Quote from a post by David Culberhouse exploring a series of ‘what if’ questions

If we are to have an influence upon the education of tomorrow, then we need to better understand today. This post explores strategies for getting to the heart of the matter.


Why would you? It is such an interesting question. I was asked this recently and it really left me thinking. More often than not, it calls upon the anxiety about making the right choice and implies that there is always one to be made. I feel that thinking about those things that such a question provokes can provide a useful insight into our beliefs and bias.

For example, why would you set homework? Why would you post work on a blog? Why would you deliver professional development collaboratively? Why would you do group work during a professional development session? Why would you open a school in the middle of business hub? Although for some such questions are clear, this is not the case for all.

Thinking about the Modern Learning Canvas, ‘why would you’ questions capture the pedagogical beliefs that are the foundation for understanding the intent and purpose of school. They also help illuminate the roles and strategies used in the classroom. This is all useful in helping to design education for tomorrow.

So what about you? What questions help you reflect upon your values and beliefs? As always, comments welcome.


If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

A Revolution in Music Every Day

In a podcast associated with Steven Johnson’s  new book, Wonderland, he explores how new music comes from broken machines. What is interesting is that more than just serendipity, innovation in music often occurs when people push things to breaking point. The melody and chord progressions of today’s popular tracks have not really changed. See for example Chilly Gonzalez’s musical masterclasses, in particular, his link between Nicki Minaj’s Bed of Lies with Pachelbel’s Canon. However, the timbre and textures that are present in many of today’s hits were previously unknown.

Johnson puts these changes down to musicians not only playing their instruments to the best of their ability but playing with their instruments in order to find new possibilities. This is an old story. Johnson discusses how Bach, Mozart and Beethoven were always exploring the possibility of new technology; how Edgar Varèse used glissando around the time of the First World War to replicate the sound of a siren; how Brian Eno experimented with electronic devices to remix an instrument being played by somebody else; how Caroline Shaw messed with vocal phrases; how John Lennon recorded feedback by accidently getting too close to his amp at the start of I Feel Fine; and how electronic artist Antenes repurposed old technology, such as old telephone exchange, to create new instruments. For a deeper look into the role of technology, Synth Britannia documents the development of the synthesizer and the impact on British music. What stands out with each of these examples is that new possibilities are often made possible because the instruments were pushed to their extremes.

The idea that what an instrument affords has an impact on the creative process reminds me of David Byrnes’ work on how architecture has helped music evolve. It is easy to consider music as a consequence of one person’s creativity when it is often an assemblage of disparate parts, which include elements such as expertise, cultural capital, social context, access to opportunity, experiences, production, influence of record companies and performative opportunities.

First We Shape our Tools, then our Tools Shape Us

The impact of technology pushed to the breaking point is not unique to music. Education technology is no different. On the one hand, there are those who perpetuate the status quo, using tools how they are told to. The problem is that doing what has always been done does not necessarily transform education, nor does it always answer the needs of different situations.

Instead, it is those at the edges that are opening up new possibilities. In this way, technology provides new ways of working and thinking. Seymour Papert touched on this in his book Mindstorm, where he stated that,

The child programs the computer and, in doing so, both acquires a sense of mastery over a piece of the most modern and powerful technology and establishes an intimate contact with some of the deepest ideas from science, from mathematics, and from the art of intellectual model building.

Papert argued that through the use of technology, we are able to develop a conceptual understanding that would not otherwise be possible.

Taking this further, Peter Skillen suggests that it is naive to think that it is not about the tools. Tools not only influence the way we think, but also how we act and behave. As he states,

Tools shape cognition. Tools shape societal structures in both intended, and unintended, ways.

In addition to the work of Papert, Skillen builds upon the ideas of Marshall McLuhan and the idea that we shape our tools, then our tools shape us.

This intent to investigate technology and the supposed transformation of education is something that it feels is often overlooked. Tools and technology have the potential to change education, but also the power to change it for us. You only need to look at Ben Williamson’s research into Class Dojo, Audrey Watters’ predictions for the future of edtech, Greg Thompson’s questions around the structural concerns and Graham Martin-Brown’s exploration of digital learning in Africa to appreciate some of the complexities. Although each of these examples reimagines education, this does not mean that this new vision is automatically a good thing.

