Importance of Education Mission Statements and Digital Citizenship

Terry Pickeral, Co-director of the National School Climate Council, answers, “why is a mission statement important?”

Adaptation or creation of focusing elements, like mission statements and mottos, will inform supporting elements like character education in order to develop digital citizenship awareness in education.

We’ve been seeing mission statements for years. These tired pieces of paper tucked away, dog-eared and yellowed can’t be important, right? This must be an idea from yesterday’s schools. In fact, leaders in industries around the world do rely on mission and vision statements. A current article on the business website, Sitepoint, underscores the need for a mission statement. Its purpose is to synthesize the reason for being, give focus to the institution, ease the decision-making process, and hold the institution accountable. With this in mind, it is clear that an educational institution that does not review their mission annual and publish it for all to see doesn’t understand the purpose of a mission statement and is not a serious and dynamic educational institution.

A 21st century mission statement, distilled by all stakeholders, can easily include digital citizenship as part of the core focus. In my opinion, digital citizenship must be included in 21st century education. To ignore the inclusion of technology is not only backward, but serves to eliminate a core element of education. It would be akin to leaving out Reading, Writing or Rithmetic. In our reading of Digital Community, Digital Citizen this week, and in our discussion board, the idea of adding the words “global” or “digital” to mission statements was discussed. I accept the point that current mission statements can easily be adapted to include digital citizenship. But I don’t endorse the practice of arbitrarily throwing in 21st century words to mission statements. Too many districts create and adjust mission statements in order to check-it-off-the-list as opposed to making a meaningful adaptation in order to change a philosophy, or a way of doing business.

Part of the problem of changing words in a mission statement “for show,” was addressed in the Two Camps video on YouTube.  One camp is the “old school” leaders who think what we have done in the past applies to current practices. Frankly, I don’t understand how this camp is still encouraged in this day and age. Their existence contributes to this backward way of thinking that in education, we should just leave well enough alone. I was speaking to a colleague this week who felt that the number one job of education is to teach language arts. The second priority, he felt was that students should graduate being technically literate. After that is the instruction of math skills. If we look at education through this lens, expectations for graduation and for high stakes testing look a lot different than what we are doing in education now. Why are we still looking at education the same way we did in the 1950s? Why are we still looking at the inclusion of technology as an add-on? Why are we still letting teachers opt in or out of using technology in their classrooms? I question the ethics of the decision that instruction of a key component of 21st century education is an option.

Gregory, A. (2010, Nov. 13). Why you need to write a mission statement. Retrieved from http://www.sitepoint.com/personal-mission-statement/

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Ohler, J. (Producer). (2014, Jan. 8). Two Camps When It Comes to Digital Ethics [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vCMqPOm9A0&feature=youtu.be

Pickeral, T. (Producer). (2009, May 29). Why is a mission statement important? [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YriYIiVkA0I

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The Next Generation of ISTE Standards

Researching the Saugus Iron Works

Years ago, a community called the International Society for Technology in Education  (ISTE) formed to advocate for students. This group came together to take on the role as steward for technology standards for the world of education. Key players in this organization come from every corner of education. Since 1979, ISTE advocates for the seamless integration of technology into education by funding the effort with countless volunteers hours and many annual hours. As time and technology have changed, so have the ISTE standards. They have evolved from being software and hardware specific to ensuring specific uses of technology in education. This change mirrors the shift to a web 2.0 mentality. Wesley Fryer reports for the Interactive Educator. His reporting is an example of countless similar sentiments, “Accessing and using information available online is just the starting point for digital literacy in the 21st century.” He also cites an interesting hockey analogy by the former Maine governor and principal architect of the Maine Technology Learning Initiative, Angus King. “Gretzky was once asked how he was able to score so many goals. He answered that he always skated to where the puck was going to be instead of skating, like everyone else, to where the puck actually was.” When we think of the next generation of ISTE standards, we need to imagine where technology will go and address the standards in that manner.

The next generation of ISTE standards cannot be linked to specific technology, software, or hardware. Technology changes too fast. Too many people have license to create and distribute technology, which is a good thing. New standards need to envelope creativity and collaboration. “Of specific importance is how to manage learning in the digital domain so that we can help students become lifelong learners who develop perceptions, perspectives, and habits of mind that will allow them to navigate the Digital Age creatively and critically – creatically, as I like to call it. (Ohler, p. 6). I don’t know if I like the new portmanteau very well, but I suppose someone has to be thinking of those!

