Tag Archives: school

Becoming an innovative school – Anne Knock

14 Aug

I have simply cut and paste Anne’s explanation of her 10 ideas on what makes NBCS innovative.  While this isn’t new to me – and I’m guessing you, I think that it is a precise summary of the things that we know are important.

I think we all aspire to hear “I thought I was coming to see buildings, now I know it’s so much more” when visitors come into our school!

My top 10 ideas

5 08 2012

Northern Beaches Christian School: one of the most innovative in the world. Thanks to everyone for great day of discussion …from @wethink

When one of the world’s leading authorities on innovation described Northern Beaches Christian School as “one of the most innovative in the world” we were amazed and honoured. Charlie Leadbeater (@wethink), is a former adviser to the British government and author of We-think: The Power Of Mass Creativity. Leadbeater ran a one day seminar with us in June 2011. His TED Talk Education innovation in the Slums has more than 300,000 views and he was described as:

early to notice the rise of “amateur innovation” – great ideas from outside the traditional walls, from people who suddenly have the tools to collaborate, innovate and make their expertise known.

We are often asked about the distinctives that have led to Charles Leadbeater, and other leading educators and thinkers, to make such comments when they spend some time at Northern Beaches Christian School. While not the definitive list, here are some of the key conditions that can make a difference:

1. A vision for learning is incessantly and clearly communicated

  • What is your vision? Make sure you know where you are going.
  • Find ingenious and relentless ways to communicate it. This takes courage.

2. Learning is future-focused

  • The world is changing, make sure the learning context recognises this
  • Observe the students, how they work and communicate (Tip: they aren’t using email anymore)

3. Culture takes time and persistence to embed

  • Once you have the vision – prioritise your steps. The reality is, change will take time
  • If you believe it, be resolute. Help those who are struggling to change, but stick to your guns.

4. Engaged and motivated students are the goal

  • Think about your own conditions for productivity and creativity, maybe it’s same for students
  • Put current practices through the ‘learning’ filter – do they still belong?

5. Equipped and supported staff are essential

  • Vision + ‘Learning’ Filter = Regular PD to support through change
  • Teacher PD needs to look like student learning, otherwise it’s “do as I say, not as I do”

6. Technology is an environment for learning, not the driver

  • This is not about who has the most bright shiny toys
  • Students live in a world of technology – the school-world needs be relevant

7. Relationships matter

  • In the midst of all the learning, technology and activity nothing matters more than quality relationships
  • Students need to belong, be known, valued and accepted. This is only achieved through relationship

8. Learning is authentic

  • Set in a real-world context, skills will be learnt readily when there is purpose
  • Provide opportunities for students to be world-changers

9. Spaces for learning are welcoming and comfortable

  • This is not about bright shiny spaces and colourful furniture, it is about aesthetically pleasing environments where students (and teachers) will want to come to learn
  • Think about where you like to work and learn, maybe it’s the same for students

10. Creativity and innovation have expression

  • There will always be barriers to innovation, find ways to break or go around them.
  • Make this your culture, give it voice, take risks, embrace failure

When people visit Northern Beaches Christian School often hear them say:

“I thought I was coming to see buildings, now I know it’s so much more”


Time to halt the fallout.

22 May

Too often we hear of quality teachers leaving the system and disregarding our profession – the most honourable profession – as a viable long-term employment option.  Far be it for me to say that the renumeration matches the efforts of teachers (and all school staff), yet it is disappointing and alarming to have quality personnel leaving – seeing other employment options as more attractive.  

It is no wonder that our young, talented teachers with so much to offer the world feel like they are not appreciated. 

On top of the ridiculous workload teachers experience each day, please note that the benefits aren’t exactly stellar:

Generally, they will have to work for about 40 years (then will receive less pension than their peers). That the work they set is too hard or too easy. That their subject is not good enough. That they need to solve gaps in parenting. That they should receive performance related pay. That teachers are paid too much, in fact all governement employees are paid too much and don’t work hard enough.   That teachers ‘cheat’ when the watchmen come. And today they’re told that teachers don’t know what stress is.

Well here are 5 tips, from Andrew Miller, that teachers need to follow to stay sane and ‘keep on keeping on’.  Despite the mixed messages teachers are receiving, we can ill afford to let them go.

Baptism By Fire! That’s what I call the first year of teaching. No matter how much preparation and mentoring you have received, you are building the plane as you fly it. To make sure you don’t crash and/or burn (yes, pun intended!), I put together some hard-learned lessons from my experience as a new teacher. In addition, these are good recommendations and reminders for veteran teachers. When you get hunkered down in the day-to-day while the year presses on, you tend to forget what really works well, because you are working so hard. I hope you find these five tips useful!

