Pockets of Change

I think this will be less of a blogpost than a collection of thoughts I’ve been having about change.

Image Credit: http://crownrelease.tumblr.com/post/64044321883/crgenius-banksy1
Image Credit: http://crownrelease.tumblr.com/post/64044321883/crgenius-banksy1

I guess it’s really struck me recently (I never claimed to be quick on the uptake…) that to be the ‘Future Learning Leader’ at school, I’m actually in the business of promoting change. And not just ‘make sure you take the roll electronically in the first ten minutes of the lesson’ change, but real, fundamental, paradigm-shifting change. And change is hard. And change is scary.

And change meets with resistance.

Lately I’ve been feeling really hopeful. When I sit back and think about my school staffroom, I can identify pockets of change. I can think of a staff member from almost every department within the school who has been making changes to their practice in one way or the other. I don’t necessarily think that I’m the source of the inspiration for those changes, but I can see these bubbles, these pockets arising. I definitely think the #edSMAC PLN group that Matt Nicoll and I set up is also starting to make very small in-roads for a few staff. And I have hope that these various pockets of change will spark yet more change and build momentum.

However, I’d be silly if I didn’t acknowledge that alongside the pockets of change exist discontent and disquiet. I was very aware of this as I hurriedly inhaled my lunch earlier this week sitting amongst a group of staff whose general demeanour was one of despondency. Again, I don’t think the professional learning I co-lead is the sole cause of this morale, but I own that it’s almost certainly a part of it.

And today I listened to this awesome podcast from NPR TED Radio Hour on “Disruptive Leadership”. One of the things that are percolating in my head because of this came from the talk by Bunker Roy. He embraces conflict. He expects that the changes he implements will provoke conflict, because out of conflict will come change. Roy quoted Gandhi (always good if you want validation!): “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” My two takeaways from this then are: conflict is a healthy sign that people are wrestling with change. And: be persistent and resilient. Do not give up in the face of conflict but hold fast to the vision you have.

I was also interested in what Seth Godin had to say. He talked about what leaders have in common. Things like they:

  • challenge the status quo
  • build a culture
  • have curiosity
  • connect people to one another
  • commit to the cause

And I can see the same themes here: challenging the status quo will not come without challenging those who want to maintain the status quo. Being persistent and resilient in the face of resistance requires commitment to your cause.

I don’t have a neat conclusion to this rambling blogpost, except perhaps to say I can see a change is coming, so you may keep your coins.

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Marsden Professional Learning Session 6

Today’s overarching theme was all about collaboration. So, in fitting style, we had co-presenters for our ‘big picture’ pedagogy session. I was really excited that a Technology and a Science teacher were happy to talk about one way they have been integrating technology into their lessons. Some of the real bonuses of this approach were:

  • Highlighting that innovation and risk-taking is happening amongst staff
  • The inquiry-based approach both teachers emphasised
  • The encouragement to ‘give it a go’
  • The resilience both staff members demonstrated: neither implementation went smoothly the first time, but the value is such that it warrants another attempt
  • That teachers were from different subject disciplines

I really can’t thank those teachers enough who are not only prepared to try something new, perhaps out of their comfort zone, but were prepared to make their attempts public. I think this is awesome role-modelling and shows a real growth mindset. So proud!

Here is my presentation to wrap around the showcase:

 

And #edSMAC was born…

My most retweeted tweet is a photograph of a quote from Kristen Swanson’s book Professional Learning in the Digital Age. The quote says:

“I wondered why somebody didn’t do something.

Then I realised, I am somebody.”

– Unknown

I think this captures Claire Amos’ challenge to New Zealand educators to ‘hack their classroom’ this term. I’ve written about accepting this challenge in my 100 Days of Learning log, but I thought it might be more useful to contain all the thoughts together in one ‘proper’ blogpost. So here it is.

I have an ambitious job description. I, along with my wonderful senior manager, have been charged with leading staff into adopting future focused pedagogy. We have gone BYOD with our seniors, and the rest of the school will follow soon. As I’ve outlined previously, to help us in this task staff have been given their own devices from the Board, and we have every staff meeting devoted to professional learning in this area.

When we surveyed staff at the end of last term, the results were pretty positive. The summary is below:PL Survery T1 Q1

PL Survey T1 Q2

PL Survey T1 Q3

PL Survey T1 Q4

(4 is high, 1 is low!)

However, the final graph is, as you can see, a little different. Staff are yet to feel that there is much discernible impact on their classroom pedagogy as a result of the professional learning we have been doing.

My reaction to this is often to swing between ‘it’s early days’ and despair. Which is why I enjoyed Anne Knock’s blogpost so much this week. And especially this graph:

slide1because it makes sense to me that we’re still in a ‘building knowledge’ phase. Mindsets (from ‘fixed’ to ‘growth’ – see Claire Amos again for a great explanation) are shifting for some, but I think that’s still a significant minority at best. So, how to get more staff on board, to realise the potential that future focused pedagogy offers?

Build a PLN.

Niftily, this was the theme of this week’s professional learning. And thus the jump in point for my “hack buddy” Matt Nicoll and I. We decided to hack Claire’s #hackyrclass challenge to a #hackyrstaffroom one! We want to be agents of change.

