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.
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
I’m not sure how to share this experience because it is new, intense and raw, and writing is the way I try to sort things out. So please bear with me.
How do we describe and define the intense feelings we experience when we see people we care about, colleagues in our profession, working their fingers to the bone at tasks that just don’t matter anymore?
Exponential change is our reality, yet many of our institutions continue to work hard to be exceptional at what mattered yesterday.
We can be so busy at irrelevant tasks that we completely fail to take notice of how quickly the world has abandoned any interest in what we are doing.
As we strive to understand and embrace exponential change, recognizing this commitment to irrelevance in others creates an intense intersection of sadness, defeat, frustration, isolation and the irresistible desire to escape.
It’s coming to terms with the fact that a compelling case for change may not exist for these dedicated educators – the realization that the past is too entrenched, that beliefs are not going to shift, and, sadly, that you are no longer part of this tribe.
As a teacher, I packaged content endlessly, provided feedback on everything, read tirelessy, reflected on everything. It consumed me. It consumes many. Balance, alignment, living a rich life away from school – all of these things can be hard when there are no “hours of work” or boundaries of work. There is always more that can be done.
Many of us work really hard – too hard perhaps. But the passion for what we do, for changing life trajectories, is hard for others to understand at times.
It takes intention to stop and rethink the effectiveness of the effort and the purpose in how we spend our most valuable resource – time.
Recently, two dear friends spoke at my husband’s retirement celebration. They shared a timeline of his outstanding career in protecting Ontario’s natural resources. Then they focused on what is left in the timeline, and how we need to be intentional about how that time is used.
Retired US Fish and Game Officer Leo Suazo spoke eloquently about the value of time, and how after retirement, we have the opportunity to choose how we will share our gift of time. What life trajectories will we impact? What changes will we enable?
How will we use our time to support those doing good in the world?
So then, how does this help us decide how to spend that precious time? Perhaps a recent commencement address by Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean James Ryan helps us think this through.
My claim is that if you regularly ask: wait, what, I wonder, couldn’t we at least, how can I help, and what really matters, when it comes time to ask yourself “And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so,” your answer will be “I did.”
How will you use your gift of time?
Featured image of Diane Corbett, Ian Anderson, Doug Hyde and Jim Fry (Ontario Provincial Peer Support Program) by Kira Fry, June 2016.
This post is dedicated to my father, Melville Charles Miller, who would have been 81 years old today, on this Fathers’ Day 2016.
His dedication to the natural resources of this province inspired many of the people who have continued that legacy.
How are we preparing our students for the digital economy that is not their future, but their present?
How do we create the compelling argument that this is important, that this should be a priority in our school system?
Walmart is mere months away from replacing their warehouse workers with drones and robots.
Automation is not new. We have had the “robots are taking over the world” narrative in our minds for decades.
Have we become desensitized to it?
Because now they really are.
The extent to which robots are able to do menial jobs has grown exponentially, and artificial intelligence is no longer science fiction – it’s commonplace.
But when robots can do standardized work, it creates new opportunities. New opportunities for creators, for coders, for those educated to take advantage of these new opportunities.
How are we embracing the opportunities robotics will bring to our economy? In Ontario alone, we will have a deficit of 76,300 digital economy jobs by 2019.
Or are we just going to continue to blame corporations for embracing the technology available to them?
If we create standardized students, they can easily be replaced.
If we create unique individuals with the skills and competencies to rise above the menial and embrace new opportunities, we will be enabling our communities to continue to grow and prosper in our changing world.
As a parent, do you ask your school how your child is being prepared to thrive in the digital economy?
It is a powerful message, and it’s one I have heard often throughout the last month.
Richard Wagamese, storyteller and Canada Reads Peoples’ Choice author, spoke to educators in Thunder Bay about the one person who rescued him from a desperate life path. It’s a remarkable story that began with a simple kindness to a homeless native teenager in southern Ontario.
It ended with Richard reminding us that we have the power to be the one person who makes a difference in the life of another. As educators, we have no idea where our influence and impact will end.
Recently, I have been studying the impact of childhood trauma on long term life outcomes, including school success. The CBC Ideas 3-part Podcast, All In the Family, examines the ACE Study – Adverse Childhood Events.
With traumatized kids, “executive function” becomes derailed. In other words, their control over their behaviour is damaged.
A “code of conduct” is about punishment for behaviour without addressing the root cause.
How does a Code of Conduct negatively impact our most vulnerable kids, and amplify their inability to cope?
“Traumatized kids have a “fragmented” executive function”.
“The single greatest predictor of academic success that exists is the emotional stability of the home, it’s not the classroom. And if you really wanted to do education reform, you would start with the home, darn it, you wouldn’t start with the classroom, because it is the greatest predictor.”
Technically, he isn’t really my dog. We bought him for our son 10 years ago.
“Basso”, the beagle, was my son’s Christmas present in 2005.
A beagle was the #2 item on my son’s wish list.
Item #1 was an iPod, but everyone wanted an iPod in 2005, and all of the stores were sold out.
An iPod. An iPod with video playback – new technology in 2005, and the cool accessory for a grade 11 student.
As it turns out, we found an iPod as well, just before Christmas, in a pop-up tech store in Vaughan Mills (which had only opened about a year earlier).
Basso the beagle has seen so many changes in technology in his 10 years with us. We have pictures of this dog on such a wide variety of devices – including that first iPod.
Basso still hides his face when he sees any device.
His earliest experiences with camera devices always involved infrared lights and flashes that hurt his eyes. Even today, as I tried to take a birthday picture, he closed his eyes and then hid his face under his blanket.
