Archive for the ‘Innovators’ Category

A new lens

According to a recent Victorian study, many assistant principals aren’t prepared to take on the role of principal because of the associated work stress.

Responding to the survey, Dennis Yarrington, president of the Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA) was quoted saying that many states and territories were already looking at “innovative practices around principal development” to provide the skills and knowledge to be able to cope with increasing workloads.

I am a champion of innovation but what is the rationale for finding more efficient ways of fixing an old model of schooling and its increasing workloads?

As Canadian theorist George Siemens said you can’t expect theories from a largely industrial era to work in a digital one.  The solution is to create new pedagogies, new understandings of knowledge, a new view of learning and I would add new roles for teachers and leaders.

If anything, the study highlights that as a profession we aren’t responding to or adapting quickly enough to the changing nature of today’s world.  If we are still trying to up-skill our teachers and leaders to deal with 20th century challenges and workloads, then we are largely stuck in a time-warp.

I recently read in Time Magazine that the Ford motor company is on a mission to disrupt its own company by transforming itself from a traditional car manufacturer to a ‘mobility’ provider.  Its CEO said they would be looking at new services such as ride-sharing (think Uber); inspired largely by Apple’s transformation twenty years ago from a technology company to a lifestyle one.

Some have referred to the industrial model of schooling as a Ford production line but what we can learn is that the future of schooling depends upon innovation and transformation.  Like Ford, we need to disrupt ourselves because technology has already started disrupting the way students are communicating and learning in a hyper-connected world.  The paradigm must move from learning as remembering to learning as thinking.

Roberto Verganti, Professor of Leadership and Innovation in Milan, wrote a great article on innovation in Harvard Business Review this month. He says in order ‘to find and exploit the opportunities made possible by big changes in technology or society, we need to explicitly question existing assumptions about what is good or valuable and what is not – and then, through reflection, come up with a new lens to examine innovation ideas.”

Unfortunately schooling struggles to look through a new lens and as the brilliant Mark Twain said “you can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The innovator’s mindset

Our system has always welcomed the opportunity to engage with leading Canadian educator George Couros.  For me, George not only understands the theory but he is intensely practical – he knows how to empower teachers and learners.  George’s book The Innovator’s Mindset was recently published and I am grateful for his guest blogpost on why an innovator’s mindset will help educators and schools move forward.  

In an effort to bring the past alive, a historic tour of a Blockbuster store offers visitors a glimpse into the hardships of people who lived in the era of video stores. In a revealing video, reporters from The Onion interview period actors who explain that people once traveled great distances (sometimes six miles each way!) to rent and return movies. These poor souls lived in terror of never knowing if the movie they wanted would even be available!

The Onion’s video, of course, is a satirical look at a company that tried to continue operating as if the Internet didn’t exist. It was only a few years ago that video-rental stores, like Blockbuster, were the best way for people to watch movies in the comfort of their own home. In some places around the world, these stores still exist. But in the western world, cheaper and more convenient options (no travel required) have put most neighborhood video stores out of business.

The Internet completely changed the movie rental industry. Companies that took advantage of new technology, like Netflix with its DVD-by-mail and online streaming options, are thriving. Meanwhile companies that refuse to let go of outdated business models, like Blockbuster, experience a slow, painful death.

Blockbuster had the opportunity to buy Netflix a few times, but declined.[1]  And by the time it attempted to start its own DVD-by-mail program, the company had lost its place as an in an industry leader. The hard lesson that Blockbuster and its fellow neighborhood movie rental businesses failed to heed is this: innovate or die.

Defining Innovation

“Innovation” is a common term in many educational circles today, and has been used a number of times in this book already. But what does it actually mean—especially in the terms of education?

In my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity”, I define innovation as the following: a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new), or “iteration” (a change on something that already exists), but if it does not meet the idea of “new and better,” it is not innovative. That means that change for the sake of change is never good enough. Neither is using innovation as a buzzword, as many organizations do, to appear current or relevant.

Note, too, that I said innovation is a way of thinking. It is a way of considering concepts, processes, and potential outcomes; it is not a thing, task, or even, technology. As [2] Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, explains in his TEDx talk, “The New Rules of Innovation,” “Innovation is the process by which we change the world…. It’s the practical application of ideas and technologies to make new and better things.”  So, although many organizations approach innovation as if the word is synonymous with technology, it isn’t. Technology can be crucial in the development of innovative organizations, but innovation is less about tools, like computers, tablets, social media, and the Internet, and more about how we use those things.

