Saturday, August 25, 2012

BYOD For Teachers

The use of technology to access, store and create information has become an essential part of teaching and learning.

Regular readers of this blog know that our school has already embraced a BYOD policy for students.  You can read related information here and here

In recent years we have observed that more and more teachers are using their own device for both work and personal use. As our lives become more digitally immersed this will be the norm.   The divide between a specific "work device" and "personal device" will become increasingly blurred and redundant 

To address this growing reality, this year, the school will give teachers access to a technology grant towards the cost of a computing device. The grant will cover 50% of the cost of computer (up to a certain limit) Teachers will be eligible to receive a subsidy once every 4 years. 

The grant  must indicate how the device will be used as a teaching and learning tool and be linked to the teacher’s annual professional growth plan.  Teachers must indicate how they plan to implement the use of technology in their class and how their device will assist them in that endeavor. (we have suggested that teachers consider a “digital” Bloom’s Taxonomy to assist them in developing a plan).

Some Considerations  
  • As a school with limited resources, this approach lightens device management and maintenance.  Teachers are responsible for maintaining and managing their own devices.
  • Teachers must continue to be vigilant about the ethical uses of devices at school and with students - always maintaining proper and ethical boundaries when working as a education professional. 
  • Teachers know what device is works best for them and their teaching.  They need to get comfortable with its use and application.  This will hopefully translate into a more seamless and effective use with  students.
In end this "personalized" approach to technology acquisition for teachers, will hopefully increase the likelihood of sustainable technology integration in teaching and learning.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Start With Why: A Review

I enjoyed Simon Sinek's book "Start With Why"

The main point of Sinek's book is that organizations that endure and find lasting relevance are those that have clarity in  their "Why" as an organisation.  More specifically, these organisations have clarity in their cause or have some sort of enduring belief or purpose.  You might consider the "why" the organizational vision.

I've written a little about organization vision  here

Throughout the book, Sinek gives some leadership advice that has relevance in education..  Some of my favorites include:
  • Organizations can look to manipulate its customers, which might  lead to an increase in sales but does not lead to customer loyalty.  Similarly, as leaders in schools, we need to be reminded of the limited effects of extrinsic motivations on learning.
  • Sinek makes the point that "products give life to their cause".  I like this statement.  I also believe that in schools, students give life to our cause.
  • "People don't by What you do, they buy Why you do it."   Sinek repeats this statement several times in the book.  This resonated with me in a sense that as teachers, we get more engagement from our students if we provide a clear and relevant "why" to whatever it is we are teaching.  
  • Sinek rightly makes the argument that we need align our "Why" with our "What".  In other words we need to "walk our talk"
  • I particularly liked Sinek's view of the role of trust in leadership.  Sinek writes that trust is more than a checklist.  Effective leaders prove trust in difficult times, take care of employees/staff first, causing a trickle down effect of caring relationship.  I personally think this notion is critically important in education.

Sinek also makes the strong point that leaders need to be good communicators of "WHY".  They need to inspire and attract followers.  A good leader/communicator is able to put "gut feelings" into clear and inspired language.  Sinek essentially argues that leaders need to be good orators, using vibrant language.  Buzz words won't cut it.  He uses Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement as one example of a tremendous communicator.

Some Push Back: Limited View of Leadership?
I agree with Sinek's thesis that good leaders and organizations have an enduring clarity of "Why" they are doing what they are doing. What left me feeling a little uneasy was Sinek's depiction of the prototypical effective leader.

It felt as though Sinek was favouring a certain "personality cult" of leadership.  The main examples he cited of of effective leadership were rooted on a founders ability to inspire and communicate their "why".  There is no questions that Steve Jobs or Martin Luther King were extremely effective leaders.  These are exemplars of one end of the leadership spectrum.  What about those leaders who aren't the best orators but still inspire action and movements? Those who speak through action rather than word?

What about shared leadership or vision?
Sinek does not really spend any time talking about how effective "why's" are developed.  Short of the personal "why" of the a founder - he does not offer any other examples of how effective "why's" can be created and sustained.  I'm thinking about public sector organizations with multiple stakeholders where the public good is at stake (health care, education, etc).

This is a book worth reading giving greater depth to Sinek's TED Talk.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Tour that Changed the World

Well maybe not the whole world.....  But for 22 days this past July a group of 64 students and 10 adults went on a magical choir tour of Portugal.

My wife and I were privileged enough to be pilgrims on this musical, cultural, historical and spiritual journey for 12 of those days.

The beauty of Portugal's coastline, rich culture and history was only matched by the beauty and transformational music of the the choir. 

After each performance - both the planned ones and the "flash mob" moments - the choir was able to transform the lives of a few random  and previously unknown people.  Ultimately, we may never know the effects that the music had on their lives, but I think the music of the choir has made the world a better place.

I am  reminded of the lady who owned the restaurant where we had a our traditional Fado dinner.  After dinner the choir sang in appreciation for the wonderful supper.  Following the song, the lady broke down in tears, telling our director how she has never felt so moved.

....or the Fado performer who told me that when the choir sang he "heard  the Holy Spirit speak to him"

.....or the young women who, while stumbling upon the choir  in Fatima, caught my attention as she just sat almost in a trance like state, mouth half open and tears flowing from her eyes.

As we toured I was reminded of Margret Mead's famous quote:

"Never underestimate what a group of small and dedicated group of people can do to change the world"

From event to event, as the choir broke out into song, I found myself turning my back on the choir and looking out at those who were transfixed by their music.  With each performance  I was moved and inspired by how the choir's gift of music  impacted so many people in different ways.

There were many high lights of the this trip.  Perhaps the most moving was the evening the choir sang in the home town where our choir director's mother was laid to rest nearly 30 years ago (she passed away a very young mom).

That night,  many of the town's residents came to see the choir "from Vancouver", directed by the son of one of their "beloved" - who died far too young. 

There was a serene,  "homecoming" feel to the evening.  The son who lost a mother far to soon, came to share the trans formative work he is doing through music.

The defining moment of the evening occurred when the choir sang "It take a whole village to raise a child"

As the students sang those very powerful words, I felt the love a small Portuguese village, proud relatives,and a fallen mother flow through a teacher and son and permeate our students.

As the song ended, the near 800 townspeople stood in unison with not a dry eye in the church.

I realized then that lives have been changed. 

Just like the famous butterfly effect asks:

"Can a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon cause a tsunami in Japan?"

Similarly I ask  myself:

Can a small group of students singing throughout Portugal  make the world a better place?

For hundreds (and maybe thousands) that heard the choir sing, I am convinced the world is a better place today than before they heard them.

We may never know what this transformation will look like or the when it will take hold but perhaps that is not for us to know......we just have to trust.  

I just felt fortunate to be there.