Monday, June 29, 2015

R&D - the essential conditions

One of the most important aspects of successful R&D in schools is to consider the essential conditions that are necessary to grow the innovation from ideas to impact on learning.  Chapter 5 of R&D Your School outlines the 8 essential elements for this growth:

  1. Empowered leaders - which includes the framework within the school, a process for prototyping new practices and approaches and a commitment to innovation.
  2. Engaged communities - both within the school and beyond.  It is essential to develop partnerships in the global community.
  3. Intrinsic motivation - as it is impossible to force people to change.  At the heart of motivation are agency to make decisions and to act, expertise (knowledge and skills) and connection with peers to share the work.
  4. Future connection - it's important to understand global trends and how these will impact learning.
  5. Skill capacity - including recruiting curious, self-directed individuals and then encouraging professional learning and applied practice focused on innovation.
  6. Resource capacity - including a budget, facilities and materials.
  7. Design thinking competence embedded as a core process for research, capacity building and innovation (for example an always beta culture of ongoing development)
  8. Impact validity - R&D work is democratically developed using multiple perspectives, deepens understanding and provides new answers and new questions.  It's important that data is used to support R&D conclusions and that R&D work and its impact on learning is communicated to the community.
Chapter 5 of R&D Your School contains more information about all of these essential conditions as well as an outline of an innovation audit that can be used to assess whether your school is ready for effective R&D work.  This will help you to identify the important conditions that you need to grow, in order for innovation to succeed in your school.  If you would like a copy of R&D Your School it's available on Kindle and costs just $5.

If you would like to know more about how ASB can help you, please visit ReD Solutions which contains information about school innovation, technology integration, Maker, Design Thinking, social entrepreneurship and collaboratives.

How do you decide what to research?

This afternoon I will be manning the ReD Studio booth at ISTE.  The title of this blog post represents the most common question asked whenever I mention that ASB has an R&D Department.  Chapter 3 of R&D Your School contains a lot of information about where our R&D topics come from, and outlines the 4 main drivers that are used to ensure our topics are relevant and focused on the needs of our students:
  1. Current and emerging global trends - which are shaping our world and will shape the world of the future.
  2. Major relevance to ASB's mission and core values.
  3. Significant potential advantage to current teaching and learning.
  4. A sudden urgency to meet unexpected needs.
So how do these play out in reality?  Let's look at some of our recent R&D topics and see how they relate to the 4 main drivers:
  • Games Based Learning - this was a Task Force from 2011 (which later became Gamification) and was researched and prototyped because it has a significant advantage for current teaching and learning.
  • Mobile Learning - this was a Task Force from 2012 and was researched and prototyped because of current and emerging global trends.
  • Maker Mindset - this was a Task Force from 2013 and was chosen because of its advantage to teaching and learning and because Maker is an emerging global trend.
  • Social Entrepreneurship - this was a Task Force from 2014 and was chosen because of it being both an emerging global trend and because it has major relevance to our school mission and values.
Of course it's not just a matter of selecting topics, we also want to ensure that we can implement these topics in the context of teaching and learning at ASB.  To decide on this we look at the plus factors that will enable us to develop these topics and successfully and various areas of the school in order to really innovate teaching and learning.  These plus factors are as follows:
  1. Potential impact - there must be a significant advantage over what already exists.  Without this R&D will not make a meaningful impact or return on investment.
  2. Champions - R&D needs teachers who are committed to lead the work and who will persist through obstacles.  Without this there is little chance of success.
  3. Cost in terms of human resources - we have to ask whether the cost of developing and implementating is worth the impact.
  4. Degree of innovation - we ask whether R&D will bring something new to the school, or is it simply a revamping of what already exists.
  5. Receptivity to innovation - which can vary across divisions, grades and departments.
  6. Synergy - between the different R&D innovations that can multiply the impact of an innovation.
If you would like a copy of R&D Your School it's available on Kindle and costs just $5.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Is texting killing language?

