Tag Archives: Future

Who Owns the Learning?

In too many cases, we bolt new technologies on top of current learning tools in the standard learning environment, which effectively means we give our kids a thousand-dollar pencil.


Alan November

In Alan November’s new book, he asks the crucial question: Who Owns the Learning?  This well-designed title intentionally creates some cognitive dissonance for us as educators. Who does own the learning? Have you asked yourself that question? Whether we are teachers, principals, district consultants or district administrators: Who owns the learning?  How would you answer that?

Alan November then goes on to describe how we can prepare students for success in the Digital Age. He has two central ideas: students need ownership in the learning and they must have purposeful work.  It is no different for students than for us as educators. He cites Daniel Pink’s work in Drive as key to understanding how this motivates all of us to do high quality work.

November uses the analogy of a farm to create a model for changing education. In the old days, children were required to participate in meaningful work that contributed to the family’s success. He suggests that we need to think of the classroom as a Digital Learning Farm. This requires using technology to change the nature of the roles and relationships between educators and students. He gives three first steps to get started:
1. Increase the autonomy of students.
2. Publish student work to a global audience.
3. Create a community of contribution within the classroom.

For students to own their learning, they need important student jobs that are meaningful and prepare them for success in the future. He outlines four key roles for students: tutorial designers, student scribes, student researchers, and global communicators/collaborators. As teachers create the learning environments where students can flourish in these new roles, students become contributors to the curriculum, engaging in problem-solving, critical thinking and global communication. This is the new Digital Learning Farm.

He is clear that, “Simply adding technology—the thousand-dollar pencil—to the current highly prescribed school culture won’t help very much.” It is the changed roles and relationships that are paramount. Central to this, from my perspective as well, is the power of the teacher in creating these learning conditions. It is the teacher who designs these powerful learning opportunities. As he emphasizes, the role of teacher as guide, mentor, facilitator, and instructor has never been quite as critical in shifting the learning. It is the teacher who shows students how “to use information and communication technologies to innovate, solve problems, create, and be globally connected. “

Who owns the learning? It is a question worth asking.

Thanks to Amy Newman (@amnewish) who recommended this book. Schools in the Innovative Learning Designs project have been sent a copy of this book along with The Connected Educator. Antonio Vendramin, Principal at George Vanier,  also writes about Alan  November here

 

The end of wonder and the age of whatever

I had the great fortune to be with the Surrey management team at a presentation by Michael Wesch. I have viewed his The Machine is Us/ing Us many times and I had no idea that this was the guy who made the video. That was a pleasant surprise as I simply love the style and the messages that he brings. The next great piece was that I enjoy watching presentations by ethnographers or specialists in culture. For whatever reason, they seem to be in-tune with audiences, they care and it shows. Michael was a fun and inspiring presenter. I laughed, I learned, and I left with good questions in my mind.

Good company, good food, good presenter – so what did I hear as the main messages that fine morning? This post is simply a reflection on what I heard, what it meant for me in my work and life and perhaps to generate a bit of dialogue with others.

The big thing that stuck with me was his challenge to “how do we get students to a permanent state of wonder”? A place he called “investigative wonder” – simply wanting to know more. Something I would call a voracious pursuit of knowledge. How might we instill that in children?

He went from there to talk about students who have that state of wonder and how they see a myriad of tools at their disposal. Those without wonder just see tools as distraction and entertainment. This was a key message he gave around technology in that he seemed to say that without that permanent sense of wonder, we will only look for technologies with all their capabilities, as simply items to entertain us.

Michael said that if you want to know if students have this sense of wonder – then look at the questions they ask. Wonder emerges when you:
· Quest
· Embrace vulnerability, and
· Invite connections.

This description reminded me of something I wrote a while ago that described great teachers. I wanted to go back, write some more and talk about how, in some way, great teachers helped inculcate a sense of wonder in their students. They did it by just they above list….they quested with you. They were “along for the ride”. They embraced their own vulnerabilities as teachers and then they invited connections with students that were more than just connections with content. These connections were about relationships, wonder, and a journey together.

