Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Looking back on 2015

It's always good to look back at the end of a year and see where my thoughts have been over the past 12 months.  As an international educator, it's not surprising that around 50 of my posts this year have been about various aspects of teaching and learning and international education.  As I've taken on a leading role in the Global Recruitment Collaborative, quite a few posts have also been about recruitment and the trend towards online recruitment rather than going to job fairs.  I've been involved in an R&D Task Force on recruitment as well - more about this when the report is published next year.

2014 saw a huge surge in interest in coaching, following my initial 4 day training in London in Cognitive Coaching and the establishment of a tech integration coaching model at ASB.  During 2015 I consolidated this by attending the final 4 days of the foundation course, and went on to do the advanced coaching training over the summer holidays.  This was also complemented by Adaptive Schools training in the Fall.  Overall I'm seeing a huge benefit to coaching, enabling teachers to become more thoughtful and self-directed about their own professional growth.

Research and Development, creativity and Design Thinking have all been subjects that I've blogged extensively about over the past year as well.  I'm fascinated by trends in the world and how education will need to change in order to stay relevant.  Along with these I notice I'm continuing to blog about the IB, the PYP and about leadership.

My most popular posts for readers, however, have been rather different.  The rest of this post will highlight the posts I've written over the past year that have been read and shared the most.  The overwhelmingly most popular post has been on Flipped Learning.  Following a presentation at ISTE in June 2015, I blogged about a session I attended by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams that related Flipped Learning to Bloom's Taxonomy.

On my return to school in July, one of our Teaching Assistants shared her excitement about a workshop she did about reading comprehension over the summer.  She wanted to share her resources about the role technology can play in monitoring reading comprehension.  The one post I made about this obviously resonated with readers around the world, and this post has been shared and viewed more than 3500 times.

One of our summer holidays reads this year was To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink.  Reflecting on this book led me to write a post about perspective and empathy, which also was shared thousands of times.  It was interesting to consider these two words, since perspective is something we talk about a lot in coaching as it is a cognitive capacity involved in thinking, and empathy is a PYP attitude, but also an emotional response.  I wanted to explore how these two tied together and to acknowledge that both are crucial.

Finally the last post I want to share in this post, which also received a lot of views and shares was the one about what neuroscience can teach us about coaching.  I wrote this one following the Advanced Cognitive Coaching training in Genoa in the summer.

Thanks to all the readers of this blog who have continued to support me over the past year.  For now, I'm looking forward to what 2016 will bring.  It's hard to think that this little reflective blog, started only to keep myself sane and moving forward as a a professional during a pretty bleak part of my career, has flourished and bloomed into something quite amazing.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Future Forwards Volume 5 - from shining stars to connected constellations

Today ASB published the next volume of Future Forwards. The online edition is available at this linkFuture 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.  Previous volumes of Future Forwards have focused on how ASB's R&D has built a culture of active innovation at the school.  However we are aware that to effect transformation across education worldwide, we need more schools to "move past being distinct and shining stars of innovation, to become connected constellations of innovation."  Volume 5 of Future Forwards therefore contains explorations of the frontiers of education from 3 other schools around the world.

Paradigms - Looking to the Future
These chapters are about paradigm shifts - different approaches that radically challenge established conventions. Here you will find chapters on professional development, design thinking, multi-age classrooms and social entrepreneurship.

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 ASB's partnership with a local school, research into digital wellbeing and social media use among third culture kids, the future of higher education, gender equity and meeting the diverse needs of language learners.

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 blended learning, student leadership in technology, curiosity projects in art, Maker, using sensors in the classroom and creative coding.

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:

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Changing Educational Paradigms: Aesthetic -v- Anaesthetic

An oldie but goodie - we used this in our Curricular Team retreat on Friday.  Most great learning happens in groups - YES!

I have to say that I've never realised before this that the opposite of aesthetic could be anaesthetic. We want our students to have their senses operating at their peak - to be fully alive and in the moment. Schools need to wake students up to what they have inside themselves.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Putting on different hats to find better solutions

In the whole time that I've been writing this blog - 6 year now - I've never written about de Bono's Thinking Hats, a strategy that was devised around 30 years ago to help groups to take on different roles and to think together more effectively.  The 6 coloured hats represent 6 different roles that we play on teams - each of which can be beneficial.  Most people tend to have one dominant thinking colour, with one or two others colours close behind.  Here are the different hats:
  • White - a logical thinker who is drawn to facts and figures
  • Green - a creative thinker who likes generating and trying out new ideas but may not think through the consequence of these ideas
  • Red - an emotional person who often has hunches and gut reactions and is intuitive when making decisions
  • Blue - an organised person, often the person who is managing the process and to stand back and look at the bigger picture
  • Black - a person playing the devil's advocate and pointing out what might go wrong, someone who is cautious, critical thinking and conservative
  • Yellow - someone who wants everyone to be happy and the group to be harmonious, the optimist who is looking for the positives and benefits and for ways of making something work
The Six Hats model is useful for group work as you can collectively decide what hat to "put on" and look at an issue that way.  For example during a brainstorming session the group might decide they all need to put on their green hats, whereas later the team can decide they need to put on blue hats in order to plan on a process.  I was thinking about this in terms of planning a school trip.  A green hat might be needed to think about different places to go, a blue hat when planning the logistics of getting there, and a black hat for risk assessment.

