In the podcast, I quickly outline my concern about the gap between what I see happening in schools, and what we need to learn to thrive in 2017 and beyond in the digital economy.
However, it was later in 2016 that I listened to Audrey Watters and Kin Lane in the Tech Gypsies Podcast, when they talked about each and every one of us being responsible to learn the things we must learn to make sense of the world, and to make good decisions.
The entire podcast is worth your time, and I highly recommend listening to it regularly. If you only have a few minutes, begin around 35:00 (36:45 if you are really short on time, and Caution: Language can be explicit at times)
We need a more digitally literate society. There are so many examples of why this is true, and I will be exploring those further this week.
Even when we consider the thinking around 21st Century Learning, and the 6 C’s (or 4 C’s) that we so readily accept, we are missing the part where digital literacies are critical to making good decisions for ourselves and for our children.
Throughout 2016, I worked to craft careful messages to influence others about the importance of digital literacies.
In 2017, rather than a focus on trying to convince others that digital literacies are important, I am committed to providing an open structure where others can learn more about technology with me.
I am convinced that in this world where facts are difficult to find, each and every one of us needs to find our voice and lead learning that will ensure that our connections are creating positive change in our world.
My focus word for 2017 is
[rhymes with seed, feed, need]
This spoken word piece, written and performed by Chinaka Hodge at TEDWomen 2016, pushes all of us to find the leader inside ourselves.
An effective learning network is complex, changing, growing, shrinking, morphing over old, new and evolving platforms. It reaches into classrooms and across the globe, held together by personal learning networks (PLNs) that continually build new connections, cultivate new relationships and learning while allowing others to dissipate.
It centres on individual connections and actions, yet provides far-reaching value.
It allows learning to reach the student desk more quickly than our old structures. It puts an end to the geographic privilege of access, builds collaborative efficacy over distance, normalizes collaboration as a way of professional practice, and amplifies promising practices.
Individual Workflow – Personal Learning Environment or PLE
An effective network is composed of educators who work openly by default. Their daily workflow (Personal Learning Environment or PLE) includes personal learning that comes not only from traditional sources, like books and research articles, but also through efficient searching for educator blogs, tweets (microblogs), ebooks, audio books, webcasts, videos and exploring other online digital content that takes them into classrooms and into the minds of educators.
Content is organized and shared back to the community in a format that will reach their audience (parents, teachers, ECEs, leaders, community). They connect online with people in similar or different roles to have discussions, share strategies, consider ideas, connect thinking and stay in tune with what is happening in the world of the people they serve. They bring in the experts they need to ensure student outcomes are improving.
And, as they learn, they document that learning in a way that is valuable to others, considering audience and format, privacy and purpose. They share that learning back to their audience in a way that models digital citizenship and celebrates the work being done in their schools.
Collecting Information – Leaders dedicate time for professional learning and develop competencies in effectively exploring and organizing relevant content, including blogs, podcasts, discussions, monographs and articles shared by others through social media. They share these information and knowledge collecting strategies with peers, teachers, students and the community. They understand how to access the information they need by leveraging the capabilities of the network.
Connecting in Physical and Digital Spaces – Leaders value their connections to others and the learning that comes from conversations in person and online. They continue to nurture and build connections, bringing value to their organizations and those they serve. They model the importance of connectivism for students and other educators.
Curating and Sharing Important Learning with Others – Leaders streamline the flow of information by filtering, packaging, and sharing in a way that mobilizes knowledge for targeted audiences. This is a complex skill that all of our students should also master.
Creating and Providing Value to the Network – Leaders contribute what they are learning and make their thinking visible to others. This involves documentation and sharing skills, modelling them openly for others in the organization. Networks are only as valuable as the people in them and what they create and share with others.
Documenting Learning: Capturing the learning (and lack of learning)
Choosing an appropriate tool and product (text, blog, image, video, webcast, podcast, report, etc.)
Developing expertise in editing products (audio and video editing, website development)
Reflecting (what to share, what audience, when?)
Modelling all of these for those you serve in the organization (students, educators)
Sharing the Learning (Openly as the Default)
Consider the privacy protection of those involved in your learning
Consider the intellectual property rights of any work you have used or remixed (develop a deep understanding of Creative Commons Licensing)
Consider the most effective and appropriate place to share based on desired audience (with open as default) – online open, online internal, conference, learning session. It is understanding the shifting differences and similarities among platforms, and where audiences reside at the moment.
Develop visual media, web and information literacies as well as global literacies
Amplify the practices that are making a difference.