1) Push Out Content in Different Ways

You know what’s exhausting? Preparing PowerPoints, presentations and other lectures! Guess what? You don’t have to do this all the time. Yes, there is a time and a place for a lecture or direct instruction, but there is also a place for a variety of strategies to have students take ownership of content learning. Use jigsaw techniques, games that teach, reciprocal teaching and other effective strategies that put students in the driver’s seat of learning. Move from sage of the stage to guide on the side. While all lessons require preparation and planning, a variety of lesson types can not only keep your students interested, but also keep you energized to try new ways of teaching.

2) Go Home!

I mean it. Go home! There is always something more to do, I know it. But you know what? It can wait! Now obviously, you do need to stay late for events, meetings and tutoring with students, but you also need to set boundaries. It is easy to get sucked into the school building, so make sure you leave when appropriate. Go home to your family (or your cat, in my case). Let your students and peers know that you are taking care of your own self by attempting to have a life outside of school.

3) Establish Boundaries for Your Time

Of course this relates to the tip above, but it has more to do with the overall structures you have in place for your time during the school day. It’s OK to keep your door closed. Yes, there are times to work with students, but there is also time to put on NPR with your cup of coffee, check you email and commence your morning ritual. Your lunch is sacred, so make sure you take that time for yourself, too. If professional development is scheduled, keep that sacred as well, because it is some rare time you have to work on your practice. Students, parents and others will respect the fact that you set time aside for them, but also for yourself.

4) Use Your PLN

In a previous blog here at Edutopia, Mary Beth Hertz wrote about the importance of the “connected educator,” suggesting that we all make sure to network with fellow educators. Great teachers steal (and you’d be a liar if you said you were “borrowing”), so make sure you use technologies like Edmodo and Twitter to keep yourself connected to other educators, your personal learning network (PLN).

5) Know What You Are Assessing

Obviously, teachers should know what they are assessing, but sometimes we forget and start assessing everything. If you collect a formative assignment, only assess for a few things. Do you have to assess for conventions all the time? No, but there is a time and place for that. Do you have to assess correct answers in math problems? Perhaps not this time. Perhaps you focus on process-oriented feedback. Know what you are assessing, and be transparent about this to students. Not only is this manageable for students to digest later, but it makes the time you spend assessing and giving feedback shorter, focused and more efficient.

Again, these are tips, and may not work for everyone, but I think in general they encompass what I learned in the first years. You can only care for your students if you are caring for yourself. If you create and live in structures that allow you to work smart, then you’ll transition into a confident, veteran teacher so much more quickly!

I Bid Ye Fare Thee Well

6 Mar

I had a lovely farewell with a group of parents and colleagues the other day, as I again moved on from one school to the next.  While this was a great chance to catch up it made me ponder the changes that had been instituted there as well as at subsequent positions before this.  I must say here and now that I don’t think I initiated or made the changes, but rather it was my management of the changes and my leadership of the staff as we felt the undercurrent of change drag us along.  So then what challenges will I face in my next tenure?

The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows, so should students? Do we allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning?

Knowledge acquisition is only a smartphone away. Get rid of those clunky desktops and monitors and do something fun with that room.

Ok, so this is a trick answer. More precisely this one should read: ‘Our concept of what a computer is’. Because computing is going mobile and over the next decade we’re going to see the full fury of individualised computing via handhelds come to the fore. Can’t wait.

The 21st century is a 24/7 environment. And the next decade is going to see the traditional temporal boundaries between home and school disappear. And despite whatever academics or politicians might say, we don’t need kids to ‘go to school’ more; we need them to ‘learn’ more. And this will be done 24/7 and on the move (see #3).

I predict that the SC is on its last legs and the HSC isn’t far behind. Over the next ten years, we will see Digital Portfolios replace test scores as the #1 prerequisite for TAFE and university admissions.

The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn’t yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won’t make you ‘distinguished’; it’ll just be a natural part of your work.

Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it’s time you get over yourself.

Books were nice. In ten years’ time, all reading will be via digital means. And yes, I know, you like the ‘feel’ of paper. Well, in ten years’ time you’ll hardly tell the difference as ‘paper’ itself becomes digitized.  How many of you now grab national news via the net or mobile, and only peruse the paper to occupy your mind as you sit in the staffroom or waiting room?

Bio scans, bio scans and bio scans.

A wardobe?

Ok, so this is another trick answer. More subtly put: IT Departments as we currently know them. Cloud computing and a decade’s worth of increased wifi and satellite access will make some of the traditional roles of IT — software, security, and connectivity — a thing of the past. What will IT professionals do with all their free time? Innovate. Look to tech departments to instigate real change in the function of schools over the next twenty years.

