Category Archives: Teaching as a Profession

Our Incredible Normal

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.

Dean Shareski captured part of the conversation in this tweet:

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.

Incredible is our normal.

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.

Well, Yes I Am

Have you ever driven to your school on 3 hours of sleep, sucking back coffee all the way, mentally rehearsing lessons and memorizing “to do” lists, knowing it would be a line-up at the photocopier and wondering how you could get everything done before the bell?

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-11-42-57-amDoes teaching have to be frantic?

We can be sucked into believing that planning and lessons must be perfect, that children are there to managed and get their heads stuffed, and that our work never ends.

Is this best for kids?

Who do we want in front of our kids?

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We’re teaching children, not content.

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In my very first student teacher placement 30 years ago, the SERT said to me, “Think about what you want to accomplish, then go to bed.  I need you rested, calm and responsive to these children.  They will need you at your best all day (all week, and all year).

They don’t need this.

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The Digital Networked Lives of Our Children – #picsymposia2016

Today in Thunder Bay, close to 60 parents gave up their Saturday to learn about parent leadership in our education system.

The Ministry of Education sponsored event was an opportunity for parents to learn all about what is important in education and how to access funds to share knowledge in their boards.

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I was so impressed with the dedication to improving the education in the classrooms in their boards.  What rich discussion in the room!

 

Below are the slides I presented on the digital networked lives of children.  Please contact me if you have questions about the presentation.

Thank you to colleagues who shared work for this slide show:

Alec Couros

George Couros

Lisa Neale

Doug Belshaw

Aviva Dunsiger

Jamie Reaburn Weir

Tim Robinson

Canadian Education Association

Scott McLeod

Cathy Montreuil

Alan Levine

Stacey Wallwin

Karen Enders

Darla Myers

Steven Wilson

Tina Zita

Silvana Hoxha

Mark W. Carbone

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning not Grades: Answers from #Educon

Educon, for me, has always been such a hotbed of fresh ideas.

This year, the theme of Educon 2.8 is EMPOWERMENT.

Here is part of the Friday night panel conversation that seriously resonated with me.  I didn’t ask the question, but I am thankful to the person who did.

How do we transform students from learning for their grades to learning for knowledge?

 

 

College in some ways hinders that opportunity for growth when it comes to ideas.  I have said to my sister, “Don’t go to college.  I will help you create an idea instead”.

Will your fails from your ideas be bigger than the debt from going to college?  When you go to college you come out with big debt and then you have to work for someone else to pay it off.

“It isn’t that important to have good grades.  The work ethic involved in getting those good grades, though, will help with building your own company.”

Jeff Boodie @jboodie @jobsnap

 

 

I definitely think that children love to learn, they love knowledge, but I think students have become a victim, a monster of sorts, that we create, and they are the ones…

the culture we create, creates the kind of student that only understands learning in terms of grades, and so it’s not that young people have to fix that, it’s that we as educators and school administrators and as a culture have to figure out…

which is what Jeff was exactly alluding to…

which that we have gotten to such a narrow path of understanding.

I would really think that it is our ultimate challenge as the educators of children and leaders of learning to understand that we are we on a very, very narrow path of knowledge, and defining it, and reducing it, and measuring it, and KILLING it, ultimately.

And so that is the thing that has to change on OUR end before we can expect our kids to do it.”

Helen Gym @HelenGym2015

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(Shouldn’t this be a priority in our teacher education programs?)

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How do we transform students from learning for their grades to learning for knowledge? What do you think?

 

 

 

 

Let’s UNLEARN a Few Assumptions About School

Many teachers teach the way they were taught.

The B.Ed. program would do well to emphasize the unlearning of wrong assumptions about schooling – like “sit up straight” and “sit still” and “look at the teacher”.

Change won’t happen until we all deeply question our assumptions of what school should look like for kids.

Thanks to Joël McLean for sharing this video on Twitter yesterday.

 

 

Notes Instead of Thoughts – From 3 Rules to Spark Learning

When talking about Digital Portfolios, both Dr. Alec Couros and George Couros talk about the place where you do your messy work and then the place where you put your best work.  Below is some of my messy work.

Sometimes you know you just need to keep things around to refer to and to think about.  I hope others will read and think about this too.

While flying this morning, I watched a 6 minute TED Talk from 2013 called 3 Rules to Spark Learning by Ramsey Musallam.

Right now, one of my personal inquiry questions is, how can we convince parents and our communities that the status quo in public education is a loser (to quote Michael Fullan)?”

How do we engage in questioning the current system of assigning two-digit numbers to our children, sorting them top to bottom?

How do we focus on creating cultures of learning, not cultures of schooling and filtering?

