Sunday, December 28, 2014

A year of professional learning

This is my final blog post as I reflect back on the things I’ve been thinking and learning about in 2014. My biggest learning last year came in the area of coaching, which I have found to be truly transformative. Other ideas that I’ve been exploring over the past year include flipped learning, global trends, technology trends in education and leadership. This post is about professional development and how we have moved forward with professional learning at ASB.

This year in R&D I was part of the task force looking at PD 3.0. We were charged with developing a new model of professional growth and development for schools for the future. The task force began the year by reading about PD and collecting data on what was the current situation with PD at ASB. We did surveys and interviews of our own teachers and leaders, as well as those working in schools around the world, about successful and effective PD practices. During the year we also prototyped a PlayDate model as one form of learning that could be incorporated in a new model. A PlayDate is an unconference where teachers and assistants can get together to explore and play with new technology tools with a view to exploring how to use it with students. We held our first PlayDate in the Elementary School in February and prior to this sent out a survey to find out what everyone was interested in exploring. We came up with 8 different tools or types or technologies and found 8 volunteers to facilitate the learning spaces. The participants were free to choose where to go and when to move between the spaces. They were also able to go to a break-out space with colleagues if the 8 options offered didn't meet their needs. At the end we sent out a survey which resulted in excellent feedback: 98% responded that they had learned something new and 96% said that they want to explore another tool that they did not have time for during the PlayDate. About 40% of our faculty said that after this session they are confident to use at least one app or tool that they have never used before. 74% said it was more engaging than most other PD experiences and 26% said it was the most engaging PD format they have ever experienced. We were very encouraged that many of the responses asked for more - as there are many more tools they wanted to explore. Based on the success of the PlayDate we have held further PlayDates in the Middle and Secondary Schools this year.

In September we presented our PD 3.0 report. One of the things that was central to our proposal was a change of wording: from professional development to professional learning. We also strongly believed that professional learning needs to be personalized. The Professional Learning 3.0 model is a flipped model in which the individual “owns” his or her learning. Learners keep their own records of personal learning throughout the year in the form of blogs, journals, portfolios, videos or other forums to record and reflect upon professional growth. We also felt it is important that each learner develops and maintains a flexible professional learning network. This may include colleagues at their school and others outside the school. These flexible PLNs would naturally change over time along with the learners professional learning needs and pursuits.

One of the suggestions for improving PD is that it needs to be focused around the 4Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. These are not really skills that are focused on by colleges of education/teacher training and so the chances are that many teachers have not had much training in these 21st century skills. One of the things we did over the last year was to review and refigure the roles of our personnel to make them more focused on PD, and this also included the appointment of 10 tech integration coaches. During the 2013-14 school year we had already started to personalized PD based on our previous year’s tech audit. We collected and analyzed student artifacts in order to examine the rigor of technology use, and then we shared this information with our teachers in order to create a PD plan personalized to the needs of each of them. This has been further developed during the past year with the tech integration coaches, who meet individually with each teacher to discuss progress towards goals with the aim of helping them achieve the goals they have set. Peer coaching is something that has proved so far to be very successful. Rather than hiring new personnel, we identified teachers who have the most potential for serving as peer coaches and then trained them as coaches. Generally these coaches have strong communication and collaboration skills and know about best practices in tech integration. We did not expecting them to be experts, they are collaborators and facilitators and most important of all they are co-learners.

This year we have also been talking about ASB as a center for lifelong learning. We pride ourselves on being a center of learning for students, educators and thought leaders from around the world, in an environment where all members are constantly in pursuit of personal and professional growth and development. In addition we have continued to build global communities of learners and researchers through sharing data, content, tools and ideas with colleagues and schools around the world. ASB also hosts a range of educational conferences and learning events, from our Maker Saturdays, TRAI Summits, Global Social Entrepreneurship Summits and TEDx ASB events for students, to conferences such as ASB Un-Plugged, Future Forwards, InspirED and the Google Summits for educators from India and around the world.

Looking back at 2014 I feel that we have come a long way in both our understanding and implementation of professional learning at ASB, and with more PD already planned for 2015, I’m excited that the learning is going on and on.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Reading and thinking about the frontiers in education

This is the 5th in a series of posts about the things I’ve been thinking about and blogging about in 2014. Working at a school like ASB that is so focused on the future, and being part of its R&D team means it’s inevitable that I will be doing a lot of reading about trends that are going to impact education. I already wrote a post about the big world trends such as population increase and distribution that will be likely to impact schools and universities, but now I’m going to write about technologies that are starting to be adopted in schools. Each year I look forward to reading the Horizon Reports, and this year there were also two new reports that focused on different regions of the world. Here is a quick run-through of the trends, identified in the reports, that I thought were worth thinking deeper about.

Higher Education
The Horizon Report for Higher Education usually comes out at the start of the year. I’m always interested to see whether any of the trends that are identified for universities are also being seen in schools. For example many universities are starting to use online environments as part of their courses - and content is being made more dynamic and accessible to increasingly larger numbers of students through MOOCs. For a number of years, schools, too, are seeing students engaging in online courses. The Horizon Report notes that "there is a growing interest in developing tools and algorithms for revealing patterns inherent in data and then applying them to the improvement of instructional systems”. Online learning is a good source of data which can be used by teachers to modify and individualize learning in both schools and universities as technology can help detect patterns of students' successes and failures. Combining data driven analytics and online learning can lead to courses catering to all types of learning styles, leading to more student success.

Universities also face challenges from the rise of social media in learning - these challenges are due to the low digital fluency of university faculty. Yet social networks are continuing to grow and educators need to be sharing links about what is being studied in class with students. The report states that social learning is a key skill for teachers, but notes that while digital media literacy continues to rise in importance in every discipline and profession, very little training is given in digital literacy skills and techniques.

