Tag Archives: technology

Change – #saskedchat – Week 3 Blogging Challenge

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How Do You View Change?

Change is constant.

Change is inevitable.

Change can be positive or it can be negative.

Change can be hard to describe and its effects can be even harder to put into words.

A Summer of Change

This summer has brought about a number of changes for many people I know – some are moving to new jobs, some are moving to new schools, some are moving to new communities, some are entering new stages of their lives and a few are doing all of the above!

Having gone through the process of moving (9 times), a new job (8 times), a new school (10 times) and community (6 times) and the change brought on by having children (8 of them) or having children leave (3 of them), I’ve come to view change as the way life is lived. I’ve recently had to begin to care for my parents as they age, something with which I have little experience which means that, like many things, I’m learning as I go.


As I read various articles that are geared at examining changes that might be experienced by teachers, either by new technology or new strategies or new assessment or different expectations or the recent online phenomenon or …. it goes on, I notice that there is a natural tendency to generalize things across a population, something that tends to happen quite often in education. People speak of “teachers” needing to “…..” because of their particular worldview and point of view. Not that’s it’s bad but that really is theirs and, sometimes, if it’s the dominant societal one, it goes without question.

However, in my experience, this tendency masks the individual responses that people experience as they go through change. Generalizing that this change or that change will have this effect or that effect misses the point – the change will be individual and will have a different affect depending on the person. What I view as a positive change, others will deem negative and, surprisingly, many won’t even register nor care about.

How do You envision Change?

Usually we begin with something like “How do you mange change?” Or “How do you deal with Change?” Or “9 Ways to Deal with Change”.

However, if Change is happening regularly, maybe taking a different approach might help.

The diagram at the beginning of the post is from the Design Thinking approach to problem solving and innovation. Having read Tim Brown’s book Change by Design a number of years ago and reread parts since then and taking the Stanford Course on Design Thinking, I began applying the principles to how I view change and the changes taking place around me. Eventually, applying these principles, I determined that change was not only okay, but desirable – part of the reason that I headed off to the University of Regina to begin a PhD with Dr. Alec Couros.

As this image from the Change by Design site shows, looking at change from different perspectives not only can help one to determine the What and How of change but give you different options for addressing change.

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Change By Design at IDEO | IDEO http://buff.ly/2a1Xkk7

In combination with the work of Todd Henry – Accidental CreativeDie EmptyLouder than Words – and Cal Newport – So Good they Can’t Ignore YouDeep Work – and others, I have shifted my thinking about my work, the impact of change and the process of development from one that “happens” to one I am able to be part of the solution process and make decisions that help me to continue to follow my unique path.

Instead of always looking to innovate, adopt a new mindset or flip something, I can be open to new ideas and new processes but not always looking for the “next big thing” because my focus isn’t being distracted by my peripheral vision – something I borrowed from Todd Henry. So, yes there are many things going on – change is all around us but, for many people, it’s a distraction from doing their great work, a distraction from the path they are creating and building. Learning from/with others is important, such as doing a book study with others to expand ideas and push oneself, reading different authors and listening to TEDtalks and other forms of learning but it’s just as important to be creative, to question what people are saying, and to build your own – isn’t that what everyone seems to be saying needs to happen?

Often many of us are pulled this way or that, always looking for the next “new thing, great book, interesting method and innovation” instead of focusing on the path we are building. Yes, something might be interesting and worth exploring – but make no mistake, many who are commenting on it and writing about it are interweaving it with their path – seeing how it can add to their message – which is what you need to do.

You are on your own journey – one unique to you.

Jana Scott Lindsay, in her last post Consumed explores the impact of being connected and how she is seeing a need for change …

I think that it is time to work at finding balance. Leave your devices out of sight, to encourage out of mind for a time & space each and every day.

Change – yes, it’s always happening.

Change – what about you?

Do You Love Learning?

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Do you love to learn? 

Try new things?

Explore new ideas?

Read books/ebooks about a variety of topics? Search Youtube for different topics? Search the net to learn about something you are doing? Tried a MOOC (Massive Online Open Class)? Participated in a Google Hangout? Done a Mystery Skype? Blogged about your day? Joined a Twitter chat?

Are you trying new things and seeking to learn something new? How about a new summer bbq recipe or some new salad dressing?

That’s What We Do

These are just a few things that I and many of the educators that I know would consider to be just what we do. Learning new things, trying new experiences and seeking out ideas that push our own thinking about the world and our own place in it. Yet, is  that what the majority of the population is doing? Are people reaching out to new experiences, trying new things and learning? According to Philip Pape in This Habit Will Put You in the Top %1 of Experts and Money-Makers ,

  • 25% of people have not read a book in the last year
  • 46% of adults score in the lowest two levels of literacy
  • Reading frequency declines after age eight

Yet, when you’re surrounded by people who read, support reading, encourage reading and like reading, it can seem that most people read and are into learning new things. But is that what is happening? It’s hard to tell. In doing some digging, it appears that Canadians are reading.

