All posts by fryed

I am a Secondary School Principal in Northwestern Ontario.

Unlearning, Revisited.

The very first article I read on Zite this morning  was a blog post written by Dr. Chris Dede (incidentally the keynote speaker last week at #on21Clearn in Toronto).

Dr. Dede begins by reminding us that the knowledge and skills of teachers and classroom educators are the most important factor in student learning.  Having said that, transformative change means that much of what teachers know, believe in and do, will need to be changed, and this is a very difficult task.

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Photo Credit: Mike_tn via Compfight cc

“Professional development for transformative change is very challenging because participants not only must learn new skills, but also must “unlearn” almost unconscious beliefs, assumptions, practices, and values about the nature of teaching, learning, and schooling.  In this situation, too often teachers are provided learning experiences that are purely cognitive, but professional development that requires unlearning necessitates high levels of emotional/social support in addition to intellectual and technical guidance.”

Dr. Chris Dede, Education Week, Leadership 360, October 26, 2014

 Finland has included the “unlearning” of teaching strategies in its Teacher Education programs for many years.  The understanding of the importance of an intense teacher training program, with opportunity for research, extensive practice teaching with highly competent mentors, and graduate work, is at the heart of the Finnish teacher education system.  There is an understanding that initial teacher training is essential to a high performing school system.

“The basic aim of every teacher education programme is to educate
competent teachers and to develop the necessary professional qualities to
ensure lifelong teaching careers for teachers. Behind this aim is the belief
that initial teacher education is of paramount importance and that any
defects appearing in the programme will have consequences that will be
extremely difficult to correct later on.”

Pertti Kansanen

Teacher Education in Finland: Current Models and New Developments

Technology has the power to transform learning for students.  Indeed, there are pockets across the country and around the world where this is already happening.  But using technology without changing our thinking about learning will not result in the ‘deep learning’ we are hoping for.  We need to give up some cherished beliefs about schooling before change can happen for our students. 

“Transforming from presentational/assimilative instruction to this form of pedagogy requires from teachers substantial unlearning of mental models and emotional investments in them. These mental models have been developed through decades of being students themselves, receiving traditional instruction, and further years of building skills in conventional instruction.”

Dr. Chris Dede, Education Week, Leadership 360, October 26, 2014

“Unlearning” is unsettling.  As educators, we take pride in our work and we are emotionally invested in doing what is best for our students.  Realizing that our beliefs about what constitutes ‘great teaching’ does not result in the ‘deep learning’ our students need is emotionally challenging.  Rethinking and relearning requires strong support and affirmation as educators move forward in changing practice.

As we consider how we design learning opportunities for educators, we must remember that this is more than a cognitive shift.  It is a shift in a belief system, and from a belief system to an evidence-based, inquiry model of learning.  It requires modelling, and nurturing, at all levels of the education system.

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Photo Credit: Ken Whytock via Compfight cc

Further reading:

What will you ‘unlearn’ today?

Five things I’ve learned (Dr. Chris Dede)

Education policies for raising student learning: The Finnish approach (Pasi Sahlberg)

Finland’s secret sauce: It’s teachers

Teacher education in Finland (Diane Ravitch)

Nobody likes to hear it (Dangerously Irrelevant)

Exploring Digital Literacy and the Importance of Confidence

 

Part of my current role in Ontario is working with teachers and education leaders to dig into what modern learning really looks like at the level of the “student desk”.

Much of the work in this province is informed by the thinking of Michael Fullan, particularly in his latest publications “Great to Excellent: Launching the Next Stage of Ontario’s Education Agenda“, and  “A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning“.

Fullan’s “Six C’s” (for 21st Century skills) are frequently at the centre of such conversations.

Fullan's "6 C's", explained more fully. (From "A Rich Seam" - http://www.michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/3897.Rich_Seam_web.pdf)
Fullan’s “6 C’s”, explained more fully. (From “A Rich Seam” – http://www.michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/3897.Rich_Seam_web.pdf)

 

Fullan, of course, isn’t the first person to consider the skills needed for today’s world.  Doug Belshaw has spent many years studying and crowd-sourcing his ideas around what digital literacies look like.

