A couple of years ago, I wrote a post on “8 Things To Look For in Today’s Classroom”, and it has been something that has helped my own learning, and hopefully others as well.
Educators tend to listen to other educators. It is not that we are not open to listening to people outside of the education realm, but being a part of a school and understanding the intricacies of what teachers deal with is important for perspective.
I have heard before, during, and after talks educators not to excited about a message from a “non-educator” because of those important details that they tend to miss. Learning is one aspect of our job, but if you are working with so many students that each are so unique in their own way. a lot of ideas shared are not as simple as they may seem to someone who has never taught a classroom full of children. Although we should always be open to different perspectives, I think it is fair that we tend to connect more with someone who has done the work.
So when so many people are giving young people suggestions on how they use technology, the “do’s and don’ts” (they are more often don’ts from what I have seen), and ideas on social media without ever using it, I wonder if kids see us with the same lens of “credibility” that we tend to use with others outside the field.
I remember this older post by Will Richardson on “Balance” and how we often tell kids that they are out of balance because they use too much technology when they might see adults as out of balance because they do not use it enough.
I just wonder if the same credibility from experience that so many people value (in all professions, not just education) is something that young people consider as well?
If you have no idea what SnapChat is or how to use it, do you think a kid really cares when we say that they shouldn’t use it?
Through a Twitter conversation, someone brought up an interesting analogy on how administrators should be the “offensive line for their staff”, blocking distractions and unnecessary “stuff” that takes away from great teaching and learning. I loved the analogy, and really thought about how administrators need to be seen as those that do whatever they can to ensure teachers are successful so that their students can amazing learning opportunities.
Yet from many conversations and observations, it seems the opposite. With technology, teachers seems to be jumping through hoops, having decisions made for them without their input on experience being utilized. It seems that the “offensive line” concept is not protecting teachers, but sometimes blocking them from great opportunities.
For example, if you want teachers to use social media, how would a 50 page document sharing the guidelines actually help them? With every page that is turned, you lose teachers who just see that it is not worth it to go through all of the roadblocks to even start. Or the computer that takes “only two minutes” to log on because of network protocols. Yet two minutes, times 30 kids, can be an eternity, especially if one of those computers doesn’t work as expected.
With every page, every policy, every filter, many teachers just choose to do what they have always done and do not see it is worth the time to do something new. We encourage “risk-taking” yet we have created such a risk averse culture in education. We can say “take risks” all we want, but actions will always be louder than words.
So if administrators are the “offensive live”, we need to make sure that we are blocking for the right team. Otherwise, we can only blame ourselves for not moving forward.
I have really focused on “innovative leadership development” in my work, and have written about it extensively in my work. Because of this, I wanted to collect all of my posts that have really focused on leadership in a time where leadership really needs to change. Please feel free to use the posts in any way to help you with your own development, or challenge any of the ideas that I have shared.
The posts are organized into two areas: “Developing Leadership” and “Embodying Visionary Leadership“. It is meant to help develop a vision and understanding, and then to talk about what it actually looks like. (For a static page of these posts, you can check out the “Leadership Deveolpment” page on my blog.)
Educational Leadership Philosophy – This is the post that leads to all of other things. I think it is a great practice to be able to write your own leadership philosophy so people understand why you do what you do. It is also something that I will revisit and tailor since a leadership philosophy should not stay the same for the rest of our lives. It should change on based on who we serve, and what we learn. It should constantly be pushing you to move forward.
8 Characteristics of the Innovative Leader – As we continue to look at teachers, students, and learning becoming more “innovative”, it is important that leadership changes. As administrators often set the tone for their district or their building, if they are saying the same, it is not likely that things are going to change in the classroom. Leadership needs to not only “think” different, but they need to “act” different. This post talks about some of those characteristics.
5 Questions You Should Ask Your Principal – To develop a powerful vision, it rarely starts with answers, but more often with questions. This post focuses on questions in five crucial areas: Fostering Effective Relationships, Instructional Leadership, Embodying Visionary Leadership, Developing Leadership Capacity, and Creating Sustainable Change. How do you lead in these areas?
