27 June 2015

Obvious to You: Amazing to Others!

We finished last term with an open acknowledgement that all of us had found ourselves in the pit at some stage in the first half of our first year. When you are there, it can often feel that you have little to give or to offer. It is fair to say that we are clearly bad judges of our own ideas and creations... I share this 'oldie but a goodie' as a friendly reminder for those who may feel like I so often do. 

22 June 2015

My latest read has been "Digital Leadership" by Eric Sheninger (@E_Sheninger).
I am currently thinking about effective implementation of digital learning at our school. My personal belief is that technology should support and enhance learning and not be the driver. It's important to really focus on how technology actually accomplishes this. 

Technology needs to be integrated with a clear purpose. The learners need to be able to create artefacts to demonstrate their mastery, ability to apply a range of new skills, construct and build on knowledge, and to develop a sense of agency or ownership of their learning. 

Eric Sheninger states that technology can also help educators to present learning opportunities that are more relevant and contextual to our learners. He also states that digital learning can allow learners to clearly see the value in their learning. 

The key to all of this is in developing a belief/ vision that is sustainable and leads to change that is sustainable and one that allows digital learning to become an embedded component of our culture of learning. The culture needs to be one that is receptive to digital learning and allows it to thrive. There cannot be isolated pockets of excellence but a collective belief, vision and agreed practices. 

Therefore, I believe my next steps are:
  • to build a shared vision: different stakeholders need input into this including the kids, the mentors and our community. 
  • to develop a strategic plan: Sheninger suggests the following questions... Why is this change needed? How will it be implemented? What resources are needed? How will we monitor progress and evaluate on a consistent basis? What other challenges have to be overcome?
  • ensure that there is adequate access. This is something I am very mindful of at the moment while we struggle with connectivity and early infrastructural issues. Next year, we hope to become BYOD but currently, I am not sure that our connectivity is robust enough. 
  • enable ongoing professional learning - this is paramount. We have talked lots about
    thresholds that we come from and assumptions but the reality is we all need to take a breath and reassess all of our understandings about the pedagogy of integrating devices into our learning habitats. Professional development needs to be embedded into our day to day practice.
  • support the team: there is a sense of readiness at school right now and I need to respond to this by providing the right amount of support. This needs to include empowerment and autonomy, flexibility and a culture of risk taking. 
  • maintain the intent: I need to consistently monitor and give feedback on digital learning activities based on my observations, evaluations, walk throughs and the artefacts I can collate. 
  • model good use: One of my goals this term was to find ways to model some basic uses and to provide learning opportunities to mentors. Best place for this so far has been during out professional learning meetings and our weekly briefing meeting. 
  • make time for learners' voice and choice: At the end of the day, it's all about the learning. Kids need to be able to decide on which digital tools they want to use to show what they have learnt. The key is being able to assess learning and not about how to use the tool. Kids need to be able to decide on the right tool for the job. 
So what? Next term... Make myself available to support mentors by infusing technology alongside their programmes, work alongside mentors during their release time to see how they are organising their digital platform, to inspire and support teams to see the value in our learning being transparent, ubiquitous and collaborative. 

15 June 2015

FYI - Watch it Again....

I truly enjoy the 'FYI's' that come in each Sunday from Ben. Tonight I am reminded to watch this again. It underpins our vision and who we are as a school...

While there is currently so much discussion about the fact that the shift needed in education is about the pedagogy rather than the buildings, there is something very unique about the beginnings of a brand new school. When you sign up for a new school, you sign up to a blank canvas. There is no manual to guide you and there is no one leading the team forward other than the team itself. Each team member comes from a different threshold on every level of practice. They have their individual expectations and vision. It really is a chance to innovate education and lead our kids towards the '22nd Century'.

It is this blank canvas that totally drives me. Sometimes, it is all a bit overwhelming but most of the time it is exciting and challenging.  You see, I have been teaching for (more than) twenty years. I began just at the time that the 'new' curriculum draft was being rolled out and when Tomorrow's Schools became today's with their own governance in the form of Boards of Trustees. In my second year of teaching I was lucky enough to get my own classroom computer that sat in the corner and took 25 minutes to start up each morning.

In the time that I have been fortunate enough to be in teaching, change has been constant and it has been my driver. The reality though is that the change happened by osmosis and in most cases, we were self-taught, self-driven, making lots of mistakes and either learning from them or disappearing into the pit.

I think that is exactly why Sir Ken's talk about the climate of possibilities resonates for me. We can go into this journey with a blank canvas and bring with us a wisdom and an awareness of all of the possibilities. We need to remember what to leave behind and what to bring. We also need to remember that we can do things better than ever....

Honoured to have had Sir Ken himself read this post! 

I am really loving the possibilities of this journey.... but it can be exhausting at times!

