One Step More….

zak-elley-352787-unsplash

Photo by Zak Elley on Unsplash

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 day 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.

IMG_4872.JPG

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?

Digital Citizenship

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:

  1. Publish the new ‘I can…’ statements
  2.  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?

 

 

Advertisements

Change – is it a clear choice between floundering or thriving?

aneta-ivanova-776

Change – do we descend into a ‘pit’ or do we open our arms to opportunity?

When something changes with little warning,  which in turn impacts on a state where elements appear to be flourishing, it’s almost natural to regard that change with a certain degree of disappointment and dismay.   A feeling of being slightly shell-shocked can remain with you for days or much longer.   You view the short-term future as something that you must endure and something which is bound to descend into negative territory before it improves or indeed even gets on a steady footing resembling what it was before.

Essential however, at times like these, is to remind oneself that,  hidden beneath the layers of disappointment there may be, as yet, some unrealised opportunities for growth, clarity, progress and further evolution.

You may start to see the need to define your key steps and direction as an opportunity rather than a hinderance and the chance to gain clarity with the existing team as a time for a meeting of minds which will strengthen the way forward rather than as a time where things threaten to fall into disarray.

And even if one does flounder, there’s nothing to say that this state isn’t beneficial.   Floundering as a metaphor paints a picture of splashing desperately or being unable to gain a foothold or perhaps a less extreme one like being slightly unsteady in the shallows.  And being slightly unsteady may simply mean that you aren’t taking things for granted and that questioning is part of your mindset.

I just came across this description whilst reading about ‘Pause 2018’ – Australia’s Premier Innovation Festival.

This years theme is: Journey = Destination

A great idea doesn’t just come from thin air. It takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and even some failures along the way. We want a no-holds-bar-warts-and-all story that will inspire our attendees to pursue their own journeys, take risks and be the changemakers of tomorrow. The only mandatory request that we have is that your address be: ‘Content You Can’t Google’, so keep that in mind when you are preparing your submission.

Is it a clear choice?  Of course it is…….

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 6.32.45 pm

 

The organic nature of great teaching

So, with the Digital Technologies Curriculum – we have two choices.  We can take on board custom designed, packaged solutions and ‘deliver’ them or we can go to the effort of understanding the curriculum, collaborate with others, allow ourselves time to explore links with other learning areas and then design the learning experiences that suits our own learners.

I’ve seen beautiful evidence of the value of the latter lately.

As a school we’ve been looking at the Digital Technologies Curriculum for around 18 months but working effectively in both the ICT and DigiTech space for much longer.    We have had some formal learning sessions and are now in a year where each teacher will be assessing some aspect of the curriculum.

At the end of last year, a teacher in Yr 4 preparing some mapping co-ordinate activities realised the value of designing an activity using robotics.    She came to me with her idea, we considered our resources (and the ones she already had) and she created a learning experience which has since involved every class in Year 4.  This involved using Dash robotics and some blockly coding to move the students around a map of Australia.

img_1539

A Year 2 teacher, passing the activity and seeing us using the Yr 2 class robots (Dash), realised that a similar idea could support her own children’s work in mapping and then went away and designed her own.    This involved lots of opportunities for children to articulate the language around grid coordinates and direction, the pass a ‘drivers licence’ for using their Dash robot and then to use the ‘Go’ app for Dash Robots to plan a route visiting parts of Australia and to control Dash to follow this path.

This was done with the children this week, we have since discussed how to tweak it and we will do the second round of it soon.

fullsizerender-8

And this is what I love and this is what I value – teachers knowing their kids, knowing the curriculum and then creating and designing experiences that will support one or more parts of it.    Importantly, what comes next is just as important if we look across a whole school –  the collaboration that can occur between teachers which allows these ideas to grow, spread, take root, change and get better each time.

Hats off to my teachers and the organic nature of good teaching.

