Saturday, December 31, 2016

Living with dementia: the sandwich generation

It's the last day of 2016, and as always I like to look back to see which of my posts have been most popular throughout this year.  I was surprised to see that this year the posts that have got really high hits have been the ones where I have written about my mother's dementia, and how I have been exploring some iPad apps with her to see how she reacts to them.  Dementia is of course a very common issue today: in the UK alone more than half a million elderly women are living with dementia, though it's not just a disease of the elderly, with around 50,000 sufferers below the age of 65, and it's not just a "Western" disease as the largest increases in dementia are currently in China, India and Sub-Saharan Africa.  Globally around 47 million people are living with dementia.

Dementia leads to memory loss, changes in behaviour, confusion and disorientation and difficulties in communicating and my mother is experiencing all of these things.  There are no treatments that can stop or slow down dementia, though mum has tried medication to help her live with the symptoms a little better.  Basically what we are looking at is that the disease will continue to get worse over time.

This summer, as many of you know, our daughter left university having finished her Master's.  Both our children are now working, which should be a time for us to take a bit of a breather financially and to start to save for retirement.  But as part of the "sandwich" generation, the generation that is caring for both children and parents, it's clear that my time and money will now need to be diverted into the care of my mother.  I am needing to think about relocating back to Europe at least for part of the year, and I'm not yet sure how to do this.  I've considered (and applied for) jobs in European schools and I've wondered how realistic it might be to work as a consultant, or to lead IB workshops and school visits for the time I will be in Europe.  At this point, I don't have any answers and I'm running out of ideas.  However what I do know is that thousands of my readers are based at schools in Europe - and that some of you might have some ideas or know of schools that are looking for someone to work part-time, or someone to run workshops, or someone to give advice and support about technology integration, someone who can support a school as it goes through the process of becoming PYP, or someone to introduce a culture of coaching.  If you are able to give me any information or any leads that I could follow up - please reach out to me and let me know.

Life has taught me that when one door closes a window often opens.  I know what I need to do now is to hang on in there until that window opens - even though where I am right now is a pretty dark place!

Let's see what 2017 brings. Happy New Year to you all!

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why Millennials struggle

I have two children who are millennials - so I'm always interested in reading or hearing about their experiences, in this case why Millennials struggle with career success (they want purpose and to make an instant impact).  Simon Sinek puts this down to 4 main factors:

  • parenting - where they were told they were special and could have anything in life - yet in the real world this is not the case and this leads to lower self esteem.
  • technology - in particular social media and cell phones which can be addictive.
  • impatience - a world of instant gratification, which doesn't lead to job satisfaction and strong relationships.
  • environment in the workplace that cares about short-term gains rather than lifetime gains.

This video is funny and insightful and has me questioning whether I should buy an alarm clock and ditch my cell phone - and it makes me realise why I get so annoyed with my children who want to use their cellphones while we are together eating or playing a game.  Watch it to the end, and watch out for the reaction of the Millennials in the audience too.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Making the biggest difference

Every teacher wants to make a difference, but with so many ideas and strategies coming in and out of vogue a question often asked is what makes the biggest difference to students' success.  Educational researchers such as Marzano and Hattie have reviewed data from hundreds of studies and they agree that the following are the most important:
  • A clear focus - students do better when teachers are clear about what they are learning and when this new learning is challenging compared to where they currently are.  Both agree that the goals need to be shared with the students.
  • Direct instruction - Marzano believes the most important factor in student success is to explicitly teach the things that students need to learn and showing students what they need to be able to do.
  • Engagement with the content - both Hattie and Marzano agree that students need to link what they are learning with their prior knowledge.  Both felt that teacher questions, note taking and using manipulatives were valuable here, but only for surface engagement.  For deep understanding, using graphic organizers to show how the new material is organized is more effective.
  • Feedback - letting students know what is good and bad in their work and how they can improve.  Interestingly struggling students need immediate feedback whereas the more successful students do better when feedback is delayed.
  • Multiple exposure - combined with rehearsal and review of what has previously been learnt.  Practice is seen as being really important here.
  • Application of knowledge beyond the particular topic - so that students come to generalize their learning.  One aspect of application is problem-solving for real-world issues.
  • Collaboration - when students work together they achieve better results.  However both Hattie and Marzano believe groups should be small and that this cooperative work needs to be well structured (so students need to be taught how to work in groups).
  • Self-efficacy - students who believe they can master new learning are likely to be able to do so.  This fits in with Carol Dweck's work on growth mindsets.  Teachers can encourage this through sparing praise (too much send the message that you value mediocrity).  As students belief in themselves is reflected in their achievements, this in turn leads to them being more self-efficacious.  
No great surprises here, though I was curious to see the value of direct instruction, since much of what we do in the PYP is inquiry-based.  I was especially curious to read this article because after Christmas I'm mentoring a new teacher at ASB and I'm thinking that each of these areas could provide a great area for observation and subsequent discussion about what I noticed.  

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Approaches to teaching and learning

I took part in another IB webinar last week.  There were 1600 registered participants for this webinar - WOW I thought, it's great that so many educators are taking part with a view to strengthening IB programme implementation.  Our focus this week was on Standards C3 - teaching and learning.  One thing we talked about was that we are moving to alignment within and between the programmes.  Also we are not just focusing on Approaches to Learning (ATLs) but also Approaches to Teaching:

At this point we were challenges to look at our own curriculum and to see what can be improved upon with the Approaches to Teaching.

Another area touched upon was how far policies drive the practices in our schools.  Our policies represent our own schools' contexts and beliefs and as such they should be "living" documents and not just sit on a shelf.  Also the Action Plans that we make should not just be addressed at times of evaluation - they need to be looked at continually to strengthen the programme.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

I want to challenge that!

Today I spent the whole day at school putting into practice my learning about the 6 Thinking Hats.  As we are re-thinking structures at ASB, our task as volunteers was to come up with ideas to conserve and grow ASB's culture of innovation in the areas of personnel, systems and processes and non-human resources.  We started the day with an introduction to the Thinking Hats, and then went on to deepen our understanding of how these can work by considering challenges.  It's important to know that a challenge is never an attack or a criticism, but it's a challenge to something that seems perfect - to see if you can do it an another, different way.  A challenge is always based on what the existing situation is and it can challenge both what is going on and what you are thinking.  The key word for challenges is why: in fact we are challenging something that is not broken but just asking why it's the way it is.

When considering why, there are 3 approaches:
  • Alternatives - challenging uniqueness - asking "Is this the only way?"
  • Because - challenging the reasons and asking if they are valid
  • Cut - challenging the necessity and asking "Do we need to do this at all?"
When challenging traditional thinking we need to start with the C (do we need it?) and then move onto B (are the reasons we are doing this valid?) and finally the A (are there other ways of doing this?"

