#IMMOOC 4. Brewing The Magic Potion

Image Sourced From: www.quirkbooks.com

Image Sourced From: www.quirkbooks.com

For nearly five years now I’ve been responsible for creating and delivering professional development sessions for colleagues. Of course, I’ve also attended a large number of such “learning opportunities” which have varied from the woeful to the inspirational. There are some great presenters out there but often it’s more performance than substance.

I know the “fire hose method” doesn’t work … you know those one-off occasions where you blast the 75 people in the room with frantic content delivery in the hope that at least someone is knocked off their feet. Earlier this year I was asked by Australian Teacher Magazine to write a Help Desk article on running great technology PD sessions.  I’m utterly convinced that “fixing the current PD model” is akin to brewing a magic potion.

“Am I about to give you the ultimate secret to success? No, if I had that, I would be bottling and selling it.” (You can find the full article in Volume 14, Issue 7, July 2016)

I did identify five key considerations for developing worthwhile PD … terminology, scheduling, content, engagement and alternatives. Part III of The Innovator’s Mindset identifies the need to provide teachers with personalised, targeted and engaging professional learning. This learning has to be (… and I love this idea, thanks George) about moving each individual from ” … their Point A to their Point B.” This, I’m convinced, has been the missing ingredient in my magic potion. I also believe that I am my own worse enemy and I admitted this in the ATM article.

“There is no value in you rushing on to the next “cool tool” when participants are still creating an account for the previous one. In my passion for technology and sharing what I have learned, I too often forget that others won’t necessarily keep up with me.”

And for now … time to get back to the cauldron! One day I’m going to be a very rich man.

PS: And remember … If you haven’t yet seen my #IMMOOC meme


#IMMOOC 2. It’s Time to Starbucks Your School

When I was a teenager (just after the last Ice Age) I attended a well established all boys college in Hobart, Tasmania. I’ll pause briefly whilst some of you look Hobart up on Google Earth. That school has now entered its second century and it remains little changed in appearance or, I suspect, pedagogy. By contrast, the school where I’m currently employed is about to embark on a million dollar refurbishment of its oldest classrooms. As the eLearning Manager I’ve been involved in the design process. Come 2017 I will have the opportunity to teach in tech-ed up, glass enclosed, re-configurable learning spaces. Yes, we will have 85 inch interactive panels on the walls, funky “learniture” and numerous writable surfaces. Yes, some of you are envious. Will it all lead to innovation and improved student learning? Unfortunately, there are no guarantees.

As George Couros rightly points out in Part One of The Innovator’s Mindset, innovation is certainly not specifically about technology or stuff in general. I’ve long accepted that the most significant tool in any teacher’s kitbag is in fact their mindset. If my colleagues go into those new learning spaces next year with an old, fixed mindset then the school might as well have just saved the money. Indeed, some of you might still be wondering about the cost effectiveness of a million dollar refurbishment. George, as en pointe as ever, notes that Starbucks embraced the need to change and survived whilst Blockbuster didn’t and, well … went bust. We do live in an era of education where “innovate or die” has to be our unshakeable motto.

Image Sourced from www.brandextenders.com

Image Sourced from www.brandextenders.com

It would seem that the Starbucks “lesson” is gaining wider acceptance as an analogy for the current situation in education.  I recently read two excellent online posts which I’ve hyperlinked immediately below.

http://www.focus2achieve.com/blog/2016/6/2/starbucks-my-classroom-project-the-master-plan (by Oskar Cymerman @focus2achieve)

https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-10-01-why-the-21st-century-classroom-may-remind-you-of-starbucks (by edsurge.com columnist Kayla Delzer)

I enjoy a good coffee, like all teachers it runs through my veins, but I’m also keen to lead a move to Starbucks My School. For me, Part One of The Innovators Mindset has one resounding key word … empathy. That particular trait is all about building relationships, about “knowing who you serve.” When a customer walks into a Starbucks, the counter assistant never says “I don’t care what you want to order, you’re being given a half-double-decaffeinated-half-caff.” (Nods to Steve Martin in LA Story.) So, finally I arrive at this week’s prompt … what sort of school would I build? I would build the school that my customers demand.

Image "borrowed" from www.pinterest.com

Image “borrowed” from www.pinterest.com

PS: A song for this week … “You Can Foam Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Macchiato

#IMMOOC 1. Est ad docendum , ad novationem

I’m guessing many of you may have become lost somewhere in the midst of my title. So, I best explain. The hashtag will be used for George Couros’ MOOC based on his exceptional text The Innovator’s Mindset. (Surely there’s nothing wrong with massaging the ego of the man who will be handing out prizes!) As for the Latin; I studied it at school and still use it in my daytime job as a teacher of Ancient Studies. (At night I’m a ninja; really!)

