Well actually… that’s not entirely true, about not having an idea that is. Truth be told I love it. I enjoy attempting to break down what seems to be the DaVinci Code that goes on inside my mind on a daily basis and get some of those jumbled thoughts into a legible and understandable format in a medium such as this. I would say that I blog more so for others than myself. I really get a kick out of sharing what learning I have undertaken with others, and if my jumbled thoughts and the like can assist anyone in anyway, then I am a happy man!
At the end of the day I find that I can reach a greater audience, in more depth, whilst blogging and again, if this allows me to share my learnings and understanding to the masses then… that’s awesome!
I do though to be honest find blogging difficult. It is not something that I have taken to easily, and I have been doing it for a few years now. Everything from finding items to blog about, which is not really an issue, more so the opposite, to finding the time, which links directly to the image below, to having what I would call a poor writing/grammatical style. I do wish I had more of a knack for both blogging and writing. 😉
I will move forward from here and say the reading blogs of others is certainly a favourite pastime. To read the happenings and work of real educators in a real classrooms doing real things is just as if not so more powerful than anything else that one may read.
Don’t get me wrong, I love reading all sorts of things for both professional purposes as well as to wind down and relax and relieve what stress I have! Thank you Harry Potter!
There is nothing more… raw and or authentic though I find than reading a post written by someone who is passionate, dedicated, driven and willing to wear their heart on their sleeve and share all of the great, weird, wonderful, woeful and challenging things that occur in their professional lives! These are things that we can all learn from, be inspired by, look to implement and or steer clear from.
As time move on I hope to blog more. I really do. I have not shortage of ideas that is a certainty. Perhaps I need to allocate a dedicated time, or better manage that of self, and others, to find that time, to find alternative ways of getting my messages across, and so on… One thing for sure though, I want to start engaging in this a whole lot more.
Below I have included several GREAT posts by GREAT bloggers in their own right about BLOGGING and the whys and hows of it! There are thousands of other posts out there, however here are just a very select few!
I have had the absolute pleasure of having seen some fine keynote speakers in my time. People who have shared brilliant messages, inspired me with powerful stories, challenged my thinking and practice and most of all driven me to make change for the better.
I personally believe that keynote and key speakers are what you make of them. You can take what they have on board or with a grain of salt. Their words can drive you and your practice or leave you feeling somewhat empty. It is here that I reference the work of Michael Fullan who says;
“educators going to workshops and conferences, and taking courses—bears little relationship to classroom and school improvement. Similarly teachers toiling away as individuals do not add up to school or system success. What really counts is what happens ‘in between workshops’ or what I call learning is the work” – Fullan 2008.
This notion of the above hits home. How often have I myself attended a conference, workshop, Masterclass, briefing, etc.… heard a speaker deliver a great talk and or share some amazing tools and then after week… nothing. No action made, little reference made to what was attended and life goes on.
Now this is not to say that the speakers, and primarily the Keynotes I have seen, have been lackluster in their performances. They are and just about have always been inspiring and driving me to really think about not only what I do but why. The likes Yong Zhao, Steve Wheeler, Kevin Honeycutt, Alan November, Stephen Heppell, Gary Stager, Will Richardson… Look, the list goes on. All in their own right left me with something that resonated. Something that attempted to take on board.
Again, this is why I like Fullan’s quote above. In it’s simplest form this quote talks about what happens after the keynote or conference. The discussions that almost force educators to think about their practice and look deeper in to how their own practice can be altered and improved.
Today I heard Eric Sheninger give not one, but two (yes, I know, groupie) talks at the Bastow Institute for Educational Leadership in Melbourne. I have been an avid follower of Eric both online through Twitter (@E_Sheninger) and via his blog (ericsheninger.blogspot.com) and also have his book on order (http://goo.gl/hNnzqM) and whenever it decides to arrive, I am sure the read will be worth the wait.
As I have done in the past I will share a number of key takeaways that for me, really hit home. Things that I have no doubt will encourage me to push forward with the change that I am wanting to make in my setting. Change that I want to make because I am passionate about student learning and change that I know and believe will make a difference.
Now if there is one thing about ‘change’ that I have learnt it is that it takes time. AndThis really sucks as I have no patience! 😉
So without further ado, here we go.
“It’s the example the you set that moves a system forward.”
I have always, always, been a firm believer that the best leaders are the ones who lead by example, not behind a desk. If I am going to devote myself to a leader and walk across hot coals for them I want them to lead the way… Ok. Bad analogy, but hopefully you see what I am trying to say. I have said this previously and Eric also mentioned it himself today, “Do not expect your staff to do anything you would not do yourself”. If I am charged with embracing and leading change I will do it by building capacity in those around me so as to lead by that example I want to see in them. As former American Dwight Eisenhower once said “You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault – not leadership.”
“Leadership is not about position, it is about action.”
I enjoyed hearing this today. The line between manager and leader, especially in education can be very easily blurred. And this can have, as I have seen, dire consequences for teachers and students. Teachers that are in the trenches and doing the hard yards can make change and be the innovators and creators that they wish to be. And this is truly amazing and as a leader I will never stand in front of a teacher, or student for that matter, who wants to take action in whatever form to improve learning.
“Great leaders remove the obstacles and challenges that help kids and teachers to be the change they want to see.”
This links in perfectly with the above quote. As a leader and change agent I cannot encourage the change I am wanting to see if there are obstacles in the way. Already, and being new to my college, I am seeing and have seen these challenges first hand and I have every reason to sympathize with my staff as to why change is not occurring perhaps at the rate it should be. I want my staff and students to be pushing the boundaries of what is possible, especially with regard to digital technology integration, but also not to loose sight of the bigger picture, student learning. Again however, this ‘boundary pushing’ cannot only occur if those obstacles and challenges are removed and I think and or feel that I have made some inroads here so far. Now in saying this…
“You cannot be happy with isolated pockets of excellence.”
