When I first saw this tweet, it literally made me laugh out loud:
A lot has changed since I started teaching in 1999. This was seemingly my biggest dilemma with technology at the time.
It used to be that people wouldn’t admit that they met their partner online and they would make up a story. It was weird to meet a person online, and now, most of my friends, are people I connected with online before I ever met in person. Some of the people who have had the biggest impact on my learning were once considered “strangers” to me. The narrative of “don’t talk to strangers” has now progressed into something much different. We are all “strangers” until we meet, whether online or offline, but as one of my favourite quotes states:
“Every person that you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.” H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Yet in education, some things stay the same. Relationships are the core of great schools and as I have stated often, 50 years ago, relationships were the most important thing in education, and 50 years from now, it will be even more so; you can get great content anywhere. The human connection is something that we will always need.
Educators have always believed that respect is important in schools, but perhaps, we are focusing more on respect being a two-way street, and not something we just expect to command from our students for being there.
What is important is that we recognize the following:
Some things change.
Some things stay the same.
All things are opportunities where we can grow.
There are no absolutes in education. Silence doesn’t mean bad learning environment, while noise means good learning environment, or vice-versa. Textbooks and worksheets do not make you a bad teacher, but if that is the only way you teach, there are kids who are losing out. Makerspaces are great for some kids, and not necessarily beneficial to others. Collaboration is not only good, while isolation is only bad.
What is needed is that we see there are not “sides” to education; we are all on the same team. There is a lot a “forward-thinking teacher” can learn from a “traditionalist”, and again, vice-versa.
I guess there are some absolutes. We can all learn, we can all grow, and we all get better by being open to conversations with one another in service of our kids.
Ask questions. Try to understand other viewpoints. Keep focused on serving students but start off with the assumption that others are doing the same.
Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness. “To know all is to forgive all.”
― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People
Occam’s razor is a principle first developed by the Franciscan friar and philosopher, William of Ockham.
Whilst it is likely that the philosophy was posthumously attributed to him, as it was based upon common medieval philosophy, it seems to be a result of his minimalist lifestyle.
Occam’s razor is more commonly described as ‘the simplest answer is most often correct,’ although this is an oversimplification. The ‘correct’ interpretation is that entities should not be multiplied needlessly.
Yet in education, how often do we make things harder than they should be in service of our students?
With that being said, I made this simple “Education Decision Making” flowchart (first draft):
Should it really be more complex than this?
This is not to say that the conversations won’t get complicated. Having conversations ultimately on what is “best for the learner” will definitely have differing opinions. I guess the point of the initial prompt is that we are having the conversation in the first place. Are our solutions focused on what is best for the learner, or most comfortable for the adult?
It is also powerful to be able to identify that certain things don’t work for certain students, while others do. For example, have you ever worked with a student that had much better focus wearing headphones and listening to music? Wearing them they would seem to zone in on what they are doing and could create some amazing content. On the other hand, we all have worked with the student that if you gave them headphones and music, they would be utterly distracted and not be able to focus on anything. That is why the question starts with, “Is this best for the learner?”, not, “Is this best for the learners?” It identifies the needs of the individual learner, and it doesn’t standardize your classroom. Although “standardization” is impossible to avoid entirely, it should also not be the only way.
But not all “yes” answers are easy. There are many things that would serve our students in a much more powerful way but does that mean we don’t even pursue them? I always tell people that “somebody, somewhere, is doing the same thing that you say you can’t do.” Simply put, they are finding a way. They identify the barriers and then find the solutions. This is the process of “Problem-Finding/Problem-Solving”; we want our students to have BOTH abilities, not just one or the other. We should model that in our process on how we make decisions within our organizations.
This “flowchart”, as all things I create, should be more of a conversation starter than anything. I hope it actively pushes people to identify what students need and then look at ways we can provide them. Yes, the hurdles might be a lot to overcome, but they can be overcome. It is all about our mindset toward the problem in the first place. If we believe it is best, we need to find a way.