How Many Selfies Would Narcissus Take? Sourced from Pinterest; originally pinned by www.debbiecharles.com

How Many Selfies Would Narcissus Take?
Sourced from Pinterest; originally pinned by www.debbiecharles.com

Est ad docendum, ad novationem (if you believe Google Translate) means To teach is to innovate. I do know that the Latin word innovare had a distinctly different meaning; to renew, alter or make new again. We all think of innovation as something wholly new but surely in education the renewal idea is just as significant. When I started teaching in 1981 (yep, that long ago) innovation took the astonishing form of Post It Notes and the Commodore 64 computer … Sweet! Thirty years later the very first iPad was released and a teaching career that was close to ending was renewed. In the years since I’ve learned how and why to innovate. Yes, I’m often still teaching about Caesar, Alexander or the pyramids (nothing new there) but in new ways … the learning experiences I design aim to realise the “Mantra of the Innovative Educator.”

So, I must have acquired a whole lot of new skills. Yes, I’m now a Digital Learning Leader and I can “wield a mean iPad” but the true change has been in my mindset. As George says early in his text, it’s all about “ … a way of thinking that creates something new and better.” (p. 19) The mindset of the teacher is the most significant tool in any classroom. #IMMOOC starts this coming weekend so it’s not too late for you to register at immooc.org

Keep It Simple, Simon

(#Bloggermore2015 11/26)

… Please insert here my usual apologies and weak excuses for not blogging recently …

I’m quite used to being the smartest Simon in the room. But then, I’m also, most often, the only Simon in the room! Recently however, I attended an exceptional seminar conducted by Simon Breakspear (@SimonBreakspear on Twitter) at Prince Alfred College. There were three Simons in the room that day and I have serious doubts that I even ranked number two in the “smart stakes.” Of course, I was easily the best looking! No … well, I was the oldest!

Simon’s chosen focus on the day was “Redesigning Teaching and Learning for Innovation.” He said so much that resonated with me that I know a short blog post will do him a great disservice. So, I’ve decided to focus upon just one aspect here. Simon (the smart one!) firmly believes that any effort to redesign a school must be guided by four key questions:

1. What can stay the same? 2. What should be removed? 3. What needs to be tweaked? 4. What needs to be radically redesigned?

I have long been frustrated with colleagues who seemingly don’t share my passion to harness the power of technologies to transform student learning. Then, Simon introduced the term radical incrementalism, a process of innovation that honours the past, and I had some form of an epiphany. Well, more of a recurrent epiphany. For too long I have wanted to change too much too quickly; and too often I forget this. (Have you ever seen too used four times in a single sentence?) Revolutionaries are rightly known for their passion and enthusiasm but these qualities can be counter-productive. As “Simon says” … JOIN THE EVOLUTION!

“Transformative practices need to be simple, reliable and effective. Don’t aim to change the ceiling until you have the foundation and floor in place.” 

Now all I need to do is work out how I am going to re-imagine and re-design teacher professional development at my school so that we radically transform student learning, a little bit at a time. I just need to constantly remind myself to “Keep it simple, Simon.”

Viva La Evolucion (Created with the PhotoFunia iPad app)

Viva La Evolucion
(Created with the PhotoFunia iPad app)


Student Directed Innovation and Cool Creation Tools

This year, at my own request (!), I am teaching Year 8 for the first time in perhaps two decades. I have the same group of 29 students for both English and History. This gives me seven lessons per week, ranging in length from 45 to 65 minutes. Of course, I realised early on that having the same group allowed for all sorts of possibilities; not least of all the opportunity to operate a “timetable within a timetable.”

My first decision was to give the students themselves some measure of control over what and how they learn. Of course, I remain a slave to the curriculum and the need to compile (largely useless?) reports. Still, I realised I could easily cede one lesson per week to the students in order that they might pursue their “passion.” I have read a great deal recently about how the Internet is now passion-based rather than content focused. Given that I am working with class group 8.1, I decided to call the project Innova8.1 (I know it’s hardly original!) The idea was first introduced to the students via my favourite iPad app, Haiku Deck. I’ve embedded the presentation below … please feel free to adapt and use it for your own purposes.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

The early signs are great … not surprisingly the students look forward to this weekly “release” from the usual constraints of the classroom. Their interests are as varied as you might expect; animation, digital music, photography, anime, mash-ups just to name a few. My only expectations are that the students must both create and share content.

In reality, I have had to make the greatest adjustments; to allow students  to move freely around the room, to sit on the floor, to listen to music, to seek the advice of their peers … to engage in noisy, laugh-filled student directed learning. Once or twice I’ve come close to snapping and demanding silence until I remember I’ve given them permission! Each Innova8.1 lesson begins with some sharing of either student created content or with me introducing a new Web 2.0 tool or an iPad app. (Oops; probably should have mentioned that we are 1:1 Apple Macbook whilst I make regular use of my iPad. Hell, I even started lending it to students despite the separation anxiety.) Now, finally I have also included here via Scribd a list that I’ve called “15 Cool Tools and Apps for Student Creation.” I have begun to introduce and demonstrate these to my class. They, much like me, seem to like nothing better than trying and mastering a new tool.

As always, I would welcome your comments, suggestions or questions; I’m already convinced that “Student Directed Learning” must become a part of what we ALL do.

15 Cool Creation Tools by Simon McKenzie