The Future of Education

We were pleased to be invited to write an article on our thoughts about the future of education which was featured in the 100th anniversary edition of The Manitoba Teacher Magazine.   Click the link to check out the full issue!

A Letter to the Teachers of the Future 

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, it is exciting to look back to see far we’ve come in this great profession.  It is also exciting to look to the future of education and think about where we will go next.   Reflecting on our past and looking to our future, we have drafted a letter to the teachers of the future that expresses our wishes for the future of education.    

Dear Future Teacher,  

Congratulations on being part of such an esteemed profession.   You are fortunate to have a career that allows you to impact the lives of young people every day.   We know your education and training have been rigorous and that you are well-prepared to meet the demands of this special calling.   We just wanted to let you know how far we’ve come as teachers and to encourage you to continue developing the diverse, challenging and rewarding field of education. 

A long time ago, students sat in dull classrooms in rows of desks and recalled basic content that they’d memorized through rote learning.   Schools were like factories, meant to churn out employees for the workforce.  A shorter time ago, those classrooms grew brighter; there was flexible seating, a pursuit of student interests, and differentiated instruction to meet the needs of different students.  As internet connections became more robust and technology became more prevalent, a shift began.  There was less emphasis on rote memorization and more focus on fostering thinking skills.  Students began to develop the skills to source and manage information, rather than just recall information.  The goals of education began to change and so did the pedagogical practices of teachers.     

Now we see you embracing what we once called “alternative pedagogical approaches”.   You are allowing students to direct their learning through inquiry, project-based learning or problem-based learning.   Your students are excited and motivated to learn because they have a real purpose for learning.   They collaborate in their efforts to achieve the common goals of their projects.   Your students develop a thorough understanding of various concepts related to their projects or inquiry and you marvel at the skills they build as they progress.   These students are thinking deeply as they cooperate, negotiate, solve problems and make a difference in their local and global communities.   We are so proud of you and your students.   It is refreshing to see that students are doing work that matters while also becoming literate and numerate.   This is how we envisioned education back in our day.   

The other cool thing about how you teach now is the blurring between subject areas. (Do you even know what we mean when we say “subjects”?)  It is incredible how your students are developing knowledge and skills in a variety of areas as they pursue projects, tackle problems and undertake inquiry!  Did you know?  Many of us used to split our school day into blocks of time and teach only certain content and skills during each block.  Imagine…. we would teach only math skills for the first 80 minutes of the day until an obnoxious buzzer rang signaling the change to recess break, followed by another annoying buzz to indicate that it was time to teach literacy skills.   These buzzers continued throughout the day and so did the changes of subject.   In our time, we started to see that teaching subjects and skills in isolation was perhaps not our best approach, but we are sure glad to see you’ve got this figured out.   Your approach of teaching students what they need to move forward with their projects seems so productive.   It is evident that our commitment to developing numeracy and literacy skills has continued in your time, but we like how you are blending those skills with student interests.  Please keep facilitating those projects, encouraging students to address authentic problems and fueling student curiosity with inquiry!     

We’ve been working for a long time to extend learning beyond the classroom.   We had a strong understanding of why partnerships were necessary and important, but in the early stages, partners were usually brought in to support special projects and initiatives.  I’m sure you can’t believe there was a time when families, educators, community members, policymakers, experts, and other classrooms didn’t work together seamlessly and interdependently.  These partnerships, supported by technology, have enhanced education in Manitoba’s schools.   We are delighted to see that even remote and rural classrooms are now interconnected.  Your students are learning outside of the classroom.   It‘s great to see that your students are independent learners who learn and grow using online resources, the people around them and the abilities that you’ve fostered in them.  This is really what we imagined when we used to talk about “turning walls into windows”.   

And what about play? In our time, play-based learning was an accepted practice in Kindergarten classrooms, but we hadn’t quite figured out what playful learning looked like for learners of all ages.  Looking back through the years, the disconnect between the play-based practices of Kindergarten and the teaching and learning in later grades is apparent.  I’m sure you can’t imagine a time when learning wasn’t playful and engaging.  We’re excited that the playful learning in your school is fueled by teacher and student passions. In your teaching practice, we see that learning is a joyful and holistic process that isn’t segmented into times for work and play.  What a wonderful way to learn! 

