Month: March 2017

So What? Now What?

So What? Now What?

I’ve been engaged in the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC lately (#IMMOOC) and the topic came up: engagement vs. empowerment.  George Couros asks a compelling question: If you had to choose between compliant, engaged, or empowered, which word would you want to define your students?

If engagement is the ceiling–the highest bar–we may be missing the point. Think about it: Would you rather hear about changing the world, or do you want the opportunity to do so?

As someone who teaches at an IB school, I know it is our ultimate goal to get students to move beyond the content and into action.  As a PYP coordinator, it is largely my role to ensure that we have horizontal and vertical alignment of curriculum that is significant, relevant, engaging and challenging to ensure that the IB’s mission is being pursued. (below is a snippet of the IB’s Mission statement)

….develop the individual talents of young people and teach them to relate the experience of the classroom to the realities of the world outside. Beyond intellectual rigour and high academic standards, strong emphasis is placed on the ideals of international understanding and responsible citizenship, to the end that IB students may become critical and compassionate thinkers, lifelong learners and informed participants in local and world affairs, conscious of the shared humanity that binds all people together while respecting the variety of cultures and attitudes that makes for the richness of life.

I think we’ve done a terrific job at cultivating a school Programme Of Inquiry that is really engaging but I wonder if it really empowers students. For example, as I walk onto the playground, I see plastic water bottles left carelessly from recess or lunch break. I think about how in every Sharing the Planet unit, students are reminded that we are stewards of the Earth. We’ve collected trash and measured it, made art with it, wrote about it, had assemblies and school announcements to raise awareness about it and YET, I see students walk by these water bottles and not pick them up to put them into the recycling bin. All those great units with all the fantastic projects that go along with it!–and I say to them: SO WHAT???! If students don’t feel compelled to change, then somehow we have failed to really educate them.

source

Those ideas of George Couros really burn in my mind: If engagement is the ceiling–the highest bar–we may be missing the point. Yep, clearly, we have evidence of that here because we must be missing the point if, after all that great learning, kids still leave rubbish and neglect to pick it up in our own schoolyard.

So NOW what?

It has got me thinking: all these student “actions” were probably teacher generated and not student ideas. If an idea belongs to you, then there is an incentive to develop it and sustain it.  I think that is true even for children. They haven’t bought into the concept that our human action matters and they are ones who can make the difference; the idea of responsible citizenship.

I know I’m not the only educator who suffers from this disconnect at their school. In our next staff meeting, I’m bringing this topic so we can inquire into how we can move kids into action, that comes from THEM and not US.  I wonder if others had this problem and what they did to overcome it. How did they move from engaged to empowered? If you have a success story, please share it with me–I’m all ears!

 

Online Fire Drill and Lockdown Procedures

Online Fire Drill and Lockdown Procedures

 

The more I embrace 21st-century skills as a learner, the more I recognize how much I inadvertently underserve my digital natives. And that became plain to me in the latest YouTube Live Chat with Jennifer Casa-Todd during the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC). These educators discuss how students need mentoring in their online life just as much as in their physical life. Some of their conversations included:

  • The impact of teaching students how to create a positive online digital image.
  • Fire drills and lockdowns–can we do that online?

As I listened to Jennifer Casa-Todd, it really got my head reeling a bit, thinking about how one’s digital footprint matters as much to what we do in our real life. As soon as they spoke about it, it seemed intuitive and easy to take for granted, but I know how much our digital and physical worlds can collide 1m234cand affect the learning in a classroom.

And although platforms like Google Classroom, Edmodo and SeeSaw offer wonderful “training wheel” experiences, it pales in comparison with the interactions that one may encounter on YouTube, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, WeChat and other sites in which comments are made and ideas are shared.  So what happens when something goes wrong online?

Jennifer reminded us that schools often prepare students for emergencies with having fire and lockdown drills, and she suggests that we also practice that in the online environment as well. Having an action plan for when someone comes in hijacks your post with smutty language or disparaging remarks can be really helpful and it is a benchmark skill for our digital natives because at some point in their lives, someone is going to say something hurtful or they themselves might behave badly on social media. In the digital world, those sorts of things can be tracked down, and they need to consider the repercussions of those interactions.