Entrepreneurship and Design

So, this is what I am working on right now.    Last year, we implemented our first prototype of our Young Innovator Program and it was very much a prototype.  It was a dipping of our toes into the water of digital creation and creativity/design.  The kids were working on a range of segmented and isolated skills and as valuable as it was, I have always known we needed to take it to the next level this year – especially (at first) for our older students.  So, we come to our Moonshot Program.   This is Prototype 2.

It’s helpful to think back to where this started.  At the end of 2015,  when we had a ThinkTank with our community, we generated a range of ideas from which there were clear patterns  or categories.   The ‘safe bets’ were very much based around after school clubs.    Many of the ‘darling’ ideas were to do with industry interaction, kick-starters and entrepreneurship – see below:

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-5-43-07-am

The below flyer is only a draft.  I am meeting with several people over the next week and hoping that their input can further shape the potential and possibilities of our ideas.   The idea of a ‘moonshot’ (“Moonshot Kids”) is fascinating for me.  Seth Godin:  “Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people.”  And I would like to think that part of my work in my own work situation does this.   I would like to think that I challenge people and that I am brave enough and confident enough to keep doing this.   Moonshot Thinking came  from Google’s “Solve for X” project and has its roots in the genius of crazy, audacious ideas from people who don’t believe there is a ceiling to what they can do.

Video on Moonshot thinking

From the video:

We are a species of moonshot thinking – People can set their minds to magical, seemingly impossible ideas and bring them to reality through innovation, science, and technology.  This sets others on fire.

Human progress has been a series of amazing, audacious things, Our ambitions are a glass ceiling in what we can accomplish. When you find your passion you are unstoppable. You can make amazing things happen. It has been true through history. I believe in the human spirit.

If we become afraid to take these risks, we stop inspiring people, we stop achieving things. The biggest nightmare scenario is that we won’t have what it takes to solve the really big challenges.

The power of moonshot thinking is the mindset it harnesses and supports – the idea that problems can be identified by anyone and that solutions can be attained.    The enormous attraction for me of the Digital Technologies curriculum is that at its heart is the creation of digital solutions.    Deserving of this focus are our students and 10-12 yr olds are more than capable of working to develop the mindset, skill-set and toolset that this requires.

moonshot-2017-a_15406507_ba3004682090eca39501c8ce4ba3ed12fda604fb

Reaching their Potential – iPadPaloozaGC

Taj Pabaris of course the Yr 12 student at John Paul College who is an entrepreneur, running his own company “Hello56”.

img_1234

img_1233

Taj spoke in his usual dynamic manner, speaking directly and honestly about his school experiences and about the things that inspired him.   He cited three key elements that he would like to see developed in the students of today:

    1. Flailing  (Failing+learning)
    2. Creativity
    3. Digital Literacy

Bella Paton- Yr 12 student at St Hilda’s spoke about her journey as a singer/songwriter.

img_1236

She discussed how she had liked singing at school but had got bored with choirs and performances and how she knew she had needed to find her niche.   She had been shown Logic as a music design and production tool and had started writing and creating her own original music which she sells through iTunes.   She finished her address with her own song which, when combined with her story, quite inspirational and humbling.

She has uploaded her songs to iTunes

Christopher Hills 

Chris is of course quite well known for his use of assistive ‘switch control’ on apple devices and how this allows him to be so much more than his disability.

The impact of this technology on his life has been amazing as he has a career that is flourishing.  Hills lives with cerebral palsy and quadriplegia, and is able to toggle through screens, surf the web, edit video content through the use of this program.

He was, quite simply, amazing and had the audience completely 100% awe-struck by what technology was enabling him to do and be.

img_1232

img_1231

Michael Carr-Gregg

Michael is a well know and widely respected authority on wellness in young people we were fortunate to listen to a keynote presentation by him at iPadPaloozaGC.

His website 

He started talking about the findings from the annual Mission Australia Survey in which the data shows a worrying trend each year.  This survey collects information on what young australians are worried about.

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-6-58-18-am

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-6-58-35-am

15 000 students are surveyed each year.

Their biggest problem is coping with stress

And when they are stressed, their learning is impaired.   This fact is undeniable.

