Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Thanks to Colette Connolly, Public Relations Specialist at Southern Westchester BOCES, for writing the following article for the Model Schools Kickoff Session on September 21, 2010:
Building relationships, establishing trust and forming professional learning communities are just some of the ways that educators can become connected leaders, suggested Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, in her keynote presentation to area administrators and instructors who attended the LHRIC’s Model Schools Kickoff Sept. 21.
Ms. Nussbaum-Beach, owner and founder of 21st Century Collaborative, LLC, a digital learning consulting business, and a partner with Will Richardson of the Powerful Learning Practice Network, stressed the importance of collective intelligence in changing schools for the better, and how a 21st century leader’s daily choices, if made wisely, can adequately prepare students for the future workplace. The RIC’s Model Schools division is collaborating with Ms. Nussbaum-Beach on an ongoing basis.
When asked what they thought a connected leader might be, many in the room responded with words like “collaborator,” “participant,” “engaged,” and “a learner with direction.” Ms. Nussbaum-Beach admitted that being a connected learner was sometimes “hard and messy,” but that learning the dispositions and values important to its implementation were invaluable.
Educators, she explained, must be good listeners and ask good questions, have the desire to share and contribute, be open-minded, believe that the contributions of all can lead to the advancement of individuals, and have the willingness to be a co-learner, co-creator and co-leader.
Knowing the proper “tool set” is essential to embracing these ideas, she added. Knowing the value of Twitter, for example, and using it as a networking tool and as a place to find resourceful information is invaluable to the 21st century leader.
In order to engage students in powerful learning, teachers must understand the shift that has occurred in education, that is, the shift from learning at school to learning anytime and anywhere; teaching as a private event as opposed to teaching as a public, collaborative practice; learning as a passive participant versus learning in a participatory culture; learning as individuals versus learning in a networked community; and acquiring knowledge on a linear basis as opposed to distributed knowledge.
Learning and teaching in a participatory culture means that both students and teachers must know the new media literacies, explained Ms. Nussbaum-Beach. Some of those include using proper judgment when it comes to evaluating the reliability and credibility of information on the Web; having the willingness to put collective intelligence into action, that is, pooling knowledge and comparing notes with others toward a common goal; being able to search for, synthesize and disseminate information through networking; and being able to sample and remix content in a meaningful way.
Working in a participatory 2.0 world has led some to withhold that sharing of information, said Ms. Nussbaum-Beach, because often educators are resistant to voice their opinions online. “The problem with educators is they have set themselves up as a culture of hoarders,” said Ms. Nussbaum-Beach. “We have to start thinking about mutual accountability and how we can begin to share information naturally.”
Ms. Nussbaum-Beach suggested that educators take a three-pronged approach to professional development. That includes becoming members of professional learning communities that focus on the sharing of ideas and experiences between teachers, seeking out global communities of practice or inquiry that include a diversity of opinion and therefore enhance change, and engaging in personal learning networks.
Participants were asked to examine their goals for the school year and create a culture of sharing. “Being an open leader isn’t so much about the tools you have, it’s about having a clear idea of the relationships you want to build, and it’s also about the honest, deep conversations you get from being involved in professional networking communities,” stressed Ms. Nussbaum-Beach.
“If we want to make a difference in students’ lives, we need to be open and share with each other,” she said.
If you are interested in the Powerful Learning Practice, and you wish to discuss options for how to involve your district in cohort-based learning, contact Leslie Accardo at firstname.lastname@example.org.