Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Personal Change In Practice or Not?

Well, I stayed away from e-mail and blogs for five days and I have survived. But, something has changed. This morning when I was catching up on my blog reading I did something I don't recall doing before, I responded. It was on AssortedStuff and was about new technologies potential impact on teaching and learning in the next five years. I don't think I have anything new to add, but not seeing any comments bothered me and I do think about this a lot.

What should we be doing as leaders to respond to this challenge? Do we know what changes are needed that create learning environments that take advantage of current and projected technology advances? How do we create focus here with all the other issues that we face as leaders in school systems? Do we have the commitment necessary to make the changes?

We must find answers and ways because we have the responsibility of preparing these young people for success in their world, post K-12. And this world will not look and sound like the one that most students find today in their classrooms and schools.

It will be fun to self-monitor my future blog reading. Will I revert to keeping my thoughts private or will I continue the change to making my thinking more public? I may share with you at some time in the future.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

That Student Voice in the Background

Below, I have pasted excerpts from Steve Hargadon's interview of three high school students participating in the Student 2.0 project that I wrote about in my last blog. I continue to be impressed by their insights into our work and their learning.

From Sean: "What's happened over the past few years, and in society, with technology and the web becoming a lot more important, I'd say that the stuff I'm doing at home [rather than at school] is right now a bit more relevant, in terms of the skills I will need later in life.... At the stage at which we are at school, I would say that we are not dumb, we've matured a bit, and I think we should have some form of say in what's happening... "

From Kevin: "It's an interesting model, the way school continues to operate, as opposed to the infinitely more learning that we can do outside of the classroom... I think that technology is a very important part of education today, and because of that the shift from the traditional student-teacher model is creating a whole bunch of new possibilities. The web is not the only method by which that will happen, but it is a very important one as well... At the core of everything else, all the technology usage, it's all about creating learners, not just students who are able to interpret the facts that the teachers just preach to them in the classroom... There are 300 - 400 teachers in my school district, maybe only a a handful, I can probably count on one hand, who actually read blogs, let alone write them." -Kevin, 17 years old, Illinois, USA

(Lindsea had less to say because she had to leave the interview early to get to class. She was on a world-wide Skype interview from her computer at school, cool as a cucumber, with all of the noise of a school campus in the background.)

It makes me wonder what our students are thinking, but not saying, about their experiences in our schools. I am struggling to identify where we are intentionally including them in our conversations about Classroom 10 and the role of technology in supporting acquisition of our Outcomes and focus on thinking skills and Habits of Mind. Is this a voice we need to hear? If yes, why do we continue to not provide for this opportunity? It would seem that engaging them in these conversations would provide us with information to influence the quality of our curriculum and increase the likelihood that more students would find meaning in and embrace the learning opportunity.

I encourage you to mark this student web site and occasionally read what they are saying about their public school experiences. At the same time, let's identify the purpose for student voice in this work and then create the opportunity for the skillful discussions to take place. Who wants this opportunity?

Well, enough for now. Have a great day!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Student Voice

Thanks to Jeff Whipple on Whip Blog I discovered this site that is designed for students to have a voice in this Web 2.0 world. I read many of the posts - they are well written and contain insights important for us as we attempt to implement changes that serve students. Check it out and read some of the posts such as the Difference Between Teaching and Preaching and The World Won't Wait for Rome. The comments are also informative. This is a must RSS feed.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Thoughts on Frenzy In the Workplace

I'm sitting at home with the tablet in front of me and the football game in the background keeping my inbox below 10 items. The Ravens are tied with the Patriots and in scoring position making me more uncomfortable since the Seahawks still have to play the Ravens.

I'm also thinking about a recent conversation I had with three people I respect about what they labeled as the "frenzy" of our work place and the lack of reflection by those of us in key positions in our district. Being one who is always promoting the need to be reflective this observation is a concern for me. I can't say that I haven't observed this "frenzy" myself because I have. I have also labeled it to those in leadership positions and spent multiple hours in what I believed were skillful discussions attempting to influence the scope and pace of work in the department. Obviously, I haven't had significant success to date.

Our short conversation has created multiple concerns for me about how we approach and engage in our work. Two of these concerns have emerged as occupiers of my reflection. The first is that many of us have come to believe that the "frenzy" is simply a part of doing our work. If we are going to be successful in supporting teachers and students frenzy goes with the work. It simply must be done and the scope and timeline we impose on ourselves is what drives these perceptions of a place with harried people, scurrying from one project to the next with little time to engage in quality control and reflection. Lack of quality control leads to mistakes that reinforce negative ladders of inference. Lack of reflection is particularly troubling because it promotes TTWWADI. We get the project done, cross it off our list, and go to the next project. We don't take the time for continuous learning that leads to the adaptive changes necessary for improving what we do and how we do it.

The second concern is the perception created by how some of us engage in the work that success is only possible if all are equally committed to the work. This "equal" commitment means working 10-11 hours daily on site and then continuing at home. Obviously, this is not healthy and can't be sustained over a long period of time though I have observed it in place for multiple years now. What can we expect? What should we expect? What is too much? How do we answer these and other questions so that people don't question their commitment and work ethic if this is not what they choose to do? Why do they have to make the choice is probably even a better question?

This short conversation where three people shared their private thoughts has resulted in much reflection by me. They made the suggestion that we plan a series of meetings to reflect on the work and to continue to share our thinking to improve both the quality of the work and the satisfaction that results from contributing to the work in balanced, meaningful ways. The first meeting is now planned. In Professional Learning Communities people share their private thoughts to promote reflection, understanding, and growth. This is an example of that in practice and I thank them for this learning opportunity.

The Ravens are leading by 4 with 1:40 to play and the Patriots driving.
Well, enough for now. Have a great day.