Tag Archives: leader

Are You Really Willing to be Disturbed?

Today is my day to participate in the #OSSEMOOC Pic and Post, where we encourage learners to pick ONE piece of learning, take a shot of it, and share it with others.

Got something to share? Of course you do!

Here’s how to make your learning visible so others can learn too: http://ossemooc.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/collaborative-blogging-2/

If nobody shares, nobody learns!

Are You Really Willing to be Disturbed?.

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Focus on Beginners: What do you Need to Start Connecting?

OSSEMOOC

As we have travelled throughout the province this week, we have heard loud and clear that we need an easier entry point for our education leaders to start the connecting process.

Last Tuesday, connected leaders met to discuss how they became connected leaders – the catalyst that got them started.  Here are some of the things we learned.  Which of these do you need?  Which of these can you bring to a leader you know to help them connect?

1. TIME!  When can we possibly find the time to connect?

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Educators are busy.  Nobody disputes that!  But could connecting actually make your life easier?  YES IT CAN!  You can pose a question on Twitter 24/7 and get an answer in minutes.  We have heard many stories with this theme.

Learn to make time.  Start with 15 minutes each day.  Some of us do “Tea and Twitter”,  some of us start…

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My Definition of Good Pedagogy Includes Technology

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Last night during the Learning 2030 rebroadcast, one of the tweets that came across my screen was a statement that said, “Technology does not replace good pedagogy”.

I see this quote quite frequently in my work, and I worry about it a bit.

I worry because in the same way that “good” standardized test scores can be used to keep technology out of classrooms, I think that this quote can be used by educators to justify avoiding change.

Let me explain…

It might surprise people to realize that there are classrooms, and in fact entire schools, where technology is not being used in learning.

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Night Owl City via Compfight cc

How to help those teachers, schools and school boards embrace technology-enhanced learning is the topic of much discussion and much interest.

I have said many times, that I don’t believe in 2014, that our kids can possibly go to school and not have access to technology.  I won’t go into the arguments why right here – that is another blog post – but technology needs to be there.

When a teacher who is not using technology in his or her class sees this quote, they can use it to justify what they are doing.

“Oh yes, I am a great teacher, so I don’t need technology in my classroom.”

It’s the same as seeing entire schools misuse standardized  test scores to justify avoiding change.  “We have great test scores so we are doing everything right, we don’t need to change.”

Quotes like this are dangerous.

I would ask the question, “In 2014, can good pedagogy exist without technology?”

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I would also ask the question, “Does technology replace poor pedagogy?”

I think we need to be very careful about our choice of words.

When we look at the SAMR model, we see that technology-enhanced learning can be so much more enriching.

If we are not allowing our learners to connect and build learning networks, what exactly is our excuse?

What Will You UnLearn Today?

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What did you learn today?

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.

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I realized that my teaching style had been influenced more by how I was taught in school than by what I learned when I took my B.Ed.

The foundation of a teacher’s knowledge and competence comes from a teacher education program. But does Ontario’s teacher education system influence prospective teachers’ behaviour and thinking?

Do teacher-candidates change their practice as a result of their teacher education program, or do they default to the methods used during their own education?

Do the years of being part of the education system have more of an effect on practice than the teacher training program?

Student teachers arrive with views of teaching and learning, developed during their own time in school, that can distort their new ideas of learning during teachers’ college.

Research has demonstrated that the effect of teacher education on changing the prior beliefs and learning of student teachers is weak (Tryggvason 2009).


LEARN
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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?

What is it that I need to unlearn today?

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 duane.schoon via Compfight cc

Further reading:

Learning, UnLearning and ReLearning

Hargreaves, A. (2000): Four Ages of Professionalism and Professional Learning, Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 6:2, 151-182

Kosunen, T & A. Mikkola (2002): Building a Science of Teaching: How objectives and reality meet in Finnish teacher education, European Journal of Teacher Education, 25:2-3, 135-150

Tucker, M. (2012). Teacher quality: What’s wrong with U.S. strategy?. Educational Leadership, 69(4), 42-46

Tryggvason, Marja-Terttu (2009). Why is Finnish teacher education successful? Some goals Finnish teacher educators have for their teaching. European Journal of Teacher Education, 32(4), 369-382

Professional vs. Personal – On Two Levels

The recent scandal involving the Mayor of Toronto (Rob Ford) has catalyzed many conversations around the delineation of a person’s professional life vs. their personal life.  On the Friday, November 8, 2013 edition of “The Current” on CBC Radio 1, panelists discussed their opinions around whether a public figure like a mayor can still do the job when their personal life is in such disarray.

Citizens show their anger at Toronto City Hall
Citizens show their anger at Toronto City Hall

Mayors are public figures.  As leaders in society, do we believe they should be modelling the characteristics of good citizenship we would like to see in everyone?  Is it okay for a mayor to admit to illegal activity, yet still act as a leader for a major world city?

In K-12 public education, teachers and principals are subject to similar  scrutiny of their public lives.  On Friday, an educator said to me, “Oh I would never be on Twitter.  I don’t want to get fired”.  It was an odd comment for me, because I have gained so, so much on a professional level from my interactions and conversations on Twitter and other social media.

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As I looked for more writing on the topic, I came across Brandon Grasley’s recent post on the question, and some work by George Couros on the same topic.  It is worth reading both explorations of the topic, and the comments from the many educators who have weighed in.

