“Optimizer responsibility is the positive, inspirational emotion that leaders bring, especially when confronted with meaningful change (Marzano).” We all know that change is inevitable, just as well that we know how difficult change is to accept – indeed, one of the most foundations of humanistic contrasts. Regardless, as leaders, encouragement to embrace, perhaps even search out change (and subsequent failed events) can be a powerful approach. If possible, selling the concept of change can be more palatable when presented in parallel with efficiency models. Everyone wants to save time, even when we know that the chances are we will quickly fill up our every waking minute.
One potential change agent aligns well with the type of work that we do everyday as teachers. The ability to be able to capture our voice and movement can be accomplished with an application called Screencasting. Screencasting allows you – and/or your students – to write or draw on a device and talk about what you are doing. This could be a conceptual lesson, or a student sharing how they are currently able to apply concepts. The outcome is an mp4 audio file, which can be reviewed, reflected, shared and ideally both teacher and student (and/or parent) used to monitor misconceptions, level of understanding and skill sets.
There are several companies who offer screencasting apps at low costs, which include ExplainEverything (creates an mp4 file); Show Me (specific audio file on their website), and screen-cast-o-matic.
Marzano states that “specific feedback is critical to teacher success, therefore subsequent student success.” The ever-pursuit of quality in everything we do is highly sought and it is well known that it requires substantial amount of time. Assessing behaviors of ourselves, our educators and learners is essential, and somehow we need to find the time and methods to monitor, evaluate and provide useful feedback as often and critical as possible. Technology can assist in our pursuits in offering more efficient methods to gather data, especially meaningful qualitative data, which can be difficult to measure. To be able to fully monitor our outcomes, we need rich, humanistic data gathered on how educators interact with learners. More than student evaluations or administrators standardized classroom observations, the ability to allow educators to create media-rich e-Portfolios, which can be shared and peer reviewed for the educator to further reflect upon and continuously improve upon.
Examples of applications, which can help us gather and share our instructional activity include:
- Explain Everything screencasting to create active presentations, which can be shown in class, and/or at home;
- Google Drive for storing, sharing, editing and presenting our efforts;
- Edmodo can facilitate communication between teachers, as well as hold discussions about teaching and learning;
- Nearpod allows teachers to engage, create and assess their own unique approach;
- Class Dojo, allows teachers to monitor and give feedback instantly; and
- Duolingo is one of the best apps for those of us who wish to add another language.
Of course, we can always use a variety of Blogs, Wikis, Twitter, Social Networking, Websites, etc. to capture, share and gain feedback from our colleagues.
Intellectual stimulation is an exciting concept, which most, if not all of us as educators have eagerly engaged in the past, however, we may find it increasingly difficult to maintain regular interaction with applied research on teaching and learning. Marzano defines this as “learning about learning and inspiring the organization to grow, which allow educators to experiment and implement new effective instructional strategies.” I would predict that most of us recall times in our lives, when we were able to engage in exciting conversations about teaching and learning, especially aligned with direct interaction with our students. I have observed many of these moments of ‘saving the world’ when teaching large Introduction to Education courses for preservice teachers. A combination of reality, over-worked, politics, red-tape bureaucracy, etc., etc., etc. can quickly help us forget why we selected education as our passion and quest. We certainly do not have all of the answers, however one way to remind ourselves of our passion is to find ways to talk about the art and science of teaching and learning with our colleagues.
To help, there are many Research and Reference Tools that we can incorporate into our PLN. These tools range from ways to organize and share to connecting resources and thoughts with colleagues. Some useful and free tools include:
- Thinkature, offers real-time collaboration online for creating PLNs;
- PBwiki will create an easy-to-update digital footprint;
- del.icio.us allows us to save favorite sites and share with your PLN;
- Gliffy creates and shares flowcharts, diagrams and infographics;
- Exploratorium Digital library offers digital collections; and
- SONIC is Library of Congress’s Sound Online Inventory & Catalog.
