Stratosphere – Michael Fullan

Michael Fullan’s new book “Stratosphere” takes a critical look at 21st Century Learning. Specific attention is paid to the relationship between technology and pedagogy. The book title “Stratosphere” refers to the relationship of technology, pedagogy and change knowledge. This book provides and very nuanced perspective of 21st Century Learning. Far from advocating the independent learning power of platforms like Khan Academy as a panacea for education, Fullan presents the dangers that students face without the guiding hand of a teacher.

I really appreciate Fullan’s framework for effective ed tech. If schools are going to reap the benefit of what technology has to offer, the tech needs to be:

  1. Irresistibly engaging for students and teachers.
  2. Elegantly efficient and easy to use.
  3. Technologically ubiquitous 24/7/
  4. Steeped in real-life problem solving.

The goal is to move away from marvelling at tech specifications towards reliable and real integration of technology. Tech with a focus and not simply tech for tech’s sake. It must help students to link curriculum to real life problem solving situations.

Most importantly, Fullan deals with the new role of teachers in the 21st Century. Rather than being pushers of content, teachers must form partnerships with students. Teachers have a huge role to play in this new era of education as change agents. Technology and independent learning alone cannot provide these change conditions. Fullan quotes John Hattie when discussing the fundamental role of teachers, “to evaluate the effect of their teaching on students’ learning and achievement.” A partnership rather than the sage on the stage.

This is a powerful book that anyone involved in education must read. It comes in at roughly 80 pages. I purchased my copy from Pearson online. It is a critical, nuanced and valuable perspective on this new era of learning.


Parenting (and Educating) in the Digital Age

Too often, we condemn or criticize our colleagues who are slower to adopt Ed Tech into daily practice. I have always adhered to the wisdom of “Field of Dreams” namely “If you build they will come!”. Our first thought should be development rather than criticism.Those who are comfortable with new forms of practice must support the development of those who are not. We must apply that mode of thinking to dealing with parents as well. As Bring Your Own Device moves ever closer to mass adoption, parents uncomfortable with technology will need development as well.

I came across this wonderful presentation by David Truss through People for Education. It is intended to help parents with their digital youth but it is also applicable for teachers who perceive themselves to be “Digital Immigrants”. This presentation would be ideal for a school administrator to share with a staff or at a parent night or simply for your own development.

Social Media: Strengthening Home-School Communication

I devour any communication that comes from my son’s school. He is in Senior Kindergarten, so school is still new and exciting for us all. Admittedly, I also read the communications to fulfill the voyeuristic urge to see what goes on in other schools. My son’s principal follows the school-home communications playbook to the letter. The newsletter has clipart, important dates,thank-you’s and permission forms. He tries to use Twitter ¬†and the school website is updated regularly. The only problem with this script, that he and MANY other principals follow, is that all of the communication is one way. Parents are informed but rarely consulted.

Traditionalists would argue that parent councils provide a forum for such consultation. I argue that this model is broken and highly undemocratic.How many parents actually attend these meetings?What percentage of the parent population is actually responsible for policy? 5 %? less maybe? Large segments of the school community become marginalized and the disconnect between home and school grows wider. If we want parental engagement then we have to engage the parents. Social media provides the perfect platform to involve a larger percentage of the parent community in school events.

Rather than present events to parents as a done deal, principals can use social media to consult with parents during the development phase. Crowdsource ideas with your community. Float ideas out on Twitter and solicit feedback. Create networked brain-storming sessions. This concept is nothing new in the private sector and it has helped energize many brands as well as broadening their base of support. I really believe that this approach can have an even more powerful impact on schools.

This video from Digital U shows some of the ways the private sector uses crowdsourcing. The translation to the education system would not be a difficult one.