A 2005 readership study by the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH), READING AND BUYING BOOKS FOR PLEASURE, found that nearly 9 in 10 (87%) Canadians said they read at least one book for pleasure in the 12 months preceding the study1 and that half (54%) read virtually every day. The average time spent reading is 4½ hours per week (unchanged since 1991); the average number of books read per year, 17 (down only slightly from 1991). Fully one-quarter (26%) reported that reading is the leisure activity they most commonly engage in, as many as cited TV-watching, putting reading and TV-watching in the #1 spot among leisure pursuits in Canada (and dwarfing “Internet activities,” which only 9% cited). These findings support thePCH report’s conclusion that “reading for pleasure remains a solidly established and widespread habit with little or no change over the last 15 years.”

Now, reading isn’t the only way people learn. In fact, through access to information on the internet, learning in some areas of the world is easier via video and audio. I used this video to repair a crack in the windshield.

Learning is available all around us. But as Steve Haragon discusses in his latest post there is a dissonance that he is seeing and sensing in the world around which is impacting people.

In the absence of coherent and engaging ways of viewing and improving our world, and of helping each other, the result may be that we shut down. We surrender our sense of agency. Cognitively and emotionally, our normal awareness and empathy bubbles shrink down to small, individual, spaces.

It may seem like this at times, especially when there is so many things that are happening and change is taking place at a rapid pace, so quickly that, for some, retreating is a way of coping. I know that there are times when the constant cacophony of educational voices imploring the need for change can feel overwhelming. In some cases, it would seem that throwing out the baby with the bath water is not only desirable but the only way for progress.

Teachers are Bombarded

This summer has seen an increase in the number of learning opportunities for teachers and it looks like this will continue well into the school year. For many teachers, summer is a time to recharge and refresh themselves. Learning is definitely a great way to replenish one’s batteries but in the past few years there has been a growing number of activities and conferences which now includes online conferences, edcamps and MOOCs plus weekly twitter chats and book clubs. These opportunities vary, each one vying to get the attention of teachers.

What does a teacher do?

Despite the rhetoric that fills some blogs, most teachers are life-long learners, trying to improve their classroom practice. With so many ideas and options available, trying to cope can seem daunting. The image of teacher-as-superhuman doesn’t seem to be far off!

Go to this conference!

Get this certification!

Get more certification!

Start a blog, write a book, present at a conference!

Embrace makerspace, genius hour, inquiry learning, flipped classroom, flipped staff meetings, flipped professional development, gamification of the classroom and school and professional development – make all things fun and engaging.

At a time when teachers and education seems to be lacking, improvement seems necessary.

Teachers who are learners and work to improve their teaching are being overwhelmed.

“Teachers retreat into themselves, not because they don’t care but because they care so much and so deeply they are being overwhelmed.”

I can’t remember the source for this quote. As an administrator, I would use this as a way to remind myself that part of the role of being an educational leader was to help teachers to manage the constant bombardment.  If teachers with whom I was working were becoming overwhelmed by all the demands, it would show in there day-to-day interactions. That meant being with them in their classrooms and working with them on projects. Hiding in the office under the desk only to appear when there were good things happening isn’t a successful leadership style.  Were the initiatives and requirements draining the care right out of the teachers? If it seemed that teachers were withdrawing, it was time to realign so that people didn’t disengage.

Are we killing the love of learning in teachers?

Are we becoming over zealous and driving people away? Are we using the excuses of like technology integration and student performance to push our own narrative of good teaching?

“I have seen the light and now you need to or your are a bad teacher!”

In fact, it’s creating a gap. People who just a few years ago weren’t engaged or were just beginning to engage with technology and using social media seem to have made themselves gatekeepers and gurus who proclaim what is and what is not good for teaching and what constitutes good teaching. Teachers are bombarded with someone’s version of what it means to be a good teacher and a lot of it has to do with using some kind of technology or program or …. or… or….!

Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative and  Die Empty and creator of the podcast The Accidental Creative discusses in his interview with Ron Friedman, a tendency to only post the positive-self online, the trips, conferences, publishing, accolades and not the more human parts that get people to these destinations so that it seems everyone we view is living these immaculate lives and doing all the great stuff which can lead to some serious anxiety as people think they need to keep up. Todd Henry describes this very well in Comparison and Competition.

Have you ever looked around at the work of others and felt like yours isn’t measuring up? Has this ever caused your passion for your work to wane? Don’t allow the slow ratcheting-up of expectations to paralyze you.

Too often, teachers are being shown a constant stream of what “experts” are doing without being given the time to improve themselves in a meaningful way. Yes, it can fuel people to improve but, just as easily, it can deflate people to give up. Rockstars were once garage bands.