Contribute in a positive way to the network, modelling this for others in the organization.
Where are other learning networks you can leverage?
This view of network leadership presents many entry points, and a shifting variety of digital literacies and skills needed for successful participation in networked learning.
As parents and educators, how are we modelling practices that promote facts and reliable sources over clickbait and sensationalism?
On social media, liking, sharing and retweeting shows others the content that is meaningful to you. It is a reflection of who you are, and what you believe in.
A decade ago, I used to retweet fairly indiscriminately. If it looked like a good resource, I shared it. Then, Ira Socol took the time to question my retweet. I realized that retweeting is actually a form of curating. If I want to create value online for others, I need to critically evaluate resources and ideas, and share them with descriptive comments.
What I choose to share reflects my professionalism. What I choose to share is the value I am creating for others. Before sharing, I carefully evaluate the source, and I often highlight (in my comments) the part I find most valuable.
Fortunately, I have a loud PLN that will quickly question almost anything I share openly.
Other curators help me sort through the unfathomable amount of information on the web. Stephen Downes, Doug Belshaw, and Audrey Watters are examples of thought leaders who filter, curate and share information regularly. I know that there will be value in their curations.
More importantly, what do we do when we encounter colleagues and friends sharing misleading information or sheer fiction as though it were factual? Do we just turn our heads the other way, or do we take the time, like Ira Socol did for me, and challenge the source or the thinking?
Barack Obama said that we can’t move democracy forward if we don’t have a common set of facts to refer to. Now that we have seen the impact of the propaganda spread through social media, what will we do as educators to shut it down?
How do we ensure our students can critically evaluate information, triangulate sources, and distinguish between belief and fact?
Is knowledge more rapidly mobilized through the system when leaders work openly?
For the purposes of my work, I am considering personal professional openness – the concept of sharing thinking and learning in open spaces, curating resources for others, engaging in open conversations in text or through broadcast technologies like podcasts, videos and YouTube Live, blogging and commenting on blogs, and participating across the educational boundaries in wider conversations across the web.
“Working open” means different things in different contexts. Doug Belshaw has summarized the idea of working open in education here.
He provides this question, that is an excellent starting point for opening our work to others:
We should be continually asking the question, “can we make this public?” If that seems too radical, then a smaller step might be the question, “is there any reason why this shouldn’t be shared with everyone at the organisation?”
Here is a summary of what I learned this week. The full story is below.
Working openly is a new skill, with unlimited potential for mobilizing knowledge within the education system. We (as a system) don’t yet value it as a critical leadership skill for education.
“You are never going to be able to shortcut doing the hard work of changing hearts and mind, and the hook which gets people to realize that working openly is useful, is going to be different in every situation”. (Doug Belshaw)
When, as a leader, you work openly, you allow others to “swim in the river you are swimming in”, not your river, but the one you are swimming in right now. (Dai Barnes)
Open practices are on a continuum, and are dependent on context. Developing digital literacies helps leaders understand what should be shared openly, but also what should be shared behind a password, and what should be private.
Senior Leaders need to be conscious of their position when blogging, but sharing their learning minimizes the disconnect between leadership thinking and classroom practice.
Once Senior Leaders believe that open practice is worth pursuing, we need a scaffolded approach to help develop an understanding of digital literacies and support in developing that open practice.
Open practice by senior leaders encourages the participation of the entire learning community, and helps all stakeholders in public education find their voice.
The full story:
Since beginning my work with #mathleadersNEO the Mathematics Leadership Network, I have been exploring this thinking – how open practice can impact the work of education leaders, particularly in influencing classroom practice and improving student learning.
Recently, I listened to the TIDE Podcast #61: Open to Suggestion, which got me thinking again about the value in working openly as an education leaders.
I was so pleased to see that in TIDE Episode #70, the answer to this question was discussed, and some ideas completely new to me surfaced in the conversation.
I have posted the sections of the podcast to help provide focus for the thinking. Please take a few minutes to listen to the sound clips that are much more explicit than my summaries below.
The Importance of Content – Choosing Words Carefully
Dai began by talking about the role of an education leader and how conscious a leader needs to be about that role and position, and the ‘weight’ of the words they might make public.
Understanding what can and should be shared openly is a digital literacy, and it takes time to build. Experiencing the value of reaching an audience this way, and leveraging it to achieve organizational goals, also takes time to develop.
It is difficult to access education leaders. When they make their thinking and learning visible through blogging and other social media interactions, everyone in the organization (and the community) has access to what they are learning.
