Monday, 16 January 2012

Happy New Year

Bold acrylic necklace
Hard to believe it is 2012. I recently read a couple of posts by Will Richardson asking the question, Are you an old school or a bold school? This post outlines the realities facing schools today and included:
Reality #1: It’s clearer than ever that the Web has fundamentally undermined the main premise upon which our schools and systems were built—namely, the assumption that access to teachers and information is scarce.
Reality #2: Despite the 180-degree shift that the Web represents, schools as we know them are not going away. Society, specifically the two-income family, would be hard-pressed to adjust to millions of school-aged kids staying home to take courses online.
Reality #3: Given all of that, schools and communities that are not undergoing a serious process of reinvention will find it difficult to remain relevant in an era of abundant personalization in learning, especially if passing the test is the ultimate goal...Sooner rather than later, therefore, we need to be asking the question, “What is our value in light of the challenges and opportunities that the Web now brings to education?”
In another post, Will gives a list of qualities that would be evident in a bold school:
1. Learning Centered - Everyone (adults, children) is a learner; learners have agency; emphasis on becoming a learner over becoming learned.

2. Questioning - Inquiry based; questions over answers

3. Authentic - School is real life; students and teachers do real work for real purposes.

4. Digital - Every learner (teacher and student) has a computer; technology is seamlessly integrated into the learning process; paperless

5. Connected - Learning is networked (as are learners) with the larger world; classrooms have “thin walls;” learning is anytime, anywhere, anyone.

6. Literate - Everyone meets the expectations of NCTE’s “21st Century Literacies”

7. Transparent - Learning and experiences around learning are shared with global audiences

8. Innovative - Teachers and students “poke the box;” Risk-taking is encouraged.

9. Provocative - Leaders educate and advocate for change in local, state and national venues.

This caused me to think about my school and our recent discussion about meeting the needs of all of the students in our building. We talked about putting faces to the names of the students we called "at-risk", we talked about doing work that made students comfortable even if that meant we were uncomfortable. Teachers had the opportunity to view the faces of each student they had identified as at-risk. Putting the faces to this group made a significant difference. These kids were people who deserved an excellent education in spite of their situation.

If we use this list as a guide, I know we can meet the needs of all of our students. Are we all learners in our building? We are becoming more comfortable in saying, "I don't know but I want to learn." In the silos of the past, admitting your "not knowing" would be tantamount to saying you "sucked as a teacher." We have to get past that. It is okay to not know. It is okay to search out an answer. Our collaborative teams are getting to the point of collaborative problem solving when there is a problem.

Are we questioning or still giving the answers? We are still working on this area. We find it hard to let students figure it out without our input. We still want to give solutions because it is quicker and we have a curriculum to cover. That change will come, I am sure as we experience the same from administration. I have to step back and let teachers solve problems instead of offering them an answer that I may have.

As for the rest of the list, we are a work in progress; to become digital, to provide authentic tasks, to become transparent in the global sense, to allow for innovation without worrying that first we have to cover the curriculum in the same way we always have and for all students to grow in literacy (including all of our students identified with a special need).

How do you lead this in your school?

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