Teachers provide opportunities for students to engage in meaningful student-centered activities.
Risk Taker – Teachers are willing to try new techniques to best reach every learner. Flexible Environment – Teachers continuously monitor students and make adjustments as appropriate.
Learning Culture – Teachers employ a learner centered model where students construct meaningful knowledge.
Intentional Content – Teachers shift the responsibility for learning to the students and maximize class time for student-centered learning techniques.
Professional Educator – Teachers collaborate with others to transform their practice.
Networked – Teachers collaborate to learn in different environments, including face to face and online, as well as internal and external to campuses. Professional Educator – Teachers collaborate and reflect with others to transform their practice.
Observant – Teachers look beyond the school walls for ideas that can improve their classrooms. Professional Educator – Teachers collaborate and reflect with others to transform their practice.
Creators – Teachers encourage creation to help students make connections and really show their learning. Flexible Environment – Teachers create lessons so that students can choose when and where they learn.
Intentional Content – Teachers create and curate relevant content for students.
Resilient – Teachers are ready for pushback and failure and learn from those experiences. Professional Educator – Teachers seek to improve instruction using reflection and feedback, including constructive criticism.  
Reflective – Teachers pause to consider what worked and what didn’t and use those ideas to tweak ideas or create next steps. Professional Educator – Teachers use formative assessments and honest reflection to improve learning opportunities.

Innovator’s Mindset Chapter 2: Idea to Failure to Success

In Chapter 2 of The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros writes about what it takes to have an innovative mindset as an extension of the popular growth mindset idea. Innovators must do more than believe everyone can learn and change, they must do something with that belief and create something new and better. I am going to share a story that I believe follows that path, then ask you to reflect on your experiences and share one of your own.

For a few years I taught a section of sheltered physics for English Language Learners (ELL). Curriculum objectives did not change for these students, so I had to figure out a way to teach what is essentially word problem class to a group of sixteen students who spoke ten different languages, only one being Spanish and four of them spoke no English. You might think that math would save us, but over half of the students struggled with elementary math and relied on a calculator to divide by ten. Together we had to learn to communicate and figure out how to best conquer the material.

I had been flipping the classroom for over three years. So I was ready to try some new things during class. Having attended a Flipped Learning Conference over the summer I was full of great ideas. One of those ideas was Peer Instruction, used in college physics by Dr. Eric Mazur (here is an example). I knew ELL students needed to practice communication, and Peer Instruction would give us a framework for that communication while deepening understanding. So one class day, students arrived, I checked notes, went over issues that the lesson check revealed and then I posed a question. I do not remember my well planned and brilliant question, but I do remember the faces of the students as they thought about the question then raised their hands to answer. They marked their initial responses and before they could share out loud, I encouraged them to discuss the question with their group at the table and arrive at a consensus. I was convinced this was going to be amazing. Then it happened, total silence. They stared at each other then at me. I explained the Peer Instruction process again and was met with more silence. You see, with ten different languages, there was not much to talk about. They were having enough trouble figuring things out for themselves. So sadly, I fell back to leading a discussion with nodding heads and some interaction. I really wanted the students to talk about physics. I wanted to hear what they knew and where they needed clarification. I thought this would be the answer. That is not even close to what happened so it was back to the drawing board.

After some reflection, I decided to try again, but this time, instead of turning and talking with the table group, they had to illustrate their answer. Using neon markers, they drew their ideas on the table tops. (Students love to write on school furniture.) Then we traveled from table to table to discuss each of the drawings. I had no idea whether or not this would work, but it did. We could talk about the physics, and I could see exactly where the concepts were confusing them. I was a departure from the original idea of Peer Instruction, but it met the needs of my students at the time and made the class far more interesting for all of us. Simple pictures created by the students created a better classroom  where students were trying to talk and learn and made me a better teacher.

Even with a sound idea, somethings need a twist to be successful. In the spirit of creating a community of learners please share your successes that required some inspiration, grit or resilience to achieve.

Harvard Magazine, February 2, 2012, Eric Mazur Shows Interactive Teaching, retrieved March 6, 2017 from

Innovator’s Mindset Chapter 1: Choosing to Change

Thank you for joining our book study. We are one chapter in and George Couros has already challenged us to think about what is and isn’t innovation. Making a change is not enough and being something new is not required. Innovations, big and small, need to be a change that brings improvement. It is also important to understanding why the innovation is necessary. This provides a push as well as guidance to measure if the change also brings improvement.

