Learning that Changes the World…….

Like many colleagues around the globe we are stopping for the holiday season here in Oz that is upon us.  As with any break it is much needed time to step back, enjoy the view, read, do more reading, talk, swim, run, read more, reflect and grow.

Sunset 2015

I  am also finishing my time at my current school as Head of Curriculum and next year move my family to the country to begin the next part of our journey.  For me this involves becoming Principal of a small Catholic Co-ed High School in Grafton, NSW about 6-7 hours north of Sydney and 3 hours south of Brisbane.

I am eagerly preparing for this new position and all the amazing people and things that lie ahead for me. No doubt the next few years will be a HUGE learning curve for me which I cannot wait to begin. I am so thankful for all my previous schools and leaders I have worked with because now I have found myself reflecting on all the great learnings I experienced that I can now take with me to my new school. The good stuff stays the course in any school or organisation and the other stuff becomes a rich learning about what to change!

But that is next year (only a few weeks away!!) and here I wanted to give thanks for the many gifts and opportunities I have experienced over the past 4 years. There have been many highlights, too many to list them all so here goes a short summary with some broad themes.

1. Building a PLC with Amazing colleagues – the best people I have encountered are the ones who have challenged me and forced me to grow as an educator. They didn’t always agree with me but they questioned and were prepared to grow theirs and my mindset. I am thankful for people who helped me grow and develop my leadership skills here.  All the research about teachers being the single biggest influencer of learning outcomes for students is spot on.

The move in Australia and globally about connecting teachers in schools and linking to professional bodies like AITSL and NSWIT is a natural progression that will only make our profession an even greater one.  The reality is we cannot afford teachers in our schools to not be effective.  Every teacher must have an impact or otherwise our children suffer.  Ask any teacher who is a parent: you  want your child educated by a teacher who  cares, has tonnes of compassion or understanding, is a 21C professional connected educator and who is prepared to go the extra mile for all the kids they educate. As with any organisation we need the best teachers in schools because -:

The simple formula is:

If you have a school of GREAT teachers then you have a GREAT school!

The many thousands reading this (insert big belly laugh I Want to hear from St Schols in Glebe to HW Longfellow in Virginia, USA !!!) would automatically say ” I know this already Mark!!!!”

The big money question hence the huge book, conference and consultants on offer world wide from Dylan William to My mate Pasi and Andy, sorry Mike and George nearly forgot you, is………….


HOW do you build a workforce of great teachers?

 

 

Well keep reading……..

 

Building a Professional Learning Community through shared practice

 

2. Access to Learning Innovation – schools need to be all about CHANGE and adopt rapid and long lasting change methods. I have been lucky to be in a position to lead this.  Leading change in schools is a challenging proposition, as well as demanding as you age (I’m getting older now nearly 27 but then my daughter says add another 20 Dad!!)

Working with resistance is tiring but worthwhile mostly in part because the students are the big winners of innovation in learning. I think change has more to do with giving our students the best rather than pandering to a small handful of staff who place their interests in front of their students. Get on with it the j0b we were employed to do!!

I have spent last 4 years working side by side with Westley Field, who assumed the position in my school of leading innovation in learning at the same time I began in my role.  Westley was responsible for leading and developing a model of learning called LIBERATE.  He built this from the ground up working with all staff and teacher leaders to build a common language.  This has been a key role for our teachers who have been reskilling and learning new concepts about what it means to be a connected educator who understands and practices blended learning with students.

Vital!! And led by Westley who started getting the school investing heavily in……

 

BV-CAPS-Interior
Turn every space into a new innovative space

 

3. Professional Learning as Leadership Capability Building – no amount of money is enough that can be spent on this particularly for leaders. Do not put your Business Manager anywhere near the PD budget!!

I have been privileged to be part of eye opening PD opportunities in my time and this budget, an investment in conferences, but even better overseas school visits to international schools that builds networks and opens eyes for teachers is CRUCIAL for the modern connected school has for most part come with Westley and his role of innovating to learn.