K-12 Education
The Horizon Report for K-12 Education is released mid-year. This year, in addition to some of the trends common to universities, there are some other trends that appear to be more specific to schools, the first of which involves rethinking the roles of teachers in using technology for delivering content, assessing students, collaborating with other teachers, and documenting and reporting on student work. Nowadays many teachers are engaging in professional development using online tools and social media to build learning communities and develop resources. In addition there has been a shift towards deeper learning with students becoming more actively involved in project or challenge based learning and more emphasis on real world application. Flipped learning is becoming more common as teachers are using both the physical and virtual learning environment to extend or rearrange the learning day - with the internet being used to access learning materials at home followed by collaborative group work and project based work at school, where students tackle complex problems and learn how to communicate their findings effectively. We talk a lot at ASB about keeping education relevant. With a number of alternatives growing to formal schooling, the Horizon Report authors argue that schools must rethink the value of education from a student’s perspective, and consider what they provide that cannot be got in any other way - possibly this will involve a consideration of how important it is for students to socialize and participate in extra curricular activities that enrich their minds and bodies.

International Schools and different trends in education in Asia and Europe
In June, when the full Horizon Report K-12 report was published I started considering how these trends are impacting (or, in many cases, have already impacted) education at ASB. BYOD, cloud computing, games and gamification and learning analytics were all identified as important developments coming in the future to schools, though these are already in place at ASB. In October two new Horizon Reports were issued for the first time: one using data from international schools in Asia and the other based on what is happening in schools in Europe. The report on Asian international schools considered sixty different technologies that are likely to become important to international schools in Asia over the coming five years. Cloud computing and mobile apps have already reached mainstream use in many schools, and international schools in Asia are seen as leading the way with creating their own cloud networks to increase access to content from mobile devices. Learning analytics are around 2-3 years away from widespread adoption in Asian international schools, though some individual schools are currently using this technology in the pilot phase.

Makerspaces are technologies being adopted in the near term in Asian international schools though in other regions of the world this has been slower to make an impact on education. Games and gamification are also listed as technologies that all schools will adopt, though the international schools in Asia appear to be incorporating this into school curriculums several years ahead of other world regions.

Another trend that has been identified by international schools in Asia is the shift from students as consumers to students as creators. Rather than learners demonstrating their knowledge of a subject by taking tests and writing papers, they are increasingly being encouraged to create video reflections and bring their creative ideas to life by making new products. As a result, school leaders in Asia are starting to rethink their physical spaces and how the school day is structured to promote more critical thinking and creativity.

On the other hand, the Horizon Report for Europe identifies 2 other major trends as being imminent in schools in Europe: the changing role of teachers as a result of technology and the impact of social media. European schools see students' low digital competence as being a major challenge, in particular when it comes to actively participating in the design of learning activities. The more widespread use of cloud and tablet computing, however, are seen as being the drivers of change.

This year I’ve been interested to explore these trends, along with possible reasons for there being differences in international and national schools, as well as in different regions of the world. For me keeping relevant is the most important thing that educators should be discussing - and let’s hope that these discussions continue to influence education in 2015 too.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Thinking about and exploring flipped learning

This is my fourth blog post about things that I’ve been thinking and writing about in 2014. My first 3 posts were about coaching, global trends that will impact education, and leadership. My final 3 posts are about flipped learning, professional learning and technology trends in schools and universities. This post is about flipped learning.

I got interested in flipped learning this year as I was asked to co-lead an IB workshop in Singapore on the subject. I’d heard about flipping the classroom, but this year a new term came to my attention: flipped learning. The idea behind this is a simple question: what is the best use of face-to-face time in class? The original idea behind the flipped classroom was making video lectures for students to watch at home, rather than listening to the teacher giving the lectures in class, and then using the class time for doing what was traditionally homework. Flipped learning goes a stage further and develops the time spent in class into richer and more meaningful learning experiences (not just “homework”). For me the big difference between the two is that flipping the classroom is more about the teaching, whereas flipped learning is definitely about a learner-centred classroom, with a focus on relationships, personalized learning, developing higher order thinking skills and having the time to allow students to pursue their own curiosities and passions.

During the IB Flipped Classrooms workshop, we were lucky enough to be able to skype with Jon Bergmann who gave us something else to think about. We talked about how in flipped learning students spend time at home watching videos - basically at the remembering and understanding levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and that they spend their time in school working on the more higher order thinking skills, with the teacher’s assistance. However Jon talked with us about moving away from the idea of watching videos and moving towards the idea of interacting with them at home. He shared 2 tools that I had never heard of before, EduCanon and Zaption, that proved to be really useful to our workshop participants.

Teachers at the IB workshop on Flipping Classrooms found flipped learning to be a good way to get through the content that needs to be taught for the external exams - teachers appreciated that they could have the students cover this content at home and then use the in-class time to have students extend their knowledge by following their curiosities. One of our participants talked about how this would give her the time to do the really "exciting stuff" in science in class, without having to worry that she was taking time away from exam preparation.  The reason why many decided to give flipped learning a try was in response to the challenge of too much curriculum to cover, too little time to do it in, and too many students all with different learning paces, styles and needs. 

Flipping the classroom has all sorts of implications. On my return to school after the workshop I started to think about how flipped learning needs to take place in a different sort of learning space. Since it’s no longer necessary to have a classroom focused on one particular area (a whiteboard, TV, projector) because the traditional content that it would have been used for is now being delivered at home, classrooms should be more flexible and arranged so that students are encouraged to collaborate (or perhaps to work alone if that is a student’s preferred learning style).

