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Some people argue that online connections are conducive to echo chambers. As I have discussed elsewhere, influenced in part by David Truss’ great post, I feel that such thinking is about mindset more than anything else. As Truss stated:

A good PLN will pull in learning from places I don’t normally go, and this means that even when good ideas bounce around, perspectives on those ideas don’t stay static

This was clearly demonstrated recently in the debate that arose from George Couros’ tweet:

Provoked, Will Richardson wrote a passionate post wondering if in worrying about feelings we have lost the ability to truly listen and debate. This was then followed by a post from Dean Shareski who suggested that a strength-based approach was a better answer, where instead of giving our attention to what is wrong, we stop and celebrate what is right, reflecting on what works. Although, like Shareski, I see a place for a critique of the system from those compass barers like Will Richardson, Ken Robinson and Seth Godin, I wonder if we highlight those good things enough.

Here then are three schools that are doing innovative things ‘that work’, fixing the system one step at a time:

Wooranna Park Primary School

Located in Melbourne’s south-east, the school has have a vision to develop tomorrow’s entrepreneurs by having students do things such as teaching each other and learning in a range of different settings, from a space craft to a dragon boat. See the great article in The Age and Suzie Boss’ post in Edutopia for more discussion.

St. Paul’s School

Located just to the north of Brisbane, the school has engaging with a wide range of educational voices from around the world to design an education which leaves those students starting school now as ready as they can for when they finish in 2028. This has included implementing disciplined collaboration, a complete overhaul of learning spaces and the incorporation of heutagogical learning.

 

Templestowe College

Located to the east of Melbourne, the school has turned around from being on the brink of closure by placing students and their learning at the centre. This has involved being flexible in regards to timetables and classes, as well as providing authentic opportunities for learning, such as working in the school’s cafeteria.

This is just a few examples of schools whose innovation is a constant source of inspiration and motivation. For more examples check out AITSL’s Learning Frontiers, as well as Greg Miller’s post celebrating a range of innovative schools in NSW. While, for a more global perspective, check out the responses to Steve Wheeler’s call out on Twitter.


Although I agree that there are elements of education that are not right, I’m not sure a revolution is the fix. As both Couros and Shareski make note of, such discussions often tarnish the great work some are doing. As I have murmured in the past, such ideals are not always ideal. Such ideals only ever put undue pressure on everyone, creating a fixed scenario where we either pass or fail.

Providing his own take on this, Matt Esterman wrote a post last year wondering if we need a renaissance, rather than what he calls a neverlution. He started this discussion with a list posted on Twitter:

Esterman’s point is that rather than bloody warfare where endless people get hurt in the process of change, maybe we can find possible fixes and solution by pushing the current boundaries by more creatively reflecting on the past for inspiration for the future.

Providing another perspective, Jason Markey calls for evolution, that is change for the better. Too often, Markey points out, we see change as being for change’s sake. Instead, evolution is about changing to advance our present state.

I think that there is something to be taken from each of these ideas. For although Richardson’s argument is that we need to be ‘different not better‘, I feel that such schools like St. Paul’s and Wooranna Park are thinking differently, challenging the status quo. Change will not occur through a process of educational cleansing where those staff not up to the challenge are simply excluded. Whether it be Markey’s better or Richardson’s different, we need to work with the ones we have: the parents, the colleagues, the students, the community. To focus on ‘who’ not only misses the point of change, but undermines the why driving it.

Change takes a lot of time and conviction, but it is not always clear about what actually constitutes ‘better’, because of this it is easy to doubt the direction things are moving. This then is why being connected is so important, knowing that you are not alone. Programs, such as Learning Frontiers and the New Pedagogies for Deeper Learning, are so important, for they help foster such connections. It is then schools like Wooranna Park and St. Paul’s that act as beacons helping to guide others. For although there are plenty of compasses out there, mapping such futures is precarious. Sometimes the best we can do is to celebrate the innovations of others and reflect on how such actions might work in our own situation, context and with our why.


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creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Jack Snell – USA: http://flickr.com/photos/jacksnell707/3176997491

I recently helped clean up some of my Mum’s stuff. She was a heavily religious person and had kept endless diaries and journals containing various thoughts and reflections. Although my siblings and I got rid of a lot of bible study materials, however I just couldn’t bring myself to dispose of all her diaries. Beyond the images and memories, those diaries represented my last connection to my mum. The reality though is that there is a fine line between holding onto objects and items for prosperity and actually clearing things and moving on. 

 
Often the same can be said about education and the call for change. It is so easy to get caught up in nostalgia. Remembering things as they once were. The problem with such memories is that they often reference an idyllic reality that was not such idyllic. However, having said this, it is also important to recognise how we got to today.
 
The worst thing that we can do though is forgetting the past. So often the call is made to sweep everything aside and start from scratch with some sort of educational ‘year zero’. To me, this is the danger of the call for an education revolution. As much as I love listening to Sir Ken Robinson speak and agree with many of the points that he makes, the problem with a ‘revolution’ is that it promotes starting anew, beginning again, rather than reforming and re-visioning what we already have. The problem I see with this is that it gives the impression that what occurred in the past was wrong and broken. When change involves people working constructively together, this does not allow much room for conversation. See my post on furore around Johanna O’Farrell.
 
I understand that things could and should change. However, I prefer +Jason Markey‘s call for evolution, that is change for the better. Too often, Markey points out, we see change as being for change’s sake. Instead, evolution is about changing to advance our present state.

This is something that I elaborated on in my post ‘So Which Pedagogical Cocktail Are You Drinking?‘, in that what is important is actually reflecting on the situation at hand and utilising the most appropriate practise for the particular context, rather than dictating that you must do this or you must not do that. This means being open to all facets of learning and teaching, but most importantly being aware of the consequences of our pedagogical choices.

