Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Scenario Planning

It is amazing how quickly the days seem to fly by. A colleague of mine has a wonderful saying which he uses to explain how the tyranny of the urgent overtook the best of intentions. 

I have been hearing a lot lately about Scenario planning and Futures Thinking as a way to navigate new and uncertain times. I started to investigate and quite by chance came across this Scenario Planning course for educators. So ... I have signed up - so watch this space and learn with me.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Digital Literacies

In a recent post I discussed how Jeremy Kedian (presenter at the NZ Primary Principals Conference) referred to the importance of 'cultural literacy.' I was interested to see this theme in a TED talk by Doug Belshaw: The Essential Elements of Digital Literacy. In this video clip and slideshare, based on research for his thesis Doug Belshaw highlights:
  • eight literacies, not one literacy
  • the importance of discussing digital literacies as literacies are context dependent and need to be socially negotiated.
  • digital literacies change
  • digital literacies need to be 'remixed'and used to meet the context required for learning
Belshaw identifies eight literacies.

In brief, he describes these as:
Cultural: The Cultural element of digital literacies is all about seeking ways to give people additional ‘lenses’ through which to see the world.
Cognitive: This literacy is about 'expanding the mind through developing a set of cognitive tools - using technologies to foster the other literacies.
Constructive: Using digital tools to create, construct new meaning and knowledge
Communicative: How to communicate effectively in a digital world - to understand others and contribute in a way that is relevant and meaningful. In other words the skills to communicate in digital networked environments.
Confident: to use technologies in a way that models exploration, risk taking, open mindedness
Creative:  doing new things in new ways.
Critical:  'reading between the lines, interpret? Can we critically evaluate the technologies we’re using?
Civic: Using the capability of technology to improve our lives and the lives of others in our world.
I like the way Belshaw refers to a range of literacies - being literate involves a comprehensive 'kete' of elements. Literacy needs to be considered in context as being literate in one context does not guarantee literacy in all contexts. I think Belshaw's research is a  timely reminder of elements to consider when designing our learning programmes.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Leading Learning for School Improvement

Over the last couple of days I have attended the NZ Primary Principals Conference and managed to hear some (unfortunately not all) of the presenters. The key focus of the conference was 'Power to Innovate' and presenters were skillful at weaving this theme through their presentations. A summary of tweets throughout the conference is available here.

School self-review and strategic planning are particular interests of mine so I really enjoyed listening to a session with James Nottingham - Innovative Leadership - lessons from around the world.  James highlighted the purpose of creating and having and a clear vision, that is shared, owned and implemented by the people who create it. He referred to the following diagram - emphasizing the importance of always starting with the vision, not the event.

Adapted from Organising for Learning by Daniel Kim, 2010

When leaders work with their communities to identify and develop a vision they undertake a process of clarifying 'educative purpose, values and core beliefs about learning.' Part of this process provides an opportunity to unpack and understand individual mental models. This is a critical phase - as only through this phase can we gain an understanding of others perspectives. Using this process to develop shared understandings and beliefs promotes ownership and commitment towards achievement of the vision. 
Vision provides a goal, a focus and direction for future school growth and development and it is our job to turn the vision into reality. I have continued to reflect on James's presentation. As a school leader I would be asking the following questions:
  • Can all members of our school community clearly articulate our vision?
  • Is this shared, owned and enacted by all?
  • Is our vision a constant point of reference to guide our development and  decision making?
  • Is it consistently referenced and used to promote learning?
  • Is it visible?
In my opinion the sign of a good conference is when you leave with more questions, thoughts and wonderings than when you arrived. The opportunity to think, reflect, challenge, question, discuss, consider is invaluable, but as Sir Graham Henry so aptly reminded us, "It is not about the game.... it is all about the people."

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Leading Learning for School Improvement

Today I was privileged to attend two thought provoking presentations at the NZ Primary Principals Conference, Power to Innovate, in Hamilton.

The first presentation was from Jeremy Kedian of the University of Waikato who spoke on the importance of leadership - leaders leading learning in their schools. He asked the question - When was your last leadership failure? Reminding us that as leaders we need to be experimenting, taking risks and modeling the dispositions of learning.  He talked about leaders as architects - working with their communities, leading the design process for the physical, social, learning and future environments. He emphasized the importance of passion, creativity, growing relationships, cultural literacy and globalism and referred to John West Burnham: Seven Questions for leaders of learning.  He then drew on a quote from Leadbeater & Wong (2010) - Schools might be hitting the target, but are they missing the point?' In closing he referred to research (and I didn't capture the detail) showing that only 15% of leaders time is spent on leading, making the point that we better make it count!

I then attended a presentation by  Dr Viviane Robinson - Too much change - not enough improvement.  In the introduction Dr Robinson reminded us that change and innovation do not always lead to improvement. As school leaders we need to be discerning and have processes to ensure that the initiatives we are undertaking will generate sustainable school improvement that is focussed on raising student achievement. She referred to the issue of school leaders and schools taking on too much, too many initiatives that resulted in little or unsustainable improvement.  Dr Robinson highlighted the importance of focussed and deep learning - taking time to clearly identify the problem, establish goals, identify barriers, locate expertise, plan, strategize, monitor and adapt to generate improvement that is sustainable. This learning can then be transferred, promoting a strategic and sustainable process for improvement.

On reflection - both presentations highlighted to me the importance of vision? Do we know what type of learning environments we want to create? Do we have shared understanding about learning -what is powerful learning and what is powerful to learn?  I think when we have clearly identified this - we have a point of reference for where to next. The key is planning how to get there!

Monday, 1 July 2013

How do you gauge your success?

Over the last few months I have been working with several schools as they look to develop their strategic plans for future development in eLearning. As a facilitator my role is  pose questions and  scenarios, challenge thinking, prompt the exploration of possible options and in some cases suggest alternatives. As I work with schools I always reflect on these questions:
  • what guides and determines decision making?
  • what strategies are available for exploring options, considering possibilities, future thinking?
  • what opportunities are available for professional dialogue? Do these opportunities foster and promote the dispositions of 21st century learning - collaboration, critical reflection, risk taking and open-mindedness to assist them build capacity from within?
  • how do schools know what they don't know? What systems and processes do schools have to keep up to date and informed of new initiatives, trends, opportunities? 
  • what other networks are available to assist this school on their journey?
  • whose plan is it?
At the end of the planning development session I like to take time to critically review my performance.  I am proud of my role in the process when a school is  empowered to implement their strategic plan. At that point I become somewhat redundant.  I am available for support, but I am not the driver, the impetus for development comes from within. In many ways effective facilitation is like doing yourself out of a job. When empowerment is the focus, redundancy is a measure of success.
However, the ultimate success is when the same school invites you back to facilitate the next stage of strategic planning and development.