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25 professional learning conversation stations

This past Thursday I created 25 professional learning ‘conversation stations’ for my principal licensure students. I printed them all out and spread them around our classroom (which is a school library). Each printed station contained a link or two – or a short reading (and a source) – and some questions to consider. The idea was to expose our preservice administrators at the University of Colorado Denver to a variety of ways to foster and facilitate adult learning beyond schools’ traditional, moribund professional development sessions.

My students traveled around the room in pairs or trios, visiting whichever stations they wanted (they had a shared notes document that listed all of the stations). Each group stayed at a station for as long or short a time as desired. Most averaged about 7 to 10 minutes per station, but some talked for nearly 30 minutes at a single station. At several points during our two hours on this activity, they got together with another group and shared what was resonating from their station visits. We learned a lot and had some awesome conversations together! At the end of the evening I gave them a link to all of the stations, so that they could later peruse whatever they hadn’t visited yet.

Here are links to both the conversation stations and the shared notes document, as well as the slide I used to introduce the activity:

Both of the main documents are editable. Feel free to modify them and make them better for others. If you use this activity in your principal licensure program or school district, let me know how it went!

We also had 3 pre-class readings and 5 beginning-of-activity provocations just to get us in the right mindset:

Pre-readings

Beginning-of-activity provocations

If you have any thoughts or questions about all of this, please get in touch. Otherwise, hope this is useful to you!

How are you introducing school leaders and teachers to alternative (better) forms of professional learning?

If we don’t engage online, we cede mindshare to others who will

[Every week a ‘Monday Morning Message (MMM)’ email goes out to all doctoral students from a faculty or staff member in the CU Denver School of Education and Human Development. Here’s my second one, which came out today.]

Social media higher ed[Please join Dr. Heather Johnson and me for one or both of our two Spring 2019 social media workshops for SEHD faculty and students!]

In my previous MMM, I noted the power of having an active and visible online presence as part of our professional and scholarly work. In this MMM, I want to follow up on some of the ideas that I articulated in my previous message. 

I had an opportunity recently to participate in a gathering of CU Denver faculty and staff at which we discussed and debated the merits of including our digital work in our tenure and promotion portfolios. I advocated strongly for the idea that the more visible we are, the more impact we can have. Not every scholar or educator wants to be a public intellectual. But for those of us who want our ideas to spread and who actually want to influence practicing educators and educational systems, participating in these online spaces is critically important.

Unfortunately, two decades after the Internet became accessible to the masses, many educators still are slow to realize the possibilities that accompany our new digital tools and online environments. As a faculty member who has an outsized social media presence (53,000+ Twitter followers; video series with 100+ million views; one of the top education blogs in the world, etc.), I can attest that there is great power in being engaged in relevant online communities. Every day I learn with P-12 and postsecondary educators who are doing amazing things in their domains.

One of the reasons that I think many educators and faculty are hesitant to participate in social media spaces is that we incessantly hear about the negative aspects of those platforms. Tales of “Bad Twitter” are legion, for example. We hear less often about the numerous ways to use “Good Twitter,” professional blogs, YouTube channels, Instagram accounts, Pinterest boards, Facebook groups, and other platforms in ways that are productive and empowering. There always will be those who engage with our work in negative ways, but we can utilize a variety of strategies and techniques to manage our networks, decrease our exposure to bad actors, and engage with the audiences that we are trying to reach in order to share ideas and resources and have productive conversations.

I would encourage you to see how the following scholars are engaging online. They are great models for how to use social media in empowered ways for research dissemination, policy advocacy, and educational impact.

What these postsecondary educators recognize is that if we don’t engage online, we cede conversational ground, policymaking influence, and mindshare around good educational practices to others who ARE willing to chime in, regardless of how inaccurate or harmful their contributions are. That’s the ultimate point of this week’s MMM. Are we just going to sit back while others offer misinformation and educationally-unsound practices or are we ready to engage?

Previous MMMs

Image credit: Social media class, mhmarketing

Four quick thoughts for higher education faculty

Tivoli CU DenverI had the privilege of participating in a conversation today at my university about how (and whether) the digital work done by faculty should count for promotion and tenure. (I also had the opportunity to speak for a few minutes; here are my slides). Here are four thoughts that are spinning around in my brain after a couple of hours of discussion…

First, if we publish an article in a traditional journal which happens to post that article online and it then gets a few social media shares, that does not make us ‘digital scholars.’ That’s definitely a step beyond traditional analog publishing. But to be relevant to the digital, online, hyperconnected, participatory, interactive, highly-distributed information landscape in which we now live and work, we need to expect more from ourselves. Not all of the time, but sometimes. And more often.

Second, why is it that the faculty who ARE trying to be relevant in our new information landscape are the ones that always have to justify their work to those who are less responsive? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Which side should carry the burden of persuasion regarding relevance and quality?

