The open web is a place where everyone has a voice – a place for ideas, conversations, and sharing. However, when we “exist online” mainly inside our mobile apps, being fed a algorithm-driven diet of content based on our likes and other in-app activity, we lose sight of the importance of the democratic web.
Bloggers take time to share learning and thinking openly on the web, but this content rarely gets eyeballs inside corporately-owned sites like Facebook.
It’s exciting, motivating, thought-provoking, and encouraging to get comments on a blog post. It means someone has read your work, considered it, and taken the time to share back.
If we value the open voices of bloggers who share, we need to take time to read their work and engage in important conversations.
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.
“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?
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.
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.
Isn’t it important, then, that all teachers know how to effectively access, and contribute to, the global community of ideas?
The graphic created by the 2013-2014 (Ontario Education) Minister’s Student Advisory Council has been distributed widely. It is the “student voice” on where Ontario Schools should be going.
One section that struck me was the part that said “why would I want to learn from someone who does not want to learn from me?”
In the past, as John Malloysays, teachers were expected to be the “holders of the knowledge”. They were supposed to know everything, and impart that knowledge to students.
But now, as Catherine Montreuil so eloquently states, “It is unacceptable for any child to be stuck and not learning in our schools”.
It is the teacher’s job to ensure every child is learning.
This is different from knowing everything.
Teachers do not have to solve problems of learning alone. They can consult with outside professionals, their Professional Learning Network (which they must take time to cultivate), their colleagues, parents and students.
But to solve problems of learning successfully, they must get past the idea that they have to know everything.
Have you ever considered that the incidence of childhood asthma could be related to the use of antibiotics for early childhood illnesses? It’s not a big stretch. Many of us could believe that there could be a correlation.
But have you ever considered that it might be the bacteria in the child’s intestine (changing as a result of the antibiotic doses) that are the driving force?
What about the idea that some forms of autism are caused by changes in the composition of the intestinal bacteria?
I would never have believed that one.
Many doctors wouldn’t either, it turns out.
But one mother was completely convinced that there was a relationship between her son’s onset of symptoms of autism and the use of prescribed antibiotics. It took quite an effort to get doctors to believe her, but indeed she was able to reverse her son’s symptoms through fecal transfers. (Dr. Brett Finlay)
We are learning that human diseases may be linked as closely to our intestinal bacteria as they are to our genetic make-up, something we would never have considered not many years ago.
We can’t possibly know everything any more, even if we have titles and education that suggest we should. People without degrees in medicine can research, observe, and deduce. They can question their diagnosis and carefully present other possibilities.
But have you ever tried to ask your doctor about a self-diagnosis? It’s not generally a practice welcomed by the medical profession!
One of my strong interests is the field of nutrition. I have read extensively on the subject since high school. When I was studying for my B. Ed., the faculty had a dietician visit us to teach us about basic nutrition. While the presenter did a great job of showing us the basics, I felt that her statements did not reflect current research. I challenged her, politely, on some of her thinking.
After she left, my professor was livid. How dare I challenge her professional knowledge. How could I possibly think I might know more than she did?
As professionals, we need to embrace conversations about our work, and we need to be open to those who challenge our practice. Through these conversations, we learn, improve and consider solutions to problems that may not have been previously obvious.
As educational professionals, we need to encourage our students to have the confidence to respectfully and appropriately challenge authority. It is through these conversations that we all move our learning forward.
David Warlick often begins his talks with something new he has learned that day. He frequently shares these learnings on his blog as well.
Every day I try to follow his example and think carefully about all the new things I have learned.
But sometimes we need to UNlearn before we can really see the need to learn something new.
A very wise AQ instructor once suggested that without even realizing it, we (teachers) often revert to “delivering content” basically the same way day in and day out, regardless of the audience – and often in exactly the same way we were taught in school.
When I started to examine my teaching practice, I realized that this was true. She challenged me to shake up my routine, to collaborate on ideas with other teachers, to focus on the needs of the learners rather than my perception of how things should be done.
But teachers now have to teach in ways that they themselves were not taught. Currently, as we consider 21st Century skills and the pace of change, there are more and more demands on teachers and what society expects them to accomplish.
In Finland, teacher educators use reflective and critical thinking and the introduction of a variety of new and useful teaching strategies helps new teachers to question their current thinking and adapt new methodologies.
Teacher education in Finland is being moved into research universities, which reflects the understanding that the training of teachers should be done in conjunction with innovation in other areas. This type of setting also assists Finland in attracting some of the best international minds in teacher education.
I’ve started to think more about what I believe to be true vs. what I know to be true. How many of my ideas about learning need to be challenged and unlearned? How do we catalyze deep conversations about practice that challenge our default methods?
