As parents and educators, how are we modelling practices that promote facts and reliable sources over clickbait and sensationalism?
On social media, liking, sharing and retweeting shows others the content that is meaningful to you. It is a reflection of who you are, and what you believe in.
A decade ago, I used to retweet fairly indiscriminately. If it looked like a good resource, I shared it. Then, Ira Socol took the time to question my retweet. I realized that retweeting is actually a form of curating. If I want to create value online for others, I need to critically evaluate resources and ideas, and share them with descriptive comments.
What I choose to share reflects my professionalism. What I choose to share is the value I am creating for others. Before sharing, I carefully evaluate the source, and I often highlight (in my comments) the part I find most valuable.
Fortunately, I have a loud PLN that will quickly question almost anything I share openly.
Other curators help me sort through the unfathomable amount of information on the web. Stephen Downes, Doug Belshaw, and Audrey Watters are examples of thought leaders who filter, curate and share information regularly. I know that there will be value in their curations.
More importantly, what do we do when we encounter colleagues and friends sharing misleading information or sheer fiction as though it were factual? Do we just turn our heads the other way, or do we take the time, like Ira Socol did for me, and challenge the source or the thinking?
Barack Obama said that we can’t move democracy forward if we don’t have a common set of facts to refer to. Now that we have seen the impact of the propaganda spread through social media, what will we do as educators to shut it down?
How do we ensure our students can critically evaluate information, triangulate sources, and distinguish between belief and fact?
Is knowledge more rapidly mobilized through the system when leaders work openly?
For the purposes of my work, I am considering personal professional openness – the concept of sharing thinking and learning in open spaces, curating resources for others, engaging in open conversations in text or through broadcast technologies like podcasts, videos and YouTube Live, blogging and commenting on blogs, and participating across the educational boundaries in wider conversations across the web.
“Working open” means different things in different contexts. Doug Belshaw has summarized the idea of working open in education here.
He provides this question, that is an excellent starting point for opening our work to others:
We should be continually asking the question, “can we make this public?” If that seems too radical, then a smaller step might be the question, “is there any reason why this shouldn’t be shared with everyone at the organisation?”
Here is a summary of what I learned this week. The full story is below.
Working openly is a new skill, with unlimited potential for mobilizing knowledge within the education system. We (as a system) don’t yet value it as a critical leadership skill for education.
“You are never going to be able to shortcut doing the hard work of changing hearts and mind, and the hook which gets people to realize that working openly is useful, is going to be different in every situation”. (Doug Belshaw)
When, as a leader, you work openly, you allow others to “swim in the river you are swimming in”, not your river, but the one you are swimming in right now. (Dai Barnes)
Open practices are on a continuum, and are dependent on context. Developing digital literacies helps leaders understand what should be shared openly, but also what should be shared behind a password, and what should be private.
Senior Leaders need to be conscious of their position when blogging, but sharing their learning minimizes the disconnect between leadership thinking and classroom practice.
Once Senior Leaders believe that open practice is worth pursuing, we need a scaffolded approach to help develop an understanding of digital literacies and support in developing that open practice.
Open practice by senior leaders encourages the participation of the entire learning community, and helps all stakeholders in public education find their voice.
The full story:
Since beginning my work with #mathleadersNEO the Mathematics Leadership Network, I have been exploring this thinking – how open practice can impact the work of education leaders, particularly in influencing classroom practice and improving student learning.
Recently, I listened to the TIDE Podcast #61: Open to Suggestion, which got me thinking again about the value in working openly as an education leaders.
I was so pleased to see that in TIDE Episode #70, the answer to this question was discussed, and some ideas completely new to me surfaced in the conversation.
I have posted the sections of the podcast to help provide focus for the thinking. Please take a few minutes to listen to the sound clips that are much more explicit than my summaries below.
The Importance of Content – Choosing Words Carefully
Dai began by talking about the role of an education leader and how conscious a leader needs to be about that role and position, and the ‘weight’ of the words they might make public.
Understanding what can and should be shared openly is a digital literacy, and it takes time to build. Experiencing the value of reaching an audience this way, and leveraging it to achieve organizational goals, also takes time to develop.
It is difficult to access education leaders. When they make their thinking and learning visible through blogging and other social media interactions, everyone in the organization (and the community) has access to what they are learning.
Sharing Resources Openly (Instead of Through Email)
Instead of sharing resources with specific educators in email, leaders can share them in an open space (such as a blog or website) so that all educators, within the system and world wide, have access to those resources. It also allows others to then comment on how they use the resources in classroom practice, to add other similar resources to the list, and to have a conversation in the comments around the specific learning goals best supported through these resources.
What are the Barriers to Sharing Openly?
We have to understand what can (and should) be shared fully openly, what should be shared behind a password, and what should be private. As well, we need to learn how to do that sharing so that nobody is personally or professionally impacted in a negative way.
For example, sharing a screencast on how to copy a Google Doc might be valuable to many educators. What we wouldn’t say, is, “I know many educators in my school are struggling with this, so I have made this instructional screencast to help you”.
We might say instead, “Are you trying to copy a Google Doc? Here are some simple instructions to walk you through the process”. This statement makes the learning open to all without any suggestion that the skill is one specific people find difficult.
It’s new learning. It’s 2016 learning. And you don’t know what you don’t know. For so many educators, the way they have always done things has served them well and they don’t see the need for change in practice.
What New Leadership Qualities do we Value in 2016?
When, as a leader, you work openly, you allow others to “swim in the river you are swimming in”, not your river, but the one you are swimming in right now.
Dai is playing with an important concept here, I think.
There are certain qualities and strengths of education leaders that we have traditionally valued, and we look for these.
But working openly is a new skill, with unlimited potential for mobilizing knowledge within the education system. We don’t yet value it in the education system.