Back in school again it was time to put flipped learning into practice. Last year our Grade 4s studied different biomes. They started looking at a threatened ecosystem in Mumbai - mangroves - and then did their own investigations on a different world biome of their choice. This year they decided to flip it around. The central idea of this unit is "Ecosystems are complex systems that can be impacted by a variety of factors". We discussed not starting with the ecosystems, but starting with the factors (for example climate change) and then looking at how this could impact ecosystems. I like this change: I think it focuses much more on the "so what" of learning. Of course this also means a broader focus to the unit and we talked about how some of the work on the biomes and ecosystems could be "flipped" to home, so that at school the teachers could focus on discussing and having students understand and explore the big ideas.

Finally towards the end of the year I started to think about flipped learning in relation to teacher professional learning. Our PD day last month did not follow a traditional “sit and get” (we had a PlayDate instead) which got me thinking about how we can flip PD so that it is more individual and self-directed. We already have a LMS at school that allows us to post many “how to” videos. These are about a variety of subjects such as entering exam grades into our student information system, and face-to-face staff meeting time no longer needs to be taken up by such matters. This year we added a “course” for our new tech integration coaches to give them the skills to start coaching teachers. As well as this we maintain a weekly Tech Connections blog where we post ideas for new tools - often with videos of how to use them - for teachers to explore at a time best suited to themselves. I have to say that one of our biggest successes this year is not using our faculty meetings to simply disseminate information, but instead to delve more deeply into best practice. It has also allowed us to make much greater use of the face to face time we have with our colleagues - it allows them to share their expertise and for us all to learn from it.

My thinking about flipped learning has been heavily influenced by this book:
Flipped Learning: Gateway to Student Engagement by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Leadership: half a year of reading, thinking, and sharing ideas

The final few blog posts I’m writing this year are reflecting on the “big thinking” I’ve done throughout 2014. My first "looking back" post was about coaching and my second post was about trends in the world that are likely to impact education. This is my third post and it’s about leadership.

This year I moved into a leadership position when I became Director of Educational Technology. Leadership is something that has fascinated me for a number of years, and when I first arrived at ASB I considered doing a Masters in Educational Leadership. Time and money (lack of both) eventually made me decide against this, but for the past 18 months or so a cohort of teachers at ASB has been going through this degree programme and this month they graduated. It has been interesting to listen to their observations about this programme.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m much more of a “Lonely Planet” type of learner than a “Club Med” package type. I like to pick and choose what I want to learn, and to get recommendations from others along the way. I like all the diversions and exploring things for their own sake, simply because they are interesting.  While I didn’t go through the Master’s programme, there were definitely some modules that seemed worthwhile to me. Luckily ASB gave me the opportunity to be involved in a PLC at school on leadership.

At our first meeting of our Leadership PLC we discussed the factors that influence a school going from good to great. We all agreed that it is important to find and nurture the right people (recruitment and retention) which brought us to a discussion about professional development. We also talked about how important it is to create opportunities for growth within a school - as great leadership most often comes from within. Another factor we considered was what makes us unique at ASB. Quite possibly it is our focus on personalized learning and the way our eyes are focused firmly on the future of education and how we can best prepare ourselves and our students for what is coming. Interestingly enough we have also started to talk about what we really need to stop doing - as well as what we need to start doing. This is hard in an education system that is very resistant to change.

Our next Leadership PLC meeting was about employing the right people who will build excellence for its own sake - those that are dynamic and adaptable - and the importance of a Level 5 leader that will provide the environment where great people will thrive. The idea behind this is that having a great vision, but not having the right people and the right leaders will get you nowhere. It’s also important for leaders to build other leaders so that there is a strong team of equal partners.

Another aspect of leadership is that of change. For a leader to be leading people somewhere, the implication is that things are going to change. I’ve been reading about that too, and how sometimes it is important to focus on changing behaviour, rather than trying to change beliefs. Reflecting on something new that you have done can be a powerful way of learning about what works.  My readings have shown that there are a lot of overlaps between Michael Fullan's work and that of Jim Collins.  Collins refers to Level 5 Leaders as having an unwavering resolve to do what needs to be done, Fullan calls this "resolute leadership" - focusing on a small number of key priorities and staying the course.  Fullan also argues that you also need to have "impressive empathy". There needs to be ownership of change on the part of the people who work in schools, and where there are deep divisions purpose and empathy must be combined to bring about true and lasting change.

Fullan writes that to be a successful change leader it's important to be able to motivate people.  The thing that most motivates people is experiencing success/improvement. Fullan argues that motivation doesn't come first followed by better implementation - it is the accomplishment that comes first that then causes motivation to increase. Fullan writes about something called "motion leadership" for change. In situations of change, motion leaders need first to establish the conditions where people become intrinsically motivated and collectively take ownership of the initiative so that they are committed to keeping it going. 

Our Leadership PLC then moved on to discuss the hedgehog concept. This comes from Jim Collins' book Good to Great where he writes about a hedgehog knowing one big thing, in contrast to a fox that knows many things and pursues many ends at the same time in a scattered or diffused way without a unifying vision. Central to the hedgehog concept is a deep understanding of 3 circles:
  • What you can be best in the world at
  • What drives your economic engine
  • What you are passionate about
While you need all 3 circles to be great, our challenging as a Leadership PLN was to add a 4th circle: what the world needs.  We talked about empathy, tolerance, understanding and compassion and that an education that develops these values, that promotes international mindedness, is what the world needs.