Dean Shareski responded here that we need talking points.  We need a clear message.  I am looking for those messages that will resonate with the public.  We need messages that will resonate more strongly than a Fraser Report or a PISA ranking.

Ramsey Musallam shows me that we can have powerful messages in 6 minutes.  His talk is engaging and entertaining and worth watching.

There were a few points that resonated with me.  I am simply note taking here, and sharing the notes, so that I am not alone in thinking further about these rich statements.

“Questions and curiosity are magnets that draw us toward our teachers, and they transcend all technology and buzzwords in education.”

Our greatest tool as teachers is our students’ questions.

Lectures can be dehumanizing chatter, flipped or not.

If we have the guts to confuse and perplex our students, then we can tailor robust and informed methods of blended instruction. (Just “blended learning” on its own isn’t engaging – it still needs inquiry, questions, trial and error, investigation)

“Snap me out of pseudo-teaching.”

“Students’ questions are the seeds of real learning, not some scripted curriculum that offers tidbits of random information.”

At this point I am reminded of the frustrations over the past two years in Canada, when it seemed impossible to get anyone to ask questions about the destruction of scientific data and libraries, the closing of top-notch research facilities like the Experimental Lakes Area, and the removal of environmental protection for our waterways.  If we want engaged citizens, we need to embrace the importance of asking questions.

Three rules for lesson planning:

  1.  Curiosity comes first.  Questions can be windows into great instruction, but not the other way around.
  2. Embrace the mess.  Learning is ugly
  3. Practice reflection.  What we do is important.  It deserves our care.  It also deserves our improvement.

Can we practice as though we are surgeons saving lives? Our students are worth it, and every student is different.

Four-year-olds ask why about everything.  How will their future teachers embrace and grow this?

Dropping out of school comes in many different forms.  

Students do not have to be out of the room to be checked out.

Graduation rates are a low bar, a false measurement, because there is no evidence of any engagement in learning.  Students who hate school and students who have learned to hate learning can walk across a stage.  

We need a different measurement of our success as a system.

As educators, we need to rethink our roles.  We are not just disseminators of content, but cultivators of curiosity.

Resources:

Three Rules to Spark Learning

What’s the Professional Reading List for Educators? The Shift…

“The reading isn’t merely a book, of course. The reading is what we call it when you do the difficult work of learning to think with the best, to stay caught up, to understand.

The reading exposes you to the state of the art. The reading helps you follow a thought-through line of reasoning and agree, or even better, challenge it. The reading takes effort.”

Seth Godin

 

What do we need to read to stay caught up in our profession?

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The Ontario College of Teachers sets out the Standards of Practice for the profession in Ontario.

One of the Standards is Professional Learning:

Ontario College of Teachers: https://www.oct.ca/public/professional-standards/standards-of-practice
Ontario College of Teachers: https://www.oct.ca/public/professional-standards/standards-of-practice

 

Seth Godin: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/11/did-you-do-the-reading.html
Seth Godin: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/11/did-you-do-the-reading.html

Do you know where to go and what to read to keep up in your profession?  Recently, Seth Godin commented on this.

Many leaders in education will tell you that they most certainly do know what to read to stay current, and to share with other educators.  Books, research – all important to the foundations of our learning for our profession.

But we also must be willing to be disturbed in this thinking, because in 2015, we need to be much more agile and flexible in our learning, as thinking changes and innovation happens much faster than books can be published and research papers can be finished.

This is Seth's Blog: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/11/did-you-do-the-reading.html
This is Seth’s Blog: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/11/did-you-do-the-reading.html

 

In choosing what to read, we have to consider,

“What is the core role of a teacher?”.

Catherine Montreuil, Assistant Deputy Minister of Education in Ontario, explains this better than anyone else I know.

Our role is to ensure learning – that progressing toward learning goals –  is happening.  It is not okay for any child to be stuck and not learning.

We do not have to do this alone, but we have to ensure that we are doing everything we can for every single child in our care.  We know our best practice.  When that isn’t working, we have to find our next practice.

 

Finding our “next” practice: Our ability to share our practice with others has changed exponentially over the past decade.  Our ability to find out what others are doing – the practices that are working elsewhere – now requires digital literacies, the ability and understanding of how to leverage online tools to access the curated stream of information that can lead to our next practice.

In the same way that we once had to learn to use the card catalog in the library, we now must know how to access digital spaces to find the content we need.

This is Seth's Blog: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/11/did-you-do-the-reading.html
This is Seth’s Blog: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/11/did-you-do-the-reading.html

 

The reading list for educators has shifted.

The reading list now includes the blogs where other educators are sharing, and the tweets where other educators curate and share the information that is valuable to them in their professional practice.

And the culture is participatory.  

If you are an educator, there is a moral obligation to use your digital literacies and share your practice with others, so that all of our students benefit from the collective work of our profession.