Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fed Ex Day - We Delivered!

At our most recent professional development day, Okoboji High and Middle Schools tried something new. It is called a "Fed Ex" Day. It is modeled after the motivational theories of authors and psychologists like Daniel Pink (Author of Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us). It is also an idea that has been built on blog posts and experiences gained from Chris Wejr and Lyn Hilt. You can read Chris's blog post HERE. and Lyn's HERE.

The instructions we gave our staff were simple. One week ahead of time we sent out the following agenda:

12:30-3:30 Fed Ex Time-- (Meet back in the Media Center of your building at 3:00 for delivery)

In preparation for Fed Ex Time, please watch the following 10-minute video on motivation. About half-way through the video Daniel Pink speaks of a company, Atlassian, who implemented Fed Ex time for their employees. Below the video are some guidelines for how we will structure our Fed Ex Time. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Brian or Ryan.

So this afternoon, your task is to be self-directed in your learning. Be productive. Ask, am I better today than yesterday? Seek mastery in your role. Remember our ultimate purpose. The only rule? You must deliver. A product…a project…ideas…action.

Pink calls providing this autonomous time for innovation a Fed Ex Day- employees choose what to work on, with whom, and however they’d like. The expectation is that you must deliver something: a new idea, a better internal process, a refined lesson plan or project, or any other idea that will benefit student learning.

As you work today, consider the following:

  • Task – Choose tasks that will benefit and impact student learning. Think differently!
  • Technique – Design your activities and project work in your own way, so long as the end result is a benefit to students.
  • Team – Work with anyone you want to work with today- you do not need to work with your grade or content level teams. Consult with the many knowledgeable people in our school! Individuals that choose not to collaborate will still be responsible for “delivering.” Consider the importance of the collaborative efforts! If you are considering working on something tech related, please consider working with one of our integrationists.
  • Time – Use your time as you see fit. You will asked to deliver a product or status update at 3:00 that includes:
    • What your project/idea is
    • How it will impact students/learning
    • What you completed today
    • Who you worked with (if anyone)--Groups can deliver as a team
    • Any next steps which need to be taken
3:00-3:30 Fed Ex Delivery in your building's Media Center
In order for Fed Ex time to be effective, a few assumptions must be made:
  1. Teachers are professionals who have a strong desire to improve
  2. Teachers are creative and innovative problem solvers
  3. Teachers will use these skills if given access to the two most valuable resources in education: time and access to each other.
I am proud to say the Okoboji faculty absolutely knocked this one out of the ballpark. The time from 12:30-3:00 saw people in pairs, small groups, and individually working hard on a variety of different projects. When it came time to "deliver" at 3:00 the things people had done, and the projects they had begun, blew me away. A short list of just a few of the amazing things they worked on includes:
  • Collaborative exploration of for use as online graphing calculator and interactive whiteboard
  • Creation of video lessons to "flip" social studies classroom
  • Cross curricular unit creation that could be implemented school wide
  • Creation of sharing system for music teachers and students using Smart Music/Finale and Google Docs to create and share practice pieces for students
  • Creation of a blog for College Composition class
  • Collaborative work to create student feedback system
  • Work with MagCloud as possible portfolio creation for art students - also beginning of collaborative project between journalism and graphic design to create online magazine.
  • Implementation plan for for diet/exercise tracking for health students
  • Special Education teachers working with Language Arts teachers to rethink how we do writing goals for IEP students.
  • and more and more!
This list is only for the high school. The middle school had just as many amazing products delivered at the end of their Fed Ex time. When we set out to try our Fed Ex Day, our goal was to be able to do it for 1/2 day, twice a year. With the success and productivity we have seen, we are rethinking that strategy. Is Fed Ex Day the dawn of a new era of self-directed, personalized, collaborative professional development in Okoboji? Throughout our Fed Ex day our teachers have shown that when we give them the most valuable resources possible; time and access to each other, they can do amazing things. If what we saw on Friday is indicative of what it could become, we may be on the verge of a very powerful new way of making good teachers even better!