I will say at this stage whilst on my ‘change journey’, I am happy with my isolated pockets of excellence. It is these little pockets that are driving other teachers around them to change their ways. Everything from instructional practice, assessment, encouraging student voice, personalized learning and so on… My end game here with all of this is to have no pockets of isolated excellence. It is to of course have everyone on the same page and at a level, as a minimum, that my setting is happy to have reached. A minimum that sees technology being used as an after thought to high quality teaching and learning.
“Technology is not and will never be a silver bullet for education.”
For me this is not a new saying, or at least the idea of it. I have said a similar thing for years but to have Eric reaffirm my thinking was reassuring. I have seen and spoken with countless schools who have brought in truck loads of technology and have placed an expectation on that technology to shift paradigms with that setting. News flash. Not going to happen. Will engagement increase amongst the students? Quite possibly. Will the poor attendance rates decrease? Maybe. Will student learning improve and met outcomes shoot through the ceiling? No. It all comes back to teaching and learning. The notion of having a culture within a school, and it should not even really be a notion, it should be ‘the way’, of having embedded High Quality teaching practices with Low Variability is what matters most. Not the technology. This should be, as Eric discussed, an afterthought. Using the technology to make what greater things teachers and students are already doing greater.
“Give up control and trust the kids in your school, because you want to create a school that kids want to come to.”
I have heard countless educators and teachers over the years have that age old discussion of “wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could build our own school. How amazing would it be!” What my question, or discussion is geared towards is, “wouldn’t it be wonderful if kids could build their own school. How amazing would it be!” Letting go of control is hard. Especially for teachers, and perhaps more so leaders in schools. School are judged on their results and to loose that control we have is to potentially loose that academic status that a school may have. Eric gave up control of New Milford to his students and look what happened. I can hear the cynics out there saying “oh yes, that is only one school and one example and they had a great leader and this that and the other…” I refer to below…
“So when you go through the process (of change), ask yourself this question: Is this best for kids? If you can answer unequivocally that the answer is “yes”, then the change process is necessary. It might not be easy, it might take time, it might be messy, but it needs to happen.”
So there you have it. A ‘quick 1500 word’ reflection.
I would like to thank Eric for his time and it is great to have in the Country. Those heading to EduTech in Brisbane next week are in for a treat.
In moving forward I have several questions I’ll be emailing Eric about and hopefully he can assist the ‘shedding of some light’ on a few issues I am working through at the moment! Lastly, I have embedded Eric’s TED Talk below which is a great watch if you have not seen it. Thanks for reading!
I would say that over the years I have been quite successful in the things that I have wanted to implement and the change/s that I have aimed at facilitating in the setting I have previously worked. I can that I am proud of my achievements. I can also say that I would not of had the success if it were not for colleagues and leaders supporting my moves. If it were not for them listening, critiquing, and giving the feedback that occasionally my hairbrain schemes deserved I would have been in limbo.
When I started working in my position all those 16 weeks ago I remember to speaking to my leadership team about celebrating the small wins. Being new, unknown, untested and not having built any notion of trust whatsoever with my new staff, pushing for lack of wording what I wanted on to them was always going to be a challenge. And that I feel is an understatement.
Now within this short 16 week period I have been able to, what I would call, ignite several ‘sparks’ through the college that have driven and encouraged the change that I am wanting to see and believe we need to see. I do also need to add that I use the word ‘I’ lightly as if it was not for a number of staff at my college who also felt that these changes, that this change, was needed then I would certainly be a ‘one man band’.
“Leadership is about setting a direction. It’s about creating a vision, empowering and inspiring people to want to achieve the vision, and enabling them to do so with energy and speed through an effective strategy. In its most basic sense, leadership is about mobilizing a group of people to jump into a better future” – John Kotter: XLR8 2014
For me, my vision as part of my role is about eliciting a change that will see my setting move towards a more ‘futuristic’ educational approach. To see our instructional practices and pedagogy, student learning, and curriculum development take a more… forward thinking approach. Usually I would have said a more ’21st Century’ approach but I believe we are past that phrase and thinking in the educational space we are currently in.
Now as mentioned, these small achievements that are being made across the College have certainly sparked imagination and curiosity amongst our teaching fraternity. What has really had me up and about is that after spending the entirety of term 1 meeting and talking with staff I came to realise, and it did not take long, that for the most part the mid set is certainly there. That see and hear that want and drive to integrate technology more often for reasons that are purposeful and that drive student learning is amazing. I find and will always believe that mindset trumps skillset any day of the week!
Now what are some of these small wins that have been achieved. Well. In no particular order…
Online Learning Spaces.
Several staff have really embraced the development and creation of classroom websites and blogs. The feedback from the development of these from not only teachers and students but also parents has been huge! I will say we are still very much in the developmental stage, but this I can see is starting to have that snowballing effect across the college and will certainly take off! And is taking off! Some examples of these great online’s spaces are below!
I was very excited to see that Northern Bay P-12 were involved in this great global initiative. To have also taken over as the College NPDL Lead has also been trilling as I have has the opportunity first hand to drive this project internally to see the amazing things that have come from it. If you are unfamiliar with the NPDL Global Project head to: http://www.newpedagogies.info/
EDUCATION NEEDS TO BE RADICALLY RETHOUGHT PARTLY TO STOP THE BOREDOM, BUT MOSTLY TO BLOW THE LID OFF LEARNING, WHEREBY STUDENTS AND TEACHERS AS ACTIVE PARTNERS BECOME CAPTIVATED BY EDUCATION.- Michael Fullan & Maria Langworthy in Towards a New End: Pedagogies for Deep Learning.
