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What I’ve been up to: Silver Lining for Learning

[I’ve been fairly quiet here during the pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been busy. I thought that I would share a little of what I’ve been doing for the past year…]

SLL title imageLast March about this time, Yong Zhao, Chris Dede, Punya Mishra, Curtis Bonk, Shuangye Chen, and I launched Silver Lining for Learning. The initiative was meant to highlight interesting technology-enabled learning around the world and to spark some discussions about schooling possibilities during the pandemic and afterward. Although I bowed out after Episode 32 due to other commitments, my colleagues have done an absolutely fantastic job of keeping the dialogues going.

Below is a list of the first year’s worth of episodes. You will see that Silver Lining for Learning has addressed a wide range of topics. One of the strengths of the project is its incredible global emphasis and reach. If you want to learn from and interact with other educational innovators around the world – and hear about some really interesting learning and teaching happening elsewhere – Silver Lining is a wonderful place to start. I love that numerous guest bloggers have been willing to share their experiences as well.

The site just got a new look for Year 2, and Yong, Chris, Punya, Curt, and Shuangye do an excellent job of sparking rich conversation with their inspiring guests. I am honored to have helped launch this initiative and hope that you will subscribe to the blog and join the hosts for their weekly discussions (which also are archived for later viewing). 

Year 1 Episodes

Redesigning for Deeper Learning: 10 cohorts for international school educators!

Harnessing Technology for Deeper LearningI am SUPER EXCITED to be offering this professional learning opportunity for international school educators!

5 tracks… 10 cohorts… 28 total sessions. ALL on instructional redesign (or leadership) for deeper learning. Woo hoo!

Here are the details:

Cohort 1 is for international schools in the Middle East, South Asia, South-East Asia, and the Far East. Cohort 2 is for international schools in South America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Interested? Learn more and register with the Consilience Education Foundation. And let me know what questions you have…

Hope you will join me as we redesign lessons, units, and schools for deeper learning, greater student agency, more authentic work, and rich technology infusion!

Why most schools won’t ‘reinvent’ themselves after the pandemic

SkepticalA number of folks have been eagerly encouraging schools to ‘reinvent’ themselves after the pandemic. Here is a smattering of such articles:

I’m guilty of this too. I even helped create an entirely new conversation series, Silver Lining for Learning, that was intended to ‘reimagine learning and teaching’ and examine the possibilities for ‘transformative improvements.’

The more I think about this idea, though, the more skeptical I am. One reason is the continued unwillingness of many (most?) school systems to reconsider even a small iota of what they do. Tragically, we continue to see traditional systems of education being shoehorned into virtual or blended delivery systems (tip: having kids complete electronic worksheets from home is not systemic ’transformation’). And we’ve seen a large number of administrators completely ignore the unrealistic demands that they’re placing on their own educators, particularly in hyflex environments where teachers are supposed to simultaneously serve students in their rooms and at home. 

Despite our wishes otherwise, even the savviest, most skillful, most trusted school leader is going to have difficulty transforming their educational system after the pandemic. As I noted in a recent article that I submitted:

“… reflection on organizational possibilities and institutional futures is common during the ‘reconstruction’ phase (Boin & Hart, 2003) of a crisis (see also Coombs, 2000; Heath, 2004; Boin, Hart, Stern, & Sundelius, 2005; Jaques, 2009; Smith & Riley, 2012). Time will tell if these ‘silver linings’ actually occur. Although many scholars have noted the revolutionary potential of major crises (see, e.g., Prewitt, Weil, and McClure, 2011; Harris, 2020), Boin and Hart (2003) stated that there are inherent tensions between crisis management and reform-oriented leadership. During a crisis, leaders often try to ‘minimize the damage, alleviate the pain, and restore order” (p. 549), which conflicts with attempts to disrupt the organization and move it in a new direction.” [emphasis added]

from McLeod, S., & Dulsky, S. (2021; under review). Resilience, reorientation, and reinvention: School leadership during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In other words, any school leader who is trying to sell the need for a post-pandemic systemic transformation to their educators, families, and school board members is trying to sell a SECOND enormous disruption to the community (“Now let’s change school as we know it!”) at a time when everyone is completely exhausted from – and ready to be done with – the FIRST enormous disruption to the community (the pandemic), and that is AFTER trying to minimize the disruption and ‘restore order’ during the past 12 to 18 months. I can just imagine the reactions now: “OMG, are you kidding? MORE disruption on top of what we’ve already experienced? No thanks!”

