This year’s Technology Enabled Learning and Leading Symposium for Principals is wrapping up today. Yesterday we had the opportunity to have conversations with Dr. Tony Wagner about how the current pathways for our students are no longer leading to success.
Creating that Compelling Case for Change is so critical. We are in times of exponential change, yet for many, this change is invisible as we continue to do things as we have always done in our education system.
Earlier in the week, I had the pleasure of leading, with Mark Carbone, a group of PQP and SOQP instructors in an examination of why change is needed and how we might start considering our work in online spaces differently.
We have included the slides and some of our thinking below.
At the end of #YRDSBQuest, Michael Fullan told the educators in attendance that they need to go back and challenge the status quo.
I am documenting the ongoing conversation about how to do this safely.
We rarely talk about it, but in our work, many educators have told us they won’t blog because they are afraid it will show others “what they don’t know”. They see leaders in education as people who will label them as being inappropriate for leadership roles.
We talk a lot about how we want a growth mindset for our students, yet conversations with aspiring leaders demonstrate that challenging leaders can result in a label – “not moving up in this organization”.
How do we build a system that values challenge to the status quo? How do we challenge the status quo without jeopardizing our careers in the current environment?
Below is the conversation currently developing. Please add to the conversation and help push our thinking about how we can best effect change – how those wanting to challenge can do so effectively.
You can continue to follow the tweet replies here. We encourage you to also join the conversation by commenting on the blog.
Technically, he isn’t really my dog. We bought him for our son 10 years ago.
“Basso”, the beagle, was my son’s Christmas present in 2005.
A beagle was the #2 item on my son’s wish list.
Item #1 was an iPod, but everyone wanted an iPod in 2005, and all of the stores were sold out.
An iPod. An iPod with video playback – new technology in 2005, and the cool accessory for a grade 11 student.
As it turns out, we found an iPod as well, just before Christmas, in a pop-up tech store in Vaughan Mills (which had only opened about a year earlier).
Basso the beagle has seen so many changes in technology in his 10 years with us. We have pictures of this dog on such a wide variety of devices – including that first iPod.
Basso still hides his face when he sees any device.
His earliest experiences with camera devices always involved infrared lights and flashes that hurt his eyes. Even today, as I tried to take a birthday picture, he closed his eyes and then hid his face under his blanket.
In April 2006, when my school board sponsored teachers to purchase technology for their classroom use, I bought a beautiful Canon PowerShot A700 digital camera for just under $700.00. The very first picture I took is still my favourite picture of Basso. Since then, Basso has had his picture taken with an iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 6, and 6s. His picture has been displayed on an iPad, iPad2, iPad3, iPad Air, MacBook Pro and MacBook.
The worst technology Basso ever experienced was that 5th generation iPod back in 2005.
I needed that camera because my ultra-cool blackberry 7750 cell phone/smart phone didn’t have one. We weren’t thinking about taking pictures with our phones 10 years ago.
Back then, my son was loving his time in grade 11 – at least the part that was high school hockey.
He was dying of boredom in his physics class, and a few other classes as well. The content was utterly irrelevant and uninspiring. He saw no purpose in memorizing formulas for tests or trying to figure out the “type” of problem so he could determine what formula to plug the numbers into.
Since then, he has gone on to a brilliant career first as a national team athlete, and now as a science-based professional – a choice that required surviving many more (very boring) physics classes. It certainly was not his physics classes that inspired him to have a career in science, where he does more physics every day than his teachers have ever experienced.
So I wonder, are the students in that physics class today still reading from a textbook, going home and answering questions for homework, and then being tested on their ability to memorize the formula or choose the right formula given some made-up problem? Or are those students now solving real-life problems, networking with people who actually work in the field of physics, and learning about the amazing opportunities available to them in science? Has the 10 years of explosive technology change had any impact at all on students in a grade 11 physics class?
Unlike with Basso, when I hold up my iPhone 6 to take a picture of my granddaughter, she knows that she is supposed to smile!
Ten years from now, when she is in Grade 5, that iPhone 6 will be her blackberry 7750. She will laugh at what I took her baby pictures with.
