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Got Some Change?

15 Apr

Change. Although this could represent a post-disco group in the 1980’s, an R&B group in the 1970’s and the word itself has been used in many songs from Black Sabbath to Taylor Swift, it evokes powerful emotions when linked to the realm of education.

Change. It can be purposeful and effective when designed meaningfully to meet our students needs.

Change. Day 1 of the Leading Our Way Forward Conference in Edmonton hosted by ERLC and CASS is highlighting how school divisions and leadership teams can increase capacity via a learning/instructional coaching model. Keynote speakers Bernajean Porter and John Clarke stimulated participants’ thinking through various activities, discussion topics, sharing of research and resources.

Change and technology. Throughout Bernajean’s keynote session, participants interactively engaged in using a number of tech tools. We microblogged using TodaysMeet with specific questions and activities in mind to reflect in this online forum. We completed an online survey using Polleverywhere and we have the opportunity to review her session notes any time at http://erlc.wikispaces.com/BernajeanPorter. By demonstrating the use and purpose of some of these tools, I am hoping leaders will use them often and effectively. In our own school division, I know of several administrators and teachers who are tasking these web 2.0 tools to gather feedback, gain data and inform the learning/assessment process. Popular tools being used are:

1) TitanPad or PrimaryPad are an online collaborative, closed environment where up to 16 participants at one time can share information, no need to register or require an email address. Uses have been to set up staff meeting agendas, work on group poetry projects, complete a critical thinking challenge, or plan a school event.
2) Blogs – the ability to journal, reflect and comment on one’s learning experiences is a great way to showcase growth in understanding for teachers, administrators and students. Kidblogs, edublogs, blogger and wordpress are a few of the online programs being used in PSD.
3) Polleverywhere has been used for a couple of years. Our high schools were so impressed with its ease of use, ability to embed in powerpoints and instantaneous feedback that they each bought a premium license that tracks the feedback.
4) Twitter is the five year old application where 140 characters and abbreviations don’t stop the deep conversations, sharing of information, varying distant yet important relationships and 24/7 connectedness to the learning environment. Daily, our #psd70 staff are understanding the power of a Professional Learning Network. This conference is entertaining its own hashtag of #lowf which allows participants to share gems from both Bernajean, the fireside chat group and John Clarke, but it also allows the outside world to lurk and participate as well.

Change and collaboration. In collaborative cultures we all work together so that the effort and moving forward is a group thing. It is pertinent that we understand how to work together as adults and our students need these skills as well to be successful learners and citizens. To further build on Bernajean’s discussion about the difference between a cooperative or a collaborative team, Garfield Gini-Newman from TC2 has an archived webinar from November 2010: Focus on Critical Inquiry – Collaborative Inquiry. For those schools/divisions involved with the Critical Thinking Consortium it’s one video highly recommended by fellow Curriculum Facilitator, Diane Lander. As well, the activity of answering either “What do we see, hear, feel in collaborative classrooms?” or “What do we not see, hear, feel in collaborative classrooms” was eventful; check out one of our tables’ posters:

Change and strengths. Bernajean spoke about being positive and intentional when in a collaborative mode. Forget the icebreakers, build relationships, work to have the sharing environment safe and authentic. A couple of book suggestions during this topic were: Take this Job and Love It and Verbal Judo.

Change and analysis. By using a force-field analysis, groups can look at what their “it” is that is being focused on and see where it is supporting and limiting to the work being done in the school division.

Change and reflection. Implementing a reflective, collaborative culture for professional development has been shown to be effective in making gains in student achievement. Bernajean summarized November 2010’s Leading and Learning magazine edition which concentrated on Creating a Culture of Collaboration. The fireside chat with a group of superintendents also shared specific ways that they dealt with changing their school division’s culture for the betterment of all stakeholders.

Change of presenter. After lunch, we were treated to John Clarke’s playful and in-tune original, yet poignant songs. He had use conversing and moving about the conference floor in the Give One Get One activity. This was definitely raising the comfort level through intentional meeting and discussion, showcasing that we all have value in our thoughts and reflections. In order for school divisions to effectively respond the accountability and quality learning foci, two goals need to be addressed:

1) Professional development for all teaching staff.
2) Development of the school division’s capacity to learn and be adaptive.

Change and cognitive coaching. A way of thinking in using a set of strategies to work individually and in groups to problem solve and shape thoughts. In PSD we have a few colleagues who previously have worked with John and attended his Cognitive Coaching seminars. They all speak highly of the process that is based on four propositions:

1) Thought and perception produce all behavior.
2) Teaching is constant decision-making.
3) To learn something new requires engagement and alteration in thought.
4) Humans continue to grow cognitively.

We look forward to further cognitive coaching training in our division with John’s assistance and guidance!

Change and adaptation. To be adaptive means to change form and clarify identity. New challenges in education require new and increasingly flexible forms for school divisions. And the ways in which we define the meaning of our schools and schooling shape the identity of our school division in which we work and the identity of the individual people within our schools. With the First Word, Last Word activity, John had tables read through Karen Seashore Louis’ work on the five attributes of collaborative cultures that improve learning for all students. The five attributes are:

1) Shared norms and values.
2) Collective focus on student learning.
3) Collaboration.
4) Deprivatized practice.
5) Reflective dialogue.

The activity had table participants take time to comment on specific expressions picked out by members. A good activity to activate authentic listening and safe sharing.

Change and community. In reviewing our needs as a school division, some guiding questions can point us in the right direction:

1) Who are we? (what values do we have in this learning culture)
2) Why are we doing this? (should we be doing what we are doing)
3) Why are we doing this – this way? (are there better ways of doing this and what are they)

Change and norms of collaboration. We are either working from a dialogue or a discussion standpoint. It is important to note that sometimes dialogue outweighs discussion or vice versa. In looking at the outcomes of these two processes, dialogue is for understanding and discussion is for making a decision. The seven norms of collaboration are:

1. pausing
2. paraphrasing
3. putting inquiry at the centre
4. probing for specificity
5. placing ideas on the table “here’s a thought we may want to consider”, “here’s a hunch, something going through my brain”
6. paying attention to self and others
7. presuming positive intentions

Change and its origin. The word change comes form the Middle English cha ( u ) ngen  < Anglo-French, Old French changer  < Late Latin cambiāre, Latin cambīre  to exchange via http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/change. The word is 835 years old, has 38 different dictionary meanings and is an important part of the learning process, educational reform and instructional evolution we are facing in 2011. How collaboratively our schools, school divisions and leadership take on this change process will result in continuing the movement towards a flexible learning culture that is ready, poised and authentic in its mission, vision and attitudes.

Go ahead, be the change that you want to see in your school, in your school division, in your community, in society. Why not?

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