Looking back, looking forward

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This week marks a personal milestone, I move from the comfort zone of a school working environment which has become familiar and has provided wonderful opportunities and move on to an exciting new adventure.  Time for reflection, Time for appreciation, time for nerves and above all time for thanks.

In a few short years the technology landscape in schools has changed beyond my wildest imagination.  When I started working in my current position, I had never heard of a Chromebook or Google Apps for Education and most definitely knew little about coding.   The iPad was not yet invented.  I had never blogged or tweeted and my professional learning network was just in foundling form through mailing lists (List-servs).  I had never been to an on-line or face to face technology conference, let alone presented at one and I had only experienced the atmosphere of a few schools.

This could be construed as covering decades, but in fact was only eight short years.  I now count the blogging and tweeting as commonplace and a regular part of my professional routine.  The students in our classes today will never remember the way things were before and in many ways take their connectedness for granted.  Watching the Olympics live from their Chromebooks, writing collaborative documents with peers and sharing their work to a potentially global audience are just what they do!

I am glad to have the hindsight as it makes me more grateful of the opportunities around today.

The things that remained constant are the people and the big purpose – to improve student outcomes.   I have been blessed to be working with and amongst dedicated teachers who have been willing to try new things, adapt, consider, challenge and in some cases ignore.  I have made so many mistakes, had false starts, trials and a few successes but all these were learning moments.  My blog is the chronicle of much of that learning and I am grateful to have the evidence of my changing thinking.

As is often the way when I am composing a post or preparing a lesson, Twitter has just alerted me something that just clicks with my thinking.   A tweet from Steve Brophy (@stevebrophy3) introduced me to  Kelly Sewell’s post discussing a book  ‘The Buzz – Creating a thriving and collaborative learning community’ by Tracey Ezard.  Whilst reading I realised that there has been a ‘Buzz’ in my school.  As Kelly describes “… the ability to apply, synthesise, evaluate, discard or embed. It is a growing intelligence and the most important aspect of learning intelligence is the mindset of curiosity and growth.”

It was this Buzz that made the past eight years amazing in my school for me.  Teachers have come and gone and stayed and each of us has taken on what felt relevant and comfortable for them.  We have all learned from each other, questioned each other and made our own choices.

The most profound understanding I take from this most recent experience, allbeit eight years, before I embark on another challenge, is the power and importance of relationships. The creation of a story alongside other learners, whether they be younger students or colleagues.   If I had tackled these challenges on my own they would have had such smaller impact.  This could have been at my own school, within the Teachmeet network (that also spawned in this era) and within the wider teaching network, both local and overseas created through Twitter and Blogs.

I am a different teacher than I was eight years ago, the sum of added years with amazing experiences, failures and successes has given me confidence to move on.    I would hope that that attitude was spread to others I have dealt with.  I have most certainly come to agree with Seymour Papert (who passed away recently) .  This philosophy has driven my interactions with teachers and students and will continue to do so.   I know that I don’t know much, I am not really technologically skilful, I am however blessed with a questioning mind and that has allowed for many learning opportunities and it makes the next era very exciting.

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End of an era

The end of the 2015 school year marks the end of my role as an eLearn Coach for the CEM ICON project.  I was in this role for a short 3 years and as the year draws to an end, I am becoming more maudlin.

My role saw me involved in schools in a variety of ways; discussions with leadership groups, small group coaching sessions, whole staff professional learning sessions, mentoring and planning etc.  It also allowed me to support the wider network through connections with Learning and Teaching and eLearning networks.   I was able to develop and build relationships and in all cases I learnt as much as I was able to offer.  I considered it a privilege to be invited to share and learn alongside teachers who are doing amazing things in schools.   It was a time of great change in our schools and in the ways technology is being used (but I guess when is that not the case in the past 15 years?).  The ability to be agile, to adapt and keep on learning was essential for me but also for all the people I worked with, including my fellow coaches, from whom I learned so much and received a great deal of support and to whom I offer my sincere thanks.

I am glad to say that there were many times when I was able to share my passion for being connected via Social Media and I am happy that the impact of that is obvious when I browse my Twitter and Google+ feeds.   The experience has most definitely whet my appetite for developing my coaching skills as I have come to realise the depth of that potential and my lack of knowledge about that whole concept and skillset.

2016 will see me spending more time in my own school and hopefully connected to a few others in some way or another.  The potential, as well as the challenges of learning and teaching in modern classrooms continues to energise me.

As I read Edna Sackson’s latest post “To Teachers Everywhere”, I recognised people from my own school, my visiting schools and myself and would like to say “I see you too”   

 

 

 

 

 

2014 in review

Hawaii reflections

If you write a blog, you have a great record of your thinking: the things that have inspired you, the ideas you have puzzled over, the events you have attended, even the challenges you have faced. I just browsed through my posts from 2014 and although not as numerous as previous years, they tell a story. I seem to have been a bit of professional learning junkie – attended many Teachmeets as well as a couple of formal conferences.

One of my most visited blog posts was You have a class Blog – Now What?   I have had the pleasure of working with many teachers helping them with the setting up class blogs and it started to get frustrating that their impact was not as great as I think they might be.  I now think that a teacher needs to understand and actively seek the benefits of being a Connected Educator, before or at the very least whilst setting up a blog.   So many teachers have said to me that they don’t see the point, no-one reads it and the effort does not translate into any added value for them or their students.   The exceptions are those who are creating a network alongside their blogging activities.   Whether they be actively engaging  their parent community or reaching beyond the school to other classes, they are making a difference and are feeling encouraged to continue.

