Eric Sheninger

Eric Sheninger is wonderful. He is one of those charismatic speakers who has you from the moment he walks on stage. He is unafraid to admit his feelings and talks clearly and loudly about about the need for radical transformation in how we run our schools in order to benefit our kids today.  I’ve been aware of his work for a couple of years and he is one of my favourite twitter follows.  His TL, Laura has also done wonderful things through being empowered by Eric to do things like Makerspaces.   I am spending the day with him tomorrow and I am feeling just a little excited about this.

To start with he talked about these key points:

  • Let’s not think about what is impossible but what is possible.
  • If it is important to you, you will find a way.  If not, you’ll find an excuse.
  • The world is changed by your example…..not by your opinion.  Paulo Coelho.
  • Leadership is action and not position.
  • If the leaders don’t get it, it’s not going to happen.

He talked a lot about leaders and leadership culture.  True leadership comes from the teachers, he said.   Great leaders remove the obstacles and they let others innovate.  We need leaders and we need all educators to get it.  Our students deserve better. The environment in which they learn is different.   Eric’s son is 10 – and what was he doing when he facetimed with him this morning – playing minecraft: creating a product that has value……its relevant and fun.  He’s solving problems, he’s collaborating with others………..NONE OF WHICH HE IS ALLOWED TO DO IN SCHOOL.

Reality – his two children hate school.   How can we prepare students for the future if we are stuck in the past?

Our classrooms – are we seeing fundamental shifts?  Are we preparing kids for the future?  How many principles adhere to conformity and rules as their main guiding principles?

We need to ask ourselves – What does school actually teach kids?  What do we want it to teach them?

Key Point 1 – Social Media is a Game Changer.  Twitter changed his life.  The people he connected with have made it possible to see other viewpoints and to get other ideas.  Social media is a catalyst for conversation with other educators. He took control of his learning and realised that his school worked better for the adults than the kids.

They learned that technology is not a silver bullet. True catalyst is how we harness technology.   Social media is like water and everywhere.   WE can ignore it and watch kids drown or we can teach kids how to swim.

Key Point 2 – CONTROL – GIVE IT UP.

Key Point 3 – TRUST kids

Key Point 4 – MORE THEM LESS US.

This is about our kids learning and not ours. Empower kids to take ownership.

If kids aren’t learning the way we teach – we need to change the way we teach…… the instructional design right? How do we know that the technology is making a difference.

Pedagogy First, Tech Second if appropriate.

Pedagogy is the driver and tech is the accelerator. 

His school’s transformation took 5 years…..every time you use technology – is it making a difference?    He was in classrooms 70% of the day.  He wanted to make sure it was right.  The plan was created with the students and the teachers and the community.  We can’t be satisfied with isolated pockets of excellence.

They decided – No more desks in rows.  Kids brought their devices.  Every lesson had a defined goal. Feedback was a feature.

Real testament to change – transparency.  Let people go anywhere anytime.

Visitors went anywhere…….critical feedback was zero.  They worked on the foundation for years.   Kids learnt anywhere.   

Learning spaces and environment – school redesign reflects the real world and enhances essential skill sets.    put thinking games into common areas…..chess – this stimulated better relationships.

Makerspaces – his TL Laura – created makerspace and was empowered to make this change herself.

Went BYOD 5 years ago.   excuses or solution?   They focussed on how to use the devices and they had a clear focus.   

Tech should never drive instruction – it should support and enhance learning.    Engagement – this does not always equate to learning.   Are they constructing new knowledge? Are they applying new skills?  They focussed on student learning and the environment of the school. They focussed on teacher learning and decided it was no longer acceptable to be a disconnected nomad as a teacher.

What can we do tomorrow?

  • We need to create a PLN and build relationships. We should be helping each other because we are all in the business of helping kids to learn.

       Eric says he’s not smart…..just resourceful.

  • We need to think about how we communicate……
  • Ask – are we meeting our stakeholders where we are at.    are we engaged in 2 way feedback.  how are we interacting.  are we opening ourselves up?
  • Public relations – if you don’t tell your story – someone else will.
  • we have got to be willing to share…..create a brand presence.  it’s not about selling. it’s about building support for the amazing work we do. 

good leadership

share your vision

have the conversations

support change

embrace tech

learn from each other

model the expectations.

Digitally resilient – challenges, obstacles and excuses.   The person who says it can’t be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.


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