As part of the #SAVMP George Couros has asked that we share how we ensure the learning we do goes viral. I believe through sharing our skills, our learning and our experiences we grow ourselves and those around us. I am always willing to give my time to share my own experiences and I truly value those that invest their time in me, whether that be one to one, a small or a larger group or even via the connected web and social media.
This term, in my own attempt to meet the diverse needs of our 70 odd staff, I facilitated two whole school PD sessions as part of a team working towards building strategies for better classroom practice and utilising technology. I chose to target Formative Assessment, as this follows from previous work we have been doing as part of our Differentiation Project, is something we know we can definitely improve and will impact student success and the promotion of growth mindset.
I began each session with a short introduction to the concept and provided staff with several options to choose from, each focussed on simple takeaways that teachers could implement in their classrooms. Fortunately I had a great group of people willing to give their time and expertise to lead workshops and share their examples and resources.
The first session included these workshops:
Peer critique: Staff gave examples how they promote useful peer critique based on the idea that feedback must be kind, useful and specific. Staff shared how they using GoogleDoc comments and Blog comments can facilitate and model peer critique for students.
Journals and portfolios as reflection tools: Staff shared how blogging can be used as journals, port folios and reflective spaces. Examples were also showcased for how to develop portfolios for the Arts.
Quizzes and surveys: Staff showcased PPTs for Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Jeopardy and explored how simple fun quizzes and games can provide valuable insight into student understanding and misconceptions that can be corrected in “Just in Time” lessons. Plenaries were also exampled as ways of revealing student attitudes, reflections and understanding.
Each workshop was led by at least two teachers who utilise these strategies in their own classes. They provided examples and templates for staff to develop right there and then to use in their classrooms.
Staff feedback from the session was overwhelmingly positive. The only criticism was that they wanted an opportunity to access the alternative workshops as well. As a result, we facilitated a similar session 3 weeks later, giving the same options but also adding a few differentiated strategies to include for their planning (RAFTs and Choice Boards).
Some workshops catered for up to 15 participants whilst others only had 5 or so. What was most appreciated by staff was that they had choice, they were not being dictated to but instead shared with.
This morning I participated in a Google Hangout as part of #SAVMP (School Admin Virtual Mentor Program). I am very fortunate to be grouped with mentor Jimmy Casas (thanks @gcouros) and with great education professionals Jenna Shaw, Dana Corr, Kevin Graham and Jen Lindaman. (If you’re not already following these passionate educators on twitter, you should be!)
This mornings hangout had Jimmy, Jenna, Dana and I spending an hour together getting to know where we are at in terms of our own leadership journeys.
It was evident from the initial introductions that we come from diverse school environments and have a range of experiences. Nevertheless it was also obvious that each of these dedicated educators will have a great deal to contribute to my learning.
Of course any opportunity and coming together of people is only as valuable as what you are prepared to invest. After today’s chat, I am confident that there is a definite commitment to this little PLC and it already has me reflecting.
During the chat, Jimmy made two comments that really struck a chord with me. It wouldn’t matter where in the world your school was, how many kids enrolled or the demographic nature of the school, it just makes good sense!
1. always following up, is key to building relationships
2. never make excuses for not acting – take responsibility of how you can be the change
I have always felt strongly about both these concepts, but it often isn’t until you are “in” conversation or listening to someone else’s take on an idea that you truly “get” how you can do it better.
Listening to Jimmy speak about how he ensures relationships are strengthened even after difficult conversations was one of these moments.
I have always tried to ensure I do this with people I lead, however what about the people that lead me? Can we say as leaders we have no influence because our line manager, our principal, our cluster, our region, or our education department has a different agenda? Where does our voice die out? Should we still not be following through after we make an observation or address a concern and not leave it at that? Where does fighting for what we believe in stop and how does it leave the relationship if the last thing said was not resolved?
Lots to think about before we meet again.
How do you go about creating innovative practices in your schools?
How do you know if they are making a difference?
How are they revisited to ensure that they have the same impact that they once had before?
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to be part of a team to establish a faculty all shiny and new. Not only was this a fresh beginning as a new faculty but I was also new to the school, thus not entirely compromised or pressured by previous practices, history or approaches.
I was adamant that we would not create a carbon copy, but base all our decisions on what is best for our kids and their learning. That might mean that some of our choices reflect that of other schools, but would not be because of other schools. I had only been working in the area of disability for a year prior so had again, not been influenced by traditional practices, approaches or expectations for how this new environment should run.
No limitations, no deficit model in sight!
Working with students with disabilities comes with many assumptions. Misconceptions about students “abilities” to be problem solvers or to manage technology. Attitudes towards “wasting” time, effort and money on students with little to contribute to the community and ignorance to the expertise and skills required to support these young people to access opportunities despite their personal challenges and the limitations from these external forces.
If you enter our learning spaces you will quickly see that our students are negotiating their learning, problem solving and manipulating a wide range of technology to enhance their development. Our space is innovative, not because we have 1:1 iPads, interactive whiteboards and laptops, but because we approach learning as a constantly evolving practice, always trying to find ways to improve both the teaching and the learning.
I develop innovative practices, by constant reflection and asking these questions:
- Is it authentic?
- Is it student driven?
- Is it improving student understanding and skills?
- How can we do it better or replace it with something better?
I think these questions are valid for all learning practices and environments, do you?
What other questions would support the development of innovative teaching and learning?