In our time, there was much debate over if and how technology should be used with learners.  We stressed over implementing a balanced approach and ensuring responsible use of technology.  Looking back, we are sure you recognize that this was a necessary stage for the education system to navigate, as traditional tools gave way to technology tools.  We’re sure you see the uncertainty that teachers and families felt when faced with these new ways of teaching and learning.  As you scan your classroom of engaged, respectful learners who understand how and when to use technology, be mindful of the turbulent past.   It was a challenge to effectively infuse technology in our time and we are excited to see that students and teachers in your time find technology to be an ordinary and everyday part of life both in and out of school.   We are happy to see that what we called “acceptable use” is now the norm and that the education system is truly harnessing the power of technology to improve teaching and learning.   

Despite the huge changes that have taken place, there are some things that remain constant for those who seek to guide young minds.  It’s funny to think that there was a time when we discussed the possibility of robots replacing teachers.   It seems a foolish idea when we consider the uniquely human traits that are needed to excel as a teacher.  An abundance of patience, persistence, and caring, a willingness to meet each child and family exactly where they are, and an unflagging dedication to change the world are the timeless tools of the educator.  Your skills are irreplaceable.   

You and your learners will face challenges that we cannot anticipate in our present times.  However, please know that your work as an educator will contribute to raising a generation that is equipped to make the world a better place.  When you teach your students how to think rather than what to think, you are preparing them for a future unknown.  When you help raise compassionate and caring young people, you are shaping the citizens that will lead the way for many great things. 

Teacher of the future, you are doing vitally important work, just as those who came before you.   We understand that the pace of change can feel frustratingly slow, but know that the small steps educators take forward have immeasurable impact.  Thank you for everything you do and please know that you and your students are making our dreams for the future of education come true.   

Sincerely, 

Devon and Leah 

Passionate teachers of the past


 

Caldwell, D., & Obach, L. (2019). Letter to the teachers of the future. The Manitoba Teacher, 187(6), 6–7.

 

 

 

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Encouraging Teacher Wellness

As we develop KG Education, our goal is to incorporate wellness in our vision of professional learning for educators.   Taking care of ourselves needs to be an important priority (for all people, not just teachers), but it is all too easy to ignore/skip/not prioritize our wellness activities.  I am passionate about my work as an educator and there have been many times when I’ve ignored my own wellness in pursuit of some goal or task related to my work.  I have made some gains in this area and *often* (not always) do better at making time for my own wellness.   We hope that we can help other educators make time for wellness by integrating wellness practices with our learning retreats.  Something I read recently really got me thinking about the importance of self-care and how we perceive it…

This summer, I traveled to Fiji with my husband.  Travel is often a form of wellness for me as I’m good at truly taking a break and recharging when I have somewhere sunny to lounge in the sun and read for hours (and no access to my home or my work).   There were many hours of sun-soaking and reading on this trip.  One of the books I started reading, You are a Badass by Jen Sincero,  included a quote that really resonated with me.

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“The better our bodies feel, the happier and more productive we are.”  YES!!  I think one of the reasons that we can ignore our own personal wellness is because we sometimes look at it as a luxury.    For me, this quote puts that notion into question.   Is wellness something fun and extra and luxurious or is it a way to ensure our happiness and productivity?  I think that we can be much more productive as educators if we are taking care of ourselves.  If you’re like me and you sometimes have difficulty making time for wellness, try thinking of it this way: looking after yourself will increase your productivity, therefore resulting in better work (even though you took some time for wellness rather than work).

Summer holidays make it pretty easy for me to incorporate wellness:  I do yoga and workout, I ride my horses, I spend time with family and friends.  When I have all day to fit these things in, it seems pretty doable to look after my body.  (Sometimes I even actually do some work too 😉  )  Some of you are already back to school and some of you are thinking ahead and preparing for students to return in September.  As we approach this back to school season, it can become harder to make time for self-care.   Are you feeling it already?  We get it.   We struggle to find balance between work and wellness too. 

So… As you begin planning for a fabulous year of teaching and learning, we encourage you to make a plan for taking care of yourself too! We’re big fans of yoga and walking.  We both enjoy travel and reading.   I love horseback riding and Devon enjoys time with her dogs.   We’re trying to include wellness in our daily lives and we hope you will too.   What wellness practice will you include in your back to school routine?  Drop us a comment and let us know your game plan for self-care this year!

