Nov 01 2011

Hey You…Turn Around…See Things from Another Perspective!

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I have now watched the first half of the Students in the 21st Century Public Research University YouTube video a  few times.  There are so many recurring themes that pop up through the video from the various presenters.  Classrooms must become student centred, relationships are important, creativity is essential and equal opportunities are fundamental to the present world of education.

 My educational experience has primarily been spent in a high school, with a short (two and a half year) stint in the elementary where I entered the administration world.  Since coming back to the high school I have noticed the firm grip that teachers are using to hold onto the traditional education practices.  Unfortunately, the harder we try to hold on, the more likely we are to become dispensable.

A colleague that is very progressive in his thinking and technology based shared some information with me that he learned at a recent in-service.  He told me about the software that runs the Siri function within the new iPhone 4S.  This search engine that is uses is called Wolfram Alpha and it is mind blowing!  It has the capability of calculating the answers to and graphing complex mathematical functions.  This is the exact goal of most assignments in math classes.  How many hours are spent by students repeating the steps in order to write down the right answer to a math question?  How important are these steps if my phone can give me the answer within seconds?  The focus of the classroom has to change…

This is where the concept of the flipped classroom comes in.  The idea flips the traditional setting where the teacher relays a bunch of information to the students, then they have some work time followed by homework at home.  The flipped classroom would require the students to spend time at home preparing for tomorrow’s work time in the classroom.  There are thousands of resources available on the Internet to teach content and most students have the means to access them at home.  Some students may need supports from the school in order to view some of the materials.  Now, the class time can be used to work on assignments, network with classmates, create and problem solve new scenarios.  The time spent in school can be so much more productive in this model.

 A flipped classroom can address many of the core necessities of today’s 21st century learners.  Teachers need to use the resources available to maximize the authentic learning potential in the classroom.

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Oct 11 2011

How am I Managing to Become a Leader?

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I get caught in my personal management vs. leadership debate all the time.  I get frustrated at work with the amount of time I spend on management issues compared to the amount of time I spend on leadership issues.  However, I believe that I need to make a more conscious effort to further develop my leadership skills.

I have grown up believing that most decisions have a “right” or “wrong” answer.  I naturally focus on efficiency and effectiveness.  When I read Zampella’s (2004) paper, I was immediately drawn towards the diagram outlining management and leadership.  I agree with all of the “emergent thinking” descriptions of leadership, but I tend to default to the “current thinking” descriptions of management.

As I read the article, I realized why I have not followed through with a professional development plan I had for my school.  Over the past summer, I wanted to create an online PD location for our staff to discuss and post ideas.  I believe that the opportunity to share ideas and support them with media from the internet will help catapult my staff into the 21st century and model some methods that can be used in the classroom.  My issue was (is) finding the “right” online platform.  I have Twittered for advice on whether to use Ning or Edmodo.  I have Googled for information on the best educational PD tools.  I have spent a significant amount of time looking for the best platform to implement a good idea and in the end, my PD idea has remained an idea.

Gladwell (2009) writes about Howard Moskowitz’s revolution of the spaghetti sauce industry in the mid-1980’s.  At that time, the industry was focussed on cornering the market by discovering the recipe for the “perfect” tasting sauce.  Prego hired Moskowitz and his “plural nature of perfection” (pg. 37) philosophy of the food and drink business.  He discovered that there are several preferences when it comes to taste.  By 1990, Prego had produced three main flavours and today, the supermarket has dedicated an entire shelf to the many varieties of spaghetti sauce.

I am realizing that my desire for the “perfect” solution is the reason why I believe that I am a good manager.  However, the solution that I am looking for may not work for everyone in my building.  I need to provide my staff with a taste of the PD idea I have and let the format evolve in order to branch out to everyone.  The “plural nature of perfection” can also be applied to the educational world and the development of my leadership skills.

 

References:

Gladwell, M. (2009). What the Dog Saw. New York, NY: Back Bay Books.
Zampella, A.V. (2004). Rethinking Leadership in an Information Era.  Retrieved from Blackboard: Course Documents

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Sep 26 2011

Free Information…Come and get your Free Information…

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As an educational leader taking my masters, I often hear and read about “21st century learning”.  Prior to beginning my formal studies, I rarely heard of this futuristic philosophy of teaching.  I have always taken advantage of technology in my classroom and, at first, believed that I was on the cutting edge because of the TI-82 calculators and data projector that I used with my students.  However, I am now understanding that 21st century learning amongst the 21st century learners is more than just using 21st century devices.

This video made me realize a few things.  First, educators must stop requiring and rewarding the regurgitation of information.  Memorizing facts that can be accessed on an iPod is simply a waste of time.  Our students must be skilled in finding relevant information and patient enough to assess the source.  Creativity, critical thinking and problem solving are the skills that need to be encouraged in our classrooms on a regular basis.  Pink (2005) describes how the right-brained individuals will begin to dominate the economic world as we switch into the conceptual age from the information age.  It is important for educators to realize that the skills necessary in the 21st century workplace are much different than only ten years ago.

The next thing that I now realize is that I am a 21st century learner.  This is the first time I have ever used a blog to express my personal learning journey for the intent of feedback from people I have never met in a face-to-face environment.  I leaned about the evolution of “information” from a 20-something college drop-out on YouTube.  I am learning in an environment that is self-driven and does not involve a lecture.  Recently, I actually read a blog post about how a teacher used Angry Birds to teach physics.  These are crazy and exciting times to be a life-long learner!

Although these are exciting times, I do find challenges in the 21st learning philosophy as an educational leader.  I find it very difficult to get experienced teachers away from the fact and recall types of assessments.  Although I am not an ELA guy, I know that there is more to Romeo and Juliet than T/F questions and fill in the blanks.  I sometimes wonder if it is possible to transform teachers that are so engrained with the “information equals power” educational experience.

 

 

Reference:

Pink, D. (2005). A Whole New Mind. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

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