The work behind this project is amazing. Work that has real, and very large, positive implications for student learning. The project essentially is about students taking their learning to deeper levels than perhaps the surface style of learning most are used to. To have learning that looks beyond the basics and goes some way in preparing students for the complex world that awaits them.
Teachers have been involved in driving their own Action Research that has facilitated current curriculum content and practice to be re-thought, something of which is not easy to achieve let alone simply discussed. The four pillars of NPDL: Leveraging Digital, New Pedagogies, Learning Partnerships and Learning Environment, when all married together form the basis of one very powerful framework to drastically reform educational practice.
SWITCH Pilot Program.
This great program that I have co-lead in initiating at my College has been a huge success thus far and we are only in its infancy thus far! It is the brainchild of a Bastow of Ed. Leadership course I am involved in titled ‘Leading School Improvement’. The SWITCH program designed on a flipped classroom framework where teachers are creating their own ‘flipped learning’ style videos to ‘frontload; students prior to particular classes taking place.
parents, students and staff have so far been thrilled with the program and although the student learning data to evaluate the program is still being determined and discussed, we are very confident of its success.
I have of course within my role spent hours in classes coaching, and more so in a peer, or more informal way, staff to build their capacity to better integrate technology to support teaching and learning. This I have really enjoyed as it takes me back to a place where I guess I am most comfortable, and that being in a classroom working with students.
Truth be told I have never been a huge fan of formal coaching models. I have found that this only suits particular staff and can also often push people away, unless of course they have a buy in and want to be coached. It is though I have found that the majority of people who wish to be coached do not necessarily need it. Coaching is a double edged sword and you can cut through some pretty difficult situations and really assist staff to go from good to great. On the other hand, you can be cut yourself and find that banging you head on a wall would yield similar results!
In saying this, my time at NBC has been extremely positive and those staff I have been working with have been open, willing and driven to improve not only their own practice, but that of others also. It takes an army!
3yr Digital Learning Strategy Development.
One of the more tedious jobs I have been tasked with is the development of a 3 year digital learning / elearning plan. These I have been involved in developing several times in the past and am fairly confident in the process that I undertake.
Now the first process, and arguably the most important, is about gaining feedback. Feedback from the major players and stakeholders that will be affected by the development of this strategy. Last Wednesday I held a consultation evening and invited these major stakeholders (parents, students, college council, parents, teachers, leaders, principals, technicians, et al.) to come and discuss what and where they felt Northern Bay College’s digital learning aspirations needed to be paramount moving forward. I am will collate the feedback from this and share, however I do need to add the this night, and albeit short in nature (60mins) yielded some amazing discussion about what today’s students who will be part of tomorrow’s workforce will need moving forward.
The presentation and driving questions that were shown can be found below;
One of my initial goals when I started at my new College this tear was t have a presence throughout the communities and campuses. Not an easy feat considering there are 5 of these campuses. I think that I have been able to to do this well. Not great but well and Ill take ‘well’ as a win.
Staff have been able to approach me for assistance, not matter how big or small, and this has gone some way I feel, not sure how far or what way, in developing a rapport with staff that lets them know I am there to assist and help.
This has prompted a lot of professional conversation and discussion, most of which is around wanting to “better use ICT in the classroom”. This type of questioning I find gets me thinking as I should be. And that means analysing a situation and or scenario to ensure that what I am at putting in place is the right thing for that particular person. As Timperly puts it:
“In complex environments answers are rarely obvious or straightforward. Instead, considering the issues carefully usually leads to more and more focused investigation and to better questions. If clarity is the end, then thinking from multiple perspectives is the means. Leaders need to stand back and view the situation through a myriad of lenses and to narrow the investigation”. – EARL and TIMPERLEY: professional learning conversations 2008
The environment that I deal in does not always cause for complicated or complex. The environments are simply wanting to build on current practice to improve that of future learning!
So there. They are just a few of what I can ‘small wins’. I can easily break these down, or others, and elaborate further and even share more but for now I am proud of the inroads these have been able to facilitate throughout the College. I know I have a long and difficult journey in front of me, much like little Frodo trying to return his ring, but I have little doubt that the goals I have set for myself and my setting are achievable. It’ll just take a few great penalty kicks to get there!
Having never ‘done’ a Bastow course before I was excited about what new learning this adventure would bring and in the short amount of time i’ve been involved it has been a great experience and a massive learning curve.
Now rather than talk about my experiences throughout the course, which I am sure i’ll end up doing in another post anyway, I am wanting to share the amazing project that has stemmed from the course itself, and that being the SWITCH Pilot Program.
The SWITCH Program is based on a flipped learning / flipped classroom approach where we have a number of super keen teachers and overly excited learning communities of students extending on their learning via the short, sharp and explicit videos teachers are developing.
If you’re not all that familiar with what flipped learning is, this great little video explains it perfectly;
As mentioned we have a number of learning communities involved in the pilot program, all of which thus far have been awesome in engaging with what is expected of them and and adding to their already busy schedules to ensure that this program is the success we want it to be.
As a platform to engage with the created videos we have used of course YouTube for its ease of use and high level accessibility. From here we have created playlists that teachers upload to which relate to the College campus that the students are situated at.
From the data that we hope to gather we will use this to determine the actual quantitative improvement on student learning and then use this as a basis to go some at at determining the overall success of the program.