 

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Supporting Technology Infusion

One of the topics I researched while completing my Master’s Degree was technology coaching.   I work as the LwICT Teacher Leader (technology coach) in my school division.   My role is to support teachers and students in effectively using technology in education.   Since I was new to this role, researching this topic as part of my studies was a good way to develop myself as a technology coach and to gain knowledge of the best practices in this field.   Although I can’t act as an in-school technology coach for all of the educators I encounter, examining this research has shaped my beliefs about professional learning and influenced the development of our KG Education offerings.  

Technology in Education

Technology has become part of our everyday lives and our education systems.  Educational technology has evolved into its own field within education.  Many school jurisdictions have purchased technology and developed policies around the use of technology.  A variety of groups and organizations exist for promoting and supporting technology infusion in classrooms.  Workshops and professional development sessions are offered on the many topics included in educational technology.  It is evident that both students and teachers need to effectively use technology to succeed in today’s technologically-driven world.  However, effective technology infusion in education remains a challenge for many schools. Verock-O’Loughlin (2006) explained,

“Schools have invested heavily in hardware and software, teachers have announced their interest in using computers, but fundamentally teaching practices remain unchanged. Computers get used mostly for drill and practice activities; students use word processing at the publishing but not the composing stage of the writing process, the Internet serves as an encyclopedia of information, but not a place for research and analysis. Digital cameras, scanners and other devices hardly get considered at all.”  (p.57)

At KG Education, we know that technology can (and should) be used to enhance teaching and learning.  We believe that, when used appropriately, technology is a powerful tool to support meaningful learning experiences.   We also recognize that relevant professional learning is needed to support educators with infusing technology.   Therefore, when planning workshops and events for educators, we address technology infusion as part of the learning experience for teachers.  If you attend one of our events, expect to learn about how you can use technology in your classroom practice.

Technology Coaching

Supporting Educators with Technology Infusion

Many schools have ample hardware and software, but what may be lacking is an effective way to support teachers with technology infusion.   Barnett (2001) pointed out that “technology use is not about the hardware, Internet connections, and so on. What is important is how the technology is integrated with the instructional program” (p.2).   In outlining his steps for technology planning, Barnett (2001) identified ongoing teacher training as an important factor in determining the impact which technology has on student learning.  Simply giving teachers technology tools does not help them maximize the learning potential of those tools (Beglau et al., 2011).  Holliday (2005) stated that “it is imperative for teachers to have appropriate training if they are to meet the needs of this technologically advanced generation of students” (p. 1).  This research points out that, in order to integrate technology in meaningful ways, educators need support.

Supporting Technology Infusion at KG Education

At KG Education, we want to offer the support that educators need to feel confident with infusing technology.   We strongly believe that technology infusion supports quality teaching and we aim to provide professional learning opportunities that include ideas for effectively infusing technology in education.  Whether our workshop topic is numeracy, literacy, project-based learning or coding, we’ll share suggestions for how technology can strengthen and extend learning.  To find out more about our learning events, visit our Events page.  To book a workshop with us, visit our Learn with Us page.

References

Barnett, H. (2001). Successful K-12 technology planning:Ten essential elements. ERIC Digest, 1–10.

Beglau, M., Craig Hare, J., Foltos, L., Gann, K., James, J., Jobe, H., & Smith, B. (2011). Technology, coaching and community (White paper). International Society for Technology in Education

Holliday, S. E. (2005). Coaching for technology integration: A strategy in staff development. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 3176440)

Verock-O’Loughlin, R.-E. (2006). Impacts of technology coaching on teacher practices. (Doctoral dissertation).  Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 3212757)

 

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True Confessions of a Graduate Student

As some of you may know, I recently graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with my Master of Education degree in Educational Technology and Design.  I completed my program online while also working full time as an educator.   Completing this degree was an excellent opportunity for ongoing learning and professional growth (two important priorities for me).   Are you wondering what it was like to be a graduate student and full-time educator?   Well, here are my true confessions….