We were given a checklist to work through when considering our issue, which in our group was non-human resources.  The checklist was made up of 5 areas:
  • Dominating ideas, thoughts and beliefs that control the situation
  • Boundaries that we think we need to work within
  • Assumptions  that we are making - do they just exist in our minds?
  • Essential factors that have to be present
  • Avoidance factors
Having considered all the above, we we able to use to Green Thinking Hat to come up with a lot of new ideas.  For example just challenging the notion that the school day runs from 8 am to 4 pm would give us many new ideas to work with. Perhaps there could be 2 "shifts" with elementary running in the morning and secondary in the afternoon, for example.  We ended up with many new ideas, and then these were sorted into a grid based on the impact they would have on student learning and how sustainable they would be once the present faculty who were advocating for them left the school.

In the top right quadrant (high impact on learning and sustainable) we had about 50 ideas.  These were then numbered and we were each given 18 stickers to write down the number of our favourite ideas. Once these were then sorted and grouped, 4 main ideas came to the surface:
  • Becoming a green school
  • Exploring outdoor education and the use of green spaces around the campuses
  • Multi-age approaches to inquiry
  • Building an off-site innovation centre 
All of these seemed great ideas to work with - and hopefully we will take these forward to grow ASB's culture of innovation.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Meaningful learning

Since the IB webinar last week, I've been reading and thinking about learning:  not just acquiring knowledge but being able to use this knowledge in a variety of new ways and situations.  One of the articles I read was by Richard E Mayer on Bloom's Revised Taxonomy.  I was interested in this because we use Bloom's Digital Taxonomy in our tech audit when discussing student work, and I wanted to dig a bit deeper - to go beyond the 6 categories.

Obviously, two important goals of education are to promote retention and to promote transfer.  Retention simply means that students remember material that was taught to them in the past, whereas transfer indicates more meaningful learning as it's the ability to use what was learned to solve new problems or to answer new questions in the future. Teachers traditionally teach for retention, possibly because it's easier to assess, whereas transfer is more complex as students not only need to build their knowledge, but also need to build their cognitive processes in order to devise ways of achieving a goal that they have never previously achieved.

  • Remembering - this is the lowest level of Bloom's yet it is essential that students can retrieve knowledge from their long-term memory in order to use it in more complex tasks.  If the goal of teaching is meaningful learning, then remembering is simply a means to an end, and not the end in itself. 
  • Understanding - this is where the shift from retention to transfer starts.  In his article, Mayer argues that this is where the largest category of transfer-based educational objectives are emphasized.  Understanding involves building connections between new knowledge gained and prior experience.
  • Applying - this is where students use procedures to perform exercises or solve problems.  This may be to a familiar task (for example being able to divide) or to an unfamiliar task, which is often called implementing.
  • Analyzing - this is where students break material into parts and determine how the parts relate to each other.  Analyzing can also involve students being able to determine the point of view, biases or values embedded in the material.
  • Evaluating - this is when students make judgements based on criteria and standards, and are able to determine how well something is working.  It can involve critiquing (critical thinking).
  • Creating - this is when students can put various elements together to form a coherent and functional whole - it involves making a new pattern or structure, for example when designing an original project.  
It was good to revisit some of these definitions again and to consider the implications for teaching.  If we want to promote the transfer of learning then we really need to be designing learning engagements at the higher end of the taxonomy.  It also has implications about what and how we assess.  If we as educators want to promote transfer, then we need to design assessments that go beyond recognizing and recalling.

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Sparking learning

I took part in an IB Strengthening Programme Implementation webinar last week.  There were around 850 people participating in this webinar from across the Asia-Pacific region, and our focus for this session was on the written curriculum.  It was great to be part of this webinar, to consider the IB Mission Statement and how it frames learning in our schools and also to become more aware of a new upcoming Principles into Practice publication for the PYP, aligning it with same language as the other IB programmes, and of course ensuring that the 5 transdisciplinary skills - now referred to as Approaches to Learning (ATLs) - are common to all programmes.

As well as the Approaches to Learning, we are now talking about common Approaches to Teaching. These are:
  • based on inquiry
  • focused on conceptual understandings
  • developed in local and global contexts
  • focused on effective teamwork and collaboration
  • differentiated to meet the needs of all learners
  • informed by assessment (formative and summative)
We had some great discussions, including how we are not just trying to cover content, but instead we are trying to spark learning.  We talked about how the written curriculum must identify the knowledge, concepts and skills to be developed across the whole IB continuum, and the importance of having mixed teams to look at the units.  In particular the importance of starting with the concept was stressed - not just adding them into existing units.

One of the slides shared in the webinar was this one, based on the work of Lynn Erickson.  With this we started with a world map showing locations of ancient civilizations, for example around the Nile, Tigris and Eurphrates, Indus and Yellow rivers.  From that came the facts and topic about population distribution.  Identifying the concepts based in these facts and topic led to the concept of pattern, and finally to putting concepts together into a central idea:  Natural environments influence population distribution patterns.

As we focus on ensuring the learning is engaging, significant, relevant and challenging, it's important to remember that  "a good inquiry statement is unlikely to be understood by studying it once."

A large amount of reading material was sent to us along with our webinar invitations.  I've been ploughing through this - in particular all the papers about Bloom's Taxonomy - and will be blogging about this shortly.

Above all else, being part of this community and the hashtag #ibstrong on Twitter has enabled me to feel really connected to the IB programmes as they develop.

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YES - Youth Employment through Skills

I don't usually post these things on my blog, but this did seem to be a worthy cause as it combines education, technology and a country close to where I'm living now that really does seem to need such opportunities for its youth.

Bangladesh, one of the world's most densely populated places and also one of the poorest countries, has found a way to face the problem of 41%s of Bangladeshi youth not being a part of the education system, employed or in training. The idea is a crowdfunding project called YES (Youth Employment through Skills).

The online freelance market is exploding - over 5 million companies are posting over 100 000 paid jobs every week. Organizers of Youth Employment through Skills found a way to bridge the gap between the millions of ambitious Bangladeshi Youth and the $2 billion freelance market.
The idea is to enable 100 000 youth across Bangladesh to become IT freelancers. By providing access to training, finance and mentorship, they will be connected on the online freelance market, earning up to $300 per month. The program is created to teach youth in-demand IT skills, communication skills and freelancing skills.

Within six months of graduating from the YES Program, students will earn up to $300 per month. Over a period of 3 years, he or she can earn up to $10 000 through online freelance jobs. This means $1B earned by 100 000 Bangladeshi Youth over 3 years.

If you wish to find out more about this project you can visit the   Indiegogo Campaign page.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Becoming knowledgeable about thinking

One of the "hardest" thinking skill that is contained in the PYP Approaches to Learning is metacognition, thinking about how you think and learn.  This knowledge can be divided into 3 different categories:
  • Strategic knowledge - knowing general strategies for learning - basically the what and how of the different strategies (for example how to memorise, extract meaning, comprehend what they are hearing or reading, to set goals, to check their answers and so on)
  • Cognitive knowledge - knowing when and why to use the strategies because not all strategies are suitable for all situations
  • Self-knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses.  Accuracy of this is really important - it is not the same as good self-esteem which might include inflated and inaccurate self-knowledge.
It's important to teach for metacognition as part of regular teaching - discussions about thinking should be an everyday part of the classroom.  As students hear and see how other students approach a task, they can compare their classmates' strategies with their own and make judgements about how useful the different strategies are.  It's also important for us as teachers to plan assessments where students can develop their self-knowledge by assessing their own strengths and weaknesses.