Investing to bring international and national scholars like Gary Stager, Stephen Heppell, Anthony Muhammad, Greg Whitby, Dr Rinda Montgomery, Professor Donna Cross, and Dr Leoni Degenhardt to name just a few of the more well known educators that have visited our school or have worked with our teachers.  This has come from the direct impact of having a key figure leading learning innovation and being closely involved was one of my professional highlights. Presenting with Westley on our schools model of learning with our boss at the  2012 ACEL conference was our combined attempt to fast track the execs notion of professional learning. School leaders must be out and about networking, sharing and exposing themselves and their school to huge new opportunities that flow from this investment.  Administrative school leaders that do not talk learning are a relic of the past.  Leaders in the digital age must be leaders of INSTRUCTION!!

 

Shifting
Transformation of schooling is KEY

 

Teachers need to SEE and be exposed to national and international best practice to innovate and change practice.  Global education has broken down considerably and Australian educators need to step up here and start leading the way on the international stage. Everywhere American educators dominate the market with conference presenters and books and it will be great to see a little Aussie flavour  here soon too!!! A great aussie read here is one schools story of complete transformation DANCING ON A SHIFTING CARPET  by Leoni Degenhardt ( no offence here to all the amazing US educators I follow and buy books from just a bit of aussie flavour this xmas time).  Here Leoni talks about the creative and capable learners our schools need to be producing for the information future and the transformation that schools must undertake. A good read of one schools journey over a number of years.

 

4. Learning Space Design + Time – critical to new   Learning methods and design.  This goes hand in hand with innovation in learning.  The more I read about online learning and huge global market growth the more schools need to grasp the new role of the Blended teacher is ALREADY here.  Some schools have grasped the concept of Blended learning easily because they realise that much of student learning doesn’t take place in the traditional classroom anymore (read the book mentioned above)

 

Photo reprinted with permission by Unsplash. Photo by Sonja Langford
Time to build PLCs VITAL!

 

Successful schools I have visited like @ParraMarist reveal students working harder outside the 9-3 school bell timetables accessing teacher materials online.  The notion of the one teacher 25 student classroom is morphing to something NEW and innovative hence their numerous awards and recognition from worldwide leaders like Apple and New Tech for their bravery in breaking the mold of traditional schooling. This puts the emphasis on LEARNING when students gather with their teacher for discussion in their 100 minute lessons instead of wasting time introducing new content during the lesson. They are not alone but are ahead of the pack.

Some schools are still negotiating this. The world has changed drastically since many teachers attended school so the obvious questions needs to be asked and answered by schools:

1. Why do many school classrooms still look like they did in 1986 (when I left school) desks and rows?

2. Does learning space or the environment influence the learning outcomes for students?…..Yes so lets get on with changing them…..

3. Can students access your learning materials completely online ( modern space)?…..if not then make it so…….

4. Do you provide feedback or online discussion boards as part of your assessment of student learning (contemporary learning design)?

5. Does your school provide Professional Learning Team time during the day to meet in teams plan and discuss student work?

6. Are we taking too long to hand hold teachers through change processes when we need to spend more time on asking what is best for our students FIRST and then get on implementing this change? Is school about teachers or students and which comes first? ……students come to learn and teachers are trained to assist this right? If we agree with this then schools are all about STUDENTS!!!

 

Consulting_ThoughtLeadership
School leaders must lead through collaboration and innovation

 

5. Leadership – crucial crucial crucial.

Just like teachers but even more important to have a great leader  and leadership TEAM and teacher leaders prepared to chart a course or way forward for the school. Great schools NEED great leaders.  Two of the most outstanding I have seen in Sydney that is influencing me greatly has been Parramatta Marist (a little bit of a fan!!) and Schools like Northern Beaches Christian School that have visionary leadership under Stephen Harris who I met years ago at a ACEC conference in Cairns.  A thoroughly impressive leader then who has transformed his school in every way. Some talk about Innovation Stephen does it.  Stephen and his team under Anne Knock Stephen Collis and others have been leading tours for leaders to places like Germany, Finland, Sweden to experience first hand what eye opening, amazingly wonderful design exists and what can Australian schools learn from them.  It is best to book a tour and visit NBCS to see.

