Today, you always hear about our need to develop our future generations with skills in coding, STEM, and in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. As a technology leader, I emphasize this in my everyday work. This year I have had the opportunity to read 12 books with staff. The last two have challenged my thinking.
Excellence Through Equity
Back in October, Superintendent Mark Evans brought the Excellence Through Equity book to Executive Council. It has been a book of focus for our Principal Meetings over the last couple of months. Alan M. Blankstein, Pedro Noguera, and Lorena Kelly present the power of voice and choice that guides educational leaders to drive change in the classroom. The resounding themes that echo project based learning activities, relevance, and the power of equity. I loved the parallels outlined in the book to the health industry:
From Chapter 4:
This book provides timely insights and powerful examples that educational equity and excellence provides. It is also necessary and possible. Towards the end of the book, it highlights the necessary changes needed in the policy level to make sure education can succeed. It is timely with our current political climate. I have never felt the amount of pressure in public education as is occurring today.
From a technology standpoint, the book outlines technology being a powerful how. It particularly points out the International Standards for Technology in Education Standards.
Technology is a great equalizer, but it is important to understand the challenges that separate us from our private school counterparts. Every child is on an educational journey. Each of them come on the journey with different luggage. Here at Omaha Public Schools we serve children of color, immigrant children, poor children, and children whose first language is other than English. These are all things we are proud of. Nebraska Loves Public Schools has created a great video that highlights these challenges and shows the hope given to children that learning provides.
This book is foundational. Everyday I push for educational technology solutions to help facilitate efficiency in time and increase ability. Too often this emphasis takes some focus away from purpose. The book Better Conversations brings that focus back to what is relevant. Many times as educators, the answers not in technology but in human behavior. It is too easy to get fixed on the shiny and we should focus on implementing technology with purpose. This gets more and more relevant as our technology advances: The more we talk about features and functions, the further we are apt to stray from what we're trying to accomplish in the first place. Jim Knight does an incredible job of bringing purpose with technology by using the very thing we hold on to everyday: our smartphones. By using video as a reflection, we paint an accurate description of our efficiencies as a teacher and communicator.
I got the opportunity to read this book with Eileen Heller, Instructional Technology Trainer for Omaha Public Schools. During the course of our readings we created what we call a quoture - an image with a quote that stood out for us personally for each chapter. As you can see below there are some great themes that come along with each chapter - but one that speaks to me is empathy.
Listening is my weakness. Every resource of my mind in conversation is anticipating what I want to say next. Not much empathy in that. Jim Knight in our session had us do an activity on listening. We were to listen to our partner without saying anything for 1 minute. It seemed like an eternity. I learned a lot from that exercise.
Jim explains this in 3 key strategies to listening:
It all boils down to relationships....
Both books emphasize the need for relationships. In Excellence Through Equity incorporates our struggle with new standards and how we have focused too much on testing and results. Student voice and choice are needed to bring relevancy to the learning process. Better Conversations takes that a step further by understanding dialogue:
And finally because of my technology background, it is important to note that technology can happen throughout both of these processes. In both books it is used as an efficiency and as an equalizer. The technology we use today is the worst technology we will ever use in the future because it constantly changes. Don't get fixed on the shiny.