Metacognition enables us to be successful learners.  How are you developing this thinking skills in your students?

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Work is the new retirement

When I started work in my 20s, the retirement age for women in the UK was 60.  It's quite disturbing to me that if things had remained the same, I would be looking at working only 2 more years as a teacher beyond this current school year.  What happened was that the goal posts changed.  As the government realised that people were living longer and that their retirement pensions were having a huge impact on the budget, the retirement age gradually increased.  I'm now looking at working 10 more years until I can retire on a pension - and even then I might not be able to if I haven't managed to save enough into my retirement fund.  Is this an alarming prospect - not really because I love work.  What is scary though is that once I turn 60, or even as I approach 60, schools will no longer find me attractive as an employee.  My years of experience will count for nothing against the younger and cheaper teachers entering education.  I may need to work for another 10 years, but will I be able to?  Will another school employ me?

This is an interesting thing to think about in the light of the GRC fair (Global Recruitment Collaborative) - the first free face-to-face job fair for teachers in the world, held in Dubai last weekend.  Which teachers were most successful in getting jobs, the older and more experienced ones, or the ones just out of college with little or no experience?   While figures are not yet in to answer this question, it's certainly something worth considering as I wonder if or when is the right time for me to look for a new job somewhere closer to my family.

I read an article in the Harvard Business Review about this today.  The traditional stereotype of people in their 60s and 70s is that they are less interested in work and looking forward to the leisure time offered by retirement.  However a survey of 10,000 people between the ages of 24 and 80 showed that this is not really the case.  Many of today's 50 year olds will need to work into their 70s in order to finance their retirement, and many of today's 20 year olds could find themselves working into their 80s.

One of my mother's cousins used to work for the University of the Third Age in the UK.  This implied that there were 3 stages of life:  education, work and retirement.  The U3A was an attempt to bring learning to retired and semi-retired people in their "third age", not for qualifications but for its own reward:  the joy of discovery.  Currently there are branches of the U3A all over the UK where people come together to learn for pleasure.  There are around 300 different subjects in various fields including art, languages, music, history, computing and so on.   However even this concept is changing.  Rather than there being 3 stages of life, education, jobs, freelancing and time spent out of the workforce will increasingly become part of all stages of life.

What the HBR survey did was to find that the stereotypes we have about people of different ages just don't seem to be true.  It's not a case of young people being more interested in learning new skills and older people wanting a slower life.  Here are some of the findings;

  • People invest in new skills throughout their lives - almost everyone feels that their skills are not keeping up with changing work demands.  Over the age of 45, almost 60% of respondents said they were up-skilling
  • People of all ages are positive and excited about work - it was constant at about 50% of all respondents, regardless of age.  The really troubling thing is that the other 50%, regardless of age, are not!
  • People of all ages are concerned about keeping fit - only about 50% of the under 45s actively keep fit as opposed to 71% of the over 70s.
  • Older people are not more exhausted and less productive - in fact the opposite is true.  43% of the under 45s reported being exhausted with work, compared with 35% of those over 45.  The least exhausted are those over 60.
  • Older people don't want to slow down.  In the age group 46 - 60 more than half said they wanted to slow down in contrast to 39% of over 60s and 20% of over 70s.
  • People of all ages want to explore - it's not just 20 years old who want a "gap year".  
This is the important thing:  because ageist stereotypes abound, many companies (and schools) believe that older employees invest less in their knowledge and are less excited by their work - this leads them to making the wrong decisions about who to select, promote and develop.  The call to action in this report is this:  we need to face up to stereotypes and challenge them - only then an we create workplaces where people are accepted for themselves - young or old.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

A new reality: after the Internet of Things comes the Internet of Everything

I was sent an article today about the Internet of Everything (I0E).  This term was new to me.  I'd heard of the Internet of Things (IoT) of course, where physical objects that contain technology can be accessed through the internet - basically the emphasis is on machine to machine.  The IoE goes further than just objects.  It is the intelligent connection between people (through smartphones, tablets and PCs), data, processes and things.

Basically the IoE builds on top of the IoT because billions of objects will have sensors that will measure and assess their status. The IoE is driven by the development of IP-enabled devices and the increase in global broadband availability. This will impact business in new ways:
  • Business processes - technology will improve products, services and processes
  • Business models - as companies digitize products and processes more transformational changes will happen.  Examples of this are the sensors in Nike clothing now being able to play a part in healthcare, and Google getting involved in self-driving cars because sensors can detect objects and relate them to maps.
  • Business Moments - all these objects that contains sensors will generate real-time data, which can be collected, analyzed and stored.  Privacy and security concerns may well increase.
A great quote from the article is from Dave Aron of Gartner:
Digital is not an option, not an add-on, and not an afterthought; it is the new reality that requires a comprehensive digital leadership.
The IoE was listed as a top trend by Gartner last year.  The prediction is that businesses will soon be making extensive use of IoE technology.  Products that will be impacted by this include medical devices, factory automation, robotics, and infrastructure monitoring systems (roads, railway, water, electricity).  Cisco predict that the IoE is a $19 trillion global opportunity, mostly for private-sector firms.

Are you ready for the IoE?  What opportunities and threats do you think we need to consider?

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Change Ahead!

The Primary Year Programme (PYP) has been around for almost 20 years now.  It's the largest of the 4 IB programmes, covering up to 9 years of school, and is currently the fastest growing of all the the IB programmes.  It's now implemented in more than 100 countries worldwide.   Several years ago the IB embarked on a review of this programme to respond to advances in educational practice, and updates are posted regularly on the Online Curriculum Centre (OCC).   The aim of the review is to ensure that the PYP continues to be relevant, challenging, significant and engaging.

The document issued in June 2016 sets out 8 principles that permeate the PYP to help teachers design learning that is significant, relevant, challenging and engaging.  These principles are as follows:
  • Developed in meaningful contexts - basically this means they have personal relevance to the learners.  Having just facilitated an online workshop on collaborative planning which had a learning engagement about how students can be partners in the process, I'm interested to read that there will be more focus on learner agency and involving students in the planning process from the outset.  My hunch is that this will mean the PYP becomes more student-centred, as they will be given more opportunities to "take initiative, develop ownership, conduct peer feedback and self-assessment and are consulted in the decisions that affect them."
  • Inclusive and values diversity - there will be more emphasis on individualization and defining learning goals with each student.  Inclusivity implies all students are capable and benefit from meaningful and challenging learning experiences.  Again the emphasis is on students being partners in the education process.
  • Conceptually focused - the focus is on the learner constructing thinking and applying new concepts in creative and innovative ways.  While concepts reach across subject boundaries, there also needs to be more understanding of the disciplines within the transdisciplinary framework.
  • Fostered in supportive environments - these environments (including resources, time, people, spaces and materials) promote collaboration, inspire creativity and allow for experimentation and failure.  Tech integration is addressed here to aid and extend the learning and to link to the world beyond the school.
  • Based on inquiry - learning is based on our curiosity to explore and investigate and is a social process.  Students wonder, ask questions, think critically, research and test theories as they build their understanding.  The review will give additional guidance on balancing planned learning engagements with exploration.
  • Informed by assessment -  we need to use evidence to determine whether goals have been reached and to make decisions about what to learn next.  Feedback to scaffold learning is an essential component of this.
  • Sustained by relationships and collaboration - because learning is a social practice we need to focus on interactions within and beyond the learning community.
  • Focused on challenge and high expectations - we know that our expectations have a powerful influence over motivation, persistence and achievements.  The PYP review will consider self-efficacy and how it can be enhanced because when students believe in their capacity to learn they are most likely to succeed.
The PYP review has been ongoing for about 4 years now and in 2018 will culminate in the release of a new document PYP: From principles into practice.  The idea is that this will not be a PDF, but an interactive digital one-stop resource for PYP teachers.  I'm really excited to know more about this digital resource and about the PD that will be involved in developing and enhancing the programme.

