March 18

Final Project – Starting Point

How many of you have looked at the “Acceptable Use Policy” your school division has in place?  How closely have you read the policy to see what it includes?  Prior to this course, I admit I did a brief skim to see what I was signing off on, and I signed my name on the line.  Once I was prompted to come up with a proposal to make a change, I decided to take a look at the Regina Catholic School Division’s policy.

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Upon review it became apparent that this policy is used as an umbrella to address not only student’s acceptable use, but parents are asked to sign off, and teachers are also asked to sign this same policy.  How is it that each have the same stipulations?  Each should have their own policy to not only empower them, but also to outline the requirements for each should each party choose to partake in technology-based activities.

You may be wondering how I came up with this idea.  In January I was lucky to partake in a skype meeting where Jennifer Casa-Todd was our special guest.  She narrowed in on not shying away from technology, despite the risks, but rather teaching students to become Digital Leaders.  She emphasizes empowering students and allowing them to be responsible for their actions online.  Recently you may have seen schools, and even school divisions claim they are “banning devices” from their schools because of the risks and potential of dangerous situations.  Why are we running from technology integration?  Are we not responsible for teaching and preparing our students with skills and training they require to be successful?  Well, ensuring they are responsible Digital Citizens will not only prepare them for life after graduation, but it is giving them the skills they need to succeed in the digital age now!

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The focus of my particular assignment in this project is developing a “Responsible-Use” policy for students.  I was incredibly excited to see the resources and readings offered to us in Unit 5 of this course.  It was mentioned we can “vet” these resources for our project and I am thrilled to have these available as they will be incredibly useful to ensure my ideas align with the Ministry of Education and our STF guidelines.

Besides simply coming up with a page or two of policy, I also intend to create a program that will support empowering students to be responsible citizens online and make responsible choices.  Digital Citizenship is great, but creating students who are Digital Leaders who encourage others to follow their leadership will create a school community who follows the guidelines of a good digital citizen not because they fear the consequences, but because they understand that it makes for a better digital world!  We want to empower our students to make good choices not because they HAVE to but because they WANT to.  This is the difference between fear-driven decision, and power-driven decisions.

Well, that is my starting point.  I am going to continue to consult Jennifer Casa-Todd and her model, while referring to Alec Couros’ Digital Citizenship recommendations and aligning it all with the STF and the Framework outlined by the Ministry of Education.  Finally I am going to check out some Acceptable-Use and Responsible-Use policies that have already been created to help me form my proposed model.  I will continue to update you as my plan continues to take shape!

As always, I am completely open to your ideas and suggestions!  Please feel free to drop me a comment and let me know any thoughts or feedback you have that could help me out!

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March 17

Unit 5 – Provincial Level: Aspects of Edtech Leadership

Educational Technology is still relatively new and the concepts surrounding the documents we were asked to read and review this week are still foreign to so many educators and administrators today.  I have to say I am happy to read these documents as I was not aware these even existed!  For the past few years I have been immersed in integrating technology into my classroom.  I have been teaching my students Digital Citizenship lessons; however, I had no idea there was a framework created by the ministry that outlined the responsibilities of the ministry, school division, and advisory groups.  I was also interested to read the outcomes and indicators presented in the framework.  Why is it educators are not made aware of these documents?

As a teacher I have been interested to see when technology integrated outcomes would make their way into our curricular learning outcomes.  This document suggests they are not too far away.  I have often wanted to introduce my students to new learning opportunities and teach them some technological skills, such as coding, and I struggle to find where I can integrate it into our existing curriculum.  I know best practice dictates a teacher is to look at outcomes and choose activities or learning opportunities to support those outcomes.  However, there are times where learning opportunities arise and, as a teacher, I know my students would learn from these opportunities but they are not justified as they do not fit into the neat box that is our Curriculum.  Teachers are encouraged to teach students 21st century skills, but even my Digital Citizenship program is grasping at fitting into the pre-existing curricular outcomes.  How long do you think it will take until we see some of these edtech outcomes integrated into our current cross-curricular learning outcomes?

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“Digital citizenship education is not intended to be a stand-alone unit, course or lesson, rather it is best learned and understood when taught in context through supported online practice and real-life examples and experiences.” 

Government of Saskatchewan: Digital Citizenship in Saskatchewan Schools

The Digital Citizenship Policy Planning Document will serve as a terrific resource for my final assignment in this course.  I am working on revamping the existing acceptable use policy outlined by my current school division to include more of a responsible use policy.  The Digital Citizenship Policy Planning Document provides suggestions for not only how to teach digital citizenship to students in Kindergarten through grade 12, but also provides ideas for creating a digital citizenship policy, which differs from many existing Acceptable-Use Policies (AUPs).  The differences between these two documents are outlined in the graphic provided on page 13.

