Tag Archives: open

Why Build a Wall?

This is a wall:

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If your purpose is to protect information, this wall is useful.

If your purpose is to make money on the information, this wall is useful.

But if your purpose is to share information this wall will keep people out.

When we are trying to build a community, even if everyone has a password, this wall will keep people out.

What are you trying to hide?

From Doug Belshaw: We should be continually asking the question, can we make this public?

Because that’s how knowledge moves, ideas connect, people learn, innovation begins, and our world becomes a better place for our kids.

More Thinking on Open Practice:

Matt Thompson: How to Work Open

Doug Belshaw: The Importance of Working Open in Education

Mike Caulfield: New Directions in Open Education

Open Education Leadership

Learning Math in the Open

Featured image shared by Stephen Downes under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial license

A Vision of Effective Mathematics Teaching and Learning

What is your vision of effective mathematics teaching and learning in elementary school?

This is a new question for me.  This blog is Learning About Learning, and I have a lot of learning to do about mathematics education.

I am hoping you can help me.

Here are a few of the things I am thinking about right now.  What can you add to this? What have you learned in your own practice? What do you think about when you consider a vision for teaching and learning mathematics?

I think that efficacy is critical.  Students have to believe they can achieve at high levels.  Teachers have to believe that students can achieve at high levels and that teachers have the capacity to  get students to that high level.

Is mathematics skills (as I was taught), or is it ideas (as Dr. Marian Small suggests)?

Is math about making connections?  Is it important that we work with big ideas rather than teaching skills and concepts only in isolation?

I think students have to be able to choose the tools and strategies they need to help them solve problems.

It isn’t up to us to tell them what tool to use, but to teach them how to use many tools effectively so they might pick the one that is right for them in each context.

Math needs to be fun.  Kids need to be the ones doing the thinking. Teaching through problem solving can be very effective (problems are not add-ons).

Teachers need to collaborate with other educators, to share their thinking openly, to challenge the thinking of others, to read and write blogs about their work.  Isolation is a choice, and isolation is unprofessional.  Kids need the thinking of many professionals, not just the one assigned to them.

As I work through #mathleaderNEO over the next few years, I plan to grow this thinking.

I encourage you to share your ideas too.

Featured Image: shonk via Compfight cc

Afraid to be Wrong

Over the past few days, mostly while shovelling snow, I have been listening to one particular podcast from the CBC Ideas Program: Knowledge and Democracy.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 7.29.04 AM The program examines the interaction between science and society, looking at the “position” of the discipline “science” in a democracy.

It is of particular interest to me because of our  recent experiences with a government that chose to muzzle scientists and withdraw support from scientific inquiry.

The podcast is a combination of a talk given by Harry Collins at Memorial University in Newfoundland, and a conversation he had with Paul Kennedy.

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It raises important questions about the position of science in society.  I recommend it to anyone interested in how science is perceived in our society, and particularly for those advocating for science instruction and literacy in our public school system.

One sentence that resonates this morning is, “Would I prefer a society where people expose their ideas to criticism, or where they hide them away so nobody can tell them that they are wrong?“.

In our work with open learning, we often hear that education leaders are afraid to openly share their learning – to be “lead learners” – because it will expose what they don’t know.

Schooling promotes this thinking – that it is better to hide your ignorance.  It is very challenging to shift people who excelled in  school – many who then entered schooling as a profession – into believing that it is better to share ideas than to hide them.

How do we create the conditions in our public education system that encourage leaders to be learners, and to openly share their learning with others?

If we want “innovation”, we need to embrace ideas.

The only way to have great ideas, is to have a lot of ideas.

If our school culture values ‘being right’ more than it values learning, we can’t be innovative.

 

 

Resources:

Are we All Scientific Experts Now? (by Harry Collins)

Ideas with Paul Kennedy: Knowledge and Democracy

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The Key to Innovative Practice? More Ideas!

For a long time in Ontario, we have relied heavily on standardized test results, and the tested ideas and strategies grounded in research to inform our educational practice.

But does this kind of thinking short-change our kids?