In April 2006, when my school board sponsored teachers to purchase technology for their classroom use, I bought a beautiful Canon PowerShot A700 digital camera for just under $700.00. The very first picture I took is still my favourite picture of Basso. Since then, Basso has had his picture taken with an iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 6, and 6s. His picture has been displayed on an iPad, iPad2, iPad3, iPad Air, MacBook Pro and MacBook.
The worst technology Basso ever experienced was that 5th generation iPod back in 2005.
I needed that camera because my ultra-cool blackberry 7750 cell phone/smart phone didn’t have one. We weren’t thinking about taking pictures with our phones 10 years ago.
Back then, my son was loving his time in grade 11 – at least the part that was high school hockey.
He was dying of boredom in his physics class, and a few other classes as well. The content was utterly irrelevant and uninspiring. He saw no purpose in memorizing formulas for tests or trying to figure out the “type” of problem so he could determine what formula to plug the numbers into.
Since then, he has gone on to a brilliant career first as a national team athlete, and now as a science-based professional – a choice that required surviving many more (very boring) physics classes. It certainly was not his physics classes that inspired him to have a career in science, where he does more physics every day than his teachers have ever experienced.
So I wonder, are the students in that physics class today still reading from a textbook, going home and answering questions for homework, and then being tested on their ability to memorize the formula or choose the right formula given some made-up problem? Or are those students now solving real-life problems, networking with people who actually work in the field of physics, and learning about the amazing opportunities available to them in science? Has the 10 years of explosive technology change had any impact at all on students in a grade 11 physics class?
Unlike with Basso, when I hold up my iPhone 6 to take a picture of my granddaughter, she knows that she is supposed to smile!
Ten years from now, when she is in Grade 5, that iPhone 6 will be her blackberry 7750. She will laugh at what I took her baby pictures with.
It will be the worst technology she will experience in her life.
I wonder, will her grade 5 class still look like the grade 5 class of today? Or will our school system finally have entered the pace of change that is the world now? Will her grade five class be mirroring her world and her life, or will it still be focused on her grade 6 EQAO scores and preparing her well for the world her grandparents grew up in?
We laugh at the technology from 10 years ago.
Do we laugh at what we thought classrooms should be like way back then too, or do they still look exactly the same?
For example, we don’t know how to safely dispose of nuclear waste. We are destroying Arctic coastlines with oil spills. The tar sands have far reaching environmental and health impacts. Our population is aging. Our First Nations, Metis and Inuit citizens are isolated and can’t access the basics we take for granted in the south.
I would argue that our education system must build the capacity and desire in our future generations to solve these problems. As Pak Tee Ng says, if we want our graduates to be creative and curious citizens, consider that’s how they arrive in school, so do no harm!
Yesterday, I was reading about some of the work my cousin, Robert LeRoy, has done in chemical and physical sciences, and I stumbled upon this quote from an interview with him:
Q: Are there any words of wisdom you could pass on to a novice in the world of science?
Finding something which interests you enough that you are willing to work really hard on it, and which challenges you to use your abilities to the fullest, is the key to a fulfilling and enjoyable life. Whether this involves basic or applied science (as in my case) or any other area of human endeavour is immaterial, and whether or not it pays particularly well, is also of no matter. Don’t choose something because it is easy – choose it because it is challenging and worthwhile.
We know there are barriers that keep some of our best thinkers from accessing opportunities to contribute to the solutions to Canada’s problems. How could we collaborate as educators across the country to remove some of these barriers?
Our current system of high grades as a filter for future formal education is one such barrier. In countries like Finland, there is the recognition that high marks are not proven indicators of success in all professional fields. For example, high marks in high school do not predict success as a classroom teacher, so high school marks are not used to select candidates for the Finnish Education Program. In fact, about a quarter of successful applicants to the Teacher Education Program come from the lowest quartile of secondary school grades.
When we look at the number of disengaged secondary school students, we have to see a national tragedy. This, in itself, is a big hairy problem for Canada. How many of these students could be the ones with the ability and desire to find answers to our global and national challenges?
How can we create a system that embraces and enables all learners to reach their full potential, for the common good of all Canadians?
The story of the Genetic Genius, Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui, the man who isolated and identified the gene that causes Cystic Fibrosis, exemplifies some of the barriers faced by brilliant minds. Dr. Tsui was not a good student and he could not score well on tests. Without numerous interventions, he would never have had the opportunity to make this important discovery. The results of his work have changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
As a child, Lap-Chee Tsui lived in China before fleeing to Hong Kong with his family, where frequently, his family was unable to pay his tuition fees for high school. A kind and generous teacher loaned him money for the fees, until the teacher could be repaid by Lap-Chee’s father, so that he would be able to continue to study. His parents stressed the critical importance of a good education, but it was his free time out of school that nurtured his curiosity.
Without many toys, Lap-Chee turned to ponds and tadpoles for entertainment. He loved to draw and build things. He experimented with his sister’s kitchen toys, burning salt and sugar to see the chemical reactions.
Dr. Tsui characterizes himself as a very good learner with a very curious mind, but he could not write tests, the primary form of assessment in school. As a result, he did not get good grades.
Other students could regurgitate class notes, right down to the punctuation errors, and score very high marks. Lap-Chee felt he knew the material well, in fact he still uses some of that learning today, but he could not provide rote memorization of the material on the tests.
His poor grades would have stopped most people from pursuing further education. However, he persisted, and with some luck, found an opportunity to begin laboratory research.
I was thrilled to catch Jamie Reaburn Weir and Dan Ballentyne today. They shared this video, which I believe is important for all to watch. Most educators intrinsically know all of this already. They do live it, after all.
They just don’t know how to change it.
That’s why more than just educators need to watch. What kind of world do we want?
Is it not a national tragedy that so many students are turned off learning, and that a number determines their future learning opportunities?
How many brilliant people refuse to play the game?