I’m only a few days away from beginning doctoral studies in September, and I’m super eager to begin. I’ve already been enjoying communicating a bit with members of the students in my cohort, and I am truly humbled by the depth and breadth of experience they possess in the field of education, which far exceeds my own.
Signing up for this Doctorate of Education program was ultimately a pretty easy choice: the program is offered by the University of Western Ontario, a well-regarded Canadian university; it^s available at a distance, a must for me given my status as an expat; and the concentration in international school leadership is right in line with my needs.
The one thing that concerned me prior to signing on was my lack of knowledge about the degree offered. I’d only seen the EdD distinction attached to a few names on Twitter, and wasn’t really aware of how it compared to the more familiar PhD degree.
Researching the topic led to a debate that has apparently been going on for years regarding the comparative value and perception within academia regarding the degrees. Strong opinions exist on both sides, with some individuals declaring the two degrees equivalent and others stating that the EdD involves nowhere near the level of academic rigor of a PhD and that it is seen as a lesser achievement.
Reading the disdain that some academics had for the EdD caused me to hesitate before signing on for the program for all of about three seconds . . .
Ultimately, I’ve not signed on for this degree to impress academics or to show off. The program will take me three years to complete and cost tens of thousands of dollars. That’s a lot of time and money for a couple of letters after my name and bragging rights, if that was all I was after. But it’s not.
I’m doing this to learn more. I’m doing this to become a better leader and teacher. I’m doing this to keep my work meaningful. Most importantly, I’m doing this for the kids.
I believe that education is important and that we’re in the midst of a time of great change. I believe that the kids I see everyday at school are going to inherit this sometimes messy world we’re leaving for them and will need a whole lot of skills to keep it in one piece for their kids to inherit one day in turn. That’s important.
Regardless of how different groups of people choose to compare and stack degrees like the EdD and PhD up against one another, I’m stoked to be entering the Western EdD program. It’s a program that’s accessible, affordable, and relevant to my practice. I can’t wait to get started learning more about how to better make sure that kids today get ready for tomorrow’s world.
As a school administrator, I spend a significant portion of my time observing teachers’ classes and giving feedback to try to help them to improve their practice. I also have to make judgments regarding the direction of our program and what matters most for our student body. It’s a job with a lot of responsibility, and I’ve been really lucky this semester to have had tons of support from the super-hardworking teachers at my school.
In order to better serve the teachers and students of our school, I recently sent out a Google survey to the faculty, asking them to review my performance as program manager over the semester thus far. Personally, I’ve tried to be mindful of my successes and failures the past months since taking this position, but, as our faculty is an important stakeholder in our school community, I feel that it is important that I seek their anonymous guidance and get their opinions on how well or poorly I’ve been doing my job.
To do so, I crafted a brief survey using Google forms and emailed it to the staff, requesting that they fill it in when they had the time. I used the standards put forward by the Ontario government to inform the process, but heavily modified the criteria to fit the specifics of my position and our school. I don’t think that the rubric assessed everything about my practice, but I do feel that it covered some of the main duties I hold that our teaching faculty would be equipped to assess me on based on our work together.
With some trepidation, I entered the email addresses into the form and hit send…
Waiting for the feedback to arrive was really exciting and a bit nerve-wracking. We’ve had a super-interesting semester with many changes and challenges. I was curious to find out how people felt about the leadership they were receiving, and ready to make profound changes to my practice if required.
I was pleased to discover that, for the most part, the teachers who submitted responses were satisfied with my approach to the work that we are doing in our school. The criticisms were measured and constructive, and expressed a genuine desire to improve our school. I learned a lot, and much of what I read matched my personal assessment of my weaknesses and struggles this semester.
The positive feedback I received was very motivating, and I was glad to note that our English-speaking faculty are as proud of our team’s success as I am. And, sometimes, teachers expressed sentiments that were wholly unexpected.
I appreciate how. . . even if he is really busy he makes you feel like he has all the time to truly listen, not just hear. His feedback and support have really changed my own teaching vision and helped reinvigorate my passion for teaching again. His drive to make our school better creates this energy where others want to actively pursue ways to make our classes better.
Damn. If that doesn’t motivate me to continue to show up and try my best everyday next semester, I don’t know what will.
Hello! I've just registered and begun an 6-week mindfulness course offered by Mindful Schools, a non-profit organization that offers mindfulness training to educators. They have a number of courses on offer, but I decided to start at square one with their 6-week introduction.
I have been interested in meditation since I was about 15 years old. I maintained a daily practice until well into my late twenties. Since beginning my career and starting a family I have had a difficult time practicing meditation on a regular basis, though it has always remained a part of my life, especially during stressful times.
A few months ago, I signed up for a free mindfulness course offered by the Honolulu Dhamma Society as I was finishing my MEd studies in order to refresh my practice of meditation and to learn more about secular mindfulness as it is practiced today. The course was good and well worth the price of admission!
I decided to sign up for another 6-week course through Mindful Schools as they offer a series of courses specifically designed for educators wishing to apply mindfulness techniques in their professional practice and in their classrooms. Our school is implementing a school-wide restorative discipline model this year, and I think that mindfulness practices will be a great way to help students, teachers, and administrators better follow the restorative discipline guidelines in our day-to-day work.