It will be the worst technology she will experience in her life.
I wonder, will her grade 5 class still look like the grade 5 class of today? Or will our school system finally have entered the pace of change that is the world now? Will her grade five class be mirroring her world and her life, or will it still be focused on her grade 6 EQAO scores and preparing her well for the world her grandparents grew up in?
We laugh at the technology from 10 years ago.
Do we laugh at what we thought classrooms should be like way back then too, or do they still look exactly the same?
I am taking a little of my own advice today, and rereading Carol Dweck’s 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
I am still working through the first chapters, but I have already found a number of connections to other work.
The most interesting new learning for me comes from exploring the symptoms of a “fixed mindset”.
We have been so focused on the “growth mindset”, that I have not taken time to really consider what a fixed mindset looks like.
What systems and structures encourage a fixed mindset?
A fixed mindset means that you believe that your talents, abilities and intelligence are what they are. You also believe that the talents, abilities and intelligence of others is fixed and won’t change.
The new learning for me is the idea that if this is your belief, you need to prove over and over again that you are smart and talented.
You can’t let the world see that you might not be smart and talented and able.
““Believing that your qualities are carved in stone – the fixed mindset – creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character – well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.”
Dweck, Mindset (2006) p. 6
When young children enter school, they arrive as learners. Does the evaluative nature of the classroom encourage a fixed mindset?
Do our students become afraid to show they don’t know something?
Do they become afraid of challenges, and of learning opportunities where they might fail the first time?
Do they begin to ask, “Will I succeed or fail?Will I look smart of dumb?What will people think of me?” These questions are related to having a fixed mindset about your abilities. (Dweck, p.6)
Does the structure of school create an environment for the entrenchment of fixed mindsets?
Do students begin to choose only those experiences where they will succeed? Do they believe that “kids who are smart don’t do mistakes”? (Dweck, p.16)
Do our “very best students”, those who learn to play school well, get high marks, and “succeed” leave school with the most fixed mindsets of all – needing to prove themselves over and over and over again?
This thinking links to two other ideas I have been exploring recently.
First, Seth Godin’s piece on the meaning of empathy.
Empathy is about wondering why people do what they do.
When we dismiss the actions of others as being the result of their unchangeable characteristics, instead of approaching the behaviour of others with curiosity and wonder, we are displaying the symptoms of a fixed mindset.
If we have a fixed mindset, then we know why people do what they do, because they only have so much intelligence, their personality is “this”, and their abilities are “that”, so obviously the outcome is “this”.
In an environment that promotes a fixed mindset, is it difficult for empathy to flourish?
Do our students who have learned to play school have a difficult time having empathy for others as they develop the belief that abilities are fixed?
When we look closer at it, we see that assessment for learning and assessment as learning are strategies for a growth mindset that believes all people can learn.
Assessment OF learning, in isolation, is a breeding ground for fixed mindset thinking, where intelligence, or being smart, must be proven over and over in an evaluative environment.
Robert Sternberg (on p. 5 of Mindset) is quoted as saying that a major factor in whether people achieve expertise is not fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement. If we really believe that, then assessment for and as learning would be a no-brainer, because learning would be a priority, not marks and evaluation.
Does a pervasive fixed mindset also seep into our professional lives? Are educators afraid to make their thinking visible through blogging because “they might look stupid” and they might “reveal that there are things they don’t know”?
When we think about promotions at the school and system level, does a fixed mindset enter into this process as well? Do we put our colleagues into neat little categories based on past mistakes? Do we forget that their abilities and talents can change?
Perhaps, if me must put people into categories, the most useful categories are learners vs. non-learners. Learners embrace feedback, thrive on challenge, and work to get better.
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.
These are great words of advice for creating a presentation.
Could they work as well for those of us designing professional learning?
In his address to the Ontario Leadership Congress in April 2015, Simon Breakspear emphasized the importance of having a clear vision of what future learning looks like, sounds like, feels like.
He said, “We cannot lead others into a future we cannot see.”
Our role as leaders is to get out of the conceptual, and move from vision documents to “here, let me show you”.
