Saturday, November 19, 2016

#SUNZSUMMIT - What I learnt from attending SingularityU and what I reckon it means for education in NZ


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Earlier this week (Mon-Wed) I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural SingularityU NZ Summit in Christchurch. Since then (Thurs-forever) my brain has a been a whirl as I have tried my best to understand and appreciate exactly what it is I learned and heard at the event. The saying "the more you know, the more you know you don't know" kept coming to mind. I went in to the event fairly confident I was abreast technological developments, what was in store and what that meant for education. I came away from his event patently aware that whilst I am relatively aware of technological developments, my knowledge really only skipped across the surface like a skittery ol' skipping stone and my understanding of the impact it is going to have on education was way short - I need to stop thinking Blue Sky High and need to start thinking Intergalactic Intelligence Building!

The SingularityU NZ website describes the event as bringing "the world’s top speakers and experts on exponentially accelerating technologies together with New Zealand's and Australia's leaders of today and tomorrow, giving us the knowledge and insight we need to compete — and win — in an exponentially changing world." Basically, think a future-focused TEDx on steroids and you will get the idea.

As someone who has the attention span of a flea or truly worried about the format, I would probably rather perform a bit of at home dentistry rather than sit through 20 lengthy TED type talks, but somehow, the format worked...maybe it was something in that tasty and ridiculously healthy cuisine they kept feeding us...and the free coffee certainly helped. I came away from the event with my brain absolutely stuffed full with new learning and with an appetite to learn more and more importantly to ACT!

Moore's Law
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The first day was all about setting the scene and ensuring each and everyone of use understood the concept of exponential change and what the ramifications of this change will be for every one of us. Kaila Corbin (who made this event happen), kicked us off with lesson in exponential change. Exponential change was often exemplified by the concept of Moore's Law which is based on Intel founders prediction that computing power would double in power every year and would half in price and size (or something like that) and thereby providing a handy example that is symbolic of the exponential technological change we are experiencing. Moore's Law is something that I have often quoted, so whilst this wasn't a new concept, what I did take away from Kaila's talk was the realisation about how the vast majority view the trajectory of development and resulting change. If you look at the graph at the top and imagine you are standing on the "you are here" dot and looking backward. The slope is insignificant, and by looking back, there is nothing to suggest that the trajectory will change, thereby lulling us into  the notion of gentle change, change that can make you feel like you a skipping through a field of daisies, the change is visible, at times its exciting and other time's pretty disappointing in it's glacial nature. However if you turn around and look forward, with a knowledge of the principles that underpin exponential change, you are hit, smack bam in the face by a sudden acceleration that results in a trajectory that appears damn near vertical! Unprepared, and it could feel like chaos, more prepared, I reckon you might more likely experience amazement and ultimately be more ready benefit from the down right bonkers rate of change.

Along with this intro to exponential change and many examples of it (think Uber, Tesla, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence) the first day also set the scene for ensuring we approach all this technical whizz-bangery with empathy and ethics. Basically we can use all of this stuff for bad and selfish means, or we can use these developments for the good of humankind, as Nathaniel Calhoun asked us - what impact do you want to make on society?

The three days were jam-packed with lightbulb moments and technological takeaways. There is no way I can do it justice here, so here are just a few that stuck with me:

"Re-spect abundance... If you look again you might see that there enough resources for everybody" - Tiago Mattos stressed the idea that whilst we might have been plundering our Earth's resources that if we harness technology in a positive way it can lead to abundance for all.

"Technology allows us to be more human" - David Roberts flipped the notion of us all being bereft as a result of being replaced by robots in our workplace, we can see it as an opportunity to be freed from tedious repetitive jobs and to have more time. Of course that does also beg the question asked by Kathryn Myronuk - what will life look like when 80% of our work is automated? And I kept thinking how will we then make money? I keep clinging to the rather romantic notion that this may lead to a modern day renaissance...just don't ask me how we will fund it.

There were other less scary concepts to think about, I particularly like the idea of bitcoin and blockchain and the way that it allowed for things like mircopayments, allowing to bypass advertisers and companied to simply pay micro amounts, say 10c, to read an article. "Imagine our browser had digital currency built into it. A simple click & a micropayment goes directly to the original creator." said Mandy Simpson. Imagine how this could allow for individuals to flourish by cutting out giants such as Amazon or Facebook. 

There was also a lots (and I mean A LOT) of talk about self-driving and electric cars, this was combined with Uber and the concept of "uberisation". Basically the message was that we will all be in driverless, electric cars before we know it, and we will probably access vehicles as and when we need them. As stated by Amin Toufani, it will be about "access instead of ownership". Brad Templeton warned that we should not underestimate the level of disruption electric/driverless cars will cause - "Ownership, parking, real estate, energy, retail, food, medical… Just some of the industries self-driving cars will disrupt".

Health was another area that will see massive disruption. Raymond McCauley terrified and excited us with the potential impact of biohacking - "By 2022, sequencing a human genome will be cheaper than flushing a toilet. That’s so cheap it’s almost free". Basically stating that in less than 10 years our ability to "fix" by sequencing human genomes will be a viable option for many. If you could produce a child that was immune to influenza, immune to HIV, could be born without Downs Syndrome, would you do it?? I experienced massive internal ethical debates after this session. We also heard from Michael Gillam about the potential for exponential improvement of health advice around the corner, with the use of IBM's Watson in medicine we have "not just the mind of one doctor taking care of you, but the minds of 7 billion doctors taking care of you".  Now that's got to be better than my one vaguely interested GP.

And of course it kept coming back to the idea that all of this technological can do damage or can do good, depending on how we, the humans, harness it. As Ramez Naam so eloquently (and terrifyingly) stated - "We’re in a race - how fast we screw up our planet and how fast we innovate with these new technologies".

So what does this all mean for education?

Well for one, I feel like each and every session reinforced that we as a nation are doing one of two things:

The first group are sticking their heads in the sand by thinking that education (and probably everything else) won't or doesn't really need to change. Think back to that early image I created where people were standing on the "we are here" dot looking backwards. These are the people in education who protect the status quo, who think BYOD, makerspaces and a bit of coding will equip our young people for gently evolving future. And I fear A LOT of our schools are exactly in this place and space.

The second group of people are pretty much who I have been hanging with (up until I attended this pesky event ;-), a growing number of educators who are trying new approaches, enjoying Blue Sky High thinking. They are the schools exploring knocking down walls, exploring project based learning, integrated studies, self-directed learning time, STEM and STEAM initiatives. These are the educators who are aware that the world is changing and who are exploring innovation from within the still largely traditional enabling constraints of our primary and secondary schools. An increasing number of educators are in this space and this is exactly where we need to be....for now.

What I now realise is that second scenario is a good one for the very short term only. It is a scenario that relied on the idea of a qualified teacher being optimal, a physical school being necessary and the notion of a localised curriculum and qualification being relevant. After the three days at SingularityU I now no longer believe any of these things can be relied on as a "enabling constraint" for more than the next 10 years, 15 max. Sue Suckling (Chair of NZQA) set the scene when she stated - "The day of the qualification is over. The era of verification is coming". Now when the CHAIR of NZQA states that the very idea of a qualification is numbered we need to sit up listen. Consider this. One of the main reason children attend school until 18 (aside from it's obvious appeal as a free baby-sitting service) is to gain a qualification. What if the whole concept of a localised curriculum and qualification disappeared, would there be the same compulsion to remain in school? Combine that with the reality that access to the Internet and increasingly engaging, sophisticated online learning options become available we are no longer going to be able to lure students in by our ability to teach them anything they can't get online. And I am not just talking hokey MOOCs and Khan Academy, I am talking training with NASA experts and leaders from all fields from across the world. Who knows what the future holds when you combine this with AI and VR. You could be walking around NASA, learning alongside astronauts from the comfort of your home. And basically you can translate this to any field.

At one point during the summit I had an absolute lightbulb moment. Here we are with people stressing about local educational developments - how we can evolve NCEA, sticking antiquated exams online, worrying that COOLs will bring about terrifying change. And all we are doing is panicking about the sideshows, getting distracted by the local developments. We are standing on that "we are here" dot, kidding ourselves that the gentle incline we are standing on will continue ahead of us. If we use the "horse to cars" analogy, I can't help feeling we are painting wings on a pony when we should be building a freakin' Tesla. We need to be thinking beyond the bricks and mortar and the local curriculum and qualification and start thinking about how we can harness each and every learning opportunity beyond our classroom walls, whether it be out in a forest, in a local business or in a virtual landscape. We need to think about how we can completely revise this concept of a school or at least this concept of a physical school. As Jane Gilbert often reminds me, we need to come back to the big question of "what is education for?" and go from there. I was only half joking when I tweeted the following:


But seriously, if we want to do this thing and we want education (and educators) in NZ to be relevant beyond the 10-15 year window we might have, we need start thinking outside the box and most definitely outside this thing we call school!

