Learning is....
Planting a seed in our brain... learning to water, nurture and grow it.... so we can live on the fruit of our learning and plant more seeds.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

ULearn 15 - Keynote Speaker: Grant Lichtman - On the Road: Keys to Successful School Innovation in Times of Change.

Surprisingly (NOT!), I arrived to ULearn15 just after the first keynote speaker, Grant Lichtman, began his address to the conference.  As I caught up on the previous couple of hours of messages and social media, I was listening and picking things up.  But I decided to retweet others and respond to their tweets rather than live tweet myself.

Consequently, when I drew the tweets from this keynote from my Twitter timeline for the Storify down below, it is out of order of what actually was said when as the tweets came out where I retweeted from.

Grant Lichtman's address to ULearn15 was about being successful with innovation and change in your school.  A timely address, as, like all education systems around the world, New Zealand is going through yet another change.

Going to Grant's website, www.grantlichtman.com, this is the introductory paragraph about Grant:
Nationally recognized thought leader in the drive to transform K-12 education, Grant speaks, writes, and works with fellow educators to build capacity and comfort with innovation in response to a rapidly changing world.

Grant also blogs at http://www.grantlichtman.com/blog/.

As Grant spoke, I was struck by a number of points he made and how similar his metaphor was to Dr Jean Mitaera's metaphor during her address to the NZEI Annual Conference last week.

Grant likened being a teacher to being a farmer.  The teacher has to clear the land of obstacles and layout the fence lines (boundaries) so they can nurture the crop/animals/learner.

It struck a chord with me as Dr Jean last week said teachers were like gardeners: preparing the soil (finding out about their learners and making the classroom a great learning space), choosing the seeds (what needs to be taught), watering, weeding, pruning, nurturing.  You can read more about this at Talanoa and Dr Jean Mitaera at the NZEI Annual Conference.

This is my tweet from the NZEI conference last week.  Dr Jean also spoke about choosing the right tools to do the job and making sure they were sharp and ready.

Grant also talked about teachers being active in the learning with the students, not being a guide on the side with a degree of detachment.

Another stand out comment from Grant that spoke to me, was how impressed he was that New Zealand educators were not reliant on text books generally like they are in the US or the UK.  I found, when I was in the UK in 2001/2002, that it was almost like, "Today is Wednesday 7 October, so the Year 4s should be doing page 27 of Blah Blah text book" regardless of whether or not they were a struggling learning, on track or way ahead for their year group.  New Zealand is very good at catering for the diverse abilities within a class, however, we have also found, with National Standards being implemented, that sometimes the target group gets all the attention and the capable and above sometimes don't get that extension we would like to give.

Surveying my students for that one word that describes a part of the day - I quite like this idea and I think it would be worth a go - so that is a "take away to try" for me.

And these two questions tweeted out by @chaelebel and @MissDtheTeacher are well worthy of further consideration.

The difference between just going to school and really great learning?  I guess it is being excited about school and learning in my opinion.  Just going is a chore, a necessity.  But being excited about school and learning is another thing altogether.  But I think this doesn't just apply to our students.  I think it has to apply to us as teachers too, because if we are not excited about learning and school and our students, how can we expect to inspire our students and give them what they need from us?

I think for wanting more time, some of it has to do with being planned and organised.  There is nothing worse than kids waiting for you to think about what you want to do with them when they get to the mat.  Another aspect is having great classroom systems so that the students know what is expected of them and when so they can be self managing.  And another aspect is timetabling - running workshops, having flexibility about when you take your maths or reading or writing groups, when you demonstrate a skill, a MYLearning aspect to it.

The tweets below are basically telling us that we have to be used to change.

This is my 20th year of teaching, and in my experience, teachers are constantly in a state of change and discomfort.  This is our normal.  When I was still at high school, Tomorrow's Schools was the huge shake up.  During my teacher training and early teaching life in the 90s there was constant change with a new curriculum document in draft form each year along with another curriculum document being gazetted and implemented.  Plus there were huge political issues with bulk funding and individual employment contracts for principals.  Then there were changes in areas such as EOTC and ICTPD.  Moving into the 2000s we had the Literacy and Numeracy projects and inquiry hijacking the ICTPD.  In the mid 2000s we had a whole new curriculum document to comment on, and then just as we were working to implement that document, we were knocked sideways by the introduction of National Standards, followed by IES/Joint Initiative.  Now this is merely looking at it from a primary teachers point of view, but the ECE, secondary and tertiary sectors have also had massive upheaval and change, and adult education/night school was massacred.  So to me, this statement is somewhat of an insult.  Change is our norm.

Below is something I agree with - but I am not sure we are talking the same thing.  This statement may be focused on the small picture within each school.  I'm thinking big picture, nationwide, all of education!

To me, the Operating System is our Education System.  Now Hekia Parata has clearly stated on a number of occasions over the last year that she wants to totally revamp the Education Act.  She intends to do this over the next year.  The last time we had a major change to our education system was Tomorrow's Schools. 

What I think we need is a full stocktake of the system.  Identify what is working and what isn't; what should stay and what should go; what is fine and what needs to change; what would work better with a bit of tinkering or a bit more tinkering.  And this should happen before changing the funding, before changing the Education Act, before bringing in another level of bureaucracy like IES/Joint Initiative - but it won't.

It was a very good keynote to start the conference with and certainly got people talking, tweeting and thinking.  So that was my thoughts.  Read through the Storify below and let me know your thinks.

What was really nice was that Grant Lichtman attended the Twitter Dinner that evening and it was great to interact with him in a social environment.

Sadly, Storify has deleted itself from the Social Media scene, so all my Storify stories have gone.  😭😭😭😭😭

Sadly, my first Breakout was a failure with the presenter being a no show due to being double booked.  I was extremely disappointed that the ULearn organisers were not more proactive at the time in ensuring participants knew and had an alternative to attend.  However, it appears a major communication failure happened to cause the situation, and Core Education has been brilliant in coming to a solution to appease my disappointment.  So thanks team at Core Education.

My second Breakout was cool as... but that is for another post!


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