Sunday, March 31, 2013

3Rs and 3Cs and encouraging students to be problem finders

Over the past few weeks I've been digging into design thinking and trying to learn more about it and how it can be used in education.   One of the questions that I had, which was answered by a keynote from Ewan McIntosh at the Design Thinking School in Wellington, New Zealand was this: can we take the lessons we have learned about creative people in businesses/companies and use these to encourage creativity in education?

Ewan discussed the traits of creative people:
  • All creative people know why they are doing what they are doing
  • They are agents provocateurs - you can't be creative if you stay in the status quo.  
  • They have a process and trust the process and use it when times are hard.  
  • These people live to perform and want to share what they have.
He then went on to talk about the work of Professor Guy Claxton and his work around the 6 pillars to make learning interesting which he called the 3Rs and the 3Cs:

  • Challenge - students want things to be difficult as this is where learning occurs.  A great example is that of video games which have the zone of proximal development coded into them so you are constantly learning how to play the game and get better at it. 
  • Collaborative - in the creative industry everyone is collaborative, schools need to encourage this.
  • Responsibility - students need to be responsible for their own learning - you can't do your most creative thinking when you have someone making decisions for you or if the only point of the learning is that it will be on the test.
  • Respect - students want respect for their creative ideas - especially those that are "off the scale".  
  • Real things - tacking real problems is motivating for students, "pseudo-problems" come across as stupid/pointless and get in the way of learning.  They are not experiential.  Interestingly enough I'm in the middle of an online course with Bernajean Porter and we are looking at student projects to determine rigor and it occurs to me that one of the problems we come across a lot in schools is this issue of "pseudo-problems" which make it difficult for students to be really rigorous in their thinking.
  • Choice - we need between 3 and 20 choices - more than this is overwhelming.  When you undertake projects you need to give students at least 3 choices.  Thinking further on this reminded me of the choices we gave our students for their Independent Studies projects - starting with 3 options in Grade 3 and working up to around 10 - 15 choices by Grade 5.
The next part of the keynote dealt with finding the time to do these challenging, collaborative, authentic tasks.  This made me think of a summer workshop I did at Project Zero which made me question (and throw out) more than half of the activities/pseudo-problems that I'd been using as learning engagements up to that point.   Ewan said that often when you look at a curriculum you see a lot of repetition/duplication (because students may never have really learned using experience so could not apply it).  When you remove the duplication it creates a lot of space and you are left with the essential things that it is important to do.

Ewan went on to talk about provocations which is something that we use a lot in the PYP programme of inquiry to get students engaged in the units - or as Ewan said to make the unit tantalizing.  He talked about how we should not be aiming for incremental improvement but for transformation, and then spoke about the SAMR model, which I used a lot in my last school to talk about how technology can transform learning.  He also talked about the importance of teachers designing open ended tasks and how it is important that the questions that are asked are not Googleable.   All of this made me think about the design of our units of inquiry - how it's important not to give students the answers in the subject/central idea and how teachers really shouldn't come up with the questions.  He had a great idea of asking all students to write their questions and then divide them into Googleable and non-Googleable.  By all means go and find out the Googleable stuff, but the most valuable time should be spent on the un-Googleable ones - that's the rich learning.  He also spoke about Problem Based Learning, most of which he said is Googleable as it is about solving problems.  Yet the really creative people are not problem solvers - they are the ones who have an eye and skills to be problem finders - they find the problem that nobody else has and then design a solution to it.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Practice and Feedback

We talk a lot as teachers about preparing students for real life.  We talk about practice and how most things get easier with practice and with immediate feedback after each attempt (which is one of the reasons why games are so successful in helping you to learn).  Another example I came across recently is that of golfing - if you practice and watch the ball as it travels towards the hole you learn the connection between how hard to hit it and how far it will go.  You can then adjust your technique until you can accurately hit the ball into the hole.  If, however, you simply hit the ball but never saw where it ended up (no feedback), then you could continue to hit balls all day without improving.  Practice without feedback, doesn't always make perfect!

