The Importance Of Collaborating With The Community…

Recently our school has added another tool to support our e-Learning practices and embraced the use of blogging as a way to increase student voice and agency; while at the same time using this to build relationships with our community.  

A potential issue I see arising from this is parents and caregivers not understanding why we are moving towards digital tools to record learning.  This is moving away from what they know learning to be.  Their schooling experience was very different to now.  Often the teacher was at the front of the class, and students were expected to write everything down in books.  Therefore, I think it is necessary to address the question:  ‘Does our community know why their kids are using blogging?’

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Technology can be overwhelming… so how do we support those in our community who are still adapting to a technological age?

Everything we do as educators must come back to purpose.  Recently I asked ‘What comes first:  tools or pedagogy?’   One of the responses to this question was:  ‘They hold equal weighting.’  But what I have learned over the past year is that everything should always stem from pedagogy, then it is about applying the best tools to help us secure learning experiences that make the learning purposeful.  Jefferies, Carsten-Stahhi & McRobb (2007, p123) believe that if a given technology is not compatible with the underlying pedagogy or if the pedagogy conflicts with ethical ideas, then it is likely that the purpose of the use of technology, namely to educate, is in danger of not being fulfilled. This is important to acknowledge because it highlights how important it is to understand why we as educators are choosing to teach the way we do, and use the tools we are.  So then how do we convey all this information to parents when what we really want to be doing is getting on with the teaching?  How can we assure parents that what we are doing is the best for their child?  

One of the difficulties for schools when wanting to embed digital technologies into a school, is having the time to connect with the community.  Often only a small amount of the community will be consulted with, often due to parent availability and tight timeframes. Before blogging was reintroduced to our school, Senior Management were provided with the pedagogy that supported this initiative with an inquiry question to drive it:  Can blogging improve the strength of a student’s voice when given authentic opportunities to identify their interests, direct their own learning and receive feedback from peers and the wider community?  An implementation plan was established with clear guidelines and timeframes.  To address the need for community consultation, this plan included meeting with our community focus groups to find out what they know, and to share why and what we are doing to improve the 21st Century skills of their tamariki; and in doing so building stronger relationships with our community.

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Coming Together To Work Towards A Common Goal.  *

When I think of how best to reassure parents that our approach to use blogging as a tool is in the best interest of their child, I look to the Teachers Code of Ethics, particularly point 2:  Commitment to Parents/Guardians and family/whānau.  It states that professional decisions in regard to learning must always be weighted towards what is judged to be in the best interests of the learners.  However, it is crucial to acknowledge and collaborate with parents and caregivers about these decisions. Parents and caregivers trust that we will make sound choices when it comes to their tamariki.  But, we must involve them in the decision making process by providing more than one opportunity for them to be part of open, honest and respectful conversations about changes that affect their child’s learning.

 

References:

Code of Ethics from Certified Teachers.  Retrieved on 7 March 2016 from: http://www.educationcouncil.org.nz/content/code-of-ethics-certificated-teachers-0

Commitment to Parents/Guardians and Family/Whanau.  Retrieved on 7 March 2016 from:  https://app.themindlab.com/media/12729/view

Pat Jefferies , Bernd Carsten‐Stahl & Steve McRobb (2007) Exploring the relationships between pedagogy, ethics and technology: building a framework for strategy development, Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 16:1, 111-126, DOI: 10.1080/14759390601168122.  Retrieved on 8 March 2016 from: http://www.tandfonline.com.libproxy.unitec.ac.nz/doi/pdf/10.1080/14759390601168122

* Picture sourced on 9 March 2016 from: Room 10 – Student Hands 🙂

Yes, Social Media Has Enhanced My Professional Development

Back in 2006 when I set up my very first blog, I had no idea what social media was, or the impact it would end up having on my personal life, or how it would go on to enhance my professional development later.  At the time it turns out it was quite innovative, but I just saw it as a way to share with potential employers evidence of my teaching practice, my philosophies and 21st Century skills; not that I called them that then, I only connected with that term in 2015 as part of a Postgraduate course in Applied Teaching.  Over the past 10 years I have developed a few online blogs, webpages and opened a twitter account due to business ventures, and wanting to connect with like minded people.  Interestingly, it has only been over the past year that I have started to maximise its potential to enhance my teaching practice.  

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My First Blog…..

Having been fortunate enough to work in a multitude of roles before becoming a teacher, I have seen how the use of social media and technology has quickly changed the economy.  I was reminded of how quickly things change when I watched an interview where educators spoke about the importance of being “connected” in order to be an effective teachers and leaders (Connected Educators Month).  Change goes hand in hand with leadership; to stay the same serves no one.  I have been asking myself many questions over the past year, and one of them being: “How can I be an effective leader if I am not using social media in most forms in my practice?”  The short answer:  I can’t.  I have to know what it is I am to teach, and to lead, I must be using the tools of the trade, as well as reviewing my pedagogy that underpins my practice.

People who do not use social media as intended, may find it hard to understand how it has enhanced my professional development; is it not just a time waster?  When used properly I have found that it provides me with a place to collaborate with like minded people where I can share my understandings of a given topic to deepen my understanding. King, (2011, p44) highlights that sharing my practice with others using online communities will expand my learning network, and give me first-hand contact with experts and colleagues within my specialty area, and possibly additional areas.  I have found this to be true and using social media has also allowed me to mingle with passionate educators from multiple backgrounds giving voice to so many different views and experiences, this view is also supported by those interviewed by Connected Educators.  Without a doubt I know that the embedding of  social media into my practice is essential because it not only demonstrates I am a 21st Century learner myself, but it keeps me connected with those that can grow my mind beyond the four walls of my school; and then I can share this knowledge with those who wish to develop their 21st Century skill set.     

