Searching for the Desire (to Learn)

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?”

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Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share-alike license by Krissy Venosdale.

We have names and categories for those who resist change and cling to the status quo.

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Transforming School Culture, by Dr. Anthony Muhammad

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.

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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.

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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.

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Shared under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial share-alike license by Giulia Forsythe.

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.

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Image shared under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial share-alike license by Alec Couros (@courosa)

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?

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Fast Company:

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:

  • one open website with no login or password required (
  • Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 6.54.58 AMon 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?

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Image shared under a Creative Commons attribution license by Alan Levine (@cogdog).

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?

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Shared under a creative commons attribution, non-commercial, share-alike license by Giulia Forsythe.

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?

Sometimes we refer to educators who are resistant to change as “fundamentalists”, based on the work of Muhammad, in Transforming School Culture (2009) (nicely explained here by Nicole Morden-Cormier).

What would we say about leaders who:

  • 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?
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Shared by Kaila Wyslocky (@kwyslocky) from her presentation on how she is transforming her online teaching practice, OTRK12 2015.

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.

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Brainstorming Professional Learning

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.

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8 thoughts on “Searching for the Desire (to Learn)

  1. Bang on, Donna!

    That’s exactly the approach I’ve found most productive, and eye opening. A big recurring conversation is to explore technology that teachers have invested themselves in personally and to have them share skills and effective practice in their teaching. Another, perhaps follow up, is to find an app for that, say a tool they’ve wondered about to aid in a personal or professional challenge….

    Thanks for your always insightful and thought provoking work, donna!,

    1. Thanks Marc;

      I really like that approach – to personalize the learning at the source and with the technology currently in use. Thanks so much for taking the time to share.

  2. Thinking about the Student Work Study Teacher model and the lessons that we can learn from the success of this model. It is completely job embedded, it is reponsive to the learning needs of those in the classroom at the exact moment that they are apparent (thinking of the northern model where our SWSTs can be in the same classrooms several times per week), it is non-threatening as it is invitational (relationships are critically important), it is collaborative, ongoing, and uses research to guide practice over time (to mention just a few features). These characteristics are vital to success…I have been thinking deeply about the lessons that I can learn about this model and how I can replicate this model of learning (thus change!) at a system level…and reminding myself that I need to be patient (hmmm….urgency always takes over though!). Many of these characteristics have been mentioned by Donna’s reflections and they resonate with me for sure – and I think about how I was inspired by Donna to move forward…she took one of my practices (my Monday Morning Memo) and challenged me to make it interactive. She taught me, supported me through the process and provided me with feedback along the way (and rescued me a couple of times) and then reinforced my learning by inviting me to present, with HER, at a conference. I learned about Google Apps and our Virtual Learning Environment the same way – I saw the need to collaborate more online (agendas, exit cards, etc). Thus, I had a specific need as a learner, and had a trusted colleague who entered in and supported me with this piece. Today, I use my Google Apps a whole lot (this week we met with the Ministry of Education to provide evidence around our Board Learning Plan and was able to embed links to google forms highlighting our exit card data, to our formative assessments, to my blog, etc) and next week am joining a board based learning session with our eLC. I appreciate that this learning was invitational (just in time!), collaborative, grounded in trust and not judgement, provided ongoing feedback, and responsive! Reminds me of a SWST model! Just some thoughts… thanks for making me reflect Donna!

    1. That is a really interesting take on professional learning, Nicki. I remember when we did our first 21C project in SGDSB and we did the small tutorial model for a day so that people could get 1:1, or close to it, instruction in areas they needed support in.

      I want to think a bit more on how this might look in practice, but having someone there to give feedback on the professional learning to the facilitator in the moment makes a lot of sense, and it has been such a powerful model in classrooms.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thinking on this! I know we will have many more conversations.

  3. Your post is timely as I’ve been thinking about the lack of desire too. I’m an acting department head right now and some of our English department will be engaging in some professional learning next week on gafe tools. I’m co-facilitating the session and trying to think about how I want to frame the learning because I also think a crucial aspect of the puzzle is helping teachers feel comfortable with making mistakes. I think on the whole, teachers are a group of really high achievers and for many people, it’s scary to put yourself in a situation where you don’t have all the answers. I know with all the growth mindset talk, making mistakes should be encouraged, but I think that it’s still very uncomfortable territory for many teachers.

    I’m actually quite proud of how many members of my department are planning to put themselves out there next week and willing to make some mistakes in order to learn.

    I hope it’s a culture that we can sustain in our department. ?

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