Visions of Education Futures Floating Around in My Head

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User Generated Education

Walk into a classroom in any part of the United States, even the world, and you most likely will scratch your head in disbelief asking yourself questions such as:

  • Why do the classrooms look pretty much like the ones in which I, my parents, and my grandparents learned?
  • Many students (of all ages) own computers in the form of their cell phones that are more powerful than all of the computer power of NASA back in 1969, when it placed two astronauts on the moon. Why aren’t they using them for learning?
  • Why are the kids still categorized and sorted by date of manufacture (birthdates)?
  • Why are the students using paper-based textbooks that are older than the students, themselves, and provide no options to check for information accuracy or to extend their learning based on areas of interest?
  • Why is there one person standing in front of the room doing…

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Today’s Education Should Be About Giving Learners Voice and Choice

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User Generated Education

Some of the recurring themes of my conference presentations and blog posts include:

The underlying theme of all of my ideas, of all of my blog posts is about setting up the conditions where learners’ choice and voice flourish.  I have come to believe that the only real education is one that fully embraces learner choice and voice. All instructional practices in this era of learning should revolve around learner choice and voice:

Education works when people have opportunities to find and develop unaccessed or unknown voices and skills. Audre Lorde poignantly describes this “transformation of silence into language and action [as] an act of self-revelation.” Opportunities for flexibility and choice assist learners in finding passion, voice, and

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6 Steps to Exterminating Innovation in Schools

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Hooked On Innovation

antiinnovation spray_edited-1We’ve all heard about some great new change in education. Some innovation sweeping the area schools whether it be a new way to teach or a new type of ed tech tool. Innovation is an annoying pest. It infects organizations and makes people uneasy because it’s usually accompanied by a disease called “change.”

Many of the things we try to do in our district are innovative. We’ve had 1:1 iPads for nearly 4 years. We’ve tried to shift pedagogy to more of a student-centered and immersive authentic approach. We have even started to pilot flexible furniture and customized learning spaces. However, with each new approach, we have experienced some opposition from those seeking to maintain the status quo.

“I went to school without technology or fancy furniture and I made it out just fine.”

That’s a common one I’ve heard. Or this one:
“All this stuff costs money and support, so why are…

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Life Can Only Be Understood Backwards…. But it Must Be Lived Forwards!

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“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”  

~John Dewey, 1915

Fascination lies in the fact that the greatest challenge of practice we face in education today was so eloquently stated 100 years ago.  In this progressive age of “21st Century Education”, I find myself deeply reflecting on the the future of schooling, the nature of educational leadership and the evolving culture of learning in our current education system.  All are evolving, but at a rate that does not necessarily reflect the pace of societal change.  We seem trapped in a tunnel and the fear of not knowing what is in the light at the end of that tunnel deters the transformation of a system and stunts the growth of the  learners within it. Facing an ever increasing pace of societal change, it is imperative that we focus and refine our efforts to construct meaningful, relevant and engaging modern learning experiences for all students.  Environments that are optimized, individualized and reflect the shift from a passive process to a participatory experience are critical to ensuring learners are prepared to participate and contribute to a newly emerging future.  Dewey’s insight provides a compass to guide the pedagogical choices we make ensuring they are grounded in the needs of the learners before us and they are not overshadowed by our past experiences or comfort with what we did yesterday.

Globalization and the ubiquitous  access to information has changed the landscape of the learning experience and the walls of the “traditional” classroom are falling.  More than ever before, students are guiding their own learning, defining their own curriculum and accessing knowledge on demand.  Unaware of constructed boundaries, children don’t know where to stop learning and what they are not capable of.   They can learn amazing things anytime, anywhere and from anyone.  It is an experiential process that is individualized to respect and reflect the learner.  It should not be a competitive journey in which the individual feels discouraged from trying for fear of being wrong.  The environment must support a person’s innate desire to learn and provide them with opportunities to learn what, when and how they want to. The fundamental goal of education must be to teach learners how to learn.  It is so much more than just the regurgitation of the information that has been deemed relevant and important.  We must teach students to connect the dots, not just collect the dots, so they can succeed and adapt to changing needs in a dynamic and demanding world.

How, when, where and who we learn from is beginning a metamorphosis.  The needs, scope and scale of the so called “21st Century Classroom” must evolve to reflect a new global and digital reality that is challenging to define due to the rapid pace of its own evolution.  Information communication technologies are redefining, accelerating and deepening the learning experience connecting everything to everyone, everywhere.  Everyone has become the teacher of everyone else and the role of the “traditional” teacher is being redefined.  To ignore the collaborative potential of the collective marginalizes the goals of education and the development of true life-long learners.

Strong educators that collaboratively engage in and model the learning process are the keys to unlocking the greatness in kids. Strong teachers recognize that learning reaches far beyond the curriculum, recognize the unique context and experience of each child and cultivate a sense of wonder in students that is fuelled by their own passion.  Strong teachers are not defined by the tools they use but instead by the relationships they build, the imaginations they ignite and the community they bring together.

