Category Archives: School Reform

KISS [Keep It Simple Stupid!]

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Image shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share-Alike license by Kristina Alexanderson https://www.flickr.com/photos/kalexanderson/5699823858/

 

Tell them what you are going to tell them.

Tell them.

Tell them what you told them.

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

These are great words of advice for creating a presentation.

Could they work as well for those of us designing professional learning?

In his address to the Ontario Leadership Congress in April 2015, Simon Breakspear emphasized the importance of having a clear vision of what future learning looks like, sounds like, feels like.

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Image shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License by Stephen Downes https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_downes/3808714505/

 

He said, “We cannot lead others into a future we cannot see.”

Our role as leaders is to get out of the conceptual, and move from vision documents to “here, let me show you”.

So what is our profession, then, at the bare bones level?

Teachers cause learning to happen.  They cause learning to happen for every child and student trusted into their care.  Every single one.

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Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, Share-Alike License by Darren Kuropatwa https://www.flickr.com/photos/dkuropatwa/4421657130/

 

 

It is not okay for a child to be ‘stuck’ and not learning in a classroom.  It is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that child is learning.  No teacher has to do this in isolation.  Teachers are aware of their best practice, and they search for their next practice that will help that child learn.  The wider the professional network, the larger the opportunity to find solutions to learning problems.

This remains one of my favourite simplified statements about the work teachers do.

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 Catherine Montreuil, 2013

Let’s keep it simple, and make sure all of our children are on a path of learning.

 

 

 

 

Learning From Afar: CanConnectEd 2015 Live Stream

The live stream for Connect 2015 can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/embed/y_ZmM7zPLyI?rel=0

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?

I will not let an exam result decide my fate:

Dangerously Irrelevant!

#makeschooldifferent: My Five Things We Need To Stop Pretending


http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2015/04/we-have-to-stop-pretending.html

Scott McLeod’s blog is a source of inspiration for me.

I know by the number of times that I have shared “The Lone Wolf” by David Truss that educators are a frustrated group of professionals, advocating relentlessly to change our public school systems so they align with the learning needs of our students in a world that does not resemble the one in which the school system was originally created.

I embrace the tone of the challenge: What are five things we need to stop pretending in our schools?

We are all part of these conversations.  We know what must change. We work relentlessly, but the pace of change inside our schools can be so much slower than the pace of change outside our schools, that becoming “dangerously irrelevant” is exactly where we are in danger of heading (read Simon Breakspear as well).  It can be heartbreaking work.

I have far more than five ideas to contribute.  We all have more than five ideas to contribute.  But this is a great place to start.

Please read the entire collection and follow #makeschoolsdifferent on Twitter.  Do your part to effect change.

When it comes to education, we have to stop pretending…

1. That we know what school is for.

Until we actually ask this question, and come to some agreement on the purpose, we will continue to argue about what is best for our children.  It is NOT to give students the skills they need to find jobs that existed when they were born.  There will be far more graduates than jobs, and those traditional jobs are mostly gone.  “What is school for?” must be a constant conversation.

2. That it’s okay to determine access to future learning based on a two digit number assigned by a secondary school teacher to a graduating student.

Marks are not an indicator of ability to learn.  In fact, marks can be a detriment to learning. We pretend that the current system of determining access to university programs based on marks is acceptable.  Marks promote cheating. Check out all the youtube videos on how to convince your teacher to give you a higher mark. Marks promote classroom competition over collaboration. Marks turn school into a game of winners and losers instead of a place where learning is sought.

Let’s find a better way to encourage all students to keep learning.

3. That it’s okay for any student to be stuck and not learning.

It is not the job of a teacher to teach.  It is the job of a teacher to ensure students are learning.  Not alone – teachers have access to networks of educators and professionals to help – but learning must happen.  “He has the right to fail” is not an acceptable statement – ever*.

4. That it’s okay to bash teachers.

Stop.  The teaching profession is the most important profession in society. “Teacher bashing” is not productive. It turns great potential teachers away from the profession.  Our children need the best teachers we have to give them.  Let’s elevate the profession to a place where the best people are attracted to the profession of ensuring that the upcoming generations are able to solve the world’s biggest problems.

