Category Archives: Educational leadership

on Leadership, annotated articles

8 Differences between Traditional and Collaborative Leaders

The modern workplace is changing, producing new problems that require innovative solutions. Educational leaders are trying different approaches to increase student outcome and engagement.  The traditional leadership style of top down management is slowly evolving into a collaborative approach that empowers teachers in the responsibility of developing schools.

http://www.innocentive.com/blog/2013/11/21/8-differences-between-traditional-and-collaborative-leaders/

 

Building Effective Collaborative Leadership: some Practicalities

Recent research shows collaborative leadership as a hallmark of successful schools. What are some of the indicators of CL? And how do you develop it in a school?

http://www.nassp.org/tabid/3788/default.aspx?topic=Building_Effective_Collaborative_Leadership_Some_Practicalities

 

Shifting From Pedagogy to Heutagogy in Education

At the base of the new shift from pedagogy to heutagogy is the fact that people are naturally very efficient learners and that they can more effectively make use of this fact in current education and training systems. What is ‘Heutagogy’? What are its roots? And how do we introduce it and manage it in education?

http://www.teachthought.com/learning/self-directed-learning/shifting-from-pedagogy-to-heutagogy-in-education/?

Can Design Thinking Help Schools Find New Solutions to Old Problems?

Thinking out of the box works very well for schools that are tackling tough problems like truancy, student engagement and parent involvement. How do we approach problems in new ways? Explore these 3 ways the article presents.

http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/08/28/can-design-thinking-help-schools-find-new-solutions-to-old-problems/

 

What Is Really, Truly ‘Best For The Kids’?

As educators, we want the best for the kids. How does that translate? And are we working to achieve that? This article touches on the purpose of education as well as on the values, attitudes and skills that students need to be their best.

http://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/whats-best-for-the-kids/

6 Reasons to Reject Common Core K-3 Standards — and 6 Rules To Guide Policy

Quite a few educators argue that common core standards are inappropriate for K-3 students… Here’s why they believe so.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/05/02/6-reasons-to-reject-common-core-k-3-standards-and-6-axioms-to-guide-policy/

 

 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the awareness that comes when we pay attention to ourselves and to our surrounding in the present moment. We are not stuck to the past and have no previous thought on how we perceive a person, a situation or an activity. We are not stuck to the future either and worried about what it might bring of disasters. Contrary to what many may think, it is about NOT LIVING IN OUR THOUGHTS all the time.

Awareness means paying attention to where we are, what we are doing or who we are with. So it does not advocate for multitasking. It is being focused on one thing right here, right now. Mindfulness wakes us up in the moment. If we are not fully present in the moment, we may miss on happiness waiting for it to arrive to our life in the future. NOW is the most valuable moment in our lives.

Research has shown that practicing mindfulness has its great benefits:
1. Mindfulness quiets the mind when we are worried and reduces stress.
2. It boosts our ability to concentrate with clarity and improves listening ability.
3. It allows us to cope with life challenges and fast-paced lifestyle.
4. We are in better control of our emotions, words and actions and thus improves relationships in the family, community and at work.
5. When mindful, we can take criticism and objections positively.
6. Mindfulness improves our chances of success because it enhances creativity, memory and problem solving skills. It gives us the ability to make better decisions with clarity.
7. Mindfulness results in better health and better quality of life.

Mindfulness can be nurtured through attention training, self-knowledge and self-mastery, and creation of positive mental habits. Mindfulness training has been embraced by companies and by a number of individuals, including surgeons, musicians, military personnel, lawyers, and financial advisors. Perhaps it is time to take it seriously in our life and profession.
In the fast-paced life of today how can we nurture mindfulness?
1. Practice breathing. All we need is to sit still and observe our breath as it goes in and out of our lungs, without changing our breathing. The breath reminds us to tune into our body for a few moments. This allows us to be more aware of our thoughts and feelings with a greater degree of calmness and a smarter eye.
2. Mentally scan each part of the body as we take deep breath.
3. Slow down and spend time in nature.
4. Establish mindfulness triggers associated with any recurring events during our day.
5. Eliminate needless rush.