On of the issues we have discussed in our Open University online course Childhood in the Digital Age is whether texting is killing language.  Throughout the course we have been challenged to see ourselves as optimists or pessimists on various subjects.  We know that children learn by interacting with people around them and exchanging ideas, and texting, social networking or instant messaging can be important ways of communicating.  The problem, as the pessimists see it, is that people are now creating/inventing new modes of communication as texting is a sort of new language that is still evolving and as such is threatening or ruining standard written English.  Others argue that texting is simply converting spoken language to written language in a very interesting way.

In this TEDtalk John McWhorter argues that texting is not negative, but instead is highly creative and has cognitive benefits - he refers to it as "miraculous".  I've added the video below as I think it contains a very interesting perspective.  What do you think?  Does texting have a positive or negative influence on children's language skills?

Photo Credit: amanky via Compfight cc

Insourcing expertise

Over the past 6 months or so, I've been thinking about what my next steps in life should be.  I absolutely adore my job at ASB - truly it is the best I have ever had - but I also have to consider the needs of my family, in particular my elderly mother who has recently been diagnosed with mild dementia.  I have signed a contract to stay for the next two years - but I have to be realistic and face the fact that this might well be my last contract here, and that at the end of it I may need to return to Europe to give my family the support they will need.

In a recent conversation with a colleague, I broached this subject, and we discussed what the next move might be.  At my age, I don't really see myself starting all over again in another school - but what else could I do?  She suggested exploring the possibility of consultancy.  This is fairly challenging for me, as while I know that many schools do turn to outside "experts" to plan and lead changes in the schools, at ASB we are really comfortable with "insourcing" expertise and leadership by developing our own educators.

One of the joys of working at ASB has been being on various R&D teams.  These teams are given the conditions outlined in self-determination theory (autonomy, competence and relatedness to others) in order to engage in research and prototyping based on our personal interests - as a result new expertise and leadership is emerging within the school.  We abandon status quo thinking as we read, learn and open ourselves up to new ideas, and then we bring these to our colleagues, eventually changing the professional culture of the school.  I suppose it is possible to take this expertise to others schools, but I definitely feel much more comfortable developing it within the place where I actually work rather than working somewhere for a short time as a consultant and trying to change a school community that hasn't yet gone through this process.  I wonder how many schools have an R&D Department - and how many of these are in Europe (actually I can't think of one).

If you are working at a school that is considering starting or growing R&D you might be interested in reading our latest book R&D Your School, which is available on Kindle for $5.  I have found it amazing to work at a school with an R&D department, and it's an idea that I feel many others might be interested in.

Photo of The Shard, taken from London Bridge

Innovation at ASB - R&D Your School

I'm at ISTE in Philadelphia, and one of my jobs here will be to work on the ReD Studio booth.  One thing I'm excited to share is that ASB's R&D Department has just published a new book entitled R&D Your School  - it's a practical guide for starting, growing and sustaining innovation, and the foreword to this book has been written by Suzie Boss.  Suzie writes, "ASB doesn't just talk about the importance of innovation; it advances new ideas by bolting research and development - R&D- right into the institutional framework .... ASB uses core innovation processes - explore, study, prototype, research, scale - to guide the work and set the stage for action.  By inviting participation from across the school community, including teachers, parents, and students, ASB ensures that diverse perspectives inform future decisions."

I was thinking about this yesterday as I attended the Hack Education Unconference at ISTE.  As I listened to other teachers talk about the challenges of innovation in their own schools, I realized just how much we take for granted at ASB.  We really have used innovation to create the "new normal" for education at our school.   At ASB, what was R&D four years ago, is now incorporated into what we do every day.  The R&D team that looked into the design of school buildings and classrooms, has seen the building of a new school and the redesign of an old one.  The R&D team that looked into school calendars has now seen a revamped school calendar which allows for 265 days of school that includes an intersessions programme that all students may participate in completely free of charge.  As Scot Hoffman and Shabbi Luthra write in R&D Your School, "We are transforming one prototype at a time."

