Are we willing to lose a bit of control?

A few days ago Dean Shareski came out with an interesting post that got me thinking (it’s time I got back into writing something). Dean has a great sense of humour so I think the post is a little tongue in cheek – I Don’t Think I’m an EdTech Guy Anymore.

In the article, he wonders whether what he once saw as edtech is really technical anymore.

Using digital media to create and consume, expanding classrooms to connect with experts and other learners, connecting assessment to technology, effectively using mobile devices as well as exploring the growing interest in digital citizenship were all topics and areas I spent time teaching and supporting. Today those topics, while still of interest do not have the same “newness” that we associate when with think of technology.

I can agree with this. The things that he writes about as now being technology leave me a little cold. His list includes:

  • Augmented and Virtual Reality
  • 3D Printing
  • Coding (arguably coding has been around for a long time but has become a newly sought after skill/experience)
  • ESports
  • BlockChain (data security)

I remember bringing some of this technology into schools and being pretty excited about the possibilities of makerspaces and tools to start understanding how coding works. Now, while I am still (more than ever) interested and engaged in teaching and writing about education, I don’t seem to get as excited about some of this technology.

I have to ask here, what is seen as educational technology these days? In another part of the article, Dean references an ISTE article on the 9 hottest topics in Edtech. The list includes professional learning vs. professional development and student-centered learning as two of the nine.

My question is – are these really edtech trends? Am I off base or is the trend towards more individualized learning (two of the edtech trends) simply a matter of more intelligent pedagogy or must it be linked up to technology?

Earlier this week I observed a student teacher going through a lesson with some grade 9 students. The lesson did have technology – there were Youtube videos and digital media involved in the presentation. What was missing was any level of engagement with the students. The information was conveyed using a very traditional lecture style, the students were the passive receptors of the information.

We know enough about education now that this mode for delivering information is outdated. It is unnecessary and it accomplishes little. Technology doesn’t accomplish all that much if all the strings are held on to by the teacher. The same goes for professional learning. When we bring in the sage from the school board to enrich the lives of our teachers, no matter what technology they are bringing in they are missing the point.

Maybe what we need to be focusing in on is not so much the tech we have at our fingertips but the democratization of education – maybe what we need to do is lose some of the control over information and allow our teachers and students explore more and use their own tools to find out what matters.

Writing is a funny thing. I really meant to write about the importance of digital media in education and how it really is (in my opinion) revolutionizing teaching, but I guess that will have to wait.

there is a lot to write about when it comes to the use of digital media and the teaching of history – just getting started!

Whatever the edtech – AR, VR, 3D printing, coding etc, it really doesn’t matter if we do not understand the basic fact that we need to lose control. We need to let our teachers know that the sage on the stage is not a valuable way to get students excited about learning. We have to stop talking at our teachers in dreary PD sessions and we really need to model an approach that allows for inquiry and discovery in the classroom.

What I am seeing is that there is little excuse for not doing this. We now are able to bring almost anything into the classroom. I was astounded last fall when I was giving a course on teaching methods in history how much amazing primary material is now out there for students to examine. And you don’t need a classroom full of computers to actively engage your students.

We know better now. Students need to get their hands dirty and get involved in their own learning.

Why should we hold onto all the keys to the knowledge chest? Why not open it up and let our students and teachers discover what is out there? They are bound to find out more than we could imagine.

More on the treasure of digital media later. The world is unfolding in your classroom – if you are willing to lose a bit of control!

History in the Making – Creating Digital History Techbooks

So, I have to say I have had lots of fun this fall.

Out of nowhere, I was offered a chance to teach a history teaching methods course at the University of Ottawa. For ten weeks I got to talk about one of the things I really love – the study of history. It has been many many years since I actually taught history and fortunately, the methodology for the teaching of history has changed dramatically since I taught the subject.

The last assignment we worked on was called History in the Making. I had this idea that it would be really cool for students to develop a digital textbook along the lines of what Discovery Education has created for math, science and social studies.

I have done lots of work on Discovery Education’s Science Techbook and I know it is an amazing learning tool. While there is a social studies techbook, it doesn’t have the features of the science version and there is no Canadian version.

The digital techbooks are incredibly versatile learning tools, but I don’t really know any good examples outside of the Discovery Education material. So, why not create our own?

