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Sep 22

Chris Smeaton

Is being connected an option?

This past weekend I had the pleasure of teaching my first graduate level course for Gonzaga University. The course focuses on leadership and school improvement. It is an especially pertinent topic as we continue to challenge our current model of education. The way we’ve always done things in our schools may be most comfortable for the adults but we need to ask if those structures and practices are best for our ever evolving society and the students in our classrooms.

“School improvement” may not be the best descriptor of our goals in education as articulated by one of my students. The argument was that school improvement should really focus on teachers, since teacher quality is the best indicator of what happens in the classroom. While I believe that school improvement is grander than just teaching pedagogy, there is little doubt (in my humble opinion) that school improvement will occur without improved instructional practice.

Leaders of school improvement need to be credible and therefore must work from solid research and utilize reliable source documents. Both Alberta Education and the Alberta Teachers’ Association provide reliable source documents. Those in leadership positions and I would suggest every teacher should be extremely familiar with the following documents:

There are two sets of knowledge, skills and attributes in the Teacher Quality Standard to delineate between teachers who have an Interim Professional Certificate (generally new teachers) and Permanent Professional Certificate (experienced teachers). However, regardless on your certificate, “All teachers are expected to meet the Teaching Quality Standard throughout their careers.” Teachers who hold permanent certification, “must demonstrate, in their practice, professional repertoires that are expanded beyond the Interim KSA’s… Teachers, staffs, supervisors and evaluators should use the descriptors to guide professional development, supervision, evaluation and remediation strategies in order that teachers can meet the Teaching Quality Standard consistently throughout their careers.”  

In other words, teachers must be at the “top of their game” all the time. While this may not be a fair statement on a daily basis, the standard has been set, agreed to by all parties and therefore it is expected to be met, even if it is minimally. Which leads me to part “h” of the Ministerial Order that states, “Teachers apply a variety of technologies to meet students’ learning needs” and furthermore, “Teachers use electronic networks and other telecommunication media to enhance their own knowledge and abilities, and to communicate more effectively with others.”

While change by force is not usually sustainable, does the statement above not provide the authority of the profession or to school or division leaders to suggest or even possibly mandate all teachers become electronically connected? While I’m not prepared to mandate this standard throughout our division, I do wonder what it means in reference to the expectation set forth in part “h”. If teachers are not connected and don’t belong to an electronic Personal Learning Network are they negligent in not meeting this standard?  

Education has vastly changed in the last number of years and it is unfair for educators to continue to “do it” on their own. Being connected must be seen (beyond the standard) as a must for educators to meet the diverse needs in our classrooms, schools and systems. The saving grace is that social media like Twitter provides the opportunity to connect beyond the classroom and professionally grow. For those of us who have already experienced the many benefits of being part of a PLN through Twitter, it is seemingly unfathomable not to be connected.  The learning I have gained from my involvement in Twitter has significantly enhanced my leadership abilities. Teamed with educational research and other leadership opportunities, I cannot imagine where my own professional growth would be without being part of the connected world. And so I again ask, “Is being connected an option?”

3 comments

1 ping

  1. Rhonda Jessen

    Great post Chris. As a connected educator who has, as you put it, “already experienced the many benefits of being part of a PLN through Twitter, it is seemingly unfathomable not to be connected.” But as a technology coach I know how much support will be needed for some teachers to get connected. They will need role models and mentors and support from leadership, fortunately they will be able to get much support from the PLN they develop as they get connected. Thanks for the leadership you demonstrate in this area.

    To your required reading list, I would add the following Alberta Education websites; for Alberta educators who want the most up to date information about Curriculum Redesign and the consultations that preceded it (http://education.alberta.ca/department/ipr/curriculum.aspx) and Inspiring Education (http://education.alberta.ca/department/ipr/inspiringeducation.aspx).

    1. Chris Smeaton
      Chris Smeaton

      Thanks Rhonda! During our next weekend together, we will be focusing on the Inspiring Education document as it is a must read in preparation for their major assignment.

  2. Susan Spellman Cann

    Chris: I thoroughly enjoyed your blog post. As a Connected Educator I have grown and am growing constantly. I am extremely grateful for the professional learning it provides. However, I also believe there are amazing educators who may never connect online who are and will continue to be extraordinary at what they do. While I think we need to encourage and engage educators who are reluctant to connect technologically.( I was one of those who just began to really connect online in the past year because of my lack of technological expertise.) Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. I strongly believe we need to accept that those who do not connect can still provde our students with exceptional learning experiences. I know you know this, but feel it is still worth reiterating.

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