Note: CATC (Computers Across the Curriculum) Camp is a Professional Learning Opportunity for Educators in Waterloo Region District School Board. About 125 teachers meet at the Kempenfelt Conference Centre each summer to share and learn about how to integrate technology into their curriculum and to use technology effectively in their practice. This year we celebrate their 25th year of learning in this way.
It goes like this: We eat a wonderful meal – often out on the patio – then the music beckons us to the auditorium for “News Time”. In a high energy fashion, we compete for prizes, we get updated on things like OSAPAC products, and most importantly, we get asked:
What else do you want to learn?
There are about 12 rooms that act as centres, with facilitators who scaffold learning around coding, makerspaces, online learning, GAFE tools, 1:1 Chromebooks, etc.
But when we identify something else we want to learn, it gets organized in minutes.
Today, someone asked to learn more about the online assessment tool, FreshGrade. After a few questions from the coordinator, a decision was made to host a session at 11:00 on online assessment tools in general. I volunteered to organize it.
Alison Bullock organized a GHO with a vendor rep and designed a Google form to collect questions. David Pope volunteered to share his experiences. Mark Carbone volunteered to speak about privacy of student information.
At 11:00, about 25 teachers arrived and we had a rich discussion about all of the considerations involved in choosing the right online assessment tool.
And it was just that fast.
We wanted to learn more about Assessment. Volunteers gathered the learner questions through open Google forms by tweeting the link. The experts were brought in physically or through GHO. A time and place was established.
We had a rich discussion, a screenshare demo of possibilities, and we walked away so much better informed about what is available, and the considerations we must make before implementation of online assessment tools.
This “identify the need – organize the resources – learn more” rhythm is becoming pervasive in professional learning. We now have the tools to respond to learning needs, not just with information, but with human resources, with organizing tools, and with synchronous learning tools.
Our classrooms can have this rhythm.
Interest -> questions -> organize -> bring in experts -> discuss.
A child who reads Moose (by Robern Munsch) with her parents at bedtime might have many questions about moose the next day. The teacher can organize a Google Hangout or Skype call with a moose expert to answer questions for the child.
We have the tools to respond immediately to learning needs, and to further develop interests and passions.
We need a new, responsive, rhythm for learning that has at its core, the ability to grow an individual’s motivation and desire to learn even more.
I am continuing to work my way through “Most Likely to Succeed“, the book by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith. On p. 223 of “Most Likely to Succeed”, the Tripod of Learning for the 21st Century is described.This is a summary of that thinking.
The three points of the tripod are: 1) content knowledge, 2) skill, and 3) the will to learn.
Of the three, will to learn (motivation) is seen as most critical, and the one most likely to be destroyed in the schools of today.
Content, for those with devices connected to the internet, is a free commodity (another reason why it is not okay that not everyone is connected).
Intrinsically motivated people are now free to learn new skills and content throughout their lives, because you can learn almost anything online.
The key question we need to ask is whether or not any given change we make to our education system, or to our teaching strategies, will increase student motivation for learning, and what evidence we will have to demonstrate this.
Motivation for learning does, of course, include engagement.
But do we also consider empowerment – the ownership of learning that involves persistence, knowing how to learn, knowing how we learn best, working hard to understand, sharing and gathering feedback, and self-discipline to keep at it?
Along with this, the ability to think critically, to communicate effectively in all modalities, to really collaborate (not just co-operate) and to use strategies for effective creative problem solving, are the survival skills our kids need in 2016.
I checked in here at the halfway point in the year to reflect on how well I was ‘living by the word’ in the first 6 months of 2015. Courage has been a tough one. The ‘other side’ of courage can be challenging to manage.
By far the most courageous thing I did was in October, at #IgniteYYZ
I’m really curious about how our education system continues to ignore what kids do in digital spaces. In particular, I wonder about the impact that ubiquitous access to violent, degrading pornography is having on our young people.
In the lead up to the event, I chickened out and changed topics three times, but deep down I knew that I had to be courageous and address the issue of how horrendously young women are treated in our schools, colleges and universities, and one of the reasons why this is happening.
Thank you to those who came out to support all of the presenters that evening, and especially to those who continue to draw attention to the impact of pornography on the health of our youth long after the event.
For 2016, my #onewordONT is
We are living in times of exponential change.
Gone are the days when leading professional learning meant hours of preparing content to deliver. Leading learning is now about organizing your resources so that you can meet the needs of your learners as they arise.
For example, no longer do my colleague Kirsten and I walk into a workshop with a ready-to-go PowerPoint. Instead, we do our best to anticipate learner needs, we prepare multiple resources that can be used in numerous situations, and then we meet individual learner needs on the spot.
Professionally, we also need to be agile to take advantage of opportunities in a quickly changing world.
What is our elevator pitch? Can we express what we do in 140 characters or less?
Are we constantly rethinking, revising, re-aligning our strategies and our work with how the world changes?
Are the structures we rely on agile enough to allow us to take advantage of the best opportunities for our students?
How do we manage the constant flow of information? How do we create meaning and share it?
Do we allow our beliefs to change based on the availability of new data?
Agility on a personal level is also a priority. Am I fit enough, healthy enough, strong enough to fully participate in all that life has to offer?
I look forward to learning with everyone in my PLN as we explore and share our #OneWordONT focus throughout 2016.
Happy New Year!
What’s your #OneWordOnt? Be sure to share it on Twitter using the hashtag.
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.
What do we do about the educators who refuse to embrace change?
