Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Promise of Excellence

This week I had the privilege of working with a group of Year 2 secondary teachers. I was heartened by the discussions related to learning; that of their students as well as their own ongoing learning. As we explored student-centred learning, a level of collegiality emerged with a willingness to exchange ideas and question current practices.

We began by uncovering  the ‘why’ behind a learner-centred classroom. We engaged with readings available from UNESCO and Enabling eLearning.  How could we develop the dispositions necessary for our students to become successful, contributing members of society? The student-centred approach encourages teachers to let go of the teacher as ‘all-knowing’ concept where a directive teaching style predominates and instead develop a relationship with students which is more ako-oriented.

As we developed our understanding of how student-centred approaches could work for our students, we also looked at the place of digital technologies in education. How could they help our students develop the 6 C’s of education for the future? Critical thinking, communication, collaboration, culture, creativity and connectivity?

We used a range of learning strategies ourselves, too. Think, pair, share, walk and talk, jigsaw exercises, linoit brainstorms and shared online notes to name but a few. Then, once the ‘front-loading’, exploration and discussion time ran its course, we moved into application of ideas. These amazing teachers came together in their learning areas to discuss and plan how they would apply this new learning to a unit of work. The buzz was palpable!

A final sharing of key ideas and ‘aha’ moments concluded our day together. If these teachers are an example of the educators in our schools, then we are in good hands. Lifelong, collaborative learners with highly developed communication skills and the ability to apply new learning into specific contexts. Awesome!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Teachers Who Fall Through The Cracks

Crossblogged from Hynessight

Check out your twitter feed, or the VLN (Virtual Learning Network) or whatever personal network you are part of and observe the incredibly inspiring conversations around teaching and learning. From project based learning to innovative learning environments, from coding and robotics universal design for learning to future focused collaboration, from flipped learning to crowdsourcing resources. The list goes on.

It is easy to believe in the evidence of a revolution changing our outmoded industrial model of education into one that is responsive to learners needs, and truly is future focused. We are urged at every step to look out for those learners who might fall through the gaps. Who is failing the national standards, who needs extra supports, who could do with a little boost to their fragile understandings?And teachers all over the world are responding to the evidence that they see in their classrooms in the best ways that they know how.

But what about teachers who are falling through the gaps? Most teachers have jumped on board the train, and are beginning to understand the need for being a lifelong learner so that their students will achieve the best outcomes that they can. But there is a silent faction of underachievers in the teaching profession as well. They are afraid of being shown up, after an age of being the one that their learners and parents look to. They are represented in all age brackets, but they all lie low when professional development opportunities arise. They cover up their lack of understanding by remaining silent, not asking questions, and keeping any conversation about their learners to a minimum, or alternatively restricting discussion to that of the behaviour of their learners. They are afraid that teachers will think less of them if they answer "I don't know." They present as a blank wall.

I don't identify these teachers to shame them. I identify them to say, I know you exist, I know you feel afraid, I know it pains you to feel inadequate, but now is the time to step forward and say - "this is me." EVERY teacher is a learner at the moment. There is so much to learn, so much at stake, so little time in a year when you can make a difference to your students. Stand up and identify yourself as a learner, too. As soon as you start asking questions, you will find yourself part of the most interesting conversations on earth - what does the future hold, how can we prepare the young for it, what skills and attitudes will they need and how can I be a part of it?