“And I can’t understand a word you say”

I read Jabiz Raisdana’s post about Recruitment2.0 which has a great description of the characteristics of what I’d call a 21C teacher. In fact I think that the word ‘teacher’ is now a little mis-leading, as the 21C teacher is also an information architect. But I wonder if out ‘leaders’ have any capacity to understand the diagram posted.

I also read Beth Holmes talking about her experiences in watching and listening to K12Online this week in which she says

The timing for reading Stephanie’s post could not have been better. Last night I was completely “taken” with Alec Couros’ K12 Online Conference presentation “Open, Connected, Social: Reflections of an Open Graduate Course Experience.” The viewing experience is a total package – a real “trip!” The viewer is entertained, taught, challenged and extended.

This is a very important passage. Firstly, Beth is talking about learning outside school and outside school hours. She is also connecting with Alec (who is influences everyone) and about a conference that is online. She is then talking about the learning – and that statement to me is exactly what teachers should be doing in class.

If I compare the two posts, it illustrates one of the major problems that ‘leaders’ talk about when they publish comments such as “We have such a diverse pool of talent in our schools.  It is important that we tap into, challenge and engage our talented teachers if we are to continuously improve the learning and teaching”.

I am not sure that they are any good at measuring this. I think that it is something that executives believe that they can buy in, and indeed any teacher who is not ‘tech savvy’ is going to increasingly struggle to be employed. At the same time there seems to be a mentality that all this read/write, gaming, virtual world, collaborative classroom stuff, is not something that executives themselves need to buy into. I am sure that they have a list of ‘yeah buts’ for that, but that is of no consequence.

Leadership is not about authority and it is as much about listening as it is talking in my view. Someone has to create opportunities for this leadership to be effective, but I think that at time’s our battle plan is almost 17th Century.

Leaders on the hill who’s point of reference is a classic view of engagement, based on a set of established protocols and procedures.

Unfortunately Beth’s passage does not fit that notion of leadership. Beth leads herself. Jabiz is talking about moving forward as a teacher and learner.

He’s answering the ‘executives’ call to ‘tap into talent’ loud and clear – but the criteria that he suggests is needed for 21C teaching – the very things that we have to embed into practice in order to be a relevant professional in the classroom – are not the criteria for pay and promotion, leadership or professional development in schools.

While teachers are being flexible in the way they learn – and deliver new ideas (for free) into the classroom, the systems are not.

For example, schools do not fund home internet connectivity or flexible work place practice. They are yet to recognize that the hundreds of free hours 21C teacher spend learning at home is directly related to classroom – and therefore school performance and the future of our students.

I really believe that the nature of the school workplace, the terms in which teachers are engaged needs to be reformed. I just don’t think that our most senior leaders are quite ready for just how much.

It is simply unacceptable to drop laptops into classrooms and expect teachers to suddenly become effective media age developers of 21C pedagogy.

It is also morally bankrupt of executives to issue this a significant criteria for employment without recognizing that these people are ‘leaders’ – in ways beyond a ‘pat on the back’. 21C teachers are not foot soldiers, don’t make that mistake.

If you do, then there is no avoiding your own Executive Waterloo.

The coalition is all of us. Despite decades of Empire building, you are at risk of loosing it all as the control mechanisms used to define ‘career paths’ are less and less relevant to the ‘connected teacher’. You have to understand that, not ignore it. If not, then you are left to argue ‘morality and loyalty’ to retain teachers, nothing more – which I think is patronizing, given the effort that most 21C teachers have made to get where they are.

In response to the idea of the Intrepid Teacher – 21C teachers – connected to the metaverse – are on one hand welcomed as agents for change, but at the same time are not invited into the officer’s mess. This is a remnant of the industrial age. If you work hard over a long period of time, then you may be selected over someone else from the shop floor. But the new shop floor is the metaverse, where teachers are connected to media bloggers, teaching bloggers, futurists, gamers, technocrats and all those people thinking very seriously about change – who are not ‘just out’ of Uni.

Just as in the art of war, technology changes everything that went before. Clay Shirky talks about how … the German Panzer commanders defeated the French with lower numbers, because they understood the power of communication using radio to co-ordinate and react to ever changing circumstances … They were connected. He also talks about how a group can be it’s own worst enemy.