13 June 2015

Adaptive Change

As a leader, I have learnt a lot about three barriers in particular. (Don't get me wrong... everyday has presented new learning and unforeseen challenges - most of which I have absolutely enjoyed!) To be totally  honest I had not even considered these areas and hence it is fair to say that this is where my biggest learning in leadership has been so far.
  1. Assumptions: of myself and others.
  2. Thresholds: the different places, practices, beliefs, mantra that we have come from.
  3. Change: adaptation is a major challenge even when it is a change that we were looking for.
I have just spent some time dipping in and out of Heifetz's book, "Leadership Without the Answers" and have been thinking about the challenge of change... 

Heifetz identifies two types of challenges: adaptive and technical. The technical challenges are solved by experts ie. there is a known fix for the challenge. Technical change occurs when the problem is easy to define, a solution is obvious and implementation is clear. Adaptive challenges require new learning and the change must come from the collective intelligence of the team. This, says Heifetz, is key to learning the way  towards solutions. 

Fullan's wrote of "Three forces converging to break open prodigious possibilities" in  "A Rich Seam; How New Pedagogies find Rich Learning" last year. Amongst the three was his reference to change leadership merges top-down, bottom-up and sideways energies to generate change that is faster and easier than anything seen in the past efforts at reform. 

With some reflection, I think that many of us came to the point we are at right now expecting to face technical change. After all, we have this magnificent building and a team of passionate people. Having said that, there is no manual for this pedagogical shift, there are very few who have made significant changes and it is fair to say that no one has got it yet... We are surrounded by a change that cannot be fixed or lead by technical change. 

I am hugely mindful that we need to grow our organisation from within. We do not need to actively seek external expertise but instead, must keep asking ourselves the 'why' so that we have a shared understanding of the belief and the principles and practices will evolve collectively. It is also important that the team has a belief that we have the capacity to change because of the systems in place such as TAI and possibly design thinking (something I would like to explore and possibly implement into our professional learning meetings).

Heifitz suggests five strategic principles for leading adaptive change:
  1. Take a look at the 'big picture' and identify the adaptive change so that is can be addressed. He also make mention of Jim Collins here and the need to, " confront the brutal facts".
  2. Ensure that the climate maintains in the productive zone of disturbance so that the team is able to maintain functionality but also learn new things and think creatively about the possible solutions. I liked his metaphor: "keep the heat up without blowing up the vessel".
  3. Make sure that everyone is engaged and minimise the distractions including scapegoating, denial or blaming people as opposed to the issue. It is interesting that Heifitz also mentions here that it is easy to pretend that the challenge is technical rather than adaptive and also that people have a tendency to slip back into old behaviours unless the focus is kept at the forefront.
  4. Share the load; allow others to take responsibility for the challenge and the change but at a rate that they can handle it. Change happens best when confidence is instilled with encouragement and support and if everyone is a part of the change. 
  5. Encourage voice; everyone needs to be heard including the 'dissenters'. Celebrate the input and suggestions from every team player. 

10 June 2015

BYOD... Where to Next...

Thanks to my wonderful PLN on Twitter, I was able to attend a webinair this evening about Rolling Out Chromebooks.
I still enjoy being able to tap into others' experiences and piecing together what is right for us by reflecting on others' journeys and am always grateful for the free sharing that takes place.
These were my main take-aways from Blake's (@BlakeSeufertsession...
Firstly, (it's a given) that implementation does not lead to effective classroom practice. This becomes another prong to the leadership role. The three pillars to adoption include change management of the following:base level of access including wifi, devices, etc. No point moving ahead until the system is robust.professional development: external experts creating confidence: teachers have steps in place, realistic timelines etc. to get things fixed. (prevent people being jaded and burnt by the potential transformation)The web is an integral component to education now. It is a key tool to acquiring knowledge. The device is the tool; a paintbrush or a magnifying glass. Chromebooks are unique as a device=boot time <5 seconds (2-3 with new CBs from power on to onto the web) Really Fast7.5 hours per battery security of the device: hands off… self updates including security and apps, protection against malware, no third partyapps: a shortcut to a website or a link - look for pixlr, audio, WeVideo  and WeVideo Next which you can work off line with USB with, edit, etc and then upload.You can pin apps to the task bar.Need to explore a white glove service for student’s chromebooks My next steps:

  • Privacy agreement is vital… 
  • Attend the Communicating change and school branding webinar.
  • Ensure that single sign in providers can navigate to chrome
  • Allow kids access to apps - freedom to innovate
  • Introduce emails but make sure they are locked internally
  • survey staff - gage their interest/ support b4 introducing

I was affirmed by Blake's reference to the fact that "holistic students need a range of devices and platforms."

9 June 2015

The New Little School Down South....

Tonight I had to lead one of those nuts and bolts sessions that ensured we had a collective vision and practice that enables our shared vision.

I decided to start it with a reminder that the journey has gone before each of us that put their hand up for this to the very visionary locals that had  a vision for our school...