Third, no one owes us anything, no matter how good the work is that we do. We have to prove ourselves every day. Just because we did good work a decade ago doesn’t mean that we are doing so now. Just because we believe that our work is valuable doesn’t mean that others do – or should. As Seth Godin says, “If [our] target audience isn’t listening, it’s [our] fault, not theirs.” Make the case. Be engaged. Help others see the meaning and value in what we do. All the time. (These digital tools can help…)

Finally, we need to be less dismissive of the public and of publishing for non-academics. We ignore engagement with the public and policymakers at our peril.

With appreciation for all of the complexities behind these fairly simple assertions… let me know what you think.

Increasing the visibility and impact of our work

[Every week a ‘Monday Morning Message (MMM)’ email goes out to all doctoral students from a faculty or staff member in the CU Denver School of Education and Human Development. Here’s mine, slated for tomorrow.]

Social media higher ed

If you ask them, many faculty members and staff will admit that they wish that their work was more visible. They feel that they are making solid contributions to the field, and they wish that their work had a larger impact on other scholars, policymakers, and practitioners in their discipline. Unfortunately, traditional mechanisms for getting the word out about our work limit our overall visibility and impact. For instance, publishing an article in a peer-reviewed journal may move us closer to tenure and promotion but prevents most practitioners from accessing our work because of paywall and other barriers. Similarly, presenting at conferences may bump up our visibility and standing with colleagues but has little to no impact on policymaking or practice outside of that event or our closely-defined academic realm. For those staff who are doing great work but are not publishing or presenting, the opportunities to have a larger impact may seem few and far between.

Fortunately, we now live in an era where anyone can have a voice. We are no longer constrained by the whims and dictates of editors, broadcasters, governments, and other information gatekeepers. If you have a computer or a smartphone, the costs of creating one’s own newspaper, radio station, TV broadcast, photography studio, or other publishing channel are essentially zero. They just take new forms: blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, Instagram and Snapchat accounts, and so on. But two decades after the Internet became accessible to the masses, we still are slow to realize the possibilities that accompany our new digital tools and online environments. As a faculty member who has an outsized social media presence (53,000+ Twitter followers; video series with 100+ million views; one of the more visible education blogs in the world, etc.), I thought that I would follow up Dr. Verma’s February 2018 MMM contribution with a few thoughts of my own. 

First, recognize the tremendous power that is at our fingertips if we choose to take advantage. A few minutes of our time, a few clicks of the mouse, and we have the ability to potentially reach many thousands or millions of people. Few journals or newsletters can make that claim. Instead of wondering why the work that we do never impacts practice, or wishing that our work translated better into policy- and decision-making, we can put our work in places where professionals and legislators can find it, learn from it, and use it. My blog posts and tweets, for instance, reach audiences that dwarf my readership in academic journals, often by factors of a thousand or more.

Second, this work doesn’t have to take a lot of our time. The traditional path of publishing in a research journal and then reworking it for a practitioner magazine can be re-envisioned. As we do our day-to-day research and professional preparation work, we come across and create resources that would be immensely helpful to others. That amazing article that you just read? Hit the tweet button and share it with others, preferably using a few key hashtags. That new protocol or resource document that you just created? Hit the record button and give us a several-minute audio overview – along with a download link – that explains how we might use it in our practice. You have expertise and experience in a particular area and hope to influence policy and organizational decision-making? Push that button on your smartphone and make a short video that helps us think about that issue in more robust ways. As we do this work, we become a trusted voice, accessible to others who care about the things that we do. Oh, and by the way, publishing to multiple platforms can be automated, saving you time and energy that can be better spent in other areas. 

Third, realize that there can be incredible worth in publishing our thoughts in less formal ways. Shorter sound bites, smaller blocks of text that focus on a particular idea or resource, a quick reflection on a reading or an experience, using non-academic voice to explain complex topics… all of these can help us refine our own thinking but also impact and influence the thinking of others. For example, the most valuable aspect of my blog is that it gives me a place to wrestle with ideas, reflect, try out thoughts, and attempt to make meaning. But the second most valuable aspect of my blog is that it is public, allowing others to see my thinking and offer resources, suggestions, critique, and dialogue that extend my work in new directions and make it better. That interactivity – that ability to work together to create value – creates nearly-unlimited potential as we tap into our collective experience and expertise. Rather than being a one-person idea transmission platform, my blog instead becomes a learning and dialogue space for a global community. 