Brandon Grasley

George Couros

But the examination of personal and professional lives of School Principals goes beyond considering reputation and public activity. One of the key capacities of a school leader is to build relationships.

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Building relationships is critical to the success of a School Leader. It’s also a very tricky role, particularly in communities where a School Leader may wear many other hats outside of the school building.  Family members may attend the school.  Staff members may be relatives or friends.

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It’s even trickier when concerns arise about the performance of a staff member in the school.  While we always want to “build the new”, we can’t stand by and watch when the “old” is harming the learning of students.

School leaders are trained in how to keep their professional role of leading the instructional program in a school separate from their personal lives.

Courageous Conversations

Unfortunately, not all people working in a school have had the opportunity to build the capacity to accept constructive criticism of their professional practice and separate it from their personal relationships.

Leadership is not a popularity contest.  School leaders are not hired to make friends, but to build relationships that will benefit the students and improve student learning, all student learning.

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It takes courage, but school and system leaders must take action even when it might be interpreted as personal.  They must model the change they want to see.

Is it too much to ask all of our leaders to lead by example?

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Find the Right Inch

It’s that time of year when almost any outdoor activity during the work week requires an additional accessory – a headlamp.

Last night, when I paused for my beagle to grab a drink at the water’s edge, we could see a ribbon of light on the horizon as the sun faded for the day.

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I live in a part of northern Ontario where every day, something grabs my attention and makes me just stop and gaze in awe at its beauty. As I stared at this sliver of light,  the interplay of colour along it was so complex as the sun set, it captivated me.

My focus on such a tiny, intriguing part of the sky reminded me of the work by Stephen Katz on “finding the right inch”.  He reminds us that thinking ‘big’,  and creating blanket, one-size-fits-all, mile-wide inch-deep school improvement goals is not  the right approach.  Finding the real problem, and going deep with a meaningful solution, is far more effective.  But first you have to find the real problem, the urgent learning need.

Last year I had the opportunity to work with Robert Dunn and Stephen Katz on a Case Management Project.

Student attendance at our school was a huge concern, and school-wide efforts had not been effective.  Instead of trying to solve the problem for everyone at once, we focussed on learning deeply about three truant students, then addressed the reasons why they were not attending.

We learned that the reasons for non-attendance were vastly different for each student.  No blanket school effort would ever work for these adolescents.  It was only by digging deep into individual situations that allowed us to begin to fully understand their needs and respond accordingly.  It helped us to deepen our understanding of the complexities of the issue of non-attendance.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to work with educators who were looking at how we teach math in our schools.  They worked on solving a problem, posed by the presenter, that students in grade 9 might encounter in a math course.  The thinking and reflections were very revealing.

One teacher reverted immediately to the “formula” he memorized when he was in high school.  When that didn’t work well (because the numbers were not “friendly” for calculations without a calculator), he really didn’t have any other strategies to go to – except to hunt for a calculator.

Others in the room used a variety of strategies – proportion tables, lowest term fractions, sharing ideas and working with a partner.  When we debriefed the exercise, I was surprised by how many different strategies people had used, and how sharing their thinking helped us to consider many approaches to the same problem.  Our understanding grew as we spent more time listening to each other.

The teacher who used the formula told me that he was always “good” in math in school, and he continued to believe he was “good at math”.  In reality, he suggested that he was actually good at memorizing formulas and at knowing what numbers to plug into them.

How often do we give people a false sense of competence when we just scratch the surface of topics, and then make them write a test?

How many people get left behind in this system that focuses on teaching (rather than learning) and the length of the semester (to achieve a credit)?

Math is not a performance activity. Focusing on performance (test scores) takes the focus away from what it really is, an opportunity for learning.

Instead, when we take the time to go deep, to focus, to slow down, and to observe carefully, we create the conditions that allow for real learning to happen.

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“Nurture Those Around You”

There is no doubt that #ECOO13 was an outstanding opportunity for learning and networking. The event was exceptional from beginning to end and I am grateful for the talents and very hard work of all involved.

Of course the learning continues long after the event, as long as we continue to heed the “call to action” so clearly emanating as a theme for the event. Incoming ECOO President, Mark Carbone, summarized it perfectly in his closing remarks (posted here: http://blog.markwcarbone.ca/2013/10/25/ecoo13-call-to-action/).

In one of my presentations on Thursday, I cited the work of Stephen Katz and Lisa Dack, showing that most professional development does not result in a change in classroom practice. Our ECOO13 experience must be different. We must work to change our practice based on our new learning, and we must courageously continue to share our learning by taking the same risks we ask our students to take, and make our thinking visible.

Andrew Campbell has already started to do that (here: http://acampbell99.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/my-favourite-ecoo13-moment). Andrew’s ECOO13 experience renews our faith in each other and our profession to change the world one student at a time.

As I consider how my own practice will change as a result of #ECOO13, I find that Mark’s last bullet resonates with me: nurture those around you.

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I have never really thought about “nurturing” as a method of effecting change. Nurturing is different from “leading” or “supporting” or even “building relationships”. It is far more personal, far more precise, and, I think, potentially far more effective.

It is empowering to recognize nurturing as an agent of change.

When I think about Andrew’s “new teacher” from Beaverton (where, coincidentally, my husband and I purchased our first home together), I wonder what she is doing now. I hope that someone is there to encourage her through those first difficult years and to connect her to this massive support system of educators.

I hope someone nurtures her so she too can recognize her full potential as a teacher and learner.

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