Leadership, more or less? (Tourish, D. (2014))
"Leadership is less one person doing something to another (wih their more or less willing compliance). Rather, it is a process whereby leaders and non-leaders accomplish each other through dynamics of interaction in which mutual influence is always present".
The team that I manage is very experienced and good at what they do. In fact, most days I find I am learning new things from them rather than the traditional view that a leader should be the all-knowing master of all skills. This quote resonates with me because it sheds light on the concept that there are two parts to the leadership equation.
As an instructor, I was hired as a subject matter expert who could transfer my knowledge to my students with their compliance. This is a more traditional role of leadership in the classroom. I have been trying to find ways to increase learning opportunities and leverage the knowledge of the class by facilitating and guiding rather than traditional instruction. It has been met with some resistance from some students who are typically older and not familiar with this "flipped" classroom approach.
Critical and alternative approaches to leadership learning and development
"One area that is being developed as an alternative view and that better appreciates context as well as emotions of becoming and being a leader is the move towards aesthetic and artistic methods of management and leadership learning"
I was reminded of the work of Brene Brown when I read this article. If you are not familiar with her work her writing is direct, no-nosense and can be applied in all areas of life. In her book, Dare to Lead she provider her thoughts and research on what an effective leader is. And she challenges our traditional views and asks what we need to be doing now when “we’re faced with seemingly intractable challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation.” Truly daring leaders, she explains, are prepared to be vulnerable and listen without interrupting. They have empathy, connecting to emotions that underpin an experience, not just to the experience itself. They have self-awareness and self-love, because who we are is how we lead.”
Her book explores the characteristics of brave leaders who are not afraid to demonstrate empathy, genuineness, corage, fear, shame and vulnerability.
If you haven't read this book yet, I encourage you to. I really liked the behavioural insights that I think leaders should know about and practice. It is something I am working on everyday...
Avoiding Repetitive Change Syndrome
"Repetitive change syndrome harms a company’s capacity to make further changes. That is, for every change initiative added, another one slows down or disappears".
I love trying new things, finding new ways and approaches to try to continually improve our way of working. However, I realize not everyone likes or reacts to change well. This has been made more aparent during the past 19 months as we navigate living in a "new normal". Recently, one of my team told me that they needed more structure, more clarity in our process than I have been encouraging. "Maybe don't try to reinvent the wheel" was the advice offered. And you know what? I recognize that I could be more willing to work with tried and tested methods rather than finding new ways or tools to help. I find that if I take the time to think about the problem, it can really help rather than react by implementing new changed ways to respond to the issue.
The Stupidity Paradox: The power and pitfalls of functional stupidity at work.
"Functional stupidity is so widespread in most organisations that it is simply seen as normal."
The fictional character Michael Scott seemed more interested in being seen as a the world's best boss. He tried to hard to be popular and would bribe his staff with parties, liquor and more...
My takeaway is that I don't want to be "that boss" more concerned about being liked or the perception of doing the right things, than actually asking hard questions and engaging in tough conversations. This is the least favourite part of my job as being a manager, but it is likely one of the most important aspects I need to do more of.
Cross Cultural Understandings of Leadership
"Native Americans spoke of a different kind of leadership. It was a leadership that is decentralized. Every person has a role to play. Each person's role is imporant to the whole. No other person can make the exact same contribution. The total contribution is an organic whole that can only be understood over life cycles."
This year I completed a Foundational Leadership Program offered through the City of Calgary and the University of Calgary. This provided me the opportunity to learn more about leadership and define my leadership style.
At the beginning of the course, we completed an in-depth assessment of our personal strengths and development areas by Lumina Spark. This assessment tool is based on four principles that help bring awareness of areas of strength and how to build upon my challenges to build effective relationships and my leadership skills.
This tool is based on the Relationship/Transformational Theory in our course readings. The Lumina Spark tool focuses on four key principles that when mastered, helps us "become truly transformational leaders capable of taking those we work with to higher levels of performance". (Lumina Spark, Personalized Portrait Workbook 2021)
1. Self Knowledge
2. Building Rapport
3. Valuing Diversity
4. Co-Creating Results
My completed assessment highlighted that I really enjoy working collaboratively with others. I relish opportunities to provide support to people and see them flourish. My colleagues can experience this as being very empowering; I am supportive of their goals and try not to interfere with their autonomy. Working this way helps me stay connected and helps build trust and connection with my team.