Finally, note that the barriers to this work usually are neither technical nor organizational. Instead, it is simply a matter of us choosing to share our thoughts, our expertise, and our resources in places other than age-old publishing outlets. There are people all around the world who are eager to interact with us and to learn with and from us if we shift our mindsets a smidge and give them the opportunity. When we push out helpful resources on our Twitter feed, when we connect people to ideas through our videos, when we shape people’s thinking through our podcasts and other conversation outlets, we move beyond our small, local, disciplinary communities and join the global community of people who are trying to make the world a better place. That sounds pretty good to me. How about you?

Image credit: Social media class, mkhmarketing

K-12 tech integration versus higher ed: Flipped?

[I’m one of five Digital Pedagogy Faculty Fellows this year at the University of Colorado Denver. I’ll be sharing my thoughts all year on this experience, starting with my time at the Digital Pedagogy Lab in Vancouver, Canada.]

Just a quick thought…

In K-12, we struggle with access. Most schools are trying to get more technology into their classrooms. It’s not a given yet that students will have regular access to digital tools and adequate bandwidth in their learning spaces. That said, most schools have expectations of teachers that they will integrate technology into learning experiences whenever they can and provide often-mandatory professional learning for instructors on how to do that with the students in their classrooms.

It seems to me that the opposite is usually true in higher education. Bandwidth is pretty robust on most postsecondary campuses and most students are bringing computers of some sort with them to college. Access seems to be less of an issue. That said, institutional expectations of instructors for technology integration in classrooms are fairly low. Professional learning opportunities for faculty are mostly invitational rather than mandatory and tend to focus more on moving courses online than on how to use technology with students in face-to-face classroom settings.

In short, access and expectations regarding usage are flipped:

K 12 v Higher Ed

[download this image]

Agree? Disagree? What is your experience?

[cross-posted at Thinq.Studio]

Is there room for creativity and sharing in a professional preparation program?

Shannon Falls

[I’m one of five Digital Pedagogy Faculty Fellows this year at the University of Colorado Denver. I’ll be sharing my thoughts all year on this experience, starting with my time at the Digital Pedagogy Lab in Vancouver, Canada.]

I help prepare principals and superintendents. Like other educational leadership programs across the country, my program is supposed to prepare teachers and administrators to take on new leadership roles. Students come to us with expectations that they will learn how to be successful in new, usually very challenging, administrative positions. Sometimes we do that well, sometimes we don’t. 

One of the biggest complaints about many educational leadership courses and programs is that they’re too theoretical and not practical enough. This is true. Many of us faculty aren’t as connected to the day-to-day work of practice as we should be. The most common rejoinder – particularly from research faculty (folks who literally are paid to think) – is that narrow, time- and context-bound leadership preparation doesn’t foster graduates’ ability to work in different settings or across varying policy and practice eras. Both sides are right.

I wonder if there’s a third dimension – beyond the thinking v. practice dichotomy – that’s also worth considering. When I think about the times in my life when I feel most energized and ‘in flow,’ many of them revolve around opportunities to be creative. I write, I take photos, I create slides and presentations, I design a new course or workshop experience… and I usually share those publicly with others. As I was driving up and down the Sea to Sky Highway yesterday attempting to capture the natural beauty with my camera, I began to wonder what skills and talents, interests and passions, and professional and hobbyist expertise the students in my new Boulder principal licensure cohort will bring to our collective learning experience. And whether they feel as energized when they do those things as I do when I do my stuff (no matter how amateurish).

Can we bring in students’ “outside,” perhaps non-education-related, expertise and experiences into a professional preparation program that’s designed to get students ready in real, practical ways for incredibly complex and demanding jobs? I’m not sure, but I’d like to try…

[cross-posted at Thinq.Studio]

If we’re not irrelevant, what are we?

As I look across the presentations and workshops and keynotes that educational leadership faculty are sponsoring and facilitating, outside of a few isolated pockets I don’t see much evidence that we’re having wide-ranging and substantive conversations about the need for students to:

  • engage in deeper and higher-level learning instead of spending 80% to 85% of their time on regurgitation and recall of low-level knowledge items (that can be found via smartphone voice search in seconds);
  • possess greater agency and ownership of their own learning in order to foster engagement and self-directedness instead of being directed by teachers and schools toward control and compliance;
  • have opportunities to engage in authentic, meaningful learning activities instead of isolated, disconnected-from-the-real-world classroom assignments; or
  • utilize digital technologies in academic- and work-productive ways that go far beyond social uses or mere replication of analog instructional practices.