Dr. Chris Dede talks about the importance of spreading pockets of excellence and adapting successful practice into our context.

In “Great to Excellent: Launching the Next Stage of Ontario’s Education Agenda“, Michael Fullan stated (p. 12)

“What Ontario educators and leaders have accomplished in the last nine years is truly remarkable and impressive on a world scale. Yet it is also disturbingly precarious without the focused innovation required for excellence.”

How do we accelerate the use of innovative practices in our classrooms?

In Eureka! Mapping the Creative Mind,  we learn that one of the best ways to have a great idea is to have lots of them (Linus Pauling).

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Shared under a Creative Commons attribution license by Celestine Chua

 

Chris Anderson argues that Crowd Accelerated Innovation results from our ability to access a global community of ideas online.  “Radical openness” works to spread ideas.  Innovation emerges as groups of people “bump up” the best ideas.

Our reality is that we are part of a global community.

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The role of a teacher is to ensure that ever single child in the classroom is learning.  Teachers are researchers, searching for the best practices to meet the learning needs of each child.  Focused, disciplined innovation results from modifying and adapting strategies and ideas that have been successful in other contexts.

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Isn’t it important, then, that all teachers know how to effectively access, and contribute to, the global community of ideas?

Are Digital Portfolios a Disadvantage?

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.

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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.

Never.

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.

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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.

 

Thoughts: Labour Day 2014

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

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

I have plenty of my own crazy tales, of course, having spent nearly 30 years of Labour Days ignoring my family in spite of it being my daughter’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, a stressful time for my kids heading back to school…

Even though today is the first Labour Day in 25 years where nobody in our household is heading off to school, I don’t feel like being funny.  I have a very heavy heart as I think of the teachers in British Columbia and the conflict they are embroiled in.

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

They openly invite everyone to see how they think, what they struggle with, how they learn, and what they are working on.  They do this through blogging, through Twitter (and other social media), and through face-to-face presentations throughout the year.

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

As we once again see teachers as a political target, it is important to ask ourselves why this profession is so often attacked by politicians. Take a moment to read this very thought-provoking essay on the Future of Schooling in Canada by Stephen Murgatroyd.

Here is a short excerpt:

“Teachers need to “take back” their schools, supported by mindful school leaders, if they are not to become the new laboratories for corporate greed….

…The final challenge relates to the conditions of practice which teachers and school leaders face. There is a growing distortion around the importance of class size and composition – classes of 30-35 with up to six students with special needs are seen as “manageable” (they are not) with a single teacher and little if any access to other supports. Custodial services are seen as being only required before and after school – not during the school day, leaving teachers to clean up after sick children or some accident in the chemistry lab. We are neglecting the basic conditions in the name of economy. Attempts to challenge the creeping Fordism which such class sizes force on school systems are seen as “teacher whining”, yet parents and citizens should be appalled at some of the conditions under which we are asking teachers to produce the next generation of imagineers, artists, scientists, engineers and trades persons.”

 

If we really believe that our children are our greatest resource, and if we really believe that teaching is the most important profession for our future, then we need to tell our stories to the world.

“Teaching in isolation is no longer consistent with professionalism.”(Catherine Montreuil, August 2014).

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

Tell your story.

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

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

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Photo credit: venspired via Compfight cc

Stories of Open Sharing – And Why It Is Important

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Alan Levine (@cogdog) is a champion of open storytelling.

I followed Alan for years on Twitter before finally meeting him in person first in Terrace Bay (video below) and then again at Unplug*d12.

He asked me for our story about the time Commander Hadfield tweeted me to say that up in the ISS, he had watched the video my students helped create.  You can read the story here, but the full version, including the connections that led to the connections that led to the event, is told below.

Alan’s version can be found here.

I hope this inspires people to open their practice and put learning for all at the centre of everything they do.

Alan Levine, thanks for pushing me to do better, all the time.

Dean Shareski, thanks for modelling open and connected in all you do.

How I met the cogdog!

What Are You Thinking?

