BLC Preparedness

In a few hours, myself and a team of administrators from my district will be boarding a plane for Boston to attend the Building Learning Communities conference.  If you are a somewhat regular reader of this blog, you may already know how often I reference Alan November’s ideas and what an influence he’s been on my practice.  When I pitched the idea for us to attend, way back in April, I didn’t anticipate all of the us going, but I am glad we are; it will be nice to see the reactions of my colleagues to some of the ideas that will be circulating.

The last few days have been interesting for me here.  On Saturday, I had the great opportunity to talk about new teacher induction programs with Steve Kimmi (the conversation was recorded and can be found on Steve’s blog or on the EdTechTalk site).  When Steve emailed me and gave me the list of topics that we might get to, it was a big one, and my preparations for the conversations led me to do some deeper thinking than I had done in a while–nothing like a deadline to get you motivated.  Steve’s idea was this:

We will be discussing how to prepare new teacher’s for today’s classroom and 21st century skills.  There are a lot of resources that attempt to define 21st century skills, so I will list the one’s that I am privy to.  However, this will also be discussed.

  • 21st Century Skills:
  • Digital Literacy
  • Global Awareness
  • Collaboration/Communication
  • Problem Solving/Inventive Thinking
  • So I knew I needed to formulate some ideas about them, and it coincided nicely with the direction I was heading in as we approached BLC.

    New Teachers and 21st Century Skills

    When I saw this heading, I thought immediately back to some of Jeff Utecht’s posts about interview questions for hiring of new staff.  What should our incoming teachers be versed in technologically v. what can we expect to teach them in the induction programs and in working with them over time?  This dichotomy gets at a few things I feel are important.  When new teachers arrive at our offices and classrooms, we expect them to have licensure and credentials as certified by the state and have passed through a teacher training program at a university.  I know nothing of what teacher training programs look like these days, only what the products of those programs, the new teachers we hire directly out of college, show us when they arrive for interviews or as new hires.  As Jeff stated in his post from last spring, we need to be a bit more stringent in what we are asking of our new teachers.  This is much easier said than done when we consider the amounts of schools out there that will open in September without a full staff due to the inability to find qualified applicants; however, for my own personal experience, I don’t think it’s enough to expect that a teacher have a basic understanding of the trends in education, rather, I feel they should be on the cutting edge having come from a teacher training program.  They should understand the power of networked learning, of the use of mobile technologies, and the utmost importance of critical thinking skills and collaboration among both their students and their colleagues.

    Digital Literacy/Leadership

    In looking back for Jeff’s post above, I came across one of my earlier posts regarding a conversation I had with my Uncle Bill in early Spring regarding the effects of changing systems and the workplace.  He posed a question that is apropo here as well:

    “If you believe in changing education, who are you working for now, the students and teachers of today or the students and teachers of tomorrow?”

    In the conversation with Steve on Saturday, I mentioned a story I heard via a comment on the “Uncle Bill” post in which she relayed a story that Alan November told audience at the Learning 2.0 Conference last year in Shanghai.  In it, Alan spoke of how Plato struggled with ideas espoused by the current educational system in his day and railed against those in control of it in order to have it changed.  In the end, his conclusion on how to change it was simple: wait for all of those in control to die.

    That’s not exactly an option we have; I think of all of the students that would exposed to new pedagogies, all of the teachers that would not come to know the power of a network that can be tapped into constantly and one that can be added to at the same rate.  Steve said it best in the discussion when he referenced the fact that we cannot give up on trying to help teachers develop lessons steeped in 21st Century literacy because what if students have a teacher that uses new methods successfully and exposes them to the use of new tools and transforms the way they learn, only to have a teacher the following year who does none of that.  Does that put the child at a disadvantage?  I don’t have that answer–reason being is that I don’t exactly know what the variables are yet.  What does good teaching with new tools and new pedagogy look like?  Are we at the point yet where one way trumps the other.  I have visions of Dan Meyer floating in my head here:  are we trying to re-invent something that is already invented?

    What this calls for, this change we keep referring too, is a change in the vision of our educational leaders.  I am excited to meet up with David Truss this week and get into his head about leadership, and with Dennis Richards to look at what type of vision for schools of today we can forge.

    More to come as the week progresses.

    Image Credit: “lead type” on jm3’s flickr photostream


    3 thoughts on “BLC Preparedness

    1. How wonderful to be able to take a team to BLC. From the posts and ustreams I’ve been able to keep up with, it sounds like a perfect place to cement your thoughts about new teachers. We are having many of the same discussions, so your thoughts here are helpful.
      Hope you are getting a run in!

    2. Again, thanks for the conversation. Thanks for pointing me to Jeff’s posts as I continue you down this trail of thinking. It is definitely an interesting balance, as we assume teachers coming out of universities are going to have the knowledge of the latest and greatest things around. However, as we can all tell, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It appears as though k-16 is triyng to catch up, not just k-12.

      In that past you have referenced Scott McLeod (he is at the university level isn’t he?), I wonder what his thoughts would be on these subjects.

      When I first started teaching(a whopping three years ago) I really struggled. The problem was that I made way too many assumptions and set expectations on limited experience. This past year I disbanded all assumptions and expectations, taking about a month of class time to really guage what was happening. It was a lesson learned.

      We can assume nothing in this. However, what we can do (and what I think you are doing) is setting the tone for teachers entering in your district, that these thoughts and ideas are important to today’s classroom, they are not add-ons, or something for the gifted.

      I will be interested to here about your discussions with Dennis Richards and David Truss, two people I would also like to talk to about how to go about this situation. You know what would make my day…talking to all of you at the same time!?!

    3. Susan:

      Now that we are through the week, I hope you found the streams and the conversations helpful, and it was great to be able to contribute to the backchannel a little. I was taking tons of notes, but in a Google Doc with the group I came with, so my participation in the backchannel was limited, but I am happy with it.


      It’s late here, and I am wiped out after a few days in Boston. It was well worth the trip up there, as I alluded to in another comment somewhere on this blog, but I did leave there wanting more, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. There were some amazing minds there and some equally amazing conversations occurring–but not enough. A lot of us have sat through large conferences before and we don’t want the tools right now. What we want are the conversations. Lehmann nailed it at SLA last year when he had us reflect on the day’s learning in various rooms. Find the topics you want to know more about, find those people in the designated room and let it rip. I would have gained much more from that type of experience. Not to say that this was not a great experience, but I like to think that next year we’ll find a way to add that element. I hope to see you there.

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