In having discussed the potential pitfalls and hindrances that may arise via having carried out an in-depth and detailed risk analysis, we then determined how we believed that this program would improve student learning and just a few of these outcomes are below;
By having students build on their prior knowledge through developing the skills and competencies needed via selected misconceptions that have been identified via pre unit assessments.
By extending the learning day and not limiting students to learning only between the hours of 9am and 3pm. That by giving students access to components of a lesson that they necessarily do not get at home, such as teacher instruction, that learning can take place more often out of the school setting.
“Lower teacher talk” in class. We know that teachers can ‘waffle’ and waffle for lengthy periods of time. We feel that through the development and creation of the flipped videos this will be dramatically reduced and even in some instances cease entirely.
Promote co-teaching amongst staff who are creating these videos in tandem. This also opens up professional dialogue about assessment, moderations, and effective planning procedures to ensure more students are being catered for more often, with greater purpose and individualisation.
We believe that collaboration amongst students will increase dramatically whilst in class. The viewing of the videos and learning experiences set for the students will certainly encourage this.
Lastly, we believe that we will be able to reach more students more often. By giving students greater time in class to learn via those valuable experiences that are planned for them, teachers will be able to spend greater amounts of time teaching and less time talking.
The image below created by New Zealand Educator Richard Wells (@ipadwells) is a great visual, albeit I find a little stereotyped, about just who teachers are really pitching to during instruction time.
I am certainly hoping that I’ll be able to re-post about this program and share the findings from it. I believe it will succeed. The teachers and students involved also believe that it will succeed and because of this, we’ll see student data improve and student learning growth also increase. Time will tell and I am no futurist but I am feeling only good things will come from this!
Lastly, publicity is always a good thing and this week we had the Geelong Advertiser come about and visit us to discuss the program and what it entailed. From this we were given a half page spread and have since received amazing feedback from our wider College community. This article is below.
To access our SWITCH YouTube Channel, click on the LINK HERE!!! Feedback welcome!
I think that I have been pretty lucky professionally to be part of the excellent communities and groups that I am in. I also think that I have worked hard to build knowledge and capacity in specific areas that have enabled me to gain access to these outstanding communities.
This week Apple informed lucky and no doubt very hard working teachers around the globe that they were successful in becoming part of the ADE, or Apple Distinguished Educator, community. Since having been part of this outstanding group of educators since 2013, it has certainly allowed me to grow a lot professionally in not only how I can better use Apple technologies, but more so how I can use those technologies to improve my teaching and improve student learning, which really, is all that matters, especially to me. There’s no point being part of something if it is not going to have a positive impact on those we teach.
Prior to being part of the ADE family I was part of the Google Certified Teacher academy in 2011. Another amazing group of people who are dedicated to the students they teach and use the tools that they have at their disposal to assist their learning in a ridiculous amount of ways.
On top of both the ADE and GCT communities, the 3rd installment, and the first to come along, is the truly remarkable PLN that I have developed via Twitter since 2010. Having access to over 1,600 educators, leaders, thinkers, and so on that I follow, and that number grows weekly, Twitter as a tool has led me to have access to a large cohort of people from whom I learn from and share with every single day. The knowledge learned via the ADE and GCT communities is largely shared via Twitter and often G+ also.
The whole ‘Twitter’ thing for me steamed from a Conference Workshop ran by Steve Wheeler in Christchurch in 2010. Steve spoke about the power and importance of growing an online PLN and Twitter being an excellent tool for this. I still have those notes that I took from that workshop. Notes that I have used in my own presentation, discussions, and conversations with teachers about why it is such a good idea to get ‘tweeting’.
As Steve mentioned in that workshop, “Twitter acts as an amplifier for knowledge and items that are posted that are helpful, amusing and friendly, go a long way to building an effective PLN”.
In the very early days of being part of each community respectively, it is very fair to say that I was caught up in the whirlwind that is being part of something new. I am a massive fan of new and shiny things and for me being part of various groups and communities was like that. I wanted to, and very much did, act like a kid in a candy shop and or a shiny gadget loving guy in an Apple Store and engage with as much as I could as quick as possible.
It has taken time for me to adjust to ensure that my time spent engaging with these things is done so in a way that through the knowledge I gain benefits those around me, teacher and/or student. It was and is very easy to get caught up in the space that you are in. So in saying this, my advice for those out there wishing to gain access, or who have recently been accepted, into some form of educational organisation, group, community etc… is that never forget why and who you are doing it all for. If we can all take our new knowledge and share it accordingly then what a positive difference we can all make to the world of education.
Over the past few weeks I have continued in my role at my new College to engage with staff and pull and hook them in to the wonderful world that is teaching in the year of 2015. To have beeing trying to engage in tools and resources that enable them to be more effective in their role as teachers but also to enable and activate the learning of their students to a much higher level. And, for the most part, I think that I am succeeding. Albeit slowly. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The great part of the above is that I have encountered little to no resistance from any of our 250 staff. They are more than open to discussion and are just as willing to listen to my ‘sermons’ and hear what I have to say and from what I have witnessed, headway is being made. Contact is made daily to me from them as their passion and drive to want to know and learn more is testament to their mindset, a growth mindset, to want to improve as educators and improve the learning of their students.
It is this notion of Growth Mindset, and the development thereof, that I wish to discuss. Very recently I read an excellent post via Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) titled ‘Twitter in the Classroom.’ Steve discusses how Twitter as an educational tool enables those students he interacts with gives them another great means of ability to communicate and converse online. The crux of this post comes as ‘someone’ remarked to Steve how they “they thought it was strange that I ‘interposed media between myself and my students.”