Many of my colleagues, in our google discussion also seem to agree that creativity needs to be a fundamental aspect of the future ISTE standards. If we are preparing students to be successful in the future, it makes sense to look at business and industry to find out what they expect their fresh faces by their water coolers to come prepared with, whether this be literal coolers or virtual. Harvard compiled a list of skills that successful employees of the future will need based on hundreds of interviews of corporate leaders from all industries from around the world. These skills boil down to problem solving, collaboration, flexibility, initiative, communication, analysis and imagination. Doesn’t it make sense to pair our education standards with those of the industries that will be employing our graduates?

For now, it’s not going to be easy to meet the new Alaska Standards and thoroughly embed ISTE standards to ensure our education system produces digitally literate graduates. There are terrific examples of how some schools are getting it done. Ferryway School in Malden, Massachusetts, collaborated on a terrific project researching the Saugus Iron Works. It took a team of educators to accomplish fantastic results. I imagine, they had complete support of the leaders in their school and district to make this happen. The issue of leadership and the critical need of their support will be saved for another discussion.

Fryer, W. (2005, Autumn). The digital face of 21st century curriculum. interactive educator, 1(2), 24-28. Retrieved from http://publications.wesfryer.com/index.php/archive/article/view/54/193

Nichols, J. R. (2013, March 4). How to prepare students for 21st century survival. Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/learning/how-to-prepare-student-for-21st-century-survival/

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Learning in the Collective – #etlead

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Nerd Alert! Do you remember the ultimate collective? Here is a “twitter feed” from the Borg. (Courtesy of Schizmatic.com) 

The traditional role of student and teacher has been changing. “…anyone who has particular knowledge of, or experience with, a given subject may take on the role of mentor at any time.” say Thomas and Seely, of A New Culture of Learning. They go on to describe how this happens continuously now because computers and Internet access allow anyone to view “an almost unimaginably diverse array of information and points of view.”

My husband and I have been active in the blogging community for years. We produce our own blog which showcases our life. We also read innumerable blogs on a variety of issues and converse with people via these blogs. Many of these blogs are quite controversial in the sense that there are often strong opinions and many heated and passionate conversations.

Authors Williams and Jacobs write about blogs and how the readership often depends on the “theatrics” of the bloggers and commenters. When the very nature of the exchange becomes entertainment, more people want to watch.

Significantly, rather than alienate a readership by exposing one’s personal traits and idiosyncrasies, this adds to the very popularity of a blog. As Jacobs explains, this is part and parcel of the theatre of interpersonal communication, played out to an undefined, virtually infinite public space. Indeed, this ‘exhibitionistic behaviour is encouraged, supported and even sought’ by the ‘cyber-voyeurs’ of this theatre; viz. ‘the readers of blogs, who post comments in reply to entries, often positively reinforcing the opinions of the blogger, but sometimes disagreeing on points of philosophy, politics or social comment, and occasionally ‘flaming’ the blogger for opinions expressed (Williams, 2004).

This theatric element of blogging also lends itself to a being more of a learning collective in the sense that more people participating makes the interaction richer, and in some cases more educational because of the diversity of opinions.

In the formal structure of my master’s program, I have participated in several MOOCs. These massively open online courses are a very current example of learning in the collective. People pop in and out of the MOOCs as their time and interest permit. Those who are taking the class for credit benefit from those who join, as the conversations certainly improve as the numbers of participants and the information they share increase.  The authors ask how one might harness the power of the collective. I think the movement towards MOOC education is one of the answers to their question.

I thought it was interesting that the authors of A New Culture… borrowed from Annette Lareau’s research which found that “…children who live in lower-income homes perform significantly less well in school as a direct result of poor educational attitudes and a lack of exposure to educational resources at home.” She goes on to illustrate that students from higher-income homes made significant gains because of their summer activities, namely reading. I think the point of the reference was to illustrate that people do cultivate information to become more educated in what they are interested in. They did not go on to address how or if the students in lower-income home cultivate information. This is the part of the story that seemed missing. Has anyone studied how/if concerted cultivation occurs in lower-income homes? Does the digital divide come into play here? I am really curious about this.

I contemplated how I learn in the collective and also how my students might learn in the collective. An interesting post by A. Littlejohn summarized other examples of learning collectives which are happening beyond the world of education. Crowdsourcing and digital networking in order to collect new ideas and improve on existing ideas happen frequently in large forward-thinking companies. Even though these type of activities are prevalent in business, they are now making their way into mainstream education.

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Works Cited:

Herman, M. (2013, January 11). Are moocs the next phase in collective learning?. Retrieved from http://www.englishinstructorexchange.com/2013/01/11/are-moocs-the-next-phase-in-collective-learning/

Littlejohn, A. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://littlebylittlejohn.com/change11-position-paper/collective-learning-examples/

Thomas, D., & Seely Brown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. CreateSpace.

Williams, J., & Jacobs, J. (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology20(2), 232-247. Retrieved from http://ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet20/williams.html

The education collective. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.theeducationcollective.com