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
This year’s Technology Enabled Learning and Leading Symposium for Principals is wrapping up today. Yesterday we had the opportunity to have conversations with Dr. Tony Wagner about how the current pathways for our students are no longer leading to success.
Creating that Compelling Case for Change is so critical. We are in times of exponential change, yet for many, this change is invisible as we continue to do things as we have always done in our education system.
Earlier in the week, I had the pleasure of leading, with Mark Carbone, a group of PQP and SOQP instructors in an examination of why change is needed and how we might start considering our work in online spaces differently.
We have included the slides and some of our thinking below.
At the end of #YRDSBQuest, Michael Fullan told the educators in attendance that they need to go back and challenge the status quo.
I am documenting the ongoing conversation about how to do this safely.
We rarely talk about it, but in our work, many educators have told us they won’t blog because they are afraid it will show others “what they don’t know”. They see leaders in education as people who will label them as being inappropriate for leadership roles.
We talk a lot about how we want a growth mindset for our students, yet conversations with aspiring leaders demonstrate that challenging leaders can result in a label – “not moving up in this organization”.
How do we build a system that values challenge to the status quo? How do we challenge the status quo without jeopardizing our careers in the current environment?
Below is the conversation currently developing. Please add to the conversation and help push our thinking about how we can best effect change – how those wanting to challenge can do so effectively.
You can continue to follow the tweet replies here. We encourage you to also join the conversation by commenting on the blog.
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?
I am taking a little of my own advice today, and rereading Carol Dweck’s 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
I am still working through the first chapters, but I have already found a number of connections to other work.
The most interesting new learning for me comes from exploring the symptoms of a “fixed mindset”.
We have been so focused on the “growth mindset”, that I have not taken time to really consider what a fixed mindset looks like.
What systems and structures encourage a fixed mindset?
A fixed mindset means that you believe that your talents, abilities and intelligence are what they are. You also believe that the talents, abilities and intelligence of others is fixed and won’t change.
The new learning for me is the idea that if this is your belief, you need to prove over and over again that you are smart and talented.
You can’t let the world see that you might not be smart and talented and able.
““Believing that your qualities are carved in stone – the fixed mindset – creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character – well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.”
Dweck, Mindset (2006) p. 6
When young children enter school, they arrive as learners. Does the evaluative nature of the classroom encourage a fixed mindset?
Do our students become afraid to show they don’t know something?
Do they become afraid of challenges, and of learning opportunities where they might fail the first time?
Do they begin to ask, “Will I succeed or fail?Will I look smart of dumb?What will people think of me?” These questions are related to having a fixed mindset about your abilities. (Dweck, p.6)
Does the structure of school create an environment for the entrenchment of fixed mindsets?
Do students begin to choose only those experiences where they will succeed? Do they believe that “kids who are smart don’t do mistakes”? (Dweck, p.16)
Do our “very best students”, those who learn to play school well, get high marks, and “succeed” leave school with the most fixed mindsets of all – needing to prove themselves over and over and over again?
This thinking links to two other ideas I have been exploring recently.
First, Seth Godin’s piece on the meaning of empathy.
Empathy is about wondering why people do what they do.
When we dismiss the actions of others as being the result of their unchangeable characteristics, instead of approaching the behaviour of others with curiosity and wonder, we are displaying the symptoms of a fixed mindset.
If we have a fixed mindset, then we know why people do what they do, because they only have so much intelligence, their personality is “this”, and their abilities are “that”, so obviously the outcome is “this”.
In an environment that promotes a fixed mindset, is it difficult for empathy to flourish?
Do our students who have learned to play school have a difficult time having empathy for others as they develop the belief that abilities are fixed?
When we look closer at it, we see that assessment for learning and assessment as learning are strategies for a growth mindset that believes all people can learn.
Assessment OF learning, in isolation, is a breeding ground for fixed mindset thinking, where intelligence, or being smart, must be proven over and over in an evaluative environment.
Robert Sternberg (on p. 5 of Mindset) is quoted as saying that a major factor in whether people achieve expertise is not fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement. If we really believe that, then assessment for and as learning would be a no-brainer, because learning would be a priority, not marks and evaluation.
Does a pervasive fixed mindset also seep into our professional lives? Are educators afraid to make their thinking visible through blogging because “they might look stupid” and they might “reveal that there are things they don’t know”?
When we think about promotions at the school and system level, does a fixed mindset enter into this process as well? Do we put our colleagues into neat little categories based on past mistakes? Do we forget that their abilities and talents can change?
Perhaps, if me must put people into categories, the most useful categories are learners vs. non-learners. Learners embrace feedback, thrive on challenge, and work to get better.
I think we have done a huge disservice to our children. We’ve known for a very long time that kids can communicate, access photos and share online, but by prohibiting this behaviour in schools – by taking the stance that it is not okay to use devices in school – we have neglected to teach them the competencies required to be successful citizens in the online environment.
So who will teach them now?
Unless we truly believe that digital literacies are important and that the competencies required to be successful in the future must be taught in school, nothing will change.
We need to ensure that our education leaders have these competencies.
Full immersion in digital spaces is arguably the best way for people to develop these competencies (Doug Belshaw, The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies) and to understand how best to develop them in others. This requires the use of a number of devices (and reliable access to the internet). Deciding what device is best for what purpose is part of the learning. It also requires time to immerse and try and play and network and learn. Educators need these opportunities.
We can’t let our children continue to play online without the knowledge and skills to be safe, to be responsible, and to lead change in the digital environment.
The change begins by building confidence and competence in digital literacies with our education leaders.
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.
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.
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.