Many teachers might find it a bit over the top that we have an R&D Department in our school, however we believe there is a real need for this in schools around the world.  Scot and Shabbi write in the Introduction, "Our shared future is coming at us with increasing speed, but the structures that have been our strength are not built for the agility, speed, and focus that schools need to meet the pace of change.  Schools and school leaders around the world are looking to innovation to create and develop the schools that students need."

R&D Your School has chapters that deal with intrinsic motivation and insourcing expertise, the keys for successful R&D in schools, where our R&D topics come from, the need for a "dual operating system", the essential conditions for successful R&D in schools, prototyping, accelerating R&D,  and chapters that outline our experiences of intersessions, Maker, Studios, learning analytics and social entrepreneurship.

If you would like a copy of R&D Your School it's available on Kindle and costs just $5.

A pyramid of digital engagement and learning

In Week 3 of my Open University online course Childhood in the Digital Age, I came across Steve Wheeler's pyramid of digital engagement. In this pyramid Wheeler claims that engagement online is very similar to engagement offline. At the bottom of the pyramid people start with passive activities such as watching, reading and lurking. He writes that children start to learn by watching and listening to absorb what’s going on, followed by internalisation of the process to the point where it can be used creatively to develop their own ideas. 

The image is of a pyramid in five differently coloured layers, each containing digital icons. The bottom level contains the eye symbol and is labelled Watching/Lurking/Reading. This wide base shows that children are fairly passive in the initial stages of digital engagement, they are mostly using technology for entertainment or absorbing content from blogs, videos, podcasts and are observing what others are doing online.  The next layer up contains the thumbs-up symbol and is labelled Sharing/Liking. The middle layer contains a speech bubble with quotation marks and is labelled Commenting/Discussing. At this point children are starting to engage in a meaningful way online, as they think, edit and communicate ideas.  They start to respond to others' content by commenting on blogs, status updates or reviews and actively contribute their ideas.  The next to top layer contains the compasses symbol often used in authoring programs and is labelled Creating/Inventing.  At this point children are writing and publishing their own content on blogs or other sites such as YouTube.  The top layer contains lines of text and is labelled Curating.  At this point Wheeler writes: "Asking them to curate the content of others and add value to it can be even more challenging, but in doing so, they will usually read more widely, and are then in a position to assimilate multiple perspectives."

This is the first time I have seen this pyramid, but I find it very useful as a way of thinking about students' use of technology for learning.  I'm thinking this pyramid may be new to many others too, so I wanted to share it.  Click on the image to view it as a larger size.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Digital friendships

I watched a TED talk this week as part of my Open University course.  This was a talk by the anthropologist Robin Dunbar, whose work on friendships and social groupings in 1992 resulted in "Dunbar's number" of 148, which is the number of friendships that people can maintain.  Over time, Dunbar has revised his theory based on the impact of social media, but it is interesting to note that even today, across 400,000,000 Facebook users, the most common number of friends that people have is between 120 and 130.  After hearing this I went and checked my Facebook friends and found I have 304 friends, however some of these are acquaintances I don't interact with at all, and the actual number of people I communicate with on a fairly regular basis is around 100, slightly less than Dunbar's number.  He argues that although we can in theory have thousands of global friends on social networks, the reality is that we are only regularly interacting with the same number of people  as our hunter-gatherer ancestors did.

He talks about concentric circles of friends.  These number 5, 15, 50 and 150.  The last circle is the "Christmas card list", those people we touch base with about once a year.  The inner circle of 5 friends (and only 4 if you are in a relationship) represents about half of our social time.  When you take the first 2 circles of 15 people, this represents around three quarters of our social interactions.  Dunbar talks about the number of friendships we can maintain being based on the size of our brain, in particular the social cognition circuit that lets us understand what others are thinking.  He asks if it is possible for this part of the brain to expand during childhood, perhaps as a result of increased numbers of online friends, and concludes that this is possible, though only up to the age of 20.  In general maintaining friendships takes a huge amount of time, as you need to invest time to get emotional closeness.