We just did a gallery walk of the completed Canadian History techbooks and I have to say they were amazing. We ran out of time in the ten weeks to present the techbooks individually, so one of the students had the brilliant idea of doing them all in one day in the form of a gallery walk.

the basic idea

I really believe that this is the future of educational publishing (in my humble opinion!). As more and better technology becomes standard in the classroom, we will begin to see the value in having excellent, properly curated digital resources to support students and teachers.

The key word here is curated resources. It is simply not good enough to expect educators to Google topics for the classroom without making sure the chosen sources are reliable and accurate. Teachers don’t have the time to do this themselves, but relying on a standard textbook is (again), in my opinion too limiting. Even in a field like history, perspectives and viewpoints change on a regular basis. What was significant a few years ago may not be relevant today.

Screenshot of one of the digital techbook assignments – Canada and the Cold War

I think that new teachers will be faced with a different reality from teachers in the past. As we move away from reliance on textbooks, teachers will have to become their own publishers. They will need to put together their own collections of documentary evidence, essential questions and credible sources to engage and inform their students. With so much material out there this will become a formidable challenge.

The selection of topics chosen by the class is a response to this challenge. There is an amazing and incredibly relevant techbook on the Oka Crisis. There is another one – Women and the War Effort that ties Historical Thinking Concepts – a relatively new idea – to curriculum focusing on the contribution of women to the war. There is so much more!

All of the techbooks have links to curriculum and many have additional resources for teachers. This is important. If we are going to create excellent curated resources for teachers, we need to make sure they are linked to relevant curriculum. If we don’t, no one will see them as credible. We also have to make sure the resources include ideas for interactive activities and opportunities for students to create their own content.

Cover page – Women and the War digital techbook

So, all to say, our last class was an exciting one. Students presented to other students what they had created and then the techbooks were shared with me. I have spent the last few days reading through them and I really think that this is important work that needs to be shared out and developed.

students presenting during our gallery walk

I have created a Google Doc here that contains a summary of all the history techbooks that have been shared with me. The class has editing privileges so that they can go in and add to my summary. The reality is they probably won’t be doing much of this in the next few weeks as they are all back in the classroom until Christmas.

However – they have done some great creative work that needs to be shared. This work deserves an audience and I hope people, especially history teachers will take a look and give us all some helpful advice on where to go with this project.

Thanks to all the students in PED 3183. It was great learning with all of you. Here is me hoping that many will benefit from all of your creations! I leave you with one last activity from the Oka Crisis techbook.

Take a moment to consider the image (above) and consider the following:

  • What do you notice about this image?
  • What questions do you have about this image?

Jot down your answers individually, then pair up with a classmate to share your ideas.

Activity: Engaging with Primary Sources Padlet

Click anywhere on the image (Padlet link) below to type your thoughts and ideas regarding the iconic image above. Your response will appear pending approval.

Made with Padlet

Make it a Story – Climb for Kids Kilimanjaro

So yesterday I got this encouraging note from Allan Neal of CBC Ottawa.

This was in response to my tweet about wanting to get some media coverage for Climb for Kids – a pretty difficult thing to do in the very crowded stage of radio and television coverage. I do agree, telling the story is what it is all about. Having a hook that will get people’s attention is a challenge, when there are so many stories out there in our city.

Elia Saikaly, an Ottawa native shot this video of the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro using a drone – this is where we plan to be in early August 2020

So, here we go. Here are some of the stories:

  • in 2017, middle -age, freshly retired and very tired principal climbs Mount Kilimanjaro with an organization that has raised over $1 Million for Ottawa organizations;
  • family decides – in collaboration with Christie Lake Kids Foundation (CLK) – to initiate Climb for Kids combining philanthropy with travel adventures and personal challenges;
  • over $67,000 is raised in two years;
  • 17 climbers ranging in age from 21 to 72 trek Apu Ausangate (Rainbow Mountains) in Peru reaching heights of 5200 metres; the next year, 14 trekkers trek 170 km around the Mont Blanc Massif, walking for 11 days through difficult terrain and heatwaves;
  • kids living across Ottawa, ranging in age from 8 – 16 years, benefit directly from the fundraising in sports and STEM programs;
  • local bands, businesses and individuals contribute time and money to Climb for Kids, including “Barry and the Blasters”;
  • in 2019, a growing group of new and old trekkers prepare for the climb to the Roof of Africa, July 2020.

The full story we wrote for CBC can be found here.