At our final Leadership PLC of 2015 we moved on from our previous discussion about Jim Collins' "hedgehog concept" and started to think about other writers and how their ideas connect to his. For example, in Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers he writes about the 10,000 hours of practice that is needed to become an expert, about opportunities based on when and where you were born, what your parents did and the circumstances of your upbringing and educational experiences, and something he calls legacy which is a mixture of religion, culture, tradition and attitude. We then also talked about Daniel Pink's book Drive which describes the most important factors of motivation being autonomy, mastery and purpose. I tried to combine these ideas together in the following graphic:

We talked about what 10,000 hours looks like in teaching. For a subject teacher (let's say history) this devotion to one subject will give a very different sort of mastery than being an elementary teacher who teaches lots of different subjects. At what stage could we say a teacher has "completed" 10,000 hours of "practice". What about if the practice they were doing was "wrong" and teachers are simply practicing "bad" hours/habits? Who or what is making these 10,000 hours of practice valuable for the teachers?  As I began to dig a bit deeper after our meeting I discovered that Anders Ericsson, the psychologist at Florida State University who came up with the 10,000 hours theory, actually stated that you only get benefits by "adjusting your execution over and over to get closer to your goal." Clearly it's the feedback that matters, not simply the hours of practice - and this brings me back to teaching again. Let's throw in the observations of another expert, Daniel Goleman, who states "The secret to smart practice boils down to focus on the particular feedback from a seasoned coach." You can imagine how pleased I was to read the work coach there, since coaching was on of the other big things I’ve focused on in 2014.

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Distributed leadership

This week at school we've been talking about our new tech integration coaches model of professional learning.  We talked about how important it is that leadership is distributed.  Sharon Brown, the Director of Educational Technology on the secondary campus of ASB, shared with me a document by Kenneth Leithwood who studied teacher and distributed leadership in Ontario, Canada.

According to this report, distributed leadership enhances teachers' satisfaction with their work, increases teachers' sense of professionalism, stimulates organizational change, increases organizational efficiency and revitalizes teachers through increased interaction with their colleagues.  The report argues that teachers can be leaders, which according to their definition is "the exercise of influence over the beliefs, actions and values of others."  He writes that teacher leadership may be formal or informal.  Formally teachers can get  involved in decision making and in stimulating the professional growth of colleagues, for example inducting new teachers into the school, and influencing the willingness and capacity of other teachers to implement change.  Teachers can also exhibit informal leadership by sharing their expertise, volunteering for new projects, bringing new ideas to the school, helping colleagues to carry out classroom duties,  and by engaging their colleagues in experimentation and examination of more powerful instructional techniques.

Advantages seen as a result of more participation of teachers in decision making are making the school more democratic and increased professional learning for the teacher leader.  However there may be disadvantages too - time taken in leadership roles outside the classroom may interfere with time needed for students.  There is also the issue of a lack of time, training and funding for teachers taking on leadership roles.  In addition some teacher leaders may be frustrated by the lack of role definition and by the requirement to take on roles outside their area of expertise.

One interesting finding in the report is that "authority and influence are not necessarily allocated to those occupying formal administrative positions ... rather power is attributed to whomever is able to inspire their commitments to collective aspirations, and the desire for personal and collective mastery over the capabilities needed to accomplish such aspirations."  Research shows that transformational leadership in teachers can involve building school vision, establishing school goals, providing intellectual stimulation, offering individualized support, modelling best practices, demonstrating high performance expectations, creating a productive school culture and developing structures to foster participation in school decisions.

What do teachers see as being the most highly valued traits of teacher leaders?  High on this list are a commitment to the school and/or the profession, having a sense of humour, being a hard worker and possessing an appreciative orientation to others.  In terms of personality, teacher leaders are seen as being unselfish, intelligent, genuine, humble and energetic.  Having strong beliefs and being fair are also important, along with a good work ethic, being visionary, having high standards and being steady and dependable.  It's important for teacher leaders to work well with their colleagues, be able to motivate staff and to have skills in problem solving and moderating disagreements.  Leading by example is one of the most important ways of motivating both staff and students.

Do our new tech coaches exhibit these characteristics of teacher leaders?  Well after Christmas we will be starting to develop an evaluation system that will hopefully give us these answers.  As always, I'll be sharing my thoughts by blogging.

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Ways technology will change education

At our last R&D team meeting we were in small groups discussing the following question:  Given all you know about the changes in the world, what should learning and  education look like in 2030?  

As I was thinking about this, a friend on Facebook shared an article by Terry Heick about different ways technology will change education by 2028.  I'm sharing some of my favourite points from this as I'm thinking about the question asked in the R&D meeting:

By 2018
  • Digital literacy begins to outpace academic literacy in some classrooms
  • Purely academic standards (such as Common Core) will start to decline.  Educators seek curriculum based not on content but on the ability to interact, self-direct and learn.  Institutionally-centred artifacts of old-age academia will lose credibility.
  • Visual data will replace numerical data as schools communicate learning to family and community.
By 2020
  • Cloud-based education will be the rule - with better aggregation of student metrics, more efficient data sharing and more visual assessment results.
  • Schools will function as think-tanks to address local and global challenges
  • Diverse learning forms begin to supplement school
  • Self-directed learning studios for families
By 2024
  • Learning simulations will begin to replace teaches in some eLearning environments
  • Personalized learning algorithms will be standard in schools that continue with a traditional academic learning approach.
  • Diverse learning forms begin to replace schools.
  • Schools we be outnumbered by eLearning, blended learning and self-directed learning as well as learning simulations in virtual worlds.
  • Newer certificates of achievement and performance that are social, portfolio-based and self-selected will begin to replace institutional certificates including college degrees.
In an educational system where many think not much has changed since the Industrial Age, it seems there are some very radical changes predicted for the coming 10 years.  What do you think?  Which ones do you agree with?  Which ones do you think are complete fantasies?