 

Global literacy: Understanding the World and Our Role in It

As a result of emerging technological, economic, political, and environmental trends, and the increasing ease in communication in the world, it is imperative that all students be globally literate.  Global literacy is an understanding of how the world is organized and the possibilities and constraints facing its peoples.

Globally literate students analyze and think critically about the world and their roles in it. They understand and appreciate global systems, circumstances, and relationships that influence peoples’ lives. Globally literate students create positive change in an increasingly interconnected world.

Global literacy is about participating in an interconnected, complex,  and rapidly changing world through the following activities:
· Promoting problem solving skills across all fields, areas and regions in a holistic approach;
· Developing communication technology skills and learning new languages;
· Participation in increasingly globalized system of business, production and exchange;
· Understanding geopolitical realities around the globe;
· Exercising responsible citizenship locally and globally;
· Encouraging respect for cultural diversity;

Global literacy means helping students understand their roles and responsibilities in an interconnected and rapidly changing world, appreciating the connections, networks, systems, and relationships that affect their lives and their roles in the world. The purpose is to save the environment, human rights and fair practice of trade and production.

Digital Literacy

Digital Literacy

Literacy is not static but changes with the times. The new technological innovations and tools necessitated literacies that are not limited to the traditional 3Rs, but include new ones: the digital, media and global literacies that build and improve application, socio-cultural, and transformational skills which recognize new ways of seeing and thinking about the world.

Digital literacy is one of the new literacies in our modern times. It is not only the access to digital tools but also to use them effectively in our every day life at the social, career and personal levels. Digital literacy is when people are able to read and interpret text, sounds and images, manipulate and apply data in ways that are appropriate to fulfill their needs, and to communicate a message. 

A digital native is one who was born into the digital age while a digital immigrant refers to one who adopts technology later in life. Being a digital native does not make one digitally literate. Most digital natives today have access to and knowledge about technology but do not know how and when to use it appropriately.

An example of this gap between access to digital tools and the necessary skills to use them appropriately is cyber violence where teens do not know their limits and where to stop abusing their digital access for reasons of having fun, jealousy, racism, sexism, etc…In quite a few cases the result of cyber violence was the victim committing suicide to escape harassment. In many other situations, a person looking for a job will not be considered if he shows ignorance of netiquette and appropriateness of internet use.

Digital Literacy means:

  1. Knowing how to use search engines with all its branching skills such as: being able to find, evaluate, understand and summarize online resources;
  2. Knowing how to use emails and texting;
  3. Knowing how to create videos, write blogs, Photoshop pictures, use PowerPoint in presentations, etc.
  4. Knowing which media is most appropriate to communicate a message;
  5. Knowing the ethical rules of interacting with others on different platforms;
  6. Knowing the ethic behind citing materials without plagiarizing when sharing or citing information;
  7. Knowing the quality and credibility of an online message or text by identifying the author, purpose and point of view;
  8. Knowing how different platforms affect the meaning, audience, and readability of text;
  9. Knowing how to apply knowledge by taking social action individually or with the community to solve problems in the family, workplace and community, and participate as a contributing member of the community; knowing how to apply the new skills to new areas such as to secure employment.
  10. A key digital literacy skill is to know how to manage distraction: How to not get walked all over by Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc…

Digital Literacy in School

As a result of digital literacy there is a shift from an emphasis on traditional skills of memorization, recitation, penmanship, and math to creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, and communication and collaboration skills, flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity and accountability, leadership and responsibility.

Technology has changed the way today’s students read, perceive, and process information. Educators who are considered digital immigrants may struggle to find effective teaching methods for digital natives. Some digital immigrants might resist teaching digital literacy because they were not taught that way and are not comfortable using it. This is a problem because today’s students speak a new language different than those  who teach them.

