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

What I’ve been up to: 5Sigma EduCon scavenger hunt keynote

[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…]

2020 5Sigma McLeod Keynote SlideMy very last face-to-face engagement with schools before the pandemic was for the 5Sigma EduCon at Anastasis Academy. Kelly Tenkely is the Founder and Executive Director of this very innovative private K-8 school in Centennial, Colorado. Michelle Baldwin teaches there, so I have two good friends at Anastasis and always love visiting the school. Their students are doing absolutely incredible work.

The conference was a blast. I told Kelly that I wanted to try something different for my ‘keynote’ on Saturday morning. Instead of standing and delivering, I put attendees into small groups and sent them on a scavenger hunt around the school. Each group was given a ‘mission packet’ with ‘top secret’ instructions. Inside the packet was:

  • a Team Directive document with instructions (“You are an elite team of code crackers and problem solvers…”) and warnings to beware misdirection from other groups,
  • a Mission Checklist on which they could mark their completion of each mission,
  • a Code Card for deciphering clues to their next mission,
  • a packet of stickers that designated their team (e.g., Team Zebra, Team Tiger), and
  • an initial coded clue that, when deciphered, sent them to their first destination within the school.

At each destination, there was an envelope with their team logo on it. Inside each team’s envelope was a Mission Document that explained the conversation station at that location (i.e., their ‘mission;’ an example is below), a sticker for their Mission Checklist, and a clue to their next destination. As you can see if you follow the link on the Mission Document below, the goals were to spark rich discussion and for each team to complete all six conversations. 

We had about 90 minutes total for the keynote session, and teams were created randomly to spark learning across different school systems. Instead of them sitting and listening to me for that time, they got a little exercise, laughed a lot, and had some amazing dialogues. I am appreciative of Kelly’s willingness to let me try something different. Our time together was super fun and everyone really enjoyed their six conversations. Thank you, Kelly!

2020 5Sigma McLeod Keynote Scavenger Hunt Example

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?

If we want deeper learning, greater student agency, more authentic work, and rich technology infusion, we have to DESIGN FOR THEM. 4 Shifts Protocol, bit.ly/4shifts

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