Monday, February 29, 2016

Take your PLD into your own hands

Mindlab Post 6/10  Part A

Create a blog post where you identify and evaluate two contemporary issues or trends that are influencing or shaping NZ or international education, which you find most relevant to your practice.
Elaborate in your own words how you would address those issues or trends in your context within your learning community or professional context. 

Teachers taking individual responsibility for sourcing and tailoring their own Professional Learning and Development is a trend that's been strongly emerging over the last few years. Educamps, eduignites, the use of social media are all part of this.

We expect teachers to provide learning that is tailored to individual students in their classes. Why do some schools still persist in then telling teachers that they must all learn to be better at the same thing at the same time? I get that there has to be some whole school unity and a common vision and drive but just like young people, our teachers will learn so much more readily if they have a real stake and passion in what they are learning about or developing skills in.

What we are really talking about is PLD for teachers by teachers. People passionate about learning and the teaching processes necessary to cause great effective learning. And people willing to share. No big money passing hands and causing barriers. No big heroes taking centre stage. Just people wanting to share and get better at things to make things better for the young people in their care.

I love eduignite evenings. The fact that there is no cost, that it is just people sharing  their beliefs and learning. That each person speaks for a maximum of five minutes. That again there is no hero. That whoever would like to speak can and does, it's not dependent on one person.
I also love the use of Twitter for professional learning for the same reasons. It's a great leveller. There's no hierarchy. Principals are having chats with beginning teachers about teaching and learning in authentic and challenging ways and learning from each other. It's not all top down imposed learning.

Last year two colleagues and I did a 5 1/2 hour trip for a 5 hour educamp in Palmerston North  with a 5 1/2 hour trip home afterwards. No regrets whatsoever. It was an awesome day. I wrote about it here.

What makes an educamp so effective? The un conference format where the participants decide on the day what it is they would most like to discuss. The fact that there is no big money involved, that attendance requires time not a big fee.

Last weekend I attended an educamp in Wellington.  I don't live in Wellington. I don't even live in the North Island any more. While I didn't fly there just for educamp, I deliberately  planned my "time out" weekend in Wellington to coincide with the date of educampwelly. The people involved make all the difference. Those organising and attending educamp do tend to be the movers and shakers, the people on the cutting edge of learning and teaching in our schools. The people that are happy to spend five hours of their Saturday sharing and learning with and from each other. So actually just the networking and connections with people make it worthwhile. The fact they are held in other schools and you get to wander around another school,and learn what they are doing in their classrooms is another.

I do get wary when I see schools wanting to charge a lot of money to provide PLD to other schools. It must be very easy to blur the professional learning lines into money making schemes and I'm not at all convinced we should be using PLD to do this.
I get downright outraged when I see providers who haven't been in a classroom authentically for a long time charging exorbitant amounts of money to "provide" PLD. I think embedding our practice in theory and research is important and that all teachers should be supported to become more accomplished at doing this through the teaching as inquiry process. However the theory without the practical application that I have seen in some PLD providers makes me angry. Teachers immediately switch off when they know there is no understood reality of  what being in a classroom is like.

For me the enduring things about personally tailoring your own PLD and taking advantage of things like educamps is that you get out of them what you put into them. I know leaders get concerned about the teachers who would never actively seek out their own PLD if it was all left up to them. Maybe, though it's time to start acknowledging those that do, and giving them the scope to manage this. We don't treat all learners in our classrooms the same as far as self management. Different students are ready for differing stages of external and internal control. Why don't we treat our teachers, who are our lead learners the same?

Thanks to the organisers of educampwelly and the fantastic wellyed team. Your awesome hard work made the day run incredibly smoothly. But thanks also to everyone who attended. Thanks to anyone I had a conversation with or joined a session with. You were all part of enriching my professional learning for 5 hours this Saturday. No one told you that you had to be there, you were there because you wanted to be and the rich development and learning that took place was because you took control of your own learning.

I look forward to continuing connections with those I already knew and to developing further connections from those of you I met for the first time.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Most Likely To Succeed.. A Review...A Reflection.. A Renewal of Possibilities

CORE's introduction said....

"Most Likely to Succeed is the best film ever done on the topic of school- both its past and its future. The film inspires its audiences with a sense of purpose and possibility, and is bringing school communities together in re-imagining what ur students and teacher are capable of doing. Run, don't walk. to bing this film to your school. After seeing this film, you'll never look at school the same way again."

