Sunday, 29 May 2016

Changes - the COLS are Coming.

It is a time of change in education.  Big changes.  In New Zealand, we are adopting a new approach for schools.  Instead of being relatively independent entities, schools are being encouraged to join a community of learners (COL) - that is,  a community of schools.  When I say encouraged, I mean that it is not compulsory, but as the Ministry of Education will prioritise any free professional learning for the schools inside a Communities of Learners, it seems pretty imperative to try to join up if you want access to that, for a start.
The idea is that together, the learners (teachers and students) will be able to draw on the strengths of all contributing schools.  Which is admirable - I like this image that was shared with me at a conference last week.  There is a lot of potential for schools to draw on the strengths of others.

The average number of schools in a COL is around 10 and they include primary and secondary schools, so there should be a reasonably wide range of expertise across the schools.  Together the schools are expected to look at their data and formulate achievement challenges which reflect how they will, as a group, improve outcomes for their learners.  The Ministry of Education will then aim to provide the professional development that the community needs, if the expertise is not available in those schools.
The disadvantages that I see coming are firstly that small schools, particularly those which are isolated, will miss out.  These schools have very limited budgets.  Often their clientele migrate to far off boarding schools and so they are not feeder schools for any secondary schools and so they are unlikely to be able to form a COL easily.
In addition, when communities of schools are in close proximity to each other,  they will likely adopt the "flavour" of that community.  I believe this means that in a low socio-economic region, the school will likely adopt a low socioeconomic outlook and likewise for high socioeconomic areas.  Personally, I would like to see a lot more cross pollination of ideas and resources that can help raise achievement for the learners.  The way that the COLs "form, storm, norm and perform" and develop their collaborative identity will be crucial to avoid glitches caused by competition and ego clashes.
These are my initial thoughts around the COLs and I do realise that the landscape is changing by the day.  I welcome any feedback and discussion on this subject.

Why Do Learners Engage in Learning?

This infographic gives us 26 tips on why humans engage in learning.   I am sure a lot of these resonate with us as teachers.  They are as follows:  I wonder if you can think of other reasons why your learners engage in learning.

  1. Compliance.
  2. Gap Awareness.
  3. Curiosity
  4. Intrigue
  5. Challenge
  6. Craftsmanship.
  7. Contribution.
  8. Authentic.
  9. Reflection.
  10. Consequence. 
  11. Fear. 
  12. Burn.
  13. Collaboration. 
  14. Competition. 
  15. Flow. 
  16. Fun. 
  17. Agency. 
  18. Teaching. 
  19. Empathy. 
  20. Narrative. 
  21. Feedback
  22. Affection. 
  23. Reward. 
  24. Cause. 
  25. FOMO. 
  26. Connection.26 Impulses that Sustain Engagement Infographic

Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

How nice!

I was in a school today where the teacher asked me if I wouldn't mind answering some big picture questions about the use of digital technologies for learning.  Now this is more like it!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Arggghhhh - I heard it again!!!!

Yes I heard it again - someone discussing in a restaurant how computers in classrooms are really bad for the students' education.  OMG - please, get in the real world.  We are surrounded by computers, often immersed in them in our daily lives. The are INTEGRATED into our world.  That is right, integrated!  As they should be in the classroom.
Computers and digital technologies do not stop us getting on with our lives - they enhance it.  How awesome to go for a walk with my granddaughter this morning, check out our distance on the phone en route, take a snapshot of the lake and city lights to store in my google photos to look at when I am old and cannot walk any more.

How awesome to be able to google for a friend what colour hood to wear for her graduation so she could look for the right outfit.
How fabulous for my granddaughter to face-time her friend every morning as they get ready for school and discuss everything that teenagers do discuss.  And yes, she still talks to the family here, in fact they all talk to each other.
How amazing to talk for free on Mother's day to my daughter in the outbacks of Australia, and to share the photo of how many steps I walked.  
How astonishing that the team that I work with live from Gisborne to Tauranga to Rukuhia to Taupo and yet we all know each other better than colleagues that I have lived next to in the past.
How empowering to have a professional learning network of over 20,000 NZ teachers on Facebook with whom I can interact daily, along with all the other national and global PLNs I use - VPLD, VLN, etc.
I go back to my previous post and quote my colleague Jan- Marie Kellow, again.
             "Any tool used poorly without a sound pedagogical basis will be ineffective or even damaging. I have seen the effects of digital technology used well and the results are amazing. Far from isolating students it connects them globally and the creative results can be awesome and empowering. 