Innovation: doing the same things better
Disruption: doing new things that make the old things obsolete.

Basically our days of "innovation" being enough in education are numbered. I suspect we might experience disruption sooner than we think. Whether we want it or not. Let's stop seeing the "we are here" as a destination and recognise it for what it really is....a bloody exciting starting point!!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

#SUNZSummit - Why I am looking forward to SingularityU


On the eve of the inaugural SingularityU NZ Summit I am continuing to build some very genuine levels excitement about what I might learn and how it might reframe my thinking about the future of education. It has been awesome to be part of what feels like a groundswell of educators who share a passion for futures thinking and educational change and it has been equally exciting to see this become a theme of large scale conferences such as Ulearn and EduTech and the many smaller corporate organised edu-conferences that have popped up in recent years.

However alongside this excitement this excitement there has also been a sense of frustration. Whilst there is absolutely a growing demand for educational change, there is also sense that these "edu-changemakers" still, in a sense live within a bit of a bubble. Head to any conference and you see the same lovely group of educators, speaking for the most part about variations of the same stuff - me included (see above). You can't help feeling that those wanting to make real change exist in what can feel like an echo-chamber, who for the most part are simply preaching to the converted.

So I guess I am looking forward to SingularityU for two key reasons.

The first reason - I want to hear fresh stuff.

I am really looking forward to hearing stuff that blows the top of my freakin' head off. Whilst I am passionate about and a passionate advocate for the concepts and thinking that sit behind "design thinking", "makerspaces", "e-learning", "BYOD", "learner agency", "coding" and all the other educational jargon that I and everyone else seems to be waffling on about at educational conferences, I  fear I am suffering from "jargon jaundice", and worry this may lead to "futurist fatigue". So SingularityU I am looking to you! I want new learning, like hurt-your-brain learning. I want to be shaken out of my "modern learning malaise" and come away thoroughly coated in some "exponential ectoplasm".

The second reason - I want everyone to hear fresh stuff...and want them to want change.

I really hope this event is a catalyst for a widespread call for change, particularly in our schools. One of my frustrations is the sense that whilst people love educators writing and talking about change, they still seem to hesitate appointing "change leaders" to lead their (secondary) schools. Until each and every school leader is a leader of change, education in NZ will stumble and ultimately stall. Schools in NZ are governed by Boards of Trustees, who for the most part are interested parents and community members. I am hoping an event like SingularityU reaches them, the communities and families who will then demand schools (particularly secondary schools) evolve to meet the exponential change we are are experiencing in our workplaces and society at large. NZ already has one of the most open and future-focused curriculum, we also have a pretty flexible and forward thinking qualification framework, yet many secondary school timetables look the same as they did 50 years ago. I really hope this event can rattle the "college cages" and help our schools and communities to understand that it is going to take more than BYOD and Makerspaces to properly prepare our young people.

And of course I am looking forward to visiting Christchurch and meeting many like-minded people! Bring it on SingularityU!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Keeping our cool about COOLs (without drinking the COOL aid)

Yesterday the government (as part of a wider announcement around updating the Education Act, announced they are to "Establish a future focused regulatory framework for online learning", which is unpacked as "A new framework for correspondence education (modernised to refer to “online learning”) to future-proof the Act, and enable students to study online as an alternative to, or alongside, face-to-face education. The new framework enables new providers to enter the market, as accredited Communities of Online Learning (COOLs)." I can understand that this may have come as a surprise, and that in and of itself makes people nervous, not to mention the use of the term "market", what I don't understand is the nearly universal "Chicken Little" response which has seen nearly all peak bodies, politicians and many media outlets declare that "the sky is falling!".

Personally my first instinct was - awesome! I mean, imagine the possibilities! Imagine how we might reimagine schooling? Imagine the way we could genuinely personalise learning? Imagine how we might build on the already successful models of online learning that we tap into through HarbourNet or NZNET and the virtual learning network? Imagine how we might build on the (fabulous) evolving model of correspondence learning already available through Te Kura? Imagine how might we stretch COLs and collaborative models of delivering education to ensure all students from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island all had access to the very best subject specialists, that all schools no matter how small could offer their learners a rich diversity of subjects? Imagine how we could leverage this opportunity to provide genuine, next level, learner agency? Imagine how we might let students learn how and when they wanted or needed. And of course we will also need to imagine how might we do all of this without losing what we know is at the heart of effective learning. How we can take this bold leap into the future and still ensure our young people are socialised and experience a sense of community? How might we respond and take advantage of the flexibility that technology affords us and still build relationships between educator and learner?

However the more I looked across the papers, the more lonely I felt. Through nearly every media outlet and every social media platform all I felt I heard and read was shock and horror and instant assumptions (even before we had any detail) about what what we would lose and what agendas were really at play here. Are we really so shocked that online schooling is going to be a reality sooner rather than later? Personally I'm shocked we aren't there already. Are we really so cynical that we can't even pause long enough to consider the possibilities before launching into scaremongering diatribe that would suggest the end is nigh and we are all going to hell in a hand basket?

Don't get me wrong, I don't think people are wrong to be nervous, especially when it felt like a bolt out of the blue and we currently have so little detail (note there is now more info available here). As with everything, the devil will be the detail. This policy will need to enacted incredibly carefully and slowly to ensure that any new models complement or build on our current models. Just like any learning environment, real or virtual, the output will be directly related to the quality of the input - bring on those registered teachers and curriculum experts! There will be massive fish hooks to work through, but man isn't it awesome we can genuinely explore these options...and only sixteen years in to the 21st Century!

Goddam. I can't wait to run my school-less COOL from my driverless car!

But seriously, I am going to stay excited, I am going to put on my Pollyanna pants and positively pursue the possibilities of COOLs...whilst ensuring I don't "drink the COOL aid"". I am going to dive deep into any info that gets published, I am going ask questions, I am going to challenge the stuff I am concerned about whilst also thinking long and hard about how we might use this development to further support personalisation, learner agency and redefine what we think of as "school". I am going to challenge myself to embrace change in the hope that we might just evolve education at a rate that reflects the rate of the evolution of the society I live in. I am going to challenge myself to not simply cling on to the rose-coloured memory of the schooling and school that I might have loved and excelled in, in the past. I am going to do this because, quite simply, it is not about me and what I am comfortable with, and it is not about what I know to be true from past experience. It is is about being open to what could be and what could take us a step closer to ensuring we have a wide variety of models of schooling that might better meet the needs of the wide variety of young people we are tasked with looking after.

I am going to close this blogpost with an excerpt from a post I wrote in December 2013, this post was originally written as part of a 'Thoughts on the future of EdTech' blog series on the Ed Personnel Blog. I can't help thinking, to continue the poultry theme, that the chickens may just be coming home to roost a little sooner than we might have imagined...

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”
- Jack Welch


I believe that the future of EdTech will actually facilitate something even more exciting - the partial dissolution of what we have come to know as “school”. I suspect that if schools continue to struggle to evolve and to leverage the power of EdTech effectively and cannot change at a rate that mirrors the rate of change in wider society we will begin to see a society that questions the relevance of such a formal and seemingly inflexible structure. In fact, it is possible that we could see the whole notion of school questioned and the relevance of formal education challenged as future generations refuse to accept the glacial pace of change and instead harness the powers of EdTech to form something akin to connected home-schooling community. You only need look at the global proliferation of democratic schools and rising profile of hackschooling to get a sense that this shift has already begun. And whilst democratic schools, for the most part, still base themselves in what we might recognise as a school, I do wonder if the ubiquity and autonomy that EdTech affords learners, we may see that change as well.


The future of EdTech is one of disruption, democratization and for some, complete dissonance.


Before you dismiss this as little more than a pedagogical fantasy, I would suggest that you at least stop to consider the future of EdTech as something more than the status quo on steroids and I implore you recognise that what is really exciting is not the EdTech at all, but rather how EdTech might help to redefine what “an education” might look like in the not distant future.

Genuinely keen to hear your thoughts on this issue!

Make sure you read the info here: http://www.education.govt.nz/ministry-of-education/legislation/the-education-update-amendment-bill/establishing-a-regulatory-framework-for-online-learning/

Monday, June 6, 2016

Innovate Out West - A Collaborative West Auckland Teacher Only Day


Innovate Out West
West Auckland Teacher Only Day
Tuesday 7th June

Conference Theme: Innovative Learning - sharing the best of the West!