Breaking the Machine, Mindfully

We need innovation, we need new tools, but we also need to consider these tools and the impacts that they may be having on education. As Greg Thompson explains,

We need to marry an enthusiasm for technology with a commitment to what may be called ‘technical democracy’, and I think that much of the utopian promise that characterised digital in the 80s and 90s is being replaced by a wariness regarding who controls the tools that we use, how they view the purpose of education and what it means for schools.

In Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Douglas Rushkoff uses Marshall McLuhan’s tetrad as a tool for reflecting on the impact of technology:


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

While the Modern Learning Canvas separates tools allowing you to both see them in isolation, as well as how they may interrelate with the other aspects of the IOI Process.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

So go ahead and break the machine, engage in intentional serendipity and engage with the opportunities at the edges. However, please do so mindful of the consequences and context that you are working within.


If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I have started reading Gert Biesta’s book, Good Education in an Age of Measurement. In the first chapter, he puts forward the case of three key arguments for a ‘good education‘: qualification, socialization and subjectification.

Qualification is defined as:

The qualification function is without doubt one of the major functions of organized education and constitutes an important rationale for having state-funded education in the first place.

Socialization as:

Through its socializing function education inserts individuals into existing ways of doing and being. In this way education plays an important role in the continuation of culture and tradition—both with regard to its desirable and its undesirable aspects.

And subjectification as:

The subjectification function might perhaps best be understood as the opposite of the socialization function. It is precisely not about the insertion of “newcomers” into existing orders, but about ways of being that hint at independence from such orders, ways of being in which the individual is not simply a “specimen” of a more encompassing order.

These, Biesta argues, are not to simply be considered in isolation, but in how they interact:

The three functions of education can therefore best be represented in the form of a Venn diagram, i.e., as three partly overlapping areas, and the more interesting and important questions are actually about the intersections between the areas rather than the individual areas per se.

This focus on purpose is in contrast to what Biesta describes as the ‘learnification’ of education. This is where the sole concern becomes the individualistic process of learning, rather than the intent that is actually associated with this.

This discussion of purpose made me wonder about things like learning walks and annual review processes. What if the success or failure of something like a learning walk was decided before anyone even enters the room? What happens if a coach considers qualification as being the primary purpose of education and inadvertently applies this lens to what they see. Yet the teacher in question’s primary concern is socialization?

I am wondering if it is for this reason that we need something more than a set of standards to improve education. We need a holistic approach, like the Modern Learning Canvas, that incorporates all the different facets.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

What about you? What tools and techniques have you used to capture a rich picture of practice? As always, comments welcome.


If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I have been spending a bit of time lately with the idea of communities of practice. One of the things that becomes clear quickly is that there are many different definitions and descriptions.

Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner suggest that:

Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour: a tribe learning to survive, a band of artists seeking new forms of expression, a group of engineers working on similar problems, a clique of pupils defining their identity in the school, a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, a gathering of first-time managers helping each other cope.

While Lani Ritter Hall and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach describe it as follows:

Communities of practice (or inquiry) are systems of collective critical inquiry and reflection focused on building a shared identity and a collective intelligence garnered over time. Members have a “none of us is as good as all of us” mentality.

Touching on the role of communities, Tony Bates explains that:

The basic premise behind communities of practice is simple: we all learn in everyday life from the communities in which we find ourselves. Communities of practice are everywhere. Nearly everyone belongs to some community of practice, whether it is through our working colleagues or associates, our profession or trade, or our leisure interests, such as a book club.

A report by the US government highlight some of the benefits:

Past research has already suggested that, if designed, implemented, and supported well, online communities of practice can help educators strengthen their performance. Through these online social learning spaces, evidence shows that educators can effectively access, share, and create knowledge, as well as strengthen their commitment to the profession

In there discussion of teaching crowds, Jon Dron and Terry Anderson explain that:

The concept, drawn from anthropological studies, relates to how newcomers to a collection of people, such as a department in a firm, a university, or a group of charity workers, learn the group’s practices and become participants in the community.