Tips for developing the digital literacy of students:

1. Begin by exploring the ways in which the group are already using mobile and web based technologies. Many of them are already engaged with digital tools for personal use like Skyping relatives or keeping in touch on Facebook and Twitter.  A good point to start the conversation on teaching about digital literacy may well be students’ personal use.

2. Recognize that students arrive with their own digital practices:

Instead of trying to pass on literacy to students, expect that students arrive with some well established wrong and unethical digital practices of their own. Identify the values and history behind the appropriate and ethical academic practices.  Establish guiding ethical principles: Developing digital literacy should have an ethical dimension. What does it mean to behave well as digital professionals, researchers or citizens? How do we act ethically in environments where public and private are blurred? Refer to your organization’s rules and regulations.

3. Developing digital literacies in practice requires:
• providing authentic contexts for practice,
• Supporting individuals at different levels of skill and experience,
• Helping learners manage conflict between different platforms in different situations,
• Helping learners integrate their prior conceptions and practices.

4. Acknowledge that there is anxiety about technologies in the classroom and take the lead. Engage students in this debate on anxiety, ethics, and other issues to ensure that they have ownership of the tools used and the approach to use them.

5. Take a holistic approach and integrate multi-disciplines in real life contexts.

Digital literacy in Society

Digital literacy has many uses in society:

  • It helps people communicate and keep up with social trends.
  • It helps people stay in contact with their family, friends and colleagues.  
  • It helps pass timely information.
  • It helps buy and sell goods and services.
  • It gives people a major voice online and helps users establish a digital identity.
  • It provides a global conversation platform that connects readers from all over the world based on a certain interest or cause.
  • The effective use of digital tools leads to the community betterment and empowerment
  • Government officials around the world have emphasized the importance of digital literacy for economic reasons. Centralized governments, such as China, are leading by implementing digital literacy training programs faster than anyone else while industrial nations focus on digital literacy to compete globally. There is a major divide between those who have access to technology and those who don’t, between those who apply critical thinking to technology or do not, those who speak English or do not, and those who create digital content or merely consume it.

Digital Literacy at Work

Digitally literate individuals are more likely to be more secure and ahead of the crowd. Many jobs require a working knowledge of computers and the Internet to perform basic functions. As wireless technology improves, more jobs require proficiency with smart gadgets. In the past, this literacy was required of white collar workers, but blue collar workers are using it much more than before.  This literacy is now used in construction, manufacturing, and retail jobs to collect and analyze data about products and market trends, to stay competitive, and to improve safety. In addition, job recruiters often use websites and social platforms to find potential employees, thus magnifying the importance of digital literacy in securing a job. It also helps in professional learning, as in the case of some groups on LinkedIn.

Digital literacy does not replace traditional literacies but supports them to develop. As long as there are new digital tools, as long as we need to keep adapting to their use thus learning becomes a life-long process. It is not about information but about developing skills gradually over time.  

In conclusion, digital literacy requires a change in consciousness in how we relate to technology with an underlying principle that it should facilitate critical reflection, awareness of the self and social accountability.

The three new literacies: Digital, media, and global literacies

The UNESCO definition of literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society.”

 

Traditional literacy involved reading, writing and arithmetic. With the sweeping surge in innovation in technology, new literacies have become as crucial as reading and writing. New literacies do not replace traditional forms of literacy but build on them. These are digital, media and global literacies.

 

Digital literacy

 

Digital literacy is not only the use of digital tools but also their effective use in the practice of civil life such as social, career and personal life. Digital literacy is when people are able to read and interpret text, sounds and images, manipulate and evaluate data in ways that are appropriate to their needs and to communicate messages.

Most digital natives today have knowledge about technology but do not know how and when to use technology appropriately. The gap between access to digital tools and the necessary skills to use them appropriately is challenging and causing major issues.