I have enjoyed being part of a leadership team for the past 4 years, all different in personality and backgrounds but united in our pursuit of a common vision and bringing that vision to fruition. That work can ultimately only be beneficial for our organisation. I am thankful for this great gift and for all my Principal taught me about keeping things positive. I feel positivity will be key theme of senior leadership!!

 

6. Wellbeing…… The student part!! All about the students…… I could have put this first because schools exist first and foremost for students but it helps the students if points 1-5 are in place to build a great school for them doesn’t it?

Schoolies_for_Schooling
Learning is the OIL of Student Wellbeing

 

My school has spent the past four years deeply immersed in building more holistic student wellbeing structure whilst also transforming the vision, culture and environment.  I did not “live long enough” to see the whole wellbeing house constructed but certainly saw many of the building blocks get put in place.

What did I learn?

Let me quote of my heroes and good friend Professor Donna Cross who says:

“Wellbeing is the OIL of learning!!!”

Nice, simple and easy to remember or was it –  learning is the oil of wellbeing?!?!!…….. Anyway hopefully you get the point the two are intrinsically linked.

If a child is Happy and positive about their school and who they are  in the world then learning will look after itself and that student will thrive and prosper.

So like many schools we visited on huge trips and research missions it all comes down to this simple message . Keep them happy!! And they will engage, thrive and learn and grow.

Again this is harder in reality that it sounds but building wellbeing programs into the curriculum is a big step in recognising the need for schools to adapt and adopt new ways of doing traditional pastoral care programs. Mindfulness and positive psychology programs are two just to name a few that should be incorporated into what students learn whilst at school.

All schools want to produce outstanding socially responsible citizens who not only are outstanding role models with their learning but also contribute to making THEIR world a better place.  To this end when you see one of your students, who also just happened to the the Dux, then head off on a 750km+ walk from Bondi to Byron to raise funds for others in less developed world then you can sit back and feel proud that something came out of their Timor Leste immersion in Year 11 to lead them to this!!!! Amazing stuff. I often read about this kind of stuff happening in schools but feel very proud this time it’s my school!!!….or was my school but the idea lives on in me for my next school….learning that will change the world and make it a better place!!

At this time of year so much to give thanks for so I’m glad I just spent the past few hours sitting in airports  across a few days thinking about my year but more importantly writing this outstanding post. Thankful and humble too!!

In my best French to all those who helped me this year, or over the past few years or will help me, famous or not so famous alike, ‘Joyeaux Noel’🌲🌲🌲

And have a great New Year wherever you are. I look forward to making more connections and learning so much from you all in 2016!!

Being a Connected Educator Takes Time

I am on leave presently so I find myself with more time on my hands than normal so my reading and online activity is a little higher than it is usually.  I am reading more but haven’t reflected on my reading for a while so here goes.

Recently I was in a chat on Twitter and the question was posed how are you connected online and what do you use more regularly for your professional learning? This is a hot topic at present in several forums so it got me thinking about my own use, how I connect, what I connect to and how often etc etc

I am also reading on my Ipad at present a great book on Being a Connected Educator and keep interrupting my reading to do the online activities at the end of each chapter – I am finding it disruptive with all the online links and activities the book draws me off too but also enjoyable connecting with even more educators across the globe like Jimmy Cassas, Todd Whitaker, and Jeffrey Zhoul. Each of these educators has been there done that and I am enjoying reading their books.  I am also in process of trying to stop buying hardcopy books as they take up so much of house now, the Kindle cloud version on my Ipad is much easier, not to mention cheaper.

I think I am your typical educator, one always looking for ideas and new and more improved ways of doing things. This is where being connected comes in handy. My social media and learning networks give me a wide range of connections to so many great people it is hard to find the time to keep up with them all, then of course you realise you can’t but you keep reading anyway.

I think the best place to look to find what people follow are the apps on your phone. So what are my some of the networks/apps on my phone that keeps me CONNECTED and how do I use them?