He asked us to think about what we are doing about conflict resolution, anger management as schools – what are we doing to educate students about how to deal with these things.

A picture of student in Yr 12

30% are depressed

41% are stressed

18% are suicidal

  • Do students know the difference between sadness vs depression?  We need to raise their awareness of emotional coping strategies.
  • Mission Australia – Youth Survey showed that over 60% of our young people don’t know how to cope with stress.

Rates of suicide

Latest figures – 2864  suicided             60 000 thinking about it

Suicide rates – highest in 13 yrs

Suicide accounts for over one third of deaths in this age group.

Girls – 50% increase in 15-24 age suicide rates

The cost of supporting people with a mental illness  is enormous.

ANSWER:

Shift to a 21st century model of health

Give them the skills and strategies to manage their well-being

Technology matters to young people and so we need to leverage it.

  • Face-time – the most confidential way to have a conversation
  • It provides them with the flexibility and confidentiality
  • It is the way they communicate
  • Their worlds are seamless
  • Their real work is both off and online.
  • Teenagers check their phones on an average  56 times a day – once every 15 mins.
  • 9 out of 10 teenagers use their phone when they spend quality time with their parents.
  • 7 out of 10 – mates

This does not mean that there aren’t dangers and we have to acknowledge the dangers and educate them.   Let’s stop demonising technology however.  It is too much an integral part of their lives.  What we have is an unprecedented opportunity to manage kids.

Office of Children’s eSafety Commission

iParent – great resources for parents.

Case Study   How might we use technology to enhance the well-being of a student on the gold coast?

  • Case study student presents as anxious and has taken cannabis, her anxiety interferes with everything.

Single greatest predictor of well being in young females – friendship

  • Admits she is a perfectionist.
  • Physical manifestations – dry mouth, not sleeping, anxious, won’t stay asleep, can’t concentrate
  • Diagnosis – Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Treatment:

  1. Make sure she is educated about her disorder.     3 different ways to do this.

    And then start dealing with her problems:

1. Sleep (9 hrs)  They need this.  Single most important.   Psycoeducation in sleep.

  •  He will send her information about sleep and provide infographics.   
  • Show  her a TED talk by Geogie Prof Russell
  • Use an app ‘Recharge’ which teaches them about the importance of sleep.
  • Use an app Snorelab – to monitor snoring

2.  Breakfast – most teenagers don’t eat breakfast and they are incapable of learning if they have not had breakfast and haven’t slept.

  • he sends her information on the importance of having breakfast
  • he lets her know about the mood/foodl ink
  • he gets her using an app for the mediterranean diet.

3.  Anxiety

Interesting to think about what the research is saying about meditation.   Harvard Uni took volunteers through this program and they spent 27 mins a day on it.  The scans documented improvements in grey matter in the hippocampus and this is the area of the brain associated with stress.

4.  Exercise – personal trainers via an app.  Couch to 5 k

Zombies, Run – for boys

5.   Frienship (as she is worried about how her friends are).

Use The Check-In  app – YouthBeyondBlue

6.    Cannabis – Clear Your Vision

14.   App – Icope

iPadPaloozaGC – Richard Wells

Richard Wells – Twitter: @eduwells  His Web which is a collection of some awesome resources including posters and infographic collections.

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-6-31-49-am

Richard is originally English and moved to NZ after he saw the potential for a different kind of learning.   He actually spoke about visiting NZ with his wife and young child and passing a school with a front fence you could step over and several students up a tree.  Both of these things seemed symbolic enough  (pointing to a different kind of Education system to what he was used to) for him to move his family from England.

He started by talking about the way USA and Australia viewed schools and teachers and that the entire system is basically built on a distrust of teachers and the view that teachers need to be manipulated to get them to do what we want them to do in order to get the results that are seen as optimal.

Podcasts mentioned – “Curious Minds”, “The Originals”   and the term ‘Vuja De’ – the idea of seeing school for what it is.  Comedy is often a clever way to make us see things for that they actually are.

