Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Challenge of Change.

items in an infinite inventory
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Ana C. via Compfight

“As knowledge becomes networked, the smartest person in the room isn’t the person standing at the front lecturing us, and isn’t the collective wisdom of those in the room. The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it… Knowledge is becoming inextricable from – literally unthinkable without – the network that enables it.”
From: Too Big to Know by David Weinberger 

 

Last week, on April 8th, I contributed my first post for Ontario School and System Leaders Massive Open Online Community (OSSEMOOC) 30 days of learning event, and I received some push back about it. The concern was not about what I wrote, but that I did at all because I am not a school or system leader.

What this feedback highlights is the dark side of special programs and titles and reminds us of how narrow the learning might be when birds of a feather flock together.

If we agree that the smartest person in the room is the room; then opening up the room—flattening the walls between educational rooms (within K12 and between K12 and higher ed), if you will, can only make the room smarter. 

This is my understanding about the online room. I am as smart as my PLN (and am I smart!). There is rarely a distinction made about title, rank, or level in this room.  Rather, the bond that we have is our passion for education as a means of offering every student (of any age) the opportunity to have a happy, successful, satisfying, interesting—you pick the adjective—life, and our emerging understanding  of the types of changes that education must make in order to realize this opportunity.

The learning with/from our PLN is the collegial conversation, the openness to ideas, the inquiry stance as we question back and forth, and the understanding of and the empathy toward risk-taking.

Following in the tradition of moocs like Education, Technology, and Media Massive Open Online Course (ETMOOC), OSSEMOOC has created a new space for educators to share their learning that is supportive, engaging, meaningful, timely, and inclusive.

And that thing about being a school and system leader?

Every teacher, in every building is a leader.

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Feeling off-balance is okay.

Note: My article for today is cross posted from OSSEMOOC: Day 8 of 30 days of learning.

 Preparing my Next Sermon
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Mark Hunter via Compfight

Last week, we were asked as a staff to once again articulate what technology needs we  have. Like many schools and school districts, we are working hard to upgrade our infrastructure and our hardware. This is necessary work, to be sure. But as I listened to the ‘wish list’ that teachers have, I reflected on how this conversation about tools did not stem from the need to change practice.

And maybe it can’t. Maybe the process of the integration of technology and shifting practice has to happen at the individual level.

I have a class set of Chromebooks, and the impetus for acquiring them was not pedagogical. In the fall of 2013, I was asked to teach grade 10 communications technology, and the Chromebooks were purchased to support that course. But I had them, so why not use them in all of my classes? This could be a bit of a pilot program, we (the principal and I) told ourselves. Let’s see how these devices work out in the non-tech classroom.

The Chromebooks worked marvelously.

I didn’t.

Sure, I knew how to use the machines and the apps. I knew how to set up student blogs and wikis. I knew how to organize documents and folders, to comment, and to share. What I didn’t know how to do was to integrate the devices into the teaching that I do.  Let me try that again. What I didn’t know was that I needed to see the curriculum (English) in a completely different way. What I didn’t know was that ‘changing my practice’ meant reconsidering every aspect of my practice from how I structured the course (traditionally thematically) to what essential skills I believed my students needed to have and how they would/could demonstrate them.

Here’s an example: Senior students need to demonstrate their ability to research, organize ideas, write, revise, format for publication, and cite sources appropriately. For many teachers, this translates into a research report or essay that is produced in Word or Google documents and that is printed or shared. Is that traditional research report/essay format still valid? Do I need to teach them how to produce their thinking in this manner because that’s the format required or expected in higher ed? Or can students research, curate, embed, link, write, and cite in a wiki? Or is the conversation really about choice?

This past February, I had a conversation with Steve Anderson (@Web20Classroom ) about content curation, in which I raised these same questions. His response? We need to understand that “there is no final solution when it comes to [student] learning.”

No final solution. No one way. No program. No script.

What I learn a bit more each day is to be okay with feeling off balance as I figure out what to hang on to from how I taught before and what to let go of. And this, I think, is not something that anyone else can do for me.

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