Archive for the ‘Innovators’ Category

Looking for the next generation leader

Australia has its Sport Hall of Fame, the US has its Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but where are the Education Halls of Fame?  We can name the great teachers that have touched our lives but what about the great school leaders? There are a plethora of books on educational leaders and educational leadership but who do we hold up within the educational community as exemplars of school leadership in today’s world?

These are some of the questions we’ve been reflecting on as we prepare to open a new school in outer Western Sydney next year. The proposed St Luke’s at Marsden Park will be ‘next generation’ – an innovative learning community built from the ground up through partnerships with Stephen Heppell, industry and the wider community.

This school will challenge the industrial constructs by embracing a pre to post schooling model not a K-6, 7-12 one. It’s collaboration not isolation, it’s integration not segregation and it’s personalised not programmatic.  We want learning to be adaptable to the changing needs of learners and the changing times in which we live.

We are looking for a next generation school leader who can lead a culture of change and innovation.  Someone that demonstrates 21st century skills like creativity, curiosity, adaptability, problem-solving and collaboration. Next generation leadership is entrepreneurial – looking beyond the next five years; seeing the infinite possibilities and making it happen. This is about being able to lead by example, to lead by doing, to lead by knowing and ultimately, to leave a legacy for future generations locally and globally.

Could it be you?

 

Game changers

Marketer and entrepreneur, Seth Godin recently wrote a blog on pattern recognition versus pattern matching. Godin writes that “Some people have erroneously concluded that the way to succeed is to slavishly follow what’s come before. Pattern matching is for amateurs… pattern recognition is a priceless skill that comes with practice, with the experience of noticing. The art is to see patterns, [and] to use them to do something new.”

We spend a lot of time pattern matching in education when we could be pattern recognising.  A case in point was last month when I co-presented at the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI) in Scotland.  ICSEI is a professional learning community of practitioners, policy makers and researchers who meet to share and spread best practice across education systems around the world.

As I listened to presentation after presentation at ICSEI, I realised that no-one was talking about educational transformation. This was a sophisticated exercise in pattern matching.  While conferences like ICSEI are great opportunities for building collegiality, we have to move beyond the concept of school improvement.

School improvement limits our collective imaginations because we don’t have to do anything new.  The industrial model continues to prevail because it is so easy to replicate what’s come before.

Education now needs game-changers not add-ons.  This can’t happen if we are still engaged in discussions that are narrowly focussed on improvement and effectiveness.  Let’s use conferences and professional learning networks to create something new rather than slavishly improve the old.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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