The concept of collaboration is understood by teachers but when it involves actively pursuing on-line networks, many are yet to take the plunge or even understand the pathway.  This is an area I would like to focus my work on in the future.  My connections have enriched my career in so many ways that I cannot imagine life without them.  I revel in the opportunity to watch a Twitter feed/ Google+ Community, chat at a conference or Teachmeet etc and pick up news or ideas or to ask a question or contribute an answer.    Of course, it remains paramount that any of this revolves around relationships.   George Couros wrote recently:

If you are a school that does not focus on building relationships, you are on a faster road to irrelevance than one that doesn’t use technology.  

 In a world where information is easy to access and I can always find better content online than I can in school, the refocus on relationships is more crucial now than ever. Embrace technology; it will provide people opportunities that we could have dreamed of when we were kids.  But just remember that people will always be the most important part of the education system.

In conducting a bit of a mental audit on the ways I have seen technology used in my school, I am comfortable that our focus has been on the relationships.  At the end of any shared Google document, Tweet, Blog post or Skype call, was a person or a group of people we were actively engaging with.  We had clear purpose in our communication – whether it be collaborating on a task, informing parents, seeking information from experts, providing an audience for our young writers.   Technology was the enabler for the building and strengthening of the relationships.

George is right “people will always be the most important part” and I would like to thank a small band of my ‘people’ who nominated me for an award this year – I humbly accept it as I said to the teachers I work with I take pride if I have been in any way influential in all the wonderful things they are doing with our students.   I draw energy from my association with members of my PLN both at school and beyond and look forward to sharing many more stories in 2015.  Now it is time to go to the beach for a bit of rejuvenation!

Community ~ Curiosity ~ Creativity

Community ~ Curiosity ~ Creativity 

#GTASyd 2014

This morning, I am feeling a sense of community, curiosity and creativity : combined with a little bit of travel weary, end of term exhaustion.  These were the themes of the mentor presentations at the Google Teacher Academy I attended during this whirlwind week, which began with sharing the Google Apps for Education Summit with 10 of my school colleagues and 400 other teachers in Melbourne.

The GTA experience this year was facilitated by Tom Barrett and Hamish Curry from NoTosh, leading us through the Design thinking process.  Thankfully we had been slowly immersed in the process and our ideas by connecting to our Teams in the weeks prior – being introduced and starting the conversations that would lead to much discussion, work and deliberation.

If you came to the GTA expecting to come away with a whole heap of Googley technical skills you would have left disappointed.  If you came expecting to be a passive learner, you would have been very challenged.  If you came along to see how community, curiosity and creativity can be enacted, you would be very happy.

The process was outward looking, in that,we all had been asked in the month or so leading up, to consider a ‘Moonshot thinking’ exercise from our own context.  We were guided through many steps that had us thinking, questioning, giving feedback, re-thinking, ideating and then developing an idea through to an action.  Many people found connections between their ultimate Moonshot questions – in fact in reading them I found connections everywhere.  We are all challenged to continue the process and take actions back in our wider communities.

Hexagonal thinking which I had explored a little beforehand, proved to me to be one of the most powerful ah-ha moments!  I witnessed the struggling in others and in my own thinking but the  strong links it can provide and yet the flexibility it can enable.

I loved hearing Annie Parker from Muru-D discuss entrepreneurial hacks and then Brett Morgan, a Google Developer Relations engineer discuss the Design process and seeing such strong links in the ideas and the process we were experiencing.    All this taking place in such a ‘cool’ environment as the Google Office space.

It was a lot to take in and it is only the beginning and it will be great to see where my moonshot goes and to watch and support and hopefully be involved in a few others as well
BGK GTA

Thanks to all those involved.  Google’s Suan Yeo as well as Tom and Hamish the energetic facilitators, the team of mentors including the gentle and skilful Abi and of course the new members of my professional learning network – the participants.  #gtasyd14

 

 

A presentation … A process

 

Photo credit : Wes Warner via Twitter
Photo credit : Wes Warner via Twitter

I am presenting at the Melbourne GAFE (Google Apps for Education) Summit this week.  I have never felt very confident as a speaker but recent experiences are encouraging me to extend beyond my comfort zone.  So here I find myself the afternoon before, adding, taking, tweaking for the millionth time my presentation for tomorrow.

I have chosen a topic that I hope provides a good balance on theory and practice.  I know people like to come away with new skills but I also believe any skill / tool should be used with good purpose.  The subject is basically using Google tools to create opportunities to have learning conversations – teacher/student, student/student, student/parent, student/other stakeholders etc.  The opportunity to provide feedback / feedforward throughout the learning process instead at the end.

It is probably not a coincidence that I modelled this process in the creation of the presentation

  1. I re-vamped the presentation from a similar one I had used previously
  2. I adapted, re-worded, re-ordered according to my new audience
  3. I workshopped the presentation with a group of my peers – lots of wonderful feedback and a great opportunity for me to see the gaps in my preparation and thinking
  4. I added, subtracted, tweaked content again
  5. I sought feedback from another colleague and made more adjustments according to wise feedforward
  6. I am finally prepared to present.

I will probably write more once it is done – phew !