Tag Archives: vision

Option 3: Actually USE the smartphones

Door sign: Cell phone prohibited

Murphy & Beland’s recent study is making the rounds online, particularly among those who are eager to find reasons to ban learning technologies in classrooms. The economists found that banning mobile phones helped improve student achievement on standardized test scores, with the biggest gains seen by low-achieving and at-risk students. Here are my thoughts on this…

The outcome measure is standardized test score improvement. Is that all you care about or do you have a bigger, more complex vision for student learning? For instance, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving are difficult to assess with a standardized test. Most schools I know didn’t adopt their learning technology initiatives for the sole purpose of test score improvement. (if they did, how sad is that?)

The accepted dichotomy in this study and the media seems to be 1) doing low-level knowledge work while smartphones are banned, or 2) doing low-level knowledge work while smartphones are present (and, presumably, distracting). Neither of these two options addresses the fact that decontextualized, low-level work isn’t very interesting or engaging to many (most?) students, particularly those who already find that traditional schooling doesn’t meet their needs very well. So, faced with the opportunity to do something else, many students do. Youth today aren’t any different than when we were young and adults made snarky, woeful comments about us. They just have different opportunities and resources. How many times were you bored in high school? Lots, so admit that if you’d had access to a smartphone or your friends on Facebook back then, you would have turned that way too. I know that I sure would have. Let’s stop blaming students and/or demonizing technology as an evil succubus and address the real problem, which is disengaging learning environments. The solution to that problem is not to try and force students to pay attention to and comply with our boring lessons. That’s not teaching students ‘grit.’ That’s an indictment of our failure to differently imagine learning and teaching.

How about a third option, that of doing higher-level learning and USING the smartphones to help with that? That sounds pretty good to me. Why isn’t this ever brought up as an option to be considered?

Image credit: Cell phone prohibited, SmartSign

My feedback on the draft ISLLC standards

CCSSO logo

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is working on its latest draft of standards for school leaders. The ISLLC standards are intended to detail the knowledge and skills that effective district and school leaders need in order to build teams of teachers and leaders who improve student learning. CCSSO is seeking feedback on the draft standards. My feedback and comments are below. I hope that you will read the standards yourself and also share some thoughts with CCSSO about whether you feel that they adequately describe an effective school leader for today and tomorrow…

Please list any additional dispositions that you believe educational leaders need that are not listed on page 9 of the ISLLC 2015 standards.

Learner. Just because you’re reflective and/or analytical does NOT mean you’re a learner yourself. We have lots of clueless administrators who don’t understand / have not kept up with external societal transformations because they are not active, engaged, externally-focused learners themselves. So they don’t understand how our new information landscapes operate and what the implications are for educational practice. (neither do most Educational Leadership profs, sadly)

Does the section, “Using the Standards” provide you with sufficient direction about how the standards might be used to improve leadership at the state and local level?

Standards are necessarily vague. So providing TWO pages on ‘using’ them isn’t really going to do much for anyone. There are a few broad generalities here but they’re nowhere near specific enough to really be that helpful for practice.

Please list any competencies for transformational leaders that you believe would NOT fall into one of the categories represented by the seven ISLLC 2015 standards.

Where’s the future-oriented, innovation disposition in these standards, actions, and competencies. I’m struggling to see it…

To what extent do you agree that the ISLLC 2015: Model Policy Standards for Educational Leaders represent a clear, coherent vision for transformational school and district leadership that reflects current expectations for educational leaders and prepares them to effectively adapt their leadership to future changes and challenges? Please share any additional reactions or comments that you have about the standards as a whole.

The standards and the actions listed below them don’t really reflect in any way the ‘innovative’ disposition that is cited earlier in the ISLLC draft document. If ISLLC truly was interested in fostering innovative leadership practice, there would be greater recognition of and emphasis on the seismic transformations that are occurring in our information, economic, and learning landscapes. Instead, there’s nary a mention anywhere of the fact that schools need to look a LOT different than they currently do and the current factory model of schooling appears to be generally accepted as a given across the standards. When it comes to learning, then, what we’re left with in these new draft ISLLC standards appears to be a very technocratic model of school leadership that’s focused on increasing student ‘achievement’ on low-level factual recall items and procedural skills rather than fostering innovative, creative, collaborative critical thinkers and problem solvers [NOTE: if this is not what you intend, then you need to reframe and reword huge chunks of this document because right now it reads like an educational leadership standards document for 1995, not 2015]. Everything that’s listed here in the new ISLLC standards is arguably important. But the standards and actions are neither innovative nor forward-thinking enough so they fail to live up to the ideal of preparing school leaders to ‘effectively adapt their leadership to future changes and challenges’ because there’s nothing really future-oriented in them.