There are significant differences in males and females regarding how digital media can help maintain friendships.  Women account for about 2/3 of time on Facebook.  Men maintain friendships by doing things together rather than by talking.  Women, on the other hand, maintain friendships through conversations, therefore social media can maintain close friendships in women.  The most ideal technology for this is shown to be Skype, where there is a sense of co-presence and an immediate response.

I found this module of this week's course to be fascinating.  I'm looking forward to next week which is about learning to think in a digital age, where we will consider how different ways of thinking and learning behaviour might be emerging from an immersion in digital devices. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Virtual friends in virtual worlds

This post is a reflection of my thoughts during week 2 of the Open University Childhood in the Digital Age online course.  This week we have looked at social media, gaming and virtual worlds.

One of the assignments this week involved watching a video in which Professor Lydia Plowman researched the way children learn through apps and games. Playing online appears to have many positive strengths, from learning new social skills to educational benefits, and she explained what parents can do to guide their children to unlock the learning benefits of technology as children learn how to learn by making their own choices and decisions.

Playing online not only provides creative opportunities and educational benefits for children, it also provides enormous possibilities for imaginative fun in virtual worlds, such as CBeebies, Music Worls and Moshi Monsters. Up to this point, I was not very familiar with any of these platforms which are aimed at primary school children, but I really want to investigate them, and possibly recommend them, to parents.  While both parents and children are enthusiastic about virtual worlds and online games, there are critics who are concerned about the risks of exposure to a wider community and worried that children have less time to spend on real-world play and more ‘meaningful’, face-to-face relationships.

What I learned this week is that in 2014 there were over 158 virtual worlds designed for children, with the top three for primary-age children being Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters and Habbo Hotel. In fact, an AVG Digital Diaries survey (2014) found that of the 6–9-year-olds surveyed, 46 per cent spent their online time playing in virtual worlds.  By solving a wide range of fun, daily puzzles they are able to gain new skills, including logic, spatial awareness, problem solving, numeracy and verbal communication.

Another thing that was discussed was how children can be anonymous in digital worlds in a way they can't in the real world.  They create new identities (avatars) so can invent and reinvent themselves in the different online spaces. Through virtual online play, children have access to a wider social community and can explore multiple aspects of themselves, including creating avatars that reflect their religion, culture and interests.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The positives and negatives of new digital opportunities

I'm now in week 2 of the Open University course Childhood in the Digital Age. This week we are looking at the positives and negatives of children using social media, online gaming and virtual worlds. Children thrive on forming connections with other people in their immediate social environments, and they learn to communicate and interact successfully using email, social networks, texts and tweets.  In the case of my own family, technology allowed my children to build relationships with their grandparents who were living in another country, as well as keep in touch with their friends when they moved on to other countries too.  Social networks allow children not only to connect to people within their own circle of face-to-face friends, but also to form connections with a much wider group of individuals all over the world.

On the other hand, it has also been pointed out that in expanding their social community, children are exposed to a wider range of people, material and risks, for example cyberbullying, trolling and sexting.  As children’s level of maturity and judgement is still developing, they are also more susceptible to marketing and inappropriate social interactions and of course there is the risk of children revealing too much information about themselves online.  Generally I feel most of these negatives can be reduced if adults are open to talking with children about the risks, about what should not be posted online and about what to do if they are exposed to inappropriate content online.

This week's course also discusses gaming and virtual worlds.  I'll be writing about these in an upcoming blog post.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Are computer games damaging children?

Today I have started an Open University course called Childhood in the Digital Age.  The first question asked was are computer games damaging children?  Here is what I was reading today:

In the UK, more than 80% of boys and also girls play some form of computer game every day. Dr Andrew Przybylski and colleagues at the Oxford Internet Institute surveyed nearly 5,000 British boys and girls aged 10-15 years.

