In my previous post, I outlined the initiative my school division is currently involved in; Innovative Teaching and Learning with George Couros. As the lead on this project, I have been lucky enough to take part in each session. George regularly refers to the “8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom”. He also references this document as something to aim for in “8 Things to Look for in Today’s Professional Learning”. It struck me just how many of these concepts George does hit the mark on in his sessions. What also became apparent is the potential impact asking our Innovative Teaching and Learning Leaders (ITLL’s) to blog about their experiences could be. Voice, choice, time for reflection, connected learning, critical thinking…blogging is a powerful tool for sharing, collaborating, and moving forward.
As I reflect on the ten days George has spent with us in WSD so far, many big ideas, thoughts and reflections continuously resonate for me. Taking part in so many days facilitated by George Couros is truly a gift. Many of my takeaways are more reaffirming than novel, and very much reflective of many of my strong beliefs as an educator. Others are big, powerful ideas George has brought forth that so ring true for me and I keep coming back to.
So, if I am asking others to blog about their experiences in the work we are doing around innovation, it seems only logical that I too should share my own. Here a few of my own reflections, based on our sessions, summarized below…
- In order for change to happen you need to “Disrupt your routine”. We need to put ourselves out there. Try new things. Be risk takers. But we also need to be realistic and strategic in the initiatives and things we attempt. As George would say, “To start- change one thing, not everything.” Change is inevitable, productive and needed. To quote Grace Hopper, “The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘we’ve always done it this way.”
- We can’t look at innovation as yet, another initiative. It is not. Nor is the notion of innovation a new one. Instead innovation is a lens, through which we should look at all and everything we do. Just because something is new that does not mean it is better. WSD defines Innovation as: creating new and improved ways of thinking and doing that inspire and empower learners. The keyword is improved or better. We need to make sure our intentions for learners are always clear and we are not making change just for sake of change.
- In developing a culture of innovation there is nothing more important than relationships. In order to support our learners in being the best they can be, we need to ensure that they know we value them, we trust them and they matter.
- It is our job as educators to not only engage our students but empower them. The traditional school system that many of us went through as children was heavily driven by compliance. Moving forward in todays’ world, our students need more. As educators, we can no longer use the model of “teacher as the holder of all knowledge”. We need to move beyond solely fact based instruction, and give our students frequent opportunities to problem solve, work collaboratively, think critically and creatively. Our students need to be They need a voice. They need ownership of their own learning. This involves having some choice, in what they learn, how they learn and the methods of sharing their learning. This does not mean ignoring curriculum, it means rethinking curriculum in ways that are both engaging and empowering for our learners. This does not mean we are “moving away from the basics”. Literacy and Numeracy are the foundation of what we do, but they cannot be all that we do. George shares this quote from Yong Zhao which sums this up nicely “ Reading and writing should be the floor, not the ceiling”. Check out this blog post on The Principal of Change, “Learning Before You Innovate”, which explores this topic further.
- It is a dynamic, every changing, world we live in. As schools, we have a responsibility to help prepare our learners for the world in every way we can, which includes educating them to be not only good “digital citizens” but “digital leaders”. We need to move away from the concept of “computer time” and “digital citizenship training”, to integrated, authentic, in-context learning opportunities for students to use technology tools and learn about the responsibilities that come along with doing so in meaningful ways. We need to educate our students about the importance and necessity of developing a positive digital footprint in today’s world.
- Today, our learners have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Technology can be an invaluable tool for learning. However, it is essential that we support our students in their work, to not only be consumers of content and information but to also be creators. It is through the act of creating that we can truly get a sense of who our students are as learners. It is through the process of creating we can truly see our students’ skills, talents, strengths, interests and passions. In recent times in education, it seems conversations are all to often data driven, and deficit focused. We hear talks of intervention, response and how we are going to “fix” things. By focusing on empowering students and giving them choice and opportunity to create, make, do, think, invent, and design we have the opportunity to shift to a more strengths based model. Students who feel successful, and empowered are more likely to have continued success in school overall. Check out my past blog post entitled, “Students as Creative Producers” for further exploration of this topic.
- One of the most powerful things we can do for our students and for our self as a learner is to become a connected educator. Developing a professional learning network through a social media platform such as Twitter is an invaluable opportunity for an educator to gain new insights & understandings, and make new connections with like minded teachers. It is a chance to connect your classroom with others around the world. It is also a chance to connect to your families in a way that changes conversations at home and encourages community, sharing and celebration. Being networked as an educator, whether it be through Twitter, Instagram, Voxer, Skype or blogging etc. is a game changer. It opens the door to new opportunities and our minds to new possibilities.