I find it interesting that innovation in IMMOOC includes so many ideas that engage student voice – adding students to professional development, surveying them for their interests, encouraging genius projects. After all, the students are our focus, our province.
Yet education has been sabotaged by agendas, schedules, curriculum, evaluation, mandates. And data: tons of data from standardized tests, state-mandated tests, Title tests, diagnostic tests.
And someone gathers all that data and says to teachers, “Look what your students need. Teach them this. And this. And this.Then we’ll take more tests to see if they know it.”
Now, it’s one thing for a teacher to observe a struggling student and to ask, “I wonder if…” or “It seems the struggle is…” referring to the moment at hand, which is at the zone of proximal development when students are ready, challenged, yet able to and receptive to learning something that helps them succeed at their task.
It’s quite another thing to give a test on many skills, determine what that test at that moment discerns as a student need, and then begin a plan to teach those skills out of context of a task the student has chosen to accomplish. The student’s knowledge of the need is missing — the student’s will and confidence to succeed is missing.
So. Now the need becomes the innovation – to relate to the student on his or her terms in his or her context. And we’re back to the teacher observing students, gathering their ideas and focus, and guiding them in many areas [communication, debate, research, reading, writing, content areas, collaboration, peer feedback, tools, strategies, etc.] according to the needs of each as they lead their own learning.
We’ve rediscovered the goal of education: student agency. And student agency begins with relationships, teachers with students and students with students. And it includes the whole child, the bundle of emotions and perceptions that walk through our doors. Student agency begins with a learning community driven by learners, not a tangle of data captured at another time. Learner agency starts in the now.
Margaret Simon writes a story of Eve, of understanding the child within to guide the child in the choice of curriculum that will give her voice, though that choice and voice may change as the child’s focus within changes. Learning isn’t linear, nor stable; it is recursive and fluid. And like Eve, it’s flow in context may change, but it’s stream will still show the teacher the student’s needs. The learning is in doing real things within the student’s context and relevance; the lessons are from the needs to succeed with quality in the doing. Teachers observe the need and create the lessons just in time, just in need.
The planners of schools created a system for teachers to teach curriculum in a time where information was managed; today students have become the managers on their own, finding on the internet the how of what each wants to know and learn, and creating their own “howtos” and “here’s what I thinks.” Our set of curricular goals and expectations of and by teachers do not match those student needs or wants. So, we innovate. We innovate because the students live in their world and their future — not the vision currently in place in most schools.
We innovate back to listening to students, guiding their journey, and celebrating success as students learn and develop the talents and skills that match their interests, passions, strengths, and needs today in ways that build their repertoire of strengths, strategies, and tools for their world and the one in which they will live as adults. They are doing real work to better the world; they want to do work that betters the world.
How do I know? Walk in any classroom where students have choice and a voice in their learning. There you find smiles and joy, study and sharing in many different ways on many important issues. Walk in any classroom in rows and independent work and you see boredom, dissension, and faces of no purpose. It’s a stark difference.
Yesterday my own “Eve” gathered her “two favorite teachers” into a Facebook group and shared a student video, not her own, which voiced censorship and negativity. Through our conversation, her frustration was finally voiced: “I can’t change the world.” And so we discussed her influence already with her kindness with others, one person at a time. It’s our ripple intersecting with others that carries the energy of change. It was a great conversation initiated outside of school by a student frustrated without having her voice heard in school.
Our students are begging to be heard, to choose their learning paths, and to change our negative world into one that is more positive and fair for all.
And, our teachers are begging to be heard, to choose their learning and teaching paths, and to change their world into one that is more positive and fair to all.
I would say there have been pockets of innovators for years, teachers whose own voice created spaces for their students’ voices. Search Twitter for #engchat #edchat #edtechchat #etmooc #clmooc #mschat and many more. Years of sharing are recorded there. Begin following those hashtags. Ask a question on an idea you have — a question that asks, Looking for…
An example is this student-initiated Flat Classroom Eracism project by Julie Lindsay, Vicki Davis, Bernajean Porter, and Peggy Sheehy, the first ever asynchronous international debate on VoiceThread — in 2009!
Even before such technology was available, teachers innovated in NASA programs like Live from the Hubble— 1996!
Julie Lindsay moved on to form her own Flat connections, and most of us know Vicki Davis still innovates and and shares from her classroom and through her blog, newsletters, and podcasts: Cool Cat Teacher.
There are more: Paula Neidlinger moved her school to student radio broadcasting and Kevin Hodgson writes about the collaborative literacy / science projects and more at Middle Web. Or how about Joy Kirr‘s journey into GeniusHour and “no grades,” [she now calls Genius Hour [see the book], Independent Inquiry ]. And more: Jackie Gerstein [design thinking], Lucy Gray [Global Connections], of course, Tom Whitby [his blog] and Steve Hargadon [the free Learning Revolution ning, which houses all his education projects]. What about Derek Wenmoth and learner agency?
Search the Twitter feed chats. Find participant blogs; learn their stories; and most important: connect and share.
Our teachers have been begging to be heard just like their students, in pockets of innovation, some supported by peers and administration, but many are not. Innovators live and teach around the world, with no one place or one voice to carry the movement from the ship called status quo and the wild west of the Internet to a global voice to implement change.
We need a global voice that is heard and listened to.
Tom Whitby and Steve Hargadon have been vocal about strategies for change. In Tom’s recent post, Innovation in Education is Overrated, he laments on the lack of administrator supported professional development and building conversations that would bring about innovation in schools. The pockets of innovation have not moved forward because that support is not available: not the conversations and inquiry into innovative strategies and not the professional development. He says:
Unless our leaders themselves become more innovative and active about innovative Professional Development, the change we all want to herald in will be long in coming. Innovative new ideas in education are not enough by themselves. We need innovative strategies to implement those new ideas. Tom Whitby
So, I hear the innovative ideas in the #immooc– to understand the real world, connect with others, and personalize education to develop student agency. I hear the cries by students to be heard. And I also have been in and seen the struggle over many years to bring change through innovation by individual teachers and know their cry to be heard. Without support from districts and buildings, teacher agency will not grow, teacher change will not happen, and the status quo continues, as it has over many years.
We are individual drops in an ocean of sameness. We need a current of innovation that flows through as a powerful force to pull us forward, better, together, and with the side-channels of local change.
I am thankful that the #immooc includes so many administrators and instructional technologists. I am hopeful to gather and share strategies to engage more whole buildings and their administrators. I am hopeful for ways to support the voices of all the innovators – our new cadre here and those who have blazed a trail already. We need strategies to create the zone of proximal development for teachers and administrators so they too have the confidence to extend the vision of education, to step from what we have now to one of multiple possibilities, depending on the needs of the community of students and teachers and their voices.
Share out, create a small, local community, join together in one larger community. Gather all the voices, especially those administrators who have experience and models, and provide support from that pool of resource people in the form of blogs, podcasts, videos, examples, models– people and strategies gathered as models that will be recognized so each innovator has a voice of agency beside them that speaks over the status quo in their schools to accept change for the better for students, so innovation is expected and becomes the new norm.
Where is our Department of Innovation? Our Office of Learner Agency? Where is our community to enable a mandate to innovate?
Where is our larger voice and community so we all have agency?
Geeky Gramma ~~
Retired Middle School Language Arts Teacher ~~
Writer and Thinker