Tomorrow marks the inaugural 'Innovate Out West'. A teacher only day with a difference! This year a range of secondary schools from across the West Auckland area (Hobsonville Point Secondary School, Waitakere College, Massey High School and Kelston Boys High School) are getting together to share their best practice with each other. It will be an opportunity for teachers to visit two different schools the learn about their best practice and innovative strategies they are developing, so as to improve outcomes for all.

Workshops include topics such as 
  • 'Pasifika achievement' - Strategies that empower Pasifika students to succeed, 
  • 'Matau Tatou' Kelston’s brand of PB4L, 
  • 'Restorative Practice" - Focus on relationships 
  • 'Cross curricular learning in a traditional context'- Sharing our current exploration of cross curricular collaboration around Matariki, 
  • 'Hillbilly Lemonade' - Teachers talk too much! This session will not only quench  your thirst but will provide some strategies of how to encourage students to ask more questions and also examine how teachers can improve their questioning techniques, 
  • 'Know thy Self!' - Analysis of teachers strengths and weakness and how this might be correlated to facilitate improved teaching practice and targeted PD, 
  • 'Project Learning' - PBL - Project Based Learning at Hobsonville Point Secondary School - how we do things. The process of Projects - Kick Off, Plan, Action, Showtime and Final Look. The requirements at each stage of the process. Working alongside authentic partners to reach an outcome. Collaboration with peers, Guides and partners. Links to the Values of HPSS, and 
  • 'Learning design for deeper learning' - Explore design thinking principles and ways they can connect with teaching and learning. Look at how common language can enhance teaching and learning processes and influence learning outcomes. Explore and share tools and strategies about teaching and learning.

It will be a chance to connect, collaborate and learn from each other. 

The conference follows this structure:

Conference Structure
9.00-11.00  AM Session - choose school/workshops
11.00-1.00  Lunch - choose lunch location
1.00-3.00   PM Session - choose another school/location

Plus a big thanks to TTS for sponsoring the lunch. 

Tomorrow is hopefully the beginning of something special, with the intention to grow it year on year to include all West Auckland schools working together to share best practice and innovation. If you are at a West Auckland school, get in touch with one of the schools involved this year. Let's show the rest of Auckland what Innovating Out West can really look like!

Make sure you follow the twitter feed tomorrow #InnovateOutWest 

The 'Lean In' and 'Thrive' Dichotomy


Can we Lean In AND Thrive?

I'm not sure if it's a dichotomy, paradox or a conundrum, however I know it is an issue that I, and potentially many others, grapple with - can we actually both Lean In AND Thrive?

The summer before last I read the two aforementioned books back to back. I loved both of them, both Sandberg and Huffington "spoke to me". Or should that be, they "spoke to parts of me". 

Sheryl Sandberg very much spoke to the career me, the one that has refused to acknowledge any glass ceilings or ever take no for an answer. It appealed to the side of me that genuinely believes I can do whatever I want to do and I can be anything I want be. This is the side of me I uphold as important not just for me but as a role model for my young daughters,  the young people I teach and those that I work with. To me, this is about developing a kick arse sense of self-efficacy - a quality that I think is integral to success in the 21st century. 

But then the other part of me chimes in, usually when I feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Who am I kidding trying to do everything? Is the success worthwhile if it comes at the expense of wellbeing? This is where Ariana Huffington seems so right. You are right Huffy, I do need to look after me! It was also at this point that I also got a bit pissed off at Huffington...it always seems a bit rich when people extol the value of balance and wellbeing AFTER they have reached the peak of their career and have accrued a fortune in the process. It's all well and good to sit back and bloody Thrive after a few decades of Leaning In

I absolutely value my wellbeing and promoting the wellbeing of those around me, but it does beg the question - can we really Lean In and Thrive at the same time?

Well as I am not one to give up easily, I am giving it a bloody good go. Here's my plan for trying to achieve both. I like to think of it as a bit of a yin and yang approach -  fives things I do that, for me, equate to "leaning in" and five things that I do that I believe might help me "thrive". Notice the use of me and my, I recognise this is deeply personal and whilst I guess I do write this as advice, I also acknowledge that this will look different for everyone.

My 'Lean In' top five
  1. Have a career plan and share it - from the first day on the job as a teacher I was clear about one thing, I was going to a Principal and I needed to know the best way to get there. I am a big believer that if you let people know where you want to go, they are more likely to point you in the right direction. All to often I see people get frustrated because they aren't being awarded with the positions they think they deserve - have you told people you want that position? Or did you expect them to pick it up my osmosis? I believe there is real value in articulating your goals and intended next steps. I also seek advice far and wide, if someone is in a role I hope to have some day, I ask them how they got there and what they learnt on the way. 
  2. Share your passions and your practice - I believe many opportunities and invitations have come about because I do one thing regularly, I share. I share my ideas, my thinking and the work of those around me. I don't particularly worry if it's worthy, my theory is if people are interested they'll read it/watch it. If they aren't, they won't - this doesn't make the act of sharing any less valuable. When talking to students about the power of blogging I often highlight the status of "perceived expertise" you gain simply by writing about a topic on a public forum. Do it enough and you get invited to speak about what you write about and so the perception grows. I have been blown away by how often people appreciate what you share and that it often encourages others to share back. 
  3. Ask to be included - don't wait for a freakin' gilded invitation. I have had the opportunity to serve on many educational reference/working groups. This is not a lucky coincidence. On many occasions I have contacted key people and key agencies and asked if I can be involved in some way. How can I help? Who should I contact? What do you need? Then what often happens is that one group leads to another, your capacity to join the dots and connect with key people increases with every group you participate in. 
  4. Learn more stuff - one of the most unattractive qualities in a person is the belief that they have nothing more to learn or no interest in learning more. And this isn't about learning with a capital L, it's more about being curious and interested to learn more about anything. At present I am working my way through the world's longest Masters of Educational Leadership, it's slow and painful, but I am learning, learning stuff and developing resilience along the way. Learning also gives you more stuff to share, it's a win win really.
  5. Say yes (most of the time) - if you are asked to do something or see an opportunity that may lead to more opportunities, then say yes! Unless you should say no ;) - see below. 

My 'Thrive' top five
  1. Do something for me everyday - this used to be going for a quiet coffee before work, recently this has become a daily yoga session with my YouTube girl crush Adriene. Basically my theory is that I am way nicer to everyone else, if I am nice to myself.
  2. Go to bed early - I given up trying to pretend I can work late into the night and be okay the next day. Now I go to bed and read a book at 9.00pm. It get's me offline and I don't seem any less productive (as a side note - I have also combined this with a magnesium supplement - Ultra Muscleze Night. The supplement has worked wonders for stopping my incessant worry list before I nod off - highly recommend it). 
  3. Be unapologetic about putting family/self first outside work hours - I owe my beginning teacher mentor, Brian Lamb, for telling me very early on that a work/life balance will make you a better teacher - that the more rounded you can be, the more interesting you can be in the classroom. I relish my evenings, weekends and holidays as time for me, family and friends - I don't get the desire some teachers have to try and prove (particularly to non-teachers) that they work all hours/weekends/holidays. Of course I do work some of those times, but hell, I also cherish that a career in education means I can be both career focused and have time with my family - I encourage all of my non-education friends to consider the shift to education. It rocks. I definitely didn't get into teaching for the holidays, but I definitely appreciate them and intend to make the most of the flexibility they give me. 
  4. Invest in date nights and entertaining with friends and family - I love good drink, food, movies and hanging out with my husband, my family and my friends. I love throwing myself head first into my career and am lucky enough to have a partner and family who supports me in teetering on over-committed at all times. My theory is you can never take this for granted, date night, family dinners and parties helps to ensure we don't all become passive-aggressive-passing-ships-in-the-night and also doubles as an opportunity to indulge in the things I love.
  5. Say no (some of the time) - one thing I have learned in recent years is that it is okay, on occasion, to say no. Whilst I firmly believe that if I can do something, then I will. However I have also realised that if saying yes is going to take me away from my family, make me begrudge the person who asked or is likely to push me over the edge, then it's more than okay to say no. I used to be convinced I would miss out opportunities, but I have discovered that if you usually say "hell yes" and sometimes say "no", the invites still come. It is okay to be selective about opportunities, choosing to say yes to things that serve you as well as serving others. 
So there you go, definitely not rocket science and I am not sure it proves or disproves the ability the Lean In and Thrive at the same time - it's probably as close as I am ever going to get. Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

One final bit advice for anyone navigating their way through some attempt at work/life or life/life balance is this - what ever path you choose, I suggest you own it. And I mean REALLY own it. I don't believe there is any "right choice" and think we often waste precious energy defending our life choices, whether it be to be a working parent, stay at home parent, married, unmarried, coupled, single, wanting kids, not wanting kids, wanting cats, dogs or capybaras (note I WANT a capybara) to keep you company. My only real advice is to own your own brand of awesome and appreciate the choices other may make or hand they may have been dealt. 