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Yesterday I posted my thinking about coaching and how it has developed over the past year. Today I’m going to write about another change that has happened at school this year - this time in R&D. I’m a member of ASB’s Research and Development core team. The members on this group have worked together over a number of years in small task forces looking at developments that will be coming up in education several years into the future, and prototyping and preparing the school for these. We have looked at various initiatives such as a new school calendar, mobile learning, PBL, gamification, intersessions and internships to name just a few. This year we have seen a change. As our current task force work has been coming to an end, we’ve started to look more towards the “far horizon” at the big trends that are happening in the world - and although on the face of it some of these have nothing to do with education, indirectly they are going to make a huge impact on it. This post is about these changes.

The first change I started to read and think about was population. This is a complex issue because some parts of the world are seeing an ageing population, while others are seeing an expanding youth. There are therefore likely to be 2 different impacts on education - a growing wave of retired “lifelong learners” in some areas of the world, where the challenge is going to be getting enough people into the workforce to support them, and a huge number of young people in other parts of the world who will need schools, universities and will possibly face the issue of youth unemployment. Another challenge is that today’s majorities will become tomorrow’s minorities. This could well impact education too - with more need to educate students for being sensitive to and tolerant of diversity in the world. Technology has a part to play here too - but sadly the very technologies that are being used to transfer information around the world are also being used to spread intolerance and hatred.

Population is going to have another impact on education too - simply because of the growth of population is going to lead to more pressure on food production, global warming, access to water, the spread of diseases and so on. Current trends show that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, despite the fact that governments around the world have set the goal of reducing poverty. Poverty determines the number of children who do not attend school (because they are doing other things). The figures from the UN show that 10 years ago over 100 million children were not receiving even an elementary education - most of these were in Africa and south Asia and there was a much higher proportion of girls who did not attend school than boys. This is a vicious circle because without education there is little chance to breaking out of the cycle of poverty. Poverty limits education, and a lack of education leads to an increase in poverty, which in turn could lead to frustration, anger and instability. The generation of students in our schools today will be the ones making the decisions about destroying or saving our world - so it's important to consider what education they are getting to help them deal with these issues in the future, and to help the next generation of policy makers understand that both common threats and common opportunities can bring us together for a common purpose.

This brings me onto the next trend - the need to educate students to be creative and innovative, to be problem solvers and critical thinkers - yet are today’s education systems encouraging such thinkers? Although many in education call for more creativity and innovation, at the same time many schools are focusing on an increasingly narrow range of skills that can be tested. Conversely, in the international schools where I've taught, there has been a move away from summative assessment and towards formative assessment. Teachers are concerned about knowing what students are finding difficult as it helps to inform their practice and planning - there has been a shift from the assessment of learning to assessment for and assessment as learning and a movement towards giving students choices about the ways they show their understanding - away from a cookie cutter approach where all students are expected to do the same thing. More and more teachers are asking whether the move towards standardized tests prepares students for the future or simply freezes the students in the "traditional" status quo.

The ability of schools to attract outstanding educators is crucial to the future. Worldwide there is still a shortage of teachers and school administrators and one possible reason is that teaching salaries are not competitive with salaries of other professions that require the same level of academic preparation. So at the same time that more good teachers are needed, there is increasing competition for these people from other industries. How can we change this? Can we look at the big trends in the world and the needs they are creating, and help this to leverage governments to invest in a more professional teaching body? To me, thinking about these big global trends, it seems that education is the only thing that can turn today’s challenges into opportunities.

(A lot of the ideas contained in this blog post are the result of reading 2 books by Gary Marx this year:
21 Trends for the 21st Century
16 Trends:  their profound impact on our future)

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Coaching: a year of learning

There are a few times in my career in education that something has happened that has completely transformed the way I have been doing things. The first of these was attending the Harvard Project Zero summer school, and later getting involved in the Visible Thinking routines while I was working at the International School of Amsterdam. This year I have seen a similar transformation, as we’ve taken on coaching at ASB. 

We are now mid-way through our first year of introducing tech integration coach positions - we have 10 of these coaches from EC3 to Grade 12. For me it has been a completely new approach to tech integration and I’ve spent the year thinking about coaching as a form of professional learning, and about different models of coaching. I’ve blogged a huge amount about my thoughts on coaching, and decided that this would be a good opportunity to pull these thoughts together and reflect on the changes that have happened and the impact that coaching has made on both teacher and student learning at ASB.

Once we made the decision last year to move to a tech integration coaching model, I was keen to find out as much as I could about coaching and how it can drive changes in behaviour. I started doing a MOOC from Coursera in April, around the same time that we started our application process and interviews for those wanting to take on the new coaching roles. I already knew that research pointed to peer coaching by trusted colleagues as being an effective form of PD, and in fact many of those who applied to take on a tech integration coach role were those who and been coached themselves and who were keen to develop skills and confidence in using technology in others.

At the start of the process I needed to be very clear in my own mind about the difference between an instructor (a teacher who teaches you how to do something), a mentor (who passes on knowledge and advice) and a coach (who, through questioning, empowers others to maximize their own potential by looking for answers within). A coach basically believes that a teacher has the potential to improve and that it is the teacher’s own responsibility to do so. This can come about by encouraging the teacher to become more self-aware of what s/he is doing. The coach needs to be listening very carefully in order to formulate the best question for moving a teacher’s thinking forward - for a coach listening is much more important than talking!

