Raw Thoughts For A School Vision

When I first started in my current job, my role was defined by a one line section of our school vision statement. That vision had been developed in 2002 just before my arrival in 2003. It read:-

We will have a strong learning culture supported by a harassment-free environment and up-to-date technology. Students will be confident and enjoy their learning.

See that little bit in bold - that's what has been guiding my work in the implementation of ICT here. Now using up-to-date technology is a fairly vague statement and I've been able to work on quite a few things under that banner (Problem Based Learning, Interactive Whiteboards, Digital Photography and Editing) but with my new boss taking the reins this year, it's time to put some detail in that vision and develop something with more definition. We've been looking at putting a plan for next year's ICT budget and rightfully so, we've decided that all spending should be driven by a vision as opposed to a wishlist. So the idea is that anything that is budgeted for must tie back to this vision that I will coordinate with the staff.

So I'm starting here - one point that my principal and I agreed on was that vision must be about learning, not just technology. So my wanderings through the edublogosphere are going to have a big bearing on the broad ideas I'd want to present back to my staff. I like the overall thought that we are working towards a 21st Century School and what that might entail. What is essential learning in the 21st Century? How do we use technology to address the curriculum in a more relevant, efficient and engaging way? How do we cater effectively for these students whose life has only known exponential change?

So, before I put my own formative thoughts out here for the world (well, anyone who reads this blog, anyway!), here is my process for gathering some ideas to present back at school. I've found Google NoteBook to be a really great for "snipping" key quotes and paragraphs of concise information about the topic at hand, so that will be my tool of choice. So now as I scour my Bloglines, I can capture these gems and then look back at them to create an overall visual representation (probably using CMaps) of what this vision could or should contain. It has to look beyond this coming year - it can be utopian but it has a responsibility to be practical and rooted in reality, the reality of where the school is currently at. So, what have I gathered in my NoteBook since I started thinking about this on Friday afternoon?

A great quote from George Siemens:

We have designed education to promote certainty (i.e. a state of knowing)...we now need to design education to be adaptable (i.e. a process of knowing).

From David Warlick, the first:

Much has been written lately about technology in the classroom — as to whether it is optional or even relevant. This conversation is understandable, given the time of the year. I ask myself two questions in reaction.

  1. Can a teacher be a good teacher without using technology? A resounding “YES!”
  2. Is a teacher who is not using technology doing their job? An emphatic “NO!”

But, of course, it isn’t so simple. “My kids use the pencil sharpener. That’s technology.” It’s why I try not to use that word, and urge others to stop trying to “Integrate technology” It’s too big. It means too many things. It’s why I keep hammer on literacy, that it’s information that has changed (digital, networked, overwhelming, and the more esoteric changes that have come about because of the read/write web).

If we can expand what it means to be literate to reflect the changing information environment, and integrate that, then we might start using technology for what it is, the pencil and paper of our time.

And the second:

.....at the same time that we teach our students to be responsible consumers of information, we should also be teaching them to be skilled and responsible producers of information. Look at the concept of the long tail and at the thousands of people who have become authors, musicians and composers, and movie makers, many of whom are drawing incoming by marketing their own information productions through the Internet.

In the information age, information will be the raw material that we work with, as we build unique and valuable information products in order to solve problems and accomplish goals.

The great thing is that my blogroll is filled with so many great thinkers that can help fill out this vision. The library's role in all of this - read Judy O'Connell, Doug Johnson or Chris Harris. What about mobile learning - access Alex Hayes or Leonard Low. Classroom practicalities and implementation - Mark Ahlness, Al Upton or Darren Kuropatwa. Just keep adding to the NoteBook and see where it goes.

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3 thoughts on “Raw Thoughts For A School Vision

  1. Judy O'Connell

    Graham, you’ve chosen two terrific quotes from David Warlick – they are sooo good I will have to collect them as well! And Google notebook is working for you? Then I will have to give it a go too…it is really vital to use new tech tools to keep up with the fantastic pace of learning that blogging allows. Thanks for giving me a mention – I’m honoured – you know, there are some real greats in the blogosphere without whose inspiration I wouldn’t be writing. You’re among them Graham, so thank you to you 😉

  2. Alexander Hayes

    The great thing about one liners ( mission statements – mottos etc. ) is that they’ve usually resulted from numerous butcher paper sessions and sticky notes and overheads punctuated with finger food and instant coffee fights.

    What isnt so great is that they nearly always instill the negative as the aforemost – ie. they state what they will / seek avert.

    Instead, could we not consider a strength based statement ?…… such as;

    We [will] have a strong learning culture supported by [a harassment-free] an environment [and] filled with [up-to-date] technology[.] that benefits Students [will be] instilling confiden[t]ce and honouring the fact that they enjoy their learning.

    So often I see educators battered by years of round table moderation sessions, bitching bitterley as to how hard done by they are whilst sitting on their hands and collecting 12 weeks worth of holidays a year.

    It’s either time to dig some more ditches or back to the blackboard.

    > How do we cater effectively for these students whose life has only known exponential change?

  3. Graham Wegner

    Alex, I agree – my disclaimer is that this vision statement predates me at this school. However the points you raise are really important as I develop just our ICT part in greater detail to guide our future budget – your point about students who have only experienced exponential change is an important one to grapple with. If we don’t seek to address that, then we risk being more and more out of step with the “real world” and spend more and more time focussing on irrelevant skills (like how to use specific software packages) instead of relevant ones like publishing to a potential world audience. Thanks for keeping my thoughts honest.

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