I've only just begun the course online, but I'm already blown away by the level of professionalism and care that has been put into the curriculum on offer. The courses are offered on the moodle platform and are very easy to navigate. The creation of a learning community is encouraged, and the instructors are all very welcoming and passionate about mindfulness and education.
I'll be keeping an online journal on this blog about my experiences in the Mindful Schools: Mindfulness Fundamentals course over the next six weeks if you are interested to learn more!
Before the summer vacation, a group of teachers in my school got together to create a vision for our program and our new, aligned curriculum. To start actualizing our vision right now, I’m writing this post to tell you about a project I’ll be leading to get our school Digital Citizenship Certified by Common Sense Education. Give it a read and see if you’re interested in doing the same at your school! For more information visit the Common Sense Education Website.
Making our Vision a Reality
One part of our vision is to create globally conscious citizens, and to provide kids with authentic learning experiences. To do this, we’ll likely find ourselves and our students making use of digital media more often in the near future. It’s important that our students (and maybe we teachers, as well!) know how to use web 2.0 resources safely.
Opportunity for Teachers
To do so, we’re going to get our school Digital Citizenship Certified School status, and in the process, some of our interested teachers will be able to become Digital Citizenship Certified Educators. They’ll get a badge to stick on emails and websites and can call themselves Digital Citizenship Certified Educators on their resumes. You probably won't get a raise for it but it's proof of continued professional development and experience in teaching this aspect of a 21st century curriculum.
Common Sense Education
Common Sense is a non-profit organization that has developed a curriculum for students and PD resources for teachers about digital citizenship. In addition to printable curriculum units for each grade, they’ve got online learning resources that kids can use in a 1:1 or BYOD classroom. Here’s the breakdown.
Connecting with Parents
Part of getting the Certification involves communicating with parents about digital citizenship. The easiest ways to implement this would be sending out a provided fact sheet electronically, as well as embedding a few links on class webpages and the front page of the school website. Other options include hosting discussion groups with parents, but since my school is in Korea the language barrier might make that a bit difficult.
What You Need to Do
The last thing to remember, is that you need to document your teaching as you work through the curriculum. It’s not that intense. You just need to take photographs or short videos of students at work on the Common Sense curriculum materials, make a blog post, show some sample work, or make a short video
Interested teachers need to teach 5 lessons on digital citizenship. A key point is that the entire grade must take part. That is to say, all of the 5th grade students have to learn the material, not just the kids in one class. If your entire team doesn't want to get involved, you can work out a way to teach it to their students for them. Teachers also need to be involved in a bit of PD. There’s a one hour webinar online, and you need to set up an account on Common Sense.
After you’re done, you can apply for the school’s certification and your teacher certifications will be included. Simple!
I’ll update as we make our way through the process. Over half of the grades in our school have signed on to participate already. I think it will be lots of fun!
It's been a couple of weeks, and after a few meetings with individual teachers and the entire staff, we have 100% participation in the Digital Citizenship Certification project! Students are engaged and parents and already writing in with positive feedback about the curriculum. It looks as though it will be a great success!
Grade teams are fitting in digital citizenship instruction when their long range plans allow, but we should be ready to send in our application by the end of November! For now, here are some students working away on Common Sense Education's free Digital Citizenship resources!
It's official! Our school has become a Digital Citizenship Certified School through Common Sense Education.
All of our teachers did a great job of working to teach students about how to be safe and positive online citizens over the past few months, and the program was a great success. Almost all of our teachers enjoyed using the Common Sense curriculum and found it to be relevant and appropriate to meet our students' needs at Uchon Elementary School.
The Common Sense Education Digital Citizenship resources will become a part of every grade's curriculum in the coming school year, and teachers are already discussing how best to implement it and improve on the work they've already done.
A big thank you to Common Sense Education for their excellent Digital Citizenship Certification program and to all of the hard working teachers at Uchon Elementary School who made this happen.
The authors outline three important elements that should be present to provide adequate professional development to teachers faced with integrating new technologies into their classroom practice.
Teachers and students helping each other to implement new technologies can take up where PD leaves off and help to deepen engagement in the process.
In my school, we are working to create a culture of collaboration through our project. About half of our teachers have ‘bought-in’ and are active participants in the initiative. Professional development is another opportunity to expand our community circle and create new ones.
Support from Administration
Admin should make sure to allow teachers extra time for PD to help them to learn the skills they need to implement new tech tools. Also mentioned was the need for the communication of specific expectations for the PD from administrators.
While I can’t speak for out administration’s ability or willingness to provide extra PD time, I believe that teacher-leaders can possibly define and communicate expectations among learning groups in the school community.
Training at integrating technology into existing curricula should be provided, rather than adding technology on as a separate instructional strategy.
We are in the perfect position to mold our new curriculum in such a way as to allow for seamless integration of relevant technologies.
This article has helped me to foresee the challenges of educational technology implementation on a school-wide basis and plan strategies to overcome them. I look forward to getting to that stage of our curriculum development!
Matthew Boomhower is a mid-career educator with 15 years of classroom teaching and educational leadership experience. He is Head of Innovation & Learning at an international school in Malaysia and is a proud husband and father.