Taken from Government of Saskatchewan: Digital Citizenship in Saskatchewan Schools (page 13)

It is my intent to provide a document where students are empowered to become digital leaders where they see opportunities to grow and develop their digital literacy and citizenship skills.  We need to create an environment where our students take responsibilities for their actions and behaviours online and are held accountable for their actions.  We are preparing our students for the real world and students need to understand they will not always have someone ‘policing’ their behaviours online, so they need to learn to be responsible and these habits can begin at school.

The final document we were asked to read was the STF Social Justice document.  This document outlines the definitions and beliefs surrounding social justice, social inclusion, equity, and systemic barriers.  When considering issues surround Edtech, we need to always consider the “Digital Divide” in that not all of our students have access to these technologies at home and therefore the expectation that all students will be able to work on technology-rooted assignments as homework, needs to be taken into consideration.  Some of us are incredibly privileged and tend to take that for granted when we assume that all of our students can afford, have access, or have experience with these different technologies.  Reflecting on this document, I believe it is important for educators to regularly check-in and consider some of the barriers our students and families may be facing and how we can advocate and provide opportunities to overcome these obstacles.

In creating a student Responsible-Use Policy I hope to not only empower students to be stronger digital citizens and leaders, but to also help them to be aware of the inequity that exists in our global technological world.  In doing so, it is hoped students will be less likely to take their technological advancements for granted and treat it with respect.  Being a digital citizen is more than just learning how to behave properly online, it is about acknowledging the opportunities is also allows you.

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March 1

Unit 4 – Division/Alliance Level

Being a Connected Educator…Technology within a Division

I was enthused to see you interviewed Bart Cote this week.  I have discussed how being a Connected Educator has impacted my teaching pedagogy and the integration of technology within my classroom in many of my blog posts this term.  The Connected Educator program has completely revolutionized my educational teaching experience.  Learning about why we use technology and how to implement it in a meaningful way has enhanced my own beliefs surrounding education.

Because I was part of the original Connected Educator group, I have taken on several different mentorship roles and also the Tech. leadership role within the school and the division because of my experience with the program.  I have encouraged reluctant teachers to “dip their toes” into the SAMR pool and try some new tools to enhance their student learning.  Our division has done so many great things and taken on so many initiatives that focus on pedagogy and providing a variety of teacher professional development opportunities to train educators on how to best utilize technology within their classroom.

As Bart mentioned, the application process to get into the Connected Educator program is not an easy one.  A teacher is expected to review and reflect on their current practice and pedagogy as it relates to technology in the classroom.  We are asked to complete several self-evaluations including evidence of our attempts (both successful and not) to integrate technology into the classroom.  This process can be quite daunting and intimidating for teachers, however it ensures those who are dedicated to this process are those who apply.  I remember when I first had to evaluate myself on the SAMR model!  I was completely overwhelmed and needed a lot of reassurance and encouragement from my “Tech Coach”.  A Tech coach is an individual who is assigned to your school to support teacher’s tech integration.  These people are amazing and super supportive.  It was through her initial mentorship that I began to build confidence and recognize how my current teaching strategies align with those within the SAMR model.  Though I appreciated the SAMR video provided in this week’s lecture, the following video was the made the most sense to me in the beginning.

The swimming pool analogy that Bart was mentioning in his discussion makes the most sense to me.  When a person is swimming, you cannot alway stay in the deep end, or else you will tire out.  We need to take advantage of the entire swimming pool.  This will ensure students are getting the most out of their technological experience.  SAMR is not about ensuring we are always Redefining what we are doing,

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but rather that we are taking advantage of it when it makes sense in our classroom.  Just the other day I was working with a teacher that was new to the Connected Educator program.  I assured her that we would certainly be diving into the deep end together, however I would be her floatie and keep her head above water!  The pool analogy definitely makes sense!

But, what does this have to do with technological leadership in the division level?  Well being familiar with not only the SAMR model, but also the ISTE standards has ensured  that I am using technology in a meaningful way.  Being a Connected Educator has ensured I am well-versed in these areas and therefore can support my fellow staff members as well.  For those of you that are not familiar with them, the ISTE standards provide guidelines for integrating technology within the 21st century classroom.  They challenge the teacher to re-think her teaching practices and re-work her own teaching pedagogy to include more global ways to teaching students.  There are also ISTE standards for students that can be used to empower students and create an environment that is student-driven.

This short video will give you a good insight into what the standards and and how they can be used in your classroom.