Although it is fine to hold onto things, to saviour something, when these memories and ideas hold us back from moving on and moving forward, we are left holding out for a past that has already been, rather than a future awaiting our arrival. The challenge that we all face is finding a balance in order to produce a better tomorrow.

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Wrong All The Time

In a post, by +Seth Godin, he spoke about how he dismissed the Internet as, “slower, harder to use and without a business model.” The lesson that he learnt out of this was that there are, “two elements of successful leadership: a willingness to be wrong and an eagerness to admit it.”
 
Godin’s discussion of being wrong got me thinking. What does it mean to be ‘right’ and ‘wrong’? And how does this fit with education? Does it actually achieve anything to constantly come back to idea of their being a correct answer?
 
It is not that I disagree with Godin’s reflection, but I feel that notions of right or wrong are often left for historians reflecting on the past and even that is questionable. The terms almost feel empty and slightly trivial at times. A spoil often left to the victor. What is achieved in being right or wrong? Often being wrong does not change a thing as it is only after the moment has past that we realise this. At its heart, it is not very useful when discussing lifelong learning. At the very least, it carries with it a negative connotation. What is important, is the way you respond to being ‘wrong’. What aspects that you would change for the future. In some ways the challenge is to be wrong all the time for what do we really learn in being right?
 
I feel that a better solution to supporting lifelong learning is to focus on choice and consequence, considering how we respond to each situation. This includes unpacking how you came to your particular choice, were there any other options and why did your choice work for your situation? One of the difficulties with being right and wrong is that it is often past tense. Being conscious of some of the choices we make every day allows for reflection in the present tense.

Right? Wrong? Different?

We make choices on a daily basis, whether it be what to eat for tea or an opinion on a matter. Sometimes the difficulty lies not so much in making a choice, but in recognising that there was a choice at all. Take the following as some examples of such situations:
 
  • Search Engines: In a recent Guardian Tech Weekly podcast, Bing’s director of search, Dave Coplin, put forward the argument that we only use Google, because it is habit and that Bing offers a better experience.
  • Technology: With the rise of BYOD, the question that often gets asked by students is which device should they buy? I recently had a discussion with some of my senior students who are moving into a BYOD environment next year. Their quandary was which device would be the most ideal for learning. In the end, the discussion came down to a question of taste, personal preferences and what particular students wanted to achieve.
  • Voting: A cornerstone to democracy is the ability to vote for the person and party who we think would best represent us. Often people get lost in arguments about who is right or wrong, when all we ever get is a difference on opinions and even that is questionable at times.
  • Control over Curriculum: In a recent blog, +Jason Markey spoke about moving away from teacher directed learning to providing students with passion the opportunities to design of learning and curriculum 
  • Being Connected: There has been a lot of conjecture as a part of Connected Educator Month about whether we need to be connected or not. +George Couros suggested that being isolated or sharing with the world is a choice that only we can make.
  • Cloud Storage: You just need to put ‘Google Drive’ and ‘Dropbox’ into any search engine for a long list of discussions about which application is better. However, in the end, each application is different and like the discussions about ‘Bing’ and ‘Google’, often comes down to who you wish to use it.
  • Appropriation of Knowledge and Content: Associated with sharing and being connected, is the challenge to properly acknowledge content. +Tony Richards explored this notion in his blog where he focused on the issues with republishing without recognising where things originate.
I could keep on going on and on. However, I think that these examples demonstrate how we can easily get caught up in arguments about what is right and wrong, supposed ‘best practices’, when in fact they are simply choices made by groups and individuals based on what works best for their particular situation. Although we often may have opinions about these matters, such as Google Drive is better than Dropbox as it allows for collaboration. In the end though, that is all they are, neither right nor wrong, just opinions, opinions with associated consequences.

New Ideas, New Beginnings

Choice comes down to one key ingredient, what works best in a particular situation. Often within this process we are faced with options. I often remind my students that they are in fact free to choose whether to work or not, they even have a choice about whether to be in class. However, what they need to realise is that there are consequences if they do not do their work or if they leave the class, consequences that they need to be willing to accept, because they are their consequences and theirs alone. The biggest challenge is being aware that there is a choice in the first place and accepting the associated consequences attached with such decisions.
 
In approaching things from a perspective of choice I feel that we are more open and able to learn and be inspired by others. In recognising why we chose what we chose, it often means that we have considered what we did not choose and why. Sometimes this consideration means that in a future situation we may make a different choice. There are times when being right and wrong gets us locked into a particular position, a position that many around us refuse to release us from.
 
For example, I once used Dropbox as my primary point of sharing. However, I moved over to Google Drive, as I felt that it offered an easier method of sharing and collaborating. It would be stupid to look back on this situation and say I was ‘wrong’, because at the time I may have been ‘right’. Not only does this point out the historical nature of choices, but it also fails to recognise how and why we change.
 
Being open to choice often means that we are more willing to moulding and adapting our ideas, rather than going through a constant state of revolution, where we throw out the old in order to replace with the new. If we approach everything from being right and wrong, we risk living in an echo chamber. Being open to choice is being open to different voices, to different ideas, to new dialogues and new beginnings. +David Truss spoke about the power of PLN’s in a recent blog. He suggested that instead of simply echoing our own thoughts and ideas, being connected offers us a way of breaking out of the echo chamber, finding out new ideas and points of change.

Postscript

One of the things that needs to be noted with any discussion of choice is that there is a hidden element in all of this. For there are some people in the world who do not have the opportunity to make choices, such as which search engine to use or who to vote for. This maybe the only thing that can be considered as being ‘wrong’ in all of this discussion. Often economics is described as the study of choice. Maybe pertinent approach to economics would be better considered as study of those who don’t have a choice at all.

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