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I recently attended FETC, which is considered to be an annual, premiere, national education conference. The vendor floor consisted of hundreds of companies hawking their wares to an audience of educators, many of whom are recipients of an education that was limited in its exposure to the advantages of today’s technology. That will probably always be true of educators, when we consider the rapid rate of change that occurs in technology on an ongoing basis. Educators will always have new and different technologies available in their teaching that were not available in their own education. That combined with the fact that most people are not comfortable with change in general makes it difficult to affect change in an institution, which is considered by many to be on a conservative path, and slow to change. Many of the philosophies, priorities, systems, beliefs, and methods in education date back centuries. Change is hard even when we see the need for it.

A great many of the products that were being viewed on the conference floor at FETC needed to be viewed with a relevant eye and a growth mindset. That would require educators to be open to new methods and ideas to replace, or at the very least supplement what they have already established as the basis for their own teaching methods.

This requires for example more than substituting a word processor for a pen and paper, and teaching writing the same way as in the past. It requires the idea that rough drafts will be built into the ongoing writing process. Grammar check becomes a frequently used tool. Spellcheck is a fact of life. Edits are made easily and more frequently with less effort, becoming less of a deterrent for good writing. Teacher feedback, formative assessment of the students’ work, can be more detailed in written or audio forms. Digital files may archive every students’ work to compile a portfolio of writing over long periods of time to demonstrate progress in real terms. And finally, the astounding fact that any student can publish any work at any time to a global audience. Much of this was not generally possible way back in the 20th century. All of it is possible today, yet I question how much of it has become standard practice in teaching.

Failure to change is the greatest enemy of education, and comfort zones are the greatest roadblocks. I often say that if we are to better educate our kids, we need first to better educate their educators. How we are educating those educators seems to be lacking in so many ways. It is not for lack of trying that we are failing in this effort. I recently had this discussion with my friend Lisa Schmucki the CEO and founder of EdWeb https://home.edweb.net/. Her company does hundreds of great webinars for tens of thousands of educators on many relevant subjects. Even with this herculean effort to educate educators, change is still slow in happening. On this Lisa and I agree. Why? Where are we going wrong? Why are a majority of educators so disappointed in their professional development?

Professional development has rarely been prioritized with support from the system itself. Often the bulk of PD is determined and paid for by the educators themselves. An annual professional day or two typically held by many districts across the country will never be enough. Throwing lectures or digital lectures, webinars, at teachers is not educating them. What would happen to the teacher who did nothing but lecture students every lesson every day? PD must be an ongoing requirement of the educator’s position. The districts must constantly support it. The best way to educate our kids in relevant ways is to have them being taught by relevant educators. That does not happen on its own. In order to maintain a relevant faculty, we need relevant administrators. That does not happen on its own. In order to have any change be effective we need to have people believe in and support change. We need a recognition that change will occur no matter what our position. If students are part of that change, they will probably benefit more from it then if educators who resisted it never prepared them for it.

We need to recognize that if we expect educators to change we must first recognize and acknowledge them for what they bring to the table. We must determine what each personally needs to know how to move forward. We need to collaborate and communicate more openly and frequently in order to affect change. Teaching educators and students alike how to learn, critically think, and collaborate while effectively communicating content should be every school’s mission statement. After examination and reflection we need to accept some change as a positive addition and not a loss of tradition. We need to make acceptance of change an easier transition and eliminate those blockades of comfort zones. We need a re-examination of what we have and what we do, to eliminate the gap of where we are compared to where we should be. If PD is the most important factor in maintain quality and relevant education, constant change will always be a component. Rapid change has become the world in which we live. We have no choice in that. We need to learn how best to deal with it.

Here is something that we should all keep in mind. When it comes to continuing to always do the same thing, even we can learn from monkeys. https://youtu.be/nBJV56WUDng

 

It has been quite awhile since I have written a post. I think I might be in a state of depression as a result of my addiction to television News shows and the recent development of an affliction that I refer to as “screen screaming”. Getting beyond the political turn of events of recent history, I also find myself frustrated and depressed over the slow pace of change in education that we have witnessed since the turn of the century. Why is it that so much of what education thought-leaders have been advocating for, in order to dramatically change the education system for the better, has yet to take root in any significant way? Many of the practices that have been identified as stymieing the system are still common practice in too many school systems today.

The big question that educators often ponder seems to be: In this age of technology and innovation does technology improve student learning? Of course that is a big question with research supporting both sides of the argument. I think however that there are other questions, which must be answered in order to gauge the effects of technology our education system.