During my career I have worked with many different styles of leaders, and as I read the course materials I could visualize examples - both good and bad of how these leadership approaches affected me. One positive example that stood out for me was the first job I had after completing my undergraduate studies. I moved to Calgary from Edmonton for the job, I didn't know anyone, and I was new to the tourism industry. The General Manager of the organization took me under his wing, introduced me to many people within the community and provided me opportunities to contribute, and learn from him. My biggest takeaway was the power of relationships. He was masterful at being a connector of people, no matter the background or position, he could make anyone feel valued and appreciated. He was a community builder and people loved to be around him. I am so grateful he invested his time in mentoring me until he passed away 2 years ago. If you are interested in learning more about my mentor, this video highlights who he was and his leadership impact on our community
Well here is it, my very last assignment in my graduate studies. What a journey it has been! I am so thankful to have been able to end with this course. It has been fun to learn along side great classmates. I used WeVideo, Canva, and Screencastify to create my video. Enjoy!
Thank you for all your support!
Have an amazing rest of your summer!
Janeen, Reid, Darcy, and Daniel guided us through learning about assistive technologies. They gave the definition from Idea (2004) that assistive technology is, “Any item, piece of equipment or product system whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.” I would not agree that it is just for kids that have a ‘disability’. Assistive technology can help boost a student that could be struggling to meet the standards of the curriculum.
Assistive technologies can be a huge success and promote inclusion in our classrooms. In my experience, I have been able to utilize beneficial assistive technology for students. Reflecting on the technology in my classroom, I believe it invites inclusion into our classrooms. Without assistive technology, many students would not be able to be included in ‘mainstream’ education. Schools today have a variety of learning needs. Technology gives students a voice and helps teachers to be able to adapt for all learning needs. Voice-to-text is a great tool for students who struggle to write or read. Janeen discussed the variety of tools used to assist in literacy. Clicker is a tool a few of my students use for their writing time. Google Read&Write has allowed many of my students see themselves as writers. Technology can give confidence to our students that learn in different ways. I have had students with visual impairments in my classroom. Each student has different needs and ways to learn. Some use Braillers to write and read, others use computers with a large, yellow keyboard, and others use a CCTV which is a device that allows students to magnify their books or work under a camera. The technology that we have to adapt for students with visual impairments is remarkable. Years ago, we would not be able to have students with visual impairments in a ‘mainstream classroom’ but today with the technology we have these kids can be successful learners with their peers. As Cranmer (2020) states, “It is essential that disabled children have access to the same opportunities to participate in society as their peers” (p.315). Inclusion is so important in our classrooms and assistive technology allows for this to be possible.
It can cause difficulty if educators are not trained properly how to use the assistive technology. If teachers are handed a new tool they are not familiar with and have no time to explore or learn about it, it is not going to be helpful. Same thing goes with the students. If they are not trained how to use the technology as a ‘tool’ not a ‘toy’, it is not enhancing learning in the classroom. Many of my students that have assistive technology may not be using it effectively. I believe there needs to be further professional development so we can utilize the technology to be as beneficial to students as possible.
In order to receive assistive technology it is quite a process. I think there are many students that could profit from assistive technology that slip through the cracks. Students that ‘stick out’ as needing something to help them in learning and have support of parents pushing may receive assistive technology while a student that also needs it but may not be a busy kid or have behavior issues could easily fall behind. I often look around my classroom and know many students could use more support. There is a budget in education and sadly not all kids will receive what they need to be successful.
My classmates made a list of many important questions to ask when considering assistive technology.
Asking the key questions we have been discussing during the course is always important before implementing assistive technology.
- What is made possible/impossible by this toolset? What are the effects (both positive and negative) on teaching and learning?
- What types of students and teachers are privileged and disadvantaged by these technologies?
- What makes a “good student” according to adopters of this technology?
- What are the perceived, idealized, and actual impacts on education?
As I reflect on what I have used in my classroom and think of what else I could try out, I will keep these questions in my mind.
Thank you for reading!
