Posts Tagged With: education reform

Drawing a Line in the Sand

According to Wikipedia “a line in the sand” is a metaphor with two similar meanings:

The first meaning is of a point (physical, decisional, etc.) beyond which one will proceed no further.
The second meaning is that of a point beyond which, once the decision to go beyond it is made, the decision and its resulting consequences are permanently decided and irreversible.line-300x202

On a recent trip to Toronto I was fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to Dr. John Malloy, Director of Education at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. Dr. Malloy gave an enthusiastic accounting of the 1-to-1 iPad initiative currently playing out in his Districts’ 100 plus schools. In the initial year of a five-year plan they have placed iPads in the hands of every student in seven elementary schools, in one secondary school, and in the assistive technology used in two other secondary schools. If the roll out goes according to plan, every student will have the full time use of an iPad by 2019. The plan, titled “Transforming Learning Everywhere”, is strongly supported by their School Board and will be resourced heavily through ongoing teacher professional development, adequate wireless bandwidth in every school, and a team of individuals to support and maintain all aspects of the project. Wow!

Then Dr. Malloy shared what I thought was the most brilliant part of the entire initiative. He used the metaphor of “a line in the sand” to describe the plan they had to reduce paper in schools throughout the District. As more iPads are deployed, more paper will be removed. “If we are going to continue to provide access to the old way of doing things”, he said, “how are we going to get our teachers to buy into something new? We can’t afford both.” By 2019 Hamilton-Wentworth will be 95% paperless. This is written into the strategic plan.

Here is the problem that exists most everywhere. All too often School Districts continue to allow outdated practices to exist at the same time they introduce something new.Unknown When this happens many teachers simply opt out of risking the new practice and retreat to what is most comfortable to them. For system leaders, resources are scarce so if they aren’t able to build a coalition of the willing, real change rarely occurs.

I think everyone can agree that the Education landscape is changing more rapidly than ever before. Our students were born into a different world than we were. They learn differently and will require a very different set of skills in today’s society and workplace. Transforming pedagogy should not be an option but rather a requirement of all teachers. All available resources should be used, not on maintaining the old, but on building the new.

We need more leaders who, like Dr. Malloy, are not afraid to draw that line in the sand.

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ed Reform – What About Parents?

When I think of parents and the degree to which they understand how education is changing, I’m reminded of this quote by American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomski:

IMG_0061Earlier this week I gave a presentation on Learning Commons to parent council chairpersons at a gathering organized by our district’s School Board. We provided the presentation so that parents would better understand our district initiative to bring our school libraries into the 21st century, and by doing so provide our students with a more relevant and engaging learning experience. As I demonstrated how a Learning Commons could be used to flatten the walls of our classrooms, give students more responsibility for their own learning, and encourage creativity and innovation, the parents in attendance seemed to welcome the opportunity to learn more about the changes to their child’s daily experiences in school. I came away from the evening, however, with a sense of concern with the disconnect between what parents think we are doing in our classrooms and what we are actually doing. Most in attendance had never before heard of the ideas I shared in my presentation.

As learning begins taking on a very different look, we have to remember to bring all our stakeholders along with us – especially our parents. As the first educators of their children, we can’t leave them out of loop if we are to make any significant progress with changing the educational experience for our students. Most people resist change when they don’t understand.

Here, I believe, are some of the reasons why we need to make a conscious effort to include parents in our conversations about education reform: 

  1. Most parents can only imagine learning through the lens in which they experienced it themselves.
  2. Most parents are digital immigrants, which makes them nervous about the use of technology and innovative approaches in schools.
  3. Most parents still want to know how their children are doing in relation to everyone else – with a number.
  4. Most parents don’t have the time to be directly involved in their child’s learning.
  5. Most parents turned out just fine with their schooling experience. What was good for them must be good for their children.

…perhaps some helpful ideas:

  1. Organize parent information sessions on a regular basis.
  2. Use the power of technology to share information with parents and collect their input.
  3. Invite parents into your classroom – often.
  4. Hold student-led parent / teacher conferences.
  5. Reassure parents that safety concerns are being addressed.

What are you doing to make sure your parents know what’s happening as things start to change in your classroom?

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How Do We Get From Here to There?

