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Creating a Vision for 21st Century Learning

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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.

5 Ways Leaders Can Promote Schoolwide Learning for Restructuring

 

Restructuring-22

Photo credit

“There is so much to learn…we need to be in a continuous learning mode.”       Fullan, 2013

Before taking a look at these the suggestions below, we must always be reminded about relationships, relationships, relationships! These 5 ways are built on a foundation of trust.  Relationships must continuously be nurtured and strengthened. Leaders and teachers must trust themselves in order to trust others. As Costa & Garmston (2002) state: “Self-trust is prerequisite to developing trusting relationships with others.”.  One way this can be developed is posted here and to help decide what balance leaders may need is posted here.

After considering the relationship piece, these 5 ways can help bring about innovation and learning that can translate in improved student learning.

1.Provide many opportunities to learn, explore and experience new knowledge and skills. Time to learn and experiment with colleagues can help change behaviours. Leaders need to plan to spend money for resources and to get creative with scheduling for on-going, embedded collaboration. Learning in community can change attitudes and beliefs that, ultimately, change behaviour and practices. Continued support for teachers along the way such as coaching is essential.

2.  Loose-tight leadership:  Change is messy.  Often we can end up with pockets of innovative teaching and the entire staff is at different places in the journey. To develop consistency in all classrooms, leaders can decide on areas that they are willing to be “loose” on and areas that they need to be “tight”on (Dufour, 1998). For example,  the school’s collectively agreed upon mission/vision must be a “tight” area.  Any decision is based on the question: Does it align with our mission/vision/values & beliefs? The areas that leaders can consider to be “loose” with are areas of discovery and exploration of new pedagogy/resources/tools. Other examples might be “tight” with the guidelines of digital citizenship & “loose” on finding innovative ways to teach it.  Once exploration has been done by the early adopters, then a collective decision can be made as a staff on some common practices/best pedagogy for the school.  This can create effective learning environments for students year after year with common language and effective pedagogy.

3.  Honor where people are at, provide generous support and remove barriers. In this  article by Schlechty (1993), he describes five roles people play in the change process and how they can be supported. He also defines the difference between school improvement and restructuring which is significant for where educational change is at currently and continuing to go.

4.  Develop teacher capacity to create teacher leaders by “making learning personal” (Bray, 2012) not just for students but for teachers too. Change is personal! Leaders can personalize learning by providing training and resources for self-improvement that is meaningful (see first paragraph above) and, by providing high-quality professional development at every staff meeting–directly and indirectly.  Directly meaning on-going PD during a portion of your staff meeting day. Indirectly meaning embedding the learning in everyday things.  For example, if the goal is to help staff learn about a highly effective strategy or tool, then use it in a meaningful way during your meeting. Something as simple as putting the staff meeting agenda in Google Docs and staff using mobile devices to see the agenda to follow the links will go a long way in staff learning.

5. On-going reflective practice that includes individual and school wide reflection. To keep reflection at the forefront, provide opportunity for personal reflection time during staff development time, develop reflection mechanisms for professional learning communities and, implement activities during professional development days to reflect as a whole staff. Promoting reflection at all stages of organizational change will assist in riding through the implementation dip. A great resource for individual and school wide reflective practice is here.

In what other ways can leaders lead successful restructuring?

My “TweetBites” from #ATLE

I’m looking back at my tweets from the fantastic ATLE 2011 conference last week.  The great thing about Twitter at a conference is that it is collective note taking.  You are left with all of the information & ideas that resonated with you as well as from other people. My learning is also reinforced by tweeting key points in the session or just reading what others tweet in the hashtag stream. Here are some “Tweetbites” from the three engaging keynote sessions: Scott Kinney from Discovery Education, Stephanie Hamilton from Apple and Michael Furdyk from TakingITGlobal.

Scott Kinney:

  • Why digital? interact with content differently, access to current & relevant content,  to meet the needs of all learners
  • Retention and speed of learning increases with digital media
  • Digital  media reaches students in many different ways
  • Joe Non-Netbook Video
  • Students ages 8-18 spend 71/2 hrs interacting with media per day=101/2 hr of content intake

Stephanie Hamilton:

  • The learning needs to drive the technology not technology driving the learning
  • Does the physical environment match an effective environment for learning?
  • Our brains are naturally social. We need collaboration maximize learning
  • Learning environments need to be user/student centric
  • SAMR Model
  • SAMR: Substitution is when you have the technology but you don’t change the pedagogy
  • Schools need to focus on pedagogy not just the technology
  • Teachers become paralyzed when they don’t know what 21st century learning looks like
  • “Job of teachers today is to create the conditions for invention”- Seymour Papert
  • Schools need to be providers of context not content or schools will be irrelevant…Content is everywhere
  • Information can double 3 times in 1 class period
  • Great book about change: Switch
  • Students want school to be less boring, real world application, interact with media and they want more choice!
  • Students don’t want to be the receivers, they want to be part of creating

Michael Furdyk:

  • Real world application for students
  • Giving kids voice throughout the world
  • TakingITGlobal actually giving voice to youth in changing the world. Powerful!

Don’t Forget the Management

                                         cc licensed  photo shared by Life Inspired Photography

There is a lot of literature out there about being a leader and the importance of leading not managing. This solid advice includes building trust and relationships but let’s not forget about the management of 21st century learning environments. I am not talking about making sure there is heat in the building…although heat is good.  I am talking about the structures that need to be in place for effective 21st century learning environments and the skills that go with developing and nurturing these environments.  Sometimes we don’t have the right balance of both and this can cause barriers in organizational/school/classroom change. This balance does not necessarily mean 50/50. At times, you may need 90% leadership and 10% management which could mean that you have not yet established solid trust and relationships and, therefore no learning will move forward for anyone in the organization/school/classroom. It could be 20% leadership and 80% management which may mean you have established trust and relationships and now it’s more about facilitating the teaching of skills and/or structure for effective learning. For example, when we think about 21st Century pedagogy which includes providing individual learning in a variety of formats for all children in a classroom, we think about how great that would be. I have not met an educator that did not agree with the fact that facilitating personal goals for all students and allowing for many choices in the learning process would be best for students. BUT…. where the resistance comes in is the “how”…how can that possibly be done? It’s the “how” of letting go of that control in an effective way.  Just the thought of following through with this kind of environment can be overwhelming and paralyzing for educators. However, if the management structures of the change are examined and broken down into manageable chunks then organizational/school/classroom change could be more successful.

Recently, @jimknight99 tweeted out about a book by Monty Roberts  that is a recommended read for instructional coaches. In this book Roberts (2001) writes about 0-10 learning. If all learning is from 0-10 then the 0-1 learning is building trust and relationships. If this 0-1 piece of the learning is not solid then no learning will happen. When I think about organizations/schools/classrooms, this is also true.  I would then add to this idea and say the 1-2 learning is managing this type of environment. This 1-2 piece includes explicitly modeling and teaching the routines and structures of the learning environment before the content. The 21st Century learning structure is new to many educators and students (unfortunately we have trained them in a traditional structure for years and the majority of them comply!).  Often this piece of professional development for educators is left out because we assume that educators can figure out how to manage this structure of learning for themselves once they change their pedagogy but, in fact, that is usually where they become paralyzed resulting in one of two things: end up going back to old ways or not feeling like they can be successful and do not even begin.
Think about your situation… What leadership/management balance do you
need to do for organization/school/classroom in order for effective change to
move forward?

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?