This movie was definitely inspiring and affirming. I think it should be compulsory viewing for all in education. While aimed at secondary schooling, it has many parallel messages for both primary and tertiary learning.

I loved seeing the story evolve through the year and to be able to witness the emerging understanding of both young people and the adults working alongside them of the true inter-disciplinary nature of learning. Seeing young people do far more than adults assume they can, and seeing them learn so much more than they often do in an adult driven class by class subject driven culture was fantastic.

The power of exhibiting learning for the public, and learners being accountable to this rather than to summative testing, or random assessments by a teacher,  is inspiring for learners and teachers alike. I know many years ago working in Wellington with Yr 7-8 learners in a very self managed collaborative integrated learning environment we used to run a learning exhibition at the end of each term. When visitors to our learning environment came they often wanted to know how to deal with the learners who just didn't get things done on time, and we used to say that it rarely happens. I don't think we were really believed, but that concept of accountability to the real-life real-world exhibition truly meant it very rarely if ever happened. Learners- and these were 10-12 years olds in the early 2000's- had such an accountability to that exhibition each term that if they weren't going to get something finished in time they made arrangements to come in out of school time to get it done. WE never asked them to to. They had an accountability to something bigger than getting an exercise completed in an exercise book.

So excellent to see this movie with our new team whose heads are fully into thinking about setting up a new school, and about what teaching and learning practices we want to evolve so that all of our learners needs are not only fully met but possibilities are opened to them in many ways.

Themes the movie affirmed for me:

Learning needs to relate to real life, it needs to be authentic. The time for focusing solely on context without context to support it is gone, and to bridge that gap teachers have often contribnved contexts to try to engage students in deeper learning. Get rid of contrived contexts and engage our learners with the real word and with real world problems.

Learning needs to relate to individuals- it needs to be personal. If our young people get what's in the learning for them and what they will get out of it they will engage with it so much more. if they have a stake in the learning they will be involved in it.

Connections are really important. The ability to collaborate, to work in teams, to led and to take direction, to articulate and to converse, to dicisuss nd have dialogue are ver increasingly irpotnat in the world our young people are going to live in. The student who has always achieved real success in th school system by themselves often struggles with this change when it is introduced in schools. However this is the same young person who will struggle to survive in the world of work if they aren't scaffolded though developing these skills. Most companies would now say they don't want "heroes" who can do the job by themselves. They want team players who will work with others. Who know when to step up and when to be led. Who know how to contribute to a project rather than wanting to do it all themselves in their own way.

Learners in todays world need to have agency- having a real voice in actual decision making. This includes the concept of them developing a degree of self regulation and accountability to the purpose and outcome of the learning.

For me the movie was summed up by a quote on the CORE presentation before the movie began:

 "....what's possible when you give kids more responsibility than you think they can handle and ask them to bring all of their knowledge to bear on a single task." 

My mind has been blown away over the last fifteen years by what I've seen young people produce when adults get out of the way of dictating and instead support learning. When adults let go of the vision of the "perfect" outcome, and hand it over to young people and support them. When collaboration is seen as the new normal- for young people and for adults in classroom environments. It takes courage for teachers to give up that 'power" and to directly teach according to situational need. But the learning that can happen and the outcomes that can be produced are simply outstanding- as Most Likely to Succeed demonstrates for us.

The posisbiitis for learning are endless. Hopefully we will begin seeing some NZ versions of this movie created in the next couple of years.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The First 8 Days at Haeata

It's been so exciting hearing all the chatter from teachers setting up for the new year alongside their learners this week.

For me the last fortnight has been both a recognition of the immense privilege it is to be in a team that has a year to set up a new school, and also developing an understanding of the immenseness of the task ahead of us.

We have been immersed into a world that teachers often don't get a chance to be immersed in. We've visited businesses- marketing, branding, designing, IT services. Apart from the value and services these businesses might be able to add to the development of Haeata Community Campus, it has been so interesting to see the different ways businesses run and to think and talk about how we might learn from those learnings as we design learning for the learners we will have in 2017.

We've done some personality trait testing and participated in some facilitated analysis. Doing in the past helped me to understand ppl I worked with. Having that information at the start of forming a team where everyone is new to the team is again a privilege. I guess our challenge is to use that information to understand and complement each other but not to pigeonhole each other with it.