1.  Twitter is easily number one for me. So simple so easy to use and connect with like minded educators everywhere. I view it as a daily news read forum where I jump in and out of discussions. My phone or iPad is constantly buzzing with news from Twitter. I connect with a lot of groups but largely educational work related stuff with some other interest sport politics travel forums etc. Twitter is a daily, many times a day quick read forum, post, favourite, link, share, retweet, chat, DM place.

 


2. Instagram is a relatively new one for me. I am  a big lover of design, learning space, photography and so forth so I love the simplicity of taking a photo editing on my phone and posting somewhere. I think, like many, the artist, builder, designer in me finds a little community in this space so photos and art live here. Once a day photo, edit, create, share, play. Very enjoyable. I follow a few groups so see great pictures here.

 


3. WordPress. A great connection and another news read forum like Twitter but no character limits.  I use as my website but also like many connected educators their reflection space – just another space or home to collect ideas. I am inspired by fellow educators here in the great land of Oz where I live such as Greg Whitby who was one of the very first people I followed after hearing him in the flesh at a conference years ago.  He is one of the few Educational leaders I am aware of in Australia at a senior system level of leadership, at least in Catholic education land where I belong who blogs regularly and as such is a great example of model for others like me.  I am always in awe of how he finds time to blog but I figure it’s like anything else in a busy week; schedule time for it in your calendar and it happens.  Another Principal I follow and enjoy reading from Australia is Greg Miller who has been good to follow and read how learning is being transformed in his school, a good example of where the research is put into action!

 

Creative-Ground-LinkedIn-for-Business

 

 

4. LinkedIn. Another interesting space and similar but different connections to my Twitter and Blog space. A lot of HR, Business, IT types meets Educators (my world) here. Great for connections online then people who want face to face meetings. I view it a bit like an online resume for myself. If you are going to be CONNECTED you need an online presence here. It’s also interesting because I meet a lot of senior leaders who may not necessarily be on Twitter but use LinkedIn for whatever reason. A lot of jobs appear here and consultants spruiking their skills but also some great connections. Maybe once or twice a day, or every couple days.

 

5. Slideshare. Great for presentations. Often finish up here when a lot of speakers put conference notes or presentations here.

6. Coursera. Short courses online that grab my fancy. Occasionally scrawl through for ideas. It’s a bit like Uni study need a fair bit of time commitment here but I have enrolled some accelerated students at school so much more to be explored here for schools in how to use these amazing courses.

7. YouTube Channel. Great place to store all videos I’m watching or using.

8. Google. Enough said. Connections everywhere. Google Drive. Google Projects. Docs…..

9. Prezi. Love to use for jazzy presentations for staff. Many presenters moved to this and other similar products when they wanted a change from Powerpoint in 1995! Hah just kidding.

 

10. Storify. Everyday I get great news feeds from many sites that come to my Storify space. Storify curates or collects and gathers stories based on topics and tags so this great place to read or scan articles a bit more in depth than Twitter.

I could go on but I think these are my TOP 10 apps or sites I am using at the moment for my own professional growth and learning.  It is great being connected because there is so much to READ.  The issue is finding the time to read it all and this takes commitment.

Deeper Learning

Deeper Learning……Increasing Student Engagement……..I Like….I Wish…..I Wonder…….

More evidence coming out of the recent ULearn PLN held recently in NZ where educators are sharing best practice around student centred learning.

What was shared? What is happening in schools across the globe especially to Aust, NZ educators? How does best practice look?

I love how you don’t have to attend these conferences in person but can learn so much “more” in one sense after the event by reading all the posts. Here is a great one from Steve Mouldy who gives us a glimpse inside his school and how teachers are working in TEAMS to share practice, discuss ideas, and solve problems no doubt. His reflection comes after hearing from Grant Lichtman’s work at the conference.

I love the “Kitchen Table” concept and teachers sitting around a table talking. Another way of reworking the staffroom and staff meeting concept.

Plenty of food for thought here.