Many of the most important decisions we make in our lives are like that - we don't know where the ball is going to end up and we don't have lots of practice so don't get much feedback.  All sorts of important decisions that we usually make only once or twice, such as what university to go to, who to marry, what career to go into, where to live, are those that we cannot really practice.  We can make a choice and then sometimes find out it is the wrong choice - we can certainly get feedback on that - but we never get feedback on the alternative choices that we did not make.

I'm thinking that probably we should encourage more experimentation at school, so that students can explore more options and come to know themselves better.  I've been involved in an R&D team that has been investigating internships recently and one of the positive things that could come out of such an experience is that students have a better idea of whether this profession or industry is really a good career choice for them or not.  If it is, hopefully it helps them in narrowing down their choice of subjects to study for their IB diploma and then later at university.  If not, then there is still time to explore other options or simply make a choice to study a broader range of subjects in order to keep their options open.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Stages of Personalized Learning

This morning I listened to another webinar in the series I'm following with Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey.  This webinar looked at different places/countries and people that are trying out personalized learning and also discussed the various stages that a teacher or a school may go through when trying to personalize the learning for all students.

The last part of the webinar looked at moving from a traditional teacher-centred approach with direct instruction towards a situation where the learning is student-driven with teachers as partners in the learning.  Along this continuum are the following stages:
  1. Teacher-centred, but giving the learners voice and choice:  In this stage it is the teacher who designs the environment for groups and individuals, and the teacher who designs the learning engagements, taking account of the students' choices.  The students work with the teacher to create their own goals and help design their learning plans and how they will express their understanding.
  2. Learner-centred, with students and teachers co-designing the learning: In this stage teachers and students co-create personal learning plans, devise rubrics to measure understanding and both teachers and students keep ePortfolios of their learning.
  3. Learner-driven, with the teacher as a mentor/facilitator:  these learning environments are inquiry driven, learning is about the students' questions and much of the investigation is online, therefore teachers must ensure that students have the necessary digital literacy skills to find the information that they are seeking.  Students select the appropriate resources for their learning and are therefore more engaged and motivated.  They know their strengths and weaknesses so are able to work at their own pace and reflect on their learning.  Learning is more likely to be "anytime, anywhere" and not confined to specific locations or times.  Students design their own projects, decide how they will show their understanding and how this will be assessed.
Where are we at the moment?  Well, I think it varies.  In Independent Studies in Grades 3-5, the Curiosity Project and 20% time in Grade 2 and during the PYP Exhibition in Grade 5 I think we are very much learner-centred and at times even learner-driven.  There are also a number of units of inquiry in various grades where students have a great deal of voice and choice.  As teachers at ASB learn more about personalized learning, I can imagine quite rapid shifts through these stages.  Often it is simply a mindset change - giving up the idea that everyone should be doing the same thing at the same time, and embracing just-in-time learning that is anywhere and anytime.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Digging deeper into Design Thinking

After yesterday's post I wanted to read a little more about the design process.  All my notes below are based on reading further in Design Thinking for Education, which has a creative commons license.

What is discovery?  How can you encourage it?

  • Open up to new opportunities
  • Be inspired to create new ideas
  • Share what you know so you can build on it and can focus on discovering what you don't yet know.
  • Create a strong team by drawing on different people and putting effort into understanding their skills and motivations
  • Learn from multiple people's perspectives and explore the unfamiliar
  • "Inspiration is the fuel for your ideas"
What is ideation?  How can you use it?
  • Brainstorm to generate lots of ideas
  • Encourage wild ideas which often spark visionary thoughts
What is experimentation?  How do you bring ideas to life?
  • Make ideas tangible by building prototypes
  • Learn while building
  • Share your ideas

What areas in school could benefit from design thinking?
  • Building a community
  • Transportation to and from school including pickups and dropoffs
  • Communication within the school and with parents
  • Different learning styles
  • Different abilities
  • The school cafeteria
  • Professional development
  • Assessments
  • School schedules
  • Using the learning spaces
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

What is Design Thinking?