Five years ago I started this blog and called it Tech Transformation because I've always liked the idea of transformation - the idea of something changing so much that you couldn't recognize it at all (for example a caterpillar turning into a butterfly) and I wanted the blog to reflect that way that technology can give us the power to do things that were previously unimaginable. Now I'm applying this same ideas to coaching. Can coaching bring about a transformation in the teaching of technology, in the ways students are using technology, and in what they are able to do as a result of this? This is the question that was uppermost in my mind all year.
Last year in our PD 3.0 R&D task force we studied coaching as one way of improving professional learning. We knew that teachers need to be improving their knowledge and skills all the time, and we also knew that it takes around 50 hours of PD to improve a teacher's skill so that it has an impact on student learning. We were sure that the traditional model of a few days of PD/orientation at the start of a school year, and a fews days of PD spread across the year in a sort of "spray and pray" model, would be unlikely to have much impactoin teaching practice. Coaching, however, offered an alternative that we thought could be effective in making that transformation. Lynn Barnes, an instructional coach, sums up this in the following quote:
Quick fixes never last and teachers resent them; they resent going to inservices where someone is going to tell them what to do but not help them follow up.  Teachers want someone that's going to be there, that's going to help them for the duration, not a fly-by-night program that's here today gone tomorrow.
Although I did a lot of reading about coaching last school year, the real transformation for me was attending Bill and Ochan Powell’s Cognitive Coaching training at the American School of London in June. It was clear that taking on the role of Director of Educational Technology and having a team of tech integration coaches this year would lead to a change of role for me. As I reflected back on the past 2 years as Tech Coordinator I felt my role had been a combination between collaboration and consulting. I used to attend the grade level PYP meetings so that I could understand the curriculum and the content that each grade was teaching, and I would also have tech meetings where I would be called upon to find new tools, share how to use these tools, discuss pedagogy, provide technical assistance and discuss both the NETS-S and NETS-T standards. I was also very much of a collaborator, co-planning and often co-teaching with the homeroom teachers. We discussed different ideas and approaches as we considered how technology could support student inquiry.

One concept that underlay much of what we did during the Cognitive Coaching course was the five states of mind. We found ourselves coming back to these over and over again and realized that we needed to be very conscious of all of these in our coachees, when we are taking on a coaching role. In the case of the 5 states of mind, this is what the coach hopes to enable:
  • Consciousness: a movement from a lack of awareness towards an awareness of self and others 
  • Craftsmanship: a movement from vagueness and imprecision towards specificity ad elegance 
  • Efficacy: a movement away from an external locus of control and towards an internal locus of control 
  • Flexibility: a movement away from narrow egocentric views towards broader and alternative perspectives 
  • Interdependence: a movement away from isolation and separateness towards connection to and concern for the community
I was excited to put my new learning into place on my return to ASB from the summer holidays. Cognitive Coaching added a new dimension to my changing role. It still allowed me to transform the effectiveness of what teachers were doing, but the learning they engaged in was now more self-directed. I have helped them to consider a range of options and think about which might be best as they move forward with integrating technology into their teaching. Cognitive coaching has been a way of empowering teachers to be self-directed as it gives teachers the skills to think of ways to solve problems and improve their craftsmanship.
At the start of the new school year we had several whole school meetings with our tech coaches where they were introduced to the planning conversation map. This was to help them with discussing goals for the year with their teachers. This map is made up of the following steps:
  • Clarify goals "Where do you want to go?" This is a backward design process so it's important that teachers know what they want to see at the end of the coaching. 
  • Specify success indicators "How will you know?" This also involves a plan for collecting evidence about what this will look like, for example what the students will be saying, doing or thinking. 
  • Anticipate approaches "How will it flow?" What strategies will the teacher use, what decisions will be taken, how will this be monitored? 
  • Establish personal learning "How will you grow?" It's important for teachers to also decide what they want to learn or take away as a result of coaching and what process will be in place for this self-assessment. 
  • Reflect on the coaching process "How has this conversation supported your thinking?" This involves metacognition - reflection allows the lessons learned to be carried forward to new situations.
In November I decided to update an earlier blog post. My post from 2013 entitled What is the role of a tech integration specialist? has been my 3rd most read blog post (coming only just behind the 2 posts about the SAMR model). However as we have moved away from a tech integration specialist and towards tech integration coaches I decided to write a new blog post about the role of a tech integration coach. November also saw Bill and Ochan Powell coming to ASB to train all our coaches, which allow allowed me to take Day 4 of the Cognitive Coaching course. This visit was very timely because our tech coaches had set goals at the start of the school year with their teachers, and now it was time to move onto reflecting conversations and to conducting class observations and giving feedback to support teachers as they work towards their goals. Day 4 of Cognitive Coaching discusses the role of data. The idea is that a teacher can use the data collected by the coach to draw his or her own conclusions about student learning. Data therefore plays an important role in the coaching cycle of planning, observing and reflecting, as long as the teacher being observed is the person who decides what data should be collected. Without this, it would be too easy for an observation to turn into an evaluation! It’s the coach’s job to ask the teacher what s/he wants to have observed, and then to communicate the data in a way that promotes the self-directedness of the teacher. Effective teachers are lifelong longers, so a coach can ask mediative questions to help a teacher analyze, interpret and draw conclusions based on the data, and to then explore ways teachers can use this new learning to work towards achieving their goals.
I am totally enthusiastic about the changes that Cognitive Coaching can bring about, in particular with our teachers who have been skeptical about using technology. Last week I was talking with a teacher who admitted she was a reluctant user of technology for many years. She talked about how empowered she feels now, how she is in turn empowering her students to choose when and how to use technology to support their own learning.
Here are some of the changes I have seen as a result of introducing a coaching model of tech integration:
  • Teachers are more reflective about their practice 
  • Coaching is an effective form of professional learning - implementation of new learning is high 
  • Coaching leads to greater efficacy among teachers 
  • Teachers are more satisfied with their work and feel they are benefiting both professionally and personally from the coaching
In my 25+ years of international teaching, a move to a tech integration coaching model has been one of the most important ways I’ve ever experienced of transforming the way technology is used. In fact it has transformed the learning of both the teachers and the students. My goal for 2015 is to complete days 5-8 of the Cognitive Coaching training (in March) and I hope to be able to do the Advanced trainer course in July. Next year I expect that I'll be blogging just as much about coaching as I have done this year, and sharing my learning, as I know many schools are considering this as a model for professional learning. I'm very excited that even just a few months into this new model, and even though neither myself or the tech integration coaches have yet completed our training, we are already reaping the benefits of introducing coaching into our professional learning at ASB.
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Monday, December 15, 2014

