Tag Archives: Collaboration

Friday thought on Culture

28 Aug

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A collaborative culture also leads to higher levels of trust and respect among colleagues and translates to improved student learning. Empowered learning requires investment in technology. It requires talented teachers who are supported. But too often the infrastructure and the investment are as far as the planning goes. Government agencies and district leaders are left frequently bewildered by the lack of impact of huge investments. This vital message is, in many instances, ignored: it’s the culture, stupid.

Michael Fullan has long championed the critical importance of transforming school culture and writes extensively on the topic. His perspective is also clear: “Structure does make a difference, but it is not the main point of achieving success. Transforming the culture – changing the way we do things around here – is the main point.”

The best schools and the deepest learning are characterized by one simple truth. The work is about individual learner needs, not systems. It’s about the ecosystem and a humane environment that permits teachers to work for the students, not the system. As everything becomes digital, school culture matters more than ever.

Fullan, Michael. Leading in a Culture of Change. 2007.

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Friday Thought: Be Reflective

2 Jun

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I was told this week Andrew you must reflect more on your practice. It was a timely reminder. I have heard a few times recently when discussing the importance or reflection as part of the school improvement process. When digging deeper into what is meant by this, I have found that in some cases there is a lack of understanding as to what it really means to be a reflective teacher. Too often, when we think about being a reflective practitioner, the reflection process is limited to evaluation; what went well and what did not. In some instances, reflection may include what might I do differently next time. A peer tells me often it is about process.

Being reflective is much more than that. Reflection must involve action. True reflection in education cannot happen without the the thoughts of what might be done differently next time actually translating into planning for action and taking action. There is no point saying that all teachers are reflective if there are lots of thoughts but no action. How does that really improve student learning?

Collaboration is an important part of being a reflective teacher. Reflecting on your own can have its limitations in terms of having other people to bounce ideas of, having other people to challenge each others viewpoints, having other people to give us the necessary feedback to critically reflect and, most importantly, other people to share our journey with. I recognize my own PLN here.

Trend Two: Digital Fluency

14 Mar

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Fluency” is broader than “literacy.” Being ‘digitally literate’ means acquiring the skills to make and create meaning, and select technologies to do so. … Digital fluency can also be considered as part of a broader set of competencies related to ’21st century’ learning.

Becoming digitally fluent is for people to be able to act as successful citizens in whatever contexts they choose for themselves. The recent report – Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection (OECD, 2015) – highlights the importance of bridging the digital divide, not leaving the development of digital fluency to chance.

Digital tools are transforming essential elements of the education space. Understanding how they are impacting teaching and learning and consideration of which tools are useful and how to best implement them is even more vital.

For Digital Fluency to truly flourish the following needs to grow.

Increased collaboration: Just as social media has given rise to new definitions of community, digital tools are transforming community and the give-and-take between students and teachers. Platforms for web-based discussion threads and creation of course or class wikis alter the types of student involvements in project-based and writing-specific assignments. A piece of student writing can become a diverse and substantive document when it is the basis for a step-by-step exchange of ideas and questions between teacher, peers, authors, and mentors. When digital tools are integrated in a pedagogically sound fashion they also promote and enhance other essential skills sets such as communication, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, digital literacy, entrepreneurship, global awareness, and digital responsibility/citizenship.

Innovate assessment: NZQA with a emphasis on NCEA has seem room for innovation, I question whether there should be more room for innovation in the primary area as primary teachers are hamstrung by National Standards.  As formats and contexts for assignments evolve, the methods of assessment have had to keep pace. The openness of the online environment and the integration of such things as game attributes, shape all kinds of assessment, especially formative assessment, which measures learning progress (not only endpoints in learning).

Enhanced Student Agency: The type of activities that stimulate real involvement “give pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking, or the intentional noting of connections; learning naturally results”.  The process of choice increases engagement, authenticity, and ultimately more value in the learning process. Unleash the power of digital tools and empower students to take ownership of their learning.

Lots to think about then.

 

 

Larry Rosenstock at ULearn

8 Oct

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How can we reorganize timetables and learning structures to better utilize teacher strengths; teachers moving to where the kids are and vice-versa in school environments where we don’t have ‘Innovative Learning Spaces’, but single-cell classrooms?

