Educators of the Future

Isaac Asimov stated in the early 1930’s……….

“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”

Undoubtedly, our world is changing drastically and rapidly.  These changes make us question the foundations of our systems of education and schooling.  It is becoming increasingly essential that educators continue to stay current and familiar with emerging technologies and that they are comfortable integrating a variety of technologies into their educational practices.  Technological literacy has emerged as an essential literacy of equal importance to reading, writing, mathematics, scientific inquiry, and critical and creative thought.  However, it is also important to remember that technology is often the medium, and should not be confused with the message.  Educators of the future face the challenge of implementing technology in order to aid in reaching the larger goals of education; in order to create motivated life-long learners who have the skills, abilities and the willingness to educate themselves.  As the Internet and the ‘world of Education’ continue to shift progressively toward a notion of open thinking, sharing, and collaboration, the role of the teacher must also shift from sole provider of knowledge to a facilitator of learning.  As our planet and the human race face a convergence of simultaneous crisis, the implementation of web technologies will not be education’s greatest challenge.  Teachers will increasingly be faced with the challenge to create projects and learning environments that aim towards solving real world problems and sustainability.

Digital Storytelling

In Dean Shareski’s latest post on his blog ‘Ideas and Thoughts”, he passes on the idea [with credit to Doug Peterson, ZeFrank, Stephen Downs among others] that Google Streetview and its ever growing database is an exceptional tool for storytelling.  Dean created and shared a video about his small hometown of Morden in Manitoba, which emphasizes the point about Google’s growing database – even relatively small towns have now been ‘Streetviewed’.

Dean also shares a link to a video by Jim Groom, saying that, “Watching Jim Groom’s video, was like literally like going for a walk with him.”  It was Jim’s video that really hit me with the power of Google Streetview.  Jim tells his story about growing up in a tight-knit community in Long Island.  This is a part of the world that I know almost nothing about, and yet after watching his video,  I feel that I would ‘know my way around’ if I was to go for a walk in his neighbourhood.  I feel that I’ve learned something about the culture that is associated with the place.  Now Jim’s story is not particularly exciting or interesting, although I do feel that I have learned about that part of New York.  It is the power of this technology that I have found exciting and interesting.  If this technology was used by someone who did have an interesting story to tell, it could be quite powerful.  Google Streetview allows anyone with the right technology, and a bit of time, to create engaging videos to support a story of a place.

So I got to thinking about place, and stories of place.  What place would I love to tell a story about, and share with my students?  I first Googled my house, and switched to Street View.  I thought that it was pretty cool that my property was on Street View, although not interesting enough to share with anyone.  Then I thought about one of my favourite places on this planet… the artists’ market square in Montmartre, Paris, France.  I Googled Montmartre, and sure enough Street View was available.  I had to call upon my memory from walking the streets of Montmartre several years ago, and eventually found my way to the artists’ square.  If done right, some very interesting stories could be told with the Street View images of this heavily trafficked place.

The man in the green shirt in the center of the image below is a painter by the name of Cawian Mahmud.   When I visited this square about six years ago with my wife, we bought four paintings from Cawian to decorate our newly purchased house.  It was quite interesting to me to ‘find’ him in street view, as I have often wondered if he still worked and painted in Paris.  Cawian’s story is just one of the details that could be interwoven into a Google Street View walk through Montmartre.

I doubt that my small attempt is a great example (especially since I haven’t yet made a video of the ‘streetview walk’), never-the-less, I think the power of Street View is evident.  Whether used by teachers, or by students, Street View can be used to create interesting stories about the culture of a place.

On-line PD – I’ll Get to the Point

In order for true quality professional development to take place, I think that we need to address some of the ways around which we think about professional development as educational systems.  Yes, it is certainly true that there are hundreds of on-line tools and resources available to enhance PD, but I don’t think that it would matter if we had hundreds of thousands of excellent tools to choose from.   These tools are simply the medium through which to facilitate PD.  If there is no unified direction of message, does it really matter what tools or media are used?

Herein lies the point.  There seems to be a lack of direction as to where we need to head in education.  There seems to be a lack of direction in aiming towards best practices in education, and there is certainly a lack of direction in how we should best utilize professional learning time.  Essentially, I believe this to be an issue of control, and I think it is time to let go.  Traditionally, educational systems and their leaders have prided themselves in their abilities to create quality professional development sessions that have been intended for the masses; a great majority of teachers.  I don’t think this works anymore.  We simply have too much choice, and that is a good thing.  Let’s embrace our power of choice.