There are so many ways to start a story like this. From Paul’s perspective, he comes at this from a few angles. First, the climbing. “I am 61 years old and I fell in love with trekking in 2017 when I joined a group of 31 trekkers who climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money for programs for local charitable organizations here in Ottawa. The climbing was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I was able to raise over $9,000 for local programs. “

The following year, my partner, Heather Swail, and I decided to develop our own program so we could channel money and support to Christie Lake Kids (CLK) – an organization here in Ottawa that supports children in low-income families across the city. CLK has been and continues to be an important part of our own family story.

We know Christie Lake Kids through many perspectives: all three of our own kids have worked at the camp; Our eldest, Liam, currently is the associate director of the organization; Heather and I have taught and worked with many of the CLK kids who attend recreation programs and summer camp. We know firsthand what a difference caring adults and skill-building programs make to kids and their families.

Poverty and bad luck are situational: they should not define and restrict opportunities for kids. Through truly transformative, recreation programs – e.g., hockey, music lessons, cooking, leadership programs, they are doing something unique – day by day, trying to break the cycle of poverty firmly entrenched here in Ottawa and empower children to change the direction of their lives.

Because Christie Lake Kids is really a social justice venture we are propelled to recruit people every year to bring them trekking. We help them with their training, we pick the routes and we put on a series of great fundraising parties throughout the year.

Our year I team at our first fundraiser at Fatboys in the Market

We know we are going in the right direction, every year we pick up new partners and friends who are helping this to become a really dynamic project here in Ottawa.

Our group members really make this special. We have some people who have been with us for three years now, others join us for a year but continue to support us and spread the news. Our group members support each other and learn to work together, not only to train but to raise money. In the first two years of Climb for Kids, we have raised close to $60,000. This year, we plan to raise an additional $40,000.

Here is a short video from Tara Howlett, one of our trekkers in Peru – Year I of Climb for Kids

Our climbers are great. The video above was taken by Tara Howlett, one of the trekkers who joined us in Year I. Tara took many more videos like this during the five-day high altitude trek in the Ausangate Range in Peru. Her journal became the basis for the film we created about the first year journey.

On the Year II trek around the Mont Blanc Massif, another one of our climbers, Jodie Beyer actually broke her foot on the fourth day of a twelve-day trek. She kept on trekking in incredibly hot and dry conditions and only realized she had broken her foot when she returned to Canada.

These treks are really hard. Our first trek in Peru was over 4800 m for five days. Many suffered through the cold and high altitude, but everybody made it. Last summer, we trekked over 170 km through France, Switzerland and Italy, camping the whole way. It was simply beautiful but many times it was also a real struggle.

A video
paul took at the top of the Col de Tricot – one of the hardest climbs we did on the TMB

So this year we are taking on Mt. Kilimanjaro. This will be another great challenge. Kilimanjaro is very hard for a regular trekker. It is a long seven to eight-day trek, all at high altitude. We will climb through five ecological zones. While we start in the rain forest, by summit day we are living in arctic tundra. The summit is at 5,895 metres (19,341 ft) and as we climb altitude sickness becomes a real concern for everyone.

Our group in 2017 – scrambling up the Barranco Wall

I know this will be a very challenging climb and we are hoping to bring lots of trekkers with us. This is not for everyone and the process of recruiting people to take on the trek is a very slow one – one that drives me a little crazy! Right now we have 13 climbers and we would love to eventually have 20 people on the journey. We want to make it to $40,000 this year so we can reach the $100,000 mark for Christie Lake Kids.

In all of this there is lots of adversity, but maybe this is just a reflection of the challenges many of the kids CLK supports face every day. There needs to be change, there needs to be hope – this is why we do this – Communities Move Mountains.

Paul McGuire, Heather Swail Ottawa, November 2019

Climb for Kids Year II TMB

Launching Climb for Kids Kilimanjaro for 2020

Great video short by Elia Saikaly of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Climb for Kids 2020 has launched!

We met on Friday to meet people interested in coming with us to Mt. Kilimanjaro. This is part of the process we need to go through to attract a group of people to make the commitment to train, fundraise then climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

We have such great support from Tony Perdomo of Exodus Travels and Monique Perras of Club Aventure here in Ottawa. It was a great presentation and we had lots of people out, many of them new to us. This is the key thing for us right now. If we want to really launch the Climb for Kids project into the future, we need to expand our base and attract people who are outside our own social networks.

So, now again we wait to see if the great people we met for the first time will sign on for the big adventure.

We are still waiting to raise the profile of this project beyond the scope of our social media posts. We can’t make it on local radio, no matter what we do. Planning a big fundraising trip to the roof of Africa just doesn’t make it. Even if it did, would it really make any difference? I don’t know, I think the personal contacts really make all the difference.

So we continue to try different things all the time. In two weeks, Heather and I will be heading off to a big gala to promote the trip. We are thinking of dressing up as climbers – trekking poles and gators included just to attract the attention of the crowd.

You never know who is out there looking for a new adventure, looking to help out in unique ways.

One thing I have been doing is putting out an Instagram post every few days. I am using the Flickr photos we took in 2017, the first time I climbed Kilimanjaro. I am not sure these are a good promotion, but it is fun to put these photos out there.

Soon we will have Tony’s presentation out there for people who couldn’t make it to the launch. I may also make another video short – really short – to add to the material we have out there.

Our shortest promotion video

The creation of new videos and a new ESRI Story Map are really creative ventures and there is something new to try almost every day. This is such a great story to tell and there are soo many ways to do this.

Then you get the phone call or email from someone who wants to join up. We are now in that zone where the new people who join up will come outside the groups we have already travelled with.

The big question here is, what will be the social media post, photo, email or video that brings in that new person? What word of mouth message will introduce us to someone else?

Our ESRI Story Map – a great way to collect all your media in one place.

So, we will keep posting and sharing and spreading the word. We will make it to a bigger group – hopefully 20 climbers!

Maybe this will be you??

The Podcast Broadcast – a Week of Rich Listening and Learning

 

It has been a while since I did one of these posts, but time is available right now, so I am excited to jump right back in with a review of a few new podcasts – all available on VoicEd Radio.

There is no real theme this week, just podcasts that I find interesting as I scroll through the new material that gets uploaded daily to our Radio.co site. I will add them all to a playlist that I will put up on VoicEd Radio today – Friday, March 29th.

This week, we are starting off with a great student podcast – Books R Us.

Books R Us is a 6th-grade student podcast featuring new books that others will want to read. These students are from Hopewell Elementary School in Bettendorf, IA and believe in the power of sharing great books with others to help foster A Culture of Readers. Each podcast reviews a new book and features a contest for a book.

The students are terrific and I think this would be a great project for other classes to get involved in. It is obvious that the students and their teachers have worked very hard to make this a smooth production. You can hear a part of an episode on The Third Mushroom here:

I don’t know much about this series, but this really animated conversation about books and authors that seems to have been going on for several years. Really well laid out book reviews by these students. No hesitation, full of life and energy!

 

The second podcast I listened to this week is Chris Nesi’s House of Edtech. As always, Chris talks about a number of subjects involving education technology. The segment that drew my attention was about online learning. Certainly, people in Ontario could benefit from listening to this right now. The conclusion of this discussion is important – studies show that students do not do as well in online learning situations. Chris Nesi is a very thoughtful educator and his summary of the findings of this study are worth listening to. The main point that I find important at this time in Ontario are the findings of an academic study on online learning. Basically, students do not like to learn exclusively online and they tend to do poorly. You can listen to the clip here.

Nesi includes the article in his show notes here.

Again, the conclusion in the report regarding online learning is important in the current Ontario context:

Though online learning courses have exploded in popularity over the last decade, we found that relative to courses with some degree of face-to-face teaching, students taking online-only courses may experience negative learning outcomes.

Will technology transform education for the better? (Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab)

A few hours of listening produces lots of gems. Next, I listened to Teaching Tales with elementary principal Brent Coley. This is one of those podcasts you can dip into at any point. If it fits any genre, this would be one of those ‘around the staffroom’ conversations, this time between two elementary principals. When I saw the title – Overcoming Fear in the Classroom – I thought they would be discussing students and their fear. I quickly realized that they were discussing teacher fear in the classroom.

Brent’s guest is Craig Badura – his blog, A Teacher, Coach and Dad can be found here.

 

                        Craig Badura

This is a great free-ranging conversation on how to deal with failure in the classroom. Teachers don’t like to fail no matter what they say about the importance of failure. Risk taking is hard to do, especially when you are in front of a classroom full of kids. What makes all the difference is an understanding administrator who makes the effort to support teachers as they experiment with new ideas. I am convinced that one of the greatest engines for innovation in education would be supportive principals like these two who are clearly all about serving others.

