A generalisation of Hattie’s work is that the models around student learning are less important than the implementation process and commitment from teachers. I say generalisation because his meta-analysis of best practices can be a little bit overwhelming, a little bit condescending and a little bit rock and roll (or is that Donnie and Marie Osmond?).
However, the implementation of any change must be intentional and cannot be left to chance. Take the new/revised BC Curriculum. This overhaul includes more opportunities for teachers to explore their own passions within the framework, gives student voice and choice, includes the incorporation of Core Competencies of Communicating, Personal and Social Identity, and Thinking, and has within all grades, the First Nations Learning Principles.
As the curriculum changes are happening, we are also looking at how we can best communicate student learning to parents/guardians and if immediate reporting (through programmes such as the new MyEdBC – a whole other rant, and FreshGrade) results in better communication and therefore greater student learning. We are also looking at assessment that best improves student learning (which is at the center of the changes, and to prepare our students for an unknown 21st Century world).
As a district, we have been working through the documents for over a year, with some schools and classrooms experimenting with different ways of creating opportunities for student learning, different ways of assessing that learning and different ways of communicating that learning. It has been an amazing opportunity to reflect on best practices and experiment with what works for each child, each classroom and each community.
The sharing of these experiences are so important. Education is not a solo, competitive endeavour. It is a social, collaborative, active act that requires both an understanding of relationship dynamics and modes of inquiry.
Next post: How we might navigate between content understanding and creative/critical thinking.
Whenever there is a list produced to state the ’21st Century Learning’ attributes needed for students to find success in a world that is ‘unknown’, collaborative skills are often near the top of the list (along with communicative skills, problem solving and critical thinking). To create the environment that best allows for collaboration, trust and strong relationships are needed.
This past year, in my district, we have been looking at several areas of growth and in particular, around the biweekly administration meetings that are held by our DLT (District Leadership Team). As professional development chair for my association (CPVPA) I was asked by the new Superintendent to facilitate the process for re-igniting the meetings to make them more authentic, engaging and timely in the issues discussed. The process began with a working meeting with a handful of members to see what our meetings could look like and ended with a facilitated session with all the participants to see where we could make changes to improve the structure of the meetings to make them more engaging and model some of the collaborative structures for administrators to take back to their staff.
Two issues emerged as important influences to improve the meetings: building trust; and creating collaborative learning opportunities. These might seem obvious to create a greater learning culture, but over time, these qualities can be lost in the day-to-day and year-to-year. We have, based on these influencers for change, revamped our meetings to be more inclusive, and giving opportunities for all voices to be heard. It has its growing pains, but so does all change.
Support, reflect, refine. This is the process we are using fir the meetings. But beyond all that, you must keep the wellness of your community, as we go through change, at the forefront. Healthy relationships allow for the navigation through the uncertainties of change.
This past weekend, an amazing group of teachers, administrators, students, parents and others interested in education met on on a beautiful Spring Satruday to learn from each other and share their stories. Decamps are always a great democratic way to learn about our profession. To find one near you, check out the EdCamp website where you can find the schedule of future EdCamps.
#EdCamp35 planning topics in the morning
What I was most impressed by this weekend was the number of student-teachers reaching out to expand their learning, along with parents who have a great interest in our education system. By showing that we are prepared to take a Saturday on a beautiful weekend to sit in classrooms and talk about building relationships, mastery learning, @freshgrade and other topics of interest, the concept of owning our professional development is strengthened.
#EdCamp35 participants enjoying their food truck lunches outside
If there is a greater call for some accountability around the professional development days (which historically came from moving some ‘summer’ days into the school year for autonomous professional development), then we should remember that many educators use their weekends, evenings, and spring and summer breaks (breaks from classes, not holidays) to go deeper in their own learning.
If someone were to question what you are doing with your professional development time, educators need to be able to answer with such strength and authority that the question becomes moot.
Masters and diploma programmes, Edcamps, weekend and evening professional learning teams and even our weekly #BCEdChat are all great opportunities for us to learn from each other and improve our practice without structured accountability check boxes. Own your learning and be proud of how much learning Yu do to improve student learning!
Some of the topics getting votes for the #Edcamp35
Public education is a beautiful concept: all children, everywhere, have the grand opportunity to learn, discover and grow, regardless of gender, family background, economic dis/advantages, or dis/ability. It is, in my opinion, the cornerstone to any democracy (not that democracy is the best, just the best we have right now). In the last fifteen years, in North America at least, there seems to be a growing change around public sentiment and discourse on public education and, in particular, public education teachers.
With adages like “those that can’t, teach”, respect for what a teacher does in his/her classroom has been diminished to seem to be one of a glorified babysitter.
“Look after my child from 8:30 to 3:30, and be glad you have the opportunity, as you wouldn’t be able to get a job anywhere else”
Now, if you asked parents what they think of their child’s teacher, a different set of responses would be revealed: parents support their own teacher, but lump the teaching profession into negative light.
This disconnect between their personal experiences with teachers and the global portrayal of teachers has been building for years. Governments and unions debate in public to sway opinion during contract talks. The result is a disenfranchised public that end up having negative views on both politicians and educators. This demoralizes teachers and slowly destroys all the relationships and community that has taken many years to build.
