To rethink and redesign learning for students, we as educators need to practice new ways of thinking and approaching challenges. A few weeks ago, I participated in a Design Thinking Bootcamp facilitated by Greg Bamford (@gregbamford), Carla Silver (@carla_r_silver) and Alyssa Gallagher (@am_gallagher) from Leadership and Design. Powerful learning stretches us beyond our boundaries, pushes us out of comfort zone, and leads us to new insights. This is exactly what I experienced. Here are my top five take-aways from the Design Thinking Bootcamp: Continue reading
One of the great things about the buffet table is that it offers so many tasty choices. We all have our own approach when wandering through the line. Some folks graze and nibble. Others fill their plates, sampling everything. If you’re like me, you go through the line once, then head back for seconds or even grab dessert.
Recently, I attended my first Google Apps for Education 1:1 Summit in Napa with a team of educators from my district. The event offered a cornucopia of delicious offerings for every palette. We came away with a lot of resources and tools to use in our classrooms. Shout outs to the edu-awesome EdTechTeam (@edtechteam), especially Mark Wagner (@markwagner) and Michael Wacker (@mwacker) as well as North Bay CUE Rockstar Extraordinaire, Sergio Villegas (@awesomecoachv) from Napa Learns for setting such an impressive table. Continue reading
I recently came across Tom Whitby’s insightful blog post, “Educator Fear and Discomfort.” His post provided me with some important perspective on how we approach integrating technology and learning.
Whitby highlights two counterproductive beliefs that stand in the way of fully integrating digital tools into the classroom: 1) that all kids are digital natives who know everything about technology and 2) that teachers cannot make mistakes in front of students. These beliefs coupled by a misguided notion that before a teachers can use technology with students they must know everything about the technology and all applications. Whitby correctly points out that this is simply impossible given the incredible pace of change.
The constant in education should be the learning and not the status quo. If society is moving to change at a rapid pace, then we need to develop in our children the skills and abilities to change as well, and that requires the same abilities in the educators who are charged with teaching our children.
Integrating digital tools into the learning process shifts “the learning dynamic for teachers and for students.” As he notes,”It requires a commitment to life long learning which goes beyond just the words.” In short, we must practice what preach.
He concludes by emphasizing that: “…we can better educate our students if we better educate their educators. We should never hold up our past as our children’s model for their future.”
Whitby’s post serves as an excellent reminder to educators who are focused on preparing children for their future, not our past. Our work toward this goal needs to be focused on the learning first, not the devices. And, more importantly, bringing new digital tools into the classroom must be guided by a commitment to creating the conditions that make it possible through training, support, collaboration and encouragement for educators.
What are some ways that we can create the conditions that make this kind of transformation in teaching and learning a reality for students and educators?
This morning I read a thought-provoking blog post by John Bernia, “The Landscape has Changed, the Skills are the Same.”
In his post, Bernia argues that what many refer to as “21st Century Skills” are really no different than the skills that successful people in the past have needed:
If Doc Brown and Marty McFly were here to fly you “Back to the Future,” and we arrived in 1955, the skills and habits of successful people would be identical to those which are now cited as 21st century skills. Leaders and innovators of the mid-20th century had to solve problems, communicate and work with others.
Bernia concludes that: “The skills are not new. The landscape, tools, pace and communication medium are.” He calls upon educators to change our strategies by embracing “the new landscape and tools” and remembering “that the skills that learners will need to succeed in the future are no different today than they were 58 years ago.”
His post really got me thinking about the essential skills and habits of mind that our students will need for their success and how they compare with those of the past. Are the skills really the same? Continue reading
I just finished reading Michael Fullan’s, Stratosphere. In this book, he outlines how: “the ideas embedded in the new technology, the new pedagogy, and the new change knowledge are converging to transform education for all” (p. 3). Fullan’s book resonates with a driving question I have grappled with in my own work. How do we create meaningful change throughout our system to truly innovate teaching and learning?
Fullan’s argument is something to consider as we work to make our schools and systems more responsive to the students we serve. In some ways, Fullan’s book treads familiar ground. In his earlier writing, Fullan has correctly warned that technology as the solution can be the “wrong driver” for school reform if it is not paired with “smart pedagogy.”
In Stratsophere, Fullan issues a similar warning. I agree with him. We should not mistake the tools for actual student learning. Using upgraded technology will not automatically transform pedagogy. Continue reading
Increasingly in the twenty-first century, what you know is far less important than what you can do with what you know. The interest in and ability to create new knowledge to solve new problems is the single most important skill that all students must master today. — Tony Wagner 
Problem solving has been identified as an essential skill for success in the 21st Century . I certainly agree. Problem solving is high on my list of essential outcomes we need to cultivate for students to be productive, engaged citizens. After all, we live in a world that is constantly changing. The challenges we face are complex, requiring a delicate balance between multiple, and often divergent, perspectives and competing needs. Who could dispute the self-evident fact that problem solving is a critical skill? It seems so straightforward. Or so I thought.