Monday, 23 June 2014

After reading Chapter 5 of OPEN, I ask you to engage with disengagement

This week in my reflection and review of Chapter 5 of the powerful book  OPEN: How we'll work, live and learn in the future by David Price  I ask you to engage with disengagement. Although this is only a short chapter, the messages for us as educators are so mammoth that I will dedicate two posts to this chapter. This first post is a wake up call and gives you the cold hard facts about disengagement. As I am a solutions focused educator, my next post will offer some practical solutions to overcoming disengagement in our schools.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was busy preparing an engaging 'short,sharp and shiny' overview video to accompany my sabbatical report presentation on engaging every student in deep learning I thought that I would have completed it by now. Unfortunately, the programme that I chose to create my engaging video with has caused me much frustration. When I went to include my voice over and then upload it to You Tube, it would not respond. I have since painstakingly created a second video and have had success with the voice over but not with publishing the video yet. I am determined to succeed!

In creating an 'engaging' video I experienced total disengagement yet again. My last experience was related to editing and rewriting my sabbatical report. It is not until you experience disengagement yourself, that you can truly connect with the reality of what is happening in some classrooms for a large number of our students within our schools locally and globally. Having to recreate each element of my video over and over again made me feel frustrated and bored. How do our learners feel when they are faced with 'more of the same', repetitive  'busy work' such as essays, reports or  worksheets that mean 'eyes down','not a sound' until you're finished' ? Is this an engaging learning environment?

Now I ask you to engage with disengagement :

Deeply reflect on a time when you have felt disengaged or even better, go ahead and complete a 'busy' worksheet or task you have prepared for your students.

Now reflect on your emotions at the time in relation to Price's description of engaging learning environments and consider this in relation to your own classroom :
Price believes that "visionaries of the future are likely to emerge from the kind of environments where learning is collaborative, social, passion-led and values-drive, networked, horizontal, democratic and creative." (page 101)

 If you are brave enough, share your reflection, thoughts and feelings of disengagement below in the comments box.

Price also shares frightening statistics on student disengagement (page 96,97) across the world and talks about 'disengaged achievers who gain good grades but are emotionally disinvested in their learning '. (page 98) The frightening message is that disengaged students become disengaged employees or non- employed.

In my next post, I will review more from Chapter 5  'Getting Engaged' in OPEN: How we'll work, live and learn in the future by David Price and suggest some practical solutions to overcoming disengagement in our schools. I also sincerely hope to share my 'engaging' video with you too.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

After reading Chapter 4 of OPEN I will share how to go SOFT and activate a Global Learning Commons

This week in my reflection and review of Chapter 4 of the powerful book  OPEN: How we'll work, live and learn in the future by David Price  I will share our progress with going SOFT and how we will create a Global Learning Commons.
How can you embrace SOFT in your workplace?
The acronym SOFT stands for Share,Open,Free,Trust. Price explains that.'life is already becoming harder for any leader who doesn't embrace SOFT'.(Price p 43) 
Last week we went SOFT with our school community and invited them to a Fish & Chip learning evening. We encouraged them to bring their own food to share with their family and bring any devices as well. 

We invited students and parents to share their learning and collaborate openly through interactive activities. We created an informal yet supportive learning environment where the participants were free to explore and experience blended learning. Mutual Trust in being OPEN to promoting student lead learning and honest feedback from all particpants was the key to a highly successful evening. One parent bravely shared her feedback publicly on the school Facebook page:

'Pleased I came last night. It was very informative and encouraged me to stop burying my head in regard to advancing technology. The best part for me was listening to the students. It has prepared me for what's ahead and allowed me time to advance my own learning so I am in a position to help and guide my daughter when the time comes. I look forward to more of these informative evenings. It's nice to be able to be involved.'  St Joseph's school parent

One outcome of our SOFT event is that one teacher is organising student lead workshops for parents.Student tutors with their own techie support students will become activators of learning for willing parent learners.

What does it mean to create a Global Learning Commons?
Price recommends that we create a 'social learning environment.'(page 90) An informal environment where rich learning is 'inclusive and innovative' and 'isn't done to us but by us' and we are learning  'for the of love it'.(page 78,79) It is the technology that makes it global. Price explains that participation, passion and purpose are the key characteristics of the Global Learning Commons.(pages 80-86) I believe that Price' s key Learning Commons' principles (page 87- 89) should be shared with all educators and I will share them with my work colleagues this week.