What I’ve been thinking about in 2014

It’s the last week of school in 2014.  At this time last year I remember looking back on the year and discovering that out of the 4 years that I had been blogging, 2013 was the year that I wrote the fewest blog posts (which was a surprise to me at the time).  In the previous years I’d written about 250 posts each year, however in 2013 I wrote only around 164, and as of now, in 2014 I’ve written 170.  There has definitely been a change in the way I blog since moving from Switzerland to India.  In Switzerland I blogged so much because I couldn’t share my ideas at school.  In India I’m sharing my ideas at school all the time, and then refining them, and then blogging, probably in a deeper way, about the resulting thoughts.

Yet this year has also been the year when I’ve had the most readers of my blog.  At this time last year, after 4 years of blogging, I’d just reached the half million reader mark.  Now I have almost 700,000 readers, which is a huge increase in a year.  The posts that are most popular continue to be those about the SAMR model - posts I wrote in 2010 and 2011 as I was exploring this new way of looking at tech integration.  Other popular posts include those about technology integration and the role of a tech integration specialist or coach.

Before last year I never blogged about coaching - yet last year has seen a huge number - over 70 - posts about coaching.  Other things I’ve blogged a lot about last year include global trends that will impact education, leadership and professional learning.  Over the next few days I’m going to review my thinking and reflect on my learning this year.  I’m looking forward to sharing these thoughts over the next few blog posts.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Integration -v- implementation

I work at a school where there seems to be a good balance between integration and implementation of technology.  We have a Director of Technology Support and a Director of Educational Technology for each campus.  As I read through the IBO's pre-publication of The Role of Technology in the IB Programmes the section about integration and implementation rings very true.  This is how the IB defines it:
  • Technology integration concerns the role technology plays in learning as well as how we incorporate technology literacy concepts into teaching and learning.  Technology integration is part of the role of all educators, supported by our tech integration coaches and directors of ed tech.
  • Technology implementation is the process of acquiring and introducing devices and applications as well as managing systems that support technology use.  IT technicians and budget holders usually address implementation.  This is interesting to me too because again it is very typical of our structure at ASB with our directors of technology support, technicians and educational technology assistants.
There is a great diagram about these differences which I'm going to reproduce here.
I think the important thing here is that while both of these are very necessary, often these roles are confused or done by the same people wearing two hats.  It takes a lot of experience and training to distinguish between them and then to put integration first.  When I read that sentence for the first time it was like a blinding flash of light - all too often the people with the money, making the purchasing decisions and so on, are totally removed from the integration and so they put implementation first.  In almost every school I've been in that has been the case, and I have had to point out that the most important consideration in all of this is student learning.  The IBO publication points out that an approach that is dominated by implementation is device-driven.  It is focused on HOW to use the technology and not WHY to use it.  When administrators make statements about there being no evidence that technology improves learning I can guarantee they are coming from these schools - where the conversation is about devices ("We are going to put SMARTboards into every classroom", for example).  It is integration that makes the difference to student learning:  "pedagogy and instruction can and should be supported by devices, not the other way round ... technology integration requires a different kind of thinking, one that erases discussions of devices altogether, only reintroducing them after pedagogical aims have been addressed."  I couldn't agree more!

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Technology: a language, a literacy, a concept?

I have been reading through the pre-publication The Role of Technology in the IB Programmes and before I give feedback I want to consider these 3 ideas about technology.  Please feel free to give me ideas as I consider the following:

  • Is technology a language?  It can be a language in computer programming, and it also facilitates communication and provides the means to express one's thoughts and feelings, just as language does.
  • Is technology a literacy?  It is a combination of acquired knowledge, applied knowledge and reflection on both.  And can technology literacy be achievable through ways of thinking, irrespective of the tools?
  • Is technology a concept, as opposed to a thing?  
Of course in the world of education, people are always asking about the benefits of using technology in the classroom, whether technology can enhance understanding and improve learning.  I was therefore interested to read this section in the pre-publication "Research indicates that exposure to multiple kinds of media such as texts in various online formats, video and interactive content is essential to formal and informal education, and all categories of technology, in particular a balance of them, are beneficial to learning as students make determinations about when, where and how to use technology."

Last week I had a skype call about the use of technology in professional learning.  We got onto the subject of technology in our IB schools and how much guidance or direction we should be giving about how technology is used.  I was really interested to read the section in the pre-publication about the movement towards a seamless experience of technology for both students and educators.  This implies that technology is simply part of the repertoire of tools to choose from.  And here's the part that I think is really important:  "Seamlessness is only achievable with mindsets that value and accept technology use in the classroom, involve agency on the part of students and educators, provide opportunities for collecting, creating and analyzing information as part of the learning experience, and that incorporate design thinking and concepts as paths to learning."  Agreed!