The perception of what “innovation” is seems to be a barrier in many circumstances in embracing the idea. In “The Innovator’s Mindset“, I use the following definition:
Innovation is a common term in many educational circles today and has been used a number of times in this book already. But what does it actually mean—especially in the terms of education?
For the purpose of this book, I’m defining innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” (a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of “new and better,” it is not innovative. That means that change for the sake of change is never good enough. Neither is using innovation as a buzzword, as many organizations do, to appear current or relevant.
So in a recent conversation, we were talking about Amazon as an innovative company, as Jeff Bezos (CEO) just became the richest person in the world. I started thinking about the many different ways that Amazon has “innovated” over the years, continuously focused on “Day 1”, meaning that it never gets comfortable with its own success. In my mind, I started to distinguish the different types of “innovation” that Amazon has had in its history.
Disruptive Innovation – The most notable disruptive innovation in the history of Amazon was probably the creation of the company in the first place. This has totally changed the way we purchased things online, and has shaped other companies along the way. It was not the first “online store”, but it has been the most successful.
Iterative Innovation – Now the examples I give here could border on being disruptive, but they are also iterations on things that we already know. Reading books on Kindle, or the “Amazon Go” stores that eventually were created (and will give you insight into why Amazon bought Whole Foods), were iterations things that would already knew (reading books, buying groceries) that were made better by tweaking or changing things.
Innovation is subjective though. Reading books on Kindle would not be considered better by all people, it definitely is preferred by many (myself included).
Although “innovation” is focused on moving forward, anything that has been deemed innovation would be judged by looking backward. Are the Amazon Go stores a success yet, or will it be a fad that disappears and goes the way of the Zune (if you don’t know what the Zune is, then my point was surely made)? Time will tell, but to create something better, risks are always involved.
In education, you will see both disruptive and iterative innovations. Some school districts have created entire new programs, and some people, like Kelly Tenkely and company, have created an entirely new school.
But iterative innovations happen all of the time, and often on the fly. Whether it is adjusting a reading program, revamping schedules that are more conducive to deep learning, or just trying different approaches to teaching based on the students in front of you. I once read a quote that, “If you try to teach a child something the same way 100 times, and they don’t understand it, it is not the child that is a slow learner.”
The best educators know the most important research that they could ever tap into, is knowing the kids in front of them.
As I write this, it just reaffirms my belief that more educators are innovators than we give credit. Some educators create the disruptive innovations, but the majority do iterative innovations based on the students in front of them daily. This is why I am so passionate about education and believe every educator should be an innovator. The constant pursuit of serving our students and being flexible based on what they need not what we are most comfortable with is something that we should always strive for. Even the smallest of innovations in education can be life-changing for a child.
Todd Whitaker captures this so eloquently:
Keep innovating forward. Even a small change can make a huge difference in the life of a child.
There are some organizations that are moving too fast for people, but there is also the opposite effect. A person’s growth can stagnate if the leadership is not able to push them forward. This happens more often than you might think in education., with the “leader” being behind while the “follower” is accelerated. It can lead to a frustrating situation for educators and is part of the reason why I have higher expectations of principals and superintendents in the sessions I lead. If they are behind, they hold back all of teachers and students they serve. Their ripple effect can create extreme waves of negativity.
So what do you do if you feel you have outgrown your leadership to ensure that your own growth doesn’t stagnate?
Here are three suggestions that might help. 1. Find mentorship outside your organization. (online and offline)
One of the problems of “outgrowing” leadership is that you don’t know what you don’t know. You feel that you have so much more that you could be able to do but do not necessarily know what is out there. By finding mentors outside your organization, it can give you a different perspective of what is possible in your field.
I am a big advocate of developing leadership within your organization while also bringing in leaders from outside. This allows you to learn from people with fresh ideas that may not be your organization’s norm, but also still have the focus on developing within. You can do this at a personal level. Although you can learn from anyone within your organization, that “push” or new idea or focus from outside your organization can give you a new lens to look at things.
Just understand that if you are looking for a mentor to push you, get ready to be pushed. Some people crave growth but struggle when they are challenged in their own thinking. If you are looking for advice and challenges, you don’t have to take it, but if you truly want to grow, you better be open to it.