Thank you for a tremendous summer session. To see some of my highlights from this course, please check out the video below! But, because being concise is not my strong suit, see below for specific highlights from my peers’ blogs that really resonated with me and inspired me to make a commitment to my teaching practice in the future! Your deep insights and sound practice throughout the blogs really inspired me! Have a great rest of your summer!!!
Thanks for a great semester, everyone!
Option 2: What technology and/or methods have you used/could you use to make your instruction (whether Face-to-Face, blended, or online) more accessible to your students? How might these techniques relate to philosophies and theories of learning?
I am a huge NBA fan. And to add some context, I was bred in the competition of 1990’s basketball. Give me NBA on NBC on a Saturday with Michael Jordan about to do something mesmerizing with Bob Costas calling the play by play and I was a happy camper. There was something about those basketball games that showed me a little bit about life- the power of teamwork, that work ethic was paramount in putting the best version of yourself on the floor to compete, that teams needed all players to contribute their part to achieve the end goal.
While cheering the Chicago Bulls onto their second three-peat, I also took notice of John Stockton. (I swear this analogy is going somewhere). John Stockton is the All-Time Assist leader in the NBA’s history dishing out 15,806 “dimes” (as the kids would say these days). Watching the way he saw the floor, set people perfectly up with a pass that no one else saw coming, the way he knew what his teammate needed to be placed in a position where he was at his best was amazing. Not amazing enough to deter me from cheering for the Bulls, but amazing, nonetheless. Fast forward a few years, and as a teacher, I can once again see the correlation with John Stockton’s assists and teaching.
What John Stockton was doing was what great teachers do all the time- he found ways to do what he could to help someone else reach their potential. At the end of the day, that’s what teachers do. We give students opportunities to shine, we provide opportunities for growth, and it’s our job to “assist” them in that process. To me, assistive technology is synonymous with teaching. It is seeing your student making a cut to the hoop and saying, here you go, this will help you!
This week’s presentation by Reid, D’Arcy, Daniel and Janeen helped illustrate ways in which Assistive Technology helps students, potentials of where it can, and how teachers can utilize the platforms they work in to ensure it is inclusive and accessible for all learners.
In my career, some methods that I have used to make instruction more accessible are:
- Giving choice about what “medium” students use to show their learning
- Paint a picture
- Write a song
- Create a podcast
- Create a post that could be shared on Social Media
- Fill in the blank notes while listening to me “lecture” or watching a documentary
- Adaptive Exams- alternate space to write, matching option in lieu of lists and define, option to respond orally to journal prompts/exams etc.
- Voice to text and text to voice
After listening to D’Arcy speak about Universal Design for learning I realized that structure aligned with a lot of my practice. In the article Universal Design for Learning: A Concise Introduction, it states that the goal of Universal Design to “design an inclusive classroom instruction and accessible course materials”. Further to access the course must provide opportunities for
- Multiple modes of representation that gives learners a variety of ways to acquire information and build knowledge;
- Multiple means of student action and expression that provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they have learned; and
- Multiple modes of student engagement that tap into learners’ interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn (Center for Applied Special Technology, 2011c).
Although I am far from perfect in incorporating assistive technology in my spaces, I was happy to see the groundwork is there for me to continue to adapt and utilize technology that allows all learners to thrive in the spaces I am privileged to occupy.
During Reid’s presentation he did a great job of illustrating what Wearable Tech is. I immediately thought of the microphone I wore around my neck this past year to amplify this voice behind a mask! But Reid was quick to point out that wearable technology is anything that differentiates learning while providing access to students (Sandall, 2016). An example he gave during his presentation was of teachers using VR to engage in experiences that are not easily accessible (even outside a Pandemic). This then led to the notion of filming experiences like Field Trips/lessons that are difficult to replicate. Filming would allow students who are unable to attend to still participate in the event. This is an interesting concept that I could see potentially benefit learners. Perhaps it is a student who is absent, or anxious about the trip. Filming the trip could also provide an opportunity for students to go home and share the experience with their families further substantiating the connection between school and home. I believe this concept could help further a constructivist approach when the students return from an event. If there was an assignment that connected to the event, the student would have to rely on the experience of others and their reflection on it. By being able to personally engage in the event, even if it is from a screen, there would be the opportunity for personal connection and thus a cognitivist approach. Of course, privacy of students in attendance would have to be considered in order to ensure LAFOIP parameters are being met. But with appropriate planning I believe that issue could be mitigated. One such example of videos available are from Land Based Educator Garrick Schmidt. He has taken this concept to an incredible level making his lessons accessible and available for students to deeply interact with.
