The end is here…

Well, the last blog post for EADM 820. We have looked at ed tech from a global perspective and now to share some stories. The final blog post assignment is the following:

It’s time to end things on a positive note. We’ve provided you a longer-term look at a an edtech story (iPads in Los Angeles schools) that has a lot of lessons to be learned from what didn’t work. Now we want you to share some ed tech stories or products from around the world, specifically things that did work and that have lessons to learn about how to do things right. It could be about how a functionality of a technology works pedagogically. It could be a story about how someone somewhere implemented a technology. It could be about a leader who is inspiring others. It could be about making do with what you have and doing it well or intentionally not using technology and doing it well. Use the course blog to explore how one of these stories inspires you or interests you or leaves you with questions. Please make sure your post includes a link to the article/story/post.

I am choosing to share about Yay Math, a movement that I stumbled upon last year while looking for extra support videos for some of my grade 10 students to watch at home. For an idea of what Yay Math is about, check out his TEDx talk on math anxiety.

I completely understand what Robert Ahdoot (@yaymath) refers to when he states that people cringe when he shares that he teaches high school mathematics, I get it all the time. Robert Ahdoot decided that he was going to address these feelings towards mathematics and, in an effort to make math more fun, interactive, and engaging, he started recording his lessons, including the questions and interactions that he has with students in real time, and posting them online for anyone to view and learn from. They started simple, and now have some great costumes, characters, and graphics. He has over 126,000 followers on his Youtube channel and over 250 videos sharing various mathematics topics. Mr. Ahdoot has branched out to help others with a flipped classroom model, how to use his videos and other resources to create a blended classroom. He has also written a bookOne-on-One 101, which addresses how to individualize instruction based on his experiences as a teacher and tutor.

It started with a simple idea: film the lesson while it is being taught. It has grown from there. His classes do not use a large amount of technology devices in the classroom but their lessons are available, 24/7, online for them to access and review. He uses as whiteboard and unique costumes to encourage the engagement of his students and has created a classroom environment of trust and desire to learn.

What made this approach successful? He started with the pedagogy. He started with “high quality content” and encouraged his students to have fun and contribute to the lesson. He broke down the walls of fear that often show up in the math classroom. He was quirky and not afraid to make the lesson funny in many different ways. This helps students relax and buy in to the lesson. They want to be in the classroom and they want to learn.

This is important when thinking about ed tech implementation and leadership. We have talked about this in our course: the pedagogy, GOOD pedagogy, must come first. In watching his lessons, you can see that his students are engaged and are participating, not afraid to make an error. This is a sign of good classroom management. It is clear his students are having fun and being successful in their learning. This is a sign of sound instructional design.

What do you think about the Yay Math movement? Do you feel that they have succeeded in integrating technologies into the classroom?

An example of one of Yay Math’s videos on statistics:

 

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Disruptive Leadership

The second part of Unit 2: Leadership…? is having us disrupt our thinking about leadership and challenge what we believe about leadership.

Assignment #2: Find a quote from each article that resonates with you, along with a brief explanation of its impact on your leadership philosophy including ways that these readings disrupted any impressions formed by the leadership review excerpt from the previous assignment.

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“The dominant writing on leadership and the hype around leadership development in contemporary organizations has an influence on how leadership identities are constructed, this being largely masculine, aggressive, and controlling self-reliant ‘perfect beings’. Managers are therefore encouraged to ‘become’ leaders and adopt an identity prescribed by the literature and by leadership development programmes.” (Edwards, Elliott, Iszatt-White, & Schedlitzki, 2013, p. 6)

This quote resonates with me as it deals with the stereotyped image of what a leader SHOULD be. This image is, as stated above, inundated with many of the “isms” that are listed in the Critical Theory glossary for our course: conformism, and sexism but also other terms such as ethnocentrism, western ideals, and colonialism. This results in employees conforming to the norms of this image and becoming compliant with the world around them. In reading the Critical Theory forum for our course, I noticed a theme that many of those in the group had found that they had fallen into conformity and it is images such as the one depicted in this quote that promote that conformity and fear of “rocking the boat”. I know that this is not the image of a leader that I subscribe to but this quote has me questioning what that image is and if there is even the need for such an image? What if we could develop a more universal decentralized leadership model as described in Bryant’s article below? Could that help us to destroy the systematic inequalities that exist in our society?

Edwards, G., Elliott, C., Iszatt-White, M., & Schedlitzki, D. (2013). Critical and alternative approaches to leadership learning and development. Management Learning44(1), 3-10.


“The clear implication is that followers should be able to challenge, and perhaps even disobey, the commandments of their leaders.” (Tourish, 2014, p. 23)

What a novel idea! I know that many others in the course probably shuddered a little bit when they read this…to blatantly go against their leader? But why not?