2. Disrupt Your Routine
Although finding people to mentor you is much easier than ever with social networks being so prevalent in our world today, there must be an onus on you to create your opportunities as well.
Start a blog.
Write a book.
Jump into a fitness group.
Take a class that is outside the field of education or read a book that you wouldn’t normally read that might give you a new perspective.
Do something you wouldn’t normally do that can lead to growth in other areas that aren’t necessarily in your field but may give you different perspectives.
Create your own disruption before someone comes along and does it for you.
This is the hardest advice for someone to hear, but it is also the most honest. If you feel that you are in a place that you are stagnating, eventually it could lead to you being miserable in what you are doing. This will not only impact what you do professionally but eventually could hamper your personal life. Sometimes we have to make these tough choices in our lives, but they are just that; choices. Don’t waste a gift you have in a place that doesn’t recognize or utilize it.
It could be the hardest thing you ever do, but it could also be the best.
I saw a video with motivational speaker Grant Cardone recently and he said something to the effect of, “You are either going up, going down, or in the same spot, but if you are in the same spot, you are going down.”
We need to recognize when we become stagnant and find ways to push ourselves even when we feel alone in what we do. Find a way.
I had a chance to watch this Ted Talk from forward-thinking educator Ada McKim titled, “Why our students need to learn more about the world“. In it, McKim makes the contention that we spend a lot of time talking about our past, but conversations about our present need to be more of a reality in today’s classrooms. McKim also talks about the idea of “Purpose Based Learning”, and said something that stuck with me:
“When our students critically engage with current events and issues, and collectively craft solutions purpose will follow. And if you cannot find that in the curriculum, I will guarantee that you will find it in the school’s mission and vision statements.”
The last part (in bold) sparked a few thoughts in my head:
Who created the mission and vision statements for your school or district? (Hint…it should be built with your community, not in isolation.)
Would your students actually know what it is?
Where is it posted within your school?
Let’s talk about the first thought. If your “mission or vision statement” was not created by and with your community, it is something you are doing to people, not doing with people. People are more likely to work towards a mission or vision statement if they have ownership in the creation.
To the second thought, if this is for the students, do the students a) have a say in it, and/or b) do they even know what it is? Is the mission or vision statement made for the adults, or is it to serve the students? Too often, this is made for public relation purposes and little else. Not always, but far too often.
Finally, if this is to serve students, is it posted in places where students can see it and it promotes accountability to where we are going as a staff? Would educators be comfortable with a student asking and pointing, “How does this fit in with this mission and vision statement?”, when it comes to things happening in classrooms? If we cannot describe why in relation to the mission and vision statement, that what we are doing is important, is that a problem? Is this simply words on a piece of paper, or a website, or is this something we are truly aspiring to move towards?
By the way, if you make this FOR people, and you simply start posting it everywhere without getting community input, your mission and vision might as well be, “To ensure people continuously feel indignation towards leadership within their daily work.” I have seen this practice done before with terrible results.
As Warren Bennis states:
Is your “vision and mission” simply words on paper, or something that drives you (and your community) to continuous positive action? This might be a tough question, but one that needs to be answered.
This is a question I ask administrators all of the time:
Have you learned anything new in the past three months?
Of course, everyone nods their head in enthusiastic agreement.
I then follow up with this question:
Could your staff tell me what new learning you have done in the past three months?
The response is not as enthusiastic and often a hard “no”.
As administrators and educators, it is imperative that if you are asking people to struggle and learn new things in pursuit of growth, that you not only do it along with them, but they see you doing it. When you are in a position of authority, it is easy for you to try and share that other people need to “take risks”, but do they truly feel as comfortable if they don’t see you have a willingness to do the same?
I recently had the opportunity to listen to a very forward-thinking AND forward-moving (these things do not always happen in conjunction) superintendent talk to his staff. Although he had shared with his staff things that he believed were necessary to be accomplished as a community, he also shared where he had fallen short and where he needed to grow. I watched as his staff seemingly had this release of pressure on themselves when the “leader” of the organization was saying that he was willing to push himself to get better and has experienced bumps along the way, but still was moving forward.
