Thursday, February 28, 2013

NYSAIS Tech Conference

 I am at the NYSAIS Technology "unconference", which offers a  unique format that is both spontaneous and relevant.  At the start of the conference, anyone can propose a topical session about education and technology.  The session sponsors can either be experts looking to share or someone who is looking to learn from others.  Each session is a model of modern learning, with people volunteering to take notes for the conference wiki, curate web resources, aggregate file-oriented content, or setup a collaborative workspace.  All of this collaboration is voluntary and takes less than five minutes.  There were many excellent sessions, but two that stood out for me - Skills for 21C Teachers and a session on Change.  A sign of a helpful conference is to come with questions and leave with more than you came.   My unanswered questions will require research about questionnaires to gauge people's attitudes towards change, and finding research on characteristics of successful change.  I have an inkling that many people embark on a project without a realistic assessment of the prospects for success.

21C Teacher Skills
The pace of innovation and the rapid digitization of the physical world will challenge students who are not prepared to success in such a world.   Before students can learn their important survival skills, teachers need to embrace them and think about how to drive them into their subject areas.  I plan to expand on the skills below, in future blog posts. 
  • teachers need to be interactive, so that their class is interactive; even a backchannel would be useful first step
  • teachers need to be able to search and curate online resources (spend time improving your craft and not just creating a worksheet that already exists
  • teachers need to continue to confirm and refine their knowledge
    • teachers will have to design their own curriculum for recent advances and innovations because the textbooks will lag (consider not using textbooks anyway)
  • teachers need to develop their own PLN (without a network of resources, is the assumption that you are the best and smartest resource in the world)
  • teachers need to be collegial and share resources, as well as,  success and failure stories
  • teachers need to be curriculum designers (understanding a concept is not sufficient to be able to teach it well)
    • teachers need to design lessons with multiple learning pathways
    • teachers need to know what skills they are teaching (e.g., Blooms Taxonomy)
    • teachers need to know how they will motivate students during an activity or project
    • teachers need to foster deep thinking
    • teachers need to design projects and lessons by working backwards from the learning goal
      • sample lesson would be to let students read and discover all of the rules of grammar (instead of declaring them and rote practice)
    • teachers need to reflect on their teaching style and continually improve it
      • teach a class to a different grade level or a class in a different subject
      • be careful,  the deeper you get into a subject, the more ingrained you become in the teaching techniques of YOUR instructors
    • teachers need to craft open-ended projects
    • associate content with current information
      • example is to let students follow Twitter feeds of people who share characteristics with historical figures being studied
  • teachers need to have resiliency to do a new project or a project with technology that is new to them (take a risk)
  • teachers need to understand how to use a broad range of technology
    • teachers don't have to be experts, but they at least need to "talk the talk" to relate to their students
    • teachers need to understand the concept of cloud computing
  • teachers need to help students take responsibility for their learning (like a coach)
    •  teachers need to help students create their own curriculum
    • teacher need to organize classroom procedures to more closely resemble a business
      • example is to run your writing class like a newspaper and students have different roles; their collaboration is authentic, like the "reporter" who challenges the "editor" to get a different topic
    • teachers need to increase the value of student work, so it s relevant and useful in the next week, next month, next semester and next year
  • teachers need a range of teaching strategies because each class will require their own set of them

My thoughts on change come form a keynote presentation by Michael Edson, the Smithsonian's Director of Web and New Media Strategy.  It is well known that the vast majority of changes (70%+) end up failing - including people with a life-threatening illness who don't change their lifestyle.  The failure rate is even higher for new restaurants and educational reforms.  In the latter two cases, the organizations are a particular combination of people and beliefs (aka the culture) and it is difficult to transplant or replicate.  

Change may also be difficult because the goal is a moving target.  What will the world like be in 3 years?  What will the world be like when a newborn retires in 65 years?  Teachers need to improve (by changing) and prepare students for an unpredictable future.   Below are some half-baked thoughts about change.
  • Michael has a great motto: think big, start small, move fast and he has a presentation that discusses technological change
  • understand the process of change
  • understand the characteristics of successful changes
    • for example, many successes had a sense of urgency in common
  • don't rely on "lasting wisdom", which is what you know continuing to provide the same level of advantage
  • most innovation happens at the "edge" of the organization (away from the powerful core)
  • good ideas may come from inside the organization, but some or all will come from outside the organization
  • key questions
    • what kind of change?
      •  underground/grassroots or strategic
    •  what kind of innovation?
      • new product/service
      • improvement of existing product/service
    •  product improvement is different than process improvement
    •  need extraterrestrial auditor, who can be real:
      • brutal honesty
      • need BS detector
    • what are the outcomes?
      • how to prove?
    • predict which projects will succeed and which will fail
      •  some success
      • watch out for survivorship bias
  •  change is an endurance sport
    •  not everyone will be supportive or be able to change