Start with Relationships

Over and over again I’m reminded that whatever needs to change, building great relationships with students, teachers, parents and other community members is the foundation. Whether it’s Seth Godin in Linchpin, Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Michael Fullan in  The Six Secrets of Change or Carol Dueck in  Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, relationships again and again are the foundational piece to what people do. In his recent piece in The GuardianPaul Mason explores the end of capitalism in a postcapitalist society. Mason pieces outlines how technology allows information to be freely accessed by anyone. This in turns allows people to work together in new ways that until now were unattainable due to costs and distance.

we’re seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy.

As highlighted by Godin in Linchpin, relationships and giving to others are changing how people and companies interact. We may only be at the beginning of this shift, but for schools and teachers, building relationships with students, other teachers and their community is so important. Teachers and schools no longer control the knowledge and content that students can access. Although many teachers and schools continue to try,  some educators are making the shift to helping students to become inquirers, supporting the student as they learn, focusing more on the learning and relationships and less on controlling content and assessment.

Highly Organized and Controlled 

As schools, school systems and, to some degree, teachers struggle with trying to control information and content, there is a rise in various methods being used to control what students do, when they do it and how they do it. Highly structured uses of technology and implementation of various systems used to monitor and provide feedback to students continue to dominate classrooms as teachers continue to be required to provide traditional grades and students are required to take traditional tests.  Despite these requirements, there are teachers who are pushing for greater openness – Genius Hour, Makerspaces, Gamification, Inquiry Learning, and versions of Blended Learning and Flipped Classrooms all are stretching the traditional classroom to become more learner focused with greater autonomy on the part of the learner.

Stephen Wilmarth, in his chapter Five Socio-Technology Trends That Change Everything in Learning and Teaching from the book Curriculum 21 Edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, explores how technology can lead to greater social interaction and learning. As Wilmarth explains

Be assured, I am not advocating that children do not need to learn to read. They do. Or that writing will not be necessary. It is. Or that the process of arriving at sums no longer matters. It does. But all of these things are the outcomes of social adaptation to prior technological change and invention. It is the nature and relevance of reading, writing, and sums that change as we enter the postliterate era. Significantly, it is and relevance of reading, writing, and sums that change as we enter the postliterate era. Significantly, it is the way in which we make meaning out of information to create new knowledge that is changing.

The relationships that are created within classrooms are beginning relationships of learning. Through social networks, we now have the ability to expand these learning networks beyond the classroom.

Joining communities of interest and shared values (personal, family, cultural, political, economic) has always been essential to a learner’s identity. In this case, identity equates to where an individual is on the learning curve. And where traditional community relationships once defined a learner’s identity, emerging social networking technologies allow wholly new community associations to spring up organically and globally. These community ties, both strong and weak, exert a powerful influence on learning.

First, keep in mind that social networking technologies are changing rapidly. Second, remember that the technologies are not the point. In social networking, it’s important to concentrate on relationships, not technologies.

Teachers are coping with changes on multiple levels both as learners and, in turn, as teachers. To think that teachers will all be able to move at the same pace is akin to saying all students in the classroom will learn along a linear timeline, at the same pace, with the same tools, doing the same things and arrive at the same time. I don’t know anyone who still believes this takes place in a modern classroom.

Do You Love Learning?

As classrooms and schools move through transformational phases, there will continue to be different degrees of adoption and change. Unlike many who seem to be frustrated by a seeming lack of change, I am optimistic because I have seen so much change in so many areas in the past 4 or 5 years. Twitter, which was once a fairly lonely place for me, is now a fully vibrant learning network with connections of all types of learners and leaders. Interestingly, some of the earlier adopters who were avid sharers are now less involved in the networks, working more in a different avenues such as presenting and blogging or become teacherpreneurs on their own.

What drives all these people? I believe it is a love of learning that is at the heart of what they do which leads them to share and connect with others to share that passion, building relationships with others through learning. I believe their passion for learning fuels their passion for teaching. For others, that spark needs to be kindled and fanned not crushed and blown out by a constant bombardment.

I Wonder…… 

…. what if teachers were supported as learners, trying to move through a myriad of changes along with everyone else? What if their learning was supported and valued, incorporated in the their work and part of a systemic view of learning as work?

….. how educational leaders can support teachers as they transition to a learning system where discovery and asking questions is of primary importance instead of content and knowledge distribution?

…. what if learning and relationships were the primary areas of focus? How might schools change to meet the needs of students and teachers through these two lenses?

…. where wondering and innovation will fit as educational institutions transition from being content and knowledge distribution centres?

And this is why…..

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I’ve seen this a few time over the past week or so. I realize that we’re two decades or more into the technology integration phase in education. I know that we need to integrate technology and that, by now, this shouldn’t even be a discussion. But it is. And it will continue to be for some time to come.

Please Pick up Your …..

For the past two plus decades I’ve been saying those words to one or more of my children. My oldest, is now into her 20’s while my youngest is five which means that for the next number of years I will continue to repeat the same phrase…… because it is all part of the process of learning.

