Tag Archives: Charles Leadbeater

The Year of Wonder: Riding the Wave of Learning

My staff describe it as a “year of wonder.” Sometimes we call it a tsunami and just want to ride the wave without crashing. Other times we refer to it as a fire beginning to flame across the district. We consider it as seeding pockets of innovation we want to take root and spread organically as connected and rooted networks. We liken it to Leadbeater’s “radical social movement.” The Global Educational Leaders program, refers to this as a strategy of diffusion. These are all metaphors to help us understand our work. Supporting teachers in their own learning is central for me. When teachers are passionately engaged in their learning (and when I am passionately engaged in my learning), it spills over to the students. It transforms us all. So just what were the pieces in this “year of wonder?”

 Innovative Learning Designs (Phase 1)
A year ago we announced the 18 schools that were awarded grants as part of the Innovative Learning Designs schools (ILD), Phase 1. I started my blog for this purpose. These grants provided a set of iPads (this was our first push to go mobile and begin to encourage BYOD) along with open wireless (this was start of getting our Board to fund Open Wireless across the district) for each school. The grant, however, was focused on learning and not hardware or wireless. I write about it here.

The Engaging the Digital Learner Series
We realized that as educators we needed to find a way to engage our learners. We designed a series open to both Administrators and Teachers entitled Engaging the Digital Learner. We managed to have four evening sessions in the midst of job action that were truly amazing. We had Chris Kennedy, David Warlick, David Vandergugten and Joe Morelock keynote this series. You can read about it here.  Again, the series exceeded our expectations and we had fabulous feedback. Teachers were hungry for this kind of inspiration and information. We kept the groups at the same tables throughout the series in the hopes that some key contacts would be made and that it might spawn other organic connections across the district. And, it did.

The Digital Discovery Series
This series ran parallel to the one above. We provided iPads to all administrators. The Superintendent and Deputy were key in making that happen. Part of the decision to do this was because some administrators were not interested in or providing much leadership in the area of digital integration in the schools. We needed to find a way to capture their interest and educate them to become technology leaders. We also wanted them to use it to encourage their own professional learning It led to the launch of our three-part dinner Digital Discovery Series (George Couros spoke at one, Alec Couros spoke at the other and Bryan Hughes did the first one as a bootcamp). Details are here. Our district hadn’t done anything like this in a long time and the administrators were very appreciative. We had tons of excellent feedback on this initiative.

Cadres of Digital Champions
We created Cadres of Digital Champions (a team of three educators at every school). We provided iPads to every Teacher-Librarian and Technology Contact at every school so they could join forces with Administrators in providing some interest in digital literacy.  We were, however, limited by job action in how this manifested itself. We also left it up to the schools and these teams to determine how, and if, they chose to work together. It was about creating the opportunity should others choose to step into it. Find out about it here.

Core Digital Coaches
From the above group, we asked for volunteers that wanted to become a core team of Digital Coaches to provide support to their larger group. Remember, we are a very large school district. There are 124 schools in our district so that meant we had 124 Technology Contacts, close to 100 potential Teacher Librarians and over 225 Administrators.  When we requested volunteers we were overwhelmed with interest. We picked sixty people (20 admin, 20 T-Ls, 20 Tech Contacts, 20 Administrators) to be our core team of Digital Coaches. They are supposed to support and help mentor the others. In return, we provided them with advance training and opportunities to be involved in other initiatives. We also see them as our way of keeping our ears open to the needs of the field, consulting them for key advice along the way.

“Movers & Shakers” 
We are starting a “movers & shakers” group. We planned this last spring but couldn’t activate it during job action. These are the teachers providing leadership in the area of technology across our district that are not necessarily involved in any projects. Digital Coaches and Cadre members are intentionally excluded from this group. We looked for teachers that were providing school and/or district leadership in the area of digital integration. We wanted teachers that were making active use of social media to spread ideas about best practice. Our purpose is to recognize, acknowledge and provide them support. We also want them, in return, to continue to provide leadership and mentor others. This is a mixed group of forty teachers. Our first initiative is to bring them together for a session with George Couros.

