We're on the final day of #OETC15, and while I'm looking forward to returning home and to my boys, I'm going to miss the people I've met. From presenters to teachers to coaches, Ohio has a plethora of dedicated educators ready to transform learning and I'm thankful to them! (And thankful, too, to Twitter and Google Hangouts. Because of them, I can continue the conversations that began here.)
While I experienced more than that about which I'm writing today, it's this morning's keynote speech that impactfully resonated with me and one which my brain simply refuses to evict. It seems an exceptional presentation on which to reflect and dissect, and with which to conclude my series on #OETC15.
Fixing the Past or Inventing the Future: Education Reforms that Matter
Yong Zhao is the Presidential Chair and Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education at the University of Oregon
You gotta love a man (and a Duck!) who bravely comes to Columbus on the heels of losing the national championship.
And I'm so glad he did.
Dr. Yong Zhao's message of entrepreneurial-based education reform is desperately needed in this day and age of "college and career readiness." Especially in an era where 53% of our most recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. (That is not a typo.)
Instead of touting college and career readiness, Dr. Zhao encourages us to instead embrace a culture of "out-of-the-basement readiness," which is especially apt with our boomerang generation. (And, frankly, especially hilarious when you think about it. Or especially sad if you yourself are the parent of said basement-dweller.)
The disconnect between education and career these days, notes Dr. Zhao, can be contained in the metaphor of Nokia vs. Apple. (The metaphor appeals to the former English teacher in me.) Do you remember Nokia phones? In a nutshell, Apple didn't kill Nokia; Nokia killed Nokia by trying to add smart features to a dumb phone, and in inventing the smart phone, well...we all know how that turned out for Apple.
If you apply this metaphor to current education reforms, our Industrial Age model of education is the dumb phone, and yet we're trying to pile on smart features (technology, Common Core, NGAs) to that dumb phone. It epically failed for Nokia, so what makes us think it will succeed for education?
Dr. Zhao asserts, and the current statistics certainly support, that our children are miseducated in that they are educated for the wrong economy. A good education should keep your children out of the basement--not destine them to it.
So our current model is failing our students; certainly not making them college and career ready. Our "homogenous sausage-making" approach fails to give birth to visionaries, creators, makers, inventors, and problem-solvers: which is exactly what a global economy needs.
Dr. Zhao urges us as educators to invent a new smart phone. If creativity is job security today, then let's (please!) abandon the homogenous model of learning. We tend to devalue innovation and creativity in the classroom because we're pressured to get the students ready for "the test." And as we all know, "the test" precludes innovation and creativity. (An interesting fact: 40% of Google employees don't have college degrees. Think about THAT.)
Our new smartphone model of education should both permit and accommodate the following for each and every student:
In Dr. Zhao's words, "schools should become personalized learning ecosystems."
How great is that?
What if we allowed for product-oriented learning? What if--instead of testers--we created innovators? What if we provided future-oriented experiences for our learners? What if we practiced what we preached? What if we truly decided to start a revolution to make our students both college and career ready?
Yes, I suppose we need to have the tests; they measure growth. But if employees have evaluations, shouldn't students have the same--with authentic products that serve a REAL purpose in our real world? Do we have to have tests only?
We have to chuck the idea of "traditional" classrooms and "traditional" learning. We have to, as Dr. Zhao asserts, "stop fixing the past and invent the future." We simply have to.
Or America's going to have a lot of dumb phones on its hands.
It's Day 2 here at OETC15, and judging from how difficult it was to obtain parking, SRO at the keynote session isn't surprising. (Seriously, I spent more time in the line for the parking garage than I did getting here this morning.)
It was great bumping into my favorite peeps from back home, and even better sharing what we've learned AND bouncing ideas off each other. I especially enjoyed running into an old friend from my teaching days.
Then it was time to go learn something...