Another word that is often used interchangeably with innovation is transformation, which is really more about dramatically altering the work educators do. Although I can see why some administrators are calling for transformation, the truth is innovation—in our thinking as individuals and organizations—is within easy reach; no dramatic shifts required. Katie Martin, Director of Professional Learning at the University of San Diego Mobile Technology Learning Centre, eloquently explains the importance of leadership in developing an innovative mindset:[3]

There is no substitute for a teacher who designs authentic, participatory, and relevant learning experiences for her unique population of students. The role of the teacher is to inspire learning and develop skills and mindsets of learners. A teacher, as designer and facilitator, should continually evolve with resources, experiences, and the support of a community. It is becoming increasingly clear that we don’t necessarily need to transform the role of teachers, rather create a culture that inspires and empowers teachers to innovate in the pursuit of providing optimal learning experiences for their students.

Establishing an innovative culture, doesn’t require transformation. However, it does require leaders who will develop and sustain systems that support “optimal learning experiences” and who value the process of creating and refining ideas.

A Constant Opportunity for Growth

One of John Maxwell’s famous quotes is, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” In many respects, that sentiment is true. We choose whether or not we will grow, change, or innovate. But in schools, where we focus on our students as the future, growth can no longer be simply an option.

Change is an opportunity to do something amazing. Perhaps, the great thing we can do is make growth mandatory—for ourselves as educators, as well as for our students. That is how we can truly serve our children.

Education cannot become the new Blockbuster, where we refused to embrace the new, in hopes that the old ways will suffice. In a world that constantly changes, if our focus is to only maintain what’s already been done, we are bound to become worse. The innovator’s mindset is necessary for all of us, if schools are to move forward.

 

[1] “Epic Fail: How Blockbuster Could Have Owned Netflix”, November 12, 2013. http://variety.com/2013/biz/news/epic-fail-how-blockbuster-could-have-owned-netflix-1200823443/

[2] Bass, Carl. “The New Rules of Innovation”, February, 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKV3rhzvaC8

[3] Martin, Katie. “Creating a Culture of Innovation versus Transformation”, June 10, 2015. http://katielmartin.com/2015/06/10/creating-a-culture-of-innovation-vs-a-transformation/

 

 

 

A last word

Here in the southern hemisphere the 2015 school year has ended and I regret to say that we are still in an educational policy wonderland.

A change of Prime Minister has produced some stirrings around the future and the importance of innovation but it has not even filtered into the education sector.  Despite the rhetoric of the Turnbull Government to deliver high-speed internet access via the NBN, the whole thing has become a white elephant!  And still we hear from our politicians about how poorly our schools are performing in an age of connectivity.  No wonder I feel gloomy!

One of the things that has struck me as the year draws to a close is how fortunate we are to be able to have discussions about re-imagining schooling in today’s world when other parts of the world are dealing with war.  So many children are facing a future without access to education.

A point I was reminded about when I spoke in Rome last month at the World Congress for Catholic Education.  A school administrator from Eritrea came up to me and said it would be wonderful if they could have conversations about creativity and innovation but her priority was to find ways of paying her teachers and putting roofs on schools.

Nevertheless, as educators we share the same aspirations – doing the best for our students with the resources we have.  In 2016, we will continue the work of sharing ideas, knowledge and opening up our practice to critique in the spirit of improving student learning outcomes.

In closing, I wanted to share one of the great joys of working in and for education.  This book was written by kindergarten students from St Bernadette’s Lalor Park.

Thanks to those who continue to read bluyonder and contribute to the discussions – it’s always a rich source of learning.

Wishing you a safe and Merry Christmas wherever you are in the world.  Here’s to a ‘connected’ 2016!

 

 

 

Deeper learning is shared learning

It seems quite ironic the most effective way of becoming an independent learner is through the process of interacting with others. This was social psychologist Lev Vygotsky‘s zone of proximal development argument.  Essentially we learn best when we learn from and with others.

