The pace at which society moves versus the pace at which education moves is both positive and fraught with problems.
The most recent example is that of social media. While many in education are just now figuring out what it is let alone starting to use it, there is a definite movement in society to figure out balance, to understand impacts on human interaction. It is a movement towards balance, pause, and perspective that I think is greatly needed! However, we need it because we walked through social media and are now able to critically evaluate and adjust thoughtfully.
The problem has many layers but juxtapose society and education. It illuminates how we in education are misguided and unable to move thoughtfully at times.
- Society sees value in social media. Society embraces it knowing there will be challenges, opportunities, and problems. Society works through those elements. Society (hopefully) finds the right balance and moves forward.
- Education as a whole avoids social media*. Education hears about society at large and those odd educators wrestling with the challenges, opportunities, and problems so they take a “see… I told you it was bad for you”. Education finds themselves stuck where they are unable to find the right balance, progress forward, and act thoughtfully.
And this is the cycle for so much in education.
Our avoidance behavior allows us to sit back and wait for inevitable challenges, problems, and failures just so we can shout, “Told ya’ so!”. What we don’t realize is that it isn’t telling anyone anything and it is us that is lacking the thoughtfulness, the critical thinking, that allows a continuous state of growth.
Oversimplification. Yes. Broad Generalizations. Yes. Just another thought(ful)(less) meandering but one I wanted to get out.
*Some educators embrace it knowing there will be challenges, opportunities, and problems.
The power of pen and pixel provide unprecedented experiences for learning and inventiveness limited only by our own curiosity, imagination, and wonder. But to create those opportunities, we need to design the learner experience around empowerment, engagement, and inventiveness. This means exploring and experimenting with these designs as we reimagine learning as moonshot thinkers, which became the focus of my recent keynote at the Northern Illinois Computing Educators MiniCon.
- How do we amplify the creative thoughts, sparks, and passions of individual students with the conditions, people, and resources in an organization to bring those ideas to life?
- What if we created conditions for agency, agility, and people who lead to engagement and inventiveness?
- What if we shifted our beliefs and actions of our classrooms towards a garage studios concept?
- How might we make schooling worthy of student engagement
- What if we focused on joy, love, and passions over policies, procedures, and standardization?
- What if we were able to tell our story instead
While there are many paths towards classroom as garage studio where agency, agility, engagement, and inventiveness rule, there are four experiences at the heart of this transformation.
- Pen and Pixel
- People and Places
- Pause and Perspective
- Play and Produce
Today, we need to reimagine learning around more than skills, more than content. It is about co-designing experiences for knowledge, skills, mindsets, and dispositions. It is about getting beyond saying and start doing. It is about more than ideas but watching those ideas blow up when wrapped around resources, people, and time.
When I look at education leadership , I’m more convinced than ever about this point: our past models of leadership can inform us but they are dated. In a world that is rapidly changing and shifting, leadership is about a continuous state of renewal and avoidance of complacency. This couldn’t be more important than in the area of Educational Technology Leadership, which became the focus of a recent presentation given to Chief Technology Officers and Directors.
What if we led as fast as the world is changing? How might we create conditions for this type of leadership?
I believe it starts with a sense of agency and agility born out of these eleven conditions:
- What If We Empowered and Fostered Ownership Not Standardization
- What If We Developed a Designer and Ethnographer Mindset
- What If We Focused on Design Thinking for Decisions
- What If We Put Wheels On Other People’s Ideas Not Our Own
- What If We Embraced the Crazies in the Organization
- What If We Build Experiences Not Products, Programs, or Tools
- What If We Rapid Release Tech and Professional Development
- What If We De-Privatized Our Department
- What If We Shortened the Yes Change (Take a 30 Day Yes Challenge)
- What If We Built Spaces (cognitive, digital, and physical) for engagement and renewal?
- What If We Never Landed
This list of conditions is not exhaustive but even this small sampling can raise concerns especially the first one that speaks to minimizing standardization and maximizing autonomy. But we simply must reconsider our roles to be focused on the human experience and less focused on change management and textbook leadership models.