Photo Credit: jDevaun via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: jDevaun via Compfight cc

Recently, this post was shared with me on Twitter:

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It’s a very good look at the need to communicate and respond in many ways to all the stakeholders in the school community.

I would add another item to the list: Blogging

Why should education administrators blog?  For the same reasons we want teachers and students to blog.

#1: Make Learning Visible

Through blogging, educational administrators at all levels make their thinking visible to their team.  Learning is shared and open.  Conversations about learning become widely shared and asynchronous.  Anyone can join in.  Learning is enhanced for everyone who participates.  Introverts who may feel uncomfortable having a conversation with an educational leader face to face, can carefully consider their comments and share them in a way that makes them comfortable.

#2: Encourage Others to Make Learning Visible

When administrators share their learning, they model the practice of making thinking visible, encouraging all members of the school community to do the same.  They show that risk-taking is valued, that failing is a catalyst for learning, and that learning is important for everyone in the school environment.

#3: Share the Learning

How often do we hear that Principals are out of the building too often, and that Supervisory Officers are never in the school?  Blogging allows administrators to share their learning with others.  It is a built-in accountability that their time away is well spent and that the learning can be used to build capacity in the entire system.  What personal professional learning are you currently engaged in?  What books are you reading?  Share your learning with your school community and your PLN.  Model personal professional growth while encouraging your staff to do the same.

#4. Organize Your Thinking

A teacher who recently started blogging was preparing for a position of added responsibility this year, and she remarked at how easy it was to organize her thinking.  It was already organized on her blog!  Education Administrators who are called on to make presentations have easy access to the material they may need as they have already presented their thinking and learning in their blog.

#5. Connect With Other School Leaders

By following the blogs of school leaders around the world, you can engage in conversations and learn from their learning.  Be a part of the Professional Learning Network that believes in sharing, in challenging thinking, and in making thinking visible to all.

Going Deeper with Twitter

Whenever someone is presenting on the value of Twitter for teachers and educators, and there is a shout out for “tell us who you are and why you love Twitter for education”, there is always a flurry of people talking about how they love twitter for connecting with other educators, for conversation and for sharing ideas.  But how often is that really happening?

Image from slideshare.net courtesy of Donna Fry and Colin Jagoe.
Image from slideshare.net courtesy of Donna Fry and Colin Jagoe.

The most valuable moment in my growth as a twitter user came several years ago when I posted a math resource.  Ira Socal (@irasocal) replied that he didn’t think I was the kind of educator who used resources like that. It caught me completely by surprise.  I had not critically judged the resource I shared.  It was being used at my school.  A teacher had recommended it.  I tweeted it. But I had no idea if it was effective.

Image from SlideShare.net courtesy of Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (@snbeach).
Image from SlideShare.net courtesy of Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (@snbeach).

How often do we share without thinking? How often to we quickly scan something and share? There is so much information out there.  How often do we take the time to read, think, reflect, and ask questions of our PLN? How often do we engage our PLN in critical thinking, or in conversations that challenge our beliefs?

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Stephen Katz talks about the importance of not trying to cover a “mile”, but to pick the right “inch” and then dig in deep.

There is nothing wrong with sharing.  I hope that what I put out there is useful, that it provokes thought and helps kids.  But it is worth taking the time to really read something carefully, to reflect on what is being said, and to challenge the thinking of others.

So how do we start digging deeper into what we are learning from our colleagues on Twitter?

Think about taking part in a chat.  Everything you need to know to take part in a Twitter chat can be found here: Cybrary Man’s Educational Chats on Twitter. If you want to see samples of chat discussions, check out the #edchat archives here.

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Photo from Slideshare.net courtesy of @thecleversheep (Rod Lucier)

Or, just read something that is posted.  Blog about it. Ask questions about it. Think more deeply about it.  Who would use this? Do you agree with it?  Does it align with the Strategic Plan where you work? Do you have experiences to add to it? Can you refer to it in a discussion on another topic?

There are real people with great brains behind those Twitter handles. Let’s make sure Twitter is more than an “echo chamber” and instead, a place where we can challenge each other to think critically about our practice.