When I first started teaching in last century, teachers were seen as the gatekeepers of knowledge. Their skills and art of teaching allowed them to give students opportunities to learn content that would be hidden to them. Once the internet opened up the content knowledge (or as I like to call it, the world wide interthingy), teachers’ roles changed. Classrooms became places where not only content knowledge was important but also social emotional learning , cultures of learning, individual education plans, critical thinking.
When the perceived role of a teacher is to provide the content knowledge only, big business can step in and provide options. Knowledge content that is mobile, accessible and free (to start, at least) means that issues of class size and composition become irrelevant in this view of education. This reduces the role of the teacher back to that belief of babysitter.
Yet without the teacher, critical thinking and the ability to synthesize the content, cannot be done. We end up with students who have google knowledge, but no ability to fully comprehend complex issues or situations. In this new model, our new good teachers will not want to enter a system where they feel discounted. They will not become our next group of great teachers for all students, not just a privileged few.
Technology has enabled many to extend the role of learning in society from a small, local act to a shared, global act. As we look towards the future and wonder what the classroom in ten years might look like, it is important to remember that teaching is more than opening the book of knowledge to our students, but giving them the tools to write their own stories of success.
This Spring Break is the first one that I have not attended a conference in person. Usually I attend the ASCD annual conference over Spring Break (I’ve been to the last 5 conferences), but this break, I decided to stay at home and enjoy our unseasonable spring weather in winter.
I don’t like not doing something. Last week, I went in to the school three of the first five days of our two week break. It gave me a chance to clean up my office, do some of that paperwork that shouldn’t be done during class time and connect with the staff that are not on a break. But I can’t keep going into the school, so I have moved to twitter and Google + to see what my PLN is doing this March.
I’ve followed the #ULead conference happening now in Banff, Alberta, Canada, the #SXSW2015 conference in Austin, Texas, and have just started following along with the #TED2015 talks happening in Vancouver.
Along with learning from those great educators attending these amazing learning opportunities, I have also been experimenting with video and posters. The above video is the sun rise this morning (March 16th, 2015) from my deck done through the time-lapse option on my iPhone. I have also jumped into many different chats happening across most times during the day that I don’t normally have access to.
I have also explored what some of my best PLN members are doing (like Rik Rowe, @WHSRowe, and his amazing work with his honours mathematics class using Trello).
I guess I am missing the face-to-face of the conferences, but I have not missed the learning. Being connected means that you are never truly alone and there is so much going on out there. Learning has moved away from scheduled appointments (like classes) to anytime/anywhere learning. I liken it to just in time learning.
Have a great break and, please, if you are learning something, please share.
This week, TEDx is being held in Vancouver and the theme of Truth or Dare, I thought I would look into the truths of education in 2015. This is, in part, inspired by @IngviOmarsson’s post on 14 things that are obsolete in 21st century schools.
1. Connecting Educators
As more and more educators connect through social media, there is a growing global movement around sharing, exploring and collaboration. Educators are tweeting, posting, blogging, and google plus-ing (is that a term?) about what they are doing in the classroom; sharing their students’ work. This global network is moving beyond the school, district, province, state or country as groups connect and share their learning about learning. It is truly becoming Learning Without Boundaries! Look at the work of @IngviOmarsson, @BeyondTech, @ChristineYH and @DAliceMarsh.
2. Connecting Students
In the 21st century, students are connecting on their own through social media. However, there is a great need for students to understand the power of their words. Teachers around the globe are sharing, connecting their students through Mystery Skypes, GHOs, and giving them the tools required to navigate through the intricacies of social media. These teachers are on the cutting edge and need the support of their schools and districts to continue this great work. See @MsVictoriaOlson, @WHSRowe for some great student work!
3. Connecting the World
This is really similar to the above two points, but necessary, as it opens up the world to the classroom. Students can now share their stories with anyone with an internet connection around the world. This improves diversity and understanding and creates a smaller world where the caring ethic can flourish.
Assessment is changing. We are no longer stuck in the talk and test model of learning. Assessment for learning, formative assessments, standards based learning and differentiation are not new concepts, but with the push towards standardized testing, more and more teachers are moving to other, less punitive ways of assessing learning and giving students the voice and choice to demonstrate their understandings.
This is one area that is difficult to change without conversations. Parents, students and teachers need to understand the whys of reporting and move towards a more holistic method of reporting out progress. See Karen Hume‘s work on engaging students for more information.
6. Whole Child
This movement from the ASCD is quite amazing. It allows educators to see through a lens of compassion, understanding and support for all learners in all aspects of their lives. I first learnt about this when I nominated Byrne Creek for the WholeChild award.
7. Anytime Learning
Learning doesn’t just happen between 8:30-3:00. It doesn’t happen just in a classroom. It can happen anywhere, anytime and we need to address this if we are going to continue to create opportunities for students to become life long learners. This is, again, Learning Without Boundaries.
These are just a few thoughts around the changing nature of education today. They may not yet be complete truths, and I dare you to find more as TEDx continues in Vancouver: Truth or Dare!