One of the problems with each of these definitions and descriptions is that they do not necessarily capture the nuance of each context. Another way of making sense of communities of practice is using the Modern Learning Canvas:

Modern Learning Canvas - CoP

One of the benefits of the canvas is that it provides a structure to talk about learning. Starting with a description of an ideal community, you can then make changes to the canvas based on the needs and purpose of particular situation. For when I think about the communities that I have participated in, whether they be MOOCs (Rhizo14, ccourses, digiwrimo, CLMOOC etc …) or professional learning programs (TL21C), they were all different. They all appraoched things differently, providing for different needs.

So what about you, have you had any experiences with communities of practice? As always, I would love to know.


If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

In his attempt to develop a more sophisticated understanding of pedagogy, Richard Olsen developed the Modern Learning Canvas. Olsen separates the different factors that impact learning and teaching into nine parts. See my attempt to represent my school’s instructional model for more elaboration:


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Although there are differences throughout, whether it be in regards to outcomes or beliefs, it could be argued that the area with the greatest variable is that of the educator. As Olsen explains,

In highly didactic instructional classrooms Educators have total control and make all of the decisions. At the opposite end of the education spectrum with counter-culture student driven education where Educators have little control and make few decisions about student learning. The reality is that for most learning models the Educator Role sits somewhere between these two poles.

What stands out about these variables is change in relationship that exists between learner and educator. I was reminded of this connection yesterday while I was watching a new television series Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music.

The particular episode I saw investigated the recording artists and the producers behind them. What was most interesting was the relationship each producer had with the artists they were working with. The show touched on four particular producers: Phil Spector, Sir George Martin, Dr, Dre and Rick Rubin.

The Wall of Sound: A pioneer in the recording industry, Phil Spector had the ability to push the technology to its limits. He had the ability to hear things and imagine different possibilities. Innovative, he turned the traditional orchestral outfit into a rock band. This organised chaos came at a cost as he was very demanding on the artists he worked with. What kept many there though was that you always knew he would produce something amazing.

The Fifth Beatle: Unlike Spector who led the show, Sir George Martin worked along side The Beatles. It was for this reason he was described as the fifth Beatle. He would listen to what the band would bring and provide a different take on things. Something akin to what Cathy Davidson calls ‘collaboration by difference‘. The example given in the show was his suggestion to include strings in Yesterday or to create the Psycho-inspired Elenor Rigby where strings and vocals were the only instruments at play in.

Artist as Producer: Whereas Martin was a guide on the side, Dr. Dre represents the move to the producer as a meddler in the middle. Building on heritage of those like Sly Stone, Dr. Dre worked both sides of the desk. What is most significant is that Dre’s success was built around capturing things that nobody else heard, whether this be in the records he sampled or the music he recorded. This change was in part enabled by improvements in technology, making production more accessible.

Conditions to Flourish: The producer behind artists from Metallica to the Dixie Chicks, Rick Rubin’s interest was not about creating a particular sound, but rather fostering the conditions in which the artists could bring out their potential. The example given was his work with Johnny Cash in regards to the American Recordings. After being dumped by several labels, Rubin worked with Cash to reimagine the legend. For more on Rubin’s unique approach, I recommend listening to the lengthy interview with Tim Ferriss.

Coming back to Olsen, it is interesting to compare different relationships between the artist and producer with the relationships between the educator and the learner. It is not hard to think of an educator who continually celebrated about the results they get, even if the strategies that they use seem questionable. Or of the educator who works alongside learners helping connect their work to what Seymour Papert describes as ‘powerful ideas‘. Then there are learners/educators who take control of their own learning and publish it to the world for validation. Or those educators whose success is hard to measure or make sense of, rather it is about connecting with the passions of each learner and starting there. In the end, maybe it takes all types of relationships to support all types of learners.


In part this post was inspired by the continual work of Deborah Netolicky on educator identify. I highly recommend listening to her interview on the Teacher’s Educator Review.


If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I was in an electrical store the other day waiting to be served. Standing there I looked out across the room that was full of televisions all playing the same video in order to provide some sort of contrast. As always, the high-end models stood out with their large screens and crisp view. This is somewhat obvious, of course a store is going to work out how to promote its most expensive product the best. However, I was left wondering, as a consumer is this necessarily the most useful way to measure what is the most useful product or is there more to it than that? For example, in a different setting where space is a question, the biggest screen is not always best. Also, there are times when making big purchases we feel that we need to stick with this even though our circumstances may change.

