My Actions Post Palooza

I have had an awesome few days at iPadPalooza on the Gold Coast as summarised by the blog posts below.  I like to take a copious amount of notes at these events as I find my memory later fails me for details when I am speaking to others..  So, this is what I will do and then over the days that follow – I tend to reflect and think on actions that might be relevent for my own site.

It’s interesting to me that my take-aways from events like this are no longer about the technology.   Of course, there were some great tips on apps from some truly talented iPadPalooza greats – especially to do with coding, art, connecting with nature and STEM – but my key learnings are always now about change and how it can be managed to cater for the future of the kids we work with.

So here are my take-aways:

Change is an opportunity to do things differently

This is something that has been at the forefront of my mind for years now.  I really need to accept however that this is not how everyone views change.   Design thinking is currently providing us with a tremendous opportunity – It’s providing teachers with a tool for change, innovation and reflection  and it’s providing teachers with a tool to design curriculum.   This is wonderful change.    Let’s keep the momentum going.

The need to keep going

We have come so far.   And it’s tempting to start congratulating ourselves and to risk ‘resting on our laurels’.    But when I hear from people like Richard Wells – I feel quite simply overwhelmed at how much further there is to go.   And I’m pretty sure that our system is 20 years behind that of New Zealand.  But what we have to do is to understand and appreciate that the small steps we have taken have to continue.   We have to stop accommodating teacher comfort and assumptions and the industrial model that we all still naturally operate comfortably within and we need to start evolving our community of learners towards a new model of learning – one that places students at the centre and one which fosters THEIR creativity, THEIR independence, THEIR resilience and THEIR knowledge of self and what THEY are good at.

  • We need to realise that our school vision is a tremendous opportunity to justify doing things differently.  We need to keep the conversation evolving regarding its implications.
  • We need to keep placing the reality of the future in front of our community ALL THE TIME.  Assumptions are quite powerful and we need to start initiating conversations with the reminder to put them aside.
  • We need to carefully consider groups like Yr 2 and 3 because they are the ones who will be the proof of our vision in 3 years time.     Are those groups starting 2017 with a new focus on process over product and design?  Are they?  How will their beginning of 2017 be different from 2016 after a year of learning?   WILL IT?

The need to include wellness in our approach

  • Michael Carr-Gregg was excellent in the way he made it so crystal clear that if we aren’t managing children’s wellness – then they aren’t learning at optimum levels.
  • Our new Social and Emotional program presents many opportunities in this regard.
  • There are clear alignments between children managing and growing their own independence and wellness.  We need to recognise the importance of this connection.

So, moving away from my broad ideas –

Practical ideas and possibilities:

  1. Can the school visit in Week 1 of Term 4 from NoT be focussed on Yr 2 and 3 teachers?
  2. Can the 2017 year start with activities designed to remind staff of our vision and what this means in a practical sense.
  3. The Yr 5 work on Design Thinking with Geography/DigiTech unit needs to be shared with staff.    Similarly the Yr 6 work using design thinking.  We need to actually hear from the teachers involved and learn from their experiences – warts and all.
  4. Is it possible that Week 1 of 2017 for every class has a focus on Social and Emotional Learning AND the Design Thinking process?  And that they don’t jump straight into more teacher delivered content?
  5. Can we speak to our student high achievers and ask them how learning could be different and what frustrates them?  Then share this
  6. Can we continue to work with our teachers to encourage reflection and growth in learning.
  7. The pitches from Round 2 PI need to have outcomes/results.

 

 

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EdTech, Pedagogy and the Vision

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I’ve sat back and reflected a few times lately after discussions with teachers and after visits where they have popped in to show me things or ask questions – and I’ve gone on to articulate my thoughts to some of my leadership team members.   What I’ve attempted to articulate is that there seems to be evidence of the tide turning.

I’ve been providing leadership in the area of educational technology for about 17 years and it has often felt like 3 steps forward, 2 steps back and it’s often felt like I’m dragging people to a place they don’t understand and essentially don’t see as important.  Looking back I see  now that there were elements missing from the culture or the approach or the teacher’s skill-set, toolset or mindset.  In different situations it’s probably been a combination of elements.

And it’s never been about the technology.   And I guess that’s where the the lack of alignment can lie – that it does sometimes appear to about the technology, the flashy new toys or the gimmicky tools.   For me it’s never about that – technology, quite simply,  opens up opportunities. It can provide a voice for the quietest child.  It can allow another to fly.   It connects people to each other and others to the world.  In the right hands, in the hands of a skilled teacher who has superb pedagogical skills and deep content knowledge and understanding, technology can be used to bring content alive, to put creation tools into the hands of students, to empower the youngest in the school and to bring dreams alive.  Will technology ever replace good teachers – no. But a good teacher who also uses technology and combines this with inquiry and challenging, problem based learning = they are the teachers that will change the world for themselves and their students.

So, sometimes you have to just stop pushing.  Just stop.   Because people won’t be dragged. They are too smart.   Teachers have noble motives and they will make decisions based on their own sphere of reality or paradigm.   So change is tough and good change takes time.

What is necessary for change in a school environment is many elements coming together:

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Lately, teachers and others have come to me in a quest for more edtech or higher ratios of 1-1 devices …….and I’m the one resistant.  Why?  Because I’m sick of pushing ideas or technology onto people and then it being blamed for failure or dashed hopes.   Additionally, I won’t stand up in front of a group of parents and advocate for something that I am not 100% passionate about.   I now feel the need for quality-control and I need evidence of  good pedagogy because if this isn’t apparent and crystal clear – there’s no point.   If the vision is missing (as in above) or the skills are missing – we are never going to get the change we want to see.

But lately, as part of the conversations I referred to in the beginning of this blog – these are the some of the reasons I’ve been given:

  • We can use this across the curriculum and it enables them to express their ideas.
  • We can differentiate for the brightest kids and allow them to spread their wings and go further than the curriculum says
  • For those struggling, it allows them to move away from the tedious repetition of the skill they just aren’t getting and do it in another more interesting way.
  • Children can document their own learning
  • Children can show me improvements through the use of a digital portfolio.
  • Feedback and goal setting can be aligned and evident through the use of a device.
  • We can show a parent improvements and it can be clear and supported by such good evidence.

And you know what – I’m feeling humbled by the people around me right now.    I’m grateful for the leaders that support change.  I’m humbled by the energy and motivation of the people who work so hard to support me and I’m humbled by teachers who won’t shift until the intent and vision is clear.