Failure is a lot easier if you have people like Brent Coley and Craig Badura working with you. What a great conversation about enabling teachers and kids and getting out of the way. New principals really need to listen to this podcast. Important point – never focus on what went wrong – focus instead on the relationship you are developing with a fellow educator. To make mistakes is a human quality.

The next podcast features two of my favourite broadcasters, Derek Rhodenizer and Jon Harper. For this one, Derek is the host, but he mentions that he has already been on Jon’s – I will have to go back and listen to that one for sure. The show is Beyond the Staff Room and it is always great.

Again, these podcasts are done by school administrators and I am partial to these being a former administrator. Listening to stories of administrators fail is very instructive and it would be great to hear more of this. Failure is not only for teachers and students but administrators can also fail too and we would all be the wiser if we heard more about their stories of failure.

Wouldn’t it be great to hear the failure stories of a superintendent? Would they ever do that? Would our system be a little more humane if they admitted failure from time to time? I think that might be a topic for another post. But listening to Jon and Derek is instructive, and I would encourage you to listen to the entire broadcast.

Just like Brent Coley’s podcast, Beyond The Class Room is another great conversation around the table. This makes lots of sense, Derek is someone who really enjoys connecting to others and he is a wonderful conversationalist. Taking time for conversation seems to be a lost art, but people like Derek and Jon are keeping it alive. Like Brent Coley’s broadcast, you can basically pick a clip anywhere from the podcast and it will be interesting. It is a conversation about failure and interestingly it is very empowering because they do a great job normalizing failure. Again, this is a lesson more educators need to learn, especially those in senior positions in our school boards!

Here’s the clip:

In this clip, Jon uses a personal story – one that we could all tell – about misjudging a situation. It is reflective and honest. Not included here is Derek’s return which is another story that fits well into the title of Jon Harper’s show My Bad. I don’t include this clip here, but Derek’s show is easy to find on VoicEd Radio and I really suggest you take a listen, especially if you are in a leadership position or want to be someday. Being a good leader means being incredibly humble. Sadly, this is not something we see very much in our leaders these days.

This is all that I will write about these podcasts – go out and give them a full listen – you will learn lots!

Has inclusive education gone too far? – The Globe and Mail debate

When I started this series of articles for the Class Struggle Podcast, I wrote that public debate on important public issues is sustained and encouraged through our media. A strong public press is essential in a healthy democracy and we are very fortunate here in Canada to have a vital and responsive media.

On Saturday, the Globe and Mail’s education reporter Caroline Alphonso wrote an important feature on the problems surrounding inclusion in Canada’s schools – Educating Grayson: Are inclusive classrooms failing students?

The article is an intelligent and sensitive report on the problems that take place every day in Canada’s schools surrounding inclusion. As a former elementary principal, I am well aware of these issues. Although I have not been in schools in the last two years, the problem obviously persists and the solutions remain elusive.

The Globe and Mail is sustaining this debate by publishing some of the comments to Saturday’s article. I have included two of them here:

From the comments: Has inclusive education gone too far? Educators and parents share their experiences

In 2018, I retired after 17+ years as an Educational Assistant (EA) in elementary schools. Over those years my job changed dramatically; from helping students (with varying needs) achieve their potential in class, to keeping students with often volatile behaviours from being a threat to others while in a “regular” classroom. Most, if not all, children want to belong and succeed at school. Teachers and EAs also want to make this happen. Too often, I have seen principals and parents put their own interests and opinions ahead of the best interests of the student. It becomes a fight about which adult is right, and the student’s true needs get overlooked. It is a terrible waste, made even greater when “experts” are brought in to observe briefly, and then chime in on what is best.

Please, parents and administration, gather and listen to the student, and the teacher and the Educational Assistant together. Set a few goals, be consistent at home and at school, and be kind and respectful of each other. You will see improvements almost immediately. Unfortunately this rarely happens. – MacKenzie96

Ms. Kahn is not wrong to want better services for Grayson. It is sad that services for children like Grayson are so limited. Underfunding special education programs pits parents against teachers and administrators. This undermines an education system that is the envy of the world (we rank #5 internationally according to the OECD). Please keep in mind that funding for education has been frozen for the last few years and special education in most boards has been cut. There are fewer Educational Assistants in my classroom than ever before. My fear is Mr Ford’s austerity measures aimed at health care system, social assistance and education will only make things worse. – Daysofmiracle

I don’t know if I have anything useful to add to these comments, but I do know that educators need to be part of this discussion.

