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Feb 24, 2011
Comments Off on Leadership Questioned…

Leadership Questioned…

Just read a thought-provoking blog post about leadership in education today.  His blog post at Avoiding Cookie Cutter Syndrome really got me thinking about the nature of leadership in general.

It is perceived that leadership is connected with title.

It is perceived that “to make a real difference” you need to “move up”.

But what of the leaders who don’t have the fancy titles?

Derek Sivers, in his famous TED Talk, isolates the nature of leadership and talks about  the nature that it is often over-glorified.  Also, it is often the first follower who truly makes the difference, taking “the one lone nut and making him a leader.”

As Mr. Ballantyne suggests, the qualities that make someone a leader are not exclusive to those in positions of added responsibility, but I would suggest more often they are the silent risk-takers; only sometimes willing to open the door to their classroom knowing what they are doing is worth sharing.

I’d like to suggest that leaders are not always the gutsy ones. They are not always the loud and proud ones.

These are the educators that we need to nurture and we need to be their first followers.

These are the educators that will keep pushing the edububble, maybe even popping it.

I reflect often on the role I play in the education revolution.  Am I doing enough?  Am I rattling enough chains?  But maybe that isn’t the right tactic.  Maybe the right tactic of helping lead the change is through silent, patient change?

What’s my role in the leadership of the revolution?  Maybe it is in the education revolution where we redefine what it is to be a leader, maybe we start looking to those “lone nuts” more often, maybe we follow, rather than lead?

Many question, few answers.  Thanks Mr. Ballantyne for getting the questioning juices flowing…

Feb 24, 2011
Comments Off on Do We Deserve It?

Do We Deserve It?

Entitlement is an issue.

A BIG issue.

We’ve got a culture of people who wrongly believe they are entitled.

Teachers are just as bad as students in the entitlement game.

Do we deserve a group of students ready to learn?

Have we shown them in our past, heck in their past, that being ready to learn is going to work out for them.  Or have we repeatedly thrown them into a classroom, given them busy work and told them to believe us it is for their own good?

A former colleague of mine sent me a message, “Too many teachers feel they deserve kids’ respect, attention and energy. Yet, many of these students have spent too many days making very few decisions, having very little say and seeking representation. How long would it take before you recognize you can learn without school?  That you could inquire and seek relevant opportunities connected to your passion.  And we wonder why they are checking out.”

And so, rather than think about what teacher do or don’t deserve, the real question is simple:

What do students deserve every day?

and better still…

Do we live up to it?

Feb 22, 2011

What Learning Cycle Do You Teach?


If we forget to try or we get stuck in our failure, we do nothing.  If we try and fail, and celebrate being wrong we will learn and ultimately win.

The choice is easy.

Let’s celebrate failure, not shy away or complain about it.


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Feb 21, 2011
Comments Off on Gaming Classroom Culture

Gaming Classroom Culture

After having read, “Everything Bad is Good For You” by Steven Johnson a few thoughts jumped out that are directly related to how we teach and why kids game.

“We absorb stories, but we second-guess games.”

As an English teacher especially, this thought resonated.  We love our stories.  As teachers we often think, if we relate something to a story, if I can frame the story correctly, it will engage students.  Johnson is right; absorbing is not what where we are looking for our students to finish.  We want them to second-guess, become critical thinkers.  We want them to own the process of their learning. This only happens when we re-frame the story as a challenge/game/problem/question.  But it goes further than that…

Johnson says, “Better to have minds actively composing the soap opera of their own lives than zoning out in front of someone else’s.”

This is where personalized learning as the context for all learning is required.  We, too often, ask students to put their lives away and focus on our lives.  Our academically minded, subject-focused lives.  The ones we’ve planned, scripted, rehearsed and sometimes, done before.  It is a reminder that we must forget our plans and be willing to work with the lives the students bring to the room.

When it comes to gaming and integrated-game learning, Johnson says, “It’s not what you’re thinking about when you’re playing a game, it’s the way you’re thinking that matters.”

This is an especially important distinction.  This is the distinction that is needed.  Student engaging in video games are extremely rich, cognitively.  They use reasoning, logic, problem solving, creativity and many of the skills we want in our students.  Too often we see this play as frivolous. This is what we should want them to do.  Now it is the task of the teacher to frame games and frame learning in the same way.  To make it challenging, rewarding, skill-building, yet offer continuous feedback.

In the next little while, I’m trying to focus my cognitive faculties towards gaming culture.  Steven Johnson’s book was a great place to start.

How do we create a learning environment where the benefits of gaming structure are achieved?

Feb 10, 2011

Being Prepared to Not Be Prepared

In a classroom that is student-centered, what does it mean for the teacher to be prepared for class?

If students are the harbingers of learning that we/I promote them to be, the minute I rely on the lesson plan ideal, I’ve already lost sight of the ultimate autonomy of the student.  What does it look like to be prepared to not be prepared?

In a room with twenty students who are looking to make independent learning choices, which we want them to do, once they’ve embraced that control, what does preparation for class look like?

When we transform assessment and evaluation to an on-going constant feedback loop, rather than a one-time test/exam or even mandated assignments, a teacher’s time is spent purely on feedback preparation rather then lesson preparation.  This, I think, is a major shift.  Major.

If we change the dynamic of “handing in an assignment” to “taking an opportunity” doesn’t that change the nature of how a teacher prepares themselves for class.

As I’ve moved away from a classic teacher-centered classroom, these questions keep floating to the top of my head. How do you get ready for a period of completely messy independent student-centred learning?

Sep 12, 2010
Comments Off on Is it Time for a Revolution?

Is it Time for a Revolution?

As I was reading Dan Ariely’s book, “Predictably Irrational” this quote jumped out at me:
“We should probably first rethink school curricula, and link them in more obvious ways to social goals (elimination of poverty and crime, elevation of human rights, etc.), technological goals (boosting energy conservation, space exploration, nanotechnology, etc.), and medical goals (cures for cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc.) that we care about as a society. This way the students, teachers, and parents, might see the larger point in education and become more engaged and motivated about it. We should also work hard on making education a goal in itself…” (Ch. 4, 36)

This is one of the key pieces that we keep skipping over in many of our ideas and “high yield” strategies. We, as a group of professionals, continuously spin our wheels with new directives that fail to address the major issue. School is barely relevant. By turning the ship around and recognizing the social, ethical, and technological world that our students are living, we can engage them.

It is time that we tell our students the truth, writing an essay is not important. Being informed citizens, understanding how to argue effectively, how to stand up for your beliefs and how to attract an audience to your message (corporate or social), that is what is important. Yes, an essay can do that for you, however, so can YouTube, a well-executed Twitter update, a blog entry, a protest, a face-to-face discussion. Let’s stop pretending that the same assignments we have been doing are good enough. 

I think it is time to truly become a profession.

So, is it time for the revolution? Who’s in?

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