 

Digital Literacy means:

  • Knowing how to use search engines with all its branching and browsing skills, email, text, wiki, blogs, Photoshop, PowerPoint, video creation/editing, etc.
  • Information literacy, as in research, being able to find, understand, evaluate, use, and summarize online resources.
  • Choosing appropriate platform to communicate a message.
  • Knowing and reflecting on the ethical rules of interacting with others on different platforms.
  • Making ethical decisions on accessing information by locating, sharing and citing materials without plagiarizing.
  • Creating and reproducing online content in a variety of forms, text, pictures, video, audio, etc…
  • Socio-emotional literacy: Taking social action individually or collectively to share knowledge, to solve problems in the family, workplace and community, and to participate as a member of the community.

 

As a result of digital literacy, the emphasis on skills like creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration skills, flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity and accountability, leadership and responsibility becomes heavier.

 

Media literacy

Media literacy is the process through which individuals become able to critically understand the nature, techniques and impacts of media messages and productions.

Here are good examples of media literacy:

  • People know how to question, evaluate, understand and appreciate the multimedia culture. It makes them active consumers and users.
  • Media literacy relates popular culture to traditional education.
  • Music, comics, television, movies, video games, fashion, and ads create a shared environment for learning.
  • Media literacy encourages the use of sophisticated forms of communication.
  • Media literacy engages people in “real-world” issues as active citizens.
  • Media literacy develops people’s critical thinking and problem solving skills.

 

Global literacy

Given emerging technological and communication trends, it is essential for everyone to be globally literate. Global literacy is an understanding of how the world is interconnected and the possibilities and challenges people face as a result.

Globally literate people think critically about their roles in the world and want to leave a positive footprint on the global environment, economy, and human development. To this end, they need to appreciate the interaction among cultures and understand the institutional systems around the world.

The means to achieve global literacy depends on:

  • Developing communication skills such as learning other languages and knowing different tools of communication.
  • Participating effectively in solving global issues and developing global production systems.
  • Understanding geopolitics of countries around the world.
  • Exercising responsible citizenship locally and globally.
  • Encouraging respect for cultural differences and diversity.
  • Committing to adapt new skills that become essential to life in the 21st century.
  • Enhancing one’s ability to advocate for one’s self and their community within The Charter of Human Rights.
  • Understanding the global competitive and cooperative environments at work and profession.
  • Understanding how opening to other cultures impact personal and social values.

Personal Learning Environments

Modern technology provides us with so many tools to get information we want or need in many forms: text, video or audio, and online learning is spreading widely.  People are learning skills on their own or under a teacher’s supervision. If you follow the direction education is going in as a result of modern technology, you will not be surprised by the notion of ‘personal learning environments’ concept because it is a natural result of the modern digital revolution.

Many writers and thinkers have discussed ‘Personal Learning environments’ but most of them approach it from a technological point of view with focus on the ‘environment’ and little attention to the pedagogical element in learning. They see Web 3.0 arriving in the coming few years, with much more integrated approach to authoring, more easily indexing, and wider interaction between people in social groups.

A growing appreciation for the porous boundaries between the classroom and life experience, along with the power of social learning, authentic audiences, and integrative contexts, has created not only promising changes in learning but also disruptive moments in teaching.” Randall Bass, 2012

PLE is a modern learning approach based on personal environments connected by a set of applications and tools an individual uses to create an environment fit for their interests, skills, needs and situation. This environment is comprised of formal and informal learning, personal experience, e-learning, peer groups, etc… Learning is not limited to the classroom anymore, or to a rigid curriculum or standard tests. The individual chooses their tools, content and audience to create an identity, brand or portfolio.

The technical question for learners creating their own personal learning environment is what tools to use to create a portfolio. Portfolios are unique for each learner. At the same time, there are too many tools and to choose which one that fits an individual is not easy and requires awareness of the self and knowledge of the technology.

