Sunday, 30 August 2015

Leaders at the Tron

The Innovative Leaders Conference was a memorable experience for a number of reasons:
1. Thanks to Anne Robertson, who suggested the idea, I presented a session on Twitter for the eighty plus Waikato deputy principals and middle leaders who attended the two days.  because I had to submit a bio and brief immediately, I didn't have the opportunity to have second thoughts.
2. I had to get over my imposter complex when I then found out I was one of only nine presenters, several who were very well known in New Zealand education and even globally.
3. I got to meet these education heroes.
4. I made connections with my fellow educators in the Waikato, as well as the group who attended from Rotorua.
5. The ideas were useful to my context and I was interested by every session and keynote.
6. I enjoyed a hotel stay and great conference dinner with three outstanding musical acts.

Thanks Carey Huria and the rest of the organising team. Every educator needs the opportunity to connect, communicate, collaborate, critically inquire into and celebrate learning.

I will write a second post my Twitter workshop soon.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Being A Village That Looks After Its Children

I missed this discussion yesterday morning, but have visited and revisited my Twitter feed to take in what people said. It hit a nerve, because of the personal experience I had with a student. Go to the last few slides on this Storify to see what happened:

I whole heartedly agree that what we do in school is important.  We need to build relationships with our students.  Children don't learn from people they don't like or trust (see the Rita Pierson video below).

Learning experiences need to be relevant.  We build knowledge and understanding on existing knowledge and understanding, especially when we want to learn something. That's why students who never take any interest in reading books at school, pour over the road code or Facebook.

One size does not fit all.  Nothing is black and white. Every behaviour situation comes with subtexts that we need to explore before we judge a student's actions.  When Samantha punches Jessica in the nose, it might just be that she has reached the end of her patience after months of being teased by the latter.  Or maybe her parents are fighting and the stress is more than she can deal with.  Or she is worrying about a sick grandmother or frightened about moving to a new town.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Image licensed for reuse -
We need to know each child and their circumstances to the best of our ability.  We need to take the time to find out and not put lesson preparation first (let's face it, how can your planning be fitting individual needs if you don't?)

I have read several posts and articles about meeting basic needs before.  Stephanie Thompson makes great points in her post from February, "Social and Emotional Wellbeing Before Academic Success."

It's not the first time these sentiments have been expressed and it's not rocket science but it seems to be something we have to keep repeating: schools can't fix all the problems in society. That "It takes a village to raise a child," is an old adage, and regarded as a truism, but not given enough emphasis.  We seem to have proven over the last century that economic drip down is not the cure to a community's ills.

I will never forget that I had to give in and exclude a child from my school when I was in the acting principal role.  I had to put the needs of the other students and teachers first, and I'd run out of ideas and resources. Yet I pride myself on trying really hard to help each and every child.  I know that if that child leaves our school, chances are there is not a lot else for him or her.  Other principals are reluctant to take the student on.  Families of these children are often dysfunctional or don't have the social, emotional or financial resources to assist their own child.  Agencies are well meaning but under resourced and with too many cases.  Often the links between agencies are weak.

Our students will not be "fixed" by creating Communities of Schools or making teachers better at moderating National Standards.  We are already working our darnedest to create the most thoughtfully put together learning opportunities we can ( look at yesterday's post - Are We Teaching Our Kids the Right Way?).

It will take a concerted effort to change how we view our role as members of a community, from the Prime Minister in the Beehive, down to each of us in our neighbourhoods.  We need to take responsibility for raising all of our children so that their basic needs - their basic rights as our children - are met.  

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Are We Teaching Our Kids the Right Way?

I just can't stop myself when it comes to a good twitter debate, even when it gets really challenging to put forward an argument.  The twitter handles start to take up the space in the 140 character limit, as more people get interested in following the thread.

Last night, Stuart Kelly (@stuartkellynz) hosted the first #digitaledchat on Twitter.  It is interesting to see the same issues and differences in opinion appearing in other countries.  The one I got into was the handwriting versus digital text debate.  See my earlier post on this for my thoughts: The Great Debate - To Type or to Hand Write? That is the Question.  It appears to me that some educators need to be more future focussed.