It’s also worth noting for page 10 that simply displaying the 7 standards horizontally across the 8 vertical dispositions in Figure 3 does absolutely nothing to ‘demonstrate how the dispositions are essential to the work of educational leadership.’ There’s no meaning made there. There is no explanation of the diagram or the intersections or what progression/extension might look like. You simply overlay them across each other and then say ‘quod erat demonstrandum!’ That whole section either needs to be explicated quite a bit or discarded.

Online sharing is not digital leadership

More

Using social media to share with your community? It’s a start, but it’s not enough.

Using social media to connect with other educators? That’s awesome, but that’s not enough either.

Using what you’ve learned from social media to significantly change the day-to-day learning experiences of students (and teachers)? Now you’re getting somewhere…

In other words, the branding and the PLN work is great. But true digital leadership is much, much more. Let’s hear more about what kids and educators are doing differently, please.

Image credit: More, Thomas Hawk

That’s not a given

Discard an axiom

I loved hearing Will Richardson say at the Iowa Association of School Boards conference last November that ‘curriculum is a strategy.’

Because he’s right. Standards are a strategy. Bell schedules are a strategy. Bubble-sheet testing of low-level recall is a strategy. School calendars, grade levels, siloed content areas, instructional methods, grading systems, discipline policies, and sit-and-get, one-and-done professional development sessions are all strategies. All of them. None of them are given. None of them are essential, handed-down-on-a-stone-tablet components of schooling. They are all voluntarily-employed strategies that can be modified. Or deleted.

If we’re going to change learning experiences for students, we have to stop thinking of legacy strategies as givens. We have to put things back on the table for consideration. We have to move from ‘yes, but’ to ‘why not?’ and ‘how can we?’

Or we can stay stagnant, content to tweak around the edges of mediocrity.

[practice saying with me… “You know, that’s not a given. We could change that.”]

Image credit: Oblique strategies, Bastiaan Terhorst

The problem with ‘any time, any place, any path, any pace’

Any time, any place, any path, any pace

In most online courses and/or ‘adaptive learning systems’ …

  • Students do low-level work at times that are convenient.
  • Students do low-level work from places that are convenient.
  • Students do low-level work on their own, unique path.
  • Students do low-level work at their own, unique pace.

But it’s still low-level work. 

Digitizing, chunking, and algorithmizing worksheet-like learning tasks doesn’t move them out of the domains of factual recall and procedural regurgitation. The modality doesn’t change the substance of the learning task. Until we are willing to address the kinds of work that we ask students to do on a day-to-day basis, not just the delivery mode, the any time, any place, any path, any pace mantra isn’t going to change a thing…

3-month updates: Digital Leadership Daily, School Visibility Initiative

Digital Leadership Daily Photo

Three months ago I launched both Digital Leadership Daily and our School Visibility Initiative.

Digital Leadership Daily is now up to 714 subscribers across its text messaging, Twitter, and Facebook channels.

The School Visibility Initiative now has 66 participating schools from 29 unique states and countries.

Awesome!

We can’t do what that other school is doing because…

We can’t do what that other school is doing because…

  • they are bigger and have more resources
  • they are smaller and are more nimble
  • they are rural and have strong-knit communities
  • they are urban and have access to the city
  • they are suburban and have more money
  • they don’t have the same time issues we do
  • they don’t have the same discipline issues we do
  • they don’t have the same personnel issues we do
  • they don’t have the same financial issues we do
  • they don’t have the same transportation issues we do
  • they don’t have the same accountability issues we do
  • they have parent support
  • they have community support
  • they have business support
  • they have paras
  • they have teacher’s aides
  • they have volunteers
  • they have a different schedule
  • they have different standards
  • they have different policies
  • they have different professional development
  • they have more supportive administrators
  • they have a more supportive school board
  • they have more expert veteran teachers
  • they have more eager new teachers
  • they can get kids to come before school
  • they can get kids to come after school
  • they can get kids to come during school
  • they don’t have all of the extra committees that we do
  • they don’t have all of the extra duties that we do
  • they have computer labs
  • they have computer carts
  • they have laptops
  • they have iPads
  • they have Chromebooks
  • they have better Internet
  • they are a private school
  • they are a charter school
  • they are a magnet school
  • they are an online school
  • they have [fill in the blank] where they are
  • they don’t have OUR kids
  • they ???

We’re really good at finding reasons for inaction. How many of these have you heard? What would you add to this list?

