| Here in Canada, it’s graduation time. This year my youngest child graduates from high school. Although no one is asking, especially not my daughter, I am going to take this opportunity to give her some advice as this phase of her life ends and a new one begins.
I know this is an important day for you, one that you are eagerly awaiting. Although the world isn’t going to radically change the day after you get your diploma, you may find it will still take a little time to get your ‘sea legs’. As you make that transition, I’ve come up with a few words of advice that I hope will help you as you move into adulthood. Here they are:
Don’t be compliant. Don’t stand silently in lines. Don’t wait for a ringing bell to tell you to drop whatever you’re doing and move to the next activity. Don’t only answer someone else’s questions. Don’t get all your information from a text book. Don’t expect your work to be evaluated by multiple choice tests. Don’t think that all knowledge consists of a few facts per topic. Don’t judge others based on how they rank on a scorecard. Don’t judge yourself based on one quick snapshot taken one day. Don’t spend all day, every day, in one room or one building. Don’t be timid. Don’t turn off your cell phone. Don’t close your screen. Don’t firewall tools that let you link to others in new ways. Don’t just consume. Don’t sit quietly, not looking at your neighbor. Don’t not share. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t only look at the front of the room. Don’t wait for my response to figure out if you’re right about something. Don’t say what you think I want to hear. Don’t memorize.
Be bold. Make noise. Ask questions. Move around. Look for new things that you find interesting. Give yourself time to explore new (and old) passions. Speak up. Question rules and policies if they seem wrong, unjust. Look at something from a new perspective. Seek diverse sources of information. Find your own facts. Mingle with people who are older/younger than you. Dig deeper. Go out, explore the world. Keep learning. Break some rules. Find knowledge in new places, new people. Look for and accept feedback that helps you grow. Learn when to listen and when to speak, and remember to do both. You have a voice. Make mistakes and learn from them. Explore subjects you’ve never heard of before. Talk to others. Collaborate. Value effort. Create something new. Pass notes. Dare, push yourself to try something new. Daydream. Trust in yourself. Say what you believe. Leave your room, your building. Snapchat. Tweet. Travel. Build an app or a treehouse with real tools. Know that what you do matters. Keep learning, anytime, anywhere.
|May 29th, 2013 @ 3:06PM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment|
| Economics and economic well-being constantly see-saw – one day you’re on the top of the world and then some bubble bursts or there’s a market ‘correction’ and suddenly, whoosh - everything begins to plunge. Technology changes so rapidly that the minute you buy the latest and greatest something, it’s out-of-date and the next, newest, best thing is already on the market. Our sense of place in the world can change rapidly, too– sometimes so suddenly that within an instant we see the sharp demarcation separating the “us” that existed before and the one that exists now.
Change in schools, on the other hand, moves at a much different pace. At a frustratingly slow pace. More an edit than a change, a bit of tweaking here, a minor improvement there. Maybe that’s reassuring. While everything around us shifts, recreates itself, or is ‘revolutionized’, we can always count on school to be familiar, just how we remembered it.
Of course, this is a bit of an exaggeration – schools have and continue to modify themselves. But too much of this is merely tinkering around the edges, not change so much as enhancements and adjustments. We keep layering on new, somewhat improved, ways of doing the same old things.
It’s kind of like the evolution of an old sod shack. Starting out as the only home that someone could afford to build, each new generation added on something - another room, another floor, an extension, a fix for some problem in one corner, a different one in another. Some of these changes were fundamentally necessary (a wood roof rather than a sod one, glass windows) and clearly improved the lot of all those within. But many of the added rooms, or pipes or systems, became totally useless/out-dated, were locked off, boarded up. Patched to allow this or that new functionality to be added, too big for its original foundation, the old sod shack soon becomes both costly and ugly and less a home than a relic.
I’m not saying that school has reached this point just yet, but we need to be smart enough to know when something is worth further tweaking or if it’s time to start anew. And we don’t have to wait until the building collapses before we give up the old shack for something that will better suit our needs and expectations today and for our future.
