Thanks for your support as I worked to understand the process of documenting and sharing my own learning. I believe strongly in the importance of owning my own space on the web, and that is why I have moved to my own domain here.
I hope you will continue to learn with me and challenge me as I try to make sense of what learning needs to look like in this exponentially changing world.
In the podcast, I quickly outline my concern about the gap between what I see happening in schools, and what we need to learn to thrive in 2017 and beyond in the digital economy.
However, it was later in 2016 that I listened to Audrey Watters and Kin Lane in the Tech Gypsies Podcast, when they talked about each and every one of us being responsible to learn the things we must learn to make sense of the world, and to make good decisions.
The entire podcast is worth your time, and I highly recommend listening to it regularly. If you only have a few minutes, begin around 35:00 (36:45 if you are really short on time, and Caution: Language can be explicit at times)
We need a more digitally literate society. There are so many examples of why this is true, and I will be exploring those further this week.
Even when we consider the thinking around 21st Century Learning, and the 6 C’s (or 4 C’s) that we so readily accept, we are missing the part where digital literacies are critical to making good decisions for ourselves and for our children.
Throughout 2016, I worked to craft careful messages to influence others about the importance of digital literacies.
In 2017, rather than a focus on trying to convince others that digital literacies are important, I am committed to providing an open structure where others can learn more about technology with me.
I am convinced that in this world where facts are difficult to find, each and every one of us needs to find our voice and lead learning that will ensure that our connections are creating positive change in our world.
My focus word for 2017 is
[rhymes with seed, feed, need]
This spoken word piece, written and performed by Chinaka Hodge at TEDWomen 2016, pushes all of us to find the leader inside ourselves.
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
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.
Recently I have been fortunate to be asked to present at two different venues (Refresh2016 in North Bay, and the DSBONE Professional Learning Day) on the importance of understanding how digital identities impact mental health in teens, and where we as educators can find resources.
It was an incredible honour yesterday, to hear Dr. Tony Wagner speak about his work in rethinking education for today. Being able to ask my question about how we work with a system that still defines graduates by 2-digit numbers, and ranks them individually, was enlightening and empowering.
“What does it mean to be an educated adult in the twenty-first century?”
We are entrenched in a digital economy. Time and time again, during the TELL 2016 conference, presenters expressed their frustration with how unaware educators seem to be with how fast change is happening.
TELL2016 presenter Carl Bull suggested that as comfortable educators, quite able to pay our mortgages, it is arrogant of us to ignore the reality that we have no idea how our students will achieve the same standard of living.
I deeply question why we continue to hire leaders and decision-makers in education who have no understanding of digital technologies. I wonder why the qualification courses our leaders are required to take have little mention of the importance of technology for learning.
I wonder why digital professional portfolios are seen as an “unfair advantage” instead of a non-negotiable part of the application process for leadership positions.
I wonder when we will finally see that the vast array of digital competencies are essential for leaders, in this public education system tasked with preparing our youth to thrive in a digital world that many education leaders cannot even imagine.