The role today needs to be reimagined as one that disrupts routine, facilitates connection, and fosters organizational agency and agility. It cannot be one that defends and protects the status quo, tells people what they need, and focuses on dated mantras like under deliver, over promise.
Do you give daily assessments at the start of each class? Why or why not?
A recent article in the New York Times “Frequent Tests Can Enhance College Learning” points to a study that concludes frequent (daily) quizzes over larger unit and final exams improve learning (both in current and next in sequence).
For those fearful of grade grubbing students, this must send chills down your spine.
But I recall courses like this. These quizzes became so routine that they served merely as a daily benchmark of my performance. As the professors in the article noted, these also “[forced] students to stay current in the reading and pay attention in class, [and] also how to study (Carey).”
In many ways, it sounds like ongoing feedback and formative assessment. However, the study emphasized consequential quizzes.
The piece I find most intriguing is that the professors customized the quizzes for students by bringing back questions they previously missed. In a way, this is at the core of grades as flexible, dynamic learning objects: place the emphasis on ensuring that learning occurs not when leaning occurs.
No Excuse in a 1:1 Learning Environment
In a 1:1 learning environment, this is a feasible routine: google forms, Flubaroo, email, and Socrative/Infuse Learning as needed.
The question, thus, is on the value to learning, learner, and environment within K-12 schools.
Read the full study here.
With that said…
The Lead was Buried.
Like a line Turkle would jump on, the author Ripley paints a picture that classrooms lack interaction, a place where “listening and learning” leave the person feeling bored (or is it lonely). This story unfolds with a student who finds herself using her phone to entertain herself and find that interaction her brain needs to avoid boredom.
But the lead is really lost in this story. The last paragraph returns to this student and her insights after not having her phone to create this interactive, non-boredom:
Last month, Dos Santos’s phone broke. She had no way to Instagram or Tweet in class. It was a natural experiment in boredom management, and it nudged her in the direction of a reappraiser. “At first it was really annoying,” she says, “but then I felt like I got more work done, and I didn’t feel more bored. I could live without it. I can function without being stimulated. It kind of gave me perspective.” (Ripley)”
This goes right to Turkle. This desire to feel connected. This desire to never be alone. This desire to be stimulated and entertained by the mundane makes us less tolerant of moments that required sustained focus. It is amazing how insightful this brief glimpse into the two experiences of this student. Sadly, this piece was not explored in-depth (at least so far).
Even worse, this one part will draw the attention directly, DIRECTLY, onto technology as the reason boredom is in schools when the reality is that boredom has long plagued education and…
The Article Doesn’t Recognize that Boredom is Everywhere.
Ramsey claims the easiest way to understand the level of boredom in high school is to search Twitter for “bored” and “school”. She is correct. No question it is an amusing walk through the life of adolescents as is seeing them paint pictures about many life experiences. Heck, try “homework” and see what you get.
But let’s do the same experiment with work. I just searched Twitter using “bored” + “work”. Like Ramsey, I found an indictment of work: selfies, twitter rants, photos, and many other digital strategies to entertain.
And like Ramsey said, “flares of creativity”:
Sometimes I get really bored at work guys… pic.twitter.com/uaCJhEvbtw
— Maddi Sinclair (@MaddiWinter) December 22, 2013
— Sydbee (@spoonerr_) December 22, 2013
Sometimes when I get bored at work, I pretend to have a British accent when I talk to customers.
— Mackenzie Leigh ☯ (@mackmancini) December 22, 2013
And there are thousands just like it and more that kept updating in just my casual walk through this world.
The thing is that I can do these searches left and right. I can make numerous combinations and the results all show the same thing. People are bored whether school, work, church, life, or events.
What does this say?
There are Deeper Questions on Boredom and There are Ways to Answer Them.
Don’t get me wrong. Boredom is a reality in school – where true engagement is a rare and compliance is what gets many through. However, those that are unwilling to comply are left struggling.
So Ms. Ripley, I agree with you that lack of engagement is an issue – a critical issue for the social-emotional health and academic as well as life success of our students. In fact, there are deep questions that we must address:
- being in a constant state of flow is not healthy either so what is the middle ground between unhealthy boredom and prolong states of flow?
