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.
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.
We have come a long way in Ontario from the idea that eLearning required a “learning management system” to deliver content, to the understanding that building relationships is at the centre of all learning (f2f or at a distance).
As we work with eLearning teachers through their collaborative inquiries into best practice, I often wonder about how best to “spread” some of the great online pedagogy I see around the province.
Then yesterday, I saw this tweet:
It’s a quick post, an idea that came out of some work with #GEDSBLead, and a great catalyst for sharing, connecting and elevating online learning.
So what if we change this a bit? What if every eLearning teacher tweeted one thing they did each day in their online “classroom” to the hashtag #eLonted – and then took 5 minutes to read each others’ tweets?
We know that connecting online educators works. We know that networking online educators is essential. We know that eLearning teachers want to share their practice.
In Ontario we know we have pockets of excellence when it comes to Technology-enabled learning and teaching.
When I refer to “pockets of excellence”, I mean schools and classrooms where learning to do this, digging into doing this well, and supporting the understanding of how learning needs to change to meet the realities of today’s world, are front and center in their thinking and sharing.
Progress in improving learning and instruction through the use of technology is not “by chance” in these spaces. This is where communities are working hard and inviting input into figuring it all out.
The work of eLCs in Ontario has shifted significantly this year into a leadership role in boards to enable a better understanding of how we can use technology to enhance learning and teaching. As we worked to build capacity/capital in the eLC community, engaging them in conversations and learning with these ‘pockets of excellence” became a priority.
Last week, many of the northern eLCs (Thunder Bay Region, Sudbury-North Bay Region, Barrie Region) went on a “field trip” to do school and classroom visits.
Their generous hosts from Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, and Trillium Lakelands District School Board were as follows:
Ancaster Senior Public School, HWDSB (Principal Contact – Lisa Neale)
Innovation Centre (Holbrook School) HWDSB (Teacher contact – Zoe Branigan-Pipe)
Dr. J. Edgar Davey Elementary School, HWDB (Teacher contact – Aviva Dunsiger)
The Virtual Learning Centre, TLDSB (Principal contact – Peter Warren)
Special thanks to host eLCs:
Paul Hatala (HWDSB)
Jeremy Cadeau Mark (TLDSB)
The connections, the conversations, the learning and the sharing were incredibly rich. The eLC visitors and the host schools have been sharing their learning through their blogs. Some of these are posted below (eLCs/hosts: please contact me when you have more visible thinking to add to this list).
Last evening we had a rich conversation in the #OSSEMOOC open mic around why educators are not blogging.
1. Not enough time.
Educators are the hardest working people I know, hands down. No contest. They would NEVER think of not preparing for classes or not providing feedback on student work.
Isn’t blogging and sharing and reflecting just as important? How long does it take to share a few thoughts online? How long does it take to upload a file to share?
2. Fear of judgment.
Creating a safe environment for risk-taking is a classroom priority. Why do we make it hard for our colleagues to share their practice? Do our students feel they will be judged when we ask them to share? How do we model to our students that learning and sharing and growing together is a valuable use of our time?
It won’t surprise anyone that I am a strong proponent of digital professional portfolios. I demonstrate how to create them here, and over the past year, George Couros has worked with Principal Associations in Ontario (CPCO/OPC/ADFO) to help our school leaders become connected learners, including the idea of using a blog as a portfolio.
I’ve bought into this hook, line and sinker.
I exude visible thinking, open learning, reflective practice, and I promote it in professional practice with every breath.
I know, you’ve heard enough.
So I have to ask, then, if I am wrong? Is it actually a disadvantage to have a digital portfolio?
Because right now, it really feels like it is.
Let me explain.
Over the past three years, I have sat through a number of professional interviews, on both sides of the table. I don’t hear any questions about connected learning, open professional practice, or Professional Learning Networks being asked. Ever.
I have yet to hear a single question about how an interviewee models the learning we want to see in the classroom.