I rarely see or hear educational leadership faculty talking about the profile below of high school graduates, even though these student life skills are absolutely foundational to schools’ and policymakers’ current college and career readiness efforts:

College and career readiness

I rarely see or hear educational leadership faculty talking about these components of ‘future ready’ schools:

10 building blocks

We are preparing instructional leaders for P-12 schools but I rarely see or hear us talking about how to help preservice or practicing administrators understand how to (re)design school structures, curricula, units, lessons, and instructional activities to move in the directions noted above. [indeed, I have some doubts that most of us faculty would even know how] Even though social justice is a deeply held belief for most of us, we rarely discuss the intersections of that concept with changing workforce readiness needs or how the inequities of students’ digital access are extended and exacerbated when it comes to students’ digital usage. I don’t see most educational leadership faculty having broad and rich conversations about how technology has and will transform almost everything, what ‘college and career readiness’ or ‘personalized learning’ even mean these days, or what our roles are as faculty, parents, community members, and citizens to deal with all of this.

We do a great deal of research and teaching on interesting and important topics. We speak out against the marginalization of underserved and underrepresented groups. We talk a lot against federal and state policy. But we rarely foster ‘future ready’ policies, instructional and leadership practices, or school organizational redesigns. When we talk about student voice, it’s primarily within the frame of empowerment within local, not global, contexts. We talk marginally, if at all, about furthering students’ global awareness. And so on…

I really like my educational leadership faculty colleagues. They’re whip-smart, thoughtful, well-meaning, and kind and are engaged in some fascinating work. I learn lots every time I get to interact with them. So maybe ‘irrelevant’ is not the right word for what we do because it sounds too pejorative. But it sure seems like there are enormous, important, gaping holes in our conversations that we educational leadership faculty decline to fill year after year…

Lecturing v. active learning

Annie Murphy Paul said:

a growing body of evidence suggests that the lecture is not generic or neutral, but a specific cultural form that favors some people while discriminating against others, including women, minorities and low-income and first-generation college students. This is not a matter of instructor bias; it is the lecture format itself — when used on its own without other instructional supports — that offers unfair advantages to an already privileged population.

The partiality of the lecture format has been made visible by studies that compare it with a different style of instruction, called active learning. This approach provides increased structure, feedback and interaction, prompting students to become participants in constructing their own knowledge rather than passive recipients.

Research comparing the two methods has consistently found that students over all perform better in active-learning courses than in traditional lecture courses. However, women, minorities, and low-income and first-generation students benefit more, on average, than white males from more affluent, educated families.

via https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/13/opinion/sunday/are-college-lectures-unfair.html

Visibility and reach: Journal articles v. blog posts

Back in 2008 I raised the questions:

Why would anyone who wishes to actually reach educators and hopefully influence change in schools not be blogging?

Also… why haven’t more faculty caught on to this?

Eight years later, I thought that I would share a couple of recent tables that I made in order to illustrate this point further. The first table is the number of academic citations that I have received on the top 20 things that I have written or created (according to Google Scholar). My citation numbers are decent if not spectacular; they’ve been enough to get me tenure at several of our nation’s top research institutions.

2016-10-27journalarticles

[click here for a larger image]

The second table shows the number of page views and comments that I have received on my top 20 blog posts.

2016-10-27blogposts

[click here for a larger image]

No comparison in terms of reach, visibility, interaction, and (hopefully) impact. The percentage of university faculty members who are blogging – although better than it was 8 years ago – is still incredibly low. We pay the price in terms of public and policymaker awareness of and attention to our work.

Are our definitions of ‘college readiness’ too high?

B

David Freedman said:

The College Board has suggested a “college readiness benchmark” that works out to roughly 500 on each portion of the SAT as a score below which students are not likely to achieve at least a B-minus average at “a four-year college” – presumably an average one. . . .

How many high-school students are capable of meeting the College Board benchmark? This is not easy to answer, because in most states, large numbers of students never take a college-entrance exam (in California, for example, at most 43 percent of high-school students sit for the SAT or the ACT). To get a general sense, though, we can look to Delaware, Idaho, Maine, and the District of Columbia, which provide the SAT for free and have SAT participation rates above 90 percent. . . . In these states in 2015, the percentage of students averaging at least 500 on the reading section ranged from 33 percent (in D.C.) to 40 percent (in Maine), with similar distributions scoring 500 or more on the math and writing sections. Considering that these data don’t include dropouts, it seems safe to say that no more than one in three American high-school students is capable of hitting the College Board’s benchmark. Quibble with the details all you want, but there’s no escaping the conclusion that most Americans aren’t smart enough to do something we are told is an essential step toward succeeding in our new, brain-centric economy – namely, get through four years of college with moderately good grades.

via http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/07/the-war-on-stupid-people/485618

Similarly, ACT estimates that only about 28 percent of recent high school graduates meet its alleged ‘college-readiness benchmarks’ in all four subjects of reading, English, math, and science.

For the record, the 6-year graduation rate in 2013 for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began at a 4-year postsecondary institution in fall 2007 was 59%. Not all of those graduates have B- averages, of course. But, nonetheless, perhaps these definitions of ‘college readiness’ from SAT and ACT are too stringent?

Image credit: B, Nadège