Sharing Resources Openly (Instead of Through Email)
Instead of sharing resources with specific educators in email, leaders can share them in an open space (such as a blog or website) so that all educators, within the system and world wide, have access to those resources. It also allows others to then comment on how they use the resources in classroom practice, to add other similar resources to the list, and to have a conversation in the comments around the specific learning goals best supported through these resources.
What are the Barriers to Sharing Openly?
We have to understand what can (and should) be shared fully openly, what should be shared behind a password, and what should be private. As well, we need to learn how to do that sharing so that nobody is personally or professionally impacted in a negative way.
For example, sharing a screencast on how to copy a Google Doc might be valuable to many educators. What we wouldn’t say, is, “I know many educators in my school are struggling with this, so I have made this instructional screencast to help you”.
We might say instead, “Are you trying to copy a Google Doc? Here are some simple instructions to walk you through the process”. This statement makes the learning open to all without any suggestion that the skill is one specific people find difficult.
It’s new learning. It’s 2016 learning. And you don’t know what you don’t know. For so many educators, the way they have always done things has served them well and they don’t see the need for change in practice.
What New Leadership Qualities do we Value in 2016?
When, as a leader, you work openly, you allow others to “swim in the river you are swimming in”, not your river, but the one you are swimming in right now.
Dai is playing with an important concept here, I think.
There are certain qualities and strengths of education leaders that we have traditionally valued, and we look for these.
But working openly is a new skill, with unlimited potential for mobilizing knowledge within the education system. We don’t yet value it in the education system.
Open Practices: Changing Hearts and Minds
There is no such thing as open practice. It is open practices (plural) because it is always within the context of where the learning is happening.
“You are never going to be able to shortcut doing the hard work of changing hearts and mind, and the hook which gets people to realize that working openly is useful, is going to be different in every situation”.
Who can you influence to practice more openly today?
What small steps can each leader take to work more openly?
How are the children doing? Is this the major concern and question that it should be in our country? Are we making our children (our future) our priority?
Her message centred around the importance of relationships in raising healthy, creative, curious and learning children.
Children learn through serve and return, serve and return. They initiate, adults respond, they respond…
How do we become conversational partners in this back and forth?
How are we responding to the cues from children? How are children learning from our language, our facial expressions, our interest in them, our engagement with them?
Caring adult relationships and connections are critical. So how do we spend our time with our kids?
Do we spend it “almost with them” while we do other things on our phones?
What is our connecting to redirecting ratio? How much time is just “being with” vs. “directing and redirecting”?
Talk more, tune in, listen and turn off the TV!
While I was there to hear all of her message, I was particularly interested in her take on technology in schools. Here are my notes on Dr. Jean Clinton’s response to a question about the use of technology in JK/SK and the remainder of the primary division.
“The use of technology in schools is tricky. We know that we need people who are going to be skilled in technological ability and the best time to start that is, well, we know we can start the concepts of coding very early. But we have technology now not just as a tool but as an interference. We are going to need some courageous work, where parents are told not to text their children during the school day, and to trust the system to get in touch because the majority of texts that kids are getting in class are from their parents.
But I think we need to take a stand and understand how very important technology is, but also how we are going to limit its use in the classroom. For example, I am not a supporter of using iPads in the earliest years. The development of the brain and how the kids are making connections, they get mesmerized and pulled towards those iPads and it should be later, once the brain has developed further, that they should be allowed to do it. It’s a tough question.”
We know that being outside and experiencing the natural world builds brains differently. We know that schoolifying, ranking and comparing children can result in stress reactions. And we know that stress changes biology.
Our kindergarten curriculum rests on inquiry-based learning. Is this what is happening in kindergarten classrooms?
We have to consider the research on brain development before advocating for the use of screens in the early years.
I know that I have much more learning to do on this topic.
Thank you to Dr. Jean Clinton for travelling to northwestern Ontario, and for sharing so much important information with our communities about how building those personal interactions with children is absolutely critical to their positive growth and development.
This question is at the centre of tables around the province as boards and schools go through their new school and board improvement process (SILC: System Improvement Learning Cycles). The new process, evolving from the former BIPSA process, is more agile (faster cycles), more targeted, and more responsive to student needs. The focus is on system improvement, which requires change at every level of the organization, but is only effective if it reaches the level of the student “desk”.
I have two wonderings about the new process.
Where in this process is there an opportunity to truly look outside our walls and see what is happening in the world? Our urgent student learning needs are not just tied to trailing data on past learning priorities. As the world changes at an exponential rate, who is determining what our students will need to thrive in that world?