The pedagogical question remains the content, approach and methodology of learning. 

“Our understanding of learning has expanded at a rate that has far outpaced our conceptions of teaching. A growing appreciation for the porous boundaries between the classroom and life experience…has created not only promising changes but also disruptive moments in teaching.” Bass, 2012

The bases to developing a Personal learning Environment are: 

1. A virtual or real space where we can keep up with info on our interests, career, and skills.  In addition, we need to set time for the process of personal development and learning.

2.  Informal education will be as crucial and important, if not more than, formal education.   This informal education will be learned within a framework to form our identity and manage our skills.

3.  Ownership of learning: Learners choose what to learn, when to learn it and how to learn it. They also choose the situation in which to apply their learning.

4. The Instructor’s role has changed. The learner is the center of the learning and teaching model, and relies upon a variety of sources for learning. PLEs will require instructors to stay relevant in their field, and know how to use tools in education.

5. New technology is continually changing: Access to the Internet has changed how we teach and learn and will continue to do so. New tools, devices, and applications are changing the way we think and the values we have.  PLE is a natural product of the internet culture.

Developing a PLE is a dynamic process that changes continuously in response to new learning needs and goals. A person starts small and as he or she develops, their learning environment does.  It needs time with no rush or distraction. In addition, a person will use as many tools as he or she knows and feels comfortable with.

A personal learning environment is not a marginal concept but a trend that will reshape future curricula and teacher and educational management training.

Our brains on modern technology

 

Our brains on modern technology: The age of distraction

We are witnessing an explosion of digital tools that provide us access to overload of information. We use technology for long hours that make up most of our day for work, entertainment, communication, connecting to people, drawing, composing music, and all kinds of tasks. The impact of the digital revolution on our brains and the way we think is a hot topic, especially for parents and teachers who have a big responsibility towards their children and want to know more about it.

 

Young people born to this information revolution spend at least 8 hours every day using laptops, smart phones, I pads, etc…text messaging, tweeting and looking for information. They even keep these tools beside them when they sleep. The impact of these tools on young generation is underestimated.

 

Digital tools exploit a basic human instinct of social or intellectual nourishment. When an email, message, status or tweet arrives, people feel the urge to respond instantly because of the release of the same hormones released under stress. Under the constant influence of this hormone people develop an addiction to apps to an extent a digital diet is strongly needed. When the brain is always on, with no breaks to rest it, attention and concentration are compromised. Is it a coincidence the word “wired’ means both: connected to the internet, and unable to concentrate?

 

Young generation is continuously listening to music. Both parents and teachers agree that this has created an easily distracted generation with short attention span and very thin memory. When there is no access to a mobile technology, anxiety builds up. One high school student says he ‘feels naked without a cell phone.’

Adults too may suffer the impact of using digital tools for long hours. We lose the ability to concentrate and focus when reading because we get accustomed to scanning through lots of information on the Web.

Distraction and short attention span cause so many accidents. Beside car accidents, the simplest accident is bumping into another person or a piece of furniture. Young generation has developed mindlessness in eating, studying, and shopping as well as in building relationships.  Instantaneous devices have an impact on the thought processes, hindering deep thinking and understanding, and getting in the way of the formation of memories. “It makes learning more difficult and results in diminished information retaining ability and fails to connect experiences stored in memory, leaving thoughts thin and scattered,” according to Eric Schmidt, Chief executive of Google.

 

In many cases new technology makes our lives easier. I can not imagine living without the benefits of wireless communication or the ease of access to information on the Internet. We can not go back to a time without computers and cell phones, so we need to nurture a healthy balance when using technology by making smart decisions on how and how long we use it. This healthy balance is between the digital and the natural. The longer we use technology, the more we need to be in nature. We need to set limits for ourselves and our children, get downtime off computers to increase the ability to process information, sharpen memory, develop cognitive abilities, and reduce stress.

 

Share your thoughts and tips!