Reflecting on this, I started thinking about education and the way in which we measure success and decide on our solutions. It is so easy to get sucked into the big picture offered by NAPLAN tests and PISA results, but it feels like something is lost with this. So often such focuses portray the wider view at the sacrifice of context and diversity.

Too often we want everything to scale. The problem is that not everything works that way, that simply isn’t how change works. Instead, we need to look at solutions and strategies with the lens of our own context and environment. This is why the Modern Learning Canvas is so useful, for it provides a way of talking. Addressing such questions as the sequence of learning, the various enablers, the role of students, the expected outcomes and the overall pedagogical beliefs. With this image created we are hopefully better able to identify the smaller steps of development.

Maybe sometimes this might mean buying the biggest and the best television on display, but more often than not it means considering what works best in the various constraints within our contexts and starting there.


If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

I recently got in a conversation with some colleagues about the future of education. It was the end of a long day and we pondering on how schooling might be different in ten years time. These are some of the ideas that were bandied around:

  • Detentions: If we have to depend upon daily detentions to maintain learning then who is really in control?
  • Workbooks: Is there really a place for endlessly answering other people’s questions?
  • Notion of Pass and Fail: If students focus is on whether they will pass or fail something then have they already failed? Maybe the focus should be on creating beautiful work?
  • Rubrics About Growth: Too often rubrics come to measure specific content and skills that are being covered at that point in time, how can these be adapted to be more growth minded? With an towards development rather than improvement?
  • Facilitators not Teachers: Instead of being the font of all knowledge, how can change the role of the teacher to being that of a facilitator, helping students find their own problems and solve them? The meddler in the middle, rather than the sage on the stage.
  • Projects not Menial Tasks: Why aren’t units of work focused on building and creating meaningful projects?

What was interesting was that all of the predictions made about the future, have already been enacted somewhere in the past. The question then is why are they not more mainstream? Why are such thoughts too often seen as the exception to the rule?

Will Richardson’s argument is that we are in need of drastic change in education. For some this means a revolution, while for others it is about support. Whatever the change is, it starts with one person trying to make a difference. Richardson suggests 10% at a time. Maybe this is bringing a new practice into the classroom, working collaboratively as a team on a problem or simply flipping the roles and becoming more of a learner. The next step after this is to scale the change and help it grow and spread.

Richard Olsen’s suggest that many of the challenges with change in education often come down to our belief about learning. Something that far too many take for granted. It is here then that the conversation needs to be had, to make visible as far as possible our thoughts, inconsistencies and beliefs. This then is part of the purpose of the Modern Learning Canvas. Not as a tool that pushes people in any specific direction, but rather helps them understand their present context and clearly plot the next iterative step forward.

As Matt Esterman highlights, we know the future is coming, next we need to seriously act on it. The first step with any change though is calling out the elephant in the room. Identifying the perceived problem and talking about the issues. However, the question remains, how might we make the changes for students today, rather than wait for another tomorrow?


For those looking for ideas and inspiration, here are a some books that have helped guide my thinking along the way:

Feel free to suggest more.


If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Last Friday night I attended the IOI Weekend Taster event providing highlighting the IOI Process. It was a great night, these are some of my thoughts and summaries …   

Teachers pose so many questions each day, the problem though is that many of the questions are often limited. They are responses to the here and now, to what is already known. How often do we ask the deep questions? Those that lead us into the unknown. Those beginning with ‘What If’ or ‘How Might We?’

One reason often provided is that of time. There just isn’t any space in the day to delve into such questions. However, as Godin points out,

“I didn’t have time”, this actually means, “it wasn’t important enough.” It wasn’t a high priority, fun, distracting, profitable or urgent enough to make it to the top of the list.

The challenge then is how do we make such conversations important enough.

Another issue is how to go about unpacking such questions. Frustratingly, such conversations seem to quickly lead to discussion about what is and isn’t possible, with little reference to evidence or understanding about context. On the contrary, IOI Process provides a structure to not only understand the intricacies of context, but help map out a path to change and innovation.