My first question is: What has technology affected in the everyday lives of educators and support staff that improves their conditions? I tend to use my own experience and observations in addressing this since I began teaching in the early 70’s, before any real significant influence of technology on education, calculators not withstanding. Tech has certainly improved and simplified the ability to record data over the years, freeing up time for teachers. Of course that free time might be lost if teachers are loaded up with new additional stuff to record on students. Tech has given educators an ability to increase their connections with other educators through social media and collaborative applications to exchange ideas and share sources. Certainly this collaboration could be a positive influence and a great source of professional development if promoted and supported by an innovative and creative administration. It is impossible to get “out-of-the-box” teaching and learning when teachers are restrained by “in-the-box” management.

Technology has changed the dynamic of curating information for teachers and students. It gives access to information never before so readily available, or so easily curated. Technology also enables users the ability to publish acquired information in various formats for consumption by others. Additionally, it offers a means in many cases to analyze data in ways that could not be done so easily before technology had become so ubiquitous.

Communication has been upended by technology. There are many ways for people to communicate. We have gone way beyond the dial up telephone. Not only can we communicate with voice, but we can also transmit documents, files, videos, audio files, and live streaming. Gutenberg and Bell would most certainly be impressed.

Access to all of these wonders of technology requires a different mindset than that of the early 20th century. It requires the ability to be flexible and adapt to the constant changes that come with technology. It requires one to commit to being a lifelong learner. It also requires a strict adherence to critical thinking in order to recognize, that which offers value from that which is crap.

Now let us consider what teachers need to survive and thrive in their world today in order to be relevant to their students in what they must teach and the methods they use in the time that they have to deal with their students. Technology affords them time-saving methods to deal with the required bureaucratic minutia. It also offers the ability to maintain relevance in the tech-driven, fast-paced, changing environment of information exchange. Access to information at anytime is also a tech-added benefit for teachers. 24/7 communication access can also benefit educators accessing their administrators, collegial sources, students, or parents.

Now let us consider what students will need to know in order for them to survive and thrive in the technology-driven world that they will occupy, as opposed to the world that their educators grew up in. We want kids to be able to communicate, collaborate, curate, critically think, and most importantly create while using Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic.

All of this is now happening and will continue to happen in a world that is technology driven. We do not get any say in how much technology will continue to change and drive change. We can only prepare for the inevitable change by developing a generation of flexible life long learners who can assess and adapt to new information.

If my observations are even somewhat accurate, why is our education system so slow in developing methodologies that are supportive of teachers learning and using technology with their students? Why aren’t educators learning along with their students the very things they were not exposed to as they grew and learned? Why are we not concentrating more on student-centered learning, as opposed to Teacher-driven teaching? Why are we not focusing more on collaborative learning as opposed to lecture and direct instruction? Why aren’t districts more in tune with supporting collaborative learning for their teachers in obtaining relevant professional development to teach kids for their own future?

Well, now that I sat down to write something on education, I find myself again screen screaming, but this time it has nothing to do with partisan politics. I guess the idea of comfort zones, traditions, and closed mindedness are just as frustrating when we recognize where we should be going, but only a few are willing to take a chance on innovation. Maybe politics and education have more in common than I thought. Just because you have always done it one way doesn’t mean it must continue that way. When the world around you changes, pay attention. If we are going to better educate our kids, we must first better educate their educators.

parents-hero

I have long been a guest blogger for Edutopia, which has been both a challenge and an honor. I have always found it challenging to be provocative in promoting change in education in a blog post, while remaining positive in tone. That overriding positive tone however is one constant in Edutopia posts that engenders loyalty, trust and a reliance from about a million followers who want to know more about education. To have my work read and appreciated by that vast audience is a great honor.

In September of 2014 I wrote, Educating Parents About Education, a post supporting the idea that we need to better educate parents about education in order to have them engaged as advocates and not adversaries for much of the needed changes in education in regard to methodology, pedagogy and technology. I would strongly suggest you read it in conjunction with this current post.

With the rapid pace of change driven by technology, it is difficult for educators to keep up with everything, so it must be almost impossible for most parents who are far less exposed to education and all of its change and innovation. Without exposure and some acceptance of this change, we all must fall back on our own education experiences that are, for most of us, steeped in the 20th Century. Public education is a common experience for most Americans, which is why so many people often feel that they have the answers to how to fix what they perceive as a broken system. This is true of many educators as well as parents.

