Monday, July 16, 2012

What was the best thing I did this year? What I hate is....

George Couros challenged myself and my colleagues to blog about what was the best thing I did this year.  I was very challenged with what to write because it was a year of wonder in our office.  While we were in Job Action most of the year and there were tensions around Job Action, we made incredible strides in learning opportunities.

My struggle was to identify what my best could be narrowed down to.  I am proud to have been involved in: (not in a specific order)
1.  Innovative Learning Designs (technology inquiry focus)
2.  Innovative Learning Designs (pedagogy inquiry focus)
3.  Supporting several other inquiry projects
4.  Engaging the Digital Learner Dinner Series
5.  Strength of my Union colleagues standing firm
6.  Our team going to ISTE and presenting 2 session at the international level.

This Sunday, Pastor Tom challenged us to identify what we hate because that tells just as much about a person as asking what they like or love does.  Answering this challenge was easier and lead me to understand why I didn't have a 'best' from an event.

What do I hate?
Bureaucracy that blocks
Not doing for fear
People making bad choices and then wallowing in results. (hungry but have $100 a month cable or smoke a pack a day)
Hearing the Lords name in vain

My list was written as a personal list, but I realized that most applies directly to my work as well.

I hate bureaucracy that blocks -  This year we have been able to get beyond massive amounts of bureaucracy.  The iPads provided a platform where we could empower the teacher in the school to directly make software decisions.  (Software evaluation is a valuable process to ensure pedagogy and functionality.)  Teachers were empowered to explore the pedagogy with low risk and that functionality was almost guaranteed with all apps coming from the iTunes App Store.  

Not everything just works as it needs to communicate through our district resources.  This was frustrating; however, in most cases we were able to work through the bureaucracy to open up new worlds of innovation.  AppleTV is a great example.  We are poised to release at least 2 AppleTVs into each school this year.  The power of this device is having students from anywhere in the class being able to display their work / thinking / learning / ideas on the projector in their class.  Another benefit is being able to project through Skype or FaceTime other learners from around the globe.  I hate delays but the results will be stunning once deployed.

I hate not doing for fear - As an educator, I am a risk taker.  Fear may be too strong of a word, but it is the most suited word I could think of.  Schools often don't do amazing learning because of fear.  Ski trips are all but memories of the past.  Yes accidents have happened in the past and there are risks.  Unfortunately, risk management often becomes "Just don't do it."  I grew up with trampolines in schools.  Every year they moved between schools to share the resource.  Did kids get injured? Yes.  Did I learn? Yes.  Did I engage in a mindset of physical activity? Yes. 

My mindset is that No is not an answer.  If we are afraid of 'possible' results, then we need to actively manage them or come up with creative solutions to provide equivalent alternatives.  

In some cases, students are expected to wash their hands before touching an iPad.  Why?  Are your hands going to damage the iPad?  Students are punished if they carry the iPad with 1 hand? Why? Do accidents happen? Yes.  I was recently teaching summer school and student fell with the iPad in his hands.  I would rather he protect himself, than worry about the iPad.  As he got up, he had a horrible face and said, "I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to drop the iPad, Is it broken?"  My response - "I don't care about the iPad - Are you okay?"  

Let's spend more time using the iPads than worrying about how to carry them - beyond - "Be safe."  People are more important than technology.  When we focus so much on carrying a device, it shows just how important it is in our eyes.  When a child comes in crying from recess, do we give them as much care and attention as preventing an iPad from possibly falling?

This is such a big one for me.  Whenever I see injustice, it makes me fume inside.  Sometimes it is when students are mistreated.  Sometimes it is when students bring to school the challenges of their home life.  Sometimes it is when students aren't allowed to use technology to write (when they have writing challenges) because it would be unfair to other students.  Fair isn't always equal.  Using technology isn't about getting a reward or a treat, it is about using a tool - the right tool at the right time.  

A while back my wife and I wanted to change the disharmony between our children.  The biggest change that we made was to eliminate YouTube viewing in our house.  YouTube is a great resource but when kids have large volumes of garbage in, then you get garbage out.  After a month we have come to a new balance with limited YouTube viewing of choice, but educational and artistic (music) are not limited.  This made a world of difference to our life.

The corollary is that I prefer students working in partners with iPads.  I want the students to learn communication skills.  I want them to talk in class.  I want to build their oral fluency.  Setting the right guidelines makes a world of difference.  In general, I find students want to have the tool to themselves.  They want to always be the driver of the iPad.  It takes time to build the understanding and compassion to work together.  Initially some students just can't work together.  When you give every student an iPad, they are self interested and are not motivated to support each other in the task.  It is easier to use 1:1 iPads, it is better to use 1:2 iPads.

Making bad choices
This is a pet peave of mine.  I have always been held accountable for my choices.  I have made bad financial decisions and had to live with the consequences.  I am very aware of my decisions and the potential consequences.  I try to think through various scenarios, apply what I know and predict the outcome.  I hate to see bad choices in process and no willingness to change.  I was very glad to see that we changed some plans through the year that prevented what I thought would be disastrous.  Disaster was averted.

Hearing the Lord's Name in vain
While it is self evident that this is offensive to some.  Many others swear and curse.  Schools have understandings that swearing is not acceptable, but sometimes at school I still hear it.  I often will say something to the individual, but just wish it wouldn't happen at all.

Outside of school I hear it sometimes as well and when appropriate I will make it clear I am offended by the language.  Most people are respectful, some not so.

My best this year... 
Being vocal about what I believe is right and making a difference.  


Steve Swaddling said...

Interesting post Kevin. I would say for me the best thing I did all year was make a difference in one or more of my student's lives as told to me at the end of the year in their letters to me. It was humbling reading how they view me and what I did in their lives without even being aware of it.

As for what I hate most you have an excellent list. I as you know are not as passionate about technology, the big thing that I hate is when we are told "no" to giving kids opportunities out of fear and protection. This year especially again I have seen how risk and fear is attempting to shut down good things happening.

"There is the risk you cannot afford to take and there is the risk you cannot afford not to take."
Peter Drucker

Lora said...

Fantastic post Kevin. I agree with your points. I struggle with the fear and risk management too and would love to see ski trips return (I know how my own kids look fwd to going each year, diff school dist.). Looking forward to moving ahead not backwards.