Tag Archives: motivation

Searching for the Desire (to Learn)

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?”

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Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share-alike license by Krissy Venosdale.

We have names and categories for those who resist change and cling to the status quo.

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Transforming School Culture, by Dr. Anthony Muhammad http://newfrontier21.com/store/transforming-school-culture/

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.

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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.

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Why?

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.

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Shared under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial share-alike license by Giulia Forsythe. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/10310176123/

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.

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Image shared under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial share-alike license by Alec Couros (@courosa)

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?

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Fast Company: http://www.fastcompany.com/3046277/the-new-rules-of-work/the-top-jobs-in-10-years-might-not-be-what-you-expect

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:

  • one open website with no login or password required (ossemooc.wordpress.com)
  • Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 6.54.58 AMon 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?

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Image shared under a Creative Commons attribution license by Alan Levine (@cogdog).

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?

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Shared under a creative commons attribution, non-commercial, share-alike license by Giulia Forsythe. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/8716324040

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?

Sometimes we refer to educators who are resistant to change as “fundamentalists”, based on the work of Muhammad, in Transforming School Culture (2009) (nicely explained here by Nicole Morden-Cormier).

What would we say about leaders who:

  • 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?
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Shared by Kaila Wyslocky (@kwyslocky) from her presentation on how she is transforming her online teaching practice, OTRK12 2015.

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.

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Brainstorming Professional Learning

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.

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A Child’s Best Hope

She hated me.

I didn’t know a lot about her, but I knew this for sure.

She hated me with every stare down as I walked through the halls, with every glare when I entered one of her classes, and with every silent meeting in my office – me talking, and her projecting her hatred  without saying a word, without cooperating in any way.

Once she stood up and punched at my face, expertly grazing my cheekbone so it didn’t cause damage, but it sent the clearest possible message.

I asked the school counselor what I had done wrong, what I had done to deserve such hatred.  She said, “Oh, don’t worry about her.  She hates everyone”.

Don’t worry?  If a 14-year-old hates everyone with that intensity, it is a huge cause for worry.

 

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Recently, while waiting to board a flight, I opened a free copy of the local paper – and there was her face, older but unmistakeable.  It was a selfie she had taken in happier times, her devilish smile betraying the torment that was under the surface.

The words below the photo did not mention suicide, but they didn’t have to. The two babies she adored were now without a mother.

As any educator would, I began to wonder if I could have done more.

 

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Mary Jean Gallagher often says that our job is to teach.  We are not social workers.  Our job is to ensure that children learn.

Catherine Montreuil emphasizes that no child in our classrooms can be stuck.  It is our responsibility to ensure that every child learns.  We don’t have to do it alone, we can get the supports we need to ensure learning happens.

Some of our kids need more than we can give.  It doesn’t mean we stop trying.  The structure of our schools makes it so difficult for some of our children to be successful.

 

I can no longer do anything for her, but I can keep working to make sure her babies enter an environment that embraces all cultures, respects and encourages all learning, and provides all the supports that all children need to be successful.

I owe her that.

 

Image credit:

mgaloseau via Compfight cc

EdCampWR (part 2) – Everyone Has Something IMPORTANT to Share

This past week, I have been explaining the concept of “EdCamp” to a lot of people.  It’s on a Saturday, it’s free, it’s open to anyone wanting to learn, and “everyone has something to share”.  The program is driven by the learning needs of the people in attendance, and the smartest person in the room is the room.

What I love most is the “hunger to learn”.

Recently I attended #Educon in Philadelphia.  While sessions are determined in advance, it does rest on the principle that “everyone has something IMPORTANT to share”.  This is captured very clearly in this video.