He cited the influence of John Dewey and the work of Paulo Freire. I also like that he noted that nothing they are doing at High Tech High is new, it might be unusual, it isn’t new. I include the link below regarding changing the subject video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a036N5N5Hlk

Rosenstock noted that he visited 38 schools when researching schools, and talked of the mosaic of schools and started talking about the “American High School is still missing” suggesting a hole in the educational landscape that needed filling.
Other concepts I noted:

  • Project Phases: observation, reflection, documentation, presentation
  • STEAM instead of STEM because art and design are central to all aspects of STEM. Rosenstock’s Integrations: integration between the mind, heart and hand; integration of social class (accepted by lottery and never segregated in any way); integration of head and hand (need to use both well, not just one); integration of secondary and post-secondary (geared towards college acceptance) integration of school and community
  • Focus on the experience
  • Huge focus on production and not consumption; students can only play games that they created
  • Have students behave like or be like a professional since a huge part of adolescence is trying on new roles and identities
  • Rigor: Not only increased complexity of content, but “I would argue that rigor is being in the company of a passionate adult who is rigorously pursuing inquiry in the area of their subject matter and is inviting students along as peers in that adult discourse.” 
  • How do you know you are a good teacher? “The sophistication of your kids’ work. If your kids are producing work that’s worth doing and that has a lasting value and learning that’s worth learning, you’re a good teacher.”
  • Judge teachers by quality of their students’ work through public exhibitions
  • Use and bring in teachers’ interests; teachers’ excitement is a huge part of engagement
  • “Walls permeable” with the outside world through internship and community service
  • Take methodology of tech like group perform, team-taught, experiential, applied, expeditionary, and producing; connecting pedagogy of tech (not content) with academic content
  • Design of the school: Lots of glass (incubator or startup), so that student work can be showcased (curation), and allow students to see what is going on in other classes

Environment matters. Interestingly he then followed this up with a project where the learners actually published a book. High Tech High turns students into artists, inventors and authors.

Knowledge is socially constructed. This is a statement that appears to be at the heart of what Rosenstock and High Tech High does. Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. As he kept flicking through projects, there was a real sense of authentic learning. Students solving real problems, tacking very real issues and producing very real products and actions. He made a comment to me in a group at coffee that I wanted to highlight here.“End the autonomous isolation of teachers.”

For interest this clip puts in place where we are and where our students might be.

The Kids table.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeFr-BqEaBM

Well Being

18 Apr

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After reading this week it got me thinking about what I could do to improve well-being in my own place of work. The holidays are the perfect time. It seems obvious and simple to me that if teachers are healthy, positive individuals their teaching practice benefits from this. In the current climate surrounding education teachers need to know that there are people who care about their well-being and that they really do matter.

My role within the school is to responsibility for the Senior School and Daily Operations. That means working closely with colleagues. It’s important to me that staff want to improve because they want to improve, not because I want them to. To achieve this it is important to put strategies in place to let this happen. I t has to be more than professional development. It is the small things like creating time for authentic appraisal, having meaning staff discussion about the decisions that affect them and extra five minutes for that staff farewell. The aim is to make staff feel valued and encourage a collaborative approach to teaching and learning across the curriculum areas.

Connecting in Education

7 Sep

Connecting

Professional developments are great opportunities to collaborate with staff members and meet educators with similar goals in nearby schools. Are some quick tips are for teachers looking to make the most of the knowledge within their own school building, maximize their use of social media, and connect with faraway teacher friends.

  1. Ask For Help

Be this person. Ask a question, borrow a resource, solicit advice, and just chat with my colleagues.

  1. Get Free Stuff

Traveling to a conference can be logistically and financially challenging. There are many live and recorded webinars that provide insight into how to effectively integrate a new learning tool or introduce a strategy to incorporate into a lesson. Gather a group of teachers after school, request coverage for a period, or host a lunch for your colleagues to watch a webinar together.

  1. Keep Track

Use a blog or a tool like OneNote to gather your evidence.

  1. Hold an “Appy Hour”

We are often so caught up in our own day and schedules it’s hard to know what is happening in the classroom next door, let alone on the other side of our school building. Dedicate one afternoon a month to connecting with your colleagues. See the next two points.

  1. Follow Follow Follow

Twitter is an amazing resource for teachers, and it’s had an enormous impact on my professional growth as an educator. Once you’ve gotten started with an account and are checking in regularly, make a commitment to follow five new people every week.

  1. Join a Chat

Twitter chats are a wonderful way for teachers to connect with likeminded educators who have actionable ideas and advice to offer. By joining a chat, you can read through the tweets people are posting to a chat’s hashtag or dive in by answering and posing questions.

Have you any tip?

I Can’t Accept

7 Aug

No Way

As teacher I can’t accept a number of things:

I can’t accept what’s been done in the past as the only way to do things in the future. Obviously changing just for the sake of changing is not appropriate, but we can’t ignore the changes that are happening all around us, and as such there must be corresponding changes in education.

I can’t accept not teaching the ‘whole’ child. More and more frequently our students are entering our schools with needs that extend far beyond just ‘learning.’ In order for education to be successful, we can’t ignore the external factors that play a critical role in what we do in education.

I can’t accept working in isolation. The world is rich with opportunities for collaboration and there is no possible way to argue that we aren’t stronger as a team and stronger working together.

