Saturday, February 22, 2014

Are We Ready for Education 3.0?

Today I had the pleasure of attending a symposium at the SFU-Downtown campus. The title of the symposium was "Moving Educational Technology from Enhancement to Transformation". In the lead-up to today's symposium we all read an article by James Paul Gee titled, "Digital Media & Learning: A Prospective Retrospective". One quote I'd like to reference from Gee's paper is:

"Businesses - but not yet schools - are asking their consumers to help them design and produce."

What Gee is getting at here is the fact that our current school system is still stuck in an old Web 1.0 world.  We haven't gotten to Web 2.0 where feedback from students is welcomed let alone a Web 3.0 world where students work WITH teachers to assist in co-creating curriculum and learning experiences.

"There is a crucial role of teachers as designers of experiences good for learning. As in a good video game, this is not 'anything goes' learning controlled by the learner (player) or 'do what you are told learning' controlled by the teacher (game designer). It is, rather, a mutual, collaborative, social act in which, nonetheless, there is an 'instructor', 'teacher', and 'designer', at least at the outset."

"Such learning is neither progressivist or traditional. It is what I have called 'post-progressive learning'. There are times where it builds connections, there are times when it blocks them, and there are times when it makes new ones. After all, the best learning is often a new game for a new day." 

Is our system ready to move towards an Education 3.0 model? Are we prepared to invite students to help design their own learning experiences within a safe and guided environment?

Where do we start?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"It's not where you are at now that matters or how you start rather than where you end up that should define you..."

The title of this blog post is actually a quote from a parent at our school. She sent me the following inspirational article about a Principal who was first a Janitor.

Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a janitor - a very important and respected part of any organization. To me, the point of this story is more about how we view ourselves in the present and how that view can change over time, or with the gentle encouragement of another.

This story reminds me that we are not defined by any ONE moment; rather, we evolve over time to reflect all of our experiences. We learn, we change, we move forward regardless of where we started.

This story reminds me that anything is possible for anyone...even me. Perhaps a "Principal" can aspire to...

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Two Mindsets

Earlier this week a parent at my school sent me the following link: to an article based on Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset.

A few years earlier I came across the same book at a workshop, purchased it and read it. I was so impressed with the optimistic theory that, along with a colleague, we provided Head Teachers in our School District with a copy of the same book.

We used the book, and the “growth mindset” philosophy, to guide discussions at future meetings.
On a personal note, the book really spoke to me about possibility. It reminded me that what we are today is a reflection of what we were and a foundation for what we are yet to become. The book and it’s philosophy reminds all of us that the road of life is a long one and that it IS possible to change, to evolve, to improve and to become anything we set our minds on.

This also applies to students. In fact, it may have greater impact on students than any other demographic group. Just because a student had a tough year; just because a student’s behaviour today is not ideal; just because a student is struggling with reading, writing, math, behaviour (or...fill in the blank) doesn’t mean they always have to. Much like mutual funds and stocks...past performance is not a guarantee of future performance and we need to keep this in mind with students as well. As much as we want to instill a “growth mindset” in our students, I think it’s equally important for educators to maintain a “growth mindset” on their behalf - believing that any student can achieve and evolve over time.

This book is about possibility. It’s about redemption, forgiveness and looking at “failure” as a learning experience, not an indictment.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What if we thought of schools as families?

A blog I like to visit from time-to-time is maintained by an American Teacher teaching in Finland - Taught by Finland. In this blog post titled, “What Do Finnish Teachers Think of Teacher Rankings?” Tim references a quote by Diane Ravitch which I have copied below. The title itself resonated with me...what if we thought of schools as families instead of ranking them? Good question.

“It seems to me that we [Americans] are thinking about children, teachers, and schools the same way we think about sports teams. In every league, there are winners and losers… What if we thought of schools as if they were akin to families? Then we would work to develop school cultures that are collaborative and supportive. We would make sure that those with the greatest needs got the resources they need. We would stop thinking of winners and losers (and ‘racing to the top’) and think instead about the full development of each human’s potential.”

Rankings make it difficult for students, teachers, and schools to function like families because it appears that some individuals are more deserving than others. If we thought about schools as families, we’d make sure that each "family member" would be treated with dignity and respect. No school, teacher, or student would ever be defined by a number.” -- Diane Ravitch

What if we focused less on competing and focused more on collaborating? What if we provided more support to those schools and families who needed it most? What if our funding models were based on needs rather than budget. I realize that some of this applies more to the situation in the U.S. than here in Canada, but I think there are lessons here for Canadians as well.

I’m wondering if we are beginning to leave the current phase of educational reform (a corporate model in my opinion) and moving more towards a community-based model of educational reform. In a community-based model teachers, students, parents and community stakeholders all come together to work collaboratively towards common goals.

This is not to suggest that data and accountability measures have no place - quite the contrary. The focus and purpose of those accountability measures however would be used for very different purposes: instead of being used to rank, compare, win and lose...they would be used to learn, share, innovate and problem-solve.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Children, Learning and Sleep

How can I help my child do better at school? This question is probably asked by most parents and the answers will most certainly vary greatly. Some will challenge their children to work harder while others might look to tutoring services or even a change in diet – all good options. Have you ever thought about looking at your child’s sleep patterns?

