Shut-up and listen!

It’s time that all education “experts” just shut-up and listen.  Too much talk, too much hubris, too many ideas and not nearly enough listening plague progress in education. New ideas from researchers and thinkers are valuable. The problem is not with the creators or interpreters of knowledge but rather with those in public education who are responsible for putting ideas into action.

@SEFleadTCDSB pointed me in the direction of this TEDx talk from Ernesto Sirolli; more than 15 minutes long but WELL worth the time commitment.

If we want change, we have to listen. We have to think like designers and less like consultants. Designers ooze empathy. They first seek to authentically understand the user’s particular problem. Solutions are grown and adapted according to circumstance. They are not forced solutions based on “best practice”. Consultants push canned solutions to nebulous and generalized circumstance. Their type of ABC’s is more akin to the sales version of “Always Be Closing”. Selling ideas trumps growing a meaningful program.

Sirolli’s talk teaches us the power of listening. Assuming the role of expert, precludes one from immersing in context and situation. There are certain universal truths in education but they only work if we are sensitive to time, need and context. Force feeding an idea doesn’t just get you nowhere, it sets the process further back.

Toyota has a good saying, if you want understand problems of practice, “Go to the Gemba” or the factory floor – the source. If we want to affect meaningful change, it’s time to shut-up and listen.

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Rebels with a cause.

I have always had a fondness for rebellious students. The kids who think differently and constantly push boundaries out of a sense of purpose. I both empathize with their motivations and admire their fortitude. In a small setting, these kids aren’t hard to find. They are your “Me to We” kids leading the cause for justice or they are your kids fighting against perceived injustices within the school. As an administrator, I have come to admire our teachers with similar rebellious inclinations. These are the teachers who love to ask “why?”. They do not accept “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” as an answer. These are the teachers who stir things up and can affect great change if properly connected.

My all-time favourite ad campaign is Apple’s “Think Different” from many moons ago. Thanks to YouTube, it is still around in all its glory:

We have a lot of educators in our system who think differently. These educators are constantly trying new things in order to advance student learning. Some of their plans and programs work while others don’t. Those who don’t like these educators will describe the programs that don’t work as failures while those with a more open attitude call it learning. It is only through guided experimentation that we find ideas of true merit. Clay Shirky puts it this way:

shirky usable

Finding these outliers and boundary pushers must become a system priority. Shining a light on the great work that they are doing will help the whole system to progress. I have a list of TCDSB (my board) educators on Twitter that I visit a few times each day. Quite honestly, I have learned more from these tweets about what’s going on in my board than from anything that comes from central office. This is not a criticism but rather the realities of our rapidly decentralizing world. My goal is not to find some magical solution or golden idea. Very rarely will you find an idea out there that fits perfectly into your particular context and quite frankly, that shouldn’t be your expectation. Guaranteed though that you will find usable pieces, practices to reflect upon, inspiration and possibly a new connection with whom to confer.

Our system leaders have to find these rebels and celebrate the hell out of their accomplishments. Yesterday, a superintendent for whom I have the greatest respect, gave me pause for thought when she told me that real change comes from where the “rubber hits the road” in our schools and not at the central level. I believe that there is a lot of truth to that if we assume that the role of senior and central staff will remain status quo. There are rebels who “think different” there as well. Building the connective framework to join thinkers together in an inviting and action-oriented manner is vital. Those at the system level can offer methods to support and scale the vibrant ideas gleaned from the community.  It is often said that constraints breed creativity. I could not agree more. We have budget constraints, political constraints, distance constraints and resource constraints. So let’s get creative by finding ideas from within rather than from the outside. It’s way cheaper and far more powerful. The power comes from the breadth of ideas and the potential for involvement, participation and engagement.  We have to actively look for our thinkers and doers. This is the embodiment of the collaboration that we strive for and how can we expect it from our kids if aren’t willing to do it ourselves.

Video – Tools for the 21st Century Educator

I was playing around with Animoto this morning, making videos of my kids. I thought that I would make one highlighting 21st Century Education resources. PLEASE enjoy and share as often as possible.

Flipped Classroom – Infographic

This blog and many others make frequent reference to the piece of ed jargon known as “The Flipped Classroom”. Sal Khan of Khan Academy fame has been a major force in pushing it to prominence but he is not the originator. This cool infographic from Knewton presents both the history and the details of this disruptive change idea.

 Flipped Classroom

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

“Go-to” Ed Tech Tools Infographic

Piktochart is a freemium infographic web app. Use a variety of templates and tools to create quality infographics. I decided to make an infographic of my favourite ed tech tools as my first attempt at Piktochart.

Rethinking Learning: The 21st Century Learner

I found this video on YouTube on the channel macfound.The MacArthur Foundation provides grants to help determine how digital media is changing the way that young people live. The goal is to find answers and provide data to social institutions to help support the needs of our young learners.

This video presents a tremendous amount of thought-provoking ideas in such a short amount of time. This video would a great resource for a school leader looking to garner support for deeper integration of digital media into daily practice.

Core concepts include:
* gaming elicits learning because it demands improvement to advance
* students should be free to use tech devices when necessary BUT educators must teach students when they should be put away as well
* children may be born digital consumers but they need support from teachers to become digital creators
* content information is easily available but the ability to use that content must be taught and developed.

Great ideas and very slick production value. Macfound is a worthy YouTube subscription.

Sparking Global Student Collaboration

The Oracle ThinkQuest design challenge offers students 9 – 19 the chance to create a website based on their particular educational interest. The competition is unique because once the students form teams, they seek out their own coach to support their development. This is a real testament to the power of flattening the educational hierarchy. Coaches are there in a support and guidance role rather than to direct the process. Teams are made up of 3 to 6 students with NO restrictions on location. The team highlighted in the video was comprised of students from several continents.

You can visit the ThinkQuest page by clicking on the picture:

Imagine local school boards adopting a similar competition or attitude towards collaboration. Taking advantage of the collaborative technology available to our schools could easily make this possible. Using project-based learning in a networked context would have tremendous upside for both staff and students. Embedding 21st century fluencies into daily practice does not have to be directed from up above. Facilitating opportunities for mass collaboration is much more effective and sustainable because it is student directed.

Sandra Mustacato and Mike Papadimitriou from the TCDSB AICT team delivered a powerful  Prezi at the Area 1 Innovator’s Day at Msgr. Percy Johnson (organized by VP Marcello Mancuso and Area 1 S.O Loretta Notten) where they displayed the power of Skype to facilitate such collaborative student learning possibilities. Follow this link to view this fantastic Prezi:

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Drag On Tape

As the concept of “Flipped Classrooms” continues to take root, teachers must find ways to more effectively use video. Frustration sets in when only 2 minutes of a 15 minute video is relevant to your lesson. We end up saddling our students with 3 or 4 full length videos just to get the appropriate content across. Drag on Tape allows you to edit YouTube videos and grab the clips that you want and splice them together. You can use the native YouTube search to find videos or cut and paste a URL. The main feature of Drag on Tape is the ability put YouTube videos together to create a mixtape of content. Instead of overwhelming them with excess, we can engage our students even further by targeting video content to meet specific needs.

Click on the picture to take you to the site: