Find your Tribe

Whew. In the insane flurry of last-minute jobs, stresses, emails, worries it’s been hard to find time to relish in the upcoming #edchatNZ conference. But then, an invitation to speak at the conference by our amazing founder Danielle Myburgh prompted me to remember what I’m so passionate about with the #edchatNZ community. And, really, it’s best summed up in this sketchnote by the artistic Sylvia Duckworth:

19007115305_0ea009e64f_b
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

For me, the sound of the first #edchatNZ conference was a squeal of delight – delight in finally meeting the educators you had been connecting with for months, years even, on Twitter. The delight (and frankly, relief) of finding out that you’re not the only one with the crazy ideas that education should be different – and how you might go about invoking this transformation. The delight of meeting fellow edu-nerds and edu-heroes.

At that conference, the running metaphor was one of the ‘lone nut’ and the ‘first follower’. You’ll possibly recognise the phrases from this great TED talk. This time, we have a tribal theme. I get that there are connotations with the word “tribe” and that some aren’t necessarily comfortable with its choice. We have deliberately chosen this because of the sense of connection and community that #edchatNZ gives us.

And, of course, because we’re #edchatNZ, we want more than this. At the conference all attendees have been grouped diversely into “learning tribes”. We want to grow the sense of community into a force to be reckoned with. A grassroots (chalkface?!) community who is empowered and inspired and supported to start change now – not waiting for the government, politicians, policies and the stars to come into the exact right alignment.

Our learning tribes will be facilitated by trained mentors (thanks to the uChoose programme from CORE Education) who will respectfully prompt, probe and promote deep thinking and learning. Behind them sits a Tribal Council (no extinguishing of flames here) to support and coach the mentors. It’s all been purposefully crafted and shaped to maximise personal connections and collaborative learning.

So, fingers crossed! It turns out there’s a lot to relish about the next few days.

I’ve not left teaching, I’ve just left school.

Last night I dreamt I was a primary school principal (male, of course. Don’t you love the weirdness of dreamscapes?!) and I was directing the school show. It was chaos but we were having a ball.

Ah, back to school dreams. (Aside from the obvious complications of never having been a) male b) a primary school teacher c) a principal.)

Except, this year, for the first year since 1999, I haven’t gone back to school.

Some people were shocked when it was announced I was leaving my high school teaching job for a new adventure with The Mind Lab. I do love the classroom. I love being paid to talk books all day. I love teenagers. I love school. And yes, I’m worried that I’ll miss all of those things.

But, these days, I kind of have a bigger picture in mind for education. Being a part of #edchatNZ, and learning through my PLN, and attending conferences like ULearn, has taught me to want more. And shown me that I can play a part in bringing more to New Zealand education.

I think we should be offering a 21st Century education for our 21st Century learners. I believe that the purpose of education is to empower citizens. I believe that design thinking can help to energise and spark a transformation along these lines. I believe that the key to achieving this is by reaching teachers. And I don’t believe I can achieve this from my classroom on the kind of scale I imagine.

I believe assessment is driving education. I believe many of our secondary school learners are impeded by the keeping of learning areas in discrete silos. I believe that a timetable is not just a schedule for ordering the day, but a hiding place for a closed mindset and upholding status quo.

I want change. Wholesale, drastic, transformative change.

So, here’s what I’m doing. I’m helping organise #educampwelly (have you registered yet?!), I’m helping run #WellyED (follow us on Twitter @Welly_ED), I’m a CORE eFellow (as I may have mentioned before), and I’m the Postgrad Programme Director (Wellington) for The Mind Lab by Unitech. And I’m going to change New Zealand education one teacher at a time. I love teaching. I’m an educator by vocation. I just don’t work in school anymore.

Now there’s a dream.

Image source: http://th05.deviantart.net/fs48/PRE/i/2009/192/2/5/Just_a_Dream____by_enricoagostoni.jpg

Word for the Year

learn

Teachers from my previous school may have a wry smile to themselves as to the topic of this blogpost. The school principal frequently starts the year by asking what our ‘word for the year’ is. Personally, I like this approach. I like words, and the power of one word to shape a year is not to be underestimated.

Last year, my word was ‘innovate’. This helped me to remember that I was aiming for more. Better relationships with my students. More meaningful, insightful, authentic learning to occur in my lessons. Ways to integrate technology into my classes that went beyond a $1000 pencil or electronic exercise book.

I find that my word for the year seems to just pop into my head. I don’t go looking for it, it just appears. And if it stays, then I know it’s the word for me, even if it’s word I’d prefer not to have. This ‘sticking power’ is what I find so useful about having a word for the year. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in goals, and in setting down plans and ideas that you wish to accomplish. But I don’t find these as easy to remember, as easy to keep at the forefront of my mind. One word though, now that’s easy.

So, this year’s word? Learn. I like choosing verbs. They’re a call to action. They help me frame what it is I’m doing. I’d probably prefer a more elegant word for 2015. Inspire. Yeah, that’s what I’d rather be doing. But ‘learn’ has stuck. And I’ve already come to appreciate that I need to learn before I can be inspired, or perhaps be lucky enough to inspire others. And I’ve got a lot of learning ahead of me: a CORE Education eFellowship for one thing. And a brand new job with The Mind Lab for another!

A month or so ago I was looking to capture my ‘moonshot‘ for education, using the language of design thinking to frame what I feel my purpose is. It’s still a work in progress, and I’m sure it’ll show up on this blog at some stage. But I’m still wrestling with it. It doesn’t sing to me yet, and it doesn’t have the same stickiness as my word does. And I think that’s primarily because I need to learn more first. As Ewan McIntosh might tell me (I’m reading his book How to Come up with Great Ideas at the moment), I need to immerse myself more yet. To me, this immersion is synonymous with learning. My moonshot can’t be forced. I have a few more questions I need to explore yet. And so, for 2015, I’ll learn.

A Call to Arms!

On Thursday, I attended my very first eduignite session and, actually, delivered a talk.

Here are my slides:

Thanks to Rebbecca Sweeney for her help, encouragement support with this.

The story behind the talk is simply this: I was privileged enough to be on the steering committee of the #edchatNZ conference, held in August at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. Attending the conference itself was an amazing experience, which I’ve written about here and here. And then I came home.

I feel amazing support from my PLN. I am so lucky to connect with like-minded educators up and down the country and even overseas. Some of those like-minded educators are in my school. But I felt – I feel – that there should be a way to experience more support within my own physical community.

I expressed this view on Twitter in early October, and have spoken to a few educators that my ‘real’ aim for enabling #educampwelly to be hosted at Marsden, my school, was to start to build this very community of Wellington educators. When Rebbecca tweeted this to me:

IMG_0176

I felt so validated and understood.

Those of us in the Twitter conversation quickly realised we needed a Connected Educators group in Wellington. We met up briefly at ULearn and agreed this was the case. With the support of others, such as Nathaniel Louwrens, Tara Fagan and Leanne, a decision was made to use the eduignite evening to pitch the idea. Rebbecca put together a Google Doc so educators could register their interest.

The evening of talk I went straight from the offices of CORE Education, our eduignite hosts for the evening, home to participate (of course!) in the #edchatNZ Twitter chat (side note: real doozy – on collaboration with #aussieED). With “encouragement” from the ever-visionary Matt Nicoll, the founder of #edchatNZ, Danielle Myburgh, allowed me to ‘make a special announcement’ – that #WellyED, the Connected Wellington Educators’ Group had been born.

And it has – my Twitter notifications went off! To date, nearly 20 local educators have registered on our Google Doc. Tomorrow, a bunch of us are meeting at a local watering hole to plan #educampwelly – and, no doubt, discuss our burgeoning community. Exciting to say the least!

So, where to next? I have a few ideas, as do others … We’re definitely inspired by the Connected Christchurch group’s blog, and the VLN group of the Connected Rotorua educators. There’s a Wellington Teachers’ Network on Facebook, and Amesbury School kickstarted a Wellington Professional Learning Group. Hopefully, by bringing all these fantastic ideas and people together, we can build a supportive community which will showcase the innovative practice I know is happening in Wellington, and provide warm and demanding critique for educators wanting to be stretched in their thinking.

In my talk I kind of had a ‘cloud’ theme running through it. And you know what? The sky’s the limit!

Pick Me!

This post is my application for a 2015 CORE eFellowship.

#edchatNZ steering committee. L-R: Heather Eccles, Sonya van Schaijik, me, Matt Nicoll, Alyx Gillett, Danielle Myburgh, Mel Moore
#edchatNZ steering committee. L-R: Heather Eccles, Sonya van Schaijik, me, Matt Nicoll, Alyx Gillett, Danielle Myburgh, Mel Moore

My application presentation can be found here.

My Twitter profile
My Twitter profile
The kind words of Steve Mouldey
The kind words of Steve Mouldey

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.

Action Plan – Leading Professional Learning

OK, so the ‘Action Plan’ category of my blog is looking pretty light…but I’m OK with that.  I’ve really been in an information gathering and big-time learning phase.  And while that certainly won’t diminish, I am at a point where I can commit myself to some concrete action!

The first (and potentially biggest – with regards to scale) is the co-leading of entire school professional learning around the ‘whys’ and some of the ‘hows’ of integrating technology into lessons in order to shift pedagogical practice.

My wonderful senior manager and I have formulated this fabulous overview:

Marsden Professional Learning Sessions 2014

Every staff meeting this year (great commitment from the school) will be based around a 20/20/20 model: 20 minutes (probably from me) on the big-picture idea of shifting pedagogy and why we should bother; 20 minutes spent in a self-selected, practical, hands-on workshop; and 20 minutes of reflection, for example updating a professional learning portfolio (commenting on those RTCs!).

I’m feeling very positive and excited about this learning plan.  I’m filled with hope 🙂

What do you do?

Aha!  The principal has approved my self-written job description!  (Gotta love that opportunity.)  So, in answer to all of you wondering what a ‘Future Learning Leader’ does, here you go:

Future Learning Leader

The Future Learning leader will inspire staff to develop a vibrant inquiry, blended learning ethos throughout the school.  As Future Leader the appointee will closely liaise with: the Principal, the Director of Teaching and Learning Systems, HODs and ICT team.

 

The Future Leader will:

a)     Lead and encourage the investigation of new pedagogies and their application in the curriculum.

b)     Be an excellent communicator.

c)     Be competent in the use of ICT.

d)     Demonstrate a commitment to:

  • developing and supporting the implementation of blended learning pedagogies across the range of learning areas.
  • co-ordinating professional learning.

Key Position Tasks of Future Leader:

  1. Lead professional learning in staff meetings to develop FL pedagogies.
  2. Attend HOD meetings to promote FL and blended learning approaches and inquiry practices.
  3. Assist departments and individual staff with FL inquiry and skill-building.
  4. Model or promote best practice examples of FL pedagogies.
  5. Encourage and support the development of personal/professional learning communities.
  6. Contribute to online library of workshops and instructional videos.
  7. Work on other related and relevant tasks as negotiated.

 

*Rubs hands with glee*  Can’t wait!

First client!

Am very excited!  Met this morning with a teacher who wanted to know more about blogging.  I’m feeling thrilled for two key reasons:

  1. I can be seen by staff as someone approachable and as someone who might be able to help
  2. My blog is starting to provoke thinking about ways in which technology might be used to enrich the classroom experience – for staff as as well learners

Prior to our meeting, I had prepared this FYI document: blogging help.  I referred to it as part of the developing discussion, and followed up the meeting by immediately emailing to the teacher.

The responding email was very kind and emphasised to me that I had approached the request for help in the right way:

“You have given me much to think about, not least of which are the ‘Why’ and ‘Who’ questions…”

Fed the hungry?  Hopefully!

First Presentation!

I’ve been asked to do a presentation to the English Department on future learning and how my role as Future Learning Leader might help the department tackle the shift to BYOD next year.  I thought I’d use the opportunity to try some new presentation software.

Getting into haiku deck was a drawn-out process, and I found I couldn’t quite do everything I wanted to – but the final result is, I think, beautiful.  As a learning tool, I think it would be powerful to get students or teachers to really synthesise their ideas down to the core.

Check it out:

http://www.haikudeck.com/p/i2Hu3Kqw8F