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.