Since I've become a member of the Design Thinking team at school, I've been reading about what it is and how it can be used in education.  Here are some initial thoughts:
  • It is an intentional process to get to new solutions
  • It's a mindset - you see challenges as opportunities for design
  • It starts with the needs of people
  • It's collaborative and pulls from multiple perspectives
  • It involves creating change
  • It's experimental - it encourages you to try and fail and learn from your mistakes
  • It's having the confidence to know that you can do things in a better way
Although there are probably many different ways of designing, here is one process that I've found (this is taken from Design Thinking for Educators which can be downloaded from here):
  1. Discovery- understanding the challenge/research
  2. Interpretation - observe and learn
  3. Ideation - generate ideas/brainstorm
  4. Experimentation - building prototypes
  5. Evolution - refine your ideas, develop the concept
As I dig deeper into Design Thinking there will be lots more thinking and lots more posts.  Stay tuned!

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Organizations and People

What attracted me to my current job?  I think the most important thing that I heard was this:  we hire excellent people and make them even better.  I've written before about the importance of being valued in order to add value.  Now I'm considering how the best and most innovative companies find employees.  Is this also what the best and most innovative schools are looking for?

In The Innovators's DNA I'm reading about what innovative companies are looking for when hiring:

  • People who have a track record of discovery- skills
  • People who have a deep knowledge in one area and a breadth in others (called a T-shaped knowledge profile)
  • A passion to change the world and make a difference.
Virgin's Richard Branson describes those people as being "honest, cheeky, questioning, amusing, disruptive, intelligent and restless".  I really like this list and I'm wondering how many employers/schools really value these things and seek them out during the recruitment process.  Many would not really want their teachers to be cheeky or questioning, and they certainly wouldn't want them to be disruptive.  (This is not really surprising, however as many heads of school were once teachers, and they certainly wouldn't have wanted a class of cheeky, disruptive and restless students!)

What I have come to realize over the past 4 years or so is that in excellent schools, even average teachers can improve and become good.  The opposite is also true.  In mediocre schools, excellent teachers can become average - or worse.  Studies have shown that employees who move to less good organizations than where they came from can show a decline in performance that lasts 5 years.  Moving is always hard and even moving from one good school to another can result in a dip in performance that lasts up to 2 years.  Years ago I heard a school leader say that in the first year at a new school, the school gives more to the teacher than it gets back, in the second year it manages to break even and it's not until the 3rd year that the teacher starts to give more back to the school that it has got.  This is one reason why many schools don't like a rapid turnover of staff, and for international teachers it's one reason why many don't choose to move on every 2 years - it's just too hard.

I was interested to read about the crucial role that an organization plays in an employee's performance - some organizations and schools are successful because of a focus on training, mentoring and support.  This is the conclusion:  it isn't just people who make organizations perform better.  The organization - its processes and philosophies - can also make people perform better.

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

The courage-to-innovate attitude

Here is an interesting thing I read today in The Innovator's DNA about the attitudes of the world's most innovative companies to organizational discovery.

The four guiding philosophies that imbue employees with the courage to try out new ideas:

  1. innovation is everyone's job
  2. disruptive innovation is part of our innovation portfolio
  3. deploy lots of small, properly organized innovation project teams
  4. take smart risks in the pursuit of innovation
People are a huge part of what make innovation successful, and the most innovative companies in the world have leaders who are themselves innovators and who are hiring "discovery-driven" people.  The combination of these people leads to "innovation synergies" as people learn from and support each other.  Innovative companies hire and staff teams with people who possess different types of expertise so that the team or organization can view and solve problems from very wide angles.  Reflecting on our Design Thinking team we are extremely different:  two of us work in elementary, one in middle school and three in high school.  We have on our team an elementary homeroom teacher, two tech coordinators, a scientist, an artist and a social studies/philosopher.  We have 3 men and 3 women.  We have 3 Americans, 1 Canadian, 1 Australian and 1 Brit.  We have single people, married people, divorced people, people with children at school, people with adult children who have left school and people with no children. What we share is the courage to innovate and to make our school the best it can be.  In July we're off to the Henry Ford Learning Institute in Detroit to do a Design Thinking workshop.  I'm really looking forward to working in this team.

