Posts tagged ‘Twitter’

No teacher left behind

I’ve often written that Twitter has been an invaluable professional learning tool for me. We have at our fingertips as Will Richardson says the ability to connect with two billion teachers and that presents unlimited opportunities for collaborative learning.

Educators like George Couros and Gary Stager also reflect that it isn’t the tool per se but how teachers use the tool to build, connect, learn, inspire, change etc.  For many teachers and leaders, social media is a brave new world and I believe that if teachers and leaders aren’t operating in this space, they will be left behind.

The danger is though that we make several assumptions about the professional use of social media: teachers have the skills to use social media and they actually see the benefit of using it.

Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills says that in order to build a great education system, teachers need not only to have access to the tools to develop 21st century skills but they must also recognise the importance of these skills.

The one thing we cannot do is assume that we don’t need to invest resources to up skill all teachers to use the tools effectively.

Certainly there is growing evidence of the positive impact social media use is having on teacher and student learning.  In 2011, Julie McCulloch, Ewan McIntosh and Tom Barrett authored a report called Tweeting for teachers: how can social media support teacher professional development?  The report identified a number of research studies linking the impact of professional social media use on teachers’ practice, attitudes and beliefs to improved student learning.

CEDP social media surveyA recent survey of 755 educators in the US revealed how they were connecting online.  We asked the same question recently of our staff to find out how and what social media tools they were using professionally.  The 650 responses provide us with a good snapshot of which tools and the frequency of use.

Three themes emerged from the feedback that needs to be addressed at a system level. These were training, culture/privacy and network access.  Perhaps these are universal challenges for many education systems.

The point to be made is that if we are serious about ensuring no child is left behind, we need to be just as serious about ensuring no teacher is left behind in a hyper-connected world.





Understanding discipline

I observed something interesting recently regarding a question I tweeted.  To provide some context, I read a blog post called the ‘Myth of Motivation‘.  The post contained a quote by Fred Bucy, former president of Texas Instruments who made this point:

What is effective in motivating people at one point in their careers will not be effective in motivating them later.  People’s values change, depending on what is happening in their personal lives as well as their success with their careers.  Therefore, one of the most important things that a leader must do is to continue to study how to be effective.  This takes discipline.  It is much easier to assume that what worked yesterday will work today, and this is simply not true.

As an educational leader, I thought the point about discipline to stay the course was compelling.  So I tweeted:  “is discipline the most important quality for becoming an effective school leader?”

I left out “self” from discipline because I was interested to see the responses.

Screen shot 2013-08-07 at 9.32.49 AM

If you asked a professional athlete, writer or business leader about discipline, it would be evident that self-discipline was what you were referring to.  It’s also a word that probably has positive associations in relation to achieving goals.

And yet, when used in the context of schooling, it more often than not implies something very different.  Discipline is grounded in an industrial model where the norm was to ‘control’ students and ‘manage’ staff.  It probably evokes negative feelings in many of us but it again illustrates the point I was making in the last blog post on the meaning of pedagogy and education.

Michael Fullan in his book ‘Six Secrets of Change‘ reflects on the importance of capacity building over judgmentalism.  It’s the paradigmatic shift from industrial to contemporary from process to people.

Fullan writes “the route to implementing change lies in building the capacity of teachers – their knowledge and their skills.  The opposite – and a big mistake – is if you convey a negative, pejorative tone.  A big mistake is to focus on accountability first and capacity building second.”

Richard Elmore who visited our diocese three years ago shared his long term goal.

Unfortunately the prevailing model of schooling, which views discipline pejoratively, is still the dominant model in many schools in many parts of the world.  We’re still looking at education through the lens of control and management.  Take for example, the first year teaching (secondary grades) course being offered by New Teacher Centre on Coursera.  The blurb says “establish and maintain behavioral expectations, implement classroom procedures and routines, and use instructional time effectively.”  I was shocked that the course promotes four low effect size strategies on discipline and only one high effect strategy on student learning.  Is this teaching by accountability or capacity building?

As members of professional teams, we find that our most authentic achievements grow out of a common vision, shared intentions and collaborative practices. We learn with and from each other, and we expect our colleagues to support and, where appropriate, to challenge us.

