This is a story I think all educators need to hear. The question I wonder is, ‘Am I telling it in a way that they will listen?’
I told this story at BLC09 last week, and I’ll share some of my experience there before getting back to that question.
It is hard to describe a conference like Alan November’s Building Leadership Communities-BLC09. For me it is about so much more than just a wonderful opportunity to present, (thank you Alan), or going to fantastic sessions by great educational thinkers and leaders. It is more about down-to-earth conversations with great people. And as I share a few conversations, my greatest disappointment was having to leave early and not getting enough time to speak to all the wonderful educators that I wanted to. That said, here are some people that enriched my experience.
Liz B Davis gave me excellent feedback for the POD’s presentation: “I’d like to see concrete examples of POD’s being used in the classroom.” -Great point! That wasn’t the intent of my presentation, but it is something that needs to be shared. This is my second year connecting with Liz and Lisa Thumann in Boston and again they contributed greatly to my conference experience being a success. They are both educational leaders that are committed to helping other educators in countless ways.
At lunch with Darren Kuropatwa, David Jakes and Dennis Richards, during the pre-conference EdubloggerCon, I had a conversation where thoughts and ideas were challenged in meaningful ways. This was my introduction to David Jakes and I have to say that I’d love to spend more time with him. David is a thoughtful listener who asks challenging questions with the intent of having a deep conversation. Where this really showed was his willingness to have is own opinion changed by responses in the conversation. I’d swap any professional development experience for conversations like this.
During that lunch Darren spoke of how, while circulating the room and teaching, an administrator would come in and ask to speak to him. His response of ‘I’m teaching’ would be blown off because he wasn’t on stage at the front of the room… hmmm. I have been going back to the metaphor of teacher as compass a lot recently, and I think that needs to become a story. “Teachers need to let students steer- it will take a while for many teachers to give up the steering wheel and become the compass.” If we are helping to point the way, we may not be at the front of the class, (at the helm), but we are still playing an important role ‘on the ship’.
Another very interesting conversation at the conference was at dinner with Tom Daccord and Angela Maiers. We talked about telling a story… not just any story, but one that speaks to a teacher new to technology. It was an interesting conversation for me because the more I think about it, the more I realize that my Brave New World-Wide-Web video is one that seems to ‘speaks to the converted’. How do we tell a story that compels people to understand the need for a shift?
So what is the story that needs to be heard? How do we move from ‘One teacher at a time’ to a full-throttle shift on the educational highway?
I believe that metaphors and stories are compelling teachers and that we need a good story to shift education. “We need to change” is not a story, it is a warning. Warnings and foreshadowing are important within a story, but they are not the story. I think the story is about Responsibility while the current model seems stuck on Accountability. This isn’t my idea, it comes from Andy Hargreaves. I said in a previous post on Hargreave’s 4th Way, “The key here it to recognize that there is a coexistence between the two and that this isn’t a dichotomy, but rather a priority: “Responsibility before Accountability”. This is where schools and school districts have the greatest opportunity to change.” This is actually an easy story to tell because it puts students and teachers first… it recognizes the professionalism of educators and makes change a moral imperative. This is a story we need to adopt and tell well, otherwise the fear that Accountability promotes will prevail.
Both of my presentations at BLC spent time focusing on overcoming FEAR. I think the big difference between a ‘shifted’ educator, and one that sits in neutral letting the digital world speed by, is that technology does not scare the shifted.
What’s to fear? Here are some thoughts, but this list preaches to the converted, it isn’t the story needed.
1.”I have too much to teach” – Somehow the curriculum is just too expansive to ‘add this to my plate’ or to what needs to be done with (or should I say ‘to’) my students. ‘I can’t play with technology and be expected to get everything done’. Would the same be said about a pencil? Technology is a tool, not a product.
2. “I don’t get technology” – Do you know exactly how a photocopier works? No? But you use one… and when you get to the photocopier with a great lesson plan and the thing doesn’t work, you don’t say, “That’s it! I’m never using the photocopier again!” And yet, people try out something techie that fails and it is somehow evidence that technology is ‘bad’, or ‘I can’t do it!’
3. FAILURE – “I can’t because I will fail in front of the students”. We need to model humility and learn from our mistakes if we truly want to see that in our students. “If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake.” ~F. Wikzek
4. Control – This is a false sense of security that I don’t really get? Intuitively teachers know that when students take control of the learning, they soar! Yet, the idea of giving up the central teacher-focus in the room seems so scary to many teachers. There are some ingrained (are they learned?) misconceptions that hold a teacher back… a) Every kid needs to be on the same page so that I know that they have at least ‘this much’ understanding of the curriculum, (or stuff that’s on the next standardized test); b) A noisy classroom means that I’m not in control and therefore not a good teacher; c) Criteria is something done to students; d) Assessment is something done to student work.
Who owns the learning in the room? Who should?
5. “I don’t know how?” – A Grade 9 Math student gets over this hurdle even if they have never seen a quadratic equation before… but usually with help. So ask for help! Many tech integrators are tech evangelists. Contact me or any one of the educators I’ve already linked to. If they can’t help you, they’ll find someone that will. What we ‘get’ that people new to tech don’t is that there is no need to take this journey on your own. You have more help than you think, closer and more available than you think.
As I head off to China in less than two weeks, I’m thankful for people like Dennis and also Jeff Utecht who sincerely offer their assistance ‘any time’. So many more are there to help and I need only ask. What’s interesting about my move is, like Bryan Jackson says with reference to my leaving his school district, I’m “moving halfway around the world (while essentially residing in the same place).” Technology has really made distance and time a moot point in communication and learning. I have so many people to look to for help and inspiration, and I can’t wait to make the jump:
I hope that this new journey brings with it a story that I can share to help others on their journeys.
Thank you so much to everyone who came to my presentations. I hope that you found our hour together worthwhile.
Special thanks to my wife for doing so much to prep us for China while I was preparing for and spending time in Boston.
Thanks to Bob Sprankle for podcasting my presentation… great feedback for me to learn from. If you listen to this, the slideshow above does not include a link to the 5 Minute University that I included in the live presentation. Also, SlideShare editing credit goes to Sharon Elin who has the skill to be an editor for a major newspaper (and I’m talking about one that survives the next 5 years).
Last year John Davitt saved me, handing his computer over to me just before my presentation, this year Seth Bowers went running up to his room to get me speakers as my presentation was about to start.
And again, thanks so much to Alan November and the November Learning Team. I’m honoured to have been part of the conference for the past two years and for being part of the team in Louisiana.
And thank you to everyone who reads my blog! Your thoughts and feedback are appreciated!