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Barriers to Innovation

23 Jun

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It’s amazing to me how many fantastic, game-changing tools are blocked on some school networks. I’m not saying we should remove all filters – they do help to prevent us from accidentally stumbling onto things we don’t want to see and can’t unsee. But in 2017, our filters do almost nothing to prevent students from intentionally accessing inappropriate material. Blocking content is ineffectual for four reasons: (1) Most students have smartphones with a direct connection to the internet. (2) Most students have unfiltered internet at home. (3) Any student who walks home through the city centre has unfiltered access to the internet. (4) Students know about VPN services which bypasses our filters.

Over-strict filters just thwart our best teachers’ efforts to make learning more meaningful. Our failed attempts to keep a few miscreant students from doing the wrong thing just hampers the majority of students who want to use the internet for the right thing.

Inturn our attempts at innovation are being imped that we are making hard for those teachers who have outrageous ideas. The are being boxed in by logistics. As a SLT we must create the space.

Often, as teachers gain the authority to influence and effect change in a school, their openness to change diminishes. Teachers enter the teaching profession wide-eyed and keen to try lots of different things and experiment with new pedagogies. They don’t have much power though because they are seen as “green” by older, wiser, more seasoned teachers who hold the decision-making power. I’ve seen young teachers silenced, gossiped about and even bullied because more experienced teachers took offence at these young, upstarts thinking they know a better way to do things. Eventually these new teachers learn to tone it down and conform to ‘the way things are done around here’. The most effective school leaders I have seen, identify innovators (irrespective of their seniority or experience) and invest them with the ability to influence.

In our inquiry we must create space and cut down barriers if we are to keep students at the centre.

Improving Pedagogy

21 Jun

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In my opinion the best way to improve pedagogy is to speak to the students who are in the classrooms. Recently our students provided the followed recommendations to us through the curriculum survey which I thought were worth sharing:

  • less teacher talk: which we are thinking about making this a class challenge: How can we give you the student more opportunities to just get on with it AND make sure you have the instructions you need?
  • More hands on: they just crave opportunities to make and create. Make tasks relevant.
  • Clarify what “progress” means: students don’t seem to understand the role of activating prior knowledge and that learning is evidenced by growth from that base line (this may mean we have to also vary the way we collect this prior knowledge)
  • Continue the learning assets (e.g. self managers): students understand and can articulate these as they give a framework they use to improve and set goals – maybe include these in the letters students write to their new 2015 teachers.
  • Maintain the excursions as they love them for the powerful information and shared experience they provide.
  • Keep connecting to the community: they enjoy learning from experts in the community. Again see the point regarding relevant learning and assessment tasks.

Failure is OK

12 Jun

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I play a You Tube Clip to our students leaders on Leaders Day in January all about failure. It is a process many of them have not had to deal with.  All the great success stories, from Michael Jordan to Steve Jobs to James Dyson, are steeped in failure. Most successful people will tell you that you absolutely must fail in order to succeed, and that failure is essential for growth. Many great innovations were born out of failure. Failure, then, is not bad, but rather something to be expected, embraced, and learned from.

I have been thinking that students’ intelligence is determined by how well they succeed, and those who fail are deemed inferior.

Students are celebrated for their successes and punished, teased, or rejected for their failures.

Rarely, in a traditional classroom setting, is failure used as a pathway to innovation.

So our students enter the workforce having grown fearful of failure, believing that any failure will prove them unworthy, and many workplaces prove them right, unwilling or unable to foster an environment where failure is okay.

But if we know that on the other side of failure potentially lies innovation, growth, and discovery, then we need to practice failing, and failing big.

So, how can we change the current mindset, both in ourselves and others, that failure = bad?

Top companies like Google, Toyota, EXXON, Apple and AIG all encourage failure by staff by highlighting the following:

  • They make sure people don’t feel the need to hide or cover up failures, because they make sure their staff know they won’t be fired for the failure—instead they understand that the more quickly they own their failure, the more quickly it can be learned from and built upon.
  • They celebrate failures, sometimes as literal celebrations with beer and wine and sometimes just as public opportunities to say “Great try! We’ve learned so much from this”.
  • They require employees to fail big in their first three months of employment.
  • They actively practice a “no blame” culture, where those who make mistakes are not publicly shamed or blamed, but rather the entire team looks at the mistake and what the next steps or opportunities are.
  • They see mistakes or failures as just that—opportunities for something new or unexpected.
  • They understand that if their team is actively trying things and failing, they will eventually discover something great.
  • They see failure as a beginning not an ending.

Do we advance failure? How are we responding to this now? This week I will remind my staff and students alike that it is OK to FAIL>. 

Friday Thought: June 9

10 Jun

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This week I have been thinking about how I can stay on task. That is keep our year long inquiry going. Sometime it can be difficult especially in June, its cold, people are extra busy with reports and coughs and colds are kicking in.

How to Stay focus on your goals then, it could be about the following?

  • Concentration

If you have set many goals, focus on the important one first. Don’t bother yourself with the other goals. It is much better to set 1 goal at the time. 

  • Create a big picture

Cut out pictures that will remind you of your goals- gather them and paste them on a board, wall or poster.

  • Take a break

Feel the air- breath! If you feel you have given too much, then take a break, pause for a while.

Don’t stress yourself so much. Take it easy. You will reach the end. I am sure of that as long as you have started it.

 

Thought for a Friday May 26

25 May

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My leadership style I have learnt sometimes depends on the situation. You can head into a leadership position with big dreams and the best intentions, and then remember you have to work with people who may not be on board with those big dreams, and suddenly lose those best intentions.