They found that, compared to children who played no computer games at all, those who played for around an hour a day:
  • had higher levels of sociability;
  • were more satisfied with their lives;
  • had fewer friendship and emotional problems;
  • and were less hyperactive.
Overall, research findings in this area show that moderate time spent playing computer games is a positive experience for most young people socially and academically.

Excessive use (as with all excesses) can be detrimental. This reflects a tiny percentage of computer game players, but it is often the negative research findings based on extreme usage that are most widely published in the media.

Photo Credit: rosefirerising via Compfight cc

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Future work skills and the future of education

I'm moving this week an having a good sort out, and while doing this I came across 2 articles that I had put on the coffee table some time ago and meant to get to but never did.  This post is about these 2 articles.

The first one is from KnowledgeWorks and is entitled Glimpses of the Future of Education  (click here to see the infographic that has been created about future learning - the graphic to the top left of this post is a small part of this infographic).  KnowledgeWorks has studied future trends for the past 10 years and predicts deep disruption for education.  One forecast is that learning is going to diversity leading to a flexible and radically personalized learning ecosystem that meets the needs of all learners.  The new ecosystem will include building relationships with museums, libraries and other cultural institutions enabling learners to move seamlessly across many kinds of learning experiences and providers.  Learning will therefore no longer be simply defined by time or place but can be designed to include individualized "learning playlists", with formative assessment leading to the approaches being tailored to each learner.  Formative assessment will use digital tools to collect rich data about what will be the most effective strategies for success.  In this scenario educators' jobs will diversity, with new roles emerging to support learning ("teacherpreneurs").  Virtual learning communities will also be part of this infrastructure, leading to more diverse forms of credentials, certificates and reputation markers.

The second article that I've been meaning to blog about for some time is simply entitled Future Work Skills 2020 from the Institute for the Future and the University of Phoenix Research Institute.  The report is around 4 years old, but still very relevant to consider when thinking about how close we are now to 2020.   Here the six drivers of change are seen as extreme longevity which leads to an ageing population that will work long beyond 65 with multiple careers (and so will need to be lifelong learners), the rise of smart machines and systems, a new media ecology, a computational world, superstructed organizations and a globally connected world.  At the same time that these factors are causing change, there are new skills that are in demand - in particular the sorts of skills that can't be done by machines.   These skills are:

  1. Sense making - the ability to determine deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.
  2. Social intelligence - the ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions.
  3. Novel and adaptive thinking - coming up with solutions and responses beyond those that are rote or rule based.
  4. Cross-cultural competency - in particular linguistic and an ability to sense and respond to new contexts.
  5. Computational thinking skills - the ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning.
  6. New-media literacy - the ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.  The next generation of workers need to be fluent in forms such as video and to be comfortable creating and presenting their own visual information.
  7. Transdisciplinary - understanding concepts across multiple disciplines.
  8. A design mindset
  9. Cognitive load management - social filtering to allow the more relevant information to rise above " the noise", and understanding how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques.
  10. Virtual collaboration - the ability to work productively as a member of a virtual team.
According to the report, the sort of education that needs to be in place to promote these skills has to change.  There should be additional emphasis on developing critical thinking skills and analysis, and new-media literacy should be integrated throughout the curriculum.  Experiential learning is becoming more important, and that gives prominence to soft skills such as collaboration.  In addition there needs to be more focus on continuing education into adulthood.  More emphasis should be given to interdisciplinary training that allows students to develop skills and knowledge in a range of subjects.   

When I look at the list of 10 skills needed for the 2020 workforce I can see some schools are embracing them more than others.  Programmes such as the PYP are transdisciplinary in nature, and assessments are designed to show understanding, rather than simply factual recall.  In recent years at ASB we have also seen the introduction of design thinking in many different areas of the curriculum.  However 2020 is only 5 years away.  One of the things that these reports has made me realize is that the changes that need to happen to get our students ready for the workplace of 2020 are still long overdue.

