September 30, 2007

Shifted Learning and Important Conversations

This post was last updated on September 5th, 2011 at 11:05 am

I had two interesting and challenging experiences the last couple of days. Experiences that cause me to consider my approach to supporting teachers and students.

Assiniboia New BloggersI met with a small group of high school teachers who wanted to learn more about Web 2.0 and what they might be able to use in their classrooms. I was fully prepared to spend the day showing demos, and working through the technical issues of setting up a blog, wiki or whatever they wanted.What happened instead is we spent the first part of the morning grappling with the big questions of why. Why would we post students online? Why does it feel like asking us to change means that our current practice is all wrong? If this is so important, why aren’t we given time to explore and make change? To be clear, this group of teachers was not simply complaining or naysaying. They just wanted to be convinced and sure that investing time to use these tools would pay dividends. I’ve been telling teachers lately that if they have any hesitation, they shouldn’t bother to blog or use any tool because all it will do is add to the many “binders of guilt” that sit on the shelf labeled, “things I should really do”.I’m not sure that all these questions were answered but I know we moved forward on some. At lunch time, I fired up twitter and posed the question regarding posting online. Thanks to my network I received several key responses that I shared with the group after lunch. 

Twitter responses

Again, not that those responses solved the conundrum but it clearly demonstrated that an online presence or network is a powerful thing. So we continued on and continued to deal with some tough questions but after providing some time for teachers to muddle on their own, they left the day feeling like they had some direction or purpose in using the tools. We’re moving forward in a positive way.I thank them for challenging me.

Thursday, I met with all our school administrators and shared our vision and focused on the idea of shifted learning. I showed Did you Know, used some of Ewan’s videos and ideas that focus on a shift in learning and challenged them to consider how learning is changing. In general they are a great bunch of leaders who truly want to make shifts that are good for kids but like many of us, are looking for a recipe, which although we know doesn’t exist, still want one. I challenged them to consider how they might support teachers and after some good discussion, felt like we have set the ground work for the work that lies ahead. The following are the slides I used with my notes embedded underneath…feel free to use this in whatever way you wish.

Administrator's RetreatOne school administrator approached me after and asked, “What is it we’re really trying to do?”He talked about an angst he feels about what he sees most kids doing with technology. Useless text messaging with the person right beside them, nothing seems to be interesting to them, jaded attitudes towards violence, and so on; all valid points. He was careful to say he didn’t want to appear to be out of touch but was truly concerned with kids who use technology in meaningless ways. I tried to share my feelings about our duty to .I’m glad he approached and challenged me and the kind of dialogue I had in these two instances does help us move forward. I’ve taught too many workshops where everyone comes happy and excited to be there and leaves happy and excited but never carry on with the ideas and never implement anything. They like new stuff but don’t deeply consider what the true impact of change might be.

I was further encouraged by spending time with two of our superintendents. Both men have been in education for over 30 years and recalled some of the reasons they got into education in the first place. As children of the 1960’s they were excited about the ideas of Summerhill and believed deeply in personalized learning. Somehow the system they entered took things into a more traditional model and my presentation triggered memories of the hope of what a quality, meaningful education can look like.

These conversations are what will matter. Allowing people to tell their stories, share their resistance and consider the change that’s necessary. I’m pretty good at telling my story and perspectives  but at times forget that others need to tell theirs as well. Chris Lehman has written lately about not forgetting the value of our teachers. Another great conversation ensues.  Again, this is not anything profound but once again, reminded me of the importance of those conversations. Conversations about change that lead to implementation.

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