And finally, be prepared to weather some flack for wearing your brand of awesomeness with pride, because as my husband so eloquently put it when I got a bit a flack - "some people are dicks" and quite frankly there is nothing you do about that.

References

Thursday, March 17, 2016

New Zealand Curriculum Implementation - Are we there yet?

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week I had the utter privilege to be invited to participate in a Ministry of Education New Zealand Curriculum Think Tank. Two days, 25 positive, proactive agentic and action orientated curriculum leaders from across the country came together to consider how NZC implementation might be reinvigorated. Interestingly, I couldn't help but chuckle about how an article I wrote (as guest editor of English in Aotearoa) six years ago sort of captured the challenges we discussed.

English in Aotearoa Editorial – What new curriculum?

By Claire Amos

In August 2009 The Education Gazette spoke to New Zealand Curriculum project manager Chris Arcus, to find out what schools needed to know about the NZC at this stage. When asked where schools need to be by February 2010 his answer was this, “All schools need to do a couple of things – they need to design and implement a school curriculum and they need to teach using an evidence based inquiry cycle that informs what they do and monitors the impact of those decisions.” 

It is nearly a year on since that statement was made and many of us have been “implementing” the NZC for some time now. Whilst we might feel we have been very busy implementing, how well and how authentically we are doing so is hard to measure. 

In the junior school, implementation may have involved a review and maybe even a redesign of Junior English programmes. It may have included consideration and even integration of values and/or key competencies, for others it might simply have taken the form of adopting unit planner templates that incorporate the language of the NZC. Then along came the aligned Achievement Standards -
galloping on horse back over the educational horizon to rescue our senior school. Out with the old standards, in with new, and hey presto, the NZC will be magically implemented...or will it? Are our students even aware of any change, or are they asking – what new curriculum?

Okay, so this is an unfair and rash summary of our many and varied approaches to implementing the NZC. It does, however, raise some very genuine issues around approaches to implementation and in particular the differing approaches we tend to adopt when looking to integrate the NZC into the junior school versus the senior school. With national qualifications generally out of the picture in Year 9 and Year 10 it would seem we are more likely to take a “principled” approach to NZC implementation. It is almost as if the lack of formal national assessment frees us to focus on the “front end” of the NZC. Without NCEA in the picture we can allow principles, values and key competencies to come into focus and in some cases even form a structure or framework for our programme design. The implementation of the NZC in the junior school, it would seem, is more likely to be explicit, with the values and key competencies being highlighted in the classroom, being referred to by the students and in some cases even being assessed and reported on.

However when we hit Year 11 and NCEA comes trotting into view, an interesting thing happens. The “front end” of the NZC seems to diminish or in some cases even disappear from the picture altogether. Instead NCEA now provides the framework and structure for our programme design. Achievement Standards (or a combination there of) replace values and key competencies. Whilst this is a rather harsh generalisation, when it comes to senior programme design it is hard to argue the fact that assessment comes to the forefront and the principles of the NZC (values and competencies) seem to be thrust to the background or erased altogether. You may argue that the “front end” of the NZC is still implicit in your planning. But is it? Really?

Attitudes and approaches to NZC implementation could be seen as falling into four areas, or what I refer to as the quartiles of curriculum implementation. Consider any one course that you teach. Would you describe your approach to implementation as explicit or implicit? Have you focused on the “front end” or the “back end” of the NZC document? Have you considered all aspects of the NZC in both your junior and senior programmes? 



So what is the right approach? Is there even a “right” approach? I guess only time will tell.

But of course, things have changed. Or have they?

So seven years on from implementation, where are we?

Firstly, the document itself has stood the test of time. The NZC document remains a world leader in future-focused, creative, innovative and delightfully permissive curriculum design. It balances the what Jane Gilbert labelled as the Traditionalist (Knowledge) with the Progressivist (student centred), i.e. the stuff at the back (learning areas and achievement objectives) is offset by the brilliant stuff at the front (key competencies, principles, pedagogy etc). In many ways we have made excellent progress.

However my key concern after listening to a number of awesome educators who have coherently implemented the curriculum is, I believe, we have a situation. A major situation.

More precisely, IMO, we are have a gaping freakin' chasm.

On one hand we have many educators and schools who have indeed implemented the curriculum coherently. These leaders are what I would describe as truely ethical school leaders. School leaders driven by a moral purpose who have determined that they would address the whole curriculum, even when they may feel that the government really only demands them to deliver National Standards and/or NCEA Level Two results. Leaders such as my own, Maurie Abraham, leading a reimagining of the secondary experience at HPSS, Barbara Cavanagh exemplifying the power of Impact Projects at ASHS, Sheryll Ofner who helped Selwyn College become 'SELWISE', Sarah Martin of Stonefields School and Russell Burt leading into the future at Pt England School. This list goes on, each and every leader I have worked with other the last two days had "it" in spades. A desire to genuinely put the needs of the learner ahead of the seemingly overwhelming demand for data, data, data and results.

On the other hand, we have the rest. The schools and leaders who have stayed with 'traditionalist' approaches and have either addressed the 'progressivist' stuff through lip service...or not at all. These are the schools who are either so weighed down by the demands of meeting achievement targets, they can't see past them (these people need our support), or more infuriating we have the oft described "top schools" who meet the achievement targets with ease and seem to coast along resting on the laurels of a high decile rating, bulging school roll and top of leaderboard/Metro magazine placing. And the worst thing is, there seems be little challenging their *hands clasped behind head, feet up on the desk* position. Goddam people. That is bloody disappointing.

So what can we do?

Many ideas were discussed and shared over the last two days. Note - not everyone may view the situation quite as I do. People agreed on one thing though - our curriculum is kickass. Let's just ensure we make the most of it.

Many suggested the need to amplify and share the success stories.

School leaders were continuously seen as the solution...and the problem. Ethical, proactive leaders are doing it. Others are not. How do we address this?

There was discussion about the need to address Principal appointment processes - self-managing schools make their own appointments. This means Boards of Trustees (who we must remember are simply a group of interested parents) are entrusted to appoint their leaders. Do they understand what a future focused leader looks like? Or do they look to the past, to the leader that they looked up to in a different time, thereby perpetuating an industrial model of leadership? Do we need to ensure there is a mechanism that ensures an educational expert is involved?

Another issue raised was the lack of Principal support and development. Do we need an apprenticeship model or something ongoing that looks beyond the First-time Principals Programme? What happens after that?

What about Principal appraisal? Does there need to be something that is nationally managed to ensure a consistent standard and make it possible for intervention and support to be more effectively introduced? Forget the National Aspiring Principals Programme, maybe we need the National Appraisal of Principals Project instead?

Do we need more specific standards for Principals? Standards that clearly demonstrate the 'principles in practice' required to implement a coherent future-focused, localised curriculum in every school.

And what about a Curriculum Leaders Institute that recognise Master Educators, think the educational equivalent of a Master Builders guild. Giving a recognised status to those leading the way. 

One thing that everyone agreed on, was the need to (re)start a national conversation. The NZC, not National Standards, NCEA or decile ratings, the purpose of the curriculum needs to be at the heart of a robust national conversation. Are we there yet? If not, why not? And what are going to do to rectify the situation? Here's hoping, if nothing else, this excellent NZC think tank is the beginning of that...and much much more.

Thank you to the MoE for an excellent couple of days.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Dr Jane Hunter - Turning High Possibility Classrooms into High Possibility Schools #futureschools

Dr Jane Hunter speaking at Future Schools
What's happening in some Australian Schools right now?

There are key issues that we need to be thinking about. The place of STEM? Place of professional learning. Disengaged students, particularly in high school. Radicalisation in schools. The SAFE schools policy. This is the context in which we are working.

The research project was qualitative

  • 4 teachers in four schools
  • Had to meet exemplary criteria
  • No previous studies like this
  • Data gathered over two years

What did research tell us about teacher's knowledge of technology enhanced learning in classrooms?

All were all early adopters of technology and considered exemplary in their use of technology.

The four teachers

  • Gabby - had interactive whiteboard, some desktops, iPads and her iPhone. Not one to one. 
  • Gina - worked for IBM prior to coming into teaching. Used a laptop, digital cameras, a maker. She believed it was important to teach coding because it taught you how to think. 
  • Nina - she had worked with Seymour Papert, she was in a one-to-one class. she wasn't a fan of interactive whiteboard. Used desktop sharing to show what each other worked on. Used QUEST - QUestion, Explain, Share Together. She was using an inquiry model. 
  • Kitty - Was all about experiential learning. 
Hunter then talked about how each example of exemplary practice fitted within the TPACK framework where Technological, Pedagogical and Content and Knowledge came together.