Teacher Librarians Navigating the Digital Space:
We are encouraging our T-Ls to become Digital Impressarios. We are also now receiving applications from at least 12 librarians who want to move further along the spectrum into becoming a Learning Commons.  Many of them are already doing this. We are just finding a way to provide them with additional support. The interested T-L’s have submitted applications and will be announced mid-June. Next year they will meet together and explore what it means to be a learning commons in our context. They will define this work together. Lisa Domeier (@librarymall) and Sarah Guilmant-Smith, have been the key Teacher-Librarian Helping Teachers behind this work.

Out of Their Heads:
We have two Fine Arts schools in our district that our now jointly collaborating on a project. You can read more about the project and its anchoring philosophies at their website. Amy Newman (@amnewish), District Helping Teacher, was instrumental in its development.

Making Thinking Visible:
We have 9 teachers (across schools) that are part of an innovative, one-to-one project called Making Thinking Visible. This is a different project in that the teachers were hand-picked for being excellent teachers but most of them were not necessarily engaged in the digital space (except for one of them—Karen Lirenman). We want to see what happens when outstanding teachers begin to add technology to their practice….There is no website for that project. It is still in its infancy.  We refer to it as a “field study.” Christy Northway, District Principal (Literacy and Early Learning) is working with these teams.

Innovative Learning Designs (Phase 2):
We just announced another 40 elementary schools as part of ILD, Phase 2. We are scaling up our very first initiative. We refined our application process to make sure we were more explicit about our district’s guiding framework (collaborative inquiry, assessment, differentiated instruction). We also anchored it in twenty-first century literacy and kept it school–based and teacher driven. The applications submitted were amazing. You can read about it here.

E-text Project:
We also wanted to dip our toe into the digital realm and make some shifts from print to digital resources. While we are not necessarily fans of e-texts (they are still in their infancy), we felt we might leverage this to shift practice. JB Mahli (@JB_mahli), Social Studies Helping Teacher, initiated this project. We have a video about it embedded in the blog post.

We have also promoted the use of twitter as a way of furthering conversations about best practice. This is the purpose of the #sd36learn hashtag. You can read about my own personal journey with twitter here. The post was just published in the BCPVPA provincial journal that goes out to all BC administrators in our province.

There are many, many other creative projects that come out of the Education Services department that are also innovative: The Numeracy Project, the Early Numeracy Project, the Secondary Focus project, etc. For this post, I have just described the key ones that have a digital component.

How have others viewed these initiatives? Kevin Amboe (@amboe_k), IML Helping Teacher, described this past year this way, “While an incredible challenge with being a bargaining year and essentially work to rule most of the year, we also moved this district further forward in inquiry, innovation and collaboration than I have seen in the past 8 years doing this position.”

Amy Newman, Research & Asssessment Helping Teacher, describes her own journey, “on a personal note, involvement in some of the technology innovations has moved me from an interested bystander to an active engaged and eager participant- hooked on twitter, excited to be blogging and working with teachers on these blogs, as well as sharing all kinds of learning with teachers at all levels. I actively seek out and curate new ideas apps and strategies related to learning through technology and it has transformed my thinking, my learning and shifted my mindset.”

And as Kevin reflects, “the pace of inquiry, innovation, and collaboration was like a river rushing through a canyon. I am hoping that we can either find a back eddy to rest or that we reach the delta. This has been an energizing year, but I don’t think the pace is sustainable.” We are seeking ways as District staff to support this work in a way that continues to build capacity at the school level. If we have met our diffusion strategy successfully, we will soon be able to step back and let the work that launched itself go viral of its own accord.

 

Thank you to George Couros (@gcouros) for prompting this post. He requested a summary of what we were doing in our district. After he read it, he asked that it be made public for others to access.

Thanks to the whole team of amazing Helping Teachers who have created and supported this new work.