The video and discussion surrounding what the Sun West School Division is doing is absolutely remarkable and ties nicely into the ISTE standards.  The Sun West School Division, however, uses their own acronym: PeBL.  This model is impressive.  Seeing the students take their learning into their own hands and a division taking the concept of personalized learning and marrying it with digital integration just makes sense.  The problem so many teachers face with personalized learning is how to get around to all the different groups and monitor student

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progress.  From what I can see from these resources, it appears a lot is put onto the students to track, mentor each other, and follow their learning outcomes independently.  I do not doubt there is a lot of scaffolding that takes place, however the learning outcomes and student engagement improvement would be well worth it!  Students take great pride in learning for themselves and taking their learning into their own hands.  I know from the few inquiry-based assignments I have attempted, the pride and effort students showcase through their work is proof enough to demonstrate the importance of these types of learning opportunities.  I would love to visit this school division and see first-hand how these strategies are implemented and how the students manage it all.

During the podcast with Dr. Guy Tetrault, he mentioned an elderly lady finally completing her grade twelve through his online distance learning program.  Previously this would not have been attainable, however technology has granted this to happen.  I have experienced students reaching learning goals with the aid of technology.  Students creating stories with dictation software or reading grade level texts with reading software allows students the opportunity to overcome obstacles that previously held them back.  We are now able to use technology to narrow the learning gap of so many people, because of the advancements it offers.

After looking at the images from this week’s assignment, I was drawn to Image 1.  I remember seeing this graphic when I read George Couros’Innovator’s Mindset“.  Being in a classroom with technology does not mean that you suddenly have a very expensive pencil.  It is not about using tools to replace the previous tools you were using.  Technology is about flattening the walls and bringing new opportunities to your students.  As this table clearly illustrates, it is about empowering students, just like the Sun West School Division does.  Sure the tools can make learning a lot of fun and can add new aspects to your teaching and learning, however you need to take your technology integration to a level where students are not only creating, but collaborating and connecting with the world around them.

How can you use technology to enhance your students’ learning outcomes?  How can technology aid your students critical and creative thinking skills?

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February 8

Unit 3 – School Level

Technology and the integration of technology has been a huge discussion at the school I work at over the past few years.  As I mentioned in my introduction, I am part of a technology initiative called Connected Educator.  This program brings technology into the classroom.  As a teacher in the program, I have been allotted 1:1 laptops for my students to use.  This has greatly impacted the access to technology within the school.  Students utilize technology in almost all subject areas.  The point of the program is not to have kids using technology for the sake of technology.  The point is to use technology to break down the walls and open the educational opportunities that technology allows.  Of course we do not allow for free-reign, but rather scaffold and teach students responsible technology use.  We teach them digital citizenship strategies and consistently model these strategies with our students on almost a daily basis.  Students are able to see the benefits of using technology as a tool to enrich their education and engage their creative and critical thinking skills.

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Because we have teachers in grades 4 through 8 who are all Connected Educators, we do not have a need for BYOT at our school.  Every student is assigned a laptop to use throughout their time at school.  Students do not need to use personal devices.  We have a policy that personal devices are to be kept away while in school.  This has helped with on-task time greatly.  I do not agree with banning them and not replacing that technology with something else.  Simply removing technology is not only closing several doors, but it is also turning it into a desired and much more sought after gadget.    I believe students need to gain skills that are necessary for 21st century learners to be successful.  Skills like to research using search engines and online data bases, word processing skills, digital design tools, and more.  Students also need to learn to be safe online.  They need to learn to discriminate fake news.  Limiting their use is not providing them with the skills they need.  I fear that in removing devices from students in schools is not benefiting students at all.  In doing so, you are missing out on great teaching and learning opportunities.

 

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The digital divide is not a new phenomenon.  This has been an issue for as long as technology has become somewhat affordable.  Knowing technology and access is not always available or affordable should not hold a student back from being successful.  Being in my Connected Educator classroom means I do not assign much homework.  I do not want my students dependent on technology at home.  There are times a student may need to finish up a task, however my deadlines are lenient.  I know some of my students do not have home access and that many times even if they do have a device at home, their connection may not be reliable.  Depending on technology to complete an assignment would be irresponsible of me as an educator.  Assuming every one of my students has access is also naive.  I have included a statement in my classroom procedures that allows students to come early to work if they struggle for access or to have a conversation if they are late because they could not complete a task due to this digital divide.  As educators in the 21st century we need to be aware that our students do not all have access and therefore may not be able to complete homework like they would have without the use of technology.

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Recently I had the privilege of listening to a short lecture by author Jennifer Casa-Todd, who wrote the book Social LEADia.  In her discussion she discussed changing the “Acceptable Use Policy” so many of our schools have to the “Responsible Use Policy”.  In doing so, we are encouraging our students to take responsibility for their time online and to make more responsible choices with what they do while online.  Of course, students need to be taught, reminded, and modelled how to do so, but changing the language and the way we approach student technology use can often change they way it is used and respected.  Another suggestion made in this lecture was the change the term “Digital Citizenship” to”Digital Leadership”.  This helps to show students, particularly some of our senior students, they can be leaders and set a positive example for how to behave online.