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Design Thinking for PD

I was participating in a Design Thinking meeting last week and one of our challenges was to design a new model for PD.  It's something I've been reflecting on since my trip to Japan last weekend, as we had a lot of PD in a very non-traditional format (we basically learned by doing - it was a great example of project based learning).  When I first started teaching in the 1980s, PD was confined to a day or two of an off-campus course, or perhaps a conference that could be attended once every few years or a consultant who was brought in to give PD to the whole staff for a couple of days.  Nowadays, with the rise of online workshops, MOOCs, online conferences and so on, much of which is free, PD is looking very different - and it can happen all the time.

A statistic quoted at the start of the year by our Superintendent was this:  only 5% of what teachers learn in large PD settings (conferences, workshops) is used practically on their return to school.  I'm not sure if that's exactly what he said, but it's the gist of it.  As a Design Thinking team responsible for funding PD, this was certainly a concern of ours - since it would appear the money could be put to better use than just sending people away or giving an allowance for them to attend conferences.  One of the things I've noticed with students is that "just in time" learning works really well - could this model also be used for teachers?  Is it better to learn things in small chunks, then to have the time to practice it, before another small chunk is learned?  This changes the role of the person giving the PD into more of a coach or mentor as PD is embedded into teaching practice and time is dedicated every single week to learning and implementing something new.

One of the things our DT group discussed is the need for more "on the job" PD, as opposed to flying off to another city or country for it.  In this case, could the PD budget be better spent on employing a couple more people whose job it was to offer such coaching?

Today I started another online course through ASB's Online Academy.  This is the second course I've done with the OA and it's a very convenient way of learning - at my own time and at my own pace.  Although I have found that I don't often need face-to-face instruction in order to learn, one of the things I have discovered is that I need to feel a sense of community with the other participants who I don't actually see/meet.  Some months ago I did a course where I didn't interact at all with any other participant - I didn't enjoy this, but I learned from it so when facilitating the online courses I now run for the IBO I make sure that I get everyone interacting.  Having a sense of community is important to developing trust and being able to post and reflect openly on the challenges we face in implementing the PYP in our various schools.  At school we also have a cohort of teachers who are working towards a Masters Degree in Leadership.  Although most of the course is online, I think it helps that they can interact face-to-face too.

As I reflected recently on the Flat Classroom Conference, one of the great things was learning from each other.  We did this using an activity called Web 2 Kung Fu.  A similar thing happened at the recent Google Summit that ASB hosted, we did a Google Slam session where members of the audience could stand up and have 2 minutes to share a favourite tip or trick.   Another type of PD I participated in at the Google Teacher Academy in London in 2010 was an Unconference day - where we turned up ready to present something and then we voted with our feet as to which session to attend.  As I'm now involved in planning for our 1:1 Learning Institute for new teachers next month, I'm also adding in a "speed-geeking" session where teachers will rotate to a choice of 4 different stations over an hour to have a 15 minute introduction to 4 different tools.  For us this will be combined with the fact that each of the teachers at the Institute will have to make a presentation on the last day - hopefully these sessions will provide the "just in time" learning they will need to complete their projects.

ASB Un-Plugged 2015 will be a Design Thinking conference.  Over the next 18 months, you are likely to read much more about this as I reflect on this blog.  At the moment I know very little about Design Thinking, but I'm sure that my understanding of it will grow and develop.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Being visible

In Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis write that "collaborative learning starts with reliable and responsible contribution".  That it's important to be visible online and to contribute content to others around the world.  This is the thing that many educators don't understand for both themselves and for their students.  Sometimes it's hard to be visible or perhaps risky to reflect on your practice and to share that reflection.  Sometimes it's difficult to question a policy of not publishing student work, for example, or of blocking certain websites or online activities and tools.  It may be easier to stay quiet, but that's probably not doing the best for our students.  We need to model collaboration, we need to contribute our reflections to help others move forward too.  Julie and Vicki write that "lurking is not an option in global collaboration because collaboration is an activity requiring participation from all involved:  you can't collaborate alone!"