In a recent post at TeachThought entitled Putting Technology At the Centre of Learning , the article highlights that technology needs to be a focus in schools. Indeed “ For all the promotion and obvious benefits that edtech encourages, edtech remains a tokenistic endeavor” is a fair statement when one looks at the case of where many schools technology adoption currently sits. Technology doesn’t always get the focus that is needed to change the policies in the districts/divisions/schools and much of the infrastructure is not able to handle what is needed. And, yes, technology can improve the educational opportunities  – in some cases. 

The Focus Needs to Be Relationships First

This is my starting place as an educator. Why? Because if we don’t focus on relationships and build culture and capacity within classrooms, schools and communities, no amount of technology will bring changes that will solve the issues our students face – today. Without developing relationships that build the foundation to tackle questions related to the environment, race, gender, ability, class and other divisive issues, schools will continue on the merry-go-round of the next “educational fad” whatever that might be. Yes, schools need to focus on curriculum. Yes, there needs to be technology integration. But, as we explored during our last #saskedchat, a shift in focus brings to light that we can do all of this but still not provide students the skills to delve into issues of equity and privilege or how they relate to current issues at a local or global level.

Reminders Are Okay 

I could look at continuing to remind my sons they need to pick up their ….. as a, well, I’ve done it enough already. But, they still need the direction – just like new teachers and people who are shifting how they teach  – it’s a reminder that we have new people who are trying and learning and need some guidance. Which is exciting, isn’t it?

So, when will we learn? When can this stop? Actually, I hope that it continues for a bit longer – it means we are continuing to evolve and grow, with teachers, new and old, trying new things and exploring. Someday, maybe, we won’t have to have this discussion –

But wait…..

I still need reminders…… which aren’t a bad thing. In fact, I sometimes need reminders from my five year old that I need to spend time with him…. which I’m off to do. It helps to build relationships, these reminders – to make human what can sometimes become narrowly focused and somewhat out of focus.

Remember – What’s best for students? isn’t always a straight forward question – it depends on many different factors and sometimes we need to remind ourselves – what do we really mean when we ask this question? What is our motivation? Why are we asking the question?

Losing that “tech edge” feeling

We just finished parent/student/teacher conferences and the school is now quiet. Everyone else has gone home to rest and get ready for more conferences tomorrow morning. We then have the afternoon “off” – I’ll be here getting ready for early dismissal on Monday and doing other things while the students are away. In the quiet solitude of the school, I have a few moments to do some real reflecting and thinking. It’s here where I do some of my best work as I don’t have my own children to break my concentration and I feel more “in tune” with how I”m thinking and feeling about what is going on around and what and where my focus and priorities need to be for the school.

So why am I still here?

Monday after school the teachers, myself included, gathered to discuss the morale of the building. It was a productive meeting and gave me much insight into what, why, where, when and how people are thinking about what is going on and my role in the whole thing. Now, my last post was a general discussion/question about school morale and thanks for the feedback. I appreciate all that was said and it gave me much food for thought. The one that really resonated with me was from Glenn. Now Glenn is a first year vice-principal and his comment:

Kelly – the responsibility sits right in the chair that I’m writing this from and if you’re at work the chair you’re reading this from. I’m failing miserably at it. Hope your rocking the house.

Why did this grab me? Because it is filled with the frustration and the angst of someone I know is working his butt off to do good things and, for whatever reason, is banging his head and feeling overwhelmed. I often read Glenn’s blog just to keep up with what he’s doing and how things are going. Every now and then, I catch a tweet from him and exchange a few words. Lately, that’s about all that I have time to do. I can almost see him sitting in his chair typing that post. Short, to the point but, to me, very powerful.

So What? 

So exactly what does that have to do with the “tech edge” feeling? For me, it sums up how I’m beginning to see this whole educational technology thing. As Iwork towards finding some type of balance in what is going on around me, I’m feeling less compelled to say that technology is really important. Not that it doesn’t have it’s place and shouldn’t be something that is used within the classrooms as a tool but I’m not sure that the energy expended will bring the dividends that are forecast. As I work with the teachers in my building, looking for ways to involve students, I’m wondering if the time being put into technology wouldn’t be better used working WITH THE STUDENTS.

Never mind that the students are texting each other and that they like the technology. Even with all that, there is still a piece that is missing – the human contact. Someone who will listen to them, right next to them. Someone who is in the building that they know really cares whether they are successful or stumbling and helps to provide the means necessary for the them to pick themselves up. Yeah, I know all about embedding technology in the learning and capturing the students but it just seems to be missing something. Once the “Wow” factor is over, what do you have? Really, for the most part besides the minority of tech savvy teachers who are doing some pretty incredible projects, what do we have?

I’ve heard that we need to teach them how to leverage the technologies for their own learning. That they can use these technologies but we need to be helping them develop literacies so they are more internet savvy, can protect themselves and be prepared for what is going on in the world around them. Great goals, I agree. But as I delve into what these kids are feeling and wanting, it has nothing to do with reaching out to the world or getting to know students from all over or working with students in other places. It has to do with them and another caring human. Someone who will guide them and set limits for them and demonstrate that they are interested. It has less to do with “the tools” and more to do with the relationships.