 

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The 8 Elements of Digital Literacies, from “The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies”, http://www.slideshare.net/dajbelshaw/the-essential-elements-of-digital-literacies

 

Certainly the two groups of “C’s” represent slightly different purposes, but the overlap is obvious, and both inform our thinking about what learning needs to look like in today’s world.

Doug Belshaw: The importance of Confidence as a Digital Literacy component (click the image to link to the source).
Doug Belshaw: The importance of Confidence as a Digital Literacy component (click the image to link to the source).

 

My experience tells me that “Confidence” is a critical aspect of our work as we consider how learning needs to change.  A lack of confidence can be a prohibitive barrier to success in today’s digital spaces.

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Many educators express fear in making their thinking visible through blogging or ePortfolios because others will be critical, or perhaps even reprimand them for thinking differently.  Students, unfortunately, sometimes need to overcome the fear of past experiences to progress in particular subject areas.

Teachers need to feel confident in using new tools to engage learners and redefine what learning looks like in the classroom.

How are we creating the conditions in our classrooms, schools and systems so that all of our learners can develop the confidence they need to participate in, model and facilitate deep learning for everyone?

Further Resources:

Doug Belshaw: Digital Literacies and Web Literacies

Doug Belshaw: The 8 C’s of Digital Literacy

Lyn Hilt on Connected Principals: What is Digital Literacy?

SAMR Model Resources (Kathy Schrock)

 

Credits:

“Confidence” Photo Credit: glsims99 via Compfight cc

How Will You Make Your Own Mess? “Creating a Culture Not of Mimics But of Masters”

We have problems.  Big problems.

Our world is warming up at an alarming rate.  Child poverty is still a reality in spite of “promises” to end it.

Who will solve these problems?

What are we doing every day to move toward solutions?

Commander Hadfield asked this question recently as host of the CBC Radio program “The Current”.

Listen to the short clip here:
http://www.cbc.ca/video/swf/UberPlayer.swf?state=shareaudio&clipId=2508270671&width=512&height=126

“It takes individual action…

What can I do to understand this better, and then based on that understanding, what can action can I take to then help improve things for myself, for Canadians and beyond our borders.”

Commander Hadfield wonders what we are doing wrong in teaching science to our children.  Why does their curiosity disappear as they move through the school system?

 

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Shared under a Creative Commons Licence by timuiuc

 

This short clip might shed some light on the issues.

http://swf.tubechop.com/tubechop.swf?vurl=sXpbONjV1Jc&start=431.61&end=492.43&cid=2794897

 

We can ask the very same questions about math.

This short clip addresses part of the problem, but the full video below is well worth your time.
http://swf.tubechop.com/tubechop.swf?vurl=-tFCVa3lCds&start=366.33&end=539.64&cid=3754815

 

 

How will you help our students to make their own mess?

How are you making your own mess?

What strategies take us away from the path to a society of mimics, and down the road to a society of masters, poised to solve our big problems?

 

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We Have a Dream

“I have a dream.”

Millions were inspired by those words.

Now if Martin Luther King had said, “I have a strategic plan” or “I have a set of performance indicators”, do you think the effect would have been the same?

It is a dream, or a vision – a shared vision, that motivates groups of people to rise above expectations.

Andy Hargreaves pointed this out last spring  (May 1, 2014) at the Ontario Leadership Congress in Toronto (also in his TEDx Talk).

In his recent book, Uplifting Leadership, Hargreaves reflects on seven years of global research to list four characteristics of organizations that have risen to the top with seemingly very few resources.

The number one characteristic is the relentless pursuit of a shared dream or vision.

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Dreamcatcher image shared under a Creative Commons Attribution License by Chie.

 

Mary Jean Gallagher tells us that schools must be places where children can realize their “best possible, most richly-imagined future” (Jan. 17, 2014, Toronto)

As we begin this new school year, I wonder…

Do we share those dreams with our students? Are we relentlessly pursuing them together?

 

Featured image shared under a CC attribution license by katerha

Thoughts: Labour Day 2014

I wanted to tell a funny story on this Labour Day.