In this section of the book I read about the 90-9-1 principle for social networking communities:

  • 90% of community members watch but do not actively participate
  • 9% show some activity
  • 1% creates or contributes content
This is where we need to be - we need to be pushing that 1% higher, contributing and collaborating more.

I've been in Japan this weekend, and interestingly enough I've come across a new Japanese word in the Flat Classroom book:  kaizen - which means slow, steady improvement in Japanese.  In order to achieve kaizen, we need to reflect, then choose and plan for improvement.  As Socrates said, "the highest form of human excellence is to question oneself and others."  Schools improve because teachers are reflecting on their practice, they are not happy with the status quo and want to do better, and they reach out to other educators in the global community who can help them do just that.

CQ + PQ > IQ

The title of this post comes from "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman.  Basically this means curiosity plus passion are greater than intelligence:  when a student loves something they will learn more than a naturally gifted student who is unengaged and bored.  I thought about this today as I was presenting to parents about games and the effect of games on the brain.  With so much research out there now about the impact on games on the plasticity of the brain, about how gaming can improve attention and focus and aid in laying down long-term memories, keeping students in "the zone" and encouraging "flow" there is really no excuses for anyone to doubt the impact of technology on learning.   When students are engaged and passionate, when they are motivated to persist and learn through failure, then they are sure to be successful.

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Highlights of the Flat Classroom Leadership Workshop

Last weekend I went to Japan to take part in the Flat Classroom Conference.  It was fast and furious, and showed me just how much can be accomplished when we know there are deadlines.  Below are some of the highlights and take aways for me:
  • On the first day the FCC opened with short presentations from people and organizations who are helping with the clean-up in northern Japan 2 years after the earthquake and tsunami.  I wasn't aware that there was still so much still to be cleared and how many people are still in very temporary housing.  It was stressed that the mental health of the survivors was delicate - so many have lost so much.  This was a great introduction to the theme of the conference "How can we help each other?"
  • I liked the way that on Day 1 students worked in teams and teachers also worked in teams and that we got to pitch our ideas to the different groups.  Our first challenge was to actually identify a problem, and then to come up with a solution.  As students rotated around I heard some amazingly simple and some incredibly complex ideas.  I thought some of the best and most practical ideas were those that decided to start small and then scale up.
  • I enjoyed the bootcamp sessions on making soundscapes and using the editor in YouTube.
  • On Day 2 I really liked my colleague Sharon Brown-Peter's presentation about the impact that the Girl Effect movie had on a student at ASB and how that girl went on to work with a very poor Indian girl from a slum who is supporting her entire family from her earnings as a factory worker.  The documentary she made about this girl's day has recently been picked up by CNN.  The Girl Effect movie has been around for a couple of years but is certainly worth watching again.
  • Another video that I want to share here was made by one of the teacher groups called 4+1.  I think one of the reasons I found it so interesting is because one of our teachers has just started 20% time with her class.  Her philosophy is: 
    The world is changing at an incredibly fast pace and that change needs to be reflected in the classroom.  She believes that students need to ask questions, access and analyze the answers, apply the learning and assess the process and she has developed a unit that focuses on information fluency.  One day a week students will work on this project and will be taught research skills and shown a variety of different ways that they can share their understanding.  The short video made by the 4+1 teacher team fits perfectly with what Claire is doing in this project:
  • I enjoyed the Kung Fu 2.0.  This was a version of speed-geeking and the aim was to share a tool with another person.  We did this in 2 lines and shared with the person opposite us, then the lines moved on and the next person shared a tool back with us.
  • On Day 3 I enjoyed being in a group with both students and teachers discussing some of the emerging technologies being identified by the Horizon Report K-12.  Because I knew I was giving a presentation to parents the following week on games and gamification, I decided to join this group.  It was really good to work with students in creating a pitch, and good for us to step outside of our teacher roles and actually listen to the "experts" (the students) talking about these technologies.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reflecting on the NETS-Cs (part 4)

This is my final posting about the NETS-Cs and my reflections on how I can best help and support teachers as they integrate technology into their classrooms.  For me I also think that this standard is the most important one on a day to day basis as it deal with teaching, learning and assessments.  I think that if I am able to successfully demonstrate knowledge and skills in these areas, this will have the most impact on student learning.