We visited the site to see the beginnings of the buildings emerge, excitement as some of the stuff we have been talking about becomes more reality when you an see the spaces taking shape.

And the biggest lesson of all, get some covered shoes and keep in the office or car so that I don't have to wear gumboots around the site again! Trudging around site works and buildings in Size 11 gumboots (coz thats all that were available) on a 30 degree balmy Canterbury day for a couple of hours produced a rather hot and sweaty outcome!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My Professional Connections

Mindlab Post 5/10

I honestly think the connection that has made the biggest impact on my practice over the last few years has been twitter.

The ability to connect with other educators with similar passions and to debate practices and philosophies has been extremely empowering. 
Following international and well as renowned national educators and reflecting on what they write- both on twitter and their blogs adds to my developing practice.
Being exposed to a wide range of professional reading through the links people post on twitter and having professional conversations about these links means my professional knowledge is always being extended and my thinking provoked.
Taking part in twitter chats and being forced to summarise my thinking i posts of 140 characters has been a strongly contributing factor to being able to concisely and succinctly share my optioning and philosophies.

The other strong impact on my professional practice are two previous colleagues- from two different schools. These are colleagues I have a strong connection with. They are part of my ongoing professional network and we all have strong shared beliefs. Because they are no longer my current colleagues, I can use them as a sounding board for ideas and opinions and discuss things with them on  different level than possible sometimes with direct colleagues. They are honest and there is a high level of trust between us which means they can hold me high accountable for my beliefs and aspirations.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Community of Practice

Mindlab Post 4/10

Wegner describes a community of practice as groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

In New Zealand there is a growing community of practice centred around the themes of innovative learning environments (ILE) and innovative learning practice (ILP).

This community of practice is evolving- mostly informally- throughout the country in response to meeting learners needs in a way that prepares them for a future that is immensely different than the world was when the notion of schools was first developed.
Teachers in new schools who are committed to developing and implementing a curriculum in different, perhaps collaborative ways are forming their own communities of practice. Other teachers, not in new schools, but committed to doing things to better meet the needs of today learners are joining this community of practice on some level too. The social media tools of blogging and twitter are active ingredients in spreading the word of this practice.

A significant issue facing this community is pubic understanding and perception. Although the general public accept that their own workplaces are vastly differing places than they were 20-30 years ago, many people still think school should look the same with the same learning structures, discipline structures, and curriculum dictates that were present when they were at school. While teachers and leaders within this community of practice are working hard to influence other educators, the general community needs to be helped to develop a greater understanding of the purpose of the changing more innovative, or modern, practice in classrooms and schools.

There are however challenges this community of practice face. How to continue to practice highly and get the best result for students, while experimenting with new approaches and methods implementing the curriculum can be a double-edged sword. The sharing of practice- of successes, and even more importantly failures is an important part to the strengthening and developing of the practice of the member son this community of practice. Blogging, twitter chats, google plus communities are all aiding this every day. Continuing to encourage each other to delve deeper, to reflect and to change practice in relation to these reflections is what will make this community of practice thrive and flourish.

It is a community of practice I am proud to be a part of. (2015). Introduction to communities of practice | Wenger-Trayner. Retrieved from

Monday, February 1, 2016

Reflections on Reflection

Mindlab Post 3/10

The Finlay (2008) Reflecting on Reflective Practice paper is a subject dear to my heart. 

For many years I have extolled the virtues of teaching learners to self reflects and change actions based on these reflections, as well as tried to inspire and install this as a common practice in educators I have worked with. I have adamantly seen the need to schedule this into planning and timetables or else it becomes the thing “we run out of time to do.” 

Without reflection we cannot change our actions. All student management systems I have implemented at schools have refection as the key element. If students are just punished they will not change the pattern of behaviour. Serious attention needs to be given to reflection and creating new habits for a change to occur.

Over the last two years I have posted about developing the concept of learning muscles in  classroom and the a school. You can read another post on this here. You will see that refection is one of the key muscles.

Personally I use a fairly general model of reflect..think about changes I would like to make..set a goal around this changes and then create a timeline to make those changes to. Sometimes I blog or tweet about this, and sometimes I don’t. Here is an example where I learnt about the true value of reflecting.

I think my goal for the next year is to become more public with these reflections, and write about them in order to become even more introspective and to allow others the opportunity to learn from my writing about the ongoing changes I make to my practice.