In the event of spam or a nasty or negative comment, how one responds can either determine whether things go out of control or gets “locked down”.  One thing that is important to remember that your site or your post is technically your responsibility to manage. So here are just some ideas that I’ve curated from other sources like this one that others can use to moderate their posts:

  1. Delete or hide the post if it’s spammy. Leaving it there delegitimizes the value of your content.
  2. Have members of your online community respond to the negative comment.
  3. Respond to the commenter in a private message, preferably in a compassionate tone that is equal to the respect that you wish to have online.
  4. Ignore it but keep posting other great ideas.
  5. Address it, but with lightness, humility and/or humor. Intend to diffuse the situation.
  6. If it really spirals out of control, and you have the opportunity to delete the post, then do so.
  7. If other attempts to make peace with the hater fails, you can block or ban the person from commenting.

Hopefully, these give some good food for thought as to how to approach online interactions. However, one thing that they didn’t discuss in the session, but I think it’s worth noting here, is also preparing students if they post something that is ignored. Yes, in these learner management systems like Edmodo and SeeSaw, we have parents and other community members coming on and giving it a “like” or a positive remark, but more often than not, when you create content, it might rarely be viewed, let alone commented on or shared. Take, for example, a YouTube video that a student creates–EVERYONE wants their stuff to go viral, right? But what if it doesn’t-what if only your mom and dad and your best friend watch it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen kids disappointed that their content was ignored or under appreciated by an audience. And I totally get the feeling of that because I blog. If no one reads or comments on a post, I wonder if my ideas are of value and worth sharing. Because of the high level of exposure that goes with digital media, this vulnerability can create self-doubt and anxiety, lowering one’s self-esteem. Since our children do not have the maturity and resilience that us adults have to not take this personal, we also have to develop their mindset when it comes to this factor as well, recognizing that the WHO consuming it isn’t as important as the WHY we create online.

I think approaching these aspects are critical to our digital natives and I’m grateful that I was able to reflect on how I might make a positive impact on teaching and learning that is relevant and meaningful.

 

 Attention Deficient

 Attention Deficient

It’s no secret. I have an earnest desire to see my students become happy and capable people who make a difference in this world, so I feel it is my duty to find their “Awesome” and cultivate it. In Week 4 of our Innovator’s Mindset MOOC  (#IMMOOC), George Couros encourages us to stop operating on a “deficit model that focuses on a learner’s weaknesses and start operating on a strengths-based model that build on the learning’s strengths.” Amen to that, but how exactly can you do that? hmm…

The other day my daughter invited me into her “world” in Minecraft. Let me tell you, I did NOT want to play Minecraft with her. Really, I didn’t. As a busy adult, I have plenty of stuff to do. But she was really proud of what she created and she wanted me to see it virtually. So I downloaded the app on my iPhone, created a character and added her as a friend. Suddenly I was in her “Love World”. She had made me my own house and she taught me how to fly, tame a horse, feed the pigs and drink invisibility potion. It was a strange sort of tender moment between us. Learner-Centred

But this was a lesson for me, and  I thought about my students–what are they trying to show me that is important to them?  What are they eager to talk about with me? What is it that I am too busy doing as an adult and teacher to notice about my students? I know we make a big deal about students having attention deficient disorders, but I think that could also be true about us teachers. Are we really focused on the learner?

I know that if I pay more attention to my students’ tangents I can probably locate some treasure in there if I just go digging around. Most of the time, it’s probably right there in front of me, in broad daylight. If students are interested in something, there’s a strong possibility that there is a strength waiting to be unearthed and shared with our learning community. And I think finding the time to show students that their ideas matter and are valued will probably be the best time spent this year anyhow.

 

Opening Doors to Open Minds

Opening Doors to Open Minds

During this week’s Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC) YouTube live session, George Couros talked about the impact a Chick-Fil-A Stuck in a Rut Commercial made on him. Here’s the scene: an employee is dug deep into the floor and a colleague observes that “you are really stuck in that rut”, to which he replies, “Really?, I thought I was in a grove.”, to which the colleague says, “Classic, Rut-Thinking”.  I too was impressed by the message of the commercial and how we easy it can be to think that “good” is good enough when it comes to teaching and learning.

As someone who works in an International Baccalaureate  PYP school, there’s a lot of planning that goes into creating a unit of inquiry, and it’s easy to think that what I did last year should be okay this year. However, it’s not the WHAT, it’s the WHO that matters. And the unit shouldn’t be about me, it should be about the kids going deep with their conceptual understandings. And when you put planning into that perspective, then it’s easy to see that units of inquiry area tale of 2 classrooms going to shift and be updated to the current group of students that you have. I’ve heard it said it before, “if it ain’t broke, IMPROVE it”, and I think that is the essence of innovation as we evolve in our understanding of excellence, inviting kids to the party, with more voice, choice, and reflection.