The most effective leaders in education, those with the vision to innovate and the capacity to empower, are they themselves the most active and engaged learners.  Educational leadership is not about finding the single best way to do things; leadership demands having a vision to enable all learners to maximize their unique potential and find their opportunity to lead.  An effective leader engages in the process of growth to facilitate and support the growth of those they influence.  Overcoming the notion that the only leaders in education are those that sit highest in the hierarchy of the system is critical to the successful transformation of the paradigm of education.  As teachers and lead learners, we must all develop, explore and engage in effective pedagogies to collaborate, communicate, create and curate the ideas, experiences and insights of all our leaders past, present and future.  Strong educators lead this evolutionary change  to build a system that can support an undefined future that is demanding a redefined paradigm.

The potency of modern education can not be realized if we remain solely anchored in repeating the successes of the past.  Soren Kierkegaard reminds us that “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”  We must be fully cognizant of and responsive to the evolving culture of learning in our education system.   We must embrace the challenge to apply design thinking principles to truly re-imagine the educational experience.  It is imperative for this and future generations that we accelerate the growth of the current pockets of experimentation into a culture of innovation.   It is not enough to merely focus on doing old things in new ways, we must innovate and envision doing new things in ways that we never imagined!

Are Digital Portfolios a Disadvantage?

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Learning About Learning

It won’t surprise anyone that I am a strong proponent of digital professional portfolios.  I demonstrate how to create them here, and over the past year, George Couros has worked with Principal Associations in Ontario (CPCO/OPC/ADFO) to help our school leaders become connected learners, including the idea of using a blog as a portfolio.

I’ve bought into this hook, line and sinker.

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I exude visible thinking, open learning, reflective practice, and I promote it in professional practice with every breath.

I know, you’ve heard enough.

So I have to ask, then, if I am wrong?  Is it actually a disadvantage to have a digital portfolio?

Because right now, it really feels like it is.

Let me explain.

Over the past three years, I have sat through a number of professional interviews, on both sides of the table.  I don’t hear any questions…

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This much I know about…why we are developing Growth Mindset Learning tools

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I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about why we are developing Growth Mindset Learning tools.

If you always do what youve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. If you haven’t heard Henry Ford’s ubiquitous aphorism by now, I really cannot imagine where you’ve been these past few years. It’s such a cliché, but it is behind the conclusions drawn by Yeager, Walton and Cohen in their overview of research into the impact of Growth Mindset strategies in schools.

Their conclusions are important for any of us developing a Growth Mindset in our schools:




Hard work alone is not enough. When I learnt how to play golf, I practised until my hands bled. But I always thought about the outcomes of my shots and would change things if a fault…

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Twitter is a Public Library!

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Learning About Learning

Earlier today, I read a post on the importance of the language we use when we talk about education.  It  made me think about some of the listening I have done this year when I ask educators why they are not using social media for their professional learning.

At the OPC/CPCO/ADFO Symposium in November, many school leaders at my table told me that they had not really found any value in using Twitter until they heard George Couros talk about it.

In December, I was honoured to be asked to spend a few hours with the Lakehead Public SchoolsInspire Program, leading a session for educators on the use of social media in the classroom.  While I loved working with teachers, I still felt I was not really hitting the mark in demonstrating the value of Twitter for professional learning.

Just before Christmas, I was asked to work with another…

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The Other 21st Century Skills: Educator Self-Assessment

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User Generated Education

I’ve posted about The Other 21st Skills and Attributes.  This post provides links and resources about these skills as well as an educator self-assessment.  This assessment contains questions to assist the educator in evaluating if and how s/he is facilitating these skills and attributes in the learning environment. skills

21st century skills

Related Resources:

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Change And A Glass Of Water

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“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want to change the world?” -Steve Jobs

I want you to gather the image of a glass of water in your mind.  Picture that glass sitting on a table.  Now imagine yourself walking around that table taking in the entirety of that simple glass of water.  Imagine yourself taking in its clarity, its weight, and its volume.  See how, even through its transparency, it fills the glass.  It is clear, yet abundantly visible.

As you circle the table, look at how the glass holds and supports the life-sustaining water that sits within it.  See how the glass not only supports and holds, but provides clarity to the level of water that it is holding.

Now imagine that life-sustaining water as your vision and the glass that holds it as your culture.

When the culture…

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Growth Mindset: GoBrain and Making a Splash

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User Generated Education

A recent interest of mine has been the Growth Mindset.  I have blogged and presented on this topic:

Due to my interests, Carol Reiley contacted me about her initiatives about growth mindsets.  First, from her and her team’s website, GoBrain, is the following:


Second, she wrote a children’s book, Making a Splash, and decided to crowdfund its publication through Kickstarter –

What follows is an interview with Carol about writing and disseminating Making a Splash.

How did you first get interested in the growth mindset?

I’m a PhD student in Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University. My research is studying how medical students learn to become great surgeons. After I read Carol Dweck’s mindset book, a lot…

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