I have never heard a question about whether the interviewee blogs or sees any value in blogging.
I have not heard a whisper of any competencies around modern learning or 21C practices.
As the person being interviewed, I have watched eyes glaze over at the mention of anything digital. Anything.
What’s going on here? I hear everywhere how TELT (Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching) is a priority in this province, how the renewed vision for excellence is all about creating global citizens and digital leaders for this changing world.
And we are doing this – very well in fact. We have absolutely amazing learning happening in schools. Teachers in Ontario are world leaders in modern pedagogical practice. We KNOW what TELT looks like at the level of the student desk because that is what we are doing every single day as we connect and share and challenge each other to keep getting better at it.
Teachers are flocking to edcamps and Twitter chats, taking charge of their own professional learning and busting out of the model that says learning has to be provided and into the culture where learning is sought.
Educators are flattening the organization. Principals are not “instructional leaders” any more, they are co-learners, because the real learning at all levels is happening where the students are learning, not in a banquet hall in a Toronto hotel.
This is absolutely the most exciting time to be in education. The shift is palpable and visible in classrooms.
When we think about spreading excellence and adapting best practices, we need to stop thinking exclusively about horizontal spread.
How do we spread digital leadership, open reflective practice, networked learning and the modelling of 21C (modern learning) competencies vertically in our education system?
Until we can do that, Digital Portfolios will continue to be invisible.
I have plenty of my own crazy tales, of course, having spent nearly 30 years of Labour Days ignoring my family in spite of it being my daughter’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, a stressful time for my kids heading back to school…
Even though today is the first Labour Day in 25 years where nobody in our household is heading off to school, I don’t feel like being funny. I have a very heavy heart as I think of the teachers in British Columbia and the conflict they are embroiled in.
They openly invite everyone to see how they think, what they struggle with, how they learn, and what they are working on. They do this through blogging, through Twitter (and other social media), and through face-to-face presentations throughout the year.
As we once again see teachers as a political target, it is important to ask ourselves why this profession is so often attacked by politicians. Take a moment to read this very thought-provoking essay on the Future of Schooling in Canada by Stephen Murgatroyd.
Here is a short excerpt:
“Teachers need to “take back” their schools, supported by mindful school leaders, if they are not to become the new laboratories for corporate greed….
…The final challenge relates to the conditions of practice which teachers and school leaders face. There is a growing distortion around the importance of class size and composition – classes of 30-35 with up to six students with special needs are seen as “manageable” (they are not) with a single teacher and little if any access to other supports. Custodial services are seen as being only required before and after school – not during the school day, leaving teachers to clean up after sick children or some accident in the chemistry lab. We are neglecting the basic conditions in the name of economy. Attempts to challenge the creeping Fordism which such class sizes force on school systems are seen as “teacher whining”, yet parents and citizens should be appalled at some of the conditions under which we are asking teachers to produce the next generation of imagineers, artists, scientists, engineers and trades persons.”
If we really believe that our children are our greatest resource, and if we really believe that teaching is the most important profession for our future, then we need to tell our stories to the world.
“Teaching in isolation is no longer consistent with professionalism.”(Catherine Montreuil, August 2014).
Mark Carbone and I recently took advantage of the opportunity to share our passion for connecting education leaders at the TEDxKitchenerED event.
If you are wondering about #OSSEMOOC, here is the story of how we are working to connect leaders, and helping Ontario learners, to thrive in the complexities of teaching and learning in today’s rapidly changing world.
There is a vast amount of information online, and digging into it can sometimes feel too overwhelming to even begin. Yet our students will need to be quite adept at this process as they navigate the new realities of a digitally-connected world.
What best practices do we need to model as leaders to ensure our students are gaining the skills they need to be able to find, organize, create, make meaning, and share?
Sue Waters tackles this questions.
This piece was originally posted on the #OSSEMOOC blog for the June “pic and post” event.