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:

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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!

Reflections on a professional reading – Take 2

Ok, so I’ve found it challenging to find the time (or, perhaps, more truthfully, prioritise the time…) to continue to read NZCER’s report “Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective”.  But!  I’m nearly through, so I thought I’d take the time to reflect on the five further themes which the report links to “contemporary views of learning for the 21st century: (p. 9).  And as a reminder, the full six are:

  1. Personalising learning
  2. New views of equity, diversity and inclusivity
  3. A curriculum that uses knowledge to develop learning capacity
  4. ‘Changing the script’: Rethinking learners’ and teachers’ roles
  5. A culture of continuous learning for teachers and educational leaders
  6. New kinds of partnerships and relationships: Schools no longer siloed from the community (pp. 9-10)

I’m intrigued by the idea of ‘diversity’, which, as the report rightly captures, has been dominated in New Zealand schools by definitions of equity, or reducing disparity between different ethnic, in particular, groups.  The report doesn’t downplay this approach, but rather, I think, shifts the focus from a negative to a positive perspective, calling for ways in which differences are seen as valued as they allow for ideas and problems to be seen in different lights, from different points of view.  Overall, the concept of educating for diversity, I think is key.  We must be able to engage with “people from cultural, religious and/or linguistic backgrounds or world views that are very different” from our own (p. 25), and we must be able to engage with a diversity of ideas (p. 25).  I love this, and find it sits comfortably with my personal values and beliefs.

Theme 3 is centred around shifting the concept of knowledge from one of knowledge as “content or ‘stuff'” to “something that does stuff” (p. 31).  I think this is a huge challenge for secondary school teachers, in particular, whose core business has been imparting knowledge – filling the empty vessel analogy.  The idea of knowledge as a verb, or that “knowledge is about creating knowledge and using knowledge” (p. 32) may be comfortable in theory, but to put into practice is less straight-forward and clear-cut.  This is where inquiry-based learning, learning how to learn, and learning how to work with ideas and people, seems to me to come into play.  Working in a cross-curricula fashion in order to learn transferable skills will become important.

The fourth theme, focused on the shifting or rethinking of teacher and student roles, I’m gratified to see, is something I’ve considered already on this blog here.  I actually really like that this entire report seems only to use the word ‘learner’.  I think we should remember that this applies equally to ‘students’ and ‘teachers’ as we all seek to embrace learning about, in, and through a ‘future-oriented’ lens.

Indeed, this feeds well into the fifth theme of continuous learning.  The NZC speaks of creating ‘life-long learners’, and many schools have adopted this into their vision for their students.  However, equally, teachers must see themselves as ‘life-long learners’ – and not just in terms of their specific knowledge, or learning, area, but of pedagogy as well.  “21st century teachers need to be able to think about knowledge as a tool to do things with” (p. 46).  This strikes me as being akin to the extended abstract end of the SOLO taxonomy that Marsden has been working with for a number of years.  Teachers, with their subject-specific expertise need themselves to be able to think in a meta-cognitive kind of way about their subject and the ways in which the knowledge can be accessed, categorised, and linked.

Finally (for now ;)) is the sixth theme of forging community partnerships.  I like the two-fold rationale here –  firstly around providing authentic learning contexts, but also because these school-community connections will help to stimulate “real community understanding of and support for future-oriented ideas” which will be needed “if schools are to achieve the required shift in focus” (p. 49)

This (along with the previous blog post) form my reflection on the six themes outlined.  There’s still a wee bit more to go, so bear with me as I explore the final ten pages…!