My constant concern about education (and don’t get me wrong, I want all teachers to succeed for the sake of themselves and students) – is the lack of executive ability to acknowledge the need to build CAPACITY – and to be brave enough to appoint innovators and student-leader teachers to positions where that capacity becomes SUSTAINABLE.

That to me is impossible if no one in the officer’s mess has any understanding or what Jabiz and Beth are representing. We are frantically reporting what is happening, but the message is not heard.

Maybe executives and administrators are hoping they can hold back the lines until help comes. But no one is. Each day they leave it or employ policies of the past to control the organization, it gets that much harder not to become a landmark in history.

My final salvo is aimed at pre-teachers and those at University. You really have to decide which army you are going to join right now. You have the opportunity to base your teaching on the theory of the past, but with the tools of the future – and make sure that when you arrive in the classroom, that you are a leader. You lead your students – and really, you don’t need anything more than an internet connection to do that. On the other hand, you could wait to be invited into the mess – eventually. Don’t do that – learn from your collegues experience, and apply it to conversations in the metaverse.

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10 thoughts on ““And I can’t understand a word you say”

  1. Your post Dean is one that makes me uneasy. Don’t get me wrong, I believe you are an innovative and gifted educator who has incredible insight into what learning SHOULD be for our students.

    But with this post, I almost feel like saying:’Don’t get mad….’!!
    As a Teacher Librarian, I feel I have traveled this road before- I have experienced the ‘lip service’ and lack of understanding from ‘the decision makers’. The drive to promote ‘advocacy’ for the role of TL, and the importance of teaching ‘information literacy’ skills -a stallwalk of the TL role, has traveled the same path. (-as a previously active Primary TL, I continue to see the role being eroded away)- and yet, the skills we fought to promote & teach are now being recognised as essential for 21st Century learners…

    What am I trying to say as a response to your post…? I appreciate and understand the frustrations..but I feel we should be rallying up teachers to continue to be proactive. To strive to become the decision makers in regards to teaching in their schools, to lead by example. Any change will be from the bottom up..it is no use focusing on the frustrations and lack of knowledge/practice of the Exec’s. In reality, change in teaching/learning happens in the classrooms..the message WILL be heard by those who can REALLY effect change…the teachers! (but only if those leading the change lead with hope and conviction).

  2. Oh, but I might add…it doesn’t hurt to continue striving to educate those making decisions – we learn by DOING and by example..a dynamic learning community is only built if ALL stakeholder take part!

  3. Fran, I don’t see it as my job to ‘educate’ those making decisions – it’s their job to find and live creativity and innovation, albeit within the constraints of running a school and shifting it to 21C think. I am fortunate to work in a school that allows innovation from the bottom and from the top – encourages development in as many ways as possible to improve the learning and living outcomes for the students. My school is not locked to a school district, like yours is, which is driven by too many people exactly as described by Dean. As he says, leadership is not about authority!— try telling that to the leadership in your district! Rally teachers? I don’t think that is enough. ,That strategy didn’t work for Teacher Librarians did it? Look what happened to network meetings, library support services, and more. All gone! and you still think that you can trust ‘rallying teachers’ as an effective process of change? School systems and districts can be the best at moving schools forward, or the worst. Either way, the time is coming when 20th century approaches, disguised as 21C thinking by moving some walls, and handing out laptops, just won’t cut it with kids any more.

  4. Oh, Francis, I agree with you. BUT, I think that unlike any previous movement towards learning, the media age is putting so much in front of even the youngest learners, that adding it into schools is time critical. I think Execs have previously had the luxury of ‘allowing’ innovative practice, as it was an extension to what the school/system as a whole saw as beneficial. The frustration I see/hear now is that when a teacher changes classroom practice and is demonstrating new the things identified in Jabiz’s post – that there is fundamentally no criteria in systemic organisations to measure or value it.

    This then leads to it being ‘abnormal’ as classified by the incumbent decision makers. Yet despite that, teachers band together online, and are as you say, doing amazing things.

    It doesn’t to me demonstrate that, while appreciated, it actually leads to those people being leaders, in the way that ‘leaders’ are currently classified. I don’t think that we are about to see a shift in management structures, which is sad as there are some amazing ideas, passion and experiences being shared openly in the metaverse that are simply not understood or valued well enough by executives and administrators.