Recently reading a blog post from an educator, the teacher referred to themselves as a “recovering perfectionist”, and how their own need for perfection had held them back from trying new things in pursuit of better opportunities for themselves and their students. Schools are meant to be “learning organizations”, not simply “knowing organizations”. Believing that all of the growth needed has already happened and we are where we need to be is dangerous territory for any organization, but especially schools. The most backward districts and schools that I have seen are the ones that think they have arrived, while the best ones I have seen, believe they have a far and endless way to go.
If you are wanting the people you serve to move forward, they not only have to see that you are moving forward as well, but should see your ups and downs along the way. This empowers while giving permission for them to not seek perfection, but continuous growth. Humility and confidence are crucial characteristics in a leader and it is important for them to be able to share to those they serve, where they are going, where they have stumbled, and how they are getting back up, and why it is crucial they have done so.
Learning is a messy process, which is what makes it so powerful. Do not hesitate to share the beauty of this process to those your serve. It will only help them to embrace the same beautiful messiness of the learning in front of them.
When I first started teaching, I was blessed to have a grade level partner who shared everything with me. As an educator, I was extremely lucky to work beside someone who had a lot of experience in education and was willing to share their knowledge and wisdom with a brand new teacher. I was also lucky to be in a school where someone was teaching the same grade level. Many schools to this day might have only one grade level or subject area teacher in the entire school, and the isolation of that could be extremely tough.
That being said, I look back at a lot of what I used to do as a first-year teacher and cringe. This was not because I did not have the support of a great staff, but I was building experience. Most of the great educators I know look back at their first year and feel the same way. To be honest, it is part of the reason they are great educators. They constantly learn and grow in the profession and continuously get better at their craft. I hope ten years from now I look back on this time and see that I have grown as well.
The reason I am looking back at when I first started teaching was because of a conversation I recently had with a new teacher starting in the same grade level in which I started (grade four). I talked about my experience teaching that grade level and shared that I loved what I did, but there are so many things that I have learned from that time, What I did share is that he will look back on these years of teaching at some point in his career and feel the same way I do. He will think, “I cannot believe I used to do that”, and for good reason. I would be concerned if he didn’t.
That being said, he should be so much better a first-year teacher than I was. I had access to an awesome teacher; he has access to thousands of awesome teachers through social media. Simply looking up the hashtag #4thchat will give him access to both teachers that work at the same grade level, or ideas related to teaching that grade. Something tweeted to that hashtag doesn’t make it automatically good, and some filtering will be needed. Filtering through what is useful and what won’t help is not something we should only do online as well but in our face-to-face interactions. Something being shared doesn’t automatically make it good but sometimes even bad ideas can be adapted to become great ideas. Joe Sanfelippo shared with me that “culture is not copied, but created”. This also goes with what and how we teach. You cannot simply carbon copy an idea for your students that someone else uses and ensure that it is 100% successful. Working backward from the point of your students often means iterations to even the best ideas. Start with your students, not necessarily the strategy.
Looking through hashtags like #4thchat is not the only way to use this medium. I often encourage people to find their hashtag and use it as a “Bat Signal”. The main people who will keep an eye on #4thchat are other 4th grade teachers. #4thchat” will increase the opportunities that other educators that have a similar job will be able to share their wisdom, experience, and learning with you. Who better to learn from than people that are doing your same job? The best person to make you an amazing fourth-grade teacher is not me; it’s other fourth grade teachers. Utilize their wisdom.
Here is something I believe and have shared often:
What I mean by this quote, is that teachers have access to other teachers in a way that I did not have even when I first started teaching in 1999. In less than 20 years, so much has changed, and the opportunities as a first-year teacher and a 50th-year teacher are mind blowing. It would be crazy to not take advantage of learning from the wisdom and experience of others in the same profession. Find your “bat signal” and use it to learn from others.