The next piece I got from Michael was about how we express ourselves through interactions. This was a very strong connection for me in that this rang true. We all work with people every day and the only reality we have is perception of who we are as colleagues and leaders. This struck a chord for me in that I thought that the act of writing, even blogging, isn’t just communication or professional development – it is identity work.

Michael views media not just as tools. He talked of how media mediate relationships and how we connect with each other. Media and the medium itself are far more significant than just a tool. This was interesting in that we so often hear that “technology is just a tool” – he would disagree or at the very least want to extend this dramatically.

He argues that forms of media could open things up to us but they do not always. Forms of media could open us up to things but do they? He talked of the decline in empathy and the danger that technology can permit us to NOT:
· Quest
· Embrace vulnerability
· Invite connections

We looked at how we need to get messages to our children/students about who we expect them to be. He was concerned that our tools are shaping us in ways we have not yet fully appreciated.

When he created the video A Vision of Students Today, he asked students about their views on education. They said that to learn is to acquire information. They did not see beyond to a capacity for critical thinking. They had a very narrow view of learning and this surprised him. He was hoping to find more and to help his students reach out.

We then were shown fantastic examples of students using technology to go beyond, to create, to make connections, and to make a difference. Michael feels that the first really good start to an educational experience is having a burning question, something that sticks in people’s minds. We need projects that grab students, use simulations, games, other techniques to build engagement. There were great examples shared of real problems, designed with a community and leveraged by technology. Even those students who once isolated themselves, like Hunter Browning found that we need the knowledge that others hold. We need to reach out, to collaborate, to innovate together.

In the end, I took two main things from Michael:

· People are longing for the power of “us” – opportunities to reach out, to collaborate, share, and celebrate together. He said he didn’t make his video go viral, millions of people did. Everyone should celebrate this.

· Technology is not a tool – it is so much more because of its incredible power to leverage collaboration and connections. It can be used to quest, to embrace vulnerability and to make connections, but the real power is in using this ability to resolve real-world problems that start with a great question and a sense of wonder.

In the end, I thought back to that age old question of the great teachers I had. I have my list, as others do and I’ve described them in many ways. I think the bottom line is that no matter who they were, they helped instilled a sense of wonder in me. What a gift that we should look for in every teacher and in every child.

Special thanks to Jordan Tinney, Deputy Superintendent of Vancouver, for this guest post. Jordan will be joining Surrey Schools in August as the new Deputy Superintendent. 

Innovative Learning: School-Based Exploration

The real problem is not adding technology to the current organization of the classroom, but changing the culture of teaching and learning.

Alan November

Last week we announced the forty elementary schools that were awarded our Innovative Learning Designs Grant (ILD, Phase 2) for the upcoming school year. The ILD project is an opportunity for teachers to explore how to best prepare students for the future. The National Council of Teachers of English (2008) defined twenty-first century readers and writers as those that need to:
•  Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
•  Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
•  Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
•  Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
•  Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
•  Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments These specific needs set the context for our challenge. How do we move forward to equip our students with these skills, fluencies and understandings to navigate their future? Schools in the project have the opportunity to explore that very question.

The Learning Design project provides an opportunity for educators to work together over a two-year period to create transformative learning experiences for their students. Using an inquiry approach, school teams will design an instructional plan that is built upon the foundational elements that best support student learning. These include:

  • Learning tasks that are authentic (e.g. project and problem-based), relevant and cross-curricular
  • Assessment that is ongoing, performance-based, equitable and guides instruction;
  • Constructivist instructional models that engage students in inquiry
  • Diverse learning needs are met with differentiated content, process and product
  • Collaborative learning opportunities that are incorporated into both physical and virtual spaces
  • Use of technology as a learning tool
  • Creative and critical thinking skills are pervasive across all curricular area
  • Students are able to influence and actively participate in shaping their learning.

The following questions were used to help guide school conversations as staff explored what the project might mean for their school:

  • Where are we now, and what would we like our story to be?
  • What promising practices or initiatives do we currently have in our school that guide our work? What is their impact on student learning? Upon what evidence do we base our decisions?
  • How might we reshape, redesign or rethink existing structures to further engage and sustain students in learning?