I have seen followers lose their positions or not receive appropriate promotions and advancements by challenging their leader both in and outside of education. I think that, when looking at a situation where leadership needs to be challenged, you must look at leaders who lead through autocratic styles and determine whose interests are being served before judging the deviation of the follower. If the people of France had not risen up above their monarch (Louis XVI), the French Revolution would not have happened and our Canadian society would look very different. In my opinion, leaders should not only be able to mediate and make decisions but should also demonstrate humility and honesty about their skills and knowledge. Leaders are not always right and they need those in their teams that are willing to keep them and their power in check.

Tourish, D. (2014). Leadership, more or less? A processual, communication perspective on the role of agency in leadership theory. Leadership10(1), 79-98.


“[…] for every change initiative added, another one slows down or disappears […] people begin faking it, acting as if they are cooperating with a new initiative while secretly carrying on business as usual, a subtle form of sabotage.” (Abrahamson, 2004, para. 12)

I see this often in education, in the past three years, the title of our student support teacher has changed three times. The assessments that are forced on our students keep growing. All with the intent to “improve education for students”. It is hard to keep track of each new initiative that comes down the pipe in education, a world where best practice and the technologies that support it are constantly changing and evolving at breakneck speeds. There are teachers and schools that do their absolute best to implement every new idea that passes by, whether it be mandated or not, and are often left overwhelmed and fragmented in their goals of implementation. Some take the stance between the early and late majority and choose a few things to be good at before adding a new tool to their toolbox. Some, are straight-out resistors, so overwhelmed with the addition of new that they are determined to maintain the status quo and let everything roll off their back and flow around their stationary island. How do we as leaders help these teachers in adapting to best practices in a manageable manner and advocate for new initiatives to slow down when our team members are drowning in the constant flow? I am not a person who is afraid of change, but not all can handle the disruption as well as others. Leaders need to recognize and evaluate the rate and intensity of the initiatives that they bring to their team to ensure that their intentions maintain their integrity.

Abrahamson, E. 2004. Avoiding Repetitive Change Syndrome. MITSloan Management Review. Winter 2004. 


“Self-stupidifying starts to happen when we censor our own internal conversation.” (Alvesson & Spicer, 2016, part 5, para 2)

Our internal conversation, the conversation that tells us “that teacher” or “that student” can do it, they just need a little more support and guidance. The conversation that knows the assessments are not as beneficial as advertised and that the data is sometimes being used for the wrong reasons. We all have it. This internal conversation is evident in reading the Critical Theory forum in the stories we share. Keeping this conversation alive is what is keeping criticality in the classroom and helping us to develop our thinking around the social issues and injustices that occur in our schools every day. This quote really resonated with me as I found it a reminder to never stop questioning the reasons and consequences behind what goes on in the classroom and the school. When we stop questioning these things, we start to self-stupidify, and acquiesce to “the man” and the oppression around us.

Excerpts from: Alvesson, M., & Spicer, A. (2016). The stupidity paradox: The power and pitfalls of functional stupidity at work. Profile Books.


For this article, I could not just choose one quote, so I narrowed it down to two.

“In the language of this tribe the closest word for leader meant only ‘one who goes first’. This resembles the transient position of the leader in some contemporary images of decentralized systems.” (Bryant, 1998, p. 12)

The idea that there is no one leader and that all work together to lead their society in their own way is inspirational for me. It recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of all of the members of the community and asks each to make their contribution where they can, sharing their wisdom and supporting others as needed. I feel this decentralized leadership model is beneficial and evident in schools as we have a variety of staff members in our buildings that are the “resident expert” and to whom others go for support when they are dabbling in that area. This model demonstrates humility in that one person does not hold the ultimate power but all openly contribute and acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of each member. What would it look like if we could accomplish moving more of our organizations to a decentralized model? Are there situations or sizes of organizations where this is not viable?

“It was the wisdom of the leader, accumulated through some period of learning, that impressed others. Through that student’s own learning, others learned. That learning was voluntary. It was a never-ending process.” (Bryant, 1998, p. 16)

The role of the teacher is described in this quote and I think that it is beautiful … minus that second last sentence. Voluntary learning. I battle with this as, in our province, education is mandated until the age of 16. And the curriculum is also mandated by the government in order to attain that magical Grade 12 Diploma. The learning in our buildings is, unfortunately, not voluntary for all of our students. We have some that will eagerly eat up and explore any topic we present to them, a convenience when trying to cover curriculum but what about the other, more prevalent group, that would like to learn, but based on their interests? What about the teachers that have experienced and learned so much they would love to share with their students but are unable to share their passion for learning because it doesn’t fit in the box that is the curriculum? Or what about the schools who, under great leadership, are striving to help develop programs and support our students in their learning so they can take over and make changes to the oppression around them in their everyday lives? These are big, exciting questions to think about (I could already start the plans for a “dream school”) but this unfortunately will not happen in the near future due to our current economic situation and the oppression all around us. In what ways can our “guerrilla teaching” help us to develop spaces where teaching and learning can fit this image of learning and leadership?

Bryant, M. 1998. Cross-Cultural Understandings of Leadership. Educational Management and Administration, 26(1) 7-20.

