Category Archives: Dean Shareski

“Deficit Comparisons” To “Abundance Introspection”

comparing-to-others-quote

There is so much “grey” here but I am trying to write to understand my own learning, so hopefully this is not too disjointed.

Ken Shelton and I have become good friends over the years, but have only had a few interactions.  Sometimes you just meet people that you feel you have known forever, and your relationship just clicks.  Thats my connection with Ken.

One of the things I heard him saying to someone else while I was there, has really resonated with me, and connected to some of my other learning at the conference.  As he was discussing some of his opportunities to travel, someone said to him, “I live my life vicariously through you.”

Ken then responded, “I live my life vicariously through myself.”

#lightbulbmoment

Earlier in the conversation though, Ken shared some turmoil that he had gone through in his career, and the opportunities that he is having now are pretty amazing.  When putting these pieces together, Ken has worked (and continues to work) extremely hard to create what he has and I appreciated that he is living a life that is focusing on what he has, not what he doesn’t.  I am sure that Ken doesn’t have all that he wants in the world, but you couldn’t meet a more positive person.

Connect this to an earlier session with Dean Shareski on “Digital Footprints” at ISTE.  Dean is the type of person that is comfortable discussing the “grey”; he wants to push your thinking, yet wants his challenged as well.  It is one of the reasons that I am so close with him.  We don’t always agree, but we are in a constant pursuit of figuring stuff out, knowing there is no end game.

In the conversation, Dean was sharing his beliefs on showing more of an authentic self online.  What I took away is that we often show only our “highlight reel”, as opposed to some of the stuff that makes us human.  I get this and have seen it often.  Humble bragging has become somewhat of an art form online.  Or maybe that is my perception. A lot of times we can be disappointed that a person we have connected with online, is not the same when we meet them face-to-face, but is this always fair?  Some people feed off the energy of others, while others it tires them out.  Sharing yourself on social media is totally on your time, at your pace, where in person opportunities don’t follow these same rules of engagement.

I have always thought that I hope people are the same in both spaces, but I guess it depends on what you mean on being the “same”.  If you say you love dogs online, but really hate puppies offline, there is an issue.  But if you are more of an extrovert online, but an introvert face-to-face, is there something wrong with that?  Wouldn’t we be totally fine if it was the other way around?

Yet one of the stories from Dean stuck out to me, and he brought it back to my attention.  It is about a college student who ended up committing suicide while her social media painted a different picture than what she was actually going through.  It is an unbelievably tough read and I am sure the family lives with this every single moment, yet it is a very important read. This quote stuck out to me from an ESPN article on this tragic event:

Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media. People share moments that reflect an ideal life, an ideal self. Hundreds of years ago, we sent letters by horseback, containing only what we wanted the recipient to read. Fifty years ago, we spoke via the telephone, sharing only the details that constructed the self we wanted reflected.

But it is not limited to the picture we paint, but what we see of others:

With Instagram, one thing has changed: the amount we consume of one another’s edited lives. Young women growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others’ filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered. In a recent survey conducted by the Girl Scouts, nearly 74 percent of girls agreed that other girls tried to make themselves look “cooler than they are” on social networking sites.

Yet as I read this next part, I could hear Ken’s words in my mind:

She seemed acutely aware that the life she was curating online was distinctly different from the one she was actually living. Yet she could not apply that same logic when she looked at the projected lives of others. Before going home for winter break, she asked Ingrid, who was also struggling at Penn, “What are you going to say when you go home to all your friends? I feel like all my friends are having so much fun at school.”

Thinking about my own context and what I choose to share, I think about the “filtered” life I have created.  I definitely have rough patches in my life and tough spots that are my own and not for public consumption, but I also have many awesome moments that I choose not to share with anyone online.  I get the opportunity to travel to many awesome places, and I don’t share everyone of those moments, yet I also go out of my way not to complain about things online as well.  For someone who flies as much as I do, delays are part of my life, but I also know that sometimes these delays are created by things out of a person’s control.

Things that I am not comfortable with; flying on broken planes and into tornadoes.

Things I can deal with; delays where I am still alive, even if that means inconvenience and lack of sleep.