TPACK Framework

The use of technology creates a dilemma for teachers
  • Who is in charge? 
  • Getting into the flow...letting go and allowing students to get into flow.
These practitioners all saw technology integration enabling:
  • Theory
  • Creativity
  • Public Learning
  • Life preparation
  • Contextual accomodations
Students we "in task" rather than "on task".

What are the research findings important for teaching and learning in schools in 2016?

These case studies are highly motivational.

It is a study from teacher's perspectives.

This work strikes me as an excellent study of the power of technology to support learner agency - a topic very close to my heart!

Check out Jane's Edutopia blogpost on the topic here.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Claire Amos - Learner Agency - More than just a buzzword #futureschools


This is the closest I can get to blogging my own presentation, a repost from Semtember 2015 - the original post that inspired today's presentation.

Admittedly, even I'm impressed at the litany of edu buzzwords I manage to ram into one video here. When I first watched this, I couldn't help but imagine Tom Barrett poised with his Buzzword Bingo card and a kind but cruel twinkle in his eye. ;) And indeed I got royally roasted by Steve Mouldey, particularly when I managed to define one buzzword with another - did you know learner agency is really about student efficacy? Well now you do.

But joking aside, Learner Agency is bloody important.

So what does Learner Agency actually mean. The way I define it is the idea that the learner has a sense of ownership and control over their own learning. The word 'agency' is defined as "action or intervention producing a particular effect", so I guess if we apply this to the learner, it means they engage in a particular action or trial an intervention which then produces a particular effect. In the context of a school this might involve students taking action, whether it be through reading, researching, discussing, debating, experimenting, making or tinkering and as a result, gain (through their own efforts) new understanding and new learnings. This being a shift from the notion of teachers, teaching at the student and fundamentally providing all of the knowledge and content which they then transfer to the the empty vessel.

Of course this notion is not new, in fact, it's positively ancient. I sometimes think Socrates must be turning in his grave.


So if this notion has been bandied about since the the time of Socrates, why the hell are we considering it as cutting edge now? I'm guessing the honest answer is that education started off pretty sweet, then got a bit crap in the last 100 years or so.

Public schooling as we know it appears to be have been formed or at least heavily influenced by the reforms introduced by The Committee of Ten, a group of US educators who called for the standardisation of the secondary curriculum. They recommended 12 years of education and a range of subjects or learning areas that have remained, for the most part freakishly unchanged (remember, this was a 120 years ago!!!). They also recommended that "...every subject which is taught at all in a secondary school should be taught in the same way and to the same extent to every pupil so long as he pursues it, no matter what the probable destination of the pupil may be, or at what point his education is to cease." [4]  I do wonder if it recommendations such as this that resulted in learners falling victim to the generations of well meaning educators developing well honed teacher agency, attempting to produce similar outcomes for all learners by delivering same size, one size fits all learning regardless of learner strengths, weaknesses, interests or career path.

Even in modern times, the notion of standardised testing has the unintended effect of producing standardised teaching. To ensure that teaching remains standardised, learners must not interfere! I actually have no issue with standardised testing or even standards. It's actually our notion that to meet common goals, we need to get there through common means that is the issue.

If the world around us wasn't changing so rapidly, we might have got away with sticking our heads in the sand and believing (like certain schools still do) that effective education means little, if any, learner agency and whole lot of control and teacher centred pedagogy.  Don't get me wrong, there is still a place for direct instruction and even rote learning, but if you are limiting yourself to such practice, no matter how awesomely charismatic you might be, you are doing your students a massive disservice.

Firstly there is the issue that students no longer need you or I to access knowledge and expertise. Once upon a time you may have got away with little learner agency because they (the students) had few if any other ways to learn. I once worked with a teacher that claimed that school was like the dentist, that students simply had to suck it up and do what was good for them. I'm sorry lady, but you need to wake up and smell the laughing gas. Students no longer necessarily need us to learn, if learning is something they have to suffer through they will look elsewhere. However, they do need us to know how to learn more effectively and to curate what skills may be good to learn and what content might be useful to know in the future.

Secondly there is the reality that we are preparing learners for a different world than we were in 1892. We are no longer producing compliant workers for an industrial workplace where basic writing, reading and arithmetic and learned compliance was the key to success. In fact we don't actually know what we are preparing them for. We are almost certainly preparing them for multiple careers, more casual, informal work and/or self-employment. This calls for a broader set of skills. Yes, the three Rs are still incredibly important, but now the ability for young people to self-manage, learn to learn and then re-learn and adapt is going to be a basic need for survival. Complex problem solving, creative thinking and risk-taking are undoubtedly going to be the key ingredients for success. I mean look at the list Forbes produced as The 10 Skills Employers Most Want in 2015 Graduates
  1. Ability to work in a team structure
  2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)
  3. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
  4. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
  5. Ability to obtain and process information
  6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
  7. Technical knowledge related to the job
  8. Proficiency with computer software programs
  9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
  10. Ability to sell and influence others
These are not skills developed in a teacher centred learning environment. And who know what the graduates of 2025 and beyond may need. Whilst I do don't have a crystal ball, I am guessing agency and efficacy will be even more important than ever.

So what are 10 ways you might provide Learner Agency in your classroom or school?
  1. Introduce one to one devices or BYOD and actually give students the freedom to use technology in a variety of ways - not just a glorified exercise or text book. There is no question - all students having access to a browser is incredibly liberating if you just shut up and get of the way and let them go explore and actually use more than just the latest app or platform you've stumbled upon. Technology is not actually about improving grades, it's actually about improving agency (and hopefully greater agency should then result in better outcomes).
  2. Give students choice about context or topic where possible.
  3. Give students choice about how the record or process their learning - paper & pen, written notes, images or voice recording.
  4. Give students choice about how they evidence their learning - let them choose whether evidence is verbal, visual or oral (or a combination of all three)
  5. Give students choice about how and where they learn - provide an online platform with 24/7 access to clear learning outcomes, prompts, support and challenges.
  6. Provide students with a platform or space for online discussion about their learning that doesn't rely on you.
  7. Give students time and space to work independently - yes sometimes they will waste time, get distracted and frustrated - but so do we! And how are you going to bloody well learn to to learn for yourself without being given the opportunity to do so. as an aside - it always cracks me up when schools wonder why Year 13 students don't cope with "free periods" when we have barely given them a "free moment" in the 12 years prior. 
  8. Allow time for independent inquiry, where students have time and space to seek out and create new understanding.
  9. Where possible let them personalise inquiry to give them even greater ownership - do those students really need to explore the same topic, book, period or place? And do they need to all present it the same way (see #4)
  10. Give students a choice of classes or modules or if this isn't possible in your present environment, at least give them the opportunity to co-construct the course they are in - even in a school where you have to present some sort of year plan, you can still hack that plan....if there is one benefit of a non-MLE environment you can usually get away with being as creative as you blooming well like in the privacy of your own classroom. 
This list is not exhaustive. Would love to hear how you develop/enable/encourage learner agency in classroom or school. 

Oops. Once again what I intended to be a pithy reflection has turned into a ramble. See learner agency isn't just a buzzword, it's a bloody great ramble!

Ayesha Khanna - Externships: Why Partnerships between corporations and schools is the nest way to teach STEM #futureschools

Ayesha Khanna speaking at Future Schools
Khanna began by talking about the future of work. 47% of jobs will be automated.

Khanna is the Co-Founder and CEO of The Keys Academy and innovative enrichment hub who champions the concept of "externships" which allow secondary students to apply their learning to 21st century industries.

Our new colleagues and competitors are robots.

Our new tools are becoming increasing sophisticated and are reducing in cost.

I am not interested technology, I am interested in giving young people creative confidence. I LOVE this quote. Consider it stolen and appropriated.

Our new jobs are going to involve wearable technology and virtual reality.

We are going to live differently. Khanna gave the example of designer babies.

How we work will be different we are going to see "the rise of the connected freelancer" (another goody - thanks Ayesha!).

Telepresence is going to become increasingly normal.

Smart nano-workers. For example 'HourlyNerd' where you can pitch projects to freelance projects around the world.

We also face a future where cyborgs will become a reality and death is regarded as an illness or problem that can be solved.

Consider the driverless car or driverless trucks, how many people are impacted as a result of this, how many people lose jobs?

Khanna then spoke of John Seely Brown's concepts of homo sapien, homo faber and homo ludens. I need to get my head around this, but in the mean time here's an explanation I found - thanks Google.
Source: http://www.johnseelybrown.com/rlcspan.pdf
Khanna then talked of her concept of "externships" rather than students going in to a company and businesses not knowing what they are doing, students instead tackle a real problem that the company is tackling and students work on this outside of the company. Students still have to understand, deeply, the constraints of the company and the work on coming up with solutions. Another freakin' awesome idea. Mental note - appropriate this idea. Now.

