‘Connected’ learning

Canadian principal George Couros spent last week sharing his  ‘connected’ learning with our teachers and leaders.  Several school leaders said they felt ‘inspired’ after hearing George talk so passionately about his students, profession and his professional learning.

The workshops with George and our Principals Masterclass may look like ‘stand-alone’ or ‘one-off’ events but they are actually part of a learning continuum that began seven years ago.  The mere fact that our leaders have an opportunity to collectively engage in deep conversations on learning is powerful learning.

At the start of the 2012 school year, we set our collective focus to ‘learning by inquiring’ – how we could engage in the inquiry and knowledge building cycle within schools and across the system.  It builds on the work of Helen Timperley by responding to the emerging needs of ‘our class’ – whether it be school leaders, teachers or learners.  It requires a commitment to engage in continuous learning through collective problem solving and data analysis to improve the learning outcomes for each student.

PMC-98For me, the principals masterclass was a high point in this journey to improve learning and build capacity.  When we started we relied heavily on outside experts but last week we had our own leaders sharing their learning.  Although the context of the school communities may be different, there is a shared vision that transcends physical and virtual borders.

As I listened to the keynotes, three things became clear.   The first is we are beginning to get the language right – we are crafting a new narrative shaped by the best of what we know when it comes to improving learning and teaching.  The second is we are developing greater precision around the work by getting rid of the ‘noise in the background’.  We are focusing on the things that make a difference – the high effect strategies to drive change where it counts most.  Thirdly after listening to our school leaders, we are now seeing tangible evidence of building teacher capacity and its impact on student engagement and learning.  It’s starting to make a difference.

All of this leads into new areas for discussion and new ways of working but we are doing this together.  In the past we’ve “intellectualised” the process of improvement but ignored the implementation process.   Competing narratives haven’t led to sustainable change – the discussion was broad and shallow.  Yet what I saw and heard last week was a significant shift at the point of delivery – system leaders working with school leaders working with teachers – everyone as George said ‘elbows deep in learning.’

If there is one thing that resonated with me when listening to George it was the importance of modelling the what, how and why of what we do.  It challenges us to lead in the way we ask our leaders to, teach in the way we ask our teachers to and learn in the way we ask our students to.

9 thoughts on “‘Connected’ learning

  1. Hi Greg,
    Great to read this article and read your comment “the importance of modelling the what, how and why of what we do”.
    Never a truer word spoken. The what (the stuff) why (cognitive level ) and how (tools and strategies by which to scaffold students responses) are the keys, in my view, to any decent pedagogical practice.
    So thoroughly enjoyed your article.

  2. It was an exceptional presentation and one that has us celebrating our “elbows in learning”. However how are we exploring the structures that enhance this or prevent it occurring. I often think the timetable can impose so many restrictions on what and how we go about our practice. George Couros got us thinking about the use of social media to inform our learning practice. Do we explore a blended learning approach as championed by Michael Horne or adopt aspects of Yong Zhao’s Global Education. Technology has given us the freedom to tailor learning experiences for our students. Time to break the shackles of the timetable!

    1. Agree Peter. The timetable places tight constraints on learning. I visited Silkwood school (@silkwoodschool) in the Hinterlands, Queensland and loved their approach to the learning environment. I often wish for a “primary” school model within Secondary years. To be able to engage in cross curricular study over a decent length of time whilst team teaching/facilitating would surely lend itself favourably to the new Australian curriculum and the future of learning. Have you heard of big picture schools Peter? I will send you a link via Twitter. It was great to connect last Tuesday after George’s presentation.
      Thanks Greg for allowing these amazing opportunities for your staff! It has been fascinating to watch all the new eggs pop up in the twittersphere, excited about future possibilities.

      1. Jeannette, it’s good to see more and more teachers embracing the opportunities for professional learning and sharing via twitter and blogs etc. We haven’t reached the tipping point yet but we are as Malcolm Gladwell says building critical mass.

  3. Thanks Greg,
    Master Class this year was exceptionally inspiring. George Couros was inspirational in his simplicity, honesty and relevance of social media for students. As educators we sometimes lose sight of how valuable something like the humble blog can be. Anything that gets kids motivated to want to read and write more has to be used. Recently my staff have begun using Google docs as a way of collaborating with kids and their learning. The trail of feedback to students, the evidence of progress and the enthusiasm to learn have been some of the most valuable benefits. I was particularly struck when, unexpectedly, one of my year 4 boys shared his RE literacy assessment with me. I commented on his work with some critical feedback and he edited his work in light of my comments. This then went on for some time – him editing and developing his work and me feeding back about his progress. Another teacher started his class writing narratives on Google docs. Without being asked, numerous boys continued their work the minute they got home from school! And why? It has to be the interaction and feedback that the teacher is providing. These comments have also had a positive result with parents following the progress. Teachers having the right tools and using them effectively, will generate quality deep learning and motivation but also encourage anytime learning – learning which is not governed by the classroom clock but by the appetite of the learner. Thanks again, Greg and your team, for this wonderful opportunity!

    1. Attila welcome to the blog – it’s always good to hear from school leaders. Can’t agree more about the opportunities of using social media in learning and teaching. The key for teachers as you say will be working out how to effectively use the tools to personalise and deepen the learning. The role of feedback can’t be underestimated. Thanks for sharing the work.

  4. Greg,

    I wanted to thank you for having me out and learn from your group as well. There are a few things that I took away from those days that I am bringing back to my district that we can look toward in improving our learning. It just solidified my thoughts about sharing making us all better. It was also an honour to hear you share your vision for learning with your team and seeing the importance of your role as an instructional leader.

    Thank you for the invitation and the connection. I have already connected with a few of your administrators online and I know we are all much better for that.

    1. Likewise George. One of the privileges (and challenges) of educational leadership to be able to nurture a culture of learning and reflection. The masterclass and workshops were able to reinforce again that teacher learning and student learning go hand in hand.

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