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The declining economic value of routine cognitive work

Workforce data show that U.S. employees continue to do more non-routine cognitive and interpersonal work. [Note: these data tend to be fairly similar for most developed countries, not just the U.S.]

Fewer and fewer employment opportunities exist in America for both routine cognitive work and manual labor, and the gap is widening over the decades. Unless they’re location-dependent, manual labor jobs often are outsourced to cheaper locations overseas. Unless they’re location-dependent, routine cognitive jobs are increasingly being replaced both by cheaper workers overseas and by software algorithms.

What kind of schoolwork do most American students do most of the time? Routine cognitive work. What kind of work is emphasized in nearly all of our national and state assessment schemes? Routine cognitive work. For what kind of work do traditionalist parents and politicians continue to advocate? Routine cognitive work.

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Some information from Autor & Price (2013) that may be helpful…

  • Routine manual tasks – activities like production and monitoring jobs performed on an assembly line; easily automated and often replaced by machines; picking, sorting, repetitive assembly (p. 2)
  • Non-routine manual tasks – activities that demand situational adaptability, visual and language recognition, and perhaps in-person interaction; require modest amounts of training; activities like driving a truck, cleaning a hotel room, or preparing a meal (pp. 2-3)
  • Routine mental tasks – activities that are sufficiently well-defined that they can be carried out by a less-educated worker in a developing country with minimal discretion; also increasingly replaced by computer software algorithms; activities like bookkeeping, clerical work, information processing and record-keeping (e.g., data entry), and repetitive customer service (pp. 1-2)
  • Non-routine mental tasks – activities that require problem-solving, intuition, persuasion, and creativity; facilitated and complemented by computers, not replaced by them; hypothesis testing, diagnosing, analyzing, writing, persuading, managing people; typical of professional, managerial, technical, and creative professions such as science, engineering, law, medicine, design, and marketing (p. 2)

Which schools are the true ‘miracles?’

Hosierymillworkers

Let’s imagine that we lived in an era in which change was occurring incredibly rapidly. An era in which our information landscape was undergoing drastic transformations into new, previously-unimaginable forms. An era in which our economic landscape was destroying rock-solid, stable livelihoods due to threats from geographically-distant workers and/or devices that replaced not just human labor but also human cognition. An era in which our learning landscape was creating unprecedented powers and possibilities but also significant disruptions to deeply-entrenched institutions. An era which required ‘just tell me what to do’ learners and workers to be more autonomous and self-directed, that demanded that they be more divergent and unique rather than convergent and fungible. An era in which a premium was increasingly placed on adaptability, creativity, critical thinking, and collaborative problem-solving – all at a pace never seen before – just to make a basic living.

In this imagined era, would the ‘miracle schools’ touted by the media, policymakers, and educators be the ones that prepared kids to be successful on individually-completed, standardized assessments of low-level learning?

Image credit: Two of the tiny workers, U.S. National Archives

For our students, how often are academics and enjoyment the same thing?

Daniel Ching said:

Somewhere along the way, someone convinced American society that breadth is far more important than depth. That same person also convinced everyone that academics and enjoyment are two different things. In their minds, students should have their nose in the books, cramming for a big test, and praying that nothing weird happens to throw them off on the test day. This has come to be known as rigor. . . .

There is nothing wrong with research, reading a crazy amount of books (one of my favorite past times), and studying all night for a test. But when this kind of activity arbitrarily takes the place of hands on, practical, experience based learning, there is something wrong. It is no wonder our drop out rates are high in both high school and college. Kids have at least 13 years of the same thing over and over. We are still functioning on an industrial education model and an agrarian calendar that says, all students learn the same, curriculum should be separated into subjects that don’t intersect, and everyday should be broken up into periods that end and being with a bell. This model makes it extremely difficult to foster creativity, cross curricular work, hands on learning, and spontaneity.

via http://leadingisteaching.blogspot.com/2014/08/groundhog-day.html

Rethink. Redesign. LEAD.

