Sunday, July 13, 2008

Finding the Path

A_path (Cross posted to LeaderTalk)
The path to understanding and change. This is a personal journey but one that has been formed by the many people who form my personal leaning network. In the discussion surrounding NECC08 one of the things that people have talked about is how this NECC may have been different from the last. NECC is different each year because we are different having journeyed, grown, changed over the course of the year. In reflecting on this reality for myself , in thinking about about leadership and learning, I have had cause to think about my journey, my perceptions and the ongoing act of transformation.

A vision is shared,

connections and exploration begin,

a personal vision is developed,

a shared vision is built,

learning about tools, connections, and possibilities,

exploration/ practice begins,

reflection on practice leads to reflection on pedagogy,

establishing big picture goals for student learning

and knowing where to find the tools to help achieve your goals,

Obviously this is not solely a linear process but it does summarize my journey and the journey for our school. (The highlights represent our current focus.)

The first agent of change I encountered almost 4 years ago was Alan November. At NECC this year I attended his session "Designing Rigorous and Globally Connected Assignments". The ideas were not new but their value lay in how they embrace the big picture and they serve as a waypoint to evaluate your course of action. Alan always touches on the fundamentals like using country codes and other tricks of good searching and some basic tools ( a concept I will comeback too) but the heart of it all for me was in the following three statements.
  • Give the children problems to solve.
  • Rewrite the job description of learners.
  • We need more voices teaching

What impact does this have on my planning for next year? What do I need to do?

First, I need to know where my staff is with regard to the journey. I was fortunate to take 4 people with me to NECC and we will debrief tomorrow night and talk about where we are and where we perceive our colleagues are with this journey. The tools discussion also fits in here. What are the essential tools? We are re -imaging all the computers in the school with a basic tool box to ensure everyone has access to what they might need and to ensure some platform uniformity. We will include Google docs and open office, picassa for basic photo editing, skype, photostory3, Google notebook, diigo, audacity, Google reader, google earth, voicethread, primaryaccess one of the mindmap programs, wetpaint wiki and learnerblogs. The emphasis is on ubiquitous access to tools but it is driven by the pedagogy that says that learners need access to information, collaboration, global connectivity and the ability to be content creators.

With regard to Alan's statements particularly the middle concept that we need to rewrite the job description of learners I am thrown back into the whole discussion of how to be an agent of change. Chris Lehmann's NECC presentation on Understanding by Design (UbD) hit the nail squarely on the head because it addresses how we think about what we teach and what learning is all about. UbD will form the other part of our before school to do list. UbD is not a magic bullet but it is about thinking and planning and with each passing year I become more convinced that one of the reasons change is slow is because for the most part we plan like we always have, chapter by chapter, sticking in blogs and wikis or some other tool because we know we should but not because we are thinking differently or setting different goals. Once the school year starts and the busier we become we are more likely than ever to fall back into what is easy and comfortable. So starting our planing with the big picture and working with Ubd can change our thinking , our framework for learning and become a tool of change. At least that is what I am thinking.

The final piece I am going to strive for in the coming school year is to create an environment that values, supports and rewards risk takers.

So here are the questions: Tools are cool but what are the basic elements we really need? Personally and for your school -How did your journey unfold- Where are you and what is next? How can you rewrite the job description of learners? What agents of change are you putting into place for the coming year?

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Uploaded on January 21, 2007
by ionushi

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Patrick Higgins said...


The three statements you mention from Alan also resonated with me when I first heard him speak. Many of the conversations I've had in regard to what our new pedagogies that involve technology might look like primarily begin with the idea of changing the role of the learner in our classrooms. I tend to look at it as "educational outsourcing."

Next week, a team of administrators from my district and I are headed up to Boston for BLC. One of the things I hope to gain from this couple of days is some practical strategy for when I work with teachers. How do you change the role of learner? What's that look like in a classroom of 20 students?

To answer some of your questions that conclude the post, we are in the midst of change in certain pockets, but lost in others. Our next step is to do as you recommend: find the tools that really fit the basic needs of our students and teachers. We want reflection, therefore we are blogging; we want multi-modal outcomes, so we are introducing our students to podcasting and vodcasting (garageband is great for this), and we want our students to create networks, but we many options for that.

I am sure I'll have many questions after next week as well. Thanks for the post.

Barbara said...

Patrick...Have a great time in Boston...last year it was incredible! The sessions were great and the conversations outside even better! Clarence will be there so spend some time with him if you can!

We are just beginning to understand the pedagogy but tonight over dinner 5 of us came to some basic understandings of the kind of higher level thinking we want and how technology will help us get there.

We also discussed UbD and the kind of thinking it requires. I think in the process of redesigning our planning we will also begin to redefine learning.

I will look forward to reading about Boston!

Barbara said...

You might also want to read the comments on LeaderTalk. Some good conversation.

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