This makes so much sense. They may not solve the problem, but they are exposed to the market, they develop an understanding of business and engage in authentic learning and genuine problem solving. What a bloody good example of win win!

Watch our Larry Rosenstock, I think I have a new educrush.

The are so many parallels between The Keys Academy and The Mind Lab, I love that Khanna even makes the same claim as Frances Valintine - these spaces only need to exist for a period of time. When schools catch up, they won't be needed.

I suspect it may take a little while to catch up with awesome women.

June Wall & Jonathon Mascorella - Designing Learning Spaces - putting the cart before the horse #futureschools

June Wall presenting at Future School
Learning environments can be defined as a set of physical and digital locations, context and cultures in which students learn.

Wall argues that environment IS important as it can shape how we behave and learn within it. She talks about the five cases - the zero case, the digital case, the side by side case, the embedded case and the classical case. Couldn't quite capture the meaning of each, but she concluded that the embedded case.

Found this explanation

Learning environments can be defined as the set of physical and digital locations, contexts and cultures in which students learn. Five typical cases of learning environments can be distinguished with respect to their relation to digital devices:

1. The zero case: there are no relevant physical or digital relevant stimuli in the environment of a person. The cognitive representations of the person can be formed rather independent of the outside world: thinking, dreaming, visualising something based on memory and creativity processes. In this case there is an internally stimulated representation of the learning environment.

2. The digital case: when the physical environment includes digital learning devices, but does not provide relevant non-digital stimuli to the user. For instance in a quiet study room when using a simulation program. The representation of the learning environment can dominantly be influenced by the digital device(s), e.g. by presenting a virtual reality world, a serious game, a virtual classroom or a (digital) book. The cognitive representations that are stimulated by the digital device can result in learning processes. In this case there is a digital stimulated representation of the learning environment.

3. The embedded case: the physical environment provides relevant stimuli to the user and the digital devices are adding, augmenting information to enrich the cognitive representation. In this case there is a combined, partly digital, partly physical stimulated representation of the learning environment.

4. The side-by-side case: the digital devices are added to a physical environment to support additional learning functions such as information, support, tests and feedback, but the digital devices are ignorant of the actual physical environment. All information about the physical environment should be added to the device by the user. For example when students are presented with tasks to execute in their physical environment, but they need to input the results to the digital device themselves. In this case the user’s representation of the learning environment is fragmented: the physical parts and the digital parts.

5. The classical case: the physical environment provides relevant stimuli, and there are no additional digital relevant signals. This is ‘old school’ situation where humans are interacting and learning without the help of any digital device. In this case there is a representation of the learning environment by the user that is stimulated by the physical environment.

Source: http://slejournal.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40561-014-0005-4

Therefore the ideal according Wall is: 

The embedded case: the physical environment provides relevant stimuli to the user and the digital devices are adding, augmenting information to enrich the cognitive representation. In this case there is a combined, partly digital, partly physical stimulated representation of the learning environment.

This makes sense to me, I'd call this a well integrated blended learning space. 

At this point Mascorella took over. 

What do we want the students to achieve in this space?
What do the students want to achieve in this space?
What do the teachers want to achieve in this space?

Educators and experts often design these spaces in isolation. 

This reminded me of Chris Bradbeer's blogpost about the process where student voice contributed to the Stonefield Schools second build. 

Mascorella talked of the need for the designers to start with the needs of the learners, to start with end in mind. 

He also talks about the need to teach the teachers how to use the space. 

Have stopped processing. Brain is now near to overflowing. Which doesn't bode well for my near. graveyard shift at 4pm!

Some good learning here at #futureschools. 

Thanks for a great Day One. 

Stephen Lethbridge - The Race to Makerspace #futureschools

Stephen Lethbridge presenting at Future Schools
After warming up the crowd with a few Dad jokes like only Lethbridge can. He then began the session with a moments silence and this quote:

“So the urgent drives out the important; the future goes largely unexplored; and the capacity to act, rather than the capacity to think and imagine becomes the sole measure for leadership.”

- Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad: "Competing for the Future"

What is the proliferation of Makerspaces doing? is it a case of a good idea being scaled up and watered down? Is it keeping up with Joneses? He then talked about the renaming of Woodwork to Hard Technology, the change from Cooking to Food Technology. But has anything really changed??

He also challenged the notion of even having a dedicated space. Or that making can only happen in a certain space or in a certain class. He talked about us needing to consider the one important space - the mind and the idea that being a maker  is about having a "maker mindset".

He also talked about the importance of open source software as we need to be able to share.

Lethbridge talked about how then maker movement is born out of the Constructivism movement.

As Lethbridge stated, we are kidding ourselves if we think the tools at the expo are going to change anything, it's going to take a change in mindset. Biggest impact is going to be changing mental models.

But let's face it, Kimberly says it best. ;-)


Maker Culture from EDtalks on Vimeo.

As Lethbridge quite rightly states, you don't need a space to this.

Provocation based learning - I like this idea Lethbridge. As he states, teachers shouldn't have all the answers. There's a lot of unlearning for our adults to do.

We need to be talking about the systemic structures that help us to grow the mindset.

At Taupaki they have the following enabling systemic structure.

Systemic Structure #1 - Make Club
@MakeClub_NZ where kids can come as long as the adults come along, thereby educating the parents. As he states, a space is great, but it doesn't need to be a special space. It's run as an iterative model. There's only one question - what are you making? The essence of Make Club is an apprenticeship. If you don't know what to do in Make Club, you find someone who can teach you.

Systemic Structure #2 - Coaching and Co-teaching
Sharing expertise and tapping into teacher passions. How can you tap into the teachers passion and introduce tech that way. E.g A teacher who is passionate about Art might be introduced to tech and making through binary art.

Lethbridge talked about his role as role model, if he wants to teachers to have courage, he needs to lead mistake maker. Show that it is safe to try and fail.

Leaders need to stay connected. Keep current, keep learning. Follow hashtags. If you don't do it, give resourcing and license for others to do this. Are you still growing your own capacity.

He ended with encouraging people to use the hashtag #makeanywhere

Darren Cox - Developing a School Culture of Professional Learning #futureschools

Darren Cox presenting at Future Schools
Well this is a topic close to my heart.

This guy is loud and fast - a good thing to note as I can be exactly the same and I'm speaking in two hours time. Must not get too shouty. Must not get too shouty. Must not get too shouty.

He began by asking us why we became a teacher. He shared his story, what made him become a teacher and thanked the people who supported him along the way. Cox started teaching at 18 and became an Assistant Principal at 25, working with a lady with a drinking problem. He paused. This was a leadership opportunity for him.

As a leader, do we have an aspiring vision, are we empowering the students and tapping into what motivates them? Everything rises and falls on Leadership. You cannot lead people you are righting off - good statement. You need to like and believe the people you are leading. We need to view our staff as talent with capabilities that we need to tap into.

Without vision people perish. You need a long range vision - it helps in times of short term failures. It keeps people inspired and motivated. People are called to the vision and have a shared sense of ownership. Vision is caught not taught. It needs to alive and infectious. Calling to that preferred future. Students, staff and parents need to know that this what we are all about. Vision helps motivate highly effective people.

Culture. We need to name and identify our culture. Cox spoke of their four cultural values. You need to name the cultural values and identify the behavioural indicators that go with it. Staff need to hold each other accountable. You don't need to be the boss to deal with this, the teacher next door can call them on it -it can be a conversation, not a confrontation (this guy gives good one liners!). His four cultural values: unity through respectful relationships, integrity and honesty of character, supportive collaborative relationships and continuous improvement of practice. Every staff interaction either builds or busts culture.

Once you shirk from one of your leadership challenges you are on a slippery slope. You cannot give up on challenging staff members. He then talked about their processes - regular observations, personal professional learning plans, coaching conversations - all good stuff.

He also spoke of the roles they have created in the school - short term project roles or year long roles, to provide greater leadership opportunities. The application process alone is a useful mechanism for gathering info about leadership aspirations across the staff.

Be familiar with your own strengths and weaknesses. Know your staff. Hold them accountable and give them freedom to fail.

As I said - great with the one liners.

Erin Weightman - Reimagining Education, Revisioning the Future #futureschools

Erin Weightman speaking at Future Schools
Erin spoke of the the process of re-imagining secondary education at Surf Coast Secondary School. So interesting to hear a school going through such a similar journey to Hobsonville Point Secondary School. She spoke of integrated learning, of teachers working with teams of three teachers within a collapsed timetable. She then spoke of how they used SOLO taxonomy to scaffold the complexity of learning and talked of how they worked on projects under an umbrella concept - sustainable futures. This is all so HPSS! You can see what we are doing at HPSS here.