Last week I attended the Zone 1, 2 and 3 College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) annual Summer conference in Jasper. In attendance were  system leaders and top government officials, all who are tasked with moving the vision for Alberta’s education system (Inspiring Education) forward within their own scope of influence. Each and every presenter gave powerful talks about the importance of continuing the journey of transforming the educational experience for students so they will emerge from grade 12 as young adults who are “ethical citizens and engaged thinkers with an entrepreneurial spirit.here to there1

Over the three days our newly appointed Deputy Minister, Greg Bass spoke with great passion about the need for our teachers to consider important competencies when planning, carrying out and assessing student learning and Ellen Hambrook, an assistant to the Deputy Minister in the area of curriculum, provided an exciting update on the Curriculum Redesign initiative currently in the works. In addition to these reaffirming presentations, a panel of Superintendents from 3 jurisdictions shared, from their central office point of view, how Inspiring Education is playing out in their schools. As I sat there listening, I found myself asking this question over and over again, “How do we get from here to there?” As someone new to central office, and only weeks removed from sitting on the library floor with elementary school students, I am all to aware of the gap that exists between talking about transforming our education system and actually doing it.

Then we listened to our keynote speaker, Hall Davidson, who serves as director of Global Learning Initiatives with Discovery Education. Through a variety of very practical examples, he provided us with a look into the engaging classroom and what Inspiring Education might look like at the ground level. He started by introducing us to the wonderful Web application called Poll Everywhere and used it to crowd source the room as his presentation got underway. Many were using it for the first time. Then, the room was further amazed as he showed us how to take short videos using our mobile devices and upload them directly to his YouTube account within seconds. Next, he demonstrated Mystery Skypes, a concept taking innovative classrooms by storm, and most in the room had never heard of them. He went on to play with a variety of iPad Apps and showed clips of ways teachers used them to engage students and most looked on in sheer awe. This went on and on throughout the afternoon. At one point he asked the 120 participants if they have Twitter accounts and 5 of us raised our hands.

This is my point. The majority of system leaders and government officials in the education sector are far removed from where the transformation is actually taking place. There are some amazing things going on in classrooms everywhere and district leaders need to take every opportunity to get in there and see it for ourselves. Perhaps then we can figure out how to take many more teachers and administrators from here (talking about it) to there (doing it).

I encourage you to watch this video, remixed and created with the help of grade 5 and 6 students at the school where I was principal last year. I would argue that we were “doing it.” Or at least trying.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Change in 2013

What is it that makes change so difficult?  This question comes up every time I engage in a conversation about education reform.  To that end, I’ve been looking at Prochaska & DiClemente’s model of change in an attempt to better understand transformation within my own context.  I would say that most of those who I work with are somewhere between the precontemplative and preparation stage of change.  A few are at the action stage.  By change, of course, I mean the move toward a more authentic, competency based approach to teaching and learning.  And as we all know, many things get in the way of change, so much so that some teachers just don’t see it as being worth the effort.  I’ve heard many excuses from excellent teachers like “I barely have time to cover the curriculum as it is” or “how is this going to prepare my kids for the standardized tests” or “the technology doesn’t work right half the time.”  Unfortunately, those individuals usually choose to stick with the comfort of what they’re already doing.

Transtheoretical Model of Change, by Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983

Transtheoretical Model of Change, by Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983

Prochaska & DiClemente assert that for change to happen individuals require:

  1. A growing awareness that the advantages of changing outweigh the disadvantages
  2. Confidence that they can make and maintain changes in situations that tempt them to return to their old ways
  3. Strategies that can help them make and maintain change

Getting each of these in place is no easy task.  It requires not only a willingness and acceptance from the individual, but also the collective ownership of the group.  That’s why most change efforts stall within the first three stages.  There is just so much that can get in the way. 

As the school leader, I see my role as building a culture that supports change; even when it looks so daunting.  If I don’t, how can I expect my teachers and support staff to change their own approaches.  So in 2013 I will continue to remove obstacles and build supports.  I will support risk taking and innovative new approaches.  I will provide time for collaboration and exploration.  I will make available the tools of technology.  I will listen.  I will watch.  I will celebrate.  I will walk the talk each and every day.  This is my New Years Resolution.  Happy New Year.

Categories: Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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