Tag Archives: teaching

Notes Instead of Thoughts – From 3 Rules to Spark 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.

While flying this morning, I watched a 6 minute TED Talk from 2013 called 3 Rules to Spark Learning by Ramsey Musallam.

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.”

At this point I am reminded of the frustrations over the past two years in Canada, when it seemed impossible to get anyone to ask questions about the destruction of scientific data and libraries, the closing of top-notch research facilities like the Experimental Lakes Area, and the removal of environmental protection for our waterways.  If we want engaged citizens, we need to embrace the importance of asking questions.

Three rules for lesson planning:

  1.  Curiosity comes first.  Questions can be windows into great instruction, but not the other way around.
  2. Embrace the mess.  Learning is ugly
  3. 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.

Resources:

Three Rules to Spark Learning

Looking for the [Student] Learning Intention

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Image shared under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, Share-alike license by Waag Society https://www.flickr.com/photos/waagsociety/16508212342/

 

Online every day I see what appear to be amazing things that educators are doing in their classrooms.  As a connected leader and learner, I tend to be quick to praise, to share, to encourage and to promote practice.

But is this my best practice?

Do I know enough about what I am encouraging?

Recently, I have been exploring the impact of the “enthusiastic amateur”.

The term “enthusiastic amateur” refers to educators who have “emerged from the cave” and who have embraced the power of technology in the classroom.  The are often loud with their enthusiasm.  They are excited about their learning and they share share openly.

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Image shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike license by Giulia Forsythe https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/5617449053/

 

This can be a step in the journey to understand the power of technology to change learning in the ‘classroom’.  We are all on the path of learning as we integrate the use of technology into our school system.  However, at all times, student learning must be at the centre of our practice.

Andy Hargreaves explains the concept of “innovation without improvement” very nicely in this video.  Michelle Cordy has explored this idea more concisely here.

Certainly we want to encourage educators to learn about how technology can be leveraged to enhance where, when and how learning can take place.

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Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike License by David Jones https://www.flickr.com/photos/david_jones/5615150900/

 

How do we best ensure educators are using technology to to deepen learning aligned with the learning intentions for the students?

 

 

Exploring Digital Literacy and the Importance of Confidence

 

Part of my current role in Ontario is working with teachers and education leaders to dig into what modern learning really looks like at the level of the “student desk”.

Much of the work in this province is informed by the thinking of Michael Fullan, particularly in his latest publications “Great to Excellent: Launching the Next Stage of Ontario’s Education Agenda“, and  “A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning“.

Fullan’s “Six C’s” (for 21st Century skills) are frequently at the centre of such conversations.

Fullan's "6 C's", explained more fully. (From "A Rich Seam" - http://www.michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/3897.Rich_Seam_web.pdf)
Fullan’s “6 C’s”, explained more fully. (From “A Rich Seam” – http://www.michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/3897.Rich_Seam_web.pdf)

 

Fullan, of course, isn’t the first person to consider the skills needed for today’s world.  Doug Belshaw has spent many years studying and crowd-sourcing his ideas around what digital literacies look like.

 

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The 8 Elements of Digital Literacies, from “The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies”, http://www.slideshare.net/dajbelshaw/the-essential-elements-of-digital-literacies

 

Certainly the two groups of “C’s” represent slightly different purposes, but the overlap is obvious, and both inform our thinking about what learning needs to look like in today’s world.

Doug Belshaw: The importance of Confidence as a Digital Literacy component (click the image to link to the source).
Doug Belshaw: The importance of Confidence as a Digital Literacy component (click the image to link to the source).

 

My experience tells me that “Confidence” is a critical aspect of our work as we consider how learning needs to change.  A lack of confidence can be a prohibitive barrier to success in today’s digital spaces.

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Many educators express fear in making their thinking visible through blogging or ePortfolios because others will be critical, or perhaps even reprimand them for thinking differently.  Students, unfortunately, sometimes need to overcome the fear of past experiences to progress in particular subject areas.

Teachers need to feel confident in using new tools to engage learners and redefine what learning looks like in the classroom.

How are we creating the conditions in our classrooms, schools and systems so that all of our learners can develop the confidence they need to participate in, model and facilitate deep learning for everyone?

Further Resources:

Doug Belshaw: Digital Literacies and Web Literacies

Doug Belshaw: The 8 C’s of Digital Literacy

Lyn Hilt on Connected Principals: What is Digital Literacy?

SAMR Model Resources (Kathy Schrock)

 

Credits:

“Confidence” Photo Credit: glsims99 via Compfight cc

Thoughts: Labour Day 2014

I wanted to tell a funny story on this Labour Day.

I will share this entertaining piece instead: Teachers Don’t Sleep on Labour Day by  @albertfong

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.

I think of the passionate educators that do so much for students in B.C. – educators like Karen Lirenman,  David Truss, and Bryan Jackson.   How do I know what they are doing?  Because they share.