This Thursday for this week’s Class Struggle on VoicEd Radio we will weigh in on this issue. As I have been saying, educators need to be heard on this issue and it would be great to see more writing from those who are active in the profession. We know there is a lack of resources when it comes to education and there are real human consequences to the underfunding that has been going on for years.

the next Class Struggle podcast will be this Thursday (January 10) at 8:00PM

The problems with inclusion are well known. Principals, especially in elementary school have been excluding special needs students from their buildings for years. These exclusions are hard to trace because they were never documented and were never part of any formal process. I remember many times as an administrator asking parents just to keep their child at home. They weren’t suspended, we just didn’t have the resources to keep them and others safe in our school.

These actions are taken by principals every day. When I excluded I always did this on my own authority. No one above me was willing to take any responsibility for these actions and when things went badly, I was the one who suffered the consequences.

Here is the problem. There are nowhere near the resources in the schools to deal with many special needs cases. As Caroline Alphonso mentions in her article, there are situations where a gifted teacher may be able to accommodate a special needs child, but such a situation is not sustainable, and not all schools have the talent to work successfully with challenging children.

More often the lack of adequate resources leads to disruptions and sometimes violence in the classroom.

In most cases, it is the educational assistant that suffers the direct consequences for the emotional outbursts of the child, but I know the results of poorly thought-out inclusion affects the entire school community, including children and parents.

The solution calls for a rebuilding of the inclusion model. Generally, the practices in Ontario at least are haphazard. Inclusion needs to be rebuilt from the ground up with a sharp focus on how best to accommodate the special needs child, their parents and the wider school community. Inserting the student into a regular classroom with some support and hoping for the best is just not good enough.

Such a rebuild will be expensive and I really don’t think we are there yet as a society to make the financial investment that it will take. Patching is cheap, rebuilding takes lots of resources and intelligent design.

I hope we have a good debate on Thursday. This is a problem that will just get worse until we face it head-on. Again, good for the Globe and Mail for keeping this important issue in the public eye. As educators, we need to do our part to make sure it stays there.

What was Your Political Issue in 2018? #classstruggle

So, what were the big political issues for you in 2018? Why do these matter if this is directed at educators? Do educators have political opinions? Can we express them?

This is a blog post that acts as a run up to our next edition of the Class Struggle podcast – week two of something new.

Tonight, we will be talking about what our big political issues were for 2018. We are still getting our sea legs, so it really hasn’t been determined if we are supposed to stick to political issues that have an impact on educators, or any political issue.

I am going with a wider interpretation here, but that’s just me. I think as educators, our opinion needs to be heard. We have a public role, maybe not the same as journalists, but we still are in the public forum and can contribute to any public discussion.

The concept of the public forum developed from a physical place – the Roman forum where for centuries,  people gathered to discuss important issues

For me, the main political issue continues to be the political turmoil in the United States. Democracies are fragile entities, and what we are witnessing daily in America is an assault on this very public institution by the chief executive, Donald Trump.

Nothing is ever new in the world and this attack has taken place before. The historian Edward J. Watts has just published a new book that chronicles a similar assault against the Roman Republic that eventually led to the rise of autocrats like Augustus Ceasar and the death of Rome’s limited democracy. The book Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny recently reviewed in the New York Times, looks like a really interesting read. In it, Watts argues that ambitious patricians began to build their own base of support amongst an angry populace increasingly enraged by dysfunctional public institutions (What the Fall of the Roman Republic Can Teach Us About America, Yascha Mounk, New York Times Book Review, December 30, 2018)

CreditCreditTyler Comrie; Photo by Paolo Gaetano/Getty Images

This sounds all too familiar, although the destruction of a democracy can be a long process, something really dangerous is happening in the United States right now and it deserves our attention.

I am not saying that we all need to stop what we are doing and focus on the American shutdown, but we do need to acknowledge that something profound is going on. Avoiding making a comment means we are missing an opportunity to speak in the public forum.

Stephen Hurley has contributed his view to our on-going conversation.

Stephen Hurley

For me, one of the most important political issues goes beyond partisanship to the way we interact with each other. We need to learn how to conduct our conversations in a manner that holds open the public square in a different way.

I hope you join us tonight as we continue this conversation.

#classstruggle

 

The Podcast Broadcast for October 19th – What you need to listen to this week

some of the great podcasts on VoicEd Radio every week.