3 Questions To Guide Your Vision – One of the things that I feel is important in a leadership position is that you build capacity and create an environment that eventually will not need you. To create a vision, you have to think about your long term impact, and how you will develop people to create a culture that is not dependent upon a person, but on the community.
Want someone to see your viewpoint? Ask them their thoughts first. – When I believe in something, I used to spend all of my time trying to “sell” that idea to others and trying to get them to embrace what I saw. If people didn’t agree with me, or my viewpoint, I would often got extremely frustrated and get nowhere closer than where I was before. I hear this same approach from so many other people who tell me about the countless hours they try to get people to “embrace change”, and what I have learned is to spend less time defending your position, and spend more time asking questions.
Embodying Innovative Leadership
4 Attributes of a Great Assistant Principal – Being an Assistant (or Vice) Principal, was one of my favourite jobs. As a principal, my AP’s were amazing and they helped to make me a better leader. They were always open to learn and develop; not only from what I would share to them, but from the experiences that they had with staff, students, and parents. I expect great Assistant Principals to focus on building relationships with the entire school community, are approachable, are change agents, and ALWAYS have the idea of “what is best for kids” driving their decision-making.
The Need for Courageous Leadership – This is a great example of a leader that models risks for their faculty, and leads through actions, not simply words. Does your school have the courage to let a student tweet on the behalf of your school account? If not, why?
4 Types of Leaders You Shouldn’t Be – Working with many different organizations, I have heard either the frustration from educators within the organization that feel like they are running on the spot, while also working with administrators that are more focused on holding down the fort as opposed leading with vision. These are some qualities that you or I could be doing, without even thinking about. It is so important to take a strong look in the mirror and think about the things that we would hate as an educator in our building.
21st Century Schools or 21st Century Learning? – The mass purchase of devices for schools is happening way too much without the crucial conversations about what learning should look like in the classroom. This is actually frustrating many teachers that I have spoken with; it just becomes another thing that has been dumped on educators, not something that is going to make learning better. There is definitely some value in playing with a device and figuring out some of the amazing things it can do, but should we really be doing that by buying devices en masse? Shouldn’t we try to figure out what the learning look like and then discuss the device?
3 Things We Should Stop Doing in Professional Development – There are a lot of things that we have just accepted as “norm” in our professional development, but we should always deeply look at how we spend our time with staff. Time is the most valuable currency we have in schools so it is important that we get the most out of every interaction we have together. In this post, I look at three things that we should not accept as simply the norm.
5 Characteristics of a Change Agent – As a leader, it is not just teaching “stuff”, but it is helping people to see the importance of embracing change in our work in schools today. We often lament at how people are terrible at accepting change, but in reality, many leaders are just poor at delivering why change is important or crucial. All people want to do something better, but what are the characteristics of leaders that successfully move people along?
Hopefully there are some things that you can take away from these posts, or share with others.
A common thing I hear in regards to technology and our understanding of it goes along the lines of, “Kids are amazing…we can just learn it from them!”
Although I really believe in the power of learning with our students and that in the area of technology, I wonder sometimes if we use that thinking as an excuse to get out of learning.
Let me explain…
The ability for us to connect and learn from a vast amount of information in a highly networked world is daunting for most, including our students. Navigating some of these murky waters, can be extremely complicated. Because of that, I think this is all the more reason that we have to jump in ourselves and learn so we can help guide our students through these networks. SImply saying, “I am going to learn from our kids”, leaves us often waiting for those moments and we could possibly miss out on many opportunities that we could have created for our students. Sometimes we “don’t know what we don’t know”, and when we wait for our students to “teach us”, we might miss out on what we can show them as well.
Do I think that we can learn from kids? Absolutely. I highly encourage it as it empowers our students to act as both teachers and learners.
Is it possible for us to know about all of the technology out there? Not a chance. Even the most tech savvy educators in the world will not know every facet of technology. There is just too much stuff.