5. That it’s okay for only some people to have access to the internet and the world’s body of knowledge.

We need to stop pretending that all children are digital natives. Many children still have no access to the internet and the world’s best teachers, and we don’t have access to their voices.  That is not okay. What are we doing today to get access for these children and their families?  It is an enormous inequity that we need to solve.

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Please watch “The Loon Project” by clicking on this image.

I am tagging everyone in my PLN to share their thinking on the five things we need to stop pretending.

I am particularly interested, for purely selfish reasons, in the thinking of the following five people:

Ron Canuel, David Truss, Julie Balen , Mark W. Carbone, Stephen Hurley

Please share your thinking and add it to the growing body of ideas here.

My granddaughter, Chloe Patricia Avery, is two months old today.

Let’s make sure that when she starts school in September 2019,  it looks very different from the model that worked for her great grandparents.

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Chloe on her 1 month birthday.

Thank you for reading this.  What is your next?

 

 

*In the context of “earning a credit”. It is this thinking: “I taught him, he chose not to learn” that I object to, not the understanding that we learn from our failures as part of the learning process.

Resources:

The Lone Wolf: David Truss shares some inspiration with educators who are feeling like they can’t make the difference they want to.

What are the changes we want to see? #makeschooldifferent

The man who discovered the genetic link to cystic fibrosis, Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui, did not have a standardized mind. He barely made it through the school system:

http://dfryed.tumblr.com/post/116635201423/the-man-who-discovered-the-genetic-link-to-cystic

Sharing with PQP: Why Do Our Students Need Connected Leaders?

Recently, I was asked to share my thinking with PQP candidates about why connecting as leaders is so important.

I wrote about this late last year, and I have presented workshops on the topic a few times.  

This time I needed to be able to share my thinking remotely, so I created this very quick, one-take talk on why I think that being a connected leader is critical.

How does a busy leader become connected? #OSSEMOOC takes you through “getting connected” in 10 minutes a day here.  (Scroll down and check out the right side of the page for 30 days of learning).

 

 

The Key to Innovative Practice? More Ideas!

For a long time in Ontario, we have relied heavily on standardized test results, and the tested ideas and strategies grounded in research to inform our educational practice.

But does this kind of thinking short-change our kids?

Dr. Chris Dede talks about the importance of spreading pockets of excellence and adapting successful practice into our context.

In “Great to Excellent: Launching the Next Stage of Ontario’s Education Agenda“, Michael Fullan stated (p. 12)

“What Ontario educators and leaders have accomplished in the last nine years is truly remarkable and impressive on a world scale. Yet it is also disturbingly precarious without the focused innovation required for excellence.”

How do we accelerate the use of innovative practices in our classrooms?

In Eureka! Mapping the Creative Mind,  we learn that one of the best ways to have a great idea is to have lots of them (Linus Pauling).

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Shared under a Creative Commons attribution license by Celestine Chua

 

Chris Anderson argues that Crowd Accelerated Innovation results from our ability to access a global community of ideas online.  “Radical openness” works to spread ideas.  Innovation emerges as groups of people “bump up” the best ideas.

Our reality is that we are part of a global community.

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The role of a teacher is to ensure that ever single child in the classroom is learning.  Teachers are researchers, searching for the best practices to meet the learning needs of each child.  Focused, disciplined innovation results from modifying and adapting strategies and ideas that have been successful in other contexts.

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Isn’t it important, then, that all teachers know how to effectively access, and contribute to, the global community of ideas?

Learning from Singapore: Pak Tee Ng and the Focus on “Teach Less, Learn More”

#uLead15 was an opportunity for educators to hear from some of the leaders in education where PISA scores are consistently the highest.

It was obvious that the leading PISA countries do not use strategies like practicing test writing, teaching to the test, focusing on “moving the high level two students to level three”, data walls, SMART goals, common core standards or tying teacher pay to student “achievement”. In fact, the words “student achievement” are rarely used in relation to test performance.