Our first collaboration with the Morgridge Family Foundation. Only 20 spaces available!

Rethink. Redesign. Lead.

Toward better technology integration: Introducing trudacot

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[My Leadership Day post this year introduces a new tool, trudacot, that we have been using to facilitate productive conversations with educators about technology-infused learning and teaching…]

[UPDATE 1: trudacot was featured on the MindShift blog. Awesome!]

We’ve got a lot of technology floating around our schools and classrooms these days. And while that can and should be a good thing given the digital age in which we now live, we often find that our technology-related efforts aren’t paying off for us as we had hoped. There are many reasons why this is true, but a main one is that we don’t have great ways to think about what’s occurring when we see students and teachers using technology for learning and teaching purposes.

TPACK and SAMR are the two main technology integration frameworks being used right now. While conceptually useful, both of them have their limitations. Neither are very specific when it comes to helping teachers think about what to change to make their technology integration better. The SAMR levels have the additional challenge of apparently meaning very different things to different people (I have witnessed on numerous occasions a particular usage of technology placed in all four SAMR levels by educator audiences). Resources like the TPACK activity types help with some of this, but my colleague, Julie Graber, and I were looking for something different. Failing to find what we wanted, we decided to make our own…

Starting with purpose

Technology integration should be purposeful. That very simple statement is at the heart of the trudacot template. When we use digital technologies for learning and teaching, those uses should be intentional and targeted and not simply ‘tech for tech’s sake.’ My team continually asks the question, ‘Technology for the purpose of what?’ With that in mind, Julie and I set out to create a template of questions that would allow educators to think critically – and purposefully – about their technology integration.

For example, if a class activity was using learning technologies for the purpose(s) of enhancing personalization or enabling greater student agency and choice, the types of questions that we would ask to see if those purposes were being accomplished might include:

  • Learning Goals. Who selected what is being learned?
  • Learning Activity. Who selected how it is being learned?
  • Assessment of Learning. Who selected how students demonstrate their knowledge and skills and how that will be assessed?
  • Work Time. During the lesson/unit, who is the primary driver of the work time?
  • Technology Usage. Who is the primary user of the technology?

In contrast, if a lesson pulled in digital tools for the purpose(s) of enhancing student communication / connection, and perhaps even facilitating collaboration across locations, we would ask very different questions. The types of questions that we would ask to see if those purposes were being accomplished might include:

  • Audience. How are students communicating? If with others, with whom? [students in this school / students in another school / adults in this school / adults outside of this school]
  • Communication Technologies. Are digital technologies being used to facilitate the communication processes? [writing / photos and images / charts and graphs / infographics / audio / video / multimedia / transmedia]
  • Collaborators. How are students working? If with others, who is managing collaborative processes (planning, management, monitoring, etc.)
  • Collaborative Technologies. Are digital technologies being used to facilitate collaborative processes? If yes, in which ways? [online office suites, email, texting, wikis, blogs, videoconferencing, mindmapping, curation tools, project planning tools, other]

Similarly, if teachers wanted students to use technology for the purpose(s) of enabling them to do more authentic, real world work, the types of questions that we would ask to see if those purposes were being accomplished would be different from those previous and might include:

  • Real or Fake. Is student work authentic and reflective of that done by real people outside of school?
  • Domain Knowledge. Are students learning discipline-specific and -appropriate content and procedural knowledge? If yes, is student work focused around big, important concepts central to the discipline? [not just minutiae]
  • Domain Practices. Are students utilizing discipline-specific and -appropriate practices and processes?
  • Domain Technologies. Are students utilizing discipline-specific and -appropriate tools and technologies?

