Monday, 28 July 2014

Bringing down the SILOS in education

Confidence is what I am really talking about.

At times this is an issue with all staff in education and it surely includes administration and teaching staff.

Why is it that we as educators are so hesitant to share in our process, our ideas and our product?  Why is it that we feel so comfortable in our silos?

Getting rid of these silos is paramount to student success.  As Fullan has suggested, student learning depends on each and every teacher, learning all the time and if students and teachers are going to be successful than we need to ensure that the doors of schools and classrooms are opened and the walls are taken down. As educators, we need share and learn from each other.

We need to engage in the difficult task of if changing this culture in education.  Even in my 14 years of education, I have come across the reluctance of teachers to open up their practice and share with other educators.  As and executive member for the Ontario History and Social Sciences Teachers' Association (OHASSTA) I was the webmaster and created an online data base that teachers could upload and share lessons they created.  Aside from workshop materials that presenting teachers sent to me, rarely did teachers willingly post teaching materials.  This reluctance to open at least a window into their practice is a sign of teachers being unwilling to share, to open doors, to take down walls.  As educators we are standing in the way of a culture change and shift in practice.

So why aren't more educators willing to share?  Willing to open up our classrooms and schools?  I think there are two reasons.  One George Couros touched on and that is the competitive nature of teaching. Second, is a lack of confidence on behalf or educators.  If we can address these two areas, perhaps we can turn doors into windows, and start to bring the silos down.

In his post, "Our Kids", George touches on the competitive nature of schools as we fight for students in our course, our programs, our departments and even our schools.  As we fight to keep our competitive advantage we keep our ideas in, what is working quiet and in the end this is detrimental to all of "our kids." Further to this, the competitive nature of education is directly tied to how we are funded, staffed and resourced; on a per student head basis.  This is why educators fight for students, and do not want to share as a way of keeping their competitive advantage.  Is it time we look at changing our funding model for education?  A question to be answered in another post.

Couros, goes further to discuss the humble attitude of teachers and how they perceive what they do as being insignificant in his post.  I agree and would take this point further  and also suggest a lack of confidence on the part of teachers as an additional factor behind the lack of sharing amongst educators.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, in her book Confidence, highlights how organizations have tremendous talent, but they are not able to carry that talent over into becoming winners because they lack the confidence in themselves to do so.  Our duty as educational leaders is to build confidence in our staff and in order to accomplish this we need to focus on four areas suggested by Kanter;  1) Self-Confidence - let teachers know what they are doing is noticed, that it matters and is having a positive impact;  2) Team Confidence - build strong relationships within a staff so all know they are respected, valued and trusted by all members; 3) System Confidence - develop the same qualities as listed before in our school board.  Staff need to know structures are in place that will lead to collaboration, that will help drive innovation and that there will be accountability; and 4) External Confidence - this is based on the previous three areas of confidence and through the positive outcome of these there will an investment in what is going on in a district, board, school or department.  Kanter's work is critical in this area and I highly recommend getting your own copy of Confidence.

So in our schools if we can develop the confidence of staff perhaps this will help to turn the focus on staff from us, as we fight for students to a we as strive to do what is best for all students.  We can start to tear down those silos and build windows into each other's classrooms and buildings and begin the sharing process. I will leave the funding model for another day.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

My Top Diigo Links of the Week

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Really it's ALL about CONNECTIONS!

In this world of modern learning students and teachers can easily become overwhelmed by the waves of information they find online and by the waves of people they encounter as they are using social media.  Many authors, from a whole host of media formats, have expressed concern, feeling students will be antisocial, cowering in front of their screens, lacking social interactions, all alone because of this technology.  This is not the case, technology is about connections.

A teacher, that I used to work with sent me a link to the video below, it highlights many of the perceived and real issues regarding the overuse of social media.  Nevermind the fact that I no longer work in the same school as the teacher who sent me the the youtube link, or the fact that he used email to get in touch with or the fact that he found the video on YouTube, a place for people to post their creations and share with the world. It sounds like technology is helping to keep a professional relationship going, even though by now it should be defunct.  Our relationship is still operating and because of it here is the video he shared with me:

This spoken word piece should serve as a cautionary tale regarding isolationism.  Mind you the problem of reclusiveness had been prevalent in society for many years before the internet, Web 2.0 and social media were created.  Perhaps, if a person is prone to isolationism these new tools of connectivity can allow the to create more space between themselves and 'real' connections.  This doesn't have to be the case.  In my role working with at-risk students, I have seen the opposite where technology has brought these fringe students out of their shells. I will provide three brief cases of how technology actually brings us closer together.

My first example is through my use of twitter.  I guess I was a relatively late entry into the twitterverse, when my first tweet came out in May 2012 for a professional learning day I was leading. I have been a lurker, casually looking in on the hundreds of conversations and active PLNs.  Eventually, I started participating and growing my own PLN on twitter.  This past June, I was able to attend ISTE for the first time and this was because of my PLN. I put out a request for reasons why people attend ISTE and my PLN responded.  I presented this information to my supervisors and was allowed to attend because of it.  At ISTE, I realized it wasn't about the technology, it was about the connections I was making and the people I was able to meet from my PLN. Technology and social media brought us together to from real world connections.

