what I make

Last week while the entire student body was sitting on parade. I walked up to a student and held my hand up ready to receive a high-five from her. She slowly lifted her hand to meet mine.  I then turned around and walked off without saying a word.

Later that day as she walked into our Maths class she asked “why did you high-five me on parade in front of so many people?”

“Because of this” I said as I handed her an A4 piece of paper containing her final Year 11 Maths result. For the first time in her high school career she had passed maths.

She looked at the result, slowly looked up at me, her eyes starting to well, and said “I’m going to Europe.”

Ok, not quite the reaction I was expecting. As it turns out, her parents had told her that if she passed Maths this year she would be able to go on the school Europe trip the following year.

She asked if she could call her parents and tell them the great news. “Fine by me.”

When she returned to the class she said her dad had mixed emotions. He was very excited that she had passed maths, however now he needed to find the money to pay for the Europe trip.

“You just made my day sir!” She beamed.

“You just made my year” I thought as I politely smiled and nodded.

If I…

Just a little taste from our Principal’s presentation he gave to our school’s staff at the start of this year.

If I…

Then…

I am going to become a better teacher

becoming leaders in learning

Recently I have been working on creating a set of lessons to help staff explicitly teach Art Costa’s 16 Habits of Mind to our students.

The Habits of mind is one of the five Dimensions of Learning that drives our school’s pedagogical framework.

Through the research involved in coming up with resources for these lessons I stumbled across the following extract fromTowards a Quantum Mind by Marilyn Ferguson.

We can rationalize the failures of the past
or we can learn from them.

We can complain about the troubling inadequacies of the present
or we can face them.

We can talk and dream about the glorious schools of the future
or we can create them.

If we want children to learn to think and read,
we must show them thoughtful people eager to take in new information.

If we want them to be brave and resourceful,
let them see us risking a new idea or finding a way.

If we want them to be loyal, patriotic, and responsible,
let us show them that we can be true to our deepest principles.

If we want new and better schools,
we will have to be new and better people.

Marilyn Ferguson‘s extract is probably best suited for teachers than students. Unfortunately this may not make it past the ruthless cutting floor that is a document on my desktop titled hom-stuff.txt where I am dumping lesson ideas and resources.

But all is not lost… I can definitely see how this extract can be used to help promote discussion and challenge our thinking.

My favourite two lines from this extract are:

We can complain about the troubling inadequacies of the present
or we can face them.

We can talk and dream about the glorious schools of the future
or we can create them.

Too often I find we get bogged down in complaining about the lack of resources and time in education. Instead, we should be facing these issues head on and actively be seeking solutions.

We also spend a lot of time discussing what education will be like in the future, but how many of us are making this reality happen?

I liked the extract so much that I created a short (1 minute) video to show staff. I even managed to get some help with a little audio from a young Steve Jobs – watch video here, or on youTube.

The message I am trying to get across is WE CAN change education by continually improve our own practices and being prepared to courageously take risks and seek new and better solutions.

The only way for us to become leaders in learning is to become the learners we want our students to be.

we can…

class of 2011

grad_cake

Today, like most schools around this time, we had our Year 12 Graduation.

As the students and their proud parents entered the hall for the ceremony I started feeling envious just like I always seem to be at these occasions. I am jealous that it’s not me graduating all over again, like I did in 1995 from James Nash State High in Gympie.

I always think to myself “If only I knew then what I know now. I would have done so much differently?” Such is the power of hindsight. Of course it is impossible to articulate this to a young adult who has just finished high school. I know that it would have been a wasted conversation had anyone had it with me in ’95. I wasn’t thinking about changing the world, being a better person or taking the path less travelled. I was only thinking about schoolies and the fun we were going to have over the Christmas break, because not only were we adults, we were also bullet proof. Unfortunately, in hindsight we were neither.

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Creating Sustainable Change – Middle School Conference 2011

This is a presentation that I gave at the 2011 Middle Years of Schooling Association Conference on the Gold Coast. This presentation looks at how to create sustainable change within a school by using the diffusion of innovations as a framework. It focuses on getting the teachers involved in the process of deciding on the relevance of the innovation and implementing the innovation.

the paralysis of choice

running shoe shoppingFair to say I am a big fan of TED. I was even fortunate enough to score an invite to the independent TEDx event held in Brisbane earlier this year (which I blogged about).

My brother-in-law and I were recently discussing the TED Talk presented by Barry Schwartz about “the paradox of choice“. Schwartz identified issues with living in a world were we have too many choices. I see many correlations between what he was saying and the challenges we sometimes face as educators who are integrating ICT devices into the classroom.

“With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all” Barry Schwartz

When making a decision about a certain ICT device it is easy to get struck by the “paralysisof choice”. There are just too many choices when it comes to mobile phones, digital cameras, MP3 players etc…

The important thing to remember is that eLearning is NOT about the device. It is also NOT about how good the device is. It is about what you are doing with the device, how well that device integrates into the classroom and how the device improves student outcomes.

Don’t get paralysed by choice – It really doesn’t matter that much. Don’t be afraid of choosing a device that is not the “best device”, be more afraid of not choosing one at all.

Here are my simple steps to choosing an ICT device.

  1. Do some research.
  2. Choose a device that falls within your budget and is easy to use.
  3. Tell yourself “this is a good device because it does what I want it to do, but it is not the best”. Because quite frankly there is probably a better device out there. Or if there isn’t now, there will be soon.
  4. Forget about the specifications of the device and concentrate on how you are using it to improve student outcomes

If you are at peace with the fact that you haven’t got the best device then you won’t be surprised or disappointed when you come across a better device (and you will).