Recently I have found myself having to defend my technological classroom from those who read articles or rather headlines that state technology is more harmful to our youth than it is useful.  I agree, technology has side-effects.  However Zhao (2017) outlines that much of what we do in education has side effects.  In her article “What works may hurt: Side effects in education”, Zhao discusses how the medical industry is required to research and publish side effects before any treatment is considered to be acceptable.  In education, however, new and “revolutionary” educational trends come and go without stating the side effects behind using such tools, teaching procedures, or resources.  Teaching with technology is no different.  This seems to be the new trend that has made its’ way into our schools and classrooms.  To state there are no side-effects to having students increase their screen time, having them type rather than write, or being stimulated by videos or learning applications, would be naive.  The question one needs to ask herself is:

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     What are the benefits?

  • Is what I am doing in the classroom aligning with “good teaching practice”?

  • Does technology enhance what students are doing, or rather am I simply replacing the pencil?

As professionals it is up to us to weigh out the options, consult “best practice” and decide what teaching strategy to implement to fulfill my students’ learning outcomes.  I sincerely believe students are more engaged and are producing a better representation of their learning through the use of technology within my classroom.  I do not have educational studies to back my claim though.  All I have is what I have experienced first hand after teaching in an integrated classroom for the past three years.  Yes possible side effects are present, such as more classroom management issues and possibility for students to get distracted, however, I am prepared to deal with those and I do not believe they are deal breakers.  As we continue to work with educational technology and become technological leaders within our classrooms, we need to acknowledge not only the benefits, but also the possible side effects of this newer educational tool.

To close, I am going to leave you with this TEDx Talk by Jason Brown where he outlines the outlines how the integration of technology is redefining student learning experiences and thereby creating a whole new culture within our classrooms.

 

 

January 28

Disruptive Leadership

“[W]e must distinguish more consistently between the notions of a leader as an individual who occupies a formal role, and leadership as a communicative process that produces leader-follower categories, identities and relationships.”(Tourish, D. pg.5)

Reading through this week’s required readings, I was interested to see many of the different opinions surrounding leadership.  Because leadership impacts virtually every industry there are so many different ideas about what or who makes an effect leader.  The above quote really jumped out to me because so many times we use the terms leader and leadership to mean the same thing.  This quote caused me to stop and evaluate what those terms actually mean to me and how I have used these terms in my career.

Tourish (2014) discusses how “[t]here needs to be more emphasis on the role of followership as opposed to an infatuation with leadership”(pg. 27).  When we look and consider those who are supporting (or not) the leader, we tend to see a better representation of who the leader is.  A good leader does not necessarily need their followership to be subservient and “yes men”, but rather not be afraid to

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disagree with the leader and share an honest and open opinion.  This creates a climate that is much more effective and a group that functions as a team that is always looking out for each other.

Similarly, when discussing the characteristics and varieties of  Functional Stupidity, Alvesson and Spicer (2016) state “[f]ollowers willingly let their leaders do the thinking for them”(pg. 2).  This quote resonated with me because I have never believed in being this type of follower.  Yes one needs to remain respectful and follow the leader, but one also needs to ensure not to do so blindly.  Asking questions, challenging opinions, and thinking for oneself are all important and ensure the leader has considered everything when making decisions that impact the entire group.

 

Edwards et al. (2013) states when describing Elisabeth Kelan’s article “a number of students commented on the relationship

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between sexual attractiveness and women’s professionalism, alluding to what they regarded as the opposition between sexual attraction and being a professional woman” (pg. 7).  This quote resonated with me as a professional female because it has always been a struggle being both a leader and female.  Typically qualities associated with leadership have not been categorized with the qualities associated with being female.  When a female takes on a leadership role she has often been criticized for being bossy or too emotional when delegating or making decisions.  These comments have less to do with the job the female is doing and more to do with the stereotypes that have been assigned to females in power.  Women are also expected to present themselves in a certain manner, which the quote and the study outlined.  Why can women (and men, for that matter) be looked at for the skills they possess and less on the clothes they wear or the stereotypes associated with their gender?

Abrahamson (2004) begins his article Avoiding Repetitive Change Syndrome introducing a commonly held piece of management advice that reads “change is good and more change is better”(pg. 1).  This adage seems senseless but it is something that is ever-present in the field of education.  I am sure many of you have heard the rumour about teachers and administration being moved after working at a given school for x number of years.  These forced moves not only disrupt the balance in a school community but they greatly impact the way the school is run.  When a player is removed from a successful team environment, that team is disrupted and it takes time to re-establish and find the team’s rhythm once again.  When the leader within the school is uprooted, that causes even more disruption and some pains are definitely observed during the time of re-organization.  Don’t get me wrong, change is definitely warranted, however change for the sake of change only cause disruption and is not warranted.

