#ISTE2014 reflection number 4 – #leadership time to play
I mentioned in the previous post, about iphoneography, that I would talk more about a session that I attended that had direct links to the issues we faced internally at our school with regard to policy and use of different devices, along with the programs/tools that one can use within the school context.
We face a huge conflict in schools, which is not bad, rather it is more frustrating and finding the balance is essential to enabling the development of skills and learning in general to occur. We need our schools to be safe and that includes the way we use technology and what technology we use. As a result of this we often face conflict between current policy and the things, we as teachers, want to use in our classroom to promote engagement and learning. For example, in the school I teach mobile phones are banned from class, students are allowed to keep them in their locker and check them at lunch and recess time. This policy came about to reduce bullying that could occur through the use of such a device if unrestricted access was allowed. At the time it was created the policy did not cause any issue with regard to teaching and learning. Later on it was verbally acknowledged that teachers could request a child to bring a mobile phone to class if related to learning, but this, in itself creates conflict as we are faced with the overriding rule of no mobile phones in class. This presented a significant problem when I wanted all my students to bring their mobile phones to class to use the tools on them to participate in the activities that would support their learning in English, with a focus on visual literacy, digital literacy and citizenship in a digital space. These would then feed into persuasive and narrative writing tasks – things that are required for NAPLAN. There is no question about whether the intended learning outcomes were appropriate, they fitted with the curriculum and the nationwide testing we undertake in Grade 3, 5, 7 and 9. There was no question about the pedagogy being used to achieve the learning outcomes. However, policy stood in the way. It was at this point that some tweaking to policy was required. This is not as easy as you might first think, it requires conversations with those who have vested interest in the policy. It requires a shift in thinking with regard to those who have made the policy. This is where things can get tricky. As policy is not necessarily driven by learning. Policy is often driven by risk management (and a whole lot of other things). Hence, the conflict that can arise between learning and policy.
The session I attended at ISTE that linked so nicely with this was the Lead and Transform -an ISTE Town Hall event. Kathy Schrock did a fantastic job of curating the discussion and tweets via her backchannel twitter account.
Which can also be viewed here in PDF – remember to read from the bottom to the top 🙂235741111-ISTE14-Town-Hall-Lead-and-Transform14.
The first thing that resonated with me, as a result of the situation outlined above, was “Policies are often the biggest barriers to change.” To break this down, as change is an interesting word, policies dictate what we can and cannot do. They provide boundaries. In a world where the tools we are using today are different to those we used 20 years ago, to do a similar task, we need to revisit the policies we have and ensure that they, themselves, are not being counter productive. Even the tools we use today to do a task are completely different to that of 2 years ago. We, as individuals, encounter incredible learning curves as the tools we have readily available to us change, this is no different to the school setting. As we become more connected as individuals why should this not be the case for the classroom? Policy and learning opportunities need to be provided to support this, otherwise schools become separated from the world outside their four walls. We need to look at them with the lens of learning.
This leads me to become acutely aware of the need for leaders to have the opportunity to play, the notion of play was an underlying theme throughout ISTE, with new tools and see for themselves how they are able to empower, engage and deepen learning. It was mentioned that encouraging open discussion on Twitter was a useful tool for enabling this to occur. For through a tool such as Twitter the following are achieved; voice, collaboration, sharing, thinking and acknowledgment.@LaurieBarron stated that “Educators are the biggest group of Twitter users.”, hence you see edu chats trending on twitter. The question ‘how does the connectivity help you’ was raised in an open question session. The answer that followed from @mccoyderek was “Online Twitter chat helps gather info from others in like situations and then work together and share out.”
I view twitter as a great space for being challenged, changing mindset, picking up new ideas and immersing in great discussion. It is a space where educators can connect and learn from each other. We can never forget that we are all learning, that we are all at different stages and we all learn at different paces and through a variety of means. Those in formal leadership roles are on this journey too.