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.

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Futures Thinking

Notes from Claire Amos’ “Futures Thinking and The Future of Education”

Video presentation: Futures Thinking, accessed 5/11/13

The best summary of the themes and strands I’ve been observing as I’ve researched.  Claire Amos has done it again!

Common Assumptions about 21st Century Learning

Skills needed:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Information and media fluency

Therefore, Pedagogy needs to shift:

  • Complex communication skills need to be taught, including the development of information and digital fluencies
  • Critical thinking and problem solving skills need to be taught explicitly
  • We need to provide opportunities for collaboration – both face to face and online
  • There needs to be increasing self-direction to encourage creativity and innovation – a move towards student-centred learning

In summary, we need a pedagogy which is at times self-directed, inquiry based, problem-base, personalised yet collaborative, which is supported by blended/digital structures

To achieve this, there needs to be three shifts:

  1. From low level to high level thinking
  2. From analogue to digital
  3. From teacher-directed to student-directed

“Critical thinking, digitally rich and increasing levels of self-direction, will ensure we are developing students who can survive in the knowledge age and flourish in the age of hyperchange.”

We will also therefore need future-focused leadership, which ultimately is change leadership.  The teaching as inquiry model of the New Zealand Curriculum is an effective model of change management.

Modern = Good?

I have just finished reading Claire Amos’ eminently sensible article written for the New Zealand Education Review.  (You can read the whole thing here.)

It seems to me that she really hits the nail on the head when she poses the following question:

“Interestingly, while I value and see huge potential in both MLEs and (student-owned) Learning Technologies, I am also concerned about them. I am concerned that the development of MLEs and the introduction of Learning Technologies can become a bit of a smoke screen and can actually create an illusion of modernity when little has actually changed. I worry that the introduction of these physically palpable and measurable objects will be seen as making a change for the better, when the one thing that really needs to be ‘introduced’ is still lacking: the teacher’s belief that the student is capable of leading their own learning. How do we ensure that MLEs and Learning Technologies don’t actually create the educational equivalent of ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ with old beliefs and teaching approaches being dressed up in hip and groovy clothing?”

This fits in with the challenge I see for my school as move towards BYOD.  It is not about the technology.  Ultimately it is about the pedagogy and that is the change we need to spark in our teachers.  Bean bags and iPads do not necessarily bring about future-focused learning.  And that is a mind shift I still need to wrestle with myself.  But boy, it’s fun thinking!

ULearn 2013 Reflections

Day One:

Love Claire Amos’ talk – e-learning facilitator (actually future learning facilitator) is the role I want to carve for myself at Marsden. I also liked the questions posed by Mary Anne Mills.

Starting places – articulating the essence of Marsden vision to measure possible strategies against, e.g. 3 Cs: communication, creativity, critical thinking
Read, read, and read some more.  Follow up on links, surf web, watch TED talks.
Nut out teaching as inquiry – what do I actually want to achieve in a classroom next year?
Need to realise/keep in mind my context.  Some teachers reluctant. Work on this level.  Can’t expect immediate and whole-hearted buy in.
Lead from the front – model the processes I believe in:
  • Teaching as inquiry
  • NZC – effective pedagogy
  • Future learning principles
Model my own teacher inquiry process. Blog and regular sharing. Don’t bombard with a gazillion websites/tools. Keep reinforcing key principles.  Link to Marsden context and NZC.
If technology is just a tool to help us achieve future learning goals, then be sure to offer strategies that aren’t technology related! Possibly build on techniques that we already/currently use.
Survey staff mid-year to gauge understanding of future learning principles.  Must be able to articulate why the need to shift.  Keep a running record of requests – play with making videos/flipped learning to start to build library of ‘go to’ tools.  Students could also help create these.
Could make videos of cool things already happening in classrooms at Marsden, eg flipped learning.  Make experts of others. Find out what colleagues are doing and highlight this.
Survey students – what do they want their learning to be like? If they could change one thing in the classroom to help them learn better, what would it be? Where do we go right? Where do we go wrong? What are the skills we think we are teaching our students, and what skills do they think they’re learning? If there is a disconnect, why is this so? How can we change that?
Very fun stuff to think about.
Ultimately about being a better teacher and therefore achieving better outcomes for our students.  This is why we went into teaching in the first place.  Love it.
CORE education eFellows?
How can I get on an educational tour?
To do some reading/thinking/learning about collaboration – lots about this at ULearn.

Day Two:

Themes I picked up on today:

  • Have a vision and stick to it
  • Be able to clearly articulate WHY the need for change
  • Feed the hungry, don’t water the stones
  • People need willingness and readiness to change
  • Inspiration from Ghandi: ‘be the change you want to see’
  • Really clear that change must be driven from the top, or at least with significant and positive support from the top. This must be tangibly realised in the form of time and money, e.g. PLD. We must build inquiry model into teacher appraisal.
To think about further:
  • Concept of connectivity and collaboration – implications for students and the classroom.  What do we already do that helps promote collaboration? Group work, literacy circles…how can technology help us do this further? Implications for assessment too.
  • Interweaving future focused learning and NCEA. Choice, asking students what they want to learn, which texts to study from this range that I have knowledge of?
  • Innovations around timetabling and spaces
  • New Marsden arts centre as a future focused space

Day Three:

Session with Karen Melhuish Spencer

  • Lots of sites to check out, but priorities are: joining the virtual learning website, and checking out the elearning framework. Also would like to find and read the 2012 research she referred to.
  • She offered to have a coffee sometime – a great network contact to have, who knows the Marsden context.
  • Smart suggestion – what opportunities does the ‘new’ creativity centre off us as a future learning space? Embarrassingly, hadn’t even considered it myself!
  • Activity to try: Flickr visual concept.
  • Linking IT and SOLO
  • In summary, she really emphasised the same threads of the conference – knowing why you’re doing something, it’s about learning design to meet student needs, not about the “shiny things”.