Open Practices: Changing Hearts and Minds
There is no such thing as open practice. It is open practices (plural) because it is always within the context of where the learning is happening.
“You are never going to be able to shortcut doing the hard work of changing hearts and mind, and the hook which gets people to realize that working openly is useful, is going to be different in every situation”.
Who can you influence to practice more openly today?
What small steps can each leader take to work more openly?
If we don’t have a common understanding of the facts, how do we have a national conversation about policy?
President Obama goes on to say that the filters on the information getting to the people are very challenging to overcome. News sources report untrue information that people believe. People don’t think critically about the information delivered to them through AM Talk Radio, Fox News, Facebook, “Reality” TV…
Confirmation bias has people making decisions then looking for the statements in any media to confirm their beliefs.
In Canada, what questions are we asking about our media?
During our last national election, some of our largest newspapers used their front pages for partisan politics to influence voters.
In Ontario schools, while we are concerned about the ability of our students to make up an article for traditional print media, how do we also ensure that they know how to critically examine media and ask questions to separate fact from belief?
If ever there was a time for educators to make digital literacies, including critical thinking, a priority, today is it.
Canada needs critical thinkers who make evidence-informed decisions. We need citizens who know how to keep their eyeballs, their heads, and their hearts on the truth, no matter what filters are on the media that they tune into.
We need citizens who stand up to the indoctrination of children and the perpetuation of false information.
Canada flag image shared by Brandon Grasley CC-BY-2.0
Featured image (Where’s my eyeball?) shared by Alan Levine CC BY 2.0
How are the children doing? Is this the major concern and question that it should be in our country? Are we making our children (our future) our priority?
Her message centred around the importance of relationships in raising healthy, creative, curious and learning children.
Children learn through serve and return, serve and return. They initiate, adults respond, they respond…
How do we become conversational partners in this back and forth?
How are we responding to the cues from children? How are children learning from our language, our facial expressions, our interest in them, our engagement with them?
Caring adult relationships and connections are critical. So how do we spend our time with our kids?
Do we spend it “almost with them” while we do other things on our phones?
What is our connecting to redirecting ratio? How much time is just “being with” vs. “directing and redirecting”?
Talk more, tune in, listen and turn off the TV!
While I was there to hear all of her message, I was particularly interested in her take on technology in schools. Here are my notes on Dr. Jean Clinton’s response to a question about the use of technology in JK/SK and the remainder of the primary division.
“The use of technology in schools is tricky. We know that we need people who are going to be skilled in technological ability and the best time to start that is, well, we know we can start the concepts of coding very early. But we have technology now not just as a tool but as an interference. We are going to need some courageous work, where parents are told not to text their children during the school day, and to trust the system to get in touch because the majority of texts that kids are getting in class are from their parents.
But I think we need to take a stand and understand how very important technology is, but also how we are going to limit its use in the classroom. For example, I am not a supporter of using iPads in the earliest years. The development of the brain and how the kids are making connections, they get mesmerized and pulled towards those iPads and it should be later, once the brain has developed further, that they should be allowed to do it. It’s a tough question.”
We know that being outside and experiencing the natural world builds brains differently. We know that schoolifying, ranking and comparing children can result in stress reactions. And we know that stress changes biology.
Our kindergarten curriculum rests on inquiry-based learning. Is this what is happening in kindergarten classrooms?
We have to consider the research on brain development before advocating for the use of screens in the early years.
I know that I have much more learning to do on this topic.
Thank you to Dr. Jean Clinton for travelling to northwestern Ontario, and for sharing so much important information with our communities about how building those personal interactions with children is absolutely critical to their positive growth and development.
This morning, I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with PQP Part 1 Candidates in the OPC PQP course at HWDSB.
In conversation with their instructor, my friend and colleague and exemplary principal, Lisa Neale, we challenged the notion of “digital leadership” and its relevance in 2016.
We often say we need to “model digital leadership”, but that is getting tired.
The internet has been accessible to people for more than 20 years. The modelling days are over. Now it is about being connected; learning, living and leading so that digital and physical are seamless in our schools, as they are outside of our schools. It’s about connecting with students, parents, communities and the greater world, and making meaning, relevance and change for good.
The slides we used to guide our discussion are below. Resources are listed below the slides.
We have the technology now to learn from the best teachers in the world.
We can access our PLN from almost anywhere, through synchronous and asynchronous technologies.
Today, our students need personalized learning options. Our teachers need to learn according to personal and professional interests. Our leaders need to be able to consult with experts, and meet their own learning needs. And all of this is simple with a strong Professional Learning Network, and access to digital tools.
In fact, for many educators, this is their normal. It’s how they work in 2016.
Today I had the privilege to speak to educators at #depd in Ottawa (Discovery Education) as my PLN mate Paul Maguire was presenting and sharing how to connect with other educators through voxer.
I was thrilled to hear how clear it was, because up here on the north shore of Superior, I was in a torrential rainstorm during a power outage and I was using my car charger to keep my phone battery charged while hoping the cell coverage would remain intact!
But even with all of that, I was able to talk to the crowd gathered in Ottawa.
For many of us, it has been our normal for a decade or more.
Our creative, curious, bright children can access the best teachers in the world with our help. Let’s make sure every one of them can. Their access to the best instruction should not depend on geography or classroom teacher.
And let’s encourage all educators, including our leaders, to build extensive, rich professional learning networks where they share learning, cultivate relationships, build their understanding of digital environments and establish a positive online identity.
Our physical and digital worlds are now one. Our learners need to be able to flow between them, and thrive in both.
Featured image by Donna Miller Fry: CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0
The Pallisades. Hwy 11 north of Nipigon, Ontario, at sunrise, late August, 2016.