Marzano states that it is the Instructional Leaders beliefs that shape the culture of the campus and creates (or not ) followership. Leadership beliefs are derived from many sources. Through their educational experience, work experience and personal experience. Finding a way to capture all of these experiences and developing the tools to share them when appropriate may be the challenge. There is a great TED video on how to create a movement by Derek Sivers. In this video, he shares a video of a movement taking place as he analyzes and narrates. The example may seem odd at first, however, when it is broken down into component parts, I believe that most of us can translate this experience into our leadership goals. We all want to see a movement of ideas, especially if they are embraced in the way in which the video portrays.
So, the question is, “will you be a lone nut?”
One relatively recent movement is on creating digital citizens. Integrating appropriate, relevant and meaningful (ARM) instructional technology into teaching and learning is, of course, on-going and important. However, what is the ARM outcome of using technology? Ideally usability is one outcome, as well as creating digitally literate citizens with significant and appropriate digital footprints. Creating thousands of text messages or Facebook posts may create the illusion of a digital footprint, however, it may not functionally demonstrate the outcomes and abilities of our learners. In addition to these approaches to technology, along with gaming and other personal uses of technology, we should be integrating technology which enhances productivity, access, business acumen and perhaps even coding. There are several resources, which can assist with this approach, which include:
I have had the good fortune to teach in several countries. Throughout each of these adventures, I have found more similarities than differences in how we teach and learn. Three ubiquitous attributes of success in particular found included the ability to be flexible, adaptable and tolerate (or FAT). Marzano defines flexibility as “realizing or creating chaos and then adjusting (or adapting) to it”. Flexibility may sound easy at first, however, educators have many events, people and situations that require their flexibility, often at the same time and even more often one resolution may hinder the resolution of another. In these cases, a triage priority is needed, with a clear plan to support the situation which may not have perceived their value.
Two major ways, which we can increase our flexibility that align to 21st Century teaching is to offer differentiated instruction and online learning- often these can be accomplished simultaneously. Capitalizing on appropriate, meaningful and relevant (ARM) instructional technology is critical when addressing these attributes both in efficiency and building sustainable behaviors for 21st Century learners and leaders. Examples of such technology include Podcasts, Virtual Fieldtrips, Worlds and Manipulatives, Wikis, and Digital Storytelling. Specific helpful websites include The Elements: A Visual Exploration, Science 360, Frog Dissection, Wolfram Alpha. Online learning can provide anytime, anywhere, any topic flexibility, especially with the relatively new Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Top Tier university programs such as Stanford’s Coursera and MIT EdX now offer their curriculum and courses free to hundreds of thousands of learners about the world. The courses are free and now there are hundreds of offerings for every topic.
Perhaps one of the most critical attributes for 21st learning and leading is an Institutional culture, or the shared values, beliefs and feelings of a learning community. We can have the best teachers, learners, curriculum, infrastructure and more, but without a clear alignment of what we all believe is important, and therefore make a priority, we may be less than successful. Generally, we all agree on student-centeredness, hands-on, learn by doing and other catch-phrases, but more importantly, has the institution identified ways to bring these attributes alive and encourage ownership. Empowering everyone in the community to feel like they are both part of the system and part of the solution can increase both student achievement as well as the intangible benefits of belonging, which sustains a community beyond graduation.
One way to build a healthy culture is through meaningful and relevant professional development (PD) opportunities, especially in the form of longitudinal professional/personal learning networks (PLN). Historically, PLNs were created within department and/or schools to share and connect educators with updated best practice teaching methods and perhaps action research. Today, there are many more ways to connect through the use of technology. There are social networks, such as Facebook, which can be integrated into a PLN; Twitter, microblogging, which educators can share and/or connect to world leaders in their specific discipline and simply follow or engage in sustained dialogue; YouTube video’s to either passively learn and/or create and share your own best practices; Skype for synchronous webinars or broadcasting your departmental ideas; and Diigo for curation of material. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning has a great summary of how to integrate technology into your PLN on their website at www.educatorstechnology.com.