- is boredom always bad?
- can boredom be a temporary pause of reflection or positive distraction?
- is technology bringing out, leading to greater levels, or making transparent boredom?
- is what appears to be boredom more of what Turkle describes as Alone Together?
- is boredom natural and unavoidable?
- are the ways to recognize the onset of boredom and counter it?
- what Ripley says “given the dangers of schoolhouse boredom” what are we doing about it?
- and ultimately, who owns boredom?
This is why we use things like IPI, ESM, and HSSED. This is why we focus on the whole child. This is why we give our learners a seat at the table. This is why we make engagement a district-wide theme not just a goal.
But We Need to Call Out an Equal Problem!
The question I have is why not call out the real problem: the US government is not encouraging nor giving the room to place the focus on student engagement. The focus is on standardization and teacher proofing. It is on fear and a single definition of student success. It sacrifices deep engagement and student passions for compliance and student scores.
I wonder what would happen if the keys and freedom were given to schools to solve the engagement issue.
My colleague and friend Jason Markey assigned me and several wonderful folks homework (who does that during break?). I’ve long found my connection to Jason one of the most fascinating. Here we sat just miles away from one another with so many similar beliefs, hopes, and ideas but it took social media to connect us.
I’ll forever be grateful that our paths crossed!
Now, it is time for the PLN Blogging Challenge.
The PLN Blogging Challenge Rules
Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
Share 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve a little recognition and a little blogging love!
Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they’ve been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)
11 Random Facts About Me
- I once was walking into the main office to turn in my resignation and accept a big name private sector position when a student stopped me to share what a difference I had made in her high school career. I turned around, walked into my office, and shredded the resignation letter. I haven’t and never will look back on the best decision of my life.
- I’m crazy about writing surfaces and believe no gathering is complete without a whiteboard wall near you. It is probably the reason learning spaces became my dissertation focus.
- I love Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (started at 7) and video games. I have students tell me the one must play game and the moment a long break arrives, I play the game 24-36 hours straight. I’ve been told Elder Scrolls this year.
- I am a proud Harry Potter and Hobbit freak.
- I love cartoons and animated movies but not so much with television
- I was a C/D student in high school (never did any work but got As on my exams so I could pass) but I’d help friends and girlfriends with their work in the Honors level. My Senior English comprised of mostly Readers Digest but I hid books inside it that my girlfriend’s Honors class read like Beowulf. I got a D in the class. Funny, I was told by my high school counselor that if I didn’t make it in football, I’d be lucky to land a factory job. It still motivates me.
- I’m a Christmas season freak and simply love each second of the experience. I believe there is a Santa and he gives gifts that can’t be seen but can be felt.
- After giving up an athletic scholarship (long story), I raised money to attend college by working midnights and attending class during the day. Despite what could have been, I love that I graduated from Illinois State University. I am a PROUD Redbird!
- I don’t sleep a lot (3-4 hours a night) but I wish I could sleep more especially naps. If I nap, I have to sleep 3-4 hours or I have a headache for two days.
- I spent six years at Glenbrook North High School and these were the greatest years of my professional life so far. I’m now blessed to have an opportunity to be part of the same district but all buildings as a District Administrator.
- I used to sneak into the Glenbrook South High School football stadium at midnight to run sprints, log walk the stadium steps, and review plays. Who would have known I’d be blessed to be part of the Titan family after constantly being chased away during my youth.
The Ultimate Fact: Fae, Finn, MacKenzie, and Steven are the greatest gifts in my life.
11 Questions Posed by Jason
- How has blogging and being “connected” impacted your practice?
I’ve become a more thoughtful person. By lifecasting my professional work, folks challenge me and encourage me. More importantly, I’m reflecting constantly, which I believe is critical for engagement, growth, agility, and agency.
- What is a blog post you have read recently that you would like to share with others?
I read the Internet for 30 minutes prior to bed and 30 minutes upon waking so this is hard. The one I just finished this morning was Bored to Death by Amanda Ripley. After this post, I’m crafting a response to it. I love posts that disturb me.
- What is your favorite food/restaurant?