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Thinking about the thinking hats: creative and critical thinking

This weekend it was another TTP at school (Teacher Training Programme - which we offer to teachers who work at local NGOs).  I always love doing this because it's great to work with such a dedicated group of educators, especially as many of them are working in extremely challenging situations.  This Saturday's TTP was especially great for me, however, as we had a morning workshop on the 6 Thinking Hats, run by one of our parents who is a trainer in this method.

Philip started his session with a 1 minute exercise - to look around the room and write down what you can see.  I managed to write down 16 things.  He then changed the directions - we would be still looking around the room for 1 minute but this time we would do it in 15 second chunks - to look at the front of the room, the ceiling, the back of the room and the people in the room.  This time I managed to jot down 27 things.  It was clear that when we were channeled and targeted that we were able to get more out of the exercise.

Philip then went on to explain the principle of parallel thinking and explained that the idea behind the 6 thinking hats is to all be thinking in one direction at a time (like train tracks).  Generally, without direction, we adopt one of four thinking preferences:
  • Clarifier - making sure everyone knows what we are trying to solve.
  • Ideator - someone who comes up with expansive and often wild ideas
  • Developer - someone who takes the ideas and refines them
  • Implementor - the person who takes action.
Edward de Bono's research into the mind in the 1960s led him to develop an interest in creative and lateral thinking, which in turn led him later into developing his model of parallel thinking.  He pointed out that critical thinking is great for a career in parliament or the law courts, but not great if we are trying to encourage creativity.  Critical thinking is related to only 2 of the 6 hats.
  • White Hat - this is the information hat.  When wearing this hat you look for information and assess how accurate and relevant it is.  You can also consider other points of view.
  • Red Hat - this is the feeling hat and covers perceptions, intuition and emotions.
  • Yellow Hat - the first of the critical thinking hats - looks for the logical positive value of something - why an idea has value and how it can work.  This is the most difficult of the hats.
  • Black Hat - this is the second critical thinking hat - looks for logical negatives such as the problems and risks associated with an idea.  This is the hat of caution.  Philip said that the black hat can be the most useful hat - but it is also easy to overuse it.
  • Green Hat - this is the creative hat that encourages you to ideate and consider alternatives, possibilities and choices.
  • Blue Hat - this is the hat that helps you frame the problem and it's worn by only one member of the group.  Philip likened this to the air traffic controller or the conductor of an orchestra.  The role of the person wearing this hat is to look down on the whole process and at thinking as a whole.
Another great analogy for the 6 Thinking Hats is that of a set of golf clubs - you deliberately choose which one you will use for a particular shot.  Without the different golf clubs (hats) it's like just using one club for all the different shots.  Alongside this is the idea that creativity can be learned - we all have the potential to be creative and we can learn to be more skilled to maximize our potential.

Which hat do you use first?  Well mostly you would start with the white and the red hats and then move onto the yellow and black.  However the order does vary depending on whether or not the topic under discussion is a controversial one.  If you use the black hat first you may be getting rid of ideas that would work if the green hat was then used to work on them.  In those situations it's better to start with the yellow hat so that you immediately recognize all the good points about the ideas.  In fact De Bono said that the yellow hat was his favourite.  However if the subject is a controversial one it might be better to start with the black hat - but be sure that what is discussed is black hat and not red hat thinking!

With the red hat, it might be useful to do a group check on feelings.  We did this with a quick "love it or hate it" continuum.  If the feeling is spread across the whole continuum then the group is not ready to make a decision.  The red hat can be used several times throughout the process, for example to do a personal or group check or to get feelings about a decisions (parallel thinking).  The green hat can also be used in different ways.  It can be used for designing and brainstorming new ideas or it can also be used to overcome issues, for example to fix some of the black hat issues or difficulties (lateral thinking).  Philip explained about lateral thinking being like a roundabout - there are many different options and if one way isn't working you can come back to the roundabout to choose a different route.

Philip spoke a lot about creativity.  He said that creativity is the best and cheapest way to get added value from your exiting assets.  It's a logical necessity.  As time passes we get more, new information and we have to make use of this new information.  Being right at each stage is not enough - you have to go back and redesign or recreate when new information comes in.  The order information comes in will determine the outcome.  You don't know the future so you can't arrange for the future.  With creativity it is logical only in hindsight - so we don't need better logic we need more creativity and we must learn the skills of creative thinking.  He explained that the 6 Thinking Hats are a way of "designing accidents".  For example here in India we frequently experience roads being blocked during the monsoon season.  This necessitates us having to search out new routes.  Sometimes as we do this we make happy discoveries - maybe a new restaurant that we would not have found had we stuck to our regular route.  What De Bono's thinking hats do is to design these "accidents" to generate ideas.

There could be 2 reasons why you want to use the Thinking Hats for ideas - these could be "active" to design something, or "reactive" in response to something.  The blue hat person will design the sequences which might look like this:

Active:  Blue - White (info) - Red (feelings) -> Green (ideas) - Red (feelings about ideas) - Yellow (value of ideas) - Black (risks of the ideas) - Green (overcoming the risks) - Red (new feelings about the ideas) -> Blue

Reactive:  Blue - Red (feelings) - White (info) -> Black (if controversial) or Yellow (value) - Black (risks) - Green (ideas) - Black (risks based on new ideas) - Green (ideas) -Red (feelings) -> Blue

This week in India we have been faced with most of our currency (the 500 and 1000 rupee notes) being abolished.  We used this as a case study.  We started with our feelings (most in my group were fairly negative) but after going through the process we were able to generate many ideas as to how we could make the best of the situation and reduce the impact on those people who are most struggling (those small businesses who rely on the cash economy).  We ended this session feeling much more positive about the currency changes and the reasons behind the government's decision.

Have you used the Six Thinking Hats?  I'd love to hear about your experience.

