What happened to the “e” in “eFellow”?

Ah, CORE Education’s eFellowship. The best professional learning experience you can possibly enjoy. I’m wallowing in the challenge, and am grateful beyond words for the opportunity to work alongside such inspirational educators and mentors. And I’ve been wondering: what happened to the ‘e’ in eFellows?

If you look back over previous eFellowship inquiries, there has been a strong bias towards projects that researched the integration of technology to enhance learning. This year though, not so much. Possibly the best fit with the ‘e’ is Richard Wells who has a wonderful inquiry in process looking at social media and connecting previously unconnected educators. However the rest of the projects are as fabulously diverse as their researchers. Is this lack of ‘e’ a problem?

Obviously I can’t speak for the CORE Education Charitable Trust who, extremely generously, funds the eFellowship programme, but I don’t personally think so. To me, it’s a bit like the argument I put forth here, that the ‘e’ is essentially now redundant. For innovative, future-focused (and yes, I realise the irony of saying that) educators, the ‘e’ is a given. Maybe what I’m saying is actually echoed in the fourth of CORE’s Ten Trends: Digital Convergence: “The concept of digital convergence refers to the merging of previously discrete and separately used technologies, as well as the almost ‘invisible’ integration and use of technologies as a part of our everyday life.”  

Because, for many of us eFellows, we simply wouldn’t be able to carry out as effective a research inquiry without the ‘e’ tools we’re employing. I’m thinking of Vivita’s use of AR in supporting her deaf learners, of Steve’s international research into design thinking – reaching out to Australia and the US. And even me, using tools like Teachmeet, Padlet and Google Forms to gain feedback from my teachers. The technology enhances our research and is intertwined with what we do. The ‘e’ is ubiquitous.

However, I wouldn’t want the ‘e’ to be dropped from the title. I think it is still crucial to keep being ‘e’ focused. It foregrounds the way the eFellows work, both in terms of conducting their own inquiries, and also with our mentors in between hui. It is also an important point of difference to other fellowship programmes. Perhaps what I’m trying to say is that it’s a measure of success for the CORE Education eFellowship because now the ‘e’ just is.

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My Inquiry

In this blogpost, I thought I would look to capture the essence of my CORE eFellow inquiry. It’s fitting for me to do this now, as my research proper will get underway on Wednesday, with the first ever intake of postgrads into the Wellington branch of The Mind Lab by Unitec starting (squee!).

mind lab by unitec_small

I’m asking for help from the postgrads to inquire into my own teaching practice. I would describe this as a Design Thinking pedagogy. On a really small scale, I want to cut any direct instruction time by me to 15 minutes. On a much larger, more significant scale, I want to ensure that I promote discussions around an overarching question or provocation, enable the playing with ideas, and a chance to reflect on education in New Zealand on a systemic, but also a personal classroom, level.

I want to do this in a respectful, empathetic way. I don’t want to make assumptions about why teachers have courageously chosen to make this impressive time commitment to their professional learning. I’m genuinely interested to hear about what’s happening in the classrooms around the greater Wellington region, and the applied learnings that might arise out of participation in the Certificate of Digital and Collaborative Learning.

My belief is that education is about citizenship. I feel a strong moral purpose to do what I can to transform education in New Zealand to better meet the needs of our 21st Century learners. So, in this inquiry I want to investigate how I might employ design thinking principles to invigorate teachers’ professional learning in order to nurture critical and creative citizens. My guiding questions are:

  • How can I use design thinking principles to promote active change in a professional learning context?
  • How can my use of design thinking shift a teacher’s ability to transform their mindset/learning and thus their classroom?
  • What stories of change can I hear from teachers who are inspired by a design thinking mindset?

I’m really looking forward to engaging in this research with the help and support of the Wellington postgrads. Any feedback, thoughts or suggestions are gratefully received. An information sheet about my research is available by clicking here.

Musings on ‘Transformation’

9k=  9k=-1

The eFellows were in Christchurch. For many of us, it was the first visit post-quakes, so a visit to Cathedral Square was mandatory. Little did we know how powerful this walk was to become.

For me, the walk developed into a living metaphor for this second hui of the 2015 CORE Education eFellows. Straight after the walk, our mentor Louise Taylor facilitated a discussion where we unpacked what we had witnessed around the theme of transformation.

That change is messy. It is disruptive, in all senses of the word. That rising out of the ashes could come creative, innovative, human-centred spaces. That it requires resilience.That it requires new relationships to be forged, and it can offer fresh perspectives. That the most effective transformations hold a strong vision at its heart.

The following day, we visited Breens Intermediate School and Te Pa o Raikaihautu. I would like to thank the staff, students and whanau for making us feel so welcome at both schools. The visits were utterly fascinating, and helped me to cement my learning about transformation. In both schools their vision is clearly encapsulated and, more importantly, embodied in their day-to-day way of being. Both schools are unashamedly who they are, and if that’s confronting, that’s okay because it sparks conversation, and out of dialogue comes learning. Both pay testament to the idea that, as principal of Breens, Brian Price, said: ‘Out of crisis comes creativity’.

This statement was to continue to come back to me over the remainder of our visit to Christchurch. At a pot luck dinner with CORE staff and eFellow alumni, I was recounting this to Ali Hughes, who added onto the idea, saying: ‘Creativity and implementation is innovation.’ It’s not enough to have the idea. It must be enacted for innovation to occur. I like this very much, and brings me back to Breens and Te Pa. It’s not enough to have a mission statement, a strategic plan, or a vision for a school. This must be tangible, must be made concrete to be transformative.

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

#Ulearn13 Reflection | Four ideas in evolution

A presenter’s reflection on ULearn, with interesting reflections on her views of the key themes of the conference.  (And you can spot me in the video clip too!)

karen spencer

The #ULearn13  conference last week, for me, was a blur of workshops [check out the end of this post for the full list of my resources] and working with the Social Media team in CORE to blend, integrate and support teachers to look at connecting their practice.

I would have dearly loved to have got along to more of the sessions but, even so, I had plenty of kōrero with an amazing bunch of educators across NZ. Highlights for me were undoubtedly the connections with people:  CORE eFellows ’13, the bandwagon-busting showcase taster from Nat Torkington and the keynotes from Mark Pesce [Google doc] and Dame Anne Salmond – meaty, crunchy, wide in scope, refocusing on the guts of what education is for.

Four ideas in evolution

Having been part of several of these conferences – and blogged about their usefulness as part of…

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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”.