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When exploring the different understanding in leadership between American and Native Americans, Miles T. Bryant (1998) outlines that American “leadership is seen as vital and the success of an enterprise rests and falls according to the quality of leadership.  The leader shoulders responsibility for the work and behaviour of others and is expected to motivate others to do their work.  A lack of success on the part of an organization is, rightly or wrongly, attributed to a shortcoming in the leadership of the organisation”(pg. 2).  This quote resonated with me because this describes the exact type of stress and expectation many in leadership positions experience.  I know when I have been in positions of leadership, I have experienced the stress associated with success within the team.  Though working in team situations requires a number of individuals to be involved working toward a common goal, the one person who is leading the group takes on the responsibility for the whole.  This stress can sometimes overshadow the goal of the team and can take away from the leader’s ability to guide and support the other members.  Success and failure should of a team is not determined by the leader, however we see it all the time.  If a professional sports team is not performing well, often the team’s coach, or leader, is let go.  Leadership responsibilities are not easy. Being a leader takes a lot out of a person, however the rewards to seeing your team succeed or accomplish great feats, certainly make it worth it!

This video was introduced to me recently at a Leadership session I attended.  Though it is intended for a business model, I think it speaks volumes to being an effective leader.

There are many challenges that leaders face while pursuing leadership roles.  These articles brought up a few and I found they definitely caused me to stop and evaluate what they meant to me and my own leadership philosophy.  I believe I am still developing as a leader and, in doing so, I am increasingly interested in what other people are saying about leadership, what makes an effective leader, and how I can improve in my own leadership skills.  I know as I continue to take on leadership roles in my personal and professional life, I will continue to evolve as I experience new opportunities.

 

January 23

Unit 2 – Leadership…?

“Leadership is a choice, not a position”. (Stephen Covey)

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Leadership is one of those qualities everyone has the ability to develop as long as they are willing to listen, adapt, and work at it.  It requires one to give of herself in a selfless manner while demonstrating strong, decisive problem solving skills.  Leadership is not easy, nor is it something everyone attains to be.  Leadership cannot be thrust upon a person, but rather needs to be a conscious decision to take on the added responsibility that comes with guiding others in the right direction.

I have been working on my leadership skills for a number of years.  Early in my educational career I have learned that I enjoy being a leader.  I enjoy planning, directing, and getting involved with others on projects as we work together to bring a concept to fruition.  It has taken a lot of practice to refine and manage my leadership skills.  In the beginning, I was not so good at leading by example.  I would ask others to do things, however I was not respected because I was not getting my hands dirty and getting involved as well.  I was overseeing, rather than being an active participant.  I have learned a great deal through a lot of practice and I have learned what is best for me is to model through example.  If I am leading a group and asking others to help out, I need to also help out and do my part.  This creates more of a team environment and less of a dictator-minded situation.

I have learned over the years that a leader needs to possess a thick skin.  It is not easy being a leader because though you are congratulated when you succeed, you are criticized when you fail.  If someone is not satisfied with a decision you have made, the feedback received can often be taken personally, and I can be quite hard on myself!  As a result I often second-guess myself and appear to be indecisive at times.  I have also learned that I am a pleaser.  I hate to disappoint so I often take on several roles while leading to ensure everyone is happy with what needs to be done.  The result of this is often an exhausted leader!

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While reading this week’s information, one quote particularly stood out to me: “effective leadership is a product of the heart and an effective leader must be visionary, passionate, creative, flexible, inspiring, innovative, courageous, imaginative, experimental, and initiates change”.  These qualities are everything I strive to be as a strong and confident leader.  The root of this message, for me, is that being a leader requires heart.  A leader is not a leader without wanting to be a leader.  You need to enter a leadership position with your heart invested and not just your head, or else it is easy to lose sight of why you are doing this.

I have gained experience and refined my own leadership techniques over the years.  I have been given many different opportunities in my career to take on leadership responsibilities and each time I take it on, I seem to learn something new.  I have learned how best to approach people, I have learned how to delegate without appearing to be “bossy”, I have learned how to remain positive and optimistic when others are down and near quitting.  All of these lessons have only helped to make me stronger and a more confident leader.

After completing the reading for this week I appreciate the statement “leadership is not a ‘one size fits all’ phenomenon”.  I completely agree a person should not require a checklist to determine what type of leader he/she is.  Leadership looks differently depending on who the leader is.  Yes, there are leadership styles, however those styles look completely different when they are mixed with each individual’s personality traits.  When perusing YouTube this past week, I came across an entertaining video that uses video clips to describe six leadership styles that somewhat align with those discussed in this article.

