One chapter of the soon-to-be-released ‘TechnoTeaching’ book (USA and outside Amazon links) focuses upon in-house teacher training. At one of my schools, as a Senior Leader, I was asked to work with a group of lead teachers and help them improve their teaching skills – which, in a perfect world, would lead to whole school improvement. Hmmm… I knew that as an Advanced Skills Teacher, I was regularly called on to provide tips and support for other teachers who wanted/ needed to be slightly more innovative. You sometimes need to see what outstanding looks like in order to apply it to your work. But how could I encourage teachers, who were already very good and even outstanding in their areas, to become even better?
Then the answer came to me: take a risk and be daring. Up the game and throw a TV out of the window (sort of). The rock and roll version of teaching, but a lot more safe and sober. Bear with me.
About ten years ago, I thought of a way to illustrate edtech challenges or what I called ‘missions’, based on what teachers wanted to get better at. I didn’t want to play it safe – I wanted to engage them as much as they wanted to excite their learners. (Note: We do spend time in the book discussing it, so I do not want to give away too much!)…Anyhow, the long and the short of it was: when you show others excellent teaching examples (give them time to try them out, support them in taking some risks and bending some rules, before finally ensuring they have time to reflect), IT LEADS to even more inspirational teaching strategies than you could ever imagine. It also gives complete ownership to those pioneering members of staff. It is rather like the Edcamp style in which professionals have a grown up approach to learning. Teachers ask the ‘room’ what they want to know about, illustrate what they can share with others and people all learn something they need to. Flexibility is key and it is personalised completely to the audience.
Which begs the question – why do we not encourage staff to take more risks in teaching for the sake of learning? Why do we not differentiate learning for teachers? Why do many leaders frown when faculty throw all the class-books away for a lesson (memory skills), or decide not to sit behind a desk (barrier), or look at software they had not heard of before and apply it to lessons (allowing students be the teacher)? What’s holding them back?
The main thing that struck me, based on all my experiences as an educator, is that teachers don’t wish to be told what to do, but we all like a few good ideas every now and again. We are also good at shaping and sharing the experience we want – we are used to teaching for Pete’s sake - and are fully able to suggest ideas to make teacher training much better. We just need to be asked.
For example… in another school, another project, teachers decided that a blog was the best way to go to discuss the Missions. I merely facilitated this by creating a blog. Here is the link for you to judge yourself. Sadly I had to leave shortly after this (maternity leave) but you can see how the seeds were sown. This project later went on to be picked up and developed across the city.
OK. If we turn this conversation around a little at this point, reader, I would love to know how you (and yours!) manage professional development in your school? I came up with this a while ago and would love to know what inspires you? TeachMeets, webinars, chats in the staff room or working with a personal coach? Do you feel that your line managers and administrators are really getting the best out of you? In education, we absolutely do this for our students, yet why don’t we challenge our peers to make us their ‘Mission’? Jules and I are keen to look at how we can help you more. We are able to visit your schools to ensure that quality and flexibility – or are schools doing this for you already?
If you want to let us know your thoughts, we would LOVE to hear from you. Please either post below, or join us at our social sites (Facebook and Twitter).
“I’ve got some skin in the game,” we might hear from a politician. Or a businessperson might say, “We give our workers stock options. That way they’ve got some ‘skin in the game’”. (Nic says: It translates as having a strategic person (skin) in a field of play (game) for those of us outside of the USA.)
What about educators? When do we have ‘skin in the game’? Look around your school. How many teachers do you see who are assessing students because it’s something they’ve just gotta do. The results will likely end up on a spreadsheet, in a folder, deep inside a file cabinet, in a locked room. Take another look. How many teachers are letting their students use Chromebooks to write stories only because their students twisted their arms to let them try out a new online tool? How many principals do you see using digital tools to track student progress in reading and math—only because the Superintendent of Schools insists that they do?
No skin in the game!
In each case, the impetus for trying out a new digital tool comes from outside forces, rather than from within. There is no personal stake in the endeavor. No ownership. Which means little motivation. Followed by little to gain or lose.