It is time for educational systems and their leaders to understand that TEACHERS ARE LIFE-LONG LEARNERS. It is time to give up the control over how PD time is to be spent.  We need to pass this control over to the individual teachers who, as dedicated life-long learners, will ultimately decide what their best possible learning path is, and how they should best go about it.  This is how true PD will take place.  Teachers must be invested in their learning in order for it to take place. A growing number of teachers are finding many current PD opportunities are simply not engaging.

Scenario A.  A PD session is implemented with mandatory attendance from all staff members.  The PD session is designed in a sort of ‘top down’ approach in which the direction was decided upon by an educational leader.  The topic is yet another of several ‘new initiatives’.  The session is well attended, and many staff members contribute to the discussion, however others are not engaged, even sowing buttons on shirts in the back of the room.

Scenario B.  A block of time is set aside for PD opportunities to take place.  Staff members were given advance notice and ample time to ‘choose their own adventure’.  Some staff members have decided to drive to other schools in the system to meet with teachers with a similar focus.  One group in particular meets to learn photography techniques from a teacher who has already set up a successful photography program.  Other teachers decide to head to their classrooms.  One teacher uses his lap-top to watch a lecture from professor Michael Wesch via Ustream.  Another spends time watching a few TED Talks videos about creativity [like Ken Robinson’s, or Elizabeth Gilbert’s].  A small group of teachers meet to discuss potential recycling and composting projects to be implemented in the school.  One of the teachers in this group logs in to Tapped In, and they meet up with a couple of other teachers in another city who have already begun similar projects.  Another teacher browses through a list of new Web 2.0 tools and begins to play with software she was not familiar with.  Several others meet in the library for a more traditional and guided PD session and discussion about literacy.

From these example scenarios, it is my opinion that the second involves a higher level of professional development.  More teachers are engaged in their learning, as they’ve had control over the design of their learning path.  In order for this to happen, we need to change our outlook about PD.  We need to understand that professional learning can take place on-line.  We need to understand that PD can be solitary, and that professional learning can take place by watching quality lectures or YouTube and TedTalk videos.  It’s time to give the control of professional learning over to the professional who is to be learning.

On-line PD – TEDx Indie

There are an ever-growing variety of Internet tools, programs, and technologies that pose great potential for professional development opportunities to take place either on a local or global scale.  Over the last week or so, I have taken a look at the following:

In my last post I talked about about the VWBPE Conference in Second Life and how that led me to some professional learning about augmented reality.  I began to contemplate and consider how augmented reality is already becoming a prominent part of our digital world, especially with GPS tools, smart phones, and iTools like iPads, iPhones, and iTouches.  This led me to some reflection about augmented reality in the classrooms and some thoughts about the iSchool initiative.

The next on-line PD resource that got my brainwave moving was TEDxTalks.  As most tech savy educators, I’ve been a fan of TED talks for a while.  Many of these lectures are quite exceptional, and I’ve often played TED talk videos in my classroom.  My favourite TED talks are lectures by visual artist and activist Chris Jordan, Al Gore,  and by Sir Ken RobinsonWill Richardson posted an early morning ‘brain dump’ after a mind jolting experience at TEDxNYED in New York.  As a fan of TED, I was already interested, and then Will’s list of speakers really had me intrigued: Michael Wesch, Lawrence Lessig, George Siemens, Chris Lehman, and many, many others.  What is this TEDxNYED?  I followed his link, and then another, and another, and I ended up on YouTube’s TEDx channel.  I was blown away by the number of very high quality lectures, and really just the very concept of TEDx.

TED has always been an excellent resource for professional development.  There are just so many great lectures on TED, and TEDx is a very welcome addition.  I browsed through, and quickly found a series of TED lectures from NASA.  After a few short lectures, I am now much more knowledgeable about the happenings on Mars, and about our advancement in the engineering science of robotics.  I haven’t managed to find any of the New York ED video here yet.  If you know where I can view them, let me know.  I’d like to see another lecture from Michael Wesch.

Want to know more about robots in 2010?

Its 2010… both feet in!