John Spencer is someone I have connected with and followed for years. I have become a huge fan of his work, and I am proud to have been a part of his book “Empower” with AJ Juliani. He now has a Makerspace Master Course available. Here are some of the details:
The Makerspace Master Course
John Spencer has designed a week-long Makerspace Mastermind Course. He has spent the last two months interviewing experts throughout the maker movement with the goal of creating a self-paced course for anyone who wants to design a makerspace. The result is a framework you can use to design your own makerspace in a week.
Easy-to-follow lessons? YES
Instructional videos? YES
Curated resources? YES
A set of five complete makerspace projects, unit plans, and resources you can use from day one? YES
Supportive community of fellow teacher-makers? YES
Unlimited access to personal coaching with a design thinking coach? YES
The course costs $125 but you can get it for the price of $99 if you use coupon code “George” when you are checking out.
If you are more interested in learning about John and his thoughts on education, and in particular makerspaces, below is a post of his on “Seven Things That Happen When Kids Embrace a Maker Mindset”. I also encourage you to read his excellent blog, “The Creative Classroom“.
I once taught an eighth-grade student who had written four novels online, despite the fact that she had only been learning English for three years. She spent her free time in class looking up how to set up lead magnets and create funnels for an email list. She read blog posts about how to create more suspense in a plot and how to use action rather than description to develop characters.
She had a maker mindset.
I once had a student who taught himself how to code by playing around with Scratch when he was in the sixth grade. With the help of a teacher who mentored him along the way, he was the first child in his family to graduate high school. And now, he’s working on a master’s degree in engineering.
He had a maker mindset.
But I also taught students with immense talent who never pursued their dreams because they were waiting for an invitation that never came. They were compliant and well-behaved, but they weren’t self-starters. They were adept at the art of filling out packets but they didn’t know how to solve problems or design products. So, they continued for years, waiting for an offer that never materialized.
The Old Formula is Failing
Not long ago, you could follow a formula. Work hard, study hard, go to college, and climb the corporate ladder.
It wasn’t about choice or passion or interests. It was about compliance. It was about putting in your time so that you could make it in the world. And it worked — not for everybody and not all the time — but for enough people that society embraced it.
We live in an era where robotics and artificial intelligence will replace many of our current jobs. Global connectivity will continue to allow companies to outsource labor to other countries.
The corporate ladder is gone and in its place, is a complex maze.
Our current students will enter a workforce where instability is the new normal and where they will have to be self-directed, original, and creative in order to navigate this maze.
The Hidden Opportunity
This is a terrifying reality.
And yet . . .
There is a hidden opportunity in all of it. True, the rules of have changed. But that also means students can rewrite the rules.
People often say, “We need to prepare students for jobs that don’t even exist right now?” But who do you think will be creating those jobs? Who will be dreaming up new possibilities? Who will be building a future we could never imagine?
This is why we want students innovating right now:
Not every student will create the next Google or Pixar or Lyft. Some students will be engineers or artists or accountants. Some will work in technology, others in traditional corporate spaces and still others in social or civic spaces. But no matter how diverse their industries will be, our students will all someday face a common reality. They will need to have a maker mindset.
Makers give it a try; they take things apart; and they try to do things that even the manufacturer did not think of doing. Whether it is figuring out what you can do with a 3D printer or an autonomous drone aircraft, makers are exploring what these things can do and they are learning as well. Out of that process emerge new ideas, which may lead to real-world applications or new business ventures. Making is a source of innovation.
Isn’t that what we want for our students?
Seven Things That Happen When Kids Embrace a Maker Mindset
They engage in iterative thinking: When students engage in rapid prototyping, they realize that mistakes are a part of the learning process. They learn to distinguish between fail-ure (permanent) and fail-ing (temporary). As they revise and improve, they begin to design products that are better than they initially imagined. This is iterative thinking. It’s the idea that we should constantly test, tweak, and improve our work until we succeed.
They become problem-solvers: Every creative work, whether it’s a documentary or an engineering challenge, is a series of problems. When students embrace a maker mindset, they learn how to look at a problem from multiple angles and generate strategies for solving it. Over time, they become critical thinking problem-solvers who embrace big challenges.