Leadership Self-Reflection

The first blog of EADM 820…I’m feeling a little rusty but here goes!

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In Unit 2: Leadership…? Stephen and Kirsten asked us to reflect on our current leadership style at the present time using the following questions:

1) Discuss your own core personality as a foundation of your leadership style.

I am a self-professed “easy-going” type of person. I try my absolute best to not let things that are not going well get to me and I approach issues from an open standpoint, willing to discuss and come to a mutual resolution. I wouldn’t say that I avoid conflict on purpose but my general demeanor usually leads to me shaking off the tension that I feel over the situation, realizing I cannot travel time to fix what happened, and work towards a solution. Knowing this, I appreciate input from different sources when making a decision and search out a variety of opinions and perspectives. I look to bounce ideas off of multiple people when I am decision-making, constantly looking for someone to play devil’s advocate for me. Overall, I am flexible in my thinking and enjoy being challenged in what I have set as my current status quo…a concept that is constantly growing from new readings, new people, and new experiences. I love leaving room for what I would call a person’s “flair” in life, that is what makes things interesting.

Thinking about this, I would say that I have a leadership style that falls under the Relationship/Transformational theory as I value the connections and conversations that I have with others and this is a critical factor for me when it comes to decision-making and leading. I do not wish to be the dictator, but rather someone who helps implement the ideas and address the concerns of those around me in a meaningful manner. I follow Participative theory in that I search out others opinions but I also believe that there is value in the Contingency Theories as there are certain people that, based on their “degree of fit” in terms of situation, style, or followers, will be the best leader.

I would describe my leadership style as Charismatic and Democratic/Participative. I include all team members in the decision-making process which helps them feel like an integral part of the process and, in doing so, motivate team members to move forward and feel connected to the outcomes of the task. I feel like I blend these two styles in a way that all team members feel like they are capable of taking over the leadership position if I leave, the negative side of charismatic leadership, and I retain enough autonomy to make quick decisions when needed, knowing that my team will follow and that I have the relationship with them which will allow me to anticipate major issues and opinions that they may bring forth.

2. Describe one or two key life experiences that have helped to shape your approach to leadership.

 

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Mindset by Carol Dweck was a very influential book for me. It really made me sit down and think about how I phrase things in the classroom and when I talk with others and to look at what is making some more successful than others. When reading this review, the first thing that jumped out at me was the distinction between the concepts of leaders that are born in the “Great Man” and trait theories (fixed mindset) and leaders that are made through learning in behavioural, participative, and democratic theories (growth mindset). Dweck describes how a person’s view of the world can greatly shape their success (or lack thereof) and uses examples from business, sports, and education to show how some of the most successful people in these fields have been able to find their success. she advocates that leaders need to see the whole picture and not be afraid to explore all levels of an organization, including the issues in order to be able to lead in a meaningful way. Much of her theories and research rest in participative and relationship/transformational theories of leadership as described in the review.

 

 

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Working at The Home Depot during my undergraduate degree, I completed training and worked in many departments, eventually settling at the Customer Service desk. In this position, I was required to make decisions regularly on how to fix a large variety of problems from no stock, damaged merchandise, and otherwise upset customers in a way that left the customer happy and was reasonable for the store’s well-being. This role of mediation helped me develop as a democratic leader as I needed to hear all sides of the story before I was able to make a recommendation or suggestion to fix the issue. As an employee who had the training in multiple departments, I was often in a good position to understand the various different perspectives of the situation (customer, store, associate), determine where the issue occurred and determine the appropriate action to have the issue resolved.

 

3. Discuss at least three leadership approaches in the PDF that interest you.

Creative Leadership – This leadership style builds on the ideas and thoughts I have developed through reading Mindset. I like that it involves every team member in the decision-making is involved and that the leader works to motivate, inspire, and empower their team to achieve their goal or task. They work on TRUST, something that is hard to build but very critical in leadership roles, especially in education. The most appealing of this style of leadership: the creation of a health and empowering environment. This is the type of environment that I try to foster in my classroom for my students, my current “team”, and it leads to students feeling like anything is possible!

Sustainable Leadership – Sustainability is a hot topic these days. We see it in discussions around the environment, government, and education. Sustainability is important as education has a high burn-out rate of teachers and keeping good educators in the classroom can be an act of good leadership. In developing my personal leadership skills, I hope to develop skills that will help not only myself sustain my position but also help others in the education field “stick it out”, especially in these tumultuous times!

Laissez-Faire Leadership- This style intrigues me as, on the surface, it seems to be the non-leadership leadership style. With deeper consideration, I feel that, in many ways, school administration often takes a Laissez-Faire approach to different aspects of schools allowing for teacher autonomy in planning classroom activities, covering curricula, and managing their classrooms.

The above reflection is based on an excerpt from:

Amanchukwu, R.N., Stanley, G.J., & Ololube, N.P. (2015). A review of leadership theories, principles, and styles and their relevance to educational management. Management, 5(1), 6-14.