To finish off his post Steve remarks that “Twitter continues to be a versatile tool for good pedagogy. Those who reject it as frivolous or a distraction are often those who have seen poor use or have simply not given it enough time to see its relevance.”
It was that last comment that really hit home and got me thinking, non stop up until now, about how this issue, and it is an issue, of educators either being ‘burnt’ by technology, in this case, and therefore refuse to go near it again and those who do not give enough time to see the relevance in something.
Based on all of the above I decided to tweet Steve for a further thought or two around his post and two comments that I received in the string of conversation that was had were that “Teacher reluctance to use tech is a digital divide” and that there being a “psychological safety”. This last comment I feel relates to educators not wanting to explore new technologies, tools, and ways of doing things as nothing for them can fail if nothing new is attempted. Yes, it frustrates me to know, and I have seen it first hand over the years, that teachers think this way. And yes, there are many reasons I feel for this. Stephen Lethbridge (@stephen_tpk) who was also part of the conversations gave the following potential reasons of fear, lack of professional learning, and a lack of values seen in the technology of the day just to name a few.
It is this that frustrates me. The lack of, and here’s the part that will get that ruffling happening, educators willing to try, explore, change, tinker, alter, improve, rethink, challenge, design, and improve within their practice. The whole notion of a growth mindset is to seek and find new and relevant information that will have a direct positive impact on their professions and those around them, especially their students.
Knowles’ theory of ‘Andragogy’ as a teaching strategy that had been developed for adult learners there being a realisation that adults are self directed and expected to make their own decisions.
What then comes in to play is Heutagogy and either sits side by side and/or is intertwined with andragogy. Heutagogy is study of adult based self directed and self determined learning. The image below show the links between these very well.
Josh Stumpenhorst’s recent post ‘I’m done with it’, Vicki Davis’ post ‘If I am such a Teacher, why do I want to quit’, and Scott McLeod’s post ‘We have to stop pretending’, are just three recently read posts I feel for me and my thinking, link perfectly with the above. The frustrations, difficulties, challenges and, D. all of the above, that impact on our daily teaching lives make for complicated times. Yes, we are under the pump. And time is scarce. And we do not get paid enough for the hours we put in. And that’s not including the hours of overtime.
At the end of the day I just find it difficult to comprehend why good educators do to not strive to become great and those that are great strive to become greater. A greater growth mindset would go some way to achieving this. What’s going through my head now is how do we pull educators towards ‘wanting’ to know more and improve practice. We know that effective professional learning is difficult to come by these days and we can sit and discuss for hours on end what effective professional learning should look like. How do we as teachers work smarter, not harder?
All of the above essentially is about change. Changing mindsets, changing and improving practice and changing and improving the way in which our students learn. Like it has already been mentioned, that bloke called Fear often gets in the way with his mates Lack of Time, Crap PL, and No Support.
Maker Movement. Makerspaces. Play Pods. Fab Labs. Innovation Labs.
Ever since I had heard about the Makerspace movement some time ago I can honestly say that I was very intrigued. This I guess stems from my interest in students being actively engaged in their own learning, especially when involved in specific models of inquiry such as problem and challenge based learning. I have seen time and time again the engagement and learning of students develop at a rapid rate when they are the ‘activators’ of not so much what they learn, but how they learn it.
“Learning environments rich with possibilities, Makerspaces serve as gathering points where communities of new and experienced makers connect to work on real and personally meaningful projects, informed by helpful mentors and expertise, using new technologies and traditional tools.”
2 weeks ago I had the absolute pleasure of attending a workshop with Gary Stager, one of the, if not the, worlds foremost authority on Makerspaces and the Makerspace Movement.
At the very beginning of Gary’s workshop he showed a short clip from the wonderful 1950’s American TV Show The Little Rascals. I have embedded the full episode below via YouTube and it is well worth the watch. Gary’s main point from this clip was to highlight that close to 70 years ago young people, namely children, were active in the space of making and creating and yes, this is a TV show, however the ideas were there from someone. In the end, we learn by doing and making.
Besides being as I have mentioned interested in all of this for quite some time, one of the major draw cards to wanting to attend Gary’s workshop was that it involved for the most part tinkering, playing, making and creating. This involved using awesome new technologies, some of which I had heard of and others that I had not.
For me, it was also investigating how we bridge that gap between what students can do in a Makerspace, what they can learn, and how this ties in with the current curriculum.
The SAMR model was also touched upon as through having our students involved in making, creating and tinkering, we are wanting them to be involved on a journey that allows them to complete tasks and ‘things’ that were previously inconceivable. Much like the way we are wanting students to use technology based on the redefinition stage of SAMR.
Adding to all of this, Gary and his Colleague Silvia Martinez have recently written a book titled ‘Invent to Learn‘ and as its name suggests, focuses extremely heavily on using various technologies to make, create and tinker. A basis I believe for this workshop.
The website linked to Gary and Sylvia’s work is also an excellent resource for those wanting to know more about this space in education.
Now just one of the tools that I had a great time engaging with on the day was what is known as a ‘Makey Makey’ Kit. I am sure you may have heard on them. Basically a Makey Makey allows you to substitute just about anything for specific basic functions of a computer. The two embedded videos below highlight this perfectly.
For me personally, it was the ability at Gary’s workshop to be able to play Guitar Hero on my Mac using lollies as the guitar keys. Why would you want to do that I can hear people saying. Well, why would you not!
It’s hard to read but yes, that is a 91% successful completion score for the Foo Fighters Song ‘Times Like These’.