After reading over the leadership styles outlined in our reading this week, I am naturally drawn to the Democratic/Participative Leadership Style because I believe it is the closest to resemble my beliefs surrounding leadership.  As mentioned above, I believe a leader needs to be involved in the project and needs to count on the ideas and opinions of the team to assist in making decisions and providing feedback.  I believe being a leader is less about telling people what to do and more about working within a team to guide and support each other.

The next leadership style that catches my eye is the Creative Leadership Style.  This leader is a visionary who looks forward and not just in

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the moment.  This leader does not dwell on failure, but rather looks to the future for new possibilities.  This leader also empowers others and makes everyone feel like they are part of the team.  A creative leader is one who believes there is not a hierarchy within the team, but rather a group of people all working toward a common goal.  This style aligns with my core belief that a leader should not be at the top of the ladder looking down, but rather be on the same level working together.

Unfortunately, I have experienced many of the less attractive leadership styles in my years.  I have worked with many Autocratic Leaders who have lead by telling others what to do and have not been open to hearing other’s ideas or suggestions.  These leaders tend to come across as being rather intimidating and unapproachable.  Though I know these leaders exist out there, I believe they are a reminder of what what not to do.  I do not function well with someone who possesses this leadership style because I like to be involved in a project and do not appreciate being left out.  I like to discuss and share ideas, as I believe this is how the best solutions are achieved.

To close, I am going to leave you with another YouTube video demonstrating some leadership styles found in Disney films.  I am a bit of a Disney dork, so I found it easy to relate to these personalities demonstrated here.  I am sure many of us have encountered leaders similar to Mufasa, the Evil Queen, and even Elsa.  Can you think of any other leaders from Disney films that match some of the styles we have discussed this week?  I would love to hear your ideas in my comments!

 

January 20

Unit 1 – Critical Theory

Power, control, and dominance are all words that could be used to describe the hierarchical structure of an education system.  Reflecting back on everything discussed in this week’s lecture notes, I cannot help but grasp onto the section discussing education, particularly the power relations that take place within the education system.  Having just completed a Curriculum Development course, I am recalling discussions from that class.  In learning about the history of early curriculum development, I was astonished to learn the primary goals established in the early 1900’s remain the same today.  Franklin John Bobbitt has been considered the ‘father of curriculum studies’.  He equated education to being like a factory; we, as teachers, are merely creating a product.  We are shaping young people to fit into future careers, rather than taking the time to care and nurture their interests and provide opportunities for exploration.  Bobbitt asserted that we are simply preparing children for adulthood with the future needs, skills, and competencies they require to be successful.  This continues to be the case and continues to be a discussion in education today.  When a teacher is asked to justify a project or assignment taking place in his/her classroom, the teacher is required to connect it to curriculum outcomes, which are determined by the “leaders” in education, ie. the government.  These outcomes are intended to include everything students need to know in order to maintain successful careers in adulthood.  Teachers do not have the freedom to create a ‘lived’ or fluid curriculum where they allow for student growth and exploration based on individual interests, desires, and needs, rather than the factory protocol.  Decisions are made at the top of the hierarchy and they then trickle down to the orderly minions below.  Teachers are bound to teach what they are told and failure to do so results in consequences for the teacher, regardless of how beneficial it may be for the students involved.  So many learning opportunities are missed or left out because they do not fit into the structure that has been imposed upon a system intended to teach all children.

 

There are of course exceptions to this model.  There are teachers who continue to stand up and push the boundaries to include learning opportunities regardless of whether they fit nicely into the curricular box they are expected to use.  These teachers provide opportunities for student growth and development and push to provide students with experiences where they may be exposed to opportunities that are pushing the limit of curricular outcomes.  In order for this to happen, there  needs to be some support and the hierarchical structure within the school setting needs to provide trust.  Both the administration and the teacher need to have a mutual understanding about what is best for the students and the impact of working outside the box.  We, as educators, need to remember we are not only working to provide our students with skills to be successful in their future endeavors, but we are also planting seeds to allow for students to grow.  By nurturing those seeds and providing some freedom to expand students are given the opportunity to grow beyond the skills prescribed by those at the top of the hierarchy.  It is through expanding those curricular boundaries that teachers are pushing beyond the factory model imposed upon them for over a century.

Teaching is such a personal experience and having the powers from above dictating what should be taught, how it should be taught, and when it should be taught takes the individuality out of the experience.  Learning is not prescriptive, but rather should exist organically when someone is interested, curious, or engaged in a subject area.  Teaching has become somewhat stagnant where teachers are simply teaching from published guides that were written by people who have never been in a classroom or worked with children before.  Teachers need to stand-up for education and take teaching into their own hands.  Teachers need to begin facilitating the learning process for the individuals in their classroom.  When this happens a weird thing occurs within the classroom setting; students begin to take on leadership roles and sometimes even teach the teacher a thing or two!