And if a lesson or unit integrated learning technologies for the purpose(s) of facilitating students’ deeper thinking, creativity, or metacognition, the types of questions that we would ask to see if those purposes were being accomplished might include:

  • Deeper Thinking. Do student learning activities and assessments go beyond facts, procedures, and/or previously-provided ways of thinking? [e.g., ‘syntheses’ or ‘analyses’ that actually are just regurgitations]
  • Creativity. Do students have the opportunity to design, create, make, or otherwise add value that is unique to them?
  • Initiative. Do students have the opportunity to initiate, be entrepreneurial, be self-directed, and/or go beyond given parameters of the learning task or environment?
  • Metacognition. Do students have the opportunity to reflect on their planning, thinking, work, and/or progress? If yes, can students identify what they’re learning, not just what they’re doing?
As I hope is evident, trudacot tries to get at some specific, concrete ‘look-fors’ that can help educators think about what they might change. In other words, we are attempting with trudacot to make explicit the kinds of questions we might ask when considering which intersection of TPACK – or level of SAMR – a particular instance of technology integration may be inhabiting (and how to shift it toward more robustness).
Using trudacot
The complete, annotated, first version of trudacot is now available and includes some tips for usage. First and foremost is the suggestion to focus on just one or two sections of the template. Unless we’re designing a big, multi-week project, we need to pick and choose a few focal areas rather than trying to cover the entire template. Let me be clear: the trudacot template should NOT be used as a massive checklist of things that should be present in a teacher’s lesson or unit. A second suggestion is to answer a question or two from trudacot about a lesson or unit – preferably in small groups, not just individually – and then ask, ‘If we wanted the answer(s) to the question(s) to be different, how could we redesign this to make that desired answer happen instead?’ THIS is where the powerful conversations occur; THIS is the work we should be doing with educators. Finally, we are finding trudacot to have the most power as an up-front brainstorming, idea-generating, and design tool, not an after-the-fact evaluative tool. We want educators thinking about lesson and unit (re)design in ways that are safe and generative, not worrying about being judged.
In addition to the trudacot itself, you’re welcome to see the resources that we considered when creating the template and/or sign up on our mailing list for updates. Soon I will post some examples of how we have been introducing and using trudacot in our pilot activities this past spring and summer. Until then, I hope that you find trudacot useful to your own technology integration efforts and that it helps you foster rich discussions about lesson and unit (re)design with your educators. Please stay in touch as you have questions, ideas, and suggestions. The trudacot template is very much a work in progress – help us #makeitbetter! The more people that we have looking at and working with trudacot, the more useful it can become. Julie and I would love to hear how you’ve been using trudacot yourself so let us know!
Happy Leadership Day 2014, everyone. Thanks to all of you for helping me celebrate my blog birthday!

Calling all bloggers! – Leadership Day 2014

August 15 is the 8th anniversary of my blog. So, once again, I’m inviting everyone who’s interested to help me celebrate by participating in Leadership Day 2014!

Over the past 7 years, we’ve had nearly 500 Leadership Day posts. That’s awesome because, to paraphrase what I said seven years ago,

many of our school leaders (principals, superintendents, central office administrators) need help when it comes to digital technologies. A lot of help, to be honest. As I’ve noted again and again on this blog, most school administrators are still struggling with

  • what it means to prepare students for the digital, global world in which we now live;
  • how to recognize, evaluate, and facilitate effective technology usage by students and teachers;
  • what appropriate technology support structures (e.g., budget, staffing, infrastructure, training) look like or how to implement them;
  • how to utilize modern technologies to facilitate communication with internal and external stakeholders;
  • the ways in which learning technologies can improve student learning outcomes;
  • how to utilize technology systems to make their organizations more efficient and effective;
  • and so on…

Administrators’ lack of knowledge is not entirely their fault. Many of them didn’t grow up with computers. Other than basic management or data analysis technologies, many are not using digital tools or online systems on a regular basis. Few have received training from their employers or their university preparation programs on how to use, think about, or be a leader regarding digital technologies.

So let’s help.