After watching these clips of Brian’s, again, you might be thinking “why?”. Here’s where we need to think deeper than the task. We need to think about the learning that took place. It would be great to hear from these kids what they actually learnt. What were their take aways? Did they learn about circuits and electrical wiring? Did they learn about open and closed circuits? Did they learn about electrical currents? What about items and objects that conduct electricity as opposed to those that do not? Did the water speakers react differently when different music was played? THEN we begin to learning about frequency and pitch and then about sound waves. And so the list goes on.
And it is HERE that drives the answer to that “why”.
When involved in a makerspace or learning of that nature, it is not only the focus perhaps of what the students have been directed to do, if anything, it is the ‘experiential learning‘ that takes place. Learning through doing and through experience.
Gary Stager in his workshop also discussed the notion of the ‘Maker Faire‘ which have apparently taken the United States by storm! As per the Maker faire website, a Maker Faire is: “Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned.” Anyone keen? 😉
The 2014 the New York Maker Faire attracted 215,000 people who were simply curious and wanted to make ‘stuff’. Wouldn’t it be great if schools were like that! The curious and making part, not the 215,000 part.
Well why can’t they be? Schools and College worldwide and especially here in Australia are jumping on board and creating Makerspaces in their settings to engage and ignite the curiosity in our young minds.
The 2006 TED Talk below by Neil Gershenfeld, an MIT Professor, is a great video of how a fab lab encouraged others to build what they needed using digital and analogue tools. A perfect example, albeit a complex one, of how a Makerspace and the freedom it gave to those wishing to build within it allowed them to create, innovate and inspire some truly remarkable ideas.
We also only need to look in our own backyard with great educators out there who are doing awesome things in this area. Adrian Camm and his work with 3D Printing is always a source of inspiration. As Gary mentioned in his workshop, Fabrication (3D Printing) is one of the the 3 ‘Game Changers’ along with Physical Computing (Makey Makey, Arduino, etc…) and Computer Programing. Adrian’s blog posts relating to his ‘Elephanticus‘ are great examples of how technology coupled with imagination can drive learning in this area. Matt Richards and the work he has done around the Makerspace Movement is very much worth following as his ideas and thoughts in this space are terrific. Also, hearing about the work Narissa Leung has initiated at her setting around letting students have a greater voice when it comes to students being curious, thinkers and wonders is great. Because really, what other schools give their kids a pile of bricks and say “off you go, have fun!”. My tip, not enough. Her blog post about some of this work can be found here.
So what are my plans from here? Honestly, I am not sure. Again, I love all of the above and what it can bring. Ideally, to have some form of Makerspace set up at each of my campuses, or perhaps one major one that can be utilised at by all campuses would be great. To hold our own College ‘Maker Faire’ would also be a great experience. Much like a Google Science Fair. To have students engaged in creativity, imagination, invention and construction and showcase the learning that they took from being involved.
As Seymour Papert once said, “The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready made knowledge.”
While we’re on the quote train, one quote of Gary’s that really resonated was this – “Walking through a school and watching students can be like watching balloons deflate.” Meaning, that the ideas and thirst for knowledge that our students have are not developed and encouraged in school. But rather they are ignored and pushed to the wayside for more ‘general’ topics to be discussed and taught. Yes, we have a curriculum to attend to to, however, like Papert’s quote above, we can certainly steer students in the direction of where and how they develop this ‘needed’ knowledge rather than simply tell them the answers.
And lastly, as if I needed anymore convincing that this whole ‘Makerspace’ thing is a great idea, according to the recently released Australian Governments 2015 Intergenerational Report when talking about Productivity, “We (the Australian Public) have to be more productive to ensure we do not fall behind, to create new opportunities for jobs and to drive our incomes higher.” If we are to do this successfully, we as educators within this country need to ensure we’re developing students who’ll thrive in a future world. Students who can think differently in innovative and creative ways to develop new ways to complete current and new tasks.
Yes, a little off topic, however if you’re interested in the Aus Govs Intergenerational Report, the amazing Dr Karl Kruszelnicki sums it up in a 15min video, embedded below.
I’d love to hear from those engaged in a Makerspace and how they are not only going about integrating a Makerspace type environment into their setting, but what exactly the students are getting out of it in terms of learning.
So. Are you an Apple Fanatic or more of a Windows lover? Or perhaps you’re happy to stand by a Chromebook and sing it’s praises? Then we have Google and Adobe and all their app offerings? There are then also an abundance of netbooks and other random laptop and desktop devices that schools are happy to swear by. At the end of the day, which is it or you?
There is always discussion and debate around what digital tools and technology is best and what devices and tools are ‘better’, what ever that means, at promoting student learning.
I am finding and seeing lately that educators in all settings are being pigeon holed and or railroaded into using specific digital tools to support students in their quest for knowledge.
Now those who know me will be the first to say that I have come from a setting that was an ‘Apple Mac’ school, Apple Distinguished even, and that all 1800 students were asked to provide themselves with an Apple device under a College wide BYOD framework. This I can say worked. And worked extremely well.
My current setting does things a little differently and without going into details we have the majority of our year 3 – 8 students with iPad devices. There are other devices thrown into the mix such as Lenovo Yoga Windows 8 devices and stand alone desktops. It is when students head to the senior campus that we then have an ‘open door’ policy allowing students to utilise just about any device to support their learning. A true BYOD framework.
Now this in itself has many challenges, of which I am not going to go into right now, however from what I have seen, and for those students who have a device, the more varied devices the merrier. Students will select a device for their needs based on a great deal of reasons, all of which are specific to them as an individual. As teachers we are not bound by the type of devices we use. Nor would there many people I would argue that are told they can only use on specific devices in their workplaces. Dare I say I have been to Australian Google HQ in Sydney and noticed that not all their employees were working away on Chromebooks.