Teaching, Learning and Assessments:  Technology coaches assist teachers in using technology effectively for assessing student learning, differentiating instruction, and providing rigorous, relevant, and engaging learning experiences for all students.

Specifically this standard calls for the coaching of teachers in and the modeling of the effective use of technology for the following:

  • Design and implementation of technology enhanced learning experiences addressing standards.  This year I've taken the lead in the new Independent Studies sessions in Grades 3-5 where students are given the time to follow their own passions.  I've tried to model the inquiry cycle and how the ICT in the PYP strands can support this (investigate, organize, collaborate, communicate, create and be responsible digital citizens).  As well as this I've helped out with the media lessons in Grades 1 and 2 and modelled and supported teachers in class and with small groups of students.
  • Use a variety of research-based, learner-centred instructional strategies and assessment tools to address diverse needs and interests of all students.  I think I can do better with this and next year I will definitely be trying to introduce more technology differentiation into the summative assessments for each unit of inquiry.  While some grades have definitely encouraged many different ways for students to express their understanding, others have been more comfortable with all students in the grade using the same tool.  My goal is to increase student voice and choice in their assessments.
  • Engagement of students in local and global interdisciplinary units in which technology helps students assume professional roles, research real-world problems, collaborate with others, and produce products that are meaningful and useful to a wide audience.  When I read this through I put a star beside it because I think out of all the standards this one has the most power to transform learning.  While teachers have worked hard on researching real-world problems, I've worked with a number of grades to try to increase global collaboration, sometimes in collecting data and sometimes in sharing our learning.  I think we have a way to go on this, but we are definitely on the right path.
  • Designing technology-enhanced learning experiences that emphasize creativity, higher-order thinking skills and processes, and mental habits of mind.  Creativity is one of our goals this year.  I think I need to be constantly aware in planning meetings as to how we can use technology to encourage creativity.
  • Implement differentiation including adjusting content, process, product and learning environment.  Reflection:  I need to work more with class teachers but also our student services department on this.  We do use technology such as Google Translate to help our students who are learning English.
  • Incorporate research-based best practices when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences.  I think I do a good job of keeping with with the research and of communicating it to teachers in various ways though I think we should be more intentional about this in our planning.
  • Continuously assess student learning and technology literacy by applying a rich variety of formative and summative assessments.  We discuss assessment at our PYP collaborative planning meetings, but again I feel we could do more to increase the variety of assessments.
  • Systematically collect and analyze student achievement data, interpret results, and communicate findings to improve instructional practice and maximize student learning.  Data driven decision making is another of our goals this year and we have involved our students in a number of different assessments that will generate data for us to use.  Apart from giving technical support during the actual testing process (which was all done using a computer), I haven't really been involved much in this and think I definitely need to be more involved next year.
Self-assessing how we are doing as an IT team on implementing the NETS-Cs has certainly been a useful way of reflecting on my evolving role during the first half of the school year.  I'm hoping that I can generate some personal goals from this to help me move forward and support our teachers even more.

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Teacherpreneurship and Technopersonal Skills