How to participate

  1. On Friday, August 15, 2014, blog about whatever you like related to effective digital leadership in schools: successes, challenges, reflections, needs, wants, resources, ideas, etc. Write a letter to the administrators in your area. Post a top ten list. Make a podcast or a video or a voice-narrated presentation. Highlight a local success or challenge. Recommend some readings. Create an app, game, or simulation. Draw a cartoon. Do an interview of a successful technology leader. Respond to some of the questions below or make up your own. If you participated in years past, post a follow-up reflection. Whatever strikes you.
  2. The official hashtag is #leadershipday14
  3. TO ENSURE THAT WE CAN FIND YOUR POST, please complete the online submission form (also available below) AFTER you post, including a short teaser that will drive traffic to your post. Everyone then will be able to see your post in the complete list of submissions. If you want to link back to this post or leave a link to yours in the comment area, that’s okay too!

Some prompts to spark your thinking

  • What do effective P-12 technology leaders do? What actions and behaviors can you point to that make them effective leaders in the area of technology?
  • Do administrators have to be technology-savvy themselves in order to be effective technology leaders in their organizations?
  • What are some tangible, concrete, realistic steps that administrators can take to move their school organizations forward?
  • What are some tangible, concrete, realistic steps that can be taken to move administrators themselves forward? Given the unrelenting pressures that they face and their ever-increasing time demands, what are some things that administrators can do to become more knowledgeable and skilled in the area of technology leadership?
  • Perhaps using ISTE’s Standards for Administrators (formerly the NETS-A) as a starting point, what are the absolutely critical skills or abilities that administrators need to be effective technology leaders?
  • What strengths and deficiencies are present in ISTE’s Standards for Administrators?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges and barriers to administrators being better technology leaders (and how do we address them)?
  • What are some of the lessons that we have learned over the past year(s) regarding technology leadership?
  • What is a technology tool that would be extremely useful for a busy administrator (i.e., one he or she probably isn’t using now)?
  • What should busy administrators be reading (or watching) that would help them be better technology leaders? What are some other resources that would help them be better technology leaders?
  • How can administrators best structure necessary conversations with internal or external stakeholders regarding technology?
  • How should administrators balance enablement with safety, risk with reward, fear with empowerment?
  • When it comes to P-12 technology leadership, where do we need new knowledge, understanding, training, or research?
  • What are (or might be) some successful models of technology leadership training for school administrators?
  • How might preservice preparation programs for administrators better incorporate elements of technology leadership?
  • When you think of (in)effective P-12 technology leadership, what comes to mind?

Here are the 491 ABSOLUTELY EXCELLENT posts from the past seven years (491!)

A badge for your blog or web site

This year’s badge is themed around harnessing powerful ideas. Click on the image to get the full-size version. Feel free to use it as desired!

Leadership Day 2014

I hope you will join us for this important day because, I promise you, if the leaders don’t get it, it’s not going to happen.

Participant checklist

The weakest area of most school computing plans is the leadership

Alan November said:

Perhaps the weakest area of the typical one-to-one computing plan is the complete absence of leadership development for the administrative team – that is, learning how to manage the transition from a learning ecology where paper is the dominant technology for storing and retrieving information, to a world that is all digital, all the time.

via http://novemberlearning.com/educational-resources-for-educators/teaching-and-learning-articles/why-schools-must-move-beyond-one-to-one-computing

No argument here! See, for example:

If the leaders don't get it, it's not going to happen

Should our first goal really be to preserve the structure?

Justin Schwamm said:

Two decades ago, before the great push for higher standards and more accountability, there was a tacit agreement in most factory-model schools: “Just close my door,” said Ms. X, “and let me teach, and don’t bother me because I’m busy.” “Just keep them busy and quiet,” responded her Powers That Be, “and show up for the Special Training and the Scheduled Meeting, and make sure the Relevant Paperwork is in the file.” Within that tacit agreement lay a great deal of freedom and opportunity … for innovation or for more of the Same Old Same Old. As the Relevant Paperwork was complete and the busy, quiet students weren’t roaming the hallways, teachers and students could be as innovative and creative as they wanted.