And you know what? I can appreciate that so very much. Being an administrator in a small rural community with no other administrators around, I thought technology would be a way for me to be in touch with other administrator type people. I started a Ning, Ed Adminstrators2.0, as a place for people in this same position to gather and discuss and talk and share ideas. I worked to develop a network within twitter and pownce, looking to connect with others to share and talk. Now, don’t get me wrong, it has been an incredible learning experience but, and this is the kicker, the people I notice on twitter who have the greatest connection are those who have met f2f. Those who haven’t are so looking forward to a time when they will meet f2f at a conference or someplace else. It’s those meetings that really bring people together and then their conversations and interactions via things like twitter really take off. For me, I have some good contacts and like exchanging 140 character bites but the nuances that a f2f meeting give to a conversation are missing.

This year has seen many stress storms for people in our building which, ultimately, touches me as the administrator. Our meeting was the beginning of our rebuilding the joy and wonder and excitement that comes with learning. By acknowledging that, indeed, we need to work on this and grow it and nurture it, we’ve eliminated the elephant in the room. It was just a first step but what an incredible first step it was. We have much work to do and it won’t be easy. In fact, it may be difficult as there is a need to have some conversations that will be hard. Some will require people to rethink what and how they are doing things, some will require me to address concerns that my staff identified and some will require us, as a staff, to really focus and decide what standards we want and how we will achieve them.

So Glenn, I’m not rockin’ the house. More like I’ve been rocked but, I’ve learned a great deal about myself, staff and students. I come to see that, although technology is great and wonderful and allows us to do so much more and ….. the number one thing we do in schools is human relations, building students to become the best learners they can be, guiding them in making decisions and helping them to see things from a variety of perspectives and, yes, setting limits and boundaries and sticking to them. It isn’t how much curriculum we get through or what we cover or the tools we use. Yes, they have an impact, some more profound than others. It’s the human factor, the angst that I feel in what Glenn says, that isn’t part of the discussions I hear about technology.

In the technology discussions, I don’t hear about the students who are hungry or the students who are messed up because of substance abuse or those who live in terrible conditions. I don’t hear discussions about building relationships with the student who feels like no one cares or or or or……

Yes, I’m losing that “tech edge” feeling realizing that I need to be out with the students and staff, listening and cheering them on; drawing lines for them and helping them to overcome barriers. I cannot do that if I’m spending time working on the technology, finding new technology, learning how to use the technology. I know that technology has a place and will need to be addressed but it’s like all the other tools, just a tool. With the way things are changing and the manner in which the “tech junkies” jump from wagon to wagon trying out new tools, it’s impossible to really keep up because people in my face are filling my hours. I haven’t found that “place” in the net world that I was hoping I’d find. I’ve discoverd many great places like the Fireside Learning Ning and other such places but, like the people in our school, the f2f contact becomes so very important.

This doesn’t mean I’ll quit trying to bring technology into our school or help teachers with technology use or quit looking and trying out new technology. It will mean that much of what I blog about might just change as I reflect on what I’m reading, doing, learning and seeing going on around me. It will mean less time with twitter – it’s good to see what’s going on but it just hasn’t done for me what it does for those who can spend hours on it or who are conversing with others they’ve met f2f. In fact, my writing might just increase as I scrape away the “tools” and get back to what is really necessary, what really works and get rid of what is, like so many of these things, a passing fad that someone on top has happened to mention on their blog.

So Glenn, as I sit in this chair listening to whirr of the server fan, the flush of the automatic toilets and the sound of the empty hallway know that you are not alone. I, like many others, are with you and I, for one, am realizing that there is more that I must do and less of it has to do with technology. Keep strong, Glenn, keep strong!

Wrestling the invisible

I took some time to do some reading last week during our February break. There were many great posts and ideas that are circulating via my RSS Reader but three posts really caught my attention. The first was Linda‘s post about the difference she sees between “front line teachers” and those who are contributing to the edublogosphere discussions. The second is a set of posts by Nancy McKeand and a take on an artcile about teaching. The third is a post by Dave Sherman which looks at good teaching.

Each of these, in their own way, reflects on how technology and new tools impact what makes a good teacher. Linda’s view is very personal, something that I really appreciate. It gives me something to reflect upon as someone who is working toward building the skills of the teachers with whom I work. I like her comment that

My day has enough ‘must know, must do, must respond, must quantify’ in it that I look at my PLN to create humor in some difficult, stressful situations.

Her post is honest and forward which I appreciate. She expresses her thoughts about the use of technology from the perspective of a full-time teacher who is working at capacity. She is much like many of the teachers that I know and with whom I associate. The comments on the post reflect more of the same. It is vital that people outside the daily teaching arena listen closely to these voices. My friend Susan has expressed some similar thoughts after returning to the classroom this year. Her post looks at how she is trying to bring different aspects together and how difficult it is to do now that she is in the classroom full-time.