Here is an interesting article about what happens when students begin teaching in the classroom.  When students take on this kind of leadership in the classroom, not only are they more engaged, but they also take on some ownership and responsibility in not only their learning but the learning experience of their peers.  Talk about flipping the power structures within education by the waist-side!

I would love to hear from you. What has been some of your experiences regarding students teaching within your classrooms?  How have you seen the role of the teacher changed from “teacher of knowledge” toward more of a “facilitator of learning”? Have you noticed a power shift within education, or do you think teachers are becoming more focussed on this factory model?

June 25

Summary of Learning

PHEW, I made it!  I am going to begin by expressing how much I enjoyed taking this class!  I have been working with technology in the classroom for several years now and every year I learn more.  Technology is always improving and changing the way we do things, the way we teach, and the way we learn.  Every year my students are experiencing new things and I am pushing myself to keep up with them!  These experiences mean that I need to ensure I am staying informed and up to date with the possible risks technology can pose to my students. Teaching and modeling digital citizenship is increasingly important.  I cannot simply complete a series and lessons and then drop it.  I must reinforce the skills and concepts continually throughout the course of the school year.  Students learn through practice.  The need to be reminded and they need to see their teacher also modeling those same skills.

The growth I continue to see with my students as they experience the digital world has been remarkable.  In this class I have heard several people comment about how we need to find a balance with technology.  I completely agree.  Digital integration is not about going paperless.  It is about reinforcing a solid pedagogy that is supported through the use of technology.  If a teacher does not know why she is using technology, then there is a BIG problem.

Thank you to everyone for continuing to add to my learning journey.  Though I have been working with technology in the classroom extensively, it has only been for two years!  I still have a lot to learn and I cannot wait to see what is in store.

June 25

Technology is a Force of Equity in Society

Boy, technology has come a long way.  I still remember being in grade 5 and my teacher telling me about a new opportunity where we are going to send messages to students in another country over the computer.  I could not believe it!  How would we be able to do that?  Basically we were emailing them and sharing information on a project we were doing in collaboration with five or six other classes throughout North America!  This was a big deal because it showed me that computers were for so much more than just practicing typing and playing games; we could connect to the world.

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Technology has made the world so much more accessible.  As a teacher, I can connect with specialists from around the world.  My classroom is currently connected to another classroom in Saudi Arabia and Chicago.  We are sharing our classroom experiences and learning about what it is like in those other classrooms!  It is great to see my students interact and learn about other places first hand.  We can also connect with specialists and live chat with them to learn more about any given topic we are learning about.  Technology has afforded us that privilege.

Technology has also brought education to more people.  Education is now way more accessible.  Our group this week talked about Open Education Resources, which offers university level courses free of charge taught by professors at universities around the world.  This is a great way for people who are interested in learning, but lack the finances, or availability to attend classes, to still get the education they seek.  In addition, we cannot forget about the emergence of webinars, distance learning (correspondence), online courses, or video conferences.  These are all due to the emergence of technology and they have allowed people, regardless of their location, to access courses, seminars, and even institutes, all from the comfort of their homes!

Technology has also narrowed the divide in abilities between those who “can” complete a task, and those who “cannot” complete a task.  As I previously mentioned, I am blessed to teach in a 1:1 technology classroom.  I have witnessed students who were several grade levels below average in reading and writing, be able to participate with our class and produce work that is at, or even above, grade level.  These technological advances have given these students the boost they needed to continue to persevere and push forward.  Students are also given far more opportunities and options to showcase their learning when technology is integrated into the classroom setting.  Student creativity soars and they definitely rise to the occasion!

Our debate saw a lot of comments come forward.  One that stuck out to me was the comment surrounding those who cannot afford the technology and how they are left behind or at a disadvantage.  Raj Dhingra discusses how technology can change education in this TEDx talk. He discusses how the argument surrounding cost and affordability is null.  One just has to be creative.

I have to admit, this video got me interested in some of the low cost options and made me wonder why more school divisions are not accessing this technology.  Perhaps we are all so attracted to the “shiny penny” that we forget the reason behind needing the specific devices we have access to.  Do we necessarily need all the features available, or are we attracted to the brand?  I am the first to admit that Apple products are great, but are their price tags really worth it?  If our goal is to provide technology to students so they can access and receive the benefits outlined above, then why are we breaking the bank doing so?

Education technology is huge!  People in the tech industry are constantly looking at how to get into that market and sell their big idea.  However there are plenty of great services available online that do not require a large credit-card limit to access.  SeeSaw is an example of a technology that showcases students and their capabilities.  It also features tools that allow students who “cannot” to still participate with their classmates.  All of these features are FREE!  There is no hidden cost or terms to work around.  I have used and accessed several other sites with the same feature!  If, as an educator, you are willing to search and be a little creative, then technology and integration does not have to necessarily be so far out of reach.