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When using social media there should be purpose and clear outcomes to enhance student learning.

The students I teach are surrounded by social media apps, from Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and so many more.  As highlighted by Cassidy (2013), children use social media tools at home, so we need to embrace the same technologies at school as a way to provide a connection between their home and school environments.  I was given no formal training on how to behave on social media, but I was raised with morals and values which I display with every picture, video or comment I post.  Students today live in an environment where they are constantly stimulated and use online tools, often with no training, which makes my experiences valuable to my students.  I am able to help them understand how to build a positive digital footprint online, a view shared by Social Media For Kids®.  

I have brought my knowledge of blogging and social media skills to my school.  I know the importance of connecting with other people, and I believe that students need to be given the same opportunities under guidance to connect with classrooms in other towns and countries.  By integrating social media in my classroom programme, I get to learn alongside my students as we reach out and talk with experts on a topic that my students  are interested in.  My class this year has already established a connection with an international school in Hong Kong and they love it.  Social media brought us together to share our learning experiences, and develop empathy of others with different worldviews.  Whether you agree with it or not, our world is becoming more and more connected.  Teachers and students need to learn in an environment where they can communicate with others from different cultures and countries.  Everyone needs to be taught how to act online safely and responsibly.

Ultimately I see myself as a lifelong learner and already know which learning programme I will head to after my postgraduate certificate is completed.  Learning should not stop when we get our teachers registration.  My mother is a great example of this, having had 8 children and working full time, she always made time for postgraduate study.  Our students need us now, we must consistently and constantly be educating ourselves to keep abreast of educational trends, technology and best practice to help our children develop the 21st Century skills they will need to become contributing members of society.

 

References:

Cassidy, K.  (2013). Using social media in the classroom. Retrieved on 2 March 2016 from: https://app.themindlab.com/media/12724/view and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riZStaz8Rno

Connected Educators.  Retrieved on 2 March 2016 from:

https://app.themindlab.com/media/12726/view and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4Vd4JP_DB8

King, K. P. (2011). Professional Learning in Unlikely Spaces: Social Media and Virtual Communities as Professional Development. International Journal Of Emerging Technologies In Learning, 6(4), 40-46.

Social Media For Kids® The Social Media Education Experts.   Retreived on 2 March 2016 from: https://app.themindlab.com/media/12725/view and https://app.themindlab.com/media/12725/view

Not Everyone Makes A Good Leader….

Do I think everyone makes a good leader?  No I do not.  Do I think everyone has leadership potential?  Yes I do, with the right training combined with the ability to reflect on the way a person communicates with others.  My views may have you jumping up and down at the mere suggestion that not everyone makes a good leader, and so I invite you to read on and watch the video below.

Let me shed some light on why I believe not everyone makes a good leader.   For the past 20 years I have worked for several bosses, a.k.a. ‘leaders’.  Some have been awful, some moderate and a couple inspiring.   Over the years I have noticed that many managers have arrived to their position by a natural progression of attainment.  People often end up as leaders or managers because they have been in a role for so long and or show a high level of competence at it; and I commend them for this level of achievement in their given role.

I’ve also worked with some very educated people, as in they have many letters after their name, who are also very competent, and at times outstanding in their knowledge.  BUT… being a leader is not about how you complete a task, nor is it about the letters after your name.  Being a good leader goes beyond this.

Imagine for a moment that we have been put into a leadership role.  To lead effectively it makes sense to understand the role of a leader and of course some of the key qualities needed to be effective.   So let’s put on our leadership hat for a moment.  Imagine yourself in the current role you hold, but you are now the ‘manager’.  Below are some of the key qualities a leader must be able to demonstrate if they are to have any hope at inspiring their colleagues to work to their potential, which of course benefits the business or area we manage.  And to keep us honest let’s also pretend the staff that we are managing answer the questions about us:

  • Is your manager trustworthy?
  • Are they self aware about their impact on you and others?
  • Do you they treat you with respect by treating you positively?
  • Is your manager excited about life and ready to keep on learning?
  • Are they confident and believe in themselves?
  • Does your manager have the ability to keep themselves and the team focused on the goal?
  • Can your manager break a task into manageable steps and make progress towards it?
  • Are they committed to excellence?

How do you think your colleagues would rate you?  Did you pass?  As nice as it is to know that we have some of these qualities I can tell you that I did not learn most of these skills at school, nor at University.   I developed these skills from living life, taking chances, setting big goals and achieving them, listening to others, getting excited about topics and researching them for interest, sharing my knowledge with others just because if felt good and MOST importantly having a few amazing mentors (good leaders) that showed me how to do things better or some would say, more tactfully; the ability to get on with others to reach a common goal.

What I am trying to demonstrate is that a leader is only as good as their ability to get on with people and inspire them using their personality and sound people strategies to attain success.  They are also people who consistently use words of kindness, appreciation and encouragement to inspire loyalty, enthusiasm and a team spirit.

How many mangers have you worked for that have given this to you?

If you have been as lucky as I have to experience this on more than one occasion, then like me you will have gone beyond what you thought you were capable of achieving.  If you have not yet experienced a good manager, maybe it is time to find a new job or business opportunity where you can be that leader for yourself and the people who work with you.

2012 is just around the corner…. what is your year going to look like?

Come and join me on: