Google Teacher Academy, moonshot thinking...and assessment

Tuesday morning this week I am lucky enough to be flying away to Sydney to join 49 other educators at the Google Teacher Academy. Below is the video I submitted as part of my application to be considered as one of the GTA Ambassadors for Change.

So why did I apply for the academy?
Whilst I am actually an advocate for educators to be as device and brand agnostic as possible, I have to admit, I do really like Google Apps for Educators. The reason GAFE appeals is simple. GAFE is a suite of tools that supports the pedagogical approach I value - co-constructed, sharing, transparent and supports student agency.


The other reason I applied was the company who was taking over the GTA. This GTA is the first academy to be run by NoTosh an international education consultancy "which challenges the status quo in schools, public services and creative companies. We work together with clients to improve the way people learn, the results of the organisation and the spaces in which people work, learn and play. Everything we do has learning at its heart." The fact that they were taking the academy marked an important change (at least it did to me), signaling a shift of focus from 'tools in education' to 'change in education'. This very much aligns with my values. Over the last 5 years as I have built up my profile as an e-learning/ICT in ed type leader-y person in NZ I have actually become less interested in e-learning and ICT in and of itself. Instead I am finding myself increasingly interested in leading change in education, albeit change at least partly facilitated by technology.

This is where the concept of moonshot thinking comes in as well. As Astro Teller in the Wired article  Google X Head on Moonshots: 10X Is Easier Than 10 Percent states "...when you’re working to make things 10 percent better, you inevitably focus on the existing tools and assumptions, and on building on top of an existing solution that many people have already spent a lot of time thinking about. Such incremental progress is driven by extra effort, extra money, and extra resources. It’s tempting to feel improving things this way means we’re being good soldiers, with the grit and perseverance to continue where others may have failed — but most of the time we find ourselves stuck in the same old slog.

But when you aim for a 10x gain, you lean instead on bravery and creativity — the kind that, literally and metaphorically, can put a man on the moon."

Put this in to an educational context and you have an interesting concept. What if we thought less about how to improve education through small a series of small incremental changes and thought more about how we might re-vision education from the ground up. This is moonshot thinking - terrifying, liberating, paralysing and awesome all at the same time.


However, I am not just a dreamer or part-time visionary, I am a pragmatist. Whilst I believe we do need to re-vision and think big and blue-sky, we also need to consider how we might achieve change in the interim. This is where assessment comes in. Aside from being a foundation Deputy Principal at Hobsonville Point Secondary School, I am also involved in several national groups that are exploring how we might lead future-focused change across NZ. In the 21st Century Education Reference Group put together by Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye we have made a number of recommendations in the Future-Focused Learning in Connected Communities report. I stand by each of the recommendations, all necessary and if we are honest, should have been implemented yesterday! Another group I work with is the NZQA Future State reference group put together by Steve Bargh. It is this group that is making me think more seriously about how national assessment change might actually be the way for leading pedagogical change - particularly as it is the mighty tail that wags the curriculum design dog...even if we don't like to admit it.

So I suspect my moonshot(ish) thinking may head in this direction - how would national assessment need to change, to change education...in the way we think it needs to change?


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