Lesson Learned

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. Mark Twain

Last week, I wrote a post in which I described the goals of what I had tried to do in a workshop at NYSCATE’s Leadership Summit.  In describing it, I used a few images to help, as well as a description of the goals.

In the comments, you’ll notice that a teacher from Iowa and South Dakota, Jerrid Kruse, took me to task for the language I used, or, retrospect, did not use, to frame the conversation in the post.  The seminar was about moving our colleagues, our schools and our students from what we know and are comfortable with in learning and teaching, to that which we don’t know, or rather that we do know, but are too paralyzed by our fears to move to.  What came through in the post, thanks to the image used, was somewhat short of that.  In looking back at it today, I realized two things:

  • Write without distraction.  I was following way too many ideas around and not focusing on my message.
  • Hit the mark with the language I use.  Be very precise with what I want to say, and how I want to say it.  Both of those elements were very loose in that last post.

Also, I get it–it’s an online space.  But it’s my online space, and for those that happen by here, I’d like what you read to be a reflection of me and my learning process.

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We Need You to be the Lead Learner.

[slideshare id=4806056&doc=nyscate2010-100721094405-phpapp02]

This morning I had the opportunity to present at the New York State Association for Computers and Technology in Education’s annual Leadership Summit in Troy, NY.  When I pitched the proposal a few months ago, I was really leaning heavily on technology as the focus: what strategies could leaders employ to model learning and collaboration?  As the last few months have unfolded and my thinking has been influenced less by technology and Web 2.0 and more by things like Understanding by Design and designing learning communities, the impetus behind this presentation changed to reflect that.

Above is the slide deck I used, which, as the participants in the session will concur, most of which we did not see.  Again, we took time to talk to one another and to discuss some of the questions that came up, which is the real reason why we were there.  However, when I began designing this in its slide form last week, I wanted to do it in the style that I would ask a teacher to design a unit of study, so I used UbD to do it.  I started with what I wanted my audience to leave with: my transfer goal.  I came up with this:

I want you to learn the specific challenges facing education today so that, in the long run, you will be able to, on your own, create innovative and collaborative solutions to overcome them.

From that point I looked at the understandings they would need to have

  • Students today are not as academically tech savvy as they need to be.
  • We take in an enormous amount of data each day as consumers and our students need to be equipped to handle it critically.
  • Leaders responsibilities include that of growing future leaders, and in doing so, we must model the behaviors that we deem valuable for leaders to have: willingness to try and of fail, transparent learning, and collaboration.

and the questions I would use with them to help guide them:

  • Do the teachers in your district own the technology, or do the students?
  • Are your teachers more technology “savvy” than the students?  Is that a problem?
  • What is the dominant mode of learning in your school/district?
  • What is your role as a leader in your school/district?

From there, I realized that there would be no real way to assess them as they left the presentation, but I felt good about designing the presentation this way.  It had that “walk-the-walk” feel to it as I put it together and delivered it, and there is a lot to be said for feeling that way about the work you do.

In a nutshell, if students’ intake of information breaks down like this:

Should your classroom instruction look like this

or this?

There is no right answer here, but the real meaning lies in the discussions that have to happen along the way to deciding what they look like.  I spoke today about the lack of “grey area” thinkers as espoused by Dan Meyer in his TEDxNYED talk, and it applies here.  Leaders need to be very comfortable with difficult conversations about what we expect of our students and our teachers.  We need to be able to confront people’s belief systems (nod to Andy Greene).