We need to make sure that we are not looking for our professional learning in echo chambers. We need to find the people who will challenge our thinking.
When we hear, “Let’s build an online community so we can share our learning”, it sounds like a fantastic idea. It is a fantastic idea.
But when designing how that community will work, ask who you want to exclude, because as soon as you put your sharing behind a password protected site, you are excluding other thinkers who might contribute to your conversation and challenge your thinking – exactly what professional learning needs to include.
It is easy to share your learning and thinking openly.
They have discussions, vote on topics, document their learning on a blog, and keep it in the open for anyone else to join in the conversation, make comments, search, read, and remix.
While the conversations focus on Ontario topics, anyone is welcome to join, to share, to learn.
Similarly, Lakehead Public Schools chose to share their collaborative inquiry work with the world on an open blog rather than excluding readers who might learn from their work.
Before choosing to participate in an online community that excludes learners, think about what you are able to share openly with other educators.
There is a need for protected spaces to share private information about student learning, but if your purpose is to share your own professional learning and to grow as an educator, why would you exclude others from the conversation?
Why not make your thinking and learning visible to all, and model that learning for our students?
Leaders have passion for what they do. They have practiced sticking out their necks, taking risks, trying new things, and failing.
For leaders, being the lone dancer in the crowd is their norm.
Dancing to the music is the right thing to do, even if it is all alone.
But first followers… Life is very different for them.
Followers are straddling two worlds. While one foot is firmly planted in their peer group, their team, their home position, they have suddenly taken a step out of their comfort zone.
Perhaps it is because they have heard music they can dance to for the first time. Perhaps the song has finally come along that they have waited all night for. Or perhaps they have been dancing with the door closed for a long time.
But first followers have the most to lose.
The leader might sit down again, leaving the follower all alone, dancing to a different tune than everyone else on the hill.
The leader might keep right on dancing to a different tune, ignoring the new partner.
Those sitting on the hill might tell the first follower that he is no longer welcome to sit with them. He should go off and just keep dancing with his new partner.
Those sitting on the hill might grab the first follower’s legs and try to pull him back down. They are afraid to try to keep up, and he is making them look slow.
But it is the first follower that other followers emulate.
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.
Last week, Jan Wong, currently an Assistant Professor of Journalism and Communications at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, wrote an article for the Chronicle Herald outlining her concern about her Journalism students cheating on quizzes.
The sentences from her post that most resonated with me are below.
It should be no surprise at all that some students at a university are “conditioned to work for marks and only marks”.
The only criterion for acceptance to the university is “high marks”.
When universities filter applicants based on marks, so that only students with really great marks can enter the institution, the students who arrive and attend class there will include those who have learned to play a game very well, and who will continue to play that game when they arrive.
Any senior high school teacher can attest to the fact that learning is not the priority for many grade 11 and 12 students. The priority is getting the highest two-digit number possible through whatever means are necessary so that he/she can get access to a university program.
The ramifications of this selection process are numerous, and often do not relate to learning at all. Some are, in fact, very negative.
Parents may bully the teachers who don’t give the needed or expected grades.
Students may select courses based on who they know will give them the marks they want.
Parents will track down a Principal in the summer and demand that their child’s marks be changed.
Students tell teachers that the mark they have received for their assignment is “unacceptable” and that they will need something higher.
“Cheating” is rampant on tests, exams and assignments.
Students learn to seek out exams from previous years, tests and student notes from previous years.
They learn how best to get as many marks as possible on every test and exam.
They will do almost anything for “bonus marks”, and they learn to manipulate a teacher to offer those “bonus marks”.
Students and parents figure out how to play the game.
Alfie Kohn has been writing about the problem with grades for many years. One of his best articles is “From Degrading to De-Grading” (http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/fdtd-g.htm), where he explores, among other things, the observations that grades reduce a student’s preference for challenging tasks, the quality of their thinking, and their interest in learning.
The lack of interest in learning by students who have been told that marks are what matters is well-documented, as in the observation below from Janice Fiamengo:
Those who do well are called “good students”. Some schools give out awards to students with the highest marks, encouraging competition instead of collaborative learning, and reinforcing that marks are what is really important at that school.
While there is a large and growing movement to put learning at the centre of the what school is about, as long as that final mark is the only requirement for university entrance, marks will remain the focus.
And universities will get what they have selected for. When students don’t get the marks they want at university, they will react exactly as they have learned to react.
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?”
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?