 Schools that indicated an interest in being part of the project made a commitment to work together within some guiding principles.

  1. Collaborative Inquiry:
    •  Creating a collaborative team that is engaged, over a two-year timeline, in inquiry into critical questions about teaching and learning using key research and sharing reflections on evidence of student learning
    •  Sharing out to a wider audience at the end of each school year
  1. Instructional Design:
    •  Designing a wide variety of differentiated, student-centered learning activities which integrate technology
    •  Using ongoing formative assessment of student needs to inform the action plan
    •  Using summative assessment periodically throughout the two-year plan to determine the effectiveness of the innovations and to set future directions
  1. Structural Support:
    •  School team dedicating a non-instructional day to supporting the project
    •  School team members meeting regularly to reflect, debrief, and plan next steps
    •  School team members networking with other schools involved in the project to share successes and challenges

The project is grounded in collaborative inquiry and is teacher-driven and school-based. No school project will look the same. Each school and the staff that embark on this journey will be exploring this future through their collaborative lens. We look forward to the shared learning!

Special thanks to the Surrey School District Helping Teachers who wrote the original grant and its revised versions. This post is based on that grant application.

A Movement for Radical Social Innovation

Think of yourselves as a movement not attached
to the union or the government.
Charles Leadbeater

I was fortunate to attend the BC School Superintendent’s Winter Conference along with over 425 other attendees. I heard from Charles Leadbeater, Larry Rosenstock, John Abbott, Geoge Abbott and Bruce Beairsto. It was Charles Leadbeater’s comments, however, that were the most provocative. His presentation was called Innovation at Scale: Strategies for Radical Social Innovation. I also heard him speak at a CoastMetro session earlier in the morning. There were 150 people, including teachers and parents, in attendance at that morning event. Some key thoughts from all three of his sessions resonated for me.

Your vantage point determines what you can see…” was the opening slide. Our own organizational and system blinders often insulate us. Much like horses, we keep our focus away from the crowds and anything that might distract us from our purpose. He encouraged us to take ourselves out of education and have conversations about innovation with others. When we are consumed by racing down our own tracks, we fail to see what is happening around the world. Education and innovation look different elsewhere. The conversations with others in other professions, in other fields, in other business, and in other places, can enrich our own understanding. As tweeted by Cale Birk, “When we innovate, need to look sideways at other fields. We are too protected in our Ed cloistered life.” A wider vantage point, as we consciously and intentionally remove our blinders, allows us to create a more compelling and urgent vision. Leadbeater emphasized, “Just doing more isn’t enough. You have to do more, better and different. It is the different that is key.” It is strikingly different elsewhere.

See yourselves as mobilizers of the community rather than administrators of the system,” urged Leadbeater. He challenged us to move beyond pockets of innovation to transforming the whole field. He proceeded to ask us, “How do we increase this community’s capacity to learn?” How do we create large-scale system change? What are the tools at our disposal? Radical social innovation is most successful when it is a movement connected to a committed community that is driven by a compelling vision. Think of yourselves as a movement and not a system. We are the mobilizers of that community.  Who is leading this transformation? Our movement will be educators in the field that are engaged in shifting their pedagogy and collaborating with other educators in this pursuit.

People have to be pulled to innovation. You have to craft activities that draw people to innovate.” Are we doing that in our district? Your district? Who is crafting these activities that will draw educators—administrators and teachers alike—into the movement? Are we creating a pull to a new way of leading? Teaching? Learning? It isn’t about a push; it is about a pull because it is connected to a meaningful, authentic, moral purpose. We are creating a future for our own children. My son in kindergarten loves school. His favorite activity is “centre time.” My son in grade 3 loves math and gym. My two oldest boys, however, in grade 8 and 10, have “mixed emotions” about school and sometimes find it “boring.” The love for learning that characterizes young children—needs to be replicated for all students. Who will do that for my two oldest? Must we wait until it is too late for them?

Leadbeater made reference to the C’s in Innovation. These are composed as a series of questions, causing us to reflect on our own leadership practice.

Crisis: Is there a crisis–a sense of urgency for this change?