For now, my classroom is completely wireless, yes, no wires at all. Unplugged. Oh, I have the one computer in the corner. I try to keep up the school website and my class site but it is not what I was dreaming of last year. I’m not sure how to do it. The lab is in a state of disrepair and the six computers in the library might make stations possible but they are down the hall and around the bend so it’s a struggle to get all of us there and purposeful at the same time. I need… I need time to think it out, plan for it, find a small chunk that I think might work.

I continue to read what Susan has to say because she is someone who I know has the desire and knowledge to merge web2.0 tools and the classroom. Her posts, not all are this subject, allow me to better appreciate someone who, although not in my building, is close to home and has similar demands as do the teachers in my school. With Linda, they really highlight what many teachers are feeling. As someone who is looking to be a champion of Web2.0 tools, it is this type of insight that gives me food for thought.

Nancy’s posts are great for the original discussion on What makes a good teacher?, the comments and then the following post that stretches this a bit further. In this day and age of fast and furious change, we really need to watch what we expect of teachers and how we begin to evaluate what they do. The two big questions at the end:

  The big question now is whether – after 20 years of being told exactly what and how to teach – there are enough teachers ready to be “creatively subversive”?

Also, after years of being told in precise detail how to teach, will teachers feel ready both to devise their own way of teaching and engaging students and also constantly to evaluate and adapt their own teaching methods.

These two questions are really at the heart of what we are asking teachers to do no matter what it is we are asking them to do and without the proper amount of time for teachers to reflect – in the bathroom between classes is not adequate time by the way – the outcomes will not match what we know is possible. Now, there are some teachers that are doing great things and are great examples of what can be achieved but, unless we listen to the teachers like Linda and Susan, we will be doomed to follow the path of previous school change ideas.

Finally, Dave Sherman‘s post. Dave’s post really focuses on what is paramount in good teaching.

 Good teaching in the 21st century is not about technology. High quality teaching is not just about blogging, creating wikis, or podcasting. Yes, those are a few of the tools or options available to teachers, but there are so many more. Real teaching is about creating opportunities for students to become involved in critical thinking, questioning, problem solving, inquiring, researching, and authentic learning.

I couldn’t of said it any better. Thanks Dave! In a time of constant change and increasing responsiblilities on teachers, how do we expect them to bring about changes through refelction if we don’t somehow give them the time? To be a teacher during this time is to step forward and take the whole of the social fabric of society on your back. The public expectation of teachers has grown while the amount of time for reflection and professional growth has not. We have students with a myraid of challenges in the classroom, expect teachers to differentiate for students and now begin to use a host of new tools without giving them more time to do so.

Yes, I know that using the tools will help with time and it’s use within schools and the classroom. But time has become this invisible combatant against whom the various levels of education are all trying to battle but from different sides with no one really making any progress. Because no can agree howor what  this time opponent looks like, we end up in a match against each other without gaining any ground. What is the old adage “To go fast, first you have to go slow.” Yes there are many educators adopting the tools but there are many good teachers who are able to reach their students through other means. If one of the greatests tools for helping teachers improve their teaching is self-relflection, are we giving them the necessary tools to do this?

What are you doing?

There’s a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that has Calvin hammering nails into the coffee table. His mom comes in and freaks, saying “What are you doing?” There is a pause and then Calving replies “Isn’t it obvious!”

Sometimes, this is how I feel when I’m working with the various tools that I use each day at school. I think it’s obvious what I’m doing, kind of like hammering nails into a coffee table. And it may be obvious to others who are using similar tools and doing similar work. However, I think that many teachers react like Calvin’s mom – in some type of disbelief and shock. It looks like we’re hammering nails into their coffee table.

So, I wondering, in the same vein of my previous posts, what 5 tools do you think would be the best to use with teachers so that they don’t think we’re hammering nails into that coffee table.

My list looks like this:

1. pbwiki – staff wiki of information and events with calendar of school-wide activities.

2. eye-jot – introduced to me by Alec Courosa – just something fun that teachers can do. It is amazing how you can get teachers using things just for fun.

3. Audacity – recording using the computer lab instead of tape-recorder. Students like wearing headphones and having a microphone!

4. Zoho business – introduction to online desktop. Slowly beginning to look at using online document sharing.

5. Google Earth – there’s just so much to do with this program.

Okay, I now pass this on to the following three: Julie Lindsay, Mrs.Durff, David Truss

They can choose to participate or this will die a quick and sudden death.

Who you gonna call?

The other night I was working on converting a video from flv to mov format but couldn’t remember the online site that did that. I went to the twitter page and asked if anyone knew of the name of the site. In less than 5 minutes I had 3 responses of sites I could use. Now I was trying to remember zamzar, which is a name one should not forget, but it took no time for someone to help me.

In educational technology circles, we’ve been discussing and talking about using new tools and leveraging these new tools for the benefit of students learning. At various times it has been lamented that teachers are basically unwilling to change how they do things despite the availability of different tools that might enhance the learning opportunities for their students.