The only tinge of disappointment was the use of closed proprietary software - iTunes U - I have no issue with Apple, heck I am an Apple fan girl, my issue is using a platform that can only be consumed (properly) through an iPad. I did however the way they used the iTunesU courses to give students choice, agency and access to 24/7 learning. Also worried about the flurry of photos being taken of the iTuneU slide - the platform isn't the answer people. It is also potentially a digital worksheet. Don't drink the kool aid people.

It was heartening to hear that they also used Google Apps - so at least they are not an "Apple" school. There was however a sense that there was a very prescribed approach to how students were taught. I get the desire for a consistent pedagogical approach, but is there professional autonomy, can teachers be creative and responsive?? It was great to see technology was being leveraged, but was the pedagogical freedom that can be achieved through technology integration being leveraged as well. Not sure, would love to learn more!

Don't get me wrong, it was awesome to hear what was happening, great to see the work student's were producing and I really want them to be our sister school! My criticisms about the software is bugbear of mine and not personal at all.

Erin rounded off her talk with areas they were focusing on growing. Great to see such important ideas at the heart of their thinking.

Deep Learning
Authenticity
Personalisation in the Senior Years
General Capabilities



Larry Rosenstock - The World is Changing...Schools are Not #FutureSchools

Larry Rosenstock speaking at Future Schools
I have enjoyed stalking Larry Rosenstock for some time now. I first came across him when I heard about High Tech High a couple of years back and then last year I was lucky enough to sit on a panel with him at EduTech. He was also one of the central players in the recent documentary 'Most Likely to Succeed'. So many reasons to be a ardent fan girl.

Larry began his talk by giving a background and insight into the path that led to High Tech High - a K12 charter school, now a chain of charter schools.

He then talked about the first teachers and schools, such as the basket weaver who taught others to weave baskets. He also talked of the great teachers he had and talked about the importance of thanking the teachers we loved and acknowledged the importance of the passion that they shared.

He talked about the importance of the Socratic Method - a technique that we see used at the beginning of Most Likely to Succeed.

Rosenstock worked as a carpenter and attended law school - which provides a lovely parallel of High Tech High which celebrates its integration of technology and academic learning - which also reflects much of what we do at Hobsonville Point Secondary School.

Campbell's Law
He noted that the above image is above his office and also 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. Again, this reminds me of the work we do at HPSS. It is simply about actually using best practice and not simply doing what schools have done for the last 100 years.

Rosentock also 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.

He then showed several projects coming out of High Tech High, each demonstrating the intersection of technology and academic thinking, many integrating Art and Math. One thing I noted was the way that learning was elevated by the beautiful spaces they worked in. Educational author Gail Loane talks about the power of learners publishing writing raises their status to author, I get the sense that at High Tech High the way student work gets exhibited elevates them to artist and inventors - something any school could learn from. 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.

"Thanks for putting up with me."

Dude, I love putting up with you.

Rosenstock then ended by answering my question about one piece of advice he might give traditional schools.

His answer:

End the autonomous isolation of teachers.

Break the siloes of subjects.

I agree, in fact here is a post from earlier in the year when I tackled this question:

Blue Sky High - Five things every secondary schools should do...now.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Blue Sky High - five things every secondary school should implement...now


Apologies in advance. This appears to be my annual end of summer "what needs to be changed in schools" rant. All this "not blogging" over summer has resulted in pent up edu-righteousness that must be unloaded.


So, what happens when you take 15 years of teaching and leading at four different fairly traditional, fairly engaging, high performing secondary schools, add three years of innovation incubation as part of the establishment Senior Leadership Team at Hobsonville Point Secondary School (HPSS) and throw in a bit of Most Likely to Succeed (documentary and book)? For me it's resulted in the creation of Blue Sky High.

Actually, to be honest, Blue Sky High has been with me for a while now. Some people have imaginary friends, not me, I'm all about the imaginary high school. Blue Sky High isn't a new school, because to me that's not where the potential necessarily lies. Blue Sky High is all of the schools I've worked in and all of the schools I dream of leading one day. It's a hypothetical "every school" that I continually assess and reassess in light of the learning I am doing at HPSS (and believe me, the learning is huge) and the learning I do with every event I speak at, every conference I attend, every group or committee I sit on, every bit of research and stories I read or watch and every educator I meet. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time daydreaming, planning and plotting about what I would change, what I would introduce and what I might take away if I was in the position to do so.

Of course every school has it's own context and its own specific community needs and opportunities and there is no one size fits all solution, nor is it ever one person's job to affect or demand change. There is however a few key things I keep coming back to, that I reckon could improve any and every school I can think of - improving schools without taking away the special character or flavour that makes a school what it is. I believe that implementing the following five things would be a relatively easy way for any school to evolve so as to ensure students are gaining the skills needed now (not 100 years ago) and in the future. Whether you refer to them as the infuriatingly named "21st century skills" such as collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking, or simply as a way of genuinely fostering what the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) refer to as key competencies, particularly relating to others, managing self and participating and contributing. And the awesome thing about NZ and our self-managing schools is that all of these things could be implemented tomorrow. 

1. One to one devices with an open internet
I nearly didn't include this one as I feel like it's so damn obvious. But alas I know that it is not necessarily the case. So, number one, get a solid wifi infrastructure and open up that Internet. Invest in digital citizenship programmes over surveillance software. Students will binge on Facebook/Spotify/YouTube etc for a time and then they won't, or at least they won't binge too much if the learning is engaging. Yes you will have to be vigilant, you will need to move from the front of the classroom and be among your students. Stop fretting over filtering and control and just get on and encourage and support each and every student to bring in a laptop and use it effectively. Yes some students will struggle to afford a device but increasingly suppliers are offering very affordable hire purchase options and what you save on computer labs can be invested in chrome books or affordable laptops that can be lent to those that need them through the library. "One to one" is the key, not optional BYOD as this will only add to teacher workload as they double up on paper and digital approaches - teachers will also use this as a handy excuse to not evolve their approaches, and fair enough too if it's all a bit "here and there". Teachers are bloody busy, they deserve nothing less than one to one if they are going to learn and leverage new strategies, they need to be able to do so efficiently. Bite the bullet, just do it. It is only when you have all students connected that you can genuinely transform how you manage learning and can use e-learning to support, extend and personalise learning and assessment. Or even better you can let the students take the lead, choose the tools, sources and mode for capturing and evidencing learning in a way that engages and supports them. And of course students can still work by hand, make, create, talk, roll around in butchers paper and connect face to face. Believe me, I have experienced every shade of BYOD, diving in the deep end is way less painless than nervously dipping your toes and wondering why learning isn't being transformed. 

Now on to the genuinely exciting ideas (each of which will be enhanced if kids develop digital literacy AND have digital freedom so as to support real agency).

2. Spend more time doing less
One thing of which I am sure - we are rushing teachers and students, doing too much, too quickly. For years I have heard teachers wail about the loss of flexibility, freedom and time, how we used to have time to play and dive deep. Well, news flash, we have created the beast of busyness ourselves. We have added more and more and more and have failed to do anywhere near enough editing. We jam learning into bite size portions, insulting young people's ability to stay focused for anymore that 40-50 minutes at a time. The reality is we over teach, over assess and often cover a whole lot of "stuff" that we are clinging on to because we as teachers love it and are convinced they need all of it. One of the biggest personal learning curves I have experienced at HPSS is that students don't need all that stuff and we don't need to teach all aspects of every learning area every year. At HPSS we are exploring the idea of "threshold concepts" - these are the concepts from each learning area that must be learnt and understood in order for students to progress. The other trick is making Year 9 and 10 a single two year programme - that way content can be almost halved in most learning areas, giving much more time and space for deep learning and inquiry.  

However simply pruning programmes is not enough. 

Classes need to be respectful of a student's need to take time. Time to not just "be taught", but time to engage in deep learning and independent inquiry. This can not be achieved in 45 minutes. After 15 years of 45-60 minute periods in a range of schools and three years of 90 minute blocks at HPSS I am embarrassed that I ever gave students less time and expected deep learning to occur. Students and teachers need time for a whole raft of reasons. Students need it so they have time to engage in deep learning, they need time so they can engage in self-directed learning, they need time to think/wonder/ponder, they need time to create, time to fail, they need time to simply learn how to manage time. Teachers need time to get out of the way. So often in a 45-50 minute block, we really only have the time to share our "brilliance" with our students. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with John Hattie last year and he out and out challenged me when I declared I only spent 15 minutes in a block direct teaching, he reckons even if my direct teaching time was minimal he doubted I clocked less than 30 minutes airtime (and of course he had data to back this up). And he was probably right. The joy of a 90 minute block is I can engage in direct teaching for up to 30 minutes (if it's even necessary) and still have 60 minutes for group or self-directed work, completing challenges, discussion, inquiry and creation. Suck 30 minutes out of 45 minutes and you barely have time for students to arrive and settle at the beginning and pack up at the end. At HPSS we have 90 minute blocks and no bells and surprisingly students often need to be prompted to stop working. Deep learning is bloody hard to achieve when you barely have time to breath. 

