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.

Professional Growth Models

Reading the recently released horizon report from @aitsl revealed some really interesting examples of how countries and schools are dealing with professional learning within schools.

One of the models that many would be familiar with is the PBL framework in the High Tech High School system within the USA.  It is interesting to read the huge and intense professional learning model for teachers built into this very successful high school learning framework described in the AITSL report.

The Integrated Model of Learning

In High Tech High in San Diego, California, USA, project–based learning (PBL) is a radical and highly disciplined pedagogy practised by all teachers across all subjects and age groups. Teachers in High Tech High engage in sustained and formal professional learning, including:

half a day every fortnight spent in workshops delivered by specialists from a field, often outside education;
participation in a study group of their choice, which meets every two weeks and is required to deliver output of use to the whole staff;
• the annual summer school – called the Odyssey – that inducts new teachers and refreshes existing ones.
There is also a state accredited teacher education and leadership academy attached to the school.

Performance and development are characterised in High Tech High by close analysis and critique of student work and outcomes data, both in peer groups and one to one with a mentor. Similarly plans for new projects are scrutinised and critiqued, a quality assurance process incentivised and moderated by the simple fact of all teacher developed resources being made available online, on an open source basis.
This accumulation of consistent, high visibility, high value engagement makes professional learning and performance and development ubiquitous in High Tech High. As one teacher told us “every day is a development day.”

Raising the performance stakes considerably is the one year contract on which High Tech High engages teachers. Each May, based on progress made by their students and feedback from their peers and mentor, teachers learn whether or not they will be employed for another year at the school.
High Tech High receives hundreds of applications and has not had to advertise for teachers for years

There appears to be a very strong and disciplined pedagogical approach that is consistently applied across the whole school by all teachers working within this model.  The PD framework certainly adds plenty of meat on the bones to support teachers in the implementation of this model to students.

I have been keenly following Parramatta Marist, a Catholic Marist high school within the Diocese of Parramatta, here in Sydney Australia that has been implementing PBL school wide across the past 6 or 7 years in their school.  The school has achieved great success with their PBL model that I believe is heavily based on the High Tech High model. Many of the ingredients for success I read, hear about and see in schools like New Tech and Parramatta Marist in this case study appears to be built upon:

  1. Strong and Effective Pedagogical leadership that provides the mechanism to allow consistency of approach and methodology across all subjects within the school;
  2. Reframing of traditional assessment of learning to include greater focus on real world integration of learning projects to enable all students to easily link the “outside or real” world to the classroom;
  3. Strong use of student feedback and inclusion in this learning and teaching model to empower and enable the learner (student) to take greater responsibility for their own learning in the process;
  4. Restructuring of learning environments and timetables to allow greater focus on all students working collaboratively in groups producing new knowledge;
  5. And arguably one of the most important ingredients is the amount professional learning time that is allocated, but also built in to teachers daily work to prepare and plan for the PBL model to be successfully implemented in the school.

The message is change takes time to implement in any school but within the High Tech High PBL model there is great expectation but also great investment in the teacher.  School leaders at  Parramatta Marist have obviously absorbed learnt this from many visits to San Diego as well as the Hattie visible learning research about the effect size of the role the teacher makes and their successful model reveals to the education community that proper investment in teachers will bring a huge return for students.  There is also very strongly held accountabilities of the teacher performance in these schools.  The American model is an interesting one with annual contracts in the High Tech High system.  I think this would be similar to many top tier private schools in Australia that have teachers on 2-3 year contract and renewal process.

We are wrestling with some of these issues in my school as we debate the many competing interests for time in the school day and how we allocate appropriate time to enable teachers to grow in their jobs and become the excellent, continuously improving leaders of learning that our students today demand.  

What is certainly clear is that AITSL is doing a great job of providing worlds best practice to Australian school leaders evidence like the horizon report that show many schools are pushing beyond the boundaries of what we have defined as “typical” in schools for too long.  I will be taking my learning gained here from reading this report across a holiday weekend and share it with my colleagues about the imperative for continuous  “relearning”.
Those famous words of futurist Alvin Toffler spring to my mind.