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
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.
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