With how busy we all are it tends to be easier to cut back on sleep rather than cut back on other things. With today’s work schedules, homework assignments, sports and music practices and a host of other commitments, it’s often easier to sacrifice sleep than something else...but at what cost?
In reviewing some web sites lately, I came across the following statistics that you might find interesting:

  • “Sleep is an active, repetitive and reversible behaviour serving several different functions, such as repair and growth, learning or memory consolidation, and restorative processes: all these occur throughout the brain and the body.” (Curcio et al. 2006)

  • Small but constant deficits in sleep over time tend to have escalating and perhaps long-term effects on brain function.
  • Children with higher IQs -- in every age group studied -- slept longer.
  • For ADHD children, improvements in sleep dramatically improved peer relations and classroom performance.
  • Healthy sleep positively affects neurologic development and appears to be the right medicine for the prevention of many learning and behavioral problems.
  • About 69 percent of children 10 and under experience some type of sleep problem, according to the National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) 2004 Sleep in America poll.
  • How much sleep is appropriate for my child?
    • 3 - 5 years old: 10 - 12 hours
    • 5 - 12 years old: 10 - 12 hours
  • Watching television, movies, or video games close to bedtime may all contribute to a loss of sleep. Although we may feel and appear calm when enjoying these types of entertainment, our minds are excited.
  • Up to 24% of teenage students have reported that their grades dropped because of sleepiness. In addition, a study has shown that students who had grades of C, D, or E averaged 25 to 30 minutes less sleep per weeknight than their classmates who achieved A’s or B’s.
As you read these statistics please keep in mind that we all react differently and some people may require additional sleep while others can get by with a little less. The research on the importance of sleep is still evolving; however, the trends to this point are clear: we need more sleep and we need to take “sleep” more seriously. Sleep by and of itself may not improve your child’s report card letter grade from a “B” to an “A”, but, it won’t hurt, may improve their’s free to try!

Additional Resources:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Digital Addiction...

After reading a story on The Province web site about a two and a half year old child throwing a major tantrum because she couldn't use her iPAD it got me thinking about digital addiction. At first, the article got me thinking about how young is too young for regular technology use? But then I started to wonder about digital addiction at any age (think about how many couples you've seen sitting across from each other at a restaurant both staring into smartphones). Deciding on limits for "anything" can be very challenging - probably a decision ultimately best dealt with by individual families.

I attended a talk by Will Richardson recently who said, "We're in the middle of a significant change in education - and it's not optional". Will talks about integrating and leveraging technology in education to a far greater degree than it is now. I think it's safe to say that Will Richardson is a proponent of giving students increased access to technology for learning purposes. Having said that, he's also very quick to point out that when he's at home with his family they have two very strict rules - no technology at the dinner table and EVERYONE in the house powers down after 9:00 pm.

Will also warned that not everything about the future use of technology will be good - that can be said about most technological revolutions; but, that doesn't mean it isn't going to continue happening and we, as adults, need to play an active role in shaping that future and guiding our children.
I think some of the most important skills our children will need are:

  • self-regulation - setting limits and teaching them that not everything in life comes instantly
  • critical thinking - the ability to decide what's appropriate and what is not. What's real and what isn't on the internet
  • social responsibility - the ability to communicate with others, to be empathetic and build and maintain healthy relationships
iPADS, smartphones and wearable technology are not going away. In fact they will continue to show up in places we can't currently imagine so we're going to have to find a way of dealing with this issue.

I'm not immune to it myself - I and my wife find ourselves in front of a screen for several hours every day and so does our daughter. One evening earlier this week I decided to try something new...I asked them both to join me for a walk outside in the dark. We walked for about a half-hour, talked about all kinds of stuff, got some exercise and had a GREAT time as a family (with no technology along for the ride).

Friday, October 11, 2013

Connecting in a 21st Century Environment

Our students (and children) are surrounded by technologies that were mere pipe dreams when I was a child. When I was a kid my parents often limited my television a parent I limit "screen time" because there are too many other forms of entertainment and distraction. Children live in a world that moves a million kilometers an hour - they can connect with friends and family in so many ways using the internet. I won't go on about all the ways new technologies have impacted our lives and the lives of children...much has already been written about that. I'm relieved that one thing hasn't changed - our need for human connection and attachment. 

"Every child requires someone in his or her life who is absolutely crazy about them." --Urie Bronfenbrenner

This fact was confirmed for me this morning when a Kindergarten student was brought to my office to celebrate his learning. He is new to Canada and is still learning English and his teacher wanted me to see how much progress he has made. 

When he came into the office I knelt down to meet him eye-to-eye and listen to what he had to say. He told me that he had learned how to say 30 new words and told me this English. His facial expression to this point was somewhat nondescript; however, once I gave him a high five & referred to him by name his facial expression changed completely. 

As he left my office with a teacher aid, I overheard her saying to him, "I can tell you're feeling happy!". 

Please don't misinterpret this post. I love technology and have several "screens" in my life that often distract me. However, it's nice to know that as much as things change, some things remain the same. Kids need to know that someone cares about them and what they do, they need to believe they have someone in their corner who will cheer for them when they succeed and support them when they don't.