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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

One Degree Makes A Significant Difference - The Educators Winning Edge

In the days when I was working full time coaching high performance gymsports and outdoor education I was exposed to a philosophy of success. At the time it felt a little airy fairy as it did not give specific details on the 'how' to be successful but it did help guide my goal to be a great educator.

It was known as the winners edge - based on the idea that the slightest edge creates remarkable rewards! For example, a horse that wins a race by a nose is a split second faster than the horse that is placed second yet the winning horse receives considerably more. Though I am not a gambling man, we saw this in the 2011 Melbourne Cup when Dunaden won $3.6 million the second place getter Red Cadeaux earned $900000. Similarly, small improvement or changes in what we do can make a significant impact on our lives and the lives of our students.

Let's be straight: the definition of insanity is doing the same things we have always done expecting a different result. Unfortunately, without change there is no improvement. Without improvement we are risking our future and the future capacity of our students.  

Change is a broad term which can be applied to many things. Perhaps it is changing grades, embedding a new technology or working towards a new goal. These adjustments to the norm, even when they are positive cause stress because we never know exactly what we are going to get and this is what frightens us. Adapting to change requires a willingness to allow our outlook to focus on the positive and not getting stuck looking over our shoulder concentrating on the past.

Ultimately, if we don't change, change will happen to us and the things we didn't want to happen will be imposed upon us. Reading the trends, innovation and holding on to the routines that are productive help us to discover the importance of proactivity. It helps us unearth the small changes to practice that gain the greatest traction. 

Let's use the analogy of heating water. If we heated water to 99° C, a great cup of tea could be made but by heating it one more degree to 100° C, it will boil. As the water boils it creates steam and if there is enough of this it can power a steamship or a train. One degree makes a significant difference. Now for each one of us this one degree is going to be different, which takes me back to my first statement in this post. 

The bottom line is we get to decide what success is for each of us. In doing so we can align our thought patterns and actions towards achieving this goal ensuring it is congruent with our purpose and values. 

Our values define what is the most important this to us and give us purpose and direction. To be living out our purpose we need an existence that is in accordance with our values. Purpose calls forth passion which is the driving force behind accomplishment. 

As we work towards a goal, we need to monitor our effort and the results they produce to discover if the life changes have created the desired outcome. This feedback alerts us of necessary course corrections. Ken Blanchard describes this type of feedback as "the breakfast of champions" as it lets us know what we should and should not be doing. 

With the new year almost upon us, take the time to think about what your winner's edge is going to be. Decide how this action is going to support your professional goals as an educator and your personal passions, values and purpose. Move beyond just writing lists and making new year's resolutions. Face the challenge of change and try something out of the box by becoming the lifelong learners we often talk about. As we step out on this path we move beyond our perfectionist mindset by embracing a willingness to FAIL (First Attempt In Learning) to allow SAIL (Second Attempt in Learning) and reinvent ourselves as educators willing to lead the innovative education revolution essential for the students of the 21st century.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

2015 Tech Year in Review

The following has been borrowed from my end of year post last year as it still remains appropriate. "The one guaranteed constant in educational technology is change, and the pace of that change is definitely accelerating. So as we approach the New Year I thought it a virtuous time to reflect on this year's development in the use of technology at my school."

The biggest shift I have seen with the use of technology had been a pedagogical one. I have begun to find teachers have moved away from asking about how to use specific programs, apps and hardware to focusing on this is what I want to teach what tools are out there to enhance the learning desired. This has included coding, makerspaces, video conferences and mystery locations. I have found a major shift towards teaching genres of programs eg word processing and presentation rather than 'word' and 'powerpoint'. I believe that this has been driven by a greater reliance on cloud based computing.

This year has been a great year to see many of the elements I wrote about last year get classroom practices built behind them, enriching the learning experience for all students. It has also been a year when teachers and students have embraced FAIL (first attempt in learning) and SAIL (second attempt in learning) realising that it doesn't always work out the way we plan things and back up plan is always helpful.

I have seen a massive growth on teacher take up in social media for professional development especially twitter. Guerrilla PD is an article that I wrote that has supported the uptake at my school.
While I haven't written much about specific programs and apps, I am encouraged because I have experienced the better utilisation of the technology we already have and observed teachers using this in increasing innovative ways. 

For more information on programs and apps that we have implemented in the past please refer to the 2014 Year in Review

Monday, 14 December 2015

Good vs Great Education - The Difference is in the Personal Touch

I am currently in my second week of my Summer break and this morning I have been blessed with insightful pedagogical conversation.

The first came as a chance meeting with my daughter's school principal prompted by a forgotten outfit for a dress rehearsal. Immersed in end of year rehearsals, presentation preparation and school placements for next year I was given the gift of time to engage with her about the action research that the school had been conducting to promote best practice. As a professional I was encouraged to hear that many of the practices that are trending in current classrooms had been instilled in the culture of the school through teacher research. She added that due to the teachers action research they saw these classroom practices embedded well before they started trending in the mainstream. Examples she gave were Coding, Hattie's Mind Frames for Learning, Environmental Education, Instructional Rounds and Video Analysis. It was seen that this research informed innovation in pedagogy and guided the next steps needed to be taken towards the school's strategic plan. Professional development was driven by the teacher's passion but inline with the school vision to create the best experience of learning for every child.

The second came as I picked up my morning coffee. Three doors up from my house I have the most exquisite french patisserie and cafe. The owner Gary (obviously not french!) has spent many months building the business' reputation using market research, looking at the emerging trends and local feedback. This morning he mention an insightful comment "none of this matters if you don't know your customers and deliver them with a quality product that they see value in". He went on by saying "the delivery of a quality product comes from using the calibre ingredients, positive customer service and a smile. People just keep coming back because of the personal touch!"

What connections can we make as educators?

Research is important but knowing the people you serve is more important. People desire connection, this can be interpersonal face to face or online velcro moments as Mark Weston puts it. I also believe that beyond connection they want to know what you do well. If we don't promote our school successes they are left hidden. People want to know they are partnering with something that is moving in the right direction schools and teachers can guide this by controlling their narrative or reputation, Eric Sheringer calls this BrandEd. Once we are connected and control our reputation research becomes key, knowing what ingredients need to go together to deliver the high calibre education students deserve. This is where the Guerilla PD principle becomes crucial as part of the data driven research collection and teacher's professional development.

Out of both of these conversations a question that kept on spinning around my head, it is one posed by Dave Burgess in his Teach Like a Pirate book "If students didn't have to be there would I be teaching to an empty classroom?" When Gary made the statement "People just keep coming back because of the personal touch!" He gave the answer that differentiates the good from great education. When students are known and loved they want to be engaged with those educating them. Once they are engaged we as educators have the opportunity to inspire them to achieve anything.

Burgess, D. (2012) Teach Like a Pirate
Sheringer, E. (2015) The BrandED Difference
Weston, M. (2015) Velcro Moments
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