Often the highest expectations we have to deal with are the ones we place on ourselves.  That’s why it is so important to cultivate a reflective (self) culture where each of us takes the necessary time to stand back and re-balance our agenda so we can focus our energies on what really matters for our students, ourselves and our school communities.

It’s time we all started speaking the language of challenge and self-discipline.

It’s a small ‘virtual’ world

I’m not sure if you have had this experience, but the last thing I expected while travelling in Greece on a pilgrimage with Catholic Education colleagues was to be approached by two fellow Australians who recognised me from my Twitter profile.

A 21st century encounter with my colleagues developed through social networking.

It was a powerful moment to connect ‘face to face’ with people who had become my professional colleagues in a very 21st century kind of way. Social media is a phenomenon that’s here to stay and one that has made it possible to connect with people outside your physical sphere on a daily basis to share thinking, learning and ideas. This chance encounter helped me realise that the professional learning community we are a part of via Twitter or other online tools might feel mostly ‘virtual’ but it is real. It’s not just a world of ideas, it is a community of educators who share a common interest to improve learning and teaching. What we share online has the potential to encourage, inspire and stretch us to improve the work we do and the way we go about it.

Recently George Couros (@gcouros) wrote about the importance of using Twitter to not only share information, but to listen and to engage. He made the point that it’s not good enough for schools, organisations and businesses to just ‘be online’ and share information alone. They must listen to those they serve. If we don’t use the tools effectively to engage, to collaborate and participate in the conversation, we risk using a ‘Web 2.0 tool in a Web 1.0 way’ and never take full advantage of its capabilities. Online tools shouldn’t be used as a monologue stream, because the technology is designed for dialogue.

For myself, tools like Twitter and Bluyonder allow me to be part of a global professional learning community and is an opportunity to share my own ideas and engage with the ideas of others for my own professional improvement in the work I do as a system leader.

Bumping into my colleagues in Greece demonstrates the power of this online community and is a good reminder that what we share and do in the virtual world does have an impact in the physical world.

The next big thing

I think many people over forty have a problem with technology and the older you are the more technology seems difficult to understand. We always seem to be playing catch up as the NBT ( next big thing) hits the market. New and converging technologies appear and we often feel powerless in the face of the tsunami of technological innovation. We look at the shiny new device and note immediately that  it is smaller and much faster than its predecessors; does more things or claims; looks sexier and is relatively cheap. How can any of us keep up with this relentless innovation and development cycle?

Spare a thought then for schools.  They face an enormous challenge in providing the most appropriate technologies for students and teachers. The struggle to stay current is taxing and exhausting and the probability of poor decision making is high. For the past twenty years school leaders have struggled with the challenges of providing a range of ICT tools for their learning communities.

But is this where we should be focussing all of our energies?

Over the Christmas break, I read Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson. This is a warts and all account of his life and achievements and well worth the read. One thing really struck me though as I read the book and it was something that Jobs himself came to understand in the early part of this century. He had spent his entire life pushing the boundaries of technologies – the relentless quest to build a better computer and a successful company – Apple.

In early 2000 Jobs decided to delete the word “computers” from the company name because he realized that Apple was not in fact, a technology company, it was a “lifestyle” company. Apple technologies had begun to revolutionise the way people live work and play. iTunes, iPhoto. iMovie and most importantly iTunes were reshaping the music, movie and the publishing industries. The old ways were gone and vanished quickly. All the technology did was to enable this change to take place.

If you want further evidence of this seismic shift pay attention to car advertisements. You can now personalise your car, it can match your moods or the “other you” as one car company claims. The car is incidental, it is the lifestyle that is more important. Notice how other tech companies like Apple and ACER are dropping the direct reference to computers in their names. The technology has become invisible – it’s how you use it that is significant.

And the ones who really understand the shift that has taken place are young people. Technology has allowed them to live their lives very differently to previous generations.  Technology allows them to express who they are, how they learn and how they communicate.

Before the arrival of Facebook, Twitter and IM, school was the place to socialise while learning.  What is school to young people today, does it offer the same level of opportunities and engagement for self-expression and independent learning?  Do young people see school as an integral part of their lives or is there an alternative? And is school just another aspect of their lifestyle?

As we prepare for another school year, perhaps we need to be thinking about making schooling the next big thing for today’s learners.