The 'informal' setting for our Fish and Chip evening where children and friends were free to learn with families was a  Learning Commons in action. Sharing our learning via Facebook and Twitter connected us globally. The ignition of passion through enthusiastic participation with a definite purpose to engage everyone in deep learning were evidence of Learning Common characteristics in action. Numerous requests for similar events, parents wanting to learn from students and students wanting to share their learning mean that we must embrace the values SOFT and in Price's word 'learn how to adapt and adapt how we learn'.(Ch 3 page 75)

We are bravely embracing our learning from OPEN: How we'll work, live and learn in the future by David Price. In my next review, I will explore Chapter 5  'Getting Engaged'. This is a topic that engages me intensely. My recent report on engaging students in deep learning is a hot topic. Since presenting to schools in the South Island, I have been invited to share my learning on engagement to leaders in the North Island and I am busy preparing an engaging 'short,sharp and shiny' overview video to accompany my presentation.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Post presentation reflections, Hattie activators and the power of feedback

After finishing my sabbatical report on engaging learners in deep learning almost two weeks ago, I was encouraged by Mary Wootton to give a presentation to the Southern Regional Learning and Change Network on Thursday.

Mary Wootton  is the Lead Facilitator of Learning and Change Networks across NZ who is an inspiring role model and leader. Mary was one of the educators I chose to send my draft report to and she responded with thirty-four comments ! I reflected on these and along with other valuable feedback from my 'team of experts', I made some minor alterations and included reference to a video from Ings on the Death of the Essay recommended by Dr Brian Annan in my final report.

Mary's constructive feedback and comments enabled me to reflect further and challenged me to learn and grow. All learners need this gentle push. I liken this to Hattie's description of teachers as activators of learning who have an effect size 0.72 compared with 0.19 when teachers are facilitators (remember anything below 0.4 is not worth considering ). Activators are 'deliberate change agents...directors of learning ... learning is intense, buzzing, and risky.' (Hattie 2009 p 24,25)

The presentation was a challenge for me, not because I don't like presenting but because I like to be well prepared. Working full time and being whisked away by my loving husband to Queenstown for my birthday during the long weekend before the presentation left me with very little time. Yet, the valuable opportunity  to share my work was a driver along with Mary herself. In the past, for formal presentations, I have spent several weeks reflecting on key points, creating visuals and practicing. This presentation moved me out of my comfort zone and I just had to go for it!!

I am grateful to my very supportive and willing Whitestone LCN team who bought the sweets & lead the interactive discussion times, shared the videos, gave out the handouts, shared the reflections and their views and urged me on. It was rewarding to receive positive feedback about the presentation but as a learner it's the next steps we need to hear that will drive deeper reflection, learning and change. This open feedback from Mary will drive improvement in any future presentations of my work.
"Personally I thought the use of video today as a taster was a great strategy to use and also scheduling time for the groups to interact and link to their context throughout the presentation.
Well done on mixing up the groups- many have tried across the country and it is VERY difficult for people to leave the comfort of their networks!!
I was alerted to a dilemma today that is worth considering- what do we do as leaders or teachers or facilitators or students- when half the people have read the report, or whatever prior to a session and half haven't. The presenter can't go through the report as half have read it and would be disengaged, however the people who haven't read it prior have no prior knowledge to bring to the setting. 
One solution might  be to  do a "short, sharp and shiny" overview at the start for those who have not read the report. 
Or to be more interactive divide the group in 2 those who have read and those who haven't get them to pair up- and the reader can summarise key findings and the non-reader can listen and question. Then maybe people might then have a better idea about what they might want some more information about- the co-construction at the end." Mary Wootton (5th June 2014)
Those of you who have read the report will know that my next goal is to prepare an engaging video to encapsulate the essence of the report. I aim for this to be the 'short,sharp and shiny' overview that Mary refers to in her feedback. In hindsight, the page in my report about disengagement and my next steps that I shared with my staff when introducing them to the report would have also been a simple yet powerful way to share my learning (click here for this link). I will keep all of this in mind for my next presentation.