Ritchie Lambert in his blog post “Which digital device is best for education?” says “ The only mistake you can make is believing that one device can be chosen that will be the everything you need.” I’d have to agree. Completely.
At the end of the day it comes down to students having access to multiple technologies that play their part for the role that is intended. Granted, some devices do more than others, however we all need to recognise that there is no ‘one size fits all’. I doubt that there’ll ever be. This is why it is important that educators do not get railroaded and or pigeon holed in using singular technologies. By all means learn about and love what you use most, but do not let that become your sole answer to technology use and integration with your students.
We need to take the best of each, merge them, and smash teaching and learning out of the park.
I can say that I was not expecting to be challenged by yesterdays event as much as I was. Honestly, I was not sure what I was expecting other than to hopefully develop a better understanding of the NPDL project and to hear Simon discuss how he drives and activates change.
Let’s just say expectations were met, massively exceeded, and then some.
Simon Breakspear led what was a thought provoking and challenging day in how we as leaders within our schools can not only drive and steer the new pedagogies for deep learning project, but also drive, lead and promote change in our educational settings. So really, as mentioned already I got out of the day exactly what I was after.
Now I could, as I have done in the past, recount the day minute by minute and write a long-winded recount. I won’t. In the words from Simon himself: “Focus on less, but better”. So. I’ll pull out several key points from the day that really resonated quite strongly with me and what I do, and how my thinking has been shaped around these thoughts and ideas.
Here we go.
1. “The Best Always Look To Get Better.”
Yes they do. That’s what makes them the best. That willingness to constantly improve and want to be the best, or do the best, or lead the best, and so on… However, education is not a competition. Schools should never be ‘competing’ against one another (Did someone say ‘My School’ website…). They should be working with one another to improve practice and I was pretty happy with the conversations that I had had with other educators at various settings to hear about how they are ‘being the best’ they can be. Effectively, this is, that is, what it is all about. It is about teachers and schools being the best that they can be for the students in their setting. It is about preparing and educating the young minds that walk in to our setting each and everyday with the skills that will hold them in great stead to be successful in their chosen career paths, what ever that may be. It is about improving pedagogy, improving practice, improving learning. Seriously, why would you NOT want to be better. If there is no desire for improved pedagogy and whole school betterment, why…? The question for me is “what can I do at my setting to get better, as an individual in my role but much more importantly, what can my college do to be the best it can?”
2. “The ‘new’ way needs to become easy so that it becomes ‘the’ way”
How often do we hear it. “Oh no, not something thing else I have to do.”. Or. “Not another add on”. Or. “I don’t have time for this”. Are we too good improve? (I love the image above as it can occasionally be like that). Everything new is difficult, different, worrying, and so on. If it was simply ‘easy’ why would we be bother to begin with? Things only become easy, like changing pedagogy, like implementing new initiatives, like introducing new learning and learning strategies after the hard yards have been done. Only then will things become easier and only then, as Simon mentioned, it will become ‘the’ way. I cannot say that coordinating and implementing a 1:1 program at my previous school for 2000 students was easy. Nor did it happen overnight. It took the best part of a small army spanning the better part of 5 good years. But now, it is the way. It is easy. The hard yards had been done. Change, in any format for any initiative can be challenging. We need to push through the difficulty, testing and trying parts before we see the light.
Yesterday I also came across this blog post by George Couros titled “Why are you doing that again?“. One great point that George makes which goes hand in hand with another quite from Simon, shown below, is that “The biggest barrier to change is often our own thinking. As individuals, we need to change that.” Relates very strongly to new ways becoming the way.
3. “We need to do better, not different.”
This relates to the first point however I think that when you actually think about it, as I did for an hour on a train home, there is a lot to take away from this statement. Why do we do different and does doing different mean better? Is it perhaps implied that because we are making a change or beginning to do things differently that we automatically think this means better? Are paradigms being shifted? This statement I think will remain with me forever in the back of my mind as for me it promotes the further thinking of “why”. If I, or my college are initiating change, why? Will it improve student learning, or are we simply doing it because it is new and ‘different’. A great book that I have recently started reading, on top of two others (which I have never done, that is, read multiple books at once), which I feel relates to this perfectly is titled “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. A book already challenging me to think deeply about my own practice. And I am only a handful of pages into it! If the why does not lead to better, but only different, is it really worth the time, resources, manpower, costs, and headaches?
4. “You cannot lead people into a future you cannot see.”
A fair point. Although I think that this did not bother Captain Kirk and the USS Enterprise. If you yourself cannot see what lies ahead how do you expect others to follow you? Leaders and those driving change need to firmly understand the path that they are taking and most importantly why. See above points 1 and 2. And 3. And 4. Why are we doing this? Will it make a difference, or, more importantly, will it makes us better?? Will those driving this change be able to pull others into getting on board though inspiring them to do so? The purpose needs to be there as does the the ability to be able to discuss, converse and debate why perhaps a change is needed. Ensuring that others can see this, the why, then leading people into the future will be much more successful and worthwhile and perhaps the amount of Klingons that are encountered are dramatically reduced.
5. “Learn to fail well.”