True Confessions of a Graduate Student.png

I actually like reading research

Yep, that might sound weird, but I grew to enjoy reading and analyzing research.   As an educator, I seldom prioritized research and reading scholarly articles.  As a graduate student, it was part of my regular routine.   I found it interesting to read research that supported my beliefs and practices as an educator.   It was also helpful to read research that challenged my beliefs and stretched my thinking.  I also found that reading research helped me develop myself as an educator.  I was working in a new job as the LwICT Teacher Leader (technology coach) for my school division while completing my studies, so I also learned a lot about best practices in this field and was able to directly apply my knowledge to my daily work.

I haven’t done dishes in 3 years

Yikes right?!   This isn’t an exaggeration.  It *might* actually be an understatement.  My husband would probably tell you that he was unaware that our marriage vows included a clause about him doing our dishes ’til death do us part.  I hate doing dishes (and most housework) and, to be honest, I wasn’t really great at helping out before I started my studies, but that’s not really my point.   My point is that when focusing so deeply on my career and my studies, I seldom made time to do everyday tasks like dishes, laundry or cleaning.   Completing a masters degree while working full time requires serious prioritization of tasks.  I’m lucky to have a partner that picked up the slack while I was hyper-focused on research, reading, writing and teaching.   If you’re considering a master’s degree, consider budgeting for a housekeeper too (or at the very minimum, negotiate a deal with your partner/spouse/roommate!)

I didn’t do this alone

As you may have gathered from my previous confession, I didn’t tackle this feat on my own.  I am so fortunate so have the support of my husband, family and friends.  Whether it was housework or errands, proofreading or discussion about my work, calming conversations or pep talks, my people had my back.  I will also note that everyone was incredibly accepting of the fact that my time was limited and that I didn’t always get to spend as much time with people as I would’ve liked.  I am so grateful to be surrounded by a strong support system.   I couldn’t have done it without them.

 

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What are we doing?

So… in my last post I explained our long absence from this blog due to the demands (and rewards) of pursuing graduate studies.   I felt it was logical to follow up with what we’re doing now since we’ve been brewing up some exciting new ideas.  Devon and I have talked for a long time about creating something to share our passions and we’re officially launching KG Education!   Our aim is to develop and provide meaningful professional learning for educators.    We’ll still be working as teachers in our respective roles, but we’ll also be exploring the possibilities for what we can offer to support our fellow teachers.   See the video announcement below:

Our first KG Education offering will be Six Weeks ’til Summer: six weeks of collaboration, sharing and support to keep all of us engaged for the final weeks of this school year. If you are an educator, you can join request to join us here.

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Where have we been?

This collaborative blog has been quiet for quite some time now.   Devon and I have continued to work together, but recently we’ve both been focused on post-secondary studies and haven’t dedicated time to this platform for sharing our ideas.   Since September 2016, I have been working on my Master’s Degree in Education part time, while also working full time.   It has been an incredible learning journey and I’m pleased to say that I’ll be graduating from the University of Saskatchewan’s Educational Technology and Design program in June 2019!  Meanwhile, Devon began her PhD studies in Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Victoria.    Since we’ve been concentrating on our studies, our collaboration has largely involved discussing research, editing each other’s papers and supporting each other through the challenges of student life!    Now we’re ready to get back to sharing here and I thought a good way to start would be to share with you some of the insights I’ve gained from being a student again!

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  • As a student, I’ve had the opportunity to read and review a lot of research.  I’ve grown to (mostly) enjoy this process and it has been valuable to explore research in order to further my professional growth and to reinforce some of the ideas I’ve developed about teaching through my classroom practice.

INSIGHT:  Reading research is valuable (if we can just make time for it!)

  • Being a student again has given me great perspective.   It’s reminded me about the things I appreciate as a student and the things I find frustrating (like only getting feedback once my product was completed and given a final grade).   I’m going to try hard to remember these student perspectives more when I’m teaching 😉

INSIGHT:  Remember to consider students’ perspectives.

  • Regularly engaging in academic thought and academic writing has stretched me to grow and change.   I’ve come to appreciate the value of these activities for educators and I hope to continue to “make time” for these activities, even when not engaged in a formal program.

INSIGHT: Academic work, including research, is a useful professional learning exercise (again, if we can make time for it!)

 

 

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Kenton Girls Carpool Karaoke EDU Edition – Episode 3: Why become an MIEE?

We’ve both gained a lot by being part of the Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator program. Self-nominations are now open for the MIEE program and we’d encourage fellow educators to apply for this amazing professional learning experience!

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