Accordingly, at best I think we will see small, marginal amounts of tinkering after the pandemic. Some school systems will use technology in some different ways after the pandemic. We will see some teachers incorporate some new practices and skill sets into their work. We may see a few more options provided for families who like blended or online learning. But for the most part, everyone is going to be eager to just return to what they perceive as the ‘good old days’ before the pandemic hit. And that means our collective appetite for ‘reinventing school’ is going to be pretty thin…

Anyone want to bet I’m wrong?

 

References

  • Boin, A., & Hart, P. T. (2003). Public leadership in times of crisis: Mission impossible? Public Administration Review, 63(5), 544-553.
  • Boin, A., Hart, P. T., Stern, E., & Sundelius, B. (2005). The politics of crisis management: Public leadership under pressure. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
  • Coombs, W. T. (2000). Designing post-crisis messages: Lessons for crisis response strategies. Review of Business, 21(3/4), 37-41.
  • Harris, A. (2020). COVID-19 – school leadership in crisis? Journal of Professional Capital and Community, 5(3/4), 321-326.
  • Heath, R. L. (2004). After the dance is over: Post-crisis responses. In D. P. Millar & R. L. Heath (Eds.), Responding to crisis: A rhetorical approach to crisis communication, pp. 247-249. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Jaques, T. (2009). Issue management as a post-crisis discipline: Identifying and responding to issue impacts beyond the crisis. Journal of Public Affairs, 9(1), 35-44.
  • Prewitt, J. E., Weil, R., & McClure, A. Q. (2011). Crisis leadership: An organizational opportunity. Australian Journal of Business and Management Research, 1(6), 60-74.
  • Smith, L., & Riley, D. (2012). School leadership in times of crisis. School Leadership & Management, 32(1), 57-71.

Image credit: Skeptical face, fuzzyjay

Beyond subject-verb agreement

Kelisa Wing said:

What kind of world do you want to leave for those who come after us? Who cares if my students know how to make their subjects and verbs agree if they use language to promulgate hate? Who cares if my students know the Pythagorean Theorem if they use numbers and statistics to minimize others? Who cares if my students know the stories in their history books if they do not use the past to ensure that we create a new equitable future?

Is your school preparing students to help create an equitable future?

We shouldn’t pretend neutrality in the face of injustice

Following up on my previous post, I’m going to share a fantastic blog post from Michael Kaechele:

I have grown weary of the call to avoid controversial topics and stay neutral. Silence is compliance. There are many things in history that do not have two equal opposing sides: slavery, genocide, imperialism, colonialism, segregation, etc. There is only one side to these events that is fair, just, and equitable. Educators should help students understand how oppressors justified their actions in history without giving credit to their arguments. Done properly it would be a warning against similar tactics used today.

Educators don’t take stock in conspiracy theories. We stand up for truth, justice, and decency. Please do not let students defend positions based on speculation and hearsay. It is our job to present truth to students even if they and their parents don’t want to hear it. We can not necessarily change their hearts and minds, but we can force them to confront the truth. Teachers should interrupt and challenge any student who presents conspiracy theories and false information with questions of its source and legitimacy. We can not allow bigotry, racism, sexism, or any other discrimination in our classroom.

I would add administrators and students to this list. We shouldn’t let them defend those positions either, and we surely shouldn’t pretend neutrality in the face of injustice. Nicely said, Michael.

How are the conversations going in your school system?

“Neutral”

Yesterday, after a morning of incitement from President Trump, his family members, and his personal lawyer, his Republican supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol and forced the evacuation of Congress as Presidential electoral votes were being certified. People died, tear gas was deployed, and the Capitol was looted. The scenes from yesterday will live as one of the most disgraceful, infamous events in American history.

Today I am hearing that school administrators are telling their educators to remain “neutral” as they discuss yesterday’s events. I respectfully ask these administrators, “What is ‘the other side?’ What does ‘neutral’ mean to you in this situation?” 