I am going to share with the video my amazing team and I put together outlining these points and more!

To close, I would like to mention how a lot of blame is put onto TECHNOLOGY.  We like to use it as a scapegoat to justify why society is the way that it is.  We use it to explain why bullying is getting worse.  We use it to explain why we see so much racism in the world.  We use it to explain why we have this whole “digital divide”.  What some of us need to do is slow down and remember that we had all of these issues before technology.  Yes, the prevalence and use of technology continues to push some of these issues to the forefront, but it is not the reason for those issues.  I guess we need to accept that technology is here and we need to take it (the good and the bad) and ensure each and every one of us is using it for its’ intended purpose and not abusing this remarkable tool!

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June 19

Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

I grew up in the era where the internet and social media was just emerging.  I can remember being in elementary school when ICQ and Yahoo Instant Messenger was just emerging.  Though we were dealing with dial-up internet that was often unreliable, these new instant messaging web services were huge!

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We could now visit with our friends and make plans, but we could also connect and meet new people.  I don’t think “digital safety” was ever something we worried about, nor did we ever think chatting with these people would result in anything, except making a new friend.  Surly “stranger danger” did not apply!

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Soon after, we were introduced to chat rooms, and interactive games that allowed us to open up the world and interact with so many more people. I do remember meeting a boy online and chatting with him on a regular basis.  We would exchange pictures and meet in the chat room regularly.  I never worried about the chance that he could be anyone other than who he said he would be.

Today, things are different.  The internet and online social networks have evolved a lot.  According to Statista the number of social media users worldwide is constantly growing and by 2021, it is projected, that there will be 3.2 billion users around the world.  Not to mention that there are now well over one hundred well known and popular social media sites around the world. (I tried to find an exact number and topped out at 105, though I am sure there are many more out there!)  The desire and attraction for today’s youth to join or get involved with social media is outstanding.  I think about my own daughter and her fascination with my Facebook account, or her desire to have her own Snapchat account.  When I ask her why she wants it, she explains it is because she loves playing with the photo filter features.  She is not aware that others could find and contact her.

Social media certainly has it’s advantages: it has allowed me to stay in touch with friends from my youth, it informs me of various current events, it has helped me to share events, or announcements with others, and it is entertaining!  All of these features are great for adults, however for youth, under the age of thirteen, they do not require these same advantages.  When children access social media, they are doing so to typically “play around”.  Children often find they are using the media for things it is not necessarily intended for, such as posting inappropriate pictures, following strangers, posting mean or rude comments and striving for the most “likes”.

Today’s youth seem to have become obsessed with receiving LIKES on their social media sites.  The like receiving the feedback and instant gratification received from posting on their site.  This gratification also comes at a cost.  What happens when they do not receive enough likes, or when someone posts something that is hurtful?  The results have been detrimental.  Today’s youth are on the search for recognition, or even the possibility of fame!  There have been success stories of Youtube sensations who have been discovered because of their social media presence, however the likelihood of that happening is quite low.  This strive for fame and recognition has lead under-aged minors to be posting things online that are pushing the boundaries of what is appropriate.  When something is not received well, then the results are often tragic.

The prevalence of suicide among youth is on the rise.  The frequency among youth has been steadily increasing every year.  We cannot assume social media is to blame, however the prevalence of technology and cyber-bullying if way to obvious the ignore.  Because our youth are on the search for acceptance and are at an age where their impulse control is still developing, they are at a greater risk to post things they may regret later, or make decisions that are not fully thought through.  I am not blaming social media for the rise in suicide, however it is certainly may be a contributing factor.

I love using social media, however I am an adult that is aware of the dangers, repercussions, and consequences attached with using social media, particularly if it is inappropriately.  I actually think thirteen is quite young for youth to be accessing social media. I believe they are still quite young and immature to be accessing, posting, and commenting on these types of sites.  I have witnessed students who have gotten themselves into a lot of trouble because they are not old enough to handle the freedom social media allows them.  By increasing the age, maybe they may be able to handle it a bit better.  That being said, many children under the age of thirteen continue to sign up and do not even know that an age requirement is intact.

PARENTS….yeah, I am talking to you!

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It is our job to ensure we are monitoring our children and their activities online.  Kids are sneaky and they hid things real well.  We need to outsmart them and wise up!  We need to educate ourselves on some of the social media options, track our children’s accounts, and have open communication about what they are doing when they go online.  This is no different from checking in with your children’s friends they hang out with and ensuring they are safe!  Privacy has nothing to do with it!  It is our job to protect the youth and we cannot allow them to enter the world of social media blindly!

As a mother, teacher, and tech enthusiast, I am terrified for the day when my children begin using social media.  I am going to ensure I do everything in my power to ensure I am prepared and educated to support them and keep them safe!