My second example of technology bringing people together to make real connections also comes from the ISTE conference. I had the opportunity to attend the opening Ignite sessions and I was able to hear Reshan Richards @reshanrichards, Explain Everything @explainevrthng co-creator speak.  Needless to say it, was inspiring and served as another example of how technology brings people together.  The @explainevrthng team had never met face-to-face during the entire time they developed, tested and refined their app.  It wasn't until #ISTE2014 that they were in the same room together.  Here is an example of technology bringing strangers together, allowing them to collaborate and produce an amazing app. Furthermore, here is a technology conference, which enabled them to come together and meet each other in real time.  Another awesome tale of technology bringing people together. 

My final tale for today again revolves around Twitter. I was contacted by a teacher from Nashville, Tennessee, @2footgiraffe.  He wanted to know if I would be interested in participating in a Principal's Unconference he was hosting.  Through the power of twitter we connected and with the technology of Google Hangouts, I was able to participate and share my perspectives on, Workflow vs. Workload - Using Web 2.0 tools to take the power back. Even though it was not an actually face-to-face encounter, we were able to share information and ideas, a key component of any social interaction.  

So, for those who are concerned about technology driving us apart and this leading to a depersonalization of society; rest assured that for every one story of social media and Web 2.0 leading people into lives of solitary confinement;  there are a million more where technology has brought people together.  Remember, social media and the Web 2.0 are all about relationships, Really it's ALL about CONNECTIONS!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Technology Isn't Just an Add On

I have been given the responsibility of leading our school's team in crafting our vision for use of technology, it's implementation and integration into our program.  I am excited what opportunities and challenges this will bring.

As part of this process we delivered a technology use survey to staff at the end of the last school year.  This has set the starting point for our mission, however, in the end the survey provided nothing we already did not know.  Staff requested, more access to technology and more professional learning.  When we asked questions around the SAMR model, the lion's share of our staff our using technology for Substitution and Augmentation.  When we inquired regarding how staff were addressing the 21st Century learning skills (I prefer to call these life skills and hopefully we can ditch the 21st Century soon) through the use of technology it was clear that, for the most part we are using technology to gather information and watch videos. Needless to say there is some work to be done.  The great positive out of this is that the staff are hungry for professional learning and there is a desire to better use technology in our practice. We have a great staff at our school.

I have been assisting a teacher in writing a report based out of our survey.  She is doing a great job attempting to pull the strings together and make meaning out of the numbers. As were were commenting back-and-forth on the document, it struck me.  The focus is on technology first and skills second.  This needs to be the other way around.  If we focus on the skills we can substitute whatever technology we want into our program.  This will also help alleviate teacher concerns over the rapidly changing direction of technology use in our board and in the outside world.

Over the last few years our school board as gone BYOD, implemented Office365, Skydrive, Corporate Sharepoint, MyClass, moved from Angel to D2L to just name a few of the changes that have occurred within our school board.  This does not include the tremendous amount of change that has happened outside of the walls of our schools. Coupling this amount of change together, at times teachers get the idea that we are always running after the next trend.  This feeling reminds me of the following video:

If we, as a school focus on the skills rather than the technology we can avoid the feeling of running and trying to manage a multitude of different technology resources at a time.  Teachers can then access whatever technology they want, or even better have students access whatever appropriate technology they want to ensure they are learning and using 21st Century learning skills.  This would eliminate the stress that staff feel over having to be the masters of technology.  Rather they can be master connectors or activators between the subject content, 21st Century Skills, technology and students.  This is what needs to be done, the skills need to be the framework, the structure the purpose for how we use technology.

Further to this, I had a second thought on our use of technology.  We are, at times, are still seeing technology as a stand alone, as an extra, as an afterthought.  Rather our use of technology needs to be seamlessly integrated into our daily practice in order for its use to be effective.  This is where we need to direct and invest our time in professional learning with our staff.  This is the same message I have been giving to fellow administrators.  We need to adopt and integrate technology into our daily practice instead of seeing it as an instructional tool only.  As digital leaders, we need to model the use of Web 2.0 tools for our staff to communicate, collaborate, to think critically and creatively around issues of education reform and lastly use it to create a vision that is going to deliver the best educational opportunities for our students.  This is part of our work as digital leaders; our work as educators.

Once we have moved skills to the forefront and integrated the use of technology into our daily practice, staff can see how technology can be used to help engage students and accelerate learning in their classrooms.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Techspectations - Workload vs. Workflow

Techspectations - Workload vs. Workflow

Workload. A concept that both drives and exhausts School Leaders.  Our work as Instructional Leaders, Operational Supervisors and Visionaries, means that we must wear several hats.  However, the work of today’s School Leader has evolved to also include the role of Digital Leader and Innovator.