The Elusive Future

The future bamboozles me. It is abstract and elusive. The future can be quite unsatisfying to me because it is unknown, it is grey (not black or white) and it is forever changing its shades.  Some changes are foreseen and predictable and some not.  My nature is to ‘always be prepared’.  Yes – I was heavily influenced by Girl Guides and Scouts growing up.  So how can I be prepared when I don’t know what to be prepared for.  While we can make predictions or projections about the future, absolute certainty is never quite there.  In some ways this keeps me current, alert, on my toes so to speak – but that is only if I have a healthy balance.  Caring about the future and staying current is important. But over focusing on the future does not leave me fulfilled. 

I began teaching in 2001.  Therefore I have a sample size of n = 15 years teaching experience (give or take). I’ve been successful – kids have learned, thrived, and since grown into successful young adults and for me too – I’ve thrived and been successful. Therefore the data shows that I am adaptable since kids learning, thriving and becoming successful continues to happen even though there has been changes to other variables such as teaching practices and tools over the time. And let’s face it, there has been some significant changes in teaching over the last 15 years.  I would never have thought my vocabulary would include MOOC, badges, cloud-based, when referring to education. But here I am today reading, discussing and blogging about exactly topics like this.

A quick recap of the last 15 years to illustrate the change and adaptions: In my first teaching experience, I taught English to Korean students aged 4 – 18 in a Hagwon in Seoul in a small room with chairs around the perimeter and no technology in the room! A couple years later in my 4th grade classroom at an international school, I had one desktop computer for the class of 23 students.  Back then I did whole class novels and themey units, and visited the library and computer lab once a week.  I’m now teaching in a 1-1 BYOD classroom/school with open learning areas, and an iCommons adjacent to my space and extending across the floor with most learning happening through workshop approach with flexible small groups and 1-1 conferencing.  Kids are still learning and thriving.  

So after much soul searching, a lot of angst thinking about the future, I came to the realisation that my energy was best spent not worrying about what was the future and getting ready for it, but turning my focus on to the disposition and practices of myself – the teacher – the thing that I am in control of.  After all, the work of Hattie suggests that it is the teacher that makes the difference and impacts learning in the classroom over many other variables.
flickr photo shared by cybrarian77 under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

“It is what teachers know, do, and care about which is very powerful in this learning equation.” (Hattie, 2003)

So I don’t plan to spend the next 15 years of my teaching career chasing ‘The Future’, I’m trying to retrain my thinking to be in the now and be the best now with some long lasting qualities that will serve well know matter what the future holds.  There will be changes and new practices and tools, and I will adapt as I have in the past.  So my key dispositions and practices to focus on are:

  1. Getting/Staying connected – be a connected educator (essential for #2)
  2. Developing Professional Learning Communities (PLNs)
  3. Staying current – Read, read, read – articles, blogs, books and act or respond on what is read (connected to both #1 and #2).
  4. Growth Mindset – Develop a growth mindset in myself and my students (but being wary of mindset misconceptions)  
  5. Common sense – well I think this is a universal need in all professions, but serves especially well in education

Curriculum, teaching practices, technology, learning environments will change for sure, but my adaptability will continue. So whatever happens in teaching and education, I will be ready.  If you are reading this and wondering how to be an educator like this there is partly a simple answer:  COETAIL! #1 – #3 are very much taken up in COETAIL so sign up for the next cohort starting in February.  As for #4 and #5 – much of this comes from my life experience especially my life growing up in New Zealand during the 70s and 80s, barefoot freedom, with learning happening just as much inside as outside of a classroom.  For that I am grateful because it is already in my DNA.  I just have to grow it.

What disposition or practice would you focus on to be successful in the future?

 

PLN & Learning Landscapes

I’m excited to be participating in my first global collaborative project (GCP).  I’m just as excited as to how it got started as it really reinforces one of the central ideas of Course 1.  This is the idea around the connectedness of the internet, and the power and opportunities that it provides. The opportunity to participate in a global collaborative project presented itself through a Twitter post.

