Education Opinion

Align Our Beliefs and Actions

By LeaderTalk Contributor — October 06, 2010 4 min read
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With a whirlwind of action greeting me at the door, I entered the classroom unsure of what I was getting myself into with these scientists. Within moments of being in the room, the learner-centered feel of the room became clear as the students engaged deeply with their explorations into the world of material science.

Nearly an hour later, I left spinning with excitement about the energy, engagement, and learning that was taking place in the classroom. I left excited about how empowered the students were with their explorations and how connected they were to their peers. I left reminded of what learning looks like and how important the idea of transfer of learning is to student growth.

What became apparent upon later reflection was just how much of this engagement could not have happened without an alignment of beliefs with policies that supported beliefs on 21st Century learning environments: mobile learning devices, wireless access, device and network empowerment, access to online tools, etc.

I hear much about the need for 21st Century learning environments and the efforts to rethink habits and habitats for a new day in teaching and learning. I hear about empowering, listening, and trusting students. I hear about community, relationships, and networks.

Yet when we look at actions, it is hard to see how all this 21st Century talk can transfer the learning environment when these beliefs and ideas are nowhere close to being aligned with school policies. This disconnect makes it clear that we have a gap to negotiate.

How well do your beliefs about leading, learning, and teaching in the 21st Century align with the policies in place in your school? What actions are you taking to better align your beliefs with policies in order to promote the type of action that leads to a “21st Century” learning environment?

Consider this…

The continued refusal (.pdf) to empower and enable students with their devices that create a critical step towards realizing the reality of a new learning environment is a clear example of this hypocrisy.

We provide students with fire and chemicals in science, numerous tools in applied tech, and various sharp objects family and consumer sciences. With support and teaching, we help students to leverage these tools in meaningful ways. Yet, we completely remove mobile devices (cell phones, iPods, iPads, and personal laptops) from students with claims of misuse, safety, and non-learning.

Given the potential of these devices, this ban is in stark contrast with the stated beliefs and philosophies of many schools striving for a new model, a new learning space. It flies in the face of 21st Century rhetoric that states in the US promote and local schools use as talking points.

Action Steps for Rethinking Mobile Learning Devices in Schools

  1. Review your current mobile device policy and determined whether these are aligned to your beliefs about a 21st Century learning environment.
  2. Open Discussions and Showcases with Stakeholders: teachers, students, parents, and staff. Gather concerns, possibilities, and perceptions. For example, The Cooney Center notes that 85% of teachers see cell phones as distractions and 63% believe that they have no place in schools. Is this percentage accurate within your building? If so, what are the mindsets that have led to such beliefs? Are these perceptions or realities? How will you expand the notion of possibilities with these educators while also providing mechanisms to address their concerns?
  3. Collect concerns, ideas, and questions from stakeholders and create a discovery team that 1) visits schools that have an open policy on mobile learning devices 2.) identifies learning potentials 3.) presents findings to faculty. Provide various sources of data: observations, demonstrations, and case studies
  4. Create a policy rework team consisting of representatives from all stakeholders. Rework the policy, review using the six thinking hats, and frame a plan of action for communication and implementation including professional developments plans for leveraging these devices in formal learning spaces. WARNING: Avoid paralysis by analysis.
  5. Explain to your tech team the new policy and the changes they need to make happen to the system
  6. Implement and adjust the new policy based upon feedback from all stakeholders

Align Our Beliefs and Actions

Today is about taking the necessary steps that make this vision of 21st Century habits and habitats a reality. It is about moving beyond mere talk and stated beliefs to alignment of those with action. The time is now and the next step lies with you: will you be bold and move or will you continue to say one thing and while your polices force teachers and students to do another?

Ryan Bretag
Blog: Metanoia
Twitter: ryanbretag
Coordinator of Instructional Technology
Glenbrook North High School

cc licensed flickr photo by michael.heiss: http://flickr.com/photos/michaelheiss/4449585823/

The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.