My favorite food is pizza. It doesn’t sound eventful but I’m a freak. I’ve tried 100s of pizza and even did a Pizza Route Challenge where I stopped each day for over a month at different places during my old commute (55 miles each way from Northbrook to Plainfield). If you want to know pizza, talked to me :-). My favorite place is Bianchi’s Pizza in Ottawa, IL. It is worth the trip! Go cheese, sausage, and pepperoni with hot sauce and black pepper on the side.
- Why did you choose to be a high school, middle school, or elementary educator?
I probably should have been an elementary educator, but I’m glad I get to bring that mindset to the high school world. High School chose me because I hated high school. I failed it and it failed me. When ultimately I pursued education, I said I was going to go after the arena that posed the greatest challenge to me and ensure that I’d give my all so that it wouldn’t happen to other students. I’ve failed but I keep trying.
- What is your favorite movie, book, and song?
My favorite movie is The Burbs. I watch it monthly and just smile the entire time. I have no idea the connection but watch it if you haven’t. The English teacher in me gets all giddy here. My favorite non-fiction book is Orbiting the Giant Hairball. My favorite fiction books are Harold and the Purple Crayon, Harry Potter, and the Great Gatsby. As for music, just Frank baby. Just give me anything by Frank.
- What is your favorite vacation destination?
It is Disney. I know that sounds commercialized but it is all about play for us. If you embrace the magic not the commercialism, there is something special. We go every two years.
- Where do you want to travel most that you haven’t been to yet?
I want to go to Ireland and Scotland. My grandfather was an immigrant from Scotland and my great-grandparents were Irish immigrants. I learned so much from my grandfather and his traits live deeply within me that I want to visit where he was raised. I want to connect with my relatives. More importantly, I want Finn and Fae to understand our heritage from a first-person perspective.
- What are you most proud of in your career?
It hasn’t happened yet. I’m my own worst critic and have not found a day where I’ve gone “yes, I nailed it”. I have many, many things I’m proud of that our team has done, our students have done, and the schools I’ve been blessed to be a member. The moment I can say culturally everyone (students, staff, faculty, and parents) believes in and is living engagement, agility, and agency will be the moment I smile and feel proud.
- iPhone or Android?
I’m an Apple fanboy so I’ve been on an iPhone since day one. I’m considering a shift to Android because of my professional path and because the Nexus 7 changed my perception on Android in significant ways. Like the old PC vs Mac, I was bias against Android like so many were bias against Mac because of perceptions not reality.
- If you had a superpower what would it be?
Oh man, this is awesome! I’m a superfreak about these things. Atomkinesis? Nah. Precognition? So Close. Super Strength? C’mon, now! Invisibility? Creepy! Ok, what I want more than anything is Power Mimicry. I want the power to grow from everyone I cross paths with in life. I suppose that is cheating but I prefer to think of it as collaboration
- If you could change one thing in education, what would it be?
Happiness and Smiles. I want the spirit of schools to be such that everyone is happy and smiling. If everyone was happy and smiling, I’d know that engagement, passion, interests, agency, agility, human-centered, loving, and living were alive and well. I’d know that education wouldn’t be about just content and skills but mindsets, dispositions, and experiences. When I look at educational leadership, I’m worried. I see hyper-standardization. I see a focus on the mundane and trivial. I see a landing mindset that fears changes, fears risk-taking, and fears innovation. No one is smiling in that type of environment.
11 Folks I Nominate
I’m nominating a few educators that recently followed me on Twitter that have blogs and a few from our district that have blogs. I thought this would be a good chance for me to get to know them and build our connection together!
- Zach MacIntosh
- Michelle Mattson
- Dr. Reshan Richards
- Tom Whyte
- Jessica Roby
- Scott Glass
- Joan Gallagher-Bolos
- Afrodite Skaouris
- Brian Whalen
- Karen Geddeis
- GBN Library
11 Questions I’d Like the Nominees to Answer
- What is your favorite color crayon?
- What is your favorite children’s literature book?
- What is your favorite video game ever?
- Do you “believe” in the big guy wearing the red suit?
- What song would I catch you singing during your commute and What type of music are on your first three presets in the car?
- What moment did you bust up laughing with students even though you probably should have kept a straight face?