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.

I know they love what they do, because they openly demonstrate this all year long.

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).

This year, don’t just do great things for kids.

Tell your story.

Tell it loudly, and openly, and show the world what you do every day.

Show the world that every single day, teachers are making a positive difference in the lives of our children.

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Photo credit: venspired via Compfight cc

Who Are You Leaving Out?

 

Why would we want to exclude other educators from our professional learning network?

Stephen Katz, in his book Intentional Interruptions, discusses the problem of confirmation bias when it comes to professional learning.  It is our tendency to “only look for things that confirm rather than challenge our beliefs and practices“.

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.

Consider, for example, the Inquiry-Based Learning Project in Ontario, and their conversations on Twitter under the #ontsshg hashtag.

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

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Related: Just Make It Public! by Mark W. Carbone:  http://blog.markwcarbone.ca/2014/08/05/just-make-it-public/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Does a “Lead Learner” Actually Do?

A few weeks back, I was asked to work with some educators who were at the senior management level in their board.  They told me that they wanted everyone in the organization to model the kind of learning they wanted to see at the classroom level.

We were specifically working on ways to make thinking and learning visible to a wide audience, inviting feedback and conversation.

Certainly we want all of our learners to engage with a broad audience and learn with others outside of their immediate classroom.  But if we want to model the kind of learning we expect to see in classrooms, we need a clear picture of what that should look like.

In Ontario, we have several documents to guide our thinking about what classrooms should look like.  I have outlined some of those documents below.

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Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario:

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/about/excellent.html

Specifically:  To achieve success, Ontario will:

• Invest in the technology, design and infrastructure required for the classrooms of the future to serve the needs of all communities.

• Invest in innovative teaching practices and instructional methods enabled by technology to more precisely engage and address the learning needs of all students.

• Give students more flexibility and ownership in their learning, allowing them, for example, to determine whether they want to spend more time on elearrning or on learning outside of the classroom

• Provide new online learning and professional development opportunities for both teachers and students, particularly those in rural and remote communities, including opportunities for virtual cooperative education placements.

 

A Student’s View of the Future: Learning in Ontario

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/students/speakup/preMSAC.html

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http://www.videodelivery.gov.on.ca/player/download.php?file=http://www.media.gov.on.ca/a0efff64e63ac895/en/pages/text.html

 

“I’m an Ontario student, and my world is constantly changing.

I live in a world where technology is everywhere.

I can connect with a friend in another part of the globe, just as easily as I can with a friend down the street.

When I graduate high school, I will enter a world that is more competitive and connected than ever before.

My education will prepare me for that world.

My school will be a place where my friends and I can be successful, regardless of where we come from.

A place where we are inspired to learn by engaging teachers using new technology.

Our diversity will not be a barrier, but rather a reason for our success.

We will develop the strength of character to overcome obstacles and be resilient, whatever comes our way.

We will feel safe and welcome, and know that our well-being is supported inside and outside of school.

We will be the innovators, community builders, creators, skilled workers, entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow.

As an Ontario student, I will achieve excellence.”

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To achieve this in our classrooms, what practices need to be modelled by educators?

A good starting point is the ISTE Standards for students, teachers, coaches (professional learning facilitators) and administrators.

This is a sample of the first two standards for school and system leaders:

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As leaders, what are we modelling?

As leaders, what practices do we need to change to ensure we are modelling the kind of learning we want for our students?  What supports do we need to get there?

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Further: In Ontario, as we consider the ways we ask our students to engage in pedagogical documentation, how are we modelling this practice for our students?  How do we document our own professional learning?

You can find some great thinking on this topic on the Langwitches Blog here:  http://langwitches.org/blog/2014/07/01/documenting-for-learning/

 

Is Linear the Right Approach?

I posted this short piece on the collaborative #OSSEMOOC blog this morning. Throughout June, the OSAPAC team is encouraging educators to share their thinking by taking a screenshot of something that resonated with them, and sharing it with a few comments. It’s a great way to get started, especially if you are thinking about starting your own blog.

Of course I think a lot about online learning, particularly in Ontario. We have to get past the idea that eLearning is a solution to a problem (timetable issues, can’t get the right course, etc.). eLearning is always in a 1:1 environment, and it transcends the structural learning boundaries of place and time. Imagine the possibilities!

OSSEMOOC

Many of our conversations around eLearning in Ontario involve the idea of online course “content”.  As schools make plans for online learning next year, teachers want to know, “Is there a course?”.

Years ago, when I was teaching full time online, my principal often said, “We are not in the business of content delivery, we are in the business of learning!”.

In one conversation about content this year, a teacher said to me, “Well, wouldn’t you just have the students build their own content?”.

This article in my zite feed caught my attention this morning:

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As we think about how our students learn, how does it impact our thinking about what online learning should look like?

Shared by Donna Miller Fry (@fryed)

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