3. Connected interdisciplinary learning
Another huge learning curve I have experienced at HPSS is the power of connected interdisciplinary learning. Our foundation programme (a composite two year Year 9 and 10 programme) includes a number of co-taught modules where two learning areas come together to teach under a common concept or theme. For example I have taught an English and Science module with Danielle Myburgh called Game Over that looked at the gamification of war through the novel Enders Game, explored the nature of science through a science fiction lens and researched the science of gaming. I taught an English and Social Science module with Sarah Wakeford called Freedom Fighters to Freedom Writers which looked at Black Civil Rights in history and through the text Freedom Writers Diary and went on to explore this in a NZ context through the Treaty of Waitangi and Parihaka through a Social Studies and literature lens. There is no question, learning is deeper if it is connected and contextualised. Time and time again I have seen students experiencing enhanced learning in each learning area by the the addition of a second one. Maths is given an authentic context by applying it to Technology, representation of ideas in English literature are taken to the next level when explored through the Arts. Combining two learning areas has been made possible by our physical learning environment at HPSS with two teachers being able to teach 50+ students in an large learning common (we are working from the same student teaching ratio as any other school in NZ), this of course is nigh on impossible in the traditional single cell classroom environment. However all is not lost. Often, in many schools, junior programmes are organised in form classes that move through much of the day together (bar the odd bit of needless streaming...I'll save that odious topic for another blogpost). All it would take for many schools to make this shift is for a series of common concepts or themes to be established and a mechanism whereby the teachers of each form class commit to some serious time and effort to connect their learning by planning together. Maybe they could allow the students to work smarter by completing overarching inquiries and projects that counted for more than one learning area. Yes this would take time and fair bit of effort (although platforms such as Hapara Workspace can make this surprising easy to manage) but imagine what you could achieve and how all of you might learn from each other and the way you might share and learn from one another's student data. This would of course rely on schools giving each and everyone of their teachers the autonomy to plan their courses as they see fit for their learners - now wouldn't that be a bloody marvellous idea! 

4. Large scale long term project learning
Connecting the learning as outlined above is an awesome first step in deepening learning, it doesn't however allow for the genuine interdisciplinary learning that can be achieved through large scale and long term project learning. I know many schools collapse a week or a few days here and there to engage in rich tasks or cross-curricular project learning events, these are great, but I actually reckon the skills and dispositions developed through interdisciplinary project learning are best experienced over time, deserving the same status as any one of the "core subjects" we seem to defend, obsess and froth over. I have long admired the work that Albany Senior High School (ASHS) do through their Impact Projects and am surprised that more haven't followed suit. In many ways ASHS have pioneered and paved the way for what we are doing at HPSS, giving students two thirds of every Wednesday to engage in large scale, long term projects which run for a semester (half a school year) which see them addressing an issue or need, providing a solution, a service or designing a product for a very real client or partner. This is a great way to authentically introduce "service learning" and has been a great way for students to explore and address issues around sustainability within a very real community context. In the junior programme these programmes are led and managed by the teachers (project guides) with the idea that as students move into senior school they will have gained the skills required to start developing their own impact projects with the support of a project guide. Personally I can see a whole lot of sense in dedicating a day a week to project learning, that way making the entire school focus on the same thing and teachers and facilities from across the school are available as needed. It also requires having a person or team that can help develop partnerships with local community groups and businesses - imagine how your students might serve your (and their) local community if they had a dedicated day a week to do so. Of course you will need to make space in your curriculum to make this work (refer back to point two - this will require a bit healthy pruning in each of those core subject areas to make space for project learning that quite possibly dips into each of these subjects anyway). To make it genuinely engaging students need to have options and choices, being able to select a project focus that interests them in the junior school and ultimately developing an impact project that lets them explore their interests and passions in the senior school. This requires project guides that are flexible and responsive - a challenge, but so worth it when you consider they way that projects allow students to really express and develop each of the key competencies and are way more likely, more so than any one subject, to prepare them for their lives and careers beyond school. As an aside I would love to see NZ adopt a Project Learning qualification similar to the one offered in South Australia (SACE) where all Year 12 students engage in a year long Research Project which are then celebrated through a state wide exhibition of learning - what a great way to measure the development some of our key competencies through important and engaging context. 

5. Home rooms with real academic coaching
Like projects, I believe form classes and home rooms deserve real time. Before HPSS I had only really experienced the 15 minute form time, which lay outside teaching contact time so often achieving little more than a quick hello, roll take and if you are lucky a rousing rendition of the Daily Notices. We then try and add academic coaching and/or mentoring and wonder why they fail or result in very little. Deans take care of the meaty matters and teachers take care of admin. At HPSS we have Learning Hubs where teachers spend three 90 minute blocks a week, dedicated to looking after the whole student. In the last two years this has been shaped loosely around a curriculum divided into three areas - my learning, my community and my being. Hub time is a time for meeting with students one to one, setting goals, reflecting on learning, learning to learn developing dispositions we refer to as the "Hobsonville Habits". Coaches communicate home every two to three weeks and students stay (where possible - this is hard to achieve in establishment phase) with the same coach for their five years at high school. In many ways the coach is like a form teacher on steroids combined with a dean and career adviser - they are the "go-to adult" for that student throughout their secondary schooling. Many of you probably baulking at the 3x 90 minutes (yes, this means more subject specific pruning) but I reckon at least 2x 60-90 minute blocks of home room time would be worth their weight in (pedagogical and wellbeing) gold. Imagine what might be achieved within a vertical group, the kind of student mentoring that could be developed, the way you could develop the skills and dispositions that would support your mentoring, academic coaching, restorative practice and PB4L initiatives. This gives you the space for that important cross curricular learning around such things as digital citizenship, anti-bullying, wellbeing and learning to learn strategies. This time becomes especially important as your school moves to an increasing student centred approach where learner agency is encouraged - students can succeed at large stints of self-directed learning, but they are teenagers and will always need your guidance, challenge and support. 

Of course there are many other things we could change or do, such as ensuring every teacher engages in teaching as inquiry, or even better - spirals of inquiry. Schools could develop a common language of learning, provide more student choice and encourage greater learner agency. But I reckon if the five ideas above were adopted, many of these other things would occur in the long term anyway. I recognise that many schools are doing one or more of the things outlined above already, however I believe the key is not glacial incremental adoption of one, two or three of these things, I actually reckon it's doing all of them and more depending on the particular needs of your students and community. I actually have an alternate daydream where I abolish all timetables and subjects in favour of a series of self-directed challenges and projects with learning guides helping students to navigate through the curriculum - but one thing I have learned at HPSS is the importance of taking people with you. The five ideas suggested above are completely doable - if you believe they aren't, I suspect you might be underestimating yourself as well as your staff, students and wider community. To paraphrase Grant Lichtman - educational change isn't hard, it's simply uncomfortable. Remember the purpose of education is not just good NCEA grades or achieving University Entrance, it has to be way bigger than that if we have any chance in preparing our young people for an ever changing and increasingly challenging world we live in. I like how Wagner and Dintersmith sum up what the purpose of education should be in their book Most Likely to Succeed:

The purpose of education is to engage students with their passions and growing sense of purpose, teach them critical skills needed for career and citizenship, and inspire them to do their very best to make their world better. 

Are we meeting that purpose with arcane, disconnected, single subject learning, or could we be doing a whole lot better by making just a few small but significant changes? I would be interested in your thoughts.

What changes would you make at your Blue Sky High?

Finally credit where credit is due. Thanks (or possibly apologies) to the following people for being such key influencers resulting in this particular rant. Maurie, Lea, Di and the whole HPSS team (I honestly think I've learnt as much in the last three years as I did in the 15 before that). This post is also a direct response of spending my last week of the summer holidays reading Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith's Most Likely to Succeed (which I highly recommend - if nothing else it made me very proud of the NZC and NZ education system - but equally annoyed that we don't take greater advantage of the freedom we have here to implement their recommendations) which provides the research and provocations that led to the documentary of the same name being made. Getting to meet and speak with High Tech High's Larry Rosenstock last year at EduTech had a profound impact, as did working and presenting with #EdJourney author Grant Lichtman at Ulearn and our very own Staff Only Day. The other two educators that provided influential ear worms that firmed up my thinking were my new found friends from Learning2 Manila - make sure you check out the Learning2 talks from Sam Sherratt and Reid Wilson