A connected thread focussed on using today's technologies today, instead of "preparing" students for their use tomorrow.  I made the point that we have no idea what technologies our children will use in their future but we have lots of devices that make our lives easy now.  3D printers, for example. They are not a fantasy device available to a very few, and what they are capable of representing is becoming more and more powerful almost daily.

Image labelled for reuse -
Leigh Hynes (@leighhynes) makes a very good argument for using cell phones in classrooms. Read her blog here.
She argues that cell phones are not disengaging our students from classroom content; it's the relevance of the lesson content and style that is the problem.

'If you are worried about engagement, THE Journal published 6 key drivers of student engagement. They are relevant learning, personalised learning, collaborative learning, connected learning, information literacy and dialogical/dialectical thinking, Digital technologies enhance each and every one of these and therefore using a phone in class fits the bill.  I am sure that if you take the plunge and allow your students to use their phones in class, you will see a lot of rewards in terms of student engagement.

I am still in awe of Zac Hawkins words in 2012 (see slide 5).  He was a 15 year old student who was imploring schools to embrace BYOD.  His words? - "In an age of information technology, the last limiting factor that you would expect would be the education system."'

Remember that it is not just about including new technologies.  It is primarily about meeting the needs of the learner. Derek Wenmoth (@dwenmoth), in his post, Does a MLE Suit All Learners?  asks us to think about this as the most important factor. No one size fits all and no one learning space with modern trappings and devices is the answer.

It's like asking "does an MLE suit all learners?" when the equally valid, yet often uncontested question is "does a traditional egg-crate classroom suit the needs of all learners?" 

He reminds us to dig deep into our practice. Those in school leadership need to look at current systems, routines and parameters and ask questions of all of them.  Do we need to disrupt the status quo to make learning more relevant for future needs, and to ensure that our learners - and teachers - are more engaged in what they are doing?  And how do we do this? What do we reinvent or retain?

Michelle Simms (@MSimmsNZ) moderated a discussion last night too - #libchatnz - on "Makerspaces"(I've included the slides below as well). What teachers hoped for was a return to play, discovery, creativity and problem solving, qualities our students need today and in the future.

I'm still reading Drive, and I like what Daniel Pink says about intrinsic motivation: the inner drive we all have to be autonomous - not just empowered by someone else - and how this makes a difference.
Quoting Richard Ryan, p.108, Drive, by Daniel Pink.

This idea idea, which I believe is being termed "agency" out there in the educational jargon, needs to be further explored.  Genius hour and 20% time are touted by some teachers, but I'm not sure that all teachers have seen its real potential.  Pink does warn us that autonomy needs scaffolding.

I'd love to finish this post with a pithy, well written home truth about "the right way," but I don't have one. Pink talks about another aspect of motivation - our drive for mastery - and how the intrinsically motivated never reach it.  We're always on the journey to better what we do, but like an asymptote, maybe we can't ever expect to get all the answers.  I still have questions.  And I'm really pleased that there are so many others who are asking questions too.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Harnessing Your Ecosystems

Thank you Fiona Grant, for asking me to contribute to this Hangout on Air, offered as part of EdcampGlobal 2015, a global online conference of workshops running for two days.  Fiona asked educators who have been involved with setting up Educamps in their local areas, to be part of the hour long presentation and discussion.

As a convenor of Educamp Rotorua and Educamp Minecraft, I was happy to oblige.

What I love about these events is knowing that we are connecting globally.  It is 11am in New Zealand, but the evening in another part of the world.  I have taken part in a session hosted by Steve Wheeler in England while it is 2am here.  The beauty is that i can if I choose - and I' can sit in my pyjamas and not worry about travel or accommodation.

The second thing I love is that I get to connect with some wonderful educators that I met through Twitter and Educamp.  We are on similar wavelengths and various educational journeys, spread out throughout New Zealand.

Thirdly, I love the conversations that are subsequently stimulated. One that went on for a couple of hours, was about how we attract more educators to Educamps and get them to recognise the power and attraction of this format of professional development.

Fiona recorded the hangout from this morning and I have included a copy of the Google presentation for the participants that tuned in.

Here is the recording. (It is an hour long!)