Janeen’s portion also got me reflecting about the assistive technology I rely heavily on. Like her, I utilize voice to text and text to voice options. In an early blog post Janeen spoke about how providing oral feedback to her students allowed students to hear the intonation in her voice, to see her facial expressions and suddenly the feedback became more 3-dimensional. I have noticed the same thing in my classrooms when I provide oral or in person feedback. It evolves assessment from a mark on a page, to an interaction that breeds relationship and reciprocity. In my experience, when relationships are at the foundation suddenly asking for curiosity and vulnerability from students in future projects doesn’t seem as intimidating and students begin to take “risks” where they step out of their comfort zones to show their learning. An assistive technology of text to voice lays the groundwork of a constructivist approach of an “individual creating meaning from their own experiences” by “assuming that transfer can be facilitated by involvement in authentic tasks anchored in meaningful contexts” (Ertmer and Newby, 2013, pg. 55).
The last portion of the presentation I had the pleasure of listening and engaging with was Daniel’s break down of the social and cultural impacts. I contend this is an incredibly important aspect of utilizing and incorporating assistive technologies in our classrooms. The quote that stood out to me from a video he showed us was when a young lady who uses a wheelchair said: “If I’m thankful for an accessible bathroom, how am I ever going to be seen as equal”. She has every right to be thankful, but what shook me was she has even more of a right to have an accessible place to use the washroom! Her gratitude shows that accessibility is something that is still being fought for. Although our society has come a long way in ensuring locations are accessible, we still have way to go. Daniel pointed out that the Australia Olympics were taken to court for not having a website that is accessible for the visually impaired. It is important that as a privileged able-bodied person I continue to question and critique the dominant systems and discourses to be proactive in my approaches in my classrooms and schools.
This got me thinking about a Podcast that was talking about accessibility at South by Southwest (SXSW). SXSW celebrates the convergence of tech, film and music industries (sxsw.com). In the conversation, people were asking for SXSW to be available online and thus accessible for all people regardless of their ability to travel or access the event for a variety of reasons. They kept refusing saying it was impossible to make something of this magnitude available online. It can only be done in person. Fast forward to the pandemic, and suddenly it was available online. It reminded me of the lady being thankful for the bathroom- but why does it always take something to happen for equity to be available for differently abled bodies? That got me thinking to my classroom and something Christina said during this portion- utilizing assistive technology not only aids the students who needs adaptations, it aids all learners. The catalyst can be a diverse learner, but as an educator, why do I wait for an intervention to be needed prior to implementing it in my spaces? Good teachers adapt, offer choice, diversify instructional and assessment strategies. Utilizing assistive technology is another tool in the toolbox to ensure all students have opportunities to thrive. It is a proactive approach that honors the people that sit in those desks and gives them diverse opportunities to learn, grow and showcase the best versions of themselves.
At the end of the day, that’s what John Stockton would do- set people up to succeed, so that is what I will do too! It is essential to utilize tools that allow students to engage with the content, to amplify voices, to share learning journeys knowing that all students will benefit from diverse instructional, assessment and technologies in the classroom. So, moving forward in my classroom, I am going to be more like John Stockton. And also, Michael Jordan, because any day I can be like MJ is a good day.
Blog prompt: Assistive technology:
Option 1: What are your experiences with assistive technology, and what are some of the challenges and limitations? What conclusions can you draw around the philosophical and theoretical understandings that underpin the technologies that you have used?
As I student, I cannot think of a time where I needed to use assistive technology. For my twin sister, though, it was and continues to be a big part of her life. She was born with cerebral palsy and walks with the assistance of a walker similar to the one pictured in this post. For her, assistive technology in the classroom usually meant anything that would help her physically get around the building. Ramps and elevators were key in her navigation of school buildings. As far as educational assistive tech, the only thing I recall was her using a laptop in high school and university for note taking. Her hand dexterity isn’t that great, so writing large amounts of notes (which was a pretty big thing and continues to be in many classrooms) was a challenge.
