It’s been a while since my last blog entry – 9 months to be exact. Last year was a difficult year for me on a personal level. Work also was in a state of flux and reading through my last few blog entries, I am reminded that I was battling to stay positive amidst major changes after a two year journey of leaps, bounds, achievements and the attainment of goals that made me tremendously excited about the journey we were on. 2018 did finish brilliantly, however – with my family and I heading to Europe on a 4 month long visit.
Fast forward 9 months. Where am I now? I’m at the end of a 2 year conference trip to Melbourne, awaiting my flight to take me home where I will arrive 3 days before we start a new term. If I’d written this yesterday, at the end of the first day of the conference, I think I would have been writing a similar blog post to what I did a few years ago when I was bemoaning that I was sick of hearing the same messages at these types of events, that I wasn’t seeing any real evidence of change, that the people who set the learning agenda for my state weren’t concerned about crowded educational agendas and that the people above me were still having to operate within an environment of red and green data.
But today I got to revisit a few key messages about the value of the real work that we, as innovators, are all doing in our schools. Much of this was delivered by Tom Barrett. A bit of background – as a school, we first engaged with Tom a few years ago at the start of a journey with the use of design thinking to support creativity and inquiry. Our first steps with this were related to the support of ‘practitioner inquiry’ – we were strategically working towards embedding inquiry learning within our curriculum units and to up-skill our teachers – we had chosen to immerse them in learning which would provide them with insights into the mindset, skillset and toolset of inquiry and design. We also worked with our leadership team on aspects of strategic inquiry.
During the beginning of Tom’s keynote he reminded the audience of the work he does within a range of industries – not just within education – and that lessons he has learnt within these other industries often have important learning considerations that can apply to the education context. He looked at the ‘Theory of Diffusion’ that is often shared with tech leaders and told us that this is something that was originally designed to allow its creator to show how farmers use different types of crops. He cautioned us against using models like this to label people or to simplify a process which might not be appropriate to represent people. He added that it is much more likely that people will change at a very slow rate and that technology and innovation will have to change to match people or groups of people.
When Tom spoke about the nature of Innovation – there were a couple of ideas that really resonated with me in terms of where I find myself now and the state of dissonance through which I am worried I am suffering. Tom spoke about the idea that innovation compresses and that we must make decisions about what to let go. This is often necessary in order to free up our time and energy to do new things. But then at the same time – he spoke about how innovation is often tethered and will rely on things that are already in place and working – things that can be left alone to continue working.
So what is my context right now? What should I be working on? What should I stop working on? What do I need to appreciate as something that is embedded enough that it can be viewed as the seed to even more exciting innovations?
A feature of my personality seems to be that I am happy operating within a perpetual state of having too much to do. I get easily excited by new ideas and can not stand the idea of staying still for too long. I get bored quickly with things that I feel like I’ve mastered or even just started and feel ready to move on easily to something else. Is the state I find myself now – when I mention suffering through a state of dissonance – something of my own making? And if so, is it working to actually hinder my progress in the areas that are the most important to the learners within my community right now?
So what SHOULD be my areas of focus right now:
We need to focus on the really great work we have been doing that has been going well and to make sure that the momentum is not lost as we move forward. My major responsibility in terms of learning/curriculum has been the STEAM year level planning. What has rapidly dawned on me during this planning is that we are doing is so much broader than STEM/STEAM. STEAM has simply given us a platform to start exploring authentic and connected learning. It is serving to:
- reconnect teachers with the intent of the curriculum
- engage them with finding alignments between areas of the curriculum
- encourage a deeper understanding of the General Capabilities within the Australian Curriculum
- reconnect them with our School Vision and our STEAM vision.
But is the relevance to our school vision seen by others? Is there a clear line of sight? What other work must be done to ensure that this is the case?
Another are in which I must focus energy is coaching and supporting others to implement these STEAM units.
Other areas of my responsibility include:
The ‘Young Innovators Program’ and a possible opportunity right now for expansion.
This program has been operating for the last 2 years. It engages around 130 students each of 3 terms in the year. So, is this what can now be kept running with minimal input? Or, are my plans to include it in the options for the school professional learning models going to mean that this is a continuing high effort model? Or is this expansion a really good example of reinvention which Tom also mentioned today as a feature of innovation?
I have to remind myself that my hopes for the Young Innovator Program were always that this model of extracurricular learning opportunities would be replaced by high quality, real world, authentic learning within our learning models. Do I look at this program as the final year? And, am I my own worst enemy when considering the current opportunity for expanding this program? In letting go, what am I risking?
Our Existing ‘Bring Your Own Device’ Program
This includes the support of this program, the considerations about possible expansion, the preparation for a new year, the support of parents, my often all consuming need to document and share stories of how tech is supporting and transforming learning etc.
Is this something that can be just now supported with minimal effort – transferring into high effort in the final term as we prepare for a new year? Our best results in our Departments’s Parent Survey in the last year have been the improvements in our community’s understanding of how technology is used to support learning. Does this mean that I am ready to let the high amount of energy that goes into this go? In letting go – what am I risking?
We have just been accredited as an eSmart School. Is this a perfect example then of something I need to immediately start minimising effort within? As a minimum I would need to:
- Publish the new ‘I can…’ statements
- Ensure this area of DigiTech is being reported on this term
In letting go – what am I risking?
I do get anxious when I consider reducing the amount of effort I put into these areas, and so this question is quite relevant. I am happy with how they are all going. Do these programs now need so much ongoing effort?
Other Areas of Note:
Tom shared his key take-aways at the end of his keynote which prompted me to think about a few additional things for this term:
Share a language of learning – how can we establish the language of learning within our STEAM work? I’ve already started making the classroom helper tools. This needs to be viewed as important work – we need to share these at a staff meeting, We need to look at the General Capabilities and establish a clear line of sight between the CC thinking and the STEAM work. The Social and Personal Capability is the area of the curriculum that refers to Collaboration – we need to do work on this but for 2018, I feel the Critical and Creative Thinking GC is the primary one to focus on.
Tom: Share a language of learning and try to be forensic as possible.
Tom: Challenge your assumptions.
What am I assuming???? What do I need to challenge?
Tom: Don’t lose sight of what works. in order for us to take risks – we need to remember that which is working
Tom: Design better learning proxies – how is what we are looking at a good proxy of learning? What can we design in terms of assessment that is a better way of gathering evidence of what kids learn and making assessments?
We have a perfect opportunity to do this with the new units of work. But we are also bound to the format for our Guide to Making Judgements. Should we explore the possibl addition of CC capabilities within the assessments we design? Should we find out if ONeSchool even makes that a possibility? This seems to represent one key step towards creating a line of sight between assessment and our school vision. But does our reporting system even allow this to occur?