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Learning is a social activity

A great video about how learning is a social activity, motivated and encouraged by interactions with others.

Future Forwards Volume 3

This weekend ASB hosted the Future Forwards Summit.  This was a global conference on educational innovation with the mission of empowering schools in developing their capacity for innovation.  The goal was that the 15 schools who attended would leave the summit with their own prototype model of an R&D department for their school.  

One of the things I'm often asked about our R&D department by teachers in other schools is what do we actually research?  This question was answered by Craig Johnson, ASB's superintendent, as he drew the line between innovation and implementation.  Craig's message was that 
A lot of important ideas in education, that don't exist at your school, don't need to be researched, they simply need to be implemented. So, are you "researching a new topic and exploring new frontiers" or are you designing an implementation plan for something that is best practice already but doesn't exist at your school? 
A great question - that gets right to the heart of why we have an R&D department that focuses on innovation and exploring new frontiers in education.

The Future Forwards Summit coincided with the publication of the 3rd Volume of Future Forwards. These books are collections of thoughts, hypotheses, discussions and reflections on practices, research and ideas that are relevant to emerging new paradigms of teaching and learning.  The books are divided into 3 sections:  Paradigms, Ideas and Practices.

In Volume 3 you will find the following:

Paradigms - Looking to the Future
These chapters are about paradigm shifts - different approaches that radically challenge established conventions.  Here you will read chapters about relevance in a global educational ecosystem, the impact of a school R&D department, essential conditions for effective R&D in schools, the Global Recruitment Collaborative - a new way of dealing with the "talent wars", rethinking PD for the future, and how personal learning devices can personalize learning.

Ideas - The Next Step
These chapters are about how current research is changing or impacting existing practices or established norms.  Here you will find chapters on using visual analytics to support student learning, using technology to shift culture in a local Indian school, and the TRAI (technology, robotics and artificial intelligence) Summit.

Practices - Innovating in the Now
These chapters describe the application of an instructional practice in a completely novel way or the successful mash-up of different practices.  In this section you will read about how our tech audit has transformed the personalization of tech PD, accelerating and innovating intersessions, learning analytics and data visualization in a 4th Grade class, exploring wellness data, new media in art and Maker Saturdays.

These eBooks are completely free - enjoy and please consider sharing them with others in your professional network.

Future Forwards Volume 3
Future Forwards Volume 2
Future Forwards Volume 1

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The 3 maps of cognitive coaching

Yesterday morning I had a skype conversation with Edna and Jocelyn, 2 members of my PLN in Australia.  They are moving towards a coaching model for their next school year and wanted to chat about our experiences.  We talked a little about different sorts of coaching, and about the 3 coaching maps in cognitive coaching.  My brain was thinking about maps all day after this, so I decided to read a bit more about this and read a chapter in the book Coaching Approaches and Perspectives by Jane Ellison and Carolee Hayes.

Jane and Carolee wrote about a road map as a guide for territory we want to explore.  A map keeps us on course so that we get to where we want to go.  The 3 maps in cognitive coaching are, in a similar way, templates for conversations around planning, reflecting and problem solving.

The Planning Conversation map is to help teachers prepare for an upcoming event.  This year I've also used it for tech integration goal setting and during PYP planning meetings.  Jane and Carolee explain that this map has 2 focuses - the first is on the event and the second is on the person.  The first 3 areas of the map are concerned with the event and the coach will ask questions that will bring more clarity and craftsmanship to the desired outcomes of the event and the ways a teacher can assess these outcomes.  The teacher is asked about effective strategies that will help him or her move towards these desired outcomes.  The conversation then shifts to the fourth area of the map which is a personal learning/growth focus on the part of the teacher - in fact this leads to the teacher considering goals for his/her own learning and professional growth.  The final stage of the Planning Conversation map is to reflect on the conversation.

The Reflecting Conversation map takes place after an event or perhaps a unit of learning for his/her class.  This map helps the teacher to analyze and learn from the experiences.  I find this fits really well with the PYP since it is a requirement for teachers to reflect after each unit in order to transfer new learning into the future.  The aim is this map is to move teachers from focusing on the event, to focusing on the key learnings and generalizations that have emerged from the experience.  The Reflecting Conversation is not simply a recount, but calls upon data to support the impressions the teacher has about the learning that took place.  The focus of this map is to analyze the factors that have led to the learning.  The coach therefore helps the teacher to think about the decisions that made up the experience, so that the teacher can construct new knowledge about what factors contributed to the outcomes and the success or failure of the experience.   Cognitive coaching is therefore a constructivist model of learning - it's the job of the coach to help the teacher to analyze his or her work so that he or she can become more effective, but it's also non-judgemental since it is the teacher who makes his or her own judgements based on the data.

The Problem Resolving map is the final map and I have to admit this is the one I know the least about.  In this map the teacher needs to acknowledge the current reality and the emotions that surround it.  The map then leads the coach to refocus the coachee's energy towards a desired state.

As I'm still very new to coaching I'm very much following the maps in the Planning and Reflecting Conversations.  However Jane and Carolee write that skilled coaches become more flexible in using the maps and in fact sometimes only use some of the regions of the map, or change the sequence of the steps of the map to better meet the needs of the teacher.

How effective is cognitive coaching?  Research points to the following:
  • an increase in student test scores
  • greater efficacy among teachers
  • teachers become more reflective and think in more complex ways
  • teachers become more satisfied with their work 
  • school cultures become more professional
  • teachers collaborate more
  • teachers benefit both professionally and personally from cognitive coaching.
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