Photo Credit: jnd_photography Flickr via Compfight cc

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Startling Statements

Over the past week I've worked with both Grade 4 and Grade 5 students on writing assignments that are summative assessments for their units of inquiry.  In Grade 4 students studied ecosystems during Sharing the Planet and inquired into various factors that were impacting them (for example pollution, global warming etc). Their summative assessment was to write a speech that could be presented at the UN to bring governments of the world together to try to save an ecosystem or tackle and environmental issue.  Students had to decide if they were going to save an ecosystem, which one should it be and why, or if they were going to tackle an environmental issue and which issue should be tackled first.  The teachers worked with the literacy coach to design the assessment and to teach the students techniques of persuasive writing.

In Grade 5 students have just finished Where We are in Place and Time.  In this unit they discovered that history can be learned through the study of people, places and artefacts.  For their summative assessment they chose a person, place or artefact that they wanted to research, and a curation tool for collecting their information and then had to decide themselves on a way to share their research with other students.

With both Grade 4 and 5, teachers worked with the students to come up with an attention grabbing beginning to their writing.  This could be a startling statement that would hook other students into their presentations.

As I was thinking about startling statements, I came across an article shared on Facebook by Kim Cofino.  This article was entitled Make Time To Do Your Best Work.  As I read it through, I found there were many attention grabbing, startling statements that seemed to speak directly to me.  I decided to share a few of them here.

This month I've started to take over the mentoring one of our student teachers, who is going to take over from a teacher who is due to start maternity leave after the Christmas holidays.  This mentoring is on top of everything I already do.  At the same time, because I'm thinking that I may need to take extensive periods of leave next year to care for my mother, I've also started to think about what is vital to do in my job, and what is not.  Could I drop 20% of my job, and spend that time with my mother?  The article I read today helped me to put some of this into perspective.

The first point made was that it's hard to say no - and that causes us stress as we are trying to do too many things and not getting satisfaction from doing them as well as we can.  Basically the only way of dealing with this is to say "No" to some things, so that we have more time to do other things well. It's not possible to be a multi-tasker and split our attention among many things:  to do our best work we have it give it all our attention.

But that's hard to do - and here comes the first startling statement:
A goldfish attention span is 9 seconds.  And as from 2015 a human is 8 seconds.
Many things suck at our attention - for example our phones, which apparently we check around 221 times a day!  If we eliminated some of these distractions (2-3 hours each day without wifi or phones) then that 2-3 hours of focused work would be equivalent to other people's 8 hours.  Cal Newport, in the book Deep Work writes "They may be working longer, but they will be doing shallow work." This is because when we get distracted it takes around 20 minutes or so to get back into the flow.

So here's another startling statement:
Most people don't ever do their best work because they give up before they have mastered all the skills required to do it.
According to Malcolm Gladwell everyone can learn the talent to do their best work, but not everyone has the patience to practice until they are good enough to deliver it.   And this is where passion comes in:  most people don't really love what they do.  If you do love it, then the passion to improve is what will drive you - and the practice will be fun.  Work will not feel like work when you love what you do:
10,000 hours of learning can be a short time when you love it.  Or an eternity when you don't.
So finally we get to purpose - which is the multiplier of effort.   When you have a reason, when your work matters, then you refuse to quit even when things get tough.  It comes down to this:  to do your best work it has to matter to you.  Knowing your purpose will help you be the best that you can.

Photo Credit: cusp kid Flickr via Compfight cc

Pauses and soundbytes

It's election day today in the US, and although I work in an American school, I've tried my hardest to distance myself from the emotions that surround this election and the political leanings of both colleagues and students.  However it has been interesting to look at the techniques that have been employed by the candidates to try to influence the electorate and persuade people to vote for them.

To be honest, over the past month or so I've been very busy with things out of school - designing an online workshop, facilitating an online workshop, and leading a couple of PD opportunities for teachers in Mumbai.  Because of that I've been thinking about adult learning and the things that I can influence, such as my presentation and skills.

I've written before about the power of pausing.  I read a bit more about this recently, also tied to politicians.  In Bob Garmston's book The Presenter's Fieldbook, he advises us to "employ an extended period of silence before making a point ... speakers who do not pause for long enough may sound subordinate."  Garmston cirtes the research done by Iain Ewing who analyzed the speak patterns of French politicians and he discovered that the more important the speaker, the more slowly he or she speaks and with more and longer pauses.  For example he analyzed the speeches of Mitterand in 1974 when he was in opposition and running for president and found that around 30% of his speeches were pauses, with an average length of 0.8 seconds.  However when he analyzed the speeches of Mitterand in 1984 when he was president of France he found that 45% of the time in speeches was pauses, and that the average length of these pauses was 2.1 seconds.  Garmston mentions other notable speakers who also spoke slowly and with lots of pauses:  Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy.

Now along with this he noticed that the most important points of these speeches were delivered as "soundbytes".  This style of speaking became popular as an effective communication strategy during the 1988 US presidential elections.  Analyzing speeches before this time, for example during the 1970 election, the average soundbyte for candidates on the network evening news was 42.8 seconds.  However by 1988 it had fallen in 9.8 seconds, and by 1999 it was 7.3 seconds (about 20 - 25 words).  I'd be interested to know what it was for the current elections!

Pausing, and thinking about how to get the most important point across as a soundbyte are certainly things I can work on to improve the effectiveness of my presentation skills.  Before I use this with adults, however, I'm going to try it out with a couple of classes to see what the impact is on student learning.

Photo Credit: Marc Wathieu Flickr via Compfight cc

Friday, November 4, 2016

Developing a designer's mind

Back in September I attended the Presenter's Forum in Denver in order to further my goal of becoming a Cognitive Coach trainer.  I was also hoping that learning more about presenting would lead to me delivering better presentations in the future.  At the time I was working on designing an online workshop for the IB on digital citizenship, preparing for a tech integration workshop for Consilience, and preparing to lead a 3-day Making the PYP Happen workshop in Mumbai.  One of the things I really hoped to do was to develop a designer's mind so that the presentations I would eventually give would be really useful for the participants.

According to Bob Garmston, design thinkers ask 4 questions when planning a presentation:
  • What do I want the participants to learn?
  • How will I know they are learning it?
  • What strategies or approaches will I use?
  • What can I learn by designing and delivering the content and how can that inform refinements?
When I thought about it, the first 3 of these questions reminded me of the Learners Constructing Meaning model that we find in the PYP:

The Pathways to Learning Model, developed by Lipton and Wellman and referenced by Garmston in his book The Presenter's Fieldbook is similar:

When designing my recent workshops I tried to put these ideas into practice.  For example in the activating and engaging phases I tried to show my adult learners that we are all experts - we bring with us a wealth of teaching experience and we know about the context in which we work in our schools.  Often as teachers we already have a lot of prior knowledge, so the initial step is to activate this, to have the participants talk about what they know and to get this knowledge into their working memory so that new information has something that it can stick on to.  At the start of each day of the workshops I tried to have the participants actively engage with each other.  The message I was trying to get across is that adults socially construct their understanding - I expect them to be interactive, not just passive recipients of knowledge.  I explained to them that I would not be talking for more than 20% of the time - they would be expected to work together and share their knowledge with each other.  Garmston explains that using interactive strategies right from the start provides psychological safety for the social construction of meaning.