Alma Harris and Michelle Jones from the Institute of Educational Leadership, University of Malaya, write that professional collaboration “in the form of professional learning communities, can be a powerful catalyst for building professional capital and by association, improving school performance”.  They go onto say that what really matters is the difference professional collaboration makes to learners.

Its impact comes from having a clear model for professional learning and the right conditions to make it work.  As Harris and Jones explains, it also needs to have a strong evidence base for it to be truly effective.

In 2008, Parramatta Marist High School adopted a new pedagogical approach to their learning and teaching strategies with the introduction of Project-Based Learning (PBL), Problem-Based Learning and the Flipped Classroom.  Although each of these strategies have been learner-centred and designed to provide students with the necessary skills for today’s world, it has also cultivated a culture of professional collaboration and learning within, and now, beyond the school.

This shift has resulted in a relentless focus on building professional connections and sharing ideas with the aim of deepening teacher learning and practice.  Discussion and reflection takes place on a daily basis and it is always as Harris and Jones describes, focused on what difference it is making to learners.

The implementation of PBL meant that Parramatta Marist teachers also had to engage in the inquiry and reflection, collaboration and critical thinking that is expected of students as part of the PBL process.

Collaborating and connecting with other professional learning communities has been key to the success of PBL at Parramatta Marist. Their affiliations with the The New Tech Network for Project-Based Learning and Republic Polytechnic, in Singapore for Problem-Based Learning has been key. Several of the staff at Parramatta Marist are also undertaking doctoral research under Prof. Henk Schmidt (a world leader in PBL research) of Erasmus University to build their evidence-base and contribute to the growing body of research on the impact of PBL on student learning and self-efficacy.

As the learning circle widens, so does the opportunities for innovation. Marist’s Centre for Deeper Learning (CDL) was established not only to build the professional capital of its own staff but to share their learning with other teachers.

Kurt Challinor from CDL says the school is now coaching several schools in Australia as they transition to a PBL model.  CDL has been facilitating workshops between each school’s common faculty areas as teachers connect on a regular basis to workshop ideas and share resources.

In reflecting on the impact PBL has had on his own teaching practice, Kurt says it has enabled him to continually push new boundaries.  The challenge he says, is to stay in orbit long enough to embrace new opportunities and possibilities.

CDL is one example of how shared learning can deepen the learning for students and teachers beyond the school walls.

 

The internet of ‘educational’ things

When we talk about classrooms being connected, we really are at the tip of the iceberg.  Within the next 3-5 years, the Internet of Things (IoT) will have already transformed sectors like health, transport and retail.  These sectors have begun using sensor networks to collect and transmit real-time data to improve quality of care and efficiency.

Last month, our Chief Information Officer attended a summit on the Internet of Things hosted by Intel Asia. Although there are very few ‘real world examples’ at the moment of its application in education, this will almost certainly ‘disrupt’ schooling.

One of the biggest impacts of these networks of things embedded into software and sensors etc will be reducing the administrative load on schools – anything from school attendance to school security.  However, the biggest potential will be the impact IoT will have on personalised learning and teaching.

Reflecting on the potential of IoT in education, Dr Michelle Selinger believes that we “will be able to connect the right people together to accelerate learning as well as collecting and interpreting data on learners’ behaviours and activity. Used well, this will make learning more personalised and targeted to individuals’ learning needs, their learning styles and preferences, and their aspirations.”

Video analytics used well in learning spaces could immediately alert teachers (through body movement and facial recognition)  of students who are disengaged from their learning. The argument may be that good teachers already do this but as Michelle says we are notoriously bad at capturing and analysing data. IoT is a shift from living in a world where we react to living in one which will help us predict.  That has to be good for education.

Today’s connected classroom is the process of connecting people to people. The connected classroom of the future will be the process of using intelligent information to create more highly personalised learning experiences for all students.

 

 

No teacher left behind

I’ve often written that Twitter has been an invaluable professional learning tool for me. We have at our fingertips as Will Richardson says the ability to connect with two billion teachers and that presents unlimited opportunities for collaborative learning.

Educators like George Couros and Gary Stager also reflect that it isn’t the tool per se but how teachers use the tool to build, connect, learn, inspire, change etc.  For many teachers and leaders, social media is a brave new world and I believe that if teachers and leaders aren’t operating in this space, they will be left behind.

