all things related to teaching

About Life, teach, Work

How great teams are made

I’m often asked about the strategy used for putting great teams together. My teams have always performed well, they have endured under pressure, kept a smile even when sometimes treated in less than professional ways, and do not join in the surrounding gossip. Throughout my career, in different countries and continents, I’ve been fortunate to have been a part of a great team!

How does this happen?

First off, there is no formula. It’s a question of time, and of being patient. For instance, the last team I’ve assembled has taken years to get to where it is now. This is not because there we no suitable candidates. It all came down to the interview process; It was something they said, the way they responded to a question, their outlook on their own future. The interview process consists of 2 parts.

One is to come in for a typical face-to-face interview, usually involving other members of the tech-support team and, if I can pull them away from other meetings, members of the admin team. If they do well in the first part, they are asked to come in for half-a-day trial.

During the trial the team will quiz them on their technical chops, all the while I hang back looking for signs of a personality, how they react to being under pressure and how they react to out-of-the-blue unrelated questions. My team is testing their tech skills, while I am evaluating their question/statement choices. It all comes together after, as a team, we debrief.

At the core of all people who have been in my teams are the following traits:

  • They are personable
  • They are kind
  • They are patient
  • They have a sense of purpose and are passionate about what they do
  • They have a good sense of humor
  • They will go the extra mile for good results
  • They are positive

So, where are the technical chops? That’s secondary. If someone is interested in learning something, they will learn it – they must be forever-students. However, you can’t learn to have a good sense of humor, or to be king, or how to talk to people while they are under pressure. Questions I am more interested in hearing a response to have to do with someone’s outlook, their own past and reasons for doing what they do. I am interested in their story much more than I am interested in their technical know-how.

I read somewhere, a long time ago, an interview being done of a film director as he was making the rounds promoting his latest release. I have a feeling it was about Bruce Lee, but cannot quite remember what the film was, sorry 😦 It was about fighting, and it had a strong protagonist who displayed great martial arts skills. The director was asked what he preferred to start with as he got into his filmmaking process; A good actor or a good fighter. He chose a good actor, because he could always teach a good actor how to fight, but he could not necessarily teach a good fighter how to act. Acting is something less technical and goes deeper than a technical skill one can learn by training. After all, at some point the technical aspect of acting is overtaken by the amount of feeling and self that one puts into a scene.

It’s the same for technical support. Technical ability can only take you so far. When dealing with a stressed-out teacher, in a room full of students and parents, all waiting for a screen to turn on and for sound to come out, you have to know how to deal with the teacher all-the-while making the screen come on and the sound come alive. For as much as you are able to do the technical, dealing with the teacher is something that requires patience, kindness, a bit of humor at times, and cool. If you are showing as much stress as the teacher may be, it will only add to the chaos.

And so it is that I take my time in finding the right person to be part of my team. Once hired, my team members also know that there is more to the position than providing technical support.

Every member of my team has to be part of students’ lives in some form or another. My team members are football coaches, photographers, teachers, mentors, advisors, break/lunch supervisors, and even coding teachers. This is not optional. If we are not willing to step into the lives of children, we should not be working in a school. Sure, we will not take on a full-time teacher load, but schools offer ample opportunity to play a role in learners’ experiences.


The hardest part of my job when assembling a team is finding the right members to bring together. As long as do this part well, the rest takes care of itself. Through weekly meetings we keep adjusting our course, ensuring we remember our mission, that we keep to our promises and that we continue to provide the best service possible. I do my best to hang in the background as my team makes things run smooth. I have the best job in the world!

teach, Work

Office Cleanup / Limpiando un poco

1 Comment

It was time to change what my space looks like, and how it functions. It was getting too messy, and much too distracting for my work.


Ya es tiempo de crear diferentes oportunidades para nuestros alumnos, ya que el desorden distrae demasiado.

teach, Work

A multilayered approach to supporting our learners

Misk Schools is a community of learners. By modeling a thirst for learning, we all play an integral role in our students’ education. To elevate the level and pace of learning of our students Misk Schools has created a campus environment that presents opportunities for exploration and inquiry at every turn. From embodied learning systems such as SMALLabs; immersive virtual reality experiences via Oculus Rift and Google Expeditions; experiential adventures with robotics such as Beebots and LEGO Mindstorm EV3; to enriching our Computational Thinking challenges with Parrot Mambo Drones, our campus resembles more a massive creative and invention space than it does a traditional campus as found elsewhere. Having this incredible space and offering such an array of learning opportunities and resources brings with it its own set of challenges. Mainly, that we must go the extra mile to support our teachers in ways that reflect the complexity of the tools at their disposal.   