Once the participants were active and engaged, I then planned my next set of engagements, which was to have them explore and discover.  This is the point where new information can be introduced. At times I did give a short lecturette (for example a short history of the IBO), and at other times I expected the participants to read and interact with articles and publications (for example through paired reading, jigsaw or visible thinking protocols).  All these activities were designed to tap into the participants cognitive processing skills.

Finally we moved into the organize and integrate phase.  Here participants had to organize and integrate the new material to make it their own.  Again I employed various strategies such as KWL charts, diamond rankings, making visuals and so on as a way of re-ordering knowledge.  Garmston tells us that this stage is "the work of the learner, not the presenter ... it is the stage at which learners crystallize meaning for themselves."

At this point in the design process, it's important to think about the balance between content and process.  At the Presenter's Forum this was likened to chewing gum, the gum being the content and the chewing being the interactive engagements that are designed to help the participants receive, process and apply the content.  When designing a presentation it's vital to consider how much gum and how much chewing is needed:  the content has little or no value unless it has been chewed.  The following image, taken from the ASCD website, explains this in more depth:

If your aim as a presenter is simply to raise awareness or to share knowledge, possibly you want to give a lot of content, interspersed with short periods of processing.  If you want to develop skills, then more time is needed for processing.  With attitude development you will need to process at the start, and then introduce the content later.  Finally for application you might want to design a lot of content at the start and then time at the end to apply what has been learned.   I tried a combination of all of these approaches in my workshops, though often had to think on my feet.  At times things took much longer or shorter than I'd anticipated.  Sometimes I had to provide more gum.  Sometimes I had to let people chew it for a bit longer.  A couple of things I decided to leave out altogether in order to allow more chewing time.

Generally I feel I learned a lot from the Presenter's Forum that I was able to put into practice right away.  I also videoed myself presenting - I haven't yet had the opportunity to watch this video, but I'm hoping that by reflecting on it I'll be able to hone my presentation skills even more.

Photo Credit: canonsnapper Flickr via Compfight cc

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Energizers - a new site to explore

A few years ago ASB began its journey with Responsive Classroom.  This approach to teaching addresses academic, social and emotional growth with an emphasis on HOW children learn, as much as WHAT they learn.  The idea behind Responsive Classroom is that academic success is tied to building social and emotional competences.

One feature of the RC training is energizers, which can be used to pump up the energy in a class, or alternatively to calm students down.  The idea behind energizers is that students need frequent physical and mental breaks so that they can continue to function well, both socially and academically. Energizers are short, playful, whole-group activities that are used as breaks in lessons.  Energizers improve behaviour and attention, strengthen classroom cohesion and lead to better academic performance.

Today I was in a 4th Grade class and found they were using a new website for their energizers - it's called GoNoodle.  I stayed and participated in this activity and was really impressed.  The students had just come in from recess, where they had been running around.  Before they were ready to sit at their desks and research for their unit of inquiry, it was necessary to get them to calm down and focus.  For this the class teacher chose the calming activities on GoNoodle.  There are 47 different activities here - she asked the students to choose one (they chose Manage Frustration which is just under 4 minutes). We did several poses together and reflected on what to do when a challenge is frustrating (take a break and start again).  There are hundreds energizers on this website ranging in duration from 1 - 10 minutes and categorized into dance, free movement, sport and exercise, stretching, kinesthetic learning, coordination and calming - at various energy levels.  You could quite literally do one a day for the whole school year and never need to repeat one - though in fact I noticed that students had favourites that they asked for again and again.  Best of all GoNoodle is completely free.  It's certainly worth giving this site a test run in your classroom.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Rewarding the best?

In a previous school I did a workshop with John Littleford about different methods of remunerating teachers.  He gave examples of pay scales from different schools and showed us how to "read" them to know what the schools valued.  Some schools wanted to reward advanced degrees, others wanted to reward experience at different schools, others again wanted to reward experience at their own school.  I thought about this workshop again this week when I read a BBC article about how schools in the UK don't reward the best head teachers.  The interesting thing about this was the way the author divided up the head teachers based on 5 leadership types:
  • The Philosophers - these are the largest group of head teachers in the UK who see themselves as senior teachers.  Their focus is pedagogy and they don't change much about the student body or the staffroom.  Generally they are seen as inspirational, though they have only a marginal impact on exam results.
  • The Surgeons - these head teachers try to turn around (failing) schools by excluding students and driving resources from the youngest into the oldest students.  These head teachers make improvements by firing around 10% of their staff.  They have an immediate and dramatic impact in the short term (around a 10% improvement per year in exam results).
  • The Architects - these head teachers are planners who work on improving standards of behaviour first, and then on improving teaching second.  These heads focus on improving relations with parents and the community.  They also slowly replace poorly performing staff. Architects make progress on both school finances and exam results.
  • The Soldiers - these head teachers are often employed to cut costs because of budget issues.
  • The Accountants - also focus on turning around finances.  They do this by increasing enrolment in order to improve the financial balance of the school.
Now this is what is interesting - those head teachers who are seen as "Surgeons" earn the most in the UK, those who are "Philosophers" earn only about 2/3rds of the salary of the "Surgeons" with "Soldiers" and "Accountants" getting slightly less.  The head teachers who earn the least in the UK are the "Architects".  Despite this, the "Surgeons" are NOT the best for the long-term growth of the school.  They invest aggressively in those students about to take exams (so scores rise rapidly in their first 2 years) and at the same time exclude the trouble makers - about 28% of those in their final year at school - which also boost the exam results of those who do survive the year and take the exams. However these results are not sustainable.  Often the "Surgeons" do a 2 year stint in a school, and in the year they leave the school's results decline rapidly because the resources have been removed from the younger children - who are now the older children and whose education was damaged by the earlier cuts when resources were diverted away from them.   Meanwhile, it is the "Architects" schools, with the slow and steady approach, who are now continuing to improve above those with the other types of leadership.  In addition the "Architects" have been attracting students whose parents want to use them - on average they only expel 1% of all pupils.  If success is measured in GCSE results - then the architects' schools are doing the best - 5 years after these head teachers are appointed these schools are still growing and delivering a good education to a higher proportion of students.

These results are interesting - since those who bring about short-term gains are rewarded much higher than those who bring about long-term ones.  In fact the "Architects" are penalised in terms of salary.  Another interesting trend is that those head teachers who exclude the most pupils are the ones who are paid the most.  Another interesting fact I gleaned from this article is the type of people who end up in these head teacher roles:  the "Philosophers" are mostly English teachers, the "Surgeons" are mostly PE teachers, and the "Architects" are mostly history and economics teachers.

What do you think of these findings?  Does anything here resonate with you?

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon Flickr via Compfight cc  This photo is of a school playground in New York.

Monday, October 17, 2016

What is a million?