Curiosity: Have we created a space for educators to be curious and explore?

Connections: Are we working in combination with others? Are we creating connections with others, with ideas, with the past and the future?

Conversations: Are we having a conversation with others about this? Who is in the conversation? Who is hosting it? Where do we have our best conversations?

Challenge: Are we prepared to challenge ideas, ask stupid question, pursue useful deviants, and support the move to the future?

Commitment: And have we (that would be both you and me) made a commitment?—“You don’t learn to swim standing on the side of the pool.”

Co-creation: Can we co-create? Are we open to innovating for, with and by others? Who can you adopt? Who do you follow? And who is following you?

The C’s allow us to think strategically about our efforts.

I had the privilege of attending a powerful conference with world-class speakers. For that I am deeply grateful. But along with that privilege comes the responsibility to do something with the knowledge I have gained. If it doesn’t change my practice, then it has merely been a fascinating, titillating but somewhat empty intellectual exercise. That simply isn’t good enough for me. I want to create the movement. Are we creating mere pockets of innovation or can we scale it up to a radical social movement? I am committed to jumping in the pool. Will you join me?

Innovative Learning—For Teachers, For Students and For Me

I have the privilege of visiting schools. Once a week I head out for a site visit with Dan Turner, the Director of Information Management Systems (IMS), to the Innovative Learning Designs schools. We send a list of questions out to the principals ahead of time. For example, Where is the integration of technology working well? Do you have any evidence it is impacting student learning? Are you and your students using social media? Is BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) happening at your school? If not, help us understand what the barriers might be to encouraging this practice? And, how can you move BYOD forward at your own school? How are you (as administrators) using technology to accelerate your own learning? How are you using your own use of technology to impact your staff? The district has created a potential cadre of digital coaches (technology facilitators, teacher-librarians and administrators) at every school in Surrey. How can you use this cadre to help push practice forward? What are the challenges, if any, from a technical point of view (equipment maintenance, wireless, internet speed, technical support)? Although we send out a list of questions ahead of time, we also let the administrators know that the visit is intended to be a “learning conversation.” They are welcome to invite any staff member to join us or to have us take a tour of classrooms instead. Sometimes the conversations supersede the questions with the exciting stories of staff and student learning.

There are so many things I have learned. I have been amazed at the work of our teachers–their excitement, their enthusiasm and their willingness to experiment and push the boundaries of their own learning. I also have a much greater appreciation for my administrative colleagues. Their leadership, sometimes seemingly silent in the current political context, is still so clearly evident.  Both teachers and administrators are anchored in keeping student learning at the centre. Truly, I am humbled by the work and dedication of both.

1. Teachers are learning.
Although I have only visited about half a dozen schools, already themes seem to be emerging. Here is what I have noticed:
The Hillcrest Elementary grade seven teacher was clear, “It has totally revolutionized how I teach. I am not at the centre. The kids are at the centre.” As she further described it, “Being part of the project has forced us to be accountable for our learning.” “The younger generation has inspired us to play.” And, they are “bringing their world to us.” For many teachers, it has revitalized their passion for learning and their love for teaching.
2. Teachers are learning, together.
We have discovered that teachers are leading the learning. The strength of this teacher-leadership was clear at MJ Norris Elementary. Teachers are sharing their learning in collaborative sessions.  The same is true at other schools. They are meeting afterschool, at lunch or in the morning to explore their questions, together. They are inquiring into their work and how they define their best practice, together. The opportunity to be part of the initiative has created the impetus to ask the key questions, together: What are the learning intentions? What do we want the students to know and do? In what way might the technology help us achieve this? Teachers are owning their own learning as they help their students to own their learning. They are all doing it together.
3. Students are engaged.
At Cindrich Elementary, the students were described as “leaning into” their learning. The intense engagement was “incredible.” “Teachers have not had a single behavior problem.“ The output of students has been remarkable. George Vanier students have been experimenting with Genius Hour (you can read about it on twitter). At Hillcrest Elementary, students have created amazing websites for their Science projects. Perhaps, however, what is most remarkable is that the students, after creating the rubrics for their assignments, have asked to revise their rubrics as they have discovered they no longer describe their learning. The power of assessment and descriptive feedback is clearly at work; student ownership of their learning is profound. At George Vanier Elementary, after the students learned how to create their own websites, one of the students even built a website for his dad’s company. That’s authentic and practical learning that has clearly transferred to the real world!