Just recently, there has been a growing discussion about how important networks are becoming for individuals as they experience the power of being able to connect and share with other professionals. Educators are beginning to build a variety of networks, discussing the ways that these types of things might be used in education. One such discussion is actually an online debate, Oxford style, between Ewan McIntosh and Michael Bugeja. This is Ewan’s promo:

This week you can take part in the Economist.com debate I will start today with Michael Bugeja, Director of Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University. We’re arguing our corners in an Oxford-style online debate, he against the motion that social networking will have a positive impact on education, and I’m arguing for the motion.

Now Ewan used the power of his network to put together his opening statement.

Incidentally, my first 1000 words were effectively co-written in a 25 minute Twitter conversation across the web and mobile phones. My thanks to Lucy, John, Nick, Lisa, Adam, Judy, Sue, David… and many more who jumped onto Twitter. Who can say social networking is not having a postive impact on the way teachers, at least, are learning?

This is a great demonstration of how a network can help individuals in their own learning and in problem solving.

Over at Change Agency, guest blogger Nick Pernisco is discussing this same theme in the context of news and keeping informed.

I have to relinquish some of my own thinking to a trusted third party… I simply can’t keep up myself, so someone else needs to. Instead of checking 100 sources of information per day, I’ll only check 10 that will hopefully contain the best of the 100 sources. That means I can shift my brain from seeking out 100 sources to critically analyzing the compiled information from the 10 sources. We do this everyday when we watch a newscast instead of going to each place there is news happening, or read a newspaper instead of calling local and national governments ourselves for the scoop.

His final thought, though, gets at the real core of the matter when dealing with education and teachers.

This is why media literacy is more important than ever in today’s information glut world.

Media literacy, and for teachers, technology literacy, is so important. People in education must be able to discern what will serve them the best in a given situation. This is where the discussion about technology becomes a bit difficult. Advocates of technology use in schools see the use of technology by teachers as a natural progression of teaching as the teachers learn new things and use them to help build student’s learning. However, we do have a bit of a problem. How do we get a bulk of the educators to begin using and adopting?

Pete Reilly at Ed Tech Journeys continues the discussion that started at Scott Macleod’s Dangerously Irrelevant about mandating teachers. His thoughts are, as usual, insightful and make one question the actual validity of something like that.

It’s a great question and it provoked some good discussion; however is mandating technology use enough? Will it create the pedagogical changes we want, if put in the hands of educators whose personalities are not conducive to the classroom transformation we’d like to see?

Read Pete’s post. It really does highlight the problem that mandating has in education. We can control the program or tool but not the people or how they will use the them. We’ve seen that in so many different programs that have come and gone through the schools. What compounds this problem is the fact that there are so many different tools that one can choose to use and there is no real agreement on what are basic tools that teachers should begin using. People like Vicki Davis and Jane Hart do a great job of giving their suggestions, as do others. The point here is that there are so many tools that are out there and it is hard to know where to start. And this could be the problem, with so much happening so quickly, there seems to be something new and improved coming out every week. It is a bit overwhelming at first look.

Perhaps the teachers who are not jumping on-board are not aware is available to them? I think the biggest problem is that perhaps there are too many possibilities for “jumping in”. This actually makes it scarier then it really is. Paul Williams

This is where many of us who are already working with many of these tools have an edge that other educator do not. Our networks. We have been working through problems, trying out software and sharing ideas as quickly as something comes out. How? Well someone on the network seems to have or use whatever comes out and shares it with the rest. These early adopters (where do they get the $ ) help to bring the rest along. But where does one start? There are literally hundreds of networks that educators can join.

I agree with the social networking comments. Two people on twitter took time and great care to introduce me to some twitter friends whom I could follow and whom they knew would follow me and allow valuable interaction. Otherwise I was following some, unable to interact, unable to learn much and about to nearly give up. murcha

For those who are trying to get going, it can be a very daunting thing. That’s when, sifting through my RSS feeds in Google Reader, I came across an post by mscofino in which she states:

I know it’s frustrating to see something so close yet so far, and I know it seems like if we could just get the technology authentically embedded (and we don’t need the teachers on board for that, do we?) into the curriculum in one fell swoop, we’d be done before we started. But teachers are special folk. If they don’t want to change, they won’t. We have to show them, we have to prove why they should. And there’s no better way to do that than with other classroom teachers sharing their success. And those successes aren’t going to happen with a technology facilitator forcing a teacher to change (as if they could, given that they’re never going to be a supervisor to other teachers). It’s going to happen when a teacher wants to change and asks for help.

It would be easier if we could just mandate things but that isn’t going to work. We now that social networks, whether technological or f2f, are very powerful and impact all of us. These networks, for the most part, have not been well used in education. Teachers, usually in isolation, have worked away at subject or grade levels, implementing curriculum with a PD day here and there. Every now and then, something new comes along, usually with a new administrator at some level, but it passes. Not this time. Technology isn’t just a fad that will pass with the next hiring. Why? Because it is becoming part of the culture.

