Lessons Learned

Instructional Technology - International Education - Wellness

Tag: Leadership

How Can We Help Teachers Take More Risks in their Teaching?

John Mikton will join Jeff and myself to talk about this question on the Shifting Our Schools podcast taking place tonight. To start answering this question, I think the obvious starting point is to work with teachers individually to ask them what needs to happen to help them try new ideas in their teaching and learning. I don’t see large workshops or sending folks to conferences as the starting point to help build a culture of risk-taking. Large scale PD efforts can provide models of shifted practices and get folks excited to try new things but it still comes back to each teacher in his/her classroom trying new ideas in their teaching. I think it is helpful to talk to teachers a few weeks after returning from a conference to see how things are going in trying some of the practices they saw at the conference. Many times they haven’t acted on their excitement of learning new approaches due to barriers in their schools.

We know the list of barriers that often affect teachers in many ways not just in not taking risks (i.e., not enough time, too much to cover in the curriculum, assigned tasks that don’t support student learning, parent expectations, etc.). Experience tells me that by talking with individual teachers, finding practices they are confident in using in their classrooms and then asking what they see as interesting in other classrooms or in their professional reading, we as learning specialists (instructional technologists, librarians, learning support, GATE facilitators, curriculum coordinators, etc.) can then help them take small first steps to try new things starting within their area of comfort.

One theme that runs through many of our podcasts about shifting practices and schools is leadership. While learning specialists can make a huge difference in supporting teachers and learning in the classroom, it is our administrators who can really help push the shift by modeling risk-taking by setting a tone for the school that trying new ideas is expected. By communicating to the larger community through a variety of communication avenues (e.g., blogs, email, Twitter, various presentations tools in parent meetings, etc.), the administrator takes risks with new technology while inviting parents to understand and expect risk taking as part of the school culture. Celebration of teachers and students taking risks should be central to the shift in culture. While much of the focus will be on successful risk taking, we cannot forget to highlight the times when the results didn’t quite work out and learning took place. 🙂

If we work with individuals while having the community as a whole assess the nature of our current school culture, we can gather the information needed to create an action plan to build a climate that supports risk-taking. While this process might take some time, if we start right away having our learning specialists work with teachers to share their opinions about barriers and needed actions for support while having our administrators lead by example, we can start helping educators take more risks in their teaching.

How to Infuse Information Literacy Skills Across the Curriculum? SOS Episode 16

We really have three essential questions for this show:

  • How to infuse information literacy skills across the curriculum?
  • Where does the use of technology fit into the information literacy picture?
  • How does a modern library media specialist fit into the shifting process?

The possible answers to these questions start with the library media specialist trained in using digital information tools as well as generative technologies for student sharing of their research. This individual is a leader in his/her school working with the instructional technologist as designers and collaborators in the curriculum review process to embed the various information & communication literacy (ICL) skills throughout the curriculum.

What Stalls the Shift?

Three administrators will join us for our June 12th Shifting Our Schools podcast. We will be seeking to understand why from a leadership position it seems so difficult to shift our schools.  Rick Pierce, Educational consultant, Andy Torris from Shanghai American School and Struan Robinson from International School Bangkok will be our guests.

As I am not an administrator, I am not in a position to comment on this topic from a admin point of view. While Jeff and I have commented numerous times on what is needed to help schools shift, our number one conclusion is that administrators must lead the effort.

I really am looking forward to hearing what Andy and Struan have to say and how Rick might respond. Rick has been working with the leaders of my school, Hsinchu International School, over the past year and a half. Rick’s background as a professor at Penn State University and as an administrator at the Milton Hershey School puts him in position of really understanding how to bring about change and the transition process that follows it.

Rick points out that schools often put their energy into coming up with new programs leading to change but the do not think very much about and plan for the long transition that follows the initial change. The first season of our SOS podcast ends with this very important discussion. It should be a very good one.

Your Standards or Mine?

Chris O’Neal will join us this Monday for the SOS podcast. We will be discussing the Essential Question of whether or not we need standards for technology as a subject area. If technology integration is the process of finding of ways where technology can help teachers of math, science, music, etc. reach their own subject area standards, then the answer seems pretty clear.

Thus, on first glance, it doesn’t seem that we need standards for technology. Yet, we need to ask ourselves where are we hoping the technology will take us? As we speak about in our the SOS podcast, we want our schools to shift from a 20th century learning focus to what EduBloggers term “21st Century Learning”.

It is these 21st century learning skills that do need standards and benchmarks that just like the technology, need to be integrated in all curriculum areas of our schools.

Three years ago we went through the process of reviewing and defining our technology standards at my old school of HKIS. A team of teachers, instructional technologists, librarians and administrators from the start looked at learning and not technology tools to drive our committee work. After months of research and discussion, we came up with the “Information and Communication Literacy” standards and benchmarks that focused as the name implies totally on the handling and communication of various forms of information.

What really drove home the point that technology is just a tool to support learning is that we didn’t spend one moment in standard creation or the dreaded wordsmithing. We simply adopted the very forward thinking “Academic” standards and benchmark that another committee had previously created! They already had begun the process of bringing 21st century thinking skills into our curriculum by making them the learning outcomes for all our academic efforts.

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