The IOI Process is built around three tools:

  • Modern Learning Canvas (PDF): Influenced by the Business Model Canvas, the Modern Learning Canvas is split into nine sections: learner’s role, strategies, enablers, practice, culture, policies, educator’s role, learning outcomes and pedagogical beliefs. Each section adds to the perspective. What is different to other tools and models is that the canvas is pictured from the learner’s point of view.
  • Pedagogical Quality Framework (PDF): Like the Canvas, the Pedagogical Quality Framework is broken into four sections: teachers role, teacher role, student needs and compelling opportunities.  By combining these together, it provides a means for creating a definition of pedagogical quality and an innovation thesis. That is, the biggest opportunity for growth and improvement.
  • Learner Development Profile (PDF): Based on Nikolai Veresov’s General model of genetic research methodology, the profile tool is made up of four sections: characteristics, motivations, sources and results. Just like the canvas, the profile focuses on the learner, rather than simply applying some predefined topic or progression.

What is interesting about the three tools is that in many respects they are yours to make of them what you will. Whether it be laying the groundwork for what may need to change or a means for creating a vision of learning and teaching to work towards. Each of the tools provides a common ground to come back to again and again. Providing a means for identifying the intricacies of learnings and areas for further improvement.

At the end of the day though, the success of IOI Process is language. Each of the tools, the sections, the guiding questions, they help to frame the conversation. It provides a clear picture of learning and teaching as it is or could be. Often such conversations get lost in semantics about what is meant by learning. A point Will Richardson made clear in a recent post. By framing the discussion, maybe we can get closer to talking about what is and what innovation is possible in the future. The rest is up to us.


If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by ell brown: http://flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/4421119738
 
Obviously I am just too nice, because Derrick rang back on Friday. I brushed him off last week, telling him I was too busy, but clearly he wasn’t going to accept the same excuse twice. So today I decided to listen. Basically, he was trying to sell me an audio visual set-up where two cameras and a microphone would be installed in a classroom. The premise behind this was that it would take out the requirement for another teacher to sit in and interrupt the learning experience by physically recording the lesson. This would also transfer the ownership of the experience to the teacher, rather than the responsibility of a coach, to support the improvement of teaching and instruction. We all have ideals, but in my opinion they are always something different in reality.
 
My first concern is with the notion that installing cameras gives some sort of objectivity. Here I am reminded of Clifford Geertz’ work in regards to anthropology and the notion of ‘thick description‘. His premise was that no matter how hard you try to remove yourself from the situation you are trying to observe, you are always a part of it. Therefore, all that we can ever hope for is a thick description, which tries to account for as many  variables and differences as possible, where there is never the promise of completeness. Coming back to Derrick’s AV equipment, not only would you always be conscious of its presence, but it is only ever one part of the puzzle associated with reflection and improvement.
 
To me, there is little point recording and reviewing a lesson if a culture of reflection does not already exist. I was really taken by a recent post from +Dean Shareski where he states, “Being a connected educator is important but I think being a reflective educator trumps that.” More so than purchasing permanant AV equipment, we need to foster reflection as a habit, both in and outside the classroom. Instead of wondering where people get the time to go back over a lesson or write a reflective blogpost, these habits need to become a part of our practise. For as Seth Godin suggests, “I didn’t have time, actually means, it wasn’t important enough.” We therefore need to make reflection important. Just as it is unfair to expect the introduction of 1:1 devices into the classroom to magically make students collaborative, the same thing can be said about videoing lessons. It all needs to start with reflection.
 
A part of the problem with creating a reflective mindset though is how success is often measured in schools. With the Global Educational Reform Movement influencing many policies and decisions in education at the moment the focus of processes such as the annual Performance and Development review become about supporting a fixed mindset, where there is a supposed magic bullet for success and all else is failure. Although the intention of the AV equipment maybe to improve the standards of all teachers and create a repository of best practise, placed in the wrong hands I can imagine it becoming a vehicle for pushing an agenda of pay performance. In this environment, all that ever gets celebrated is the status quo, but is it the status quo that brings about change and improvement?
 
One reason I could see a benefit in such a setup is where, instead of being focused on reflection, the purpose is to share the learning on. That is, make instruction available for all to access at a later date. A great exponent of this is +Eddie Woo. Unlike the idea of the flipped classroom, where students gain access to information before the lesson, Woo records his instruction as he teaches and posts them on Youtube. He describes this practise as the ‘not quite flipped classroom‘. In addition to posting later, there are also many smaller rural schools who stream lessons to provide students with a wider variety of subjects to choose from, particularly in the senior years. Although most schools seem to use Polycom devices for this.
 

