Unleashing Deep Learning!

Deep Learning and Technology

Fullan and Donnelly (2013) in “Alive in the Swamp” report

In the fourth chapter of “A seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning”, Fullan and Langworthy look at digital tools and resources in education, starting with the “present state” of technology use, which, according to a study, has  [had at the time**] a “below-average impact on learning relative to other interventions” or approaches such as peer tutoring or effective feedback to learners.
**I think we can assume that the results would be quite different if the survey was done now, after nearly a year of craziness brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, subsequent lockdown, and Distance Learning sometimes followed by a Hybrid teaching model.

Nevertheless, here again, we are reminded that technology in the classroom for the sake of using new tools won’t be effective. Technology can only play an essential role in education if used in powerful and creative ways. And associated with New Pedagogies: the whole teaching model had to be revised.

Digital Tools and Resources in “A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning” (Fullan)

The SAMR Model for Technology Integration

We already talked about the four stages of Dr. Ruben Puenedura’s SAMR model but it is relevant to come back to it, as we have expanded our own learning, and moved to the Deep Learning concepts: it makes even more sense to look at the different stages now.
I personally like the graphic description below very much, as it shows very clearly the roadmap (or should I say the “ocean map”?) to the integration of technology into classroom settings.
We have used it at my school and although I have a much deeper understanding of the different steps now, I remember thinking that, unlike some other concepts, this one, and especially with this representation, was extremely clear.

Image credit: Sylvia Duckworth, via @DavidGuerin

Vulnerability, Shame,  and Courage

Brené Brown is an American professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host whose research, and interest, focus on the themes of authentic leadership and sincerity in families, schools, and organizations. She spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. In 2010, Brown’s TEDx talk on her research results went viral, gaining millions of views right away, and launched her onto a national, even international, platform.
Although she also wrote five #1 New York Times bestsellers, this was new to me. But as soon as I started watching the video below, I understood the reasons for her huge success: she is a great orator with interesting and inspiring content!

I spent a couple of hours that evening reading, listening, or watching more of Brené Brown… I haven’t seen the Netflix program “The Call to Courage” yet, but it is on my list!

Brené Brown in Daring Classrooms

Shame:  focus on self =>  ‘I am bad’
There is something inherently wrong with me; how it shows up is by favoritism, name-calling, gossip

Guilt: focus on behavior => ‘I did something bad’

Educators need to find a way to develop shame-resilient classrooms and remember that the antidote to shame is empathy. It helps to know that all of us (at least most) use”shields” as protection from shame. Knowing which one they are can shed a different light on some students’ attitudes!

THE DARING WAY™ (Brené Brown, 2015)

According to Brown, those shields make us:
* moving away: withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping
* moving toward: seeking to appease and please
* moving against: trying to gain power over others, being aggressive,  and using shame to fight shame.

Enthusiasm and attraction should not let us forget our critical sense though. Christina Torres loved how Brené Brown exposed “the need to question who we allow to shame us and how we reclaim our own narratives”. But in her article On Shame and ‘Daring Classrooms’: We Need to Fix Systems, Not Kids, Torres also explains how some of Brown’s “Daring Classrooms” lesson plans need to be handle with care particularly if given without context: it could be hurtful and triggering for some students, particularly “those who had experienced trauma already”.

In her July 2020 podcast, Brené on Shame and Accountability, Brown shares her thoughts about “why accountability is a prerequisite for change, and why we need to get our heads and hearts around the difference between being held accountable for racism and feeling shame and being shamed.” I was able to make connections between her explanations and the recent professional development on “Social Justice and Anti-racism in the Classroom”, held by the amazing Cornelius Minor. Definitely great food for thought!
I also bookmarked a few other interviews or talks, and I encourage you to browse through the “Unlocking Us” podcast series and its “Conversations that unlock the deeply human part of who we are, so that we can live, love, parent, and lead with more courage and heart.”

I believe that I will also go back to Brené’s talk about Shame, and will keep in mind the shields concepts, to help me reflect on what I do and what I say to students. I can also see how those concepts apply to our personal lives and our interactions in general.

Dialogical Learning

The book The Pedagogy of the Oppressed written by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire in 1968, is still, in 2021, referred to when it comes to education. I haven’t read it (it seems to be a substantial read according to some reviews), but it has been written about and analyzed quite a lot.
Recognizing the learner as an equal is essential for true learning to take place, Freire claims.  He exposes five ideas that he holds essential for dialogue:

Humility = A humble approach that acknowledges students’ powerful role is a great way to ensure improved student learning as well as improved instruction.

= belief in students’ capacity to learn can help them to believe in themselves

= This faith in students paves the way for a deeper trust to be established, and trust is critical in any relationship where real, meaningful learning is a goal.

= Acknowledging the importance of love can be difficult because it requires us to be vulnerable, but love is an essential element to any meaningful relationship, especially for relationships seeking growth and learning

Critical Thinking 
= Connecting learning to student interests – Asking good questions – Using learning structures and teaching strategies that prompt student thinking

But this dialogue is not only important between students and their teachers: it should also take place between teachers, coaches,  and administrators. These conversations will lead to deeper and meaningful learning – Freire the importance of a dialogical approach.


How are you vulnerable with your students? 
As a non-English speaker, it happens that I am looking for a word, or can’t pronounce one correctly. Years ago, this situation could have been painful for me. Now, I just say it: “I can’t remember / I don’t know how to say it / this word is difficult for me to pronounce”. A majority of our students are bilingual (or more), and some of them are still developing their English proficiency. Therefore, I show them that what really matters is to make yourself understood. And if you make some mistakes along the way, this is not the most important. Recognizing some vulnerability and asking for help is healthy. Role-modeling in those areas is very important too.

How do you recognize learners as equals so that true learning can take place?
Respect is, I believe, the best way to show students that you treat them on equal footing. This is then a great starting point to develop good conversation, and in some cases good relationships, sometimes over years. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same regular contact time with our students, but my bonus point is being in contact with students up to six years when they attend Middle School and High School at ISB.