The change gap

Last week I attended a “learning and leading conversations” workshop at Ravenswood School for Girls with Canadian educator George Couros. George and his brother Alec have developed a significant professional learning network on Twitter and it was good to see the physical and virtual connections converging.  The more this happens, the greater the drive for principals and teachers to become a part of it and learn from it.  George shared this open letter to educators – very Bueller-esque.

We spent the day working in groups on some of the big questions such as what would we change about schools/classrooms? There wouldn’t have been anyone in the room who wasn’t convinced that schooling needs to change.  But in my experience, it often falls over in the next stage when people go back as lone change agents.

This is the change gap. Too often the “change gap” terrifies people and they respond with inertia or take the first up solution.  I see the change gap as a great opportunity to focus discussion and collaboration. I think this is why Twitter and other social networking tools are becoming a critical part of teachers’ learning. The change gap could become our wikipedia experience.  A place where we invite the wisdom of the community to help us work through the complex processes of schooling. It will also help build a culture that says we’ll find ways forward when we listen to the voices around the education table be it here or around the world.

A sign of the time

Thomas L Friedman, author and columnist for the New York Times was in Sydney last week for a ‘dialogue on global trends’.  He has co-authored a  book  That Used to Be Us to be published soon.

In it, he identifies four major challenges for the US, which I believe are also applicable to Australia. These are adjusting to the IT revolution, adjusting to globalisation, managing chronic deficits and energy and climate.

As always, Friedman makes some astute observations about
our world and America’s response to the rapid changes.
When he wrote The World is Flat in 2004, there was no
hint of Facebook, Twitter or the Cloud.  Friedman says
today’s world is no longer connected but hyper-

Friedman contends that one of the solutions to the challenges facing America is education.  Not the same industrial model of schooling where being average was OK but an education that strives for above average.  According to Friedman, the age of average is over in this hyper-connected world of two billion aspiring citizens.

Technology has done many things including expanding the pool of employees. Employers can now select from a pool of above average candidates.  Last year, there were seven million university graduates in China.  What will separate
them from the university graduates from Australia, America or Singapore?   Their schooling experience.  The prosperity of nations will depend according to Dan Pink on how well we develop our right brain aptitudes – critical thinking, creativity, empathy, story telling etc.  The very things that education systems like ours haven’t made a priority.

According to Friedman, the countries that will succeed in a hyper-connected world are the ones he refers to as HIE – high imagination enabling countries.  Everything in our global economy is a commodity except, he says, ideas.  Ideas and innovation can’t be outsourced or automated – it is the new currency.

This and future generations of learners will be tasked with solving our global challenges.  Challenges that our generation hasn’t been able to find creative solutions to.  If active citizenship is one of the greatest responsibilities of today’s learners, then ours is to re-imagine schooling.  It demands a courageous cultural and intellectual shift in the face of competing narratives and ideologies.

When we look back at our education systems in 10,15 or 20 years, will we say that used to be us or will we have responded imaginatively to the signs of the times? No matter where you go in the world the story is the same. The answers to what we need to do with schooling lies in the future and the decisions we make today.

There is no better example of this than what is unfolding in the US. Policy paralysis is the norm in Congress as both sides of politics refuse to understand that the game has changed. No longer can you defend a position on ideological grounds and maintain existing positions ie find the solutions they need to address the economic crisis they face.

While they show a singular lack of leadership, education policy stagnates and denies them the very thing they now need – an innovative, creative and imaginative schooling system with graduates who can both re-imagine and rethink the solutions to tomorrow’s challenge.

Listen to Friedman or ignore him at your peril!

Twitter value

There’s a good article in the June edition of Harvard Business Review on the ‘Six Ways to Find Value in Twitter’s Noise.’ Although written for marketers, I thought how, with a few edits, these rules are just as relevant to educators.  My edits in blue.

1. Learn about the competitive landscape What are fellow educators/thinkers doing, saying and reading?

2. Look for unexpected themes What are the nascent ideas?

3. Dig deeper into the stream What discussions are happening in other learning networks?

4. Look for user experiences  Learn from collective practice and wisdom

5. Learn why negative words are coming up What are the barriers/challenges all educators face?

6. Learn about conversation dominators  How are educators engaging students – what tools are they using; what is informing their practice?