I like the idea of “Change One Thing”, and relate it to technology. Make one technological change, whether its a Google Reader account or a Wiki, the important thing is to change something. Paul Williams

This is where, I believe, we need to begin. We need to work with teachers and use one tool. Show them how to use it and manage it while at the same time introducing them to a network where they can lurk for awhile, seeing what others are doing and understanding that frustration and problems are part of the whole learning equation. In fact, today I made my first inroad with one of my other administrators who is taking an online class. She has asked me to help her with setting up some things and working with some of the tools. She wanted to know if I had the time? Of course I do. I know that if I can get her started and then encourage her, she will grow and some of these tools will be adopted. As she told me “I know I have to do this but I just haven’t had the right push to do them. Well, now I do.” She’s worried she’ll do something wrong or things will be too complicated. For those of us using the tools we need to let other teachers know that no one has all the answers and we’re all on a learning continuum. It’s the sharing that helps us grow in ways we never could have dreamed of.

To my network out there, thanks for your input!

Don’t tell the students but the revolution has begun

I’ve been able to catch up on some of my reading this past week although I still am looking forward to Christmas and the time to do some more with reflection along the way. One post that drew my attention was over at Jennifer Dorman’s cliotech. Her post Re-Learning Curve discusses an article by Mark Pesce discussing the whole idea of giving all secondary students a laptop.

Pesce has some interesting thoughts about what change this will bring –

curriculum designers have to accept the computer as a powerful, flexible, ubiquitous tool that can be integrated into the curriculum’s DNA.

The curriculum must be redrawn, so that computers are integrated into it, becoming a potent tool alongside the textbook and the chalkboard

Most teachers are digital immigrants, struggling to croak out a few words, while their students are fluent natives, rabbiting on in a language most teachers only haltingly understand. Dropping computers into that mix precariously flips the balance of power from teachers to students, unless educators are given the resources and the opportunity to re-educate themselves.

Other than the abuse of the immigrant/native metaphor, which really needs to  be buried or something so we can move forward but I digress, Presce has really identified the key problems with what is taking place in education:  curricula and its designers are still using the “knowledge presenting” model of design instead of the “knowledge understanding” model. In the first, teachers are to present knowledge to the students and then students are to present back to teachers what they remember.

EARLIER this year, a secondary school teacher from Adelaide told me about his physics class. “I was lecturing about current topics in physics,” he said, “when one of my students corrected me.” One of the theories he quoted had been recently disproved by an experiment, the results of which were reported in Wikipedia. The student, with one ear to the lecture and one eye on the universal web encyclopedia, helpfully provided the update. “How can I stay ahead of the kids?” he wondered.

In the presentation model, there is no hope. There is no way one teacher or even a few are going to be able to stay ahead of the knowledge curve that is going on. Heck, even my own system of gathering knowledge is changing as I move from doing a particular search using google to asking a question within the networks to which I belong and then using the responses to drive my future searching and learning.  With students and their ability to use networks, knowledge gathering and the sharing of information becomes much easier.  (*Note –  we do have to work with students to help them identify information that is reliable and help them develop literacy skills beyond reading and writing.) Students can find the information and report it back to us with ever increasing ease. The shelf life of knowledge teaching is almost up.

Instead, curriculum designers need to identify the knowledge to which students need to be exposed and then go further to identifying something they need to understand from having this knowledge. How they demonstrate that understanding can be determined in a number of ways and may actually require something besides a test. And, giving teachers some credit, I think they know this very fact. Teachers no longer believe they hold the keys to knowledge. In fact, I don’t think they ever really thought that but, instead, have been confined by a system that was designed to bring knowledge to the masses. Unfortunately, we accomplished that goal a hundred or more years ago and have been trying to figure out what to do since then with very little change because no one has been able to agree on what to do. Now, for the first time, we are not being confined by the knowledge anchor. Instead, we are free to explore knowledge and create – and it scares the goosebumps off of people in charge. Really, it does. It replaces the holy grail of power, the test score, with something less definitive but much more useful, understanding.

And this is where I disagree with Pesce. I don’t think it is the students who will be driving the revolution. In fact, the revolution has already started and continues to grow in strength. In more and more classrooms around the world, teachers are communicating, sharing, talking and collaborating using technologies. Yes it seems slow to those who have been pushing from the beginning but, as more and more teachers come to realize that the knowledge is there for the taking, they are seeking ways to develop understanding and, eventually, turn to some type of technology in order to facilitate that process.

The revolution has begun. It is taking place in classrooms around the world and being discussed in blogs and other social networking systems to which teachers are being drawn. Teachers won’t need to stay ahead as they create networks of professionals who will help one another learn and share the new knowledge and begin to develop ways to help students develop understanding.

I believe what is holding the whole revolution from taking off is the lack of teachers who have access to quality hardware, open access to information and, most crucial, the freedom to teach for understanding. With this, the revolution would be over before wikipedia knew about it and no teacher would have to worry about trying to do the impossible – know it all!