It's the second week of the holidays, and 400 odd educators from around New Zealand got together at Albany Senior Secondary School in Auckland for the GAFE (Google Apps for Education) Summit (I have to mention that in the previous week the same event was held in Christchurch also and drew a crowd of South Island educators). What an amazing event!
The summit was organised by the EdTechTeam with support from various local partners and sponsors and featured international and national Googlers sharing their wisdom. On the one hand it was completely and utterly about Google of course, but not about the company selling product (GAFE is actually free for every school), in my opinion it was all about transforming learning and teaching. All this in the purpose-built MLE of ASSHS, it made quite an impression on me.
There was much googleness to take away for everyone, +Marnel van der Spuy collected the tweets about #gafesummit in two storfies which she kindly shared on twitter - please see them embedded at the bottom of this post.
In addition to the actual tools and tricks, there were some thoughts I took away with me about change in education:
This metaphor was used by +iPadWells NZ in his session on How Google can move the un-movable Teacher. I have often contemplated why change in education seems to be so slow, and this metaphor seems to demonstrate it. I am a great fan of metaphors, and I used to read The Committed Sardine blog (which I have lost somehow? Can anyone help me find it again, please?) where the education system was compared to a swarm (school?) of sardines, which - against my gut feeling - would change direction quite quickly when approx. 20% of the sardines changed their direction (I would have thought it needed to be at least 50%). What part of the pencil are you? Which direction do you swim within the swarm of sardines?
Yet another metaphor came to mind (I told you I like them :D) when we visited Australia Zoo while on holiday last week. In their big animal show they explained why a saltwater crocodile is moving very slowly on land - the heavy tail is like a dead weight on land. In their 'natural' habitat, murky water, they rule. They come out of the water when there is a great incentive (food), but they will return into the water where they are most comfortable as they are not made for running after prey on land. What if we could take our educational crocodiles - who rule in their environment - out of the water and take the drag of the tail so that they could also rule on land? Maybe not the best metaphor as real saltwater crocs would be quite deadly - and we wouldn't want our students to be killed, would we - but it once again brought it home to me that some people need a dead weight taken off them in order to move freely in the new environment we are putting them into. (Or should we think about is as a kind of evolution where creatures either adapt to the changed environment or they become extinct - but that takes a looonnngggg time - do we have that much time in education?).
What can we do to move the wood/ferrules/erasers, make the swarm of sardines turn or take the dead weight off the crocodiles on land?
- We need trailblazers (leaders and sharp ones, sardines swimming against the swarm) who trial new things and overcome barriers. We need support, resources and emotional, for the trailblazers, acknowledgement of their importance, and the opportunity for them to share with others.
- We need systems in place to support the wood and ferrules, the one-direction sardines, to incentivise the crocodiles to move out of their natural habitat. Just like for our students we need to scaffold, support, walk along side them, provide them with support and encouragement, with clear, high expectations.
- We can't allow the hangers-on and the erasers, the unmovable sardines and the crocodile to stay in their old habitats. We need to make it unacceptable to remain in a pre-21C mindset when we are in the second decade of 21C and are trying to prepare students, most of them born in 21C, for a life in 21C.
So what can we all do right here right now?
For our learners:
- What is your vision for your learners? e.g. lifelong, connected learners
- How will you go about this? e.g. by giving them the opportunity to share their learning with others
- What will you do? e.g. run a class blog for students to share their writing with the world
- What is your vision for yourself as a learner? e.g. as future focused teaching & learning shows us, understanding of learning has changed, I truly need to be a lifelong, connected learner myself.
- How will you go about this? e.g. I will connect with colleagues within and beyond my school, f2f and virtually.
- What will you do? e.g. join the VLN, twitter, Google Plus, or similar and learn to use it. I'll open my classroom and practise to other teachers and the community. I'll look for opportunities to learn more, go out of my comfort zone.
(Hey, I can get the Golden Circle into anything!) With 96,000 registered teachers in NZ, we should need just about 20,000 swimming against the stream to turn the swarm - are you ready?
So, what am I going to do after this GAFE Summit?
- Continue connecting on the VLN, Twitter, Google+ etc. and sharing my learning (just like in this post)
- Look for even more opportunities to create and share resources, esp. those that follow UDL principles.
- Share more of the opportunities I see coming up with my teachers so that they are aware of them. Walk alongside them, gently persuade them if they are reluctant :)
- Have clear, high expectations, make them obvious. Have high expectations of myself as I model for my learners.
- I want to keep learning more for myself, too, so my next step is to take some of the Google Educator Exams and apply for the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney in September.
(Interestingly, and following the concept of life-long learner and changing understanding of learning and of knowledge, Google qualifications need to be re-taken over time - understandably, as it is no longer about regurgitating fixed content!)
What change do you think our education system needs? Do you agree or disagree with the metaphors and my suggested actions? How will you go about making change happening?
Thanks again to +Marnel van der Spuy, here are the collated tweets from two days GAFE Summit!
Day 1 Storify
Day 2 Storify