I think you probably need people wearing all these hats on a productive team.  Thinking about myself, the 3 hats I tend to wear the most are the green, black and blue hats.  I could definitely work on becoming more of a logical thinker (white hat).  I think the value of this model is that you can deliberately decide to imagine that you are wearing different hats which means you will think about a problem from different perspectives.  Hopefully this will result in a wider range of possible solutions.

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Playing games, becoming creative

This week at school we've been doing the Hour of Code.  This started me thinking about why video games are so important, and how the principles of "gamification" could be applied to influence behaviour and learning.  I was reading about Tom Chatfield's studies in the University of Bristol that have listed the reasons why some games influence behaviour.
  • One thing that video games do really well is give players constant feedback about how they are doing.  Often when playing games you can see your score on-screen, so you get immediate feedback about what you are doing well.  Players earn points - often for quite small things - so players learn what works and how to improve.  Frequent feedback, it seems, is the way to improve performance.  So thinking about this, it does seem ironic that in the world of work most of us only get an evaluation or appraisal once every year.  Chatfield's studies show that infrequent feedback diminishes creativity and causes greater stress.  If you only have a once a year evaluation, then you are more likely to play safe and avoid taking risks or experimenting with new ideas (especially if these are liked with pay increases and bonuses).  Without frequent feedback it's hard to improve.
  • Short and long term goals are also embedded into many games, for example with levels. This allows you to have small wins along the way.  This could easily be incorporated into schools or workplaces, so that succeeding in small goals is seen as being part of a larger, long-term plan.
  • Another interesting thing to emerge from games is that rewarding both success and failure leads to more creativity (not just rewarding success).  Creativity has many dead ends - Thomas Edison, for example, found 10,000 ways of not making a lightbulb before he found one that did.  Rewarding people for exploring different ways of doing things taps into a prototyping mindset - finding out what doesn't work is also important - and encourages more exploration.
  • Creativity is also enhanced when there is a social engagement.  Mostly we like to play games with other people rather than just against ourselves.  Being actively involved with a team, often motivates us to go beyond what we would do on our own.
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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Shaping the Future of Learning: anticipating and directing positive change

By now I've come to the end of the KnowledgeWorks Forecast The Future of Learning.  At our R&D meeting on Tuesday I discussed some of these forecasts and trends with colleagues, many of which could be viewed as opportunities or threats, depending on your perspective,  What follows below are several points taken from the last couple of pages of the report.
  • The purpose of education will be challenged.  Education needs to evolve to support people in pursuing new forms of career readiness while at the same time fostering human development and personal meaning.  We need to consider what competencies will be needed in the future for a world of human-machine partnerships.  Education needs to evolve to meet the needs of learners and society, and will need to balance civic life and individual success.
  • Equity for all learners will present a huge design challenge.  New divides could emerge as the technology-driven automation of work changes the relationship between humans and machines and redefines careers.  It's important to consider whether customised education will end up being only for the privileged or wealthy.
  • Learner responsibilities.  As the learning ecosystem expands, learners will have greater choice about how, when and where to pursue learning.  There will be greater choice, but also more responsibility for evaluating and selecting options.
  • Governance structures.  Education policy may struggle to keep up with the accelerating pace of change.  Data privacy, security and permissions will need special attention as new layers of information surround learning.
  • Catalytic roles.  As today's educational institutions struggle to adapt to change, many schools, colleges and universities may close.  Those that survive will need to decide how best to contribute to educational value webs as organisational structures loosen and societal expectations change.
  • There will be many opportunities for those who pioneer new educational roles.  Roles will diversify as learning ecosystems expand.  New kins of specialities will emerge to create and guide learning experiences, and to monitor and ensure their effectiveness.
  • Technology.  Technology will become increasingly important as the amount of data and information that people need to manage their life and work increases.  We will also need to consider the question of where should we let machines do human tasks.
The response to change can often be seen as flight, fight or freeze.  This approach is more about looking change squarely in the eyes, questioning the implications and then using it for good.