Thursday, June 4, 2015


Yesterday I blogged about the 15 diseases of leadership according to Pope Francis - one of which is vainglory.  Therefore I was rather reluctant to post this one today since it might indicate an inordinate pride in my own achievements or even self-exhibitionism.  Simply a short statement therefore, that today the number of people reading my blog has passed the three-quarters of a million mark.  Despite all the odds, I'm happy that I persisted in writing during my time in Switzerland, and I just want to say what a joy it is to now be working at a wonderful school that encourages us to think, to write and to publish.  Thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What the Pope says about poor leadership

For this week's leadership PLC we are discussing an article about the 15 Diseases of Leadership, According to Pope Francis.  We are going to look at where, why and what forms these diseases take in schools, and how we can prevent or cure them.  While I'm likely to blog about our discussions tomorrow, I just wanted to take the time today to reflect briefly on what these diseases are, and comment on what I have noticed personally in my 25+ years in international schools.

  1. Thinking we are immortal or indispensable.  Leaders who suffer from this disease think themselves above others rather than that their job is to serve others.  They are characterized by a superiority complex and narcissism.  Some leaders actually cultivate being indispensable by refusing to implement a distributed leadership model to build future leaders - no wonder that when they eventually move on everything collapses like a house of cards.
  2. Excessive busyness.  Immersing yourself in work before and after work and at weekends - being "always on" and not taking a break.  To be honest I definitely do suffer from this disease - for some time I have been aware of an imbalance between work and the rest of my life (and yet I love my work - this is so hard!)
  3. Mental and emotional petrification.  This is found in leaders with hearts of stone who are paper pushers and lack compassion.  They have lost the human touch.
  4. Excessive planning.  A micromanager who lacks spontaneity and serendipity.  These leaders are wanting an easy life and are settled and comfortable in their own unchanging ways.
  5. Poor coordination.  Leaders who suffer from this have lost the sense of community.  The community is "an orchestra that produces noise" because the members of the community don't work together as a team.
  6. Leadership Alzheimer's disease.  Leaders suffering from this have forgotten those who nurtured, mentored, inspired and supported them in their own journeys.  They are therefore not likely to feel a responsible to mentor others who now work for them.
  7. Excessive vanity.  An obsession with and an inordinate pride in your own achievements.  Leaders suffering from this disease ignore the interests of others.
  8. Existential schizophrenia.  Being out of touch with customers and "ordinary" employees.  Living in their own world and losing contact with reality.
  9. Encouraging the terrorism of gossiping, grumbling and back-biting.  These leaders are cowards who lack the courage to speak directly, but instead become the "sowers of weeds".
  10. Idolizing superiors.  Such leaders curry favour to ingratiate themselves with superiors through obsequious behaviour.  These leaders are the victims of careerism and opportunism who think only of what they can get and not what they can give.  They are small-minded people who are inspired by selfishness.  Leaders in this position also try to obtain the submission, loyalty and psychological dependency of their subordinates.
  11. Indifference to others.  The leader thinks only of him/herself and loses sincerity and warmth.  
  12. Downcast face.  These leaders are severe and pessimistic (possibly because of feelings of fear and insecurity about their positions).
  13. Hoarding - the need to accumulate material goods in order to feel secure.
  14. Closed circles.  This is characterized by cronyism, where belonging to a clique is powerful. This is a way of enslaving the members and is an evil cancer in an organization as others are treated as outsiders.
  15. Extravagance and self-exhibition.  Power is used for material gain or to acquire even greater power.  To do that leaders suffering from this disease are prepared to slander, defame and discredit others - to lie to them and to lie about them.    People suffering from this disease believe the end justifies the means in getting to their goal.
Are there any other "diseases" of leadership that Pope Francis has missed?  Leave me a comment and I'll be sure to discuss these tomorrow and get back to you.