How you gonna change the world if you can't change yourself? [Graffiti]

Image credit: Change starts from within, Phillip

We have to stop pretending

When it comes to education, we have to stop pretending…

  • that short-term memorization equals long-term learning
  • that students find meaning in what we’re covering in class
  • that low-level facts and procedures are a prerequisite to deeper learning
  • that analog learning environments prepare kids for a digital world
  • that what we’re doing isn’t boring

I’m going to try to turn this into a challenge. I’m tagging George Couros, Sylvia Martinez, Wes Fryer, Vicki Davis, and Steven Anderson.

Please join us. When it comes to education, what are 5 things that we have to stop pretending? Post on your blog, tag 5 others, and share using the #makeschooldifferent hashtag. Feel free to also put the URL of your post in the comments area so others can find it!

** Check out the responses from everyone who has participated. Awesome! **

Make school different

(feel free to use this image as desired)

UPDATE

Since it’s hard to impart nuance in 5 short bullet points, I thought I’d explain my thinking behind what I blogged above (particularly given the thoughtful replies below from Keith Brennan)…

1. Too many teachers cover stuff for a week or two, the kids regurgitate it for a week or two, and then they’re off to the next thing. If you ask the kids six months later, much (most?) of what they ‘learned’ is gone. But we call this process ‘learning.’ And while that may be true for the short term, it’s not very true for the long term. Memorization isn’t the concern, it’s the overemphasis on short-term memory without concurrent attention to long-term memory.

2. My understanding from the cognitive psychologists is that we remember what we attach meaning to. If it’s not meaningful to us (i.e., we don’t find internal reasons to hang on to it), we might keep it for a little while (particularly if we’re forced to) but sooner rather than later it starts to fade away. The challenge is that it’s hard to find meaning in decontextualized fact nuggets and procedures, which is why students have been asking the same questions since time immemorial: ‘Why do we need to know this? Why should we care? What’s the relevance of this to our lives now or in the future?’ We give those questions short shrift in most classrooms and then wonder why students disengage mentally and/or physically.

3. The key word here for me is ‘prerequisite.’ I don’t know anyone who thinks that factual knowledge and procedural knowledge aren’t essential components of robust, deeper learning. What inquiry-, challenge-, project-, and problem-oriented learning spaces seem to show us is that so-called ‘lower-level’ learning doesn’t always have to occur FIRST and often can be uncovered or discovered rather than just initially covered. What needs to come first and what can come later is dependent on the interplay between the individual learner and the surrounding learning context. Coming at learning from larger, more holistic, perhaps real-world-embedded, applied perspectives often can help students attach meaning (and motivation) to factual knowledge and procedural skills. If schools did a better job of eventually getting to deeper learning, this sequencing issue might be less of a concern but too often what should be a foundational floor instead becomes an actual ceiling and students rarely get to go beyond and experience deeper learning opportunities.

4. If I want to learn how to lift boxes, cut down a tree, or lay tarmac, I can only get so far with a digital app or simulation. Similarly, if I want to learn how to be functional and powerful in digital knowledge environments, ink-on-paper learning spaces only get me so far. Schools are supposed to be about knowledge work and nearly all knowledge work these days is heavily technology-suffused. It’s difficult to adequately prepare students for digital information landscapes without regular immersion in and use of digital tools and environments.

5. Kids are bored out of their skulls with much (most?) of what we have them do in class, particularly as they move up the grade levels. Just ask ’em… Our biggest indictment as educators and school systems is that we don’t seem to care very much and simply accept this as an inherent condition of schooling.

Building a bridge

Peoria bridge

A school board member said to me a while back:

Scott, I hear what you’re saying about active, hands-on, project-based learning. But I got to tell you, when I’m driving over a bridge, I want to have confidence that the people who designed and built it knew what they were doing. So if that takes a lot of practice on worksheets until students know their math and science, so be it.

I responded:

I agree that I don’t want the bridge collapsing under me either! If we want graduates who know how to build solid, long-lasting bridges, we absolutely can have them do a bunch of practice problems on worksheets until we think they know the math and science and we’ll hope that they will remember it later.

… (pause) …

Or we could have them build bridges.

… (pause) …

Who do you think will be better bridge builders?

How do we help our communities understand that authentic learning is possible?

School is broken

Will Richardson said:

I think the fact that only 44% of our kids reporting engagement in high school strongly suggests [that school is] “broken.” I think the difference of educational opportunities for the kids in Camden v. the kids at Lawrenceville Prep is “broken.” I think spending an inordinate amount of time on curriculum that will soon be forgotten, curriculum that most kids don’t care about despite our best efforts to make them care, curriculum that then gets assessed in ways that really don’t show if kids can actually apply it and is used to evaluate teachers in a blatantly unfair way… all of that is “broken.” 

via http://willrichardson.com/post/114524327210/can-we-talk-about-change-without-hurting-feelings

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