They learn to think divergently: Divergent thinking is all about looking at things from a unique lens. When students think divergently, they are able to connect seemingly disconnected ideas. They find new and unusual uses for common items. They learn to ask, “What if?” Some of the best maker projects involve creative constraint, where students must work within tight parameters to create something new. I used to do MacGyver-style projects in our classroom makerspace. Here, they had five items and had to design a a product or solve a specific problem. At first, they struggled with the process, but over time they learned to find new applications for everyday items. They were thinking divergently.
They take creative risks: When students embrace a maker mindset, they begin to take creative risks. It might involve launching their work to an authentic audience or it might mean trying out something new even if they are worried that it might not work.
They begin to own the creative process: When students embrace a maker mindset, they own the entire creative process from the initial concept through the ideation, into the prototyping, revision, and launch process. The more they experience this ownership, the more likely they will be to define themselves as makers and designers. And when this happens, they take this maker mindset outside of school as they initiate their own projects at home.
They become systems thinkers: Being a maker requires people to navigate systems. These might be digital platforms, physical products, or human systems. But it goes beyond navigation. The more they develop a maker mindset, the better they are at designing their own systems for their creative work.
They grow more empathetic: The best design begins with a sense of empathy. Students might interview a group of people or set up a needs assessment and this pushes them to think about others and to see things from a new perspective. As they work through the design process, they gain a deeper sense of understanding of what others think and feel. This is vital for the creative economy, where companies need products to fit the needs of their customers. But it goes beyond this. When students learn to be empathetic, they learn what it means to serve others. They become better people.
So, how do we actually make this a reality in our schools?
We Need Makerspaces
If we want students to develop this maker mindset, we need to design spaces where making can thrive. You might be thinking, “If making can happen anywhere, do we need a special space for it?”
But makerspaces aren’t designed to limit creativity to one space. Rather, they are spaces that open up new worlds and inspire new possibilities. As students develop the maker mindset, they take these ideas home with them and transform their own worlds.
I love the way Dale Dougherty puts it:
We must try to bring this kind of magic into schools, hard as it may be. I have been focusing on the importance of creating a space where kids have the opportunity to make—a place where some tools, materials, and enough expertise can get them started. These places, called makerspaces, share some aspects of the shop class, home economics class, the art studio, and science labs. In effect, a makerspace is a physical mash-up of different places that allows makers and projects to integrate these different kinds of skills.
In other words, a makerspace is all about vintage innovation – connecting to a tradition of making and also pushing innovation. It’s not about STEM or STEAM. It’s interdisciplinary and connective. It’s the powerful moment when students learn to think like designers, builders, problem-solvers, and tinkerers. When this happens, you realize that making is magic.
A principal friend of mine asked if I could send their staff a message before they open a brand new school. Here is what I shared with them:
As many educators in North America are on summer break right now, and whether you are starting a new job, starting a new school, or going back to a new position, I hope this message applies.
When you start next year, you start with a blank slate. It is year one of the rest of your career.
Don’t hope other people will do something for you that will put you onto a different trajectory. It starts with what you do and how you look at the world.
Tony Sinanis, a very good friend of mine and very thoughtful and thought-forward leader, has just started his first superintendency. In a text conversation we had (he is okay that I share this), he said “my priority is to be the best superintendent ever!”
In response I told Tony, “far too often, people are focused on where they want to go, not where they are now, which harms both the present and the future. Focus on doing an amazing job there, and doors will open for you when they are supposed to.” I know because of his focus on doing an amazing job right now, he will be successful, which means those that he serves will benefit.
I always go back to a point in my career where I was ready to quit. A new opportunity came my way, and instead of going into the new opportunity with the same attitude, I changed how I looked at education and, more importantly, how I looked at myself. The biggest change was me, not my environment.
Take advantage of whatever is in front of you, even if it looks the same as last year. You can always change yourself.
Shift your perspective and it will alter your path.
If you clicked on this blog post because of the title hoping I would provide answers, I am about to disappoint you. I think I have more questions than answers after so many thoughts being shared on Twitter. I am blogging to learn here, not to necessarily share learning. Bear with me.