Although I have only been to one third of the schools involved in this initiative I am already amazed at the learning—for both students and staff—that is taking place. I am not naïve to believe that this is the result of the project, or the result of the technology—it is actually about the passionate commitment of teachers working together to improve student learning.  I am just privileged to be a witness.

From Teacher-Librarian to Digital Literacy Impresarios

The Teacher Librarians’ role in our district is evolving and expanding in the digital landscape and they need an innovative tool as educator leaders to push professional practice forward. The iPad is a learning and creation tool that will help Teacher Librarians to promote innovative teaching and learning in their schools. TLs, in collaboration with staff, directly contribute to more relevant, engaging learning experiences for students.

Seth Godin calls librarians “a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher. The librarian is the interface between reams of data and the untrained but motivated user”. He goes on to state that the future of librarians is as “producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario”. In Surrey, we have already embraced the dual notion of a librarian as teacher and now we need to expand this role as an impresario of digital information and a foreman in information construction.

As we move towards the library as a learning commons, a “full-service learning, research, and project space” (EDUCAUSE 2011), Teacher Librarians need innovative tools to help them do their best work in serving students and teachers. The library needs to be, as David Warlick states, a “making commons” where students learn how to construct their learning and share it with others. Teacher Librarians are the perfect fit for sharing best teaching practice as that is what they do all day, share and connect people with information, whether it be the right book, teaching strategy or district database.

What would an iPad in the library look like?

  • Personal learning and communication tool with the idea that TLs become advocates for innovative technology use at the school level
  • Promotional device to promote the ethical creation and consumption of digital resources such ebooks, epubs, and district databases
  • Students create ibooks, comics, graphic novels and movies about books they are reading to promote literacy in the school and community
  • Students Skype directly to authors and local and international experts
  • The Teacher Librarian becomes one of the go-to-people in the school to promote innovative teaching and learning
  • The library more than ever becomes a space where educators come to learn, experiment and create new ideas
  • If a Teacher Librarian works at more than one site, the iPad travels with her or him. When Teacher Librarian leaves the district, s/he gives the iPad to their replacement.

For the first time, as David Warlick stated in our Engaging the Digital Learner Dinner Series, we are preparing students for a future that we can’t describe. What will a traditional story time in the library look like in the future? Perhaps, Teacher Librarians will read an interactive ebook to students via AppleTV and hand the iPad to a student to read or to share their own ebook with their classmates and community. Educators and students are now not mere passive consumers of information but participants in the creation of information. As Edutopia technology journalist Audrey Watters states, “After all, the library isn’t just a collection of books. It’s a crucial digital / community / free / open / public learning space.”

Written by Lisa Domeier de Suarez (@librarymall), a School District #36 Helping Teacher whose portfolio includes Teacher-Librarians and Information Media Literacy. Excerpt from concept paper prepared for the T-L initiative taking place in our district.

Works Cited
EDUCASE. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/Resources/7ThingsYouShouldKnowAbouttheMo/22714
Godin, S. (2011, May 16) The future of the library. Retrieved from http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/05/the-future-of-the-library.html
 Watters, A. (2011, December 7). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.hackeducation.com/2011/12/07/top-ed-tech-trends-of-2011-the-digital-library/

Ramping up innovation: Leading Learning

The culture of YES!  Chris Kennedy’s turn of phrase resonates with innovative leaders.  He has, in a simple way uttered words that override the formal part of the school organization.  The word YES opens doors and minds and feels like an exhilarating call from the informal side of the organization where innovative ideas are sparked—this energy is seductive.

YES attracts, multiplies and creates a critical following and it is the work of the leader to navigate, not only the spirit of the new direction but to keep the “spark” of the idea ignited carefully leading through the dangerous waters of the formal system.