 
At the end of the day, my biggest concern is the belief that the best form of reflection can occur in isolation. That is, one teacher sitting at a computer watching their own learning. The best form of reflection, in my view, occurs where there is a dialogue. Two examples of such a practise are Jason Borton’s learning walk or +Amy Burvall‘s PD Walkabouts. Another great tool for reflection is the Modern Learning Canvas. What is interesting about the Canvas is that it provides a platform for teachers to collaboratively reflect upon their learning and together identify possible areas for innovation.
 
Maybe I am wrong. Maybe there is a benefit to installing AV equipment. Maybe it could act as a repository of best practise. However, maybe it could be used as a way of monitoring teachers, making sure that they are sticking to the script. I can imagine both possibilities, what about you?

If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by Cea.: http://flickr.com/photos/centralasian/5433404872 
I was challenged today with the question: where will innovation be in five years time? With schools creating strategic plans, it was something being considered. What should be the goal, the aim and drive for the coming years. My thoughts jumped to ideas such as:
I could go on and in some respects I’d be repeating much of what I stated in my post on educational dreaming.
 
What was interesting though was that midst all this technological bliss, I was queried about the dependency on technology to drive innovation. +Sam Irwin asked:

@mrkrndvs does it have to involve technology to be innovative?
— Sam Irwin (@samjirwin) September 11, 2014

I must admit, I hadn’t thought of it like that. Of course it doesn’t, but how often do we start such conversations with the assumption that it does. To me, this was an interesting case of what +Clive Thompson describes as ‘thinking out loud’ in his book Smarter Than You Think. That is, the process where in sharing thoughts openly we gain access to a plethora of ideas inherent within the wider network of learners. As Thompson states, “Having an audience can clarify thinking. It’s easy to win an argument inside your head. But when you face a real audience, you have to be truly convincing.” This public audience not only encourages clarity and perspective, but it more often than not leads to a deeper understanding of the topic at hand.
 
This all got me wondering about innovation and how we often associate it, not only with technology, but with wholesale change. If we stop and consider the definition of what it means to innovate, you soon realise that it is not about size. As the Oxford Dictionary describes, to innovate is to “make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.” It seems fair to say that there are many habits and practises which are established by both individuals and small groups. Does this emphasis then on the big risk overlooking the small? How often are we missing the innovation and change that occurs each and every day everywhere?
 
 
For example, let’s think about teaching. There are many ways to improve practise in the classroom. Some possibilities include a focus on learning data, whether it be results or feedback, to identify specific areas for improvement and development in regards to pedagogy. Another possibility is a review of the structure of spaces and what sort of learning is being made possible. What is significant about such changes is that the onus is not just on the school or the team, but on the individual.
 
In addition to teachers, students too can demonstrate innovation and improvement in what they do themselves. This could be the choices that they make in regards to their work or it maybe taking ownership over certain aspects of learning, whether it be their own or as a part of a group. Although we may not be able to directly implement many such changes, basically because they are not our decisions to be made, it is possible to make them more possible and plausible by creating a learning environment that allows for them.
 
The easy answer is too often to push all these changes on staff and students under the banner of whole school change. However, this not only denies differences, but more often than not takes away any sense of agency from the individuals in question. Just as students come to us with a breadth of ability, so to do teachers. The one answer fits all approach often denies the fact that each and everyone of us is at a different stage of the journey and it is there that we must start. +Dan Donahoo best summed up this dilemma in his keynote at #ICTEV13 where he stated that ‘it takes a village’. This means that when we implement the idea, if it is still the same at the end as it was at start then we haven’t really listened. At the heart of all change and innovation is a dialogue with a wider sense of community and at the heart of dialogue is compromise.
 
In a recent session on instructional learning, Muffy Hand made a comment that really struck me, “teachers are the most important resource in every school.” Maybe then instead of always simply focusing on the big changes, we need to celebrate the smaller changes made by those at the coal face. Instead of waiting for the next piece of software or engaging initiative to be the cure to all our supposed problems, we need to reflect upon our own established practises with the questions: what am I doing and is best for the situation at hand. An interesting tool for stimulating such a discussion either individually or as a group is +Richard Olsen‘s Modern Learning Canvas. For although we maybe great, taking the next step towards excellence will be different for all of us.

If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.