Thanks to the IMS Department (and @dj_turner) for allowing us to ride this tsunami.

And some stats compliments of their department: Surrey School District has 124 schools, 4,000+ teachers, 70,000 students, 8,000 laptops(mac/pc), 11,000 desktops(mac/pc), almost 4,500 iPads, 60 IT professionals, 25+ Helping Teachers,  and daily priceless moments…

A Movement for Radical Social Innovation

Think of yourselves as a movement not attached
to the union or the government.
Charles Leadbeater

I was fortunate to attend the BC School Superintendent’s Winter Conference along with over 425 other attendees. I heard from Charles Leadbeater, Larry Rosenstock, John Abbott, Geoge Abbott and Bruce Beairsto. It was Charles Leadbeater’s comments, however, that were the most provocative. His presentation was called Innovation at Scale: Strategies for Radical Social Innovation. I also heard him speak at a CoastMetro session earlier in the morning. There were 150 people, including teachers and parents, in attendance at that morning event. Some key thoughts from all three of his sessions resonated for me.

Your vantage point determines what you can see…” was the opening slide. Our own organizational and system blinders often insulate us. Much like horses, we keep our focus away from the crowds and anything that might distract us from our purpose. He encouraged us to take ourselves out of education and have conversations about innovation with others. When we are consumed by racing down our own tracks, we fail to see what is happening around the world. Education and innovation look different elsewhere. The conversations with others in other professions, in other fields, in other business, and in other places, can enrich our own understanding. As tweeted by Cale Birk, “When we innovate, need to look sideways at other fields. We are too protected in our Ed cloistered life.” A wider vantage point, as we consciously and intentionally remove our blinders, allows us to create a more compelling and urgent vision. Leadbeater emphasized, “Just doing more isn’t enough. You have to do more, better and different. It is the different that is key.” It is strikingly different elsewhere.

See yourselves as mobilizers of the community rather than administrators of the system,” urged Leadbeater. He challenged us to move beyond pockets of innovation to transforming the whole field. He proceeded to ask us, “How do we increase this community’s capacity to learn?” How do we create large-scale system change? What are the tools at our disposal? Radical social innovation is most successful when it is a movement connected to a committed community that is driven by a compelling vision. Think of yourselves as a movement and not a system. We are the mobilizers of that community.  Who is leading this transformation? Our movement will be educators in the field that are engaged in shifting their pedagogy and collaborating with other educators in this pursuit.

People have to be pulled to innovation. You have to craft activities that draw people to innovate.” Are we doing that in our district? Your district? Who is crafting these activities that will draw educators—administrators and teachers alike—into the movement? Are we creating a pull to a new way of leading? Teaching? Learning? It isn’t about a push; it is about a pull because it is connected to a meaningful, authentic, moral purpose. We are creating a future for our own children. My son in kindergarten loves school. His favorite activity is “centre time.” My son in grade 3 loves math and gym. My two oldest boys, however, in grade 8 and 10, have “mixed emotions” about school and sometimes find it “boring.” The love for learning that characterizes young children—needs to be replicated for all students. Who will do that for my two oldest? Must we wait until it is too late for them?

Leadbeater made reference to the C’s in Innovation. These are composed as a series of questions, causing us to reflect on our own leadership practice.

Crisis: Is there a crisis–a sense of urgency for this change?

Curiosity: Have we created a space for educators to be curious and explore?

Connections: Are we working in combination with others? Are we creating connections with others, with ideas, with the past and the future?

Conversations: Are we having a conversation with others about this? Who is in the conversation? Who is hosting it? Where do we have our best conversations?

Challenge: Are we prepared to challenge ideas, ask stupid question, pursue useful deviants, and support the move to the future?

Commitment: And have we (that would be both you and me) made a commitment?—“You don’t learn to swim standing on the side of the pool.”

Co-creation: Can we co-create? Are we open to innovating for, with and by others? Who can you adopt? Who do you follow? And who is following you?

The C’s allow us to think strategically about our efforts.