The formal system does not intend to dampen the spark but in reality is designed with checks, balances, regulation, and particularly in education, is built to withstand a critical and unfriendly public.

NO is louder than the YES. The noise is deafening, wearing and can numb best intentions. In addition the formal system has its gatekeepers whom lurk in doorways. Once again it is not their intention to stop innovation but they have learned it is safer to abide by the rules. It is our relationship with the gatekeepers that exhaust our efforts.

What are our answers?  How can leaders sustain the energy to continue to push upstream?  Could we also find a champion like a Chris Kennedy who can help us find a simple and magical turn of phrase and lead us through the dangerous waters while keeping the spark alive!  Tall order!  Are you our champion?

Thank you to Dr. Donna VanSant for contributing this guest post. Donna (@vansantd) is a former Surrey Helping Teacher and is currently a Facilitator/Coach with Healthy Ventures.

Can we strategize innovation? A teacher responds

“Yes, we can strategize.  It is an uphill battle as it does require going against the status quo (or at least much of the current status quo).
I believe we are moving in that direction and there are two forces that are allowing this move.
1.  We are modelling permission to fail.  Exploring next practices won’t land on the promising practice the first time.  One of my best teaching examples of this was working with a project having students create persuasive videos.  They did all the planning, scripting, and recording to a video camera.  The last stage was to turn it into a newscast with iMovie.  The computers were not cooperating so we tried for 2 blocks and then abandoned the plan.  While they were disappointed, all of the learning goals had already been met.
2.  Removing hurdles and empowering innovation.  The directions we have moved in the District have a strong flavour of removing hurdles.  At the same time, we are providing technology opportunities to explore new technology.  We have provided loaner equipment for several years.  My experience is that once schools dig in and see personally the potential in the classroom, it is just a matter of getting the resources that live in the school to allow further innovation.  One of the best moves from the Maine 1 to 1 laptop project was to provide teachers the laptops 1 year before the students.  In Surrey we have used a similar model by providing the iPads to teachers 4 months before schools.
Can we strategize innovation? Yes.
Are we strategizing innovation? Yes.
Does strategizing require continuous energy to keep it in motion? Yes.
Is the work worth it? Yes.
Has a portion of the status quo moved? Yes.”
The above is a guest post from Kevin Amboe (@amboe_k), Information Media Literacy Helping Teacher with School District #36. He writes in response to the question in an earlier post that asked the question: Can we strategize innovation?

 

Finding the Triangular Space

Do we need innovation in education?  What are the skills that children will need to prosper in their future? Charles Leadbeater (2011) and many others suggest that reproducing knowledge will become secondary to the ability to apply “knowledge in inventive ways in novel contexts.” We won’t be providing students “with access to a fixed stock of knowledge” but getting them to tap into “flows of knowledge that are constantly changing.”  These “flows of knowledge” are accessed through collaborative networks. This is why, according to Leadbeater, we need innovation in learning: to help us find the “triangular space between what we have, what we need and what is possible.” If this is true, we need a better understanding of what this might look like. He suggests nine ingredients (which are summarized here):

  • Learning must be an active process where the learner applies knowledge in a new context.
  • The learner’s motivation and engagement are critical.
  • The learning should be personalized rather than standardized.
  • Learning should include a collaborative process.
  • Learning should require adopting the right approach and principles to solve complex problems.
  • Descriptive feedback should guide the learning throughout the process.
  • Learning requires a demanding structure but should move to become increasingly a self-regulated process.
  • Learning should take place in a wide variety of settings.
  • Master teachers will be required to design these kinds of learning conditions.

If you look at this list, how does it fit with your vision of education?  Do these principles live in our classrooms? Are some more prominent than others? Is there a colleague down the hall that creates learning conditions where these ingredients are present? Do we talk about these ideas in the staffroom? In the schoolhouse? Is there something here that resonates for you?

This post is adapted from Charles Leadbeaters’ article Rethinking Innovation in Education: Learning in Victoria in 2020 (Draft January 2011). Thank you to Superintendent Mike McKay who shared this article as one of his assigned readings for the Global Education Leaders’ Program.