Reading on in Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds I've come to an interesting section where the word "teacherpreneur" has been used.  This word, a combination of teacher and entrepreneur, describes teachers who take initiative and also maybe take risks:  teacherpreneurs are defined as those teachers who are focused on making profitable learning experiences for students through collaboration with other classrooms.  Here is a quote that I find extremely important:
The greatest educational opportunities are not necessarily happening where the most money is being spent, but where the best teacherpreneurs are attracted and empowered.  A successful teacherpreneur makes rich learning experiences for his or her students through innovation and customization .... the most successful teacherpreneurs can be those who sometimes "rock the boat" as they innovate and move ahead.
Let's think about these words.  It's not the money that is important, it's the attitude of the leadership of a school who will attract, employ, support and empower the teachers who want to redefine learning.  The leadership needs to allow teachers to take risks, to reach out and collaborate with colleagues around the world, to reflect critically on what they are doing, to rock the boat in order to make changes for the good of the students' education. Many schools don't want to do this - they simply want teachers who will follow the book, not teacherpreneurs who will rewrite the book.  Teacherpreneurs who lack autonomy, trust and respect will be unhappy in "lose-lose" situations that don't meet their high standards and expectations.  Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis point out that "teachers are accountable for what they are doing in the classroom.  Accountability without authority is a recipe for teacher classroom dysfunction."

Schools who actively seek to employ and encourage teacherpreneurs are very different places culturally, from schools that do not support them.  Not surprisingly, the schools that are employing teacherpreneurs, who are usually very active on teacher collaborative networks and social media sites, are the schools that everyone has heard about on the international circuit - the school's reputation is enhanced by all the innovative things that these teachers are doing which reflects well on the school makes it an attractive place for teachers who are looking for new challenges.  I know of some school leaders who never have to spend a lot of time out of school going to multiple recruitment fairs, because the good teachers simply approach them (and of course because these school leaders are active on the social networks themselves, they already know of these teachers).  Of course I know of other school leaders who seem to spend months every year flying all over the place to numerous recruitment fairs trying to find teachers for their schools.  Although you would think that the time that was spent on recruitment would pay dividends in the quality of teachers recruited, in mediocre schools this is often not the case as good teachers move on quickly from places that are not stimulating and supportive, and with a high turnover of staff the leadership team is constantly on the recruitment trail.

The second new word I've encountered in my reading is "technopersonal skills".  Since we now use technology to communicate, new literacies have to be developed through collaboration and networking.  I was interested to read that the words we use are only 7% of communication - face, voice and body language are the rest.  Students who only know how to type and spell-check are operating at 7% capacity in online communication - the context of technopersonal communications also includes things like embedded multimedia. Technpersonal skills and media literacies allow people to communicate effectively using technology, and are an important life skills for students to develop.

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Saturday, March 2, 2013

The connection between global collaboration and tech integration

In a few days I'll be setting off for Yokohama for the Flat Classroom Leadership Workshop.  I'm excited about this for many reasons:  firstly I've been interested in getting involved in Flat Classroom projects for a number of years but this is the first time I've been given the opportunity to explore the methods and strategies for leading an this international global project.  Secondly I've never been to Japan before and so I'm looking forward to immersing myself in a totally different culture.  Thirdly there are many old colleagues of mine who are now based in Yokohama.  I'm looking forward to seeing them again and in addition I'm looking forward to meeting up with some other friends and members of my PLN on my stopovers in Hong Kong on the way to and from the workshop.  Finally Flat Classroom will run as a strand in ASB Un-Plugged 2014.  Since we are hosting this, I want to be sure that I understand the pedagogical best practices for this project.

To prepare myself for Flat Classroom, I'm reading back through and reflecting on the Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds book by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis.  This is what I'm thinking about today:
Correlation -v- Causation 
As one looks at global collaboration, one cannot ignore the technology underlying the collaboration.  So as you look at a classroom that is moving rapidly into global collaboration, you will also find a classroom that is rapidly integration technology in potentially novel ways to the students.
Vicki and Julie tell us that "it all starts with you."  The teacher has to create the climate for learning by being a learner him/herself.  One of the things we are encouraged to do is to "surround yourself with the best".  This got me thinking about Twitter - which is how I have connected with educators around the globe.  It also got me thinking about the online conferences and webinars I attend and the online courses I've enrolled in. It is through my use of technology that I have been able to build a PLN and surround myself with these giants in education.  I just looked through the list of the cohort presenters at Flat Classroom and it occurred to me that I know these people - some I've not yet met in person of course, however these are the people that I have connected with and already learned a great deal from and despite the fact that we are located in very different places geographically, because of technology we have been able to connect.

