I have been writing in social media about education and changes in education for about a decade at this point in time. One of my observations, as I enter discussions with educators in various parts of the country, is that many educators bring up problems within their own districts that were discussed in detail and often resolved in many other districts a number of years ago. There are topics and ideas brought up that social media has introduced, discussed, and developed as influential game-changers that seem to be new topics to many educators. As professionals, educators need to be better informed of changes and trends within their own profession. This is not a passive effort. It requires educators to continually seek out and self-educate themselves on what is relevant in education. Providing this information does not seem to be a function of the school districts’ administrations, or unfortunately, many teacher preparation programs provided by colleges.
There was a time in education when educators were given what they needed to teach, as well as what methods to use in order to do it. The influence of technology on society has changed that dynamic. Change comes faster than any other time in history making it more difficult to stay relevant. Social media however, has given voice to any individual willing to express it. Responses to change are most often discussed in Blog posts. Blogs are great indicators of how people respond to change, as well as possibly affecting a positive spin on those same changes. For the most part this has been a good thing, but there have been a number of setbacks along the way. The idea of having voice works best if those individuals expressing that voice have an in-depth knowledge about what they are voicing. Easy access to publish that voice complicates this. Unfortunately, in addition to knowledgeable bloggers, others have equal access in publishing their ideas. Any idiot can write a blog post, and almost every idiot does. How do educators find blogs to read in the first place and secondly which blogs are of value?
There are many bloggers out there who are currently educators. There are also many bloggers who have left the profession with a great deal of experience. Education bloggers come from all areas of education. A good way to check the background of a blogger is to go to their “About Page” on their blog. Looking over past posts is also a good indication of who the blogger is and what he or she thinks.
Once a good blogger is found, it is a great idea to follow the blog. Often the blogger will also be on Twitter, so following the blogger on Twitter as well is a good idea, because tweeting after all is micro-blogging.
Finding blogs is fairly easy to do. Twitter offers an almost endless stream of links to blog posts making each post a click away. There is also FLIPBOARD, a free mobile application that can personalize preferences to provide blog posts in magazine form that addresses those interests. Again, provided summaries of each post is a click away from the complete work. ASCDEdge is a site that provides hundreds of Blog Posts from educators. There are also Blog depositories on The Educators PLN, Classroom2.0, and The English Companion to name just a few. TEACH100 is a site that describes the top education blog sites with a brief description of each. Again the current blog post is a simple click away.
As easy as all of this is to find, read, and follow blog posts, it would seem that the vast majority of educators fail to do so. Many posts have view counters on them indicating the number of times each post is viewed. The most popular posts may often have several thousands of views. This sounds like a great number until we consider the several million educators in America alone. How can a profession of several million educators expect to keep up with the most current thought leadership within their profession if only the tiniest fraction of its members are trying to maintain any relevance? It is great that educators now have the ability to digitally share their voice, but it doesn’t mean much if no one is there to listen. Maybe we need relevant educators to print out posts to share with their colleagues. 20th Century solutions might be what are needed to bring some folks into the 21st Century.
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During a recent snowstorm I found myself perusing a list of recorded television shows on the DVR. While watching an episode of Bull, a show about scientific jury selection, or possibly jury manipulation, there was a term used by Dr. Bull that I had not heard before, “The IKEA Effect”. It was explained by the main character that it was a cognitive bias in which consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they created. Of course this was a fictional TV show, so I had my doubts. I looked it up to confirm if it existed and sure enough, I found it to be a real thing.
On a personal level I found myself in agreement through my own experience with furniture that I had put together in the past, whether bought through IKEA or anywhere else it might have been purchased. Of course my personal reflection on this was not limited to furniture assembly. I also began to think about lessons, courses, and curriculum that I had developed or helped develop over my career.
As an educator I found that the things that I personally developed meant more to me and seemed more effective than things developed and contributed by others. This was probably because I had a clear understanding of the focus and intent of my own ideas. I was also clear about the whys and wherefores of changes that I may have made through reflection and results of formative assessments. I was also aware of the blemishes I would hope no one else would see. Although I have no personal experience with it, I imagine many educators may not feel the same types of connections with boxed curricula now being adopted by some schools.
The question I now have is, does this hold true for students as well as adults? I know that when my students were involved with the development of their own projects, as well as the rubrics that would be used for their assessment, they felt empowered in their own learning. They were very involved with the development of writing portfolios and often expressed a feeling of ownership for their own learning. These were feelings that kids do not get from lectures.
With all of this being considered, I wonder why there is still such resistance to teachers having a greater voice in what and how they teach. Additionally, why are so many teachers resistant to giving students greater voice in their own learning. As individuals I believe the more we have a say in what we do and how we do it, the more we take ownership of what we do. If teachers own their own teaching, would they not have a greater interest in its outcome? If students had a greater voice and choice in their learning, would their ownership of that learning not serve as a motivation to further expand their learning?
Our purpose in education should focus on enabling teachers to teach and teaching students how to learn. This should rely heavily on self-motivation, so that teachers own their teaching and students own their learning. Forcing tasks, information, lessons and curriculum that have little relevance to teachers or students impedes their ownership and only confuses or stifles teaching and education. Enabling more voice for teachers and students should be a key for 21st Century education.
Posted in Administrator, Assessment, Curriculum, Education, Leadership, Professional development, Professionalism, Reform, Teacher, Thought leadership, Thought Provoking | 6 Comments »
During the last year, or for as long as this election has been running, I have had a growing concern. I listen to interviews of voters in our democratic society and wonder how well we have prepared our citizens to actually make considered and responsible decisions. I realize that emotions may weigh heavily on decisions we make, especially in election years, but decisions should initially be, at the very least, critically analyzed, and based on facts rather than opinions or pledges, promises, and propaganda. With so much indecision, as well as a mass misrepresentation of facts in this election on both sides, I question how much we have addressed decision-making in the education of our kids over the centuries. Beyond just this election, this would hold true when applied in any situation requiring a decision. My concern is that our education system may, in great part, be failing to give decision-making its proper priority in the system. Is creating learners capable of responsible and considered decisions a true goal of education, and is it supported with action and not just discussion?