As a teacher, I am in a computer lab most of the time, so students are free to use any online translators that they wish to use. I always watch movies and television with subtitles when I am at home. This is something that started as a necessity as a new parent who was afraid to wake up his first born child. Now that I’m used to subtitles, I will never turn them off. My wife and I always turn them on, regardless of the television volume. It’s amazing how much you can miss because of poor sound mixing or because a character is muttering. In the classroom, I turn subtitles on whenever they’re available. This includes the often-poorly-generated YouTube subtitles that are more for comic effect than anything else.
Janeen shared with us the SETT framework, created by Dr. Joy Zabala (1994). This is a good framework to utilize when making decisions about assistive tech implementations. Some of it seems like common sense, but hey, acronyms are fun and answering all of these questions will give someone a much better idea as to what AT could be used to support the student(s).
In our breakout discussions, something that kept coming up what the fact that many of these adaptations are not just good for those that need them, but can be good for all learners. My sister, for example, who was told in several high school classes that she was not allowed to bring in her laptop to type notes, obviously needed technology to be successful with that kind of lecture-based instruction. She could have been allowed a laptop, or could have been provided the notes by the instructor. If the notes are available to her, why not make them available to everyone else? Unless the function of note taking is to practice penmanship or writing speed, something that hopefully by grade 10 or 11 students have figured out, I am not sure why notes would not be made available for all students.
Reid talked about a bunch of forms of wearable tech. While some of these are interesting in concept, there are some pretty serious data and privacy concerns. The video that Reid posted in the Discord and discussed tonight definitely highlighted that. This surveillance is very behaviourist in nature, and while I think some of the data it provides might be useful, the concept as well and the parents’ immediate access to the data concerned all of us.
I have a colleague that developed an online Wellness 10 course. The course was designed for students who felt uncomfortable doing physical education in a f2f setting. When he talked about the rationale for the course, I was reminded of my phys ed class in grade 10 where one of my (very overweight) peers was tasked with doing pushups for a fitness test. He could do two modified pushups. This online options was in part meant for people like him. The online wellness course hinged on wearable tech, as each student would be provided with heart rate monitors. With heart rate data combined with student-made videos, students would prove that they have met the application-based outcomes for the course.
I have three Pixel 2 XL phones at the school that we primarily use for video work. Last year, I purchased a couple of Google Daydream headsets for personal use. Reid also mentioned virtual field trips using VR, and once classrooms are a bit more back to normal I would like to explore more VR in my classroom.
As much as I hate to give credit to Microsoft, the team at Xbox has come out with an adaptive controller to allow though with physical limitations to play games that would otherwise have a difficult time participating in that medium. Check out the video below.
“UDL does not advocate any single teaching practice; rather, it combines today’s best approaches for engaging students and challenging them to think critically. It helps instructors meet the learning needs of a diverse student body through a combination of instructional modalities, formats, and technologies. To many people, UDL is simply good teaching!” (Ohio State Partnership Grant, 2011)
In the past, I have used things like colour coding to make my WordPress easier to navigate, but in looking through Darcy’s presentation I feel that there are ways that I can implement some of these ideas to make more WordPress even more accessible for students.
The Young & MacCormack article is definitely a longer read, but is incredibly useful in that it breaks down AT from low tech to high tech and breaks it down into domains like reading, writing, receptive, reasoning, and math. For each domain, there are suggestions for low tech, mid tech, high tech, and mobile apps. The article also mentions funding and training, which are two aspects that came up throughout the breakout rooms over the entirety of this course.
The Cranmer article was enlightening for me in that I have never worked with a student that has a visual impairment. I really enjoy the qualatative research when I get to read research responses in the words of the students. This summary stood out to me on page 326:
“In relation to enablers, the analysis showed children’s enthusiasm for digital use practices—both learning and accessibility—in terms of the attributes of technology complemented by their own skills; technical support provided by the school. In terms of constraints, children spoke of issues related to ongoing unreliability of technologies; occasional gaps in their own skills. There were also examples of subject teachers not meeting children’s expectations through continuation of outmoded practices; creation of stigma and added work load.”
This mirrors what I see in my classroom. Students are often enthusiastic, particularly with new tech, because it has a novelty factor. All students deal and teachers deal with reliability issues related to technology, but that can be particularly frustrating when you are relying on AT in order to meet course outcomes because there is no way without AT.