As I think of Ken’s words, the trap has become comparing our lives to the “highlight reel” of others.  To be honest, every time someone shares that they won some award, I think “How come I have never won an award?”, although I wish my default would be to think “that is awesome for them”, and to be grateful for the opportunities I have. This is a critical shift from “deficit comparisons” (why don’t I have that?) to “abundance introspection” (being thankful for what I do have).

Dean pushed my thinking in how we share ourselves, and Ken pushed my thinking on how we compare ourselves to others in these same spaces.

Empathy is a critical component to our world today and I love this quote:

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” —Henry David Thoreau

Empathy teaches us a lot about thinking of what others go through, yet introspection is also important.  Understanding that what we see online is often not the whole picture, and comparing ourselves to others could easily help us lose sight of who we are as individuals. Constantly comparing ourselves to others to some might be motivating, while debilitating to others, and although we often filter our lives online, it is important to apply these same filters when thinking of ourselves.

“Deficit Comparisons” To “Abundance Introspection”

comparing-to-others-quote

There is so much “grey” here but I am trying to write to understand my own learning, so hopefully this is not too disjointed.

Ken Shelton and I have become good friends over the years, but have only had a few interactions.  Sometimes you just meet people that you feel you have known forever, and your relationship just clicks.  Thats my connection with Ken.

One of the things I heard him saying to someone else while I was there, has really resonated with me, and connected to some of my other learning at the conference.  As he was discussing some of his opportunities to travel, someone said to him, “I live my life vicariously through you.”

Ken then responded, “I live my life vicariously through myself.”

#lightbulbmoment

Earlier in the conversation though, Ken shared some turmoil that he had gone through in his career, and the opportunities that he is having now are pretty amazing.  When putting these pieces together, Ken has worked (and continues to work) extremely hard to create what he has and I appreciated that he is living a life that is focusing on what he has, not what he doesn’t.  I am sure that Ken doesn’t have all that he wants in the world, but you couldn’t meet a more positive person.

Connect this to an earlier session with Dean Shareski on “Digital Footprints” at ISTE.  Dean is the type of person that is comfortable discussing the “grey”; he wants to push your thinking, yet wants his challenged as well.  It is one of the reasons that I am so close with him.  We don’t always agree, but we are in a constant pursuit of figuring stuff out, knowing there is no end game.

In the conversation, Dean was sharing his beliefs on showing more of an authentic self online.  What I took away is that we often show only our “highlight reel”, as opposed to some of the stuff that makes us human.  I get this and have seen it often.  Humble bragging has become somewhat of an art form online.  Or maybe that is my perception. A lot of times we can be disappointed that a person we have connected with online, is not the same when we meet them face-to-face, but is this always fair?  Some people feed off the energy of others, while others it tires them out.  Sharing yourself on social media is totally on your time, at your pace, where in person opportunities don’t follow these same rules of engagement.

I have always thought that I hope people are the same in both spaces, but I guess it depends on what you mean on being the “same”.  If you say you love dogs online, but really hate puppies offline, there is an issue.  But if you are more of an extrovert online, but an introvert face-to-face, is there something wrong with that?  Wouldn’t we be totally fine if it was the other way around?

Yet one of the stories from Dean stuck out to me, and he brought it back to my attention.  It is about a college student who ended up committing suicide while her social media painted a different picture than what she was actually going through.  It is an unbelievably tough read and I am sure the family lives with this every single moment, yet it is a very important read. This quote stuck out to me from an ESPN article on this tragic event:

Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media. People share moments that reflect an ideal life, an ideal self. Hundreds of years ago, we sent letters by horseback, containing only what we wanted the recipient to read. Fifty years ago, we spoke via the telephone, sharing only the details that constructed the self we wanted reflected.

But it is not limited to the picture we paint, but what we see of others:

With Instagram, one thing has changed: the amount we consume of one another’s edited lives. Young women growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others’ filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered. In a recent survey conducted by the Girl Scouts, nearly 74 percent of girls agreed that other girls tried to make themselves look “cooler than they are” on social networking sites.