A few of my favourite quotes that capture some of the thinking from #Educon:

David Jakes: “The first step in redesigning a classroom is discarding the notion that it has to be a classroom.” (2:36)

Chris Lehman: “What schools can become, are the places where we come together to learn…” (4:14)

Jose Vilson: “Trying to get education to be more about what kids can do instead of what they can’t do…” (5:30)

Ayla Gavins: “..I would eliminate ACCESS as the reason for not choosing to use technology.” (6:23)

Diana Laufenberg: “The one thing that teachers can do proactively is to share, everywhere possible, the positive things that are happening with our kids…” (7:14)

What is #Educon?  It’s a global tribe of support – 24/7.

It’s what EdCamps can be too.  Passion, learning, sharing, bringing hope for positive change to make our schools places where we support communities of learning.

After #EdCampWR ~ Where To Now (Part 1)?

What an exciting day!

Educators gave up Saturday to meet in a school and learn together, and shared the learning online for all who wanted to join in the conversation.  It’s powerful stuff, and as we all reflect on how best to meet the needs of all learners in the system, these success stories move our thinking forward.

What did I learn? Lots!  Here is part 1: the morning…

First, Mark and I learned lots about technology.  Mark has been playing with combinations of video and livestreaming, figuring out how he can be a catalyst to spread this f2f learning around the province and indeed the world.  As we know, the one doing the work is doing the learning, and Mark did most of the tech learning, but I still needed to figure out how to best follow the day on my end.

There is other learning that is easily overlooked.  Just seeing the board showing the sessions helps me to understand what people want to learn about.

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As I watched the LiveStream for the first session, I heard someone talk about the immensity of the difficulty to effect change at the system level.  Where do you start?  How can you be effective?

Mark and I texted about this thinking and we believe this would be a great #OSSEMOOC question.  It’s also a terrific topic for a blog post – something to reflect on current thinking, then build as I learn more and as my thinking evolves.

And here is a key point – *access*.

Access is vital.  Fullan, in “A Rich Seam“, often cites internet access as the critical piece in moving to “excellence”.  WRDSB obviously understands this.

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I was able to listen to/watch much of the Digital Citizenship discussion and these are my key learnings:

edcampwr digcit stream

  • Students have capacity. Student voice must be central in our work on digital citizenship.
  • The concept of digital citizenship continues to evolve and change. It is not static. We need to keep up.
  • So much of our work in #digcit is reactive.  Let’s make it proactive and positive (including modelling) instead.
  • How do we support/create digital leaders in our schools?
  • Where do we start on all of this at the system level?

(Incidentally, I curate #digitalcitizenship resources as part of our ongoing OSAPAC work on creating a valuable #digcit resource for Ontario teachers.)

When Learning Has Nothing To Do With It

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 1.38.53 PMLast 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.

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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”.

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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:

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http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-unteachables-a-generation-that-cannot-learn/?singlepage=true

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.

Once again, Janice Fiamengo:

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http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-unteachables-a-generation-that-cannot-learn/?singlepage=true

Fortunately, even the straight-A students are questioning  their school experience and why “marks” are seen as so important. Afraj Gill from “An A+ Student Regrets His Grades“:

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Learning to manipulate teachers to get good grades becomes an art form in itself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8s13_yOLeE

We need to deeply question a system with these values.  Is this the best way to graduate innovators and entrepreneurs?

I believe that we are rethinking what schools are for, how to nurture natural curiosity, and how to use focused innovation in our teaching in the K-12 sector.  I also see evidence that some post-secondary schools are beginning to understand that marks are not the best predictor of learning.

But as long as marks are the sole filter for entrance to university, we will be challenged to put learning, not grades, at the centre of what schools are for.

*Add-On -> A favourite post from @KarlFisch: http://thefischbowl.blogspot.ca/2013/10/your-gda-is-more-important-than-your-gpa.html

@sethgodinblog: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2014/02/doing-what-gets-rewarded.html

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http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2014/02/doing-what-gets-rewarded.html

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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 carnagenyc via Compfight cc

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
         opensourceway via Compfight cc

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

“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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 Jsome1 via Compfight cc

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.

nurturing art
 artyfishal44 via Compfight cc