The vuja de mentality is the ability to keep shifting opinion and perception.  It can mean reversing assumptions about cause and effect or what matters most versus least.    It means not travelling through life on automatic pilot.   

Bob Sutton – “Stealing up for Excellence”

WHY do we need to change?    (Making a case at our sites)

We were shown an image of Spok and a tricorder:Screen Shot 2016-09-30 at 6.10.07 am.pngWell, this is now near reality and already in clinical trials – see this link with the winners to be announced at the beginning of 2017.

The point of this is that we hear a lot about manual jobs disappearing but the reality is that – high end jobs (those of the middle class) are going to be under threat also from the exponential change that is occurring.

  • Driverless cars – there are 100 000 on the road now.  Statistically the man asleep  in the clip below is safer than the man holding the iPhone.   UBER and google have signed up.  Google have a fleet.
  • Image of man asleep in driverless car
  • Richard discussed how the light bulb killed the candle industry – but then employed about the same number of people.  But now…this is not happening with the jobs that are disappearing.
  • Driverless buses and trucks already being trialled.

We are entering a phase of heavy disruption where a wide variety of jobs are being replaced…..

Top 20 skills

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-6-14-40-am

  • People will change jobs every 3 years for the students who walk into the world of work after school.   One element of this to understand is that technology is changing  rapidly but we also need to understand that the younger people have the expectation they can have things now.
  • Amazon are replacing factory workers with robots.  They are also looking into drones for delivery.   This YouTube clip shows this.

Yr7@30 47% jobs gone  This could well be a CONSERVATIVE ESTIMATE   – let’s halve that – still looking at tens of millions of jobs.

“Public outrage in this transitional period is unavoidable” – Oxford Uni.

The picture that’s in everyone minds won’t be realistic  – the picture that kids move from orange school buildings to purple uni buildings to blue work buildings – this is just not going to be the future for our current students.

Kids need to be resilient enough, self-aware enough and skilled enough to be able to cope in this world.

21st century schools in NZ – the whole focus has to shift from doing stuff (the focus is on output)  to be based around answering the question ‘who are you?’    We train them out of thinking about this within the first few years of school and we end up training them to  be a factory worker.

We need to be focussed on the individual….not the product.

This year, 7 governments have voted on the universal basic income Finland (guaranteed $2000 a month)……Switzerland has asked ‘ what would you do if your income were taken care of?”   WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO?  needs to be answered.

Screen Shot 2016-09-30 at 6.16.54 am.png

Traditional Model

1 teacher responsible for the whole class – usual model

21st century model 

All the layers have to shift so that the individual learners see themselves as being responsible for their own learning.

21st century school in 20th century buildings

Blog Post on Leadership by Richard with useful links to Ted talks etc.

Hobsonville Schools – NZ  “You have to lead with the community” and make it clear that    “it looks scary because it doesn’t look anything like you did at school”.

  • Kids – what is their mindset?   I am here to better myself  OR I am here to do work – because school was designed to create factory workers.    
  • NZ – the future is that every learner will plan their whole year.   No exams.  This is in 5 yrs time.   
  • Students often ask …”IS THIS ENOUGH?” and this is because they don’t see themselves in their work .  Another one:    “IS THIS IN THE TEST?”

Students who manage themselves are enterprising, resourceful,reliable and resilient.

They establish:

personal goals

make plans

manage project

set high standards

Recently at a conference in NZ – various schools were asked to present and each one, independently, chose Learner Agency  as the theme of each of their presentations.

Strategies for schools to initiate and manage change:

  • start with learner voice
  • start with the top students – the high performers – get their voices – they will be the compliant high performers.   We need to let the high performers fly.   Students have turned up because they have to.
    • Get some quotes from kids.   –  Examples from Richards students when he went searching:  top Yr 7 student     “They have templated inquiry”   “I started my journey to head girl in Yr 7”  “I made it to head boy because I make my bed”

Because girls are compliant – they perform better because our systems encourage compliance.   We should be looking for independence rather than compliance.  We are still stuck in ‘teacher issued’ education and a major part of change is simply getting adults to have faith in kids.