Many thanks for sharing Steve.

Steve Mouldey

This week’s provocation at Hobsonville Point Secondary School was Grant Lichtman’s Deeper Learning Cheat Sheet. To follow up on this our Learning Design Kitchen Table (20 minute staff ‘meeting’) was an activity based upon that reading.

We started off by looking again at the tips that Grant has disseminated for increasing student engagement, curiosity and student centred practice.

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Many of these strategies are commonplace and found every day throughout our school. But we recognise that we can always improve our practice. So, we focused on how we can scale up or amplify our practice on these.

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Just one of many critical issues for schools – the need and opportunity to rethink schooling

Rethinking schooling……

etsmagazine

Leading a school in an age of disruption driven by technology is not easy. There are so many critical issues that schools are facing and need to be tackled.

In this blog we want to confine our thinking to one issue only – the need and opportunity to rethink schooling.

The need

Sounds desperate. But we are not desperate! Some talk about the issue of rethinking schooling as if we had never started. This is silly. For years keen educators all over the world have been exploring ways to rethink and improve schooling. We are not just starting now, much progress has already been made in transforming schools. What we need to do is to continue this work, moving at a faster pace than ever before, just to keep up with all the other changes in society – especially the immense opportunities afforded by the huge advances in digital technology.

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Maths Assessment Pre Task

Maths, Assessment tasks and moving away from exams. Another example of a school pushing the boundaries of learning for it’s students.

Innovation in Learning

This year our Maths department desided to make a major change to the way we assess students in Maths. Previously all assessments have been in the form of formal examinations across Years 7 to 12. This year both Year 11 and Year 8 will complete one assessment in a different format.

We are currently in the process of working through the Term 3 assessment task for Year 8. The task is built around the completion of a ‘polygon puzzle’ using the iPads and Google Slides.


The first phase of the assessment involved three periods of teacher directed instruction. This involved working through three exercises from the text to ensure the students had background knowledge to enable them to engage with the task.

Phase two was a group task involving teams of four students completing a ‘polygon puzzle’ and an associated ‘learning log’. This was in effect a ‘trial run’ for…

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The Modern School – Adaptive Education Beyond 4 walls

The Journey

I read much about the industrial model of school still dominating school thinking and design today for many school systems around the world. But times have changed and many teachers working in schools know that our response to guiding the learning process for our students needs to change as well.  The industrial model was for another time and another generation that will not continue to serve the current generation of students.

Photo reprinted with permission by Unsplash. Photo by Sonja Langford

There is an old joke about three professions, a Doctor, an Engineer and a Teacher, that get transported ahead in time 100 years from 1900 to the year 2000.  The Doctor walks into a surgery and cannot believe the modern equipment, let alone how to use it.  The Engineer sees the modern buildings and architecture and is totally a-gasp.  Meanwhile the teacher walks into the classroom, picks up a piece of chalk and starts talking! There is an element of humour but I think also truth about this joke. There would be many teachers, possibly younger or older than me, who would have not modified their approach to teaching and learning in their entire career.  Why is this so and how can it be allowed to exist in a world that has been rapidly changing due to the technology revolution occurring in the past twenty to thirty years?

I was recently watching a TEDx talk that engaged me greatly and got me thinking about the state of education, not only in the world, but in my own country of Australia and more specifically about my own school and students.  Grant Lichtman made some outstanding summary points that were sublime and resonated with me. Across 30 years of experience he found:

  • Students need to be taught CRITICAL THINKING and PROBLEM SOLVING today.
  • Students should be ASKING QUESTIONS more than giving answers today.
  • Schools should be thinking across systems rather than teaching SINGLE subjects today.

Grant also travelled across the USA visiting over 60 schools and found that:

  1. Schools are not good at INNOVATION – in essence they are risk averse.
  2. For every one school that had a problem there was another school that had solved that problem
  3. CHANGE in education is REALLY HARD. Why?
  4. REFLECTION for students on their learning is as important as the time schools devote to traditional “learning time.

