This post is my application for a 2015 CORE eFellowship.
My application presentation can be found here.
I think this will be less of a blogpost than a collection of thoughts I’ve been having about change.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
(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:
because 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, St Andrew’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.
First things first – here’s the presentation!
I do love Haiku Deck – beautiful presentations, guilt-free Creative Commons images, minimal text means avoiding inflicting ‘death by PowerPoint’.
And my reflection will simply consist of saying that I was worried that I was presenting to a crowd who weren’t that thrilled to hear the message – especially with numerous network, server, internet and printing issues at present – but the staff seemed genuinely receptive. I am so grateful for the positive feedback I received 🙂 The next presentation won’t seem so daunting!
My fabulous co-presenter and senior manager and I understand from staff that they are pleased to know there’s a clear vision, that time and resources are being devoted to carrying that vision through, and that there is genuine choice for them as learners. Hopefully that’s role modelling for ya 😉
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:
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 🙂
Something I’ve been enjoying is listening to podcasts on my morning walk (Wellington weather permitting…). Friday morning’s podcast was asking whether or not the ‘sage on the stage’ model of teaching was really dead. To be fair, the speakers’ responses clearly indicated that it is not, as they were mostly giving advice on how to move away from direct instructional teaching methods to more guiding or facilitating of students.
Some of the comments I heard really got me thinking and reflecting on my own practice. The comment that had the most impact on me was the thought that many teachers agreed with the need to shift from ‘sage’ to ‘guide’ from an ideological view point, but found it difficult to enact from a practical stand point. Hands up. No, just me then?
This comment really encapsulates my fear when looking to move forward pedagogically next year. I’m in the process of writing programmes for my classes in 2014, but what if they’re not ‘flipped’ enough, or provide enough authentic context, or seek to provoke genuine engagement… And I’m meant to be leading professional learning with this stuff? Yikes!
In a way it’s really difficult to imagine what a student-centred classroom would look like when you’ve never experienced it yourself. I’ve moved so much from when I first started this journey – from being a reluctant adopter, motivated essentially extrinsically due to the fact that my school was moving to BYOD and I would hate to see laptops as expensive electronic exercise books and pens, to being a raving enthusiast. But. I’ve yet to implement any of the stuff I’m likely to advocate.
I guess I just have to live in hope that my fear will be my saving grace. That, as one participant in the podcast said, where there’s a will; there’s a way. I’ll consider the advice I gleaned from the chat: ‘ask, don’t tell’ – how can I pose questions to lead students towards information rather than rely on me for direct instruction? I kind of like the idea of setting the daily homework assignment of students asking a question about their learning every day – preferably in an online environment – which could help me to guide further learning, and, if I track the questions over time, to help me develop question-asking skills in learners. Because, ultimately students don’t need us to be their source of information. They have Google and Wikipedia for that. We need to provoke students into asking their own questions, and to help them find or use the tools to explore their own answers.
A thoughtful reflection on why we should change the curriculum in order to better meet the needs of our superlearners.
Ok! Sound the trumpets! I’ve finished reading the whole NZCER document – it’s here if you need the link again 🙂
Overall, I have to say my head is full and that I have a lot of thinking to do. Luckily, I like thinking!
The final section of the report document reinforces the idea that I’m already a strong supporter of – that technology is just a tool, and that it can be used to teach ‘old school’ if the thought behind the tool isn’t there. I like the diagram on page 56 which outlines that thre must be four interlinked strategies in order to support transformational change through using technology:
Without all four of these things, meaningful, sustainable change is not possible. And these four must be linked to future-oriented learning.
So, in terms of my final thoughts, I’m struck by the following:
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:
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…!
I am in the process of reading through this research report: Supporting Future Oriented Learning and Teaching – NZCER.
I have read the executive summary twice, and find the ‘teacher friendly’ curriculum update really accessible: NZC Update 26. I actually read the executive summary as almost the first piece of initial exploring I did into this area and upon recently re-reading it, it’s amazing how much more sense it makes now! Thus, I’ve been inspired to read the whole kit and caboodle.
The introduction seeks to define ’21st century’ or ‘future’ learning and to capture what the current educational situation is like in New Zealand. While only being a third of the way through the report as a whole at present, something I’m finding consistent and striking is a call for a “system transformation” (p. 9) in order to support every single student to “develop the skills, competencies, knowledge, and understanding required to participate in, and contribute to, our national and global future” (p. 9).
The metaphor that is used to capture this need for systemic shift is that of ‘unbundling’ – taking apart structures in order to reassemble them in newer, more meaningful ways.
I like that the report directly addresses the why of change, and that this response is not just about economy or changing careers, but also about the fact that more is known about how learning occurs, and that there has been a fundamental shift in the way “knowledge is thought about and used” (p. 11). The two supporting tables which explore these latter two concepts on pages 13 and 15 I find particularly useful.
For example: “It is no longer possible to accurately predict exactly which knowledge people will need to draw on as they move through life in the 21st century. It has been argued that students need, among other things, opportunities to build their sense of identity, become self-reliance, critical and creative thinkers, be able to use initiative, be team players and be able to engage in ongoing learning throughout their lives” (Table 2: Old and new views of knowledge, and the implications for schooling, p. 13) for me, this is real confirmation and justification for my focus on what I’ve been calling the ‘3Cs’ of creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.
And: “To learn, people need to be actively engaged – they need to be doing something, thinking something and/or saying something that requires them to actively process, interpret and adapt an experience to a new context or use.” (Table 3: What we know about learning, p. 15). This is calling for thinking and having experiences to think with.
Speaking of thinking – something I need to do more thinking about is the concept of ‘wicked problems’ – I almost certainly will come back to this at a later stage.
Finally, I have just finished reading the section on ‘personalising learning’, which is the first of six “themes” that the report deals with as those “linked with contemporary views of learning for the 21st century” (p. 9).
The distinction that is made between ‘deep’ and ‘shallow’ practice of personalisation has struck a chord with me. I can see that staff in my school are genuinely making steps towards the ‘shallow’ end of personlisation pool: offering “choices about which activity(ies) [students] will undertake to master the knowledge determined by the teacher” (p. 19). This report suggests, of course, that we should be working towards ‘deep’ personalisation where “students’ learning activities and the curriculum/knowledge content they engage with are shaped in ways that reflect the input and interests of students, as well as what teacher know to be important knowledge” (p. 19).
My gut reaction to this was one of guilt – I’ve been kidding myself that offering ‘shallow’ choices to students was allowing for the personalisation of learning. However, I see that we all have to start something – and the intention behind the choices is a genuine one. We can’t go from zero to hero in one fell swoop (to mix a metaphor). I’m also reassured – but need to make sure I don’t use this as an excuse to try ‘deep’ personalisation within my classroom – by the concrete examples of deep personalisation supplied in the report from two New Zealand schools. I particularly like the model outlined on page 23 that comes from Albany Senior High. Here we can see the recurring call for a transformation at a systemic level in practice – ultimately this is what is needed to create genuine transformation.
Now, to keep reading…
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