In our PD, we looked at some of the ideas in Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, and discussed the “elephant in the room”–the emotional system of our brain that likes to keep things the way they are. And I think as educators have been conditioned in a lot of ways to be in isolation, keeping our classrooms doors closed to others, which has created systemic reluctance to be vulnerable and let people in to observe our teaching and learning.  I’ve been working on shifting that and having more peer observation. I think this has been a positive experience overall, but still, there’s a passivity because everyone wants to be friendly.  However, with time, more difficult conversations will emerge–and what I mean by that is not conflict on staff, but more like colleagues asking the right questions in order to push the limit line of one’s potential. It’s not the “great advice” of another teacher that will change the teaching of another, instead, I think it will be the great questions that provoke one’s thinking and inspire them into action. And I feel that these questions will be the antidote to that “classic rut thinking” that we all face in our schools. Nevertheless, it is the opening of doors that is helping others to open their minds to the possibility of what they might be able to do with their students.

 

 

 

 

Equal is Not Fair

Equal is Not Fair

In some ways, I am lucky to be a small school. We don’t have grade level teams that demand that we all do the “same” thing in our classrooms. However, homework and communication are areas that are fraught with disagreement, as teachers feel compelled to do what is the “norm” and may not strive to be creative. Conformity kills innovation. I’ve been in many a staff meeting in which we have to reach a consensus, and decisions may not be what’s best for their student’s needs but may be the whims of parents or what is easiest for teachers. We end up settling on “good enough” so that we can strike a “middle ground”.  As a teacher who feels that I got one shot with the kids I got this year, I cringe when we create a status quo school culture and, ultimately, I feel that makes teachers less than who they want to be.

George Couros points out why administrators impose these constraints in the Innovator’s Mindset:

The fear that drives leaders is not always about failure. Sometimes, the real fear is of success. If something works, other educators in the building would be expected to do it, thus creating more work for everyone…innovative intiatives ..might create superiour learning opportunities–opportunities  that aren’t offered in another learning environment. If what’s best for learners is our primary concern, equity of opportunities will be created at the highest levels, not the lowest.

I hope that in the future, school leaders choose to raise the bar and not lower it, in an effort to be democratic.  Because what may be equal is not fair, especially when one wants to inspire teachers and students

Critical Consumption

Critical Consumption

I remember gazing through the pages of tabloid magazines while waiting in the check-out aisle like the National Enquirer or (my favorite) World Weekly News. I knew that these glossy zines were not exactly reputable sources of information and were likened to frivolous amusement. Nowadays it seems to be more confusing deciphering what is fact or fiction;  in the age of the internet, it is easy to write and publish with little recourse, avoiding libel and at minimum cost (as opposed to the cost of hard copy publications). And, as such, the value of information is diminishing, as people lack faith that the people who write these stories have little interest in the truth, but instead in their profits.  How do you know what is the truth today? Do you believe these headlines:

  • “Smelling Farts May Prevent Cancer”.
  • “Yoko Ono Had an Affair with Hilary Clinton in the ’70s”
  • “Tupac is Alive”
  • “Trump Offering Free 1-way Tickets To Africa and Mexico for Those Who Want to Leave America”.

Can you guess which one of these headlines actually came from a legitimate journalistic source? (I’ll tell you at later in this blog post.) News has become entertainment instead of actually adding value to the understanding of what is going on in the world. Perhaps what has emerged lately in America is a fear that the media are creating a diversion while some more dubious things are underway in the new government. Consider this:

The results of a BuzzFeed News analysis found that in the three months before the (American) election the top performing fake news stories generated more engagement than top stories from major news outlets.

The 20 top performing fake news stories generated 8,711,0000 shares reactions and comments. The top 20 genuine news stories generated 7,367,000. –The Sun

So, with all of this in mind, how do we sift through the news and detect what is bonafide information let alone teach students to become discerning when they are doing research or engaged in social media? As educators and adults, we must master the skills of evaluation and be able to scrutinize our sources.  But even when we find information from a credible source, the online world is driven to write headlines that create click bait vs.reporting legitimate information. Remember those headlines above. Well, the one that came from a real publication, Time Magazine, was”Smelling Farts May Prevent Cancer”.  You can learn more about what the scientific study actually showed by watching this Jon Oliver segment below, but spoiler alert, bottling up the gas from our arse is NOT aromatherapy for cancer patients. Suffice to say, a credible source like Time Magazine is not always a guarantee that the information is true.