In conclusion, the high quality co construction and coordination of the Southern Regional Networking day in Christchurch by Mary, the inspiring presentation from Sheena Campbell and Ollie Baker from Stonefields School and the interaction, enthusiasm and willingness to learn and change from all participants meant that the day was a huge success.

After reading Chapter 3 of Open, we will go SOFT

My weekly reflections and reviews of each chapter of the powerful book  OPEN: How we'll work, live and learn in the future by David Price were recently interrupted by a whirlwind of fast, exciting, learning and change events.
These included the excitement generated by daring to go 'open' with my draft sabbatical report about engagement in deep learning. This spiraled into a presentation to South Island schools last week,a recommendation to publish the report and being invited to write a reflection article for the Aoraki Journal. 
Most importantly, the change that is happening close to my heart, within our own school community in only a few weeks has been described as phenomenal. One of my colleagues who shared her reflections with me for the Aoraki Journal writes:
"When Jenny came back renewed from her sabbatical having become a confident Blogger and Twitter-connector it was as if the flood gates opened.  She explained what she had learnt and we all started to share our online experiences.  More Blogs were created and used and I think it was the first time we ALL really connected with the idea that we really are operating in a world different from the one we learnt about in teacher training or in our own education". (Lorraine Frances-Rees Assistant Principal & co DRS May 2014 for Aoraki Journal)
At the end of my earlier posts on Chapters 1 and 2 of Open, I spoke about radically changing the way we communicate with our community and promoting informal learning for staff and students. We are putting into practice these actions and living them out NOW. We are 'in the change' and the effects are powerful and exciting. Bravely taking the steps to go 'open' publicly and 'adopt radical  transparency strategies' (Price p 54) with our learning has resulted in deep community engagement. This has led to a decision to be bold and hold an unplanned family evening tomorrow night to share and celebrate our learning and change. Students, parents, digital technology and collaboration will drive the event stimulated by a fun, family social time as they connect with a meal of fish and chips.
What does Price mean about going 'SOFT'? How can we go SOFT in our school? The acronym SOFT stands for Share, Open, Free, Trust. Price explains that they follow in this order because 'each set of of values and actions creates the need for the ones that follow.'....'life is already becoming harder for any leader who doesn't embrace SOFT'.(Price p 43)
Sharing leads to collaboration, going open means that 'frenemies' that would normally be rivals are collaborating to support the exchange of 'information,knowledge and skills'. 
(Price p 54) Free access to learning through digital technology to 'user- generated content' where 'people gladly produce this content for free because the creation of it, plus a little audience recognition, is reward in itself '. (Price p 64) Freedom to fail, "If you have a work culture where bringing your mistakes to the table every week is a normal thing to do, it feels less like failing and more like learning".(Alan Noble Google Engineering Director as quoted by Price p 66) 'Freedom to learn where your interests and passions lead you '. (Price p 68) is another interpretation of free that Price recommends needs to be incorporated into our learning environments.(Price p 69)

Last but not least, Price explains that these three values and actions all rely for their impact upon the fourth: Trust. 'Teachers have to trust that their students, given more freedom and more responsibility, will exceed their expectations '. (Price p 69) 'We now have the tools to show what we can do for each other, a spirit previously only seen between neighbors now spans the globe '. (Price p70)

These SOFT values are shaping how we live and work but also need to apply to how we learn. As Price concludes in this chapter,we have to 'embed SOFT values into innovative learning environments and learn to how to adapt and adapt how we learn'.(Price p 75) 

We have begun to go SOFT by sharing and opening our learning beyond our school walls. Through our willingness to learn and work with other local schools as part of our Whitestone Learning and Change Network and then as part of a wider regional network of South Island schools we are breaking down barriers of competition with our 'frenemies'. Instead, our passion and drive for creating the optimal learning conditions for each and every student across our networks means we are freely exchanging our learning and bravely building a sense of community spirit through trust.

In fact, we are starting to bring this chapter of  OPEN: How we'll work, live and learn in the future by David Price to life. After reading Chapter 4 of OPEN we will create a Global Learning Commons. Next week I will share our progress with going SOFT and how we will create a Global Learning Commons.