Now we are in Week 1 of the global collaborative project If You Learned Here and I’m sitting back in awe at the level of organization, collaboration and communication involved in setting up and facilitating such a project.  When you stop to look at the level of detail, planning, and time management you can see how participating in such a project allows students to also engage in these skills.  In addition to that, the project facilitators exhibit the technical knowledge and attitudes promoted through the IB Learner Profile and attitudes.  Again, providing wonderful models for all those involved in the project. 

I’m realising that global collaborative projects are multi-faceted learning experiences with powerful benefits for all involved both teachers and students and when well planned have the power to promote the PYP transdisciplinary skills and attitudes as well as many of the ISTE Standards for students. Given that, I’m wondering why I’m only now involved in a global collaborative project.  Some of you may have guessed already.  Lack of a ‘working’  PLN.   I hadn’t previously taken PLNs and social network sites seriously nor realised their potential.  Thanks COETAIL & Twitter.  I’ve seen the light.

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This current project has really inspired me to learn more about global collaborative projects.  As a participator I’m going through step by step just following the prompts and any directions given. But I’m also really paying attention to processes and structures that support these projects.  It all starts with small steps and I feel like Course 1 is a series of small steps in the direction I want to go with respect to the use of technology in teaching and learning.

Designing my own GCP is on my to-do list, and quite near the top.  Thanks to Kim Cofino for the useful step by step guide.  That really helped me; especially to see the process framed through the lens of UbD – Backwards By Design, as that is very familiar to me.  I’ve got tons of ideas for projects centered around our PYP units of inquiry and literacy units.  I can’t wait to engage with those around me including my grade level colleagues, and tech coordinators both as supporters and contributors. The more I read the more excited I become, and the more ideas for projects I get.  Being intentional is important to me so I appreciated the laid out plans suggested by Kim Cofino to ensure alignment of teaching objectives, the place of assessment and how it fits into the purpose of the project.  It’s my normal style to make sure everything has been planned, cross referenced and aligned especially when embarking on something new.  This is great practice, but on the down side it sometimes takes a long time to get new things started.  I learned a few years ago that sometimes you have to dive into new things with a few question marks and uncertainties lurking around.  For example, when I shifted to my current school all students were expected to own, contribute to, and manage an ePortfolio.  I wasn’t new to using portfolios as a tool for students to reflect on work, track growth, or showcase specific work; just the electronic medium part was new.  Initially I found myself stuck: new school, new class, new portfolios.  After a couple of weeks of grappling with it, I just decided to block a regular time on the schedule, list a few criteria (when, what…) and jump in with the students and figure it out. And we did.  My point is sometimes it is okay to get the feet week and jump in.  There are safety nets.  That’s real life.  Sometimes you don’t have all the answers or information and you learn to problem solve in areas of uncertainty.  It’s good for students to do that too with the safety and support of the teacher and their learning environment.

The Flying Trapeze - Amusement Park

Photo Credit: Robin Kanouse – https://www.flickr.com/photos/15327252@N00/4341928156/”>Rockin Robin</a> via <a href=”https://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a

As my experience with using social networks grow, I’m beginning to understand that such networks can powerfully contribute to my own professional development and to the learning of students.  I no longer have to wait for the yearly conference or workshops or wonder if the PD budget will stretch to another course.  There is literally people, ideas, and information right at my finger tips.

LegoTeamMe with my PLN

Here’s a quote that I like to keep close in my mind.  While maybe not written with our technological decisions in mind, I like to use it in most aspects of my life and given the changing nature of our learning landscapes I think it fits well:

“When you are faced with decision, make that decision as wisely as possible, then forget it. The moment of absolute certainty never arrives.”  From the poem:  Live each day to the fullest by S. H. Payer

So readers, what’s your next step for GCP?  Ideas, thoughts?