Teachers have always asked for autonomy in teaching their subject areas, a position I always support. The argument is that the teacher is the content and education expert and quite capable of making the decisions for what is appropriate for their students. Teachers want to be the decision-makers for what kids will be taught. Administrators have their perspective as well. Mandates, regulations, and standards are all the considerations for their decisions. Additionally, parents have a say with their decision-making: support of the budget, their kid’s schedule, and the overall direction of their kid’s education and life.
Everyone wants their say in a kid’s education, but what about the kids? The path to sound decision-making should be a practice of our students in regard to their own learning. Decision-making should be involved in the content delivery that teachers provide within their courses. Decision–making should be a practice in what path students choose in their academic journey. For too long these decisions have been made by educators for kids. Teachers decided curriculum for students, and what methodology worked best for them to learn. We must accept the fact that the ability or skill for decision-making doesn’t happen on its own. It is also a skill that is refined with maturity as much as practice. It would be foolish to assume the youngest of our kids are capable of making life-changing decisions, but making some decisions is better than making no decisions at all. We need to start this early and increase the decision options as kids mature.
A Problem-based curriculum allows for decision-making. This includes failure as a teacher. The wrong decisions have consequences, but what better place to fail than within the safety of the classroom with a teacher to guide kids back from a wrong direction. If a teacher needs class rules and regulations to guide the learning environment maybe the kids could make the decisions of what rules to use after discussing the needs and reasoning behind each rule. The teacher should not just dictate rubrics to the students. Many teachers include the students in deciding what rubrics are needed for their work. Students should decide what work they want to use for their portfolios. One idea for high school students might be to have a required (already decided) course to specifically deal with decision-making. This will come at a time when these students will be entering into a whirlwind of decision-making concerning real life choices dealing with their future.
Sound, responsible, fact-based decision-making as a mastered skill should be a goal in education. It cannot be assumed that education itself will develop that skill. I have met many educated people who must be told what to do and how to think, with little interest, or possibly ability to make their own decisions. Since we base the governance and safety of our country on the decisions our citizens make, it is in our best interest to have our citizens well versed in decision-making skills.
Posted in Accountability, Administrator, Curriculum, Education, Leadership, Parents, PD, Reform, Teacher, Thought leadership, Thought Provoking | 3 Comments »
As a society, we place a premium on innovators and entrepreneurs. They are admired, or for some revered in Business, Politics, and even Education. The reason for that bias is that innovators and entrepreneurs are scarce commodities. Most people are employees and not entrepreneurs. There is nothing wrong with that. Most people follow trends; they don’t start them. There is nothing wrong with that. Few people lead while most people follow. Again, there is nothing wrong with that. On the surface one would expect that in consideration of their rarity and with all of this reverence for innovation and entrepreneurship, that support would abound to propagate and spread innovation within any system, especially one like Education that should model what is the very best in what is expected of its learners. The problem with innovation in any system however, is the same problem with innovation in regard to individuals. Everyone wants change to occur and people even pay great lip service to having change happen, right up to the point where change becomes real. That is the point when the individual MUST change, and then when it comes to this personal commitment, people do not want to change. Everyone wants change to occur for the system, but very few people want to change themselves personally to have that occur.
There are many great ideas in education that are being discussed in the connected community of educators, but not necessarily the education community at large. It is not realistic to expect educators to accept new ideas in their profession if they have not yet discussed them enough to understand them. Of course the role of leadership should include introducing and discussing these ideas within the framework provided by the system. Leaders should be involved in the discussions of problem-based learning, the maker movement, inquiry based learning, and the flipped method, connected collaboration, and design based learning just to mention a few.
If these latest ideas could be discussed and considered building by building as part of an ongoing professional development strategy, it might prepare educators with more tools to move education away from the status quo. If every teacher was encouraged, enabled and supported in trying at least one new form of methodology within an academic year to the extent they were comfortable, we might stand a chance in evolving education. This should be a goal of every administrator within the Education system.
The innovators within the system are already involved and they would need less attention. The bulk of educators however, may be less open to change and more in need of a structured change that would require less, if any self-motivation. We have assumed that this was being accomplished through the Professional Development policies and strategies in place for centuries. Talking with a wide variety of educators across the country I have found very few who are supportive of the professional development they have been offered by their schools throughout their careers in education. Several national polls of teachers have listed PD as a major concern and a disappointment for educators. We may need to innovate a new and more supportive PD system for educators that meets their needs, respects their experiences, provides them a voice, schedules collaborative time with colleagues and enables teachers to experiment without a fear of failure. In short treat them as adult learners and respect them for being professionals. We need to innovate a strategy for personalizing Professional Development.
Change will only happen if it is supported. Support for change will only happen if people are comfortable moving from the safety of the status quo to the insecurity of the unproven new idea. Many people need to be assured of a safety net before they will move to change. Unless our leaders themselves become more innovative and active about innovative Professional Development, the change we all want to herald in will be long in coming. Innovative new ideas in education are not enough by themselves. We need innovative strategies to implement those new ideas.
In the words of Frank Zappa,” Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible”. In my words, “If we are to better educate our kids, we need first to better educate their educators”.
Posted in Administrator, Connected Educator, Education, Leadership, PD, PLN, Professional development, Professionalism, Reform, Teacher, Thought leadership, Thought Provoking | 15 Comments »