I think we have done a huge disservice to our children. We’ve known for a very long time that kids can communicate, access photos and share online, but by prohibiting this behaviour in schools – by taking the stance that it is not okay to use devices in school – we have neglected to teach them the competencies required to be successful citizens in the online environment.
So who will teach them now?
Unless we truly believe that digital literacies are important and that the competencies required to be successful in the future must be taught in school, nothing will change.
We need to ensure that our education leaders have these competencies.
Full immersion in digital spaces is arguably the best way for people to develop these competencies (Doug Belshaw, The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies) and to understand how best to develop them in others. This requires the use of a number of devices (and reliable access to the internet). Deciding what device is best for what purpose is part of the learning. It also requires time to immerse and try and play and network and learn. Educators need these opportunities.
We can’t let our children continue to play online without the knowledge and skills to be safe, to be responsible, and to lead change in the digital environment.
The change begins by building confidence and competence in digital literacies with our education leaders.
This is the quote that first attracted my attention:
“… digital literacy across generations..”
I immediately thought of Ontario’s Renewed Vision for Education.
“Our children, youth and adults will develop the skills and the knowledge that will lead them to become personally successful, economically productive and actively engaged citizens. They will become the motivated innovators, community builders, creative talent, skilled workers, entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow.”
When children attend a school, their experiences should not be limited by the knowledge and skills of the adults in the building. The educators, as digitally literate, connected professionals, should be able to bring the world to the children.
[Edit: Please see the comment below suggesting a rephrasing of the above statement –
My thinking: “The educators, as digitally literate, connected professionals, SHOULD BE ABLE TO FACILITATE THE CHILDREN’S LINKING THEMSELVES TO THE WORLD.”]
The school building can be a community hub for all to access the world outside the community. This concept of connected learning is well-explained in the short video below.
The recent report (Driving the Skills Agenda) from The Economist states that only 44% of the students surveyed (ages 18-25) feel that schools are providing them with the skills they need to enter the workplace, and while teachers report that technology is changing the way they teach, 77% of students report that schools are not effective in using technology for instruction.
How, then, does Digital Literacy for all become an integral part of learning in our schools?
If we are educating learners in our communities to be full participants in society, digital literacy must become a priority.
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.
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.
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?”
We have names and categories for those who resist change and cling to the status quo.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
on 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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
We have come a long way in Ontario from the idea that eLearning required a “learning management system” to deliver content, to the understanding that building relationships is at the centre of all learning (f2f or at a distance).
As we work with eLearning teachers through their collaborative inquiries into best practice, I often wonder about how best to “spread” some of the great online pedagogy I see around the province.
Then yesterday, I saw this tweet:
It’s a quick post, an idea that came out of some work with #GEDSBLead, and a great catalyst for sharing, connecting and elevating online learning.
So what if we change this a bit? What if every eLearning teacher tweeted one thing they did each day in their online “classroom” to the hashtag #eLonted – and then took 5 minutes to read each others’ tweets?
We know that connecting online educators works. We know that networking online educators is essential. We know that eLearning teachers want to share their practice.
The very first article I read on Zite this morning was a blog post written by Dr. Chris Dede (incidentally the keynote speaker last week at #on21Clearn in Toronto).
Dr. Dede begins by reminding us that the knowledge and skills of teachers and classroom educators are the most important factor in student learning. Having said that, transformative change means that much of what teachers know, believe in and do, will need to be changed, and this is a very difficult task.
“Professional development for transformative change is very challenging because participants not only must learn new skills, but also must “unlearn” almost unconscious beliefs, assumptions, practices, and values about the nature of teaching, learning, and schooling. In this situation, too often teachers are provided learning experiences that are purely cognitive, but professional development that requires unlearning necessitates high levels of emotional/social support in addition to intellectual and technical guidance.”
Finland has included the “unlearning” of teaching strategies in its Teacher Education programs for many years. The understanding of the importance of an intense teacher training program, with opportunity for research, extensive practice teaching with highly competent mentors, and graduate work, is at the heart of the Finnish teacher education system. There is an understanding that initial teacher training is essential to a high performing school system.
“The basic aim of every teacher education programme is to educate competent teachers and to develop the necessary professional qualities to ensure lifelong teaching careers for teachers. Behind this aim is the belief that initial teacher education is of paramount importance and that any defects appearing in the programme will have consequences that will be extremely difficult to correct later on.”
Technology has the power to transform learning for students. Indeed, there are pockets across the country and around the world where this is already happening. But using technology without changing our thinking about learning will not result in the ‘deep learning’ we are hoping for. We need to give up some cherished beliefs about schooling before change can happen for our students.
“Transforming from presentational/assimilative instruction to this form of pedagogy requires from teachers substantial unlearning of mental models and emotional investments in them. These mental models have been developed through decades of being students themselves, receiving traditional instruction, and further years of building skills in conventional instruction.”
“Unlearning” is unsettling. As educators, we take pride in our work and we are emotionally invested in doing what is best for our students. Realizing that our beliefs about what constitutes ‘great teaching’ does not result in the ‘deep learning’ our students need is emotionally challenging. Rethinking and relearning requires strong support and affirmation as educators move forward in changing practice.
As we consider how we design learning opportunities for educators, we must remember that this is more than a cognitive shift. It is a shift in a belief system, and from a belief system to an evidence-based, inquiry model of learning. It requires modelling, and nurturing, at all levels of the education system.
Fullan’s “Six C’s” (for 21st Century skills) are frequently at the centre of such conversations.
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.
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.
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.
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?