I will share this entertaining piece instead: Teachers Don’t Sleep on Labour Day by  @albertfong

I have plenty of my own crazy tales, of course, having spent nearly 30 years of Labour Days ignoring my family in spite of it being my daughter’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, a stressful time for my kids heading back to school…

Even though today is the first Labour Day in 25 years where nobody in our household is heading off to school, I don’t feel like being funny.  I have a very heavy heart as I think of the teachers in British Columbia and the conflict they are embroiled in.

I think of the passionate educators that do so much for students in B.C. – educators like Karen Lirenman,  David Truss, and Bryan Jackson.   How do I know what they are doing?  Because they share.

They openly invite everyone to see how they think, what they struggle with, how they learn, and what they are working on.  They do this through blogging, through Twitter (and other social media), and through face-to-face presentations throughout the year.

I know they love what they do, because they openly demonstrate this all year long.

As we once again see teachers as a political target, it is important to ask ourselves why this profession is so often attacked by politicians. Take a moment to read this very thought-provoking essay on the Future of Schooling in Canada by Stephen Murgatroyd.

Here is a short excerpt:

“Teachers need to “take back” their schools, supported by mindful school leaders, if they are not to become the new laboratories for corporate greed….

…The final challenge relates to the conditions of practice which teachers and school leaders face. There is a growing distortion around the importance of class size and composition – classes of 30-35 with up to six students with special needs are seen as “manageable” (they are not) with a single teacher and little if any access to other supports. Custodial services are seen as being only required before and after school – not during the school day, leaving teachers to clean up after sick children or some accident in the chemistry lab. We are neglecting the basic conditions in the name of economy. Attempts to challenge the creeping Fordism which such class sizes force on school systems are seen as “teacher whining”, yet parents and citizens should be appalled at some of the conditions under which we are asking teachers to produce the next generation of imagineers, artists, scientists, engineers and trades persons.”

 

If we really believe that our children are our greatest resource, and if we really believe that teaching is the most important profession for our future, then we need to tell our stories to the world.

“Teaching in isolation is no longer consistent with professionalism.”(Catherine Montreuil, August 2014).

This year, don’t just do great things for kids.

Tell your story.

Tell it loudly, and openly, and show the world what you do every day.

Show the world that every single day, teachers are making a positive difference in the lives of our children.

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Photo credit: venspired via Compfight cc

Who Are You Leaving Out?

 

Why would we want to exclude other educators from our professional learning network?

Stephen Katz, in his book Intentional Interruptions, discusses the problem of confirmation bias when it comes to professional learning.  It is our tendency to “only look for things that confirm rather than challenge our beliefs and practices“.

We need to make sure that we are not looking for our professional learning in echo chambers.  We need to find the people who will challenge our thinking.

When we hear, “Let’s build an online community so we can share our learning”, it sounds like a fantastic idea.  It is a fantastic idea.

But when designing how that community will work, ask who you want to exclude, because as soon as you put your sharing behind a password protected site, you are excluding other thinkers who might contribute to your conversation and challenge your thinking – exactly what professional learning needs to include.

It is easy to share your learning and thinking openly.

Consider, for example, the Inquiry-Based Learning Project in Ontario, and their conversations on Twitter under the #ontsshg hashtag.

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They have discussions, vote on topics, document their learning on a blog, and keep it in the open for anyone else to join in the conversation, make comments, search, read, and remix.

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While the conversations focus on Ontario topics, anyone is welcome to join, to share, to learn.

Similarly, Lakehead Public Schools chose to share their collaborative inquiry work with the world on an open blog rather than excluding readers who might learn from their work.

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Before choosing to participate in an online community that excludes learners, think about what you are able to share openly with other educators.

There is a need for protected spaces to share private information about student learning, but if your purpose is to share your own professional learning and to grow as an educator, why would you exclude others from the conversation?

Why not make your thinking and learning visible to all, and model that learning for our students?

 

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Related: Just Make It Public! by Mark W. Carbone:  http://blog.markwcarbone.ca/2014/08/05/just-make-it-public/