What if you are the only student at a high school needing a credit in SPH4U? eLearning might be your only option.
As educators, are we really saying that eLearning might not be for this student?
Or should we be saying, eLearning is just learning, and we will adapt our instructional methods to the learning needs of the student just as we would in any other public education setting.
Would we ever say, “Oh, classroom learning might not be for you because you have difficulty sitting in one place for 75 minutes”?
It’s time to challenge the myths around eLearning.
eLearning is NOT putting distance learning materials into an online format.
eLearning is NOT putting a course into an LMS.
eLearning is meeting the individual needs of every learner, just as we would in any other “classroom” in a publicly funded school.
Technology has come a very long way in the 20 years since eLearning began in Ontario. We can meet our students through the digital f2f on many different platforms. We use many synchronous and asynchronous digital tools to collaborate and plan and provide feedback.
Continuing the myth that eLearning is only suited to some students is holding us back in providing all of our students with options that allow them to design their own personal pathways to success.
It is not about students being well-suited for eLearning. In 2016, it is the eLearning that must be suited to the students – all students – and it is up to us as educators to ensure that it is.
When we talk about “Visible Learning” and “Visible Thinking”, can we now focus more on the Thinking and Learning than on the Visible?
This post is part of a 10 day posting challenge issued by Tina Zita. You can’t be a connected educator if you don’t contribute. Sometimes we need a nudge to remember that if nobody shares, nobody learns. Thanks Tina!
Recently, I was sharing some learning on Twitter with a colleague from the Early Years Division. I did my homework, and decided to show her my favourite hashtag – #FDK (full day kindergarten). This demonstration never fails to bring smiles to peoples’ faces, as it is filled with young children doing activities in kindergarten.
But this time, my colleague said, “I see lots of activities. What about learning, how do I find that?”
It made me think, once again, about that word value.
There is lots of “noise” on Twitter. How do we help educators find the value through all the “noise”?
How do we ensure that we are not looking at flashy “busywork”, but that we are engaging in online examples of visible student and educator learning?
Just because we see pictures of kids doing cool stuff in blogs and on Twitter, doesn’t mean learning is happening.
Last spring, Andy Hargreaves performed an experiment with the audience at #uLead15. He showed portions of images to the audience, and asked whether the students appeared to be engaged or not. The demonstration showed us that we need to question our understanding of the word “engagement”.
The appearance of student engagement does not necessarily mean that learning is happening.
Seeing “engaged students” on social media prompts questions about whether we are looking at real engagement, and whether or not learning is actually occurring.
Perhaps when we are viewing “visible thinking”, we need to focus more on the thinking than the visible.
Not all that is visible on social media is learning.
When talking about Digital Portfolios, both Dr. Alec Couros and George Couros talk about the place where you do your messy work and then the place where you put your best work. Below is some of my messy work.
Sometimes you know you just need to keep things around to refer to and to think about. I hope others will read and think about this too.
Right now, one of my personal inquiry questions is, how can we convince parents and our communities that the status quo in public education is a loser (to quote Michael Fullan)?”
How do we engage in questioning the current system of assigning two-digit numbers to our children, sorting them top to bottom?
How do we focus on creating cultures of learning, not cultures of schooling and filtering?
Dean Shareski responded here that we need talking points. We need a clear message. I am looking for those messages that will resonate with the public. We need messages that will resonate more strongly than a Fraser Report or a PISA ranking.
Ramsey Musallam shows me that we can have powerful messages in 6 minutes. His talk is engaging and entertaining and worth watching.
There were a few points that resonated with me. I am simply note taking here, and sharing the notes, so that I am not alone in thinking further about these rich statements.
“Questions and curiosity are magnets that draw us toward our teachers, and they transcend all technology and buzzwords in education.”
Our greatest tool as teachers is our students’ questions.
Lectures can be dehumanizing chatter, flipped or not.
If we have the guts to confuse and perplex our students, then we can tailor robust and informed methods of blended instruction. (Just “blended learning” on its own isn’t engaging – it still needs inquiry, questions, trial and error, investigation)
“Snap me out of pseudo-teaching.”
“Students’ questions are the seeds of real learning, not some scripted curriculum that offers tidbits of random information.”
Curiosity comes first. Questions can be windows into great instruction, but not the other way around.
Embrace the mess. Learning is ugly.
Practice reflection. What we do is important. It deserves our care. It also deserves our improvement.
Can we practice as though we are surgeons saving lives? Our students are worth it, and every student is different.
Four-year-olds ask why about everything. How will their future teachers embrace and grow this?
Dropping out of school comes in many different forms.
Students do not have to be out of the room to be checked out.
Graduation rates are a low bar, a false measurement, because there is no evidence of any engagement in learning. Students who hate school and students who have learned to hate learning can walk across a stage.
We need a different measurement of our success as a system.
As educators, we need to rethink our roles. We are not just disseminators of content, but cultivators of curiosity.
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.
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?
Now if Martin Luther King had said, “I have a strategic plan” or “I have a set of performance indicators”, do you think the effect would have been the same?
It is a dream, or a vision – a shared vision, that motivates groups of people to rise above expectations.
Andy Hargreaves pointed this out last spring (May 1, 2014) at the Ontario Leadership Congress in Toronto (also in his TEDx Talk).
In his recent book, Uplifting Leadership, Hargreaves reflects on seven years of global research to list four characteristics of organizations that have risen to the top with seemingly very few resources.
The number one characteristic is the relentless pursuit of a shared dream or vision.
Mary Jean Gallagher tells us that schools must be places where children can realize their “best possible, most richly-imagined future” (Jan. 17, 2014, Toronto)
As we begin this new school year, I wonder…
Do we share those dreams with our students? Are we relentlessly pursuing them together?
Featured image shared under a CC attribution license by katerha