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?