Integrating digital technologies into the classroom is not about the device, it is about the pedagogy.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/20645801@N00/363901346

my interpretation of transformational learning

I am currently engaging in a process to (hopefully) achieve my Digital Pedagogy Licence Advanced as a part of Education Queensland’s Smart Classrooms Initiative.

This week’s focus was on the Transformational Learning Theory and we were asked to reflect on the potential for application of transformative theory within our contexts. Here is my response:

My initial (and brief) interpretation of transformational learning was the following 4 action words.

Critically think…

Engage…

Question…

Reflect…

I created this short clip to demonstrate my  initial thoughts about transformational learning:

In my context

Being a leader within my school and having access to opportunities where I get to present to staff in both ‘whole of staff’ and ‘small group’ settings I will use the theories of transformational learning to get teachers thinking about change within their context.

Here are some examples of how I can demonstrate to other staff members how they too can learn within a teaching context.

To teach is to learn…

I will ask staff to Question - What barriers are we as educators putting in the way for students learning? This concept of questioning is what I feel most of us will struggle with the. Alan November summed it up best when he said “You have to admire schools’ ability to resist change”. Just because it has “always been that way”, or that “it is how you did it when you were a student” doesn’t always make it the best way.

We MUST prepare students for where they are going not where we have been. To truly do this and not just say we are going to do this we MUST look at what and how we do what we do. We need to “Challenge the unquestioning acceptance of what you have come to know”.

We need to redefine what the key “literacy’s” are, or will be in the future. Alvin Toffler identifies that “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”.

Once again, I feel this concept of “actively questioning” will be the hardest thing for educators to do. Students often find it much easier to question something, too often we just expect students to accept something because a teacher, or a text book or an internet site said it was so. If the students are not asking the questions then how are they critically thinking?

We must allow students to find the answer and we must understand the importance of allowing students to ask the right question. With the access students have to information and without a culture of critical thinking we are creating an “answer rich, question poor” generation.

Adora Svitak, a prolific short story writer and blogger since age seven (now 12) presented a TEDTalk titled: What adults can learn from kids. In this talk, she identified that one issue between teachers and students is the lack of trust – “if you don’t trust someone you place restrictions on them” and by placing restrictions upon them are we as educators truly allow them to demonstrate creativity? Students need to demonstrate creativity – “Creativity is as important in education as literacy” (Sir Ken Robinson: schools kill creativity)

Think about this:
Classroom teachers restrict students because they don’t trust students to learn. Administrators and leaders restrict classroom teachers because they don’t trust the delivery of the ‘content’. Politicians use external data and testing because they don’t trust schools. Who is willing to break this cycle and start trusting?

Adora continues to discuss the problem that extends from lack of trust, and that is setting low expectations. If you set low expectations, the students will sink to them.

This is the same message that I can use in my context. Ensuring school leaders ‘trust’ teachers to be creative and innovative within the classroom will lead to culture of higher expectations and innovation. I am fortunate to have an administration that allows me to run programs and deliver PD that aims to invoke change, innovate teachers and get them to re-think about teaching and learning.

Special reference to the following readings that inspired most of my reflection: Transformative Learning: It’s more than a transformation of learning and Transformative Learning Theory

TEDx Brisbane 2010

On Saturday the 6th March 2010 at the Queensland State Library TEDx Brisbane was launched.

TED [Technology | Entertainment | Design] is an annual conference where some of the world’s best and brightest minds come together to share their ideas with each other and the world. TEDx is a program of local, self-organised events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

I was very fortunate to be one of the many delegates attending this one day event. Even though this independent conference didn’t have a speaker list with the same calibur of TED which has included Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Dr Jane Goodall and Sir Richard Branson, the Brisbane event still had some great speakers.

Kevin Finn, an internationally recognised graphic designer, was the first presenter and he really set the tone for the day. He currently runs an independent design practice, Finn Creative, and is founder, editor and designer of Open Manifesto. Kevin was very inspirational and left me with an understanding of the importance of “letting go” and the opportunities that may arise from doing so.

Sheldon Lieberman, the creator of bigfish.tv, made us all laugh – LOTS. If you haven’t seen his Global Warming clip [below], you should!

However, out of all the speakers on the day with all their impressive presentation (one even used Prezi), and all their amazing stories only one really hit home for me. Chris Sarra approached the stage with a handful of A4 pieces of paper. He had no flashy presentation running behind him. He was definitely not the best public speaker of the day, and he never moved from behind the podium. But, he gave me exactly what I was looking for… inspiration.

Chris Sarra is an educator like myself. His passion has been the pursuit of more positive and productive educational outcomes for Indigenous children, and is currently the Executive Director of the Stronger Smarter Institute.

In the late 1990′s Chris took on the challenges of Indigenous education as the Principal of Cherbourg State School in South East Queensland. Through strong leadership and clear vision he facilitated many changes at the school which saw increasing enthusiasm for student learning through dramatically improved school attendance and increased community involvement in education. Chris believes that the power teachers have to inspire their students should never be underestimated. The Stronger Smarter message is now growing across Australia with many school leaders taking on the challenges of high expectations in Indigenous education. The message of responsible educational leadership, cultural and community involvement and student engagement is now also being heard in other countries around the world.

Now I am not going to try and relay what Chris said because I would not do it the justice it deserves. After the session I approached Chris and introduced myself. I told him I was an educator as well and that he had inspired me. I told him that I was going to ensure I continually improve my practices and look forward to the day that I too can stand in front of a large audience and talk passionately about my chosen career and the achievements that I have made and continue to make.

I hope our paths cross again soon.

soapbox moment

The most important things in education are literacy, numeracy and creativity – and not necessarily in that order.

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