The real common thread at least in my experience however is that we do not know what it is, that we do not know. We all need to be better educated, if we are to be better educators for our children. This then goes beyond prioritizing professional development for the education staff. It means involving parents to come along in large measure on the educational journey we wish to take their children. We need to do this because a 21st century education should look very different from their 20th Century experience. In order to effectively change the system we first need to change the culture.

Educators and parents are adult learners. They have life experience and personal goals to attain. They are to be respected for who they are, as well as what they bring to the table. We should not bore them with dry lectures, poorly presented on Power Point. We should not expect to razzle-dazzle them with bells and whistles on the latest tools of technology. Presenting mounds of data without real context will be wasted. We need to engage Parents and educators in conversations about learning: What is it, and how do we get kids to attain it? Conversation is the best tool for collaboration, which is the basis for adult learning.

The Edcamp model of instruction for professional development seems to fit the bill for the needs of both educators and parents. It is the most innovative form of PD that has become a movement on a global scale, yet many have yet to discover it. I guess for parents we might refer to PD as Parental Development. All Edcamp topic sessions are based on conversation and not lecture. Anyone can pose a topic for discussion. Each session needs one person to lead the discussion. These session leaders fall into two categories: Those who know about a given topic and want to share, and those who want to know about a given topic and want to share.

Parents would have the ability to address topics that they are most concerned with. Teachers could pose topics that parents should be aware of. Many parents might not even know what to ask about. Individual educators might not be well enough versed in certain areas, but through conversation others stronger in those areas can fill in the gaps. Individually we may be smart, but collectively we are even smarter.

This Edcamp model will get parents and educators talking about learning. We can explain and explore topics like: student voice, problem based learning, open source learning, the flipped class, collaborative learning, design learning, the maker movement, coding, digital literacy, digital citizenship, social media, the stress on the family from unneeded homework, necessity or lack of it for textbooks in our education system. I could go on but these are my topics. The very folks who need the discussion need to personalize their topics. That is the key, personalizing the learning for those who need to know.

There is a need to expand our teaching to people who affect the individual cultures of our individual schools. Parents serve better as allies than they do as school adversaries. If we want their support in affecting change and innovation, we should make sure they understand about what we are asking. In this century we are all learners. It has become essential if we are to survive the rapid rate of change that is moving us all along.

Support educating parents about education and watch the culture of your school begin to change. Watch for a change in the parent support. Look for a change in the educators in your school. Most of all look for a change in students when parents who get it support them.

 

 

I recently read yet another article that questioned the effect of using technology in education. I believe it stated that there are 3.6 million educators using edtech as the basis for the post. The post itself was well done, but throughout my reading I was troubled by what defined an edtech-using educator. How is it determined that an educator is truly an edtech user?

I have been in meetings where educators had to fill out questionnaires asking about their technology experience. They claimed to be technology-using educators based solely on their use of Power Point for lectures. Technically using Power Point for a lecture does require technology, but that is like claiming to be a social media guru after using Facebook to only follow some family members who post their family vacation pictures at every opportunity.

If we were to do a survey of ten educators who claim to be edtech-users and six of them base their claim on power point lectures alone, and two use tech to send digital worksheets to their students, and the final two educators have students using tech apps for collaboration, curation, communication and creation of content, we could confidently claim that Edtech is not having a great effect on learning. It would be effective for probably less than 20% of the students. The next obvious question would be, how much of an effect is tech having on learning in the classes of those final two educators alone? I imagine the resulting percentage would be a much more positive influence than the other classes, but we lump everyone together.

If we are to establish data on the effects of technology in education, we need to first establish a valid method of evaluating the information from a level playing field. We need to evaluate the experience of the educators claiming to use it. Teachers, who have been identified as users of tech to teach need to, at the very least, be digitally literate. Consequently, we first need to define what is meant by digitally literate. It should not require that a person needs expertise on every application available, but it does assume at the least a comfort with some tools for collaboration, curation, communication and creation of content, the very things we want our students to learn. How many schools can claim a majority of their teachers and administrators have such a comfort level with technology?

In order to determine the effect of technology on learning for students, we need to establish the effects of technology on teaching for teachers. Let us collect data from tech-savvy teachers who model tech use as much as they would hope for their students’ use to be. We need to clearly state what we expect a technology-literate educator to be. It is no longer acceptable to allow educators or administrators to determine what they are minimally going to commit to when it comes to learning tech for professional development. We have reached a point where what was minimally accepted even five years ago is not acceptable now. We must have higher standards for educators if we have certain expectations for students. The education system does not create what society demands for students to survive and thrive in this technology-driven world. It does however need prepare kids for that very life.