Its the middle of January, and I feel as though I’m just getting my feet firmly on the ground after flying into a new year, a new decade.   A new decade?  Wow, that one went quickly!  I’ve felt a little overwhelmed, disoriented even, starting back at work after the Christmas holiday break.  Before the break, I was fortunate to be working with a very capable intern, Ashley, who was teaching much of my course-load.  Needless to say, it was a bit of shock to come back to the full workload of teaching.  [Ashley, I really appreciated your help!]  My first day back to work was also, officially, my first day back to my graduate studies.  This winter semester is going to be very challenging.  I have decided to attempt to study two courses simultaneously, in addition to a full teaching load, and my other full-time life as a father and husband.   I’m not sure how this is going to work out.  Over the past year, my blog posts have been very much focused on sustainability and ESD.  This focus is not likely to change, as it seems to be the ultimate goal or purpose on any of my investigations in pedagogy.  Now I am heading down two new paths that may or may not overlap very much.  Many of my posts will be part of my reflection and studies as a part of EC&I 832 which will focus primarily on educational technologies and their links to pedagogy.  My other area of study is and independent directed study though which I am to explore several communities of artists that have had significant and shaping impact on their greater societies.  The aim is to discover common traits and characteristics that can be emulated and applied to my own pedagogical practices.  The end goal is to learn from significant communities of artists and find ways to create and inspire change in my community and society.  So, like everything else in my life, this might get a little messy.  It might get difficult to separate the two areas of study, after all and in the end, everything is related to pedagogy and making a difference with young people.  I think I have been a slightly afraid of the chaos that I have set in front of myself.  But here I go… I’m jumping in …  I’ve got my feet on the ground now.

2010 promises to be a great year.  It is a year in which eyes from around the world will be on my country, Canada, as the Olympics begin next month.  It is a year in which the world’s greatest sporting event, the FIFA World Cup, kicks off this summer in South Africa.  It is the year in which my beautiful wife and I will witness our girls turn four.  I, myself, will turn thirty-three [which has always been one of my favourite numbers].  This is the year in which I plan to develop and execute a major project in my study of curriculum and instruction, thus culminating my graduate studies.  It is a year through which I plan to develop significantly as a professional, as a father, and as a person on this planet.  This is a year in which we are sure to see several very interesting and important global and political developments as the world populations realize that they cannot rely on their governments to respond responsibly to global climate crisis’.  It is shaping up to be a very exciting year, and so it is with enthusiasm and excitement that I jump in.  Here we go!

On my rock, thinking… VISIONING.

A few months ago I had changed the banner that sits at the top of the introduction page to my web space (which this is a part of).  I have been thinking deeply about change and really found meaning in the following quote.  It is a famous inspirational quote of Mohandas ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi that has been translated into English.  The quote reads, “Be the change that you want to see in this world.”  Simple, yet profound.  In many ways this has been the mantra through which I have been viewing this course, and much of my own teaching this semester.  In many ways, this quote sums up my visioning.  I want to inspire change.  I want to awaken students to the understanding that change is inevitable, that change is necessary, that the needs are immediate, and that change is already happening.  I want my students to understand that they have the ability to create change; to be change.  I want this for myself, for my family, my children, and for my students.

As I try to envision the larger picture; the ideal situation towards which I strive, I see myself living as a positive example.  I see myself working hard towards living a lifestyle that contributes to the sustainability of human existence on our planet.  I dream one day of owning a house that is not only ‘off the grid’ in terms of demanding gas and electricity to be supplied, but one that generates a surplus of electricity to give or sell back to the community.  I dream of living in a community of like-minded people who are thinking, acting and living sustainably.  I dream of looking back on my teaching career and realizing that I was able to make a difference; that I was able to awaken teenagers to the realities and to the truths of our world; that I was able to communicate a message of hope; and that I was able to inspire young people to create change.  I hope that I can inspire children to create significant change; real change that has an impact on our culture and the mindset of many people; change that leads us to living sustainably as a culture.  I hope to be able to lead as an example.  I hope to be able to live as the best possible example, especially for my own children.  I want my own children to live healthy, happy, creative lives through which they have a positive footprint on the earth.

I want to educate children about sustainability and sustainable energy sources.  I want to educate children about carbon emissions and about positive global footprints.  I want to share the messages of so many important thinkers.  I want children to understand what David Suzuki, Chris Jordan, Al Gore, Peter Senge, and so many others are talking about.  I want children to be literate of the truths and the real issues of their time.  And I want to be careful not to overwhelm them.  There are so many problems and issues facing this, and future generations.  There are so many examples of how we are not living in sustainable ways on this planet.  The information, the facts, and the images can be completely overloading, overwhelming, and quite depressing.  I want to be careful at balancing informing with inspiring.  There is a serious risk of overwhelming individuals with truth, sometimes creating a feeling of hopelessness.  I want to provide positive examples of change that is already happening.  I want to communicate a message of hope. 

In a nutshell, this is my vision statement.  I want to be the change that I want to see in this world.  I want to awaken and inspire others to do the same.  The change that I want to see is to live sustainably in ways in which we are not taking more from the earth than it can supply, and in ways that do not take away from future generations.