School buildings are going to become ‘homebases’ of learning, not the institutions where all learning happens. Buildings will get smaller and greener, student and teacher schedules will change to allow less people on site at any one time, and more teachers and students will be going out into their communities to engage in experiential learning.

Education over the next ten years will become more individualised, leaving the bulk of grade-based learning in the past. Students will form peer groups by interest and these interest groups will petition for specialized learning. The structure of K-12 will be fundamentally altered.

This is actually one that could occur over the next five years. Universities have to realize that if they are to remain relevant, they are going to have to demand that 21st century tech integration be modelled by the very professors who are supposed to be preparing our teachers.

No one knows your school as well as you. With the power of a PLN (professional learning networks) in their back pockets, teachers will rise up to replace peripatetic professional development gurus as the source of schoolwide professional development programs. This is already happening.

There is no reason why every student needs to take however many unit of the same course of study as every other student. The root of curricular change will be the shift in Yr 5-8 providers to a role as foundational content providers and Yr 9-12 schools as places for specialised learning.

Ongoing parent-teacher relations in virtual reality will make parent-teacher conference nights seem quaint. Over the next ten years, parents and teachers will become closer than ever as a result of virtual communication opportunities. And parents will drive schools to become ever more tech integrated.

Nutrition information + handhelds + cost comparison = the end of $5.00 lasagne in foil containers. At least, I so hope so.

You need a website/brochure/promo/etc.? Well, for goodness sake just let your kids do it. By the end of the decade — in the best of schools — they will be.

20. MANDATORY ALGEBRA as an example
Within the decade, it will either become the norm to complete courses in primary/’middle’ school.  We’ll have finally woken up to the fact that there’s no reason to have content like algebra as a prerequisite for anyone other than the absolute few who will continue to use it. 

In ten years’ time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%. And the printing industry and the copier industry and the paper industry itself will either adjust or perish.

A One Way Street?

21 Feb

I wonder if your perception equates to reality. 

Do you have an authentic partnership with parents and the community or do you lean towards the technological dogmatic dribble that seems to be seeping into some schools (led by such passionate personas as myself)? 

 Many schools are beginning to use social media to send out information to parents. Examples include twitter feeds and facebook pages. These initial forays into social media are a first step. They provide parents and the community with greater access to information regarding the school and the learning happening within its walls.

 A key facet of school leadership is developing relationships, both within staff and also with families and the community. This relationship building must include seeking feedback and listening. Most of this work is done face to face, through school events or outreach programs and even through informal conversations in the hallways or at drop off or pick up time.

We live in a time when top-down leadership and closed door meetings are no longer seen as the way to get things done. Stakeholders want to be involved in decision-making. They want to know what their school leader is thinking and what he or she values. They want, above all, to trust that their child is in the very best hands at school.

 How can we use those same social media tools to engage in conversation, rather than simply pushing out information?

 Please consider the following discussion points (that I have put forward to my staff and my community). 

  • Leadership is Listening and Learning
  • What is twitter and how do I get started?
  • How can parents and schools use social media to engage in meaningful conversations?
  • What challenges do we face when we use social media and how can we overcome them?
  • What are the burning questions/issues/concerns?
  • Are there any success stories or otherwise we can learn from?

10 Major Mobile Learning Trends to Watch For – Mind Shift

1 Feb

Technology has been used in the classroom for decades now. But with the advent of cloud computing and the proliferation of smaller, more portable computers and Internet-capable devices, it’s now possible to bring the classroom into the technology instead. Mobile learning, focuses on learning through mobile devices, allowing learners to move about in a classroom or remotely learn from the location of their choice. The movement has gained a lot of steam in recent years, and despite some criticisms, isn’t likely to fade fast – especially as new technologies that make mobile learning more practical continue to emerge and the popularity of remote learning opportunities like online colleges continue to grow.

While the applications of mobile learning are growing all the time, Online College has highlighted some of the major trends here, showing the changes in how we teach, learn and interact in educational environments.