When we work with teachers on implementing innovations, we need to make sure they are stakeholders. We need to give them a reason to care about their investment. Paint a picture of why they should spend the time and effort—whether it’s in taking on one of Nic’s Dare Devil Missions (see our next post or read it in the book!) teaching kids how to illustrate their stories with digital art tools, or record student interviews with each other.
What can you do to up the ante for everyone you teach with?
· Help each educator feel that he/she has a stake in the student-learning outcome of a particular innovation.
· Motivate students by showing them that they can have a strong impact on their own success through practice, hard work, and taking risks in their learning.
· Remind parents that their involvement in their children’s learning will have profound implications for years to come.
If we all feel invested in creating innovative, 21st Century schools, if people at all levels have skin in the game, then the odds are strong that we can make powerful changes that will greatly improve teaching and learning.
What have you found to be true? How do you get your colleagues interested in innovation and change? We want to hear from you!
I have been thinking about you TechnoTeachers out there who are keen to know what’s next. So, here is a short round up of new tech/ edSites either on the market, new to the market or about to be launched. What can you add to the list? Please pop us a note below!
In no particular order:
1. Polariod Socialmatic The old school camera that still prints instantly but now can be linked with your apps. Nice.
2. Educade. Want to integrate lesson plans and 21st edtech? Visit this. Aimed at narrowing the gap and STEM, I am sure you will find something to help you here.
3. Want to take professional shots on your Smart phone? Try this = the iPro lens system. Very impressive.
4. Heard of the Pebble? Basically if you don’t want to pull your phone out of your pocket or bag, this watch will tell you who is trying to contact you.
5. Want a tablet and a laptop? Try the new, hinged HP 360. No sure why no-one had thought of this sooner!
6. Want a camera with a difference? The Panomo Camera Ball (yes, you read it here) gives incredible shots and this is a camera that you will want students to throw as high as they can!
7. Want to teach 3D printing? Ask Leo the Maker Prince to help you. The site is gorgeous!
8. EdTrips. Never plan a school trip again without it. It lets you manage permission forms, budgets and itineraries for trips all around the globe. You can even search from their list. Love it!
9. Lastly, if you want to see what else is out there, visit this site. EdTech Review has teachers reviewing edtech and can save you time too. Brilliant idea. Thinking I might join it myself!
The first copy of TechnoTeachers is here! Modelled by my lovely three year old son. I am blown away that after all of our work - the final piece is here... and forgive my smugness if you will - but I am a proper author. Yikes! I cannot wait until Jules gets hers!
If you would like to get your copy now, please use one of the links below. Will post earlier images for discount codes soon.
Outside of the USA
Harvard's international distributor (including Europe, Asia and outside of the USA), Eurospan
Harvard (although there seems a real issue on the site today - must be all of the orders!)
Calling all school leaders on the go! And really, who isn’t on the go these days? Our modern world demands that we keep to an Olympian speed.
With that frenetic pace in mind, the editors of “School Leadership Briefing” have created a forum to discuss current ideas and trends in education—via audio interviews. (See iTunes for the app.)
Last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Publisher, Michael Mantell – about guess what reader? Nic and my new book ”TechnoTeaching”! Michael’s vision is to make it possible for school leaders listen to people speak passionately about their work as they’re driving to work, exercising out on the treadmill, or, as in the case of one principal, while running through NYC’s Central Park. (Current articles include: the flipped classroom, hiring better teachers, and time management tips for the end of the school year.)
So—last week, Michael interviewed me, via Skype, and recorded my responses. Happily, he had sent me the questions beforehand, which I immediately shot to Nic with the subject line: HELP! (The questions touch on themes such as what it means to be a TechnoTeacher, integrating vs. using edtech, and closing the digital divide.) And Nic did, right away, being a fast-paced educator herself. So, when you listen to the interview, you will hear our combined thoughts. (I was channeling her, you see!)
Come join us on May 1st (2014). That is when the new issue of School Leadership Briefing comes out—with our interview about “TechnoTeaching.” Take a listen and let us know your thoughts!
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This is where Jules and Nic will post articles, links to interesting sites and things that we think our TechnoTeachers will like.