The plan in progress over this week and next is to connect with a small group of our staff who are interested in building their own professional/personalised learning network. Because we can do this from two schools, we can automatically offer each ‘team’ a ready-made PLN. We are using the hashtag #edSMAC (Samuel Marden Collegiate School, SAndrew’s College) to connect on Twitter.

We’re also surveying the staff to find out what they want from the ‘build your PLN’ project so that we can personalise links, tips and suggestions for what they are wanting.

The theory behind all of this is that if staff can be convinced to look outside their own four walls of their classroom, staffroom, and school, they will be exposed to new ideas that will spark an interest. An ‘ooh, I could try that’ moment. This has the potential to snowball and then – hey presto – a revolution is formed! Not just one individual teacher to hack their class, but a group to hack multiple classes.

Change is hard. But not changing? That’s ultimately harder.

King of Shadows

With my Year 8 English class last term, we embarked on a novel study of Susan Cooper’s book King of Shadows. I’ve taught this novel for a number of years now, so it was time to try something new. Particularly in light of the ‘inquiry’ focus I’m looking to bring to this class. I decided I wanted to have the class make a website to reflect their knowledge and understanding of the text.

In terms of process, the plan I followed was to introduce the class to the kinds of websites students usually go to to access information about texts: Wikipedia, Shmoop, Sparknotes. We thought about what kind of information is on these sites, the language that is used, how the sites are organised and laid out. We considered what someone wanting to know more about our particular novel might be after. This brainstorm eventually generated our ‘to do list’ and the various tasks students completed to generate information for our website.

I did some lessons on digital citizenship. I tried to shift the focus away from the ‘don’t dos’ that the girls could easily and happily recite to me (‘Don’t post mean things’, etc.) and onto making a positive contribution to Internet-land.

We decided on an appropriate time frame, considering that the teacher, as editor, needed time to look over everyone’s work, and that the website designer in the class needed time to upload and format everyone’s work. Students nominated the tasks they most wanted to attack, and the partner they felt they would work well with. I collated this information and allocated tasks on this basis. We also had a go at co-constructing an assessment schedule. And then we went for it!

I was really excited to observe the engagement of the students in the task. They will openly and happily tell you that they didn’t especially love the book, but this didn’t stop them from being thoroughly engrossed in their work. They came into class and got started straight away – no need from prompting by me. They sought very little feedback from me in terms of clarifying their understanding of the task. If they asked, I simply asked a question of them: ‘What do you think someone visiting the website wanting more information about the book will want to know?’ No-one came back for more help after this.

I also liked that no-one blinked an eye when I sent work back to them for a second, third, fourth edit or proof-read. They accepted that if the work was being published for a genuine audience, it needed to be accurate and high quality.

The finished product is here. I’m very proud of what the class produced.

In terms of my reflection, there are two main areas I would want to improve upon if I used an activity like this again:

  • More time on digital citizenship, and to co-ordinate better with the school librarian to deliver this.
  • Better co-construction of the assessment schedule. I don’t know how to do this well, and the way I went about it meant both that the girls lost interest, and we didn’t end up with something they understood or could use to self/peer assess their work.

However, I surveyed the class at the end of the unit, and here are some highlights of what they said:

  • I liked that “everybody had a part, each person was a piece of the puzzle. I also liked the ‘freedom’ of each task and independence.”
  • “I found it interesting how the class is making a website to help others focusing on the book. Not just in NZ but the world.”
  • I got a “better understanding of the book and I quite like the idea of it going ‘live’.”

Marsden Professional Learning Session 5

I was really looking forward to this afternoon’s sessions. Sometimes I feel as though I’m leading learning on something I’ve only just got my head around, and yet seem to be held up as some kind of expert – which couldn’t be further from the truth! But today was different – presenting on PLNs and Twitter – now this is something I’m passionate about, and have wonderful first-hand experiences of 🙂

I’m worried I didn’t really do the topics justice, because I was down-playing my enthusiasm for fear this would put people off. I may have downplayed it a touch too much… However, I think the presentation itself has the right amount of information and, as always, lots of links for people to explore for more learning. I also know that it is as up-to-date as I can possibly make it. I wrote it a week or so ago, but added to it at least twice as I found new blogposts! I’m also pleased that I started with a recap of our school vision, the ‘why’ of technology, and connected today’s learning to the themes of our professional learning sessions from last term. Hopefully this helps to model the kind of practices we want to see in classrooms.

Additionally, I’m feeling ultra grateful to my own PLN this afternoon. I asked for people to tweet me ‘live’ using #MarsdenPL14 to talk about PLNs and why they love Twitter so I could demonstrate the power of Twitter and technology’s ubiquity not just as being powerful for students, but for educators as learners too. And boy did they come through! I was gutted that so few people chose to attend my Twitter workshop (help-sheet here), but it runs again, so I have another opportunity to infect others with the Twitter bug…

Nevertheless, a huge shout-out to my tweeps, the #edchatnz community, and anyone else who tweeted us this afternoon – you guys rock!

hearts