Hope… to Action

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In two years from now I will no longer be a “parent in the system”. This will add up to a span of 17 years!  I can’t say there weren’t days when I wondered about homeschooling (there were no private school options for us to consider).  We committed to the public education system and set about making the best of it. I knew it wouldn’t be perfect.  It wasn’t always easy to advocate and stand behind our family values, but I felt it was important to model respectful advocacy with and for my children when appropriate.

As a parent, I didn’t always need to know full details of my children’s learning, what their marks were, or what the curriculum covered.  I did want to trust that they were learning and being inspired to learn, and being respected for the learners they are.  I did appreciate it when my questions about the how and why of learning were welcomed and addressed.

While many of the education conversations often centre on the integration of technology and funding issues, I continue with my hopes for changes in other areas as well, such as: Assessment/grading; the use of rewards/punishments; the process allowed for learning, homework, and parent/community inclusion.  Most of all, I hope for learning environments that are humanistic and caring, not just for children, but for staff too.

I believe that good changes will only come by people, for people, and with people (roles may be irrelevant).  When I am no longer an involved parent ‘in’ the system, I hope to still care about public education. These recent years of being more connected online with educators and parents have given me much hope.  I am counting on many in my network/PLN, now and ahead.  I am also still counting on myself to continue to find what I can do.

While I take time to think on my “what” ahead, I would like to share some posts that have encouraged me recently.  I appreciate that these educators and parents have shared their hopes and the work that they are doing in similar areas that I mentioned.  It is also great to see the invitation to others to the conversations and actions.  I may have created my own hopeful echo chamber on Twitter, but I hope readers of my blog who are not on Twitter at all or as much will also welcome this sharing.  Comments are welcome here always, or on the following blogs:

Moving Forward, Together by Brian Harrison @bharrisonp

Some of my parenting wishes for this year by Chris Kennedy @chrkennedy

Creating the Conditions: Student Discipline by Chris Wejr @ChrisWejr

How Necessary is Homework? Join the Discussion by Patrick Larkin @patrickmlarkin, feat. John Spencer’s A Week Without Homework Challenge @Johntspencer

“Cynics and critics.. making the news, creating a scene; Destiny lies in the fools who refuse to give up on a dream..”  (Lyric from Melanie Safka’s, “Smile”)  🙂

Trust is Everything, But Where?

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I have been thinking a lot about trust lately.  I know it is blogged and written about a lot in regards to many things, including education.  I read Stephen M.R. Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust, before I had exposure or experience with social media.  It seems there are a lot possible of aspects of trust – transparency, respect, relationships, roles, understanding, integrity, self-respect, sincerity, loyalty, honesty.  It’s huge when you think about it — it can affect so much and be affected by much.  It is also something that can overcome many obstacles, or make or break an initiative.  The subtitle of Covey’s book reinforces its importance, “The one thing that changes everything“.

I caught a few tweets on Twitter this week that furthered my thinking on this.

Steve Constantino (@smconstantino) shared this thought,

I am convinced now more than ever that investing in people and relationships is the answer. Everything else is second to that.”

Joe Mazza (@Joe_Mazza) tweeted this thought regarding technology to connect parents and schools:

Tech enables us to create transparency between home & school – which could lead to more collaboration on all fronts.”

Chris Wejr (@MrWejr) tweeted out this quote by Michael Jordan,

Authenticity is being true to who you are, even when everyone around you wants you to be someone else”

All these ideas relate to, and can impact trust, I think.  Which brings me to wonder how much our workplaces, schools, school boards, committees, education systems, etc., allow room to focus on these things?  Do we and can we participate and interact with those priorties in mind — both in our physical spaces and through social media and online spaces?  Are there still significant barriers to doing so?  Can technology/social media enhance transparency that can lead to trust even if it is not well established in the physical context?

Many use social media for professional development and networking, and/or broadcasting.  They may or may not be following/networking with community members, parents, stakeholders, clients, customers etc., but regardless, can social media be used in a way that may risk losing trust from those you hope to build it with?  When we participate within roles/titles we may struggle with barriers that may prevent us from being who we really are, and from saying what we really want to say.  If this gets observed as not being authentic, how much does that affect trust?  How much does this affect collaboration with who we need, want, or should collaborate with?  Are the behaviours that build trust the same in person and online?  Can they be?

In Covey’s book, the chapter on relationship trust has a section about the 13 behaviours of high-trust people and leaders.  Behaviour #3 is “Create Transparency”.  The “summary” for this one is:

Tell the truth in a way people can verify.  Get real and genuine.  Be open and authentic.  Err on the side of disclosure.  Operate on the premise of “What you see is what you get”.  Don’t have hidden agendas.  Don’t hide information.”

Is this too much to expect on social media if building trust is part of our participation?  What things have to come first for trust, and where?  I still have some thinking to do…

Technology Misconceptions?

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It seems like there have been more research articles, blog posts, and tweets lately related to technology and social media use in schools, as well as in the home environment.  A few articles and studies examined the impact of “screen time” on the well-being and development of children.  Studies and research still seem to be in infancy and may not always ask the essential questions.  Sometimes a bias is evident.

