How do you involve people in new technology? On leadership retreat with 6 fellow school leaders, we were out for dinner tonight when conversation turned to Twitter. Since spending a day with George Couros then sharing with the Administration team and the Junior School staff, it has been interesting to observe what is happening. Time is certainly an important factor in catering for the uptake of anything new.
Comparing what happened in the two different scenarios, the leadership team, whilst overall showing some initial enthusiasm, got overtaken by the pressing needs of the time of the year. Semester 2 was drawing to a close and with a quick 10 minute Twitter ‘teaser’ at meeting time, there was very little chance of any real uptake. However, over dinner, with time to have questions answered, everyone joined Twitter and began to get connected.
Working with the Junior School staff at a staff meetings a few weeks ago, the head of school and I had a good hour set aside for people to get connected. We had hoped to achieve a lot and in our own way we did. Unfortunately, the process of joining up didn’t go smoothly. Seems Twitter was treating us as spammers. However, the allocation of time to listen, observe and have a go, enabled people to go ahead in their own time with some confidence.
Time I think is of the essence. Having the time with George enabled me to see and experience the potential of this social platform. Having the time set aside within the business of the school meeting cycle gave the staff an opportunity to explore another way they can enhance their professional learning. Having a Principal who allows time for school leadership to have professional conversations resulted in the inquiry into something new.
Having engrossed myself in Twitter and dabbled in professional blogging, it’s time to get serious. My big questions are:
How do we maintain the focus on teaching well with good pedagogical practices whilst bending under the pressure of high stakes testing?
What are the good pedagogical practices which should be present in all schools and how does the use of digital technology add to it?
How do we ensure that classroom practice through the whole school reflects what educators know is evident?
Educational literature for many years has clearly maintained that inquiry learning and collaboration are the hallmarks of excellent teaching practice whilst the reality of schools is the prevalence of chalk and talk/fill in the worksheet default practice. The Australian government mandates testing for Years 3, 5, 7 & 9 under the false pretence that it is diagnostic, and that schools are ever more under pressure to use this as its major benchmark for school performance. Unfortunately our education system is rushing to emulate the UK experience while ignoring that the UK is coming to understand that it’s a dead end.
What particularly irks me is the constant rhetoric from Canberra that we aim to be the best school system in the world (in itself a nebulous aim – what does that actually mean?) yet the presence of our two top-ranked educational politicians (from both sides of politics) at this year’s Australian Council for Educational Research conference was non-existent. So much of what was presented at the conference grated against the prevailing ‘wisdom’ of our education system. Where are they getting their information from when making decisions about schools. Would they not expect the medical profession to base what they do on research. Why not the teaching profession?