Yet as I read this next part, I could hear Ken’s words in my mind:

She seemed acutely aware that the life she was curating online was distinctly different from the one she was actually living. Yet she could not apply that same logic when she looked at the projected lives of others. Before going home for winter break, she asked Ingrid, who was also struggling at Penn, “What are you going to say when you go home to all your friends? I feel like all my friends are having so much fun at school.”

Thinking about my own context and what I choose to share, I think about the “filtered” life I have created.  I definitely have rough patches in my life and tough spots that are my own and not for public consumption, but I also have many awesome moments that I choose not to share with anyone online.  I get the opportunity to travel to many awesome places, and I don’t share everyone of those moments, yet I also go out of my way not to complain about things online as well.  For someone who flies as much as I do, delays are part of my life, but I also know that sometimes these delays are created by things out of a person’s control.

Things that I am not comfortable with; flying on broken planes and into tornadoes.

Things I can deal with; delays where I am still alive, even if that means inconvenience and lack of sleep.

As I think of Ken’s words, the trap has become comparing our lives to the “highlight reel” of others.  To be honest, every time someone shares that they won some award, I think “How come I have never won an award?”, although I wish my default would be to think “that is awesome for them”, and to be grateful for the opportunities I have. This is a critical shift from “deficit comparisons” (why don’t I have that?) to “abundance introspection” (being thankful for what I do have).

Dean pushed my thinking in how we share ourselves, and Ken pushed my thinking on how we compare ourselves to others in these same spaces.

Empathy is a critical component to our world today and I love this quote:

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” —Henry David Thoreau

Empathy teaches us a lot about thinking of what others go through, yet introspection is also important.  Understanding that what we see online is often not the whole picture, and comparing ourselves to others could easily help us lose sight of who we are as individuals. Constantly comparing ourselves to others to some might be motivating, while debilitating to others, and although we often filter our lives online, it is important to apply these same filters when thinking of ourselves.

Positive, Negative or Neutral? Crucial Conversations on Digital Citizenship

THE NE“Along with planes, running water, electricity, and motorized transportation, the internet is now a fundamental fact of modern life.” ― Danah BoydW YOU

Working with students recently, we were discussing digital footprints.  A few students were fine with me googling their names in front of the group, and there was nothing that they were embarrassed of at all.  Lots of social interactions; nothing bad, but nothing good.

I then asked them the following:

Me: Have you been told not to do bad things online?

Student: Yes.

Me: How about good things?

Student: Never.

These particular students were telling me about things that they were doing in their lives that were absolutely amazing and made an impact on so many others, but their online presence would never tell you that.  To share some of the things that they were passionate about and how they served others, was not on their radar.

When I asked them why that was, the “cool factor” came to light.  They shared that as a teen, sometimes sharing the positives of what you do might be up for criticism, and that they were so influenced by their peers.  Sharing the “positives” was not what social media was for.

Is this perhaps because this is a generation being guided only by their peers, and not getting input from adults?

There is part of me where I struggle with suggesting how others use social media.  One part says “leave it alone” because your space is your space. Kids gravitate towards things like snapchat, and then all of sudden educators are trying to figure out how to use snapchat for education.  It reminds me of this scene from 30 Rock with Steve Buscemi:

fellow kids

 

The other part of me says in a world where the majority of our students will be googled for jobs, university, or other things, the more we educate the better.  Would it better if people seeing these footprints were going “Wow!” or “eh”?  In an article that is already five years old, Forbes wrote “5 Reasons Why Your Online Presence Will Replace Your Resume in 10 years“; how have we helped with this reality?

Here are few thoughts that I think are crucial when having these conversations with students:

  1. Is your footprint positive, negative, or neutral?  What would others say that don’t know you?
  2. How do you want to be perceived offline? How about online? Is there a difference in your actions in those spaces?
  3. It is important to show who you are as a person, but to also understand that this is a an open room and to be thoughtful of others.  Have fun but not at the expense of someone else.

I tweeted the following while listening to Alec Couros (my brother) and Dean Shareski at ISTE recently:

The whole notion of “digital citizenship” is a messy conversation, but it is definitely one we need to have with our students to ensure that they have all of the opportunities to find and create their own path moving forward.