According to Wood and Jocius (2014), as schools continue to increase available of digital resources, teachers don’t have the tools to leverage the technology for authentic and meaningful purposes. Too often, electronic devices are used to only develop basic skills. Similarly, Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Sadik, E. Sendurur and P. Sendurur (2012) found that a variety of external barriers prevents teachers from using technology in ways that align more closely with their beliefs. Those barriers are usually related to access to digital resources, which is something we do not suffer from. Another barrier identified by Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Sadik, E. Sendurur and P. Sendurur (2012) is support. It is in supporting our teachers where we have placed our focus on from the start.

Following are details of the various support layers in place for our teachers:

  • Digital Literacy Coordinator – To best support our teachers, and to foster a transformation of learning in the classroom, we have had a Digital Literacy Coach from the first year of operation. The position has morphed over time into the Digital Literacy Coordinator (DLC) as we added the Computational Thinking Program. The DLC’s role is paramount to supporting our teachers and ensuring digital resources are used in the most optimal way. Teachers meet with the DLC on a regular schedule for coaching sessions or to explore new ideas for integrating digital resources into their lessons. The DLC is also present during collaborative meetings to provide resources for integration.
  • Technical Support – Teachers receive support from our technology support team, to resolve any technical issue reported. Our IT support team is ready when network printing is not working to when students make their own presentations and need audio and video.
  • Professional Development – Throughout the year our teachers take advantage of continued professional development opportunities such as attending the BETT trade show and conference in London last week and/or taking part in Apple events. Through our partners we also offer a variety of online and on-campus workshops and courses throughout the year.

A unique part of our ecosystem is that teachers often have access to the creators of some of the systems we have in place, such as the Misk Schools OS mobile app and the SMALLab Learning embodied learning system. By being proximate to the creators our teachers influence the continued development of the tools we use.

Misk Schools is a unique school. In ways that often creates amazement and sometimes even disbelief when shared with colleagues from around the world, the availability of digital resources, and the support layers available to our teachers make ours a model for continue professional learning and development worthy of envy. The level of integration of digital resources our teachers bring to every lesson ensures our students‘ experience in our classrooms closely resembles their digital world outside.


How I got hooked …and now I can’t get off

VR has been part of my life for the past two years. I started testing when I had my first look at Oblong’s G-Speak system while living in Barcelona. Sure Oblong is not VR, but it served to expand my view into what was possible beyond what I had come to take for granted. I realized the keyboard, mouse and screen combination I used so easily could do much more than what I was doing with it. All of a sudden it has legs, arms and fingers. I was no longer tethered to the primary three components I interactive with on a daily basis. Now, I could use my body to interact with the world on a screen.

Shortly after the Oblong experience I started to learn about Oculus, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). I became fascinated by it. Soon after beginning my learning experience in this new world I had stumbled into I started working at a school in Los Angeles. Shortly after arriving at Vistamar School I arranged a video conference between our Theory of Knowledge students and MIT’s professor Noam Chomsky. The public at large was invited a guests, while our students asked questions and interacted via the video conference. Towards the end of the scheduled session we opened up the conversation to the adults in the room, and a parent stood up and asked Chomsky about zombies. Imagine that!

Scott, the father with the zombie question, and I became friends almost immediately. I learned from him that there where many levels deeper of VR than what I had been exploring. As an artist, he creates his own hybrid worlds made from recorded videos and manipulated images and shapes he has created from scratch. These are incredible to experience using VR. So, now that I was really hooked, I started asking questions. What can I do with this new medium? How can I get started? How can I make this add something of substance to education?

For the past couple of years the question of adding to education has driven my curiosity as I learn more about the hardware and software being developed for the VR/AR space. It is amazing how much is being done in this space now, and it’s hard to keep up. Unfortunately very little is being done in education relative to entertainment, or even military uses. I will continue to search for hardware and software, and content that I can put in the hands of teachers and children to make learning more meaningful, engaging, real, connected and profound.

I wrote this piece because I just caught this video on TED that brought the message home of what VR is capable of doing, and of where we are in adopting and using this medium. Great talk by Chris Milk.

I want to share out a bit of what I’m tinkering with, and what I’ve made so far. I hope this helps anyone trying to get started or simply looking to stay up to-date on everything going on.

These are a few of the things I’ve created and published thus far:


Photo Collections


This is the gear I create with:

For video editing I use a MacBook Pro with Adobe Premiere and After Effects installed, along with the Mettle’s 360/VR Plugin for After Effects