I had the privilege of attending a powerful conference with world-class speakers. For that I am deeply grateful. But along with that privilege comes the responsibility to do something with the knowledge I have gained. If it doesn’t change my practice, then it has merely been a fascinating, titillating but somewhat empty intellectual exercise. That simply isn’t good enough for me. I want to create the movement. Are we creating mere pockets of innovation or can we scale it up to a radical social movement? I am committed to jumping in the pool. Will you join me?

Ramping up innovation: Leading Learning

The culture of YES!  Chris Kennedy’s turn of phrase resonates with innovative leaders.  He has, in a simple way uttered words that override the formal part of the school organization.  The word YES opens doors and minds and feels like an exhilarating call from the informal side of the organization where innovative ideas are sparked—this energy is seductive.

YES attracts, multiplies and creates a critical following and it is the work of the leader to navigate, not only the spirit of the new direction but to keep the “spark” of the idea ignited carefully leading through the dangerous waters of the formal system.

The formal system does not intend to dampen the spark but in reality is designed with checks, balances, regulation, and particularly in education, is built to withstand a critical and unfriendly public.

NO is louder than the YES. The noise is deafening, wearing and can numb best intentions. In addition the formal system has its gatekeepers whom lurk in doorways. Once again it is not their intention to stop innovation but they have learned it is safer to abide by the rules. It is our relationship with the gatekeepers that exhaust our efforts.

What are our answers?  How can leaders sustain the energy to continue to push upstream?  Could we also find a champion like a Chris Kennedy who can help us find a simple and magical turn of phrase and lead us through the dangerous waters while keeping the spark alive!  Tall order!  Are you our champion?

Thank you to Dr. Donna VanSant for contributing this guest post. Donna (@vansantd) is a former Surrey Helping Teacher and is currently a Facilitator/Coach with Healthy Ventures.

Can we strategize innovation? A teacher responds

“Yes, we can strategize.  It is an uphill battle as it does require going against the status quo (or at least much of the current status quo).
I believe we are moving in that direction and there are two forces that are allowing this move.
1.  We are modelling permission to fail.  Exploring next practices won’t land on the promising practice the first time.  One of my best teaching examples of this was working with a project having students create persuasive videos.  They did all the planning, scripting, and recording to a video camera.  The last stage was to turn it into a newscast with iMovie.  The computers were not cooperating so we tried for 2 blocks and then abandoned the plan.  While they were disappointed, all of the learning goals had already been met.
2.  Removing hurdles and empowering innovation.  The directions we have moved in the District have a strong flavour of removing hurdles.  At the same time, we are providing technology opportunities to explore new technology.  We have provided loaner equipment for several years.  My experience is that once schools dig in and see personally the potential in the classroom, it is just a matter of getting the resources that live in the school to allow further innovation.  One of the best moves from the Maine 1 to 1 laptop project was to provide teachers the laptops 1 year before the students.  In Surrey we have used a similar model by providing the iPads to teachers 4 months before schools.
Can we strategize innovation? Yes.
Are we strategizing innovation? Yes.
Does strategizing require continuous energy to keep it in motion? Yes.
Is the work worth it? Yes.
Has a portion of the status quo moved? Yes.”
The above is a guest post from Kevin Amboe (@amboe_k), Information Media Literacy Helping Teacher with School District #36. He writes in response to the question in an earlier post that asked the question: Can we strategize innovation?

 

Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.    

Theodore Levitt

Innovation in education can and will take different forms. Leadbeater (2011) refers to five options for strategizing change. Personally, when I read Leadbeater’s ideas, I find I am forced to take a much larger view of education, as if helicoptering above to see it in the grander global context. Some of these strategies identify tactics we already use but others require us to stretch our thinking. His five strategies for innovation are summarized here. Are you using any of these at your school?