“Play is our brain’s favourite way of learning.”

Attachment-1 (5)

Dean Shareski writes and talks a lot about the idea of “Joy” in education, and he argues that it is not only a “nice to have”, but a necessity in education. I would agree.

But it is not only because it makes learning more enjoyable, but the notion of “play”, which hopefully is synonymous with “joy”, can inspire creativity.

In the book, “The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace“, by Ron Friedman, he discusses that sometimes when we take time to “play”, some of our best ideas can come out of this process:

Frequently our most brilliant insights come in the gaps between hard work, when we let our guard down and allow disparate ideas to emerge. In those moments when we distract ourselves with a walk to the restroom, the commute home, or the in-flight movie on a business trip.

Think back to your last truly great work-related idea. Now ask yourself: Where were you? Chances are that you weren’t sitting behind your desk.

In many ways, problem solvers are like artists. Taking a few steps back provides painters with a fresh perspective on their subject, lending them a new angle for approaching their work. Problem solving follows a similar recipe, but it’s not always the physical distance that we need as much as the psychological distance—mental space for new insights to bloom. Walking away doesn’t just put our unconscious to work: It helps us see our problem with a new perspective. We become less emotionally attached and free ourselves from the influence of those in our immediate surroundings.

One way many organizations—particularly those whose employees are engaged in high-level thinking, like Google and 3M—leverage this insight is by deliberately scheduling play into the workday. Play may seem like the domain of children, and in some ways that’s the point. We are naturally creative when we’re young, in part because our brains have not quite developed the capacity to prejudge and censor our ideas.

Putting ourselves in a childlike mind-set opens us up to alternative ways of thinking.

I have found this in my own experience as well.  Some of my best ideas have come from running, or watching ridiculous YouTube videos that sometimes are solely for the purpose of stepping back. It is not that I am avoiding work when I am doing that; in fact, it is sometimes the opposite.  I need some inspiration from a different source than the one I am focused on. I find sometimes that focusing too hard on one thing, only makes ideas blurrier while also becoming less efficient.

Yet are we purposeful with this in schools?  This it not only having time for art and physical education classes, but sometimes taking time even within core subjects to just have a laugh and create an environment where some of the most creative ideas might come your way.

In my presentations or sessions, I will sometimes show a video that is more for a laugh than for the content.  It creates a different environment that makes the room more comfortable, and also that although I am serious about my work, I do not take myself too seriously.  Hopefully it sets a tone from the room.

Joy can not only create an environment that is more welcoming, but can also tap into our own creativity, as well as our students.

5 Reasons To Have a Collaborative Blog

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 12.05.25 PM

This was a quote from Kristin Melnyk, a member of the “Innovative Teaching and Learning Leads” that I am working with in Winnipeg School District.  The program is focused on developing not only educators to challenge the way they think about education, but to also develop innovative teacher leadership, to help this group lead meaningful change within their own schools.

It has been a great process so far, although I have only worked with the group one date personally. That being said, through the #WinnipegSDITLL hashtag as, well as being led by an awesome team within the Winnipeg School District, the learning shared has been great.

One part of the initiative is that educators in the program are asked to blog about something in their classroom or the program, to share their learning through the process, to the ITLL Project blog. This is a powerful way to share that their is a constant space for learning, and it is not focused only on our face-to-face time together, but shows the power of learning throughout.  Reading their blog posts online, will also help build relationships in the times that we are face-to-face as well, as I am able to learn more about them not only as educators, but learners and thinkers. It creates a pretty powerful dynamic for learning and relationships.

There are so many benefits to having this type of “collaborative blog” throughout a professional learning opportunity, and I am so grateful to the team supporting the process.  It has been wonderful to learn from them, but there are so many other powerful benefits.  Here are some of them below.

1. Safe “guest posts”.  Blogging is a powerful way to “openly reflect” on your learning, and in one of my favourite articles on the topic from Dean Shareski, talks about the power of this type of collaboration:“So here’s my plan. Hire a teacher, give them a blog. Get them to subscribe to at least 5 other teachers in the district as well as 5 other great teachers from around the globe. Have their principal and a few central office people to subscribe to the blog and 5 other teachers as well. Require them to write at least once a week on their practice. Get conversations going right from the get go. Watch teachers get better.”

