Monday, 24 March 2014

Reflections from the Festival of Education

The Festival of Education was held in three locations across New Zealand this week and I had the opportunity to present and attend most of the Auckland event held at the Viaduct Events Centre. Here are some reflections of my experience:

I had previously been part of the inaugural session of TeachMeetNZ in 2013 and enjoyed this exciting new platform for sharing professional learning, so I jumped at the opportunity of being part of the virtual presentation organised by Sonya van Schijik.  A TeachMeet is a professional learning opportunity where up to 10 presenters join a Google Hangout and share a nano presentation (approximately 3 minutes) of a strategy that is working well in their professional practice.  The Hangout is streamed live via the internet and recorded so that viewers can rewind the learning and unpack the presentations at a time that suits them.

Sonya was coordinating the session in front of a live audience at the Viaduct Events Centre and co-presenting from their homes across New Zealand in the Hangout were: Juliet Revell, Myles Webb, Monika Kern, Diana Wilkes, Emma Alaalatoa-Dale, Manu Faaea-Semeatu and myself.  The Hangout was supported by Kathy Scott as master time-keeper with her rattlesnake (aka jingle bells) and Marnel van der Spuy as chat-wing moderator and tweeter for the event.

Getting organised I joined the Hangout ten minutes prior to "going live" only to find that my computer at home wanted to allow an update for Google voice and video to optimise my Hangout experience, I allowed this and joined the Hangout - only to find I could see my fellow presenters but not hear them.  I was to present third in the line-up for the day, so was anxious as to whether I would miss my cue to start, or whether my presentation would be seen or heard.  My colleagues were great in the chat bar trying to help me out with all sorts of problem solving, and then it happened ... my computer FROZE! I was nervous already about presenting live, and the thought that I could be connected to the Hangout and not hear was already raising the nerve factor and then this! I calmly tried to shut down my computer which then had the whirring cog of death displayed - I had to resort to physically pulling the power plug out of the wall and rebooting the computer.  Now as we all know, clock watching doesn't help in these circumstances, and what seemed forever to boot back up, I finally rejoined the Hangout for TeachMeetNZ with sound and video! Hurrah! I caught my breathe, wiped off my sweaty palms and shared my presentation last.  

So what did I learn in all of this?  I truly believe that this platform for presenting and sharing ideas is valuable because it is recorded permanently and viewers can go back at anytime and rewatch the ideas being presented.  There is a supporting wikispace that clearly profiles each of the TeachMeetNZ sessions and presenters.  Each presenter has a page with links to their presentation and online digital footprint. I also learnt that many of our staff often look to contributors of events like these or facilitators as 'experts' and that things 'don't go wrong technically ever for us' however I think with my technical issues on the day, it shows that you need persistence and tenacity to keep calm and keep on trying with digital technologies.  I also have a closer connection with the presenters (albeit virtually) 
Here's my contribution to our full Google Hangout below:

Here's our Google Hangout Presentation (my segment is at 33.30):

Christian Long 
Christian spoke about the influence of The Third Teacher . In essence in every student’s life there are 3 teachers:

  1. The parents/adults/teachers
  2. Their peers
  3. The environment - everything around us affects us (similar to the Reggio Emilia philosophy that there is an influence in the relationship between community and learning).
Christian works with a group of designers who create learning environments that are seen to have a positive influence on student learning. He has been involved in projects to repurpose old building and land, as well as designing new structures like this one below form the KOC Foundation inTurkey.

Christian spoke of the need to have more creative problem solving in the curriculum in order to equip students for the future and promoted the notion of getting into a "moonshot mindset" and getting students to "prototype" by embracing the now and launching ideas in a prototype style, rather than waiting until you are sure you have completely worked out all the kinks. I loved this video he showed that embraced this thinking - particularly the quote "have the courage to try, that's how great things happen."
John Hattie

I missed John Hattie's keynote address, however had the opportunity to join his chatroom session that continued the discussion from the keynote of "High impact, passionate teachers".  Hattie discussed the difference between expert and experienced teachers isn't the from the years of service one might have but of those teachers that work with their students at a deeper level to increase and accelerate student outcomes. The image below I snapped quickly on what expert teachers do:
Michael Fullan
I was lucky enough to attend both the keynote and chatroom session from Michael Fullan.  This felt like a real treat to be in the presence of such a respected educator.  I loved everything that he had to say, and would refer people to his website to find a wealth of shared articles on his work.  I particularly agree with the notion of Principal as lead learner, modelling and participating in the learning and professional development that staff are undertaking. He talked about effective change occurring through the strength and sustainability of a school with the quality of the lateral relationships - "if you want to change the group, use the group to change the group" this can be achieved through leveraging the quality of knowledge and collectivity of ideas. He states that in the unplanned revolution pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator -He looks to Hattie’s work which stated no correlation between technology and student outcomes, however this is possibly because the technology has been acquired without the pedagogy in mind - now there is a flip towards the pedagogy first. He also promoted the use of Hattie's discovery that Teacher as Facilitator (.17) was too passive and Teacher as Activator (.60) was the desired state for working in the deep with students as this wasn't a passive state.

Deep learning (21st Century learning skills) - Of the six characteristics 3-6 have previously been included in 21st Century learning skills however 1-2 have been added in recent times...Character - persistence, resilience etc…, Citizenship is based more on the empathetic side, global thinking.

Fullan also discussed that Principal's do not get trained in developing the group - coaching models are particularly useful to help build the capacity of the organisation. I'd refer you to the book that Fullan has written along with Hargreaves "Professional Capital" which outlines the formula
PC=f(HC, SC, DC). Professional Capital - decisional capital (quality of knowledge for decisions), social (quality of the group and purposeful relationships, collaboration) and human (quality of individual). Social capital needs to be the driver - you can have quality individuals, however if they aren’t in a culture of growth then they will be rejected - collaboration is key - to what extend do you and other teachers work in a coordinated and effective way to improve outcomes for the students. I look forward to investigating more of his work on his site and in his book Stratosphere too.

Other reflections
I loved the showcase of student work using digital technologies from schools in the Manaiakalani Trust. A delightful boy named Robin from Glen Innes School politely came up to me and asked whether I'd like to look at some of his learning on his netbook. He shared with me his learning on his blog (link to come) and we discussed the features of a quality comment which he had been learning about too.

I also got interviewed for a quick segment for the Inspired by You channel. Where I said that when I was at school Mr VK of Manurewa High (now at Botany Secondary) was inspiring because of the relationships he had with his classes to make learning fun and engaging. I thanked Kim Benjamin as a leader who was always so positive in her dialogue with others and then stated the Festival was a great opportunity to showcase the excellence and variety across the sector.
Finally, it was great to make face to face connections with many educators that I am usually online with. The Festival of Education was held over a weekend, therefore it has meant that many of us have not stopped working. The difference I think for those that contributed and attend, is our deep commitment and passion towards our own learning and contributing to the sector for better outcomes for everyone. It was disappointing then not to see it showcased in any national news broadcasts.

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