Tag Archives: lead

Do Schools Create Non-Learners?

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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”.

IMG_6397We 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)

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Image shared by Bill Ferriter

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?

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This thinking links to two other ideas I have been exploring recently.

First, Seth Godin’s piece on the meaning of empathy.

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See Seth Godin’s blog here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/08/empathy.html

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?

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Secondly, when Stephen Katz wonders why the implementation of strategies among educators is challenging, he often brings up the example of how “assessment for and as learning” is a known positive factor in student learning, yet it is not a strategy that has received strong uptake.

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.

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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.

Isn’t this what educators should be modelling?

Resources:

Building Professional Learning Structures (Stephen Katz)

The Right Mindset for Success (HBR Ideacast podcast interview with Carol Dweck)

Growth Mindset – So in Fashion (Stepan Pruchnicky’s blog)

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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What’s Our Next Step in Spreading Great Practice Around #TELT?

In Ontario we know we have pockets of excellence when it comes to Technology-enabled learning and teaching.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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ADSB eLC Tyler Hankinson listens to ASPS students reflect on TELT in their school.


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)

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SGDSB eLC Stacey Wallwin and eLO EO Margo Palmeter share learning with students from ASPS.

 

 

Innovation Centre (Holbrook School) HWDSB (Teacher contact – Zoe Branigan-Pipe) Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 9.42.56 AM

Dr. J. Edgar Davey Elementary School, HWDB (Teacher contact – Aviva Dunsiger)

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The Virtual Learning Centre, TLDSB (Principal contact – Peter Warren)

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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).

Host Aviva Dunsiger: Class Learning  and  Personal Reflections.

Host Lisa Neale: Principal Neale

eLC Anne Shillolo: eLC Reflections

eLC John Gibson: eLC Road Trip

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So now what?

How do we continue to spread and share our thinking about how learning needs to happen for our students in a world where the industrial model no longer meets their needs?

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How do we create the conditions in Ontario to allow teachers to be researchers into best practices for student learning?

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How do we continue to deepen the conversations and engage all educators in reflective practice?

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How do we ensure that all of our classroom (bricks and mortar, and online) educators access the richness of learning available online 24/7? 

With the structures currently in place in Ontario, what needs to happen to ensure optimum learning for students in every class?

Your input is both welcomed and appreciated.

Some further examples:

Using twitter to survey the world, and connecting with other classrooms: http://byodasap.blogspot.ca/2015/03/a-global-survey-electricity-usage.html @HTheijsmeijer

Using twitter in eLearning to survey the world around water treatment:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/15YmGqJQphAr35ghoOZnhsDcrIow7c5VO6ByZaT6k20E/viewform?c=0&w=1 @lauramitchellwa

Twitter is a Public Library!

Earlier today, I read a post on the importance of the language we use when we talk about education.  It  made me think about some of the listening I have done this year when I ask educators why they are not using social media for their professional learning.

At the OPC/CPCO/ADFO Symposium in November, many school leaders at my table told me that they had not really found any value in using Twitter until they heard George Couros talk about it.

In December, I was honoured to be asked to spend a few hours with the Lakehead Public Schools Inspire Program, leading a session for educators on the use of social media in the classroom.  While I loved working with teachers, I still felt I was not really hitting the mark in demonstrating the value of Twitter for professional learning.

Just before Christmas, I was asked to work with another group of educators who needed to learn more about how to use Twitter.  This time, I really thought about the language I was going to use.  I knew from my earlier experiences that I needed to demonstrate value in order to get my point across and have the educators own the learning.

I wondered if the words “Twitter” and “social media” had so many other connotations that it was turning people off the idea of using them professionally.  Language is deeply connected to attitudes and beliefs.  If social media is considered to be “unprofessional” or Twitter is known as a “waste of time”, it’s challenging to reverse that way of thinking

I happened to read a post by George Couros that compared You Tube to a library.

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 10.48.17 PMEducators value and understand libraries as places where you go to find information.  When you think about it, that is all Twitter really is – a place where you go to find information.

Just like in a library, we need the skills to find what we are looking for.

If we think of Twitter as just a huge stream of information being sent out from people all over the world all the time, the value comes in understanding how to search Twitter to find what you are looking for.

Since I had only a few minutes to try to demonstrate how Twitter could be of value, I focused on thinking of Twitter as a library that is available to everyone 24/7.  I demonstrated how to use Twitter without creating a personal account.  I did this to save time, but also to address many fears associated with social media and digital footprints.  We were using Twitter while remaining completely anonymous.

We used the Twitter search page, and we learned the difference between searching for any topic (such as “Thunder Bay”, and searching using a hashtag (such as #TBay).

I compared using hashtags to learning to use the card catalog in a library.  You need to learn specific skills to find the information you need, and learning what hashtags to search is a valuable way to find out what is happening.

We learned a number of different hashtags that would be helpful in their work in Ontario education, such as:

#onted

#onpoli

#fdk

#ontedleaders

#ossemooc

#cdned

Using language associated with something that is valued (“library”) instead of feared (“social media”), and focusing on using Twitter as an open resource (rather than moving directly to connected, participatory learning) allowed me to quickly demonstrate that social media had value to educators.

While I am committed to the importance of connected learning and sharing, we do have to meet learners where they are right now.  The strategy of comparing Twitter to something that was already valued and understood (a library) helped several educators see that social media can indeed be a valuable resource for professional learning.

 

 

 

The Answers Can’t Be Found In The Back of the Book

2014 is coming to a close, and as I read the many excellent reflective educator “end of the year” blogs, so many are asking how to move forward in 2015.

There is no simple answer to that question.

What will it take to transform our schools into the centres of learning our children need?

What can we do to #CTW (Change the World) in 2015? So many educators are already giving so much to their work.

Fullan and Hargreaves (2012: Professional Capital, p.3) warn about the dangers of individual educators in unsupportive environments.

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How do we create the conditions that allow our best thinkers, our teacher leaders, to thrive?

In “Great to Excellent: Launching the Next Stage of Ontario’s Education Agenda” (2013), Michael Fullan outlines the importance of “leading from the middle”. Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 3.47.59 PM   Are we building the capacity of our best education thinkers to lead from the middle?  Is leading from the middle even possible in our current system?

No longer is it necessary for educators to progress through a series of AQ courses or PQP qualifications to learn and think deeply about practice.  Rich learning and conversations are available 24/7 on social media like twitter.  Leaders with and without titles are learning and sharing with others around the world.

But are their own colleagues open to their new thinking?

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Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution License by Steven Depolo

What happens when school, board and provincial policies are challenged by educators who think differently? Is anyone listening? More importantly, is anyone providing encouragement to continue?

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Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license by Frank Jakobi.

It takes enormous courage to question those who make decisions about public education. Are we embracing those who ask the questions?

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For @Dunlop_Sue, my “one word” for 2015 has to be COURAGE. We all need to have the courage to put student learning at the very centre of every decision we make, even if it means challenging the status quo.

Be courageous in 2015. Put student learning first.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 4.36.58 PMWhat is your “one word” for 2015? Tweet it under the hashtag #oneword or if you are from Ontario, tweet it as #onewordONT right now. Let’s see what matters in education this year both on the world and #Ontario fronts.

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