I hate failing. Just like losing. Hate it. The competitiveness in me just does not like it. Everything from engaging in the odd playstation game, to years of playing football, to being involved in a trivia nights, losing or failing just does not agree with me. I do not think that this is solely a bad thing. It drives me to do better and be better. Not in a manic, screaming, overly intense way either! Personally learning to fail well is something that I need to be able to do better. I think that now I ‘fail OK’, but I perhaps could sit back and reflect for longer as to why I have failed rather than think briefly about it, and try again immediately. The hustle and bustle and need to constantly complete set tasks to a standard that I am happy with perhaps could be cause of the odd failure here and there. Again, not a bad thing I feel. As yes, slow and steady wins the race but we always cannot afford to be slow. The teaching/education game does not always allow it. I feel that also failing well is a skill and a particularly great thing to be able to model to students. It shows them first hand what it means to be resilient in the face of adversity. That getting in a ‘huff and a puff’ solves nothing. Learn to fail well. Learn from failure. “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new” – Albert Einstein.
So they’re my 5 takeaways. The 5 items on my agenda to focus upon. I must thank Simon for such a great day again and for again challenging me and most likely the other 100+ people in that shared space. We’ll all be much better off for it!
And so much for a short blog post. I knew this would happen! 🙂 I’ll learn from this failure! Maybe. 😉
“Education… needs to be radically rethought partly to stop the boredom, but mostly to blow the lid off learning, whereby students and teachers as partners become captivated by education day in and day out.” – Michael Fullan
Fullan sums it up perfectly I think. The need for change, of some description, to encourage and foster learning that looks like and relates to the year 2015 and beyond is essential, especially if we are wishing to eradicate that ‘boredom’.
After having attended a workshop just this Monday passed regarding Fullan’s ‘New Pedagogies for Deep Learning’, I was strongly encouraged and even more so motivated to be part of this relatively new initiative.
In short, the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning initiative is a global innovation partnership linking students, teachers, leaders and schools across the world to essentially re-design what teaching and learning looks like to ensure student lead more successful lives.
From this partnership students from the world over will be encouraged and engaged in deeper learning experiences that will provide them with the skills to be life long learners, creators, connected citizens, and collaborative problem solvers.
My new College is one of 80 schools within the DET who are involved in this global partnership that is looking at how deep level learning can shift that paradigm towards students, teachers and the wider community to become more connected towards active learning scenarios.
The workshop I attended was a ‘101’ based event and certainly gave me the background information that I needed to be up to speed with this program. In saying as I have already, that I walked away motivated and encouraged by what I had been part of, I was also very much intrigued as to how something of this magnitude would play out.
The video below gives a good overview of NPDL and how it’s 4 dimensions of,
– pedagogical practices
– learning partnerships
– leveraging digital
– learning environments
… as well as the 6C’s (competencies) of,
– critical thinking
…all foster and develop authentic engagement via this notion of deep learning.
One of the first tasks that we were tasked with doing was to complete a good old ‘Y-Chart’ with the focus being on “What does Deep Learning…”, as seen below.
Would you agree with what was recorded? What else would you add?
What goes hand in hand to support this initiative are the support materials, resources and papers that have been designed to assist students, teachers and leaders.
One of these resources is the Education+ paper written by Michael Fullan and Geoff Scott, which can be accessed HERE.
This is a short yet highly thought provoking read and I encourage you to please do so. One quote that resonated, partially as I have blogged about this type of thing very recently, was;
“It is learning that looks at the world from many different perspectives, cuts across the disciplines (after all we live in a trans-disciplinary world not a mono-disciplinary one), learning that is relevant to real world interests, needs and challenges of our students, is (inter) active and which concentrates on developing the capabilities that count not only for today but for a sustainable future” – Fullan & Scott 2014.
Again. Beautifully said.
All of this, knowing there was an assessment component to this program left me with thinking how do educators involved assessment because honestly, how does a teacher assess and even plan for deep learning?
And then just when you raise a question, BANG, the answer, or part there of appears. Another paper, written as part of NPDL by Hill and Langworthy titled – ‘A strategic approach to the assessment of deep learning’ is also an excellent read and certainly goes some way to answering the above.
Like the ‘Education+’ paper, this is also short but again full of deep thinking for yourself. The big 3 (pedagogy, curriculum and assessment) of course play a large part towards reassessing just what student assessment should look like. Personally I do feel that assessment, and the data that goes hand in hand with it, are the core tools that we as teachers have. It is assessment and data that drives what we do, what we plan, and how we teach to that plan. A whole paradigm shift in assessment of student learning needs to perhaps not to occur, but a rethink in educational settings as to what we assess, how we assess it and what we do with the results of that assessment is needed.
Lastly, and before this turns in to a novel, i’ll finish up with this…
We were asked / tasked with writing our dream scenario of what would we as teachers absolutely love our classrooms to look like, if NPDL were fully incorporated as part as tools of all planning and action. What would your ideal, deep learning classroom look like?
Mine went along these lines;
“My NPDL classroom would be full of inquiry. Learning tasks would be rich and cross curricula and the larger of the focus would be on application, not skill. Students would drive their own learning and the teacher act as an advisor or facilitator. Student focus would be to take action with their newly acquired knowledge and skills. For that action to benefit others outside of the college / school setting. My classroom would be technology rich with students creating content for others, not simply consuming information. They would foster the 6C’s and encourage the use of those skills in others. Students would seek knowledge from outside of the classroom, or the school for that matter, to assist in building on their prior knowledge. They would use experts in their field, relatives, friends and students in other settings. Assessment would have purpose and drive the teaching. It would also drive students to use the data from those formal, adaptive assessments to set their own learning goals and agendas.”
(I could probably add more…) 🙂
What would your ideal classroom look like? And how would you integrate NPDL?
This is certainly a global initiative worth keeping an eye as the results that come from it I believe will be outstanding.