3 Long Term Opportunities For Schools Today

    After a conference, there is the thought that many need something they can do right away with students.  The demands of being a teacher, while also keep opportunities “fresh”, is something that lends to this way of thinking.  If you go to any conference, there will be a ton of “apps” shared of cool things you can do, but often times, the learning with this is more novelty than depth. Learning that empowers and makes an impact takes thoughtful leadership at all levels, as well as vision.  It also sometimes not only takes a “village”, but the vision of the village to come together.
    With that being said, I have been focusing on some initiatives that are new(ish) in some schools, that will need communities to come together. Obviously, ideas like leadership and sharing mutual respect for others, as well as appreciating and celebrating both our similarities and differences, are crucial to our school environments.  Powerful learning does not happen in schools without a focus on relationships and community.
    Here are three initiatives that will take time, effort, and community to make happen at the systemic level.
    1. A focus on digital citizenship/leadership.  

    This above image created by Bill Ferriter, quoting Will Richardson, is one that has made a significant impact on my thinking.  I have often asked educators, if a fight broke out, which subject area teacher would deal with it? They look at me as if I am crazy, and then I mention that is much how we treat the notion of digital citizenship. This is on all of us.
    I recently shared the idea of “3 Things Students Should Have Before They Leave High School“, but often remind educators that this is not something that starts in high school, but should be part of the fabric of our schools at all levels.  This is either in modelling or helping students create.  This is not to say that students all have to be using social media, but at least the option is there to ensure that the understand the implications of a positive, negative, or neutral footprint.
    Stephen Downes commented on this idea, and I loved his thoughts:
    I get the general idea, and support it, but I think the description is way too narrow. I’d rather see people have much more than an about.me page and personal portfolio – I think they should have a wider online presence with credentials, tools, artifacts, and whatever else they need. The same with a social network – but not just a ‘social network’ but wide-ranging interactions with people inside and outside their own field.
    I couldn’t agree with him more, but definitely believe there needs to be a starting point and emphasis on teaching this in schools.  The shift from “digital citizenship” to simply “citizenship” (since technology is just part of our world) probably won’t happen without putting an emphasis and placing some of these ideas at the forefront.  This is not the work of “specialty” educators, but something we all have a responsibility towards.
    2. Digital Portfolios
    Building upon the first idea, I think there is a huge power in “Digital Portfolios” to not only help build a footprint, but transform practices in learning and assessment. We have often seen learning in “chunks” in school practice (grade two to grade three, etc.), but is something that is continuous and messy.
    Years ago, I wrote a comprehensive plan on the “blogs as digital portfolios“, and really explored the impact it could have on helping connecting learning throughout the school and amongst different subject areas.  This should not be limited to any specific class or grade level, but something that actually becomes an opportunity to not only reflect, create, and connect, but also helps to provide authentic examples of student owned learning.  That being said, if we are to be successful with this type of opportunity, it would make a huge impact if educators had their own versions of digital portfolios, to really understand the impact this could have learning.  This is a “barrier” that could easily become an opportunity.
    3. Embracing the Innovator’s Mindset
    For any of these things to happen, or other opportunities, we need to embrace a mindset that is open to conducive learning, while also helping to develop it in our students. The “innovator’s mindset” is defined by the following:

     
    With ideas such as genius hour, maker spaces, innovation day/week, and a whole myriad of other ideas for powerful creation to connect learning, it is important that we think differently about learning, and help develop that mindset with our students.
    I love this idea from the Center for Accelerated Learning on learning as “creation”:
    Learning is Creation, Not Consumption. Knowledge is not something a learner absorbs, but something a learner creates. Learning happens when a learner integrates new knowledge and skill into his or her existing structure of self. Learning is literally a matter of creating new meanings, new neural networks, and new patterns of electro/chemical interactions within one’s total brain/body system.
    Krissy Venosdale also shared a powerful image on what “learning” looks like.

    This mindset should not be limited to our students, but to all of those involved in education.
     
    To achieve these goals in a meaningful way, we have to realize that it will take a whole community approach, and cannot be left to the few to achieve.  This takes a change in mindset while also creating the need for leadership to remove barriers to unleash talent which leads to innovative opportunities.  What I believe is the real power of these initiatives, is that these ideas I have shared are not an endpoint, but only a beginning. When we create a culture of sharing, innovative flourishes. Embracing the idea that everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner, and that these roles will change multiple times daily, is the only way that any initiative will truly succeed in our schools today.

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