    That significantly limits the capacity of a school to make progress. Some people (me) are not easily put off, but some teachers, especially new ones, don’t feel confident to take what they are doing, or trying to do beyond their classroom – and as you say, all stakeholders need to sit at the table – not be selectively invited to it.

    Teacher Librarians to me are absolutely CRITICAL to the whole process. Learning Centres should be the INFORMATION HUB, and be right at centre of Media Literacy. The are experienced advocacy campaigners, and if I was to select any role in school to push to the ‘leader’ status – then it is Teacher Librarians. I can’t see any disadvantage in a school having multiple TLs – the media literacy needs in the classroom. I also agree in rallying teachers, but the opportunities in one school to do so are very limited, and again at the discretion of execs, who probably don’t see how time-critical it is.

    Some schools do lead by example, but at a time when most systems do have lots of teachers doing fantastic things – we still see ‘leaders’ having ‘leader’ meetings, when perhaps they need to leave the officers mess more often, go into classrooms and see 21C teachers.

    There is a big gap between ‘talking’ about it and actually officially rethinking the HR criteria, skills and experience balance. Historically, management organizations are not good at accepting this – which is why change is so damn hard. But I really worry about the relevance of many teachers in the classroom in even the next five years – in light of the governments desire and plans to drop more technology in there, with more digital outcomes. How can innovative, connected teachers get promoted to positions that allow them to rally more staff, when the criteria for that is a) time served b) who you know c) a Masters in 20C learning.

  5. Dean, there’s so many aspects of your post I could respond to…but for now I want to add my voice to your call to action to the pre-service teachers.

    We need emerging teachers ready to innovate, ready to strive forward. So many are graduating programmed to “do what has always been done”, largely in part because our universities don’t seem to be aware of what’s actually happening in our schools.

    Change takes time – sometimes it’s hard to keep fighting, but I think we just have to keep at it.

  6. MMM when I wrote my comment I had a niggling feeling I was sounding naive and idealistic -I have been in a pretty supportive environment in term’s of leadership…& could be looking at things with a ‘rose coloured glasses’ perspective..but I have also experienced the opposite environment…& became worn down by the frustration of it all. My reaction stemmed from a feeling that there has to be a positive way of dealing with the situation…negativity is disempowering.
    Yeah- I know what happened to the Teacher Librarians & the structures that use to support them! I also am aware of many now who are leading innovation & change in their schools. Many have found that opportunity by leaving systems or having leadership changes that were supportive. Others, including myself have diversified the role & so have a greater scope to influence leadership.
    Your points are so valid Dean, and Judy I know you are spot on about the ‘advocacy’ & rallying failures. (I grew very tired of constantly hearing that TL’s continually had to ‘advocate’ for their role-who else ever needed to work that hard in schools for simple recognition?). I know it really has little impact…but I’m clutching at straws & struggling for solutions!!

    Discussions like these raise awareness & clarify the issues. I don’t mind sounding naive sometimes…

  7. Jeff in Great Falls MT is someone who is the very example of teachers using social networks to shift the system for the benefit of his own professional practice and the students. He didn’t make the technology committee. Yet hes got all sorts of amazing things happening – despite his executive. Lots of computers (no you can’t have those, we have no licence – so someone showed him how to make them Linux). It seems absolutely rediculous for executives and administrators to ignore the power of networked teachers. If there is any nieve comments – its from the administrators.

  8. I feel I’ve sidelined your points Dean, so want to get back to the focus

    “the very things that we have to embed into practice in order to be a relevant professional in the classroom – are not the criteria for pay and promotion, leadership or professional development in schools.”

    “there seems to be a mentality that all this read/write, gaming, virtual world, collaborative classroom stuff, is not something that executives themselves need to buy into”

    “the control mechanisms used to define ‘career paths’ are less and less relevant to the ‘connected teacher’.”

    “is the lack of executive ability to acknowledge the need to build CAPACITY – and to be brave enough to appoint innovators and student-leader teachers to positions where that capacity becomes SUSTAINABLE.”

    Four absolutely 100% spot on statements…what are we going to do about it rather than just observe & agree?

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