Although I agree with what Dean is saying, having your own blog can seem daunting.  But having a space where you can have a post with some guidance, can help some people feel more comfortable with the process and perhaps realize that it is not only valuable, but they are pretty good at it.

2. Competitive-Collaboration.  This is a concept that is near to my heart.  I believe that we need to learn to work with one another, but I also believe we need to push each other.  In this space, I have noticed that the blog posts are getting more and more in depth, and I wonder if the quality is going up because the group is reading the posts that the others are doing.  They are also not only writing reflections, but either sharing visuals, or creating videos.  We wanted to give them some guidelines (suggested 250 words but shared that it can be more, or less, or anything), but wanted people to be creative in how they shared.Check out this great video posted from Veronique Bedard

 

The learning that has been shared in this space has not necessarily taught people to be creative, but unleashed their creativity.  Pushing each other in space where we also support one another, is where that “unleashed talent” is more likely to come to the surface.

3. Opportunities to Reflect. As Dewey states, “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” Although the process of change can seem “fast and furious”, this only makes it more important to slow down and think about why we do what we do. If we are truly looking at moving forward, we need to take the time to look back.  There is so much learning that can happen through the process of reflection.  It needs to be a non-negotiable part of the work in true learning organizations.

4. Rich data.  Not all data is measured by numbers, and this blog is proving that. We are seeing this process to be extremely valuable, but this blog has become that evidence.  As I was discussing this process with a group yesterday, how often do we do work in PLC’s and then create evidence that either no one sees, or really, no evidence of learning at all?  This space will be here long after the initiative but shows the evidence of this program.

5. Everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a learner. As the leader of this program, I truly believe that if the group ONLY learns from me, they are missing out on a huge opportunity.  This is why this space is so crucial.  Not only does the group have the ability to learn from each other, but selfishly, my own learning is being pushed and prodded by this group.  This flattened hierarchy of learning is beneficial to everyone willing to take part and ultimately will benefit so many kids in so many places.  It has been powerful to watch and learn from this great group.

Chris Kennedy recently wrote about seeing a decline in blogging, and a part of me agrees.  That being said, I actually think it is more valuable than ever. Giving people the opportunity to do it in a way where they get to experience themselves first in a safe space, and then seeing the value of learning from others, might be the best way to have them eventually create their own space, but even if they don’t, the opportunity to learn from these collaborative spaces has been extremely powerful.

Kristin Melnyk shared this quote in her blog post:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”—Charles Darwin

What is important to understand is that we can’t change others, but only ourselves. What we can do is create the spaces where change is more likely to happen, and these platforms of open and continuous learning could make that impact.

5 Reasons To Have a Collaborative Blog

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 12.05.25 PM

This was a quote from Kristin Melnyk, a member of the “Innovative Teaching and Learning Leads” that I am working with in Winnipeg School District.  The program is focused on developing not only educators to challenge the way they think about education, but to also develop innovative teacher leadership, to help this group lead meaningful change within their own schools.

It has been a great process so far, although I have only worked with the group one date personally. That being said, through the #WinnipegSDITLL hashtag as, well as being led by an awesome team within the Winnipeg School District, the learning shared has been great.

One part of the initiative is that educators in the program are asked to blog about something in their classroom or the program, to share their learning through the process, to the ITLL Project blog. This is a powerful way to share that their is a constant space for learning, and it is not focused only on our face-to-face time together, but shows the power of learning throughout.  Reading their blog posts online, will also help build relationships in the times that we are face-to-face as well, as I am able to learn more about them not only as educators, but learners and thinkers. It creates a pretty powerful dynamic for learning and relationships.

There are so many benefits to having this type of “collaborative blog” throughout a professional learning opportunity, and I am so grateful to the team supporting the process.  It has been wonderful to learn from them, but there are so many other powerful benefits.  Here are some of them below.

1. Safe “guest posts”.  Blogging is a powerful way to “openly reflect” on your learning, and in one of my favourite articles on the topic from Dean Shareski, talks about the power of this type of collaboration:“So here’s my plan. Hire a teacher, give them a blog. Get them to subscribe to at least 5 other teachers in the district as well as 5 other great teachers from around the globe. Have their principal and a few central office people to subscribe to the blog and 5 other teachers as well. Require them to write at least once a week on their practice. Get conversations going right from the get go. Watch teachers get better.”

Although I agree with what Dean is saying, having your own blog can seem daunting.  But having a space where you can have a post with some guidance, can help some people feel more comfortable with the process and perhaps realize that it is not only valuable, but they are pretty good at it.

2. Competitive-Collaboration.  This is a concept that is near to my heart.  I believe that we need to learn to work with one another, but I also believe we need to push each other.  In this space, I have noticed that the blog posts are getting more and more in depth, and I wonder if the quality is going up because the group is reading the posts that the others are doing.  They are also not only writing reflections, but either sharing visuals, or creating videos.  We wanted to give them some guidelines (suggested 250 words but shared that it can be more, or less, or anything), but wanted people to be creative in how they shared.Check out this great video posted from Veronique Bedard

 

The learning that has been shared in this space has not necessarily taught people to be creative, but unleashed their creativity.  Pushing each other in space where we also support one another, is where that “unleashed talent” is more likely to come to the surface.

3. Opportunities to Reflect. As Dewey states, “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” Although the process of change can seem “fast and furious”, this only makes it more important to slow down and think about why we do what we do. If we are truly looking at moving forward, we need to take the time to look back.  There is so much learning that can happen through the process of reflection.  It needs to be a non-negotiable part of the work in true learning organizations.

4. Rich data.  Not all data is measured by numbers, and this blog is proving that. We are seeing this process to be extremely valuable, but this blog has become that evidence.  As I was discussing this process with a group yesterday, how often do we do work in PLC’s and then create evidence that either no one sees, or really, no evidence of learning at all?  This space will be here long after the initiative but shows the evidence of this program.

5. Everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a learner. As the leader of this program, I truly believe that if the group ONLY learns from me, they are missing out on a huge opportunity.  This is why this space is so crucial.  Not only does the group have the ability to learn from each other, but selfishly, my own learning is being pushed and prodded by this group.  This flattened hierarchy of learning is beneficial to everyone willing to take part and ultimately will benefit so many kids in so many places.  It has been powerful to watch and learn from this great group.

Chris Kennedy recently wrote about seeing a decline in blogging, and a part of me agrees.  That being said, I actually think it is more valuable than ever. Giving people the opportunity to do it in a way where they get to experience themselves first in a safe space, and then seeing the value of learning from others, might be the best way to have them eventually create their own space, but even if they don’t, the opportunity to learn from these collaborative spaces has been extremely powerful.

Kristin Melnyk shared this quote in her blog post:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”—Charles Darwin

What is important to understand is that we can’t change others, but only ourselves. What we can do is create the spaces where change is more likely to happen, and these platforms of open and continuous learning could make that impact.

Asking Questions To Stand Still or Move Forward?

“The Only Stupid Question is the One You Don’t Ask”

I read this quote from a post on “How Great Teacher Candidates Interview Differently“, and I have also heard variations of this quote several times.  I used to say something similar, but I don’t necessarily agree anymore.

Working with Trillium Lakelands District School Board I noticed and was told that they start every meeting with the following:

“We are a board that questions our way forward.”

That forever changed my thought on not only the questions we ask, but how we ask them.

For example, you can sometimes hear a certain tone in the question,  “When am I going to find the time to do this?”  How we ask the question sometimes is more of a statement that we aren’t wanting to do anything different, but we are looking to stand still.  To me, this is not a good question.  How we ask questions is crucial.

Dean Shareski put my thoughts in a talk into this visual:

forward

I have said this before, but if we only maintain what we have always done in a world that constantly moves ahead, we will only be left behind.

A Narrow View?

Yesterday, I tweeted the following article:

The response was interesting, with many suggesting that it was a great idea (with the irony that they saw and are sharing those thoughts Twitter).

Now before I even talk about the article, I do have to say that I totally respect a parent’s rights to choose whatever type of education they want for their child.  The best school system in the world doesn’t necessarily work for all students, and it is not my place to challenge that idea.  That being said, there are a few things that I found interesting in the piece.

First of all, anyone that seems to be anti-technology in education has referenced the OECD report from last month, and this article does not steer from that:

Earlier this month, a global study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that investing heavily in computers and new technology in the classroom did not improve pupils’ performance, with frequent use of computers associated with lower results.

If “results” mean test scores, then technology probably could get in the way. But if we are rethinking what school could look like, the way we measure probably should change as well.  Dean Shareski wrote eloquently about this point recently:

First, we have to understand that technology changes the way we learn. Going back to Seymour Papert, smart people have seen how computers afford new learning opportunities. In the past decade, most everyone with access has experienced what it’s like to learn from anyone, anywhere at any time. In everyday life, this is no longer an event to behold but the way we learn. Any policy maker or leader who doesn’t understand and live this needs to find other employment. I can’t imagine people not being exposed to these ideas and shifts by now. Recently I listened to a podcast about a person living in the US and had never seen the Internet. The episode was called Unicorn. Sadly, it seems many of our leaders have also missed out on the learning revolution that is taking place all around them. The second thing that has to change is our definition of “doing better”. We should be asking how technology is changing teaching and learning. Questions like “What can this technolgy do that couldn’t be done without it? Thes questions lead to fundamentally different ideas about what classrooms can and should look like. This means new measures of success. Whether it’s how well students communicate and tell stories using a variety of media, building and creating art, solving and finding real and current problems, collaborating effectively with people around the world or writing code, there are infinite examples of doing better than are never going to fit inside a spreadsheet cell.

Frankly, I’m tired of reading about districts who view learning and technology in such narrow terms. Fortunately, there are many district and district leaders who are working to address these 2 things. Did the leadership at LAUSD not look around or are they so big they couldn’t imagine learning from others? At any rate, equating “doing better” with “increased test scores” is a tiresome and outdated perspective even without bringing technology into the conversation. When districts invest dollars into technology they have a right and responsibility to see results and change. It begins by seeing changes in the classroom and ends with students demonstrating their learning in ways that go way beyond a test score.

Here is the second point that I struggle with. One of the students was quoted by saying the following:

“I get annoyed sometimes that I can’t watch television. It’s being able to chat about it and stuff. But I like the fact I’ve got an imagination that lots of kids have not.”

This is a conversation I have been having with many regarding the notion of “meaningful screen time(by the way, many pediatricians have changed there recommendations on screen time). If the only way we use technology is for “free time”, then we might not necessarily see the value for stoking creativity and imagination.  Does teaching students to code give them not the ability to create, but to make ideas come to life? Do things like connecting to networks actually stoke creativity and imagination?  As Steven Johnson says and argues often, is that “chance favours the connected mind.”  We need to look at ways to stoke ideas, but sometimes it’s being around a ton of ideas where this can happen. Technology can provide that.

The last thing I want to challenge, is not from this article, but another one that was shared with me regarding the “Waldorf School”, that seems to have a similar viewpoint in the use of technology.  This quote stuck with me:

“Technology is a distraction when we need literacy, numeracy and critical thinking.”

If we take the word literacy as simply as meaning to “read and write”, then technology might take away from that (although David Crystal would argue that as well).  But if we look at something like literacy as ever-evolving, the ability to write this blog, embed tweets, link articles (after finding them easily through my own curation techniques) is also part of literacy.  Do things like coding and design promote numeracy? And with the largest library in the world in our pockets, critical thinking is needed more now than ever to be able to “create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts“, as discussed by the National Council of Teachers of English.  Literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking are something that all schools are focusing on, but what these things look like change over time, and saying that technology distracts us from learning them is kind of a narrow view.

As I said earlier, parents should focus on making the best choice for their own children, and what works for one, might not work for another.  But to think that technology is detrimental to learning, is not accurate.  It just might mean that learning can look different with it, and sometimes, more powerful.  One of my favourite quotes is from Dr. Yong Zhao, who stated, “reading and writing should be the floor, not the ceiling”, and with the access to not only consume, but to create information in our pockets, how are we moving above that floor?