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:

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 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.


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.
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.