This week my principal was fortunate to attend a technology conference in Regina where he was exposed to some great ideas around using technology in schools. When he returned from the conference he and I had a great discussion around the idea of technology usage and best practice for teachers in their classrooms. Let me start by saying that I have a tremendous respect for my principal as a leader – but I knew him as a wonderful teacher first. He was someone who consistently challenged students to stretch their thinking and encouraged students to seek alternative answers and questions. In this regard, he was certainly ahead of his time – I would suggest he was looking at inquiry based learning
before it was “en vogue” in our division. The conversation we had centered on best practice for teachers and what part technology plays in it. Although our opinions about technology use are not the same – I do really appreciate the fact that he encourages our teachers to be critical of their own practices and how they are using technology in their classrooms. The conversation/debate we had was very healthy and informative for both of us.
As an aside he brought back two websites that are outstanding resources for students and teachers:
Revisiting my last blog post and reflecting on the idea of leader as learner I came across this blog linked from Twitter. Principal, Shawn Blankenship expands on the need to be learners first and to look at how we as teachers learn. A quotation he uses from Stephen Downes especially hit home for me, “Change how you learn first. Once you change, you won’t be able to go back to teaching the same old way.”
He also discusses ways that leaders can enter into great conversations with teachers around learning through the following methods:
- Recognize what our teachers want to learn, as well as, what they need to learn. Then, make an effort to spark their curiosity.
- Keep teachers in their uncomfort zone. Ask the right questions and want to hear their answers. “How” and “why” and “what if” questions will stretch the boundaries of their minds.
- Assist teachers in looking at instructional challenges from a variety of angles. By discovering alternative ways of accomplishing the same problem, the teacher will learn a pool of possible solutions.Commend good mistakes when risks are taken, mistakes are made, and lessons are learned. Thomas Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
- Urge teachers to take the time to practice what they learn. Curiosity without initiative does not translate into results.
One of the ideas that it seems like I have come across a lot is the need to help create students who are independent thinkers. Alina Davis
wrote a blog this week on exactly that topic entitled “How to Create Independent Thinkers,”
and in it she focused on the work of Art Costa
and the “Habits of Mind.”
In her blog Davis outlines how Costa says these habits are “dispositions displayed by intelligent people in response to problems, dilemmas, and enigmas, the resolution of which are not immediately apparent.” In other words, they’re what you use when you don’t know the answer. These habits are nothing new, and you probably use many of them every day. But our students don’t have the awareness or vocabulary to express how they think, and may not know they are capable of using these dispositions. By activating and engaging habits of mind—like persistence, questioning and posing problems, thinking flexibly, finding humor, thinking interdependently, and taking responsible risks—our students become better problem solvers.
I had never seen this list of habits and I think it will be something I revisit and examine how I developed these ideas in students when I was a classroom teacher. I often wonder if, as educators, we are doing enough to help students develop these “habits of mind” (this is a new term for me).
What do you think about the idea of best practice and technology use? Do they go hand in hand? Are you being a learner? Are you engaged in taking yourself out of your comfort zone as a teacher and leader? Do you create independent thinkers in your classroom or staff?
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