 

fake news.png

So, as we educate our digital natives, we too must learn and practice discernment. I think in this digital age, it is imperative to impart the skills of critical analysis of the information that they consume so we set up students to be engaged and thoughtful citizens in our nations.  I think one of the most important aspects is outright teaching them how to locate false information. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg as we consider how important it is to not only spot false information parading as fact but also an action piece, in which, as digital citizens, we require higher standards from our news agencies and journalists. If demand follows supply, then there needs to be a shift towards what is important vs. what is popular–insisting that content makes us think critically. To me, teaching this is just as vital as being able to sift through the content that we are being bombarded with.

As I continue through the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC), this week we are discussing the idea of trust in relationships. George Couros enters into Chapter 4 with this quote, which I find connects to the idea  I share today:

We need to build more organizations that priortize the care of human beings. As leaders it is our sole repsonbility to protect our people and, in turn, our people will protect each other and advance the organization together. As employees or members of the group, we need the courage to take care of each other when our leaders don’t. And in doing so, we become the leaders we wish we had. -Simon Sinek-

In education, there is a deep need to empower our students with, not only the knowledge, but the skills to analyze our current issues and the motivation to transform their futures. I think about this quote and ponder the notion of courage, as we shift from the status quo in our classrooms, and integrate these sorts of digital literacies into our program. I wonder how can I, as an educational leader, alter our curriculum so that it encompasses these aspects of digital citizenship so that teachers feel like they have permission to explore these new territories? In my opinion, I feel like we owe it to our future generations to cultivate mindful and engaged consumers through the appropriate and intelligent teaching of these skills. Moreover, it is my duty to draw attention to this topic and establish the environment in which taking these risks in our classrooms are celebrated.

At the end of the day, it is our individual efforts that drive the change that we wish to see in the world. And I wish to see more critical consumption. Do I hear an Amen?

(Come join the conversation at #IMMOOC. You can contact me @judyimamudeen on Twitter)

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D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Reflect)

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Reflect)

Have you ever read the book, Tools of the Titans by Tim Ferris?  In the foreword, Arnold Schwarzenegger reminds us that  “The worst thing you can ever do is think that you know enough. Never stop learning. Ever.” And I think that this idea is the basis of so much of the book that I am currently reading now: Innovator’s Mindset by George Curous.

Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), a concept that encourages students to read and consume information. But few schools focus on encouraging students or educators to “Drop Everything and Reflect. How might we all be impacted if we took time out of each day to think about what we have learned and how it impacts our next steps?

George Curous, Innovator’s Mindset

I’m in the midst of Week 2 of #IMMOOC (Innovator’s Mindset MOOC) and when I read that idea, I took pause. I teachcharacteristics-im and lead an IB program in which reflection is a concept and skill that is developed in our curriculum. But when I read that sentence, I wondered, how often am I REALLY getting the kids to reflect on a daily basis? And, furthermore, how often am I really taking stock of the learning? I think I may take this for granted and I want to assess how and in what ways is reflection happening at our school.

I totally agree with George Curous: “As leaders, we cannot tell others they should be innovative while we continue to do the same thing. The characteristics we look for in our teachers and our students-empathizing, problem finding and solving, risk-taking, networking, observing, creating bouncing back and reflecting-should be embodied in our work as well.”  One has to walk the talk to talk the walk. So I’ll focus on being more observant and reflective, which I know will lead me to problem-finding/problem-solving, another key characteristic of the innovator’s mindset.

In particular, this week I am seriously looking at how frequently we reflect on learning and the quality of that reflection. Things that I am going to be reviewing this week include:

  1. The language I use–my teacher talk. What types of questions and responses am I giving students? How are they responding to me?
  2. The dialogue between students. What types of conversations are they having? Do they talk about their learning outside of the classroom?
  3. The discussions amongst teachers? What do those conversations reveal?

I have a little notebook that I keep to write down planning ideas and I will use this notebook to make these observations. In particular, I’ve set a timer on my phone for my DEAR time, in which I will Drop Everything and Reflect in this notebook regarding the learning for the day. Although I do find myself to be a reflective person, I do not have a daily habit like this so I’m curious to how this might change my practice. As I look over at my notebook now, I’m thinking that I might need a new one after this week–not a lot of pages left. lol

Perhaps you might want to explore this idea as well. What if you had a set time in which you reflected? What impact do you think this might make for your teaching, let alone your life?

 

 

 

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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