“Being willing to constantly disrupt our individual and collective mindsets, if we are to come to terms with the needed disruptions that must occur in our own organizations if we are to truly unentrench ourselves from the status quo thinking that often buries us in practices of the past.
Seeing how ‘next’ practices are also in need of ‘next’ metrics if we are to pivot effectively towards this emerging and more desirable future we envision for ourselves and our organizations.”
2. Urgent student learning needs are personal. Every child, every adult in the system has personalized needs that cannot be determined by “average” thinking.
Our thinking, connected teachers, when they have a deep understanding of curriculum expectations, can design personalized learning for every child/student. Creating this environment for our learners requires a foundation of connectivism thinking. Teachers need to be able to access and participate in a rich network of support, and use this network to support the individual learning needs of every student.
How are we supporting educators to self-direct their learning through their own Professional Learning Networks?
“…it will not only be individuals that will need to become adaptable learners, remaining agile to our exponentially shifting world we now live in…so must our educational organizations if they are to remain significant, dynamic, relevant hubs of learning, innovation and transformation in the face of these seismic shifts and changes.”
Note: CATC (Computers Across the Curriculum) Camp is a Professional Learning Opportunity for Educators in Waterloo Region District School Board. About 125 teachers meet at the Kempenfelt Conference Centre each summer to share and learn about how to integrate technology into their curriculum and to use technology effectively in their practice. This year we celebrate their 25th year of learning in this way.
It goes like this: We eat a wonderful meal – often out on the patio – then the music beckons us to the auditorium for “News Time”. In a high energy fashion, we compete for prizes, we get updated on things like OSAPAC products, and most importantly, we get asked:
What else do you want to learn?
There are about 12 rooms that act as centres, with facilitators who scaffold learning around coding, makerspaces, online learning, GAFE tools, 1:1 Chromebooks, etc.
But when we identify something else we want to learn, it gets organized in minutes.
Today, someone asked to learn more about the online assessment tool, FreshGrade. After a few questions from the coordinator, a decision was made to host a session at 11:00 on online assessment tools in general. I volunteered to organize it.
Alison Bullock organized a GHO with a vendor rep and designed a Google form to collect questions. David Pope volunteered to share his experiences. Mark Carbone volunteered to speak about privacy of student information.
At 11:00, about 25 teachers arrived and we had a rich discussion about all of the considerations involved in choosing the right online assessment tool.
And it was just that fast.
We wanted to learn more about Assessment. Volunteers gathered the learner questions through open Google forms by tweeting the link. The experts were brought in physically or through GHO. A time and place was established.
We had a rich discussion, a screenshare demo of possibilities, and we walked away so much better informed about what is available, and the considerations we must make before implementation of online assessment tools.
This “identify the need – organize the resources – learn more” rhythm is becoming pervasive in professional learning. We now have the tools to respond to learning needs, not just with information, but with human resources, with organizing tools, and with synchronous learning tools.
Our classrooms can have this rhythm.
Interest -> questions -> organize -> bring in experts -> discuss.
A child who reads Moose (by Robern Munsch) with her parents at bedtime might have many questions about moose the next day. The teacher can organize a Google Hangout or Skype call with a moose expert to answer questions for the child.
We have the tools to respond immediately to learning needs, and to further develop interests and passions.
We need a new, responsive, rhythm for learning that has at its core, the ability to grow an individual’s motivation and desire to learn even more.
I am continuing to work my way through “Most Likely to Succeed“, the book by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith. On p. 223 of “Most Likely to Succeed”, the Tripod of Learning for the 21st Century is described.This is a summary of that thinking.
The three points of the tripod are: 1) content knowledge, 2) skill, and 3) the will to learn.
Of the three, will to learn (motivation) is seen as most critical, and the one most likely to be destroyed in the schools of today.
Content, for those with devices connected to the internet, is a free commodity (another reason why it is not okay that not everyone is connected).
Intrinsically motivated people are now free to learn new skills and content throughout their lives, because you can learn almost anything online.
The key question we need to ask is whether or not any given change we make to our education system, or to our teaching strategies, will increase student motivation for learning, and what evidence we will have to demonstrate this.
Motivation for learning does, of course, include engagement.
But do we also consider empowerment – the ownership of learning that involves persistence, knowing how to learn, knowing how we learn best, working hard to understand, sharing and gathering feedback, and self-discipline to keep at it?
Along with this, the ability to think critically, to communicate effectively in all modalities, to really collaborate (not just co-operate) and to use strategies for effective creative problem solving, are the survival skills our kids need in 2016.