Once, when I was a Grade 5 teacher, it was my job to teach place value up to one million.  That's such a huge number to imagine that it's best to break it down into actual "things" that students can visualise.  For example:

  • It's the amount of letters in a 600 page book.
  • It's the number of seconds in 11 and a half days.
  • It's the number of times a car tyre rotates when you drive from Amsterdam to Lisbon.
  • It's the number of millimetres in a kilometre.
And as of today, it's the number of people who have read my blog.

Thanks to each and every one of you for keeping me going!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Free is a nice price

My son, a Millennial, has changed jobs several times since he left university 4 years ago and embarked on a graduate scheme with Lloyds.  It seems that as soon as he has mastered one aspect of the job he wants to either move up or move sideways to learn new things.  He's not the only one of his generation doing this - apparently Millennials change jobs around once every 2.5 years during the first 10 years of work.

I'm interested in the recruitment, retention and development of teachers, having studied this on R&D for the past 2 years and been involved in the initial prototypes of the Global Recruitment Collaborative.  One thing is sure - salary is not a big factor in determining whether employees decide to stay or leave.  In fact a recent article on LinkedIn points to the fact that people leave jobs because they want new challenges and responsibilities - in a nutshell they want to develop themselves further.

I've started to think about how often teachers are given opportunities for learning something new within the schools where they are working.  In my case, my first international school encouraged me to develop in many directions - from starting as a high school teacher, to moving down into elementary, and finally to taking a role in the tech department.  Most of the schools where I've worked have given me opportunities to get involved in new things, and reflecting on this I would say I've been blessed, because many teachers who are hired as, for example, a high school geography teachers end up teaching that subject for the entire time they work at the school.

I was recently reading about the Google "bungee program" - which allows employees a chance to try out new positions within the company rather than forcing them to look outside for new opportunities. Bungee program employees take part in a temporary job placement to develop new skills.  A similar initiative,  started by Hootsuite, is called the "stretch program" and allows top performing employees the opportunity to work one day per week in a new team for a period of 3 months, after which, if everything is working out, the decision could be made to jump full-time into a new role.  Even if the employee decides to stay in his or her current role,  there is still a lot of benefit to knowing more about another area of the business.  Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, writes "Giving employees a chance to truly grow - without having to pull up stakes and leave the company - is a common-sense tactic to attract and keep great talent."

I'm thinking about this - and how it could possibly apply to schools.

However for those teachers who have decided to move on, maybe the Global Recruitment Collaborative fair in Dubai might be interesting.  It's the world's first free face-to-face job fair for international educators and it's taking place from November 12th - 14th - so quite a bit earlier than the other recruitment fairs.  Currently there are about 90 international schools across the globe recruiting through the GRC, with about half of them coming to Dubai to interview candidates.  It's possible to come to this job fair, even if you don't currently work in a GRC school.  And since free is a very nice price - if you are thinking of changing job this year, what do you have to lose.

For more information about the GRC click here.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Innovation Self-Assessment

Around 3 years ago in R&D we read a book called The Inventor's DNA by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton M. Christensen.  Recently we have also been given a link to an assessment tool so that we can complete a self-assessment of our innovation profile in order to become more aware about our strengths and areas for improvement as innovators.

The Innovator’s DNA research found three sets of characteristics that contribute to an innovator’s profile: the Courage to Innovate, Discovery Skills (Innovation), and Delivery Skills (Execution).  I was curious to find out how I was doing in all of these areas.  Once I completed the survey I was able to follow a link to get my results.  My profile came back as being that of a developer.  This means that I can both innovate and execute, though typically not as well as focused Innovators and Executors do.  As a Developer, I am able to help get new ideas that are often sustaining or incremental. I can also bridge the gap between others in school who are focused on either innovation or execution--helping them to work together seamlessly.

The courage to innovate was broken down into 3 components:  challenging the status quo, risk taking and creative confidence.  Of these I scored highest in challenging the status quo (no surprises there!) but this score was slightly lower than that of successful innovators.

The next section was on discovery skills and of these questioning came out the highest.  According to the report, questioning reflects my passion for inquiry.  Active, honest questioning of the status quo provides a powerful tool for opening up new opportunities and uncovering new ideas and directions.

Another section of the report looked at delivery skills.  These are the skills necessary to execute plans and include analyzing, planning, being details oriented and self-disciplined.  For me planning came out the highest. 

I'm not sure how we are going to use the results of this during our next R&D Meeting, however I'm very curious to find out about the innovation of other members on the team.

Photo Credit: mknowles Flickr via Compfight cc

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The 4 audiences for each presentation

This afternoon we did a 4 corners activity.  First of all we were asked to go and stand in 4 corners based on which of these questions resonated the most with us:  What?  Why? So What? and What If?  After that we were asked to regroup based on what we most hope to get from a presentation:  facts and information, engagement, ideas and data or self expression.  In my case I chose the question So What? and what I hoped to gain most was engagement.  Our answers to these questions put us into 4 groups called the professors, the friends, the scientists and the inventors.  Each of these groups comes to a presentation with different motivations and hopes to get something different out of it to take back.  As a presenter, therefore, it's important to design your presentation so that each of the 4 groups feels they have learned something that can be used.

The Professors - these are the What? group.  They value data and expect the presenter to be an authority on the subject.    Often they expect a lecture or demonstration and they want a clear agenda, handouts and bibliographies to take away.   They feel comfortable sitting in rows.  What they are looking for is a way of remembering all the information that is presented.

The Friends - these are the So What? group.  Often they want to sit at circular tables where they can interact with others.  These people like wearing name tags and frequent opportunities to mix and discuss their ideas with the other participants.  They are looking for involvement and engagement and do well with personal stories, sharing and hands-on group activities.

The Inventors - these are the What If? group.  They like mindmaps, colourful charts and opportunities to solve problems.  They like to reorganize the information presented into new and different arrangements and to make new connections.  Often they enjoy being given creative tasks that allow for their self-expression.

The Scientists - these are the Why? group.  Participants in this group like structured topics organized around questions, and they like handouts where they can write lots of notes.  Their aim is to understand the information being presented, to inquire and make judgements.

While learning to be presenters, we have come to realize that we need to intentionally cater to all 4 types of audience (not just the one that we prefer ourselves - though in general presenters do best when the audience members are most like themselves.)  There needs to be a balance with learning engagements that will appeal to all.

Photo Credit: Jocey K via Compfight cc

Wearing all the hats

As part of my professional goal to become a Cognitive Coaching trainer, I'm attending the Presenters' Forum in Denver this week.  Over the years I've been teaching, I've quite literally made hundreds of presentations:  within schools that I've been working, for example at faculty and parent meetings, at other schools, and at conferences.  However until today, I'd never really learned about the craft of presenting.  I'm really hoping that as well as helping me to move closer to my goal of becoming a Cognitive Coaching trainer, that this forum will also give me better skills when making other presentations, either in my new consulting role for Consilience, or for the face-to-face and online workshops I facilitate for the IBO.  First of all, however, it's important to work out which hat I'm wearing.

Presenting:  today we learned that to present is to teach:  to enrich knowledge, skills or attitudes. Presenters do this in many ways:  lecture, study groups and so on.

Coaching:  helping someone to take action towards his or her goals.  Through using various tools (pausing, paraphrasing and questioning), a coach will promote self-directed learning.