So what is our profession, then, at the bare bones level?
Teachers cause learning to happen. They cause learning to happen for every child and student trusted into their care. Every single one.
It is not okay for a child to be ‘stuck’ and not learning in a classroom. It is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that child is learning. No teacher has to do this in isolation. Teachers are aware of their best practice, and they search for their next practice that will help that child learn. The wider the professional network, the larger the opportunity to find solutions to learning problems.
This remains one of my favourite simplified statements about the work teachers do.
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.
Last evening we had a rich conversation in the #OSSEMOOC open mic around why educators are not blogging.
1. Not enough time.
Educators are the hardest working people I know, hands down. No contest. They would NEVER think of not preparing for classes or not providing feedback on student work.
Isn’t blogging and sharing and reflecting just as important? How long does it take to share a few thoughts online? How long does it take to upload a file to share?
2. Fear of judgment.
Creating a safe environment for risk-taking is a classroom priority. Why do we make it hard for our colleagues to share their practice? Do our students feel they will be judged when we ask them to share? How do we model to our students that learning and sharing and growing together is a valuable use of our time?
It won’t surprise anyone that I am a strong proponent of digital professional portfolios. I demonstrate how to create them here, and over the past year, George Couros has worked with Principal Associations in Ontario (CPCO/OPC/ADFO) to help our school leaders become connected learners, including the idea of using a blog as a portfolio.
I’ve bought into this hook, line and sinker.
I exude visible thinking, open learning, reflective practice, and I promote it in professional practice with every breath.
I know, you’ve heard enough.
So I have to ask, then, if I am wrong? Is it actually a disadvantage to have a digital portfolio?
Because right now, it really feels like it is.
Let me explain.
Over the past three years, I have sat through a number of professional interviews, on both sides of the table. I don’t hear any questions about connected learning, open professional practice, or Professional Learning Networks being asked. Ever.
I have yet to hear a single question about how an interviewee models the learning we want to see in the classroom.
I have never heard a question about whether the interviewee blogs or sees any value in blogging.
I have not heard a whisper of any competencies around modern learning or 21C practices.
As the person being interviewed, I have watched eyes glaze over at the mention of anything digital. Anything.
What’s going on here? I hear everywhere how TELT (Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching) is a priority in this province, how the renewed vision for excellence is all about creating global citizens and digital leaders for this changing world.
And we are doing this – very well in fact. We have absolutely amazing learning happening in schools. Teachers in Ontario are world leaders in modern pedagogical practice. We KNOW what TELT looks like at the level of the student desk because that is what we are doing every single day as we connect and share and challenge each other to keep getting better at it.
Teachers are flocking to edcamps and Twitter chats, taking charge of their own professional learning and busting out of the model that says learning has to be provided and into the culture where learning is sought.
Educators are flattening the organization. Principals are not “instructional leaders” any more, they are co-learners, because the real learning at all levels is happening where the students are learning, not in a banquet hall in a Toronto hotel.
This is absolutely the most exciting time to be in education. The shift is palpable and visible in classrooms.
When we think about spreading excellence and adapting best practices, we need to stop thinking exclusively about horizontal spread.
How do we spread digital leadership, open reflective practice, networked learning and the modelling of 21C (modern learning) competencies vertically in our education system?
Until we can do that, Digital Portfolios will continue to be invisible.
She challenges us to think about positive thinking as a number of different activities instead of just one way of being.
Sometimes, we think very positively about an upcoming event because we have had similar success in the past. This type of thinking is based on reality, and it often results in better outcomes because it is a motivating factor.
However, having positive daydreams about upcoming events is linked to poorer outcomes. Positive daydreaming can lead to relaxation. Professor Oettingen suggests that people who frequently use positive daydreaming as a strategy, convince themselves that they are fine, and they don’t take the necessary steps to move forward in achieving their goals.
“Mental contrasting“, however, is a technique that can lead to successfully achieving some goals, while letting go of goals that you will not be able to achieve. The important factor is building close connections between your current reality and your goal as well as your current reality and identified obstacles, and what is needed to overcome the obstacles.