Barriers to Change in the Modern Era

Lichtman reflects on John Dewey’s model of Progressive Education and argues schools need to forgo the industrial model of schooling and return to the progressive era of essentially learning by doing.

How John Dewey Reformed Education

Dewey’s pragmatic and democratic approach to schooling may not stand out as radical today, but in the early and mid-1900s his view of education was in contradiction to much of the then-present system of schooling. Dewey’s approach was truly child-centered. A child-centered approach to education places the emphasis of learning on the needs and interests of the child. In Dewey’s view, children should be allowed to explore their environments.

He believed in an interdisciplinary curriculum, or a curriculum that focuses on connecting multiple subjects, where students are allowed to freely move in and out of classrooms as they pursue their interests and construct their own paths for acquiring and applying knowledge. The role of the teacher in this setting would be to serve more as a facilitator than an instructor. In Dewey’s view, the teacher should observe the interest of the students, observe the directions they naturally take, and then serve as someone who helps develop problem-solving skills. (taken from Adam Jordan).

Lichtman says schools need to INNOVATE to break down what he calls the “dams” and “silos” and open the doors to the learning environment that educational pioneers like Dewey and Montessori created. But this isn’t easy so suggests schools:

  1. Schools teach into the unknown – no good preparing them for our world;
  2. Help students become self-evolving learners
  3. Schools and school systems need to become self-evolving organisations that constantly embrace change

He says INNOVATION is all about the future not the past so schools should focus on this guiding imperative to build the MODERN SCHOOL that is constantly adapting to the needs of students now and into the future and this means rethinking schooling and how we teach.

Establishing Australia’s first Creative Collective for education 

Building Creativity Leadership models.

Bianca Hewes

A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in the Düsseldorp Forum and the Mitchell Institute’s  Creative Collective, a new initiative designed to bring together a range of people from different backgrounds, who are interested in nourishing a creative society. To be honest, I was surprised to get an invitation, since I didn’t know any of the people from either of the two main organisations. It was nice to be included, however, and nicer to know a couple of the attendees.

The day started with introductions – lots of great people, all with varying ideas about the current standing of creativity in society, attitudes towards creativity, and the importance of living in a creative society – and we learnt more about the research of Prof Bill Lucas who facilitated the day. (OK, let’s take it back a step, the day started with me freaking out about the fact that…

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Five Friday Faves (Steve Jobs quotes edition)

I like these quotes from Steve Jobs. Reading his biography by Jacobsen it also sounded like his achievements came at some costs. He sounded very driven and these quotes indicate that. He was all about building something great, leaving a legacy which we remember him every time we get the latest iPhone upgrade etc. but he also didn’t have time to tolerate fools gladly so his temper was apparently famous when things didn’t go his way. Is this acceptable in today’s management world? I think he certainly appreciated the value of time and squeezed much into his life. I often wonder how his children turned out and what sort of people are they? Maybe we not only need to look at people like Jobs from the success angle but what can he teach us about values?

Certainly an interesting individual and a huge legacy. Thanks our sharing.

Innovative Education Solutions

Steve Jobs

I recently read, “25 Steve Jobs Quotes That Will Change the Way You Work—in the Best Way Possible” by Kaitlyn Russell.  Here’s how it begins:

“Fact: Steve Jobs didn’t become successful overnight.

It took years of hard work, determination, and perseverance to build Apple into the company that it is today. When you take a step back from your MacBook (and put down your iPhone), and really think about all that he accomplished, it’s beyond remarkable. He changed the way we live.”

You can click the link above to read the entire post.  Another fact is that Steve Jobs has so many impactful quotes attributed to him.  I decided to pick my top five from Russell’s list for this week’s Five Friday Faves.  What are your favorite Steve Jobs quotes?

  1. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be…

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Find the Time

Time is a variable that needs to be prioritised in schools.

“Let’s agree to find the time necessary to do what is needed in education.

Let’s agree to find the time to be a better educator.

Let’s agree to find the time to learn something new.

Let’s agree that time, although not our friend, will never be our excuse as a professional educator.”

A good read