- Are you a breakfast, lunch, or dinner person? You’re staring at your last meal – whatcha having?
- What one literary figure is most like you?
- How do you keep the spirit of a child and play alive for yourself?
- What is one thing currently disturbing you in education and how are you actively trying to change it?
- If you could do an educator exchange for a week, what school would you like to join for a week and why?
Why did the concept of the open classroom from 1970s ultimately fail in most schools? While various reasons exist, one could argue that the number one reason was the failure to evolve instructional practices and the learner experience.
Today’s open classroom is the 1:1 learning environment.
It makes perfect sense. It is quite possibly one of if not the most disruptive, beneficial movement for schools. However, it is destined to follow the same pathway of the open classroom if the learner experience and subsequent instructional practices don’t evolve.
Ultimately, it is this simple. And the easiest way to gauge whether you’re on a path to success (evolving and reshaping the learning experience and our practices) or a path to failure (holding on and preserving the past experience and practices) is to identify the themes emerging from conversations within the school.
Are themes emerging from conversations…
- rooted in the disruptions?
- rooted in what is disturbing?
- rooted in what is scary possible?
- rooted in understanding implications and thoughtfully considering what is the best path?
- rooted in how to improve and grow the movement?
Are themes emerging from conversations…
- rooted in the frustrations?
- rooted in what is wrong?
- rooted in what is lost?
- rooted in defending what was in place and strategically defending what maintains the past?
- rooted in how to change and alter the movement?
Listen… Listen closely.
I’ve been an advocate from the beginning that it is about learning and the learner experience first with instruction and technology following. It long concerned me that the “what” of technology was the first point over the “why” of learning.
But I’ve also grown to understand that technology first has its place, too. In particular, pedagogy first often leads to reproduction of the same learning experience. What is sometimes needed most is a focus on play, exploration, and experimentation.
We talk about the importance of these things especially play, but then we fail to encourage it when we put all the focus away from just toying around with one of the most playful things available to us: technology.
This also applies to students. If you want to see students play, explore, and experiment, place a new piece of technology into their hands without restrictions or expectations. Let them talk about what could be done with it.
My point is that the majority of time I believe that it is about learning and the learner experience. However, it isn’t either/or. We need to honor what we preach in terms of play. We need to understand that experimentation can often open the doors to rethinking learning, broaden our horizons on what perhaps we were limiting when focused elsewhere.
- Provide greater access to the Internet and mobile devices
- Encourage greater participation on the Internet
- Focus on greater learner empowerment
The first two focus on leveraging the Internet for learning independent of time, space, and place. In many ways, those two items speak directly to the value of the Chromebook should one agree with those within their vision.
The third has many layers but the following quote from Cator illuminates her focus on empowerment:
students must acquire the knowledge, competencies and skills that prepare them to continually learn new skills for a future we cannot predict. This can only be achieved by leveraging technology in learning.
This is about the learning process and a learner-centered experience. To get here, we run smack into the problems that have long prevented this change with or without technology: belief that teaching and learning are synonymous, focus on a bloated curriculum, and ties to skills and content over skills, mindsets, dispositions, and experiences, etc.
The first two are challenging but are solvable with creative and thoughtful looks at local roadblocks. The third is simply a long-standing problem that we’ve never been able to tackle. How do we get there?
Last night, there was an educational chat focused on the topic of digital leadership. While I normally don’t engage in these chats because of message depth and translation, I was intrigued why there was a need to add a modifier in front of leadership.
In particular, I wanted to see if this was a new framework for leadership.
But it wasn’t. Tweet after tweet, it was obvious that what educators described was the qualities of leadership desired in school (perhaps any organization). There was no need for “digital” at least from my perspective so I asked: If a non-digital leaders did and had all these traits tweeted about, would they not be a leader of great value? Help me understand the “digital”.
But there was no understanding the digital. It provided no new framework. It offered no new insights. It created no new traits.
I don’t know why this discussion disturbed me so much, but I’m left wrestling with this notion of digital leadership as either some valuable model I don’t get or a marketing concept meant to offer opportunities more than move education forward.
I’m thinking the latter.