I am continuing my posts on upcoming episodes of the Podcast Broadcast that Stephen Hurley and I are putting out on VoicEd Radio every week.

I think this is an important series, podcasters are coming up with great material that educators need to be aware of. When we start thinking of new ways to do PD, the material coming out every week offers a wonderful variety of learning opportunities for educators. What do you want to learn? Whose voice do you want to hear?

This week, we will be talking about This Week in Canadian EdTech with Robert Martellacci, My Bad with Jon Harper, Faith in the System by Munazzah Shirwani and the upcoming Digital Citizenship Summit taking place next week in Toronto.

Two of these podcasts have to do with community discussions – this is where new learning really happens. Even in the digital age, face to face conversations offer great new, unscripted learning opportunities.

Robert Martellacci and Stephen Hurley discuss a really interesting initiative that is coming out of Sackville called Sackville 2020. I love this initiative and I would like to hear much more about this. The discussion on the podcast explored how to develop productive partnerships involving both public and private enterprises. The Sackville 2020 initiative as described in the Sackville Tribune Post is developing something new and exciting that takes education out of its traditional silo.

The Sackville Schools 2020 vision is one which includes more outdoor learning spaces, community connections, hands-on learning, inclusive education, bright and open areas, more innovative teaching approaches and so much more. It’s a concept that would help bring more 21st-century approaches to the local education system and to ensure our children are being provided with more experiential and community-based learning opportunities.

Here is part of the discussion on how this initiative is changing how people are envisioning education and outreach into the community.

I would not have known anything about this great initiative if I hadn’t listened in on the podcast this week. This really is new learning that has a great potential to bring us together in a wider community. Could this be a way to innovate into the future of education?

At the very same time, there is a really interesting conference that will take place in Toronto next week, the Digital Citizen Summit or Digcit Summit.

The collection of speakers is impressive and the conversation will be really important. Listening to In Conversation with Stephen Hurley, I realized that the whole theme of the summit has lots to do with something we featured last week when we discussed (too briefly) the work of Jennifer Casa-Todd. I love her positive spirit and the work she is doing to help educators to see the positive side and the wonderful potential of social media in the classroom. At a time when we are getting pushback from all sorts of populist forces that want to stifle the use of social media, this is an enlivening breath of fresh air.

The podcast is a great introduction to the upcoming conference which will have a positive impact on how we use social media in education. Here one of the organizers Carlo Fusco is talking with Stephen Hurley.

The next two podcasts will take listeners in a different, but equally important direction. I really like My Bad by Jon Harper. I would argue that this short, concise podcast should be required listening for educators, especially administrators. Each episode explores a mistake (My Bad) that an educator has made and what they learned from it. It is a humbling experience and one that many educators could benefit from.

In education these days, we are all about making mistakes and learning from them. But the reality is no one likes making mistakes and very few are willing to talk about them. If more people did this we would certainly have a more humane system overall.

I looked at two of Jon’s podcasts this week, one from an administrator who reflects on how she sometimes judged her own admin harshly and the second from an elementary teacher who talks about calling out a 6-year old student in front of his peers. These conversations are difficult to listen to, but maybe this is exactly what we need to be doing. Listening to the mistakes of others and learning to become a little bit more humble is a useful practice.

Here is part of the second conversation.

Finally this week, a podcast that is new to me but one that I will continue to listen to every week. Faith in the System is a podcast by Munazzah Shirwani. In her profile, she calls herself a ‘rookie podcaster’, but she is already really good. I listened to her second episode this week, Confessions of a Sikh High School Teacher.  She talks with Amrit Kaur Dhaliwal, program coordinator for a secondary school program at Khalsa Community School in Brampton where she has been teaching for over ten years.

Over 40 minutes the conversation ranges over a number of issues involving faith and schools. It is a really different podcast and it is truly compelling. At one point Munazzah and Amrit get into a discussion about discrimination in Canada and its impact on both of them. This is really important for us to listen to, I have included an excerpt here.

Again, this is terrific stuff and there is so much that we can learn here. The conversation is frank and intelligent and it leads us into a world that is probably unfamiliar to many of us. Here is the beauty of podcasting and digital radio. Within a few minutes, we can take part in important conversations that can inform our practice.

I hope you listen to a few of these snippets. The Podcast Broadcast will air again this Saturday at 10:00 am and I hope you listen in. You never know how these conversations will turn out, but that is the beauty of live radio.