Other times as a leader you go into the situation ready to move forward, but because of mandates, rules and the politics of distraction (Hattie. 2015) you can become insecure and not sure what to do first. As leaders, when we have so many choices of where to start we sometimes choose not to choose at all. Understanding our current reality is important, but what should be on our radar is not always so glaringly obvious.

Leadership is not for the faint of heart…

Personally I always go back to Stephen Covey’s seminal work, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People he showed us with 7 habits that all successful people have, and taught us that with some hard work we can adopt those habits too.

Be proactive – Anticipate and act, no matter how difficult the situation.

Begin with the end in mind – What do we want out of leadership, and what should we want as a school community?

Put first things first – Drop the politics of distraction, understand our current reality, and take actionable steps to achieve that goal.

Think win/win

Seek first to understand then to be understood – Leaders should listen more than they talk, and try to understand where the other person is coming from before they try to move forward.

Synergize – This is all about collective efficacy, which Tschannen-Moran, M., & Barr, M. (2004) says,“refers to the collective self-perception that teachers in a given school make an educational difference to their students over and above the educational impact of their homes and communities.”

Sharpen the Saw – Know when to take a break. Schools with initiative fatigue never sharpen the saw.

Thought for Friday

19 May

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Research into Professional Learning supports the view that schools can no longer afford the luxury of separating professional development activities from the ongoing realities of teachers’ work (Johnson, 1999, p.13.) Teachers need to adopt a learning approach that is ‘relevant’ for our time. Learning can happen anywhere, anytime and with anyone. As leaders and teachers we must clarify our learning needs.

“Our Code, Our Standards – draft for consultation”

2 May

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This was well worth noting this week. “Our Code, Our Standards – draft for consultation”

Our Code, Our Standards articulates the expectations and aspirations of our profession, and has been crafted by teachers, leaders and teaching experts. It reflects what it is to be a teacher in Aotearoa New Zealand. This video invites learners to discuss and provide feedback on the draft. Read the document and have your say at educationcouncil.org.nz/OurCodeOurStandards Please view the video here: 

Curriculum for the Future

30 Apr

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The future of teaching in schools is a current, very complex education issue. Teaching is being informed that it must change and retain a focus on core skills to develop students who can participate in our 21st century society. Transformation of practice is often cited as a key goal for teachers’ and their curriculum to achieve these expectations.

Last year I attended an online webinar around future curriculum. This in-turn set underway our future curriculum review.

There are 3 important drivers of this conversation;

    1. LwDT; over the past 25 years technology has been used to amplify our teaching methods, engage students with their learning and make educational infrastructure more efficient. Today, technology can transform teaching, classrooms and schools in ways we never considered possible 25 years ago. Individual teachers and some schools are exploring breathtaking innovations…educational innovation is as diverse as it is spontaneous and irregular currently.
    2. Brain science; growth mindset, mindfulness, the science of learning has revealed significant new insights into how students learn best and the unique nature of each students learning. We need to focus on developing the intellect of each individual and concede that the teach content and test content academic model falls well short in the 21st century.
    3. The future needs of students; to ensure they can be active participants in a 21st century society where citizenship, career and communication are envisaged to be so different to existing contexts.  We need to understand and cater for students, perhaps our brightest students, can now genuinely consider creating their own job rather than go to university or follow a traditional career path.

In order to develop students who are best equipped for the future a new core set of skills have been identified as being essential for successful participation in the 21st century economy and society. They are usually identified as;

1. being creative and innovative in their thinking

2. being able to collaborate, sometimes over distance

3. being able to problem solve

4. being able to communicate well in a different modes

5. being entirely comfortable and innovative with LwDT.

A key to this thinking has been Michael Fullan’s work around the 6Cs. Watch this space.

Spiritual PLD

23 Apr

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Professional development also needs to be designed for the purpose of the school. For Catholic schools, there is an even greater challenge. Schools need to meet the professional growth of teachers and their spiritual growth. How do Catholic schools meet this need? What methods can schools use to expand the spiritual strength that teachers need?

The spiritual growth of Catholic school teachers is essential for the success of schools. Catholic school teachers are entrusted with not only the academic knowledge that students learn, but also the faith formation of their students. Teachers are called by the Holy Spirit to develop the knowledge of their students in subjects both secular and sacred. Catholic school teachers take on this additional role with pride and passion, but it is critical that schools aid their teachers in developing their faith and strengthen their desire to teach the faith to students

Faith Formation

20 Apr

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Opportunities for faith formation  are available in the same way professional development opportunities are available. They are not seized upon as much as I would like them to. There are lecture series available, webinars, classes, and informal meetings that teachers can attend. By the way my my favourite is Going Deeper. 

Next question is this, “how many teachers know these opportunities are available?” How are we as SLT focused primarily on the academic content and not focused enough on the spiritual needs of their staff? This lack of attention is where schools start to separate themselves.

Schools need to inform teachers of ways to grow their faith as we are a faith community. Connecting the faith to the daily lives of our students in Catholic schools helps schools reach students where they are and pushes them to where they need to be as Christian leaders. Teachers need to find new ways to model the faith and connect the faith to students.

Teachers need to be willing to share what they see as opportunities. Teachers need to find their PLN and attend events together. Teachers need to be willing to step up and do their part. Teachers also need to take an active role in developing new professional development.

Another important aspect of professional development, especially in the realm of spirituality, is what we can do to best serve our students. How can we display our faith more to show what Catholicism means to us? We need to provide a safe environment where students feel safe to ask a question about where their faith is going. We need to learn ways that encourage students to strive to love Christ more deeply. I  hope working  on the Bishops Document will help us grow in this area.

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