               As for sitting for long periods, this is certainly not new, just take a look at pictures of classrooms taken in the past, sitting for long periods was certainly the norm then. I would argue that in modern collaborative, innovative classrooms there is a lot less sitting than there ever was in the past. And having devices in a classroom does not mean you can't go outside for PE or sports."

If you are having thoughts that digital technologies in schools are bad for the students, then you need to look again.  Is it the way they are being used in your school?  Ask questions - how are the digital technologies being used in your child's school?

As Andreas Scheicher (OECD head) says "The biggest barrier (to improved outcomes) probably is the delivery in the classroom  - Intelligent use and effective integration (of the technology) - thats where most of the work is needed." 

See - there is that word again - integration!

Sunday, 8 May 2016


VPLD stands for virtual professional learning and development.  It is a programme I have been privileged to be involved with since March 2011. The last VPLD hui is coming up soon because the Ministry of Education is calling a halt to the contract at the end of 2016.
Without VPLD I would not be where I am today.  I have been mentored by a succession of supportive and awesome people.  In return, I have offered mentoring to others who have joined in along the way. It's like that ad.  You tell two people and they tell two people and they tell two more people and soon..... everyone wins.

As a result of the mentoring, it is a big part of my journey and my VPLD story is summarised is these slides.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

GAFE learnings

I have been presenting at the GAFE Edtech Summits in Auckland and Wellington over the school holiday break, leading a couple of workshops at each one.  In between my own workshops, I attended a number of other workshops and keynotes that were not only fun and full of learning, they were inspirational (and I do not use that word lightly because it is bandied around in social media so much I have almost removed it from my vocabulary as a protest.)

The main shift that I noticed was the move to more questioning -  questioning every moment in the classroom.  Is this the best learning for my students?  Why is it the best learning?  Am I prepared to take a risk to learn better ways?  Did the risk pay off?  There was also huge shift into the discussion of creativity as being the vehicle for learning.   How will creativity promote learning?   So exciting to hear these questions leading to rigorous conversations around why our learners are at school.

One of the other main themes was about change.

  • Letting go of old ways.
  • Taking risks.
  • Letting go of the trapeze.
  • Being adaptable.
  • Walking the bridge of creativity into transformative practice.
  • Living life in Beta.
I liked the things I heard.  

10 things that baffle the hell out of me.

  1. Educators who have no idea of why they are teaching whatever they are teaching. If you are one of these, go and find out now before you ruin the education of your learners.
  2. Educators who think that blocking websites and apps is a good way to protect their learners from internet evils.  Educate them instead about the good, the bad and the ugly.
  3. Educators who think that their technicians know the best digital options for learning.  Enough said. Worthy of a whole blog post by itself.
  4. Educators who think they are there to teach the national standards and or the achievement standards.
  5. Educators who feel pressured to buy/make gifts for their students at the end of the year, and go ahead and do so.
  6. Educators who spend their own money on classroom resources.  Stop it now.  You are making a self-perpetuating monster of low school funding.
  7. Educators who don't like students using phones in their classes because they are worried they will lose control.  Come into the 21st Century and realise what a fabulous learning resource phones are.
  8. Educators who cannot spell online despite spell check on computers (which I know is not fail-safe but least try to use it.)
  9. Educators who consider their well equipped school computer labs illustrate that their teachers are using 21st century learning.  They don't.  Integration is the answer.
  10. Educators who have no idea of good grammar and/or punctuation. (Is this really an issue anymore, am I stuck on last century ideas of what "well-educated" means?)