This question keeps bubbling up in conversations, on Twitter, and in blog posts, in different formats, but essentially this is it: “How do we convince educators that they need to change their practice?”
We have names and categories for those who resist change and cling to the status quo.
But have we articulated what the “change” is leading to?
Have we co-constructed the success criteria of what this will look like when we are doing it well?
Simon Breakspear, at the 2015 Ontario Leadership Congress, challenged participants to think about what Ontario classrooms could look like three years from now. What would we see, hear and feel as we walk into our students’ learning environment in 2018? What is our shared vision for the future of our children?
This is not a hypothetical exercise. He wants us to set this out exactly as we expect to see it. What are we looking for, and how will we get there? It is only by doing this exercise that we can clearly communicate to educators what the path forward is, and what we expect to accomplish.
Over the past 1.5 years, I have been working relentlessly, with my OSAPAC co-lead (@markwcarbone) on a project to help education leaders become adept in the use of educational technology.
Because in Ontario we have a “renewed vision” for education, and that vision includes using technology as an accelerator to change where, when and how learning can take place.
And if we are actually going to see this happen in our “classrooms”, then our leaders have to have a very good understanding of what technology enabled learning and teaching looks like, sounds like, feels like for learners.
The world is changing rapidly and if our students are going to thrive, they need very different skills and abilities than the ones that worked for us. It’s easy to forget how fast the world is changing when we are immersed in our bricks and mortar schools each day.
Are we leading and teaching for where the puck is now, or where it is going?
So how do you provide learning for leaders to keep up with the changing role of technology in learning?
We think we understand the learning needs of leaders who are already pressed for time. We need many different entry points. We have to appeal to a range of styles of learning. We need learning opportunities that do not require a lot of commitment because of the varied schedules of those in leadership roles. Small chunks of learning have to be available so they can be accessed at any time.
We looked at a way to provide very, very simple access to opportunities to learn to become a connected leader. That simple access includes:
on that website, links to the blogs of formal and informal school and system leaders in Ontario so that this one site allows anyone access to the visible thinking of educators throughout this province.
on the website – a new post nearly every day, Tuesday evening open conversations,
on the website – a program to become connected in only 10 minutes a day
on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and other social media, a stream of information on learning and connected leadership
If any education leader in Ontario has the DESIRE to learn to become connected, OSSEMOOC (Awesome MOOC!) is just sitting there waiting for them to start.
It is free, open and simple with 1:1 support for anyone who WANTS to learn.
Our question is, what more can we possibly offer?
Is the missing piece the desire to learn?
This is an interesting problem, because leaders openly wonder why educators in their systems won’t embrace change.
We hear that the world is changing, the nature of education is changing, what we know about learners is changing, but some classroom educators refuse to change their practice. How can we help them change?
Will they change if they don’t have the desire to learn?
So let’s solve this! Why is it not a priority for leaders to become connected? What is it about this learning that leaders do not buy into?
If leaders personally reflect on why they don’t see the value in becoming connected digital leaders, why they don’t take advantage of opportunities to learn to lead in digital spaces, will it reveal some understanding about the challenges in helping resistant classroom educators change their practice?
refuse to learn to use collaborative documents so that they can work asynchronously and at a distance from their colleagues?
don’t take the time to learn to use technology to download their own videos and make their own presentations shine, and even say “oh, I don’t do tech” (they would never say that about math!)?
don’t build a strong professional learning network so that they can reach out and find the experience and understanding they need to make evidence-based decisions around technology purchases, capacity-building and planning?
have not learned the skills needed to supervise and learn with teachers in online learning environments?
Are education leaders who preserve the technology status quo, “fundamentalists”?
Would we refer to leaders who refuse to make digital leadership a priority as “fundamentalists”?
Not likely, as we know that education leaders are learners. We might say that they don’t have time, or that they have other priorities and interests. But we see them as being learners.
Do we see resistant classroom educators as learners? Are they only labelled as fundamentalists because they are not learning what we think they should learn?
Maybe what we need to do is find out what it is they want to learn, and start there. Recognize that they ARE learners, and that what they are learning is valuable, and let them bring it to the table.
Find the mindset they already have – where learning is sought instead of provided – and discover what learning they are seeking, and harness this.
Fundamentally, our job as educators is to ensure that every single child in our care is learning. There might be all kinds of research on what best practices are, but none of that research was done on that student in that classroom. Only that teacher has the responsibility to ensure that child is learning, and once their repertoire of strategies is exhausted, it is that teacher’s job to connect with others to find the next best practice, to be the scientist for that child to find what will work.
The classroom educator is the researcher to find best practice for every child.
They need to know how to find out what others are doing, and how to adapt practices to each learner.
The shift is from a mindset where learning is provided, to a culture where learning is sought (David Jakes, 2015).
But since learning will only be sought where there is a DESIRE to learn, maybe that is the place we need to start.
She challenges us to think about positive thinking as a number of different activities instead of just one way of being.
Sometimes, we think very positively about an upcoming event because we have had similar success in the past. This type of thinking is based on reality, and it often results in better outcomes because it is a motivating factor.
However, having positive daydreams about upcoming events is linked to poorer outcomes. Positive daydreaming can lead to relaxation. Professor Oettingen suggests that people who frequently use positive daydreaming as a strategy, convince themselves that they are fine, and they don’t take the necessary steps to move forward in achieving their goals.
“Mental contrasting“, however, is a technique that can lead to successfully achieving some goals, while letting go of goals that you will not be able to achieve. The important factor is building close connections between your current reality and your goal as well as your current reality and identified obstacles, and what is needed to overcome the obstacles.
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.
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