Facilitating:  quite literally this means making something easier.  Facilitators are usually found in meetings where the purpose may be to dialogue in order to understand everyone's viewpoints, or in discussion with a view to making decisions.  The facilitator is the director of the meeting, and is not usually the person in the group with the greatest knowledge.  The difference between a presenter and a facilitator is that a presenter is a teacher, whereas a facilitator is a servant of the group.

Consulting:  is sharing or delivering knowledge, content or processes - the idea of a consultant is to influence others.  Consultants and presenters are both experts in their fields and generally a person will be a consultant first and a presenter second.

What was important to take away from today's sessions were that all hats are needed to work together for the improvement in student learning.  In most schools these hats are worn by the leadership team and those responsible for professional development - all of them need to wear all of the hats.

Photo Credit: arbyreed via Compfight cc

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Trends and challenges on the horizon

The NMC Horizon Report Preview for 2016 K-12 is out.  I've read it through and there are few surprises.  This post is about the trends and challenges identified.

Long Term Trends (5+ years)
Redesigning Learning Spaces - to accommodate more active learning such as PBL and the Flipped Classroom.  The report predicts that as education moves away from teacher-centred settings to more hands-on scenarios, classrooms will start to resemble real-world work and social environments.
Rethinking How Schools Work - PBL and challenge-based learning also call for a move away from the traditional classroom to enable students to move from one learning activity to another across disciplines.  Schedules will also become more flexible.

Mid-Term Trends (3-5 years)
Collaborative Learning - based on the idea of learning being a social construct.  Collaborative learning leads to improved student engagement and achievement.  Teachers also benefit from interdisciplinary teaching opportunities.  There is more of a focus on online global collabortaion using digital tools to support intercultural understanding.
Shifts to Deeper Learning - including critical thinking, real-world problem-solving, collaboration and self-directed learning.

Short-Term Trends (1-2 years)
Coding as a Literacy - coding is being integrated into the curriculum to promote complex thinking at a young age.  Students in many schools are now designing websites and developing educational games and apps.
Shift from Consumers to Creators - students are learning by making and creating - there is more active, hands-on learning.

The report identifies challenges that are easy to solve and those that are more difficult.  Among the easy to solve challenges are creating authentic learning opportunities, bringing real-life experiences into the classroom, and rethinking the roles of teachers so that students can continue learning beyond the traditional school day.  Challenges that are not easy to solve include the digital divide which is not just about access but also about differences in the training and curriculum design support offered to teachers.  Scaling teacher innovation is also seen as difficult - K-12 education is still restrictive for innovation, limiting the diffusion of new ideas and discouraging experimentation.  The achievement gap is seen as a significant challenge, even though technology is playing a greater role in identifying lower performing students.  Personalized learning is not adequately supported, though advances such as online learning and adaptive technologies do make it possible to support a student's individual learning path.

Developments in Educational Technology
Time to adoption less than 1 year:  Makerspaces where people are open to experiment, iterate and create, and online learning, often complementing face-to face instruction (blended learning approaches).
Time to adoption 2-3 years: Robotics and virtual reality such as the Oculus Rift that make learning simulations more authentic for students.
Time to adoption 4-5 years: Artificial Intelligence which can enhance online learning, adaptive learning software and simulations that more intuitively respond to and engage with students, and Wearable Tech which will be able to track aspirations and when they can be accomplished.

Photo taken at Juhu Beach

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Becoming resilient

Last week I had to go to the Foreign Registration Office to re-register myself with my new visa.  This has usually turned out to be a pretty tedious day, with an awful lot of waiting around - and the recommendation has always been to "bring a good book".  Last week I took 2 very short ones and this post is about the books.

The first book I read was called The Resilient Teacher.  I found this book to be focused on American teachers, who apparently have left the profession in huge numbers in recent years.  The reason for this is that decisions that affect teachers every day are being made far beyond the classroom and that teachers have very little say in them.  The focus of the book is on 6 attitudes that can build resilience and promote happiness in the profession.

  1. Be grateful - appreciate what you have because unhappiness is caused by thinking you deserve better than you have.  Basically although teachers have a very challenging job, there is also plenty to feel thankful for - long holidays and the opportunity to impact the lives of young people every day.  The recommendation is to spend 10 minutes on a Friday to email a list to yourself of 5 things you are thankful for that week - and then to read this list first thing on Monday.
  2. Sweat the small stuff - show students and colleagues that they matter - this can be as simple as saying hello to everyone or approaching someone you don't usually talk to and initiating a conversation.
  3. Have fun - make it part of your job.
  4. Challenge yourself to get better - do something different, master a new challenge.
  5. When you say it, mean it - require polite and respectful behaviour among your students.
  6. Surround yourself with a few fans - you need a social network.
The book goes on to identify areas that can cause teachers stress and frustration and suggestions for dealing with these.  They include policies, supervisors and colleagues, student behaviour, and difficult parents.

The second book I read was called Stress Busting Strategies for Teachers.  In this book good stress, which can enhance motivation and help us to do well, was distinguished from negative stress which can affect our mental and physical health.  I remember a couple of years ago saying "I'm working harder than I've ever worked before, but I'm less stressed."  However this year I have started to feel stress - not because of the job but because of the location of the job - so far away from my mother who has Alzheimer's.  It's stressful trying to balance a job I love in India with a family I love in the UK.  

In a similar way to the previous book, I felt the audience was very much American teachers working in public schools  Statistics from the US point to a decline in teacher satisfaction and in increase in stress.  This stress is caused by many things:  a lack of resources, difficult parents, poor student behaviour, unrealistic accountability measures and so on.  Stress leads to teachers working less efficiently, which means they may have trouble meeting deadlines and end up feeling that work is piling up.   What the book explains is that stress comes both from what we think - our mindset - and what we experience.  

It's really important to tackle teacher stress because it's hard for a stressed teacher to provide a nurturing environment where students feel safe, happy and successful.  Students spend more hours every day with their teachers than with their parents, and often pick up on this stress.   How can teachers themselves recognise that they are stressed?  This can happen because of  physical complaints such as muscle tension, poor sleep or a lack of stamina, emotional stress such as feelings of being overwhelmed, resentful of change, and anxious, and intellectual stress that compromises our capacity.  Stress often emerges when we are pushed to perform outside our natural limits without having the time to re-energize - in this case it's important to notice and self-regulate, as teachers are called upon to make thousands of spontaneous decisions throughout the day and need to be at their best to make good decisions.  The book includes many helpful ideas for getting on top of stress, including:
  • Prioritizing - the suggestion is to make a 3+ list - these are the 3 tasks that you need to do that day to feel productive and successful.  These need to be ranked, and then 2 more "plus" tasks added which are not urgent and simply bonuses.  The idea is to focus on the 3 tasks and not to add to them,  Once they are completed, cross them off and if you have time start on the 2 "plus" tasks.
There are other suggestions for managing time, delegating tasks, setting parameters, getting organized, adopting a positive mindset, establishing strong communication skills, physical activity and mindfulness.