The podcast is a combination of a talk given by Harry Collins at Memorial University in Newfoundland, and a conversation he had with Paul Kennedy.
It raises important questions about the position of science in society. I recommend it to anyone interested in how science is perceived in our society, and particularly for those advocating for science instruction and literacy in our public school system.
One sentence that resonates this morning is, “Would I prefer a society where people expose their ideas to criticism, or where they hide them away so nobody can tell them that they are wrong?“.
In our work with open learning, we often hear that education leaders are afraid to openly share their learning – to be “lead learners” – because it will expose what they don’t know.
Schooling promotes this thinking – that it is better to hide your ignorance. It is very challenging to shift people who excelled in school – many who then entered schooling as a profession – into believing that it is better to share ideas than to hide them.
How do we create the conditions in our public education system that encourage leaders to be learners, and to openly share their learning with others?
If we want “innovation”, we need to embrace ideas.
The only way to have great ideas, is to have a lot of ideas.
If our school culture values ‘being right’ more than it values learning, we can’t be innovative.
In Ontario we know we have pockets of excellence when it comes to Technology-enabled learning and teaching.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
Innovation Centre (Holbrook School) HWDSB (Teacher contact – Zoe Branigan-Pipe)
Dr. J. Edgar Davey Elementary School, HWDB (Teacher contact – Aviva Dunsiger)
The Virtual Learning Centre, TLDSB (Principal contact – Peter Warren)
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).
I have plenty of my own crazy tales, of course, having spent nearly 30 years of Labour Days ignoring my family in spite of it being my daughter’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, a stressful time for my kids heading back to school…
Even though today is the first Labour Day in 25 years where nobody in our household is heading off to school, I don’t feel like being funny. I have a very heavy heart as I think of the teachers in British Columbia and the conflict they are embroiled in.
They openly invite everyone to see how they think, what they struggle with, how they learn, and what they are working on. They do this through blogging, through Twitter (and other social media), and through face-to-face presentations throughout the year.
As we once again see teachers as a political target, it is important to ask ourselves why this profession is so often attacked by politicians. Take a moment to read this very thought-provoking essay on the Future of Schooling in Canada by Stephen Murgatroyd.
Here is a short excerpt:
“Teachers need to “take back” their schools, supported by mindful school leaders, if they are not to become the new laboratories for corporate greed….
…The final challenge relates to the conditions of practice which teachers and school leaders face. There is a growing distortion around the importance of class size and composition – classes of 30-35 with up to six students with special needs are seen as “manageable” (they are not) with a single teacher and little if any access to other supports. Custodial services are seen as being only required before and after school – not during the school day, leaving teachers to clean up after sick children or some accident in the chemistry lab. We are neglecting the basic conditions in the name of economy. Attempts to challenge the creeping Fordism which such class sizes force on school systems are seen as “teacher whining”, yet parents and citizens should be appalled at some of the conditions under which we are asking teachers to produce the next generation of imagineers, artists, scientists, engineers and trades persons.”
If we really believe that our children are our greatest resource, and if we really believe that teaching is the most important profession for our future, then we need to tell our stories to the world.
“Teaching in isolation is no longer consistent with professionalism.”(Catherine Montreuil, August 2014).
In my province, Ontario, we have just completed a “visioning” exercise, looking at how to move our public education system from “great to excellent“. In the meantime, in what feels like a different country (because we rarely connect and share what we know), the province of Nova Scotia is about to embark on an education review.
Last week, the Province of Nova Scotia launched its urgent call for change.
The report states that a crisis exists that threatens the standard of living of Nova Scotians. It outlines 19 goals and 12 long-term strategies that are needed to turn the economy around and stop the current decline.
Robert Sutton, in his recent publication “Scaling Up Excellence” demonstrates that using logical arguments to spread the need for change are often not effective, and we need an emotional attachment to an idea to really move change forward. The Ivany Report, with the focus on Urgency and Mobilizing Strengths, has created this “hot cause” to “stoke the engine”.
As an educator, I read the report looking for how the education system would be redesigned to meet the goals of “One Nova Scotia: Shaping our Economy Together”. With a quarter of the population under the age of 19, it would seem that transforming an economy would certainly require a transformation in how young people were educated. But there is very little in the report to suggest how this might occur.
A small section entitled “Excellence in Education and Training” (combining those terms is concerning) suggests that a “rigorous curriculum review” and “setting the bar high” will hold Nova Scotians accountable for reaching their goals.
There is essentially no conversation on how a system of schooling, created with an industrial mindset, could now produce young adults who thought like entrepreneurs rather than obedient assembly line employees.
In Ontario, we have learned that public support of public education is critical. In our three priorities, raising the bar, lowering the gap and securing accountability, we have focused on how, as a province, we can believe in what we are doing as being the best for our students.
At the same time, research must be central to learning. So what, then, is the role of public consultation?
Perhaps the real question Nova Scotians need to answer is “What is School for?” How can we possibly determine what is working, and what needs improvement, if we aren’t in agreement on why we have schools in the first place?
The citizens of Nova Scotia, faced with the findings of the Ivany Report, now need to deeply consider their expectations, their beliefs, and their understanding of the purpose of the school buildings in their communities, and the reasons for the hours that young people spend there every day.
What kind of person emerges from the years in the school system, and what kind of province results from that education system?
Recently, there was an uproar about math scores in Ontario. The media called the results of the PISA test “a crisis” and quickly blamed schools, teachers, the education system, and anyone else related to public education.
Yesterday, we learned shocking statistics about the state of students’ mental health in Toronto District School Board. The response? Train the teachers better to deal with students who have mental health issues, and train the students how to better deal with stress.
We have beliefs around what classrooms should look like and what should happen in schools. Parents have beliefs around what they expect for their children. There is a shared experience of what school is, and the ‘one size fits all’ approach is essentially the universal past experience for adults.
These beliefs have a stronghold on our vision for schools.
If we are going to shift, we need to support teachers. They need to learn to use technology meaningfully to engage students and enhance instruction. They need training in 21C skills, or should we call them 22C skills now that we are almost 15 years into the 21C? There can be no easy outs. We have to do the work and stop making excuses.
Teachers need to deeply know their students. They need to understand their passions, strengths, and especially their needs. Teachers need an inquiry stance that asks what they can learn from their students. It takes a genuine process of integrating student voice into school planning. How will we authentically know, engage, serve and learn from students? What has to change to really do this?
A student-centered approach to teaching and learning is only possible where the culture of the entire system is supportive. What does this look like? Focusing at the student level means that classroom decisions are key, learning must be personalized, and teachers need exist in an environment that allows them to do the work. Classroom work must “bubble-up” and inform work at the system level to support teachers in determining and responding to the greatest needs of their students.
If we want a culture at all levels that encourages continuous improvement (and we really need to think about that because it means constant change), then the culture needs to promote and embrace risk-taking. Educators are a vulnerable group because they have been seen traditionally as those with the knowledge. Teachers need to understand that they don’t have to (and can’t) know everything. They need to feel safe learning how we expect students to learn, taking risks, receiving feedback, and growing within that supportive structure.
Teachers care. They are maxed out on dedication and time they put into their profession.
We need to work differently, to think differently about the type of instruction, the learning conditions, and support teachers in the learning process.
“The only way to provide what our students need, is to collaborate together to learn from one another, to take risks, ask questions, experiment and respond to what our students are saying, creating and doing. Support each other to be brilliant.”