Sunday, February 20, 2022

Some thoughts on the "now" literacies and disrupting the status-quo

We are almost at the end of the current PYP Bookclub book, A Guide to Documenting Learning by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano and Janet A Hale.  Here are some of my final thoughts about what Silvia refers to as the "now" literacies (also sometimes referred to as 21st century skills).  What I often hear from employers at the moment is that schools and universities are not really preparing students for the world of work.  Employers are not looking for the remember and regurgitate skills at the bottom of Bloom's pyramid, but are looking for higher level thinking that includes the 4Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.  With this in mind, teachers are asking themselves how can they encourage students to develop these skills - and how can these be documented?

Schools should be encouraging more documenting and sharing of learning.  As Silvia points out in one of the later chapters, schools are often wondering how best to tell their own unique story - documenting and sharing the learning taking place in the school can definitely reveal to the outside world what they are and what they value and believe in.

I'm currently leading the IB workshop Planning for Programme Evaluation.  Today one of my participants asked a question about how much documenting should be on the actual unit planners?  This got me thinking:  obviously in my visits to schools I see many different ways that the planners are used - some of which are simply a dumping ground for all activities that take place over a 6 week period of time.  This is not a useful way of documenting the learning.  It's also clear to me that documenting learning should not be a burden on teachers' already full plates.

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine on Facebook, who is now working in the USA, posted that she is required to submit lessons plans for the whole of next year by June - before she has even met the students she will be teaching.  What nonsense!  It was therefore heartening to read Silvia's example of one school where teachers were encouraged to publish a weekly blog post that reflected on the week's learning, rather than having to turn in weekly lesson plans.

Reading further I came to a section on teacher observation.  This offers a great opportunity to capture the learner engagement and classroom culture.  Regarding the traditional classroom observations, Silvia asks whether they provide an accurate picture of a teacher's learning and teaching capabilities and also whether they provide evidence of the teacher being a risk-taker and being innovative.  Silvia advocates for upgrading teacher evaluations and observations by using a teacher's student artefacts, as well as his or her professional learning.

I once worked at a school where my blog was criticised as a form of personal branding.  I remember having a conversation with Silvia about this at the time.  Consequently I was delighted to read that "the personal professional branding of an educator can easily be confused with bragging and the efforts of one person to put himself or herself in the limelight.  This is not the case when sharing and amplifying are the norm in an educational institution".  I thought long and hard about this - it's definitely true!  Teachers blogging and sharing artefacts tell the story of who they are as learners and what they are currently exploring.  In fact sharing in this way should enhance the reputation/brand of a school and should show that the school itself is an environment that supports ongoing learning for both students and teachers.  The school should in fact be supporting and celebrating the efforts of teachers who are willing to be risk-takers and transparent learners.

Of course change is hard ... but step by step we get there.

Photo credit: Monsterkoi on Pixabay

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