“A Floor, But No Ceiling?” Sure…but what about walls?
I had an interesting conversation this morning with our Admissions & Marketing Director and one of our 21st Century Learning Teachers…
We believe we are striking out on a relatively uncharted path when it comes to 21st Century Learning because we believe it is the (only) best way forward to improving the quality and relevance of what we do. There are many facets to this approach which have been blogged about by me and certainly much better and with much more detail by others (start with our own school’s blog for 21st century learning and dig as deep you wish). One important component of the paradigm shift is the emphasis on transparency. What does it mean to be transparent? Transparency can mean more than one thing, but you cannot tear down the walls and expect that people will only peer in.
This came up because we are struggling to apply a 20th century media release to a 21st century school. It was simple to know which students could be included in newspaper and bulletin articles and which could not. It was simple to know which names you could publish with a photo and which had to be left nameless. When “media” was exclusively print, it wasn’t complicated. And even when websites were created, they were largely static and so it wasn’t much different. But now? What happens when a student wants to comment on a teacher blogpost? What happens when a student’s voice is captured in a podcast? What happens if in order to participate in a 21st century learning experience you have to be part of a global conversation?
What I think it boils down to is this…transparency is no longer an expression of customer service or an opportunity for savvy public relations. Transparency is now pedagogy – and that is where the paradigm shift occurs. When you tear down the walls, you encourage interactivity not just because it is fun to know that other people may see or read or hear or watch what you are doing, but because their feedback to your work becomes part of the process of doing your work. Transparency becomes pedagogy.
There are implications and they are not all easily resolved. Take for example the digital portfolio. We are piloting a digital portfolio program in all of our grades, but focusing in particular in Grade K, 5, & 8. In each grade, however, the emphasis is on allowing students (in a developmentally appropriate way) to be co-creators of their digital footprint – they help decide what are the authentic artifacts of their best work that should become part of their permanent record. Those artifacts will look dramatically different for different students at different grades for different subjects. But if one goes all the way, they also become part of the public record. Are we ready to honor the moral imperative of sharing? Are we ready to view the authentic work of children not our own and not worry about how it compares to our own? (Am I as a Head of School ready for all the unintended consequences of such a thing?)
The reason why the answers should be “yes” is because it is inevitable – this is where the world is heading. The reason why the answers should be “maybe not” is because we are human – change is scary. And so we continue to talk and share and read and teach and ultimately to lead. The future is coming and it will be a transparent one whether we think it is a good idea or otherwise. The schools which will ultimately viewed to be successful will be the ones who were ready for the shift when it occurs. Let’s be ready.
In other news, I am off with members of our leadership team to the PEJE (Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education) Assembly in Baltimore on Sunday. PEJE brings together every strand and flavor of Jewish Day School education and its Assembly typically draws the best and the brightest from education at large. I am looking forward to a stimulating conference and to sharing the new ideas I am sure will impact my thinking moving forward. I plan to take advantage of the opportunity to explore how to best utilize Twitter so for the tens of you following me @Jon_Mitzmacher don’t be surprised if my tweeting activity suddenly mushrooms. Let the twitterscape be forewarned!