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Shifting society in times of exponential change

I'm continuing to read on in the KnowledgeWorks report The Future of Learning.  This post is about imagine how alternative values and diverse perspectives could transform education.
  • Readiness Redefined:  The changing nature of work will bring about a debate about the role of people in the workforce, and what it means to be career-ready.  Schools will no longer push students towards post-secondary options that do not prepare the for the world of work.  Education will prepare learners to continually reskill and upskill.
  • New Benefactors:  Highly empowered individuals will create their own schools and learning communities.
  • Self-Improving Learning Ecosystems:  Broad feedback will be used by learning ecosystems to improve themselves continuously and automatically.  Decision making will expand so that everyone in the learning ecosystem sees themselves as an empowered decision maker.
  • Educating for Impact:  The need to help young people think innovatively and navigate complexity will become increasingly important.  Students will be able to embrace complexity as they become innovators and problem solvers who will actively shape the world around them as part of their education.
This section reminds me of ASB's mission:  
We inspire all of our students to continuous inquiry, empowering them with the skills, courage, optimism, and integrity to pursue their dreams and enhance the lives of others.
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Shifting structures in times of exponential change

Over the past few months I've had chats with a colleague about the concept of unschooling, and I've met a family who are unschooling their 3 children.  Reading on in KnowledgeWorks The Future of Learning, brings these conversations to mind and considers how teaching and learning systems might morph over the next 10 years.  Here is a summary of the main points:
  • Learning Biomes:  innovations in education will focus on fostering responsive learning climates through the cultivation of effective group learning cultures and the customization of learning environments.  By creating tailored personal and shared learning overlays, augmented and virtual reality tools will increasingly meld those environments and enable learners to make use of new forms of immersive experience.
  • Fluid Schools:  schools will shift from fixed structures to fluid networks and relationship-based formats reflecting learners needs, interests and goals.  
  • Artisanal Education:  Learners and their families will be increasingly conscious consumers and architects of learning, seeking out educational approaches that fit their values and lifestyles.
  • Autonomous Administration:  education administration will shift from managing discrete organizations to facilitating seamless collaboration across diverse learning ecosystems.  Distributed organizational models will supplant traditional hierarchies as many management functions become automated.  Smart contracts will help schools allocate and manage resources.
  • Resilient Learning Ecosystems:  as communities and individuals struggle to adapt to changing conditions, learning ecosystems comprised to many kinds of organizations and resources will help the education sector adapt to changing needs.
I loved reading this section of the report - so many ideas resonated with me.  What do you think about these - how do you see school structures changing in the future?

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Shifting people in times of exponential change

Today I'm getting ready for our R&D Meeting tomorrow by reading the KnowledgeWorks Forecast The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code.  Briefly, this document is looking at the shifts in society that are disrupting organizations and changing the role of employment in people's lives.  As such these changes are also going to have an effect on how, when and why people learn.

I've heard Ian Jukes talk at a number of different conferences, his message being that we "live in times of exponential change".  This is addressed in The Future of Learning as well:
If education continues to advance one step at a time, it will fall exponentially behind the world for which it aims to prepare learners.
 There are a number of drivers of change identified in The Future of Learning.  These are:
  • Optimized Selves: based on wearable devices and sensors that enable us to track and analyze our behaviours such as sleep, exercise, nutrition, social interactions and so on, we are able to deepen our self-knowledge.  
  • New Labour Relations: with machines!  Smart machines and artificial intelligence can now perform much of what was traditionally "middle class" work including complex cognitive tasks.  The challenge is to redefine what is the unique human contribution in the workplace.
  • Alternative Economies:  Underemployment and debt has led to people finding they are limited in their participation in the consumer economy.  The prediction is that "individuals will move in and across multiple intersecting economies ... and seeking educational approaches that fit their needs and outlook".
  • Self-managing Institutions:  arising from the growing open culture movement, the prediction is for flexible webs comprised of many organizations and individuals.  These are seen as being distributed, autonomous organizations that operate with minimal management.
  • Shifting Landscapes: including new relationships at work, a redefinition of wage labour and what constitutes a job.  Learning and re-learning will help individuals adapt to these turbulent and volatile conditions.
I think in our R&D Meeting we want to consider what might happen when educators and learners re-imagine their roles and interactions as a result of these changes.  Here are some ideas from The Future of Learning - all of which I think will make a positive difference to education within the next 10 years:
  • New tools and practices informed by neuro- and emotion science will help educators design learning experiences and develop rich feedback to help learners engage in experiences that optimize learning.
  • Personalized learning will move beyond tailoring pacing and curriculum resources towards the dynamic curation of customized learning relationships with an expanded range of learning partners.
  • As educators work to prepare students for new economies, they will create assessments that measure mastery, real-world impact, and social-emotional development.  Educators and learners will focus their interactions on realizing personal potential and demonstrating meaningful competencies.
  • Learners and their families will use smart contracts to access experiences and resources across more distributed and diverse learning ecosystems, personalizing their learning and supporting their distinct interests, needs and aspirations.
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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Creativity loves constraints

The title of this post comes from Marissa Mayer, the head of product development at Google.  I read it today in Tina Seelig's book inGenius.  I'm the kind of person who doesn't really like to work under pressure (certainly not the pressure of time).  I like to get things done in plenty of time, leaving me with the freedom to modify or change things before the deadline.  Other people tend to leave things to the last minute and then pull off "all-nighters" to get them done.  According to Seelig, these people could well be the creative ones!

