Adam Noir from Google is doing the opening keynote. He mentioned the conecpt of "the rising tide lifts all boats". True to some extent. I also think about the polar opposite – "don't water the rocks".
The challenge, as always, is finding the happy medium. We have an obligation to the students of the teachers who are the proverbial rocks to support them to be the best that they can be in the same way as engaging with the frontrunners. Do we though, need to go at the pace of the slowest runners? Interesting challenges for school leaders and managers of change.
Just looking back over some of my notes from Melbourne MLE tour with CORE Education last week. I am trying to pull some ideas together to mke full sense of the full-on week and all that I have seen and heard. It was a fabulous learning experience and I have a million thoughts and wonderings floating in my head I need to get lined up in a way that they form a cohesive pattern …. getting there but a way to go. I am posting below a reflection from on the plane on the way over by way of a frame for later posts:
I have been doing some reading on the plane over to Melbourne from different research about the so called 'modern learning environment'.
One of the interesting things is the difference between the MLE and the 'open plan' movement of the 1960's and 70's. There is quite a lot of thinking about how the current movement is different. The MLE is the congruence between what we know about the influences of buildings and space on learning and what we can now achieve in the physical construction of acoustically, energy and light efficient buildings; brain research and what we know about learning; collaborative practice and what we know about effective pedagogy and teacher professional learning; what we know about effective learning and how essential full engagement with students and communities is; and what we know about the impact of technology on todays students and how it is simply an integral part of their lives.
The intersection of these things is the space that an MLE sits in. Where all the factors come together and the personalised mix is 'fit-for-purpose' for the students, community and staff of a particular school. A key part of this seems to me to be clarity around PURPOSE. The WHY. What is it that we are actually aiming to achieve? What does success look like in a school if you have the students for the full five, six or eight years? What do they 'look like'. What knowledge, skills, attitudes and personal values has the school supported them to build into their character? What kind of person are they? What beliefs do they have about where they fit in society and the agency they ave to cat and have a positive influence on the world around them? This graduate profile is a key component of the effective implementation of the NZC and also has been a central focus for quite a bit of the work I have been doing in the Blended eLearning programme over the past two years.
Lots of random thoughts floating but keen to see where the congruences above align with the graduate profile in the espoused philosophies and the practices. It will be interesting to see where this fits within the schools we will visit over the next week. Part of the real value for me is also in travelling with others on this journey. Having the perspectives and understandings of the group, as well as Derek and Julia to draw upon is going to magnify the depth I am exploring this to as well.
Well … there has been an interesting debate over the last few days in a group I subscribe to about the value of Virtual Learning Environments. It has been fascinating.
Was just watching this:
Which gives a lot of different arguments in the debate. Worth watching the first 25min or so, if nothing else.
Schools are focussing a lot of their discretionary expenditure on commercial products like KnowledgeNET or Ultranet. Or on 'free' things like Moodle – 'free' because there is still the cost of support etc. Is it resulting in improved outcomes for students? I am really not sure. For a medium sized school there may be a cost to these tools of around $3000 to $4000 a year. This is the same cost as 150-200+ hours of TA time. Which is more useful? Which supports learning better? Like with anything it is the quality of what you get that is critical, and I would rather have an average LMS than a terrible TA for my room. But having said that ….
Another argument that often comes up is around the free tools that have the same, or better functionality. Edmodo is the second largest LMS platform internationally I read somewhere recently. Behind Moodle (by a big margin). Google Apps, blogs and wikis can give much of the content management and interactivity of a content management system (and that is all many LMS platforms are used for lets face it) for free. Why would you pay for this?
As I have harped on about for years, it comes down to PURPOSE:
* WHY do you want to have one in the first place?
* HOW will it make the learning better; and not just different, better?
* Will something else give a better 'bang for buck' for your school staff and students?
* Is the learning curve of the tool worth the effort in terms of ultimate pay-off?
If we are not able to answer these questions definitively with a yes and a well thought through rationale why are we doing it?
Sir Ken is an education rockstar. He now commands massive fees on the back of his astoundingly successful TED talk. In this talk he outlines some fantistic concepts we need to bear in mind as we think about educaitonal reform.
"The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning" …. ah, YUP.
I like the bit where he critiques the current delivery, testing, accountability focussed model of education. "We have a culture of standardisation".
High performing systems:
* personalise learning
* have teaching as a high status activity
* responsibility falls at the school level for 'getting the job done'
As he says education is currently viewed as a mechanical system. I have written about this before when critiquing the way Bill Gates is funding work trying to find a set of replicable behaviours that define good teaching and simply train other teachers to do them, therefore making all teachers good. Not that simple. Teaching is complex, messy and a profoundly human undertaking.
Sir Ken describes some of this messyness in the video.
As if it is some sort of revelation ….. Creativity takes TIME. This video is a neat illustration of this though.
Time is an interesting beast for professional learning, classrooms, ourselves. There is never enough of it!
It is generally acknowledged that worthwhile school change takes 3-5 years to imbed. This is a real challenge for professional learning programmes with a shorter time frame focus than this. One of the things we need to focus on is developing strategies for sustainability. Certainly in BeL this is something that is made overt from the outset. The key thing is changing the 'hearts and minds' of teachers and school leadership. It is not about having a replicable set of behaviours that are franchisable across the school. Sure, there are some commonalities, but each development and change process needs to be personalised to the individual school.
This video presentation from Yong Zhao from the US is well worth taking the 20min to watch. He makes the case for being careful about the interpretation we put on PISA and other results for judging the worth and value of education systems.
One of the real challenges of leadership is bringing others along with what you are wanting to do. You spend a LOT of time thinking things through, playing with scenarios, playing out the 'what-if's' in your head and trying to anticipate what people will think and do.
It's REALLY hard to get that bit right. Predicting peoples reactions is sometimes VERY difficult. Most people react to change at an emotional level in the first instance. The rational bit comes later (well for most anyway).
The big thing is that leaders have done the thinking already. You have thought it through. Others can be 'frustraingly slow' getting on-board with things. Remember though you may have taken months to get to the place you are in your head, and in your understandings. The ones you are taking along on the journey have to take the time to get to know what you believe and 'get with the programme'.
This post also got me thinking along similar lines. I don't flatter myself I outstrip any others in any cognitive stakes but … what DO you do when others can't see the possibilities and come to vastly different conclusions given the same information? Thats where the skill in leadership comes in …. where experience and personal relationship skills come to the fore.
If you are the principal you are accountable for a lot. If the brown stuff hits the spinny thing everyone else around you will often duck. The BoT. The other leadership. Teachers.
How do YOU make sure everyone is on the same page when you are planning WAY ahead of where things are at the moment and are aiming for things way into the future that others may not see (yet).
Lots of musings and would be keen for any ideas, thoughts and reactions you may have …
The premise can be applied to any sort of inovation or proposed change too I would be thinking. I would add though does it address a need of a specific group or a wider audience? And is that need real or perceived?
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