But for us to simply wait for our kids to teach us, we could miss so many amazing opportunities that we could have helped create in our school if we would have jumped into those waters on our own first.
If you are in the educational technology field, you have probably heard about the “SAMR Model” and “TPACK” as ways to implement technology in powerful ways in our classrooms. Many of these models (and others) say something similar; how are we using technology in ways that we couldn’t do before? For example, should we use technology to write notes (which we could do with a pen) or are we going to use something like blogs so that students can connect with the world? Technology is transformational and the opportunities that exist today in schools are pretty amazing and these “models” encourage teachers to take advantage of that. This is a good thing.
So when we talk about things like “differentiation” and “inclusion”, how does this apply? Well if we are expecting all students to do the same “transformative” thing, it feels like we are still expecting all kids to do the same thing.
Maybe instead of asking, “what does the technology allow us to do now, that we couldn’t do before”, maybe we should ask, “what does the technology allow the student to do now that they couldn’t do before”? The ability to write notes on a document might not be transformative to all of us, but to the student who does not have the same ability to write using a piece of paper that others might have, this (what many would consider simple) use of technology may be transformative to that student. In our race to put everything in education into a neat acronym, we often give standardized solutions for individual people.
Perhaps we should step back and see that what technology provides is often the ability for a teacher to help make learning very personal for our kids and create opportunities that didn’t exist before (for them). Every standardized solution often seems to reduce our kids to a name on a piece of paper or simply a number, when they deserve so much more than that.
Google Glass is stupid.
There I said it.
I have been thinking this since I first saw someone wearing them at a conference and tried them on. They were hard to work and took a long time to get to do anything. They also looked weird. Really weird. “Cyborg from the future” weird.
These are all things I thought but didn’t say.
I am a pretty outspoken person so why wouldn’t I say it out loud to others?
Well, because I also thought Twitter was stupid, as well as Instagram, and Facebook. Pinterest was also something that I thought was stupid but man is it helping Paige and I plan a wedding. I said all of those things out loud.
I have been wrong before and have openly said that something is “stupid” without using it or understanding how it could be used.
I waited for something to prove me wrong with Google Glass.
Then I saw the video below:
I was moved. I was in tears. It was a great way to tell a story. It was powerful. Although I know this was made for Google by students at USC, I could finally see the potential.
I know that I waited and even though they are still pretty expensive, they could have some pretty amazing potential in schools. I just had to wait long enough to see it and I know better to not jump to conclusions so fast.
I have done that before and will not to do it again.
P.S. Except for Snapchat. That’s stupid.
(Prove me wrong!)
For ISTE 2014 in Atlanta, I will be presenting on the “Myths of Technology and Learning”. As I am really thinking about what I will be sharing at the conference, I wanted to write a series of blog posts that will help myself and others “rethink” some of these statements or arguments that you hear in relation to technology in school. I will be writing a series of blog posts on different myths, and will be posting them on this page. I hope to generate discussion on these topics to further my own learning in this area and appreciate any comments you have on each idea shared.
A fear for many is that the continuous interactions that we have with one another through technology will replace face-to-face interaction.
Sometimes it seems that we forget our own childhood and that we had many peers that had trouble with interactions before mobile devices were the norm. Technology did not inhibit them from speaking to others, nor do we need to necessarily think less of someone who may be an introvert. People have different strengths and some actually thrive in isolation. Their issue or our issue?
What some teachers have done is use technology to actually give students a voice and options that they didn’t have before. I thought it was brilliant to see one teacher use Google Forms to do a simple “check-in” with students to give them the opportunity to share what is going on in their lives to ensure that she could help them in any way possible.
What this actually facilitated was the opportunity for the teacher to get to know her students better through the use of technology and she saw it as a way of actually enhancing their face-to-face interactions. Some students are fine going up to a teacher and sharing some of the struggles that they have in their lives, but from my experience, those students would actually be in the minority.