According to the author, “We choose whether or not we will grow, change, or innovate.” I started to think about changes that I have experienced, good and bad, big and small. Change as a choice seems odd at first since I enjoy learning and the process of improvement.  I realize change is a choice I often make without thinking about because the change either appeals to me or is the right thing to do for one reason or the other. But, even small changes requires giving something up. One of those big changes I chose to make turned out to be one of the best changes. 

With intent, some planning, and considerable fear of failure, I decided to flip my physics class. This change required me to give up years of experience, comfort in familiarity, well-tested lesson plans, and a solid first teach of content and try something I only had an idea of how to implement. I had to learn to use new technology, create completely new lessons, and constantly explain the change to parent, students, and other teachers. I learned to monitor, honestly reflect and improve on a constant basis. Every day seemed like there was a new bump or issue that had to be tackled. So every day I had to make the choice to not quit. Flipped learning gave me class time to really teach each student and build a truly safe environment for learning and I became adept at using the needed technology which made the choice to keep trying easier. Students had the help when they needed it most along with the support to struggle and succeed so the class environment improved as well as grades. Success with one change opened the door to try more innovative ideas such as adding more inquiry, 20% projects, and eventually a project-based second year physics class. None of those improvements would have happened without that first choice to flip my class. And without making the choice to try something new, the class still might be one of the most feared at the high school. Now students expect to work and succeed instead of facing a disappointing grade or failure.

I did not create the idea of flipped learning, I saw how it could transform my class and make it better for my students. The bigger innovation, or leap of faith, was believing the on-level  students could take responsibility for their learning and perhaps even enjoy learning physics given some freedom and proper support.  Over the last few years, more teachers have flipped their class and added mastery learning or inquiry. More project based learning opportunities are popping up in classes. Instead of being the exception, innovation is embraced and supported.

Looking ahead to chapter 2, we will be reading about different mindsets as well as embracing failure. I challenge you to think about your classrooms and schools as you read the questions posed in this chapter.

Share your thoughts or the link to your blog in the comments. Please keep the conversation going in the slowchat with @flnbookclub using #flnbook.


The Innovator’s Mindset Book Study Invitation

First Book Club

Welcome to the first Flipped Learning Network read-along. With a wealth of great books to chose from it seems appropriate to start with George Couros’ “The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity”. Flipped learning challenges teachers to ask what is the best use of the limited face to face time we have with students So many teachers are trying new methods to find the best solution to that question. Whether you are just considering an innovation at your school, you are deep in the process, or you are ready for a new challenge, join us as we read this book together and share ideas and impressions. The hope is that through this process you will connect with others educators who are also trying new things to improve that precious time we have with our students.

Each week, starting February 19, 2017, we will read and discuss one chapter in this book. The chapters are not long and have discussion questions to consider at the end of each one. Our discussions will be virtual, via blogs, twitter chats. Whether they are based on the author’s questions or some of our own, this process should help build connections between participants.

For the slow twitter chat, there will be one question each day posted via @FLNBookClub and #flnbook. Also, a weekly blog post for each chapter will be shared at You are encouraged to share your own blog post and/or respond or comment on the book club blog to keep the conversation going.

In a recent post Dr. Couros (@gcouros on Twitter) challenges innovators to carefully consider the changes they are making. Is the change being made something different or making a difference. Let’s enjoy this book together and be sure efforts are making a difference.

More information about Dr. Couros can be found on his website. This book is available electronically or traditionally from many sources.



Week Starting Chapter
Feb 19 Chapter 1: What Innovation Is and Isn’t
Feb 26 Chapter 2: The Innovator’s Mindset
Mar 5 Chapter 3: Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset
Mar 12 Chapter 4: Relationships, Relationships, Relationships
Mar 19 Chapter 5: Learn, Lead, Innovate
Mar 26 Chapter 6: Engage Versus Empower
Apr 2 Chapter 7: Creating a Shared Vision
Apr 9 Chapter 8: Strengths-Based Leadership
Apr 16 Chapter 9: Powerful Learning First, Technology Second
Apr 23 Chapter 10: Less is More
Apr 30 Chapter 11: Embracing an Open Culture
May 7 Chapter 12: Creating Meaningful Learning Experiences for Educators
May14 Chapter 13: Are We There Yet
May 21 Chapter 14: The Biggest Barrier and “Game Changer” to Innovation in Education