The revelation earlier this week that Canadian Cycling hero Ryder Hesjedal had been a doper and a cheater came as no surprise to those of us who have spent good chunks of our lives involved in the world of elite cycling. Road racers claim the culture of doping gives them no choice but to cross the line into dishonesty to survive in their sport. Clean cyclists are robbed of their funding and their ability to make a living when cheaters hog the podium, and some of the best athelete role models never get to compete for their country.
Cheaters also “hog the podium” in school.
In a culture of learning, there should not be a “podium”, but we all know that there is. It’s called “Recognizing Excellence” or “Academic Awards”, or some other such thing that allows us to celebrate the “winners” of the competition called school.
Ryder Hesjedal chose to race on a bicycle and he chose to cheat to win. Jesse Jakomait continues to choose to race on a bicycle and chose NOT to cheat to become an Olympian. Choosing to compete can be healthy and fun and push you to stretch your personal limits if it works for you, but it is a choice.
But children do not choose to come to school. They have to.
They come to school to learn, not to compete for marks. We know that learning works best in an environment of collaboration. Competition for the highest mark, and practices like bell-curving, work against collaboration, and against best learning.
We know that feedback from teachers is a powerful way to move learning forward, and we know that when that feedback is accompanied by a number, a grade, students look at the grade and ignore the feedback.
This recent article/interview on CBC Radio Day 6 outlines the problem of awards and extrinsic awards for learning:
Changing the rules of the game is hardest for those who are winning at the game, as demonstrated by the interviews of “furious parents” at the beginning of the audio interview.
And when learning is a competition, just like elite cyclists, students cheat.
As a Principal, I spent more than a few hours dealing with students who “cheated” on tests, exams and assignments.
But why do kids feel they need to cheat? If kids are supposed to be learning in school, how does cheating enter the picture?
It comes down to how performance differs from learning. Comparing yourself with others, fighting for the highest mark, competing for a spot in a university program or trying to meet parent demands for high marks sets students up to find the easy way out, which can be cheating.
This math major says it well. Math is hard, but you can do it. “Stop comparing yourself to that other student!”
Schools need to be a place where children and young adults feel valued, are encouraged to reach their full potential, and learn to work with others to achieve excellence. There is no room for the message that winning is the only thing we value.
What assumptions do we make about the life trajectories of the students in our classrooms?
Over the past three days I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to share in learning with the Northern Ontario Education Leaders at their fall conference #NOELONLINE.
The pre-conference address was given by the Director of the Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board, Catherine Montreuil. I learned so much from her presentation that I went home that night, tossed mine in the virtual garbage, and began again, this time aligning my message for the next day with her very powerful approach to educating all children.
Below are my reworked and reorganized notes from the first hour of her presentation. The idea that really stuck with me was the thinking around how to change the trajectory of the lives of the students in your classroom.
It is unacceptable for any child to be stuck and not learning in our schools.
(Think, for a moment, about any grade nine or ten applied class, or about any child who is not reading.)
It is also unacceptable to respond to this with “oh but …” statements, like “Oh, but that child is LD”, or “Oh, but that child came to us in grade 4 and couldn’t read”.
Every child can learn. If the child is not learning, our JOB is to figure it out and fix it.
We do not do this alone though. We solve problems of student learning as a team. We invite in outside professionals who view data differently. We take a collaborative inquiry stance and continue to try until we solve the issue.
Working in isolation as educators is inconsistent with professionalism. We can’t solve all the learning problems in the room on our own.
We measure, very carefully, the impact of our actions on student learning, and there must be a positive impact on student learning.
We honour the fact that teachers work very hard and care deeply, but it is not about how hard teachers work, it is about the impact of their work on student achievement. Working hard and spinning your wheels helps nobody. We need to do it differently.
We need to focus on building the capacity of the classroom teacher. The triple P approach is a place to start: Precision teaching to student needs, Personalization of learning, and Professional learning around how to effectively use assessment data to inform practice.
All students deserve and need a trained, talented teacher who is doing precision work. There is no evidence that working with an Educational Assistant strengthens academic outcomes for students. Our students with the highest learning needs require professionals who can do the precision instruction that will impact learning.
When we step back and closely examine Student Success initiatives, we see that in Ontario they are primarily structural. Necessary, but structural. It does not, however, result in sustained improvement in instruction. If we work on engaging reluctant students, and we can increase their productivity, and then we have something we can work with to move their learning forward.
Every student needs a personalized learning plan. If you we’re to walk into a classroom and “freeze” the room, for every child we should be able to ask, “What is she/he doing?”, and “Why is he/she doing it?”. The answers to those questions must be to meet the individual learning needs of the student, based on observation, conversation, or other assessment information.