I do think we need to be careful in our arguments to promote technology and social media use in schools and elsewhere.  For example, I often hear the argument that because parents aren’t guiding their kids appropriately with online and social media experiences, that it should be taught and modelled in classrooms.  I am certainly interested in supporting that.  However, I am not always sure that enough conversations occur to get at the understanding of why parents may not be doing so, or cannot do so.  Are there too many assumptions?  And if we use that argument, should it hold true then that whenever we feel that parents aren’t teaching something appropriate at home it should be required to teach and model at school?  In Ontario, I haven’t sensed consistent support regarding healthy eating even with a province-wide policy in place for schools.  Some feel that the school cannot support this alone, or it should be left to the home.  Where can partnerships intersect?  And we know how conversations about sexual education can get difficult.  Technology and social media use may not impact family values as food choices and sex education might, but it can — both directly and indirectly.

We may also feel that technology is key in transforming education and learning, and promoting critical thinking, inquiry, and curiosity.  I agree.  I also recognize that there are individuals who still continue to learn, create and demonstrate critical thinking without technology.  If authentic, engaged learning and critical thinking are lacking, it is not just because of a lack of access to technology, is it?  I feel like this is overlooked sometimes in the conversations.

Perhaps I am just overwhelmed by conversations, frustrations and blame cycles lately as I try to remain open-minded and supportive of solid pathways for technology in education, and for engaging parents.

As I have already mentioned to Royan Lee (@royanlee), I admire and appreciate his respectful approach to bringing parents into the conversation and context of how he uses technology in his classroom.  He posted to his blog previously and recently about his efforts and thoughts in this area here.

Let’s keep the lines of conversations respectful, open, and going…

Bringing Parents into the Conversations

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I have been reading a few blog posts and tweets lately that have expressed some concern about where parents are at (or not at) regarding the understanding of current learning theories and education practices, and of the potential of technology to support learning.  There also seems to be some concern that parents, as a stakeholder group, often present barriers to progressive changes in education.  I can certainly understand the frustration that may occur at different levels in education (although it can go both ways too).

In any given school year, a classroom teacher will have a diversity of parents with a wide range of ages.  Parents, as with all people, will also come with differing values and personal viewpoints about education.  Parents will also have limited time to delve into what is new and current in education.  But before we make conclusions or dismiss them as key participants and drivers of change in education, I wonder if it would be helpful take a step back and consider the following:

How are opportunities created, supported and encouraged for parents to engage meaningfully and concretely in dialogue about learning, technology, etc. at the school level? The district or board level?  Are a few different ways offered?

Are there individuals sought out who can help with presenting concepts in a more parent-friendly way or format?  Are there opportunities provided for parents to dialogue with a mix of stakeholders, community members and staff to maximize the learning and sharing of perspectives?

Are parents encouraged and supported by staff to attend organized parent or focus groups and meetings to discuss education?  Who decides on the topics?

Do parents get to hear about what pre-service teachers are learning?  Do they hear about the focus and nature of professional development opportunities that teachers are participating in?  Are there ways to encourage more interest and awareness in these areas? (I wish more parents could see the sharing and learning of educators on Twitter!)

I hope others will share some examples of how conversations about “big picture” education topics are extended to parents, and what positive outcomes have occurred in support of students and in positive change for schools and education.  In what ways have parents been your best allies to help implement a change or reduce obstacles?

Just as I was writing these thoughts today, I saw a tweet from Darcy Mullin (@darcymullin) asking others for insight to help a discussion with the parent council at his school regarding the negative effects of letter grades.  It is great to hear about these more challenging discussions occuring with parents! (and yes, he got lots of responses!)  My thoughts for this post were also inspired by blog posts, tweets and comments by Tracy Bachellier (@bachtrac) and Chris Wejr (@MrWejr), who often share their thoughts about the importance of including parents in two-way dialogue.

I hope we can keep supporting these conversations and help others have them too!

To Bring Or Not To Bring…

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I have been reading quite a number interesting blogs, articles and opinions about BYOD (bringing your own device) to school for learning.  It has all really got me thinking and wondering about technology in the classroom.  I have also been trying to understand various perspectives.

Here are some of my guiding questions as I consider this as a direction ahead:

How does BYOD impact teachers and teaching in the classroom?

How does BYOD affect an administrator’s school improvement planning and school budget?

How does BYOD impact students – directly and their interactions with each other?

Where do parents fit into the BYOD discussion and decision-making? (There are concerns about affordability and access, but I also wonder if there would be parents who wouldn’t support it, regardless of financial situation.  Would that impact a school?)

What are the considerations to make around age/grade? When, what, and how of BYOD at each grade level?

I also hope that being impatient to get technology integrated into classrooms doesn’t affect sound decision-making.  I often read and hear about calculators being used as an example to help perspective in this.  I am not sure that is the best one to consider.  To me, technology provides a different variety of tools and access to many different things.  I also hope that gaining or attracting students doesn’t affect the decision-making process in this.

Through all the questions I have, I come back to this:  I think it is important for the ones in the decision-making roles (whether it be class, school, or district level) to give full consideration of their own school community/ies.  That seems to be key in what I have read and taken in so far — know your school community/district, work with them, learn, adjust, and stand by the decision to move foward.

I am sure there are other key questions and points that I have missed.  Here are a few of the blogs I have learned a lot from.  This list includes perspectives and experiences of teachers and principals.

http://spicylearning.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/one-size-never-fits-all/

http://figuringitouted.blogspot.com/2011/11/byod-policy-personal-electronic-devices.html

http://www.shift2future.com/2011/10/equity-or-equality.html

http://librarywebspinning.blogspot.com/2011/10/bring-your-own-devicebyod-equitable.html?spref=tw

http://stager.tv/blog/?p=2397

http://teachpaperless.blogspot.com/2011/10/byoc-bring-your-own-context.html

http://spicylearning.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/should-we-ask-people-what-they-want/

Lots to think about.  Welcome more thoughts!

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