Leaders Have To P.O.P.

Posted: September 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

We are in a dire need of meaningful opportunities for students to participate and take on responsibility of decision-making, planning and evaluating their learning environments.  Agree?

In my second part of a 6-part blog series focused on the pieces of the Resiliency Wheel, I struggled with whether to build up to this dire need or just go ahead and jump right into it.  I viewed quite a few of the New York Schools of Tomorrow webcast and throughout the day I just had to scratch my head over the fact that we are still talking about reformation/transformation and what we should be doing, BUT, we’ve yet to really listen to our students.  We may ask them, but we (ed leaders) have not really sought to implement a radical transformation (aka unconventional) solution.  It really hit home when Jonathan Hefter, founder of Neverware, began to talk about his “schooling” experience.  He spoke of “checking out” when he was in school.  He told a story about he and his friends seeking to build proxy servers to get around the school filters.  Here is the quote that nailed it for me, “I wasn’t learning WHAT I wanted to learn and HOW I wanted to learn”.

Well, that told me that we need to rethink how we “Provide Opportunities for meaningful Participation” (POP – this is my acronym).  This is one of the step in the Resiliency Wheel for building resiliency in the learning environment.  Many schools and districts have surveyed students to find out quite a bit of data, but are they using the data to make the change necessary and providing students with meaningful participation? Students want to learn but they want to be a part of the learning process, and more specifically as Jonathan stated; they want to learn meaningful (WHAT) info and in a way that provides them active participation (HOW).

An excerpt from the 2009 Project Tomorrow Speak Up Report, “Creating Our Future . . . ” shows exactly what students want.

  • Social-based learning – students want to leverage emerging communications and collaboration
    tools to create and personalize networks of experts to inform their education process.
  • Un-tethered learning – students envision technology-enabled learning experiences that
    transcend the classroom walls and are not limited by resource constraints, traditional funding
    streams, geography, community assets or even teacher knowledge or skills.
  • Digitally-rich learning – students see the use of relevancy-based digital tools, content and
    resources as a key to driving learning productivity, not just about engaging students in learning.

They want something that is meaningful to them, period!  So why aren’t we allowing them to sit at the table in our conversations on changing the way we educate them? Do they not matter? Yes, they matter!  The POP strategy views students as a resource and involves them.  If we don’t give them responsibilities in the planning and decision-making process, how can we truly know if we’re being effective?  Justin Tarte’s clip here lists some educational leaders who are making a difference.  They are learning to POP. (follow them on Twitter and learn!)

A handful of leaders are breaking the tradition and are becoming unconventional in their approach to involving students in the conversations around school improvement.  More importantly, they are cultivating the ability to POP in their schools and districts.  Not only do students want to feel like they matter, but they want a relevant and meaningful learning experience.  Take Project Still I Rise for example.  Just one look at their core values you can see they are “POPing”.  Here are a couple more links to projects and leaders that you can learn how to POP from.

John Carver’s Think.Lead.Serve blog – http://thinkleadserve.wikispaces.com/
Projects from EduTopia – http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-student-motivation

In closing, I have to thank Lisa Nielsen for providing this blog about the 20 Things Students Want Us To Know. So, leaders, are you POPing??

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