  1. Location-based integration. Mobile learning has taken to the streets, with technologies that allow for seamless integration with a wide range of locations. One of the best uses of this technology has been within museums, where visitors can use a mobile device to listen to information about items in the museum’s collection. The American Museum of Natural History in New York is one museum with an especially rich mobile tool, guiding users turn-by-turn to the best pieces in the museum’s collection and enhancing the experience of visiting. Of course, mobile integration isn’t just for museums. Some colleges are using it to createhigh-tech tours for visiting students and their families. With millions of smartphone users and the number growing larger each year, this trend is likely to grow as more businesses and organizations work to enrich the patron experience.
  2. The domination of ebooks. Amazon is one of the biggest retailers of books, but in the past year, their sales of ebooks has outstripped that of traditional books. The same holds true for bookselling giant Barnes and Noble. The ebook is steadily becoming a popular part of everyday life for many Americans, and the digital book is slowly making its way into the classroom as well. Some states, like California, have proposed replacing student textbooks with ebooks. Not only could it be a big money saver, it may help eliminate the problem of student textbooks becoming quickly outdated as new discoveries are made, something every teacher and child can appreciate.
  3. Cloud computing in schools. Cloud computing is a big buzzword these days, with tech companies like Microsoft and Apple pushing their devices and applications — and schools haven’t ignored the hype. Schools are increasingly looking to cloud computing as a way to provide access to information and to close budget gaps. An inexpensive solution, cloud computing is becoming the norm everywhere from grade schools to grad schools, perhaps because it is not only simple to use, but mobile as well. Information on the cloud, whether for lesson plans or class projects, can be accessed from anywhere, anytime and on any mobile device. In an increasingly mobile world and classroom, cloud computing is more than just a trend, and is likely to become the standard in information management over the next decade.
  4. Bring-your-own-device classrooms. Since most kids these days already have access to a mobile device, schools are seizing the opportunity to turn these gadgets from distractions into learning tools by incorporating these devices into classroom lessons and projects. From mobile phones to laptop computers, teachers and students are increasingly bringing technology to the classroom, and in many school districts, it’s being put to good use.Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of one-to-one computing programs in raising test scores and increasing college attendance, but with many districts strapped for cash and unable to provide devices for each student, this isn’t always a possibility. The solution may be found in asking students to bring their own devices to class, cutting back on the number of mobile devices the school needs to provide while still enhancing the learning experience.
  5. Online collaborative learning. There aren’t a lot of places these days that are devoid of an Internet connection, and many people can now access the web from, well, anywhere they can get a cell phone signal. Schools are embracing the web as a learning tool in a variety of ways, but one particularly exciting one has been the growth of online collaborative learning. This can mean a variety of things, but in many cases it involves students each participating in a project on the web. Numerous classrooms have taken to collaboratively blogging about projects and ideas in the classroom. Others have produced their own podcasts. Still others ask students to work together to create a multimedia website. These kinds of projects not only help students learn to work together, but educate them on technological tools they’ll need to use in their academic and professional lives. The popularity of these kinds of lessons isn’t likely to fade anytime soon. 
  6. The rise of the tablet. Tablet computers come in many shapes and sizes, but as they grow smaller and more portable, they are becoming a fairly common addition to the American classroom. The iPad has been one such tablet device that has shown a lot of popularity and promise in recent years in the classroom. Great for doing everything from studying the periodic table to playing educational games, the app-based device has been a big trend in schools across the nation, with many shelling out millions to provide students with access to the devices. While some debate the effectiveness of tablet computers as a learning tool, experimentation with them in the classroom has had largely positive results from both teachers and students.
  7. Online class management. Online class management systems like Moodle and Blackboard have grown exponentially in their number of users in recent years. Part of the popularity stems from the ability to not only access and update student records from a computer, but from mobile devices like a phone or an iPad as well. Students, teachers and parents alike can easily check grades, upload assignments and check on homework through the assessment tools, making them not only more accessible, but more practical for anyone involved in the educational process.
  8. Social media for education. When it was first created, Facebook was solely a place for students to connect with one another. Today, just about everyone has a profile on the site, and it’s being used for a lot more than just rehashing weekend parties. In fact, many educators have begun using it as a way to connect with students, spark discussion and relay important assignment information. With the majority of college students able to access the site from their phones or other mobile devices, students have no excuse not to get involved in class, no matter where they are or how busy they may be. While social media in education is still tricky territory, as sites like Twitter and Facebook evolve, the ways they’re used in the classroom will likely become more refined and potentially more powerful in creating a better educational experience.
  9. Snack learning. One of the criticisms of the digital generation is that they have short attention spans. However true or untrue this may be, educators are taking note and developing learning tools that offer up snack sized bits of learning for students on the go. These single-serve educational bites may make it easier for students to tackle the ever-increasing amount of information they need to know, from mastering a programming language to learning the basics of American history and just about everything in between. Mobile devices are a perfect extension of this concept, allowing learners to engage in short bursts of learning while waiting in line, on the bus or sitting on the couch.
  10. Mobile learning in workplace training. Mobile learning isn’t just catching on in schools and colleges, it’s also becoming a part of the workplace training experience as well, providing information and a new format for testing understanding. With many businesses already supplying workers with smartphones for work, it makes sense to get the most out of these devices as possible. One way companies are doing this is by having experts share their expertise, either through blogs or a series of podcasts. Additionally, mobile devices are an excellent source of reference information should an employee ever encounter a situation with which he or she isn’t familiar. Performance support for employees can help reinforce their training and make for a stronger more confident workforce– something every business is undoubtedly looking to establish.