The trouble is, when a school does try to make a change, the push back from the parents, the community, and the media can be enormous. It seems that change is constant – as long as it doesn’t enter our schools.
Take for example, the district in Oregon that has gone to a 4-day school week. (Not a massive change, more like a tweak, but it is a break from the old scheduling standards.) The students get the same number of hours in school as they did before (with the mistaken assumption that the number of hours is directly proportional to the amount and quality of learning, but that’s another discussion). The fifth day of the workweek is used for the teachers to meet and plan and work together to teach better in order to improve learning. Sounds good, right?
So why did this story make the national news? It wasn’t because the newscasters were lauding the school’s efforts – most people interviewed were concerned or upset. (“Well,” harumphed one commentator to the school principal when told the teachers would be working together on the fifth day, “school isn’t for the teachers!” “No,” the wise principal responded, “it’s for the students - we’re trying to do a better job for them.”)
No, it was because most people, complain as they may about the state of education and schools today, do not want them to change. Whether from fear, lack of knowledge, or just plain nostalgia, they constantly block new ideas and create barriers. True, there are issues to take care of and questions to answer, but change needs to start somewhere. Problems can be solved and questions answered. More importantly, we must work to overcome our wariness and avoidance of school change. We need to keep our vision and goal in mind and provide all children with the opportunities to be engaged, self-directed, and passionate learners. And we need to communicate a positive message to the media and our communities that change in the pursuit of these goals is essential.
After all, we can’t live in the sod shack forever.
The question I get asked most often when talking about re-imagining learning and schools is what schools are truly transforming the learning experience for students and exemplify the schools we imagine for the 21st century. Do you work at or know of one? If yes, please let us know about it so we can share this information with the AALF community.
|April 2nd, 2013 @ 5:20PM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment|
| So many teachers say they would use technology more often, differently in a more transformative way if only......If only they had more PD, more support, more money, more evidence of its value, more time, more time, and more time. I'm sure this list isn't exhaustive. So, I've been asking educators to let me know what conditions did or should their schools or districts provide that would enable them to really make transformative change?
On a recent school visit, I spoke with a teacher who would be an excellent teacher with or without technology, but she wouldn't think of teaching without technology because of the abundant learning opportunities technology, and particularly 1:1, makes possible. Her students use their laptops to access primary source materials, reams of data, opinion pieces, etc. With their laptops, they are able to access the same information and materials that professionals in the field use. What's more, they don't simply use this material to answer a series of teacher or curriculum dictated questions, but to build case studies and develop informed opinions so they can go out into the world and know that they are not only prepared to knowledgeably impact the world today but also help shape the world in which they will be living long after many of us are gone.
When I asked this teacher what conditions she considered essential, she first and foremost said the school allowed her to *take risks and make mistakes.* To continue to try new ways to really stretch what she's doing to create a deeper,richer learning environment. This doesn't mean the school has given her a license to do something absurd, with no link to pedagogical best practice. Rather, she's able to explore new ways to apply best practices to meet her goals. And if something doesn't turn out perfectly the first time she tries it, she isn't told to stop, but rather given the space to analyze what worked and what didn't in order to learn and grow from the experience. Her goal is always to make more and better learning opportunities available to her students (A further note: her students were so engrossed in their work, they didn't leave when the class was over. The teacher had to hurry them out finally so they wouldn't be late for their next class.)
So, her essential condition was being allowed to take risks in terms of her teaching practice. When we spoke to the school principal and asked her the same question, she responded the same way. She recognized the importance of letting the teacher try new, pedagogically sound practices and explore the possibilities. So support from the school leader was also present, providing another key condition.
So, what are your essential conditions? Were there conditions you would add to my list? Why do you consider them essential? How would they help bring about truly transformative change? And, finally, how can you articulate your needs to help put in place the conditions you need to explore how you can make these learning opportunities possible?
I look forward to hearing from you!
|November 27th, 2012 @ 11:04AM | 1 Comments | Post a Comment|