But then came higher standards and more accountability … and in themselves, those aren’t bad things. But if you operate from a hierarchical individual point of view about leadership and learning, the only logical pathway to higher standards is to command and control them into existence … and the only way to achieve accountability is to ramp up the inspection and testing. I was intrigued to see an article from EdSurge about how and why Rocketship Education moved away from an experiment they’d tried this year … an experiment that seemed to produce positive results of various kinds. The problem? “The lack of a formal structure made it difficult for Rocketship to replicate and control quality,” especially with younger teachers who “rely on pre-determined schedules and procedures, with clearly defined expectations about their work, in order to focus on building basic teaching skills.”

In other words, the promising innovation didn’t fit the existing institutional structure. If you’ve ever worked in a hierarchical structure, you know how important it is to preserve the structure. It takes a great deal of work by Relevant Powers to make anything else as important as preserving the structure.

via https://joyfullatinlearning.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/where-and-how

What we permit, we promote [SLIDE]

What we permit, we promote.

A great reminder for school leaders: What we permit, we promote.

Download this file: png pptx

See also my other slides, my Pinterest collection, and the Great Quotes About Learning and Change Flickr pool.

Inspired by: A post from Spike Cook (@drspikecook)

Filtering social media in schools because it’s a ‘distraction’

Annie Murphy Paul

Annie Murphy Paul said:

according to the [American Association of School Librarians], schools’ top three filtered content areas are social networking sites, instant messaging and online chatting, and games. Such activities aren’t (necessarily) inappropriate or illegal, but they are big honking distractions, and if we want our young people to learn anything during the school day, they must be kept away from these sites.

A growing body of evidence from cognitive science and psychology shows that the divided attention typical of people engaging in “media multitasking” – the attempt to pay attention to two or more streams of information at once – produces shallower, less permanent learning. And let’s not kid ourselves: when students are free to roam the Internet in class or in study periods, divided attention is the result.

Is it possible to use Facebook and Twitter in educationally appropriate ways? Sure – but as technology and education specialist Michael Trucano points out, tech enthusiasts often focus on what’s possible to the exclusion of what’s predictable and what’s practical. What is predictable is that young people, given the chance, will use the web for social and entertainment purposes; what’s practical is to remove that temptation during the school day.

via http://hechingerreport.org/content/schools-efforts-block-internet-laughably-lame_16588

This article misses the point. It’s fearmongering and control-driven and feeds the misbegotten ‘kids these days are bad’ narratives that are so prevalent in older generations. It’s yet another example of ‘we’re not knowledgeable enough to think of any useful ways to utilize these tools so let’s just block them.’

The myth of ‘digital natives’ has been busted time and time again. Research is very clear that while our students are increasingly savvy at using technology for gaming and social purposes, they’re much less proficient at using technology for academic and other productive work purposes. Of course they will not get good at using technology in these ways if we simply block the technologies instead of using them more productively.

Unlike what is stated elsewhere in this article, the ‘real world’ is digital. The real world is technology-suffused. People everywhere use social media and other online tools all the time to accomplish their work. How are educators supposed to prepare students for our new technology-infused information, economic, and learning landscapes in analog school environments?

As my supervising principal said every day of my administrative internship, ‘Classroom management stems from good instruction.’ The issue here is not the technology but rather our unwillingness as educators and citizens (and pundits) to rethink learning, teaching, and schooling.

UPDATE

Here are some tweets that Annie Murphy Paul and I exchanged today. As I read these (and her article), she believes that students simply can’t be trusted or empowered to use social media in class without being distracted. Although she nominally concedes that schools might be able to use social media in productive ways with students, she quickly reiterates that is only ‘possible’ and that it is much more ‘practical’ to simply block these powerful tools for connecting and learning. I disagree with both (and, of course, many of us can point to countless examples all around the world where these are low-level or nonexistent concerns, thus disproving her broad generalizations about students and classrooms). However, when I stated her ideas back to her, she denied them. I don’t know how to otherwise interpret what she said and she won’t clarify. I did invite her to please continue the dialogue in the comment area of either her post or mine. Your thoughts?

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