 

Educators really need to be more political

I would love to work with these guys. They are political and that is something unique. They are honest and they are really brave.

I saw Andrew Campbell’s tweet earlier today and I knew I was going to write about it. This is something that bothers me. We are in a unique and dangerous time in our world. We have a totally dangerous demagogue in Donald Trump and now in Ontario, we have a  ‘mini-me’ in Doug Ford.

Peter Cameron speaks out. He is bold in his criticism of standardized testing and he promotes a new form of education that supports the values and ideas of indigenous peoples in Canada. He is an activist.

Andrew Campbell was writing every day about the absurd changes that are happening in Ontario. He chronicled the growing dissent of school boards against changes to the physical and health education curriculum in this province. He was a lone, strong voice.

Yes, these are dangerous times and most educators are doing very little. Am I missing something? Are there more voices?

This summer while trekking in Peru, I had a chance to have a good long conversation with a wonderful educator I worked with at my last school. She was from the Balkans when she was younger and saw the destruction that took place in Bosnia in the 1990’s.

What really struck me was what she said about how people reacted to the growing strident language coming from politicians. They didn’t get involved. They didn’t vote, they let things go. Nothing bad could ever happen, right?

Are we in a similar situation here? Do we just not react? Do we see any political comment as beyond the pale? Are we a little too meek?

It might be easy to criticize me for writing this now – I am retired and am beyond reach. But I did make comments while I was a part of the system. I usually got in trouble, but I did say something. It didn’t seem like I had a choice. I was more than a little surprised that I did get in trouble. When I made public comments about student drug use in the schools or the Catholic bishops of Canada I wasn’t making things up.

Truth hurts I guess.

So, like Andrew Campbell, I don’t get it. Teachers on social media you are doing all of us a disservice. I hate to say this, but there is a problem with your silence.

My background is history. We have all heard the tired old statement, if you don’t learn from history you are doomed to repeat.

Well, it’s true and educators need to step up.

Choose your issue – it’s not like there is a vacuum out there. But choose your issue and speak up. You have the best platform ever and you shouldn’t leave it up to Peter and Andrew. 

You really can leave your branding alone for a while and speak from the heart. We will all be encouraged when you finally do. And we are waiting for you.

How can Canadians Get Involved in Supporting our Brothers and Sisters in the Global South?

Usually, I write about education issues, but development assistance is something that I have cared deeply about for many years going back to trips I used to organize for students to the Dominican Republic.

Recent events in the United States and their unethical attacks on immigrants has propelled me to dive back into the complex issue of how best to lend assistance to people in the Global South.

We are a very wealthy nation with clear connections to poor countries around the world. The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) is a unique organization that works actively to improve the lives of people in many poor countries. They are unique because they have always made a good effort to involve Canadians in their work. It is an organization that is faith-based, but more importantly, it reserves a role for Canadians to get involved in raising money and setting policy on how best to assist with development assistance. It has also always had a strong educational mission which is essential if we want to be involved in social change in the world.

Over the years, the organization has lost its way due to the influence of right-wing elements in the Catholic Church and its inability to sustain an organizational approach that allows for meaningful participation from ordinary Canadians.

Development and Peace needs to be refashioned to reach the grassroots in Canada. It needs to develop a structure that opens itself up for renewal and it needs to broaden its appeal beyond the narrow confines of the traditional Catholic Church.

What it needs is a manifesto for change.

So what are some of the pillars of a manifesto? I would suggest the following as a start.

Stewardship – the preservation of a forward-thinking, faith-based development community.

Participation – an inclusive organization that respects and encourages the diverse voice of Canadians. For all people in Canada that care about the plight of people in the Global South.

Respect for excellence in development policy that puts the empowerment of people in the Global South as its primary motivation. When organizational ineptitude gets in the way of good work a reboot is called for.

Human Dignity – everything that is done must place the dignity of all people first – people in the Global South for sure, but also fair-minded people in Canada who want to help others and who are willing to participate in a dialogue that includes more voices, opinions and mindsets.

What else is needed? How can a large institution be renewed? How can an organization that has been too exclusive become one that welcomes new voices?

I hope a dialogue can be started. There is too much to do in this troubled world to remain behind old barriers and prejudices.

Let’s move on and try to do something new and effective. Let’s work on development and involve as many Canadians as possible. Let’s think way outside the traditional box.