One year later, nothing has changed

Did you ever start telling a story and part way through you are trying to remember if you've told the story before?  I feel that way a lot when I blog and wonder if maybe it's a sign to shut up but I'll likely just repeat the story. But I digress…

Yesterday's blog post was eerily similar to the one I wrote about the same conference a year earlier. Even the title was the same. I'm starting to steal from myself.  After a conversation with a disgruntled principal I realized I had had the same thought a year earlier. I still basically feel the same way.

If they’re just achieving better grades, better study habits and better test taking skills, it doesn’t seem all that important to me.  Now I realize that none of these speakers would say that’s what this does and they even reference rigorous standards and I think I heard the term 21st century learning (whatever that really is), I’m still fearful that the zeal to improve scores and test results leads to the perpetuation of school as we knew it and still know it.  The strategies of PLC’s and assessment, if not combined with a real understanding of what kids ought to be doing in school leave use just doing a better job of the schools of the 1950’s.

There are around 800 leaders from around the province and again, I just think the big picture of student engagement in authentic, relevant learning isn't being emphasized.  Every example of effective assessment seems to focus on Math. Why? Is it because Math is linear and easily reduced to a numerical value of learning?  Ken Robinson videos keep playing in my mind.  Our province's best work was released in 1989 called Common Essential Learnings or CELs. These things matter.  I'm sure I'm just in one of those moods but I just think we have to talk about what matters most. As I say above (is it bad when you start to quote yourself?), are we just getting better at what we've been doing for the past 50 years?  

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A Missing Piece

The Ahead of the Curve conference features some major players in educational research. Thomas Guskey and Doug Reeves to name a few.

For me, it’s more of the same in the area of assessment and learning and change. All good but really nothing new. As a leader in a school division I’m reminded of what is needed for change to occur.  Reeves sites these 4 as the main strategies:

  1. Compelling Questions…trust teachers to ask good questions about what needs to be done. Answers need to address, “What’s in it for me?”
  2. Action Research…teacher practice improves when you implement and reflect
  3. Public Exposition…sharing successes
  4. Evidence-Based Decisions….use your own data and successes to inform next steps

The glaring omission was the referencing of technology to achieve this change. While each of these strategies lend themselves to some obvious uses of technology, I was particularly focused on number 3. Reeves talked about the power of celebration and recognition for achievement. He talked about filling trophy cases with more than athletic trophies and including science projects or other student work. I thought of this:

There’s no question that technology, when used correctly amplifies these change strategies. This is the place where digital learning concepts ought to be shared and  leveraged to teachers and teacher leaders. These leaders don’t attend NECC or your local technology conference. Technology conferences have a tendency to be so tool focused that they leave out some of the powerful teaching and learning practices that are intregal for success. We need to get these two together. Dennis Richards is trying.  These are great places for conversations and captive audiences. Too bad there’s a piece missing.

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