Leading with Moral Purpose
As an Administrator in a relatively large international school, I was constantly faced not only with the day to day issues of curricular challenges, the juggling of a circumspect budget and the very real risks of living in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, but also faced with the many complexities of managing different cultures and the varying expectations that accompanied them. What became overly real to me, was that as Michael Fullan emphasises, in order to successfully navigate these challenges I, as an educational leader, needed to create and encourage a shared moral purpose. This paper, attempted to discuss the complexities and conclude with how this can be effected. As result of going through this process, I was certainly given an opportunity to see where and how I can progress in my leadership role.
The Metaphor of the Loaf
I found that one of the hardest things to learn while functioning as a School Administrator is that in order to function, you need to allow yourself the freedom to take up a hobby. A distraction if you will. Something that focuses on something other than school. For me, for a while, that was baking bread. Apart from the fact that “different” or exotic breads - other than your run-of-the-mill ready sliced white loaf - were simply not available in our little Indian village, the distraction of the bread making process, taught me to relax and engage in something other than school. Being an educator, though, had me always looking for a way of seeing the “theory” in practice and out of this the “metaphor of the loaf” was created. My English Language Arts background also encouraged the connection and I see it now as a great way for my students to create relevant connections.
Re-Purposed Lesson Plan
Recently, I planned a unit for a combined grade 9 and 10 Technology class. The convenience of the iPads and the ease of access to the class wiki allowed me to easily use technology to “Flip” the classroom and explore different ways of exploring and inquiring to advance learning. Through the creation of this Unit and the several lessons that it has already brought, I found (and still find) myself constantly striving to create the best connection possible between what my students learn in the classroom and what their life experience is and possibly will be. For me, Cathy Davidson’s inspired concept of the Cartwheeled classroom is something to which I aspire. “The Cartwheeled classroom,” she says, “not only connects text books and classrooms to the real world, but it also inspires, uplifts, and offers the joy of accomplishment. Transformative, connected knowledge isn’t a thing--it’s an action, an accomplishment, a connection that spins your world upside down, then sets you squarely on your feet, eager to whirl again. It’s a paradigm shift.” My increased access to digital technology over this degree has started to create positive paradigm shifts for me in my teaching because I have been able to see connections between my Pedagogical, Content and Technological knowledge.
By way of an explanation ...
I consider myself a Life-Long Learner. Clearly therefore, as an educator dedicated to the learning of others, if I'm not learning, how can I facilitate learning in others? This showcase is designed to provide a sense of the processes and interests that I believe have already enhanced and continue to enhance my learning. I have divided this page into the specific areas that have had the greatest influence on my practice as an educator - those of Leadership, Celebrating Differences, Best Practice and Educational Technology. In addition, I hope that you will appreciate the methods by which I have presented them as each were directly influenced by what I have learned about Educational Technology through the course of my MAED degree.
Please click each image if you wish to explore further.
A Digital Story
Clearly, and moving on from my comments in the “Multiculturalism” section, education should never be seen as static or set in stone, because it would never be able to adapt to the ever changing world in which we live and, never prepare our students for it. As a fellow student in one of my courses commented, it can never be a set science, but rather an ever-changing, “highly aqueous” art form. This Digital Story reflects my attempt to engage students in a piece of literature by making use of technology and then expecting them to use that technology to bring some relevance and perspective to the literature. One of the greatest affordances of the technology and using it this way, has to be how it allows for many different learning styles to find a way to communicate. This particular technology appeared to be to be quite intuitive and those students who have difficulty with the mechanics of the language (especially, those for whom English is a second or third language) can obviate some of the constraints of writing through a thoughtful use of the software.
The World is your Oyster
This audio presentation, in the form of a Radio Broadcast or podcast, afforded me the opportunity to explore how to use various technology tools to express a thought or idea in a way that is different from traditional pen and paper. A generation ago, educators and learners never had the opportunity to produce “professional” presentations only found on radio and television, but now, with a little bit of effort, these technologies are at our fingertips. The hope is that this helps to make the activity more meaningful and clearly, the more meaningful it is, the more it will be understood. Going through the experience of creating this presentation also afforded me the ability to be the learner and to experience what my students go through on their learning journey. It then became the basis for a few English Language Arts units, one of which you can see below in A Digital Story.
Visible Teaching and Learning
With the multifarious and almost infinite ways that students can get access to information and, beyond that, learning; as an instructional leader, I knew it imperative that our school to get everyone (teachers and students) on the same page regarding how appropriately to use the technologies we have at our disposal. In essence, I wanted to explore how best to provide and understand the multiple representations of content and then to enable the students and teachers to move beyond simply learning content to understand and absorb the “concepts” within and around which their learning is based. I wanted to ensure, in John Hattie’s words, that we engaged in Visible Teaching and Learning – which is at the core of this Prezi. I was driven by the belief that by ensuring that practitioners in today’s education institutions are aware of the benefits and can see a solid plan of action for the implementation of technology, it will enhance their teaching and consequently their student’s learning.
As an educator concerned about innovative ways to lead and implement technology into schools, I am also aware of education systems and their educators, who have the potential for great influence over their students (because of the power differential that the teacher/student relationship entails), but that maintain a model of education that is based on how factories were, and in many cases still, are organized. Sir Ken Robinson is a great exponent of how this cramps creativity and prevents any revolution in education to create divergent thinkers. Living and working in a multi-cultural environment is the perfect place to explore this. This Prezi attempts to explore the theories and practice of breaking down stereotypes in education and, how celebrating multiculturalism is to be encouraged with my colleagues and my students.
Poetry Analysis with a Twist
It has been my experience that students balk at the idea of learning grammar in English class, and so they should if the teacher perpetuates the boring tradition of formal grammar lessons. This is why I, who incidentally love teaching grammar, really enjoyed putting together a lesson that uses grammar, and more specifically, a study of certain Parts of Speech, to understand a piece of literature better. Sylvia Plath's poem embodies the paradox of being complicated in its simplicity, and one way to approach the poem is to understand where and why she uses certain parts of speech in different ways. This lesson, which is directed at junior and senior students, attempts to tease out specific grammatical elements of the poem and, with that knowledge, to try to understand why she wrote it. I mention an accompanying electronic document that the students use in conjunction with the digital story and this is simply a method by which they can record their responses.
Interventions and Supports
Something significant we dealt with as a school was an endemic bullying issue. As a result of a particularly nasty incident, it became more and more clear that we needed a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program. Therefore, as part of a series of in-service training sessions on “PBIS for the staff at our school I, as the High School Principal, created and presented this PowerPoint. From the outset, I needed to help to develop a common vocabulary by explicitly communicate the outcomes we were seeking. Clearly, this was so that we were all focused in the same direction. Beyond that, it was imperative to stimulate cross-cultural conversation and thereby try to cultivate a stronger sense of community. Spin-off programs, such as promoting increased accountability through peer monitoring, helped to increase in pro-social behavior and all in all a successful result was that this effort helped to start dealing with our bullying issue. I believe that after these discussions, the culture of the school started to change for the better.
Chris Cooke's Leadership, Celebrating Differences, Best Practice and Educational Technology Showcase
Image from www.sparkpeople.com
Showcase - Educational Leadership
Showcase - Celebrating Differences
Showcase - Best Practice
Showcase - Tech Experience Reflection
The following audio reflection (although making specific reference to a particular course) sums up what I have come to believe about the place technology has assumed in education and therefore deserves a place at the end of this showcase.