Seelig shares a graphic, which I have reproduced here, that was designed by Teresa Amabile Constance Hadley and Steve Kramer of the Harvard Business School that shows how pressure influences creativity.

This matrix examines the relationship between high and low pressure and high and low creativity:

  • Expedition (low pressure and high creativity):  People are free to engage in exploration of opportunities, however they need to be very self-motivated and inspired to use the time to be creative.
  • Autopilot (low pressure and low creativity):  Here there are no external incentives or encouragement to be creative, and people are bored and uninspired.
  • Treadmill (high pressure and low creativity):  When pressure is unrelenting and unfocused, as for example when the goals keep changing, then work feels unimportant and people feel they are on a treadmill that never stops.
  • Mission (high pressure and high creativity):  Here, despite the pressure, there is a clear, focused and important goal and people are highly creative.
Over my 30 plus years in teaching, I can identify with each of these situations at different times in my career.  I've worked in several schools where teachers seem to be on autopilot or on a treadmill, and I've worked in others where there has definitely been the freedom to explore things that were definitely out of the box.  I feel very happy with the balance where I am now.  Certainly there are lots of times when I feel I am on a mission.  During my R&D work, on the other hand, I definitely relate to the expedition metaphor.  Probably I think I thrive in a situation where there is both, in order to stay balanced.

Where do you see yourself in this grid?  Do you think pressure increases or decreases your creativity?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Integration -v- Implementation

Many people ask me what makes technology so successful at ASB.  One of the things I think is that for many years there has been a clear division of roles.  Each campus as a Director of Educational Technology and each campus has a Director of Technology Support.  I spend my time focused on teaching and learning, supporting both teachers and students to make thoughtful decisions about how to use the technology.  I never have to worry about networks, cables, budgets, hardware, subscriptions and so on (things that I did sometimes do in previous jobs, but which I never enjoyed). We each have a clear area of focus.

I was really encouraged on reading the new IB document Teaching and Learning with Technology, that this model is one that is promoted.  This model, shown in the diagram above, is "the thinking that separates the concepts related to technology from the things we use that are technology.  Integration is about pedagogy and it is the focus on what teachers and students are doing.  Implementation is the tools and infrastructure that supports the teaching and learning.

Now if you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that in the past I have worked in a place that was not so balanced.  Where the people involved in the implementation were seen as being much more important than the teachers and learners - and so their voice was the one that was heard when decisions were made.  The IB is very clear on this:
Without integration, implementation doesn't work.  Integration drives implementation, not the other way round.
Another model is also discussed in the recent publication:  the AID technology integration framework of technology literacy in the IB programmes:

  • Agency:  ways of being - the skills and concepts related to academic honest, digital participation and internet safety that leads to being safe and responsible online.
  • Information:  ways of knowing - searching, analyzing and manipulation information and the responsible use of data.
  • Design:  ways of doing - ideating and creating products (design thinking, Maker, robotics and so on that connects "real world" experiences with conceptual learning)
What do you think of the new ideas that have been published by the IB?  How will your school be using them?

Teaching and Learning with Technology

The IB brought out a new publication yesterday entitled Teaching and Learning with Technology.  As I wanted to share this with our tech coaches, I read through it today and found a number of things that are worth highlighting, as well as many things that are already in place at ASB.  I like some of the definitions that have been introduced in this publication as well.  For example:
  • Technological literacy - which is seen as being a combination of acquired and applied technology, reflecting on learning and making choices about which technologies to use and when to use them.
  • Discernment - knowing how to apply technology effectively - this is a critical thinking skill.
I also like the way that the importance of mindsets is brought out.  The document states, "Many schools are hindered in their attempt to implement technology because of mindsets that do not encourage the effective use of technology."

I want to reproduce the following paragraph in full because I think it is vitally important:
IB technologies policies should include the following pillars that outline a school's mission and how multiple technologies support it:
  • Technology aids and extends the ability to teach and learn.
  • Every teacher is a "tech teacher".
  • Technology literacy is integral for all learners in an IB education. 
  • Every member of the school community shares a responsibility to foster technology literacy in all learners.
  • School plans and policies demonstrate the alignment of technology integration and implementation (more about this in my next post)
  • Schoolwide professional development enables leaders and teachers to understand how technologies support and enhance teaching and learning
Schools are encouraged to expand on these pillars and to create new ones.  Which new ones would you like you see your school add into its technology policy?

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