Instead of accepting that some people are more open than others, we have often tried to force students talk to a point which would be our ideal. Many educators, including myself, used to give marks for “participation” in class discussions to push our students to talk. What this would often do would force some kids to speak when they are totally uncomfortable, and not facilitate anything that would be beneficial outside of the classroom. With others that continued to not talk, tying marks to their “lack” of participation, only makes them feel worse and punishes them for sometimes being shy. Is this really helping the problem?
We have to see that for some students, technology actually can provide them the voice that they have never had before. I spoke to one student that said the use of social media actually inspired them to start speaking publicly because they developed confidence through a medium that worked for them. I think of how many students would benefit and feel more comfortable talking in public when they would be allowed to use a medium that works for them first.
Then you have the other argument that the constant use of technology actually takes away the ability for some students that are already social. The reality with many people are social, means they will actually connect both online and offline. Social media has not made me any less social when in an “offline” environment. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I now feel that I am always comfortable going to any conference on my own as I will know people there that I have connected with through Twitter. Instead of simply going to workshops and being by myself, I now can easily find a group of friends and connect with them in person. This only started happening for me when I started using social media and if anything, it has actually made me more social in face-to-face settings. Before I would have never gone to a conference on my own, and now, I don’t even think twice about it.
What I have also seen is that technology and social media has actually given people the opportunity to connect with others that have similar interests or experiences. I was moved, as many were, by the video of two girls that were both born with one arm, connecting continuously through Skype. Although they had never met, they considered each other “best friends”, and talked constantly, even though they were on opposite sides of the world. The moment they finally met was inspiring, and to say that this relationship is lesser because it started and grew online, would most likely be an insult to these two, as it would be to others who have met some of their best friends and partners online.
It is pretty amazing to see the opportunities we have to connect, see, and learn about one another because of technology, but sometimes the ease of use leads us to take it for granted. As I see my nephews and nieces grow up through my brother’s sharing of their lives, our conversations are much richer and deeper each time I see them. I know more about their lives and feel that even though I am living far away, I am still able to watch them grow up. I would take opportunities to see them in person over online interactions, but since I do not always have that option, I will continue to enjoy connecting with them through technology in-between visits.
Technology can give us the opportunity to enhance face-to-face interactions, not replace them. We just have to take advantage.
We talk a lot in education about the use of technology and giving us the ability to do things that we couldn’t do before. This “transformative” use of technology is something that many school division aspire to and focus on. They use things such as the SAMR model or Bernajean Porter’s focus on “Literate, Adaptive, and Transformative”, when measuring their use of technology, but what about the “basic” uses of technology?
For example, as I am sitting at a dinner table with people I don’t know, in a culture that is foreign to me, talking about education, I heard many great insights on the future of learning and the possibilities that are out there for our system. As I watched others write notes on pen and paper (which is accepted as normal by the majority of educators), I struggled with pulling my phone out of my pocket and writing in a way that I felt comfortable with, as I did not want to seem out of place in this new environment. When I brought it up, I was encouraged to use my phone because that is what worked best for me. How many times do we lose out when a kid is not allowed to use their device, not because they don’t want to write “notes”, but because they don’t feel comfortable writing them in a way that makes sense and is easy for them?
What I was doing with this technology was very basic and it was something old done with the new. I wasn’t creating videos, reaching out across the world, but simply writing notes. Nothing transformative at all. Kids need this option as well. All kids. All learners.
So I guess if we look at what technology can give us now that we couldn’t have before, I would say for some people, it gives them the opportunity to finally learn in a way that works for them, whether it is very basic, or very advanced. We all need options and if we are to truly empower our learners, we have to ensure we help them figure out what works for them, not us.
A picture is worth a thousand words and I had a good laugh at the picture below:
If we do not design learning experiences for our students that help them get into that “flow” state, don’t expect technology to keep them engaged or from being distracted.
It is all about how we think, engage, and interact with our students, not about “stuff”. The “stuff” gives us opportunities to do things that we couldn’t do before, but if we teach the same way we always have, not much will change.