Sunday, 8 June 2014

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.

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