Session #1: Call It What You Want! Smashing, Crashing, Slamming iPad Apps 2.0 - Using Tech for Deeper Learning
Jen and Karen are tech coaches for the Mentor schools and two people who I've come to rely on quite a bit for outstanding advice and support as I make this journey. Their presentation not only provided a useful list of apps, but it also offered up a "philosophy" for app smashing:
Session #2: Changing Roles of Students and Teachers in Instruction & Learning
I knew weeks ago that I would attend Anthony Luscre's presentation on the shifting paradigm of education because I've been talking myself blue about the teacher/learner shift for at least six years now, so it's always comforting to find a kindred spirit. Here's what I learned:
Session #3: Your School's Story Matters! Use Social Media to Tell It
A little self-promtoion never hurt anyone (or any district)...and everyone loves a good story. Principal Ryan McLane and Assistant Principal Eric Lowe shared their social media story with us.
Don't expect people to come to you. We need to go where they are, and that's at:
I'm at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference in Columbus this week and feeling lucky to be here, sharing, learning, and collaborating. Since I know I have more than a few colleagues who couldn't attend, I'm engaging in some "mini-journaling" so they can be here vicariously!
Morning Session: Flipping Your Staff Meeting
Develop the definition of a Flipped Staff Meeting, look at activities which work well presented through the Flipped model, and discover tools to implement.
Afternoon Session: Online Assessments Toolkit
Want to truly prepare our students for the NGAs? Then start providing assignments and assessments that are "NGA-esque." While Eric Curts provided a literal plethora of helpful tools and resources today, here are my faves:
Last fall, I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Sean Wheeler, teacher and instructional technologist. This wasn't the first time I heard him speak, and each time I do, I always feel both inspired and agitated. Inspired, obviously, because Sean makes me want to be a better teacher. And agitated because everything Sean says makes sense and...why aren't we transforming education RIGHT NOW?
This particular day, as he often does, Sean was discussing the disconnect between what happens in the "real" world and what happens in education--particularly in our school buildings. He pointed out, very accurately, that at anytime and at anyplace, when we need information, we immediately have access to it via our mobile devices, laptops, and tablets. We can pull up a map of Tibet, a video explaining the Pythagorean theorem, a Wikipedia article about the Underground Railroad...all in seconds.
And yet, in the one place where knowledge, information, and the acquisition of it on a daily (and hourly) basis is not only necessary but naturally expected, guess what we do?
We take away the search bars.
It's true. Student mobile devices are prohibited in school. Filtering software prevents access to websites. Limited and/or outdated technology in our schools means teachers have to resort to boring and rote worksheets.
What's wrong with this picture?
So, we adopt the Common Core because we want students to experience more rigor in their learning. And we implement the Next Generation Assessments (which are technology-task heavy, by the way) to prove students are both college and career ready.
How can we fix this? How can we return the search bar? We can't overturn district policy on student mobile devices (yet). We can't single-handedly deactivate firewalls (yet). We can't provide the latest device to every one of our students (yet). It takes time...but we'll get there.
How do I know this? Because I see it everyday. Teachers have always been creative problem-solvers. We've always invented ways to provide when the district or the budget can't. Whether it's a one iPad classroom or a classroom with three desktop computers from ten years ago, we've been able to create engaging lessons that encourage and produce critical thinking and creativity.
And even better, I've seen students who (to use a cliche) think outside of the box--who transcend our expectations with their ingenuity and imagination. We can learn from them, too (but that's another post for another day.)
This is what I tell teachers who bemoan what we don't have. (There are those teachers, too.) It CAN be done, and we just have to be creative about it.
The quotation that' the title of this post is from Sean Wheeler, too, and when I first heard it, I inwardly slumped. Because when you think about it, it's depressing. If the future already happened, how can we hope to catch up? We don't have search bars!
Sometimes, though, it's not about the technology. Sure, it's nice to have--and it's necessary to have in this day and age. But most of the time, it's about the teaching.
So, keep reading great books, and keep following great minds, check out those Pinterest boards curated by great teachers, and ask for help from your PLC. We're all in this together.
And I have faith in us.
Digital Learning Coach in Cleveland, Ohio, sharing innovative technology ideas.