I can’t accept that our content is more important than the relationships we establish with our students. It is with almost absolute certainty that students won’t care about your content if they don’t care about you. Develop strong relationships to truly bring your content to life for your students.

What are some of things you can”t accept in education?

Professional Development

9 Jun

Have you ever found yourself trapped in a seemingly irrelevant professional development session, sitting painfully, watching the clock slowly tick by while someone drones on at the front? You know the presenter is apparently supposed to be teaching you something that will help develop you as a teacher but you are clock watching. You feel like you are trapped in an 80s movie..

Recently I felt like this and I started to note down some ideas. I acknowledge Courous, Drucker and many others who inspired these thoughts. I think the key to good PD are some of the following:

  1. Self-directed
  2. Relevance
  3. Links to Strategic Goals
  4. Collaboration
  5. Transparent Sharing

In the coming weeks I will develop further on this idea.

Leader or Manager?

4 Feb

Yes I am still considering classroom practice as I sit in office on this hot long weekend. For as long as I have been in education, the term “classroom management” is something that has been in every evaluation form I have seen as well as a major topic of discussion.  In every element of leadership, there is some element of management but to paraphrase Stephen Covey, “you manage things, but we lead people.”  I don’t know any person that likes to feel that they are “managed”, but I do know lots of people who want to be inspired and engaged in the work that they do.  Leadership brings that out, not management.

A Powerful Lesson

3 Sep

Thanks to http://www.justintarte.com/ for this great piece I found this week.

One day, three blind men happened to meet each other and gossiped a long time about many things. Suddenly one of them recalled, “I heard that an elephant is a strange animal. Too bad we’re blind and can’t see it.”

“Ah, yes, truly too bad we don’t have the good fortune to see the strange ani­mal,” another one sighed.

The third one, quite annoyed, joined in and said, “See? Forget it! Just to feel it would be great.”

“Well, that’s true. If only there were some way of touching the elephant, we’d be able to know,” they all agreed.

It so happened that a merchant with a herd of elephants was passing, and overheard their conversation. “You fellows, do you really want to feel an elephant? Then follow me; I will show you,” he said.

The three men were surprised and happy. Taking one anothers hand, they quickly formed a line and followed while the merchant led the way. Each one began to contemplate how he would feel the animal, and tried to figure how he would form an image.

After reaching their destination, the merchant asked them to sit on the ground to wait. In a few minutes he led the first blind man to feel the elephant. With outstretched hand, he touched first the left foreleg and then the right. After that he felt the two legs from the top to the bottom, and with a beaming face, turned to say, “So, the strange animal is just like that.” Then he slowly returned to the group. Thereupon the second blind man was led to the rear of the elephant. He touched the tail which wagged a few times, and he exclaimed with satisfac­tion, “Ha! Truly a strange animal! Truly odd! I know now. I know.” He hur­riedly stepped aside.

The third blind man’s turn came, and he touched the elephant’s trunk which moved back and forth turning and twisting and he thought, “That’s it! I’ve learned.”

The three blind men thanked the merchant and went their way. Each one was secretly excited over the experience and had a lot to say, yet all walked rap­idly without saying a word.

“Let’s sit down and have a discussion about this strange animal,” the second blind man said, breaking the silence.

“A very good idea. Very good.” the other two agreed for they also had this in mind. Without waiting for anyone to be properly seated, the second one blurted out, “This strange animal is like our straw fans swinging back and forth to give us a breeze. However, it’s not so big or well made. The main portion is rather wispy.”

“No, no!” the first blind man shouted in disagreement. “This strange animal resembles two big trees without any branches.”

“You’re both wrong.” the third man replied. “This strange animal is similar to a snake; it’s long and round, and very strong.”

How they argued! Each one insisted that he alone was correct. Of course, there was no conclusion for not one had thoroughly examined the whole elephant. How can anyone describe the whole until he has learned the total of the parts…?

Expectations

I have been reflecting about having high expectations of our students. This article spoke to me.

  • It is important to have high expectations for our students. Expectations are different from standards. The standard is the bar and the expectation is our belief about whether students will ever reach the bar.
  • Expectations are based on our beliefs and values. We can only have high expectations of our students if we believe it is possible to help our students and if we believe that it is important to do so.
  • We also need to examine our expectations of ourselves. If we believe that we can reach a student we do everything that we can to ensure that the student is successful. However, if we tell ourselves that there is no way to help a student, we stop trying. If we are not confident in our ability to help students, we lower our expectations to goals that we feel we can comfortably achieve.
  • It can be disheartening when students arrive in our classes without the basic skills that they need to succeed but instead of focusing on what the students can’t do, develop ways that you can teach them the skills they need as well as get through the curriculum.
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