Photo Credit: eugenio ibiapina parente via Compfight cc

Schools where teachers stay

Over the past school year I've been on the Recruitment, Development and Retention R&D Task Force. While a lot of my energies have been spent looking at recruitment, in particular the new Global Recruitment Collaborative launched by ASB last Fall, I've also read a lot about how best to develop the talent of the teachers already employed, and the factors that lead to a high percentage of teacher retention.  At ASB over the next 2 years our retention rate is predicted to be 95% according to our Superintendent Craig Johnson - so ASB is obviously getting it right!  Last week on Facebook, I noticed several shares of an article on the Shanker Blog regarding schools where teachers stay, improve and succeed.  For this post I'm therefore going to outline the main points and discuss how these fit with my own experience and observations in international schools.

In the article, Matthew Kraft and John Papay argue that it's important to consider teacher retention because teachers have such a large effect on student learning.  In addition how effective teachers are depends largely on how they are supported or constrained by the schools where they teach.  They argue that we traditionally treat teachers as if their effectiveness is fixed, which means that it is portable when they move from one school to the next.  However my research has shown the opposite: that talent isn't very portable because high performance depends on such things as resources, colleagues and climate of the school - so some teachers who are excellent in one school can end up doing poorly in another when they leave behind the resources, colleagues and support of the school where they have been successful.

Kraft and Papay agree that "the contexts in which teachers work profoundly shape teachers' job decisions and their effectiveness".  They explain that "teachers who work in supportive contexts stay in the classroom longer, and improve at faster rates, than their peers in less-supportive environments." Interestingly enough, it's the factors that are hard to measure that are the most influential in teacher retention.  These include the quality of relationships, collaboration among the staff, the responsiveness of school administrators and the academic and behavioural expectations for students. High rates of turnover relate to poor working environment: teachers' views of the following 6 factors in a school strongly predict whether or not they stay in a school and how much they improve professionally while employed there:
  1. Consistent order and discipline 
  2. Opportunities for peer collaboration
  3. Supportive principal leadership
  4. Effective professional development
  5. A school culture characterized by trust
  6. A fair teacher evaluation process providing meaningful feedback.
The good news is that working conditions in schools can improve over time, and that teachers are responsive to these changes.  A recent study from Harvard University indicates that school principals play a key role in establishing productive professional environments in schools.  My own experience confirms this.  It doesn't take long for a poor principal to destroy a collegial working environment, through the encouragement of such things as cronyism, micromanagement, bullying, rivalry and back-biting. At the same time, once such a destructive leader moves on, a school can regenerate itself fairly quickly by hiring a principal who can build a new culture of supporting teachers and students. Even if the poor principal stays, a teacher who is performing poorly can choose to completely regenerate him/herself by moving to a different school with a more positive working environment. And in such a school, that teacher is likely to stay.  

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Future Forwards Volume 4

Today ASB published the next volume of Future Forwards.  The online edition is available at this link. Future Forwards is a collection of thoughts, hypotheses, discussions, and reflections on practices, research and ideas that are relevant to emerging new paradigms of teaching and learning.

Paradigms - Looking to the Future
These chapters are about paradigm shifts - different approaches that radically challenge established conventions. Here you will find chapters on experimenting with drones, creating an app to support French language learning, exploring a walking workstation in school, yoga and meditation for adolescent decision-making, and creativity and innovation.

Ideas - The Next Step
These chapters are about how current research is changing or impacting existing practices or established norms. In this section you can read about engineering design and the STEM crisis, improving reading for English language learners, and Day 9 prototyping

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 designing for environmental sustainability, the journey to standards-based assessment and reporting, problem solving (the Global Social Entrepreneurship Summit), using technology and analyzing data as key assessment, making and tinkering in the PYP, Community and Social Responsibility (CSR): a model for 21st century learning, inquiry in Kindergarten, iPad apps for creation in Early Childhood, using student data profiles to visualize student success in the Middle School, improving the world (the Technology, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Summit) and finally a chapter written by my colleague Sharon Brown and myself on coaching your colleagues about our Technology Integration Coaching programme.

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

If you missed the earlier volumes, here are the links:
·        Future Forwards Volume 2
·        Future Forwards Volume 3