I hope to learn a lot more next week at the Flat Classroom Conference, and I hope to share this learning in turn with a wider global audience through my blog and through my tweets.

Photo Credit: chant0m0 via Compfight cc

Friday, March 1, 2013

Reflecting on the NETS-Cs (part 3)

Over the past few days I've reflected on about half of the National Educational Technology Standards for coaches.  These standards are helping me to think about and self-evaluate my skills and knowledge and my ability to guide and support teachers to integrate technology into the classroom.  The NETS-Cs are vital to the effective implementation of the NETS-Ts, and these are important for the implementation of the NETS-Ss as teachers use technology to "engage students in their learning and help them develop digital age skills" to live in an increasingly global and digital world.  I've already written about content knowledge, digital citizenship and digital age learning, now I'm thinking about visionary leadership and professional development.

At the moment we are involved in a tech audit.  Teachers have been surveyed about their own use of technology to support learning and the curriculum, and they have started to provide artifacts that demonstrate how students are using technology.  It's timely for me, therefore, to consider what support at a tech coordinator I'm able to provide to our teachers.

Visionary Leadership - the development and implementation of a shared vision for the integration of technology to support excellence and to support transformational change.  I'm a little concerned about the word vision if it implies seeing things that others don't.  For me a vision is not enough, it needs to be combined with action.  I've learned that being visionary can be dangerous at times, as you are saying things that others may not want to hear.  Another definition of visionary is a person who is imagining, thinking about or planning for future possibilities.  When combining this with leadership it's important to consider that the leader must be wise and have original ideas about what the future could look like.  Let's first consider our vision:
We envision a world at ASB where purposeful, integrated uses of technology tools inspire creativity and innovation, support continuous inquiry, foster collaboration, enhance learning and achievement in all academic areas, and enable students to develop critical thinking skills, apply information literacy, and manage complexity. We envision a world at ASB where all members of the community understand and model respectful, responsible, and ethical uses of technology in academic, social, and personal contexts.
Visionary leadership in the NETS-Cs  involves 4 main areas:
  • Developing, communicating and sharing the vision
  • Planning, developing, communicating, implementing and evaluating a technology-infused strategic plan
  • Advocating for policies, procedures programs and funding to support the shared vision
  • Implementing structures for initiating and sustaining technology innovations
I'm new to ASB this year, and already a lot of the developing of a vision was done before I arrived, but I think that it's important to always bear in mind the need for sustaining innovation.  Some schools buy the technology and make a shift, get locked into a system and then feel the need to maintain or defend the status quo.  For example I've known schools that have insisted on a single platform, or a single device or the ubiquitous use of a tool such as IWBs.  At the moment I'm hearing from a lot of teachers who have gone over to a 1:1 iPad programme and who are quite evangelical about this change, while I'm looking on from the outside and feeling that this may not be visionary at all, in fact it well be taking a step backwards if the school already had a laptop or netbook programme in place.

I'm lucky that at ASB our structure for initiating innovation is part of the way we have superstructed the school.  I think our R&D team is one that is actively thinking about and planning for the future.

Professional Development - Technology coaches conduct needs assessments, develop technology-related professional learning programs and evaluate the impact on instructional practice and student learning.
  • Conduct needs assessments to inform the content and delivery of technology-related professional learning programs.
  • Design, develop and implement technology-rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices
  • Evaluate results of professional learning programs to determine the effectiveness on deepening teacher content knowledge, improving teacher pedagogical skills and/or increasing student learning.
Ongoing professional learning is one of the essential conditions for successful tech integration.  Teachers need technology-related professional learning plans and opportunities and time to practice and share ideas.  At the moment we are collecting and assessing student artifacts, which indicate the opportunities given to our students to use technology to support and enhance their learning and to develop 21st century skills.  Once we analyze the data we will be in a better position to identify any gaps and to work with teachers to design a personal technology PD programme.  We are at the start of this process, but it's an important area that I want to work on once we have collected in all the data and analyzed it.

Photo Credit: Mike Pedroncelli via Compfight cc