After reading a tweet from an educator talking about how they didn’t use social media when they were kids and they turned out just fine, and that schools should “focus on the basics”, I tweeted this question out:
Honest question…when someone says, “focus on the basics”, isn’t it important that we understand the “basics” change over time?
(Please find time to read the thread on Twitter…some really interesting conversations happening there.)
First of all, what has been traditionally considered the “basics” in education, and why? The standard response are the 3 r’s; reading, writing, and arithmetic (I hate that only one starts with an ‘r’ but I digress). Making my own assumption on “why” the “basics” are seen as crucial, is that these are considered the basic minimum skills that anyone would need to have in our world. That last sentence was hard to write. I almost wrote to “succeed” in today’s world, but if you can read, write, and do math, this doesn’t mean you will be successful. Yet, they are a foundation. That makes more sense to me. (I told you I am trying to figure it out.)
When I first wrote this, I was thinking, “Are using email and the Internet ‘basics’ in 2017?” This response really helped me past that thinking:
IMO email is a tool. Being able to effectively communicate in a variety of arenas are the basics now.
So is “communication” a basic skill in our world today? If so, would all of the “four C’s” be considered “basics” (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) in today’s world?
If they are considered “basics”, we have to understand that what they look like over time change. “Critical thinking” in 1970 might look significantly different to today in a world of information overload, as do the others.
I always talk about this with educators in relation to how communication, and our views of it have changed over time. When I first became a principal, the thought of writing an emoticon in an email to a staff member would have been insane to me. What I learned quickly is that the “smiley face” was one of the best tools that I could use to ensure the tone of an email was not perceived as negative. That being said, I would not suggest to a student today that they would use an emoticon in a cover letter.
Thanks for your time to look over my information; it would be a true pleasure to work for your organization 🙂
Is there a balance between using “best practice” while also focusing on innovation in education? Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant stated to the effect of “best practice is often the enemy of innovation”. Blockbuster didn’t move forward with purchasing Netflix because their evidence had show that their model worked in the past. What do you believe the balance should be of going out and trying something new, while also using what we believe to be “tried and true” practices?
I love writing comments on blogs because it makes me really try to understand what the author is sharing, but also spurs me to think deeply about a topic. When I wrote the following,
Blockbuster didn’t move forward with purchasing Netflix because their evidence had show that their model worked in the past.
it really made me think about what “best practice” is based on, and will those measurements still hold true for the future? In a conversation with Katie Martin, she stated, “if the world is changing, the research and evidence become irrelevant if you don’t consider a new context.” That statement really pushed my thinking. When we talk about the “basics”, are we considering what that means in the context of our world today.
One of the commenters on Twitter (there were so many), suggested moving away from the term “basics” to “foundational skills”. These are the minimums of what we hope all students walk away from our schools. Does the shift from “basics” to “foundational skills” mean something different?
I searched for “what are the basics of education” (is searching for information online a “basic”…see how I did it 🙂, and the number of answers and differing opinions was overwhelming (I can’t stop thinking about if in my last use of brackets, is it okay to end a bracket as a smiley face, or should there have been a second bracket; ie :)) It just doesn’t look right either way.)
I have no answers here. What I think is that we need conversations in our communities. As was pointed out to me, the context of your community matters in what is believed is to be essential. Do we have the conversation with our communities though? Perhaps some would argue that the “basics” should be the same in every school as our students will grow up in a much more global community that we did as students, and maybe that would be right. Either way, have the conversation. We need to do that more.
Here is one thing that I do think I know (or maybe I don’t)…if we think the “basics” are the 3 R’s only in our world today, we are robbing our students of essential skills that will be deemed necessary.
Wait…there is one more thing I know.
If we only focus on the basics in school, we take away a lot of opportunities from our students. This quote from Yong Zhao (which I have shared as many times as possible), always resonates:
Yes, the “basics”, whatever those are today, are crucial. I would just contend that our kids need so much more from their time in our schools. I hope that is one thing that we could all agree upon.