Sunday, November 30, 2008

Follow the Leader

Chris Lehmann, Principal for Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, has an amazing thought provoking presentation called School 2.0: Progressive Pedagogy in the 21st Century that can be found here and here.

Run time is about an hour but take a breath, click play, and hold on because Chris passionately delivers his message succinctly without a second waisted.

Stream videos at Ustream

Chris' Notes on his Wiki
Live Back Channel Chat
UStream of Audience Feedback

See What Others Have Said
Lisa Huff
Jill Elfering
Wes Fryer
Chris Lehmann

My Own Thoughts
Chris is our lighthouse, our fence post, and our point man as we navigate through uncharted territories. He is blazing a path for others to follow.

While watching, I was reminded of the final scenes in the movie Patriot with Mel Gibson. Chris would be the one to grab the American Flag, push his way to the top of the grassy knoll, and wave it for others to see despite the risks involved. In that scene, the troops are being beaten down badly but its only after the courage, vision, and passion of one man that turns things around.

If there is a leader among us...we will follow.

I know, I know, we are all leaders right? Sure. To some degree this is true but I think even Seth Godin would agree that within the dynamics of any group there is an individual who stands out among the rest, a visionary, an intelligent and balanced soul that ignites the passions of those around him.

Follow the Leader

Alright, that's it for me...I am going to go reread John Dewey now.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

I have thoroughly enjoyed Seth Godin's book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.

This book is filled with a plethora of thoughtful ideas on how the world has a shortage of leaders and how we all have the power to lead. He goes on to argue that leadership is the best marketing tactic for any organization. Leaders make a rucous. Leaders can come from the bottom.

"How was your day?" He asks and explores the idea that those who like their jobs are doing the best work, making the greatest impact, and changing the most. Those that like their jobs the most are changing the way they see the world and changing the world itself by challenging the status quo. He suggests that one person, just one person can make a huge difference.

Here is a corresponding Question and Answer eBook that was designed by a group of volunteers.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Through What Lens Do You See the World?

Ok, here it least the way I see it.

I would imagine that when a carpenter looks at all the world he sees a nail, and when a mathematician stops to look he may see the world in numbers, patterns, and algorithms. What lens does the elementary teacher see through?

My first hip shot reaction to such a question would be the "literacy lens." We teach students, ultimately, to be literate. Right? It is the central theme around all that we do and is integrated heavily within every single subject we teach. If students are not literate than most likely they are struggling in our building.

This is not to say that we are not teaching Math or Science or Social Studies because of course we are. However, even in Math, at least at the fifth grade level, there is a tremendous amount of "literacy" involved with problem solving and developing written responses to solutions.

So what then is the definition of "literacy?" What does it mean to be literate, especially in the 21st Century?

Literacy according to NCTE:
Twenty-first century readers and writers need to:
- Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
- Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
- Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
- Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
- Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
- Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

"...Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies - are multiple, dynamic, and malleable."

Here lies the lens at which I see the world ~ a complex idea of literacy in our day and age.

Ever since Alan November came to our school I have delved into the world of technology. Probably more out of curiosity than anything else, but I discovered that the world outside of our classrooms are changing dramatically and maybe just maybe, if all we do is teach our kids to be able to read and write that it might not be enough.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Professional Growth

It was the third and final round of interviewing for the elementary teaching position, and I wanted desperately to make a strong first impression with the Superintendent. My sweaty palms and stuffy suit did not make this any easier, but all of my Marine Corps training came flooding to my frontal lobe as I entered his office. In my mind I kept repeating, "make eye contact, speak with confidence, and don't sit until he does."

We talked. Within minutes I was relaxed and the casual conversation that he was directing was about "my story" while he was diligently taking notes and genuinely seeking to understand.

As the conversation ensued he showed me a picture of Gordon's Ladder. It was the first time I had ever seen this and I didn't really grasp the full meaning of what it meant to be Unconsciously Unskilled or Unconsciously Skilled. That was five years ago and I still to the day continue to gain a deeper understanding of what Gordon's Ladder truly means.

To frame this conversation, let's put Gordon's Ladder in the context of the professional growth of teachers. The idea of continuous improvement reminds me of Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development where we are able to achieve in part because of our more able peers. Being continuous however, suggests that we never truly reach a destination, there is never a moment where we can lean back on the two legs of our chair, hands woven behind our heads, and our feet propped up on the desk and say, "ahh, I've made it."

So let's for a moment focus on the bottom rung of Gordon's Ladder, Unconsciously Unskilled. This suggests that there are areas in our professional lives that are not improving and we do not even realize it. But through careful and diligent reflection we can begin to uncover those areas in our profession where we are unskilled.

In this moment of meta-cognition we would then shift into being Consciously Unskilled; we are now aware of that with which we do not know. We are then left with the opportunity to make changes and continue up the ladder towards being Consciously Skilled. In time, with continuous improvement being the goal, we would reach that place on Gordon's Ladder where we become Unconsciously Skilled, using the knowledge we have achieved in a manner that is fluid and dynamic and happens effortlessly.

Being Unconsciously Skilled seems to me like the psychological concept of Flow according to Csikszentmihalyi.

Compare Gordon's Ladder to the Social Technographic Ladder. Here lies yet another continuum of professional growth that requires a set of goals, reflection, and collegial support to begin to climb this ladder.

  • Are you aware of what you are unskilled at?
  • Are your students aware of what they are unskilled at?
  • What are you unconsciously skilled at?
  • What are your students unconsciously unskilled at?
  • Where would you place yourself on the Social Technographic Ladder?
  • How will you spend your available time to continue your professional growth on these ladders?
  • How will you empower your students to climb these ladders?