The danger is though that we make several assumptions about the professional use of social media: teachers have the skills to use social media and they actually see the benefit of using it.

Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills says that in order to build a great education system, teachers need not only to have access to the tools to develop 21st century skills but they must also recognise the importance of these skills.

The one thing we cannot do is assume that we don’t need to invest resources to up skill all teachers to use the tools effectively.

Certainly there is growing evidence of the positive impact social media use is having on teacher and student learning.  In 2011, Julie McCulloch, Ewan McIntosh and Tom Barrett authored a report called Tweeting for teachers: how can social media support teacher professional development?  The report identified a number of research studies linking the impact of professional social media use on teachers’ practice, attitudes and beliefs to improved student learning.

CEDP social media surveyA recent survey of 755 educators in the US revealed how they were connecting online.  We asked the same question recently of our staff to find out how and what social media tools they were using professionally.  The 650 responses provide us with a good snapshot of which tools and the frequency of use.

Three themes emerged from the feedback that needs to be addressed at a system level. These were training, culture/privacy and network access.  Perhaps these are universal challenges for many education systems.

The point to be made is that if we are serious about ensuring no child is left behind, we need to be just as serious about ensuring no teacher is left behind in a hyper-connected world.

 

 

 

 

A level playing field

There are calls for fundamental changes to be made to the funding and regulation of Vocational and Educational Training (VET) in Australia.  In today’s Sydney Morning Herald, the Federal Education Minister said he wants to boost the status of VET  so ‘students don’t feel they have to go to university to have a good career.’

It reflects the need to radically rethink VET in a knowledge age and the importance of sectors working together to ensure a consistent approach and coherent framework for providing students with optimal opportunities.

It’s interesting that the new Education Minister calls VET the ‘forgotten’ education sector.  The established view is that VET is somehow less rigorous than an academic pathway to learning.  VET is a balance between the demands of work and study as well as integrating theory with practice.  Students learn the work by doing the work. VET actually provides for a level of personalised and independent learning not always evident in traditional subjects.

We have seen VET as the alternative to an academic pathway and while there are multiple pathways to learning (made more evident by technology), there is still one external credential (Higher School Certificate (HSC) in NSW).  This has been the gateway into university and for many, the path to a more rewarding and successful working life.

The view that university is the only option can’t be sustained in a knowledge age.  It is something the new Federal Minister wants to challenge.  It needs to be challenged at  policy level as well as at university and school sector level.

The vocational choices of students should be influenced by passion not process.  The challenge for schools is how we can, as Yong Zhao says entirely personalise not nationally or globally standardise education.  We need to level the playing field by allowing students the opportunity to draw from diverse areas of knowledge and skills.  It means allowing students to map their own curriculum based on individual interests and passions.

South Korea has effectively de-skilled a generation because of a cultural drive for students to be university educated.  While graduates compete for limited jobs, there is a growing gap for trades that have to be filled by overseas workers.

The knowledge age has created an even greater need for a level playing field in education.

Edward de Bono describes the current model of schooling like a pyramid where the bottom 80% are taught so that the top 20% can go onto university.  His view is that traditional subjects and universities may have very little to do with real life.  Interestingly, he asks why there are no exams in schools in ‘practical thinking’ and ‘value creation’?

de Bono argues that every student be taught what he calls ‘life skills’ such as critical thinking etc. The more academically inclined students take additional subjects that prepare them for university while the more practical and entrepreneurial minded students take additional subjects preparing them for work.

de Bono says this would be ‘the equivalent to teaching everyone to walk and then giving special coaching to those who showed an ability to run.  This is different from the current system of coaching everyone to run and then neglecting those who are not good at running.’ 

Not every student wants to be a runner nor should they be.  The biggest hurdle for schools and learners is the way
in which assessment is currently mandated and reported.  Meaning, we are still preparing all students to run the marathon by sitting the HSC.

As Professor Patrick Griffin from the University of Melbourne said recently, we will never get away from comparative measures (how good is my child compared to their class, state etc) but the focus has to be on where students are going (year after year) not on where they have been.

The most effective forms of assessments are those that support learning and inform teaching not control learning and narrow the curriculum.  Until we get on with the task of re-thinking assessment based on personalising the learning, we continue to neglect those who don’t want to be runners.

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,750 other followers