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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Driving to Distraction

Suddenly everything I am reading about system reform is using the term, “drivers”.

First, is Sir Michael Barber’s book Deliverology 101 – a book about the process of system reform through identifying the “drivers” that either impede or support our efforts in program planning.  It really was helpful for me to go through his step-by-step process in identifying what we are doing, evaluating if it is working, and naming the drivers that are working, or sabotaging the efforts altogether and continues with what to do about it.  Great help.

The next article I pick up is Michael Fullen’s Choosing the Wrong Drivers for System Reform!  Have they been talking?  The beauty of Fullen’s article is, he actually names what he believes are the wrong drivers right up front – unlike Barber who expects us to figure it our for ourselves.  He also lets us know which are the good drivers.  The challenge now is to determine if I agree with Fullen’s list or not:

  1. Accountability: using test results as reward/punishment
  2. Individualism: promoting individuals over groups
  3. Technology: assuming it will work magic on its own (this one really caught my attention, but upon further reading, I have to agree with him completely)
  4. Fragmentation: over integration within the system.
These make sense, but since we don’t give merit pay in Ontario for test results, # 1 falls off my list of worries because I don’t believe we transfer people or punish/reward in any way because of EQAO.  (At least I hope not).
But I think he should have added: too-tight control by the state – I always remember the term: not too tight, not too loose when it comes to letting systems work through reform in ways that reflect their cultures and needs.  I am shocked at how many directives and funds are sent to our board with such tight restrictions included, that may or may not even fit within our organization structure.
I am wondering if I have the steering wheel at all, so why do I worry about drivers?

 

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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Musings

 

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Go Wide or Deep?

Here is the classic dilemma:  What do you do when:

  • you KNOW from research that we need to go deeper with our PD and initiatives (fewer and more in-depth with follow-up and consistency) than wider (let’s do it all, to everyone!)   BUT
  • you have a new initiative that can be expanded that is SO popular, everyone wants in – yet there are not enough dollars to do that
Our 2-year Blended Learning pilot project with elearning Ontario was a big hit with teachers and students – and the Ministry was impressed with our delivery model – loads of PD for teachers, a cross-panel emphasis, providing small pods of netbooks in the participating classrooms, using a wide range of online tools,  etc.
So now, the initiative is available to all boards, to all students and teachers, and the emails have poured in from principals and teachers pleading to get on board.  Hence my dilemma:
Do I continue with the existing classroom teachers, move them even further along in their understanding of effective use of technology, and add just a few more people that could be mentored by these veterans…..or do I say, hey, let’s go wide and add many many more classrooms – oh, sorry, no money for more netbooks though.
Either way, there are going to be disappointed people.  I definitely need to develop a well-thought-out plan that I can share widely so others can see the direction we are headed – to eventually have everyone (who want to of course) enjoying the online learning platform!
 
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Posted by on September 9, 2011 in Musings

 

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Social Capital – Why do we overlook this?

I just read an amazing article called The Missing Link in School Reform by Carrie Leana in the Stanford Social Innovation review that described research done in American schools on the link between teacher-learning formats and student achievement.

She notes that we are all so familiar with the usual external experts that we keep bringing in to our school districts to inspire and inform our teachers about the next best thing in education.

She notes that we are also very familiar with our efforts to update and upgrade our teachers through a myriad of workshops, meetings, conferences etc.  Again, all with the best of intentions to build the capacity of our teachers by increasing their knowledge base and pedagogical skills.

She notes that the third way we attempt to make change in our schools is to increase the capacity of our principals – provide them with the experts and workshops to make sure that their own knowledge and skills bases increase so that in their roles as instructional leaders, they can keep the teacher-learning momentum going.

These efforts, Leana called Human Capital.  Surprisingly very ineffective in increasing student achievement in the studied school districts.  Yet so very very expensive.  Leana does not dispute that these are important…but..

We are forgetting Social Capital – the power of teachers working together to collaboratively solve problems, seek advice from each other, observe each other in action, mentoring each other, sharing tips and resources.  Here is where the difference was made.   In districts where this collaboration was made common practice, the student achievement soared.

So, let’s not abandon the workshops for new learning through our experts and principals, but let’s make absolutely certain that we incorporate time for consolidation of that new learning through the regular interactions between our teachers – let them have has much time together as possible to be the social beings as we know they are.  Connectivism and Constructivism in the flesh.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2011 in Uncategorized