Screen Shot 2016-09-30 at 6.25.40 am.png

Key elements –

Parents  (Why)    

Student Voice (top students)

Independence and adaptability

Faith in young people  (christchurch earthquake example)    #eqnz

Teach Process (How might we….?)  Design thinking can be one option.

Managing self

Teacher PD – visit schools

How to make learning visible?

Teach resilience

GOALS, TASKS, RELATE

When a teacher talks this is what happens:

Screen Shot 2016-09-30 at 6.27.07 am.png

IDEA: “flip your teaching and then make learning active and personal for all”.

HOW MIGHT WE……..Why is this such a powerful phrase?

how – optimistic word

might – no correct answer

we – collaborative

SPACE    TIME   STAFF

IDEA – A week on design thinking at the beginning of the year.   Fun and nonsensical version  of design thinking so they have the process in their minds.

What can I do today??   What is my life going to be after school?

drawtoast.com – use this for some great resources for design thinking.

Learning must be visible 

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-6-29-32-am

We need to provide kids with tools to track and discuss their own progress etc.

The teacher’s job should be to develop the individual to be able to set their own goals and monitor their own learnings.      Kids should know what to do when they are stuck….they should have strategies similar to the reading strategies that kids in JP know.

Idea – buy portable whiteboards and line the walls with them.   Make every wall an active space.   Get them to not sit down – spend an hour standing

Look further at:

Hobsonville Point Schools

Breens School

Look at solo taxonomy.

EdTech, Pedagogy and the Vision

unsplash2

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:

13716152_1158676914175490_5127182425037940679_n

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.

 

Change or Stagnate?

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 5.25.59 am.png

But stagnating is easy…..isn’t it?

And change is not – especially when people often are weary of change – change that they think happens simply for the sake of change.

And does interest matter?  Does engagement matter?  Does the identity of each child in front of you matter? Do their questions matter?

Do they?

And if we say that these things do matter……

How do we strike that balance – the balance between getting through the ‘stuff’ we need them to learn and allowing their interests, passions and identify to play a part in learning?  How do we strike the balance between the content that we think they need to understand before we let them design, create, innovate and problem-solve.   When is it that greater importance will be placed on the latter before the former?

Does this not mean that we start by not knowing where we might go and what we might learn? Does this not mean co-designing the learning?

I feel so much tension between these two facets right now in education.  But maybe to feel that tension means that change is in the air.  Maybe, without that tension, we stagnate and put up with being just good enough.  And being just good enough means, to me, doing things the way they have always been done.

And change is hard.   It’s oh so hard.

School improvement – how can we continue to meander along a path towards only the improvements that are measurable and visible and those that make us accountable?  Shouldn’t school improvement be bigger than this? Shouldn’t we be striving to discover the new things that we haven’t known about before that possibly are going to be the strategies of the future that become the dependable and proven strategies?   Are we being driven by the wrong drivers in school improvement?

I like to read Fullan when I’m feeling a bit unsure of that stance I am taking or when I am thinking that my intuitive feelings need some kind of theoretical backing.  This article is great as Michael talks about whole systems (and he uses Australian and the US as examples) working towards whole system reform and then selecting strategies that have the least likely chance of achieving that reform.   Australia – being driven by the lofty ideals of the Melbourne Declaration and then putting in place strategies that at best, tighten some looseness whilst doing nothing to change the essential culture of schools.

http://edsource.org/wp-content/uploads/Fullan-Wrong-Drivers1.pdf

And that’s what we need to do…..change the culture…..but to change the culture we have to change mindsets and mindsets are so rooted in experience…..and so we need to change people’s experiences but that requires a growth mindset.  And what if that isn’t present?  What if people think what they are doing is already good enough? What if they are so busy doing what needs to be done that there’s no question that it isn’t the most worthy path?  What if they think that being reflective and making changes based on those reflections is beneath them?

There’s a lot of ‘buts’ in that sentence.     It’s a huge risk, isn’t it – to change what we have always done.   But there’s oh so much to gain.

Break the cycle……hmmmm……