  1. Develop practices for the future. This is different than best practice (think of it as “next practice”) and is about creating a way of learning specifically designed for the future.  Others would take it one step further, where practices intentionally are designed to disrupt the status quo and transform existing educational practice. Leadbeater cites Deming’s quality circles in Japan as a concrete example. In education he gives the example of Cramlington Community College and their “learning to learn” lessons and “blended learning” in the U.S.  Are we teaching for the future?
  2. Extend innovation beyond the singular classroom to the entire schoolhouse. In this instance, it is not just classroom pedagogy that shifts but whole “classroom design, timetabling, curriculum assessment, student voice.” Models in the private sector include Google, 3M, Apple and Pixar and in the education sector, High Tech High. These organizations include a core set of values (e.g. “making insanely great products”), non-hierarchical collaboration, innovative capacity honored across the organization, strategic hiring, and incredibly high standards (including peer-to-peer reviews). Which characteristics are evident in your school?
  3. Create educational innovation as an interconnected system or platform of complimentary services. Think of Apple’s iPhone or iPad and its complimentary iTunes service. The two work together. In education, we embrace this notion in small ways when we look to outside experts, volunteers or work experience opportunities for students. Are there scaled up ways we could implement the platform notion? Are there existing partnerships that could be leveraged to provide greater system-wide support?
  4. Design innovation through alliance building. Create a social network that is committed to creating innovation as a social change movement. This is bigger than the platform approach and is best understood as, “a contest between an old order and a new one.” How does an educator’s use of social media and twitter fit into this context?
  5. Establish an innovative culture that changes the current ideology. “It means encouraging people to adopt a different point of view and different behaviors to see products in a different light.” Apple used this strategy when it created the anti-corporate message: buy our products and become part of the anti-establishment. Nike was not so much about great shoes as it was about “just do it.” So what are the ideas about education and learning we need to change? “If…innovation in education is about confronting and dislodging entrenched ideologies about learning,” we need to have some agreement about those entrenched ideologies. Are you having this conversation? And how might this dialogue change what we do?

Do we have any experience using these strategies in our schools? Have we identified the gap between what we have and what we need? Can we open ourselves to a more collaborative model of innovation with those inside and outside the system? How can we deploy the five strategies to leverage a future for all of us? What is your next step?

This post is adapted from Charles Leadbeater’s article Rethinking Innovation in Education: Learning in Victoria 2020 (Draft January 2011). Thanks to Superintendent Mike McKay for sharing this article as one of his assigned readings for the Global Education Leaders’ Program.

Finding the Triangular Space

Do we need innovation in education?  What are the skills that children will need to prosper in their future? Charles Leadbeater (2011) and many others suggest that reproducing knowledge will become secondary to the ability to apply “knowledge in inventive ways in novel contexts.” We won’t be providing students “with access to a fixed stock of knowledge” but getting them to tap into “flows of knowledge that are constantly changing.”  These “flows of knowledge” are accessed through collaborative networks. This is why, according to Leadbeater, we need innovation in learning: to help us find the “triangular space between what we have, what we need and what is possible.” If this is true, we need a better understanding of what this might look like. He suggests nine ingredients (which are summarized here):

  • Learning must be an active process where the learner applies knowledge in a new context.
  • The learner’s motivation and engagement are critical.
  • The learning should be personalized rather than standardized.
  • Learning should include a collaborative process.
  • Learning should require adopting the right approach and principles to solve complex problems.
  • Descriptive feedback should guide the learning throughout the process.
  • Learning requires a demanding structure but should move to become increasingly a self-regulated process.
  • Learning should take place in a wide variety of settings.
  • Master teachers will be required to design these kinds of learning conditions.

If you look at this list, how does it fit with your vision of education?  Do these principles live in our classrooms? Are some more prominent than others? Is there a colleague down the hall that creates learning conditions where these ingredients are present? Do we talk about these ideas in the staffroom? In the schoolhouse? Is there something here that resonates for you?

This post is adapted from Charles Leadbeaters’ article Rethinking Innovation in Education: Learning in Victoria in 2020 (Draft January 2011). Thank you to Superintendent Mike McKay who shared this article as one of his assigned readings for the Global Education Leaders’ Program.