Blog Archives

Creating a Vision for 21st Century Learning

habit-2

from changingwinds.wordpress.com

To have a vision, one must begin with the end in mind. Stephen Covey states that the mental creation precedes the physical creation.

 

“All things are created twice. First the mental creation or plan;

second is the physical creation or work.  Highly effective people

clearly see the outcome they want in every area of life before they act.”

 

When trying to lead a school towards 21st century teaching and learning, it’s sometimes difficult to envision 21st Century learning when you have only experienced 20th century learning for your entire life. In order to develop the “mental creation”, exemplars and possibilities are needed.  This is where social media and other contemporary literacy tools come into play.

 

At the ATLE conference in 2010, Alec Couros offered a session on the Networked Educator (see diagram below).  He showed new and different ways to connect with people who were using technology in education.  This diagram showed many tools and resources that educators could tap into for professional development or ideas to try within a classroom or school.  By using these tools, educators could develop their skills and attitudes for 21st century learning.


the-networked-teacher

This diagram made a lot of sense to me so I decided to become a networked educator. Lurking on Twitter helped me to see changes towards 21st century learning. Then I started reading blogs such as Langwitches by Silvia Tolisano,  What Ed Said by Edna Sackson and The Wejr Board by Chris Wejr. By following key people on Twitter and by reading the experiences of other educators on their blogs, I started to form the mental creation of what a 21st century classroom and school could look like and sound like. When I started to share on Twitter and try different contemporary literacy tools, I began to feel the change. I started to change some of my 20th century behaviours to 21st century behaviours little by little. By changing some of my workflow behaviours for personal and professional reasons, I began to believe the change. By seeing, feeling and believing the change, this enabled me to have a clear vision of a 21st century classroom, school and educator.

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Why 7Habits?

Recently, I had another school approach me about the 7Habits initiative we have implemented at our school.  Some of the questions asked were “Why 7Habits?” and  “What makes it different from other character education programs?” My response involved going back to what my initial thoughts were when I first stumbled upon The Leader in Me book in Chapters one Saturday afternoon. After reading this book at that time, I knew it was different from programs that were known to me for the following reasons:

1. It Personally Develops All Stakeholders

The training process has a high level of personal reflection.  It’s not a “program” that train staff how to teach the 7Habits.  It’s a process that staff go through to reflect how they are living and can live by these timeless principles to improve relationships and productivity in their personal lives.  It also gives staff tools to deal with difficult situations personally and professionally, and above all, it helps people deal with change.  The biggest challenge that I have as an administrator is helping staff (and myself!) deal with change.  Everyone hates change because it’s uncomfortable. I have read many books about change (thank you Michael Fullan et al.) but it is very difficult to follow through as a whole group.  As a leader, it’s finding a balance between moving the organization forward and not overwhelming people. At that time, I believed that the 7Habits would help people in all areas of their life…not just professionally. The education profession can be very demanding on personal time.  This was one way to “give back” personally and, ultimately, when people are personally happy then it pays back tenfold professionally.  The staff are living the 7Habits and that in turn has made the learning more real and deep for the students and their families. It’s very powerful because staff have ownership

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2. It’s Sustainable

Another key feature is that it’s effectively sustainable due to the official and extensive training.  When administrators are trained as trainers then:

  • Whole staff can be officially trained in-house

  • On-going training can happen at every staff meeting to keep it in the forefront

  • New staff can be trained as they are hired

  • Parents and community members can also be trained to develop community  buy-in

Three years later, I’m reflecting upon this decision and I’m happy to report that it has made a difference!  How do I know?

  • Staff are walking the talk

  • Students are internalizing the habits and teaching it to their families

  • Parents report how their children are referring to the habits at home

  • Kids have the skills to lead conflict resolution on their own

  • School council request training

  • Staff have committed to high expectations aligned with our mission/vision and have made huge gains

  • We continue to to connect it to everything we do (i.e. digital citizenship)

It’s still going strong!  As a leader, I hope that it continues well after our team leaves.  That will be the ultimate indicator.

Making Connections: Ask yourself…

                      Flickr Photo: Press Factory Juggling Group by chamsin

As leaders, we often hear from our staff that we have “too many balls in the air” and we are just “adding one more thing to our plates”.  We need to listen to this feedback and recognize that we may have too many school goals or these goals might not align with what we really want to accomplish in regards to student learning.  When too many goals are in front of us or when goals do not align then staff will get overwhelmed and, as a result, feel like they do not do anything well or only skim the surface.

Part of being a leader is making strong connections and alignment between school goals and what staff is actively doing to move towards reaching those goals.  In the book The Leader in Me, Covey adds a visual on page 179 that resonated with me.  It is a picture of arrows pointing to stakeholder needs (student learning) and inside the arrows are things/actions that a school is doing such as mission, vision, strategies, etc.  Some arrows are pointing all in the same direction… some are not.

Alignment Diagram pg. 179, Covey, 2008

As a leader in your school, ask yourself:

If the things we do as a school are put into each arrow, would all of the arrows point towards improving student learning?

Do I, as a leader, develop and facilitate meaning processes to align school goals and actions?

Do some arrows need to be taken way because they do not align?

Are some arrows actually barriers that hinder student learning for the 21st century?

If our arrows do align, what can I do as a leader to help make connections for my staff?