Your educators await your answer.

The importance of social studies and information literacy

As someone who grew up in the Washington, D.C. suburbs and whose parents worked for the federal government, today’s events have been… challenging.

I think that what I will say here is:

  1. Policymakers, you know how you’ve minimized the importance of history, government, and civics in all of your education reform efforts over the past couple of decades? Yeah, that was probably a big mistake…
  2. Superintendents and principals, are you ready yet to pay more attention to information literacy throughout your P-12 curricula?

Women in school leadership: A few awesome initiatives

WomenEdThere is some incredible work happening right now related to women in P-12 educational leadership. Below are four initiatives that have caught my attention over the past few months…

  • Women Who Lead. The first initiative is Women Who Lead, which is led by the always awesome Kim Cofino and her team at Eduro Learning. Women Who Lead has more than 500 curated video conversations with over 70 women who hold leadership positions in education. There are 8 different learning modules, customized pathway options, protocols, scholarship opportunities, a private discussion forum, a curated Twitter list, and much, much more. 
  • SheLeadsEdu. The second initiative is SheLeadsEdu, which is led by the phenomenal Jody Britten and Missy Emler and their team of ‘hell raisers.’ SheLeadsEdu hosts frequent Twitter chats, online video meetups, and book clubs. There also is a private community for participants as well as a SheLeadsEdu directory of women leaders around the world. 
  • WomenEd. The third initiative is WomenEd, a ‘global grassroots movement’ that brings together both existing and aspiring women leaders in education across the globe. WomenEd boasts a community of over 35,000 participants and has hosted hundreds of events. The leaders of WomenEd have a new book out, titled 10% Braver: Inspiring Women to Lead Education, as well as an active blog, mailing list, and a variety of networks that you can join.
  • Women’s Leadership Incubator. The fourth initiative is the upcoming Women’s Leadership Incubator, sponsored by the Office of Professional Learning and Community Education (PLACE) in the University of Wisconsin School of Education. The incubator experience begins in July 2021 and will feature ongoing coaching, regular meetings with experts, community action projects, and access to relevant research from one of the best colleges of education in the world.

If you’re a woman in educational leadership – or another school administrator who wishes to be an ally in this work – be sure to check out the amazing work happening in these communities. In addition to the initiatives featured above, tune in to the #SheLeadsEdu#WomenEd, #WomenEdLeaders, and #WomenWhoLead Twitter hashtags for some great discussions.

If you know of other initiatives that bring together awesome woman leaders in education, let me know!

Will schools acknowledge where and how they failed during the pandemic?

In an article about the Negro Leagues and Major League Baseball, Howard Bryant said:

Baseball should have taken the honest road, which would be to carry its stain and leave the tattered, piecemeal records of the various Negro Leagues as a historical reminder of its own destructiveness. Baseball did not do that — not because it was so important to give Josh Gibson a posthumous batting title but because like most of white, mainstream society, it does not want to carry its share of the responsibility for the condition it created.

While baseball has taken what it considers to be a step toward reparation, it has taken another away from accountability. Part of the strength of an institution is in its acknowledgment of where it has failed, and who suffered because of that failure.

This idea pertains to schools and the pandemic as well. The first months of 2020 were an emergency that caught most school systems and their leaders off guard. In the summer months of 2020 (here in the United States), school leaders had an opportunity to learn from the mistakes that they made in the spring and do things differently in the fall. While some school administrators used that window of opportunity, others did not and their schools and districts have repeated many of the mistakes they made in the spring again this fall. This winter break has given us all yet another chance to rethink what our schools are doing and make significant changes for January and beyond. How many school systems actually did so?

It’s one thing to make new mistakes. It’s another to keep making the same ones again and again. How many school leaders will look inward and, as Bryant said, ‘carry [their] share of the responsibility for the condition(s) [they] created?’ How many students, families, and educators have we failed as school systems, and will we ever hold ourselves accountable? If ‘part of the strength of an institution is in its acknowledgment of where it has failed, and who suffered because of that failure,’ how many school organizations are actively examining and owning their current failures in order to not repeat them over and over again?

Is your school system acknowledging where it has failed and who has suffered as a result? Are your school leaders making new mistakes or repeating the same ones again and again? Why?