Overall, there is an agreement that valuing education as a society, having very high-performing and highly-respected teachers who learn to teach in a highly selective, focused program of education, and viewing education as an investment rather than an expenditure, are critical characteristics of the people living in the countries where PISA results are consistently excellent.

Personally, it was my first opportunity to learn about education in Singapore.  Here is what I learned from the fascinating, highly entertaining and widely respected Dr. Pak Tee Ng.

(I have included a number of Tweets from his presentations.  Click on the tweets to follow the conversation on Twitter.)

What are the characteristics of education in “high-performing” Singapore?

1. Manageable size – Adaption/adoption and spread are facilitated by the small size of the country.

2. Stable education funding – Education is an investment and funding is never cut.

3. Highly skilled and educated teachers who are well-respected in the nation.

4. Education is valued by all as the way to a better future.

5. Equity is at the centre of the education system. Everyone has access to the same public education system.

6. Teaching is seen as complex, and inquiry, including adapting methods from other contexts, is ongoing, always.  Change from a position of strength is preferable to, and more mindful than, change made out of desperation.

7. Courage and tenacity to stand up for what is best for children is valued and encouraged.

8. “Teach less, learn more” is a central concept.

9. Creativity is in children already. Schools should strive to leave it there!

10. Children are individuals.  They were not meant to sit in desks all day.  Play,  joy and love of learning are essential to their well-being.

 

Singapore itself is a very tiny country.  There are only 400 schools and one university for teacher education.  This reminds me of the work by Ken Leithwood on the characteristics of strong districts, and the learning from Andy Hargreaves on the importance of the size of the political unit when considering the impact on student learning.

 

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Pak Tee Ng is a master at the use of metaphors.

He asked us to consider the loving mother, cooking food for her child, slaving over the stove and selecting the items she knows are best for her child.  When she tries to feed the child, he says no, I am not eating any more.  Then what?  She tries to stuff the child.  She makes more food.  The child wants no more.

This, Pak Tee says, is the ‘teach more learn less’ model, where conscientious and well meaning teachers work hard, trying to organize information for students, then they try to stuff it into their heads.  The students hate it and want no more.

Instead, what if the mother cooked a few wonderfully interesting food items.  Students tried them and wanted more?

This is like the ‘teach less learn more’ model, where the teacher is the master chef, creating interest, and leaving the learners wanting to learn more, and to learn how to feed themselves to get more.

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It’s precise teaching – inquiry into what works – that is important.

When you go to the doctor, does he say “take two aspirins and call me in the morning” no matter what your symptoms are?

Similarly, why would we ever prescribe exactly the same learning for every child?

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Continuing to do the same thing that we know doesn’t work, makes no sense.

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We work very hard to educate our teachers and education leaders to be the best they can be for every child.

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It is NOT about test scores.  It is about children, and our future.

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Why do we think we need 21C Skills?

What has changed?  Isn’t it still about the best learning for children?

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We don’t need to teach creativity.

We say we want our children to graduate from school as creative and innovative individuals.

Our children enter school this way.  We just need a school system that doesn’t take this out of them!

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We need to recognize that both form and substance are important.

Practice is important, but it is no good to only practice.

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There must be joy in learning.

We have to remember that we are teaching children.  It is against the nature of childhood to sit still and quiet.

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Do we really want to create a student body that is just becoming more tolerant of boredom?

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Every single child must be educated to the best of their ability.  We don’t need a slogan like “No Child Left Behind” because it would never be any other way.

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There is no magic bullet – education is complex!

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Teachers are the most important people in society.

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Educators need courage and tenacity to stand up for what is best for our kids.

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Courage to make the right decisions must be balanced with wisdom so that we are always doing the best for our future through our children.

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Education is an investment, not an expenditure.  We have long term stability in education funding so we can plan and continue to make our education system excellent.

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We must get Pak Tee Ng on Twitter!  There is so much to learn from him!

Here we are trying to convince this man, trending 2nd in Canada on Twitter, that he needs to be there!

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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)