Of course this will never be a popular position to take with most educators. They have all attended school for years to prepare for their positions. Their preparation to become an educator was left in the hands of the colleges and universities under the scrutiny of accreditation organizations. The question is how do those institutions stay relevant in an ever-changing technology-driven world?

If the demands of the world that we live in keep evolving and changing at a pace never before experienced in history, we need to adjust what we are doing to meet those demands. We cannot count on 20th Century methodology to prepare our kids for 21st Century demands. Before we redefine what we expect from our students, we need to first redefine what we expect from their educators. If we need to determine if technology is having a positive effect on learning, we need to determine if it is being equally provided to students by educators who have a thorough understanding of technology and are flexible enough to meet the inevitable changes that technology fosters. As always, if we are to better educate our kids, we need to first better educate their educators.

A lingering general question hanging over the heads of all has been what effect does social media have on our society? That answer has never been so evident as it has been today as social media tools have been placed directly in the hands of the President of the United States, as well as foreign operatives. Social media is a very powerful tool that can have a lasting effect on what people do, and how they do it. Placing those social media technology tools in the hands of some of the most educated members of our society who have the greatest effect on future generations has had somewhat mixed results.

Education as a profession needs to recognize and accept the fact that we live in the 21st century and social media enables change that can happen much faster, and affect greater groups of people than any technology of the 20th Century, including radio and television. Change has always come slowly over the centuries and that was what we expected, change happening slowly giving us more time to adjust and adapt. Technology has changed that paradigm. Change is coming more quickly than many can adapt to and creating an uncomfortable situation for any profession that has been slow to change.

Social media enables collaboration, which for adult learning is the key to success for most adults. The best form of collaboration comes through conversation, which is often enabled by various social media tools. The key to accepting social media as a tool for learning comes in the term “Social”. This requires involving other people in order to have a conversation. This requirement precludes the use of social media being a passive endeavor. It takes time to learn the tools, time to learn the culture, and time to learn the strategies to effectively learn through social media. All of this discourages people from even attempting to change what has made them comfortable in their profession. It requires effort, time, and work.

This lack of engagement may be harmful to the profession of Education for two reasons. First, without social media access to collaboration, educators would be limited to face-to-face collaboration, which is provided by the everyday interaction with colleagues within a local area. It may be effective, but it is very limited when compared to the global collaborative opportunities and varied perspectives provided through social media. It is also limiting in the amount of experts in various aspects of education compared to that which are available provided by social media. Educators can use social media to hand-pick educators with like interests, and goals. Social media enables educators the ability to develop personal learning networks with hundreds of collaborative collegial sources to educate, critique, react, and generally engage for the goal of learning and collaborating professionally.

The second and maybe more important harm comes from the educator not modeling for students the need and the tools for collaboration as we move further into their future. The world in which our students will need to live and thrive will change even more rapidly than their educator’s world is experiencing today. Educators need to prepare their students with the skills and abilities to collaborate and learn long after the students leave today’s halls of academia. These skills and abilities will require digital literacy, for that will be required to use tools for communication, collaboration, consumption, curation, and creation.

There is no longer a debate as to whether or not social media is here to stay. There is no debate that collaboration is a leading method of learning. There has never been a debate over the need for professional development for educators to maintain relevance in their profession. Considering the seeming acceptance of all of this I question why there is still such hesitance on the part of so many educators to engage more in collaboration through social media? Limiting educators to the 20th century methodology of face-to-face collaboration is far too limiting in light of the potential of the collaboration possible using tools from social media.

School administrators need to re-evaluate policies dealing with social media in education. Educators need to become more digitally literate in regard to their own personal and professional learning. Providers of professional development need to promote more digital connections among educators to develop and maintain collegial sources for professional learning. Educators need to be more open to students’ use of technology for collaboration.

Failing to recognize the changes in the world and the effect of those changes on education and learning is a mistake that we can ill afford. Accepting the changes requires work on the part of every educator to learn, adapt and use tools that they may not yet be familiar with or may change along the way. This is hard and a true deterrent to real change. Our administrators and leaders need to take steps to support educators in making these changes. They may need to open some minds to incorporate that innovation that so many of our leaders say they want in education.

To better educate ours kids, we need first to better educate their educators.

 

 

employee-voice

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.

Couple assembles ikea furniture - which gender does it better

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.

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